Saturday, January 28, 2023

Be Happy In Your Work

Friday, January 27, 2023

Too much kulturkampf isn't good for you.

"True Crime" is a true crime.

Whether it's suburbanite Gladys Kravitzes reporting every unmarked white work van to NextDoor (or, as I call it, "") or people who've listened to enough true crime podcasts to think they're the second coming of Hercule Poirot, this is a fad that's having real world consequences.
"In their attempts to fact-check innuendo, official investigators have faced that most powerful of foes: the trending topic. The murders—having very particular types of victims, and especially horrifying circumstances—quickly became matters of national interest. That made them, also, matters of incentive for content creators. On YouTube, Vanity Fair’s Delia Cai pointed out, the top news clips that address the murders have more than 1 million views each. On TikTok, videos claiming a connection to the murders—#idahocase, #idahocaseupdate, #idahokiller—now have, in total, more than 400 million views. These true-crime takes on the real crime have no obligation to fairness or evidence. Content, in the eyeball economy, is tautological. When attention is its own reward, the tantalizing take is more valuable than the true one. This is the dull tragedy underlying the acute one: The murders did numbers."

I like a whodunit as much as the next kid but c'mon, it's not a lifestyle...


Thursday, January 26, 2023

"Oh, stewardess! I speak bonobo..."

Neat little piece (with a quiz!) on the sign language of the great apes. Turns out that, being great apes ourselves, we actually tend to savvy it pretty good.


Crucial Industry

Like modern military jet aircraft or warships, there aren't a lot of nations with the infrastructure to build tanks. It's important that we retain that...
This should be a teachable moment: The time is right, right now, to cement the Abrams as the single go-to tank for America’s allies and partners. While the Israelis, French, Japanese British and Germans—and the Koreans aggressively marketing the K2—have tank-making capabilities, they cannot match the potential U.S. capacity; in its heyday, the Lima plant produced 800 Abrams per year. Only the United States can fill the demand of all the free countries that need tanks. To begin with, there are lots of M1s in the world—more than 10,000 including all variations. Secondly, even though the U.S. tank industrial base is a shadow of its former self, it’s in far better shape than its European counterparts. Thanks to congressional budget plus-ups, the tank plant in Lima, Ohio has been substantially modernized with new machine tools and its skilled workforce sustained. With a supply chain linking 41 states, tank production and servicing is a boon to domestic manufacturing even as it improves global security. Although the current U.S. Army version of the Abrams is the best tank in the world, there is still room for improvement in the design (the original Abrams entered service in 1980). In particular, new materials for the hull and turret and electric systems to replace hydraulics could save as much as 20 tons of weight while retaining full armor protection and simplifying logistics and sustainment.


One of the challenges in ramping up tank production is a shortage of trained welders—a problem that also constrains shipbuilding. Many of these welding jobs are part of the unionized workforce, which makes it harder for manufacturers to grow their workforces quickly. Specifically, unionization inhibits the manufacturers from immediately doubling the salaries of the welders without affecting the wages of others in the factories. Within the defense sector we need to treat welders the same way the private sector treats star programmers: by paying them extremely well. We cannot afford to have trained welders take jobs at Walmart or as forklift supervisors because they can earn more money. If anything, we should be incentivizing more forklift supervisors to become welders. Welding is a key national security manufacturing task.

See this old M103 heavy tank?

It's kind of an extreme example, but it's basically made of three big-ass castings, two of which, welded together, form the hull. The hull is 22 feet long. That's a big casting and a lot of welding; you don't make those from a manufacturing base that's otherwise capable of making only cookware and kitchen appliances.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Wet Firecracker

I'm not saying that they seriously oversold this snowpocalypse, I'm just saying that if we're going to get "five to seven inches" by lunch, it's got its work cut out for it.


Don't Be That Guy

Tuesday, January 24, 2023


Starting today I can order off the Special Menu at International House of Carbohydrates, so...yay?

I don't even know where the nearest IHOP is, and I haven't eaten in one since...2012? Wait, that was a Denny's.

The sort of restaurants enjoyed by pretentious hipster foodie douchebags like me rarely have senior's menus, alas.


Monday, January 23, 2023

Straw men... and women.

Kevin D. Williamson's latest at The Dispatch is, alas, paywalled. It's absolutely spot on, though.
"Prosecutors at all levels—from local yokels up to the feds—are notoriously loath to prosecute ordinary straw-buyer cases. If there’s a big, juicy, organized-crime case to be made against gun traffickers, that’s another story: For example, the feds were very happy to bust up an Illinois-based gun-trafficking ring involving U.S. military personnel who were acting as full-time straw buyers for Chicago’s infamous Gangster Disciplines, an old-school crime syndicate that has been operating in Illinois since the 1960s. And they should be busting those guys.

But most straw-buyer cases don’t look like that. Most straw buyers are girlfriends or family members of convicted criminals and other prohibited persons, and most straw purchases involve one firearm. (Or so seems to be the consensus; again, real data are difficult to find.) Straw buyers who get charged with the crime are, by definition, almost always first-time offenders, and many of them are sympathetic subjects: Did we really expect that 23-year-old mother of three to tell the felon who is the father of her children and upon whom she is financially dependent to go jump in Lake Michigan when he ordered her to go buy him a pistol? We do not instinctively want to put such offenders in prison—but that is who a great many straw buyers are.

(Similarly, try putting yourself in the place of a firearms retailer, a businessman who already has a target on his back, politically speaking—in the age of “woke” moral panic, how assertive are you going to be about somebody you suspect of being a straw buyer? Short of her preemptively confessing to the crime, are you going to tell a young black woman shopping for a 9mm semiautomatic with her boyfriend that you think she is not a prospective customer but a prospective criminal? This is your family’s livelihood, and the same people who want to put you out of business for selling guns at all will be happy to try to put you out of business on grounds of racial discrimination, however vaguely attested to. I have spoken to firearms dealers who have gone forward with sales they believed to be straw purchases precisely for that reason.)
In all my years of working in the retail firearms biz, I'm only aware of the feds going after one straw buyer, and it was because guns he'd purchased here in the U.S. turned up in cartel hands after he'd traded them for dope. Come to think of it, he was the only big-time straw buyer I was ever aware of, and we just thought he was a guy with a good-paying job and a taste for oddball tacticool-looking guns like SPAS-12s and such.

I've turned down plenty of purchases that my spider sense told me were straw purchases, a lot of them really obvious ones and some that were more subtle. But I can see why some folks would be leery of doing so in this day and age, for exactly the reason Kevin highlighted.


Happy Birthday, JMB!

Your friendly annual reminder that the next time someone makes the claim that striker-fired pistols are somehow inherently more "modern" than hammer-fired ones, you can inform them that John Moses Browning's first commercially successful self-loading pistol design was the FN Model 1899. It was striker-fired. It was copied all over the world and such a runaway commercial success that "Browning" becamse the slang term for pistol in several languages.

Also, not counting the grip panels and grip screws, it only had twenty-six parts. It's such a simple design that the recoil spring also functions as the striker spring. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Gaston.

Cardinal Points

Nikon D2X & 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR II @200mm, 1/160th, f/5.6, ISO400

I've always had such a hard time getting a photo of a cardinal. I'll spot that flash of red in a tree out of the corner of my eye, but as soon as I turn towards it, it sees those two forward-facing eyes pointing at it and flutters off somewhere safer.

The one above was interested in something on the side of the Monon Trail. It fluttered off as a jogger passed, but immediately returned to its object of curiosity. I was able to sidle along with the Nikon held in front of my face and get a half-assed shot or three before it fluttered off. 

It was overcast and the 2004-vintage Nikon D2X sensor is kinda noisy at ISO 400. (The image is slightly cropped.)

I should try the 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR on the D2X.

Canon EOS 1D Mark IV & EF 70-200mm f/4L IS @ 200mm,  1/125th, f/5.0, ISO200

Both photos were shot in Aperture Priority mode, with the Nikon using Area Metering (or what Nikon calls "3D Color Matrix Metering II") mode and the Canon in Center Weighted Average.

Sunken Bookends

Stumbled across an interesting story from last April. Younger readers might not remember the Kursk disaster, or how optimistic everyone was that Russia was just going to be a normal country back in the Nineties after the fall of the Soviet Union.
"The Kursk taught Putin as much as it taught Russia, giving the young and inexperienced president a tragically clear view of what he had inherited — and of what it would take to maintain power in a crumbling empire that for 10 years had been careening between freedom and chaos.

“Everything that has long since been typical of Putin was demonstrated after the sinking of the Kursk,” investigative journalist David Satter, who was banned from Russia for his reporting on Putin’s rise to power, told Yahoo News. “The xenophobia, mendacity and casual assumption that the lives of people without power have no value.”

Sunday, January 22, 2023

When Brassicas Go Bad...

Turnip Lottery is the name of my next band.

"Slight But Definite Grain" is the title of the debut album.


It Cuts Both Ways

QotD: Disintegration Edition

"The virtual world and its system of structured rewards and treats—the likes, retweets, hearts, smiley faces, upturned thumbs, and clapping hands—become divisive because the way such rewards are earned is practically a training program for narcissism and exhibitionism."

"We...associate with people who feel as we do, and create tribes whose loyalty tests become more precise with each iteration and interaction. (Social media administrators know this. “Our algorithms exploit the human brain’s attraction to divisiveness,” an internal Facebook study admitted in 2018.) This tribalism festers into group narcissism that demands, as all narcissism does, constant reassurance—and cable news and social media are happy to provide it in exchange for attention and clicks."

"Political identities that were once constructed from life among those we know in places we live are now formed over huge distances among strangers whose bonds are formed mostly over things they loathe in common."

I'm about three quarters of the way done with Our Own Worst Enemy and it's pretty on the mark so far. Recommend.