Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Those Balenciaga ads . . . did you know?


I'm sure most readers are by now aware of the furore surrounding recent Balenciaga ad images, including showing a female child holding a strap attached to a "bondage bear".  Note, too, the demonic-looking bear on the sideboard, the chalice-like vessel on the table, the actual bondage-type chains in the shape of jewelry on the black fabric roll, and the images on the wall behind the child.  Click the image for a larger view.

Commenters allege that the images amount to an endorsement or promotion of pedophilia.  A commenter on Gab has gone so far as to claim that the name Balenciaga is itself of satanist/occult origin.

I'm no Latin scholar, but I wanted to check that:  so I looked up "Ba len ci aga" as a Latin phrase on Google Translate.  Lo and behold, it does indeed mean "Do what you want";  and yes, that phrase does indeed express Aleister Crowley's teaching, part of his Thelema cult:  "An it harm none, do what thou wilt".  Satanism was, indeed (and still is) a major element of Thelema.

So . . . is that the true origin of the name "Balenciaga"?  I find it a more than curious coincidence, to put it mildly.  If so, that's a brand that needs to die out, IMHO.  Christian readers, and others opposed to any form of Satanism and/or pedophilia, may wish to bear that in mind when it comes to spending their consumer dollars.


mRNA vaccination and cancer rates


From Michael Yon:


I tried to schedule a routine mammogram for the wife today. I found out that medical imaging companies are 'experiencing record call volumes'. Their offer to leave a number and receive a call-back promised a return call. Next week.

Why the explosion in imaging requests? Apparently the COVID-19 kill shot is driving cancer vertical, per a discussion I had with an MD friend. In fact, the gigantic Rockefeller cancer industry is being overwhelmed worldwide. The doc told me, "I'm seeing an explosion of cancers in my patients who decided to take the clot shot. It's going crazy. Like nothing I've ever seen in 40 years of medical practice. The exception appears to be someone who took the clot shot and did not get cancer. Yet."

They wanted me to PAY IN ADVANCE to book the appointment. When I asked what that cost, she gave me three different price points, for a 2-D mammogram, a 3-D mammogram and some other odd thing. When I asked how I would decide which would be best, without any knowledge of medicine, she said she'd ask the doctor (how does even the doctor know, without first seeing the patient?) then she just hung up.

Anecdotal evidence?  Yes . . . but it's not the only report of that kind that I've read or heard about.  I think we're nowhere near seeing the full, disastrous impact of the mRNA COVID-19 "vaccines" (which might more correctly be termed a "biological weapon", in the light of such news).  Igor Chudov reports a "9-Sigma increase" in cancer rates in the USA, but that's not an "official" report.  Strangely, "official" sources don't even deny what he claims - they just clam up about it.  It's as if the issue did not exist, as far as the medical "establishment" is concerned.

What's even worse is the number of gynecologists and others who are "anecdotally" reporting serious, if not devastating, effects from the "clot shot" on female fertility and pregnancy.  It's said that the proportion of fetal abnormalities, miscarriages, stillbirths and post-natal fatalities is significantly higher than usual.  Official and "authoritative" sources flatly deny such "rumors", and Internet searches from major search engines focus heavily on such denials:  but the question is whether they can be believed.  (Methinks such sources protest too much.)  OpenVAERS has some useful data, but that's only going by what's actually entered into the VAERS database - and it's said that there's significant underreporting of such data.  See, for example, here and here for more information.

Dear readers, are you hearing reports about this sort of thing, in any medical field?  If so, please tell us about them in Comments.  It looks like the only real, meaningful information out there is going to come from those who've experienced them, because "official" sources are either vehement in their denials or deafening in their silence.


EDITED TO ADD:  It's not just cancer or reproductive health.  See what Aesop has to say about vaxx-related encounters over the holiday weekend in the ER where he works.  Makes you think . . . doesn't it?

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

How are we to cope with permanent mass unemployment and illegal migration?


That's an intriguing question, and one to which I don't have any easy answers.  The scale of the problem is clear.  Many people have dropped out of the rat race, particularly under the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic;  they don't want to go back to work, having discovered the joys of spending more time with their families, not having to waste hours every day on commuting, and so on.  In many industries and occupations, technology looks set fair to remove many of the jobs people do today.  Truck-drivers are staring automated trucks in the face.  Warehouse and distribution workers are threatened with new robotic technology that will increasingly replace them.  Most low-level white-collar administrative and blue-collar assembly jobs are increasingly likely to be automated (for examples, see here and here).

Then there's the influx of workers from everywhere else.  Many industries in the Third World are collapsing, because the demand for their products from their only export customers - First World nations and corporations - is collapsing.  (See, for example, Bangladesh.)  The newly-unemployed workers in those nations must find alternate employment, or starve;  there are few, if any, social support networks that can provide them with food, housing and other needs.  Millions upon millions of illegal aliens are surging into Europe and the USA, because they see the First World as a cornucopia of wealth that can offer them at least some security.  They don't care that they're not wanted:  they face literal starvation where they come from, so they have every motivation to move.  Few of them are legitimately classifiable as refugees:  most are economic migrants.  (Worse still, unscrupulous, exploitative politicians like the Biden administration are encouraging them to come and easing their journey, because they see them as a useful political tool, a fulcrum to change the fabric of First World society as a whole.)

The end result is that we're facing millions of unemployed - and probably unemployable - US citizens and legal residents, plus millions more illegal aliens who will demand at least some measure of support.  We simply can't afford to provide it - the US economy can't hold up under that burden.  What is to be done to help them?  We can't just abandon them, wash our hands of them.  If we do, they'll turn to crime to meet their needs, and we'll all suffer from it.  That's already happening in many nations, and to some extent in our inner-city environments.  I think it's true to say that the highest levels of crime in US suburbs are found in those suburbs that have the highest proportions of poverty and unemployment.

Some say we should provide a Universal Basic Income, a state subsidy to everyone to allow them to meet at least minimal needs, although not enough to live in real comfort.  Others argue for a Guaranteed Minimum Income, a means-tested subsidy that requires recipients to do at least some work to earn benefits.  Trouble is, if those make-work programs include, for example, cleaning streets or collecting garbage, what happens to the workers currently employed in those fields?  They're suddenly going to be out of work too - and, being largely unionized, that's a recipe for serious labor unrest.

Furthermore, we're already spending billions on welfare, social support networks, etc.  We can't afford to do that, and provide new welfare programs over and above them.  It would be more affordable to fold all existing welfare and unemployment programs into a UBI or GMI framework:  but then what would happen to all the bureaucrats and NGO's that are currently kept busy in the "welfare industry"?  They'd all lose their current jobs - and given the inefficiency and waste with which they currently work, we don't want them running the new programs.  Will politicians allow their pet projects, and the source of much of their welfare rake-offs and political influence in their communities, to be rolled into a new system that costs them that patronage?

It may be economically inevitable that some form of "permanent welfare" has to be instituted.  I don't like that - I loathe the idea! - but what alternative is there?  We can't force millions of people to starve.  If we try, the urban and social unrest that will result will make the Antifa/BLM riots of a year or two ago look like Sunday School picnics by comparison.  Neither can we simply remove all the illegal aliens.  We can try . . . but there are now so many of them in the USA (almost certainly more than 25 million, and possibly 30 million plus) that success is unlikely.  It's even less likely when we consider that large parts of the USA have declared themselves sanctuary cities and counties for such illegal aliens, and will resist, more or less actively, attempts to deport them.

So I ask you, dear readers:  what practical, effective alternatives are out there?  How do we cope with a large part of our population that's permanently unemployed?  How do we educate people for jobs that may not exist?  How do we keep out as many illegal aliens as possible, while accepting that at least some of those already here will never leave?

I'm at a loss for solutions.  I'd love to hear your opinions.  Maybe we can learn from each other.


Where do our returned goods end up?


The Wall Street Journal offers this interesting video report on what happens when we return goods we've bought (usually from online vendors).  It's more complex than it sounds.  Recommended viewing.

The sheer scale of the problem is impressive.  I hadn't thought much about it, but if (say) ten million items are delivered to customers every day (probably a massive understatement), and five per cent are returned, that's half a million returned items flowing back through the system every day.  It puts a new perspective on a major issue for the supply chain - how to cope with reverse flows that clog up the distribution channels from manufacturer, to distributor, to vendor, to customer.


"No more than state-sanctioned fraud"


That's Neil Oliver's perspective on the illegitimate assumption of power by the bureaucratic State over us citizens.  Here's an excerpt;  full video below.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the social contract – that notion by which we surrender power to the state in return for services and safety – is broken beyond repair. They broke it, not us. Successive governments – not just the present bunch of cardboard cut-outs … have, over decades, knowingly and deliberately betrayed every aspect of that contract. It is null and void and we, the blameless party, are no longer bound by its conditions. We the people – the sovereign people of this country – don’t just hold the power: we ARE the power. We loan some of it – a short-term loan – to governments. And those governments are supposed to serve us, do our bidding. NEVER the other way round. We tell them what to do.

Hundreds of years’ worth of governments have quietly and secretively presided over a financial system that is no more than state-sanctioned fraud. Power to create money out of thin air was put in the hands of an entirely private, unelected, unaccountable business and this power has been abused to make a tiny group unimaginably rich by enslaving all of US with debt. That system is now on the point of collapse. The West is bankrupt and governments and bankers are scrabbling to solve a problem: how to subtract every last shekel from the people while still having a handful of wealthy bankers, and their enablers, left over.

. . .

Our so-called leaders tell us our lives must be filled with hardship while they warm themselves in centrally heated homes paid for with our taxes … and look forward to Christmas parties and food and drink and decorations paid for by all of us. That is not leadership. That is an abusive relationship.

. . .

I say we owe them nothing – not our loyalty and not our obedience. If we continue to comply we build our own prison around ourselves, for their benefit.

They have promised us the earth while stealing it from us – raping and pillaging its resources only for their own enrichment. I say again, there is nothing to fear if we have each other.

Here’s the thing: if we set a course for ourselves and back each other every step of the way, we will cross this ocean of darkness together, all the way to where we want to be.

There's more at the link.

I can't disagree with a word he says.  The more of us who listen - and, more importantly, act on his message - the better.


Monday, November 28, 2022

A sickening illustration of the moral collapse of society


Canada's accelerating fast down the slippery slope to utter nihilism.

In a prestigious medical journal, doctors from Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children have laid out policies and procedures for administering medically assisted death to children, including scenarios where the parents would not be informed until after the child dies.

. . .

In a flowchart that outlines how a medically induced death would occur at Sick Kids, authors Carey DeMichelis, Randi Zlotnik Shaul and Adam Rapoport do not mention conversation with family or parents about how the child dies until after the death occurs in the "reflection period."

Patient confidentiality governs the decision about whether or not to include parents in a decision about an assisted death, the authors said. If capable minors under the age of 18 stipulate they don't want their parents involved, doctors and nurses must respect the patients' wishes.

"Usually, the family is intimately involved in this (end-of-life) decision-making process," they write. "If, however, a capable patient explicitly indicates that they do not want their family members involved in their decision-making, although health care providers may encourage the patient to reconsider and involve their family, ultimately the wishes of capable patients with respect to confidentiality must be respected."

The proposed policy for Sick Kids argues that there is no meaningful ethical distinction between a patient choosing to refuse burdensome treatment and accepting an inevitable death versus patients who choose to die by chemical injection before the disease brings on death.

There's more at the link.

So, if you're a parent in Canada, and you take your child to this hospital, you run the risk that you might be informed of your child's "voluntary" death by euthanasia only after it's taken place.  You'll have no input into the decision, no opportunity to prevent medical staff "coaching" your child to choose that option, no way to intervene until after it's too late.

Does that make you a happy parent?  If it does, you're not fit to be one!

Another illustration of how Canadian society is losing its moral foundation is this three-minute advertisement in favor of "assisted suicide" or "euthanasia" or whatever you want to call it.  It's from a clothing company named "La Maison Simons" in Quebec.

Here's the owner of the company on why he made that advertisement.

His utter amorality is chilling - and that's precisely the pointHe has no moral foundation to speak of.  Everything is seen in utilitarian perspective, whether a life is worth living or not in human terms alone.  For any person of faith, that's anathema.

This is already present in the USA as well, particularly in more liberal "blue" states.  It's going to get worse.  I can only advise all of my readers to prepare "living wills" for themselves and their loved ones, stating clearly their objections to such practices, and refusing that option if it's offered.  As for our children, we're going to have to make sure that if necessary, we put them into hospitals where they won't be subject to pressure to die.

I begin to think that anyone who pushes this sort of amoral evil - and evil it is;  there's no other word for it - has basically forfeited their own right to life.  I daresay, as this spreads, some of those affected by their decisions and actions will put that into action.


This made me smile


Found on Gab.  Clickit to biggit.

All together, now:  Aaaawwwww!


Memes that made me laugh 135


Gathered from around the Internet over the past week.  Click any image for a larger view.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Sunday morning music


I recently came across the music of David Arkenstone.  He's been around for a very long time in musical terms, but I hadn't come across him before.  He performs instrumentally rather than vocally, mostly in the "New Age" category, but with frequent excursions into other genres.

I was pointed to his Christmas album, "Winter Fantasy".  I've chosen three tracks from it to illustrate his treatment of classic seasonal themes.

And, as a sample of his non-Christmas-themed music, here's his interpretation of some of the music from Peter Jackson's movie "The Hobbit".

His music is certainly easy listening.  I'm not yet sure whether or not I'm a fan, but what I've heard so far doesn't discourage me.  Certainly, I'd rather hear his music in stores instead of the current Christmas muzak trash!


Saturday, November 26, 2022

A busy Friday, so no Saturday Snippet this morning


Miss D. and I had a busy day in Fort Worth yesterday, keeping us busy (including the two-hour drive each way).  As a result, I didn't have time to search out a suitable Saturday Snippet, or type out an excerpt from it.

In lieu thereof, please amuse yourselves with the bloggers listed in the sidebar.  They write good, too!


Friday, November 25, 2022

Post-Thanksgiving food coma and shopping trip


Last night many of the North Texas Troublemakers gathered at Old NFO's place to partake of a huge variety of food that everyone had contributed.  There are so many leftovers that I daresay we'll be going back there more than once over the next few days to eat them all!

Stephan Pastis put his own inimitable spin on the Thanksgiving turkey tradition.  Click the image to be taken to a larger version at the "Pearls Before Swine" Web page.

Today, Friday, Miss D. and I are heading for Fort Worth.  We have some shopping to do together, and we hope to meet up with an old acquaintance who's something of a legend in the science fiction and fantasy community, perhaps for lunch, or if not, then for a cup of tea or coffee somewhere.  (I doubt any of us will be seriously hungry!)

I hope your Black Friday is fruitful, and that you can find, and afford, and buy, all you need.


Thursday, November 24, 2022

A Thanksgiving song


From renowned British singer Maddy Prior.

No matter how bleak things may appear sometimes, there's always room to be grateful for our blessings.


A happy and blessed Thanksgiving to you all


Don't forget this important seasonal message.

Thanks for being here, friends.  All of you are reasons for me being thankful.


Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Wow! Nice work!


Courtesy of user "Dr. Shooty McBeardFace" on Gab, we find this image (clickit to biggit).

The poster notes:  "A rather nice use of natural wood structure."  I'll say!  That took real skill, as well as real artistic talent.


A sobering reflection


Following yesterday's article titled "The Economic Screw Tightens", I received this via e-mail from a reader.

there is no mountain of savings

most are living hand to mouth

we go to the food bank 2 to four times per month

hoping daughter's job holds up after holiday season

husband died suddenly 4 yrs ago 

he was working full time

instantly zero income, no savings as his cancer treatment took everything

many are in same boat, so many widows, so many young families where jobs are lost

what we don't use from food bank we give to others and put extras in 'blessing boxes' outside churches

I know my correspondent is far from alone in her plight.  I'd like to thank her for giving permission for me to republish her words here.

Spare a thought, and a prayer, for people in that situation;  and, if it's possible, please contribute to local food banks and other sources of assistance for them.  They really need it.


A bet pays off - for his customers


I was amused to learn that a furniture dealer in Houston has not only won the biggest payout ever in sports betting, but he's sharing it with his customers.

Mattress Mack is laughing all the way to the bank.

The Astros superfan, whose real name is Jim McIngvale, raked in $75 million in winning bets after Houston won the 2022 World Series on Saturday, defeating the Phillies in Game 6. According to multiple reports, the $75 million is believed to be the largest payout in sports betting history after he placed $10 million in bets across several sportsbooks.

. . .

“What can we say? We just wrote the biggest check in sports betting history to Mattress Mack for $30,000,000,” Caesars Digital COO Ken Fuchs said Saturday night, according to ESPN.

A chunk of Mattress Mack’s winnings will go toward paying customers on a promotion he ran at his furniture store, which gives customers refunds of double what they paid if they spent at least $3,000.

There's more at the link.

Whether one approves of gambling or not, that's a heck of a play - and I bet Mack's customers are laughing all the way to the bank.  Well done, that man!


Tuesday, November 22, 2022

The economic screw tightens


There are conflicting views on the state of US consumers, and whether or not they're able to go on spending as they have.  For example, the Wall Street Journal reports:

Consumers built up unprecedented savings buffers during the Covid-19 pandemic, thanks to government stimulus and fewer opportunities to spend ... Economists estimate that headed into the third quarter of this year, households still had about $1.2 trillion to $1.8 trillion in “excess savings”—the amount above what they would have saved had there been no pandemic.

That buffer, combined with a strong labor market and rising wages, has helped consumers continue spending in recent months, even with inflation and mortgage rates at multidecade highs. U.S. retail sales posted their strongest gain in eight months in October.

Nonetheless, there are also signs they are working their way through that buffer, and an end is in sight.

This can be seen in how much consumers are saving and borrowing monthly.

In 2019, before the pandemic hit, households saved 8.8% of their disposable income. That saving rate jumped to 16.8% in 2020, the highest annual saving rate on record, as government stimulus and unemployment benefits left many consumers flush with cash but with few opportunities to spend during lockdowns.

In 2021 the saving rate moderated to 11.8%, and it has fallen further during 2022. The rate has been below 4% for seven straight months and in September it stood at 3.1%, near its lowest level since the 2008 financial crisis.

This suggests that consumers are spending more and saving less of their monthly income than normal, because inflation forces them to spend more on higher-priced goods and services.

Consumers had also used their hefty savings to pay down credit-card debt. There are signs that has changed too. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York said credit-card balances increased 15% year-over-year in the third quarter, the largest increase in over two decades. The rate of delinquency, that is debt more than 30 days past due, rose across income groups.

These changes should steadily chip away at households’ mountain of savings.

. . .

“One of the things that’s assisted that thus far is relatively strong balance sheets among consumers assisted by stimulus payments,” Walmart’s finance chief, John David Rainey, told investors Tuesday. But because consumers are stressed by inflation, “that’s not going to last forever. So that’s why we take a rather cautious view on the consumer.”

With the labor market still strong, economists don’t expect consumers to dramatically rein in their outlays until they see unemployment rising and become concerned about losing their jobs. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal last month expected employers will start cutting jobs in the second and third quarters of next year.

There's more at the link.

From a high-level perspective on US consumers, that's all very well.  I daresay the wealthiest 1% of consumers - even, perhaps, the wealthiest 10% - have, indeed, increased their savings thanks to stimulus cash.  However, I question very strongly whether the poorest 90% of US consumers (among whom are my wife and myself) have been able to do so.

From a wider economic perspective, the trouble signs are already flashing deep red.

Ocean carriers are said to be in “panic mode” as bookings from China to North Europe and the US west coast tank, causing FAK rates to plunge to new depths.

Despite aggressive blanking that has reduced weekly capacity on the tradelanes by more than a third, the lines have failed to slow the precipitous fall in short-term rates and, are arguably fuelling the fire by offering sub-economic spot rates via their digital platforms.

. . .

Meanwhile, on the transpacific, short-term rates from China to the US west coast are sinking to sub-economic levels, dragging down long-term rates as carriers are forced to offer customers temporary reductions on contract rates.

Indeed, Israeli carrier Zim told The Loadstar this week it had been obliged to agree pricing reductions with transpacific contracted customers to protect its business.

“The demand and volume was not there, so we had to deal with a new reality and engage with our customers,” said CFO Xavier Destriau.

According to the latest reading of Xeneta’s XSI spot index, its US west coast component was flat this week, at $1,941 per 40ft, having declined by 20% so far this month, while east coast rates were down 6% on the week, according to Drewry’s WCI, at $5,045 per 40ft.

Again, more at the link.

Something like 70% of US GDP is driven by consumer spending.  Consumer goods are largely imported from the Far East.  The companies that, until recently, were importing those goods at such a rate that freight charges were well into five figures per container, have stopped ordering them.  That doesn't sound to me like they're confident that the US consumer has lots of spending money available, whether savings or credit.  It sounds rather as if they're seeing the crash coming, and making sure they don't have warehouses full of goods they can't sell when it arrives.

Locally in north Texas, I'm seeing several signs that consumers are "tapped out", no longer able to spend as much as they used to.  Several friends and acquaintances work in the restaurant and food delivery sector.  Universally, they're complaining that tips have all but dried up, and when they're given, the amounts are considerably less than they're used to getting.  One recently told her boss that unless the restaurant was prepared to pay extra to staff to compensate for the lack of tips, she would be leaving and looking for some other kind of work.  Needless to say, the restaurant can't afford to do that, because the lack of trade is affecting it too:  so she's looking around right now, and not finding much available.

On the subject of declining tips, that seems to be a national problem.  The New York Post reports:

Inflation might be turning Americans into grinches this holiday season, new data suggests.

In a survey of 1,000 consumers and 165 restaurant owners and operators across the US this month, just 43% of consumers are now tipping their servers 20% or more, a significant decline from 56% of customers last year. That’s according to a recent survey from restaurant technology company Popmenu, first reported by MarketWatch.

A separate survey from PlayUSA, an online gambling site, polled 1,006 people and found 17% of Americans are tipping less because of rising costs, while 60% of Americans said they wanted to ditch tipping altogether.

Restaurant owners across the Big Apple say the penny-pinching is real.

. . .

Matt Schulz, chief credit analyst at Lending Tree, an online loan marketplace, said that inflation has made it harder for Americans to give liberally. 

“Rising prices have shrunk Americans’ financial margin for error to basically zero. When that happens, people need to cut back expenses to help make ends meet, and one of the easiest ways to do that is by tipping less,” Schulz said.

But he noted that being a lousy tipper has moral implications.

“A couple bucks here and there may not make too much difference in our own lives, but for men and women who rely on tips to survive, it is a really, really big deal when people tip less,” he said.

More at the link.

I'm also hearing from people I know who work at charities that contributions are down, particularly cash, and even thrift shops are getting less and less donations of acceptable quality.  People seem to be hanging on to what they've got, rather than giving it away and buying new products - another sign of the economic times.

Finally, there appears to be a surge across the country in shoplifting of basic consumer products.  People who can't afford to buy them are resorting to simply taking them.  A friend working in retail says that personal hygiene items are particularly affected - deodorant, makeup, dental care, etc.  Some appear to be on the list of organized crime rings, who have dozens of members stealing such products for resale on Amazon and other outlets.  It's got so bad that in some cities, such supplies are put under lock and key rather than allowing customers to take what they want and put it in their carts or baskets.

When I put all those factors together, I don't think that the US consumer still has untapped savings, or is still able to buy what they need without too much effort.  Rather, I think that many - perhaps most - US consumers are feeling the pinch, and are tightening their belts already in anticipation of things getting worse.  This isn't nearly as rosy a picture as that Wall Street Journal article tried to present.

I don't think households have a "mountain of savings" at all - they have a "cellar of debt".  It's filling up fast, and it's about to overflow.


Back home: reflections on a journey across the southwest USA


Well, we're home at last.  The past 24 hours have been spent on five or six loads of laundry;  unpacking and putting away luggage, clothes and what have you;  dealing with ten days' worth of mail;  persuading suspicious cats that no, just because we're picking up a suitcase doesn't mean we're leaving again - "Look, you can watch us put it on a shelf!";  and generally decompressing.  Well over 2,000 miles and almost 40 hours on the road catches up with an older back a lot faster than it did when I was younger . . .

Nevertheless, it was a good trip.  We met a new friend in meatspace, Larry Lambert, after having known him for years in the blogosphere, which made the trip worthwhile in itself.  He's quite the character, and we now understand why Old NFO told us we had to meet him.  The 20 Books to 50K Convention in Las Vegas was informative and interesting;  not fun so much as educational.  I concentrated on the business side of writing, and learned a lot about organizing my time, how to use some of the modern aids and tools for publishing that are out there, and how other successful author-publishers are making it work.  Over the next month or two I'm going to be reorganizing my work process and trying to formalize it, because without that sort of focus one is merely tinkering at it - and I need to do much better than tinker if I want to earn my daily bread at it.

Several things we saw impressed me.  The long, long railway trains we saw in Arizona and New Mexico were pretty amazing.  We're used to mile-long trains here in northern Texas, perhaps a bit longer, but out there two-mile-plus trains are not unusual:  containers, coal trucks, and mixed freight.  I tried to work out their length by using the odometer as we passed them, and allowing for differences in speed.  I think the longest we saw must have been two and a half miles long, all coal trucks, with multiple engines moving it along at about 40 mph.  I suppose, by the time they reach our little town, they've been broken down into shorter trains for ease of management on our more congested railway lines.

Miss D. and I commented to each other on the relative lack of hawks, eagles, buzzards, etc. along the highway in Arizona and New Mexico.  We were wondering whether that's because of the ongoing drought there, which may have killed off a lot of the small animals (mice, voles, raccoons, skunks, etc.) on which these raptors feed.  We've noticed a reduction in the number of such birds in our area as the drought bit harder this year.  It's the only reason we can think of to explain it, and it would tie in with the relatively few bodies of dead animals we saw along the side of the road there.  We're used to many more of them in our part of the world.  If anyone knows a better explanation, please tell us in Comments.

The colors of the landscape in northern New Mexico and Arizona are sometimes amazing, ranging from pink, through various shades of brown, to an almost bleached-white stone.  We understand now how the "painted desert" got its name.  We didn't have time to visit the petrified forest in Arizona, but we did make it to the meteor crater there, and were sobered at the thought of what that impact must have been like for whatever was living there at the time.  Sadly, I suspect we'll need a bigger one to clean up Washington DC . . .

We had relatively few close calls on the highway.  There were a couple of lane-changing issues with semi's, who don't seem willing to give way to anything smaller than themselves, and/or want to move into our lane whether we've made room for them or not;  but fortunately there were no unwanted contacts.  The scariest moment was encountering two steers/bulls near Claude, Texas, who escaped their enclosure and charged towards the highway, stopping with their front hooves on the shoulder.  I hit the anchors pretty hard (hard enough to make me want to check my brake shoes at the dealer this week, to see if I wore them down).  Fortunately everyone was able to avoid a nasty accident.  The semi a few vehicles behind us locked up his tires under braking, producing lots of white smoke and noise, so I suspect he'll have several flat spots on his tires that may need attention.  Heartfelt thanks to all of you who said a prayer for us for traveling safety.  We needed them!

We were both happy to get home at last.  We enjoy traveling together, but home is where the heart is - and our cats, too.  They greeted us with mingled joy and irritation, because it's our fault they were "abandoned".  Our neighbors across the street were also happy to see us, because we buy free-range eggs from them, and in our absence they hadn't managed to find other buyers for them:  so Monday afternoon I collected nine dozen eggs!  I'll have to do a big share-out among our friends over the next few days, otherwise Miss D. and I will be sprouting pin-feathers from all the egg dishes we'll be eating.



Monday, November 21, 2022

The Nord Stream sabotage: curiouser and curiouser...


Sweden has announced some initial forensic findings after the bombing/sabotage of the Nord Stream pipeline last month.  Peter Zeihan summarizes them, and their implications, in this short video.

That's a real puzzler.  If those initial rumors/speculations are correct, and Russia is shown to have been responsible for the sabotage, it would provoke a massive dilemma for not only Europe, but for the rest of the world as well.

This is why we're balanced on a geopolitical knife-edge at present, and look set fair to remain on one for months, if not years.  There are all sorts of dominoes balanced on their ends, but not in a regular pattern like we've seen in video clips for so long.  These are scattered haphazardly across the global playing board.  If one falls, nobody can be sure which direction it will fall or what other domino(es) it may strike on the way down, precipitating even more falls and collisions.  The consequences are too unpredictable for any certainty - and that makes the situation fraught with danger.  We can't prepare for any and every contingency, only for the most threatening and/or most likely ones.  We can be blindsided by one we hadn't considered, or for which we hadn't (couldn't?) adequately prepare.  How we respond may, in turn, cause other dominoes to become unstable and/or fall, and then other nations will have to decide how they're going to respond to them.

We live in interesting times.  Keep your powder dry, friends.


Memes that made me laugh 134


Gathered around the Internet over the past week - although there are fewer than usual, because I was traveling all week.  Click any image for a larger view.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Made it safely home


We're back home at last, to the happy but suspicious greetings of the cats ("Where have you been?  Why?  What took you so long?").

Our most dangerous moment of the entire journey came just south of Claude, Texas, when two rather large black angus bulls romped through a gap in the fence and charged towards the freeway.  Every vehicle in sight hit our brakes simultaneously, which wasn't a problem for the cars and light trucks, but caused all sorts of headaches for the 18-wheelers scattered among us.  By some miracle, the bulls stopped with their front hooves on the tarred shoulder, and didn't take the final step that would have put them right in front of our grille at halitosis distance.  It was a hair-raising moment, but they eventually turned away, and all concerned were able to heave a sigh of relief and get going again.  I can only hope and pray they were corralled before they could cause any further trouble, but I have my doubts . . .

Anyway.  Safely home.  We'll sleep like logs tonight, I'm sure, and pick up the pieces of our normal routine tomorrow morning.  I'll put up a Memes post as usual on Monday, but it won't be very long, because I haven't had much free time to roam the Internet over the past week to find new entries.  I'll see how much time I have to post more blog entries during the day.  Normal service should resume by Tuesday, God willing.

Thanks for all the prayers for a safe journey.  They were greatly appreciated.


Saturday, November 19, 2022

Homeward bound: Albuquerque, New Mexico


Our day began in Flagstaff, Arizona, with a lengthy breakfast and post-prandrial conversation with Larry Lambert, who blogs at Virtual Mirage.  It was great!  He and I share opinions (sometimes strong ones) on many issues, and we found plenty of points of agreement.  He's already posted about it on his blog, complete with a couple of pictures, so I'll send you over there to read his account of proceedings.  Thanks, Larry!

Shortly after leaving Flagstaff, Miss D. and I detoured to the meteor crater near Winslow, Arizona.  There's an impressive visitor center and educational setup there, far larger than I'd have thought a crater warranted;  but apparently there's been a lot of scientific investigation conducted there, which is still ongoing.  The crater itself is pretty impressive, as are the "ripples" the impact threw up around it, stretching for miles.  It must have been (briefly, before they died!) a very impressive sight for the animals and other critters in the area when the meteor struck.  We couldn't help laughing at one of the quasi-informational signs erected on the road to the crater:  "Vehicle speed limit, 50 mph.  Meteor speed limit, 26,000 mph."  No s***, Sherlock!

The rest of the day's run was relatively peaceful, save only for a 50-mile detour through New Mexico's Navajo reservation to avoid what Google Maps warned us was a major slowdown on I-40 caused by an accident.  It was interesting to see the hills and mesas close up.  The poverty of the Native American population was also very evident, and evidenced by really serious anti-theft precautions (fences, iron bars, high gates, etc.) around any property containing anything of value.  As I learned the hard way in the Third World, if you have nothing (or very little), scruples tend to become negotiable . . .

We arrived safely in Albuquerque shortly after sunset.  Tomorrow, Sunday, we'll hit the road for the last stretch to northern Texas.  It'll be good to be home.


Friday, November 18, 2022

Homeward bound: Flagstaff, AZ


We left Las Vegas at about 9 a.m., heading south past the Hoover Dam once more, and shaking the dust of Nevada from our feet.  It was a worthwhile convention for both of us, but exhausting, too.  We're looking forward to falling into our own bed on Sunday night, accompanied by cats who'll doubtless demand that we serve them as mattresses to make up for our absence over the previous ten days.  Cats are like that.

The drive to Flagstaff wasn't too bad, except for a large number of semis that - again - overtook each other at a snail's pace, holding up traffic behind them (sometimes for miles, if there was a long line of slowish semis trying to overtake another long line of even slower semis).  It didn't make for happy drivers, and I saw some pretty hair-raising stunts as impatient motorists tried every trick in the book - and a few that weren't - to get past the holdups.  Why is there never a policeman around when you really want them?  I reckon they could have made thousands from tickets for dangerous, reckless and negligent driving.  Oh, well . . .

We're both getting our butts kicked by the altitude in Flagstaff.  Back home in Texas, we're at about a thousand feet, while Las Vegas' elevation was only about 2,000 feet:  but Flagstaff is at just under 7,000 feet.  Just bringing in the suitcases from the car exhausted both of us, and we turned in for an afternoon nap to give our lungs a bit of peace and quiet to recover.  Miss D. is mildly asthmatic, and I have mild COPD (the result of not only smoking for some years, but smoke inhalation during two house fires and one vehicle fire.  That damage is cumulative, and you don't bounce back from it.)  Hopefully we'll be more alert when Larry Lambert joins us for breakfast tomorrow morning!

I guess that's all for now.  I'll try to post again tomorrow, God willing.


20 Books To 50K Convention, Day 4


Thursday marked the end of the convention for us.  It'll wind up today with an author signing session and an open-to-the-public book sale from those authors who've chosen to sign up for it, but Miss D. and I will be traveling, heading to Arizona for a rendezvous with Larry Lambert tomorrow morning.

The seminars and presentations continued their high quality on Thursday, and both of us took in several of them.  There are so many of them that one's forced to pick and choose which to attend, so having two of us able to split the best between us made it much easier.  I plan to watch the videos of several panels I couldn't attend, when they're posted later this year.  Sadly, I understand they won't be open to general distribution, so if you didn't attend the conference, you probably won't be able to see them.

(I understand that next year, a "virtual conference" will be offered for a reduced cost, whereby one can register and attend by remote video viewing.  We'll probably take that option.  One loses out on the personal contact with other writers, which can be important from a networking point of view, but the savings in travel time and cost, hotels, meals, etc. should be very attractive.  Also, one will still have later access to conference videos when they're put up.)

Last night ended with a long social session for Miss D. and I.  She joined several other authors' spouses for a games evening, and they invited their menfolk to join them later to flesh out their numbers (you should pardon the expression).  I found myself in a laughing, talking gathering including Larry Correia, David Weber and others, plus their better halves.  Being much more notable authors than ourselves, they'd snaffled a place on the top (penthouse) floor, with spectacular views over the city that allowed one to see the lights to full advantage.  Much fun was had by all.

We'll hit the road today, Friday, and head south and east.  Prayers for traveling mercies will, as always, be greatly appreciated.  Homeward bound!


Thursday, November 17, 2022

"Dirty Money"


That's the title of Larry Lambert's latest blog post.  It's filled with details of corruption and skullduggery in the narcotics trade, non-governmental organizations, and other areas.  I'm not going to excerpt it here, because it's so full of "meat" every sentence is important.

Go read the whole thing.  It's eye-opening.


20 Books To 50K Convention, Day 3


Wednesday was the busiest day of the convention so far.  There were lots of interesting talks and panel discussions, impromptu and arranged meetings of participants to discuss matters of interest, and all sorts of conversations in corners about collaborating on projects or helping in areas of expertise.  I can see that the networking at this convention is just as important as the talks for many of the attendees.

I've been concentrating on talks and presentations about the business of writing, in an effort to organize and streamline my own efforts.  There were several talks of interest, including topics such as:

  • The Five Pillars of Publishing
  • Amazon Ads
  • The Business Basics of Writing and Publishing
  • Advanced Business Concepts:  How the Publishing Market Works
  • Tricks of Staying Productive over Time

Lots to keep me busy, and food for thought.

Among other things, I'm considering putting out at least one book in serial format, via Kindle Vella, Substack (which would open books to non-Amazon customers) or a similar service.  This may be a way to overcome the problem of life and health getting in the way of publication.  If I can write in chapters, publishing each one a week or two apart, it will be a way to keep my readers interested while still producing output in a respectable timeframe.  The idea is that regular readers/subscribers would get early access to a book, chapter by chapter, for a small regular fee, and get a free copy of the entire book once the serialization had been completed.  This wouldn't apply to all my books, only to those written with this format in mind.  What do you think, readers?  Would this interest you?  Please let me know in Comments.

Miss D. and I went out to supper last night (braving the Las Vegas traffic to do so - the heaviest I've been in for years!).  We went to the local branch of the Cornish Pasty Company, drawn there by my drooling as I remembered growing up on English-style pies and pasties.  (It's a bit of a contradiction in terms:  in show-mad Las Vegas, the word "pasty" usually means something else . . .). Sadly, their menu does not include steak and kidney pie;  according to the waitress, Americans don't go for eating kidneys, for some strange reason.  However, they had plenty of delicious alternatives.  We started with Cornish meatballs and a Scotch egg.  Miss D. went on to a lamb and mint pie, while I chose the Guinness Stew Pie, which was absolutely wonderful.  I paired it with mushy peas, which were enough to make any British or Colonial expatriate feel homesick.  We shared a sticky toffee pudding for dessert.  My tum was very happy indeed as we left - lots of childhood foody memories clamoring for more!  Sadly, the prices were in true Vegas tradition (ridiculously high), but that's the way it is in this town.

Thursday will be our last day in Las Vegas, and we both have seminars to attend and things to do.  Friday morning we'll head out on our way home, hopefully pausing to take in some of the sights along the way.  I'd like to hit the west rim of the Grand Canyon in passing, but it may take too much time to get from there to our destination on Friday evening, so it'll be a toss-up whether we make it on this trip or do it later.


Wednesday, November 16, 2022

The 2022 elections: a compendium


I've waited to comment on last week's midterm elections until the situation became clearer.  The fact that we still don't know which party will control either the House or the Senate is the clearest possible evidence of at least gross inefficiency, if not actual malice, in the vote counting process.  Most informed observers who aren't on the payroll, directly or indirectly, of the Deep State tend towards the "actual malice" side of the equation.  Here's a selection of their views.  All are insightful.  All are important.  The question is, what are you and I going to do about it?

First, Kevin at The Smallest Minority comes up with one of his classic posts.  He titles it simply "Democracy".  It's worth reading the whole thing.

It’s not “radical Authoritarians” on the Left and Right, it’s Joe and Jane Average who have discovered that the government doesn’t serve them, it services them in the animal husbandry meaning. That “sharp rise in income and wealth inequality” is primarily due to government regulations picking winners and losers. And the votes of Joe and Jane Average obviously don’t mean sh!t for the most part.

No s***, Sherlock!

Sarah Hoyt puts her own inimitable spin on things.

We told you it was fraud. We pointed out it was fraud. We told you how the fraud would be effected. You told us it was harder in mid term elections, which might have been true when the fraud wasn’t automated and baked in through a million security faults in the system. So, from the top:

a) If you think the other side isn’t taking full and amazing advantage of a) vote by mail. b) same day registration. c) no ID required for registration or vote. d) no proof of citizenship required to register (motor voter). e) legalizing and sometimes making mandatory vote harvesting. f) early voting that extends for months. g)machines that we know are connected to the internet and count fractional votes or “enhanced votes”, you must think the other side are angels. You also have never paid attention to how they fight like rabid weasels every time we try to take these fraud channels away.

b) Unless you can say with a straight face the following sentences: “Joe Biden had the most votes of any president ever elected, and the smallest loss of any midterm first term president ever. I guess he’s the most popular and charismatic president in America and all this time it was Barrack Obama holding him down”, it was fraud.

Quite so.

James Kunstler points out that information has become a key weapon, including both the suppression of accurate information and the spreading of disinformation.

Let’s get something straight: the Woked-up Jacobin Party of Chaos is not really worried about “mis-and-disinformation” — it’s just afraid of information. Only a tyrannical regime would work so hard and complain so loudly about opposing ideas entering the public arena as to brand them inadmissible. Apparently, that formula also applies to election results, an elemental kind of information that’ll determine whether or not censorship continues to be the order-of-the-day.

The stalling of election results also allows for wholesale correction of results that don’t come in as desired. At a certain threshold, the Marc Elias Lawfare-sponsored ballot-harvesting machinery kicks in and, voila, ten thousand or so mail-in ballots appear courtesy of, say, the Culinary Workers Union in Nevada, and … problem solved! The correct candidates win! My guess is that this happened in other select districts all over the USA. Will it be detected and looked into? Probably not. That would be election denial, a newly-taboo toxic reservoir of “disinformation.”

Divemedic says simply that "This smells".  I couldn't agree more.

Nevada. It’s election night. Laxalt, the Republican candidate, is ahead in the count and it seems that the Republicans are on the way to winning control of the Senate. Check out this timeline from Wednesday, November 9:

  • The poll workers who are counting ballots and election observers go home for the night at 2230.
  • At 2324, all security cameras in the facility fail.
  • At 0753 on 10NOV, the security cameras are restored. 8 hours of no video, no observers, a completely unguarded and unobserved room containing up to 70,000 uncounted ballots with minimal security.
  • The election officials claim that no one entered the ballot counting rooms in the interim.
  • But no proof of fraud, right?

Then the Democrat wins. In every state with mail in voting where ballot counting is delayed, the Democrats pull out amazing wins that defy history, polling, and statistical analysis. There are anomalies like missing camera footage, ballots being delivered in the middle of the night, election observers denied access. People notice and comment on this.

Then the Democrats demand concrete evidence, knowing that it will never be found because they made sure there were no witnesses.

. . .

So to those who think that the election was on the up and up, what evidence would you be willing to accept that the election was a fraud? Keeping in mind that a rumor of Russian collusion was enough for many of you in 2016, how much evidence do you need now? What standard will you set?

I am betting that no amount of evidence, video, statistical improbabilities, or other evidence will suffice.

I daresay he's right.

On the subject of smells, Aesop notes:  "Deja Poo".

deja poo: n. 1. The feeling you've seen this shit before

Yes, we have seen that before - often - in 2020.  Remember?

The acerbic Wayne Root states bluntly, "You’ve Been Gaslighted – Democrats Just Stole Another Election".

When something is so obvious, if the outcome makes no sense, if the outcome is literally impossible, then it is what it is. Forget “proof.” You know it. You saw it. You felt it. You experienced it. It happened. It’s real.

The 2022 midterm was just stolen. Just like 2020. 

If you disagree, you’re either delusional, or terribly naïve, or brain dead. Or you’re in on the fix. 

It’s time to admit we’re all part of a massive experiment in fraud, theft, brainwashing, and gaslighting to a degree never seen in world history.

Think of all the times in just the past few years you’ve been gaslighted. They lied to you about open borders…they lied about Hillary’s 30,000 deleted emails…they lied about spying on Trump…they lied about Russian Collusion…they lied about a perfectly fine Ukrainian phone call…they lied about massive Biden corruption in Ukraine and China… they lied about the Hunter Biden laptop…they lied about the origins of Covid…they lied about the need for lockdowns and masks…they lied about the need for Covid vaccines…they lied about the vaccines being “safe and effective”…they lied and covered up all the deaths and injuries from the vaccine…they lied about the success of miracle drugs Hydroxychloroquine and Ivermectin…they lied about the stolen 2020 election…

You’ve been the victims of nonstop severe gaslighting for a decade now. You’re all part of a human psychology experiment in the limits that government and media can go in propaganda and brainwashing…while you can see they're lying right in front of your eyes.

And these are the exact same people now telling you Democrats just over-performed, and stopped a GOP red landslide, against all odds, without cheating and stealing the midterm election.

It's hard to argue with that.

I'm particularly infuriated that even politicians like President Trump got in on the shenanigans, ostensibly raising funds for other candidates while in reality creaming off most of them for themselves.  Does that sound like fair and honest dealing to you?

Trump has $70M in political funds in the bank. He could have made it so Masters had double the super PAC spending of his opponent.

Instead, he created a "joint fundraiser" with Masters that actually gave $99 to Trump for every $1 that went to Masters.

Many Masters supporters who used this option (unaware that 99% went to Trump because that was hidden unless you hit a toggle) may have refrained from donating directly to Masters because they were under the belief that they'd already done their part.

That stinks.

Solomon, writing at SNAFU, complains:  "Sorry I don't trust our elections....DAYS to count after the day? Convenient results for the party in power? DON'T TRUST IT AT ALL!"  He concludes:

The USA is broken and the Western states are broken beyond repair.

Hate to say it but I see a break up of this country coming.  I just don't see a way to meld the liberal vs conservative states of this country.  

Let it break up, enforce borders and federalize the thing like in Fall Out Games.

This ain't working and I refuse to abide by the rules of a bunch clowns in mega cities on the coasts.

Again, it's hard to disagree.

Here are a few more links that are worth following:

All are recommended reading.

As for me?  I predicted this before the election, remember?  We didn't have some sort of major crisis to disrupt the elections, but I have no doubt whatsoever that 2020's electoral fraud was perpetuated in 2022 on an even larger scale.

What next?  I'm still thinking about that, and I'll have more to say shortly.  However, if there are any for-real Henry Bowmans out there, I fear greatly that their time may be drawing near . . . because nothing short of that is likely to work any longer.  I don't want that - nobody in his right mind wants that! - but it may now be unavoidable.


20 Books To 50K Convention, Day 2


Tuesday was a quiet but busy day.  I attended several talks/panels, but did so virtually, using the livestreams from the various rooms;  and, while listening and noting main points, I sat in my room and wrote on one of my works in progress.  It seemed the most productive use of my time.  I managed to write about 2,000 words of military science fiction while getting informed about things that interest me and that I need to know in order to perform better as a self-employed writer.

The opening ceremony was a pep talk from the organizers to the attendees, urging us to lift our game and our income and, in doing so, lift each other.  The theme of the conference is "A rising tide lifts all boats", and they did their best to make that point.  I agree with them, as long as the tide's coming in evenly.  Sadly, in today's economy, it isn't, and it's not likely to do much better in the next months and years.  No matter what work we do, we're going to find it difficult to keep our heads above water - particularly with attempts by the powers that be to destroy the fossil-fuel-based economy we share at present, with no prospect whatsoever of a worthy replacement waiting in the wings.  The longer-term consequences of the COVID-19 vaccines also look worse and worse, if analyses are to be believed.  The fallout from that is going to take years to fully develop - and writers, like everyone else, will be affected by it.

That leads me to consider Las Vegas as a city.  I can't help thinking that this entire place could disappear off the map tomorrow morning, and its loss would make virtually no difference to America.  Everything here is fluff and tinsel, an outward show of opulence that has no substance backing it up at all.  Local incomes would suffer if it all vanished, but on a national scale, nothing worth having is produced here, nothing we really need as a nation and as a people.  It's all smoke and mirrors.

It's also geared to reaping tourists of every dollar in their pockets, in an unashamed display of greed.  Take local restaurants, for example.  In the entertainment district, menu prices are utterly ridiculous compared to many other cities.  They're at least double, if not well over double, what I pay in northern Texas (even the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex).  A single slice of pizza is $8;  an adequate, but not exceptional, dish of shrimp scampi, $36;  a hamburger with normal ingredients but no side dishes, $32.  When tourists discuss those prices, as I've overheard several times in recent days, the general reaction seems to be to shrug and say, "Well, that's Vegas!"  I don't agree.  I don't enjoy the sensation of being a chicken plucked alive, but that's what local tourist business models appear to be.

As I said . . . if Las Vegas were to vanish overnight, I don't think we'd miss it at all, in terms of being deprived of something we really need.  Given how much money is soaked up here, that's a sobering thought.  How many other cities and districts like it are there in the States, and how much money do they all soak up that could be much better used?  When I hear and see people complaining about how hard times are becoming, and moaning about the economy, and then turning right around and willingly paying those prices for a meal, or buying cheap tourist tat dolled up to look like opulence . . . it makes you wonder.

(Fortunately, Miss D. and I were warned in advance about such costs.  We brought some canned food with us, plus a cheap little microwave oven, so we can eat at least one meal a day in our hotel room.  Those expenditures paid for themselves on the very first day we were here, in terms of local restaurant prices.  Over our week's stay, I expect they'll save us at least $400 - enough to pay for gasoline over our four days of travel to get here and get home, and then some.  When you're on a limited budget, that means a lot!)

Quite apart from economic considerations, there are some places around here that are just . . . creepy.  I can't describe them any other way.  For example, I mentioned earlier that when we arrived, we accidentally wound up at the Bellagio instead of Bally's, where the convention is being held.  Both Miss D. and myself had the same visceral reaction after walking into the Bellagio, being informed of our mistake, and returning to our car.  We both felt an overtone, a miasma, if you will, of something very nasty in that place.  I've no idea what it was, but we both felt it very strongly.  Frankly, it felt grimy, as if just being there was tarnishing our spirits.  As a Christian and a pastor, I could put a name to that, but in the absence of evidence, I'll just pray accordingly.  (Interestingly, neither of us have the same reaction to staying at Bally's.  Don't ask me why.)

Anyway, so far, so good.  More tomorrow, God willing.