Saturday, September 30, 2023


This is your occasional reminder that Post-WW2 Popeye cartoons in color are haram.

(Also, in the trivial pursuit category: Popeye's outfit was dark before he went into USN whites in the 100th Fleischer Studios theatrical short, The Mighty Navy, in October of 1941.)


Friday, September 29, 2023


I guarantee that there are a lot of Democratic politicians and political operatives dealing with a bit of internal shame over the little initial frisson of relief they felt when news of Senator Feinstein's death broke. Things had been getting increasingly Weekend at Bernie's-ish surrounding the senior senator from the Golden State of late, and frustrations had been mounting.

There have been a lot of people trying to nudge her toward the exit for some time, and it was no secret that a lot of Dems were not at all pleased about her decision to hang on for the remainder of her term.

Both her and McConnell had been worrying their respective parties. Now Gavin Newsom will appoint a temporary replacement to fill the vacant seat, something he'd said he didn't want to do.


Rough Neighborhood...

While the world's eyes are on the Ukrainian conflict, things are getting spicy again in the Caucasus.

The Armenians got run out of Nagorno-Karabakh by the Azerbaijanis and the 2,000-man Russian peacekeeping force didn't keep much in the way of peace.
“We feel very alone and abandoned,” said Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, Mr. Pashinyan’s former foreign minister.

That is not a good place to be for a country in the South Caucasus, a volatile region of the former Soviet Union where the destiny of small nations has for centuries been determined by the interests and ambitions of outside powers.

“Mentally we live in Europe, but geographically we live in a very different place,” said Alexander Iskandaryan, director of the Caucasus Institute, a research group in Yerevan. “Our neighbors are not Switzerland and Luxembourg, but Turkey, Iran and Azerbaijan.”
The Armenians were getting genocided at Ottoman hands since before "genocide" was even a word, so the bad blood goes back a long way in that neighborhood.


"Do some of that pilot $#!+, Mav!"

On this date in 1940, a pair of Avro Ansons collided midair over Brocklesby in Australia.

The pilot and navigator of the lower aircraft were miraculously able to bail out and both survived.

Even more miraculously, the pilot of the upper aircraft found that, although his engines had both stopped due to prop strikes on the other plane, he had all his control surfaces functioning and, since both engines on the lower aircraft were still running...he just bellied the entangled planes into a nearby field.

For bonus points, the upper Anson was returned to flight status after being repaired.


Thursday, September 28, 2023

Speaking of…

…the enshittification of Amazon, there are certain products you should just flat never purchase from them because the odds of getting a counterfeit approach one hundred percent.

Most notable among those are tourniquets.

If you’re doing a search for, say, “Canon EF 50mm f/1.8” and buying one that’s sold by and shipped from Amazon, you’re on pretty safe ground, but there is a lot of easily counterfeited stuff out there.

As they used to say in Rome, “Caveat emptor, baby.”


You Are The Product, Example #3732

People are beginning to notice that Amazon's getting more frustrating to use.
"Lately, though, shopping on Amazon has become an exercise in frustration. My purple-wig search started with sponsored listings from unfamiliar brands with just a small disclosure noting that they’re advertisements. The organic results eventually do show up, offering hairpieces from brands with names such as DAOTS, MorvallyDirect, and eNilecor. Scroll only a little deeper into the sea of indigo fibers, and the sponsored items resume.

What happened to Amazon? The company no longer excels at the thing it’s supposed to be best at: shopping. Its unparalleled convenience and cost helped turn it into an e-commerce juggernaut, one that now faces an antitrust lawsuit from the Federal Trade Commission over alleged anticompetitive practices. Now around every corner lies a brand you’ve never heard of, selling a product you’re not sure about. Good deals on name brands are harder to come by. Amazon’s dominance has also transformed it into a different kind of company. Along the way, the famously customer-obsessed company has lost track of what its customers actually want.

Start with the ads. At the top of the results for purple wig, I hit a block of stand-alone results, a sponsored storefront from an unfamiliar brand named BERON. That’s followed by four paid results from unidentified companies, followed by, finally, organic results. Even then, those recommendations are based in part on customer reviews, which vendors have notoriously gamed.
This is yet another example of the process Cory Doctorow termed "enshittification":
"Here is how platforms die: First, they are good to their users; then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers; finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, they die.

I call this enshittification, and it is a seemingly inevitable consequence arising from the combination of the ease of changing how a platform allocates value, combined with the nature of a "two-sided market," where a platform sits between buyers and sellers, hold each hostage to the other, raking off an ever-larger share of the value that passes between them.
Amazon is practically Patient Zero of enshittification, or maybe Google is. The economics of the internet practically demand it.

Facebook is another classic example. 

I see people bitching about their FB posts with outgoing links getting buried by the algorithm, and thinking it's some conspiracy because they're links to gun stuff or conservative political sites, when the fact of the matter is that Facebook flattens all outgoing links. 

Zuck ain't in the business of sending traffic to non-Meta websites, so unless you have a mess of organic readership on the Bookface, nobody's gonna notice your outgoing links regardless of whether they're going to sites about firearms or flower arranging, because they're going to pop up in hardly anybody's feed.


Discount Depression

Dollar General is not a place I normally shop. I'm only in one on rare occasions when I'm on the road and in a small town where there's literally no other alternative.

I can remember maybe one or two that were reasonably clean and orderly, but they always struck me as absolutely soul-crushing places to shop.

I'd thought that was just me being hopelessly bougie, but apparently not...
"Sometimes the problems compound each other, OSHA records suggest. Pest control couldn’t service a receiving room in Minnesota; it was too cluttered. Stolen HVAC systems in Arizona went unreplaced for weeks because management “had not received the OK” to get new ones. When an Iowa store’s water pipes burst on Christmas Eve, a plumber refused to fix them, because of asbestos. Asbestos was also a worry at another Iowa store, where workers experienced respiratory problems. But state officials said the latter store’s likelier culprits were mold or “stains on the wall that were bat feces.”

Along with bats and birds, workers say, the stores are home to spiders, ants, mice, rats and squirrels. Employees have been cut on the arm, leg, torso or neck by rusted or faulty metal moving palettes, or “rolltainers.” Broken heat or air conditioning has forced workers to don five layers or line their pants with ice packs. In Georgia, former employee Shantay Millsap says she broke out in hives from the constant heat and caked dust; the company responded by cutting her hours. In South Carolina, employee Tiffany Gettle says the 109F heat in her store has made produce wilt and colleagues vomit, but a manager dismissed it by saying, “The more you complain, the worse it makes it.” (In its statement, Dollar General said it has “various cleaning protocols,” works with pest control firms and will sometimes take other steps to “ensure a healthy and safe environment.”)
The article details some eye-popping stuff. The store in Apache, OK (pop. 1,400) where the birds had gotten into the ceiling and were nesting in there and crapping all over the merchandise, and... Well, go read it for yourself.


Wednesday, September 27, 2023


I'm sitting here looking for an adjustment tool to spin the screw on a Holosun 507k (which is a great CCW optic, don't get me wrong), and it's making me pine for the raw utility of the entire range of Trijicon MRDS sights... the RMR, SRO, RCR, and even the RMRcc ...which have elevation and windage screws designed so you can use the cartridge rim of a 9mm or 5.56 round to turn them in a pinch.

The original RMR was designed to be mounted atop the ACOGs being used by guys at FOB Beyond The Pillars Of Hercules, and all subsequent MRDS optics from Trijicon carry those genes.



QotD: War On Whatever Edition...

Over at Bobbi's blog, she mused:
"We've been sold a war on poverty, a war on drugs, a war on the border and a war on the sources of terrorism, but in every case, the conditions for victory are unclear, the price is higher than advertised and the sincerity of the pitchman is questionable."
The whole "War on [Fill In The Blank]" is problematic as a mental construct. The concept of "war" promotes binary thinking, zero sum outlooks, and a willingness to transcend niceties and violate rights in pursuit of victory. 

If you gotta put some maybe-innocent people in camps, censor some newspapers, suspend some habeus corpus...well, can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. Whose side are you on, anyway? Ours or the enemy's?

I'm reminded of P.J. O'Rourke's thoughts from All the Trouble in the World (maybe his last truly laugh-out-loud, snot-bubble-blowing hilarious book, BTW; Peej at the acme of his powers.):
"Politicians are always searching for some grave alarm which will cause individuals to abandon their separate concerns and prerogatives and act in concert so that politicians can wield the baton. Calls to mortal combat are forever being sounded (though only metaphorically– politicians don’t like real wars, too much merit is involved). The idea is that people will drop everything for a WWIII. Remember the War on Poverty? And how Jimmy Carter asked Americans to respond to a mere rise in the price of crude oil with “the moral equivalent of war”? (What were we supposed to do, shame the gas station attendant to death?) Now we’re “fighting pollution,” “battling AIDS,” “conquering racism,” et cetera."


Out of the blue and into the black...

Just finished reading The Underworld: Journeys to the Depths of the Oceans, which I'd mentioned a bit ago.

The author, Susan Casey, is fascinated with the deep sea and there's a whole chapter covering William Beebe, whose adventures in his Bathysphere fascinated me when I was in elementary school. I used to draw elaborately layered views of the ocean depths, teeming with all the strange critters he reported.

She also talks about diving off Hawaii in the Pisces-class subs operated by the Hawaii Underwater Research Laboratory and the book climaxes with her accompanying Vescovo* for part of his Five Deeps Expedition.

Although a journalist, Casey writes with a novelist's eye for people and action, and the book steps right along with a very "you are there" vibe. Definitely recommend.

*Vescovo is the only dude to have been to the top of Everest, the bottom of the Marianas Trench, and outer space. (Also the North and South Poles.)

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Automotif CDXII...

Despite GM having made a bajillion of the things, you don't see a lot of second generation F-bodies out and about. Locally there are a couple three Pontiacs that roll by occasionally, and one elusive Z28, but that's about it.

They were super rust-prone, like almost everything was back then, and telephone poles likely accounted for a large number of the ones that managed to avoid rusting away to nothing.

This one sounds brutal. I'd love a peek under the hood.

Yeah, that's a hit...

"At least six men and two vehicles were involved in the killing of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar outside his place of worship, according to video reviewed by The Washington Post and witness accounts, suggesting a larger and more organized operation than has previously been reported."
Modi can deny it 'til he's blue in the face, but two cars and six dudes is a hit squad, not some random street beef. Either the Indian government ordered it, which would look bad, or the Indian intelligence services are going around conducting rogue rub-outs without orders, which would look even worse.

After events during the Global War on a Noun, unfortunately, the U.S. isn't in much of a place to do a lot of finger-wagging on the topic of extrajudicial hits. Any nationalist strongman worth his salt will simply equate saying bad things about the government or advocating a separatist movement to be basically the same thing as Osama Bin Laden or Qassem Soleimani.

If the U.S. can drone somebody for masterminding the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians, why shouldn't Saudi agents be able to disassemble a newspaper reporter with a meat saw for saying the Saudi crown prince is a very naughty boy? It's basically the same thing, amirite?


Monday, September 25, 2023


Automotif CDXI...

Here's a tasty 1964 Chevrolet Impala hardtop coupe in Tuxedo Black, southbound on College Avenue on a gorgeous first Sunday of fall.


QotD: Mixed(Up) Media Edition...

"Media is off focus, out of proportion, increasingly ephemeral and wrong headed. In defense of the profession where I spent a half century laboring, there are places of excellence and too there are many reasons for the demise we witness.

So much of broadcast news, print journalism and on-line is a waste of time and even silly. This is what happens when newspapers are killed by financial vultures, when reporting and editing staffs are thinned to ludicrous levels so profits are boosted, when broadcast and print are forced into the blender of social media, a world of platforms that do not operate by the old journalism codes of conduct, ethics or canons. The public's "right to know" is now an afterthought, if even that, and it has become part of the broil that is ratings, revenue, investment portfolios, news deserts and a who cares attitude.
From Tom Cochrun's "Light Breezes" blog.


You can't be serious.

"Fellas, is it gay to make millions shilling beer and then bang Taylor Swift while wearing two Super Bowl rings?"

Man, the perverse incentives of the Culture War sure make people say absolutely moronic things to get clicks.

Also, this inane division of consumer products, restaurants, and even musical tastes by sociopolitical faction is idiotic. A nation cannot long stand half Chick-Fil-A and half Panera Bread.


It got me to click, alright...

This was the blurb in the sidebar at the NYT this morning:

I chortled. "Well, that sure puts them one up on the average American voter."

But I clicked through. It's an interesting bit of experimentation that shows that, after repeatedly swimming into something, box jellyfish will adjust their behavior and stop bumping into it.
"After a handful of collisions, the box jellies changed their behavior. Less than eight minutes after arriving in the bucket, they were swimming 50 percent farther from the pattern on the walls, and they had nearly quadrupled the number of times they performed their about-face maneuver. They seemed to have made a connection between the stripes ahead of them and the sensation of collision."
Meanwhile, despite actually physically having a brain, the average voter sends the same people to Congress over and over again and it's shaping up that next year's presidential election is going to be a rerun of 2020's Battle of the Fogies.


Sunday, September 24, 2023

Speaking of the South China Sea...

Realpolitik makes for strange bedfellows.
A package, which could come together within the next year, could consummate the newly upgraded partnership between Washington and Hanoi with the sale of a fleet of American F-16 fighter jets as the Southeast Asian nation faces tensions with Beijing in the disputed South China Sea, one of the people said.
This would bolster the Vietnamese Air Force's abilities against the PLAAF, as well as putting a finger in the eye of the Russians, who have been angling toward making some under-the-table cash by selling more Sukhois to Hanoi.

It's not a done deal, but it would be wild if it happened.


The Next Flashpoint...

The PRC is getting really froggy in the South China Sea and the Spratlys...
As dawn broke, we could see both the fortifications on Mischief Reef and an array of Chinese vessels closing in from different directions: half a dozen maritime militia boats and a recently commissioned navy corvette designed to carry anti-ship missiles. The navy tugboat stayed near, too.

On other occasions, Chinese coast guard and militia vessels have rammed, doused with water cannons and sunk civilian boats in the South China Sea. In 2019, for instance, 22 Filipino fishermen were left to float amid the wreckage of their boat for six hours after a Chinese militia vessel struck them.
It doesn't take a lot of imagination to sea an overeager PLAN officer kicking off a shooting incident with the Philippine or Vietnamese navies.


Automotif CDX...

Just going by the weather, this weekend should make for some primo car spotting on College Avenue, but yesterday was kinda weaksauce.

Probably the neatest thing to roll past was this early Sixties Volvo 122S wagon.

Photographed with a Nikon D2X & 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR II.