You’re Invited!

It seems like just yesterday Katie Kieffer and her friends were vexing the management at Saint Thomas with all sorts of conservative hijinx – like publishing a conservative newspaper on the famously liberal campus, and booking an appearance by Ann Coulter over the fervid phumphering of college president Dennis “Havana Denny” Dease.

Katie’s on to bigger and better things, now; her first book, Let Me Be Clear, is coming out next month.   We talked about it on the show last Saturday; it’s Katie’s view of the world facing Millennials, and what to do about it.

She’s holding a pre-launch party; it’s on Wednesday, June 4th from 6-8:30 pm. at Casper’s Cherokee in Eagan (just off Cliff at Nichols).  And unlike some big-buck K Street soirée, yoiu’re invited…

…or, actually, technically, you have the ability to invite yourself!

Sue Jeffers, Ed Morrissey and I will be there.  Hope you can be too!

Tech We Can Use

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Dear Apple,

I need a mood-sensing iPod to play only songs that fit my mood; otherwise, I must click to skip songs that don’t fit my mood and that annoys me, which puts me in a bad mood. For example:

Doctor My Eyes

Doctor Wu

Does Anybody Know What Time It Is (Chicago Transit Authority album long version)

Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina (Patti LuPone version)


Don’t Cry for Me, Eileen

should Not be followed by Helen Reddy scolding me “Don’t Cry Out Loud.” Steve Jobs would have understood this. Get on it, please.

Joe Doakes

All I know is come tax time, my MP3 player ran “Money Changes Everything”, “Gimme Some Money” and “Money (That’s What I Want)” back to back.

The Client Is Obviously Guilty

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

An Old White Guy is married but has a much-younger mistress. He’s rich enough to give her a condo and Bentley and fool enough to think he can order her around. He told her he doesn’t mind her cheating on him: she can sleep with her other lovers, just don’t embarrass him by posting pictures of those other lovers online or bringing them to LA Clippers basketball games because his Old-White-Guy buddies tease him about it. His wife found out and is suing the gold-digging mistress to get the stuff back. So the mistress secretly taped the old guy and released the tape to the gossip sites to gain advantage in the litigation. So far, sounds pretty normal for Hollywood, right?

Oh, did I mention the mistress is Black? And the Old White Guy owns the basketball team?

The media is ablaze with news that racism has been found in America. The league is investigating. Al Sharpton will lead a rally. The players wore black armbands while they lost the game. Even President Obama – halfway around the world – felt the need to comment. Everyone is outraged that America is such a horribly racist place.

Except . . . it’s pretty weak beer. The guy is 80 years old, a relic from two generations ago. He was having a private conversation with his mistress, asking her not to cuckold him in public, which seems a reasonable request from a Sugar Daddy to a Gold-digger. He has owned the team for 20 years and has never been accused of racism before. In fact, the NAACP was all set to give him a Lifetime Achievement Award in two weeks, which means he must have been doing all the right things in race relations up until this point. He’s a private citizen, not a US Senator and Kleagle in the Ku Klux Klan. Okay, yes, he has unfashionable opinions; but he’s not exactly representative of mainstream America today.

The whole thing reminds me of Oprah claiming to be discriminated against while she was shopping in Switzerland, just in time to promote her new movie. If these Extortion-by-Race incidents are the best examples of racism to be found today, then we can pretty well conclude that actual racism in America is dead and gone.

Joe Doakes

whatever Sterling’s views – and everything I’ve read so far strikes me as he’s the kind of casual, not especially ideological racist that a lot of people were in that generation, even if you leave out the whole “sugar daddy/Golddigger” thing – he’s basically this year’s Trayvon Martin; a bone to be chewed in yet another Democrat “base turnout” campaign.

Attention, World

To:  The English-Speaking World
From: Mitch Berg, Angry Language Purist
Re:  Lunchtime Frenzy of Anger

Dear World:


It’s pronounced “Sha-POTE-lay”.

Not “Sha-POLE-tay”.

See to this at once or suffer the consequences.  Flaming, shrapnel-laden consequences.

That is all.

Limited Engagement

Just dropping a quick line to let you know that one of the most popular features in the history of this blog, “Hot Gear Friday”, will be making its return this Friday for a limited run of, well, hot gear!

A Technical Question

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails with a request for some geek help:

I know some tech people read this blog.  Anybody have an opinion on the Samsung Chrome Book, $249 at Staples?

On vacation, I use a Toshiba Excite 10” tablet to surf the web and check email and Facebook.  No keyboard = frustrating.  The Chrome Book would solve that without adding a Bluetooth keyboard to lug around.

At home, the grandkids use the tablet to play touch-screen games like Angry Birds but I don’t play them so touch-screen gaming is irrelevant to me.

Any other serious drawbacks I’m missing?

Joe Doakes

Might have to see if AM1280′s assistant ops manager Jon Osburn is tuned in…

Don’t Forget

When making your weekend plans – tomorrow the NARN will be broadcasting live from Bill’s Gun Shop and Range, for the Shooter Show. 

And remember – ahem:

You Get To Test-Fire Your Choice Of Firearms, For Free!

(You buy the ammo…)

The show starts today, and runs through Sunday – but I hope you’ll join me for the broadcast, and a ton of shooting, tomorrow from 1-3PM!

(I’ll be adjourning to “the Lodge”, next door, for a drink or two after the show.  Hope you can join me there!)

Conservatives: Invariably Smarter

New scientific poll proves that conservatives are better readers than liberals – and this translates into higher general intelligence.

This is, of course, as I’ve always suspected; liberals are big on talking about how intelligent they are, what conservatives usually stick to demonstrating it in their jobs, families, and daily lives.

For all of their babbling about snake-handling and “Faux” News and Christine O’Donnell and the like, any actual conservative dealing with liberals on a daily basis knew this to be a fact, in the pit of their gut. 

But that was anecdotal.  This?  This is settled science.

Continue reading

Publishing Notes

While we wait for further news on Katie Kieffer’s first book – of which more to come soon – I’m happy to notice that XKCD is publishing a book this fall.

Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions will be published September 2nd by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Starting today you can pre-order it from your favorite bookseller (Barnes & NobleAmazonIndie Bound).  There are also foreign editions, including a UK and Commonwealth edition and a German edition

Sounds like my next couple of airplane trips are covered!

I’ve Got A Theory Of My Own

An observation from The Blaze:

In nearly all movies involving “gangsters” with guns, you’re bound to see the firearm cocked sideways. It was even a joke in the movie Date Night where Steve Carell’s character calls this position the “kill shot.”

Methodist gangster illustrating the “John Woo Grip”.

A former U.S. Marine Corps marksmanship instructor thinks there could be some merit to that logic, according to the Daily Mail.

In an effort to save time, make a getaway and maintain some accuracy, Davis said the method being used is called “flash sight picture,” which aims down the side of the gun. It isn’t necessarily the most precise, but it can get the job done.

My theory – which is both utterly free of evidence and, I suspect, absolutely correct – is this:  during the 1980s, as the drug war was ramping up, the CIA infiltrated gangs in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Miami and along the border, and began teaching gangs the grip.  They also got to famed Hong-Kongese (Hong Kongian?  Hong Konger?) filmmaker John Woo, and got him to glorify the sideways grip in countless film shootouts.

The motivation, of course, was to save police.  It has had the concomitant effect of saving countless gangster targets over the years, while killing or maiming countless innocent bystanders who were sitting in second-floor apartments 45 degrees off the line of fire.  One Minneapolis cop once told me, back in the eighties, that the safest place to be in a gang shootout was the target; actual participants seemed to be very rarely harmed in gang shootouts,then as now.

We can thank the John Woo grip for this.

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Occam’s Autopilot

In 1969, the US submarine Scorpion, homeward bound from the Mediterranean in the South Atlantic, disappeared without a trace. 

The search was finally resolved when a Navy researcher, John Piña Craven, using Bayesian search methods and, in effect, a free market approach to sorting through the various hypotheses, found the wreck.  It took a while – but in the end, the path to the sub’s wreck was perfectly logical.

The media – inflamed by the Malaysian government’s political skeeviness – is spinning conspiracy theories as fast as it can get them on the air these days.

If I had to bet?  I’d say this guy has it right.

Just a hunch – but if I had to bet, I’d go long on the theory.

In A Party Mood

I have a shot at throwing a get-together involving…:

  1. Guns, and 
  2. Beer

…in that order, and that order alone.   It’d be on a Saturday afternoon, sometime in the next couple of weeks.

Just thought I’d throw out a trial balloon to see if anyone’s interested?

It’s Donor Season!

Not to joke about the death of young Anand Baskanan, a Long Island transplant who came to Minnesota to work at 3M, and brought his passion for very fast racing motorcyles with him…

…to I394 this past weekend, where he apparently dumped it while racing at 100-120mph one night.  Baskanan died at the scene.  My condolences to his friends and family.

Continue reading

Falcon: Forty

Outrageous inflation in military spending isn’t a modern phenomenon.  Since the end of the Cold War, though, we don’t hear as much about it.

But in the 1970s, it was getting headlines.  The costs involved in developing weapons were zooming.  And nowhere were these costs more publicized than with aircraft.

In the late ’60s and early ’70s, the development of several key Air Force and Navy aircraft blossomed into inflationary nightmares.  It started with the F-111, whose protracted development time and cost overruns became a national controversy in the ’60s and early ’70s.

An Australian F-111.

The Navy’s F-14 program (that’d be the plane Tom Cruise, Anthony Edwards and Val Kilmer flew in Top Gun) wasn’t as troubled – but each copy of the plane ran to well over $20 million 1972 dollars, which equals $111,000,000 today, giving a generation of American budget-watchers sticker shock.

An F-14 Tomcat. Not “TomKat”. Sheesh.

The Air Force’s F-15 was another expensive one, marginally cheaper than the F-14 for about the same mission.

An F-15 Eagle

The ballooning cost caused some military theorists to speculate we’d be better off buying more, cheaper aircraft; that in a potential Hot War, the huge number of relatively cheaper Soviet airframes would take horrible casualties against the technologically formidable US planes, but that at the end of the battle there’d be so many Soviets that the Americans would end up getting shot down any way.  Better, the theorists said, to buy many, many of the relatively cheap ($3-4 million a pop in the mid-seventies) F-5, which was comparable with a Soviet Mig-21.

A Mig 21 of the Lithuanian Air Force. First fielded in the late 1950s, over 10,000 Mig 21s were built – the most of any jet fighter in history.

With this in mind, General Dynamics set about trying to split the difference; building as smaller, lighter, less-expensive fighter plane.   This became the F-16 – called the “Falcon” by the Air Force, the “Viper” by many of its own pilots (and the “Lawn Dart” by F-15 pilots, after a few unfortunate crashes early in its development).

An F-16

And the first F-16 flew forty years ago this month.

Weights and costs rose, inevitably, as well – but for the price the Air Force got a plane with a number of firsts:  it was the first “relaxed-stability” fighter plane controlled by “fly by wire” technology.  Stable planes – like an airliner – are designed to fly efficiently and comfortably in straight lines.  They’re stable.  Airline passengers like them that way.  But airliners don’t have to pull 6G (six times the force of gravity) turns to evade incoming missiles, either (ideally).  Fighter planes do, on occasion – and while stability makes flying in one direction easier, it makes it harder to crank the plane into a sudden turn.  Unstable planes are, well, unstable; they’re prone to tipping over and rolling about at random, unless the pilot is in complete control – more complete than a human can possibly manage.  The F-16 used a computer to automatically adjust the control surfaces, many times per second, to keep the plane artificially stable in forward flight, but use the plane’s inherent instability to help it maneuver very quickly.  This technology also involved replacing the traditional mechanical control cables and connections with an electronic data bus, delivering electronic signals from the computer and, less frequently, the pilot, to the plane’s control surfaces (which had the added effect of getting rid of parts that, traditionally, are among a combat aircraft’s most vulnerable to damage).  It made the F-16 the most nimble fighter jet of its era, and one of the most maneuverable of our era as well.

The view (backwards, obviously) from the bubble canopy of an F-16. At least one of this blog’s semi-regular commenters has spent a fair chunk of his career with this view from his office. I’m hoping he shows up for this thread…

There were other advances – a frameless bubble canopy giving an unimpeded view of the surroundings, a pilot seat that was reclined 30° to reduce the physical effects of the gravitational forces involved in violent maneuvering on the pilot, “Hands on Throttle and Stick” controls that put most of the plane’s key controls on the two controls that the pilot kept his hands on most of the time, as well as moving the “stick” (which controls roll and pitch) from between the pilot’s knees to the right side of the seat.

Cockpit of an F-16. I recognize the stick on the right, the ejector seat control in the bottom center, and the throttle on the left. Beyond that, I couldn’t close the canopy much less read anything.

Many of these features have been found on most fighter planes developed since then.  Some – “fly by wire” – have even popped up on commercial passenger aircraft.

The F-16 was adopted by two dozen other countries, and produced in five (US, Belgium, the Netherlands, Turkey and South Korea).  It flew in combat in both Gulf Wars and over Bosnia, and has also flown in combat for the Dutch, Belgian, Danish, Norwegian, Pakistani, Venezuelan and (in limited skirmishes against each other) Greek and Turkish air forces.

Norwegian F-16 dropping a stick of bombs

And above all, Israel has used the F-16, as its principle multi-role fighter plane.  Eight of them (escorted by a flight of F-15s) bombed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear plant in 1981, to stall Hussein’s nuclear program.  The raid highlighted both the flexibility of the F-16 (it was both an excellent fighter and a capable bomber) and the skill of Israel’s pilots (one pilot dropped his bomb through a hole in the reactor containment building that had been drilled by the previous plane’s bomb).

Israeli F-16

The F-16 has traditionally been scheduled to fly until 2025 – but delays in its putative replacement, the F-35, have likely stretched that a few years.

By Government Committee

It made the news  last year – a number of ghastly gang rapes in India that outraged the parts of the nation that were capable of outrage. 

The BBC reports that some Indian women are taking the sensible approach – within the bounds of India’s patriarchical and confusing gun laws, anyway – and arming themselves.

There are really two stories, here:

Parallels:  It’s interesting to see that India – which is behind only the US in numbers of private guns in circulaation, mostly unregistered –  has some of the same battle lines as the US does. 

On the one hand, the hysterical gun-grabbers, with their downright delusional views on what “security” means.  Their anti-gunners are as big a pack of ninnies as ours are (with emphasis added by me):

“I am horrified, shocked and angered,” says Binalakshmi Nepram, founder of the Women Gun Survivors Network in the north-eastern state of Manipur, who says it’s the government’s responsibility to ensure the security of its citizens.

“It’s ridiculous that the state is talking about arming women… The authorities saying, ‘Hey woman, come there’s a new gun for you which will make you safer,’ is an admission of failure on their part.”…Nepram, whose organisation has been studying gun violence in eight Indian states for a number of years, says having a gun doesn’t “make you safer, it actually enhances your risk”.

“Our research shows that a person is 12 times more likely to be shot dead if they are carrying a gun when attacked,” she says.

And on the other, smart people who know what’s really up – like this Indian top cop who echoes the opinion of Detroit’s chief of police:

Ram Krishna Chaturvedi, the chief of police for Kanpur and several nearby districts, thinks it does.

“It is definitely a good idea. If you have a licensed weapon, it increases your self-confidence and creates fear in the minds of criminals,” she says

Now, we live in the US.  As the media reminds us, there are a lot of guns out there – almost all of them in the hands of law-abiding citizens.  And there are private firearms companies that are more than happy to fill the demand, which has been unprecedented for the past five years (even as crime rates plummet). 

Design By Government Committee:  The BBC piece leads with the introduction of a “pistol for women”, by the Indian Ordnance Factory (a state-run gun works in the city of Kanpur).

The “Nirbheek”. 1.1 pounds, .32 caliber.

The plant’s spokesman says:

“It’s small, it’s lightweight, it weighs only 500g [1.1lb], and it can easily fit into a lady’s purse.”

[Plant manager Abdul] Hameed speaks enthusiastically about the .32-calibre revolver, praising the “special titanium alloy body, the pleasing-to-the-eye wooden handle”.

“The six-shot gun is easy to handle and it can hit its target accurately up to 15m [50ft],” he explains, pointing out the word “Nirbheek” engraved on the barrel.

If you’re a gun geek, the profile looks familiar. 

A Webley .455 revolver – a veteran of the Boer War and World War 1, designed in 1887.

In other words, the Indian government has scaled down a 125-year-old design, replacing the docile but effective .455 cartidge with the .32 popgun round – itself barely more powerful than a .22 caliber plinking gun. And it scaled “down” to a little over a pound.

Oh, yeah – and it costs $1,900, brand new. 

In comparison, a typical little .380 caliber pocket pistol weights in around 10 ounces unloaded, and fires a round with almost double the hitting power of the puny .32.

A Kahr .380 pocket pistol; 2/3 the weight of the Indian gun, double the hitting power, and holds an extra round in the bargain.

And you can buy almost five of the Kahrs for the price of one of the Indian pieces.

Just saying – yay, free enterprise.

And I want to set up a SIG sales territory in Mumbai.

File Under “Things Everyone In The Twin Cities IT Community Knew A Year Ago”

MNSure’s development process was, and remains, a shambles:

An Optum report released Wednesday cites major problems with MNsure.

According to the report, “Program management structure and process is nonexistent.” Optum says MNsure’s management decision making was “occurring via crisis mode.”

Thing is, the warning signs were there.  

Why, if only our society had an institution – perhaps one with printing presses and transmitters and a legion of workers who consider themselves an order of aescetic info-monks, dedicated to bringing the truth to the unwashed masses…

…that don’t get financially tied to the institutions they’re supposed to be covering.

Check Out My 1912 Telephone

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails re a birthday that’s coming up tomorrow:

January 23, 1855 was the birthday of John Moses Browning, who single-handedly revolutionized firearms.  Look at the list of cartridges he designed, and weapons he designed them for, many of which are still in use today. 

In an age when some Americans think we’re the Smartest People Ever, it’s worth remembering that clever people did amazing things before we came along.

Joe Doakes

As I noted two years ago - try to imagine a product (a fairly complex product – not a shovel or an ax) designed over 100 years ago that’s still in widespread use today in its original, unimproved form.