The Spirit Of The Season

Someday, when I’m absolute ruler and I impose a libertarian society by force, it’ll be legal to boobytrap packages to maim and mutilate “porch pirates”. So help me.

But until then, as Covid-era buying patters beget yet another wave of porch piracy plagues yet another holiday season, I figured this we the pick-me-up we all need:

Not enough fun to assuage your rage?

Well, lhere’sthe sequel:

And then, bigger and badder than before, this year’s episode:

And what the heck – since I know some of my readers are engineers, and others are just plain diabolical (but in a good way), here’s the how-to:

I, myself, see a glorious commercial manufacturing and marketing opportunity.


I’m not a computer programmer and don’t pretend to be; therefore, this is a serious request for an answer from a person who was a knowledgeable computer programmer BEFORE the election (not an instant expert on computers today, the Constitution last week, and epidemiology the week before).

The State of Michigan admitted 6,000 votes were switched from Trump to Biden in one county. They explained it was because the county clerk failed to install a software. The ballots were properly counted when scanned, but vote totals were incorrectly reported.

My question: if the software is a simple addition program, totalling up the number of votes for each candidate, what kind of a programming “glitch” could make it switch votes from one candidate to another, but not all of them, only some of them?

Also, if the software knows how many ballots were scanned, how can some of them be omitted from the total?

I ask because some people are claiming there are algorithms available to generate Switched and Lost ballots, which may have been present in the software used in the voting machines. Is that even possible?

Joe Doakes

I won’t claim to be an expert – but I’m trying to imagine the JAD session (because you just know it was a JAD session, amirite, geeks?) where they described the requirement for the system to be able to finesse totals for weighting, estimates of lost ballots, and other inputs derived from, er, modeling.

Sanitizer Sabotage?

Democrats and the media hyped Covid as the deadliest plague ever.  Citizens panicked.  Hand sanitizer flew off the shelves.  Foreign companies rushed to fill the demand.  Now, FDA warns us not to use some of those products because they’re contaminated.

Even more suffering to lay at the feet of Democrats trying to make life in America worse, so people will vote President Trump out of office, to make it stop.

Joe Doakes

I’m just mortified at all that prime beer and spirit production being diverted to sanitation products.

Ham Radio

It’s dying, like hoop rolling and tethered airplanes and lots of other 1930’s activities, because young people don’t care for it.

What, you just talk to people?  You can’t see them, no interactive video?  So the people are in different countries, so what?  It’s basically a telephone.  What fun is that?

Joe Doakes, ham radio license KE0GCG, on the 2 meter band

It’s been on my long “to do” list for years. May just accelerate that.

Wake Me Up When December Ends

I hate December. It’s cold. It’s dark. And all my year-end bills come due. Annual attorney recertification, vacation condo maintenance fee, hangar rent, Christmas bills plus all the usual expenses. It’s that wallop at the end of the year that annoys me. I hate to see money going out of the checkbook, it should be coming in. Makes me what to cut back,  spend less, live poor. 
“Darkness was cheap, and Scrooge liked it.”
I know exactly how he felt.
Joe doakes

I make a concerted point of enjoying the whole holiday season – which has made me, oddly enough, enjoy the season.

But I get it. I really do.

Comfort Food For Thought

Stouts Pub at Snelling and Larpenteur opened as an English pub, serving bangers and mash, fish and chips, and Guinness beer on tap. Lately, with the cool wet weather, I’ve been feeling a need for comfort food. Mutton stew with thick warm bread. Maybe a shepherd’s pie.
But when I looked at their menu online today, it’s all trendy stuff, the kind you could get at Applebee’s or Chili’s. Spinach and artichoke dip. Cheeseburger with sharp cheddar and applewood bacon. Margherita pizza. Chipotle BLT. And all kinds of wraps and salads.  Yuppie Paradise.
I don’t blame them, that’s where the money is. But what happens to us crusty curmudgeons? Where can I go to get my pre hibernation food?

Joe doakes

You got me. Most “comfort food” is well outside my diet these days.

But let’s hear it, hive mind. Comfort food sources in the Metro?


Not all government safety regulations are an idiotic waste of time. A window washer just fell off our building.

The platform is attached by ropes to a metal contraption on the roof, but the metal contraption didn’t have enough weight so when the worker went over the edge, the contraption did too. The harness caught, swung the worker into the window, then dangled upside down until a ladder could be brought to lower her to safety. Yes, the window washer is a woman. Banged up her leg but the EMTs who took her away said she seemed okay. I guess my job doesn’t suck so badly after all.
I…Woman is damn lucky to be alive, that safety harness saved her life.
Joe doakes

Laws that directly affect public safety? Good.

Laws that direct affect who you can have haul your trash away? Not so good.

I don’t think it’s all that complicated. Which is why I”ll never be an elected official in Saint Paul.

Professional Courtesy

I work in user experience – but I specialize in enterprise, engineering and IT software. Not marketing, e-commerce or “storefront” design.

Because that stuff is not only boring to work on, but I get skeeved out by some of the tactics.

And because I’m not the only one that’s onto ’em.

The only tragedy about the plane that crashed holding 200 marketing and SEO executives was that it coulda held 300.

Where Have You Gone, Learned Foot…

…turns out you were just too far ahead of your time.

Collecting old Kool-Aid packets is big money:

While there’s no real quantifiable way to know just how big this particular community is, the best place to pulse-check their vitality is eBay. A quick search for “Kool-Aid packet” seemed to signal the market is alive and well, returning over 250 active listings, some of which were going for triple-digit asking prices: $400 for a still- sealed case of Pink Swimmingo, $225 for a single packet of Yabba-Dabba-Doo Berry, and $195 for a single packet of one of Kool-Aid’s most beloved flavor mascots, Purplesaurus Rex, just to name a few. A search for recently completed eBay auctions showed a display of 1960s Grape packets being sold for $250 and a single packet of Rock-A-Dile Red closing out at $125. The good stuff don’t come cheap, my friends.

There has simply got to be a way to turn this into a glorious troll of obnoxious foodies.


One of the constant refrains of gun grabbers in recent years is “Nobody needs a thirty round magazine”, stated as an absolute.

This pretty much inevitably comes from people who’ve spent less time studying self-defense than I’ve spent on interpretive dance.

But if you (or they) are curious as to “why”?

I’ll answer that with a question. Three of them, actually.

First: are you ever going to be attacked by someone who wants to kill you, then and there? If you answer “I have no idea“, that’s a perfectly valid, honest answer. Violent attacks – robberies, kidnappings, rapes, aggravated assaults, spree killings, terror attacks – are exceptionally rare. Rarer still if you have no criminal record, don’t associate with criminals, and don’t work in a business where a lot of criminals are part of the clientele. That accounts for the vast majority of people.

Not a single person who gets robbed, kidnapped, raped, suffers a home invasion, or is at a location where a spree killer decides to stage their blaze of glory, woke up that morning thinking “I bet I’m going to be the target of a violent incident today!“ Did they?

Second: if the person decides to attack you with the lethal force we mentioned above, and you decide to defend yourself, how hard is it going to be the end the threat to your life?: impossible to predict, right? Many robberies, assaults and rapes, and even a few spree killings , have been ended by a good guy pulling out a gun, with no shots fired. Sometimes an attacker falls over unconscious, or dead, after a punch to the face. On the other hand there are records of people who’ve been shot 20 times and still had the strength to shoot, stab or hit before they bled out. I know one story of a woman who barricaded herself and her kids in an attic during a home invasion; when the guy broke into the attic, she shot at him six times at a range of 2 feet, hitting them five times in the face and head – and he lived without a lot of complications ( other than a lengthy prison sentence). Alcohol, drugs and mental illness all affect this as well – drunk people are harder to deter from doing stupid things; people who are extremely high may not experience pain, even pain from a gunshot wound. There are cases of people who were very, very high who never noticed they’d been shot until they bled to death.

So the question is: how many shots (if it’s a gun you choose) will it take to stop one person from following through on trying to murder you? The answer, given the evidence we have seen above, is “0 to 20 shots – maybe”.

Bear in mind that, under stress, almost nobody hits their target with every shot. Even at close range. Even if you practice shooting a lot (although that helps) the police, in self-defense situations, hit with an average of about one shot in every six. Put another way, the police fire an average of 17 shots to end an engagement.

So – you don’t know how many hits you’re going to need to end a lethal or threat to you (or your family, or innocent bystanders), and you don’t know how many shots that you fire are going to hit the person who is trying to kill you.

That’s with one attacker.

Which brings us to the third question

Third: how many people will be trying to kill, Rob, attack, rape or kidnap you?: The scenarios above are predicated on one attacker. Can you predict how many people are going to attack you?

In Saint Paul a few years back, there was a series of home invasions. Four people would break into a house, violently subdue any occupants who were present, and take what they wanted.

Nobody died in that series of incidents – but other home invasions do lead to murder, almost always murder of unarmed people.

Remember – none of the victims woke up that morning thinking “I bet I’m going to have a violent home invasion today”.

Now – if you hear somebody kick in your door in at midnight, ask yourself – how many of them are there? Are they armed? Are they drunk or on some sort of mind altering substance that warps their perception of risk, danger, and/or pain? How will they react to someone resisting (or not resisting)?

You are not going to know. All you know is that there is a potentially lethal threat to your life down there. Maybe the sound of a pistol racking up will send all of them scampering from your house. Or maybe the sight of one of them falling over, gushing blood after you shoot one of them will send them running.

Or maybe you pull out your six shooter, and fire all six shots of the first attacker you see – leaving you holding an empty revolver while robbers two, three, and four come at you with baseball bats, ice picks and a shotgun.

So the answer to your question is “When we are responsible for defending ourselves, our families and our community from a violent threat to our lives and we can’t predict who is going to carry out that attack, how many of them there will be, and what it will take to deter/stop them, we want a magazine that will leave you with at least one round in the chamber when the attacker runs out of attack”.

I hope that answers your question.

Internet Of Dangerous And Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time Things

I’m not really looking forward to the “Internet of Things”.

Partly it’s because of the nightmarish security risks – which we’re already seeing.

Partly I think it’s because it promotes a formo of “connectedness” that isn’t very connected.

But mostly it’s because, workign in the software industry as I do, I know that software doesn’t just work. The more complex it is, the longer it takes to debug, and the more byzantine the errors.

In fact, the recent Ethiopian Air and Lion Airways crashes have reinforced my desire to fly only in planes controlled by hydraulics and, if possible, mechanical cables.

Because the problems aren’t even especially new.

Human Factors

Fascinating article on how the Air Force is using the latest in sports medicine – advanced body mechanics and physiology sensors – to help hone the training of their new generation of Air Force special operations troops. the elite Pararescue troops that rescue downed aircrew and the Combat Air Controllers who bring air support in for other Special Operations units.

The technlogy is indeed whiz-bang-y:

For efficiency’s sake, the military would love empirical tests that can help focus on only the most promising candidates. Similarly, if there is a helpful gene that can be identified through a blood test, the military would very much like to know about it—and how to activate it with training. For example, the squadron at Lackland this year is collecting blood to measure hormone levels during training and will periodically check changes in the levels during the airmens’ career.

…but it’s gratifying to see that it doesn’t have all the answers:

Still, the human element rises amid the algorithms, tablets, and sensors. The staff see patterns that are harder for an algorithm to quantify, reminders that there is more than just numbers, physics, and chemistry at work. For instance, staff find that trainees who have faced challenges early in their personal lives not only do better, they also tend to assist and elevate teammates who are struggling.
“Our data show that, beyond a certain level, increases in physical fitness don’t necessarily correspond to increased success,” says Colonel Parks Hughes, commander of the Special Warfare Training Wing. “There’s a level of grit, if you will, required to get through the preparation that we put individuals through.”
All the brain-wave readings and sensors can detect a recruit’s level of effort, but there’s no way to quantify a trainee’s character and sense of self. These are critical variables, but they’re not the kind of things that can be measured with an electrode stuck to someone’s forehead.

The whole thing makes a quick but interesting read.


I used when I walked the Camino de Santiago last year.  It’s entirely on-line so they have my email and (in case I get locked out) my phone number.  What do they do with my private information?  Glad you asked, they sent an email with the updated privacy policy – the company will give my phone number and email to advertisers.  But what if I don’t want them to?
“The hard truth: If you disagree with this Privacy Statement, you should discontinue using our services. If you agree with our Privacy Statement, then you’re all set to book your next stay. Let the good times roll!”
Well, that’s refreshingly honest.
Joe Doakes

It’s almost refreshing that someone out there has the integrity not to blow smoke up your pant cuff…

Free, And Still Not Worth It

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Amazon Prime members can read Kindle books for free. The one I’m reading now was advertised as a realistic action thriller, so I thought I’d take a chance. Why not?  It’s free, if I hate it, I just push delete.

I’m three pages in.

Milton, the main character is a British assassin in the James Bond mould.  He has parked his car and walked around to the trunk. Here’s where the story picks up and I quote: “he unfolded the edges of the blanket to uncover the assault rifle that had been left at the Dead Drop the previous night. It was an HK53 carbine with integrated suppressor, the rifle that the SAS often used when stealth was as important as stopping power. Milton lifted the rifle from the boot and pressed a fresh 25 round magazine into the breach. He opened the collapsible stock and took aim, pointing down the middle of the road. Satisfied that the weapon was functioning correctly, he made his way toward the bridge and rested it in the undergrowth, out of sight.”

See?  Total realism.  That’s how you test a rifle. Slam in the mag, fold open the stock, point it down the road. You don’t test-fire it, cycle the action, don’t even look inside the chamber to see if it’s loaded. Apparently, I’ve been doing it wrong all these years and never knew.


Joe Doakes

People who don’t know, or like, or care about guns write about them pretty much the way I write about golf.

(All due respect to the golfers in the audience…)


Garrison Keillor is selling his saint Paul bookstore:

“I opened Common Good Books because I loved the bookstores I knew around the U, Perrine’s and McCosh’s and Heddan’s and Savran’s,” Keillor said Wednesday in an email. “And now I’m leaving town and am busy writing a book of my own so it’s time to turn over the business to someone else. The world is full of wonderful independent bookstores and needs every one.”

Keillor put his St. Paul home on Summit Avenue up for sale last year. He wrote in a Facebook post last month that he and his wife, Jenny Nilsson, had moved to Minneapolis.

I may actually have to get in there Dash I rarely make it south of Midway books these days…

Since we’re talking Garrison Keillor, I thought I would throw this out there; Keillor had a reputation as one of the worst bosses in radio, and he always brought so much smug entitlement to his brand of Minnesota politics that it was sometimes hard to parity without lapsing into self-parody in turn – but I loved A Prairie Home Companion. I listened to it most weekends for probably 15 years. Whatever Garrison Keillor’s many flaws, he got small town rural Scandinavian life.

Nowadays the show – rechristened Live From Here after it turned out Keillor was #HimToo, and still starring PHC’s designated replacement Chris Thile, seems to specialize in a really, really excellent underground country/bluegrass music, really really really really really bad standup comics, and skits written to a target audience of Brooklyn hipsters by, apparently, Brooklyn hipsters that Garner the occasional giggle and usually make me desperately miss Tim Russell and Sue Scott.

So who knows – maybe I’ll run down and buy a book from the old guy.

But it will be some Hayek or Paul Johnson. He’s not winning this thing.

A Fool’s Errand

Well, the Trump administration is making moves to ban “bump stocks” – mechanical devices that speed up semi-automatic firing.

That’ll have an effect on firearm homicides – right?

What do you think?

And it’s not limited to ARs. Other firearms, down through handguns, can be jury rigged to “bump fire”. Not that you’d want to – it’s a great way to burn up money and hit nothing you’re shooting at.

Well, the good news is that they have no intention of stopping with this utterly meaningless result.


I Always Suspected…

… that this was how the world of fashion worked

Payless’ recent marketing campaign tricked fashion influencers into paying significantly more for a pair of affordable shoes. The retailer created a new store, called Palessi, as an experiment to see just how much fashion-forward people would pay to have high-end shoes...Those that attended the exclusive party paid between $200 and $600 for Payless shoes that typically run up to $40. Payless, as Palessi, sold $3,000 worth of shoes in hours within the opening.

“I would pay $400, $500,” said one influencer. “People will be like ‘where did you get those?’”

Other influencers remarked on the look of the shoes, the quality of the material, and were overall impressed by the Payless shoes.

The discount shoe company “wanted to push the social experiment genre to new extremes, while simultaneously using it to make a cultural statement,” Doug Cameron, DCX Growth Accelerator’s chief creative officer, told Adweek.

My entire life, I have suspected the “fashion and put industry was built entirely on exploiting gullibility, herd mentality and insecurity.

Phoned In

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

I receive calls on my cell phone from all across the nation.  The numbers are different but the voice mails are identical offers to sell me insurance, same woman’s voice, exact same words, her recording plays into my voice mail recording over and over and over.

Two thoughts:

Why does the government entity that asserts it has the power to regulate the public airwaves, continue to allow these nuisance calls to happen?

Who makes the decision to buy insurance based on an endless series of voice mails?

Not a bad question…

Time And Space

In recent years, the technology office has undergone two parallel, divergent trends.

On the one hand, the decentralized, mosty-remote team, connected by phone, web conferencing and instant-messaging applications, has gained respectabilty.  For two of the past three years, I’ve worked nearly 100% from home, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.  With the right team, it’s an incredibly productive way of doing business.

The other extreme is the current officing fad the co-located team.  Forget about offices; don’t even think about cubicles (themselves seen as a Metropolis-level destruction of individuality 30 years ago.   Not only are cubes being replaced by tables, and the dividers between tables tossed, but the idea of assigned seats, with personal space of any kind for storage, is out the window.   The newest management fad is a bunch of tables, assigned to a design or development team, with chairs first-come, first serve; just grab an open seat and open your laptop – after you’ve found somewhere to stash your coat.

WIth that in mind, it’s probably utterly fitting that someone’s developed this.


Printing Up Outrage

SCENE:  Mitch BERG is shopping for guitar strings at a local music store.  Engrossed in thought, he doesn’t notice as Mylussa SILBERMAN, National Public Radio’s Saint Paul bureau correspondent – walks up behind him


BERG:  (startled, a little disappointed) Oh, hi, mijzz…

SILBERMAN:  Criminals are going to start printing 3D guns.  And the NRA seems to think it’s a wonderful thing.

BERG:  Let me get this straight.  You believe a criminal – a moron who thinks it’s better to rob someone than to earn the money – is going to run over to a pal’s house who has a very high-end 3D printer – costing several thousand dollars, by the way – and leave you with a gun that fires one, count it, one single shot, with an effective accurate range of about the inside of a phone booth, that is about the size of a cordless drill:

…that might have a service life of 10 rounds, and is loaded by removing the entire barrel to reload a single bullet   It’s actually slower to shoot that an flintlock musket; I’d think that’d make you happy.

SILBERMAN:   But the plans can be downloaded!  For free!

BERG:   Sure.  And for an overall cost greater than going to the store and buying 2-6 high-quality pistols or even rifles loaded from magazines,  with service lives of tens of thousands of rounds.  Or several such guns purchased from the illegal black market.   Not to mention infinitely higher than stealing a functional, quality gun.

SILBERMAN:  The NRA supports anyone being able to print a gun!

BERG:  Wait – I thought they were lobbyists for the big bad gun industry?  Wouldn’t this undercut them?

SILBERMAN:   Moving right along – this means people  can print AR15s!

BERG:   You can print the lower receiver – which is sort of the like the frame of a car, the part that all the other parts get attached to.  And they’re already available for well under $100, in a form that’ll actually function for years without meltinig and wearing out.

SILBERMAN:   Well, we can’t use that.

BERG:  Of that I have no doubt.    I didn’t know you played guitar.

SILBERMAN:  I don’t.  I’m here doing an article on cultural appropriation in music.

BERG:  Naturally.