Journalism We Can Use

Journalist tries – and miserably fails – to keep up with Winston Churchill’s daily drinking pace

…and, in the process, indulges in some journalism, popping a few myths about Churchill’s drinking.  His celebrated whiskey-and-sodas before noon included just enough whiskey to wet the bottom of the tumbler; his two bottles of champagne a day were pint-sized, not the liter or larger sized bottles common today.

But still, the guy drank a lot.

Oh, just read it.

Random Curiosity

I was bored the other night, so I started watching random old films on Youtube.

One of them was a documentary of sorts about an aircraft carrier off the coast of Vietnam, from fifty (!) years ago.

And I thought I’d borrow a page from Lileks; I grabbed the first name I could actually read, and decided to see what the internet could find me.

The first name I registered on was the pilot of the last plane in this clip (an A4 Skyhawk) – Lt. Junior Grade Dave Griggs:

Sure enough, he’s out there.   He went on to become an astronaut – and in April of 1985, conducted the first unscheduled  spacewalk in history – accompanied by Utah Senator Jake Garn, the first sitting Congressman in space.

He was killed in a private plane accident in 1989.

I need more hobbies.

Evidence!

SCENE:  Mitch BERG is walking out of the downtown Saint Paul Dunn Brothers coffee. He runs into Chuck DUUUUHHHH,  third-shift Twitter operator for “Minnesotans for Rand Paul”.

DUUUUHHHH:  Hey, Merg!  Did you seen the NEWS of the hotel FIRE in DOOBBAI?

BERG:   Well, yeah – but before we get to that, I gotta say I’m amazed that you actually talk like you type on Facebook and Twitter, with occasional interjections in all caps.

DUUUUHHHH:   Ha HAH.  So there was a building fire, but it wasn’t hot ENOUGH to melt STEEL.  Why DIDN’T the hotel fall TO the ground?

BERG:  Because the fire was apparently in the cladding, on the facade, and never had a chance to weaken the structural steel.

DUUUUHHHH:  Because steel melts at 2000 DEGREES FARRENHEIGHT, and so it didn’t LIQUIFY the GIRDLES.

BERG:  Girders.

DUUUUHHHH:  THAT is your opinion!

BERG:  Sure, whatever.

DUUUUHHHH:  So by your logic, since it wasn’t not enough TO liquify steel, the HOTEL should HAVE fallen to the ground! Like Building SEVEN!

BERG:  That’s kinda a non-sequitur.

DUUUUHHHH:  That’s JUST your opinion!  You’re not an engineer!

BERG:  No, that’s true.  But I have some command of basic logic.   Look – you see to be of the opinion that if every skyscraper fire doesn’t end in a complete implosion, then 9/11 was an inside job.

DUUUUHHHH:  Don’t be a sheeple!   The GOVERNMENT lies to people all THE time!  Why would a building fall when jet fuel doesn’t burn hot enough to melt steel?

BERG:  Sure, government lies. No argument

But steel doesn’t have to melt to be a problem. Steel loses its strength and becomes basically pliable hundreds of degrees below its melting point:

DUUUUHHHH: He’s no engineer!~ And that doesn’t explain why all three BUILDINGS fell inside their FOOTPRINCE.

BERG: All three buildings transferred their weight via a web of girders to their central cores, which transferred the weight to the ground. Since the weight is all going down the middle of the building, where would you expect them to fall?

DUUUUHHHH:  That’s just your opinion!  You’re JUST closing your mind to all the engineers AND physicists who QUESTION the OFFFICIAL 9/11 story!

BERG:  And you’re closing yours to the many engineers who point out that steel bends at a lower temp than jet fuel burns, and that buildings fall in the direction their weight transfers, absent some other force.

DUUUUHHHH:  But you’re ignoring the fact THAT steel melts at 2000 degrees!

BERG: I answered that above.

DUUUUHHHH:  And why did all three buildings FALL INSIDE their own footprint?

BERG:  We just talked about that.

DUUUUHHHH:  And why DID THE buildings collapse when the TEMPERATURE wasn’t enough TO LIQUIFY steel?

BERG:  Um…?

DUUUUHHHH:  And without getting STEEL UP to 2000 degrees, it had to be a controlled demolition, OTHERWISE how do you explain the building FALLING IN its footprint?

BERG slowly tiptoes away. 

And SCENE.

Caliber Of Argument

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

When President Obama and Candidate Hillary succeed in imposing their Australian plans to confiscate pistols and ban ammunition, dealers in banned substances will have an easier time supplying their customers: everyone will use the same caliber ammunition.  “Hey man, I’ll take some weed, a couple hits of coke and throw in a box of nines.”   One stop shopping, like having a Wal-Mart in the trunk of a tricked-out Buick.  Handy.

Let’s not kid ourselves, we know what’s at work here and it has nothing to do with ballistic science.

John Browning gave the world true pistol stopping power when he invented the .45 ACP and nothing invented since is as effective at delivering raw knock-down power in a controllable low maintenance hand-held package.

But it takes a big hand to wrap around the .45, a strong grip to control it, and strong will to calmly place 7 shots in vital spots rather than spray-and-pray in a panic.  The .45 is fine for well-trained soldiers which is why special forces love it; not so good for small FBI chicks which is why the feds first adopted the watered-down .40 S&W and now are going to the even softer 9mm.

I don’t dispute that modern 9mm home defense hollow points work better than 9mm military ball ammo.  They should: they’re designed for a different purpose.  The military round wounds a guy so his buddies must carry him to the field medics, taking three soldiers out of a battle that my soldiers then win by attrition.  The home-defense round puts a guy on the floor now, because I have no soldiers and can’t afford to suffer any attrition.  So sure, the modern 9mm self-defense round works better than the old 9mm military round.  But is it better enough to switch down from the .40 S&W, must less the venerable .45 ACP?

Let the argument begin.

Joe Doakes

The amount of training it takes to overcome the natural human response to an adrenaline dump is amazing – and they’re finding out that people who get through selection for units like the SEALs, Delta, the SAS and the like are born with a biochemical trait that allows them to drive, rather than be driven by, adrenaline.

All by way of saying – being a regular schlub who is most definitely driven by adrenaline, I’ll take a big magazine over big caliber.

If I have to choose.

Which, currently I do not.

And let’s us good guys and gals all bear down and keep it that way.

Hot Gear Friday: The Tool, And The Craftsman

Today’s “hot gear” is, along with the Bowie knife and the K-Bar, perhaps the most legendary piece of cutlery in the business – the Khukri.

The Khukri is a strange knife, to western hands; oddly-balanced, weirdly-shaped, more of a machete than a knife.  It looks, and to western sensibilities, feels odd.

So clearly, the legend is less in the hardware than in the software.

The Khukri is the traditional blade of the “Gurkhas” – members of tribe from rural Nepal that, in 1815, not only stymied a British/Indian invasion, thus securing Nepalese independence, but so impressed the would-be conquerors that it led to an agreement to allow the Brits to recruit tribe members into the British Army.  Being selected into a Gurkha regiment is not only one of the greater honors in the tribe – it’s also the only career path that doesn’t involve farming and raising yaks.

Given a choice between living more or less the same way they did a thousand years ago, or jetting into the 21st century (or 19th, for that matter), getting into the Army is an incredibly competitive process.  And it shows; the Gurkhas have been an elite force in the British Army for the 200 years since.   Sometimes they step beyond “elite” to just plain legendary.

But here – learn some more:

Autonomy And Its Victims

Back in the storied history of this blog, there was a liberal blogger who fancied himself a transit advocate – indeed, was alleged to have taken money from light rail interests to attack, using his various sock-puppet blogs, not only opponents of light rail, but proponents of any competing type of transit.

Among some of his many howlers over the years, the leftyblogger claimed – repeatedly – that I was a supporter of “Personal Rail Transit”, notwithstanding the fact that I repeatedly wrote I did not.   “His” “reasoning” was apparently that Michele Bachmann once parenthetically noted some interest in PRT, and Bachmann is a conservative, and I’m a conservative, so I must also support it.  To be fair, it wasn’t the least logical the little fella ever got.

But I always opposed PRT.

Part of it is, and has always been, that I think PRT’s supporters underestimate or underreport the technical challenges of having “just in time” personal rail service on a city-wide network of tracks.   Also the costs.

Part of it is that I don’t care; I’d rather have a steering wheel in my hand.

But the biggest reason I’ve never supported PRT was that I believed that the private market will provide a way to power cars from hydrogen and guide them with software decades before the government can put tracks of any kind, ultralight and personal or heavy and East-Germanlike, from anywhere people are to anywhere they actually want to go.

And, as usual, I’m right.

Not that I’ll ever buy one.  Trusting my safety and schedule to a bunch of programmers is only marginally better than trusting them to government transit employees.

Doakes Sunday: Retro

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Stole this from Brad Torgersen’s Facebook page (he’s a SF writer, one of the people who ran Sad Puppies).

Windows disc

 

It’s probably only funny to those of us old enough to remember, but I found it hilarious . . . .

 

Joe Doakes

I wonder if my kids would even remember what a floppy drive is?

 

Food For Thought

After a year or two ofdabbling I pretty much swore off Food Porn shows. They’re all pretty much the same, and the whole “foodie” culture has come to annoy the bejeebers out of me.

Since I stopped paying attention to the whole genre years ago, I wasn’t familiar with Food Network star Alton Brown.

Reading this profile in the NY Times, I wish I had encountered him earlier. He eschews “foodie” culture – at least partly on religious, as well as aesthetics, grounds – and is want to show businesses few “out” shooters.

It’s worth a quick read..

Much Ado About Who Gives A Crap?

The biggest story in the world today?   As ISIS saws off Christians’ heads, and Planned Parenthood does the same for babies, and the nation lurches toward a Presidential election that, if it were held at this moment according to the results of junk media polls taken six months before caucuses and 15 months before the election, would be a contest between the star of a real reality show and the co-star of a virtual reality show?

Ashley Madison’s data breach.

Ashley Madison is, of course, a website purportedly devoted to helping married people find extramarital amoreuses.  And the hint that some of the people ostensibly busted in the breach were famous “family values” crusaders (notwithstanding the high likelihood that they were fake accounts) had the usual social-lefty suspects aroused to a fever pitch; social conservatives straying from their message is the social-lefty’s hard-core pornography.

What this episode shows us is that lots of Americans – including many who design and build websites – are illiterate about data security.

Among other things:

Tech tabloid editors are foaming at the mouth, just thinking about finding something that’ll implicate someone they know. You’ll have hundreds, if not thousands, of people downloading the torrent file to see if their loved ones, or boss, local priest, sister, father, scout leader, or public figure’s names are in the cache. It’s hard to feel even a morsel of remorse for any cheating hack husband, wife, or partner who gets caught out.

But, even the worst people in this society should expect — and deserve — privacy.

It’s certainly hard to defend a cheating spouse.

But I’d nominate a few other people – drug-cartel hit men, late-term abortion providers, serial killers, Sidney Blumenthal, pedophiles, people who hack off other peoples’ heads – for “Worst People In Our Society”.

 

Visualization

When I was in high school, I may have been the last generation to actually spend any time watching instructional films.  Not videos – productions shot on film.

Now, my beef is not with the medium on which the production was shot; video versus film is an aesthetic argument, and not one that I’m particularly involved in.

But along about time time video supplanted film, computer animation began to replace an older, more fascinating art – the building of explanatory models.

Explaining complex processes, equations, and mechanical concepts is difficult.  And in a way, I’ve found the plethora of computer-based animations used to do the explaining today are almost too accurate to do a job of explaining complex concepts.

Filling that gap, long before there were any computers, was the operating model.

An operating model took a complex concept, mechanism or process, simplified it, magnified the important stuff while omitting (or deferring) the minutia, and explained it.

And it’s kind of a lost art.

Which was why I loved this film – which explains the function of the auto differential, a bit of mechanical engineering that always amazes me…:

…and this one, which is as good an explanation of pretty much every firearm operating system in the business:

And I can watch them for hours.

Build It And They Will Come

If you follow Great Britain at all, after a while you start to realize that if there’s one thing they’re short of, it’s enough alcohol in their lives.

And you wonder; if there was only a way Brits could only get more booze, faster.

Well, fear not.  While Britain may be a shadow of its former political, military, industrial and social self, when it comes to finding ways to ingest alcohol, Britannia still rules the waves.

Hot Gear Friday: The Four Engined Bomber

It was about this time seventy years ago that World War II was heading toward its climax; Germany had surrendered;  Marines and soldiers were mopping up on Okinawa.  The world didn’t know about the atomic bomb yet.

And the idea of Air Power was at its peak; after three years of strategic bombing over Europe, and about a year’s worth over Japan, the idea that one could bomb ones’ opponents out of a war – very much in vogue before the war – still held great sway.

Of course, strategic bombing over Europe had had a ghastly toll; the US Army Air Force lost more men in the air than the Marines did in the entire Pacific War.

And the bulk of those casualties came among the crews of the roughly 6-7,000 bombers lost over Germany (among the Americans alone; the Brits also paid a horrific price).

There was the most famous, the Boeing B-17…:

…with its legendary toughness without which the toll might have been vastly worse.

And the B-24 Liberator – newer, faster, but less popular, and generally regarded as less tough…

…and the B-29, which costs as much to develop as the entire Manhattan Project, carried most of the weight in the Pacific.

Why do I bring it up?

Because as we discuss the idea that our younger genration of twenty somethings, raised during the Obama economy by helicopter parents and made into a cause – the “Millennials” – by a generation of Baby Boom media who want to have someone to poke and prod the way they were poked and prodded and examined – many of whom are out in the streets protesting for $15 an hour to run a shake machine (for a while, maybe), it’s worth remembering this;  the officers, the pilots and navigators and bombardiers who flew these planes, averaged 22 years old.

Their enlisted crewmen?  The flight engineers and radiomen and 3-4 gunners on each plane?  They averaged 19 years old.

And this was what they did just to get the planes – in this case, the B24 – into the air.

Pretty amazing.

A Dilemma

As the sales of my first book, Trulbert!, continue to outpace my meager expectations, the question “what next” is occupying more and more of my time.

I’ve been thinking about compiling my Twenty Years Ago Today series into an e-book, for all the people who’ve asked me about it over the past decade (and there have been quite a few).  I am strongly thinking about putting that out this September, in time for the tenth anniversary of the series.

But in terms of original books, as opposed to “Hewitts” (books compiled from blog posts)?

There are a few contenders:

  • “An Accidental Conservative”:  how a guy who by all rights should have been a liberal, became a conservative.  Then a libertarian.  Then a libertarian-conservative again.  And why.   Pros:  that book is largely also already written.  Cons:  I have to dig through a little over 12,000 blog posts to assemble it.
  • “Josef Sklrbczsz, American”:  The story of a young man from an Eastern European goat-town whose entire knowledge of America comes from the mass media.  Then, he comes to America.
  • “Purple Sunset”:  An expansion of my “Secession Diaries” stories, from ten years ago.  Pros:  It’d be a fun piece to write.  Cons:  What?  Me, write a book of absurdist speculative political fiction?

The Twenty Years Ago one is kind of a no-brainer.

Beyond that?  The sky is the limit…

Settled Science

Spotify put together of the top Fourth of July music in their playlists.

And some of the results are a little surprising:

Click to see full-size.

Click to see full-size.

The heartland is, perhaps a little unsurprisingly, into Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA”.

I was a little surprised to see Illinois go for “ROCK in the USA” by John Mellencamp – while Mellencamp’s native Indiana chose Greenwood over their rabid-blue favorite musical son.

A bit less surprising?  California and Florida chose “America!  F*** Yeah!”, from Team America: World Police.

The high-quality shock?  West Virginia going with “American Girl” by Tom Petty.  West Virginia – f*** yeah!

And while New Jersey went with Springsteen’s “Born in the USA”, I was gladdened to see New York State opt with “Fourth Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)”, from Springsteen’s 1974 The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle  album.  Kudos, WV and NY!

But the one that opened my eyes?  North Dakota, New Hampshire and Maine going with Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA”.

This struck me as odd.  So I dug deeper.

And I found this map:

Click for full-size image.

You’ll note that these are three of the five states in the lower 48 where Spanish isn’t the second most popular language.

The inescapable conclusion?

Latinos hate Miley Cyrus.