Monday, March 28, 2016

Love Means Never Having To Say "Wha...the hell? Gah! Get OFF me!!!"

One thing that often gets pushed aside during post-op recovery is marital...ummm..."personal time".

That, in turn, leads to inappropriate behavior as demonstrated at bedtime last night.

The Bride (already halfway towards unconsciousness): "Mmmm...can you nudge me tomorrow morning? I don't want to sleep through my alarm."

Me: "Nudge? Hell, I can do better than that. I can remove my garments and lie on top of you writhing with lascivious abandon."

Bride: (opening one eye): "Gah. Okay. I don't promise anything like 'enthusiasm', you understand." (Mojo is whatever you'd call the complete and utter polar opposite of "morning person"...)

Me: "I'm okay with that. 'Acquiescence' will do just fine."

Bride (snorts sleepily): "Mmmmhmm."

Me: "In fact, I can pretty much work with anything right up to 'violent resistance'".

Bride: "You need to go to sleep, Romeo."

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Life is Life: A Master Chief story

When my father was dying last spring several of you asked me to tell you something more about him. I don't know...yes, I do know why that occurred to me this morning; a friend of mine just lost her mother and I thought back to losing my father.

So. You recall that I told you that my father the Master Chief was a proudly intellectual man, an engineer, with an engineer's dislike of obfuscation and insistence on precision in both word and deed. That made him something of an uncomfortable man to be around; he was perfectly capable of the sorts of small evasions and elisions that we use to lubricate our interactions with others, but one could never be sure if, or when, he might simply state an unpalatable truth. Not rudely, perhaps, or as a weapon of social combat, but simply as he saw it.

I'm not sure when this was - probably some time in the early Seventies when I was between puberty and young adulthood and full of the sort of rudely anxious certainty that seems to come with our early teens - but I was holding forth at dinner on the unfair requirement that I perform certain chores during the long summer vacation, in that that vacation time was itself limited and the requirement to put my own entertainment on hold even further seemed grossly burdensome, a needless reduction of my already-painfully-short free time. The Master Chief listened to this gravely, and nodded, and replied:

"Well, yes, but you still have more free time than you will ever have again in your life. After your school days are over you will never have this much freedom again. Not just less but much less. You'll probably never have more than two weeks vacation the rest of your life. You'll work at your job that means five days a week or more, no spring breaks, no summer vacation, no half-days, no two weeks a Christmas. Just work and two weeks a year."

This seemed appallingly, punitively unfair, and I said so. Was that it? School and work, work and school, endlessly and forever with only the thinnest of hopes of a rest? What was the point, then? What was the end? When did it stop?

"Once you're older, perhaps, if you've planned and worked carefully, there might be a "retirement" when you will have all the free time you could hope for." he noted. I wailed that this seemed even worse; the only hope for freedom was to hope to be to ancient to enjoy it. What hope then?

"Well, then you die." was his conclusion. Dinner done, he retired to his chair to smoke a pipe and mark up the paperwork he'd brought home with him.

My mother was horrified; "Jack!" she exclaimed, and hurried to reassure me that life wasn't that bleak. But I think that my father was well satisfied to remind me, hedonistic youth of the hothouse hedonism of the Seventies and the relative wealth that his work had brought us, that at bottom what mattered was living up to your promises, taking satisfaction from work and life well-done, and dying without regrets, without leaving your works unfinished.

And that was my father, or at least a part of him.

John L. "Jack" Lawes Jr. 1927-2015

Friday, March 25, 2016

Battles Long Ago: Tollense Crossing 1200 BCE

Not really one of my usual "battles" pieces, but I came across this and found it truly fascinating.

The short version is that at some time around 1200 BCE some sort of combat took place along the bank of the Tollense River on the north German plain.

The Tollense valley is glacial and about half a kilometer wide. At the time of the fight it was getting increasingly marshy as Holocene post-glacial sea level rise lifted the level of the Baltic and inundated the plain.

In Bronze Age times the streambed was broad, and flat, and probably studded with alder and birch.

The surrounding forests were dominated by oak, ash, lime, and elm. Jantzen et al (2010) says that "The Bronze Age environment can be described as a partly open landscape that showed limited human impact. However, flax, barley, oat and wheat pollen indicate some farming activities (nearby)".

We don't know who the combatants were who met in the Tollense valley in that year near 1200 BCE, or why they fought, of what the outcome was. The most common explanation is some sort of pitched battle between warbands:
"About 3200 years ago, two armies clashed at a river crossing near the Baltic Sea. (T)his was no skirmish between local clans. Thousands of warriors came together in a brutal struggle, perhaps fought on a single day, using weapons crafted from wood, flint, and bronze, a metal that was then the height of military technology.

Struggling to find solid footing on the banks of the Tollense River, a narrow ribbon of water that flows through the marshes of northern Germany toward the Baltic Sea, the armies fought hand-to-hand, maiming and killing with war clubs, spears, swords, and knives. Bronze- and flint-tipped arrows were loosed at close range, piercing skulls and lodging deep into the bones of young men. Horses belonging to high-ranking warriors crumpled into the muck, fatally speared. Not everyone stood their ground in the melee: Some warriors broke and ran, and were struck down from behind.

When the fighting was through, hundreds lay dead, littering the swampy valley. Some bodies were stripped of their valuables and left bobbing in shallow ponds; others sank to the bottom, protected from plundering by a meter or two of water. Peat slowly settled over the bones. Within centuries, the entire battle was forgotten."
This is not the only explanation and, frankly, is hard to square with the presence of elderly and infant remains among the dead.
Another possibility is that this was a crime rather than a war; robbery on a massive scale as a raiding party bushwhacked a merchant party and its armed guards:
"A Silesian caravan transporting large quantities of tin and other metals was moving...along the Tollense river...protected by armed guard which consisted of both horsemen and infantrymen. The caravan was attacked by a gang or even a which probably came from the north west, probably from the Jutland peninsula or even further north. These people were armed with more primitive weapons, arrows with flint arrowheads, wooden spears and wooden clubs. Denmark and Sweden have huge flint deposits so it is quite possible that the attackers came from there.

The attackers...launched a surprise attack from the forest which surrounded the river. They first pelted the caravan with arrows, targeting the mounted soldiers first. This is why we have dead people mixed with dead horses. Remember the clustered bronze arrowheads mixed with human and horse bones? Were they the arrows which the horsemen never got to take out of their quivers? I believe that the arrows with the bronze arrowheads were fired by mounted archers. The proof for that is the bronze arrowhead which was found embedded in a skull. This arrowhead could only have been fired from a position above the head, which would indicate that the archer was on a horseback.
Also the flint arrowhead which was found embedded in a humerus (upper arm) bone is embedded under such angle that the shot must have come from below, meaning that the arrow was fired by a foot soldier shooting a mounted warrior.

(After the exchange of bowfire) the frontal assault ensued which resulted in hand to hand battle. It is most probable that the attackers won. The number of dead would suggest that this is what happened. The attackers killed all the people from the caravan, collected all the metal, metal armor and weapons and other valuables and remaining pack animals and returned back to wherever they came from. They left all the dead Silesians where they fell."
This interpretation is in the minority. The bulk of the scholarship gleaned from the Tollense concludes that this was the clash of arms; feuding tribes, or even more - the assembled warbands of a local king, perhaps, or remnant of a mass migration produced by the stress of changing climate. The women and children? Camp-followers; Bronze Age logistical support elements.
Jantzen et al (2010) conclude that this battle that may have taken days or possibly even weeks:
"The number of individuals (~100) so far identified from the Tollense Valley, who were probably killed during a conflict over some days or weeks, is on a larger scale than earlier examples for potential violence (see Thrane 2006: 278). It is unclear whether we are dealing with professional warriors. Some women and children are also present in the sample; according to ethnographic data they could have supported the men in fighting, for example by organising food or by carrying weapons (Keeley 1996: 35). The considerable number of individuals involved does not support the scenario of a small-scale conflict of local farmers or small war bands (Osgood 2006). Some bronze pins of Silesian types (Ulrich 2008) found in the Tollense Valley indicate close contacts with this region (~400km) to the south-east. First results of δ13C and 15N analysis of the human remains indicate millet to be part of the diet, which is uncommon during the Early Bronze Age in northern Germany, and might suggest invaders from the south."
Or the the travelers were from the south and the invaders were from the could one tell from the bare bones and metal and stone? The answer is that we can't.
No, we will never know the answers. Never know the who, or the why. Those are as lost to us as are the people who fought and died along the Tollense all those thousands of years ago.

Which, in its way, is a good reminder. That for all that we think of "history" as the great events, the memorable and the remembered, history is made up largely of people like you and me, living ordinary lives and dying ordinary deaths and being forgotten, leaving nothing behind us but our bones.

Variations on a Local Food Theme

This is something called "Timbers Poutine":

It's served at one of the concession stands at the Civic - oh, sorry, "Providence Park" - and consists of a bed of waffle fries littered with bacon, cheddar cheese squares, and fried chicken breast bits all slathered with a brown gravy.

It's a sorta-kinda version of the original Quebecois version of the thing, which 86ed the bacon and chicken and included cheese curds rather than actual cheese. Poutine, BTW, is Quebec's contribution to the "local-specialty-kinda-junky-but-beloved-comfort-food" category, right up there with chili cheese fries and the monkey meat guy outside the Corozal PZ.

Interestingly enough, Portland is something of a hotbed of poutine, complete with a website devoted to Portland poutine and several local joints also serving this melange of the ridiculous and the sublime.

Frankly the Timbers' version is...well, it's belly-timber and not bad for a hungry pre-match feed. But the cheese-cheese isn't a good substitute for the cheese curds and the chicken is really superfluous, a doughy/bready distraction that adds nothing of its own. I've had it without the chicken and that improved the stuff but now that I've sampled it I'm jonesing for a taste more like the real thing.

But I got to thinking about this as I was looking for a good local poutine that Portland doesn't really have a "local specialty". Voodoo Donuts? Meh. Beers? Yeah, we've got a pantsload...but that's not food.

So if we did have a "Portland specialty food"...I wonder...what would it be?


Friday Jukebox: Dirty Deeds Done Damn Spendy Edition

This is, apparently, a parody of some sort of Miley Cyrus song called "Party in the USA". I ran into the video at Frank Moraes' place and, like him, liked the goofy Cubist cartoon style. But, like him, I can see how this isn't exactly a purely-for-fun sort of thing.
"Party in the CIA" also bothers me
Frank says,
in that it is the kind of thing that people can take differently on the basis of their politics. I know that Yankovic is a liberal. But I also know a lot of authoritarians who would watch this video and come away with the idea that it would be totally great to be in the CIA and topple unfriendly governments. The truth is, in this song, Yankovic doesn't tip his hand. That's great for most subjects. Not for this.
Yep. Living as we are in the Age of Trump, where "terrorists" are people who kill people with cheap automatic weapons and homemade explosive belts but not people who kill people with silenced rifles or torture or air-launched cruise missiles...yeah. I can see the problem here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Strategic Bombing

For the record; Brussels is the EU capital, and the EU is and has been deeply involved in fighting in North Africa and the Middle East. The Belgian "air component" (the air arm of the Belgian armed forces) has been bombing the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Obviously, none of that "justifies" blowing up women and kids in train stations and airports.

But at the same time let's be adults; if you're part of fighting a "war on terror" you shouldn't be surprised when terror fights you back.

I thought we learned that sixty-odd years ago. The people who died under the bombers in London and Berlin and Tokyo were "innocent civilians", too, and they died in their job lots for their leaders' policies. For American politicians to act outraged about this is an insult to We the People's intelligence. This is war, the war our politicians have argued for and supported for years now. This is as expected and expectable thing in a war as the sun rising.

Innocents die in war. If you don't like that, your only real option is not to fight one.

Calling it Treason

I note in passing - and with great pleasure - the ongoing incarceration and impending trial of the Malheur Moron Mulisha for their hijinks in Harney County but with some irritation that a passel of their enablers remain not just free of the sneezer but in position to do considerable damage to republican government:
"Harney County Judge Steve Grasty thanks the group for their concern, but asks them to stay away from the refuge. Grasty said the militants were showing signs of fatigue and defeat, and worried that a visit from lawmakers would reinvigorate Ammon Bundy and the rest of the occupiers.

“If we’re getting close (to a resolution), and you embolden Bundy by your presence, and this runs on for weeks and months, it will be awful in this community,” Grasty said.

The FBI agent also asked the lawmakers not to visit the refuge.

Those pleas fell on deaf ears. And Grasty’s prediction came true.

COWS representatives visited the refuge, which was closed to the public. The lawmakers acknowledge they fed the militants information gathered from that meeting, and militant leaders talked openly about what they learned from those disclosures."
I've already said my piece on the idiot wingnut Fiore (who shouldn't be trusted with a Lucky Strike and a Mint Milano, IMO...) but the other seditious bastards have no more business continuing to hold elective office under the United States Constitution than does Kim Jung Un.
Two-gun Fiore continues to spout her treasonous defiance of her own government.
"Meanwhile, the arrest of the militants appears to be strengthening the Coalition of Western States, or at least helping its cause. Although she wouldn’t provide names, Fiore said the coalition has new members, including from the East Coast.

The GOP-controlled Congress is also considering legislation that would remove the Bureau of Land Management’s ability to enforce the law.

“We are not going away,” Fiore said. “We are dug in, and we will fight until this tyranny is defeated.”
Tyranny? Tyranny, you ignorant ass? Like armed seditionists seizing public property and standing off their fellow citizens at gunpoint?

Fear. Fear is the beginning of wisdom with the goddamn people. All's I'm saying.

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Chaco War: Part 1 - Introduction

I mentioned earlier that this year I wanted to run a long series on this peculiar little conflict, perhaps one of South America's most destructive (and least profitable) wars.
The Chaco War also intrigues me for its position in the evolution of modern warfare. Fought with many of the weapons of the First World War it included some of the techniques and tactics of the Second. It also serves as a reminder that the most common lesson learned from war is that often nobody learns the lessons of war; eighteen years after learning the hard way that human flesh cannot overrun machinegun fire no matter how determined the humans both sides in the Chaco repeatedly threw infantrymen into machinegun kill zones.

The other revelation of the war is how the composition and construction of the polities that fought it affected and, in some cases, were amplified by the fighting in the Gran Chaco.

In this post I'd like to briefly discuss the the territory that was fought over, the geopolitical situation, including the history that led up to the war, and the two sides that did the fighting.

First the basics. What we call "The Chaco War", Guerra del Chaco, took place primarily between 1932 and 1935 - although small-scale fighting began as early as February 1927 - between the nations of Bolivia and Paraguay. Both nations were small, both were landlocked, and both were relatively under-developed and either predominantly agricultural (Paraguay) or dependent on a single export (Bolivia, with tin being the export material).

The Chaco Boreal

The land of the war that began in 1932 is only a portion of what is called the Gran Chaco, one of South America's biogeographic regions. This, in turn, forms a part of a series of grasslands or savannahs that march across South America from southwest to northeast.

There's a good website supported by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization that discusses the biology and geography of the Chaco here (Riveros, 2002).

In it the Chaco - which, as noted, is a "...corridor of xeric (a climate that is characterized by mild, wet winters and warm, dry summers) vegetation extending from the caatinga in NE Brazil to the chaco in Argentina, via the cerrado savannahs..." of central Brazil - is the southwesternmost portion as well as the most arid, the westernmost portions being in the driest rain-shadow of the Andes Mountains.

The Gran Chaco itself is described in Riveros (2002) as:
"...located approximately between latitude 17° and 33° South and between longitude 65° and 60° West, is a vast plain that extends through northern Argentina, southeastern Bolivia, northwestern Paraguay and into a small area of southwestern Brazil. It stretches for about 1 500 km from north to south, and about 700 km from east to west, without any important physical barriers intervening."
While the portion of the Chaco that was fought over in the Thirties - the Chaco Boreal - is often described as a "desert" climatically it's not a true desert but ranges from fairly temperate near the eastern edge along the Paraguay River through a transition zone to semi-arid lands along the western edge near Bolivia.

Mind you, to those who fought in it it might as well have been a fucking desert. Here's the description of the Chaco contained in English (2007):
"The Gran one of the most unattractive places on earth. The Chaco Boreal, the northern portion of this unwholesome place, consists of a roughly triangular region of scrub desert lying between the Parapiti, Paraguay, and Pilcomayo rivers and is about 127,000 square miles (324,000km3) in area. The scrub is punctuated by open areas of tropical grass-land and isolated clumps of stunted trees, known respectively as cañadones and islas.

Daytime temperatures rising to over 40C can fall to below freezing at night. In Summer, the Chaco is a dusty, waterless hell-hole. During the rainy season (usually December to March) the all-permeating dust turns to a sea of mud. Inhabited only by a few small groups of nomandic Indians, it is otherwise the haunt of the Chaco Fox and the Jaguar, plus myriad stinging insects and poisonous reptiles."
So clearly not a tourist mecca, at least according to Mr. English.

The logical question the arises from this unflattering portrayal of the Chaco Boreal is, then, who their right minds would fight and kill over this shithole?

The Reasons Why


I'm not sure there's a simple answer. I can say this; the war was NOT about blood for oil.

I want to say that up front because the idea that the Chaco War was between Shell Oil and Paraguay versus Standard Oil and Bolivia is very widespread. Indeed, here's the very first sentence of the Wiki entry for "Chaco War": "The Chaco War (1932–1935) (Spanish: Guerra del Chaco, Guarani: Cháko Ñorairõ[9]) was fought between Bolivia and Paraguay over control of the northern part of the Gran Chaco region (known in Spanish as Chaco Boreal) of South America, which was thought to be rich in oil."

In the "Origins" paragraph the Wiki goes even further, saying: "The origin of the war is commonly attributed to a conflict between the oil companies Royal Dutch Shell backing Paraguay and Standard Oil supporting Bolivia.[10][need quotation to verify]"
This is not to say that oil interests weren't involved, or that the possession of potential petroleum deposits wasn't a consideration. But the two countries had been feuding over the Chaco almost since they had fought loose from Spain and needed no other encouragement to fight over it.

Bolivia, in particular, squawked every time Paraguay made a claim in or around the Chaco. In 1852 the Bolivians bitched about a navigation and commerce treaty between Argentina and Paraguay. A boundary treaty between Brazil and Paraguay in 1858 brought forth more pissing and moaning from Bolivia.

The real foundations for the war seem to have been laid largely between the 1870s, when Paraguay got hammered in the War of the Triple Alliance and Bolivia lost its Pacific coastline in the Pacific War against Chile.

The Bolivians now needed - or believed they needed, which is the same thing - a river port with access to the Atlantic. This meant in practice a Bolivian claim on the Paraguay River, and the tussling for position in the Chaco began in the 1880s and continued into the Twentieth Century.

At least three treaties disposing of the Chaco came and went between the 1880s and the 1900s with no resolution. Both sides wanted the Chaco and both sides wanted it all, as much for national pride and what they saw as the "national interests" as for any amount of oil or grazing rights or croplands.

The Combatants

Bolivia was generally considered the larger and stronger of the two nations, although it's hard to justify using the term "large" or strong" for either country. Hughes (2005) notes that:
"It had three times Paraguay’s population, an army three times as big and a rich minerals base with which it could sustain itself and earn foreign currency to buy arms. By contrast, Paraguay was extremely poor, had a very weak economy and the British War Office was not alone in concluding that ‘unless the Argentine takes a hand, Bolivia should win’ in any war against a pre-war 2400-strong Paraguayan army equipped with outdated weapons and one that the British did not consider to be a ‘very serious fighting force."
There were about 2.5 million Bolivians in 1932 and about 7 out of 10 of them were farmers, mostly living on the Altiplano, the high steppes above 10,000 feet. English (2007) notes that "(t)he population was highly stratified with little social cohesion or interactions between the three major racial elements..." which consisted of about 60% more-or-less pure native Aymara- and Quechua-speakers, 30% mestizo, and 10% more-or-less pure Spanish "...who regarded each other with a suspicion bordering on outright hostility."

English (2007) emphasizes that among the native majority who would come to make up the rank-and-file of the Bolivian troops in the Chaco "(t)here was no feeling of national identity...who spoke two different and mutually unintelligible languages...and few of whom even spoke Spanish...with any fluency."

Compared to this perhaps the single greatest strength of Paraguay was social. "Almost uniquely in American history..." English (2007) notes "...native and colonist mingled peacefully from the outset, possibly because the lack of mineral wealth ensured that the country attracted relatively few of the latter."

The result was a relatively homogeneous population, 95% or so of mixed Spanish and Guarani heritage that spoke both languages relatively fluently.

Both nations were, relative to the giants of South America like Brazil and Argentina, poor, agricultural, and backward. Paraguay had a fair transport network based on river traffic but in both countries roads typically ranged from poor to nonexistent. Bolivian railways were concentrated in the southwest while Paraguay had only a single main line that ran southeast from the capital to the Argentine frontier.

Neither country had anything like an industrial base, let alone a domestic arms industry; all war materials would have to be procured from the outside.

Both countries were politically volatile to put it mildly. During the seven-year reign of strongman Manuel Isidoro Belzú Humérez Bolivia endured 42 attempted coups. Paraguay's history was just as bad, or worse. The relatively tranquil presidency of Carlos Antonio Lopez was succeeded by that of his son, Francisco Solano who, as English (2007) delightfully puts it; "...was unfortunately an unbalanced megalomanic who embarked on a suicidal five-year-long conflict against the Triple Alliance of Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay."

This conflict, by the way, may be the only war in South America outside the Chaco that made less sense. Paraguay never had a hope and was effectively destroyed; something like half of all the original half-million-odd Paraguayans died, including all but about 30,000 men. England (2007) coyly suggests that the Brazilian army of occupation "sired a new generation" of Paraguayans and adds that the remainder of the Nineteenth Century Paraguay's history was "...punctuated by...abortive rebellions, revolutions, and full-scale civil wars..."

In short, neither polity was well-prepared, or well-positioned, to spend blood and treasure on a war over some insalubrious scrubland.

Which, as history has proved, has never stopped any group of people from going to war when they really wanted to.

The Sources

One of the most difficult aspects of the Chaco War is that it is extremely poorly covered in English, and even the Spanish-language sources are not extensive. The two most commonly used English-language references are Adrian English's 2007 The Green Hell: A Concise History of the Chaco War between Bolivia and Paraguay, 1932–1935 and Bruce Farcau's 1996 The Chaco War: Bolivia and Paraguay, 1932–1935.

The English work concentrates more on the purely military, while the Farcau book is more of a general history. Unfortunately English (2007) is not particularly readable and its maps - critical for a work of military history - are pretty awful. The Osprey company has issued a volume covering the war which is almost solely valuable for its pictures and uniform plates; the text is sparse and tends to complicate rather than explain the military operations it purports to cover.

A useful little work is Matthew Hughes' 2005 Logistics and the Chaco War: Bolivia vs. Paraguay, 1932–1935 originally published in The Journal of Military History, Volume 69, pp. 411–437 but available online here.

Online the situation is similar; the sources are there, but sparse.

The website The Gran Chaco War 1928-1935 presents an excellent overview of the conflict, especially the air war.

Although the text is in Spanish the Naval History and Archaeology website's archive of the memoirs of Paraguayan combat surgeon Carlos de Sanctis is an trove of photographs from the good doctor's wartime experiences. Be warned that Doc de Sanctis didn't censor his photos, and there's some pretty grim stuff there.
Gary Brecher has his own unique take as The War Nerd, of course.

So that's the where, the when, the who and to some extent the why. Next time we'll talk about the "how" the two opposing forces that met in the nastiest battleground on Earth.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Vous pouvez me demander ce que vous voulez, sauf le temps

Every year at this time I get to read through a round of e-mails and/or Facebook posts about the change from Standard to Daylight time.

DST is, admittedly, a sort an oddity. My understanding is that it was one of those wartime expedients first cooked up in 1918 and repeated in the Forties to reduce the use of things like coal and electricity. The mystery to me is how it generated a constituency to be continued after 1945.

I admit to liking the long sunny evenings under DST while not minding the dark mornings. But there seems to be enough bitching and moaning every year on this weekend that I can't imagine that mere preference was enough. And it seems that the U.S. largely went off DST in the late Forties and returned in the mid-Sixties...why? The Wiki entry on "Daylight saving time" says that:
"(i)n the mid-1980s, Clorox (parent of Kingsford Charcoal) and 7-Eleven provided the primary funding for the Daylight Saving Time Coalition behind the 1987 extension to US DST, and both Idaho senators voted for it based on the premise that during DST fast-food restaurants sell more French fries, which are made from Idaho potatoes."
Clorox? French fries? WTF? Clorox and Idaho solons managed to push DST through the national legislature? Seriously?
My thought would be that if everybody who wants DST to be a thing wanted more people to want DST to be a thing they'd push to make it happen they'd push for it to happen Friday afternoon at 4pm instead of in the pre-dawn of a Sunday morning. Push beer-thirty up one hour? Where do I sign up for that..?
From The Past Is Never Really Past...a short history of Trump SteaksTM. Best quote from the link?
"Martha Stewart, however, had perhaps the most unique response to Trump Steaks. In an interview with Joan Rivers, the lifestyle mogul and former Apprentice contestant replied “Too bad!” when Rivers said that the steaks weren’t actually from a slaughtered Donald Trump."
Sorry, but there's not enough Trump Vodka to wash that down...
Speaking of nasty water-like things, here's an interesting version of DST; again from the Wiki entry:
"Roman water clocks had different scales for different months of the year: at Rome's latitude the third hour from sunrise, hora tertia, started by modern standards at 09:02 solar time and lasted 44 minutes at the winter solstice, but at the summer solstice it started at 06:58 and lasted 75 minutes."
There are other applications I'd be okay with time working that way, too. Hmmm...
The hip seems to be rehabbing decently. I've been trying to get up and walk on it per the orthopod's direction, and it moves fairly well with relatively minimal discomfort. It's still a little unsteady but I've ditched the walker for a cane. If I work it too hard as I did yesterday it's achy enough that falling asleep is difficult without 5mg of hillbilly heroin.
The photos that I've included with this post are from the day out that Mojo, Missy and I enjoyed yesterday. A couple of rounds at Trackers Portland indoor archery range let our Inner Mongol out for a stroll, followed by a trip south to Aurora, where the Colony museum and the local handspinners were having a field day that included everything crafy, from dropspinning and weaving through adorable furry bunnies. We all enjoyed the hell out of it, especially crafty little Miss who acquired her own backloom and has been weaving away on her doorknob ever since...
Right now I'm killing time waiting for friends to come over for the Timbers match this afternoon. Mojo and Missy are out at Crystal Springs feeding the ducks, and The Boy and his pal Michael are playing some sort of hack-n-slash videogame.
Just another Daylight Sunday.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Friday Jukebox II: Retro-retro Edition

Kind of awesome, kind of creepy...kind of...well, you make up your mind.

(h/t to Scalzi for this)

Friday Jukebox: That Fucking Wall Again Edition

Given that I have time on my hands and my laptop speakers finally working again I thought I put up a Friday Jukebox and this one grabbed me by the throat. I originally posted this tune almost two years ago.

But it just never seems to grow old, does it?

If Donald Trump had the actual gravitas and ironic self-knowledge that Greg Brown puts into his Hades in this tune you could almost hear him growling to his Trumpeters:

What do we have that they should want?
My children, my children
What do we have that they should want?

What do we have that they should want?
We have a wall to work upon!
We have work and they have none
And our work is never done
My children, my children
And the war is never won
The enemy is poverty
And the wall keeps out the enemy
And we build the wall to keep us free
That's why we build the wall
We build the wall to keep us free.

As I said back then; "...echoing the little trickle of tired, sullen anger that's always within me as my country slides unthinking into the New Gilded Age. I love the funky growl Brown gives his Devil, smoothly chortling his way to his appointment with Armageddon while he grins mercilessly at the fucking rubes and fools he's got doing his work for him."

Or, as the Mexicans might say; Chinga tu pared, gringo

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Bearing Arms, Badly

One of the things about the Second Amendment crowd that kind of irks the shit out of me is how bad they are at this "keep and bear arms" stuff. Today's case-in-point of an Armed But Stupid Fucking Citizenry is Ms. Jamie Gilt of Jacksonville, Florida:
"Jamie Gilt, 31, who posts about firearms on her social media accounts was driving through Putnam County, Jacksonville, Florida, on Tuesday in her truck when she was wounded after the toddler picked up the weapon and shot her in the back. Her four-year-old son picked up a loaded .45 semi-automatic handgun from the back seat, pointed it towards his mother and pulled the trigger. The powerful round went through the front seat and passed through Gilt's body. Gilt and her son had been traveling to pick up a horse from a relative when the accident happened."
The weapon used by young deadeye when he put one through mommy's eight-ring was a "Kimber" M1911 knock-off, and that in itself makes me really pretty pissed off.

Because the M1911 and its variants may be the most mechanically safe handguns ever constructed.
Unlike most semiauto pistols that have no more than a single pushbutton or trigger safety the M1911 has three: a thumb safety (which is the equivalent of most modern semiauto's pushbotton/trigger safety), a half-cock safety (a very old-school sort of mechanism that was really a 19th Century military firearm hangover) and a grip safety, which requires a firm stock-weld with the firing hand to allow the hammer to fall.

The M1911 is a damn safe weapon, is what I'm saying. Even moreso if you follow Rule 1 of Handgun Safety; Never Chamber a Round Until You Are Ready To Fire.

It's really that simple, and the fraction of a second it takes to work the slide is not going to make half a nickel's worth of difference in "defending yourself". If the person threatening you has the drop on you to the extent that you can't chamber a round? You're pretty much fucked, anyway. But no more fucked than you are walking around with a live round under the hammer, as Mommy Gilt found out when little Chuckles picked up her hogleg and ventilated her ass.

In order to enable her spawn to put a live joe through her Mommy Dumbass must have, at the very least, had a live round in the chamber. The rest of the sequence is hard to figure out. Assuming the the hammer was uncocked little Nemo must have cocked it, which seems unlikely, so strike two against the Stupid Mother of the Year; she must have cocked it.

The other thing that the kid had to do was somehow grip the stock hard enough to engage the grip safety, which seems hard to believe for a four-year-old. Had Mommy gimmicked the grip safety somehow? If so, strike three, Mommy, and you're out with a bullet through the back.
So it's not their guns I fear. It's them. These fucking people. They're like an avalanche of Stupid, and they're Armed.

Did you think of that, Mister Madison? I sure as hell wish you had.

Update 3/23: So even in Florida you can be too goddamn stupid to carry a firearm. Turns out that the Mother of the Year is going to be charged under some kind of child-endangerment statute (I think...). But the new explanation - that Mombo had her hogleg lying around on one of the front seats, it slid under the seat (or possibly through the seat between the back and the cushion) into the back footwell where little Bubbles had unbuckled his carseat belt - still begs the question. Dumbass still had to have had a round under the hammer. I can't imagine that the little bastard knew to thumb the hammer back so the hammer must have BEEN back and the thumb safety off. And how the heck the kid managed to engage the grip safety I still don't know. The whole thing stinks, frankly, and just reminds me that this woman has NO business within the same grid square as a firearm.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Straining at bullets, swallowing glaciers

A friend of mine linked to this video:
Fighting Back Against A School Shooter

Fighting back against a school shooter:

Posted by TheBlaze on Monday, March 7, 2016
It's apparently a clip from a much longer training film that argues for a more active, aggressive defense against school shooters.

And y'know what? In a perfect world I'd be all about this.

For one thing, the whole "duck and cover" response to danger kind of pisses me off. Run away? Fine. Fight? If you want to. But cowering in hopes of being overlooked? Seems like a pretty miserable way to die, if that's how you're gonna go.


We don't live in a perfect world. We live in a world where we have to make choices about how we spend our resources.

And I have two problems with this little video.

First of all, it's a school shooter video. It assumes from the jump that school shooters are a thing, a horrible, omnipresent, immediate, clear-and-present danger thing that must be aggressively confronted. I talked this to fucking death damn near ten years ago, but as horrible as the cable news people try and make it, the simple fact is that mass murder just isn't that big a threat in the US in 2016. IT's not like dying of dysentery was on the Oregon Trail back in the day.

You're more likely to get run over by a bus than you are to be killed by a madman with a gun in your school, kids. Seriously; Uncle Chief has done the math. Turns out that about 14 kids a year get squarshed by those ol' yella-dog buses. But about 297 people total - that's adults AND kids - got shot in school between 1980 and 2012 when Sandy Hook brought the whole "school shooter" thing back into fashion. That's about 9.3 people a year; the third of a person was either a really little kid or possibly a Donald Trump voter, but, whatever.

So throwing a lot of money at school shootings is like throwing money at ballistic missile defense or alien invasions; not a good return-on-investment thing.

Second of all, while it looks and feels nice, I think it completely mistakes the point of the "lockdown huddle".

The trainer of the video assumes that the point of the huddle is "protection" or something. He's right...assuming that the "main problem" is trying to cut down the casualty count and not actually control the kids' panic.

If I had a bunch of troops I had confidence in, and felt were both cool-headed and trusted each other I'd use his methods. My problem would be that...that's what I'd do with trained, confident troops. I'd trust them to stay still and silent until they had to take aggressive action. That's what good troops do in an ambush drill, which is basically what this is; a plan to ambush the shooter.

My problem would be that if I didn't trust my troops, or trust them to trust each other, spreading them out makes it much more difficult for 1) them to combat their own panic and 2) me to control them and prevent them from doing something panicky and dangerous.

So spreading them out makes it MUCH more likely that the most panicked one will bolt for the door and try to escape, or start screaming and crying, thus both alerting the nutter that we're there in the room and, possibly, unlocking the door for him.

It's a great idea, but it requires a HELL of a lot of training and a really high level of confidence and aggression in the kids.

Meaning that to do this successfully you'd have knew it, right; spend a hell of a lot of time and money training kids and teachers to do this.

It seems to me that for some reason We the People are more and more inclined to do this stuff; worry and fret ridiculously about madman bullets, tiny, horrible problems that have a miniscule probability of harming us...while ignoring things like the melting glaciers that warn us of global climate change that have a real serious likelihood of fucking up our entire world.

I don't know why we do this. It kind of pisses me off, and I wish we'd stop. But it seems to be a people thing and no amount of pissing and moaning on my part will do anything about it.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

The Care of Devils

It goes almost without saying that a huge part of me is equally revolted and angered at the ridiculous carny show that has become the Republican Party and its loathsome Presidential candidate field. Krugman is perfectly correct; the obviously lunatic, con-man, and carny currently running ahead of the rest of the klowns is only less acceptable as the potential Chief Executive of the most powerful polity in the Western world because of the obvious unmoored insanity of his personality, not his "political positions" (such as they are) which are, in many cases, mildly less loathsome than those of his supposedly more conventional competitors.
But, much as I hate to admit this, the current widespread enthusiasm for the vulgar talking yam - among both the public and among the press - is horribly fascinating as a glimpse into mind (also such as it is...) the American public.

The degree to which the Presidency of Barak Obama has completely unhinged a certain proportion of the public has always amazed me. Here's a guy who is pretty much a 1950's Eisenhower Republican or, at least, has governed as such...and, yet, I have heard from friends whose relatives, or acquaintances, or casual correspondents hate Obama, hatehatehate him with a passionate intensity.

It's not like I don't understand "passionate hatred" for politicians; I've loathed a few myself.
But Obama? Obama?

I can't imagine a more perfectly innocuous corporate suit, whether it's his personal style or his governing. He's...well, he's kind of a suit.

And yet, I read people saying they HATE Obama so much (or Clinton, another perfect corporate suit) that even though they admit, or even insist, that Trump is, indeed, a dangerously mendacious fool that they will vote for him when he receives the GOP nomination. I find this literally incomprehensible; it's like saying "Well, the food at that Korean joint was pretty awful, so instead let's just stay home tonight and eat a big ol' bag of camel shit."
Obviously most of these sorts of people don't admit that Trump is an unhinged looney. They say he's a "truth-teller" or not hidebound by "political correctness", as if lying was some sort of version of saying unsayable truth.

But he clearly is, and their kidding themselves is patently ridiculous.

And herein lies the most incredible aspect of this election.

If you had tried; if you had carefully, deliberately, painstakingly crafted the most perfectly disastrous sort of human being to be placed in a position of immense power I cannot imagine crafting someone more catastrophic than Donald Trump. He's like one of those the wartime caricatures of Hitler, or Tojo, or Mussolini; an embodiment of everything utterly incompetent put in charge of a Great Power.
It doesn't matter WHO his opponent is, outside of zombie Iosef Stalin or Satan or another equally gross cartoon villain. There's just no reason any sane person would vote for Donald Trump for President if the alternative wasn't a bloody-handed mass murderer.

So this November will of interest to me only in what it will reveal about my "fellow citizens".

The percentage of the general public who will vote for this scumbag is directly proportionate to the percentage who are utterly unfit to be citizens of a self-governing republic. They are sheep who would vote to make the wolf their king because they are afraid and he is "strong". They are the slaves who would vote to make the slavedriver their king because they want to hate the Others and he is "honest" enough to say so out loud.

And I very much fear, that in the words of Mr. Paine, that I am infidel enough " to suppose that He has relinquished the government of the world, and given us up to the care of devils..."

Friday, March 04, 2016

Parted out

So I'm back at home after two days at the hospital getting rid of the old worn-out hips parts and getting a shiny new metal one. True to form, the post-op pain pretty much held off until last night when I'd walked through the door and then hammered me flat; my right leg swelled up from the iliac crest to the top of the knee and I had a very, very bad night last night.

Things are better today, but not all that much. And I STILL haven't managed to get a used-food blockade runner past the Hillbilly Heroin Barrier; today has been the first stage of Operation Big Dump which has involved prune juice and several bowls of raisin bran. No luck so far, but we'll see...

(TMI Update 3/4: OBD is a go..!)

The reason for the tissue blow-up was, apparently, that when the ortho team opened me up what they found was a complete and utter mess; floating bone chips, arthritic spurs, all sorts of nasty junk. They had to clean all that up and in the process tore up a lot of soft tissue. Hence the pain and the suffering.

But I'm recovering, slowly, and having a worse time with the boredom than with the pain, at least at the moment. I'll be back in a bit with a longer update, but I just wanted to get this out so's you'd know that I wasn't food for worms, brave Percy.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016


I'm sorry I haven't thought much about you, darlin'. Between your little brother being a pest and a pox and a trouble, and your little sister being absorbingly adorable, and my worries and fears about my surgery I've been a little preoccupied.

I know, I know. I'm sorry. I know that's not right. Especially now; fourteen is a hard age, the real beginning of the time you would have spent fighting for attention, fighting to become your own woman instead of a child, or an appendage of your parents. You would want to know that your dad was minding you, but not too much. Parenting you would have been like doing good tactical reconnaissance; being there, constantly alert to the slightest of changes, while somehow never being visible.
And there's the whole "time and distance" thing, too. It's becoming more and more difficult to see you as the newborn you were, the baby who was never more than one day old, locked like a damselfly in amber into that day fourteen years ago when you passed us on your fleeting race from the darkness of pre-birth to the darkness of death.

Instead I see you as the young woman you could have but never will become, the daughter I had but will never have.

And I grieve for you as the past I will always lose, as the future I will never have.

Today I will be too busy, too worried, and too frightened to think much about you, and for that I will grieve as well.

But I will think of you, if only for a moment. I promise. I won't forget you.

My daughter, my dear, my lost one. Today I will mourn for you, again, dust and ashes these fourteen years.

Bryn Rose Gellar March 1, 2002 - March 2, 2002