Saturday, November 23, 2002

I've heard of a performance show in New York called Puppetry of the Penis. It came to my attention because the theater had to be evactuated recently during a performance due to a bomb threat.

In the show, the actors (Performance artists? Dickwads?) manipulate their gee willikers to form various shapes.

Hey, I could do that. Not to brag or nuthin'....

Thanks to Jack Burton for giving us the heads up. A Brit scientist developed a blister on a very sensitive place due to the intense heat generated by his laptop, even though he states that he was wearing pants while operating the ....uh, machine.

That's his story and he's sticking to it!

Friday, November 22, 2002

Time for my favorite poem.

I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

By John Masefield (1878-1967).
(English Poet Laureate, 1930-1967.)
David Drake is a Viet Nam War vet turned science fiction author who's known for his violent and bleak portrayals of combat. Although I'm not a big fan of his writing style I've found most of his books to be entertaining.

Some of his friends recently held a roast for him, where they imagined what kinds of books he might have written if he'd decided to write in a genre different than sci-fi. They even made up some fictional book covers.

So how would Mr. Drake's violent and bloody writing style fare if he wrote a children's book? Or a cook book? How's about a western?

My favorite is the how-to book on parenting.

OH, YEAH....
I was reading Mr. Bowen's blog and I saw that he had posted some thoughts on Stirling engines. That reminded me of a website that I had stumbled on some time ago.

It's a site that sells some really cool models, as well as having graphics that show how mechanical linkages work.

Want to know what a cam is? Or how a trebuchet works? How about the oscillating mechanism that makes your windsheild wipers go back and forth?

Explore the site. Look around. Lots of neat stuff there.

They even have an explanation as to how Stirling engines work.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

I'm reading Natalie Solent's blog when I come across this post. It's very cryptic, and it links to many other bloggers who are weighing in about something that's gotten their dander up. So I clicked a few links and followed the bouncing ball and saw what was what.

Seems there's a discussion about what the root cause of crime is. Some say poverty, some say lack of proper family life while young, and I don't know what some of the other posts go on about (something about Leftist ideals and family life, I suppose).

Now all of the posts are well written and I'm sure that they make their point in a very succinct and witty way (way more witty a way than I'm capable of, at least). But it didn't seem to me that any of the people involved in the debate actually had any experience in law enforcement. This isn't to say that their opinion is to be ignored, or that they don't have some very good points to be made. If you're interested in theory then I urge you to click a few links and read up on it yourself.

I was a fingerprint technician and have probably met more criminals (and seen their arrest and conviction records) than many cops with 30 years under their belt. My experience tells me that the whole debate hinges on a false premise. See, all of these guys are talking about the Causes for Crime. Instead they should talk about why everybody isn't a criminal!

Hobbes was right, the natural order of things is savagery. Society, culture, laws. These are carefully constructed artifices to force people to be nice. The reason that people in the upper tax brackets tend to break the law less often is due to the fact that they have more to lose. People lower down the income curve don't have as much to lose and don't see the penalties as being all that horrible to begin with. As soon as this bubble of civilization bursts and the mechanisms we have in place to boot people in the butt for being true to their nature fail, then we see the natural order of things reasserting itself.

Don't believe me? Think that Man is inherently warm and cozy and fuzzy inside with the light of human kindness? Then ask yourself why the news agencies report selfless acts. It's only the "man bites dog" stuff that gets any air time.

It could be said that I'm a victim of my experiences, and am biased. After all, if all you see are the worst of people then you'll soon come to think that people are the worst. This might be, I dunno. I'll let my readers decide.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

The free weekly supplements from Jane's Defence are out. Let's see what they have for us.

Better Test it First
A few months ago the U.S. Navy conducted the First Battle Experiment, where many new ship designs and tactics were tested. The conclusions reached were that there's really nothing to challenge the Navy's supremacy of the sea, but that it could improve it's ability to aid in stormin' the beach.

To that end the DoJ has decided to award contracts for the Focused-Mission Ship concept. Some ship building firms are given a budget and allowed to develop prototypes of warcraft that will aid in very specific roles. The focus is on shallow water, close to shore operation (called "littoral"), mainly to provide support for beach assaults. One of the things I find fascinating is that the Navy wants all ships to have the ability to travel at 50 k/hr for short distances.

Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a ....ah, Hornet
The Navy's new and improved fighter/bomber is the F/A 18E/F Super Hornet. Replacing the aging Grumman A-6 Intruder as the Navy's main bomb delivery system, the Super Hornet has certainly been under some intense scrutiny. On November 6 the Super Hornet went in to combat for the very first time when aircraft from the USS Abraham Lincoln attacked air defense sites in Iraq. Everything went as planned, with no U.S. casualties.

Dancing in the Streets
Jane's has an srticle that discusses the problems with urban warfare and what the U.S. military is doing to get ready for it. Please note that the U.S. is about the only military in the world that's adressing this issue (more about that later).

Probably the most famous example of urban warfare is Stalingrad during WWII. According to the reports of the survivors is was as close to hell as anyone wants to get (and NO, I don't want to find out if they're exaggerating by experiencing it myself). Since then many military planners have been shaken by the spector of history repeating itself. Most plans pretty much called for just bypassing an urban center, or destroying enything useful through bombing while surrounding the place with conventional troops. Give the defenders a year to turn cannibal and there wouldn't be many left to bother with.

This is obviously something that the U.S. will tolerate, even though it's probably the most efficient way to handle the problem while minimizing the risk to your own people. So the U.S. has built a whole high tech urban warfare training area at Fort Knox. Some articles have appeared about the training center, but so far the Army has tried to play things pretty close to it's vest.

Considering the cost of building a training center like this, it's no surprise that the U.S. is the only military force that can afford it. But it's well worth the money if lives are saved.

Goin' to the Show
Cancelled last year due to 9/11, the MCAS Miramar Air Show was held without a hitch. It's the largest event of it's kind in the world, and it looks like all the stops were pulled out. My favorite is the vintage aircraft, but I have to admit that I wouldn't mind trying to strike up a conversation with the young lady fiddling with he camera in this picture.

Just call me a pig, but I've always had a weakness for redheads. (Yeah, it was her HAIR that caught your eye!)

Monday, November 18, 2002

We bloggers are an incestuous bunch (ahem). If we find something neato we write a line or two and link to it. This bypasses the difficult process of thinking up something original to say. Hey, I'm not above that sort of thing. So not only am I going to link to stuff that other blogs have come up with, I'm gonna link to stuff that I only found when other blogs linked to it in the first place!

Bunnies? We no need no stinkin' bunnies!
Thanks to DavidMSC, who linked to something that was posted on The Belligerent Bunny Blog. Besides plenty of way-too-cute bunny pictures, it seems that Anna is interested in things of a military nature. (She also likes Space: 1999, but I certainly don't hold that against anyone since I'm a fan myself.)

Ann also has a link to a travelling museum that features long dead visions of the future. Highly recommended.

It's Like The History Channel Except You Gotta Read
Thanks to Mr. J. Bowen at No Watermelons Allowed for the heads up. American Heritage has a way kewl history of the Special Forces on their website. They also reprint decades-old articles in their Time Machine section.

This is the Treasure Trove of Easily Stolen Content
No example of a lack of drive and imagination would be complete without a visit to Prof. Reynold's blog. It's like the Marines say when they're outnumbered, it's such a target rich environment!

From the fantastically swift keyboard of Prof. Reynold comes this link to, and an article by James Dunnigan himself about the efforts the U.S. has made in the information war against Iraq.

Well, that's it. Gonna go to bed now. Don't know why I'm tired, I haven't done anything all day.

Sunday, November 17, 2002

I was reading Prof. Reynold's blog and saw that he recommended a pro-Europe blog written by Carla Passino. When I took a look I saw that Ms. Passino had written this post. In the post she laments the "Bush administration's bullying, often childish attitude towards Europe." She states that Europe has a different attitude than the U.S. about....well, just about everything. European companies have closer ties to the Middle East than America, many European countries have sizable Muslim populations, and Europeans have a greater sensitivity to war and conflict. Her conclusion seems to be that there's an ever-widening gulf between the U.S. and Europe, and the only thing that will help is an administration change in Washington.

I have many problems with Ms. Passino's view of things, the first being an a priori assumption that the U.S. needs the European countries' approval. Ever since the formation of NATO the Euros have been pillaging their defense budgets to fund social programs. Okay, fine, it's their money. But now most of the European militaries are so feeble that they'd have problems handling even a modest emergency in their own country, let alone projecting force outside of their borders. Bosnia alone made it abundantly clear that NATO itself, the organization that the European governments have placed their hopes for defense, is a paper tiger without the U.S. to do the heavy lifting. The recent campaign in Afghanistan just rammed this point home. The Euro govs and newspapers, almost without exception, gleefully predicted doom. But a 10 month campaign with very few casualties showed how divorced from reality they really are.

So the European countries are toothless, sick old men who can't influence events on their own land all that well and aren't worth anything a few miles past their frontiers. I would think that the events of the past year would have made this so clear that anyone could easily see this reality. Considering this, one has to ask the question: What are the European countries good for? They bitch up a storm, sure, but what are they bringing to the table? Since NATO is as worthless as their own militaries without the U.S. to back it up, what can they do for us in exchange for giving up our vital interests and safety? Anything? Anything at all?

There are some in Europe who would say that NATO has served it's purpose anyway. Let it die. Ms. Passino states the rational behind this view when she says "The American government puts - quite rightly - America first. Unsurprisingly, European governments do precisely the same thing. Only, they put Europe first." This recalls articles in most European newspapers that claimed the Euro countries had evolved beyond simple self-interst and have come to take the greater good in consideration. This is preposterous.

So let's say that the U.S. pulls out of NATO and we go our own course. Very soon you'd see panic set in as the Euro countries realized that they are far more vulnerable than they thought, particularly to each other. Germany's record is hardly one of co-operation, unless one ignores history and only looks at recent decades when the American bayonet was at the Fatherland's throat. The Euro countries would have no choice but to rearm, if only to make sure that their neighbors would remain polite. The economic devastation and social unrest that would result from yanking the social programs out from under the feet of the voters is bracing to consider. As well as the problems that would come from all of those unassimulated Muslim immigrants that many Euro countries have been ignoring in the hope that a solution would just appear. In one fell swoop all of the problems that keep Europeans from perceiving reality, all of those fine points that Ms. Passino makes about Muslim populations and considering the common good and no stomach for war, would be taken care of all at once.

But that's the rub. The U.S. might be the adult that keeps the kids polite while they play in their little sandbox, but they'd grow up fast if we don't keep an eye on them. Nuclear tech is available to anyone with the scientific and industrial base to build it and all of the Euro countries certainly fit the bill. Let 'em go back to their old ways, let them gain some actual influence over world events, and the U.S. would have to come in and clean up a colossal world-threatening mess like we've done twice before. As long as we're dealing with the European countries then someone has to be the adult and do the dirty work that the kids are just too immature to handle.

One last thing. I started out this post with a quote from Ms. Passino that bemoans the U.S.'s childish attitude concerning Europe. I think she has it all wrong. It's not that the U.S. has a childish attitude, it's that the U.S. is trying to deal with children.

If the Europeans don't agree with me then all they have to do is dissolve NATO. Then the fun can really begin!

Back during World War I, the firearms firm of Fabrique Nationale offered a tiny auto pistol for sale. Designed by famed American designer John Moses Browning, it was chambered for a .25 ACP cartridge that was specifically designed for the gun. The main advantage to the round was that it was designed specifically to be a reliable feeder in an autoloader. Many troops in the trenches loved this little pocket auto, and they were in high demand on both sides.

There had been effective pocket pistols produced before, but all of them were either derringers with fixed barrels or revolvers that were rather large for the purpose. The biggext drawback was the long reload time for both types. With the introduction of a reliable auto loader in such a tiny size, many people bought them for emergncy last-ditch protection.

That original .25 ACP cartridge is still around today, still popular. People still buy them for the same reason that they were bought 100 years ago: reliable multi-shot protection in a tiny package. But I have to say that, all of the good things I've been saying about these guns aside, they pretty much suck.

The problem is one of power. Compare the ballistics for the .25 ACP with that for the .22 Long Rifle. You'll notice that the .22 is about twice as effecient as the .25. In all candor I just can't see why anyone would bother with guns chambered for this round.

But there is a place for tiny handguns. They're still useful as last ditch defensive arms or as a backup to your main carry gun. Many companies offer guns that are just as small but are chambered for potent cartridges, but they might not be right if there's a problem with the extreme recoil that's generated when a full-powered cartridge is fired from such a tiny frame. If that's the case then such a tiny, underpowered gun might be worth the effort of hauling around.

But remember, they're inadequate to defend yourself by themselves. When trouble starts the first gun you should have in your hand is a full sized or compact handgun. The little guy shouldn't be used unless there's a catastrophic malfunction or you run out of ammo for his big brother.