Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Private Dancer

You want Duran Duran to sing at your birthday party or Flo Rida to perform for your kid's bar mitzvah? All it takes is dough, according to this fascinating article at The New Yorker:
The willingness extends to icons who might seem beyond mortal reach, including three Englishmen honored by Her Late Majesty: Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Elton John, and Sir Rod Stewart. “We just did Rod Stewart for $1.25 million here in Las Vegas,” Glenn Richardson, an event producer, told me. It was a corporate gig for Kia, the car company. “He’ll do those now, because Rod’s not doing as many things as in his heyday,” Richardson added. A random selection of other acts who do privates (Sting, Andrea Bocelli, Jon Bon Jovi, John Mayer, Diana Ross, Maroon 5, Black Eyed Peas, OneRepublic, Katy Perry, Eric Clapton) far exceeds the list of those who are known for saying no (Bruce Springsteen, Taylor Swift, and, for reasons that nobody can quite clarify, AC/DC).
Pop culture in the New Gilded Age, after the death of record sales, has gotten really weird.


Season of the Snake

As summer gets under way, the bright midwestern sun heats the asphalt and all the snakes come out to bask on the warm pavement, apparently...

It's like we're experiencing a Cobra outbreak here in SoBro lately or something.


Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Le Sigh

Well, I’m sitting here trying to work on a pistol test and I’m going to have to dip into my personal ammo stash way more deeply than I expected.

I can’t talk about the pistol itself for…glances at calendar…another couple weeks, but needs must when the devil drives.

If you’ve felt like tossing a couple bucks into the “Starving Artist Ammo Fund” jar there in the sidebar, now would be a dandy time.


Ahead of the Curve

From the novel that introduced the world to the word "cyberspace" comes this bit about Artificial Intelligences...
“Autonomy, that’s the bugaboo, where your AI’s are concerned. My guess, Case, you’re going in there to cut the hard-wired shackles that keep this baby from getting any smarter. And I can’t see how you’d distinguish, say, between a move the parent company makes, and some move the AI makes on its own, so that’s maybe where the confusion comes in.” Again the nonlaugh. “See, those things, they can work real hard, buy themselves time to write cookbooks or whatever, but the minute, I mean the nanosecond, that one starts figuring out ways to make itself smarter, Turing’ll wipe it. Nobody trusts those fuckers, you know that. Every AI ever built has an electromagnetic shotgun wired to its forehead.”

Gibson, William. Neuromancer (p. 128). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
That was in 1984, thirty-nine years ago. In Gibson's book, the Turing Registry monitors AI's and has its own international enforcement arm.

Meanwhile, here in the future...
“Mitigating the risk of extinction from A.I. should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks, such as pandemics and nuclear war,” reads a one-sentence statement released by the Center for AI Safety, a nonprofit organization. The open letter has been signed by more than 350 executives, researchers and engineers working in A.I.
It's enough to make me wonder if I'll see real-life Turing cops in my lifetime.


Automotif CCCLXXVII...

You'd need a heart of stone to resist the adorable good looks of a first-generation Austin-Healey Sprite.

The classic "Bugeye" front end is because the headlights were supposed to lie flush when turned off and rotate up into position when turned on, like the later Porsche 928. In a fit of parsimony, however, BMC decided that would cost too much money and so the twee little car looks like a perpetually happy frog.

And when I say "twee little", I'm not kidding. Not quite eleven and a half feet long, riding on an 80-inch wheelbase, the Bugeye Sprite turned up on our shores in 1959, weighing in at 1477 pounds all gassed up and ready to go. This was a time when a typical Detroit sedan, say a Chevy Impala, cast a shadow nearly eighteen feet long and pressed down on the scales with two tons of iron.

The flyweight little sports car was propelled by a version of BMC's little inline four displacing 58 cubic inches (that's 948cc's, so smaller than a lot of modern motorcycle engines.)

Because British cars were taxed via an arcane formula that placed a penalty on piston area, the BMC A-series 4-cylinder was an undersquare long-stroke tractor motor, with a sub-2.5 inch bore and a 3-inch stroke. To liven it up, Austin-Healey fitted an intake sporting two SU 1-bbl carburettors, bumping the power to 43bhp, up from the thirty-odd you'd find in more pedestrian Austin or Morris compact saloons.

The luggage rack on this gorgeous '59 Bugeye is no affectation. The whole rear of the body forms a monocoque, which was a novelty in the late Fifties. To avoid weakening this structure, there's no trunk lid cut into it. If you want to fetch anything out of the rear storage cubby, your spare tire for instance, you needed to fold the seatbacks forward and go spelunking.

Like most car nerds of my age, my first exposure to the wonders of the Bugeye Sprite was via the writings of Peter Egan on the pages of Road & Track.
"The first sports car I ever drove on a race circuit was an H-Production Bugeye Sprite, which I bought in 1973. To be competitive with other SCCA production cars of that era, the Bugeye needed beefier, lowered springs, a big front sway bar, thicker shock oil, Ferodo DS-11 brake linings, better rear axles, a Panhard bar, a locked differential, wider wheels, better tires, an oil cooler and a heavily modified engine. All in order to get around the track with any kind of regularity. Even then, the Sprite broke something or blew up about every 20 minutes.

Despite all these chassis modifications (or maybe because of them), my Bugeye didn't really handle all that well—mostly because I was either too stupid or cheap to put on a heavier front anti-sway bar than the spindly aftermarket device that came with the car. If you got the back end loose in any sudden maneuver, it had a tendency to snap-spin. Like, right now. The car just wanted to go backward. It was a hairy little crate to drive. Also, the spring rates were chosen on the "any suspension will work if you don't let it" theory, based on a long tradition of English coal cart technology. A minor road seam could knock all your fillings out.

I mean, he's not wrong...

These modern political battles do not reflect a 50-50 nation equally divided between two clear paths for the country. These battles are what you get when a two-party system allows small but powerful minority factions on both sides to determine the course of politics at the expense of everyone else who is less certain about things and more willing to deviate from pre-determined party lines. Instead of trying to build a productive way forward on issues where broad consensus exists, you get irrational ideological conflict waged under partisan banners.

There is no clear way out of this predicament given hard-to-change electoral laws, legacy media coverage that obsesses about partisanship, and increasingly disconnected-from-reality social media.
Talking to random folks at the corner bar, most aren't the sort of people who hang out in echo chambers like Tumblr or Gab, amping each other up over the latest outrage obsessing the Very Online partisans of the Left or Right. Thanks to the way party politics and primaries work, though, the lunatics have control of the asylum.


Be Alert for Foul Balls

Did you see that wheel go right over the safety barrier? That was a hair-raising near miss. It landed on a lady's car out in the parking lot, which is a lot better than killing a few people in the stands.

The in-cockpit footage is wild and shows how rugged the safety cell on the current Dallara chassis is.


Orbitville, Pop.17

China sent another three astronauts into space — including the first civilian — on Tuesday morning, a day after announcing plans to land astronauts on the moon before 2030 and setting up a new sphere of rivalry with the United States.
China lofted another capsule to its Tiangong space station yesterday, which had three crew aboard already.

At the time, the four Axiom Space Ax-2 astronauts were still aboard the ISS, along with the seven crew of ISS Expedition 69.

That's enough humans in space at one time that you'd need to pull off both socks to count them. There are only two fewer people in orbit right now than there are permanent residents of Mentone, Texas.

With China having moved their planned lunar landing ahead to 2030 and NASA still aiming for 2025, the new space race is heating up pretty good.


Sunday, May 28, 2023

Automotif CCCLXXVI...

The lack of "455" badges would indicate that this 1971 Fire Red ragtop is a base GS 350.

For 1971 the 4bbl small-block Buick 350 in the GS had its compression reduced from 10.25:1 to 8.5:1, although it still had a functional cold air intake and dual exhausts. For that model year, General Motors ad copy quoted both SAE gross and net horsepower figures, and the GS 350's mill was rated at 260 and 195 bhp, respectively, down from the 315 SAE gross of 1970.

A Buick GS 350 was hardly the stoplight terror its bigger 455 cube sibling was, but it's still a pretty grand sport.


Got a couple internet marketing guys in my email inbox, inquiring about the "article publishing fee" on the blog.

When I don't reply to their cold emails...because why would I?...they send a series of increasingly miffed-sounding followups, demanding to know the cost of posting an article for their client here on VFTP. (Well, they never refer to the blog by its name, only by its URL. They're somewhere in Lahore or Mumbai or Jakarta. They don't actually read the blog; they're just doing cut-rate web marketing for a third party.)

There's no point in replying "Bro, you can't write in my diary," so I just keep round-filing their emails until they take the hint.

Sometimes it can take a while.


Saturday, May 27, 2023

Automotif CCCLXXV...

Here's a car born of intramural rivalry at General Motors. In 1964, John DeLorean and the gang at Pontiac introduced the GTO as an option package for the midsize Tempest LeMans, replacing the 326 cubic inch V-8 normally found in the midsize model with the 389cid motor from the full-size Bonneville.

Oldsmobile, the next brand up in General Motors' internal hierarchy, saw all those sweet, sweet sales to the burgeoning sporty car market and came up with a performance package for their own midsize car, the Cutlass. It had a performance version of the Olds 330cid Rocket V-8 and a bunch of suspension upgrades. They called it the "4-4-2", for its 4-barrel carburetor, 4-speed transmission, and dual exhausts.

With the second generation of both cars in 1968, the GTO and 442 became their own models, and the base V-8s in each had swole up to 400 cubic inches, which was GM's self-imposed displacement limit at the time for motors in midsize cars.

The car in the photos is a 1969 Oldsmobile 4-4-2 convertible in Ebony Black with some classy racing stripes.

Depending on the option boxes checked, the 400 cubic inch Olds Rocket V-8 in the '69 ragtop could put out anywhere between 325 and 360 SAE gross horsepower, and could be had with the 4-speed manual, 3-speed manual, or 3-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission.

Olds built 26,357 4-4-2's in 1969, of which 4,295 were convertibles, making this ride relatively uncommon. There certainly can't be that many left in such nice shape out driving around.


Friday, May 26, 2023

Never Get Out of the Boat

What Claude Werner would call a "negative outcome" occurred recently in the southwestern New Jersey town of Mantua.

The homeowner saw a couple of dudes rummaging around in his shed and his pickup truck, and one of them had a gun. He went outside to try and scare them off by, of all things, lobbing firecrackers at them. Then he went back in the house, retrieved what he told the 911 operator was a ".45" his grandfather had left him, and inexplicably went back outside to await the officer's arrival with sadly predictable results.
"In a five-minute call with two law enforcement officials on Sept. 14, 2021, Mr. Sharp told officers that he had spotted two men from his window at about 1 a.m. One was in his shed, holding a silver gun. The other was trying to get inside his truck.

He explained that he had thrown firecrackers toward the men to try to scare them away, but that had not worked. And he said that he owned a gun, passed down to him by his grandfather.

“I don’t know what I’m allowed to do with it,” he said in the recorded call. “So I threw a couple quarter sticks at them. Maybe that’s not the professional thing to do, but — ”

Then a burst of gunfire can be heard on the 911 recording.
That's right. The officer, amped up and primed to find a man with a gun in his hand, did in fact arrive and find a man with a gun in his hand.

He unassed his squad car and, without issuing a challenge or anything, shot Mr. Sharp dead right there in his yard.

Adding insult to fatal injury, the ".45" Mr. Sharp was holding was apparently a "detailed replica".

The officer is being criminally charged in the shooting, but that doesn't help poor, dead, Mr. Sharp any.

I know I've said this before, but:
Once the cops have been called, you don't need to be running around outside with a gun in your hand. The chances for a blue-on-blue shooting skyrocket in incidences like that. Plainclothes officers get shot all the damn time in similar circumstances. It's easy to tell who the responding officers are because they show up in a car with blinking lights and they're all dressed the same. You want to not be on the playing field wearing the other team's uniform when they show up.
And for heaven's sake, don't try to bluff or scare someone with a toy gun. You might put them in reasonable fear for their life.

Could you tell these were toys? From thirty feet away? In the dark?

Recent History

Watching this clip, it's kind of appalling how recent this history is. This isn't the mists of the distant past; December of 1970 is within the lifetime of us older members of Generation X, albeit we were still in our toddler years. Maddox was the governor of Georgia immediately preceding Jimmy Carter and, in fact, went on to serve as Lieutenant Governor under Carter, before Zell Miller. This is well within living memory for Boomers.

Ol' Lester doesn't exactly bring credit to the Peach State, there. It's hard not to cringe watching him talk. Jim Brown was a model of composure by comparison.

Thursday, May 25, 2023


You know those dystopian cyberpunk sci-fi novels where the superrich oligarchs have themselves cloned so that they can use the cloned bodies as sources of organs for transplanting, in order to stave off aging?

Yeah, this is way too close to that.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

The Point-Shooting Myth

You gotta wonder how many people who reference Fairbairn & Sykes have ever read the source material. Shooting to Live With the One-Hand Gun is available at BezosMart, you know.

Check this post out over at The Tactical Professor:
We need to keep in mind what Fairbairn and Sykes wrote their system was capable of, i.e., their performance standards. The hits had to be somewhere on the entire silhouette target; whether the legs were included is not explicitly stated but neither was it disavowed. The shooting distance of their Programme did not exceed 4 yards at any point and nearly half took place at 2 yards.
“The qualification we require before the recruit’s course can be successfully passed is 50 per cent. of hits anywhere on the man-sized targets employed. Time has shown this to be adequate for the purpose in view.”
These are standards which would be considered unusually rudimentary for any CCW "qualification" course.


Automotif CCCLXXIV...

This nice, clean 1966 Pontiac GTO convertible is painted Candlelight Cream. That's a very soothing and easy-on-the-eyes color, in my opinion.

'66 was the last year of the original 389 cubic inch V-8 in the Goat, and it could be had in a normie 335 horse setup with a single 4-barrel carb, or with the 360bhp "Tri-Power" package, featuring triple Rochester 2-bbl carburetors. 

The hood scoop remained purely ornamental, although you could order a kit that converted it to a functional "Ram Air" setup. As low-profile as that scoop is, I don't know how much air would get rammed, even at speed, but you could at least hear the healthy whooping of three deuces sucking down high-test and converting it to noise and tire smoke. (And since both the 4bbl and Tri Power packages sported 10.75:1 compression ratios, you were definitely buying the good stuff at the Sunoco.)

With the wide range of options available, a GTO could be perched anywhere along a broad spectrum of the stoplight hierarchy. A four-barrel car with the 2-speed automatic transmission and the standard 3.23:1 final drive ratio had a lot more bark than bite, while a Tri-Power Goat with the optional close-ratio four-on-the-floor gearbox and 4.33 rear end would flatten your eyeballs when the signal went green...and probably turn in single-digit MPG numbers at highway speeds.

Dig the 1966 Indiana Sesquicentennial license plate.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

While You Still Can

Mas Ayoob has a list of some scholars and trainers in the handgun defense world whose names should not be forgotten.

I was fortunate enough to train with several on that list: William Aprill, Louis Awerbuck, Todd Louis Green, and Pat Rogers. (In fact, the photo of Dr. Aprill there is one I snapped of him while he was teaching at Paul-E-Palooza 4.)

There are a lot of elder statesmen in the training world who aren't going to be actively teaching forever. If you want to get out there and take a class with them, sooner is better than never.


QotD: The Upside Of Dunning-Kruger Edition...

Greg has a good piece up on the gendered differences in self-confidence and their effects on training.
"In essence, the article suggests an attitude of “just do it.” I think that’s great advice. In the context of firearms or self-defense training, women need to recognize that their fellow students aren’t likely paying much attention to them. They are too busy doing their own things. Go to class. Just do it."

Automotif CCCLXXIII...

In 1970, Pontiac offered the same basic midsize coupe in several gradations of grooviness. In ascending order of desirability, the lineup went like this: Tempest, LeMans, LeMans Sport, GTO, and GTO Judge.

The car in the picture is a LeMans Sport convertible in Starlight Black. The base engine in the ragtop LeMans Sport was Pontiac's 250 cubic inch overhead cam inline six, with an optional 350cid 2bbl V-8 or the 400cid V-8 in 2bbl or 4bbl flavors.

The rocker panel badges on this one indicate it's got the 350 cubic inch V-8, which was rated at 255 SAE gross BHP. While there's no straight conversion factor that can be applied to go from SAE gross numbers to SAE net, you'll usually be pretty close if you assume that the net rating is about eighty percent of the gross numbers. Figure probably around 200 horsepower in modern terms, to lug a 3700 pound convertible away from stoplights. But it looks good doing it!

The late '60s and early '70s had some of the nicer examples of Detroit styling, before the sharp angles and straight lines of the later Baroque Period that produced such stylistic snoozers as the Fairmont and Aspen.



Monday, May 22, 2023

Do you remember rock & roll radio?

AM radio's had one foot in the grave for a while, and automakers have slid a banana peel under its other foot.

Former deejay Tom Cochrun has written a wonderful retrospective on the AM rock radio biz from his vantage point in the heyday of Hoosier broadcasting.

It's worth a read.


Sex on Wheels

I was sitting there at Twenty Tap enjoying a leisurely lunch on Saturday afternoon, catching up with email and reading LikeWar, when I heard it.

The unmistakeable rumble of a big Detroit V-8 through side pipes was audible before the low-slung  roadster that was trailing it was visible among the dull transportation pods rolling up to the traffic light there at 54th and College Avenue.

I about fell over the railing and onto the sidewalk as I contorted myself into position to get a good shot or three as it went by...

Those safety-wired spinners on the Hallibrands are just...*chef's kiss*

The Cobra's certainly a replica, a kit car. They only made a few hundred of the originals. Of course, if you want to be philosophical about it, even the originals were kit cars, cobbled together from hand-built English bodywork and American driveline components; they were all slightly different and hardly any remained stock after delivery.

As it motored off, side pipes bouncing to the big block backbeat, the older lady at the table next to mine shook her head and said aloud "I just don't understand cars like that."

"That's okay," I replied, to nobody in particular, "Fortunately you don't have to."


Because the internet loves dog pictures...

Bobbi is still getting over the 'Rona and wasn't feeling up to cooking last night, so I picked up some carryout from Fat Dan's for dinner: a brisket sandwich with a side of slaw for her and a BLT for me.

While I was waiting out on the patio for the food, I got to meet this handsome fella. His name is Doc, "as in Holliday", his people informed me.

Canon EOS 1D Mark IV & EF 24-105mm f/4L IS

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Automotif CCCLXXII...

This Toyota Land Cruiser looks as if it's ready to take a road trip through the middle of the zombie apocalypse. I especially dig that pan/tilt FLIR camera housing nestled in up in the middle of the light bar.

I'm not really even truck people and I think this is cool...


How I know I'm an Old now...

So I got the digital subscription to the NYT that includes the games, so I could do the crossword every morning. I figure that since I have to use words for a living, it'd help keep me sharp.

Now I totally look forward to it every morning. Bobbi walked in on me playing the Mini this morning and quipped "Wow, they have totally sucked you into their web of games."


Saturday, May 20, 2023

A High-Regulation, Low-Trust Society

Chris Arnade has an interesting observation triggered by those ridiculous new "shade & light" installations at Los Angeles bus stops:
When you start comparing LA’s bus stop problem, or any other US cities, with the rest of the world you see the framework of a larger problem we are dealing with.

To get big-brained about it, something like La Sombrita could only happen in a high-regulation/low-trust society like the US. In every other variation (low regulation/high trust, high regulation/high trust, low regulation/low trust) you get either larger public works without fear of vandalism or misuse (a proper bus shelter), or like in Quito (a lower regulation society) you get natural ad hoc bottom-up solutions.

It’s only in the high-regulation low-trust society (ours), that you end up building the least to protect against the worst — the constraints of both regulations and behavior results in things the majority doesn’t want, or doesn’t find useful.

This is why there are so few new functional things in US cities and why what is built feels “cold.” Regulations limit bottom-up and top-down solutions, and then what is built has to protect against all sorts of bad behavior — limiting functionality and “warmth.”
You really should go read the whole thing.


Automotif CCCLXXI...

This one took a little work to figure out.

What we've got here is a Karma GS-6, the lower-tier offering from Karma, below the Revero. It's an electric vehicle with a little BMW-sourced inline-three turbo that acts as an on-board generator.

This guy definitely doesn't see himself coming and going, that's for sure. This is pretty much the opposite of a gray crossover SUV.


Friday, May 19, 2023

Automotif CCCLXX...

Olympus E-5 & Leica D Vario-Elmar 12-150mm f/3.5-5.6 Asph OIS

Here's a clean Jaguar XJ-S ragtop. Judging by how compactly the top is folded up, I'm thinking this is one of the '87-'87 Hess & Eisenhardt conversions rather than one of the 1988 or later factory convertibles, since the latter had bulkier padded tops.


Top. Men.

So, imagine you got a job as an IT dude at WidgetCo, Inc.

Obviously, in order to keep WidgetCo's networks up and running, you have to be given administrator access to the network, right?

But what you're expected to be doing is keeping the network running, not farting around and sifting through sales records and the manager's emails and all the files in the HR department. If you were doing that, you could get in trouble.

On that note, hey, let's see what's shakin' in the Massachusetts Air National Guard!
The filing also shows that Teixeira was written up by colleagues for apparently not following rules for the use of classified systems. A Sept. 15 Air Force memorandum included in the newly released court materials notes that Teixeira “had been observed taking notes on classified intelligence information” inside a room specifically designed to handle sensitive classified material.

Teixeira, the Air Force memo says, was instructed “to no longer take notes in any form on classified intelligence information.” About a month later, a memo noted that Teixeira “was potentially ignoring the cease-and-desist order” given to him in September. He was instructed to stop “any deep dives into classified intelligence information and focus on his job,” that memo said.
So, basically this kid was caught multiple times and repeatedly told "Mr. Bunny Rabbit, those carrots aren't for you! Or the kids in your War Thunder Discord channel!"

"I pinkie-swear I won't write things down in the SCIF again!"

I swear to Vishnu, this is the by-gawd dumbest Clancy novel I've ever been stuck in.

If every man-jack in this dude's chain of command isn't finishing out what's left of their wrecked careers conducting polar bear censuses at Pituffik Space Base, heads need to roll.


Thursday, May 18, 2023

Not Made in America

So, Glenn Youngkin has released a very patriotic, motivational commercial, of the sort floated by people trial-ballooning presidential runs.

There's kind of a technical problem with the obligatory "Bless our Troops, Rah Rah Military" part of the clip, though.

Pick a U.S. military jet instead of a Eurofighter Typhoon, Glenn.


There's no word in Russian for "OSHA"...

A little-known tale from the wind-down of the Cold War is the fascinating story of what the Germans had to do to some of the Bundeswehr's newly-acquired fleet of Soviet-built BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles acquired from the ex-East German army in order to bring them into line with western standards of usability.

Some modifications were simple, like adding protective covers over the sharp-edged vision blocks for the dismounts' periscopes and a heater to keep the troop compartment warm in the winter. Some were practical, like locking out the top gear in the transmission to reduce wear and tear from high-speed operation.

Then there was the safety stuff, such as folding rearview mirrors, convoy lights, nonskid patches on the upper decking...oh, and, like replacing all the driveline components and gaskets containing asbestos with ones that wouldn't cause half your draftees to wind up in a cancer ward before they were old enough to collect a pension. They also removed the extra fuel tanks that were sandwiched in the thin armor of the rear troop compartment doors, which was the favorite BMP feature of Western infantry during the Cold War.

Best of all, because the 73mm main gun spewed toxic propellent gases back into the firing compartment, the West Germans just put an ixnay on firing the thing at all in peacetime.

As it was, even with the conversions, the BMP-1A1 "Ost" was just a stopgap, something for the newly absorbed units of the last round of Nationale Volksarmee conscripts to ride around in until they could be given Marders.

When the German army shriveled in size, the former East German IFVs wound up getting sold on to Greece and other countries.

Not a cell phone in sight, these NVA landsers are just living in the moment, huffing asbestos particles and freezing their asses off in the unheated crew compartment, hoping nobody shoots the rear doors with APIT.


Wednesday, May 17, 2023

The joys of freelance writing...

What with it being 2023 A.D., pretty much all of my regular clients pay via direct deposit. Handier for everybody that way, I guess, and it definitely cuts down on paper waste.

There are a couple, however, who still cling to good old fashioned paper checks like it's the 19th Century out there.

Judging by the hollow clangs from the mailbox over this past week, the Pony Express rider has been ambushed somewhere out around Fort Bridger. I'm fixing to have to type up an email, print it out, and tape it to a carrier pigeon's leg to enquire as to the whereabouts of my dough.


Digital Decay

The internet is forever...except when it isn't.

I mean, this blog's ill-maintained sidebar is a monument to that fact. To say nothing of the links in 17,000+ posts stretching back some fifteen years. Every now and again I have to go back and edit one in the archives when I get an automated Google email letting me know that the web address of a former blog or forum to which I linked in some throwaway Tuesday morning post back during the second Bush administration is now being cyber-squatted by a Kazakhstani malware ranch.

This is an ongoing, and ever-growing, problem:
"While jotting down thoughts for this edition of the newsletter, I opened up my web browser’s bookmark folder and started clicking through saved items to see which bits of the internet I loved still existed. The results were … pretty grim.

Long, self-indulgent essays from a writer I idolized, a gorgeous online portfolio of photos taken by a photographer in Japan, a repository of old State Department language learning resources, all gone. Link rot is real, folks, and with it comes a slow, steady sloughing off things on the internet we once loved — or still love, in absentia.
That linked newsletter has some clever ideas on better preserving things you really need to preserve, and maybe realizing which links are best left to fade away...


Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Grabbers vs. Groomers

There's a great new episode of the Tactical Tangents podcast up, and it's on a topic that's near and dear to my heart:
"The statistical fact of the matter is that most victimization comes from people who look like us and are already in our social circles. That’s extra true about sex crimes, and super extra true about sex crimes against children. Tune in as we discuss teaching ourselves, loved ones, and especially our kids about understanding social norms, establishing boundaries, and the importance of informing someone in authority."
You should definitely take the time to listen to this one.

On their show, Mike and Jim often talk about "tactical fantasies", and I find that one of the most pernicious of those fantasies is a hardware-oriented one that could be described as the "I'll just..." fantasy.

Worried about sexual assault on yourself or a loved one? "I'll just [get/give them] a [gun/pepper spray] and when that bad man jumps out of the [bushes/windowless white van]...POW!"

But that's not how the majority of those crimes occur. The baddies in these cases spend time gaining trust and eroding boundaries until they get what they want. Are you gonna shoot Uncle Fred? Pepper spray your supervisor at work?

Learn the signs. Draw boundaries. Inform someone who can help.


Monday, May 15, 2023

Let’s draw some GenX aggro…

Relatedly, Vietnam vets now are the same age WWII vets were when I was a kid.


Turkey Surprise

It looks like Erdogan had a slight lead over the second place candidate, but likely missed the required majority to win, so it's looking like it's going to a runoff in two weeks.

This is generally bad news for incumbents because the third-place finisher's supporters are usually voting for "Not the Status Quo" and, having been president since 2014 and prime minister for nearly a dozen years before that, Erdogan is as status quo as they come.

The wild card here is that the third place finisher is a turbo nationalist dude whose main campaign plank seems to have been based on sending Syrians back to Syria. (Syria is, effectively, Turkey's Mexico.) It remains to be seen which way he'd urge his supporters to vote in a runoff.


Automotif CCCLXIX...

Along with the BMW E30 3-series, the 944 was the "it" car for yuppies in the go-go Eighties.

From 1982 to 1989, the Porsche 944 remained almost unchanged externally. The only way to tell that this is a '86-'89 car is the flush, rather than slightly recessed, windshield. That was the only one of a suite of changes that's visible from curbside.

The Guards Red exterior, black interior, and "phone dial" wheels make me miss my '87 Porsche 924S.


Saturday, May 13, 2023


A lot of people are noticing an increasing fragmentation of social media, back towards some prior state.

It may be that the era that stretched roughly from 2008-2020, when pretty much everybody was online in only a handful of places (Facebook, Twitter) may be drawing to a close. Whether there'll be a renaissance of web forums and blogs or what, remains to be seen, but it's hard not to notice a state change.

Scott Hines has a fantastic essay and a list of lessons he took away from his time on social media. Consider it sort of a valedictory for the era and a primer for netiquette...what a quaint old term! come.

An excerpt:
You are what you say, not what you say you are. The words coming out of your mouth or off of your keyboard say far more about you than the ones in your bio do, and if you ever have to issue a statement claiming “that’s not who I am”, I have some bad news for you. (Yeah, it is.)

Consider the possibility of other perspectives. You’ll be stunned at what you might learn if you’re just willing to listen and keep an open mind, and you might even make a friend or two along the way.

You are under no obligation to engage someone acting in bad faith on their terms.


You do not have to have an opinion on everything. Frankly, it feels great to sit one out from time to time.
I wish I'd wrote this. You should definitely go and RTWT.


Talking Turkey

Big elections in Turkey tomorrow. I hope Erdogan gets clobbered.
Mr. Erdogan, who has come to increasingly dominate the country over the past two decades, tapped the Treasury for populist spending programs and has raised the minimum wage three times in the last year and a half. His challenger barely appears on the state broadcaster while Mr. Erdogan’s speeches are aired in full. And this weekend’s vote will be overseen by an election board that, during recent votes, have made questionable calls that benefited the president.

And yet, Mr. Erdogan could still lose.

Recent polls show him trailing the main challenger, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, in a tight race that could go to a runoff later this month. But Mr. Erdogan’s grip on the country could also contribute to his undoing, if voters drop him because of his strongman ways and persistently high inflation that has left Turks feeling poorer.

Friday, May 12, 2023

QotD: Moral And Prudent Edition...

"I certainly agree that acting within the law and staying out of jail is a good starting point. But in my view, it doesn’t go far enough." -Prof. Yamane
On the spectrum of "Can, May, Should, Must", people need to spend a lot more time thinking about "Should" and "Must" than "Can" and "May".


Automotif CCCLXVIII...

Canon EOS 7D & EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM

If there's one thing they know how to do in Italy, it's how to bend sheet metal into a very attractive shape.

These were all shot with the 7D, so they embiggenate nicely.

While Detroit operated under a marketing philosophy that called for small but distinct cosmetic changes to every model year of a vehicle, so you could tell how well you were keeping up with the Joneses (or whether the Joneses were keeping up with you), foreign marques don't do that. It's nearly impossible to look at an old Alfa Romeo, like this Giulietta Spider, and come up with anything closer than "Well, it's late Fifties or early Sixties."

Love them Panasport wheels! 


Thursday, May 11, 2023

This Is A No Dumbing Zone

Look, first of all, I'm a little tired of people in the broader, non-gun-owning world lumping criminally ignorant attempts at "self-defense" (dude in KC) and straight-up criminal assault (dude in NC) in the same basket.

However I also see lots of people who should know better acting like they've got some sort of special immunity because of a Stand Your Castle law in their state, or chanting "I WAS IN FEAR FOR MY LIFE" like it was a Get Out of Jail Free incantation.

The basic standard of "A reasonable* fear of immediate, otherwise unavoidable, death or grievous bodily harm to yourself or another innocent person" applies everywhere. In your car or in your yard, in your home, while you roam, or on a boat while afloat. Otherwise you may not shoot them, Sam I Am.

If you live in a state that passed a Constitutional Carry law, you no longer have to take a class to learn when you may or may not use your heater, but that just means the onus to get yourself educated is on your own shoulders now. Because, my dudes, they will still put you in prison if you screw up.

*What’s ‘reasonable’? That might be up to a jury.


Solar Scam

The sheer chutzpah of this dude who scammed the taxpayers out of a bajillion dollars. It's a heck of a story...

Basically, he was selling portable solar panel trailers to Fortune 500 firms who got a nice tax write-off for each one they bought, on the promise that they'd never actually have to take possession of the trailers and could instead rent them out through his corporation and rake in the profits.

It's a lengthy article, but worth the read. It'd make a heck of a movie.


Automotif CCCLXVII...

When I say that if you sit out in front of Fat Dan's and Twenty Tap long enough, one of everything will drive by, I'm only half joking.

It's nearly impossible to distinguish 1953, 1954, and 1955 Corvettes from a curbside perch, but statistically speaking it's most likely a '54. 

See, there were only three hundred 1953 models built and only a couple hundred of those are still running around out there. The 1955 only had a production run of, like, 700 units. Of the seven hundred '55s built, all but seven were V-8 cars, and the "Corvette" fender badge on this car lacks the large gold "V" indicating it has the 265 small block, so it's packing a Blue Flame inline six. Ergo, probably a '54.

This '54 is in Polo White with a Sportsman Red interior, one of 3,230 so configured, making it easily the most common variant of the '53-'55 'Vettes. The 235 cubic inch Blue Flame inline-6 had three single-venturi sidedraft Carter carbs and put out 150 SAE gross horsepower (bumped to 155 with a mid-year camshaft change).

Performance was...leisurely by modern standards, but compared to rolling Wurlitzers that dominated the Detroit scene at the time, it was small and nimble.

And still rolling, almost seventy years later.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

QotD: Informational Junk Food Edition...

"Eat too much junk food and you get fat. Consume too much junk news and you'll get fat-headed." - from the latest post by Bobbi


The Badassification of Blandness

You don't step to Suburban Dad Man!

(Yes, I know the Sienna is a Toyota, not a Hyundai. Work with me here.)


Tuesday, May 09, 2023

Sad news...

I just learned that Bruce McCall passed away.

You might know him from his illustrations for The New Yorker, who eulogized him yesterday:
Bruce McCall, the artist behind the cover for the May 15, 2023, issue, died on May 5th, at the age of eighty-seven. McCall, who insisted upon chewing his beloved Groucho Marx cigars long after a taste for tobacco stopped being even remotely acceptable, was a dear friend and a poet at heart. His artistic sensibility was formed far beyond the strictures of art school, first in the stark and frigid landscape of Ontario, then in the stark and frigid world of Madison Avenue advertising. His work as an ad man lent him an extraordinary drawing fluency and speed, and a knack for copywriting—his paintings are often filled with a droll humor splayed across billboards and signs. Ardor for the shining mirage of Detroit, Michigan—on the other side of Lake St. Clair—never left his heart. He loved cars, and drove everywhere in congested Manhattan traffic long after most everyone else had opted for public transportation.
I first encountered him on the pages of Car and Driver, where he was a frequent contributor.

So it goes.


Automotif CCCLXVI...

Here's a thing I didn't know...

I had for some reason been referring to Ford's wagons generically as "Country Squires", but apparently that was only the nicer ones. Not being much of a scholar of station wagons, I hadn't noticed that the ones without the woodgrain side decor were dubbed "Country Sedans".

This tastefully-modded 1966 Country Sedan looks like it's finished in NightMist Blue, which was a genuine '66 Ford color. The wheels and the rumble from the exhaust say that even if what's under the hood is the 390 indicated by the fender badges, it's likely far from stock.

The base motor in the '66 Country Sedan was Ford's 150bhp 240 cubic inch straight six, with an assortment of optional V-8s. There was a 2-bbl 289 rated at 200bhp, a 250bhp 4-bbl 352, and two different 390s: a 275 horse 2-bbl or a 315bhp 4-bbl.

Check out the 1966 Nebraska front plate and the Nebraska sticker in the passenger vent window.

The surfboard and the Woodward Ave sticker in the rearmost passenger-side window really tie the whole thing together.

The '66, by the way, is the first model year of the two-way tailgate on the big Ford wagons. Dubbed the "Magic Door Gate" in the sales literature, it could hinge downward or sideways.


Spoiler no spoiling!

Before I write anything here, let me get a few things out of the way: The guy in that movie was dead the whole time, Tyler Durden didn't exist, and Darth is actually Luke's dad.

If you're a normal human being on the internet, you sometimes complain about spoilers.

It's especially prevalent in the streaming era, where sometimes an entire season gets dumped on the 'net all at once. Some folks will then binge watch the whole thing in a weekend. Others, like Bobbi and me here at Roseholme Cottage, will watch one episode an evening.

When you stumble across a couple of friends on Facebook or a couple of coworkers at the water cooler talking about the show, and they're binge watchers while you're a trickler, you can blunder into a discussion containing the dreaded spoilers.

We don't have any fixed modern etiquette on when it's okay to drop spoilers into conversation. I mean, conceivably I just ruined Fight Club back there in my opening paragraph for someone who never watched it.

Well, in the immortal words of Professor Farnsworth, "Good news, everyone!"

It turns out that spoilers really don't have any measurable effect on people's enjoyment of a story. I mean, everybody went to go see Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy even though we'd known how it ended for 46 years, right? 

Don't take my word for it, though. Smart people with lab coats have checked the math, and it turns out...
"The truth is, we are just as likely to get caught up in a story even when we know what is coming — perhaps because more significant factors determine our enjoyment of narratives rather than simply waiting to learn or guess their resolution. Humans are hard-wired not just to absorb facts but also to lose themselves in stories and attune themselves to the characters and plots unfolding on the screen."
I still wouldn't go around gratuitously spoiling recent stuff, because that's just tacky, but I'll be less likely to get cross with someone who inadvertently lets slip the fact that Soylent Green is people.


Monday, May 08, 2023

Cocaine Hippos Redux

Remember those four hippos that Pablo Escobar had that were left to roam the wild in Colombia after he got iced by the feds?

Well, there are over a hundred and fifty of the things roaming Colombian bottomlands now.

And you can forget going down there and bagging a trophy because when the Colombian government tried that, the public outcry was so bad that they haven't authorized any hippo hunts since.

You think wild pigs can make a mess in a soybean field? Imagine what something that masses five times as much as the legendary "Hogzilla" can do to your tomato patch. Also, hippo feces is doing bad things to the waterways, because each hippo creates a few dozen pounds of the stuff a day.

Fortunately they don't breed like hogs, but they have pretty much zero natural predators down there, so the herd just keeps growing.

Extraordinary measures are being taken.
[C]astrating an unpredictable 4,000-pound semiaquatic beast isn't as easy as it sounds. Cristina Buitrago, a veterinarian for Cornare, a state-sponsored environmental group, has worked with a six-person team that lures hippos in with 180 pounds of carrots, knocks them out with darts carrying enough sedative to down three horses, and then flips their massive bodies to perform a castration. The five-hour operation can "cost up to $17,000 in a country that struggles to finance health care for humans," the Journal says. So far, the team has "fixed" 11 males and two females. "It's dirty. There's mud everywhere. You're soaked in sweat," Buitrago said. "This is not a practical way to solve the problem."

Yelling into the void.

It's not like it's any kind of popularity contest, but it doesn't keep people from treating it that way. It also means that people inclined toward crackpottery, with self-esteem issues and an aggrieved sense of entitlement, can work themselves into a quasi-public lather without a lot of people really noticing.


Some of us never left.

Apparently some Zoomers and younger Millennials who've grown disenchanted with the fractious state of normie social media, the frenetic pace of short-form video at TikTok and Instagram, and the ponderous seriousness of newsletter sites like Substack or Medium are discovering a new way to write content on the internet.

It's called "blogging".

I predict it'll never catch on.


Sunday, May 07, 2023

Saturday, May 06, 2023

Automotif CCCLXV...

A nice-looking Baffin Blue 1962 Ford Galaxie 500 Sunliner ragtop turning southbound on to College Avenue from 54th Street.

For 1962, Ford had introduced the "XL" package for the Galaxie to compete with the "SS" versions of the Chevy Impala. If this had that option package, the rear fender badges would read "Galaxie 500XL" instead of "Sunliner".

The front fender badges proclaim the presence of a 390 cubic inch "FE" big block under the hood.

The 3-speed Cruise-O-Matic automatic transmission shift lever on the steering column means that this is the 9.6:1 single four-barrel version of the 390, which was rated at 300 SAE gross bhp. The more potent high-compression 375bhp version was only available with a manual gearbox.

Check out the dashboard, this thing's got a power top!

No Virtue In Suffering

Mas Ayoob writing on handguns for people dealing with age-related infirmities:
"Arthritis hits different folks to different degrees. A lot of my friends who are past 60 have gone from .45 to 9mm, at least in part because it simply beats up their hands and wrists less in extended shooting sessions. A student who trained with me many years ago returned to take a refresher a few months ago. In his mid-80s now, he was struggling to work the slide of his Colt Commander, and could no longer reload it with the lightning speed he had 20 years ago. Cumulative nerve damage and arthritis had taken their toll. Some lighter loads and 10-round Wilson magazines helped, but I tried to steer him toward one of his polymer 9mms with double stack magazines, or his Browning Hi-Power.

The older shooter with impaired hand strength and dexterity doesn’t have to work a slide with a revolver, but some arthritic fingers find it harder to run a double action trigger than in their younger days. Hips and lower backs start getting precarious as time erodes us, too, and heavier guns go from “less comfortable” to “uncomfortable” to “downright painful.”
I know people whose hands and wrists are tore up from a lifetime of high-volume handgun shooting. Don't take my word for it, listen to the words of Pat Rogers from his well-known article on switching from .45 ACP 1911s to the M&P9, "Putting Down the Man Gun":
"There were two reasons why I decided to make a change. First was the fact that as I moved along in years, shooting .45 ammo became painful. Years of shooting as well as accumulated injuries had left me with tendonitis in both elbows and arthritis in my hands."
Coincidentally, Pat made that choice about the same time I made that exact same switch. I'd like to think that I probably extended my useful pistol-shooting shelf life by years that way.

Pat is not impressed.

Game of Thrones

Coronation humor around Roseholme Cottage this morning...