Thursday, February 22, 2024

A forgery, but... why???


I'm puzzled by this report.

A 280 million-year-old fossil thought to be a well-preserved specimen of an ancient reptile is largely a forgery, according to new research.

The fossil, initially discovered in the Italian Alps in 1931, has the scientific name Tridentinosaurus antiquus. Scientists thought the dark, deep outline of the lizardlike body encased in rock was skin and soft tissue, and they considered the fossil to be a puzzle piece for understanding early reptile evolution.

. . .

A new, detailed analysis has revealed that the dark color of the fossil isn’t preserved genetic material ... researchers determined that the body outline was carved in the rock and painted with “animal charcoal,” a commercial pigment used about 100 years ago that was made by burning animal bones. The carving also explained why the specimen appeared to retain such a lifelike shape, rather than appearing flatter like a genuine fossil.

. . .

Intriguingly, there are actual bones within the fossil. The hind limbs, although in poor condition, are real, and there are also traces of osteoderms, or scalelike structures. Now, the researchers are trying to determine the exact age of the bones and what animal they belonged to.

. . .

Rossi and her team can’t be entirely sure that the forgery was done on purpose.

“We believe that, since some of the bones are visible, someone tried to expose more of the skeleton, by excavating more or less where someone would expect to find the rest of the animal,” Rossi said. “The lack of proper tools for preparing the hard rock did not help and the application of the paint in the end was perhaps a way to embellish the final work. Unfortunately, whether all of this was intentional or not, it did mislead many experts in interpreting this fossil as exceptionally preserved.”

There's more at the link.

To my mind, this discovery raises even more questions than the original discovery.

  • Who did it, and why?  It obviously wasn't an attempt to gain publicity for an individual, because there was no fuss at the time of the "discovery" naming any individual as having found it.  If it wasn't for publicity, why did the researcher(s) responsible not simply document what they'd done, or simply discard the sample along with other debris of no scientific value?  I don't think anyone would have complained, given that they didn't destroy anything worthwhile in the process.
  • Why did nobody in the nearly a century since the "discovery" ask more questions about it?  Why was it left until 2021 to begin an investigation?  Clearly, it wasn't considered an important enough issue by previous generations of researchers.  What drew their attention to it so long after the fact?
  • Where did the actual bones discovered during the investigation come from?  Was there an Italian Kentucky Fried Chicken equivalent way back then, and did the originators of the "fossil" simply discard their dinner bones along with the ruined research material?  Did the investigation discover and analyze "eleven herbs and spices" on the fossilized remains?

I doubt we'll ever find answers . . . but it's an intriguing discovery.

Perhaps we should ask the same investigative team to take a long, hard look at the present inhabitants of the White House.  Are there, perhaps, fake fossils to be found there too?


Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Remember the Wagner Group? They've gone "respectable" (sort of)


Following its failed rebellion in Russia last year, and the death of its founder in a more-than-suspicious "aircraft accident", it looks like the Russian government has taken over the running of the mercenary Wagner Group and is exploiting it as the "thin edge of the wedge" in the Third World.  The BBC reports:

The multibillion dollar operations [of the Wagner Group in Africa] are now mostly being run as the Russian "Expeditionary Corps", managed by the man accused of being behind the attempt to murder Sergei Skripal using the Novichok nerve agent on the streets of the UK - a charge Russia has denied.

"This is the Russian state coming out of the shadows in its Africa policy," says Jack Watling, land warfare specialist at the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) and one of the report's authors.

. . .

The three West African states with close links to Wagner - Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso - have all experienced military takeovers in recent years. They have since announced their withdrawal from the regional bloc Ecowas, and the creation of their own "Alliance of Sahel States".

. . .

"What the Russians have provided is a strike force, with helicopters with advanced capabilities and a lot of firepower," says Dr Watling. "They are using pretty traditional Soviet anti-partisan methods. You see fighters who were executed, as well as civilians targeted for enabling or being associated with fighters."

There have been multiple claims that Wagner forces carried out human rights abuses on the African continent, as well as in Ukraine and Syria, where Prigozhin's organisation previously held a commanding presence.

. . .

In exchange for considerable, if brutal, security assistance, Wagner required something in return.

Mali, like many African nations, is rich in natural resources - from timber and gold to uranium and lithium. Some are simply valuable, while others have strategic importance as well.

According to Dr Watling, Wagner was operating in a well-established tradition: "There is a standard Russian modus operandi, which is that you cover the operational costs with parallel business activity. In Africa, that is primarily through mining concessions."

. . .

Following the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, many in the Western security apparatus say that Russia's mask has slipped.

"What they are looking to do is to exacerbate our crises internationally. They are trying to start fires elsewhere, and expand those that already exist, making a less safe world," Dr Watling.

"Ultimately, it weakens us in the global competition that we are currently facing. So the impact is not immediately felt, but over time, it is a serious threat."

There's more at the link.

There have been many reports, and even more rumors, about what Wagner Group is up to in Africa.  I have a number of contacts across that continent, and I've been hearing interesting things from them.  (Amongst other things, I was told that following the Wagner uprising in Russia, a number of its operatives there and in Africa were recruited by the French Foreign Legion, an organization that's very familiar with African operations and has long employed a significant number of soldiers from the former Soviet Union and its satellites.  It would be logical for the Foreign Legion to be eager to supplement its ranks with more of the same, particularly since many of them are combat veterans.)  Given, too, Wagner's somewhat criminal inclinations in Russia and Ukraine, it's not surprising that many of its operatives would have no qualms about strong-arming African nations and their people into "cooperating" (at the point of a gun, if necessary) with Russian interests.

It's very convenient for a nation-state to have a nominally independent group that it can use, then deny, as a less-than-official strong-arm squad to assist its foreign policy objectives.  Wagner might as well be tailor-made for such purposes.

(One wonders how many former Wagner operatives are now employed by US three-letter agencies?  They would bring an undoubted ruthlessness to the field that US operatives may lack.  There are stories circulating . . . )


I don't know if this is true or not - but if it is, it's hilarious


Marketwatch is in a bit of a froth at the prospect of President Trump suddenly becoming much, much richer.

Away from the headlines, Donald Trump has just made a staggering sum of money, all of it driven by the publicity from his campaign for the White House. (A terribly, terribly cynical person might even suggest that is part of the point.)

How much? Forget these fines, which add up to less than $500 million. Trump is suddenly on track for a windfall of nearly $4 billion. And he has made most of it just in the five weeks since his big win in the Iowa caucuses put him in pole position for the Republican presidential nomination.

The windfall is from the forthcoming IPO of his social-media platform, called Truth Social, which he launched — amid massive derision from the mainstream media, I might add — in 2021 after he was kicked off Twitter following the events of Jan. 6, 2021. 

. . .

Under terms of the deal, which has been in the pipeline since 2021, Trump personally is set to end up with 79 million shares in the company when the deal is complete, possibly as soon as this quarter ... That values Trump’s personal stake in the company at $3.8 billion — up $2.5 billion just since winning in Iowa over Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley, et al. Who says it costs money to run for president?

There's more at the link.

I have no axe to grind in this matter.  I'm not a Trump fanboi, and I have serious reservations about the prospects for another Trump term as President;  but I accept that at present, he's the only meaningful candidate for the White House next year.  I also accept that the legal actions against him are nothing less than lawfare, a deliberate and prima facie corrupt attempt to knock him out as a political candidate to the benefit of other candidates.  They're so over-the-top it's ridiculous, and I hope that those responsible for them (and those who impose such ridiculous penalties) face legal consequences for their malfeasance.

It would be too delicious if the establishment hits President Trump with multi-hundreds-of-millions of dollars in fines and penalties, only to find that all the publicity and negativity they've stirred up produces billions of dollars in windfall income for him.  Talk about the biter bit - not to mention the fines paid from the profits!

Pass the popcorn . . .


I fear this may be true...


This meme is currently circulating on social media.  Clickit to biggit.

The sad thing is, I'm afraid it's true.  I know many of my readers have been watching "the signs of the times" for several years, and are aware that we're staring down the barrel of real political, social, economic and cultural unrest.  However, there are still plenty of people who refuse to accept that things can't go on as they are.  They really seem to believe that we can run annual deficits in the trillions of dollars, cope with real inflation rates that are well into double digits, and absorb millions upon millions of alien "migrants" who are effectively an invasion of our First World society by the Third World.

It can't go on.  It won't go on.  The signs of deterioration are all around us . . . but so many people refuse to look at them.  I have no idea why they do that, but they do.

I guess it's up to us to prepare ourselves, our families, our relatives and our friends as best we can for what lies ahead.  For those who won't listen, I guess they're going to be on their own when things go haywire.

That's a tragic and troubling thought.


Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Work smarter, not harder


From XKCD.  Click the image for a larger view, and click here to go to the cartoon's Web page.

If you aren't reading XKCD regularly, you're missing out on a great comic strip.  It's updated two to three times every week.  Highly recommended.


Every "blue" city is becoming more and more like this


Courtesy of Borepatch, I came across this utterly ridiculous city budgeting and expenditure procedure in San Francisco.  It's worth watching if only for the comedy value - and because it's better to laugh at it than cry about it.

The problem is, all that bureaucracy and paperwork offers immense opportunities for graft and corruption.  The powers that be can simply hide their monetary peculations in the mass of documentation and required procedures, making it very difficult (if not impossible) to prove what they're up to.

Sometimes they don't even bother to hide it, because they know they'll get away with it.  The latest example comes from New York City.

Earlier this month, The Post broke the story that Mayor Adams is giving out pre-paid cash cards to migrants.

. . .

This debit-card program — if you read the actual contract — has the potential to become an open-ended, multi-billion-dollar Bermuda Triangle of disappearing, untraceable cash, used for any purpose.

It will give migrants up to $10,000 each in taxpayer money with no ID check, no restrictions and no fraud control.

Why give debit cards out?

When The Post exposed the mayor’s debit-card program earlier this month, the mayor’s office spun it as a money-saving program, to solve a problem: migrants staying in hotels don’t eat all their food.

. . .

It wouldn’t be that difficult for the city to solve this problem: on-site city auditors could refuse to pay for meals that are objectively inedible, with visible mold, for example, or with expired labeling.

Instead of assuring that its existing no-bid “emergency” contractor fulfills its duty to provide edible food, however, the Adams administration has solved its problem by retaining a new no-bid “emergency” contractor — to provide a service with far more scope for waste, fraud, and abuse than stale sandwiches: giving out potentially billions of dollars of hard cash, few questions asked.

There's more at the link.

The article includes an analysis of why the Mayor gave the contract for administering the program to a single, new-on-the-block vendor with no competitive bidding process.  The entire affair stinks to high heaven of corruption and fraud . . . but will anything be done about it?  No.  It's just New York City politics and wheeler-dealing at work - and to hell with ratepayers' money.  (That being the case, how many migrants do you think will end up with $10K each, versus how much of that $10K will be eaten up by "expenses" or "administrative fees" or "community service costs"?  And how much will end up as donations to local politicians' "re-election campaigns"?)

Friends, this is what life is like in left-wing-dominated cities.  They're all like that.  I don't know of a single one that could be described as honest, above-board and incorrupt in its dealings.  If you do, please let us know in Comments.  (Republican-controlled cities aren't much better, of course;  they're just - usually, but not always - more careful in how they skim off the graft.)

I've said for years that you need to get out of big cities.  This is just one more reason to do so.


Things I didn't know, part MLXVII


I enjoyed this exchange on Tumblr, referenced on social media.  An anonymous user asked:

I recall at least one of you guys having worked with livestock animals. Why are cows so damn indestructible while horses keel over and die if mercury is in retrograde or a dog barked in Kazakhstan?

Among others, this amusing and entertaining answer was submitted by reader gallusrostromegalus.  I've edited out most of the profanity and corrected the spelling.

My entirely half-assed understanding of Why Horses Explode If You Look At Them Funny, As Explained To Me By My Aunt That Raises Horses After Her Third Glass Of Wine:

Horses don’t got enough toes.

So, back right after the dinosaurs ****** off and joined the choir invisible, the first ancestors of horses were scampering about, little capybara-looking things called Eohippus, and they had four toes per limb:

They functioned pretty well, as near as we can tell from the fossil record, but they were mostly messing around in the leaf litter of dense forests, where one does not necessarily need to be fast but one should be nimble, and the 4 toes per limb worked out pretty good.

But the descendants of Eophippus moved out of the forest where there was lots of cover and onto the open plains, where there was better forage and visibility, but nowhere to hide, so the proto-horses that could ZOOM the fastest and outrun their predators (or, at least, their other herd members) tended to do well.  Here’s the thing- having lots of toes means your foot touches the ground longer when you run, and it spreads a lot of your momentum to the sides.  Great if you want to pivot and dodge, terrible if you want to ZOOM.  So losing toes started being a major advantage for proto-horses.

The Problem with having fewer toes and running Really ******* Fast is that it kind of ***** your everything else up.

When a horse runs at full gallop, it sort of... stops actively breathing, letting the slosh of it’s guts move its lungs, which is tremendously calorically efficient and means their breathing doesn’t fall out of sync.  But it also means that the abdominal lining of a horse is weirdly flexible in ways that lead to way more hernias and intestinal tangling than other ungulates.  It also has a relatively weak diaphragm for something it’s size, so ANY kind of respiratory infection is a Major ******* Problem because the horse has weak lungs.

When a Horse runs Real ******* Fast, it also develops a bit of a fluid dynamics problem- most mammals have the blood going out of their heart real fast and coming back from the far reaches of the toes much slower and it’s structure reflects that.  But since there is Only The One Toe, horse blood comes flying back up the veins toward the heart way the **** faster than veins are meant to handle, which means horses had to evolve special veins that constrict to slow the Blood Down, which you will recognize as a Major Cardiovascular Disease in most mammals. This Poorly-regulated blood speed problems means horses are prone to heart problems, burst veins, embolisms, and hemophilia.  Also they have apparently a billion blood types and I’m not sure how that’s related but I am sure that’s another Hot Mess they have to deal with.

ALSO, the Blood-Going-Too-Fast issue and being Just Huge Mother******s means horses have trouble distributing oxygen properly, and have compensated by creating ****** up bones that replicate the way birds store air in their bones but much, much ****tier.  So if a horse breaks it’s leg, not only is it suffering a Major Structural Issue (also also- breaking a toe is much more serious when that toe is YOUR WHOLE DAMN FOOT AND HALF YOUR LEG), it’s also having a hemmorhage and might be sort of suffocating a little.

ALSO ALSO, the fact that horses had to deal with Extremely Fast Predators for most of their evolution means that they are now afflicted with evolutionarily-adaptive Anxiety, which is not great for their already barely-functioning hearts, and makes them, frankly, ******* mental.  Part of the reason horses are so aggro is that if denied the opportunity to ZOOM, its options left are “Kill everyone and Then Yourself” or “The same but skip step one and Just ******* Die”.  The other reason is that a horse is in a race against itself- it’s gotta breed before it falls apart, so a Horse basically has a permanent terrorboner.

TL;DR: Horses don’t have enough toes and that makes them very, very fast, but also sickly, structurally unsound, have wildly OP blood that sometimes kills them, and drives them ******* insane.

There's more at the link, including illustrations.

I did a brief check, and it looks as if the explanation given is basically anatomically correct (minus the profanity and simplified breakdown).  Interesting!  I didn't know any of that - but I do now (and so do you, dear reader).  It also made me smile;  an added bonus when discovering something new.


Monday, February 19, 2024

Educating tomorrow's leaders today

Last September the Intercollegiate Studies Institute held its 70th anniversary gala in Wilmington, Delaware.  One of the presenters was Tucker Carlson.  I recently had the opportunity to listen to his speech, and found it very worthwhile.  If you missed it, I highly recommend making the time (it lasts about 40 minutes) to watch and/or listen to it now.  I think you'll find it worthwhile.

In particular, note his emphasis that since we're going to die anyway, why be afraid of death?  Whether we like it or not, it's coming.  That should also affect the way we live.  If death is inevitable, and therefore there's no reason to fear it, why not live in such a way as to give our lives - and deaths - greater meaning?  Why be afraid of contrary opinions, philosophies or political views?  We should stand up for what we believe in, and be unafraid to make our case.  In our present benighted state, I think that's a very important lesson which all of us should heed.

I was pleased that Mr. Carlson gave his entire speech without any note or teleprompter in sight.  It was all off-the-cuff, extemporaneous.  I'm sure he prepared his speech beforehand, but to deliver it that fluently, that smoothly, without a single prompt, was a tour de force.  I wish more people would do that, or were able to do that.  I've tried to do it myself throughout my life, but I'm nowhere near as fluent as he is in converting thought to speech.

Worthwhile thoughts, IMHO.


Memes that made me laugh 197


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

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Sunday morning music


Not many people today have heard of classical composer Louis Spohr:  yet in his day, he was very highly regarded, and compared to Beethoven.  Wikipedia reports:

Highly regarded during his lifetime, Spohr composed ten symphonies, ten operas, eighteen violin concerti, four clarinet concerti, four oratorios, and various works for small ensemble, chamber music, and art songs. Spohr invented the violin chinrest and the orchestral rehearsal mark. His output spans the transition between Classical and Romantic music, but fell into obscurity following his death, when his music was rarely heard. The late twentieth century saw a modest revival of interest in his oeuvre primarily in Europe, but his reputation has never been restored to that of his lifetime.

One of his better-known works, and very popular during his lifetime, is his Violin Concerto No. 8 in A minor, Op. 47.  This performance features soloist Pierre Amoyal with the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra conducted by Armin Jordan.

You'll find more of his music on YouTube.  If you're tired of the "same old, same old" classical music compositions, Spohr is worth your attention.


Saturday, February 17, 2024

Saturday Snippet - The joys of emergency room medicine


J. Paul Waymack has penned a very entertaining memoir of his experiences as a medical student and, later, a trauma surgeon.  He calls it "Well, Doc, It Seemed Like a Good Idea At The Time!".

The blurb reads:

In 1976, Paul Waymack began chronicling his experience as a third-year medical student, and for the next 20 years, he kept a journal filled with crazy stories of unusual patients, maladies, and international espionage. Some of them, he’s the first to admit, seem unbelievable--like chasing a naked patient around the ER parking lot in the middle of the night . . . or constructing a horse sling for a 700-pound patient . . . or treating a patient who swallowed a cigarette lighter . . . or serving as a major in the U.S. Army Medical Corps during the Cold War, on orders of the president and with a KGB agent hot on his tail in the Soviet Union. In his wildest dreams, Dr. Waymack could never have imagined most of what he experienced as a doctor, but these stories are all true. He couldn’t have made them up if he tried.

Here's a sample from his early years in the field.

On my first day as a brand-new third-year medical student on rotation in the emergency room at Riverside Hospital, I cheerfully introduced myself to the ER director, the intern, the nurses, the receptionist, and anybody else I passed. Although I was just a medical student, I had the self-assurance and buoyancy of a promising doctor, and I was eager to meet the staff and get to work.

The director showed me the doctors’ lounge. It was located right in the middle of the ER, and doctors retreated there to read charts, write notes, review X-rays, make phone calls, eat, and drink coffee. One wall was lined with bookcases filled with various medical textbooks. A refrigerator, coffee maker, and other odds and ends filled another wall. Windows took up most of a third wall, providing a lovely view of the parking lot, and the final wall displayed the X-ray viewing boxes. You’ve seen those on TV: rectangular boxes with bright lights in the back. You put the X-ray film on the box, turn on the light, and thoughtfully squint at the film.

When I entered the lounge, I noticed a film hanging on one of the viewing boxes; next to it was an index card with some printing. Immediately, I understood what it was. Or thought I did.

I’d seen these at school: view boxes with hanging X-ray film and an attached index card with the patient’s symptoms. Med students would look at the X-ray, review the listed symptoms on the card, and come up with a diagnosis. A week later, the correct diagnosis would be listed, and a new X-ray and history would be up on the box.

I walked over to the unlit X-ray and read the index card:

Patient complained he couldn’t sleep at night. The light kept him awake.

I was puzzled. I knew many diseases could cause insomnia, but the thing about the light confused me. If the light kept the patient awake, why didn’t he just turn it off? As I mentally scanned the list of diagnoses that might fit, I determined that a tumor inside the patient’s brain must be affecting his optic nerves. I therefore expected to see some form of skull X-ray when I turned on the light behind the box.

Instead, to my surprise an X-ray of an abdomen appeared. I recognized the features: bottom parts of lungs and heart, upper thighs, and almost everything in between. I could see a faint outline of the kidneys and liver, plus a number of bones far more distinctive than the less visible internal organs.

It took me a few seconds to review these standard anatomical features, for my attention was focused on something else: something in the patient’s rectum that—even to my inexperienced eyes—didn’t belong there. A crystal-clear image of a metal flashlight showed up on the X-ray. You could see not just the outer metal shell, but also the light bulb, the on/off switch, the batteries, even the wires. It was one of the most memorable X-ray images I would ever see in my career.

For a minute, I just stood there looking at it intently. I had seen a lot of X-rays as a med student—scans that showed cancers, pneumonia, kidney stones, bowel obstructions, and seemingly endless other types of pathology. But I had never seen anything like this. Eventually, the intern on call for the ER noticed me standing there, staring slack-jawed with what I can only imagine was a look of complete bewilderment. He walked over and stood next to me in front of the X-ray.

“Kinda funny, isn’t it?” he said. “Especially the part about the light keeping him awake.”

I didn’t respond immediately.

“It’s a flashlight,” I said.

“Yeah.” The intern nodded, pursing his lips as he examined the X-ray.

“It’s in the patient’s rectum.”

He looked at me and smiled. “Yeah, we see this,” he said nonchalantly, as if to say, Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.

After staring at the bizarre X-ray for a while, I was wondering what to do next when the ER director walked back into the lounge, pointed at me and said curtly, “You. There’s a patient in Room 8. Go examine him.”

I didn’t bother to ask why.

“Yes sir,” I responded briskly, and headed for Room 8.

As I walked down the hallway, my self-assurance started to diminish. My heart pounded, my breathing increased, anxiety nearly overwhelmed me, and I began to perspire profusely. This was what I had been training for the past six years—four years of college and the first two years of medical school. I was about to walk into a room and see a patient, take a history from him, perform a physical exam, then come up with a diagnosis and plan for him. I was about to see a patient who would likely think I was a doctor—unless I messed up badly.

As I stood outside the door to Room 8, I made sure my tie was correctly knotted and its point was directly above my belt buckle. I straightened my white jacket and combed my hair. Satisfied that I looked like a doctor, I confidently entered the room.

Lying on a gurney was a man about 6’6” and 250 pounds—mostly muscle, from what I could tell. I was so nervous and focused on acting like a doctor that I failed to notice that all four appendages were in full leather restraints lashed tightly to the side railings on the gurney. The patient was almost completely immobilized.

Even if I had noticed the restraints, I was so inexperienced that I wouldn’t have comprehended what they implied. At this point in my budding career, however, I apparently lacked both experience and common sense.

I cleared my throat.

“Good morning, sir. I’m Paul Waymack.”

We’d been told that while we were still medical students, we could not introduce ourselves as Doctor. If we gave our first and last names while wearing a white lab coat, however, patients would usually assume we were, in fact, doctors.

“What seems to be the trouble?”

My voice was louder and higher than normal due to my extreme nervousness; it probably hadn’t sounded like that since puberty. I was embarrassed by the sound of my voice and feared it had conveyed my inexperience and anxiety. I worried the patient would sense the apprehension in my voice and ask if I was really a doctor—one of the worst things you could say to a third-year med student.

The patient, however, said nothing. In fact, he appeared to not even notice I had entered the room.

I quickly contemplated the patient’s strange lack of a response. Why is he ignoring me? I wondered. Did he already realize I’m only a med student? What gave me away so quickly? Anxiety and self-doubt crept in.

Then the light went on—Aha! I quickly wrote down on my clipboard, “patient’s hearing severely impaired.” I smiled, pleased, as I looked down at this notation. Five seconds into my career as a student-physician, and already I had identified an abnormal physical finding!

Flushed with the confidence of having just obtained what I considered a diagnostic coup, I now felt my heart and breathing slow down. Instinctively, I stuck my chest out a bit and cocked my head slightly to the side. I may not have been a doctor yet, but I suddenly believed that strong evidence already showed I was going to be very good at it.

I walked up to the head of the gurney and drew close to the patient’s ear. He continued to ignore me as his eyes wandered aimlessly about in the general direction of the ceiling.

“SIR, WHAT SEEMS TO BE THE TROUBLE?” I said in a very loud, authoritative voice.

This time I got a response from the patient, though it was not the one I had expected. Instead of hearing a description of his problems, I was greeted with a bloodcurdling scream. He then struggled forcefully to sit up. As he yanked on the leather restraints, he began to bend one of the metal railings on the gurney and lunged at me, yelling unintelligibly. It was as though Dr. Frankenstein’s monster had suddenly come to life, and I was the doctor who had put him there.

My upright and cocky posturing ended instantly. My body was halfway to the fetal position before I regained control, and my pulse increased by at least twenty beats a minute. I backed out of the room as quickly as possible with my eyes constantly focused on the patient in case he broke free. Without thinking, I shouted the number-one most used expression of med students who realize they are in over their heads:

“I’ll go get the doctor!”

With that, I left the room and headed back towards the doctors’ lounge at a brisk pace. By the time I got there, my jacket was no longer straight and I had loosened my tie and unbuttoned the top button of my shirt.

I found the ER director sipping a cup of coffee and reading some document in his lap. I glanced at him, relieved that he apparently didn’t see me enter the lounge. But as soon as I sat down, without removing his eyes from his reading material, he asked the question that’s guaranteed to cause anxiety in new third-year medical students.

“So, Doctor. What do you think your patient has?” He wasn’t exactly smirking, but I knew sarcasm when I heard it.

Only then did it occur to me that I hadn’t accomplished every doctor’s primary objective: come up with a possible diagnosis. In fact, in my hurried efforts to exit Room 8 with my life intact, I had failed to take any medical history or perform any physical examination of the patient. All I knew was that the patient seemed to be hard of hearing, insane, and preternaturally strong. My mind raced for a diagnosis that would fit those symptoms.

Fortunately, I did not know too many diagnoses at that time, which shortened the amount of time required to contemplate each one. Among the diagnoses I knew was drug abuse.

“Maybe he’s on drugs, like amphetamines?” I offered.

The director smiled. “Well that’s possible, considering his bizarre behavior, but what about all the perspiring he’s doing?”

Perspiring? I thought, stunned. I was the one doing all the perspiring!

 “Huh?” I responded uncertainly.

The director finally looked up from the paper in his lap and chuckled. Not a good sign.

“With all the perspiration, wouldn’t delirium tremors be a more likely diagnosis?” he quizzed.

I paused for a few seconds, trying to appear as though I were thoughtfully contemplating this possibility.

“Oh, yes,” I responded casually. “Of course you’re correct. DTs is a more likely diagnosis.”

“Indeed,” he said drily. He then reviewed the consequences of taking alcohol away from addicts.

“DTs include hallucinations, loss of touch with reality, plus many physiologic changes including a rapid pulse and a lot of perspiring,” he explained, like a professor patiently lecturing to a class of first-year students. “If not treated, patients can sometimes die from it.”

As I listened to him, I vaguely remembered learning about DTs as a second-year. Now that I had actually seen a patient with DTs—especially someone who looked as if he used to play defensive tackle for the Green Bay Packers—I was never going to forget it again.

“So… how do you treat those patients?” I asked the director.

He shrugged.

“Oh, you give them IV fluids to replace what they lose from perspiration, and vitamins—since a lot of these patients have vitamin deficiency due to a diet that has consisted solely of gin and vodka.”

My mind remained focused on the patient’s wild behavior.

“Yes, but how do you keep them from—well, from attacking us?”

He smiled. “Oh, you give them Librium,” he explained. “Twenty-five milligram shots until they calm down.”

That was the first drug for which I ever learned the exact dosage—and I never forgot it. By the end of that month, I had also learned that when you work in the ER, you use a great deal of Librium.

I spent the next half-hour reading about DTs, then went off to see a series of sore throats, backaches, and flu cases. These were the kinds of maladies I had expected to see in practice, before the third year of medical school kicked me into reality. But it wasn’t long before there were more cases in which patients had been injured doing really stupid things. I wondered how long the craziness would last, and when sanity would return.

One of the nice things about the rotation at Riverside Hospital was that we were never pressured to see patients or stay long hours at the hospital, but were allowed to set our own pace. It was the only rotation with such a schedule for third-year students. I was excited to take advantage of the free time, though, so I ended up staying in the ER until very late. The first night was no exception. I didn’t start heading back to my apartment until 11:00 p.m., after the night-shift intern had taken over for his daytime counterpart.

Unfortunately—or fortunately, from the night-shift intern’s point of view—it was just at 11:00 when a patient arrived, yelling and screaming as the ambulance crew brought him into the unit. I decided to hang around for a few minutes, since it seemed likely the patient had DTs, and I now knew a lot about those. If that was the case, I could impress everyone on the night shift with my new knowledge, and the intern would, hopefully, give me an outstanding grade on my performance.

As the nurse and intern tried to control the patient, I reached over and touched the skin on the patient’s extended arm, looking for perspiration. Upon palpating his skin, however, I found it to be very dry. I determined that this patient was not having DTs; he was merely crazy from amphetamines. Damn, I thought. With that, I decided to call it a day and head on back to the apartment.

Meanwhile, the intern and nurse seemed to succeed at least partially in quieting the patient.

The experienced nurse clearly knew what to do next. “Full leather restraints?” she asked. “The usual 25 mg of Librium?”

The intern shook his head.

“That won’t be necessary,” he responded brusquely. “Just get him out of his clothes and into a gown, then send him up to the Psych ward. Let them worry about him.”

The nurse derisively looked at the cocky intern and rolled her eyes. Convinced that I could learn nothing more from this patient, I went back to the doctor’s lounge to pick up the textbook and other items I had brought in that morning. The intern followed me into the lounge, where he began writing an admission note for the patient. The note included orders on how the patient was to be treated: how often to take his vital signs, what to feed him, and what medications to give him.

I wished the intern a good night and was about to leave when the nurse ran into the lounge.

“He just ran off into the parking lot!” she gasped, glaring at the intern. She didn’t have to add, “I told you so!”

As we looked out the lounge window, we could see him running past one of the parking lot lights. He was stark naked—the nurse had just managed to get his clothes off before he bolted for freedom.

The intern looked at me and barked, “Come on, we’ve got to catch him!”

We both ran out the ER doors into the parking lot, chasing after the drug addict. An orderly soon joined us in our unscheduled late-night calisthenics. I knew I had forgotten some things from my first two years of med school, but I was fairly certain none of my professors had ever mentioned catching crazy naked patients in the middle of the night.

The parking lot was enormous, and it was very dark. That guy sure can run fast, I thought breathlessly. We spent ten minutes chasing him as he ran between, around, and sometimes over the tops of parked cars. As we ran after him, the intern would holler things such as, “Cut him off at the Pontiac!” Now, that was the type of order I had never dreamed I would be receiving from interns.

Finally, we cornered and tackled him. The patient laid face down on the pavement, shouting and struggling. Trying fiercely to restrain him, I was sitting on his upper back with my knees gripping his head, while the intern was sitting on the back of his thighs, trying not to touch the patient’s naked butt that stuck up between us. We looked like we were trying to ride a bull in tandem. Never having been taught how to deal with this situation, I turned around and was about to ask the intern, Now what? But when I noticed the uncertain look on his face, I figured we were both clueless.

At that moment in the darkened parking lot, two legs in very white stockings suddenly appeared. The nurse stood over us, smirking.

“So, do you want him to have the Librium?” she asked the intern.

“Uh, yes,” he sheepishly answered. “Twenty-five milligrams.”

With that confirmation, the nurse pulled out a syringe and a vial of Librium. She drew up the Librium into the syringe, then bent down between the intern and me and wiped the patient’s buttock with an alcohol swab. She calmly stabbed it with the syringe, then left to get a gurney.

As the intern and I sat on the patient, waiting for the Librium to take effect, I couldn’t resist asking a question. As nonjudgmentally as possible, I asked the intern, “Why did you tell the nurse to not restrain him or give him Librium?”

The intern contemplated that for a few seconds and then said, “Well, at the time it seemed like a reasonable decision.”

About ten minutes later, the patient calmed down. The orderly brought out a gurney, the nurse placed a gown on the now-mellow patient, and the orderly wheeled the patient up to the Psych ward.

At this point, I noticed my trousers and white jacket were no longer clean and my shirttail was hanging outside my trousers. After tucking in my shirt and brushing off as much of the dirt from the parking lot as I could, I headed to my apartment.

As I drove, I reflected on what a bizarre day it had been. I figured I would probably practice medicine for well over ten thousand days during my medical career, and yet it would be nearly impossible for any of those subsequent days to be as bizarre as this first day. What are the odds, I thought in amazement, that of all the days I will practice medicine, the most insane will be the first!

I continued believing this for about nine more hours—until the second day in the ER began as strangely as the first had ended.

Things only get worse from there!


Friday, February 16, 2024

It's all in the music...


I laughed aloud when I came across this video clip.  The original is from the classic kung fu movie "Enter The Dragon".  It shows Bruce Lee fighting Chuck Norris, who dies.  In this version, however, death appears to be the last thing on their minds . . .  It's all in the theme music.

Come on, readers!  Let's see who can come up with the most ridiculous juxtaposition of a classic movie fight scene (military, martial arts, whatever) with different theme music.  Example:  Darth Vader versus Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars movie, set to the tune of Abba's "Dancing Queen".

Make your suggestions in Comments.


When you realize that, no matter how hard you try, you can't win


This Newsweek headline says it all:

I've heard of long-term conscription, and military service "for the duration", but this is ridiculous!  Are they planning to call up the corpses from the local graveyard, too?

(Perhaps I shouldn't have said that.  It might give the current personnel-deficient US Department of Defense ideas . . . )


Weirdness, xenophobia and occasional mental illness in Comments


Friends, most of you know that the reason I instituted moderation of all comments on this blog was because spammers were becoming a bigger and bigger problem.  I couldn't rely on Blogger to catch them all, so I have to do it myself.  I'd rather not - it takes effort to do so, and time I'd rather devote to other things - but it was the only way I could stay on top of the problem.  (I've moderated 28 spam comments in the last five days alone.)

However, it looks like it was a worthwhile policy even without the spam problem, thanks to the increasing polarization of our society and the weirdness that's being reinforced by online echo chambers.  Too many commenters appear to be listening only to their own thoughts and those of people who see the world as they do, whether or not that perspective has anything to do with reality.  Trouble is, they insist on exporting those thoughts and that weirdness to everybody else, including forums such as the Comment sections on this blog.  This morning, when I woke up and sat down at the computer to moderate overnight comments, I had to discard several proclaiming that all the problems of the world are caused by the Jews, or the whites, or the blacks, or Democrats, or Communists, or women who refuse to be "traditional wives", or . . . you get the idea.

Folks, I try to allow most people to comment freely on what they think.  They, as we, have the right to speak their minds.  However, they do not have the right to use my blog as a propaganda outlet to beat me (and the rest of us) over the head with their particular schtick.  Therefore, I deleted all such comments, and I'll continue to do so.  The same applies to disjointed comments that make no logical sense, or have nothing to do with the topic under discussion.  Why inflict them on my readers?  We have better things to do with our time.

(Some comments don't make it to my inbox at all.  Every now and again I get complaints from people who allege that I've deleted their comment, only for me to check the files and find it didn't arrive at all.  Blogger does that sometimes - it's been a known problem for years.  I have no idea how to fix it.)

Rational, reasonable comments and discussion from people who've clearly thought about the subject under discussion are more than welcome, even if their viewpoint or perspective is the opposite of my own.  I can be wrong too, you know!  However, I won't allow this blog to become a forum for extremism in any form, or an echo chamber for way-out-there muck and murk that might stick to our metaphorical walls.  We don't need that here - and as the online janitor, I flush it away whenever I come across it.

That may offend some readers, particularly those with a particular ideological axe to grind:  but that's the way it is here.  If you want to do things differently, please start your own blog and have at it.


Thursday, February 15, 2024

Remember what we said about the Uniparty?


A few days ago I pointed out that both the Republican and Democratic parties are as bad as each other, so much so that they effectively formed a Uniparty rather than being in opposition to one another.  Now, to reinforce that perspective, here's news from New York.

It seems like New York’s 3rd Congressional district is destined for drama.

Following the extraordinary saga surrounding George Santos, one of the top two GOP favorites to replace the recently-ousted representative is a registered Democrat — despite having twice been elected as a Republican to the Nassau County Legislature.

Mazi Melesa Pilip, a pro-Israel, Black, Orthodox Jew who served in the IDF, is on the Nassau County GOP’s shortlist for the seat vacated after Santos’ expulsion.

But public records uncovered by POLITICO show Pilip has enrolled as a Democrat since 2012.

Pilip currently holds office as a Republican and ran on the GOP ticket for the Nassau County legislator in 2021 and 2023.

Both Pilip and Joe Cairo, the county’s GOP chair, did not respond to numerous requests for comment, including through allies. But the Nassau County Board of Elections’ spokesperson called Playbook on Pilip’s behalf and confirmed she is an enrolled Democrat.

There's more at the link.

So . . . a registered Democrat is running as a Republican candidate, with the full knowledge and approval of the Republican Party hierarchy in the area???

If you wanted proof of the Uniparty's existence - as well as of the essentially dirty, corrupt, dishonest way politics is conducted in large parts of this country, not just the Empire State - look no further.


Tom Luongo nails the essential truth about Russia


Amidst all the fuss and bother over Tucker Carlson's interview with President Putin of Russia last week, the essential element appears to have been overlooked - possibly deliberately - by many commenters.  Tom Luongo puts his finger on the pulse of the matter.

Putin did present his version of history, of the truth. Shouldn’t we expect that?

But, as I’ve painstakingly laid out here, much like Putin himself, focusing on that is focusing on the wrong thing. It’s the wrong framework to view this interview given the current stakes of this conflict.

And this is what everyone missed about this interview. It literally does not matter one whit whose is right and who is wrong here. Putin’s version of history isn’t what’s at stake here.

. . .

What does matter is that is how Putin views this conflict. And we have to deal with it. Period.

. . .

This conflict between the West, and this includes all of Europe, the UK as well as the US, and Russia is one with existential consequences.

What Putin said, quite clearly, is that this ball is in our court. We can either sit down and have an honest discussion of a negotiated future or we will be at war. If that is what we in the West want, it is what we will get. Putin has put his sons on the line in eastern Ukraine. Are we?

You can dig in on being right or we can have peace. But, we cannot have both.

The Victoria Nulands and the Ursula Von Der Leyens of this world represent people who refuse to accept that Russia and/or China are not systems, but rather civilizations. They aren’t the current bogeyman 'ism' du jour, like Communism or authoritarianism, they are a people, a culture, an ethnos. The 'ism' is just the thing they’ve adopted now to help them preserve those things inherently Russian or Chinese.

Our leaders are this way because they don’t believe in those things for us no less anyone else. And they spend all their time trying to convince us that that is what divides us. But it isn’t. It’s simply their greed, their emptiness.

Because of this they lack any sense that these civilizations 1) have any right to exist and 2) deserve any empathy. So, logically, none of Russia’s demands are valid.

Putin put how he feels about history on the table. He’s angry about it. The West keeps saying, “Your version of history is wrong. So you have no right to be angry.”

Have you ever had an argument with someone important to you and they did this to you? I’ve done it and had it done to me. In my experience the argument doesn’t get resolved. It escalates.

And it escalates, eventually, even if it goes on for a long time, say, in a marriage, to the point of estrangement if not outright hatred. If you want to repair the relationship in some way then you have to lead with, “Okay, I hear you.”

Then you have to learn how to mean it.

That’s where we are today. The Russians are done with our leadership. We use diplomacy as a basis for betrayal, not as the foundation of a future.

They see us as a failing empire, a failing civilization on the long historical time line, because we have embraced cynicism and allowed the rapacious and the perverse to run our world.

This is why there is no basis for diplomacy at the head of state level. This is an argument between two people one of whom wants nothing to do with the other (The West) while the other one is insisting that no matter what the other does, they will survive (Russia).

Rock, meet Hard Place…. choose between chisels or sledgehammers.

. . .

If you want peace, deal with the facts of this war by acknowledging the feelings of the people on the other side of it while truly examining your own.

There's more at the link.

We've discussed the years between the breakup of the Soviet Union and the outbreak of the Ukraine war on more than one occasion in these pages.  It's very clear that Russia, under Putin, has never ceased to regard the demise of the Soviet Union as nothing less than a disaster.  Putin has been trying to undo that "mistake" ever since he gained power.

Peter Ziehan has some interesting material on Russia's geopolitical maneuvering to regain its position.  A couple of years ago he gave this address at the US Army's Maneuver Warfighter Conference.  We've seen it here before, but if you missed that, you should really take the time to watch it now;  it's still relevant despite the passage of time.  I've set it to start at (and stop after) the part of his talk addressing Russia's situation, but if you can take the time to watch the entire video, I recommend it.

President Putin is undoubtedly aware of those realities, and they're why he can't stop or pull back now.  If he does, his country must and will lose its position as a major power, because it will no longer be able to compete with the West on the world stage.  If he loses now, he loses forever - and that may include his own life, because his people will be unlikely to forgive him, and Russia has a tradition of dealing with failure in a somewhat terminal fashion.  Don't expect him to back down.

The late Robert Heinlein famously said:

What are the facts? Again and again and again – what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what “the stars foretell,” avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable “verdict of history” – what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!

In that light, allow me to highlight the key takeaway - the key fact - from Tom Luongo's article:

It literally does not matter one whit who is right and who is wrong here. Putin’s version of history isn’t what’s at stake here ... What does matter is ... how Putin views this conflict. And we have to deal with it. Period.

The mainstream media and our politicians are completely ignoring that fact, that reality.  They seem to think that if they brand Putin a liar, they can ignore his views and impose their own on Russia and the Ukraine war.  So far, the facts of the situation there are the diametric opposite of such false optimism;  and unless and until the USA and our leaders face the facts, and prioritize dealing with them, they (and we) can't and won't succeed.

We also have to acknowledge, and deal with, the undoubted and undeniable facts of the United States' meddling in Ukraine (to include downright dishonesty domestically and internationally, toppling governments and rampant corruption).  So far, nobody here appears willing to admit that those factors are at least as much to blame for the Ukraine imbroglio as Russian interference - but they are, and Putin knows it.  If our country lies to and about Russia, and ignores facts and reality, why are we surprised to find Russia and Putin doing unto us as we're doing unto them?


A lesson in border security for the Biden administration


The Egyptian government is providing an object lesson in how to secure a porous (and perilous) border.

What is the Israeli Defense Force supposed to do with a million or so Palestinian refugees as their operations to kill every last Hamas wipes the Gaza Strip from north to south like a giant, well-armed squeegee?

The President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who is sometimes mistaken for the President of Mexico, has an answer to that vexing question — and it's something of a completely routine miracle how the mainstream media and the Global Professional Outrage Machine have both ignored it.

The essence of el-Sisi's answer is: "Do what you will to the Palestinians, Israel, but they aren't coming here to Egypt (or maybe Mexico)."

That's what Egypt's border wall looks like from the Gaza side near the city of Rafah. There are concrete barriers in front of what appears to be a steel wall — 30 feet tall is my guesstimate — featuring three layers of concertina wire. It looks a little like somebody took a World War I obstacle and turned it up on one end.

As Aviva Klompas ... noted, "Egypt REALLLLLY doesn't want any Palestinian refugees."

There's more at the link.

The new border wall was started immediately after the October 7th terrorist attacks in Israel, and it's already been completed - very fast work.  Egypt clearly had a pretty good idea what was coming, and wanted to shut down its border with Gaza ahead of the streams of refugees who would doubtless have attempted to cross.  It looks like it succeeded.

Since the war between Israel and Hamas erupted on Oct. 7, Egypt constructed a concrete border wall that reaches six metres [about 20 feet] into the ground and is topped with barbed wire. It has also built berms and enhanced surveillance at border posts, the security sources said.

Last month Egypt's state information service detailed some of the measures it had taken on its border in response to Israeli suggestions that Hamas had obtained weapons smuggled from Egypt. Three lines of barriers made any overground or underground smuggling impossible, it said.

Images shared with Reuters by the Sinai Foundation for Human Rights, an independent group, appear to show the installation of the wall in December, with several berms running behind it.

Later pictures, which the group said were taken in early February, appear to show three vertical layers of coiled barbed wire being installed on top of the wall. Reuters was not able to independently verify the images.

Satellite images from January and December also show some new constructions along the 13 km (8 mile) border close to Rafah and the extension of a wall to the sea's edge at its northern end.

Again, more at the link.

Let's see, now . . . If President Biden wants to improve US relations with both Egypt and Israel, why doesn't he hire the Egyptian firms who built that wall so well and so quickly to protect the USA's border with Mexico in the same way?  I'm sure their prices would be a lot lower than local companies, and they've got the experience to work fast and well.  They could even please the migrants by hiring them as itinerant laborers to build the wall - provided they ended up on the Mexican side of the wall when it was complete.

The only thing missing are lethal defenses to back up the passive ones.  Egypt's taken care of that by sending tanks and armored personnel carriers to patrol the wall.  We could do likewise.  Employment for the National Guard, perhaps?


Wednesday, February 14, 2024

The power that underlies our entire civilization


A couple of years ago, Gravitas Documentaries produced a 1h. 20m. documentary titled "Juice:  How Electricity Explains The World".  Its introduction on YouTube reads:

While electricity availability doesn’t guarantee wealth, its absence almost always means poverty. Juice takes viewers to Beirut, Reykjavik, Kolkata, San Juan, Manhattan, and Boulder to tell the human story of electricity and to explain why power equals power. The defining inequality in the world today is the disparity between the electricity rich and the electricity poor. In fact, there are more than 3 billion people on the planet today who are using less electricity than what’s used by an average American refrigerator. Over a three-year period, the Juice team travelled 60,000 miles to gather 40 on-camera interviews with people from seven countries on five continents. Juice shows how electricity explains everything from women’s rights and climate change to Bitcoin mining and indoor marijuana production. Juice explains who has electricity, who’s getting it, and how developing countries all over the world are working to bring their people out of the dark and into the light.

It's a very interesting documentary, and provides a lot of background information about power - specifically electrical power - and its centrality to our entire civilization.

Not content with that, the makers expanded on their original effort and produced a five-part series titled "Juice - The series".  It's subtitled "From Texas to Tokyo, this five-part docuseries shows how politicians and corporate avarice weakened our most critical network — and why we need fission to fix it."  You can read more about it at the link.  I've embedded all five parts below, and highly recommend them.

There's a whole lot of information in those documentaries, and some very sobering reflections on what our world would be without abundant electricity.  Worthwhile viewing for everyone, IMHO, not just engineers and business people, because without electricity - or without enough electricity and a reliable grid to supply it - we'll all be caught short.


Headline of the week


From The Guardian in the UK:

Missing monkey trapped by yorkshire pudding in Scotland

I did a double-take when I read that, imagining a sentient animal-trapping Yorkshire pudding sneaking up on an unsuspecting simian.  Turns out it was simpler than that.

Two pebbly droppings deposited on her patio are all that Stephanie Bunyan has to remind her of Thursday morning’s celebrity guest. Honshu the missing macaque was finally captured in Bunyan’s garden after five days and four nights on the run and after drone search technology was rendered useless by blustery weather. In the end, it was the yorkshire pudding that got him.

Bunyan likes to drink her morning coffee looking out on to her peaceful terraced garden, which is decorated with tinkling wind chimes and boasts an array of bird feeders.

There were peanuts in the feeders but on Wednesday night she put out some leftover yorkshire pudding. In the morning it was gone. And just after 10am “there he was at the top of the steps, looking in the window”.

The desire to capture her visitor on camera was powerful but she knew she had to get hold of Highland wildlife park straight away. Within 10 minutes of her call to its dedicated monkey hotline, the search drone operators had arrived, and minutes later the park keepers.

By then the macaque was hopping back and forth off the low roof of her sun room and playing in the gutters. It took some time for the rangers to line up their desired tranquilliser dart shot – when one attempt failed, the macaque “bit it and threw it away”, Bunyan said.

But the next shot was true and the doped monkey was whisked away for examination by the park’s vet.

There's more at the link.

I still think a sentient, predatory Yorkshire pudding would have been more fun . . . something like the Goon Show's 1955 "International Christmas Pudding" episode!


Yes, that's just like the airlines!


Stephan Pastis draws parallels.  Click the image to be taken to a larger version at the "Pearls Before Swine" Web page.

The airlines appear to be nickel-and-diming travelers to death.  I've heard a number of complaints after the holidays, and around the Superbowl, from friends who found they had to pay a lot more than just the ticket price when it came to surcharges, taxes, add-ons, baggage fees, and other bits and pieces.

I remember air travel in the 1970's, when the luxurious extras of the 1950's and 1960's were on their way out, but a lot were still available, and traveling was an experience to be savored.  The seats were larger, there was more legroom, the meals were served on actual china with real knives and forks, and the air hostesses treated you like you were important to them.  I can remember, on the inaugural BOAC 747 flight from Johannesburg to London, dining on filet mignon with lobster tail - and that was in economy class!  Nowadays?  Don't make me laugh!  (How many of you remember BOAC, anyway?)

Oh, well.  Since air travel has become as commoditized and financialized as anything else, I suppose it's only natural that everything surrounding it has gone the same way.  I will give one shout-out to Southwest Airlines, though:  when everyone else is charging for baggage, they continue to allow up to two bags per ticket-holder, and don't gouge you with extra fees for it.


Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Is the stalemate in Ukraine a defeat for Russia?


Ed D'Agostino of Mauldin Economics hosts a weekly interview with experts on topics of importance.  This week he's joined by George Friedman, founder of Stratfor, boss of Geopolitical Futures, and a leading political scientist.  Together they discuss:

  • The two Chinas - how the country is divided internally;
  • Has Xi already lost control of China?  Is there a risk of civil war?
  • The military stalemate in Ukraine;
  • NATO's dilemma in Ukraine;
  • Middle East posturing;
  • Why China won't invade Taiwan (I'm not so sure they're right on this one);
  • The Middle Eastern country Mr. Friedman sees as most likely to succeed;
  • How the US could help end the Ukraine war.

I'm not allowed (due to their terms of service) to reproduce parts of the transcript here, but you'll find the entire thing at this link, if you prefer to read rather than watch the video below.  I do highly recommend that you read the one and/or watch the other, because there's some very solid information here - things that may directly and immediately impact the USA, and our lives as individuals, not just as a nation.

Food for thought!


Another problem with electric vehicles


It seems that electric vehicles (EV's) need to go on a diet.

Safety experts are grappling with an array of infrastructure burdens and dangers associated with electric vehicles, which can weigh up to 50% more than traditional automobiles thanks to their heavy lithium-ion batteries.

Heavy electric vehicles damage roads, bridges and parking garages. Some can plow through highway safety guardrails and pose a greater danger to gasoline-powered cars, pedestrians and bicyclists.

. . .

“Significantly increasing passenger vehicle weights combined with recently reduced structural design requirements will result in reduced factors of safety and increased maintenance and repair costs for parking structures,” the engineers wrote. “There are many cases of parking structure failures, and the growing demand for EVs will only increase the probability of failure.”

Another scary EV safety threat unfolded this fall at the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility in Nebraska.

Engineers pitted an electric-powered pickup truck against a standard highway guardrail.

They chose one of the heaviest EVs on the market — the 3.6-ton Rivian R1 — and sent it speeding straight toward the metal guardrail at 62 miles per hour.

In a second experiment, engineers hurtled a Rivian down the road at the same speed and steered it into the guardrail at an angle.

In both cases, the Rivians ripped through the guardrail and continued onto the other side of the road.

. . .

“[EV's] extra weight will afford them greater protection in a multi-vehicle crash,” Raul Arbelaez, vice president of the Vehicle Research Center at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, wrote in March. “Unfortunately, given the way these vehicles are currently designed, this increased protection comes at the expense of people in other vehicles.”

. . .

Eliminating many gas-powered vehicles and substituting heavier electric cars or SUVs could create crumbling residential roads built for lighter traffic volume.

Transportation engineers have warned that EVs could also shorten the life spans of bridges by adding to the stress, wear and tear caused by heavy commercial trucks.

There's more at the link.

That's definitely a matter for concern.  One can compare it to firearms ballistics:  a lighter bullet can be propelled to higher velocity, but it slows down quickly in flesh when it hits its target.  A heavier bullet is slower, but its mass gives it more momentum, and it decelerates more slowly in flesh, allowing it to penetrate deeper.  The same principles apply to vehicles.  The lighter the vehicle, the less "penetrating power" it has in an accident.  Heavier vehicles . . . not so much.

I'd been more focused on the problem of lithium batteries catching fire.  They're very difficult to extinguish, and frequently flare up again without warning.  Also, water exposure (particularly salt water) during flooding has led to serious battery issues with EV's.  However, this report indicates we may have a much bigger problem to deal with.  Rebuilding our infrastructure to handle the extra weight of EV's may be simply unaffordable.