Saturday, May 15, 2021

Saturday Snippet: Surfboarding down to Mars


John Varley is a well-known science fiction author, with many books to his credit.  I like the way he uses his imagination to conjure up scenarios for his novels.  In "Red Lightning", second in the four-volume "The Thunder and Lightning" series, he has his teenaged protagonist surfing the atmosphere of Mars (such as it is) on his way from one of the planet's moons, Phobos, to his home below.

Here's how it goes.

No question about it, one of the things that doesn’t suck about Mars is airboards. And it may be the one thing Earthie kids my age envy us. You can’t use them on Earth—please!—and to use one on Mars you have to be a Martian. In fact, if a lot of Martian parents had their way, nobody would be able to use them at all. Hence the computer beeping at me, and less obvious safety measures.

We call them boards to be cool, to fit in with surfboards, which we obviously can’t use on Mars, and skateboards, which we can and do use, and are able to do tricks nobody could even think of on Earth.

What they actually look like is a snowmobile or a Jet Ski, sitting on a longer, wider surfboard. You straddle the engine and air tanks, sitting on a motorcycle seat, and there’s a clear Nomex aerodynamic shield in front of you, but other than that, you’re in open space, nothing but your suit to protect you from vacuum.

I fired the jets for the last time as I felt the very thin atmosphere begin to tug slightly on my board. Below me, Mars was spread out like a giant plate of lasagna. Sorry, but that’s really the best analogy I can come up with. Orange tomato sauce and cream-colored pasta, with a few smears of black olive here and there. The only things that didn’t fit the picture were the single, monumental peak of Olympus Mons and the perfect row of Ascraeus, Pavonis, and Arsia Mons east of the big boy. All four gigantic extinct volcanoes showed white caps of frozen water and carbon-dioxide ice.

I checked all my helmet displays, and everything was co-pacetic. Airboarding is fun, but you don’t want to forget that you can reach some serious high temperatures on the way in, and that you’ve got a reentry footprint you don’t dare ignore. Too high and you’re okay, you’ll skip out and have to try it again, a long way from your target, and endure the merciless ridicule of all the people you know when you get down. Too low, and you can toe right into the soup, decelerate at a killing rate, and fry. Falling off your board on Mars is not an option.

You do have to do a little skipping, but the best way to kill your velocity is slaloming. You have handlebars on the front, and of course you’re strapped down tight, so you hang on and shift your body left and right, maybe hang five, which means putting one foot out into the airstream for a few moments. Wear your heavy boots for that one.

I swooshed left, toward Olympus, traveled for a while almost parallel to the triple peaks, which might have been put there by the god Ares as a flight path indicator. When you get over Pavonis, it’s time to jog right again.

The gee forces were building up, shoving me down into the seat, and a faint ghost of a shock wave was curling over the top of the windshield and buffeting my helmet. That air was cold when it hit the windshield, and pretty hot when it left. The clear material began to glow light pink.

I was getting to the hottest part of the trip, pulling about a gee, which was easy. I dug a little deeper into the air and pulled a bit more. Then I started getting a little blue color in the air. That was a very tiny bit of the ablative coating of the board bottom burning off. About every fifth or sixth trip you had to spray some more on it, sort of like recapping a bald tire on Earth. But you could mix in some chemical compounds that didn’t have anything to do with slowing you down, like strontium or lithium salts for red, barium chloride for green, strontium and copper for purple, magnesium or aluminum for intense white. Same stuff you use in fireworks. Not a lot of it, and the resulting firetail is not as spectacular as a Landing Day display, but it’ll do.

If you’ve got bubble-drive power, you can theoretically start off at any time of day for any destination, and the same on your return. But it can take a long time, even accelerating all the way. The most practical thing is to take off for Phobos during a launch window that lasts about an hour, and when you return there’s an ideal time to leave to get to Thunder City—which is just about the only place worth going on Mars.

That means that a lot of people were reentering at the same time I was. Off to each side of me I could see multicolored flame trails as other boarders showed their stuff. As usual, there were varying degrees of skill. I watched as much as I could while still keeping my eyes on all the telltales and keeping my feel for the board. To my left I saw a board getting a little too close. I saw on the display that I was about half a mile ahead of him, which by the rules of the air gave me the right of way. He kept coming, and I got a yellow light on the heads-up. Jerk. I punched the console and a yellow flare arched out in his direction. In about a second he saw it and banked away from me. A window popped up on my display and I saw a kid about fifteen years old, his face distorted by the gee forces he was pulling.

“Sorry, space,” he said.

“Stay cool,” I said, which he could take any way he wanted.

Below, about fifteen thousand feet, I saw Thunder City, and I banked again and went into a long, altitude-killing turn. Looking out to the side, I got a wonderful view of what had been my hometown since I was five.

My, how it had grown.

When my family arrived the first hotel on the planet, the Marineris Hyatt, which my father was to manage, was still under construction. People were still new at this, at constructing buildings in an environment as hostile as Mars. The hotel was finished almost a year behind schedule. But it was full on opening day, and Earthies were clamoring for more rooms. So we built them.

Now you could hardly find the original Hyatt, which had come within a hair of being torn down before my mother and some others led a campaign to save it as our first historical building. It was converted into our first, and so far only, museum. Next to it was the Red Thunder, which Dad now ran, and where I had lived for the last five years. It was still the tallest and most impressive freestanding building in Thunder City, but wouldn’t be for long. I could see three new hotels in the works, all of which would be bigger.

The city was built in an irregular line, which had grown to about seven miles. There were a lot of domes, both geodesic and inflatable, the biggest being a Bucky dome almost a mile in diameter. It was all connected by the Grand Concourse, of which an architectural critic had said, “It represents the apotheosis of the turn-of-the-century airport waiting room.” Yeah, well. We can’t have open-air promenades with old elm trees on Mars. So most of the trees on the concourse are concrete, with plastic leaves. It’s all roofed with clear Lexan, and maybe it’s tacky, and maybe it is nothing but a giant shopping mall, but it’s home to me.

The slightly zigzag line of the concourse pointed toward the Valles Marineris, five miles away. There was one hotel out there, on the edge, and I swung over the Valles as I deployed my composite fabric wings to complete my deceleration. Like the old Space Shuttle, the board wasn’t capable of anything but a downward glide with those wings, but if you were good and had a head wind and maybe a thermal, you could stretch that glide pretty far. I went out over the edges of the Valles, which is just a fancy word for canyon. The Grand Canyon of Mars, so big that it would stretch from New York City to Los Angeles. You could lose whole states in some of the side canyons. I felt a little lift from the rising, thin, warm air. When I say warm, I mean a few degrees below zero. That’s balmy on Mars. But I didn’t linger. I banked again and soon was down to three thousand feet over my hometown.

I'd never have thought of combining a surfboard with atmospheric re-entry, but I suppose it's logical, if you think of "conventional" re-entry maneuvers currently used by spacecraft.  They don't so much "surf" as skip off the upper edge of the atmosphere to lose velocity (or accomplish the same thing by firing retro-rockets) before slanting down on a long, angled re-entry trajectory.

That's a nice piece of imaginative writing, IMHO.


Friday, May 14, 2021

A fatal flight for a firefighting crew


China makes the Z-8, a licensed copy of the French SA 321 Super Frelon helicopter dating back to the 1960's.  I'm familiar with the type, having flown in South African Air Force Super Frelons during the 1970's and 1980's.  It can hold up to 30 troops, and has three engines, giving good performance compared to other helicopters of its vintage.  One of the pre-production prototypes held three world speed records for a time.

Amongst other tasks, China uses its Z-8's for firefighting duties, carrying a large bucket to drop water on the flames.  Tragically, a firefighting Z-8 got into difficulties earlier this week;  from the footage, it looks as if it lost tail rotor function and/or control.

Sadly, it appears that the two pilots and two crew members of the Z-8 did not survive the crash.  Say a prayer for their souls - and remember all those engaged in such hazardous occupations.  They take their lives in their hands every time they go out.


Yet more lessons learned from a recent war


We've examined last year's Armenia-Azerbaijan war over the Nagorno-Karabak enclave in two previous blog posts.  Now comes an article over at American Partisan, looking at what we can learn about strategy and tactics in a highly technological hostile environment.

The Second Nagorno-Karabakh War was fought between Armenia and Azerbaijan from September 24 to November 10, 2020. This 44-day war resulted in a decisive military victory for Azerbaijan. Armenia was out-fought, out-numbered, and out-spent and lost even though they controlled the high-ground in a mountainous region that favored traditional defense. Azerbaijan’s alliance with Turkey, and close technological support from Israel, strategically isolated Armenia. In addition, Turkey’s posturing influenced the Russians not to intervene to support Armenia. That Azerbaijan attacked Armenia during the pandemic was an additional factor. The fact that Azerbaijan won the war is not extraordinary, considering the correlation of forces arrayed against Armenia. What is exceptional is that this was the first modern war primarily decided by unmanned weapons ... Here are ten lessons derived from a deep study of the open-source information about the conflict.

1. KNOW YOURSELF AND KNOW YOUR ENEMY: The First Nagorno-Karabakh War was a protracted conflict fought between1988 to 1994. The war ended in Armenian victory and the occupation by Armenia of most of Nagorno-Karabakh. The Azerbaijanis didn’t want a repeat of that disaster. They researched their opponent, studied recent changes in the methods of war, adopted the latest weapons and proven tactics from Turkey!s experience in Syria and Libya, and trained their forces. Azerbaijan foresaw a niche advantage over their enemy and outspent Armenia six-to-one, investing more than $24 billion in the decade before the war to purchase the latest Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), UCAV, and LM technology from Turkey and Israel. One of the primary lessons of the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War is to “know yourself and know your enemy,” and act on that knowledge.

. . .

3. DOMINATE AS MANY DOMAINS AS POSSIBLE: Azerbaijan fought in all five domains (land, sea, air, cyber, and space), while Armenia fought in the land, air, and cyber domains. Azerbaijan used Turkish satellites and accessed commercial satellites for data transmission and information. Azerbaijan commanded the land, air, space, and cyber domains for decisive moments during the first two weeks of the fighting to devastate Armenian air defenses and this gave Azerbaijan air supremacy over Nagorno-Karabakh. From that moment on, the Azerbaijanis continued to fight in all domains to their advantage. The ability to see, decide, and engage in multiple domains, and dominate the ones that matter during decisive periods, is the essence of war in the 21st century.

. . .

5. THE BATTLESPACE IS TRANSPARENT: Azerbaijani sensors, mostly mounted on UAVs, gave the Azerbaijani military a clear, 24-hour, unblinking view of the battlespace. Armenian positions that were camouflaged in the traditional way, were still identified by electro optical and thermal cameras. Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) platforms were merged with strike capability in the forms of the TB2 and HAROP. High-definition, full-motion-realtime videos from these platforms provided ISR, destroyed systems and personnel, and provided accurate battle damage assessments (BDA). Although both sides had plenty of tanks, it appears that tanks seldom got within shooting range and most engagements were fought at stand-off distances. Combined arms can still be decisive, as air platforms cannot take and hold ground, but only if ground forces survive long enough to move within direct fire range. During the war, there were more standoff engagements, than close combat fights.

There's more at the link.  Highly recommended reading, particularly for military technology buffs and those focusing on strategy and tactics for the modern battlefield.

As I've said before, in military technology terms, I daresay I'm a dinosaur.  During my military service, and in combat, I used the technology of the 1970's and 1980's.  That's now so far out of date that it probably would not be survivable on a modern, hi-tech battlefield.  Iraq was completely outclassed using Soviet technology of the same vintage against US and coalition forces in the First and Second Gulf Wars.  Now, using it would be like shooting fish in a barrel for more advanced opponents.  Gives me a nasty itching feeling between my shoulder blades . . .


Money and negotiable valuables in an emergency


Aesop, writing at Raconteur Report, emphasizes the necessity of money as a fundamental element of being prepared for whatever life might throw at you.  In general, I agree with him, although I differ on some specifics.


Nota bene we did not say "cash". Cash is nice, but it's not money. In fact, it's explicitly something commonly accepted by people AS IF IT WERE money, thus not money, per se.

Gold is money. Silver is money. Other precious metals (nickel, copper, platinum, etc.) can be money. US dollars (nor Euros, British pounds, Swiss francs, Japanese yen, etc.) are NOT money, and haven't been since they stopped being readily exchangeable for actual specie.

Other things (jewels, bonds, stocks) are worth money, but they aren't money either. Nobody prices gas or milk in gallons per carat, for instance.

So as you're stocking up on canned goods (both in #10 cans, and in olive drab ones), and storing water, fuel, and all sorts of consumables from pins to nails to bolts to lumber products - you are working on that, right? - make sure you're storing money. And cash. In a cache. Or ten.

. . .

So part of your efforts should include adding "junk" silver (i.e. U.S. coinage prior to 1965, which is 90% silver by content), and gold (ideally in fractional ounce denominations - 1/10th oz., 1/4 oz., etc. - as coins worth $1800 and up for full ounces are a bit too concentrated for everyday items) to your stockpile(s). I made that plural, because you shouldn't keep all your nest eggs in one basket. In any sense.

And, as every devotee of Dave Ramsay knows, have a cash reserve.

Six months' gross income is a worthy goal. It gives you options, not least of which is "F**k You" money, to cope with a bad boss, a bad situation, or a bad location. Anything you can't solve with six months' cash is pretty much catastrophic levels of problem. Probably 90% of life's problems are readily solved by a six month float.

Any or all of this should be stored, safely and securely, and not in places or institutions that do not have your best interests in mind. IOW, safety deposit boxes suck. Try getting into yours after a disaster, or a bank run. Or after a tax lien. [Hint: It ain't happening. And you're therefore screwed. Possibly terminally. Think about that.]

. . .

So your emergency cash stash should be ready to hand. It's your bugout bankroll, or most of it. Cash will likely solve most of your small problems, and still be accepted (howsoever briefly) in major disturbances to society. IOW, long enough for you to get from current home to safety, if they suddenly cease being one and the same place.

The melt value on a roll of silver dimes is currently about $100, btw. A shade under $2/@, at the moment. In 50 years, it will still be 50 pieces of 90% silver. The $100 in a crisp Benjamin will not be nearly as valuable in 50 years' time, or even in 20 years. Bet on that reality. Ignore that truth to your own financial peril.

There's more at the link.

I did a little calculating the other day.  I bought our (very small) stock of silver coins (US Silver Eagles, Canadian Silver Maples, and Austrian Wiener Philharmoniker, all containing 1 oz. of pure silver) in 2015.  Looking at their price, then and now, they've appreciated by something like 50% - which, when you think about it, is just about the overall rate of US inflation (real inflation, not government statistics) since I bought them.  In other words, they really have been a store of value for us, retaining the value of the dollars with which we bought them.  They're a worthwhile hedge against inflation.

I'm not sure about Aesop's advice to buy pre-1965 US silver coins for their 90% silver content.  There are an awful lot of fakes out there, including well-worn coins where the year mark has simply been re-stamped.  Some are obvious, detectable with the naked eye, while others are not.  Furthermore, there are people who've made their own molds for them, pre-worn, and are casting coins that contain no silver at all.  I probably won't have time to figure them out in an emergency situation, so I won't be accepting them in exchange for anything I have to sell.  Brand-new 1 oz. silver rounds, on the other hand, from a reputable source (complete with dated sales receipt) and bearing a reputable "brand" . . . that's another story.

I agree with Aesop and others about the utility of a cash reserve equivalent to several months' expenditure.  Sadly, we don't have that, because we simply can't afford it on our limited income.  We have a small cash reserve, and I'd very much like to expand it, but right now that simply isn't possible.  As I get back to publishing books (five are in the pipeline right now!), I hope I'll earn enough to add to it, one book at a time.  Meanwhile, even a few hundred dollars tucked away somewhere safe can be a life-saver.  According to CNBC, "Fewer than 4 in 10 people have enough savings to pay for an unexpected $1,000 expense in cash.  The rest would have to borrow, use a credit card or take out a personal loan."  I think it's a worthwhile goal for all of us to try to accumulate at least that much in an emergency reserve, as a starting point.

A mistake many "preppers" make is that they put all their resources into accumulating food, essential supplies, weapons, ammunition, etc.  I agree, all those things have their place in our preparations . . . but you can't eat toilet paper, or ammunition, or an AR-15.  If nobody wants your goods in trade (or it's too dangerous, in [say] an urban unrest situation, to lay them out on a table at your local market to offer them for trade), cash or negotiable valuables like precious metal coins are going to be king.


Thursday, May 13, 2021

Retired General and Flag Officers speak out


Over three hundred retired General and Flag Officers of the US armed forces have jointly signed an open letter, calling on Americans to do something about the extraordinary situation in which this country finds itself.  They describe themselves as follows:

We are retired military leaders who pledged to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.  Although retired from active service, each of us feels bound by that oath to do what we can, in our capacity today, to protect our nation from the threats to her freedom.

I can't argue with that motivation.  Having sworn almost exactly the same oath as a prison chaplain (it's used by Federal law enforcement agencies as well as officers in our military services), I consider myself bound in the same way.

Here's the text of their open letter.  I reproduce it in full in order to encourage open debate about it, and help us to understand the national security implications of current events.

Our Nation is in deep peril. We are in a fight for our survival as a Constitutional Republic like no other time since our founding in 1776. The conflict is between supporters of Socialism and Marxism vs. supporters of Constitutional freedom and liberty.

During the 2020 election an “Open Letter from Senior Military Leaders” was signed by 317 retired Generals and Admirals and, it said the 2020 election could be the most important election since our country was founded. “With the Democrat Party welcoming Socialists and Marxists, our historic way of life is at stake.” Unfortunately, that statement’s truth was quickly revealed, beginning with the election process itself.

Without fair and honest elections that accurately reflect the “will of the people” our Constitutional Republic is lost. Election integrity demands insuring there is one legal vote cast and counted per citizen. Legal votes are identified by State Legislature’s approved controls using government IDs, verified signatures, etc. Today, many are calling such commonsense controls “racist” in an attempt to avoid having fair and honest elections. Using racial terms to suppress proof of eligibility is itself a tyrannical intimidation tactic. Additionally, the “Rule of Law” must be enforced in our election processes to ensure integrity. The FBI and Supreme Court must act swiftly when election irregularities are surfaced and not ignore them as was done in 2020. Finally, H.R.1 & S.1, (if passed), would destroy election fairness and allow Democrats to forever remain in power violating our Constitution and ending our Representative Republic.

Aside from the election, the Current Administration has launched a full-blown assault on our Constitutional rights in a dictatorial manner, bypassing the Congress, with more than 50 Executive Orders quickly signed, many reversing the previous Administration’s effective policies and regulations. Moreover, population control actions such as excessive lockdowns, school and business closures, and most alarming, censorship of written and verbal expression are all direct assaults on our fundamental Rights. We must support and hold accountable politicians who will act to counter Socialism, Marxism and Progressivism, support our Constitutional Republic, and insist on fiscally responsible governing while focusing on all Americans, especially the middle class, not special interest or extremist groups which are used to divide us into warring factions.

Additional National Security Issues and Actions:

  • Open borders jeopardize national security by increasing human trafficking, drug cartels, terrorists entry, health/CV19 dangers, and humanitarian crises. Illegals are flooding our Country bringing high economic costs, crime, lowering wages, and illegal voting in some states. We must reestablish border controls and continue building the wall while supporting our dedicated border control personnel. Sovereign nations must have controlled borders.
  • China is the greatest external threat to America. Establishing cooperative relations with the Chinese Communist Party emboldens them to continue progress toward world domination, militarily, economically, politically and technologically. We must impose more sanctions and restrictions to impede their world domination goal and protect America’s interests.
  • The free flow of information is critical to the security of our Republic, as illustrated by freedom of speech and the press being in the 1st Amendment of our Constitution. Censoring speech and expression, distorting speech, spreading disinformation by government officials, private entities, and the media is a method to suppress the free flow of information, a tyrannical technique used in closed societies. We must counter this on all fronts beginning with removing Section 230 protection from big tech.
  • Re-engaging in the flawed Iran Nuclear Deal would result in Iran acquiring nuclear weapons along with the means to deliver them, thereby upsetting Mideast peace initiatives and aiding a terrorist nation whose slogans and goals include “death to America” and “death to Israel” . We must resist the new China/Iran agreement and not support the Iran Nuclear Deal. In addition, continue with the Mideast peace initiatives, the “Abraham Accords,” and support for Israel.
  • Stopping the Keystone Pipeline eliminates our recently established energy independence and causes us to be energy dependent on nations not friendly to us, while eliminating valuable US jobs. We must open the Keystone Pipeline and regain our energy independence for national security and economic reasons.
  • Using the U.S. military as political pawns with thousands of troops deployed around the U.S. Capitol Building, patrolling fences guarding against a non-existent threat, along with forcing Politically Correct policies like the divisive critical race theory into the military at the expense of the War Fighting Mission, seriously degrades readiness to fight and win our Nation’s wars, creating a major national security issue. We must support our Military and Vets; focus on war fighting, eliminate the corrosive infusion of Political Correctness into our military which damages morale and war fighting cohesion.
  • The “Rule of Law” is fundamental to our Republic and security. Anarchy as seen in certain cities cannot be tolerated. We must support our law enforcement personnel and insist that DAs, our courts, and the DOJ enforce the law equally, fairly, and consistently toward all.
  • The mental and physical condition of the Commander in Chief cannot be ignored. He must be able to quickly make accurate national security decisions involving life and limb anywhere, day or night. Recent Democrat leadership’s inquiries about nuclear code procedures sends a dangerous national security signal to nuclear armed adversaries, raising the question about who is in charge. We must always have an unquestionable chain of command.

Under a Democrat Congress and the Current Administration, our Country has taken a hard left turn toward Socialism and a Marxist form of tyrannical government which must be countered now by electing congressional and presidential candidates who will always act to defend our Constitutional Republic. The survival of our Nation and its cherished freedoms, liberty, and historic values are at stake.

We urge all citizens to get involved now at the local, state and/or national level to elect political representatives who will act to Save America, our Constitutional Republic, and hold those currently in office accountable. The “will of the people” must be heard and followed.

Signed by:

RADM Ernest B. Acklin, USCG, ret.
MG Joseph T. Anderson, USMC, ret.
RADM Philip Anselmo, USN, ret.
MG Joseph Arbuckle, USA, ret.
BG John Arick, USMC, ret.
RADM Jon W. Bayless, Jr. USN, ret.
RDML James Best, USN, ret.
BG Charles Bishop, USAF, ret.
BG William A. Bloomer, USMC, ret.
BG Donald Bolduc, USA, ret.
LTG William G. Boykin, USA, ret.
MG Edward R. Bracken, USAF, ret.
MG Patrick H. Brady, MOH, USA, ret.
VADM Edward S. Briggs, USN, ret.
LTG Richard “Tex’ Brown III USAF, ret.
BG Frank Bruno, USAF, ret.
VADM Toney M. Bucchi, USN, ret.
RADM John T. Byrd, USN, ret.
BG Jimmy Cash, USAF, ret.
LTG Dennis D. Cavin, USA, ret.
LTG James E. Chambers, USAF, ret.
MG Carroll D. Childers, USA, ret.
BG Clifton C. “Tip” Clark, USAF, ret.
VADM Ed Clexton, USN, ret.
MG Jay Closner, USAF, ret
VADM John G. Cotton, USN (ret)
MG Tommy F. Crawford, USAF, ret.
MG Robert E. Dempsey, USAF, ret.
BG Phillip Drew, USAF, ret.
MG Neil L. Eddins, USAF, ret.
RADM Ernest Elliot, USN, ret.
BG Jerome V. Foust, USA, ret.
BG Jimmy E. Fowler, USA, ret.
RADM J. Cameron Fraser, USN, ret.
MG John T. Furlow, USA, ret.
MG Timothy F. Ghormley, USMC, ret.
MG Francis C. Gideon, USAF, ret.
MG William A. Gorton, USAF, ret.
MG Lee V. Greer, USAF, ret.
RDML Michael R. Groothousen, Sr., USN, ret.
BG John Grueser, USAF, ret. 
MG Kent H. Hillhouse, USA (ret)
MG Ken Hagemann, USAF, ret.
BG Norman Ham, USAF, ret.
VADM William Hancock, USN, ret.
LTG Henry J. Hatch, USA, ret.
MG Harald G. Hermes, USAF (ret)
BG James M. Hesson, USA, ret.
MG Bill Hobgood, USA, ret.
BG Stanislaus J. Hoey, USA, ret.
MG Bob Hollingsworth, USMC, ret.
MG Jerry D. Holmes, USAF, ret.
MG Clinton V. Horn, USAF, ret.
MG James P. Hunt, USAF, (ret)
LTG Joseph E. Hurd, USAF, ret.
VADM Paul Ilg, USN, ret.
MG T. Irby, USA, ret.
LTG Ronald Iverson, USAF, ret.
RADM (L) Grady L. Jackson
MG William K. James, USAF, ret.
LTG James H. Johnson, Jr. USA, ret.
ADM. Jerome L. Johnson, USN, ret.
BG Charles Jones, USAF, ret.
BG Robert R. Jordan, USA, ret.
RADML Herbert C. Kaler, USN, ret
BG Jack H. Kotter, USA, ret.
MG Anthony R. Kropp, USA, ret
BG Charles Kruse, ARNG, ret..
RADM Chuck Kubic, USN, ret.
BG Jerry L. Laws, USA, ret.
BG Douglas E. Lee, USA, ret.
MG Vernon B. Lewis, USA, ret.
MG Thomas G. Lightner, USA, ret.
MG James E. Livingston, USMC, ret. MOH
MG John D. Logeman, USAF, ret.
MG Jarvis Lynch, USMC, ret.
LTG Fred McCorkle, USMC, ret.
MG Don McGregor, USAF, ret.
LTG Thomas McInerney, USAF, ret.
RADM John H. McKinley, USN, ret.
BG Michael P. McRaney, USAF, ret.
BG Ronald S. Mangum, USA, ret.
BG James M. Mead, USMC, ret.
BG Joe Mensching, USAF, ret.
RADM W. F. Merlin, USCG, ret.
RADM (L) Mark Milliken, USN, ret.
MG John F. Miller, USAF, ret.
RADM Ralph M. Mitchell, Jr. USN, ret.
MG Paul Mock, USA. ret.
BG Daniel I. Montgomery, USA, ret.,
RADM John A. Moriarty, USN, ret.,
RADM David R. Morris, USN, ret.
MG James H. Mukoyama, Jr. USA, ret
RADM Bill Newman, USN, ret.
BG Joe Oder, USA, ret.
MG O’Mara, USAF, ret.
MG Joe S. Owens, USA, ret.
VADM Jimmy Pappas, USN, ret.
LTG Garry L. Parks, USMC, ret.
RADM Russ Penniman, RADM, USN, ret.
RADM Leonard F. Picotte, ret.
VADM John Poindexter, USN, ret.
RADM Ronald Polant, USCG, ret.
MG Greg Power, USAF, ret.
RDM Brian Prindle, USN, ret.
RADM J.J. Quinn, USN, ret.
LTG Clifford H. Rees, Jr. USAF, ret.
RADM William J. Ryan, USN (ret)
RADM Norman T. Saunders, USCG, ret.
MG Richard V. Secord, USAF, ret.
RADM William R. Schmidt, USN, ret.
LTG Hubert Smith, USA, ret.
MG James N. Stewart, USAF, ret.
RADM Thomas Stone, USN., ret.
BG Joseph S. Stringham, USA, ret.
MG Michael Sullivan, USMC, ret.
RADM (U) Jeremy Taylor, USN, ret.
LTG David Teal, USAF, ret.
VADM Howard B. Thorsen, USCG, ret.
RADM Robert P. Tiernan, USN, ret.
LTG Garry Trexler, USAF, ret.
BG James T. Turlington, M.D., USAF, ret.
BG Richard J. Valente, USA ret.
MG Paul Vallely, USA, ret.
MG Russell L. Violett, USAF, ret.
BG George H. Walker, Jr. USAR Corp of Engineers, ret.
MG Kenneth Weir, USMCR, ret.
BG William O. Welch, USAF, ret.
MG John M. White, USAF, ret.
MG Geoffrey P. Wiedeman, JR. USAF, ret.
MG Richard O. Wightman, Jr., USA, ret.
RADM Denny Wisely, USN, ret.
RADM Ray Cowden Witter, USN, ret.
LTG John Woodward, ret

I note that our retired military leaders are not alone in speaking out when they believe that our nation is in peril.  Numerous retired French generals and admirals recently did likewise - in fact, they warned their government against what they saw as the real possibility of civil war in France.  I'm not sure that the danger there is any greater than that we're experiencing on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

I have no real expectation that the Biden administration will do anything but ignore this open letter (and perhaps seek to retaliate against all those who signed it).  That doesn't alter the fact that these retired officers were concerned enough about our country to stick their necks out and say so publicly.  Some of their comments might be interpreted as partisan political views, but I think the overall emphasis is clearly on our national security rather than any single political party's interests.

What say you, dear readers?  Should they have remained silent, or were they correct to speak out in their former military capacities?


Inflation: At last they're beginning to admit the truth... but only somewhat


I'm sure readers noticed the latest official inflation figures, released yesterday.  They've been described as "the biggest month-on-month jump in core consumer prices since 1981".  One analysis points out:

Overall prices are up 4.2 percent year-over-year, which is three times the rate of inflation under Joe Biden than under President Trump.  Inflation hurts the lower and middle economic class much harder; and the specific inflation sectors show massive increases on the goods and services that blue collar workers use most.

It is specifically the Biden economic policies that are to blame for the scale of these increased prices.  Inflation of this scale is an outcome of policy.

Biden is focused on helping multinationals and Wall Street; President Trump was focused on helping small businesses and Main Street.  We are now seeing the impact from these two differing economic priorities.

Regular unleaded gasoline is up a whooping 51.9 percent from last year.  Higher gas prices directly hit the middle class the hardest and also increases the cost of transporting all goods.  Keep in mind this is a snapshot of prices approximately six weeks ago and gasoline prices have been rising even more rapidly recently.  Not good news.

. . .

The rapid increases in price for food and gasoline are hitting the middle-class hard.  This will have a downstream effect on more luxury items and durable goods.  Spend more on food/gas and you might not be able to purchase that new table you wanted.  Durable good inventories increase and layoffs in those sectors begin.

There's more at the link.

However, as always, the "official" inflation rate is a lie.  It's selectively calculated, leaving out many of the costs ordinary consumers like you or I must pay, instead substituting them with bureaucrats' imagined and made-up factors in order to deliberately keep down the official inflation numbers.  We've discussed that at great length recently.  (For a good, up-to-date explanation of how that works, see here.  It's worth reading that article in full.)

As just one example, Joe Carson puts housing inflation into perspective.  Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.

Inflation has arrived, evident by the 4.2% gain in the consumer price index over the past twelve months. But the most significant increase since 2008 still is not fully capturing "experienced" inflation since it is missing the rise in housing inflation ... Owners rent, which accounts for roughly one-third of the core index, is up only 2%, or 100 basis points below the core reading.  In 1995, the 3% core reading included an even bigger 3.5% rise in owners' rent.  So the rise in core inflation in 2021 is much broader than what happened more than two and half decades ago.

More importantly, as big and broad of an increase in April's consumer prices is, it still does not fully capture the actual rise in consumer inflation. Housing prices are up 18% in the past twelve months, a record increase; nine times the increase in owners' rent. The old CPI included house prices. Inserting house prices in place of the non-market owner rents, reported inflation would have been twice the 4.2% gain.

Again, more at the link.

So, if Mr. Carson is correct (and I believe he is), the inflation rate should have been reported as 8.4%, not 4.2%.  What's more, that higher rate still doesn't take into account all the other cost factors (apart from housing) that plague consumers, but are carefully excluded from the official calculations, lest they make things look even worse.  We've seen in the past how reliable private sources such as Shadowstats and the Chapwood Index have consistently estimated the true inflation rate to be between three and four times higher than the official numbers.  I believe them.

Therefore, here's a suggestion, based solidly upon historical economic reality.

To know the true rate of consumer inflation in the USA, take the official rate declared by the government and multiply it by 3½.  The result will be much closer to reality.

I'll be applying this rule of thumb from now on.  I think it'll be a far more reliable indicator of economic reality.  By that measurement, the real rate of consumer inflation in the USA today is probably around 14.7% - and it's getting worse.

Makes you think, doesn't it?


Verily, the mind doth boggle...


I was dumbfounded (and that may be a very good word under the circumstances) to see this tweet put out yesterday by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission:

I could hardly believe my eyes.  Is it even possible that educated First World residents can be so stupid as to do something like that, and therefore need to be warned against it?

That was before I saw these photographs, among others (also yesterday):

It seems the USCPSC understands (some) Americans better than I do . . .


Those aren't the only images of the current East Coast gas shortage to boggle my mind.  I saw photographs and reports of:

  • A man filling half a dozen 55-gallon drums in the back of his half-ton pickup truck, which had bottomed out its suspension under the strain (and they were blue plastic barrels as well, a color normally used for and indicating potable water - does he plan to return them to that use once he's consumed the fuel they now contain?);
  • A woman filling 5-gallon buckets with no lids in the load compartment of her minivan, with kids inside looking on;
  • One man, busily filling 10 five-gallon plastic gas containers, blithely confirming to a reporter that yes, he was planning to store them in the attached garage of his home, in case of need - completely ignoring the fire hazard he was creating for himself and his family, plus the fact that it's almost certainly illegal in any US jurisdiction, under fire marshal regulations, to store such a quantity in such a location.

I wonder how many people will be killed by such stupidity before the current gasoline crisis is over?


Wednesday, May 12, 2021

"Critical race theory" is nothing but raw Marxism in disguise


With the news that Washington now requires and mandates "Critical Race Theory (CRT) training for all school staff, board directors, teachers, and administrators in public schools across the state", and the Biden administration prioritizing grant applications that implement CRT, it's a good time to remind ourselves what this Marxist gobbledygook is all about.  Christopher Rufo explains.

Critical race theory is an academic discipline, formulated in the 1990s and built on the intellectual framework of identity-based Marxism. Relegated for many years to universities and obscure academic journals, it has increasingly become the default ideology in our public institutions over the past decade. It has been injected into government agencies, public school systems, teacher training programs and corporate human resources departments in the form of diversity training programs, human resources modules, public policy frameworks and school curricula.

Its supporters deploy a series of euphemisms to describe critical race theory, including “equity,” “social justice,” “diversity and inclusion” and “culturally responsive teaching.”

Critical race theorists, masters of language construction, realize that “neo-Marxism” would be a hard sell. Equity, on the other hand, sounds nonthreatening and is easily confused with the American principle of equality. But the distinction is vast and important. Indeed, critical race theorists explicitly reject equality — the principle proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence, defended in the Civil War and codified into law with the 14th and 15th Amendments, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. To them, equality represents “mere nondiscrimination” and provides “camouflage” for white supremacy, patriarchy and oppression.

In contrast to equality, equity as defined and promoted by critical race theorists is little more than reformulated Marxism. In the name of equity, UCLA law professor and critical race theorist Cheryl Harris has proposed suspending private property rights, seizing land and wealth and redistributing them along racial lines.

Critical race guru Ibram X. Kendi, who directs the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University, has proposed the creation of a federal Department of Antiracism. This department would be independent of (i.e., unaccountable to) the elected branches of government and would have the power to nullify, veto or abolish any law at any level of government and curtail the speech of political leaders and others deemed insufficiently “antiracist.”

One practical result of the creation of such a department would be the overthrow of capitalism, since, according to Kendi, “in order to truly be antiracist, you also have to truly be anticapitalist.”

In other words, identity is the means; Marxism is the end.

An equity-based form of government would mean the end not only of private property but also of individual rights, equality under the law, federalism and freedom of speech. These would be replaced by race-based redistribution of wealth, group-based rights, active discrimination and omnipotent bureaucratic authority.

Historically, the accusation of “anti-Americanism” has been overused. But in this case, it’s not a matter of interpretation: Critical race theory prescribes a revolutionary program that would overturn the principles of the Declaration and destroy the remaining structure of the Constitution.

There's more at the link.

Dear readers, if you have children in public school or university, you need to be aware of just how prevalent this poisonous doctrine is becoming;  and you need to organize against it.  It has no place in a free society, because it leads to the permanent, irrevocable loss of the freedoms we take for granted.


HMS Victory is "safely berthed" at last


For the past several years, an immense engineering project has been under way in Portsmouth, England, to prop up HMS Victory, Nelson's flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

Victory was permanently dry-docked in 1922, as her timbers had deteriorated so much due to long neglect that she could no longer remain afloat.  A series of steel cradles was installed to support her hull, but they proved to be a mixed blessing.  The ship began to "hog" above the cradles, and sag between them.  A better solution was needed, and has now been installed.  It's quite a story, particularly for those who enjoy military maritime history, and those interested in complex engineering problems.  Here's a Royal Navy video describing the project.

Looks like a good job well done.  I hope Victory endures for many more years.  If you ever get the chance, a visit to her, and to the other ships and establishments making up the National Museum of the Royal Navy, is well worth your time.


Defending yourself in a progressive, left-wing environment - Part 3


This is part of an ongoing series about lessons learned in foreign countries concerning personal security and self-defense in an environment where police protection is not available or unreliable.  Not all foreign techniques are appropriate to the US political, social and cultural environment.  Nevertheless, by analyzing them, we may be able to discern trends and patterns that can be useful locally.

In the previous article, we looked at South Africa during the apartheid era, and how people had to cope with a government that didn't care about them, and a biased, partisan police force.  Today I'd like to look at the wider African experience with such problems, including the complete absence of any effective central authority, and how locals coped with the situation.  I should add that this is proving to be a very, very difficult article to write.  My memories of decades in Africa include some that are so drenched in blood that it's still very hard for me to think about them.  They come back in nightmares as I dredge up what I saw and learned.  I can only hope that they help us to understand what's going on around us right now.

In many nations in Africa, then and now, central governments are no more than a polite fiction.  Real power outside the major cities is held by local militias, of whom the police are just one group among many.  Bribery, corruption and nepotism consume most of the central budget, so that local cops and soldiers seldom if ever receive their salaries.  Instead, most of them turn to extorting money from locals.  There's an accepted scale of bribes in many African countries, where locals expect to pay a given amount to a bureaucrat for any government service, or to a policeman or soldier at a road block to be permitted to travel from one place to another.  Taxi drivers and other businessmen routinely pay bribes for the privilege of earning a living, to prevent their businesses being shut down, their property confiscated, and themselves arrested for "profiteering" or "corruption" or any of a number of more-or-less statutory offenses.  If that happens to them, they'd better have a lot of bribe money handy to bail themselves out.  If they don't, they'll be brutally treated, even killed, as an example to others of what happens if they don't pay up promptly.

That sort of extortion is so routine it's no longer considered out of the ordinary in Africa.  However, it's only feasible when there's sufficient money in the economy to afford it.  When that money runs out, or when conditions become so unstable that normal economic activity becomes impossible (for example, an epidemic such as Ebola, or a civil war, or external terrorism), then extortion worsens to a level that can only be described as internal terrorism.  The extorters become warlords, and they take whatever they want, even if it means the impoverishment, oppression or even death of those from whom they steal.  There's no longer a pretense of providing a service (bureaucracy, police or military protection, etc.) in exchange for the bribes they demand.  They take without giving anything in return.  Examples I've witnessed in the flesh include several countries in West Africa (Sierra Leone, Liberia, parts of Nigeria), the Congo, Somalia, and Zimbabwe.

What do ordinary people like you and I do when the trappings and structures of civilization collapse around them?  They turn to their clan, and in a wider structure, to their tribe (made up of anything from a few to dozens of clans).  There is only security in numbers, and in mutual support.  Absent that, individuals and families are prey, without hope of survival.  Yes, it really is that bad.

I'd like to quote Ayaan Hirsi Ali on the subject at some length.  She addresses the problems of tribalism, which are many.  I agree with her that they're real.  However, there's another, more positive side to tribalism, in the sense that under some circumstances, it's necessary.  I'll speak about that after this excerpt.

Numerous studies support the hypothesis that American life — not just politics, but life in general — has become deeply polarized. The deeply divided society we now live in increasingly reminds me of clan or tribal behavior in Africa.

In Somalia, where I was born, my mother was blindly loyal to our clan. So much so that, apparently, she claimed she could detect the malicious intentions of an individual from a different clan just by the structure of his forehead. She would, for example, often warn my father that someone was trying to take advantage of him, purely by the way he frowned.

In “Culture and Conflict in the Middle East,” anthropologist Philip Carl Salzman recounts meeting tribesmen in Baluchistan. What, they had asked Salzman, would he do if he faced a real danger in his home country? Well, Salzman replied, he would call the police. The tribesmen roared with laughter, then looked at him pityingly: “Oh no, no, no, they said: only your ‘lineage mates’ will help you.”

In tribal communities, neutral institutions of civil society that Westerners take for granted — such as the police, impartial courts, and the rule of law — simply do not, and cannot, exist. In such societies, everything is tribalized, and the task of building civic institutions is laden with difficulties.

In Somalia, I was taught to be suspicious of anyone from a different clan, to always think harm was coming my way and to be guarded against anyone that was “other.” I come from the Darod clan, and was taught to constantly listen to accents, examine face shapes and overanalyze all non-verbal cues, searching for any indications of a different tribe. I can still identify a Somali (and usually their clan) from across a room.

We were captives of an echo chamber, hearing constantly of the evils of the neighboring Hawiye clan. We were taught from a young age that the Hawiye were coming to rape, rob, and destroy us. In response, we amassed weapons, hoarded food and exhorted young men (as young as 12) to join the military. The looming threat of the Hawiye was so great that my mother eventually sent my sister and me abroad.

In the end, because of such protracted tribal tensions, Somalia collapsed into civil war. Every attempt at mediation proved incapable of handling the deep-seated mistrust and hatred that accumulated by each clan over the years; tribal elders, reluctant to compromise, could not de-escalate the situation. With such high levels of distrust, the conflict spiraled into bloodshed.

While such violence has yet to seize America, all the tribalist ingredients are present. There is a blind commitment to one party or the other; emotions are running high; there is a lack of trust in civic institutions. If such tribalism isn’t overcome, it’s only a matter of time before the situation escalates.

Some of this has its absurd side: for instance, the strange ways that public health measures such as mask-wearing and vaccination have become politicized, to the point that I know of fully vaccinated people in California who say they will continue to wear masks for fear of being mistaken for Republicans. Bizarre? Of course. But it is also symptomatic of a dangerous trend toward tribalism.

We are, I fear, close to the precipice of serious destabilization. Many American cities are either militarized (Washington, DC), near a social boiling point (Minneapolis), or have capitulated to anarchist protests and pressures (Portland, Seattle). These tribal quirks run deep on both sides of the aisle. Many Republicans continue to dispute the legitimacy of the result of the last presidential election; while on the left, the woke are eroding the Democratic Party from the inside, as identity politics displace universalist aspirations. Some citizens are viewed as part of oppressive groups, some as part of oppressed groups. A person’s individual actions can generally do little to change the immutable characteristics of the tribe to which they belong.

. . .

As “woke” politics strengthens its grasp on our institutions — extending beyond the educational system into the media and now many corporations — that accomplishment is being eroded. The presumption of innocence, the commitment to blind justice and the whole notion of due process are all falling victim to spurious notions of “equity” and “anti-racism” — both of which carry within them an implicit intention to discriminate on racial lines.

If we continue to slip down this path, the thirst for tribalism will be unquenchable.

There's more at the link.  I fully endorse Ms. Ali's views.

However, there's another side to tribalism.  In the absence of normal social structures, with civilization, peace, the rule of law, etc. conspicuous by their absence, the clan and the tribe are the only structures that make sense.  Throughout human history, those who've tried to "go it alone" have ended up becoming victims of organized groups;  and small organized groups have all too often ended up as the victims of larger organized groups.  Therefore, for security, for survival, it's imperative for individuals to form together into clans, and for clans to form together into tribes, and for all concerned to work together.

I saw this at first hand in many parts of Africa.  The clans and tribes there had been formed out of just such a need, many centuries before;  and they'd survived because they were the only way to survive, in that environment.  Even in the modern era, their influence persisted, because with every individual scurrying to succeed, and clans and tribes working against each other to ensure that their members did well at the expense of others, the group offered the only security available in an insecure world.

We're already seeing this in action in the USA, not just with "imported" tribes, but with home-grown clans and tribes as well.  We've always had them to some extent;  consider clan conflicts such as the well-known Hatfield–McCoy feud or the Pleasant Valley War in Arizona.  The struggles for land and resources between Native American tribes are also well-known.  Many Native American tribes were decimated, even wiped out entirely, by other tribes, while others fled their home territories because the only alternative was their demise.  The white community, too, has seen its own tribes conflict with each other.  One need only mention the various cultural and ethnic communities in New York City - Irish, Italians, etc. - and the gang wars there during the 1800's as a classic example.

However, in the situation we're seeing right now, with political polarization so rampant and the police often deliberately choosing (or being ordered to choose) sides, it means that individuals simply can't cope with the threats confronting them.  The gang - BLM, Antifa, whatever - will always be stronger than an individual or a family.  Therefore, the only hope of resistance is to band together with other individuals and families to form clans and tribes.  These won't be blood bonds (at least initially);  they'll be bonds of mutual interest and need.  It can start as "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" - i.e. you help watch our neighborhood, and alert our group to any potential problem, and we'll do the same for you;  you help us when we're threatened, and we'll help you the same way - but history shows us that such bonds rapidly develop into an exclusive bond;  "it's us against the world".

This is sometimes very negative indeed.  It's all too easy for a clan to turn criminal, or trample on the rights of others in order to secure its own rights.  Nevertheless, it's probably inevitable, and it's a very practical answer to the difficulty of defending oneself in a lawless society.  I'm aware of such groups of friends and associates forming in many parts of the USA;  indeed, I'm part of one myself, a loose coalition of a few friends and families who know and trust one another, and are willing to drop everything and help if the need should arise.

There's also the question of what this means for law and order.  The short answer is, if law and order is already threatened, even conspicuous by its absence, then it doesn't matter what clans and tribes do to it.  They're responding to that absence, not creating it.  There's an old meme that says a friend may help you in time of need, but a real friend will help you bury the bodies if necessary.  That's what we're heading for in these increasingly lawless times.  We're going to need real friends.

To take just one example, consider what happened in Plano, Texas last weekend.  I won't go into detail;  you can read about it at the link, and also here in more detail.  Basically, the police refused to shut down a blatantly illegal demonstration, that had already transgressed Texas law by blocking traffic.  Furthermore, they took action against a law-abiding motorist who was demanding that they do their job.  This is unconscionable and unacceptable, as the Attorney-General of Texas has made very clear.  Even worse, the demonstrators brandished weapons in the absence of any threat to their lives or safety.  This is also a clear violation of Texas law.  If I saw demonstrators doing that in front of me, my reaction might well be to defend myself with my own firearm - and a Texas grand jury would be very unlikely to do more than applaud.  That's effectively what they did when they no-billed a man who defended himself against an armed BLM aggressor in Austin, TX last year, after all - and Austin is about as left-wing and progressive a city as you'll find in this state.

When you're dealing with suburbs invaded by rioting mobs, individuals impeded from their right to travel around, families threatened in their homes . . . it's clear that you need help to deal with that.  If we can no longer rely on the police to "protect and serve", we're going to have to take care of the protection part on our own.  That means finding friends and allies where we can, testing each other so we know who can be relied on to stand with us in a pinch, and responding as a group, rather than individuals, to the threats confronting us.  Given that those threats are also likely to be a group of people, the risk of bloodshed becomes exponentially greater.

The core of such clans and tribes are likely to be those with experience at dealing with lawless, chaotic situations.  They may be current or former law enforcement officers;  they may be veterans of military service, particularly combat veterans.  In our small group, several of us fall into those categories, and know what it's like to "see the elephant".  Such people will help to train and equip and organize others, and form the core of a "reaction squad", for want of a better term, to deal with threats.  They're also likely to be more willing to act, if necessary.  If you have a rioting mob coming down your street, the time for words is usually long gone.

Local clans and tribes will also have to deal with the authorities, such as they are.  That may turn nasty as well.  I'll address the problem in the fourth article in this series, which will be coming shortly.


Tuesday, May 11, 2021

A definition for our times


A tip o' the hat to reader Nate W., who sent me the link to this definition at the Urban Dictionary.  (Click the screenshot for a larger and clearer view.)

Sounds like a very useful term.  I must remember it, and use it.  Nothing like deflating a progressive left-wing liberal's stream of consciousness blathering with a word that makes them think, for once!


Even Wyatt Earp might giggle at this...


Found on MeWe, courtesy of a member of the Monster Hunter International group there (clickit to biggit):

I'm sure the ATF would have fits, too!  (For a start, it's illegal to put a forward grip on a handgun.)  Nevertheless, it's an imaginative marriage of wood, steel and plastic, ancient and modern.  Now, if they could only have given it a 30-round magazine capacity, even Wyatt Earp and his contemporaries might giggle!


Really useful, well made canned food storage


I've written often about preparing for emergencies, and more recently about the threat of inflation.  In both cases, one of the generally recommended solutions is to build up a reserve supply of foods that you eat regularly, so that if the supply is interrupted, or prices get too high to be affordable, you have something to fall back on.  To that end, canned foods are a vital part of emergency preparedness.

For years I've used the cardboard CanOrganizer storage units.  I reviewed them back in 2013.  Sadly, it looks like the company making them is no more - at least, its Web site is defunct.  That's a real pity, because they made a very useful product.  However, in searching for alternative can organizer tools to expand our pantry storage, I came across the Cansolidator series from Shelf Reliance.

They work on exactly the same principle as the CanOrganizer:  you put new cans in on the upper level, and they roll down an inclined ramp, fall down to the lower level, and roll back to the front, where you take them out as needed.  In this way, you're constantly rotating the cans, using the oldest first.

I particularly like the adjustable-width Cansolidator segments.  They can be tailored to the size of the cans they contain, so that no space is wasted.

They snap together very easily (a rubber hammer comes in handy to make sure the tabs are properly seated in the notches), and are stronger than the cardboard CanOrganizer.  I've chosen to build mine in 20"-long units, rather than longer ones, because if I ever have to move them, the extra length and weight would make them unwieldy.

The only complaint I have about the Cansolidator is that it can hold a maximum of ten normal-size cans per segment (slightly more of smaller cans like Campbell's soup, or tomato paste, or whatever).  The cardboard CanOrganizer came in four different sizes, so if you needed a lot of cans of one particular food, you could choose a longer, higher-capacity storage unit for them, and pick a shorter, smaller one for other foods.  The Cansolidator is equivalent to the medium-size CanOrganizer, but offers only the one size.  However, I suppose you can use two segments, side-by-side, if you want to store more than 10 cans of something.  So far, I'm reserving the Cansolidator for foods where I stock fewer cans, and using the longer CanOrganizers for foods more in demand.

I'm not being compensated in any way for recommending the Cansolidator;  in fact, the makers have never heard of me and don't know I'm writing this review.  Nevertheless, it's an outstandingly useful product, easy to assemble, tough enough for all normal use, and very versatile - much more so than wire-shelf products I've tried, which were mostly somewhat unstable when fully loaded.  I've bought two of the six-segment, 60-can-capacity Pantry Plus Cansolidators (as illustrated in the first photograph above), and assembled them into three shorter, 4-segment units (they're very flexible that way).  I'll be buying more if needed.  I highly recommend them if you're looking for a way to organize and/or expand your reserve food storage - something I suggest we should all be doing, what with the hard times that so clearly lie ahead.


Monday, May 10, 2021

Maybe not snakes on a plane, but ... sharks?


Well, the synthetic variety, anyway - and on the outside of the plane, not the inside!

Lufthansa Cargo next year will cover its fleet of Boeing 777 freighters with a high-tech coating that mimics the structure of a shark’s skin to reduce aerodynamic drag and fuel consumption, the company said Monday.

The low-friction film consists of riblets measuring about 50 micrometers that imitate the properties of sharkskin and allow air to flow more smoothly over the aircraft during flight. Sister company Lufthansa Technik developed the new AeroShark technology with German chemical manufacturer BASF to meet aviation needs and estimates it can reduce drag more than 1%.

Lufthansa said the special coating on its 10 777s in 2022 will provide annual savings of about 3,700 tons of jet fuel and nearly 11,700 tons of carbon dioxide emissions — the equivalent of 48 individual freighter flights from Frankfurt, Germany, to Shanghai. Lufthansa Cargo currently operates nine 777s, but is adding another one later this year.

Aircraft surfaces are exposed to UV radiation, temperature and pressure fluctuations at high altitudes that can alter smoothness. The BASF coating is designed to be weather resistant and simple to apply.

. . .

The aviation industry has been researching the use of sharkskin for aircraft for many years. In late 2019, Lufthansa Technik and BASF fitted almost the entire lower half of a Boeing 747-400 fuselage with 500 square meters of jointly developed sharkskin surface and had the modification certified by EASA. The aircraft subsequently validated the savings potential of the technology on long-haul services during 1,500 hours of flight, according to BASF.

The sharkskin modification reduced emissions on the flights by about 0.8%, but BASF said the savings for the 777 freighters are estimated to be higher because film will be applied to an even greater area because of the absence of windows.

There's more at the link.

It's always interested me how fluid dynamics - incorporating the sub-disciplines of both aerodynamics and hydrodynamics - can affect both aircraft and ship design, using the same principles.  There are innumerable examples, including;

  • The multihull yachts that compete for the America's Cup, using both hydrofoils and wingsails to achieve previously unimaginable speeds;
  • Hull design of both ships and aircraft, shaping them to achieve the most efficient flow of water or air over their surfaces.  In particular, high-speed vessels are now incorporating lessons learned from aerodynamics in their shape.
The use of a sharkskin-like coating is just the latest in a long line of technological developments.  I wonder if the same coating could be applied to ships?  Something similar may already have been tried, particularly for submarines.  Navies are notoriously close-mouthed about such things, for obvious reasons.


All right, let's do another raffle


Following last month's successful raffle of an AR-15 pistol, I asked readers to let me know if they'd be interested in another one, and if so, what the prize should be.  (For the benefit of those who aren't regular readers, I should explain that following my second heart attack in late 2019, I was put on a combination of medications that severely affected my creative thought process, so that writing has been very much delayed.  The money I would have earned from publishing new books has not been there, and I've had medical and other bills to pay, so things have been very tight.  I therefore followed fellow blogger Kim du Toit's example and held the raffle to raise money to pay them.  It was partly, but not completely successful;  hence, this repeat performance.)

Several dozen of you offered suggestions, both at the earlier blog entry and via e-mail.  The majority opinion was to offer another AR-15 pistol, but there were substantial minorities arguing for an AR-15 carbine and/or a 9mm Glock pistol.  A few suggested raffling off an equivalent value in ammunition, either 5.56x45mm and/or 9mm.  I may hold a couple more raffles during the summer to offer the latter options, depending on your interest.

At any rate, I'm going to go ahead with raffling another AR-15 pistol during the month of May.  The same rules will apply as before:

I'll accept just 100 entries at $25 apiece, so the chances of success are rather better than winning the Powerball!  (Any entries above that figure will be returned to sender.)  You can send more than one entry, if you so wish - that's up to you.

. . .

Needless to say, all laws, rules and regulations will be followed.  If you live in Texas and are within easy driving distance of the Wichita Falls area (my nearest big city), we can do a face-to-face transfer;  otherwise, the firearm will be shipped to your Federal Firearms License dealer and transferred there, complete with background check.  Please don't ask me to break the law, because I won't.  I've been a prison chaplain, so I already know how unpleasant life behind bars can be - and you don't want to find out.

I can't use PayPal for this raffle, because the company has a rule against using their services for firearms-related transactions.  Therefore, please send cash or a US Post Office money order (no private checks, please - they take too long to clear) to:

Peter Grant
P O Box 897
Iowa Park, TX 76367

Make sure you include your own name, address, phone number and e-mail, please.

Entries must be received by or on May 31st, 2021.  Even if all 100 entries haven't been taken up (the first time, only 77 tickets were sold, making the odds of winning that much better), the winner will be drawn on June 1st, 2021.  I'll notify the winner at once by e-mail and telephone.  I won't publish his/her name here unless they're willing to allow that, due to privacy concerns.

I might add that the reason for closing the raffle by the end of May is to ensure that more onerous firearms laws, rules and regulations will not yet apply to transferring the prize.  Right now, it's relatively straightforward to do so;  but who knows what new obstacles the Biden administration may put in its path?  I'd rather avoid them as far as possible, and finalize this under existing law.  If I decide to offer another firearm in a raffle, I'll try to do that before new laws take effect, too.

I emphasize that this is not a brand-new firearm;  it's one I've owned for some time.  I'll remove all the used parts from the upper and lower receiver, and install new ones (including the barrel), so that the winner will be getting what is effectively a new firearm, built to my standards (which most of you know from my earlier articles on the subject).

Thank you all for your support.  I hope the winner enjoys his or her prize, and that they never need it the hard way!  Sadly, in today's world, that can't be guaranteed.


Memes that made me laugh 57


Gathered over the past week from around the Internet.

More next week.