Bullets And Butter

Joe Doakes, no longer from Como Park, emails:

“Return of the Rifleman” is the title of a big write-up in the NRA magazine on the subject of the Army’s new rifle.

You didn’t know?  Neither did I.  Turns out the Army has been looking for a new rifle and cartridge since WW II when the M1 with its 30.06 bullets in stripper clips was determined to be too slow and too heavy.  “Lighter weight” and “capable of fully automatic fire to saturate close range targets” got us the M16 but now the Army is looking for an upgrade again.  

6.8 x 51 mm cartridge at 80,000 psi chamber pressure gave better ballistics than the .223, 308, 30-06 or even the 6.5 Creedmore.  Slightly smaller diameter than the 7.62 x 51 NATO round but same length cartridge requires an AR-10 sized platform.  Steel jacketed cartridges weigh slightly less than brass and are cheaper to make but cartridge size is the same.  No reduction in total size or weight, no gain in rounds carried, so the deciding factor was effective range: 800 yards.

I have trouble believing new recruits will be able to hit anything shooting that far.  Current Army rifle qualification course shot with an M16 is a series of 40 pop-up targets from 25 to 300 yards.   That’s a far cry from the 800 yards the new gun was designed for.   Also, the whole point of switching to the 5.56×54 M16 rifle and 9mm pistol ammo was standardization with our NATO allies.  Is that out the window now? 

My question: does this signal a change in strategy?  What war are they anticipating?  Where will combat troops be expecting clear fields of fire half-a-mile long to make use of a new cartridge?  Not in Europe, not interchangeable with our allies.  Not in the jungle, that’s for close range weapons.  Not in the desert, that’s what the Barrett is for.  Where does the Army anticipate it will be fighting?

Russia?

China?

America? 

Makes me think conspiracy theory thoughts about the military industrial complex wanting a change merely so it can sell new hardware and ammo; and the administration wanting to ban sales of AR15 ammunition to civilians to preserve manufacturing capacity for the Army to supply its new guns; and whether the newest woke recruits wearing red high heels and rainbow arm bands will be able to use the new gun/ammo to full effect. 

I’m a big believer in Chesterton’s Fence.  Color me skeptical about this change.

Joe Doakes, formerly in Como Park

Not that I disagree with Joe – it’s hard to be too cynical about any branch of today’s American government – but there are rationales for the caliber change.

This particular Youtube account – by a former admittedly mediocre infantryman, who does some really good open-source intelligence stuff – explains some tactical rationales from a grunt’s-eye view.

As to the caliber thing? I do feel a little awkward as an American. In the sixties, we jammed 7.62.51 down on NATO, over the objection of the Brits, whose 7x43mm round had immense potential to be the sort of “intermediate” cartridge that modern “Assault Rifles” needed; America believed in long-range marksmanship, which required the full power cartridge…

…until Vietnam, when it turned out long range marksmanship was largely irrelevant, and the US jammed down the 5.56x45mm.

Which brings us to another jamdown, today.

Two Plagues

Call me a curmudgeon if you will. I don’t care. If caring about the classic art and craft of doing radio makes me a curmudgeon, then I’ll get a “Curmudgeon” face tattoo and wear it with pride.

Figuratively speaking. Face tattoos are a horror.

Anyway.

There are two plagues afoot in the world of radio.

Decline And Fall: Broadcasters – especially big broadcast networks – have been strapped for cash for a decade and a half. Big chains, like IHeart, went on leveraged buying sprees in the mid 2000s, just in time for the advertising market to collapse in 2008. The revenue never really bounced all the way back – the recovery from 2008 coincided with the rise of streaming, “renting” music, and a near complete collapse of the music radio market that had kept radio handsomely afloat from the late fifties to the early 2000s.

So big radio networks are in the same bind as companies that manufacture white-out, paper checks and rotary phones; they cater to a market that’s shrinking by the month. Outside of conservative talk, Spanish and sports radio, most of the radio industry involves trying to coax a shrinking cohort of baby boomers and Gen-Xers to tune in to morning shows. Music radio, once the marketing cornerstone of the music industry, is scarcely relevant.

The traditional talent pool in broadcast, up until probably the 1990s, worked a little like this: people started as disk jockeys, usually in small markets, and via combination of talent, perseverance, opportunism and luck, worked their slow, laborious way up the ladder of market size; from Cody Wyoming to Casper, thence to Palm Springs, then on to San Diego and finally Los Angeles was a typical trajectory, with each echelon in the market weeding out tranches of non-hackers, who went into sales or real estate or managing Shopkos, leaving only the most talented, determined and lucky to make it on the air in the big-money markets.

Rush Limbaugh altered that dynamic in talk radio – pre-empting the bottom of the talk food chain with his syndicated shows; joined by Hannity and Pagliorulo and Prager and Hewitt and the rest, the middle of the ladder pretty much evaporated as well.

And then in the rest of radio – with little money left in the industry, and most of what was there soaked up by the Dave Ryans and Tom Barnards who were left in the business, most of the “disk jockey” jobs at the bottom, and then the middle and upper-middle, of the ladder transformed into “voice tracking” – recording bits onto computer files which would be stitched into place between songs by computer. A jock might earn decent money – but be tracking for several stations during a given shift, not really building up an identity as a “star” anywhere. Which was fine, given that stardom was more or less irrelevant.

And so with the talent pool in both music and talk radio disrupted, the big broadcasters needed to find another source of talent to fill in slots when the holdovers from the golden ages of music and talk started leaving the scene.

The Plaguecast. And so major broadcasters – commercial and public – turned to the pool of “podcasters” that sprang up around the time streaming began supplanting broadcast.

And it’s been mostly dreadful.

Here’s why.

Good radio is the original social medium. Since the dawn of music and talk radio, the hallmark of good radio is being able to reach through the signal chain – the microphone, the transmitter, the electromagnetic spectrum, your receiver, and finally to you – and give you the impression the announcer, the host, is talking to, playing a record for, telling a joke or story, to and for you. To be able to push that “live” energy through all those layers of misdirection, not to talk at you, but to talk to you. Personally. Or at least give you that feeling deep down in your gut. Its a live medium (or used to be), a conversation with stimulus and response traveling back and forth at the speed of sound and, in between us, the speed of light.

Podcasts, on the other hand, is one or more people talking into a microphone and getting recorded. There is no fact, much less illusion, of pushing energy out to real, live people. Podcasts are, at best, storytelling (which can be wonderful, but is not interactive; it’s tellers, and it’s listeners, and never the twain shall meet. At worst? It’s a group of people having a conversation that you listen to.

And you can tell when someone who’s started in that medium tries to transpose that style to live (or live-ish) radio. Buck Sexton and Clay Travis (or is it Buck Travis and Clay Sexton? I have no idea, to be honest), who sit in Rush Limbaugh’s time slot ‘cross much of the land, but can’t seriously be said to have “replaced” him, are classic examples. They chatter through the issues of the day – but unlike Limbaugh, who pushed an energy down the signal chain that felt like he was in your car with you, talking to you. Clay and Buck came up through the world of podcasting, and they were very successful at it. And they sound like a couple of guys kibitzing – because they are a couple of guys kibitzing, via a digital connection, watching each other via Skype.

The format makes a little more sense on NPR – because public radio has always given the impression that it’s a room full of “elites” talking to each other (barring a few old-timers, like “Weekend Edition”‘s Bob Simon, who is one of the most gloriously talented and utterly underrated broadcasters on NPR…

…which is rapidly becoming a podcast network, in the worst sense of the term.

We’ll come back to that later today.

Chatter. Speaking of Public Radio…

One of the iron clad bits of craft in traditional radio is “Don’t half-ass it with an open mic. Say something, or be silent. Don’t create background chatter”, whether that chatter be walking over other voices, or just making inchoate noises in the background. They are a distraction. They divert the energy you’re trying to push out in the world.

But over this past 2-3 years, something has crept into the NPR style guide that annoys the crap out of me.

It goes a little something like this:

HOST: “So, what’s your take on the situation”

GUEST: “Well, the impact it’s had has been drastic…”

HOST: (Quietly, almost non-verbally) Hmmm.

GUEST: “and weill be affecting the area for years…”

HOST: (Barely audibly) “Huh”

GUEST: “…to come”.

I say “Added to the style guide”, because to paraphrase Fred Thompson in Hunt for Red October, Public Radio doesn’t take a dump if it’s not in the script ,and it’s not in the script if it’s not vetted against a style guide by an editor.

Why? To give the illusion of empathy? To create the audio impression the host is paying attention?

Little subvocal interjection are all over the place, and they drive me absolutely insane.

Together, they are two of many plagues upon the radio industry.

More about both, tomorrow noon.

No Sense Of Measure

I’ve never been a huge fan of 60s-80s prog-rock band “Yes”, really.

But I am a huge fan of artistic excess.

Actual “Yes” fans dunk on me pretty hard for being much more into their eighties incarnation, with Trever Rabin replacing Steve Howe on guitar – the edition of the band that did Owner of a Lonely Heart almost forty years ago…

…and, its followup single, this weird, elliptical, “prog”-rock meets new wave detour “Leave It”, with one of the weirder videos in the early history of MTV:

Did I say “one?”

I recall a brief blurp of controversy in the eighties about the video – or videos – to this song, but I never retained many of the details.

But details, there were – a total of 18 videos, produced by Kevin Godley and Lol Creme, the art-rock polymaths behind the band “10cc”, who went on to write the figurative book on “groundbreaking”, disconcerting and, now, oddly archaic video production.

And the story just gets better and better:

I’m almost sorry I missed this the first time around.

It’s from the brief period where I could actually enjoy “Yes”, apropos not much.

Opportunities

Joe Doakes from Como Park emailed (a little while ago):

I had an airplane reserved but they cancelled. Tornado in Cannon Falls. Too windy for light planes to safely fly. Disappointing.

Some people spend their whole lives chasing storms. I had one drop right in my lap and I missed it.

Feels like being a kid again. “Other people have all the fun, I never get to. It’s so unfair.”

Joe Doakes

as someone who occasionally likes to chase storms (when they aren’t chasing me) they both sound pretty cool.

Hot Gear Friday: The Higher Power

Every guy’s got a first love.

Sometimes it’s tragic, sometimes comic, often wistful or bittersweet – but it lurks in the background, occasionally sliding into the back, occasionally the front, of the mind, whispering “think about what might have been”.

Sometimes its a girl – a misty memory of a smile, a glint from her eyes, a wisp of hair that accents a charged ocnversation over school desks or across a bar or over a counter bookshelf or endcap at a store, a bit of vocal tone that drills into your memory and, on occasion, giggles at your joke across the years.

Sometimes it’s a guitar – to a non-guitaraist, an inert assembly of wood and wire and metal that looks cool; to you, a heft and a tone and a feel that drills into your brain and gives what’s in there a direct path straight out through your fingers, in ways you’d thought were just verbal unicorn-farts from other guitar players, but that you suddenly understand – and, deterred by timing and budget and your current reality, go back up on the stand, to remain in your mind, whspering “what if”.

It can be a job – a time or place where you felt all the things that humans seek and, in our modern world, miss all too often; accomplishment and compensation, sure, but companionship and respect and common goals, a time in your working life when earning a living, enjoying your day and feeling fulfilled in your life weren’t mutually exclusive.

A car? Sure – one that fit your life and your self-image so perfectly people remember you and that car in the same breath to this day?

Sure!

And sometimes?

Continue reading

Amazon Delivers

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

I’ve had my complaints about Amazon; and I recognize the social and economic threat posed by a single vendor running everybody else out of business; but consider:

I’ve been reading SciFi/Fantasy books my whole life. I just ran across a recommendation for The Chronicles of Prydain, which I’d never heard of. Placed my order for the five-book boxed set ($33) and it’ll be here tomorrow. Wait, what? I stumble across some random collection of young adult books and they’ve got it sitting in the warehouse in Shakopee? How big is that place?

On Friday, I tried out my new Beofung UV-5R handheld ham radio ($25 and yes, I hold a Technician license so it’s legal for me to talk on it). The ham I was chatting with said he could hardly hear me over the background noise. Might be a bad unit, Chinese junk, it happens. I went to Amazon to order a second unit – keep the one that works, return the other. Okay, it’ll be there in five hours. Wait, what? I realize it’s the most popular ham radio in the world so of course they have it in the warehouse, but if I order in the next 20 minutes it’ll be delivered to my doorstep tonight? For free? How many delivery drivers does Amazon have?

I saved a trip to Barnes and Noble (which probably would have been wasted because their SF/F section is only five shelves out of the entire store), and saved a trip to the Ham Radio Outlet in Milwaukee (last Twin Cities store closed two years ago), paid the same prices as I’d have paid brick-and-mortar stores and got free delivery to my doorstep faster than I could have driven to the store and back.

Retail has changed over time. The pioneers bought whatever limited selection of goods was stocked in the local General Store because they had no choice. Later, they ordered from the Sears catalogue for greater selection and department stores drove the mom-and-pop stores out of business. Now Amazon’s wider selection and faster delivery has driven Sears out of business. There’s a reason Amazon is taking over the retail world. And you know what? I’m surprisingly okay with it. What I want to know is . . . what’s next?

Joe Doakes

Artisanal bartering?

Some Conclusions “Science” Needs To Make

I’m not sure there’s scientific evidence of any of these – but if someone gave me a seven figure government grant, I’m sure I could come up with some.

School Kids “Walking Out Of Class” Is Not Spontaneous: Big Left must be trying to get people to the polls in nine months; the headlines are again full of stories of teenagers “walking out of school” to “protest” “causes”.

Amazingly, there were news cameras waiting right there as they walked out of school, carrying their professionally printed signs!

Those are some pretty motivated, well-funded, well-organized high school kids!

There are, of course, exceptions.

Mascists, Lockdown Fanboys/Fangirls Will Exhibit Deep Psychological Issues When Crisis Fades: The people hectoring you about your mask at Target are having the time of their lives right now. Feeling that they’re saving lives by badgering people about masks, virtue-signalling their vaxx status, and demanding we stay the locked-down course are living out their version of fighting an existential threat – sort of like their grandfathers landing on Utah Beach, only with DoorDash bringing them Oaxacan tacos, left “safely” on their doorsteps.

And like many of those veterans, when the crisis is over, so will end The Best Years Of Their Lives.

I”m picturing a movie in ten years about the readjustment blues and trauma that “veterans” of the pandemic will feel – sort of like Coming Home, only with DoorDash bringing Oaxacan tacos.

Birthday Greetings

Think about the evolution of military equipment over the past 100 years.

In 1920, the infantryman carried a bolt-action rifle. The tanker drove a rattle-trap armored against rifle fire that could clank along at 3-4 miles an hour. Many of the navy’s ships were powered by coal, and the big cannon was the sine qua non of naval warfare. Pilots flew in planes made of wood and doped canvas – basically box kites with motors, armed with machine guns and glorified grenades.

Thirty years later, the infantry carried cyclic-fire weapons, tanks could shake off light artillery (usually) the Navy’s sunday punch was powered by oil, and planes were the piston-engine equivalent of todays’ Formula 1 cars and the first jets were duking it out in the skies, armed with cannon and the first crude guided missiles.

Thirty years after that, tanks could hit the speed limit, see in the dark and shake off big, powerful artillery. The pride of the Navy was nuclear-powered. The first “stealth” aircraft were just starting to take shape at the Skunk works, and the front-line planes were armed with radar and infrared missiles that could reach out, in some cases, 100 miles.

And forty years hence? Drones are in the field, ships are stealthy, aircraft can shoot down aircraft that have no idea they’re there.

But through each of those eras, there’s been one thing in common – the M2 (HB)

Which was, as it happens, adopted by the US Army (in this case ,the long-disbanded Coast Artillery branc) for the first time 100 years ago this year. I’m gonna throw it out today, since I have no idea what the actual date of adoption was.

Here’s a quick history and tear-down guide…:

…from a channel that’s probably the most essential source of firearms trivia on the Internet.

Connect The Dots!

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

If I can see the sign, then I will know I can ask for a menu for the blind?

If I can read the sign in English, then I can ask for a picture menu for people who cannot read English?


I expect this is corporate HR’s attempt to satisfy the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.


It is worthy of ridicule.


Joe Doakes

Not to be a contrarian, but I suspect Joe’s first paragraph is correct.I would guess that most blind customers don’t walk in the McDonald’s on their own.

Among those that do? The sign is there to remind the staff, as well.

But yes, it is absolutely there to satisfy the ADA – and to placate regulators, and especially the people that wander from store to store looking for ADA lawsuits to file.

Ack Shu Ally

On the one hand, this article, by a Joe Morgan, explains why he is rejecting the “Learn to Code” meme, especially as applied to his kids under the chanting point “coding is the new litracy”:

I’m a Developer. I Won’t Teach My Kids to Code, and Neither Should You.

Now, in my opinion the presented reason is a little specious:

Coding is not the new literacy. While most parents are literate and know to read to their kids, most are not programmers and have no idea what kind of skills a programmer needs. Coding books for kids present coding as a set of problems with “correct” solutions. And if your children can just master the syntax, they’ll be able to make things quickly and easily. But that is not the way programming works. Programming is messy. Programming is a mix of creativity and determination. Being a developer is about more than syntax, and certain skills can only be taught to the very young.

Sure.

And by the exact same logic, one shouldn’t teach your kids to read, write or speak your family’s native language, or any others, since you can say exactly the same thing about verbal and written expression; it’s more than just stringing words together, as anyone who’s had to listen anyone trying to do a foreign language out of a phrase book can tell you.

Of course, Morgan is right about what’s really behind “coding”:

That feeling of quality is the hardest thing for many developers to master. Well-designed code feels good to work with, and ugly code will make developers involuntarily cringe. The best developers learn to fuse abstract logic with the sensitivity of an artist. Learning to trust that aesthetic feeling is as much a part of development as any algorithm or coding pattern.

That’s true – just as it is for written and spoken language. Or anything involving having to think critically, to reason and to work one’s way through a complex system, whether language or software engineering, politics, sales, or human relationships for that matter.

But the reason I, as a non-coder who works in a roomful of software engineers, cringe when I year people whose jobs don’t involve “coding” telling people who’ve just lost jobs to “learn to code?”

Because if you hitch your wagon to “code’, your job is as secure as the next country full of low-priced developers allows it to be. We spent the 2000s shipping software engineering jobs to Russia and India; in the 2010s, Romania and the Philippines and Slovenia and even Bolivia started taking development jobs.

It’s entirely possible coding will be to the 2020s what assembly line work was to the 1970s.

Learn to think.

Peak Minnesota

During the Twin Cities marathon yesterday, former Viking and former Minnesota supreme court justice Allen Page…

Photo courtesy John Welbes (@jwelbes on Twitter)

…cheering on the runners by playing the sousaphone.

Got to say, Page is looking pretty good for a 76-year-old guy, especially for a former NFL lineman from back in the “concussion? We don’t care about no stinking concussion“ stage of the game.

Cut

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails

My Comcast bill seems high for what I get. I have the Basic TV package which we use for watching Family Feud and that’s about all. Basic TV, Service to extra TV, Extra TV cable box, Broadcast TV fee, and Taxes – it’s $50 per month. I’m thinking of dropping cable TV for a couple of those Over the Air digital TV antennas. Anybody have any experience with ‘cutting the cable?’ Do they work? Am I on the right track?

Joe Doakes

Comcast cable service is pretty ridiculous. But their Internet is still the best option available (that I’m aware of, anyway) where I live. And it cost more to on bundle them then to take them together

More’s the pity.

User Experience

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Dear Google:
Every time you push out an update for my Chromebook, you default some (but not all) of my settings.  I have certain pages at 125% view for a reason.  Don’t change it. 
Yes, I know your programmers want to show off their clever innovations.  That’s the Microsoft model.  “See, we moved the button you need from the ribbon to a pull-down menu, isn’t that handy?”  No.  I had it there for a reason.  Don’t change it.
And yes, I’m sure it is easier for you if everyone does everything the same.  That’s the Apple model:  “We know this isn’t what you wanted but we’re so smart we know what you should want, so that’s what you’re getting.”   No. I chose Chrome for a reason. Don’t be Apple.  Leave my s*** alone. 
Joe Doakes

As a “User Experience Architect”, the manner of some companies – I’m looking at you, Apple – can only be described as “arrogant”.

Options

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

There are two drive-through lanes at McDonald’s. One should be labeled: “I know what I want,” and the other should be labeled: “I need to read the entire menu board to see what sounds good, then negotiate with the order-taker to ask if I can have my Big Mac made vegan on a gluten-free bun and I don’t want my fries cooked in peanut oil.”

Might be a little wordy. Maybe shorten it to: “Idiot.”

I wonder if they have that problem at In-N-Out Burger?

Joe Doakes

Back when I still ate bagels, I wanted Bruegger‘s to come up with a separate lane for people who just wanted a couple of bagels to go, and let the people who wanted those godforsaken sandwiches to take 20 minutes to make, each, have their own lane.