Thursday, November 30, 2023

Your feel-good story (and video) of the day


The BBC reports:

A bride with a rare disorder affecting her mobility surprised her husband-to-be by walking down the aisle on their wedding day in East Yorkshire.

Carrie Redhead, 27, was born with the digestive condition intestinal lymphangiectasia, or Waldmann's disease, which causes the loss of special proteins from sufferers' intestines.

Two years ago her condition deteriorated, leaving her having to use a wheelchair.

But at their wedding ceremony in Faxfleet in October, her fiance, Joel Redhead, had no idea she was determined to walk down the aisle.

With a video of Mrs Redhead's walk having now been viewed online millions of times, she says she wants to inspire and empower people facing similar situations.

The BBC's own video is at the link, but I can't embed it here.  Here's another news report that I found on YouTube, including an interview with the newlyweds.

Amazing courage and determination from the bride.  You can see for yourself in the wedding sequence how her husband had to wipe tears from his eyes as she hobbled towards him on her father's arm.

God bless them both.  May their example help many other people who are facing similar challenges.


Interesting: electronic warfare hides ground activity from satellites


Hans G. Schantz has published a report on Gab illustrating how Russia is trying to jam electronic satellite surveillance of part of its territory.  He writes:

And so on the 24th, the European satellite Sentinel-1 tried to take an image of Sevastopol in the radar range - only then a surprise awaited it.

The Sentinel is equipped with a radar that allows it to form an image of the earth's surface even in conditions of interference. This radar operates at a frequency of 5.405 GHz. Accordingly, any radiation (primarily from military radars) at close frequencies creates interference for the satellite radar.

(Click the image for a larger view)

But in the photo it is clearly not interference from the operation of one or more radars, but the result of the operation of an electronic warfare complex, jamming the radar frequency with counter interference over a huge area.

There's more at the link.

I've had some involvement with electronic warfare (EW) in the past (in a much more primitive form, and now decades out of date).  I've known about EW directed against satellites themselves (the Chinese are pretty far advanced in that field, and although the USA isn't talking about its technology I presume it's at a similar level), but I wasn't aware that EW had advanced to the point where it can "blanket" a ground area (rather than a specific pinpoint target) against space-based electronic surveillance like that.

Since today's satellites use digital electronics rather than film photography or analog technology, such anti-satellite-surveillance EW might render them a lot less useful.  If any readers can point us in the direction of more information (without, of course, compromising its or their security classification), please do so in Comments.  Thanks!


Faith in (belated) action?


I had to laugh at yesterday's "Pearls Before Swine" cartoon.  Click the image to be taken to a larger version at the comic's Web page.

In the clergy "trade" we used to refer to the "hatch, match and dispatch" crowd - those who would be seen in church for baptisms, weddings and funerals, but at almost no other time.  I think Rat kinda sums up their attitude towards faith:  ignore it until it's absolutely necessary, and then scream for help and hope for the best (and probably sue every church and denomination they can think of in the hereafter if their "faith" fails to bear fruit).

Still, there's nothing wrong with a last-minute plea for mercy.  Who knows?  It might make all the difference . . . assuming you actually have time to make it.  Failing that, "taking care of business" every day is a rather better bet, IMHO.  (If I'm wrong, then my atheist friends are going to be vindicated.  I guess we'll have to wait and see!)


Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Too cute!


We often speak of "pink elephants" in regard to what an alcoholic may "see" during his more inebriated moments.  Nevertheless, some baby elephants are, indeed, born pink, although they lose that color as they grow.

A game guide in South Africa had the fun of encountering a mother elephant and her pink baby at a local river.  She videoed the scene.  The elephants are used to tourists and their vehicles, so they're completely unfazed by their presence.

Note the other two elephants in the water with the mother and baby.  They're standing by to help in case any of the local crocodiles decide that baby elephant is on the menu today.  I've seen what happens to crocodiles in such cases . . . it ain't pretty!  When six tons of elephant stands on top of a crocodile, the weight wins!


Tucker Carlson drives home the point


Yesterday we listened to Neil Oliver discussing the immigration dilemma in Ireland and Europe;  how untold numbers of immigrants had poured across borders with little or no control, their presence imposed upon locals by globalist-oriented governments who didn't care about national culture or history.  If you missed that video clip, I highly recommend watching it as soon as you can.

Now Tucker Carlson drives home the same point in a discussion with Steve Bannon.  It's blunt in its analysis, but also entirely correct, IMHO.  Don't miss this one.

The outraged reaction of many Irish to the events of the past weekend is entirely understandable.  What scares the globalists is the thought that such reactions might need to electoral change, as we saw in the Netherlands just last week.  (You can read more about the background to that electoral upset here - it's well worth your time.)  The globalists dare not lose power right now, when they're so close to forcing their views and their policies on the rest of us.  Resistance cannot be tolerated - so they're trying to crack down on it, to rule by decree rather than democracy.  The same is happening in the USA, with the progressive left seeking to politicize the security organs of government and use them against their opponents.

Listen to the Carlson interview all the way through, and don't ignore it.  He and Steve Bannon speak the truth.  If it's taken down by Rumble (from where I embedded it above), you'll find the original on X.


Is deporting unwanted aliens even possible?


In his latest column, Fred Reed goes into detail about the complications that would ensue if the USA decides to deport all those illegals who've flooded over our border during the Biden administration.  He concludes:

I think the consequence of attempting to deport illegals on such a scale would be to throw the country into the worst crisis it has ever experienced without deporting much of anybody. Of course, I have noticed that what I think does not control the workings of the universe, doubtless a cosmic oversight of some sort. Still, it might be a good idea to think things through before undertaking them. Granted, this would be a break with tradition, but a little adventure spices up life.

I'm not going to cherry-pick points from his article, but I do highly recommend that you click over there and read the whole thing.  He's quite right about the difficulties that would be involved - so many of them, and so vast, that they might make the entire project impractical, literally impossible.  It may be that, as far as immigration is concerned, we as a nation have crossed the Rubicon and there's no going back.  I hate the thought - and I'm a legal immigrant myself - but that may be the case.

If you can think of any practical method of achieving the deportation of millions of unwanted illegals, without ripping the country apart in the process, I'd love to hear it.  Please give us details in Comments.


Tuesday, November 28, 2023

“If all money becomes worthless, then so does all government, and all society, and all standards”


The title of this article is a quotation from the book "Before the Deluge" by Otto Friedrich, examining the economic collapse of the Weimar Republic in the 1920's, and how that paved the way for the rise of Adolf Hitler.

It's a very good book, and worth reading.  I may publish an excerpt or two from it in my "Saturday Snippet" series in the not too distant future.

I was reminded of the book when it was cited in an article titled "How Inflation Precipitates Societal Collapse".  Here are a few excerpts.

In the early Republic of Rome, the Roman State engaged in a policy of territorial expansion and with each conquest of a neighboring region the State plundered the defeated empire’s treasury and increased its own hoard. However, after suffering defeat against the Germans in 9 A.D., Emperor Augustus terminated the policy of expansion and the flow of wealth from foreign lands ceased. Augustus, and the emperors who followed, thus faced insufficient revenue. Taxes could only be raised so much without whipping up the sands of revolt, and so, as Joseph Tainter explains:

“When extraordinary expenses arose the supply of coinage was frequently insufficient. To counter this problem, Nero began in 64 A.D. a policy that subsequent emperors found increasingly irresistible.” 

Joseph Tainter, The Collapse of Complex Societies

This policy involved debasing the value of the standard Roman silver coin, the denarius, by infusing it with cheap metals such as copper, and “clipping” both gold and silver coins, or in other words, reducing the size of them. The excess precious metal obtained from clipping and debasing coins was then used to create more coins, and with these newly minted coins the Roman State covered its debts and expenses and fattened the pockets of statesmen and political insiders.

The modern equivalent of this policy is the expansion of the supply of paper, or digital, money. However, whether one debases and clips coins in order to create more coins, prints more paper money, or adds digits to an account held with a central bank, the result is the same – monetary inflation. The quantity of money is increased, and all other things equal, this leads to price inflation and a rise in the cost of living.

. . .

The story of Rome contains often neglected, but important lessons. One of these lessons is that when a government, or banking elite, claims the right to expand the supply of money without limits, it plays with a fire that can quickly spiral out of control and end in economic ruin, revolution, or even outright societal collapse.

There's more at the link.

I recommend reading the article in full, and comparing the historical incidents it describes to what we're seeing from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury in our own time.  The parallels are unmistakeable, and very scary.

I speak from personal experience in dealing with out-of-control inflation.  Not only did I live in a permanently double-digit inflationary economy in South Africa during the 1970's and 1980's, but I was one border away from Zimbabwe and its hyperinflation of the early 2000's.  By then I was living in America, but I'd seen all the precursors to the hyperinflation there during the 1980's and 1990's, and it came as no surprise.  Based on that experience, I predict that unless we radically and quickly change course, we're headed down the same road.  Look at any episode of hyperinflation in history, and compare what caused it then to our economic policies now, and there's no mistaking what's coming.

If anyone says I'm wrong, or the economists who are increasingly drawing attention to those parallels are wrong . . . ask them whether they've studied history.  If they blithely cite "modern monetary theory" instead, you'll know they're charlatans and liars who have no idea what they're talking about.  Listen to those who lived through such times, and learn from them, and prepare yourselves accordingly, to the extent that you can.


Security alert: there are questions about Apple's new NameDrop feature


A surprising number of police departments and other security agencies are issuing warnings about Apple's new NameDrop feature in the latest version of its iPhone operating system.  Here, for example, is what the Oakland County Sheriff's Office in California had to say:


If you have an iPhone and have completed the recent iOS 17 update, they have set a feature called “NameDrop” to default to ON after completing the update.

This feature allows you to share your contact information by being next to another iphone. In that section, you can also limit who can be the recipient of your AirDrop.

To shut this off go to Settings, General, AirDrop, Bringing Devices Together. Change to OFF.

And yes, we know that it allows you to share it and you can refuse but many people do not check their settings and realize how their phone works.  This particular setting defaults to on rather than have you opt in. And again, it is the area where you also decide who can access AirDrop.

PARENTS:  Don’t forget to change these settings after the update on your children’s phones as well.

In response to all these warnings, multiple media and technology resources are claiming that the threat isn't as bad as it seems, and is being overblown.  However, I want to know why the feature is switched on in the first place.  Surely, if it was in any way concerned about security, Apple should have installed the new version of its operating system with the feature switched off, so that users would have to make an informed, conscious decision to turn it on, in full awareness of any security risk that might result?  That, to me, would be the mature, sensible way to do it.  However, I'm not Apple, and the company clearly doesn't see it that way.

Fortunately, I don't have to worry about this particular feature, because I don't use an iPhone.  However, I'm sure someone will bring out something similar for Android phones in the not too distant future . . . so all of us in the non-Apple cellphone universe should learn from this, and be on our guard.


Neil Oliver hits another one out of the park


In his latest commentary, British journalist Neil Oliver points out that the current violence in Ireland - blamed by the Irish government on "far right" activists and extremists - is in fact the direct fruit of that government's allowing almost unlimited immigration over the past few decades.  Ireland has now been swamped by people who owe no allegiance to its history, culture or norms.  The same applies to Britain and to Europe as a whole.  Governments have allowed in so many aliens that their own cultures are in real danger . . . and now they're blaming the "far right" when their own citizens finally come to the point of saying "Enough!" and turning out in protest.

It's precisely the same in these United States, of course.  Almost all recent administrations, Republican as much as Democrat, have allowed illegal aliens to swarm into this country and tolerated their presence.  Some Democrat-controlled cities and states (for example, New York City) are even trying to allow them to vote in "local" elections, ignoring the reality that as soon as they're admitted to a polling precinct, there's little or nothing to stop them voting for the entire slate, national as well as local.  It's precisely the same dynamic at work, and both of our major parties are culpable.  They don't care about America's way of life.  They're concerned only with policies that make money for them, usually by way of lobbyist "contributions to re-election campaigns", or investment tips, or lucrative directorships and other offices that pay them vastly inflated sums in return for voting the way the oligarchs and Big Business want.  The rest of us are completely ignored, and are of no importance in their calculus.

This is a very important video to show to people who haven't yet woken up to reality.  Highly recommended viewing.

Congratulations, readers.  If you believe that only citizens of a country should be allowed to vote on its future leadership, and that immigrants should adapt to its culture rather than be allowed to import their own and impose it on others, you're now by definition a member of the "far right".


Monday, November 27, 2023

It's been one of those mornings...


Today saw the delivery of our monthly "Subscribe & Save" order from  We order several items on a recurring basis, and once every month Amazon ships those that are due that month.  So far, so good.

Today also saw a prearranged bulk waste pickup by our local trash company.  I planned to put out several larger items that wouldn't fit into our regular weekly trash collection.  I'd managed to haul a couple of them to the curb when the Post Office mail van arrived with our Amazon delivery, among other things.  Also, so far, so good . . . but that's when things went wrong.

The nice Post Office gent hauled our boxes to the front door while I was puffing and panting, dragging a heavy item to the growing pile next to the curb.  As he drove off, I suddenly noticed a sort of white sandy trail where he'd walked, and my heart sank.  Going to the front door, it was clear that one of our boxes was leaking a white powder - and that spelled trouble, because one of our deliveries today was a 10lb. bag of Xylitol, a sugar replacement that my wife and I use.  It's great, but it's also deadly poisonous to dogs;  less so to cats, but still potentially risky for them.  To make matters worse, our neighbor's cats were already sauntering over to investigate the new boxes.

Hurriedly I closed up the garage, then picked up the leaking box and took it into the kitchen where it wouldn't trail any more poison - only to find that our cats followed me, curious about the white powder still falling from the box.  I swooped on them (to their annoyance) and shut them in the bedroom, then chased away the outside cats (to their equal displeasure).  I then spent more than an hour sweeping up every grain of Xylitol from our driveway and path, for the sake of passing dogs, and from the front door to the kitchen (for the sake of our cats).  I mopped inside as well, as even a small dose of the stuff can be lethal to some animals.  Finally, I took out all the other items shipped by Amazon in the same box, cleaned them off as best I could, and put them aside for further attention.  I then got a garbage bag and dropped the entire box, along with the by now half-empty bag of Xylitol, into it, and took it all out to the trash.

Heaving a sigh of relief that I hadn't seen any animals trying to lick up the white powder, I turned back towards the garage to carry on getting our trash out - only to see the bulk waste pickup truck arrive, scoop up all that I'd already laid at the curb, and head off with a cheerful wave from the driver.  I guess I'll have to schedule another pickup next week to get rid of the rest.

Gritting my teeth, I went online and tried to arrange a replacement bag of Xylitol from Amazon.  Their automated system was no help at all - it merely informed me that no refunds were available for that item, and wouldn't let me go any further with an inquiry about a replacement.  Fuming, I finally managed to get an associate on the chat line, explained the problem, and asked for a replacement bag to be shipped.  Unfortunately, she couldn't do that, but as an exception to their policies was able to arrange a refund.  I'll reorder the product from scratch.  Full marks to her - she was as trapped as I was in the entrails of an unsympathetic computer system, but she did her best and came up with a satisfactory solution.  I've had many less productive customer service interactions, so she helped to make my day a little better.

For the first time in a couple of hours, I'm finally able to sit down with a mug of tea and catch my breath . . . but both cats are now sitting next to my chair, glaring at me in an accusing fashion for locking them in a bedroom for so long, and demanding cuddles, milk and treats to make up for this shabby treatment.


Why did I get up this morning?


Verily, the mind doth boggle...


Headline of the day:

US nuke reactor lab hit by 'gay furry hackers' demanding cat-human mutants


Memes that made me laugh 187


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

(I decided not to censor the first meme, because even though it's rude, the word makes it so much funnier than just an orange stripe!)

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Thanksgiving hiatus


I'm going to take a brief break from blogging over Thanksgiving.  I've had a very busy couple of weeks sorting out repairs after our water leak, and I'm pretty tired.  I need a rest.  Therefore, normal blogging will resume on Monday, November 27th.

Please enjoy your Thanksgiving celebrations, and visit the blogs mentioned in my sidebar.  They'll keep you entertained during my absence.

See you in a few days.


Tuesday, November 21, 2023

A timely warning for gift-shopping


Those of us with children would do well to heed this warning.

Toys that “spy” on children are a rising, “frightening” threat, a new study from a consumer watchdog has warned.

The U.S. PIRG Education Fund noted that certain toys that record children’s voices, images, locations and other information pose a risk to children’s safety and privacy.

The organization also noted that an increasing number of toys are utilizing technological features — even when they do not appear to be doing so.

“It’s chilling to learn what some of these toys can do,” Teresa Murray, co-author of the “Trouble in Toyland 2023” report, said in a statement.

. . .

... technological toys are becoming an increasing security risk to children, as some have been caught improperly collecting and storing data — and even being hacked.

The growing threat of AI has also infiltrated the toy industry as this advanced, still experimental technology is being integrated into products advertised for children as young as 3 years old.

The agency advises shoppers to research the products on a child’s wish list “before buying a toy with a microphone, a camera, a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection or any ability to collect information about young children.”

The report comes after the Federal Trade Commission accused Amazon of violating federal children’s privacy laws through its Alexa service by keeping the voice recordings of children, horror stories of hackers speaking to children through their baby monitors and an 11-year-old girl was kidnapped by a man she met through the online gaming platform Roblox.

There's more at the link.

I'm rather glad I grew up in an era where "smart" toys were unheard of.  In fact, the only "smart" around was the "smarting" we felt after our parents whaled the tar out of us for stepping out of line!  It was a different world then . . . if my parents punished us today as they did then, they'd be in jail for child abuse, even though nothing could have been further from their minds.  They'd both been brought up in the "roaring Twenties" and Great Depression-era Britain, in which period children were very strictly disciplined if need be;  and they brought us up in the same way.  I daresay some of my readers can recall similar habits from their parents.

I'm glad I'm not a child today.  When I look at all the "wokeness" seeking to corrupt them, over and above all the normal perils of childhood, it's a pretty nasty environment.  Parents have their work cut out for them to keep their children's heads above water, so to speak.


Heads-up for AR-15 owners


We've written a lot about the AR-15 rifle and related matters in these pages over the years.  I'm sure many of my readers own one or more examples of it;  it's been the single best-selling US-made firearm for several years, AFAIK.

Having the firearm is all very well, but it has to be maintained and kept in good working order.  Given the pressures on firearms manufacturers from the left-wing progressive anti-gun lobby, that's hard to guarantee.  They're trying to make ammunition both more expensive and more difficult to obtain;  they're trying to use lawsuits and other pressures to restrict the number of manufacturers and retailers willing to make and sell such firearms;  and, through the ATF, they're targeting firearms dealers and gunsmiths, trying to put them out of business for any infraction of the rules and make it more difficult for you and I to find the firearms we want.

That's why it's a good idea to have spare parts for your firearm(s) ready to hand, in case they may be needed in a hurry.  Right now, there are great deals to be had on AR-15 rifles and parts from several dealers.  To name just one example, Cheaper Than Dirt is offering the CMMG AR-15 lower receiver parts kit for the ridiculously low price of $29.99 (I've paid three to four times that on occasion in the past).  Even though I already have spare parts, I couldn't resist a deal that good, particularly on a name-branded parts kit like that, and bought several of them.  As for complete AR-15 rifles, CDNN has some available for less than $400, which is the lowest price I've been able to find anywhere.  For what I think is a slightly higher quality level, Palmetto State Armory has some good Black Friday deals on its PA-15 clones.  If you shop around online, you'll find several vendors offering similar weapons and parts kits at very reasonable prices.

Sadly, I suspect we're more likely than not to need such weapons in the not too distant future, given the crime rates and social unrest all around us.  Take advantage of such deals while they're available, and stock up on ammunition and magazines while you're at it.

(No, I'm not getting any compensation in cash or in kind for mentioning those companies and providing those links.  They're just good deals in today's market, and I like to share that sort of thing with my readers.)


A public service reminder... sort of



Monday, November 20, 2023

A father doing his fatherly thing


I laughed out loud to see a father demonstrating to his teenage daughter, in the most emphatic way, that her choice of clothing left something to be desired.  Hysterical!  Click the link to watch the video.


Inflation and its growing threat to our stability


As I've said so often in these pages, the "official" rate of inflation bears little, if any, resemblance to reality.  Karl Denninger drives home the point - and reminds us why it's happening.  Emphasis in original except for orange highlighting, which is mine.

When I go to the grocery store the register tape -- and my Quicken -- says I'm spending a lot more money there.  Not a couple of percent over the last 12 months, an obscene increase.  Shelf prices are one thing, but actual paid prices are truth -- and those involve discounts, coupons, BOGOs and similar.  I, like most people, buy pretty much the same things to eat.  Spending over the last 12 months is in fact up more than 30%, not 2%.

Car insurance is claimed to be up about 20% -- and it is.  That's real, and everyone with a car has had to pay it.

But the government also claims that health insurance has been down in price by roughly 30%.  That's nonsense, and we all know it, but there it is.

. . .

The problem is that ... we "trained" Congress (and both political parties) that they can run 30% deficits and not have it show up as 8% inflation on a permanent basis.  That's flat-out false.

This in turn means that either we're going to absorb about 8% inflation (no matter what the government claims), [or] spending must come down by about 30% at the federal level and that is only to stabilize prices, not return them lower, or taxes must go up by about 40% which of course is another expense in the household and reduces disposable income.  The latter is politically impossible.

How does this resolve?

I don't have that answer -- but what I'm seeing on the ground is a profound decrease in consumer activity.  Yes, there are places where everything is "happy time" -- but that's not the country as a whole.

WalMart has noted it, and when it hits WalMart that's the people up to perhaps the top 10% of earners.

There's more at the link.

I can't argue with a word he says.  I agree that actual, boots-on-the-ground consumer inflation is presently at plus-or-minus 30% - I said the same thing last year.  I won't be surprised to learn that in some areas, it's closer to 50%.  We're perilously close to slipping into Weimar Republic-style hyperinflation.  Many will scoff at that assertion:  but they haven't studied history closely enough.  The parallels are real, and not hard to see for those with unblinkered economic eyes.

The biggest single problem, as I see it, is that too many Americans - corporate as well as individual citizens - have become accustomed to living off Uncle Sam's largesse.  Need money?  Turn to the federal government to provide it!  That's why more than half of America's families are receiving government benefits in one or more forms, and why many corporations are utterly dependent on government spending for their very existence.  Just how long would Lockheed Martin, or Archer Daniels Midland, or Halliburton, be able to continue to operate without the billions upon billions of dollars of government money they rake in every year?  How many industries are subsidized to the tune of billions more dollars because they spend millions on lobbying the government to do their bidding?  The US government is - and has been for a very long time - in bed with Big Business, and that's not going to change unless and until we throw out almost every Congressional representative and Senator and start over again.  If you think that's likely to happen, I have this bridge in Brooklyn, NYC I'd like to sell you.  It's a real bargain!  Cash only, please, and in small bills.

If we cut off this cornucopia of government largesse, we could solve our economic problems - and inflation - in short order.  However, to do so would involve short-term national pain that would make the Great Depression look like a minor economic hiccup.  That's why it's never going to happen voluntarily.  Nevertheless, if we get our own version of Weimar hyperinflation, it may be forced upon us, as the only way to get out of the economic hole we've dug for ourselves.  Not a happy thought.

That's one reason - and a big one - why I've built up our emergency reserves and supplies as best I can (not nearly as much as I'd like to, but as far as I can afford).  The time may come when that's all we can afford to eat.  Think I'm joking?  Go read the snippets I've posted from time to time about the reality, the lived experience, of Weimar hyperinflation, and think again.


Memes that made me laugh 186


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

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Sunday morning music


Back in 2015, I mentioned here that my wife and I had witnessed author, blogger and all-round good guy Mike Williamson dancing with his then one-year-old daughter to the tune of "Burger Dance", as performed by Austrian entertainer DJ Ötzi.  It's a variation on the "Fast Food Song", which is itself a variation on a traditional Moroccan children's song.  Whatever its origins, it's a real earworm.

Last night, at our weekly gathering of the North Texas Troublemakers, the song was mentioned again.  It made us all smile;  so I figured I'd inflict it on you again.

So much for your happy, holy, peaceful Sunday!


Saturday, November 18, 2023

Still cleaning up, so no Snippet this morning


We're still cleaning up after our little flood last week, getting quotes for repairs and rectification, and dealing with contractors, insurers and what have you;  so I haven't had enough time to prepare my usual Saturday Snippet post.  Sorry about that, but I'm sure you understand.

Please amuse yourselves with the bloggers listed in my sidebar.  They write good too!


Friday, November 17, 2023

Adventures with blood pressure


As regular readers will know, last week we suffered water damage to our home when our dishwasher decided to fill itself late on Thursday night . . . and kept on filling itself.  Our insurers called in ServiceMaster within an hour of our lodging a claim, and they spent Friday testing for water contamination, cutting and boring holes in a couple of walls to aid air circulation, removing wet insulation, and preparing to dry out our home.  By Friday night there were more than a dozen big roaring fans and dehumidifiers at work, and they stayed in place until Tuesday.  Fortunately, all went well, and we're now into the process of getting quotes to replace flooring and repair the damage.

Unfortunately, the stress of dealing with all that, and the non-stop 24/7 noise of all those roaring fans, affected my health.  I hadn't expected that, but I'm no longer as young as I was, and the doctors tell me that stresses like that do hit harder as we get older.  I woke up early on Sunday morning feeling very uncomfortable, with chest pains and some referred pain in my left arm.  Having survived two heart attacks already, you can imagine that those warning signs were not welcome at all.  It didn't take long before I was on a gurney in the local emergency room, with nurses measuring my vital signs.

Fortunately, I wasn't having a heart attack:  my EKG was normal.  However, my blood pressure was very dangerously high, at seriously life-threatening levels.  That came as a complete surprise.  The ER doctor said it was almost certainly a physical reaction to the noise and stress of the previous 48 hours.  When I shook my head in disbelief, commenting that I didn't feel stressed, he reminded me (rolling his eyes) that I wasn't 21 any more, and that as one gets older, one's body reacts to stress a lot more than it used to - and it won't necessarily warn us about it with obvious symptoms.  I can see now why they call high blood pressure the "silent killer"!

I was discharged after a few hours with instructions to monitor my blood pressure several times a day, and to return to the ER at once if it spiked at all.  I haven't previously bothered to check my blood pressure routinely, but after this episode, you can bet I'm going to be doing so, probably more than once per day!  I ordered a blood pressure monitor off Amazon, one recommended by the doctor.  It's very simple to use, and gives me peace of mind.  I'll also be checking my post-heart-attack prescriptions with my health care provider, to see whether I need an increased dose of any of them, or a new medication to add to the mix.

The purpose of telling you all this isn't to make you go "Ooh!  Aah!" at my medical misadventures, but in the hope that some of you will consider checking your own blood pressure more regularly.  If you're older, or a heart attack survivor, or in poor health due to other conditions (all of which apply to me), I've just learned the hard way that it's very worthwhile to invest in your own blood pressure monitor and use it regularly.  (One word of warning:  it seems that small wrist-size blood pressure monitors are notorious for not giving very accurate results, irrespective of the model.  I had one for some years as a result of my earlier heart problems, but found that when comparing its readings to those obtained by my health care provider, the former were very inaccurate;  so I stopped using it.  My new blood pressure monitor, which reads from upper arm or forearm, is much more accurate.)

Fortunately, my blood pressure has been within normal limits (for me, anyway) for the past several days.  Long may it remain so!


Adventures with power stations


Last week I wrote about so-called "power stations", portable battery banks (for want of a better word) that can supply electricity for hours, some of them for days, in the event of a power outage.  They're very useful tools, and if you have any reliance on critical electrical equipment (particularly medical, such as CPAP machines or oxygen generators), IMHO they fall under the heading of essential emergency gear.  If you missed that earlier article, I suggest you click over there and read it before continuing with this one.

I've just had to replace an older Jackery 440 power station.  I bought it about four years ago, and it's given good service until now.  Unfortunately, when I needed a new charger, I learned that the 440 went out of production soon after I got it, and Jackery no longer supplies parts for it.  Sadly, there are no third-party chargers available with the correct plug to fit my unit (despite a couple of them claiming the contrary - I checked).  That means, for want of a simple wall charger, my $500-plus power station is now effectively unusable.  I'm very annoyed about that, because I think it's incumbent upon the makers of relatively costly equipment to retain a supply of essential spares.  If they don't, they're demonstrating a lack of care towards their customers that's almost contempt.  "Sure, you spent your money with us - but that's your problem!"  After telling me that no replacement charger was available, their customer service representative even suggested that I take advantage of next week's Black Friday sales to buy a more modern version from them.  No discount was offered, and no trade-in for my now useless earlier model, either or both of which would seem to me to be basic customer courtesy in this situation.  Needless to say, I bought a non-Jackery product as a replacement, and Jackery is now on my "unreliable supplier" list - a pity, as they're one of the larger manufacturers of such equipment and their products are well reviewed.  Still . . . if that's how they treat their customers, I won't be one of them in future.  As always, caveat emptor.

While shopping around for the replacement unit (I ended up buying an Ecoflow River 2 Max model, as discussed last week), I learned a lot about the current state of the market.  For a start, prices have come down a lot if you shop around (I paid less than half as much for the Ecoflow as I did for the roughly-equivalent-capacity Jackery four years ago).  Also, battery technology has improved considerably, making modern units more efficient and faster-charging (for example, my new Ecoflow charges to full in about one hour, compared to 6-7 hours for the older Jackery).  The software that controls them has also improved, allowing one to specify a slower charging rate (which generates less heat and wear on the battery and cooling fan) and even set the level to which they will charge, very useful for long-term storage when one doesn't plan to use them unless in emergency.  (It's not good to store lithium batteries at full charge, again because of wear considerations.  For example, Ecoflow recommends charging its units to not more than 85% for long-term storage.  Modern systems have made it much easier to avoid such pitfalls.)

The only danger is that, if one specifies a lower charging rate and/or a less-than-full level of charge, in an emergency one might not have access to Internet or wi-fi connections to reset the unit to its base configuration.  Therefore, I made sure to adjust the Ecoflow's parameters back to full power and charge rate as soon as I'd charged it for the first time.  That way, if the power goes out tomorrow, it'll still operate at its maximum performance.  That's a basic precaution that a lot of people don't think about:  but if something goes badly wrong, you don't want to be sitting with a power station that's unnecessarily slow to charge and/or won't hold a full charge.  Not a good idea!  (Another useful precaution is to, every three months or so, discharge the unit under load, then recharge to the recommended level before putting it back into storage.  That way, you're sure it works, and won't be caught short in an emergency.  Some manufacturers even void their warranty if such regular discharge/recharge cycles are not followed - and yes, they'll know, because their units track and record such information, either internally or over the Internet.)

I was surprised to learn how many people spend thousands of dollars buying high-end, high-capacity power stations that allow them to operate major domestic appliances (stove, refrigerator, HVAC systems, etc.) in an emergency.  That's great if you have a large disposable income, but such power systems are very expensive.  One can buy a nice dual-fuel generator and enough fuel for a month (propane, gasoline, whatever) and still save money compared to such high-end systems.  Our approach is to say that, in emergency, we'll heat or cool no more than one or two rooms, and cook over a propane camping stove or a fire, and use a small generator to run our refrigerator and freezer every few hours to keep the food in them cold.  We can keep going like that for several weeks if we have to, and won't have to spend five figures or more on a high-end power station and expanded battery capacity to run the whole house.  Our small power stations will allow us to run a CPAP machine;  recharge cellphones, handheld radios, laptop computers and flashlights;  and generally take care of the basics at an affordable cost.  I have two units, so while one's in use, the other can be recharging off a generator or small portable solar panel - and if one breaks, the other's still there.  That gives me peace of mind.

Also, one can duplicate the performance of a lower-end power station for a lot less money, if that's a factor.  As reader Hightecrebel noted last week:

Anyone even slightly handy can make a battery box that's 75-95% as capable for half the cost of the power stations, but in a slightly larger form factor that is fine for at home. There are videos on Odyssey, Rumble, & YouTube showing how to do it with anything from a plastic ammo can to a rolling toolbox. One guy has a whole Rigid toolbox set with batteries in the bottom rolling box w/ 12v outlets and charger connection, with additional boxes for an inverter or expansion batteries.

I'm planning to build one into a Hart Stack set personally (I like the colors), and it's looking like for around $700 I'll have 2.5KWH of battery (200AH @ 12V), and a 2KW pure sine wave inverter. Took a little time to get the parts for it, catching things on sale and such. Compared to an Ecoflow Delta 2 Max for $1600 with 2KW of power and a 3KW inverter. And mine'll have wheels and an extendable handle for ease of movement.

I agree, you can make your own battery system that way, albeit with the disadvantages that it'll be a lot bigger and heavier than a typical power station (making it less portable if you have to take it with you) and its lead-acid batteries will take longer to recharge.  However, the cost savings may make up for that.  YMMV.  One can also use third-party solar panels to set up a recharging system for your power station, rather than use the panels offered by its vendor;  but again, they'll be bigger and heavier than a portable solar panel, and less easy to take along if you have to "get out of Dodge".  You pays your money, and you takes your choice.  (I wish there were a common standard for solar panels, and connectors, and charge rates, among the manufacturers of such things!  It's very frustrating to try to figure out which panels and plugs will fit which devices, and whether or not the charge rates and capacities are compatible.  The simplest solution is to go with a solar panel setup from the power station manufacturer, but they're often relatively expensive compared to third-party systems.)

Finally, it's worth noting that many manufacturers of such devices are offering Black Friday discount deals on their products.  Some of the discounts aren't as good as those offered by retailers (as I noted about my Ecoflow unit last week), but if you shop around, you may be able to save hundreds or even thousands of dollars off the list prices, which is not to be sneezed at.  (If you want to compare units between manufacturers, there are lots of comparisons on YouTube and elsewhere - just do a search on the name[s] of the unit[s] in which you're interested, and include the word "reviews", and you'll find them.  Here are a few to get you started.)


Thursday, November 16, 2023

A blast from the advertising past


I know I posted this some years ago, but it still makes me laugh.  Here's the famous EDS "cat herding" commercial.


Use drugs, run out of fuel - say what???


I hadn't expected "fuel crime" to become a thing in the illegal drugs industry, but here you go.

Colombia has a severe problem, cocaine. The South American country is the world’s largest producer of the narcotic, and it continues setting record highs for the cultivation of coca, the drug’s key raw ingredient, and cocaine production. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported for 2022 (Spanish) that the amount of land cultivated with coca soared 13% year over year to 230,000 hectares. This, the agency believes, possessed the potential to produce a record 1,738 metric tons of cocaine, yet another all-time high.

. . .

It is estimated that around 75 gallons, or 284 liters, of gasoline, is required to treat the approximately 440 pounds of coca leaves required to produce one kilogram of cocaine hydrochloride ... which means 130 million gallons, or 492 million liters, of gasoline was consumed during 2022 to produce 1,738 metric tons of cocaine. This tremendous amount of gasoline combined with soaring oil prices ... makes it extremely costly for Colombia’s illegal armed groups, which control the Andean country’s cocaine trade, to acquire the required volume of gasoline.

For those reasons, there are considerable incentives for criminal bands to steal oil from Colombia’s extensive network of petroleum pipelines, which are amplified by strict government controls on the sale of large volumes of gasoline.

. . .

Colombia’s Caño Limon and Transandino, known by their Spanish initials OTA, pipelines are the main targets for petroleum theft. Various criminal bands and illegal armed groups tap the pipelines with primitive valves to extract the oil flowing through them, often leaving pools of environmentally damaging petroleum behind ... Official records indicate the Caño Limon pipeline has suffered 1,600 attacks since commencing operation in 1986, most of which were bombings, but also includes the application of illicit valves to steal petroleum.

There's more at the link.

I've been aware of thefts of petroleum products from pipelines for decades.  In Africa, it's a growth business.  Hardly a month goes by without reports of large quantities of oil being stolen from sabotaged pipelines, many times sparking a conflagration that kills countless people trying to get free fuel.  Nigeria is probably the worst hotspot (you should pardon the expression) on the continent for that.  However, those crimes target the fuel itself, for its own value.  The criminals don't regard fuel as just another component needed for a much more lucrative and deadly crime.

This leads to another thought.  Could fuel rationing, either by default through short supply or by government edict, help reduce the amount of drugs on the market?  I'm not advocating that, you understand - just thinking things through.  There are wheels within wheels on this issue . . .


Remember what I said about cities?


If you don't, consider these headlines from the past 24 hours:

Cars block FedEx semi while dozens pillage packages, leave boxes scattered everywhere

A FedEx tractor-trailer was blocked by several cars in a Memphis, Tennessee, intersection before dozens of people pillaged the back of the truck for packages, leaving boxes discarded all over the road during the brazen weekend theft.

Video from the scene shows multiple people running through parked cars in the road toward the FedEx truck as the driver attempts to escape the ravagers who are carrying their loot.

Helpless Amazon driver watches as group of looters raid her truck

Video captured from a nearby apartment shows the thieves jumping out of the front of the van and running to the back where the door is already opened, before hopping back in and filling their arms with packages.

The camera then turned to the driver, who was in the middle of her delivery route, abruptly stopped walking and watched as her truck was ransacked.

This sort of thing has become commonplace in parts of many large US cities.  It's not limited to trucks, either:  in some places, even trains are being looted almost at will.

Our cities are becoming worse and worse by the day.  They contain sizeable underclasses of residents who care nothing for honesty or the rule of law, and who don't fear the police or the justice system at all.  They know they can get away with almost anything, even murder, and therefore they do as they please.  Left-wing progressive District Attorneys no longer bother to enforce many laws, and when they do it's in a slap-on-the-wrist fashion rather than seeking genuinely deterrent punishment - a clear signal to the lawless that there are no limits restraining them.

I said a while back:

I sometimes get the feeling I'm talking to a brick wall when I keep warning about the dangers of living in "big blue" cities, because few people appear to take my warnings seriously.  Nevertheless, I'll keep providing evidence, in the hope that at least some of my readers may see the light in time, and get the hell out of them before it's too late.

. . .

Folks, if you can't read the writing on the wall by this point, I don't know how to reach you.  Too many people are judging the cities they live in by the conditions around their suburban homes, where everything looks just peachy and hunky-dory.  However, that ignores the festering plague spots of low-income, low-education, overcrowded, urban-decay, crime-infested areas where the people live largely on government benefits and have little to no hope of ever breaking free from that cycle of dependency.  They're part of the same cities as those suburbs.  When the stresses in those areas stretch too tight, or the benefits they depend on are no longer available (or are reduced in value thanks to inflation and rising prices), they display their displeasure by becoming more violent and anti-social.

. . .

Friends, our cities have fallen so far that I seriously doubt they can be rescued.  They'll have to hit rock bottom, and realize it, and take steps to cut away the deadwood that's crippling them, before they can rise again.  If you stay, hoping for the best, I fear greatly that you may end up as part of the deadwood that's cut away.

I hope I'm wrong . . . but I doubt it.  The evidence of what's coming is overwhelming.  It won't happen overnight, or even in a year or two, but the overall trend is unmistakeable, and probably irreversible.

Leave our "big blue" cities while you still can, even if it means taking a financial loss in the process.  Some things - your family, your and their lives, your security - are worth more than money.

There's more at the link.

Welcome to Robert A. Heinlein's "crazy years".  If you want to avoid them as far as possible, don't be where they're in full swing.  Get out of our big cities.  Now.


Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Flooding and water damage update


As most readers will know, our home suffered water damage last Thursday night when our dishwasher decided to fill itself . . . and keep on filling itself, all night long.  Our insurance company was on the ball, and had ServiceMaster here within an hour of our filing a claim.  Yesterday they took out the last of their big drying-out machines and declared our home ready for repair and rectification.  Last night was wonderfully quiet, with no ventilation fans and dehumidifiers roaring!

Yesterday I visited three local flooring dealers, and arranged for each of them to come out here during the rest of this week, measure our home, and quote for replacing damaged flooring.  Our insurance policy will replace/repair to the same standards as before the damage, but not for any enhancements or improvements over that standard.  However, our laminate flooring (laid when we bought our house) was laid end-to-end down the length of the building, with no interruptions or joints.  That means, apparently, that to get that same quality of installation, we have to replace it in the same way, laid in one continuous pattern from one side of the house to the other, even though most of the laminate was not water-damaged.  The color or pattern of eight-year-old laminate can't be exactly matched, so it all has to be replaced.  That's likely to be very expensive!  Flooring's gone up a lot in price over the past eight years.  We'll see what the numbers look like.

The kitchen is another problem.  The water got underneath the ceramic tile floor, to the point where when one walked on it, water gushed up from the joints between the tiles, and washed out some of the grout.  Some of the tiles also cracked through people walking on them in their newly unsupported condition.  That means they'll have to be replaced, but again, they're an older pattern of tile that can't be matched out of modern stocks, so it'll have to be a full replacement.  That means taking up the old tile, scraping the grout and glue off the concrete slab, leveling the surface, then re-laying fresh tile.  Again, that's going to get expensive.  We'll see what the insurance company has to say.

When all that's been done, I still have to find a general contractor to patch the holes in the drywall made by ServiceMaster to remove wet insulation, replace baseboard and skirting-board removed to let the walls dry, and repaint the repaired walls.  I haven't even started to look for that yet.  I'll worry about the flooring first, and the rest later.  I can only do so much at once.

Today we have the first of the flooring companies coming in to measure for a quotation, and also an installer bringing our new dishwasher.  We went with a Bosch model, recommended by several readers in earlier comments and attracting more-than-usually-positive customer reviews on Web sites.  It has a lot more features than our old, relatively simple dishwasher, so I can see we have a learning curve ahead of us as we figure out how to do what, with which, to whatever.  It was expensive, but that sort of unexpected cost is precisely why we (and, I hope, you) have an emergency reserve fund.  It gives us peace of mind to know that in most situations like this, we can usually cope with the bills without panicking.  We'll rebuild the emergency fund over the next few months.

Blogging may be lighter than usual today as I juggle installers, measurers and other visitors.


Tuesday, November 14, 2023

The next step in her journey


Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the well-known former Muslim activist against Islamic fundamentalism, became a self-professed atheist after learning (the hard way) what that religion's extremists taught and wanted for the world.  However, after many years as an atheist, she's converted to Christianity.

So, what changed? Why do I call myself a Christian now?

Part of the answer is global. Western civilisation is under threat from three different but related forces: the resurgence of great-power authoritarianism and expansionism in the forms of the Chinese Communist Party and Vladimir Putin’s Russia; the rise of global Islamism, which threatens to mobilise a vast population against the West; and the viral spread of woke ideology, which is eating into the moral fibre of the next generation ... we can’t fight off these formidable forces unless we can answer the question: what is it that unites us? The response that “God is dead!” seems insufficient. So, too, does the attempt to find solace in “the rules-based liberal international order”. The only credible answer, I believe, lies in our desire to uphold the legacy of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

That legacy consists of an elaborate set of ideas and institutions designed to safeguard human life, freedom and dignity — from the nation state and the rule of law to the institutions of science, health and learning. As Tom Holland has shown in his marvellous book Dominion, all sorts of apparently secular freedoms — of the market, of conscience and of the press — find their roots in Christianity.

And so I have come to realise that Russell and my atheist friends failed to see the wood for the trees. The wood is the civilisation built on the Judeo-Christian tradition; it is the story of the West, warts and all.

. . .

To me ... freedom of conscience and speech is perhaps the greatest benefit of Western civilisation. It does not come naturally to man. It is the product of centuries of debate within Jewish and Christian communities. It was these debates that advanced science and reason, diminished cruelty, suppressed superstitions, and built institutions to order and protect life, while guaranteeing freedom to as many people as possible. Unlike Islam, Christianity outgrew its dogmatic stage. It became increasingly clear that Christ’s teaching implied not only a circumscribed role for religion as something separate from politics. It also implied compassion for the sinner and humility for the believer.

Yet I would not be truthful if I attributed my embrace of Christianity solely to the realisation that atheism is too weak and divisive a doctrine to fortify us against our menacing foes. I have also turned to Christianity because I ultimately found life without any spiritual solace unendurable — indeed very nearly self-destructive. Atheism failed to answer a simple question: what is the meaning and purpose of life?

Russell and other activist atheists believed that with the rejection of God we would enter an age of reason and intelligent humanism. But the “God hole” — the void left by the retreat of the church — has merely been filled by a jumble of irrational quasi-religious dogma. The result is a world where modern cults prey on the dislocated masses, offering them spurious reasons for being and action — mostly by engaging in virtue-signalling theatre on behalf of a victimised minority or our supposedly doomed planet. The line often attributed to G.K. Chesterton has turned into a prophecy: “When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.”

. . .

The lesson I learned from my years with the Muslim Brotherhood was the power of a unifying story, embedded in the foundational texts of Islam, to attract, engage and mobilise the Muslim masses. Unless we offer something as meaningful, I fear the erosion of our civilisation will continue. And fortunately, there is no need to look for some new-age concoction of medication and mindfulness. Christianity has it all.

That is why I no longer consider myself a Muslim apostate, but a lapsed atheist. Of course, I still have a great deal to learn about Christianity. I discover a little more at church each Sunday. But I have recognised, in my own long journey through a wilderness of fear and self-doubt, that there is a better way to manage the challenges of existence than either Islam or unbelief had to offer.

There's more at the link.

This is wonderful news for all Christian believers, of course.  Ms. Ali has been a source for and a center of rational debate and discussion about the meaning of life, the dangers of extremism, and the need for intellectual honesty in confronting the problems around us.  For a deep thinker like that to analyze Christianity and realize that it holds the promise of fulfilling all those things, and explaining them in a rational sense as well as by faith, is a testimony to the abiding, enduring truth of Jesus Christ.  I thank God for this news, and for my new sister in Christ.

It's also a challenge to those of us who take our faith for granted, or never think about why we believe what we profess.  We should all be challenging ourselves.  If we claim to be Christian, why do we do so?  On what grounds?  How do we pattern our lives according to God's revelation in Christ?  Ms. Ali has had to do all of that during her conversion.  We would do well to follow her example, and examine our own faith anew.  We should not believe because that's what our parents taught us, or because that's what's socially acceptable.  We should believe because we really do believe, on the basis of evidence and personal faith.

Kudos to Ms. Ali for giving us renewed grounds for that self-examination.


Vehicle manufacturers and your privacy (what privacy?)


In a world where nobody seems to care about privacy any more, I suppose it's not surprising that a case about what I'd call an egregious intrusion into personal privacy has been thrown out.

A federal judge on Tuesday refused to bring back a class action lawsuit alleging four auto manufacturers had violated Washington state’s privacy laws by using vehicles’ on-board infotainment systems to record and intercept customers’ private text messages and mobile phone call logs ... the appellate judge ruled Tuesday that the interception and recording of mobile phone activity did not meet the Washington Privacy Act’s standard that a plaintiff must prove that “his or her business, his or her person, or his or her reputation” has been threatened.

In an example of the issues at stake, plaintiffs in one of the five cases filed suit against Honda in 2021, arguing that beginning in at least 2014 infotainment systems in the company’s vehicles began downloading and storing a copy of all text messages on smartphones when they were connected to the system.

An Annapolis, Maryland-based company, Berla Corporation, provides the technology to some car manufacturers but does not offer it to the general public, the lawsuit said. Once messages are downloaded, Berla’s software makes it impossible for vehicle owners to access their communications and call logs but does provide law enforcement with access, the lawsuit said.

There's more at the link.

I've warned about this before, but nothing ever seems to be done to control it, and it keeps getting worse.  Once you link your smartphone to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto or a similar app in your vehicle, your entire cellphone usage is open to scrutiny, downloading and analysis, whether you like it or not.  What's more, it's highly likely to be aggregated and sold to companies who want to use that data for targeted advertising.  Even the dealer who services your vehicle can download your cellphone data, if he has the right software - and a surprising number of them do.

Even worse, that happens when you rent a car as well.  If you link your phone to the rental vehicle, the rental company now has that access as well, as does anyone else who rents the same vehicle later and knows how to access the activity logs of previous renters.

That's why I never, ever link my cellphone to a vehicle's internal systems, no matter how convenient the latter may be.  A lot of us old farts value our privacy, and take what steps we can to safeguard it . . . although in this day and age, that's probably more comforting than effective.