Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Pegging my BS meter.

I can think of plenty of legitimate reasons to oppose the nominee, but that isn't one of 'em, you manipulative cretin. That's just bullshit kneejerk manipulation of the gun vote the way the Sharptons of the world do to the Black vote. 

That is literally the gun rights equivalent of "George Bush will take away your right to vote and put you back on the plantation"; trying to frighten people into supporting you with nonsense scenarios. 

Sharpen your damn arguments and don't treat me like an imbecile, Laura.

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Home Again...

It was exactly this time a week ago that I was gassing up the Bimmer in a cold spitting rain and fixing to head west. I spent last Wednesday night in a Holiday Inn in Joplin, then headed out in the morning for Dallas.

Inexplicably, I'd entered the wrong Holiday Inn as my destination in the Big D and therefore had to backtrack... in Dallas traffic which I dearly hate ...another fifteen minutes to get to my actual end point, the Holiday Inn Express in Plano, where I laid my weary head to rest the next four nights before departing homeward on Monday morning.

Monday night was spent at the Holiday Inn in Springfield, Missouri (worth a post in its own right) and yesterday was spent driving eighty miles an hour through six-ish hours of cold rain in a noisy, leaky convertible to get back to Broad Ripple before things got all rush hour-y here in the Circle City. Other than a bit of cursing on 38th Street, I mostly made it, hitting the garage at Roseholme Cottage at ten minutes to five, local.

I know a 25 inch monitor is smallish by modern standards, but it looks like a damned billboard after a week spent playing PhotoShop on a 13" MacBook Air.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2022

The Special Hell...

So by the time I registered for TacCon, all the discount rooms at the hotel the conference was using had been booked. Cool, cool, no problem, I'll just grab a room at the nearest Holiday Inn Express in Plano and save up some IHG reward points for a discount on my next trip to Alliance, Ohio.

The HIX in question had been remodeled, but it must have been at the start of the current remodeling cycle, because it was already looking down at the heels again.

Monday morning I got up bright and early to head home, had all my stuff packed up after a four-night stay, headed down to the lobby...and all three baggage carts were gone.

I loitered around the lobby for ten minutes or so before turning and asking an elderly couple sitting in the breakfast area with one of the three baggage carts pulled up next to their table if they were using it.

"Oh, oh yes!" said Peepaw, grabbing the cart and heading for the elevator, while Meemaw threw away their breakfast plates.

Five minutes after they left, I began to despair of any carts reappearing in a timely fashion, and so I started running up the stairs to my room and grabbing gear two bags at a time to transport to the car.

On my last trip, I ran into Meemaw & Peepaw in the elevator again, and he told me "Oh, we're almost done with the cart!"

I told him that I didn't need it anymore, but thanks anyway.

I've discovered a type of person I dislike more than the turdmuffins who leave shopping carts in the middle of the parking lot.

This was on the way there. I had one more camera bag on the way home.


Sunday, March 27, 2022

Splattergun...

USPSA GM and 1911-shooting star Tim Herron slid into the shotgun clinic that the guys from 360 Performance Shooting were putting on, which was a solid four hour block of primo instruction on the tubular repeating claymore.

I keep saying it, but how can you tell a good teacher? They're always learning...

Herron has strong t-shirt game...


Saturday, March 26, 2022

On the Range...

Tim Herron teaching a four-hour block of instruction at Tac-Con called "Shot Calling and Throttle Control".

Mas Ayoob taking Tim's class. You know how you can tell a good instructor? They're always a student.

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Friday, March 25, 2022

Time Enough for... Oh, Heinlein, no!

Few Heinlein books are as hard to characterize as Time Enough for Love. While labeled a novel, it's essentially several novellas and vignettes structured as the memories and adventures of the oldest man in the universe.

Woodrow Wilson Smith, aka Lazarus Long, was the protagonist of the 1958 novel Methuselah's Children, which was set in Heinlein's "Future History" universe. This novel bridges that universe into his later novels by focusing on the efforts to convince a superannuated Lazarus to accept rejuvenation treatments.

Its highlights are some of my favorite bits of Heinleinia: a look at pioneering on a low tech colony and time travel to pre-World War One America. It's marred by Heinlein's habit of nerding out in multipage deep dives into things like orbital mechanics or (in this case) genetics. It's also marred by the protagonist going all oedipal on his mom in 1917; just when you want the viewpoint character to continue looking around the early 20th Century U.S.A., he gets scope-locked by a crush on his own mother.

All in all, it's worth the read, but there are definitely parts you can skip on a re-read.

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Automotif CCLXXXIV...

A 1957 Dodge Sierra station wagon sitting on what I'm fairly certain are not the factory rims...

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Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Kibble Monster

Anyone younger than their mid-Fifties is young enough to have grown up with Sesame Street. That means that at least once in your life you have frustrated your mother by grabbing some Chips Ahoy and trying to emulate Cookie Monster, snarfing wildly at the cookies while crumbs fly.

I think of this during Holden's morning feedings, as he stuffs his face into his little bowl with such gusto that kibble is scattered across a six inch radius. (Never fear, though, he cleans up that mess very thoroughly. Not a bit of kibble is wasted.)

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Grateful

Much thanks to those who hit the tip jar. This trip will be a lot less nerve-wracking and I'll probably do the common sense thing and get a motel at the halfway point rather than trying to drive straight through.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Concealed History

If you want a reminder of how concealed carry got outlawed in the first place... and it happened longer ago in the US than most people realize ...may I again recommend Prof. Yamane's book Concealed Carry Revolution?

A lot of common wisdom held by people on both sides of the debate isn't entirely true.

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Constitutional Carry in Indiana

Finally, after a dozen years of trying during which it died in House or Senate committees time and time again, constitutional carry legislation was signed into law by Governor Eric Holcomb yesterday.
The permit repeal, called "constitutional carry" by gun-rights supporters in reference to the Second Amendment, was criticized by major law enforcement groups who argued eliminating the permit system would endanger officers by stripping them of a screening tool for quickly identifying dangerous people who shouldn't have guns.

Twenty-one other states already allow residents to carry handguns without permit — and Ohio's Republican governor signed a similar bill last week.

Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter joined leaders of the state's Fraternal Order of Police, police chiefs association and county prosecutors association in speaking out against the change.

Carter, wearing his state police uniform, stood in the back of the Senate chamber as the bill was being debated. He said after the vote that approval of the measure "does not support law enforcement — period."
That bit of performative BS from Superintendent Carter was just gratuitous. "Bad guys might carry a gun without a permit!" is just an idiotic argument. Bad guys already carry guns without permits, because they're bad guys. They don't care about gun carry permits any more than they care about robbery or murder permits. That's how you know they're the bad guys. The permit process, no matter how streamlined, is only an impediment to lawful citizens who'd like a chance to shoot back.

With Ohio and Alabama having passed constitutional carry laws this year as well, that brings the total number of states with permitless carry to twenty-four, just one shy of half the country. Remember when it was just "Vermont Carry"? Heck, when this blog was started back in 2005 there was just Vermont and Alaska; Arizona didn't become the third state until 2010, and that's when the floodgates really opened.


Soon you'll be able to drive from Mobile to Coeur d'Alene, Cleveland to Brownsville, Tucson to Bismark, or Harpers Ferry to El Paso, all with no permission slip for your blaster.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Automotif CCLXXXIII...


A '66 or '67 Chevy II sedan painted in an eye-catching metallic blue... well, it caught my eye, at least.


The full moons are a nice touch.



Over the Horizon

I cordially detest e-begging, but with an 1800-mile round trip looming this weekend in an increasingly aged car, and gas prices being what they are, I am breaking tradition to mention that I sure would be grateful for anything that hit the tip jar in the next couple days. 

A bit of fiscal cushion always makes a trip like that less stressful, knowing that an extra night in a motel on the road or a tire blowing out won't be a financial catastrophe on a freelance writer's budget.

Thanks!

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Appalachian NIMBYs and a Hillbilly Bitcoin Mine

It sounds like a subplot from an early William Gibson novel, but it's a story in the Washington Post, actually...
“We couldn’t have people over to gather in our front yard because we could hardly hear one another talking,” said Preston Holley, whose home sits across the street from the mine.

Appalachia, with its cheap electricity from coal, natural gas and hydro, was already attractive to bitcoin miners when China, which dominated world production, cracked down on such operations last summer, worried about the volatility of digital currencies.

Companies forced out of China began scouting new locations across rural America. Appalachia, more accustomed to coal-caked helmeted workers than tech-savvy blockchain enthusiasts, saw an influx of miners.

But while supporters tout economic benefits such as an expanded tax base and job creation, residents in areas that initially welcomed crypto mining are now experiencing buyer’s remorse.
I think I passed throught 321 maybe once, the time I drove up to the Tri-Cities from K-town via the scenic route. It's not like the setting of Justified or anything; it's just a pleasant wide spot in the road between Greeneville and Johnson City. Not the sort of place I'd look for a server farm, that's for sure.

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Sunday, March 20, 2022

Wingman

Pupper in a sidecar on a Honda spotted on College Avenue today, snapped with a Canon EOS 7D & EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM.

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Manual Override


I like manual transmissions. Both my cars have classic three-pedal five-speed setups. So did the Subie Forester I had there for a while. In fact, most every car I've had since the late '80s except for three ('84 Trans Am, '86 Fiero, and that godawful K-car) had a traditional manual transmission, as did all my motorcycles of course.

That being said, I'm fully cognizant of the fact that the traditional manual ceased being the high performance option in most cars a long time ago. Various paddle-shifted twin-clutch semiautomatic transmissions or whatever have exceeded them; they fire off the shifts much faster and without risk of a miss and often these days you can skip most manual shifting and the robot will do just fine. Certainly in raw straight-line acceleration, the human is the weakest link.

Related, there's a certain siren song that attaches to running the camera in manual. Go on a photography forum and the guys who've been shooting since the film days will curl their lip and sneer at novices who don't lock the dial in "M".


So they're telling me to take a camera with enormously sophisticated metering abilities and just ignore them and either wing it using the "sunny 16" rule or bust out a separate light meter.

While I got to where I can do that, and it's necessary with the old Leica IIIb or the Zorki, it's just not necessary. "Program mode", which debuted on Canon's A-1 back in 1978, uses the camera's built-in light meter and the user's input of the film speed or selected ISO setting for the sensor to determine the optimal exposure for what it "sees" through the lens.

On a modern camera interface, you can "shift the program" by twirling the command dial and it will rotate through a range of aperture and shutter speed combinations that will give you the same exposure result*, in case you need to prioritize depth of field or action-freezing shutter speed. Combine this ability with the fact that you can set the camera's light meter to just measure the center spot, measure the whole scene but favor the center, or do complex "evaluative" or "matrix" metering of the whole scene.

The robot is better at this than you are. (And if you absolutely need a specific depth of field or shutter speed, there's always Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority.)

I'm pretty much coming around to the opinion that ninety percent of the time if you're shooting in M, you're wasting time spinning dials just because you can. And that's okay, I'm not the fun police!


*As an example, I just picked up the Nikon D3 and pointed it out the kitchen window, set at its base ISO of 200. The camera wanted to do 1/100th at f/5. Thumbing the rear command dial one click left shifted that to 1/80th at f/5.6, and one click right gave 1/125th at f/4.5.

Dissatisfaction Index

From a tab I've had open too long:
The United States is different, though. While Europeans have turned toward experts, Americans' support for expert authority has significantly declined since 2020. Paradoxically, Americans are also less supportive of a strong leader and more likely to say that democracy is a bad system of government. We're not dissatisfied with the status quo compared to a specific alternative. We're just dissatisfied.
Everybody's mad at something, but everybody's not mad at the same thing. On the whole, we're just mad. That's never good a good signal.



Saturday, March 19, 2022

Weaponized Animation

This morning's cartoons featured a couple of 1940s-vintage Popeye shorts. There was The Mighty Navy, which was released in October of '41, making it the last pre-war Popeye cartoon and the first to feature Popeye in U.S. Navy whites...



This was followed by Fleets of Stren'th, from March of 1942, in which a spinach-fueled Popeye does more damage to the IJN's carrier arm than the USN yet had, although it provided nice foreshadowing for the smackdowns looming in the near future for the Chrysanthemum Fleet.



The YouTube versions are excerpts, since they aren't in the public domain. Foreign bootleg uploads pop up on DailyMotion, or you can tune in to MeTV at 0700 Eastern on Saturday mornings, or they're available on DVD or for downloaded via Amazon Prime.

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Friday, March 18, 2022

Chainsaw Super Owners



A reminder that what's normal to some might not be normal to others, at least without explanation.

Wild West Way Down South

There's a story at the WaPo about shenanigans along Brazil's Highway 319, that runs through the heart of the state of Amazonas from the old rubber port of Manaus to Porto Velho.

Manaus is an interesting city, in that it's a big, metropolitan city with a population in excess of two million, and it's not really connected by road to the rest of the country. Transportation in and out is by air or river, unless you want to drive north to Venezuela, and who wants to do that?

BR-319, which connected Manaus to Porto Velho, and via there to the rest of the country, was completed in '73, but within fifteen years most of it had decayed to the point that it was only passable with serious off-road vehicles, leaving only about a hundred miles at either end paved and passable. 

The middle stretch is home to some pretty lawless stuff...

Spymaster

An interview with Estonia's minister of foreign intelligence...
HR: How large is the danger that Russia will escalate to a war with NATO? What is the threat to the security of Estonia?

MM: Right now there is no direct military threat to Estonia. It is calm next to our borders [with Russia]. The troops from there have been taken to fight in Ukraine. But we are monitoring the situation closely.

Squirrel!


Shot on the way to lunch yesterday with a Nikon D200, a seventeen year old prosumer DSLR you can pick up for about a hundred bucks used, and an inexpensive used 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II zoom

You can click to embiggenate. 10MP doesn't sound like a lot of resolution these days, but that's 3,872 pixels by 2,592 pixels, which is way more than my old 25" desktop monitor is up to displaying all at once.

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Thursday, March 17, 2022

Hitman

If you're into a bit of real-life Sicario stuff, this article is an interesting read...
"The day that “La Vagancia” understood that he could die in a shootout on any given day, he decided to leave a record of his time on Earth. For youths like him, hitmen and pawns of the drug world, death comes early and without warning: on any street corner, during any brawl, settling of scores or from a stray bullet. And even though he dreamed of quitting the Sinaloa cartel and finding a regular job, he also knew that the most likely way of leaving a criminal group is either as a prisoner or as a corpse. That is why he decided to fill a memory card with all the photographs and videos he had made during his time with the cartel and placed it in the care of one of the few people he knew who were not part of that life, someone who might be able to do something useful with it: Eduardo Giralt Brun."

Automotif CCLXXXII...

'69-'71 Mercedes-Benz 280SL (W113)

After a bunch of near misses with this guy, he finally pulled into the Fresh Market parking lot while I was eating lunch yesterday.

"Don't let anyone spit in my beer!" I yelled, grabbing the D700 off the table and jogging across the street.

Note the smoke from the burning Walmart distribution center west of town providing a dramatic backdrop in the sky.


Yes, Virginia, Stuttgart once upon a time exported roadsters with manual transmissions to our fair shores.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Automotif CCLXXXI...

A Hyper Blue Metallic 2016-2018 Chevy Camaro SS, with the 455-horse 376 cubic inch LT1. It's a sharp-looking ride, even if it's got the outward visibility of a machine-gun bunker.

I swore I wasn't going to get any Nikon DX lenses beyond the couple I already had, but my favorite walking-around crop sensor Nikon glass, the 16-80mm f/2.8-4E VR, won't work on my older bodies, like the D2X and D200 because of its electronically controlled diaphragm (indicated by the "E" in the model designation.)

The solution was tracking down an old 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G, which was the kit lens on the D70 back in the day and is available crazy cheap on the used market as a result. In the image quality department it punches way out of its weight class for a sub-$100 piece of glass. It's also very small and light on a burly pro body like the D2X, enough so that you have to remind yourself that not only is it still on the camera, but it's much more fragile than the camera body itself, what with its plastic mount flange and lens barrel. The focal length range, equivalent to 28-105mm on a full-frame, is good for anything shy of closeups of squirrels in trees.

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I LOL'ed...

Enter the Dragon

An article in the U.S.-China Perception Monitor on the Russo-Ukrainian War and its possible impact on China's relations with the West:
"The Russo-Ukrainian War is the most severe geopolitical conflict since World War II and will result in far greater global consequences than September 11 attacks. At this critical moment, China needs to accurately analyze and assess the direction of the war and its potential impact on the international landscape. At the same time, in order to strive for a relatively favorable external environment, China needs to respond flexibly and make strategic choices that conform to its long-term interests.

Russia’s ‘special military operation’ against Ukraine has caused great controvsery in China, with its supporters and opponents being divided into two implacably opposing sides. This article does not represent any party and, for the judgment and reference of the highest decision-making level in China, this article conducts an objective analysis on the possible war consequences along with their corresponding countermeasure options.
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It's worth a read.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Rise of the Machines

What would happen if an AI designed to find new helpful chemicals were instead used to find new harmful ones?
"We were vaguely aware of security concerns around work with pathogens or toxic chemicals, but that did not relate to us; we primarily operate in a virtual setting. Our work is rooted in building machine learning models for therapeutic and toxic targets to better assist in the design of new molecules for drug discovery. We have spent decades using computers and AI to improve human health—not to degrade it. We were naive in thinking about the potential misuse of our trade, as our aim had always been to avoid molecular features that could interfere with the many different classes of proteins essential to human life. Even our projects on Ebola and neurotoxins, which could have sparked thoughts about the potential negative implications of our machine learning models, had not set our alarm bells ringing... 
<snip
...Our toxicity models were originally created for use in avoiding toxicity, enabling us to better virtually screen molecules (for pharmaceutical and consumer product applications) before ultimately confirming their toxicity through in vitro testing. The inverse, however, has always been true: the better we can predict toxicity, the better we can steer our generative model to design new molecules in a region of chemical space populated by predominantly lethal molecules. We did not assess the virtual molecules for synthesizability or explore how to make them with retrosynthesis software. For both of these processes, commercial and open-source software is readily available that can be easily plugged into the de novo design process of new molecules7. We also did not physically synthesize any of the molecules; but with a global array of hundreds of commercial companies offering chemical synthesis, that is not necessarily a very big step, and this area is poorly regulated, with few if any checks to prevent the synthesis of new, extremely toxic agents that could potentially be used as chemical weapons. Importantly, we had a human in the loop with a firm moral and ethical ‘don’t-go-there’ voice to intervene. But what if the human were removed or replaced with a bad actor? With current breakthroughs and research into autonomous synthesis8, a complete design–make–test cycle applicable to making not only drugs, but toxins, is within reach. Our proof of concept thus highlights how a nonhuman autonomous creator of a deadly chemical weapon is entirely feasible."
This isn't science fiction, this is IRL MurderBot.

"I've still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And I want to help you."


Pleasant dreams?

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Gratuitous Gun Pr0n #211...

The new High Power, but in Tactical Dirt Color!

Under the hood, things are very different... yet oddly similar.

The general vibe here reminds me of this:

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Monday, March 14, 2022

White Knights & Impulse Buys

Friends, if you put a review of a firearm on the internet, remember that the people who come by and read it are not researching a potential purchase, but justifying a recent one. "Is the Blastomatic 2000 a good gun?" is not what people type into Google while deciding which gun to buy, it's what people type into Google to find validation for the impulse buy they just made earlier that afternoon.

This is why people lose their minds in comments sections over less-than-glowing reviews. They're not savvy consumers, they're marketing victims out stanning a gun they may not even have fired yet, all to defend an ego investment.




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RIP RX

My beloved shirt pocket camera, an original Sony RX100, has finally packed it in after three years of getting banged around and used in all kinds of weather and accompanying me on a lot of adventures. 



It's amazing how many memories you can pack into one of these little things.



They sell waterproof "tough" cameras in shock resistant cases, but even though they're probably small enough to go in the pocket, they tend to have have small noisy 1/2.3" sensors and slow lenses and lack the controllability of a real camera. You don't have the full range of PASM modes, you can't shoot RAW, et cetera. 

I used to use a Nikon Coolpix P7000 for this role, but the newer enthusiast compacts with 1" 20MP sensors and fast glass... the Sony RX100 and Canon G7X families ...are pretty perfect for this gig.

I mean, I carried it in the document pocket of my gun burkha in classes frequently, and it's taken some pretty good licks from the butts of pistols during the draw, especially when running from AIWB. It's been in Texas & Arizona summer heat, coastal Georgia fug, Indianapolis winters...



I think any little camera in that job is going to eventually lose the war. I try to buy 'em used in the $100-$200ish range and figure that if I get a two or three year run out of one, I'm doing pretty good.

I guess after payday on the 1st, I'll start shopping for a fresh one.

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Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby


I was sitting on the patio at Twenty Tap yesterday enjoying one of their crispy Southern chicken sandwiches and a pint of Pull My Finger from Bad Dad Brewing up in Fairmount, IN when this thing caught my ear. It droned north on College Avenue and I regretted the fact that the plastic sheeting enclosing the patio for the winter months hadn't yet come down for the season.

But then, lo! Only a few minutes later the rider came bombing back south towards us and pulled into the parking lot next door, dismounting to join his lunch companion at Twenty Tap. "Nice bike!" I blurted, passing him on my way out the door with my camera.

Nikon D2X & 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G

I didn't look on the block for the displacement, but chain drive, teardrop tank, DOHC... I'm thinking that makes this a CB750K of '79-'82 vintage. (The bigger CB900 Custom had shaft drive and the CB750F and CB900F had the more faired-in "pistol grip" gas tanks.)

Anyway, this thing really pushed my buttons. Definitely would ride.



Sunday, March 13, 2022

But seriously folks, I got a million of 'em...

The Strategic Problem of Tactical Nukes

Interesting read on the nukyular problem potentially on the table...
In a March 2014 article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Nikolai N. Sokov, a former Soviet and then later Russian arms-control negotiator who is now a senior fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, described Russia’s current military doctrine as open to using tactical nuclear weapons to inflict “tailored damage,” which is defined as “damage [that is] subjectively unacceptable to the opponent [and] exceeds the benefits the aggressor expects to gain as a result of the use of military force.”

Imagine if Russia were to use low-yield nuclear weapons to destroy key air bases throughout Europe or attack an aircraft-carrier task force. How could NATO expect to operate a no-fly zone if its principal air bases are a smoldering ruin or one or more aircraft carriers is at the bottom of the Atlantic? Or imagine if Russia were to use low-yield nuclear weapons to destroy specific army bases, catastrophically damaging NATO’s ground-based striking power.

To put it another way, Vladimir Putin’s 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons make him the first opponent that NATO allies have faced since the end of the Cold War who has the raw military capability to destroy a substantial portion of NATO forces in the field.

Putin, Sokov argues, is borrowing from the 1960s-era American policy I described above. It’s a doctrine that enables a weaker power to deter a stronger power. It is not the strategy of an ascendant conventional military. Indeed, Russia’s struggles and losses in the first two weeks of its conflict with Ukraine serve only to underscore Russia’s conventional vulnerability. Those same struggles may very well make Russia more likely to pull the nuclear trigger. It is now painfully clear that its military is in no shape to wrest control of the skies or the ground from a motivated NATO force.
RTWT

That doesn't feel that long ago.

According to OneDrive, it was on this date six years ago that I shot Dot Torture clean for the first time with the Glock 37.


It was also the range session where I had the only malfunction I've had with the G37, and it was a doozy.


Yes, that's a live, unfired round... the last round in the magazine, for what it's worth ...that somehow got uncontrolled enough in the feedway that it wound up sticking primer-first out of the ejection port. Those short-OAL cartridges with such fat, heavy bullets probably present challenges.

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Saturday, March 12, 2022

Gratuitous Gun Pr0n #210...

FN High Power, photographed with an Olympus E-600 & 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5II

Gotta say, not being the world's biggest GP35 fan, I was not expecting to groove on FN's new High Power reboot as much as I did. The factory trigger's plenty usable, the steel frame has recoil-absorbing heft, and the 17-round mags bring capacity in line with current-day semiautos.

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Is this real? Is it happening?

The Constitutional Carry bill passed here in Indiana on Wednesday the 9th. Indiana doesn't have a pocket veto, so as long as Holcomb doesn't veto it... and I personally don't see why he would ...then it becomes law on Wednesday the 16th whether he signs it or not.

Fingers crossed!

“Prepared” has many meanings.

One of the things that has paid off once I started traveling more is keeping a separate toiletries bag always packed and in my suitcase. Can’t forget my toothbrush and toothpaste if they’re already packed all the time.

Over the years, the travel kit has accumulated everything I’ve found myself in a hotel room at 0300 wishing I hadn’t left at home: nail clippers, ibuprofen, tweezers, et cetera.

When I get home today, the suitcase will get emptied of clothes, but the travel toiletries kit stays in there. That way, even if I get a trip at short notice, I’m already half-packed.

Wednesday, March 09, 2022

All blur is not created equal.

Most people's first encounter with the term "bokeh" was via the portrait mode on newer cell phones, which uses computational photography tricks to blur the background, making the subject stand out...



So "bokeh" is a term for "all the stuff that's not in focus".

Different lenses render these out-of-focus areas differently, and what exactly is out of focus in the background can affect the picture.

For instance, the regular lines of the fence behind the dog are not distracting, and the blurry circles of the Christmas tree lights strung on the fence add a whimsical touch...

Nikon D700 & 70-210mm f/4

Similarly, the regular pattern of the highlights on the expanded metal patio furniture behind this pup doesn't jar the eye unpleasantly.

Olympus E-3 & Zuiko 150mm f/2

Whereas the travel zoom on the D700 made a distracting hot mess out of the tree branches behind this cat.

Nikon D700 & 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6G

The little 28-200 is super-compact, given the zoom range it covers, and the fact that it's a full-frame lens. Its design was a triumph for Nikon. But I'll be careful in the future of shooting wide-open with it if the background is blurry; the background behind the cat probably wouldn't be so jarring if I'd stopped down a little.

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Tuesday, March 08, 2022

That doesn't even make sense.

A recent guest column in the NYT Opinion section from a college student who was complaining about ideological conformity on campus has drawn some pretty wild accusations from the Very Online Left.

And when I say "pretty wild", I mean pretty frickin' wild...
If, from where you're sitting, the editorial board of the New York Times looks like a pack of right wing ideologues, then bro... you are off somewhere waaaaay to the left of the Overton window and need to step back toward the light.

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Time is a Flat Circle

A political cartoon from the year I was born...



Slow start today...

...so have a picture of Holden while I get coffee.


This was shot by available light in the dining room. Light was coming from the window behind him to camera left, through closed Roman shades, and also from the windows in the kitchen to camera right. No lights on in the room.

There's some noise still, because it was shot at ISO 6400, but the image is still pretty good. The Fuji X-T2 is the only camera I have with a sensor new enough that I'll shoot over ISO 3200 because I'm not up to extensive post-production tinkering for noise reduction.

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Monday, March 07, 2022

Simply the Best?

It's hard to pick a best or worst out of Heinlein's works. The corpus of his writings includes pulp sci-fi shorts from the Thirties, Boy's Life juveniles... what we'd now dub "Young Adult" literature ...from the Fifties, and adult novels ranging from fantasy to space opera to cyberpunk from the Sixties through the Eighties. Heck, dude wrote a copious amount of non-fiction as well.

All that being said, I just finished re-reading The Moon is a Harsh Mistress again and I gotta vote for this being RAH's best work. I'm probably not alone, because if you type "the moo" into the Wikipedia search box, the title is the second suggestion after "The Moody Blues".

It's probably the fourth or fifth time I've reread the novel, but the most recent was almost certainly nearly a decade ago. It's held up surprisingly well, partly because it doesn't rely much on tech or gadgets. 

We can't point and laugh and say "Oh, look how they think our moon colonies are!" because we don't have any of those yet in 2022 (which would probably stun Mr. Heinlein to hear way back in 1966.) About the most noticeable anachronisms are that almost all communication seems to be by wired landline, although low powered suit radios are mentioned, and the idea of a huge room-sized computer running most of the moon is odd if you allow yourself to stop and think about it, but the plot steps along well enough that you probably won't.

It's not a tech story, anyway. It's a people-driven story told from the first person... which is common of Heinlein's best efforts, come to think of it. Even the computer (who is arguably the most important character) is a people.

Definitely recommend.

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It's like they only know one line.

Apparently a Spanish-language conservative radio network, Americano, is launching. This of course has thrown the Identity Politics crowd at the Dems into a tizzy. 

NBC news quoted a dude name of Fernand Armandi, who was behind outreach to Hispanic voters for the Obama campaign, as saying “For those concerned about the disinformation problem harming Democrats' chances with Hispanics, this is a Defcon 1 moment. We should worry...” 

Then they went and used "Defcon 1" in the headline of the story which, given current world events, seems like it was not really well thought through. 

Nobody wants to see "Defcon 1" trending in the Twitter sidebar right now, fam. Read the room.

Anyway, if there's one constant truth about today's Democratic Party, it's that no matter how many times their "Why won't you stupid cousin-humping rednecks vote for us?" line blows up in their faces, they can no more abandon it than Wile E. Coyote could put aside his beloved Acme catalog.



Duck, Duck, Duck, Goose*

A Moto Guzzi of indeterminate vintage taking advantage of the unseasonably warm and sunny weather Broad Ripple enjoyed on Saturday. We hit 76°F, only a couple degrees off the record for the date. It was glorious.


*In case you didn't get the dumb joke in the post title, the most common brand of Italian motorcycles you'll see is Ducati, sometimes referred to as a "Duc" or "Duck". A Moto Guzzi is, of course, a "Goose".

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Sunday, March 06, 2022

Transmitting into the void.

Saturday, March 05, 2022

Overtaken by Events

The "life in the monkey house" post tag was originally for incidents of people or nations behaving in a silly or stupid fashion, especially if driven by atavistic, poo-flinging, tribal impulses. 

It feels like I could just be sticking that tag on every post other than photos of cats and automobiles now.

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Sign of the Times

So apparently we're on a timeline now where I find myself agreeing with Jonah Goldberg as often as a couple times a week, which is certainly a novelty.
Here’s Cato’s Ted Galen Carpenter in 2014 explaining that the “US Needs to Recognize Russia’s Monroe Doctrine.”

One last example of many. In 1939, when the Soviets invaded Finland, they did it in furtherance of what Soviet diplomat Ivan Maisky called a “Soviet Monroe Doctrine.” Of course, because history is a puckish fellow, when the Soviets tried to turn Cuba into a colonial garrison of the Soviet Empire, Nikita Khrushchev insisted the Monroe Doctrine had “outlived its time” and had “died, so to speak, a natural death.”

Now, the nominal heir to Khrushchev and the world’s foremost champion of nostalgia for the Soviet empire is a defender of a Monroe Doctrine for me, but not for thee.

Before we continue, I should add another irony. Russia is significantly to blame for the creation of the Monroe Doctrine in the first place. Russia wasn’t alone, but under Czar Alexander I, Russia joined the Holy Alliance, which was determined to restore monarchism, the divine right of kings, and the colonial holdings of various empires, specifically the Bourbon rule of Spain and its former colonies in South America.

America had no problem with the Holy Alliance so long as it stuck to the grubby Old World. But we’d be damned if we’d let them recolonize South America and threaten the United States. Great Britain was nominally on our side because it wanted to protect trade with the New World. But we refused to work in tandem for them because we were—understandably pissed about the War of 1812.

Now, I’m not going to defend everything we did under the banner of the Monroe Doctrine. I can defend some things, but I’m not going to speak up for, say, all that crazy William Walker stuff. But telling the revanchist, reactionary rulers of Old Europe that they should keep their stinking mitts of South America strikes me as entirely just and defensible, particularly in 1823.
You should go and read it in its entirety.

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Thursday, March 03, 2022

Just the Common Clay

Can't tell the players without a scorecard.

If you haven't been keeping up with Russian internal politics and are unclear about all the names you're hearing in the news other than "Putin" and maybe "Lavrov", BBC World News has put together a Who's Who? explainer on the upper echelon of generals and ministers you're suddenly hearing about.

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I LOL'ed.


History Lesson

Bobbi notes that Charles Lindbergh, a dude who enjoyed a level of celebrity simply unimaginable in the modern era (seriously, there's not a rock star or tech tycoon that can touch it) managed to junk his reputation with his activities during the run-up to U.S. involvement in World War Two, and it's never really recovered.

He was an aviation pioneer and inventor who had enormous public sympathy after the kidnapping and murder of his toddler son and managed to wreck all that and is mostly remembered as "That guy who flew across the Atlantic... and wasn't he kind of a Nazi apologist?"

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Wednesday, March 02, 2022

Handsome Lad


Holden was perched atop the rolling footstool in the kitchen, looking quite striking in a ray of sunlight. The Fuji X-T2 and Zeiss Touit 32mm f/1.8 did him justice, I think. 

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