Sunday, September 21, 2014

Jobs for the boys - a 'brothel investigator'

I was amazed to read that Sydney, Australia has what must be one of the most unusual - and sought-after - jobs in the world.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

Three years ago Fred Allen* was a taxi driver working 12-hour shifts to make ends meet.

Today, he is a gun for hire, having received tens of thousands of dollars from Sydney's metropolitan councils in exchange for crucial evidence that is presented in court to help expose and close underground parlours. In short, Mr Allen has paid sex with prostitutes and ratepayers foot the bill.

"Never in a million years would I have imagined a job like this existed, let alone me doing it," the 60-year-old said, with a hint of a smirk. "It's a strange world for sure."

. . .

Mr Allen's maiden mission involved an undercover visit to an unlicensed brothel reportedly masquerading as a massage clinic. "I had never been to a brothel in my life so I was feeling quite nervous and apprehensive," he recalled.

"I didn't know what to expect. I reminded myself that this was a legal job exposing illegal activities. As far as first days at work go, I enjoyed myself."

. . .

Mr Allen confirmed he had completed more than 60 jobs at various locations across Sydney. In nearly every case, the establishments were "clean and comfortable" environments staffed almost exclusively by Asian girls who were in Australia to "study English". Sexual services were given in all but three of the businesses he has visited, he said.

"The jobs flow in, on average, once every three weeks. If it spreads out that way, it's perfect," he said.

"But there are occasions when they all arrive at once. For instance, I was given three jobs to complete, for the same council, in the same week ... and I'm not as young as I used to be."

[* Not his real name]

There's more at the link.  You can read more about his job here.

I wonder how Sydney ratepayers feel when they realize that their money is paying for an investigator to have sex with prostitutes?  I imagine the council could instead call for unpaid volunteers from among the ratepayers.  I daresay it'd be overwhelmed with the response!  Alternatively, we could get Mike Rowe to investigate it as an extension of his 'Dirty Jobs' series . . .


Saturday, September 20, 2014

This is so over the top it's hilarious!

We've featured Ken Block's Gymkhana motorsport videos here before.  Now, from the same stable, here's 'Ballistic BJ Baldwin' and his 800hp pickup truck (modded and hot-rodded out the wazoo) in a 'race' through Ensenada in Mexico.  The beach babes ain't bad, either . . .  I recommend watching it in full-screen mode.

Like I said - it's so over the top it's hilarious!  Some great camera work, too, to capture all that action, and very good post-production to tie it all together.  I wonder what the townspeople thought of the mayhem unleashed in their midst?


Why can't all our politicians answer these questions?

DaddyBear, fellow blogger and friend to Miss D. and myself in both cyber- and meatspace, has come up with a series of questions for political candidates wanting his vote.  He has five blog segments up (so far) with parts of his questionnaire:

I think they're great!  The only difficulty with them is that they're clearly compiled from a more conservative or right-wing perspective.  I'd love to see someone like Earthbound Misfit do something similar from a progressive or left-wing perspective, and combine them (and other contributions) into a non-partisan candidate rating system.  If all candidates, of whatever political persuasion, could be made to honestly answer questions like these, we'd all be better informed come election day.


After a month, how's Kindle Unlimited playing out?

After the launch of's new Kindle Unlimited (KU) subscription library, I waited to see how it would progress, then in the middle of last month I made up my mind.  I withdrew my books from other vendors (specifically iTunes, Barnes & Noble's Nook, and Kobo) and listed them exclusively in Amazon's KDP Select program so as to make them eligible for KU.

It's been just over 30 days since I did that, and the initial results have been very satisfactory for me.  I've found that the number of loans, and the fees Amazon pays for a loan under the KU program, have added up to between three and four times as much as I would have made (based on past performance) from all three of the other vendors.  From a financial perspective, there's no question that the switch has made sense.  The additional income is particularly useful at this time because of the cyclical nature of book sales.  Every time I release a new book it'll sell well for six weeks or so, then go into a decline.  It'll lift the sales of my other books with it, and then they'll decline as well.  Right now, since I've delayed the release of my next novel to give me more time to make it a better book, my sales figures aren't great;  so the added income stream from KU loans is very welcome indeed.  (I'm looking forward to a  renewed boost in sales when Maxwell Volume 4 comes out in a month or two.)

Bestselling independent author Hugh Howie has found that the KU program nets him less money, but more readers.  He argues that the latter is just as important (if not more so) to authors than their current income stream, in terms of future sales.  (In his case, of course, selling hundreds of thousands of books a year, this is no problem for him at all.  I daresay some other authors, more dependent on day-to-day income, might not share his views.)  Since I've found that the KU program has brought me both more readers and an increased income stream, I'm definitely in agreement with him about its benefits.

I apologize to those of you who want to buy my books in formats other than Amazon's Kindle, but right now it's simply not financially viable for me to offer them for sale.  Of course, I don't use DRM encoding on my books, so if you buy the Kindle edition you can convert it to other formats such as EPUB using a free program called Calibre, which I use myself and recommend.  (Calibre can't handle DRM-encoded books, but if the DRM is stripped from the files, it works just fine with them.)  I'm going to look into whether I can supply .PDF versions of my books independently of other vendors;  however, as they're presently structured, Amazon's terms of service won't allow me to do this.  It may be possible to have an arrangement that if you've bought the Kindle edition of the book, and want a .PDF version as well at no additional charge, I may be able to supply this.  I'm talking to Amazon representatives at present, and I'll let you know if it gets the green light.

(By the way, if you're looking for free reader software for .PDF books and other formats, take a look at Adobe Digital Editions.  I find it much easier to use - and easier on the eyes - than Adobe Acrobat Reader.  Recommended.)


Rush hour, choreographed

Someone had way too much fun setting this up . . .


Friday, September 19, 2014

Not your average back seat driver . . .

I came across an article at Jalopnik titled 'The Ten Most Vulgar Cars Ever Made'.  Vulgar they most certainly are . . . particularly what's described as 'A 1954 Rolls-Royce Toilet Car'.  Externally, it looks intriguing - the only Rolls-Royce ever to have bodywork styled by Vignale of Italy.

Intrigued, I flipped over to the Bonham's auction listing for the vehicle.  Sure enough, they comment:

When Joseph J. Maschuch, Esq. of Maplewood, New Jersey (incorrectly noted as New York on the build sheets) placed his order for a Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith he was definitely not looking to glide quietly through life unnoticed.

Starting with a long wheelbase Silver Wraith, Maschuch enlisted the Italian futurists at Vignale to craft a one-off body like nothing else to clothe his special limousine. The classic Rolls grill is hugged by a pair of sealed beam P100s while a smaller set of hooded foglights capped the front fenders. The rear window and C-pillar were swept back and — much like a 1959 Lincoln Continental Sedan that seemingly cherry-picked from this car's design—the rear window was retractable. Even with the long wheelbase, the finely appointed cabin necessitated a long rear overhang to accommodate a full sized trunk. It was no doubt as matchless in mid-1955 when it was delivered as it is today.

If the look of the car wasn't enough to draw one's attention, the list of special features certainly would. Under the bonnet, the block, head, dynamo, starter, air cleaner, carburetor, and inlet manifold were all painted green. In addition to that the build sheets indicate that the "customer requires all visible pipes under the bonnet [to be] chrome plated." Inside, air conditioning kept the cabin cool while fine cabinetry in the rear compartment hid a full bar and a center mounted television. A Becker Mexico radio in the dash provided music to fit the occasion. All of the windows were of course power operated, as was the front seat. The chauffeur's compartment was trimmed in black leather, while Mr. Maschuch enjoyed grey broadcloth. Most distinctively, under the right rear passenger seat is a toilet with a gold painted toilet seat — although it is understood this was only used as a champagne cooler (at least one hopes it was not used interchangeably).

There's more at the link.  Underlined text is my emphasis.

A toilet under the rear seat???  Sure enough, there it is:

And he wanted it for use "as a champagne cooler"?  Couldn't he have specified a more conventional design?  According to the Jalopnik article, the toilet "would empty right out on to the road under the car".  Was it ever used for that purpose?  Was it, perhaps, the owner's way of expressing his opinion of those he was passing?

I suppose we'll never know . . .


There's no room for people like this in our society

WARNING:  If a blunt discussion of pedophilia might offend you, please don't read any further.

A few years ago I wrote about a seminar organized by B4U-ACT, a group purporting to help (or try to help) those sexually attracted to minors.  I confessed my dilemma over the question of what to do about those who felt such attraction, but had never acted on it.  Could they be legitimately helped without condoning pedophilia?  Read my whole article (and the comments) to get a feel for the discussion.

Now comes news that another seminar has just been held by B4U-ACT.

In “Batman,” the Joker rhetorically asks a young Bruce Wayne: “Tell me, kid – you ever danced with the devil by the pale moonlight?” Well, I have. Not by the pale moonlight, but in a brightly lit Four Points Sheraton in Baltimore, Md.

On Wednesday, Aug. 17, I – along with the venerable child advocate Dr. Judith Reisman – attended a conference hosted by the pedophile group B4U-ACT. Around 50 individuals were in attendance, including a number of admitted pedophiles (or “minor-attracted persons” [MAPs] as they euphemistically prefer), a few self-described “gay activists” and several supportive mental-health professionals. World renowned “sexologist” Dr. Fred Berlin of Johns Hopkins University gave the keynote address, saying: “I want to completely support the goal of B4U-ACT.”

. . .

Self-described “gay activist” and speaker Jacob Breslow said that children can properly be “the object of our attraction.” He further objectified children, suggesting that pedophiles needn’t gain consent from a child to have sex with “it” any more than we need consent from a shoe to wear it. He then used graphic, slang language to favorably describe the act of climaxing (ejaculating) “on or with” a child. No one in attendance objected to this explicit depiction of child sexual assault. There was even laughter. (In fairness, Dr. Berlin did later tell Mr. Breslow that his words might “anger” some people and that he [Berlin] is categorically opposed to adult-child sex with “pre-pubescent” children. When asked about the propriety of adult-child sex with pubescent children, Dr. Berlin did not provide a clear answer.)

. . .

Alas, we live in a post-Kinsey America wherein our culture, along with our Judeo-Christian heritage, rots in the heat of the day. The stench of sexual anarchy is masked by the soaring, disingenuous rhetoric of “tolerance,” “diversity” and “comprehensive sex education.”

Sick to your stomach? I am. Why can't these sexual anarchists leave our children alone and let kids be kids?

There's much more at the link, if you can stomach the details.  It's important reading if you're to understand how pedophiles are actively trying to subvert our society's remaining moral standards, and threaten our children with their perversion.

Based on this report, it now seems clear that B4U-ACT and similar groups (several of which are identified in the article) are nothing more than 'front organizations' and/or apologists for pedophilia.  As such, I believe they - and their members - are utterly beyond anything that civilized society can accept or tolerate in its midst.

I spent many years in Africa, including extensive travel in 'traditional' tribal regions.  There's not much of a pedophilia problem in those areas.  That's because the tribal elders watch out for such things, and deal with them immediately and with utter ruthlessness when the need arises.  The offending party simply 'vanishes'.  He or she is never seen or heard from again.  Everyone knows what happened to them, but no-one ever says a word.  Those who might harbor such tendencies see what happened to those who tried to indulge them, and learn from their example.  If they don't, sooner or later they'll 'vanish' in their turn.  I guess it's a time-honored African implementation of the famous '3-S Treatment'.

That's certainly one solution to an age-old problem.  Traditional Judeo-Christian morality would find it difficult to object to it (provided that the guilt of the parties concerned is beyond question) because no other solution will permanently remove the threat.  Personally, I accept (having worked with some of them for years in prison) that some forms of deviancy can never be safely tolerated in society.  I submit that pedophilia is one of them.  Pedophiles will always be a threat to our children.  If they can be incarcerated for life in institutions that are guaranteed to keep them locked away from our children, that's one solution.  If that can't be assured, we need to modify our judicial system so that it can be assured;  because if we don't, people will turn to the only other solution that's sure to work . . . just as they did in Africa.

I invite my readers to form their own opinions of the members and supporters of B4U-ACT and the other organizations mentioned in the report.  I certainly have.


EDITED TO ADD:  The problem's not confined to the USA alone, of course.  A few minutes ago I came across this article in the Sydney Morning Herald:  'Scale of paedophile activity shocks police'.  Go read it for yourself.  I'm willing to bet what they're finding in Australia is also going on over here, and in Europe.

Doofus Of The Day #788

Today's award goes to North Carolinians Against Gun Violence.  This anti-gun group appears to regard all victims of shootings as 'victims' to be exploited for propaganda purposes.  That's all very well, until one of them turns out to be a real bad-ass felon with a criminal record, who was shot while engaged in what appears to be yet another offense.  Read all the details at 'An NC Gun Blog'.

Just goes to show . . . propaganda has to be well thought out - otherwise it can (and often does) backfire on those trying to use it to manipulate public opinion.


A great piece of flying

Watch this DC-10 water bomber from 10 Tanker dive straight down a ridgeline to drop its load of fire retardant, then firewall the throttles to pull up clear of the cross-ridge where the photographer is waiting.  I recommend watching the video in full-screen mode.

I didn't know you could toss one of those whale-like planes around like that - and I suspect most airline pilots wouldn't even try!  Kudos to the pilot for his skills.

You can see more videos of the DC-10 water bombers at 10 Tanker's Web site, and on YouTube.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Some interesting declassified CIA reports

The Central Intelligence Agency has declassified a number of reports from its in-house journal, 'Studies in Intelligence'.  The agency described them as follows:

This collection of released documents consists of a selection of declassified Studies in Intelligence articles from the 1970s to 2000s. The documents reveal the CIA’s place in conducting U.S. foreign policy. The Agency cannot plan or act today without being influenced in some way by its collective past or the historical experiences that these documents describe. This collection of declassified articles includes studies on the leadership of the individual DCIs and other senior Agency officers; histories of CIA directorates and their activities; tutorials on improving intelligence tradecraft; ever-changing intelligence challenges and national security threats to the U.S.; and specific events in which intelligence played a role in informing policymakers or influencing outcomes.

Studies in Intelligence, CIA’s in-house journal for the intelligence professional, is administered by the Agency’s Center for the Study of Intelligence. Its mission is to stimulate within the Intelligence Community the constructive discussion of important issues of the day, to expand knowledge of lessons learned from past experiences, to increase understanding of the history of the profession, and to provide readers with considered reviews of public literature concerning intelligence. Intelligence trailblazer Sherman Kent-the ‘father’ of intelligence analysis in America-created Studies in 1955 as a journal for intelligence professionals. In the first article published in Studies, Kent called for the creation of a literature that would support the development of intelligence as a professional discipline. He said, “As long as this discipline lacks a literature, its method, its vocabulary, its body of doctrine, and even its fundamental theory run the risk of never reaching full maturity.“  Kent believed that the most important service such a literature could perform would be to record and disseminate new ideas and experiences, and build toward a cumulative understanding of the profession.

I've been browsing through some of the released reports.  They look very interesting.  A few examples:

There are many more at the link.  Recommended reading for historians of intelligence operations, and for those trying to understand what an organization like the CIA may be called upon to do.  I daresay the organization's foreign counterparts (including the Soviet KGB's modern successor organizations) will read these articles with a great deal of mutual understanding and a 'Been there, done that' reaction.


Doofus Of The Day #787

Courtesy of a link at Wirecutter's place, today's award goes to a 16-year-old teen in Boise, Idaho.

A car full of teenagers crashed in Idaho after one of the passengers lit the driver's armpit hair on fire with a lighter, authorities said Wednesday.

All five young people in the Ford Bronco were hurt in the crash Sunday and received medical treatment, the Ada County Sheriff's Office said.

Two of the passengers, ages 15 and 16, were thrown from the vehicle, but none of the five suffered life-threatening injuries.

There's more at the link.

Dare I guess that apart from teenage stupidity (as my sister says, they think they're "invincible, invulnerable and infertile"), alcohol might have been involved?



What happens when two ferrets are introduced to a box full of packing peanuts?

Miss D. and I were giggling like mad at the thought of our cat joining in the fun . . . and she would!


Debt and what it means to YOU PERSONALLY

I've written many times before about the problem of debt, and how it threatens our joint and several individual, corporate and national future.  I've just come across one of the best explanations of the problem of debt in layman's terms that I've ever found.

Chris Martenson is a well-known economic forecaster and commentator.  In 2011 he published 'The Crash Course:  The Unsustainable Future Of Our Economy, Energy, And Environment'.  He's currently updating his 2011 book in the form of a series of video podcasts on his YouTube channel.  I highly recommend watching them all.  They contain no-nonsense, down-to-earth explanations of how we got into this mess and what are likely to be the consequences.  One of his talks - the latest to be uploaded - is titled simply 'Debt'.  Here's the key graphic from that presentation, IMHO.

Take a good, long look at that graphic.  It's no joke.  As of the end of last year, the average US family of four had a debt burden - comprising its share of the overall personal, corporate, local government, state government and national government debt - totalling $735,000.  That's even if the family carried no personal debt whatsoever - no credit card balance, no student loans, no mortgage, no car note - nothing.

If you're horrified at the thought that you, personally, as an individual, are on the hook for over $180,000 of other peoples' debts, you need to watch this video presentation to find out how that happened.  If the embed code stops working for any reason, you can watch it on YouTube.

Horrifying, isn't it?  Now you understand why knowledgeable commentators have been saying for years that our present economic circumstances are unsustainable.  Never before in the history of the human race have numbers like these been bandied about.  Sooner or later, something's got to give.  The only reason it hasn't already 'given' is that the Fed has been printing money like there's no tomorrow (through it's so-called 'quantitative easing' programs) to subsidize expenditure and debt, both for the US government and for the economy as a whole.  That 'money spigot' is scheduled to be shut off next month.  What's going to happen then?  Your guess is as good as mine . . . but my guess is that it won't be good.

Debt is the albatross around our economic necks.  It's dragging us down, and there will be no way up unless and until we shed that albatross.  It's as simple as that.  Mathematics is a science, not guesswork - and the debt numbers don't lie.

Thanks to Mr. Martenson for a very enlightening and informative video series.  I very strongly recommend that you watch all of them.  If only they weren't so depressing . . . but we can't blame Mr. Martenson for reality.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Apple, security, and control of your life

Wired magazine tries to explain 'Why Apple Devices Will Soon Rule Every Aspect of Your Life'.

The biggest thing Apple showed off Tuesday wasn’t a product, or even a product line. It was the way all of Apple’s products—and thousands more from other developers, manufacturers and services—now mesh together. It is like a huge ubiquitous computer now, all around us, all the time. The interface is the very world we live in.

“The product isn’t just a collection of features,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said, announcing his company’s new iPhone, “it’s how it all works together.” And really, this is true of the entire Apple line, the entire Apple experience.

Tuesday’s announcements laid open the scope of Apple’s ambitions in making everything in your life work together. A computer on every desk? Chump change. With the new iPhones, Apple Watch, Apple Pay, HomeKit, HealthKit, iBeacon and even CarPlay, Apple is building a world in which there is a computer in your every interaction, waking and sleeping.

A computer in your pocket. A computer on your body. A computer paying for all your purchases. A computer opening your hotel room door. A computer monitoring your movements as you walk though the mall. A computer watching you sleep. A computer controlling the devices in your home. A computer that tells you where you parked. A computer taking your pulse, telling you how many steps you took, how high you climbed and how many calories you burned—and sharing it all with your friends. A computer in your car. All of it the same computer: The computer in the sky that connects to the computer in your pocket and on your wrist and in your car, your office, and your home.

This is the new Apple ecosystem. Apple has turned our world into one big ubiquitous computer.

There's more at the link.

The problem remains, as I pointed out at the time, that Apple has deliberately built security backdoors into its iOS operating system.  The software foundation of Apple's ecosystem is intrinsically untrustworthy.  Given that reality, why would anyone in their right mind actually trust that company with control over so many aspects of their lives?  I certainly won't!

There are, of course, other problems with the Apple ecosystem.  I'll give Gizmodo the last word.


"The Dying Russians"

That's the title of a very interesting article in the New York Review of Books.  Here's a brief excerpt to whet your appetite.

Sometime in 1993, after several trips to Russia, I noticed something bizarre and disturbing: people kept dying. I was used to losing friends to AIDS in the United States, but this was different. People in Russia were dying suddenly and violently, and their own friends and colleagues did not find these deaths shocking. Upon arriving in Moscow I called a friend with whom I had become close over the course of a year. “Vadim is no more,” said his father, who picked up the phone. “He drowned.” I showed up for a meeting with a newspaper reporter to have the receptionist say, “But he is dead, don’t you know?” I didn’t. I’d seen the man a week earlier; he was thirty and apparently healthy. The receptionist seemed to think I was being dense. “A helicopter accident,” she finally said, in a tone that seemed to indicate I had no business being surprised.

The deaths kept piling up. People—men and women—were falling, or perhaps jumping, off trains and out of windows; asphyxiating in country houses with faulty wood stoves or in apartments with jammed front-door locks; getting hit by cars that sped through quiet courtyards or plowed down groups of people on a sidewalk; drowning as a result of diving drunk into a lake or ignoring sea-storm warnings or for no apparent reason; poisoning themselves with too much alcohol, counterfeit alcohol, alcohol substitutes, or drugs; and, finally, dropping dead at absurdly early ages from heart attacks and strokes.

Back in the United States after a trip to Russia, I cried on a friend’s shoulder. I was finding all this death not simply painful but impossible to process. “It’s not like there is a war on,” I said.

“But there is,” said my friend, a somewhat older and much wiser reporter than I. “This is what civil war actually looks like. “It’s not when everybody starts running around with guns. It’s when everybody starts dying.”

. . .

Why are Russians dying in numbers, and at ages, and of causes never seen in any other country that is not, by any standard definition, at war?

In the seventeen years between 1992 and 2009, the Russian population declined by almost seven million people, or nearly 5 percent—a rate of loss unheard of in Europe since World War II. Moreover, much of this appears to be caused by rising mortality. By the mid-1990s, the average St. Petersburg man lived for seven fewer years than he did at the end of the Communist period; in Moscow, the dip was even greater, with death coming nearly eight years sooner.

There's much more at the link.  It makes interesting, thought-provoking and recommended reading, particularly in the light of Russian President Putin's expansionist and interventionist tendencies.  Is he trying to ignore the demographic chaos unfolding in his country's interior?  Or does he prefer to get involved in adventures on the periphery because they're the only success stories still available?


Rough roads and tough trucks

I've put up video clips of trucks in rough conditions before, but these two compilation clips of Russian trucks in that country's hundreds of thousands of square miles of wilderness are pretty impressive.  I don't think there are many Western trucks that would perform as well under those conditions.

Tough trucks, all right - and tough drivers too.