Friday, January 31, 2020


From Matt Bracken on Gab (clickit to biggit):

I wonder what a Department of Transport inspector would say to that?


Is there a risk from radiation in the oil industry?

EDITED TO ADD:  The article discussed below appears to be extremely misleading, to judge by comments left by well-informed readers (see below).  In particular, my thanks to commenter Henry for this link to an analysis debunking Rolling Stone's claims.  It's a bit technical, but does a pretty good job, IMHO.

Rolling Stone has published an extended article alleging that the brine discharged from many oil drilling operations is highly radioactive, and poses a severe health hazard.

Oil fields across the country — from the Bakken in North Dakota to the Permian in Texas — have been found to produce brine that is highly radioactive. “All oil-field workers,” says Fairlie, “are radiation workers.” But they don’t necessarily know it.

Tanks, filters, pumps, pipes, hoses, and trucks that brine touches can all become contaminated, with the radium building up into hardened “scale,” concentrating to as high as 400,000 picocuries per gram. With fracking — which involves sending pressurized fluid deep underground to break up layers of shale — there is dirt and shattered rock, called drill cuttings, that can also be radioactive. But brine can be radioactive whether it comes from a fracked or conventional well; the levels vary depending on the geological formation, not drilling method. Colorado and Wyoming seem to have lower radioactive signatures, while the Marcellus shale, underlying Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New York, has tested the highest. Radium in its brine can average around 9,300 picocuries per liter, but has been recorded as high as 28,500. “If I had a beaker of that on my desk and accidentally dropped it on the floor, they would shut the place down,” says Yuri Gorby, a microbiologist who spent 15 years studying radioactivity with the Department of Energy. “And if I dumped it down the sink, I could go to jail.”

The advent of the fracking boom in the early 2000s expanded the danger, saddling the industry with an even larger tidal wave of waste to dispose of, and creating new exposure risks as drilling moved into people’s backyards. “In the old days, wells weren’t really close to population centers. Now, there is no separation,” says City University of New York public-health expert Elizabeth Geltman. In the eastern U.S. “we are seeing astronomically more wells going up,” she says, “and we can drill closer to populations because regulations allow it.” As of 2016, fracking accounted for more than two-thirds of all new U.S. wells, according to the Energy Information Administration. There are about 1 million active oil-and-gas wells, across 33 states, with some of the biggest growth happening in the most radioactive formation — the Marcellus. And some regulations have only gotten weaker. “Legislators have laid out a careful set of exemptions that allow this industry to exist,” says Teresa Mills of the Buckeye Environmental Network, an Ohio community-organizing group. “There is no protection for citizens at all — nothing.”

In an investigation involving hundreds of interviews with scientists, environmentalists, regulators, and workers, Rolling Stone found a sweeping arc of contamination — oil-and-gas waste spilled, spread, and dumped across America, posing under-studied risks to the environment, the public, and especially the industry’s own employees. There is little public awareness of this enormous waste stream, the disposal of which could present dangers at every step — from being transported along America’s highways in unmarked trucks; handled by workers who are often misinformed and underprotected; leaked into waterways; and stored in dumps that are not equipped to contain the toxicity. Brine has even been used in commercial products sold at hardware stores and is spread on local roads as a de-icer.

“Essentially what you are doing is taking an underground radioactive reservoir and bringing it to the surface where it can interact with people and the environment,” says Marco Kaltofen, a nuclear-forensics scientist at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. “Us bringing this stuff to the surface is like letting out the devil,” says Fairlie. “It is just madness.”

There's more at the link.

I've read the entire report, and I strongly urge you to do the same.  It's of direct and immediate relevance here in north Texas, where many people work in the oil producing areas of the state, commuting back and forth once a month to see their families.  There's a big oilfield engineering and supply outfit only a few miles from my home, and brine - sourced cheaply, I presume, from oilfield waste products, as mentioned in the Rolling Stone article - is spread on our roads during winter to inhibit ice formation and build-up.

I find it hard to believe that so serious a danger could become so widespread without something having been done about it;  after all, the article points out that DoE staff have been analyzing oilfield radioactivity for years.  Even so, I guess, bureaucratic inertia has been with us for as long as there have been bureaucrats.  I don't think this is something that can be blamed on any one President or administration, either.  If so much radiation has been around for so long, it must surely have been brought to the attention of the authorities long ago.  Why nothing appears to have been done about it is a question that remains unanswered . . . at least, so far.  However, I'll bet it goes back to last century, if not all the way back to the Curie family and their investigations into radioactivity.

This can't be a "new" problem.  It's got to have been around for as long as oil wells have been drilled.  If that's the case, why haven't cases of radiation sickness been more widely encountered in oil workers - much less more widely reported?  And is this only an American oil industry problem?  Is it also encountered in Middle Eastern oil fields, and elsewhere in the world?  If not, why not?

Is the report trustworthy?  I don't know.  There are many individuals and pressure groups opposed to the use of fossil fuels, and some of them may not be particularly ethical or scrupulous in their use of information - real or fake - to put pressure on that industry.  However, I think there's certainly enough evidence mentioned in the article, including testing radioactivity levels to which workers are exposed, to warrant a very thorough investigation by the authorities.  I hope it happens quickly, before too many more of us are exposed to this potential danger.


Do we need an "open container law" for the cockpits of Airbus planes?

For the benefit of readers overseas, most localities in America have so-called "open container laws", forbidding the presence of opened bottles or other containers of alcohol in many public places, usually including vehicles in motion.

In the case of Airbus airliners, I'm referring to open containers in the cockpit holding any liquid, not just alcohol, because they seem to have a problem with spills affecting their electronics.

Airbus and Rolls-Royce are investigating two incidents in which A350s experienced uncommanded in-flight engine shutdown after drinks were spilled on controls situated on the cockpit centre pedestal.

. . .

One of the incidents involved a Delta Air Lines A350-900 en route to Seoul on 21 January, which diverted to Fairbanks after its right-hand Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engine shut down, while a similar event occurred to another carrier in November last year.

Some 15min before the Delta shutdown, FlightGlobal has learned, a drink was spilled on the centre pedestal between the two pilot seats, primarily on the integrated control panel for engine-start and electronic centralised aircraft monitor functions.

The right-hand engine shut down and the crew attempted a restart, which was unsuccessful, and the crew chose to divert, subsequently landing safely in Alaska.

. . .

The previous incident, on 9 November 2019, occurred about 1h after tea was spilled on the centre pedestal, FlightGlobal understands.

This also involved the in-flight shutdown of the right-hand Trent XWB engine, and while restart was attempted the powerplant would not remain operational for any length of time.

. . .

A350 operators have been advised that both incidents involved “liquid spillage” on the centre pedestal but the root causes of the in-flight shutdowns are still under investigation.

UK investigators probed an incident last February during which a Thomas Cook Airlines Airbus A330-200 was forced to divert to Shannon after a coffee spillage in the cockpit led to significant radio communication problems.

There's more at the link.

The old saying (modernized and popularized by Ian Fleming's James Bond) warns us that "once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action".  In this case, I don't think it's enemy action:  but three incidents in which spilt liquids are followed by electrical/electronic problems certainly gives one pause for thought.  What's more, the cost of those incidents (measured in terms of added flight hours, diversion and landing costs, extra fuel, repairs, etc.) probably runs into at least five figures every time, and possibly six.

I would have expected Airbus to engineer its flight deck consoles to be proof against such spills, but perhaps they thought pilots and flight crew would exercise a higher standard of care.  Be that as it may, I hope they're urgently looking into this.  It's something that might affect an aircraft's ETOPS rating.  Besides, I don't want to hear the pilot say "Oops!" next time I fly, and see sparks coming from beneath the cockpit door!


Thursday, January 30, 2020

Higher education is about to get a wake-up call

That's according to Andrew Gillen.  If you have children or grandchildren who'll be attending college or university, his report is essential reading.  Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.

In November, the Department of Education released post graduate earnings and debt data broken down by college program — which will have a revolutionary impact on higher education. Students (and policymakers) can now get accurate information about how much recent graduates earned by college and degree (e.g., a Bachelor’s in Physics from Ohio State University).

While the data isn’t perfect (it only includes students who received federal financial aid and so far only lists earnings one year after graduation), the data is complete enough to generate two tsunamis that will hit higher education in rapid succession.

One tsunami is enhanced accountability for the hundreds of billions of dollars federal, state, and local governments provide to colleges each year — funds that have historically flowed regardless of graduates’ labor market outcomes ... there are about 1 million graduates each year who received federal financial aid to attend a college program that does not pass a reasonable debt-to-income test.

Consider the field of law. For every professional law school program that passes GEE, there are eight that fail. Moreover, only 14% of students graduated from programs that would pass, whereas 69% of law students graduated from programs that would fail. Why should state and federal governments continue funding these programs?

But the second tsunami bearing down on higher education will be even bigger — informed choice on the part of students and parents.

For years we’ve asked students to make one of life’s most important decisions essentially blindfolded. We’ve told them a college degree is the surest path to success but have given them little guidance on where to go to college or what major to choose once they get there. As a result, too many students leave with a mountain of debt and a credential that isn’t worth much on the labor market. The new data will help equip students — and their parents — with the information necessary to avoid these costly mistakes in several ways.

There's more at the link.

This is long overdue.  I've long since lost count of the number of university students who graduate with degrees in subjects like ethnic, or environmental, or black, or latino, or asian, or feminist studies.  (Don't talk to me about underwater basket-weaving!)  One finds them as baristas in coffee shops, or burger-flippers at fast food joints, or whatever.  They owe tens of thousands of dollars in study loans, and expect you and I (the taxpayer) to "bail them out" by paying that debt for them.  I have neither sympathy for, nor patience with them.

At least now (if they're doing their job) parents and grandparents will be able to show their kids the real financial consequences of choosing a no-future-in-it degree - and, one hopes, refusing to fund anything along those lines, including providing accommodation and food if their offspring insist on wasting their higher education on such crap.  Tough love?  Sure it is - but it's also real love, rather than the fake indulgence that allows kids to end up broke and unemployable.


Conspiracy theorists are making money out of the Wuhan coronavirus

I'm sick and tired of conspiracy theorists in general, and American capitalist ones in particular (those who use any and every crisis to stir up fear and uncertainty, usually in order to make money out of the gullible).  Alex Jones and his Infowars Web site are prime examples, but there are many more out there.

Vice reports that they're making hay while the Wuhan coronavirus shines, if one can put it that way.

Conspiracy peddlers make their money and retain their audiences by selling panic, and they’ve leaped onto this new epidemic with glee ... The claims are multiplying by the day. The Canadian conspiracy site Global Research falsely claimed that the virus was “tightly focused to Chinese” (meaning only Chinese people were getting it), and strongly implied it had been brought into the country by Western forces, writing that there is a “history of American universities and NGOs having come into China in recent years to conduct biological experiments that were so illegal as to leave the Chinese authorities enraged.” The site Communal News ... has claimed that the virus leaked from a Chinese “biological warfare weapons lab,” an assertion that’s also being floated in the slightly more mainstream Washington Times.

Meanwhile, the website Health Impact News, which is not a real news site, has been among many conspiracy sites peddling a video which purports to show that the coronavirus epidemic was predicted at Event 201, a forum hosted by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in partnership with the World Economic Forum and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. On the internet, that’s quickly transmuted into a claim that Bill Gates is somehow profiting from the coronavirus or holds a patent for its cure. The QAnon personality Jordan Sather claimed that a “patent” had been filed for the coronavirus in 2015, a claim that InfoWars’ Rob Dew has also made. One of the more fringe ideas holds that the coronavirus is being conveniently pushed out by shadowy forces in order to impose “harmful” 5G technology and radiation on an unsuspecting populace, tapping into an ongoing controversy over the use of 5G.

But sites like Health Impact News or Global Research also have another reason for promoting misinformation about the epidemic: It allows them to position themselves as being among the few trustworthy sources of information about it.

. . .

Accusations that the government isn’t doing enough to stop the spread of the disease have also been met by accusations that they’ll soon be doing too much. A site called Twisted Truth was among those spreading the claim that the government would soon impose martial law on Americans to contain the outbreak.

Adams and Jones, meanwhile—both big fans of apocalyptic claims about FEMA camps themselves—saw something special at work too; as with most human events that fall under their mutual gaze, they claimed that the coronavirus is nothing less than a global depopulation effort ... “The masses will be slaughtered,” Adams added. “The depopulation agenda cannot be stopped. Do you understand? Do you effing understand?”

There's more at the link.

I'm particularly angered by those peddling fake "cures" for coronavirus, or methods to avoid infection that cannot possibly have the desired effect.  We've seen claims that oregano oil is a sure cure, amongst others.  Efforts by "big tech" to reduce the spread of such medically impossible claims have led to claims of censorship, a "Big Brother"-style crackdown on information, and other such nonsense.  If it were possible to do so without stifling free speech, I'd gladly support efforts to imprison all those trying to profit in any way from the spread of such false information . . . but sadly, I don't see how that can be done without threatening the freedom of information in general.

If you really want solid information about how to deal with the coronavirus if it pops up in your neighborhood, look to those who deal with such things for a living.  Aesop - who works in an emergency room in California - suggests some pretty useful basics.  He also debunks the doom, gloom and disaster rumor-mongers.  I think we'll all do well to print out his two articles, put them up somewhere accessible in our homes, and follow his advice - while ignoring the conspiracy theorists.


Starting the morning the right way

This meme has been around for a while, but it's still funny.  It made me laugh when I came across it again the other day.

Go forth, suitably caffeinated, and conquer your day!


Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Nikon is quitting the riflescope market - and there are some great deals to be had

A few months ago, it emerged that Nikon was planning to quit the riflescope market.  This was sad news, because Nikon has produced high-quality offerings in the mid-range section of that market;  but the company apparently wants to concentrate its efforts on consumer optics such as binoculars, camera lenses and the like.  One can't argue with that tighter focus (you should pardon the expression).

On the other hand, this means there are some great deals to be had on the company's remaining stock of riflescopes, particularly those already in vendor's stocks.  (No, I'm not being paid to advertise them, or receiving any compensation of any nature.  I've just taken advantage of the closeout prices available on Nikon scopes right now, and I'd like my readers to be aware of them too.  Why not share a good thing?)

Being on a fairly tight budget, my interest has mainly been in the company's ProStaff range of economically priced riflescopes, where I've found their value and quality to be particularly good.  I have several of their 2-7x32 scopes (ideal, IMHO, for .30-30 lever-action rifles), and their 3-9x40 scopes (which I like on bolt-action rifles).

Right now there are three particularly good value-for-money scopes available.  The first is the ProStaff P3 2-7x32 with BDC (Bullet Drop Compensator) reticle, which is currently available for just $109.00.  The BDC reticle is shown below.

Basically, you zero it at the appropriate range for your cartridge, then use the circles below the cross-hairs to aim at targets beyond the 'zero range'.  You can calculate probable points of impact for each circle (depending on the ballistics of your cartridge and rifle), then verify them at the shooting range.  This allows you to make accurate shots in the field with minimal fuss about hold-over.  I've found it very useful.  (Nikon has an app for Android or Apple smartphones that is supposed to automate the process, but I haven't found it very helpful.  I prefer to use one of the free ballistic calculators out there, then make my own adjustments using paper targets.)

The second "bargain" ProStaff scope out there right now is the 3-9x40 with BDC Reticle, available at only $109.99.  I think this is an excellent scope for the "average" bolt-action hunting rifle, and great value for money.  The third scope is the Rimfire 4-12x40, also with BDC reticle.  Right now it's just $139.95.  For long-range work with .22LR or .22 WMR, it's hard to beat this scope as a mid-price-range offering.

I have all three of those scopes in my collection, and like them all.  They're every bit as good as most affordable scopes out there, and better than many of them.  I wouldn't call them as good as high-end offerings from Leupold or the like, but then, one pays a lot more for the latter.  I simply can't afford them.  At my price point, the Nikon ProStaff range fits my needs very well.


Borepatch hits one out of the park

Fellow blogger Borepatch has put up an excellent article titled "How Big Business and Big Government get ahead by slowing down the economy".  Here's an excerpt.

... well managed companies excel at managing innovation ... What they don't excel at - because they're well managed - is bringing the next, new [innovation] to the market.  You see, the products in that innovation stream very well might undercut their current cash cow products.

So what do they do?  Enter the Regulatory State.  The Government starts issuing all sorts of regulations about this and that, to protect children and kittens and sunshine.  Where do these regulations come from?  Well, a lot of big businesses are happy to help craft these wise and important protections for children, kittens, and sunshine - I mean, who wouldn't?  And along the way the regulations seem to throw up roadblocks to the next set of disruptive technologies.

These new technologies typically come from small companies.  These companies don't have the money to staff up a building full of compliance managers to ensure that the new disruptive products don't kill children and kittens, or block out the very sun itself.

. . .

It's not the tax rate, it's the regulation rate that's making the economy run down.

This situation is called Regulatory Capture, and is a situation where Big Government and Big Business scratch each other's backs.

There's more at the link.

I urge you to click over to Borepatch's place and read the whole thing.  It's a masterful exposition of much of what's wrong with the US economy today.  Thankfully, one of the first things President Trump did when he took office was to require that for every new government regulation that was introduced, two old ones had to be scrapped.  Having been a businessman, he understood the negative impact of over-regulation on the markets, and took steps to deal with it.  Having been a businessman and company director myself (albeit in a much smaller way, and a much smaller nation and economy), and now being an independent author (and, as such, a "small businessman"), I can only approve.


Perhaps we need a Lemon Law for the "woke" news media?

Many states in the USA have so-called "Lemon Laws".  These provide that if a consumer item (typically a car, etc.) fails to meet normal standards of quality and performance, the purchaser can return it to the vendor for a more satisfactory replacement or a full refund.

After this public display of scorn and derision by CNN pundit Don Lemon and his guests (frequent CNN contributor Wajahat Ali and former Republican strategist Rick Wilson) the other night, perhaps we need to expand Lemon Laws to deal with his ilk, too.

Mr. Lemon tried to defend himself and his guests last night, but in a fashion I can only describe as unconvincing.

The sheer, naked contempt on display in that excerpt boggles the mind, but it's nothing new.  That's the attitude the progressive, far-left-wing of US politics has adopted towards President Trump's supporters since before his election (typified by Hillary Clinton's 'basket of deplorables' speech in 2016, and her pseudo-apology for it the following day).  The "woke" brigade and their ilk really believe that anyone and everyone who supports President Trump and/or his policies is ignorant, biased, mentally retarded and stupid beyond redemption.  As far as they're concerned, anything goes to get rid of President Trump, and they're more than willing to ride roughshod over the views of his supporters to undo what they see as the "damage" he's done to America.

(For a current view of precisely what that attitude implies, see what the newly Democratic Party-dominated government of the state of Virginia is doing in its attacks on the Second Amendment and firearms rights.  Despite a massive demonstration in Richmond last weekend, and declarations by more than 90% of the state's counties that they are 'Second Amendment sanctuaries', the state government is ramming through anti-gun laws, rules and regulations as fast as it can.  They don't care that a huge proportion of their state is opposed to such measures.  They want them, and as far as they're concerned, anyone opposed to them is stupid, ignorant and unworthy of acknowledgment.  Therefore, they're going to enact those laws, then come after anyone who dares disobey them.)

I wasn't surprised by the views of Mr. Lemon and his guests.  However, I was surprised to see them so blatantly on display.  Those on the left who are more in the public eye have learned to be more circumspect in letting their true views become known, because they don't want to alienate part of the electorate.  I suppose, since none of those involved are running for office, they felt 'safe' in taking off their masks and revealing what they truly felt.

One hopes that the average Mr. or Mrs. or Miss America will take note of what was said, and the attitudes on display, and vote accordingly in November 2020.  I certainly shall.


Tuesday, January 28, 2020

How is it possible that California can't provide a record of what it's spent???

This simply boggles my mind.  Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.

Just a few of the serious financial problems facing California include unfunded public employee pension promises, a potential state credit downgrade, an unprecedented homeless crisis, and a net out-migration of 912,000 residents since 2010.

One easy step California can take is to join every other state in the union and open up its state checkbook for review. Allowing citizens, journalists, watchdogs, academics, and public policy experts to review state spending would help the state get its fiscal house in order.

Unfortunately, last fall, California State Controller Betty Yee (pictured) rejected our sunshine request for the state checkbook. Oddly, the rejection didn’t argue the law, but instead claimed that the controller couldn’t locate a single one of the 49 million bills she paid last year.

This admission provides a troubling clue to California taxpayers who are wondering how and where their money is being spent. The answer is the people spending it literally don’t know. Or they at least say that don’t.

It is of course unimaginable, and laughable, that the state that is home to Silicon Valley can’t put basic transparency tech in place. That state’s feigned tech illiteracy begs the question: What are they trying to hide?

. . .

So, our organization at, alongside our attorneys at Cause of Action Institute, a government oversight organization, filed an open records lawsuit in Sacramento state court. Our lawsuit begins the process of forcing open the state’s line-by-line expenditures.

There's more at the link.

How on earth could any state employee - much less its chief accountant - think they could get away with refusing to show what they're doing with public money?  No state in the Union can do that, much less the federal government.  (They might lie about it, of course, but those lies can be - and frequently are - uncovered, making them problematic for those who use them.)

I wish Open The Books every success in their lawsuit, and I look forward to seeing what they uncover.  If California isn't accounting for well over $300 billion every year in government expenditures, one does wonder where it's going . . .


Online, you have no privacy

It's hard to emphasize how little privacy - effectively, none - we have online in this digital age.  The risks to our personal, confidential information are enormous.  For most of us, they don't amount to more than the danger of credit card fraud, or something like that;  but for others, particularly those active in any sphere of public debate or opinion-forming, they may be targeted by those opposed to their positions.  Such targeting may even become physical, rather than merely electronic.  (Consider, for example, the union activists who blockaded [on private property] the families of politicians with whose policies they disagreed.  The activists could find out, through simple online research, who to target and where they would be found.)

Four recent articles highlight the danger to our privacy.  I highly recommend that you at least skim through all four, and read them in more detail if you have time to do so.

  1. Ring Doorbell App Packed with Third-Party Trackers - how Ring (and its parent company, share your details with those who are willing to pay for them.
  2. Grindr and OKCupid Sell Your Data, but Twitter’s MoPub Is the Real Problem - how Twitter's software tools allow apps like these to collect and sell your data.
  3. The Rise of Smart Camera Networks, And Why We Should Ban Them - how police and security companies are co-opting private security cameras into an all-pervasive "Big Brother" spying network.
  4. Leaked Documents Expose the Secretive Market for Your Web Browsing Data - a major anti-virus app is harvesting almost every detail of your browsing activity, and selling it to third parties.

If you're not worried by this utter destruction of your online privacy, I submit you have no idea of the security risks involved.  In the USA, we probably don't have to worry about a government-imposed "social credit score" or all-pervasive state surveillance of our activities.  Private companies are doing it already - and making a profit from it.  We're just the meat in the sausage they're selling.

I, for one, find that insulting as well as worrying. How on earth did our society get to a point where we're willing to tolerate such intrusions into our privacy? And how on earth do companies get away with it, without being boycotted and/or sued until they bleed by the consumers they're exploiting?


Exposing an anti-gun hoax?

Last week Dr. Joseph Sakran alleged, in an article in the Baltimore Sun, that an implied death threat had been placed on his car.  On Twitter he provided a picture of the printed threat, and another of it placed beneath a windshield wiper on his car.  (He's since deleted the Twitter images.)

Astute Twitterati observers analyzed the images.  They very quickly realized that the reflections in the windshield, and the surrounding environment, showed that the vehicle was parked in a domestic garage (presumably his);  and the photograph of the paper, taken in what looked like a normal home, showed his bare leg.  In other words, they gave the appearance that he'd printed out the "threat" himself, in his own home, while wearing little or nothing, then put it on his vehicle's windshield himself before taking the photograph of it.  To add even more evidence, according to some commenters, the photographs' EXIF information showed that the picture of the pristine, newly-printed paper in his hand had been timestamped before the one of the paper on the car.  This gave the appearance that he'd printed the paper, then placed it on his vehicle.  What's more, the paper showed no weathering or signs of having been blown around in the wind of the car's passage, making it unlikely to have been placed there days before he took the pictures.

Pro-gun activist David West has put together this video report showing what he alleges is Dr. Sakran's fraudulent claim.

Of course, Dr. Sakran hasn't bothered to reply to these allegations.  Instead, he deleted his tweets, and went on to pontificate about the "threat".

After finding the alleged threat in his car, Sakran said, he took a couple of pictures — placing it back on his windshield for one — and then threw it in the trash, ready to ignore it. On Saturday, he changed his mind.

In a thread of tweets, he talked about partners he has worked with in preventing gun violence, and patients he has cared for.

“We have the opportunity and the responsibility to make communities safer for Americans," he wrote. "For the person who thought they could Silence me by threatening my life, you clearly know nothing about me..... Thank You for showing me that our movement is making a difference.”

Fortunately, deleting his tweets didn't erase the evidence.  The Internet is forever, and enough people had made copies of them that they've been preserved.

Isn't it amazing how often such allegations are made by or about leftists, concerning alleged "threats" offered to them, and are used to whip up support for their positions?  They seem to make a habit of it.  Fortunately, in today's online world, with lots of investigative tools available, falsehoods can usually be detected - at least, so far.  Sadly, if enough of them make enough mistakes in their claims, leading to exposure, the rest will learn from them, and get better at it.



Monday, January 27, 2020

Debunking myths about cast iron cookware

The use and care of cast iron cookware is almost a religion in many kitchens in America - not to mention outdoor cooking aficionados.  I've lost count of the number of times I've been told that one should never use soap on cast iron cookware ("It'll destroy the seasoning!"), or use metal cooking utensils with it ("It'll scratch the surface!"), or another warning against the heinous crime of disrespecting one's cast iron.

Thanks to a recent social media post, I was led to a page on Lodge Manufacturing's Web site.  Lodge makes most of the cast iron cookware produced in the USA, and has been doing so for well over a century.  They offer useful information under the title "10 Myths About Cast Iron Cookware, Busted!"  It turns out that soap won't ruin the seasoning, and metal utensils won't scratch the surface if they're used properly, and you can use cast iron cookware on induction or glass stove tops.

Go read Lodge's advice to separate the myth from the reality of cast iron cookware.  It's useful information - and, armed with the facts, you can tell those who give you bad advice on the subject that they're full of it.


Gun show adventures

As regular readers will know, I had a (second) heart attack last November, for which (thanks be to God) I received successful treatment.  Now the bills are falling due, and since Miss D. and I are trying to avoid taking on new debt, we decided it would be best to liquidate other assets to pay them off.  An obvious candidate was my firearms collection.  I had several relatively valuable guns that I seldom shoot any more, because of physical limitation and lack of opportunity (writing is time-consuming, and hard work!).  I've kept my defensive guns, of course, but many of the recreational ones were available for conversion into cash.

I sold a number of them through an e-mail list of which I'm a member, and cleaned and spruced up the rest for a gun show in a nearby city last weekend.  I decided to rent a table there, rather than try to walk the floor loaded down with ironmongery.  It turned out to be a good idea.  I sold most of the guns I offered for sale, and found two more that I didn't need, but bought on principle, because they were so well priced from a buyer's point of view that they were irresistible.  (Yeah, yeah, I know.  I'm a gun nut.  So sue me.)  Old NFO shared a table with me:  you can read his perspective here.

Over years of experience at gun shows, I've grown used to the characters one meets there.  Some are so well known, and so often encountered, they've become stereotypes.  There are always those who arrive on the last afternoon of the gun show, bearing several firearms they've recently bought.  They wander the aisles, making ridiculously low offers on guns for sale, and demanding outrageous trade-in figures for the guns they've already got in part exchange.  They're looking to "trade up", as the saying goes.  Two of them in particular plagued me yesterday, repeatedly coming back to my table, making low-ball offers, and acting indignant when I offered only fair market prices for their trades.  They eventually stopped coming back when they realized I wasn't about to give in to their tactics.  They were just like most of their breed, trapped in a trade "vicious cycle" of their own making.  By always trading what they've bought, never being satisfied with it, they must lose thousands of dollars . . . but as long as they don't mind that, I suppose it's OK.

A notable difference at this gun show, compared to those I've attended in other states, was the heavy family presence.  There were dozens of families wandering the aisles, from toddlers to grandparents, all making it a social occasion to look at guns, buy beef jerky, cheap jewelry and candy, and generally have fun together.  Several vendors had bowls of candy on their tables, and offered it to passing kids (it was seldom refused).  I really enjoyed the family aspect of this show.  It was refreshing to see firearms treated as just another aspect of normal life - which is precisely as it should be, of course.  I think those kids are likely to grow up with a healthy attitude towards firearms, rather than being terrified of their very existence.  They're just another tool in our toolbox of life, and should be treated as such.

One irritating thing was the discovery that a passerby who'd looked at a Stoeger Condor Outback shotgun of mine had somehow knocked it against the edge of the table, breaking off the rear sight.  I've no idea who it was;  the crush was pretty heavy on Saturday, and there were times when Miss D., Old NFO and I were all busy with other potential customers, so we missed it when it happened.  I had to pull the gun from sale.  I'll buy a replacement sight from Stoeger and repair it, then offer it for sale again.  Frustrating, that.

Another frustration was a Taurus Tracker in .45 ACP that I'd planned to offer for sale, but found to be defective before the gun show.  I'll send it to a local gunsmith for repair before I offer it for sale.  It should be easy enough to fix - it's only a minor problem.  Two other handguns didn't sell, but all the rest of the firearms did, so we cleared a healthy amount towards paying our bills.  I don't think they'll be repossessing my stent anytime soon, anyway!

As for the guns I bought, one will be added to my permanent battery.  It's another Montgomery Ward store-branded version of the Stevens 520/620 shotgun, one of which I acquired and modified a few years ago.  My new acquisition is a couple of decades newer, and in much better condition than my first was when I bought it.  It has the safety catch behind the receiver rather than inside the trigger guard, and was priced at exactly half what I paid for my first.  Since another takedown shotgun is potentially always useful, I decided to take the plunge.  I'll have a local gunsmith duplicate the modifications made to my first one.  That'll give me a backup piece if it's ever needed.  Federal buckshot with their Flite-Control wad (reviewed here:  I use their #1 buckshot reduced-recoil variant) should provide all the persuasion I may need.

The other is a Remington Sportsman 12 Pump shotgun.  It's in very good condition, with decent woodwork and nice blueing.  The Sportsman Pump was Remington's first attempt to make a lower-cost Model 870 - the classic Wingmaster was costing too much to produce, and thus priced higher than the market would bear.  They only produced the Sportsman for a few years during the 1980's before switching to the even more cheaply made 870 Express model.  To my mind, the Sportsman is head and shoulders above the Express.  It feels lighter in my hands, has a blued as opposed to parkerized finish (which looks better, IMHO), and its lines are very clean.  It can even take 870 barrels.  The seller was asking a very reasonable price, but for some reason no-one was nibbling.  In the end I told him that if no-one else had bought it by the end of the last day, I would.  I sometimes encounter friends or acquaintances who need a shotgun, and this will make an excellent loaner gun for them.  I duly brought it home with me.  I didn't need two new-to-me shotguns, but hey - when a bargain offers itself, who am I to complain?  Even Miss D. grinned, and said she wouldn't hold them against me - yet another reason why I love that lady.

All in all, it was a busy, tiring, but also refreshing weekend.  Now to deposit the proceeds in our bank account, to keep the doctors and the hospital happy!


Feet on the dashboard = pelvis in pieces

I've seen many passengers in cars, light trucks or SUV's - almost always women in my experience - put their feet up on top of the dashboard, lean back in their seats, and drive along like that.  I've always regarded it as extremely dangerous, because in the event of an accident, they won't be able to stop their bodies from sliding forward, underneath their seatbelt.  Also, the airbags may slam their feet and legs into other parts of the vehicle, inflicting injury.

A recent accident in England produced this horrifying X-ray.

Metro UK reports:

Police have released a picture showing the devastating injuries a young woman suffered when she was in a crash.

The victim, who has not been named, had her hips crushed because her feet were on the dashboard and not in the footwell.

One of her hips was broken while the other was dislocated.

The image was shared by sergeant Ian Price who said: ‘Here is an X-ray of horrific injuries sustained to the front seat passenger who had their feet on the dashboard at the time of a collision.

‘If you see your passenger doing it, stop driving and show them this.’

. . .

[A] local fire brigade added: ”Airbags deploy between 100 & 220 MPH. If you ride with your feet on the dash and you’re involved in an accident, the airbag may send your knees through your eye sockets.’

There's more at the link.

I'm going to show that picture to Miss D., and have a heart-to-heart chat with her about potential injury, pain and suffering.  I want her around for many years, preferably in one piece!


Sunday, January 26, 2020

Sunday morning music

Britain is to officially leave the European Union on January 31st, 2020.  It'll continue to observe EU rules and regulations for the rest of the year while an agreement on future relations with that body is hammered out, and will become fully free of their encumbrance at the end of this year (at least, that's the current plan).

To honor Britain and its people as they regain some of their independence, and in the hope that the island nation may be restored to at least some of its former glory, here's a quintessentially English anthem.  It's "Jerusalem", a poem by William Blake set to music by Sir Hubert Parry.  The text may be found here.  This rendition is from the Last Night of the Proms concert in 2009;  the annual "Last Night" traditionally features the song in its conclusion.

May formerly great Britain indeed shake off the tangled snares of bureaucratic obfuscation and political correctness, and regain at least something of the Churchillian spirit that inspired it to win two World Wars.


Saturday, January 25, 2020

Saturday Snippet: The sinking of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse in 1941

Americans tend to forget that Japan didn't only attack Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941.  She simultaneously attacked across a wide swath of the Pacific Ocean, including the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies and Malaya.  Britain had just sent to Singapore one of its most modern battleships, HMS Prince of Wales (which had recently played a part in the destruction of the German battleship Bismarck), accompanied by a World War I battle-cruiser, HMS Repulse.  Operating together as Force Z, they attempted to attack a Japanese landing fleet near Singapore a few days later, with disastrous results.

This description of what happened was written by then-Sub-Lieutenant (equivalent to the US Navy rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade) Geoffrey Brooke, a junior officer aboard HMS Prince of Wales.  He survived the sinking, and made a lengthy, dramatic escape from Singapore to India.  He returned to the Pacific aboard a British aircraft carrier in 1944, and took part in the naval and air battles off Okinawa.  After the war he published his memoirs, "Alarm Starboard!", which are very interesting reading for naval history buffs.

Here's what he has to say about the sinking of his ship and her consort on December 10th, 1941.

     The Repulse was on our starboard quarter at four cables (800 yards), her rakish bow carving majestically through the water and a long white road streaming out astern. One destroyer was ahead and another on each bow. The day was warming up to a sticky heat and the Prince of Wales was vibrating to the few knots less than her maximum. A temperature of 136° had just been recorded in the boiler rooms, with several stokers collapsing, and one felt uneasily comfortable on the ADP [Air Defence Position - it looked like this], basking in the man made breeze of some 30m.p.h. However, any contentment was short lived as the lookouts began to yell and one saw them plainly, eight or nine twin-engined plump looking bombers high up ahead.
     On went anti-flash gear and tin hat, to start sweat oozing and running into every fleshy crevice. Our forward 5.25s crashed out, quickly followed by the Repulse’s 4-inch. Seconds later the 5.25s again as the first shells began to wink among their quarry and spatter them with black puffs of T.N.T. The enemy came on steadily, beginning what appeared to be a run on the Repulse. I watched their relentless advance with grudging admiration; some shell bursts were close enough but the formation remained tight. We altered course to starboard and then back to port. They were overhead when the Repulse all but disappeared in a forest of fountains that rose up around her. As the water subsided, brown smoke billowed out from somewhere amidships. With a hollow feeling one realised she had been hit. But she kept on, apparently little the worse. The bombers, now making off, had kept high throughout—about 10,000 feet—and were certainly most competent.
     For some time Force Z sped on unmolested. Repulse got her fire under control and signalled that she was operationally unimpaired. I had taken off my anti-flash gear for a breather when the most ill-timed call of nature of my life made me descend two decks to the bridge heads. I was no sooner seated than every gun in the ship except the 14-inch seemed to open up. The heavy jarring of the 5.25s, the steady bang-bang of the new Bofors and the rhythmic coughing of the multiple pom-poms mocked me as, frantic with annoyance, I sped my departure. I was nearly out when there was a tremendous reverberating explosion that shook my little steel cabinet and had me staggering. It continued as an ominous, muffled rumble that seemed to come from a long way off. My hand was on the door knob when another, peculiar noise percolated through the rest. The gunfire had died down. The noise was rushing water, the sea pouring into our ship, the sound being transmitted up the lavatory waste pipes with chilling clarity. Back up top I was in time to see three or four black dots disappearing towards the horizon.
     Nine Mitsubishi ‘Navy 96’ twin-engined torpedo bombers had dived out of cloud to port, turned towards us and attacked in line abreast. It was some consolation that I would have been on the disengaged side. One aircraft had been shot down, crashing close alongside the ship, but all had released their torpedoes and some had machine-gunned the bridge as they passed near, killing two men on the wings. It seemed that one torpedo had hit the Prince of Wales right aft. We were now describing a turn to port, slowing considerably, and had taken on a noticeable list, also to port. The alteration continued, which we in the ADP watched with disquiet, worst fears confirmed when eventually the ‘not under command’ balls—two big black canvas spheres—went up at the yardarm to denote that HMS Prince of Wales could not steer.
     The damage must be bad, but just how bad one could not tell until reports began to come in from various stations to the Gunnery Officer nearby. The electrics of half the ship—her rear half—had gone, one of the worst results being that the after 5.25-inch batteries (four twin turrets in all) were virtually useless. They could be worked by hand but for AA purposes this was but a gesture. There was also no communication with the affected area, a situation full of menace. Presumably part of the ship’s electrical ring-main and one or more generators were damaged but there was a well tried system of switching to alternative routes or sources of supply, not to mention portable leads that could cross-connect to undamaged sections and doubtless the damage control parties would soon have power restored. But the minutes ticked by and there was no improvement. The ship continued to circle to port, the ominous black balls remained aloft and we began to wonder. As far as we knew there had only been one torpedo hit and, however powerful, its effect was shockingly greater than it should have been. Though nothing was voiced it would be idle to pretend one was not shaken, at least temporarily. Moreover, it was only a question of time before we were attacked again and it was about 150 miles to Singapore. Where the hell were our fighters? We did not know and all we could do in the ADP was to sweep the hostile sky with our glasses yet again.
     Soon—it was just before mid-day—a formation of high-level bombers was seen approaching from the south—I do not remember if they were picked up by radar—which shaped up for a run over the Repulse a mile or so away from us. We fired a few salvoes at long range and she met them with a steady stream of 4-inch fire before disappearing for the second time in a maelstrom of splashes. Hardly had we observed with relief that she was unharmed, when another formation—of torpedo planes this time—came in low on the other side of her in an almost perfectly co-ordinated attack. She put up a 4-inch barrage as they dived towards the sea and when they levelled out and came in at the defiant old ship, her close range weapons opened up with a continuous chatter and she sparkled with fury from a dozen points.
     The attack died away and again she was unscathed. With licence from the Admiral to act independently from the outset, she had opened out during the first action and evasive manoeuvres had taken her still further away. She now closed again and in answer to a query made ‘Thanks to providence have so far dodged 19 torpedoes’. Meanwhile the Prince of Wales still circled—it was learnt that the rudder was jammed—and the list increased. ‘S1’ and ‘S2’ turrets, the only 5.25s on the starboard side with electrical power, could not now depress enough to engage torpedo bombers.
     Minutes later (the time was about 12:20) it was ‘Alarm starboard!’ again and I got ready with my indicating pointer as another nine planes came in low, beyond the Repulse. They broke up into small groups and went for her. She turned away from us towards the leading sub-flight of three, guns banging away. After they had dropped their torpedoes, banked steeply and made off, it looked as if Bill Tennant had done it yet again. But another aircraft, very well handled and possibly unnoticed, had worked its way to our side of her and, having started a run for the Prince of Wales, suddenly turned sharply and headed back for the Repulse. It was followed by two more and in seconds there were three torpedoes racing towards her. It was almost inevitable that one would hit, committed as she was to the wrong direction, and in another moment a tall grey plume shot up from her side, plumb amidships.
     But this was only seen out of the corner of the eye because the next half dozen came straight on for our starboard side, three being almost in line abreast. I should say the ship was doing less than ten knots. All were engaged by pom-poms, Bofors and Oerlikons, my mounting taking the middle aircraft, and the sound was deafening. I expected to see all three of them disintegrate but on they came, seeming to bear charmed lives.* The left-hand one—opposite the ship’s bows—let go first, then the right-hand one and some time after, the centre, three silver cigars slicing into the water in precise sequence. The foremost aircraft came straight on at the ship and for a moment appeared to be bent on flying into her. At the last moment the pilot pulled up over the fo’c’s’le and the large machine with its two radial engines, red sun marking on the side and the crew plainly visible, passed within yards of the four-barrelled pom-pom on ‘B’ turret, under Ian Forbes the bagpipe player. (One could not tell at the time because of the din, but the gun had a stoppage caused by faulty ammunition.) The other two aircraft aircraft banked and roared away astern to leave us in the company of three speeding torpedoes.
     The first track to be seen was the left-hand one, a narrow, pale green streak of rising bubbles that came on, straight as a die, for the bows of the Prince of Wales. We watched fascinated. Never have I felt so helpless. There was a resounding thud, our surroundings trembled as if shaken by an unseen hand and a great column of water, much like the shorts from the Bismarck, rose up alongside ‘A’ turret to a height above us on the ADP.
     Next came the right-hand torpedo. As sure as fate it sped to the quarterdeck where an exact repetition took place. There goes my cabin I thought. And then the third. It seemed to be coming straight for the bridge, almost underneath me. I remember thinking ‘Am I going sky high?’ On and on came the line of bubbles, right up to the ship’s side just forward. Knowing that the torpedo itself was well in advance of its track, I thought—for a split second—that it had passed underneath. But then came a great crash. Everything around seemed to jump and bounce as I gripped the steel parapet in front of me; and then what can only be described as a world of filthy water—I suppose smoke and water mixed—shot up in front to blot out all vision. It spread out and then cascaded down on top of us with crushing force. I shut my eyes and clung to the parapet for dear life. The noise was like all the rainstorms ever invented. When it had subsided there was silence except for the sound of water—it was ankle deep—running away through the drainage scuppers. For the moment there was an indefinable feeling of despondency in the air. Guns obviously sensed it too and with true inspiration shouted to another comically bedraggled officer ‘My God, you don’t look half as good as Dorothy Lamour’ (we had just had the film Hurricane in which Dorothy Lamour spent most of her time in a drenched sarong). A spontaneous laugh went up and the moment passed.
     According to the records we were hit by a fourth torpedo in this attack. I have no recollection of it at all but presume that in concentrating among a lot of noise one can miss such things. (The compass platform narrative, kept by the Captain’s secretary, only noted three on the starboard side.) Scrutiny of the Repulse showed her to have a slight list to port but no great reduction in speed. If only one could say the same of the Prince of Wales! Heaven knows the Japanese had been lucky to get a torpedo home in a vital spot so early on, but someone was loading the dice too heavily against us. It was bad enough to be without air cover but to be fighting, from the first few minutes, with our hands tied behind our backs … ‘Alarm starboard!’ On tin hat again for another attack, but they were not concerned with us this time. No doubt the enemy had seen we were crippled and could wait while they concentrated on the indomitable Repulse.
     We were then subjected to a ringside view of the end of that gallant ship. There can be no more dreadful sight than that of a large vessel, full of one’s own kith and kin, being hounded to the bottom. The seemingly inexhaustible supply of aircraft with which this was accomplished indicated to the impotent watchers what could be in store for us too.
     This time her tormentors came in individually from all directions. It was agonising to watch the gallant battlecruiser, squirming and twisting her way through what we knew was a web of crossing torpedo tracks, guns banging and crackling defiance. One plane flew between the two ships from aft on a parallel course to the Repulse. She hit it just before it came in line with us and a fire started at the tail. The flames ate their way towards the cockpit and the machine began to porpoise as the tail lost directional control. Although it was clear the men inside had only seconds to live I watched with undiluted pleasure. The plane slowed, its whole fuselage a torch, and then the blazing mass dived into the sea. A cloud of smoke went up and we all cheered. Turning back to the Repulse I was just in time to see another plume shoot up from her port quarter. Her port screws and rudder must be damaged and this, one knew, was the beginning of the end. Even as the thought registered there were three more hits in quick succession, two on this side of her and one on the other. As the last aircraft pulled up and away the Repulse had a severe list and her speed was right down.
     She was now about four miles away. The sea was calm and grey, as was the sky. At the end she was steaming slowly at right angles to our line of sight, from right to left. She was still making headway when her bow began to go under like an enormous submarine and terrible to see. As the waves came aft along her fo’c’s’le—tilted towards us—and then engulfed the great 15-inch turrets, still fore and aft, she listed further and remained so for a time. Then she rolled right over, upperworks, mast, funnels and all splashing on to the surface of the sea. She lay on her side for a few seconds—perhaps longer—stopped at last. Then her keel came uppermost and she began to sink by the stern. The last thing I saw was the sharp bow, pointing skywards, disappearing slowly in a ring of troubled water.
     Two of the destroyers were speeding to succour the black dots that speckled the area. I found myself watching with a dry mouth. Had Bill Tennant gone down with her? And Pool? Were they fighting for their lives at this very moment? But there was no future in such thoughts and hard as it was I concentrated my mind on our own predicament. Not to much comfort. The ship, in which we had great faith, was designed to stand many more than half a dozen torpedoes. But facts were facts. We were unmanoeuvrable and there were no powerful ships that could come to our aid. Up till now I had contrived a mental blanket that kept out thoughts of disaster but the evidence of one’s own eyes is hard to discount. The Repulse might have been old but at least she had begun her death struggle in a fair condition. Only a few of our 5.25s were still in action. Though the list had been temporarily reduced—either by counter-flooding or the results of the last three torpedoes—it had begun to worsen again and the close-range weapons would soon be difficult to handle (the electrics of some had failed and they were using the unfamiliar direct sights). Above all, where the hell was the RAF? Even a few fighters would make all the difference...

. . .

     It was now about 12:40. The list was steadily increasing and reports began to come in from some close-range mountings that they could not depress enough to counteract this. Others followed. For some minutes we remained at our virtually useless stations and then a Petty Officer of Quarters of one of the pom-poms came up to the Gunnery officer and saluted. ‘Permission to fall out my gun’s crew Sir please?’ Guns thought for a moment and then said ‘Yes’, subsequently dismissing the remainder who could not fire, including mine. I was taken aback but no doubt Guns appreciated the gravity of the situation better than I.
     With nothing on hand, and being a supernumerary of the Air Defence organisation anyway, I left the ADP and began to make my way down without any particular intention. I was passing a plotting office when there was the drone of bombers. Going outside I saw someone looking up and made out a formation that was just about over us, high up to port. One or two of the forward 5.25s fired and I went back into the plotting office. Two ratings were on all fours under a small table. I snapped at them to behave like men and come out. They emerged sheepishly and were making a show of resuming their duties, when the ever increasing whistle of descending bombs, and large ones at that, froze the three of us. A second later there was a heavy detonation nearby, and the ship trembled with a now familiar convulsion. I could not very well give the two men the usual ‘Get on with your work’ because I knew and they knew that there was no longer any work to get on with, so I scowled appropriately and left. There was a lot of smoke about on the catapult deck but no exact indication of where it had come from. (In fact a large bomb had penetrated on the port side to burst in the recreation space beneath.)
     The Flag Lieutenant (B.R. Armitage) was standing on the starboard wing of the Admiral’s bridge, looking aft at the quarterdeck where some wounded were gathered. He was a very pleasant, large RNVR (an amateur boxer, I believe) whom I had got to know quite well in the very few weeks he had been on board. ‘Thank God it’s a calm day for a bathe’ I said. ‘Oh it’s all right for you to joke about it’, he replied ‘I can’t swim’. I said not to worry, just catch hold of something floating, there was sure to be lots of it about. Neither of us had our rubber lifebelts with us. We talked for a bit and then I heard (though there was no official order) someone shout ‘Abandon ship!’ So this was it. A glance aft confirmed that the end was not far off. A destroyer had come alongside the quarterdeck, the port side of which appeared to be almost awash.
     I then remembered that my inflatable life jacket was in my action bag in the 14-inch director, right aft, and decided to go and get it. I went down on to the catapult deck and, crossing among buckled plates, climbed up a steel ladder that led to the boat-deck, two pom-poms each side of the second funnel and eventually my goal. Though it was awkward going in some places, I was still not unduly worried and was ‘making haste slowly’.
     Suddenly I saw that the sea was lapping at the support of the lowest pom-pom mounting. The sea near the base of the funnel! It struck me in a flash that not only was the ship heeled over but also very low in the water and the end probably a matter of minutes. The life-belt forgotten, I retraced my steps as quickly as possible. Ships’ bows always seemed to sink last and I had long since determined that the fo’c’s’le was the place to aim for.
     From the top of the steel ladder I saw that the destroyer had moved up the starboard side so that her waist was abreast the catapult and hands along her side were casting heaving-lines up to the Prince of Wales. Our men were gathering at the guardrails opposite her and also on the higher level of the 5.25-inch turrets. Recrossing the catapult deck—with some difficulty due to the list—I climbed back up past the 5.25 battery and found several patient queues formed at the upper deck guardrail just forward, where the heaving lines from the destroyer— now relatively stationary—had been secured. Several men were dangling from each, jerking themselves along, hand-over-hand like puppets. I decided to join the nearest queue, rather than go forward. It seemed to take an age—though probably only a couple of minutes—to get near the front and this offered ample opportunity to look round.
     There were hundreds of men gathered along the side in both directions. Some were already jumping off forward. A dozen lines down to the destroyer were thick with wriggling figures. There was no untoward noise of any sort, all concerned were simply going about the business of saving themselves with proper determination. The sea between the two ships and for some distance around was now black with oil fuel and the pungent smell of it assailed the nostrils. By now one could sense the heel of the deck increasing under one’s feet, underlined by the fact that the gap between the ships was growing infinitesimally. A macabre race ensued. I reckoned the chances were even and made ready for a dash towards the bows in reversion to my original plan.
     Someone on the other side shouted ‘Stand by!’ It was the destroyer Captain, a sandy-bearded Lieutenant Commander (F.J. Cartwright), a picture of coolness as he lent on his forearms at the corner of the bridge, watching the side of the Prince of Wales. On the deck beneath, a seaman stood at each line, knife poised over the taut rope, eyes on his Captain. At last there was no one in front of me. I gave my precursor a few feet and went too, the half-inch diameter rope biting into my hands with considerable intensity. It was surprisingly tiring work, now with the nightmare element that, as the battleship heeled increasingly away, the men at the other end of the rope had to pay it out, nullifying most of one’s efforts. When the last few yards became a steep uphill haul—the weight of bodies kept the rope well down—I felt for a moment too exhausted to go on but a glance at the oily water in which men were already struggling provided the spur of desperation. A last effort put my wrists within the grasp of eager hands and in one exhilarating heave I was over the destroyer’s rail. Crawling out of the way to regain my breath, I saw the man after me come safely over and then ‘Slip!’ roared the destroyer Captain.
     The row of knives flashed and, as I struggled to my feet, all the ropes swung down, heavy with men, to crash sickeningly against the battleship’s side. ‘Starboard ten, full astern together’, came from the bridge above and, as the engine room telegraph clanged, the grey wall opposite began to roll inexorably away. There was a heavy bump and we began to heel violently outwards. Grabbing at something I realised that the Prince of Wales’ bilge keel had caught under the destroyer. Her skipper had left it too late! But the next instant she swung back, the powerful propellers began to bite, and gathering sternway we surged clear. The destroyer stood off a cable or so and in silence except for the hum of her engine room fans, we watched aghast.
     The great battleship continued to roll slowly away; as her upperworks dwindled and then vanished, the grey paint on her hull changed to brown as the dividing black line of her boot-topping rose out of the water, and the men at the guardrails began to climb over and slide down this treacherous slope. Those still hanging on to the severed ropes found themselves lying on a near-horizontal surface. Some scrambled to their feet and joined the long lines of men moving at ever increasing speed, as if running on a giant treadmill.
     The bilge keel that had hit the destroyer in its upward climb from the depths, reared out of the water, a massive six-foot steel wall that now bore down threateningly on the advancing throng. They climbed desperately over it and continued on. The ship was now nearly bottom up with the main keel rolling, if more gently, towards them. She then slowed to a standstill, a 700-foot waterlogged cylinder of brown, the forefoot higher than the stern.
     How long she stayed like that I do not know, a minute or two I think, as if doing her best to give the last of her men some sort of chance. They were slipping and sliding into the water, now uniformly black with oil fuel and littered with débris. Two or three of the ship’s boats were floating away on the other side.
     Then we saw that the huge hull was disappearing. The bows rose higher and higher. A perimeter of broken water marked, as if with throttling fingers, the exact extent of the ship that remained. This closed in steadily towards the bow as the main body of the hull settled deeper. Again there was a pause when the sharp bow alone was visible-poised like a stark memorial to the brave men she was taking down with her—and then in a last turmoil of foam it slid from view.
     The surrounding water, for some time a great confusion of eddies and swirls, was a mass of black specks as the heads of swimming men showed in exact and dreadful emulation of Repulse’s end. Some made for the boats which soon became little islands of packed humanity. Others struck out for us and another destroyer that had closed in. By now our side was almost covered with scrambling nets and ropes of all sizes. Tired men were soon clinging to them and being hauled up. Some were wounded or too exhausted to do anything but just catch a hold, and fell back when their full weight was lifted clear. Sailors from the destroyer went down to the bottom of the nets to help the swimmers and several jumped into the sea to bring in the worst cases. Nearly all were covered in oil fuel, very painful to the eyes, and those who had swallowed any were coughing and retching.
     We worked like beavers hauling on the ropes. If the sea had been at all rough the numbers saved would have been very much smaller. Soon there were more men on deck than appeared to be left in the water and we took turns at the hauling. Some of Prince of Wales’ Engine Room staff were dreadfully scalded, presumably from escaping steam; in particular I remember the little Senior Engineer (Lieutenant Commander (E) R.O. Lockley), on whom the brunt of the responsibility for his department had evolved, with the flesh hanging from his chest in dreadful white bights.

A sad tale, and a national tragedy for Britain in one of its darkest moments of World War II.  Coming as it did on top of the US naval disaster at Pearl Harbor, it was an enormous shock to both nations.  On the other hand, their mutual desire for revenge drove them to ever-greater efforts, culminating in victory in 1945.

S/Lt. Brooke's adventures in Asia were only just beginning.  He made a long escape through the islands of the East Indies, culminating in a long, arduous voyage aboard a sail-powered native trading vessel all the way from the Dutch East Indies (today Indonesia) to Ceylon (today Sri Lanka).  It's a powerful tale, well told in his book, which I recommend.


Friday, January 24, 2020

Everything you wanted to know about the Internet and sex toys (but were afraid to ask)

Fear not:  your curiosity has been satisfied.  CNET has published an analysis of the state of play (you should pardon the expression) in the "connected" sex toy market.  I'm not going to go into details here (for obvious reasons, on a family-friendly blog), but I must admit to being mind-boggled by some of the things out there.  Note, too, the names of some of the companies and Web sites involved.  Weird, yes, but funny too!  Not so funny is the news that such devices may be spying on you, and reporting back to their manufacturers on how, and how often, you use them.  That poses all sorts of security and privacy questions.

I've never used a sex toy in my life, so I know very little about them.  I recall, on my first visit to North America, being taken to a sex shop by my sister, who was determined to show her still-somewhat-innocent younger brother what things were like on this side of the Atlantic.  I disconcerted her by bursting out laughing as I looked at a remote-controlled dildo/vibrator.  When she asked why, I told her I had visions of the people in the apartment next door changing their TV channel and sending the thing haywire.  She didn't find it amusing, but the memory still makes me giggle.


Headline of the day

From CNN:

It goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway) that police suspect fowl play . . .


Want to win a really nifty long-range rifle?

Fellow blogger and South African expatriate Kim du Toit is trying to get money together for a specialized long-range rifle to take to Boomershoot this year.  He's come up with a nifty way to raise the funds.

1.  You can only make one $40* donation per household, and only $40.  More than $40, and I’ll send the surplus to Greenpeace.  Believe me on this.  If you send me two checks, one for yourself and one for your “brother”, the checks had better be in two different names and addresses, or the second goes to Greenpeace.  Husband & wife get no exception.  One entry per household.  Don’t test me.

2.  Checks or money orders only, with your current address listed — I need the paper trail — to the sooper-seekrit mailing address (see source), made out to Kim du Toit.  Make sure the “Note” on the check says ULD Rifle 2020 and your website ID (if you have one) so I know it’s for the rifle and not just a donation.  By sending me a check, you agree that I can publish your name / ID (but not address) as the winner.

3.  The drawing will be notarized, i.e. performed by a third party and witnessed by a notary public or some such official, to keep this kosher and the ATF happy.

4.  I get to pick the rifle, and the scope — and what I get will depend on how much I get in donations.  The winner gets what I picked out, and no whimpering or complaining.  (Sheesh… you’ll be getting a fine long-distance setup for $40.)

5.  It will be chambered in .3x caliber, so that I can get better results past the 400-yard mark (from experience, the smaller 6.5x55mm bullet gets blown around a little too much for consistent accuracy at 400+ distances — and the wind always  blows at Boomershoot).  It will most likely be in .308 Win or thereabouts, but I’m not ruling out .300 Win Mag and the like, if I can get a decent deal.

. . .

13.  I reserve the right to close the fund at any time, when I judge that the fund has reached an acceptable level.  Judging from the popularity of the idea the last time I did this, I’m going to set an arbitrary shut-off date of January 31, 2020 but I also reserve the right to extend the date too.

14.  Conversely, if I don’t get enough money to buy a really decent rig, I’ll just close the fund, refund your donations and go with what I’ve got.  I don’t want to do that.

There's more at the link.

It certainly sounds like a good idea, and with relatively few participants (I doubt there'll be more than two figures' worth), the odds of winning are pleasantly attractive.  I'll be sending in my check, and I thought some of my readers might like to join in the fun.  At the very least, it'll give Kim a few days of pleasant ballistic relaxation therapy!


Thursday, January 23, 2020

Amazing critters

Earlier this month I posted a photograph of octopus eggs that fascinated me.  In response, a reader sent me the link to this video report on the critters, which is even more interesting.

I've seen many octopii in the wild, during my youth in South Africa, but I never knew all that about them.  I'll try not to think about it next time I'm eating calamari!


"The big hand is on the 12, and the little hand . . . "

It seems our digital era is causing yet another casualty.

It has long been a rite of passage for young children; the moment they first begin to grasp how to tell the time as their parents patiently explain the significance of the “big hand” and the “little hand”.

But the ubiquity of mobile phones and tablets, with their digital 24-hour clock, is threatening to make the art of telling the time from a traditional timepiece redundant.

So much so that a school in Scotland has found that pupils as old as 13 are unable to tell the time from the ‘analogue’ clocks hanging in classrooms and corridors.

. . .

Now the school, in the town of Bridge of Earn, has begun to teach pupils to read a clock the old fashioned way, without resorting to their mobile phones.

In fact mobiles and tablets have been banned during school hours to encourage the girls to look at the clocks around the school.

. . .

Mrs MacGinty insists ... that there are some skills that should transcend the generations.

“Society is changing and the curriculum should change to reflect this,” she said. “But some skills are too important to ignore.

“For example, we are still teaching pupils to read rail and bus timetables, even though it is no longer in the senior school maths syllabus, because it is important that pupils understand how to read these.”

She added: “Having the ability to understand the movement of the minute hand and the hour hand around the face of a clock gives young people a tangible understanding of the passing of time, not just numbers changing on a digital screen.”

There's more at the link.

Actually, I can understand how youngsters today simply don't come into contact with old-fashioned clock- and watch-faces often enough to need to know how to interpret them.  That's a fact of life.  What worries me far more is how they come to depend on digital technology to do things that should, indeed, be basic life skills, because without them we can get into all sorts of difficulties - even serious danger.  Examples:
  • Learning to look out of the window and read the weather signs.  Most of us grew up knowing old doggerel couplets about "red sky at night" or "mackerel sky" or what have you.  They were signs that predicted what was to come.  Many kids today couldn't tell you what to expect without consulting a weather forecast.
  • Being able to deal with a minor emergency such as changing a car tire, or shutting off water or gas to a home.  I know a lot of people who simply don't know how to do any of those things.  In an emergency, they reach for their cellphones and call someone else to come and do it for them.  What if no-one's available?
  • Reading maps.  When I first came to the USA in the late 1990's, I navigated all over the eastern half of the country, from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, using a Rand McNally road atlas and my knowledge of how maps worked.  I had no smartphone, no GPS system.  I didn't need them.  How many young people today could say - or do - the same?
  • Conduct research.  I had to learn to use a library card index, look up information in books, magazines and newspapers, learn where to find the facts I needed - not just libraries, but also museums, university faculties, corporations, etc. - and so on.  By the time I did my Masters degree dissertation, I could use computers to crunch numbers, write and format the text, etc., but I still had to plan, design and conduct the research, collect the results, and analyze them.  Nowadays, that process is so automated that I have to wonder how many students could do it on their own.
  • Meet people, carry on a conversation, etc.  If I wanted to meet girls, I had to learn to talk to them, carry myself like a halfway decent human being (clothes, manners, language, etc.), and make myself someone in whom they might be interested.  Nowadays it's all "swipe left" or "swipe right" on a smartphone screen.  What's more, sex was usually something that happened (if it did - it wasn't guaranteed) after you got to know each other - not as a preliminary to that!  Take away their smartphones and apps, and how many people would be able to carry on a normal, civilized conversation, and get to know someone the old-fashioned way?
  • Personal security.  How many young people today are willing and able to defend themselves and their loved ones against criminal attack?  How many youngsters are taught to "read the signs" of a not-so-good neighborhood, or a potential predator, and avoid them?  How many kids go off to college oblivious to the fact that there are bad people out there, and end up being assaulted, raped or murdered because they take no precautions whatsoever?  I don't blame them for that so much as I blame those who didn't prepare them for the realities of life.

I suppose reading an old-fashioned clock face is really just an early indicator for all of those issues, and more.  How to solve the problem?  I'm not sure.  Parents don't seem to be doing their job in teaching their youngsters how to cope with life, the universe and everything.  They appear to be abdicating that responsibility to the schools - but schools aren't designed to do that job.  If we expect and allow them to act in loco parentis, we have no right to get upset when they teach our kids things we'd rather they didn't learn.  That goes with the territory.