Saturday, August 29, 2015

Around The Blogs 2015-08-29

Time for another collection of interesting posts and articles from around the blogosphere.

# # #

Nicki at The Liberty Zone fisks an idiot who objects to an NRA sticker on a vehicle.  It's superb!  Go read.

# # #

Jill Kandel, who works with prison inmates, reflects on 'The Doors We Walk Through'.

# # #

Reflecting on the Sad Puppies campaign for the Hugo Awards this year, Brad Torgerson talks about what he's experienced and learned.  It's not pretty . . . but it's real.  I think he did a great job under the most trying of circumstances.

# # #

Sipsey Street Irregulars has a useful series of talking points about local supply preparedness in an emergency situation.  Food for thought.

# # #

Shona Walker brings us an anonymous plea to exercise extreme care when putting chili oil or Vicks Vaporub anywhere near delicate portions of the anatomy.  (Not safe for work, but very funny!)

# # #

The Silicon Graybeard thinks the stock market's woes aren't yet over.  I agree.

# # #

Something of importance to all self-published authors:  John Doppler alerts us to the existence of Kindle counterfeiting, where someone copies the entire text of a book, puts it up on Amazon or other retailers, and pockets all the royalties.  I hope this doesn't become more prevalent, but it's all too easy in an electronic age like ours.

# # #

The Feral Irishman provides a graphic illustration of the importance of diet soda.  (NOT!)

# # #

Never Yet Melted brings us a timely reminder about truth in advertising.

# # #

Last but not least, Mr. B. urges us to 'Have confidence in those who administer your children's education'.

# # #

That's all for this weekend.  Enjoy!


I didn't know there was a Mexican version of Yosemite Sam . . .

. . . but there is, and he meets up with Speedy Gonzales too!

Ah, life's simple pleasures - Saturday cartoons.  Remember them in the good old days?


Friday, August 28, 2015

Losing our moral direction?

Four events over the past week have made me think long and hard about the moral mess in which we find ourselves in this country.

First, there was the Hugo Awards debacle, in which two sides with widely differing opinions, having harangued each other for months, finally had at it in a no-holds-barred award ceremony that left one side triumphant - and the other infuriated and energized to come back at them even harder next year.  There were, ultimately, no winners in the fight;  only the guarantee that the Hugo Awards themselves would be the ultimate losers.  Civility and common decency seemed to have vanished.

Second, there was the frantic effort to repair the damage done to Planned Parenthood's image over the recent undercover video scandal.  The organization hastily commissioned its own investigation into the videos, which concluded - surprise, surprise! - that they'd been heavily edited and were unusable as evidence.  As The Nation was quick to point out, "The forensic analysis should clarify that the scandal is not Planned Parenthood’s participation in tissue donation for medical research. It’s the surreptitious campaign undertaken by CMP to attack the healthcare provider, possibly in collusion with some members of Congress."  Nice to have no conscience in matters like this.  Clearly, the dismemberment of just-aborted but still living children for their organs, for profit, is nothing to worry about.

Third, country musician Charlie Daniels wrote an open letter to the US Congress.  Here's an excerpt.

Your ratings are in the single digits; your morals are in the gutter; your minds are on self-preservation; and somewhere along the way, you’ve traded your honor for political expediency.

You've violated your oaths; you've betrayed your country; you've feathered your nests; and you've sat on your hands while an imperial president has rubbed your noses in the dirt time after time.

You're no longer men. You're puppets, caricatures, jokes, a gaggle of fading prostitutes for sale to anybody who can do you a political favor.

“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

There's more at the link.  It's worth reading it all.

Finally, following the tragic murder of a television journalist and cameraman in Virginia, Matt Walsh lays it on the line.

We look at the darkest, most disturbing actions carried out by the most hateful people, and rather than face the terrifying reality that, in fact, rational people choose to do evil, we retreat back into the comfortable fantasy that only crazy people do bad things.

We want to reduce everything to chemicals and neurology and synapses, but we leave no room for a man’s soul, his will, his desire, his choice. And what has that achieved? I suppose it’s achieved quite a bit, financially, for the pharmaceutical industry, yet the rest of us are still left to grapple with the hatred and despair they told us the pills would cure.

Of course, I don’t discount mental illness completely, nor do I suppose Flanagan would have checked all the boxes on a “mental health” checklist. Obviously, the man had “issues,” as they say. But my radical theory is that his deepest issues were spiritual. And the same could be said for all of us.

Flanagan grabbed that camera and that gun and shot two people in the head because he was consumed by his sin, and he was consumed by his sin because he chose to follow his bitterness, loathing, and contempt all the way down into the darkness, away from the light, away from God, away from Truth. He pushed God out and let evil in, and this is the result.

And there is something even beyond Flanagan and his individual choices. There isn’t any one person who caused this attack more directly than Flanagan himself, but our whole country, our culture, is in a desperate spiritual state. Spiritual health, not mental health, is the real crisis of our time.

We have rejected God as a country, and I believe we are seeing, every day, the hideous fruits of our godless civilization.

. . .

Once you take the first step — rejecting God, embracing evil — there is simply no telling what you’ll do next. That’s the horrifying truth. Time to face it.

Again, there's more at the link, and I recommend you read the entire article.

I entirely agree with Matt Walsh.  What's more, I think you could apply his thesis to every single one of the four cases I've mentioned above.  At the root of all of them is a turning away from any moral lodestone, any objective yardstick against which to measure our conduct as human beings.  Once we remove that authority, that reference point - whether you wish to call it/him/her God or something else - we become anchorless, drifting at the mercy of the wind and the tide . . . neither of which is either moral or ethical.

I'm a man of faith.  To me, the moral lodestone is God and His revealed will for us.  Others of different faiths may disagree on precisely what that will might be;  but there's a surprising amount of agreement between the great faiths on what constitutes moral conduct, so much so that all major religious and philosophical systems of thought more or less agree on the existence of the Golden Rule.  The problem today is that many people are no longer exposed to these systems of thought, and/or are used to seeing them denigrated and 'dumbed down' in popular culture, to the point that they are no longer afforded any higher authority at all.  They're just another human viewpoint.  If that's the case, then they have no more validity than one's personal opinion - so why pay any attention to them?

The Bible tells us that God made us in His own image.  Today, far too many of us have chosen to see God as no more than another human being.  In so many words, we've reinvented Him in our image.  Many people of (alleged) faith now honor the Ten Commandments and the Great Commandment more in the breach than in the observance.  That failure compromises the moral authority of the Christian message as a whole.  If people see Christians failing to practice the morality they preach, why should they pay any attention to the preachers?

For those who acknowledge no God, I'd like to suggest that religion nevertheless served at least some historical purpose by providing the moral framework for our system of laws.  Now that the historical framework has broken down, what's to replace it?  We still need a moral and ethical lodestone to guide our decision-making.  If that's not of divine origin, what is it?  I can't answer that question, so I'll leave it up to you.

Whatever the truth of the matter, I submit that the root of all the problems outlined above is that we've arrogated to ourselves, as individuals and as a society, the right to do as we please, without let or hindrance from any form of higher authority or ethical or moral norm.  I believe that only when we turn away from that, and admit that such norms are, in fact, a necessity rather than an imposition, can we find ways to solve these problems and others.  If we don't do that, the situation can only get worse.

What say you, dear readers?  Let's hear from you in Comments.


So you want more Zatoichi action?

I had a couple of e-mails protesting that the video clip I put up last night, when talking about the newly remastered DVD edition of Zatoichi, the Blind Swordsman, was not a very good sword fight at all, and made no sense.

I'm not sure that many of the Zatoichi sword fights make any more sense . . . they have more bodies and blood and screaming going on than you can shake a stick at, and they're clearly way over the top.  Nevertheless, they're immensely entertaining, and fit the Japanese culture that produced them.  Here's another video:  the sword fights from the first five Zatoichi movies, all put together in a single clip. Watch it in full-screen mode for the best results.

Yep.  Gore all over the place . . . and not the climate change variety, either!


A Presidential election hypothesis . . .

Just thinking aloud here.  Bear with me.

FIRST:  Donald Trump seems to either scare the crap out of, or piss off, most of the Republican Party establishment.  So far, so good.  Anyone who does that to those ***holes can't be all bad.

SECOND:  I suspect the Republican Party establishment will move heaven and earth to nominate anyone but Trump as that party's Presidential candidate for 2016.  They'll use every trick in the book, and a few that no-one's ever written down, to accomplish that.  They want someone they can control, who'll parrot their message and be faithful to the moneybags that fund them.

THIRD:  I suspect Trump will be pissed off enough that he might just do a Ross Perot and run as an independent candidate for the Presidency.

FOURTH:  I suspect most Democratic Party establishment figures now agree, whether openly or not, that Hillary Clinton is 'damaged goods'.  She's carrying so much baggage, actual and potential, that she can be taken down by any one of a number of scandals spinning out of control.  She's also 'old guard' Democrat, out of step and out of touch with a growing liberal/progressive surge (that's behind the rise of Elizabeth Warren and other further-left figures).

FIFTH:  I suspect the Democratic Party establishment will move heaven and earth to nominate an 'old guard' Democrat (for example, Joe Biden) as that party's Presidential candidate for 2016, because they're afraid of someone they can't control.  Elizabeth Warren is unlikely to get their nod, as is anyone wanting to move out of the path set by President Obama (who's been reliably controllable on most issues).

SIXTH:  I suspect an 'establishment' candidate will piss off enough Democrats that an independent left-wing candidate becomes a real possibility.  What about Michael Bloomberg?  He, like Trump, can afford to spend what he likes of his own money to get into the White House, and raise a middle finger to the establishment in doing so.  He'll also attract a lot of left-wing/progressive support, particularly if he asks Elizabeth Warren or someone like her to be his running mate.  The liberal urban enclaves, where most Democratic voters are concentrated, would be a shoo-in for them.

So, we may see a match-up between two main political parties AND two independent, rich, self-made candidates who don't care what their respective party establishments think - a four-way fight.  Wouldn't that be interesting?  Both Trump and Bloomberg have very high name recognition, and very large pools of voters who are probably favorably disposed towards them.  I wouldn't be surprised if both of them polled higher than the 'establishment' candidates in an election - and with 'spoiler' candidates on both sides of the fence, the result would be very hard to predict.

The 2016 elections might become a whole lot more interesting than I'd thought . . .


Cleanliness as an art form?

I've never viewed a bathtub as anything other than utilitarian, but it seems Russian designer Alexander Zhukovsky has other ideas.

We're not talking about your traditional marble tub, affixed to the floor, suited to your regular Joe Blow here. Oh no, no -  this is a hanging, clear glass sphere that acts as both bath and shower, with settings for you to alter its internal temperature, humidity, light, sounds and smell. It even simulates rain. How fancy! I mean, who doesn't want to expose their bits while trying to float in a glass bubble, smack-bang in the middle of the lounge room?

There's more at the link.  You can see a more technical diagram of his BathSphere here.

A perspex bath globe, suspended from the ceiling.  Hmm . . . I wonder what it would do in an earthquake?  It might turn out to be a wild (and wet) ride!


Thursday, August 27, 2015

A rare treat for fans of Zatoichi, the Blind Swordsman

I recall the classic Zatoichi movies with great affection.  The lead role was played by Shintaro Katsu, who became inseparable from the role.  They were iconic films, perhaps not in the same league as those of the incomparable Akira Kurosawa, but possibly even more influential because there were so many more of them - 26, to be precise, plus 100 TV serials.  A later movie came out in 2003, starring Takeshi Kitano, but that's not considered part of the 'Zatoichi canon' by sticklers.  (I've seen it, and he does his best, but I think Shintaro Katsu made the role his own.)

Many of the episodes are available on YouTube, but not in very high quality reproductions.  Here's an excerpt from 'Zatoichi Challenged', a 1967 film, showing one of the lead character's most famous sword fights.  (Remember, he's blind, fighting only by what he can hear and pick up using his other senses.)  Watch it in full-screen mode for best results.

I was delighted to discover that Criterion has produced a remastered set of 25 of the original Zatoichi movies (excluding only one of them).  They're vastly improved from the earlier versions I saw on TV or on videotape, and provide both Blu-Ray and conventional DVD copies of each film.  The set includes:

  • New digital restorations of all twenty-five films
  • The Blind Swordsman, a 1978 documentary about Shintaro Katsu
  • New interview with Asian-film critic Tony Rayns
  • Trailers for all twenty-five films
  • New English subtitle translations
  • A book featuring an essays, short stories and 25 new illustrations

My set arrived today, and oh, my, is it good!  I obviously haven't had time to watch all of them yet, but I can already tell that the picture quality is far superior to earlier versions, and while the soundtrack is still badly worn or scratchy in parts, they've done their best to make it much more listenable.  The booklet adds a great deal of background information of which I wasn't previously aware, and increases my enjoyment of the movies themselves.  Overall, a huge improvement over my earlier copies, and money well spent, IMHO.

If you, like me, enjoyed the Zatoichi movies, this boxed set is a must-have.  Highly recommended.


I'd never heard of this stunt before

In 1979 stuntman Kenny Powers tried to jump across the St. Lawrence River between Canada and New York in a rocket-powered Lincoln Continental.  In a contemporary news article, he later described his attempt as "the wildest ride of my life".

Another stuntman, 'Mad Mike' Hughes, announced earlier this year that he planned to try the same jump in May, but I've heard nothing more about it.  Does anyone know whether it was attempted?


Has racism jumped the shark at last?

A prime collection of social justice warrior racist nonsense is on display in an article at National Review.  Here are a couple of examples.

3. Liking white meat is racist. Writer Ron Rosenbaum said in Slate that racism accounts for the popularity of white-meat turkey over more flavorful dark meat. “White meat turkey has no taste,” he explained. “Despite its superior taste, dark meat has dark undertones for some. Dark meat seems to summon up ancient fears of contamination and miscegenation as opposed to the supposed superior purity of white meat.”

6. Complimenting America as open and fair is racially hurtful. “I believe the most qualified person should get the job” is officially listed as a micro-aggression that the University of California wants eliminated from its classrooms. Also banned are “America is the land of opportunity,” and “America is a melting pot,” because some students may regard those ideas as controversial.

There's more at the link.

White turkey meat is racist?  WTF???  If any grievance industry warrior tries to foist his or her taste in poultry on me, they'll experience a damn sight more than a micro-aggression in response!  Idiots!  When are these racist twits going to get a life, and realize that not everyone - in fact, hardly anyone - is obsessed with skin color or anything remotely related to it?


Thinking with the lower brain rather than the upper . . .

I'm cynically amused to find that Ashley Madison ("Life's too short. Have an affair!") was conning its male customers into spending untold millions of dollars in the hope of finding willing female partners who mostly didn't exist, except in the shape of fake electronic profiles.  Gizmodo reports:

When hacker group Impact Team released the Ashley Madison data, they asserted that “thousands” of the women’s profiles were fake. Later, this number got blown up in news stories that asserted “90-95%” of them were fake, though nobody put forth any evidence for such an enormous number. So I downloaded the data and analyzed it to find out how many actual women were using Ashley Madison, and who they were.

What I discovered was that the world of Ashley Madison was a far more dystopian place than anyone had realized. This isn’t a debauched wonderland of men cheating on their wives. It isn’t even a sadscape of 31 million men competing to attract those 5.5 million women in the database. Instead, it’s like a science fictional future where every woman on Earth is dead, and some Dilbert-like engineer has replaced them with badly-designed robots.

Those millions of Ashley Madison men were paying to hook up with women who appeared to have created profiles and then simply disappeared. Were they cobbled together by bots and bored admins, or just user debris? Whatever the answer, the more I examined those 5.5 million female profiles, the more obvious it became that none of them had ever talked to men on the site, or even used the site at all after creating a profile. Actually, scratch that. As I’ll explain below, there’s a good chance that about 12,000 of the profiles out of millions belonged to actual, real women who were active users of Ashley Madison.

When you look at the evidence, it’s hard to deny that the overwhelming majority of men using Ashley Madison weren’t having affairs. They were paying for a fantasy.

There's more at the link.

I could almost (but don't really) feel sorry for the duped men involved.  They should have seen this coming from a mile off.  Any Web site that takes your money and promises sexual fulfillment in exchange is basically a rip-off.  After all, what does it have to offer except electrons?  In order to get you to part with your hard-earned cash, it tries to disguise those electrons in the form of shapely would-be partners, or hot and sweaty on-screen antics, or heavy breathing and passionate sounds . . . but all of them reach you as electrons.  None of them are real.

I'm not surprised that the operators of the Ashley Madison 'service' made up so many fake female profiles.  I sincerely hope they'll face criminal trial for fraud - quite apart from the mushrooming civil lawsuits being filed around the world by men who've just found out that they were being taken for a ride (and not of the sexual variety, at that).  Perhaps now the latter will realize that they need to get a life instead of a computer . . . but I won't hold my breath waiting for that.



Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Doofus Of The Day #855

Sometimes Doofi self-select themselves.  I only had to read the headline in this case to know, beyond a shadow of doubt, that I'd found the candidate for today's award.

A Lake Elsinore [CA] man was bitten by a rattlesnake Monday as he picked it up and attempted to take a selfie.

Alex Gomez, 36, spotted the four-foot rattler in a field by his family’s ranch on Cielito Drive, shortly before he made the potentially deadly mistake.

. . .

Alex’s nephew, Ronnie, was with him when the snake was discovered, and says the reptile gave plenty of warning.

“It was really think and had ten rattles on it, it was rattling,” Ronnie said. “It was pretty mad.”

. . .

While Gomez is being treated with anti-venom, his mother says he may lose his hand.

“His skin is already rotting away,” Deborah described.

. . .

Gomez’ mother, meanwhile, says sharing his “embarrassing” story is the best way to teach her son a lesson she thought he already knew.

“I told him the news people had been calling, and he said ‘Mom, you better not’, and I said ‘I’m going to’. I’m going to teach him a real good lesson when he gets home. No mercy for him.”

There's more at the link.

A selfie?  With a rattlesnake?  Verily, the mind doth boggle . . .

I think his mother is going to milk the situation for all it's worth - but then, in that situation, so would I!  That's the sort of idiocy that will make anyone who knows anything about critters do a double-take, then a facepalm (while uttering a very long-suffering sigh).


Your feel-good video of the week

This baby appears to be madly in love with the family cat.

Unfortunately, the affection appears to be a bit one-sided . . . but at least the cat didn't bite him!


Africa wins again

I was saddened, but not surprised, to read of the death of a professional guide in Zimbabwe.

A Zimbabwean guide has been killed by a lion after escorting tourists on a walking safari in the country's Hwange National Park, where Cecil the lion lived before he was killed.

Quinn Swales, 40, from Harare, was savaged by what is believed to have been a male lion as he followed it on foot in the centre of the 14,000 square mile park.

Sources in the wildlife industry suggested the lion was called Naka and had been behaving aggressively towards humans and vehicles for some time. A professional hunter is believed to be seeking the lion to put him down.

. . .

Other guides in the area said Mr Swales would have been carrying a hunting rifle of at least .375 mm to protect his clients and himself.

An employee of Camp Hwange, who did not wish to be named, said they were still trying to establish what happened.

There's more at the link.

The journalist who wrote the article does the usual abysmal job of identifying the caliber of the rifle.  It was almost certainly chambered in .375 Holland & Holland Magnum, a standard 'medium' cartridge for African hunting (ranking right at the bottom end of 'major caliber' for the big stuff).  It was one of my favorite cartridges in Africa.  When I came to the USA, it was on a working visa rather than an immigrant 'green card', so I wasn't permitted to bring my firearms with me.  My .375 is now owned by a friend back in South Africa, who's had some good hunting with it. (*Sigh*)

I've never understood the urge to go on a 'walking safari' in Africa.  Those who know (including most locals) are all too well aware that there are things in the bush that regard a human being as a tasty aperitif before the main course of buffalo, eland, kudu or impala.  We don't have horns or hooves, our skin is very thin and easy to penetrate, and we move very slowly compared to four-legged animals.  As far as the predators are concerned, what's not to like?  Africans tend to leave the walking safaris to foreigners who don't know any better.

Speaking of that, I'm reminded of the well-known African joke about the European tourist attending a 'walking safari' briefing by a game ranger.  The latter was telling the participants what (and what not) to do in various circumstances.

The visitor stuck up his hand and asked, "What happens if I come round a bush and see a lion standing on the other side?"

The ranger replied, as patiently and politely as possible, "Just look him straight in the eye and in a firm, commanding tone, tell him to go away."

"Oh . . . and what happens if he doesn't go away?"

"Then bend down, pick up some dung off the ground, and throw it at him. That usually does the trick."

"Oh . . . and what happens if there isn't any dung?"

"Not to worry, sir.  By then, there will be!"


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A fascinating look at the (shrinking) value of higher "education"

We've spoken before in these pages about the growing lack of value in so-called 'higher education'.  Tonight I came across a fascinating guest article by Matt Baldoni over at Aaron Clarey's blog, Captain Capitalism.  In it, a musician looks at how he learned the trade, and what he's experienced in dealing with the 'big names' in music education.  Here's an excerpt.

I believe that being a full time musician who plays live (and/or in the studio) is the greatest badge of honor a musician can bestow upon himself. Why? Because it's proof you can beat the odds. It shows you have no need for the “stability” of teaching music. See, we all think we need to be teachers because that is what MUSIC SCHOOLS tell us. They have a large stock in keeping interest in becoming a music teacher, for it keeps them employed, and the cycle continues. As of today, it's spiraled out of control. Our families all want us to be teachers because they figure it's the closest thing to a “real job” that a musician can have. It's a lot safer than playing in bars, touring, and all of those “lifestyle” things that many people think are part of a music career.

When the recession began in 2007/8, things got interesting. All of the music schools, even the most prestigious ones, lost a lot of revenue and interest from young musicians. They were (are) far too expensive. So, young players began checking out smaller, cheaper, less prestigious state colleges like the one I went to. Well, the A-league schools said “We can't have that!”, so they began slowly lowering their audition and testing standards while their tuition prices have continued to skyrocket, just like their skyrocketing endowments and assistance from state and federal governments. Today, they have more money coming in than ever, and lower audition standards than ever. They are now at their most expensive in history and are turning out the least talented and equipped musicians they ever have. And I am laughing my ASS off, because this whole thing is hilarious. They have literally dug their own grave, and they are a ticking bomb.

The music business itself has also changed drastically in the last 20 years. No one makes money selling records anymore, so everyone has to play live and stay out on the road more than they used to. The steady stream of studio work is gone, it's no longer a requirement to have good musicians on your recording. The computer can fix everything, and the digital world turns talentless hacks into international stars. The ProTools engineer is now at the top of the music business food chain. Every two-bit asshole with a macbook and garage band software can call himself an “artist” or “musician” or “songwriter” or “producer”. The DJ, the karaoke bar, and the football game on large plasma screens now stand where the live band once stood.

Is there still room for highly skilled musicians? Absolutely. There is great demand for a good live band in thousands of places all over the world. Artists need sidemen to play behind them for their concert dates, churches need musicians, people need a band for their wedding or Christmas party, and the list goes on and on. These types of gigs are the bread and butter for a musician's work throughout the year. Does music school teach you what you need to know to get these jobs? Absolutely not. I make a very good living at what I do, and I got 100% of my abilities from the street. I did have a few good teachers, yes, but even they aren't making what I make or playing as much as me. Are there musicians better than me? Faster? Richer? More able to raise a family? Of course there are. But none of them are turning down as much work as I am simply because they're always booked.

There's much more at the link.  Highly recommended reading.  You can read more from Matt Baldoni here, and visit his YouTube channel, and learn more via an Internet search.  He seems like a interesting character.

The article is a truly interesting perspective on how reality meets academic theory - and the latter loses, almost every time.  If you have children considering post-school education, it might be a good idea for them to read this, even if they're not interested in music and are considering a completely different career field.  Challenge them to research their chosen field in the same way as the author of this article lays out what he learned.  They might be surprised at what they discover.


A vastly underpriced gun

I was shocked to read this advertisement on Armslist yesterday, only minutes after it had been put up by the seller.

I have a very old colt 45 that I'd like to sale. It's from around 1881. It's non-working, but physically in good shape. Don't know what it's worth but I'm sure it could be fixed.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a Colt Frontier model of 1878.  The advertiser was asking - wait for it - just five hundred dollars for it!  I nearly freaked out on the spot.  It's worth much more than that, even in its broken condition.

I e-mailed the seller at once, pointing out that while I wasn't interested in buying it, his gun was potentially worth much more than his asking price.  Fortunately, I was able to do so quickly enough after his listing went up that I beat most of the sharks to the punch.  He was grateful for the information - he had no idea what he had.  I was able to point out that a much 'younger' Model 1878 (shown below) was currently on sale at Collectors Firearms in Texas for $3,750 . . . just a bit of an increase over his asking price!

A place like Collectors Firearms can advise him on where to get his gun repaired with original parts, so as to retain its value (it'll probably do that on his behalf and sell it on consignment, if he's interested).  He may not make $3,750 out of it, but I'll be very surprised indeed if he doesn't clear more than $2,000, even after paying their charges and commission.  Just goes to show - when you list something for sale, it really, really helps to know what it is and what its value may be.  If you don't know, find out before you act!  In this case, the seller nearly lost out on a lot of money.

I'm also frankly disgusted at the ethics and/or morals (or lack thereof) among respondents who blithely offered him his asking price, or tried to beat him down from $500, without ever telling him what he had.  What happened to honesty and fair dealing?  Are there truly so few of us left who still value such attributes?


In honor of the season

Suggested by reader S. O., who says she can't wait:


A valuable lesson in surviving Mother Nature at her worst

I've often been . . . not surprised;  astonished would be a better description . . . by the number of people who build homes out in the country and then complain bitterly when the realities of country living intrude on their 'citified' expectations.  A good example is a family that builds a McMansion near a farm (particularly something like a pig farm), then complains that the smells make their lives miserable.  What did they expect - eau de Cologne?  Another is people who build a traditional frame-and-siding or log-cabin style home in an area prone to wildfires, then bitch and moan after a fire comes along and destroys their property.  It's a known risk in many areas, but they seem to feel as if Mother Nature has personally targeted them with malice aforethought.  I've even heard of cases where families threatened to sue local fire departments or state firefighting authorities for failing to protect their property.

However, occasionally one reads of someone who has the right approach, and builds to suit his environment.  One such report comes to us this week courtesy of ABC News.

John Belles said he was prepared for the inevitability of a wildfire when he built his thin-shelled, concrete dome in 1999 surrounded by dry fields in Okanogan County.

Earlier this week, Belles just happened to be working 30 miles out of town when he received a voicemail from a friend warning him about a fire approaching his home, he told ABC News today.

After shuttling three vehicles off his property, Belles said he realized he had to hurry as the fire was only a couple hundred yards away.

. . .

“I grabbed the hose, soaked my clothing down and doused the north side of the building as much as I could. [The fire] got close enough that it was super heated and getting uncomfortable out there in the smoke. I went inside, shut the door behind me and watched it move by.”

Belles said he waited out the flames for about a minute as the fire passed by his home.

“The fire just roared across my property. I could see the flames dancing up over the windows,” Belles said.

The only damage sustained was a service pole, which resulted in a loss of power.

There's more at the link, including a photograph of the smoke-stained (but otherwise undamaged) home.

Well done, Mr. Belles!  That's the way to do it.  I wish there were more homeowners like you - and I bet your local fire department will now use you and your home as poster children in how to build in fire-prone country.

Here's a video report from Oklahoma about another dome home that survived a fire there four years ago.

Monolithic domes are not only largely fireproof;  they're also very resistant to earthquakes, and to severe weather such as tornadoes and hurricanes.  I saw several that survived direct hits from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in Louisiana, virtually undamaged.  According to Wikipedia, 'the US Federal Emergency Management Agency rates them as "near-absolute protection" from F5 tornadoes and Category 5 Hurricanes'.  I believe it.  Those I saw often had garages in the form of a second, smaller dome next to the primary residence, connected by a concrete-covered walkway, making the entire complex completely fireproof.  (The biggest had three domes:  a big residence in the center, a smaller garage on the left, and a similar-sized dome for a workshop, "man cave" and guest quarters on the right.  It was a pretty sweet setup.)

If I ever build a home in an area exposed to such hazards, I'll look very hard indeed at a monolithic dome design.  It makes an awful lot of sense, particularly if one puts a cupola on top of the dome to let in more light.  To cap it all (you should pardon the expression), it's no more expensive to build than a conventional house, and sometimes even cheaper.  As for the 'disadvantage' of living in a round building, that's no disadvantage at all, IMHO.  I've spent plenty of nights in traditional African mud huts, all of them round.  One simply adjusts one's expectations to fit the building.