Monday, July 21, 2014

So much for salad bars . . .

I had to laugh at an article titled 'How Chinese Ingenuity Destroyed Salad Bars at Pizza Hut'.

In China, Pizza Huts are either take-out only or somewhat upscale sit-down restaurants that even serve steak. A while back, it became a fad of sorts to build enormous fruit and vegetable structures at Pizza Hut salad bars. The reason was that customers only got one plate and one trip to the salad bar, so they wanted their visit to be worth it. And was it ever.

The result was truly amazing and wonderfully creative plates of food.

There's more at the link, including many photographs.  Here's just one to whet your appetite.

There's even a YouTube video showing how it's done.

Yeah, I can see why they stopped offering the salad bar!


Yet another reason to avoid keeping private information on a smartphone

Ars Technica warns that functions in Apple's iOS permit unrestricted access to your confidential data.

Apple has endowed iPhones with undocumented functions that allow unauthorized people in privileged positions to wirelessly connect and harvest pictures, text messages, and other sensitive data without entering a password or PIN, a forensic scientist warned over the weekend.

Jonathan Zdziarski, an iOS jailbreaker and forensic expert, told attendees of the Hope X conference that he can't be sure Apple engineers enabled the mechanisms with the intention of accommodating surveillance by the National Security Agency and law enforcement groups. Still, he said some of the services serve little or no purpose other than to make huge amounts of data available to anyone who has access to a computer, alarm clock, or other device that has ever been paired with a targeted device.

There's more at the link.

One wonders why on earth such 'backdoors' were left open in the first place.  Could it have been to accommodate three-letter government agencies such as the NSA?  Surely not?


If you believe that, there's a bridge in Brooklyn, NYC I'd like to sell you.  Cash only, please, and in small bills . . .


A game-changer in battlefield artillery support?

There's been intense interest in the discovery of a new Israeli implementation of its Spike NLOS (Non Line Of Sight) long-range battlefield missile system during its current operations in and around Gaza.  Israel appears to have taken a number of its older-generation Magach tanks (themselves upgrades of US M48 and M60 tanks, no longer in front-line service with the IDF) and given them new turrets containing large quantities of these precision missiles.  The cannon appears to have been replaced by a dummy unit, judging by the way it droops in some of the photographs doing the rounds.  (It would probably have been easier to remove it entirely, but I suppose it helps mislead the enemy as to the nature of the tanks seen running around the battlefield, concealing the precision fire support role of the new units.)

Here are several images of the new Magach version gleaned from the Internet over the past few days.  They've appeared in so many different publications and on so many different sites that I've no idea who to credit for them.  I apologize for any inadvertent breach of copyright, and will put up a credit to the originator if that can be proved.

Note the raised blocky antenna structure in the third picture above.  That appears to be a key element of the missile guidance system.  In the picture below (of an Israeli M113-based system) you can see the three-missile launch unit ahead of its guidance unit.  Note the similarity to the curved metal plate antenna shown above.

Note also the number of missile containers revealed in the last of the four Magach pictures above.  It suggests the new missile carriers are armed with at least a dozen Spike NLOS missiles, perhaps more, all protected by the tank's heavy armor.  That's a pretty impressive payload when you consider what this missile can do.

The NLOS is the longest-ranged version of the Spike missile family.  It's widely claimed to have a range in excess of 25 kilometers (16 miles).  Here's a picture of four Spike NLOS missiles in service with South Korea.  They're on the back of a truck during a parade.  Note the large cruciform wing structure.

Those wings enable the NLOS to fly more slowly than the shorter-ranged, smaller models of the Spike family, so that it can be guided very precisely using either its own sensor, or those on board battlefield drone aircraft or deployed by ground observers.  It can be autonomous, guiding itself, or controlled by an operator.  Here's an Israeli video showing one being deployed at long range in southern Lebanon against a Hezbollah stronghold.  Note how it homes in on a specific window in the target building from 20 km (12½ miles) away.  That's outstanding precision by anyone's standards.

To my mind the interesting thing isn't the missile (which has been around for a long time, and is now in its second or third generation);  nor is it the modified tank that's carrying it.  I'm interested in seeing how this development affects battlefield doctrine and tactics.  For years infantry and armor have relied on artillery support.  Some has been local (mortars, light rockets and small missiles carried by platoons and companies;  forward-deployed light artillery;  self-propelled artillery and heavy mortars accompanying tanks, or following close behind them).  More has been distant (emplaced artillery firing on enemy positions reported to it by front-line troops or artillery observers accompanying them).  Still more has been in the form of aircraft dropping bombs or firing missiles or cannon.

If sufficient quantities of a high-accuracy precision weapon like Spike NLOS can be carried by the front-line troops themselves, in vehicles that are as resistant to enemy fire as the main battle tanks that will bear the brunt of the fighting, this means that a great deal of the support artillery 'tail' can be left out of the equation.  Front-line commanders now have under their control their own organic artillery support.  Collateral damage will be minimized, because each missile can be very precisely guided (as shown in the video above).  This will also reduce to a minimum the wastage of ammunition normally encountered with conventional artillery, where dozens or scores of rounds must be fired to neutralize a single target.  Spike NLOS effectively makes this "one missile, one target", thereby greatly reducing the quantity of (very heavy and bulky) ammunition resupply needed in the battle zone.  In fact, since they're well protected by their own armor and accompanying infantry support, missile tanks may even be able to go back to pick up more weapons under their own power, then return to the front lines, thus reducing the need for hazardous resupply by truck or helicopter.

It goes even further.  Spike NLOS and similar missiles can be (and have been) mounted on patrol boats to secure the coastline.  What if an army unit is operating near the coast, and has in its possession the consoles and control software needed to take over control of missiles fired from vessels just offshore, directing them onto targets only the army can see?  Gaza is just such a fight, with the Mediterranean Sea only a few miles from the fighting.  This might be a huge force multiplier for the IDF.  In theory a fleet of patrol craft can carry dozens, scores, even hundreds of such missiles, launching them on demand.  The army's own missiles can be held in reserve, or deployed to more distant areas where naval-launched missiles can't reach.

This may be a technological game-changer as far as company- and battalion-strength operations are concerned, eliminating much of the conventional supporting artillery 'tail' and empowering such formations to proceed independently at much greater speed than before - not to mention inflicting much greater surgical-strike precision damage on the enemy.  I'll be watching with great interest to see how this evolves under operational conditions.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Around The Blogs 2014-07-20, Part 2

Here are the rest of my links from the past couple of weeks.  I put up most of them in Part 1 of this article this morning.

# # #

CenTexTim dedicates a special song to his second ex-wife.

I've got some painful dental work due tomorrow, so his 'Sunday Funnies' this morning, dealing with dentists, was peculiarly appropriate.  This one in particular made me wince.

A man walks into the dentist's office and after the dentist examines him, he says, "that tooth has to come out. I'm going to give you a shot of Novocain and I'll be back in a few minutes."

The man grabs the dentist's arm, "no way. I hate needles I'm not having any shot!"

So the dentist says, "okay, we'll have to go with the gas."

The man replies, "absolutely not. It makes me very sick for a couple of days. I'm not having gas."

So the dentist steps out and comes back with a glass of water, "here," he says. "Take this pill."

The man asks "What is it?"

The doc replies, "Viagra."

The man looks surprised, "will that kill the pain?" he asks.

"No," replies the dentist, "but it will give you something to hang on to while I pull your tooth!"

More at the link.

# # #

Bubblehead Les makes some good points about ammunition supply and stocking up, following a similar point I made last week.

# # #

Francis Porretto discusses what he calls 'strifings' - the increased dissension within the US body politic caused by the migration of affairs from the private to the public forum.  Here's a brief excerpt.

Politics is strife. Every subject that becomes a political subject therefore becomes a battlefield as well.

It's not hard to see the dynamic. Let some subject be politicized: for example, the physical sustenance of persons who can't support themselves, a.k.a. "the poor." What follows from the decision that this is properly a responsibility of some government?

. . .

Each of these [elements] will become a subject of contention in the polity that's been charged with the decisions. Given that a political decision inherently creates "winners" and "losers," we may expect the losers to fight to reverse the decision and the "winners" to labor to solidify and enlarge their gains.

Now apply that dynamic to a society in which nothing is deemed a private matter -- where all personal choices and all modes and manners of interaction with others, regardless of motivations are considered political, at least potentially. Over what shall we not quarrel?

There's more at the link.  Thought-provoking reading.

# # #

Wirecutter posted his rules of civility - what he expects from others in terms of respect for himself, his family and his property.  He sometimes comes across as abrasive, but I expect that if I didn't get similar civility from others, I might get a bit that way, too.

He followed that post a couple of days later with a link to a theory of social interaction I'd heard before - 'The Rules Of Sewage'.  It was a fairly well-known meme in Southern Africa during my earlier years.  I was glad to be reminded of it.

Both articles are well worth reading, and pondering.  Why is it that we've moved so far away from the norms of civility in which we were raised?  I know that if I behaved less than civilly towards anyone, unless they thoroughly deserved it, my Dad would have administered a thorough thrashing to remind me of my place and the standards he required me to observe.  Nowadays that would get him arrested:  but frankly, I think I'm a better person for it.  (Yes, I know, that's a matter of opinion . . . )

# # #

The Lonely Libertarian links to an article about new ACORN affiliates in the border States.  Taking it in tandem with the article from the Silicon Graybeard linked in Part 1 of this article, it certainly looks as if the whole swarm of illegal aliens crossing our borders has been orchestrated by the same assholes that were trying to organize millions of fraudulent votes a couple of elections ago.  Looks like leopards don't change their spots when they're exposed - they just go underground and emerge with a different disguise.

# # #

That's all from my meanderings around the blogosphere over the past couple of weeks.  More soon!


Around The Blogs 2014-07-20, Part 1

Having missed an Around The Blogs entry last weekend, there are a lot of links to be included today;  so I'm going to do it in two parts.  Look for the second this evening or tomorrow, depending on how my day goes.

# # #

The Silicon Graybeard discovers that the so-called 'Baptist Child and Family Services' that was supposed to get a $50 million contract from the US government to convert an unused resort into accommodation for illegal alien children is . . . wait for it . . . nothing more than a reincarnation of the thoroughly discredited ACORN.  It looks like the whole thing was nothing more than a nefarious scheme to funnel taxpayer money to an ultra-progressive, undemocratic political pressure group.

So much for the government being here to help us.  Looks like the far Left are treating government as being here so they can help themselves - to our money!

# # #

Karl Denninger points out that while the economics of diesels in small vehicles appear outwardly attractive, "the problem is that today the financial aspect of diesel ownership simply doesn't make any sense.  The culprit comes from two elements that turn on intentional design decisions of the manufacturers ... I speak specifically of the decision to design fuel injection systems that have failure modes that inevitably cascade through the entire fuel system, along with emissions decisions that are utterly destructive to vehicle value."  He goes into detail about both issues, and raises important questions.  If you're considering buying a diesel-engined vehicle for typical commuting and consumer use, you really should read what he has to say.

# # #

Jeff Soyer notes that a major study on gun violence is missing a key word.

# # #

This article appeared a couple of weeks ago, but is very relevant given current events in Gaza.  American Mercenary takes a look at Israel's Iron Dome defensive system, and observes that "In terms of creating a lasting peace, being on the defensive is a losing proposition."

# # #

Doug Ross describes how he'd conduct a Presidential campaign if he were Ted Cruz.  I agree with  him, on the grounds that it'd shake up the 'usual suspects' as few other things would!  It'd thoroughly annoy (not to mention frighten) both the Republican and Democratic party establishments - something worth doing in itself, irrespective of Presidential ambitions.

# # #

Wirecutter has dire suspicions about a traffic accident.  He also reveals himself to be a caring soul . . . sort of.

# # #

Sarah Hoyt asks, "Who are you gonna believe?"  Her article's a searing indictment of the way in which the truth is "spun" by journalists, politicians and interest groups.  She makes it clear that it's our responsibility to dig through all that dross to find the nuggets.  Recommended reading, as are the comments from respondents.

# # #

Through a link I was reminded of the Anarchangel's 2009 warning about not messing with Finland or the Finns.  Nothing's changed to make that any less dangerous a pastime!  Chris also warns of the danger of 'Welfare Towns and Equilibrium Traps'.  Both articles are worth reading.

# # #

Arbroath brings us the sad tale of a man who thought he was slapping a possum, but it turned out to be a porcupine.  I bet he won't make that mistake again!

# # #

Massad Ayoob informs us of a new training resource for the snubnose revolver.  I'm definitely interested, although I'm going to wait for the next, longer edition to come out.  I often carry a snubbie myself, and I know how difficult it is to shoot one well, so any help in the matter will always be gratefully received.

# # #

DaddyBear remembers things he's seen and experienced, and concludes:  "... the more you learn about how horrible the world truly is, the more you will come to appreciate the parts that are wonderful.  That knowledge will show you just how important it is to protect and defend those things that bring light to a very dark existence."  True words, those.

In similarly contemplative vein, Sgt. Mom reminds us of the existence of TWANLOC's, and notes that:  "The anger at the TWANLOC ruling class ... is building. When it will come to a full boil – in that the anger will be expressed in more than comments, editorials, blog-posts and radio-call in shows – and in response to what kind of provocation is anyone’s guess."  I agree with her.  (The group blog to which she contributes, Chicago Boyz, looks interesting.  I must spend some more time there and see whether it makes it onto my daily reading list.)

# # #

Earthbound Misfit reminds us of the joys - and hazards - of coffee . . . and Robb Allen provides personal testimony to corroborate her words!

# # #

Low Dog On The Totem Pole links to an article about a home-made solar space heating system, which in turn links to Version 2 of that system, considerably enlarged and improved.  Both look very interesting and extremely practical.  Recommended reading for those handy with basic tools.

He also brings us numerous accolades to an (over)enthusiastic deli worker.  I think I may have met that guy at our local Wal-Mart . . .

# # #

Charles Hugh Smith offers a grimly realistic response to our current economic woes.

# # #

Finally, The Smallest Minority brings us proof positive that Kirk was here.

# # #

That's all for the first part of this article.  Look for the second part this evening or tomorrow, depending on how much time I can free up.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Musings on Windows 8.1 and writing

I used to be quite the computer fundi.  I worked on mainframe systems in my much younger days, everything from operating them, to programming them, to leading a project team in systems development.  I also had exposure to minicomputers, microcomputers (what we call PC's today), the so-called 'end user computing' environment, so-called 'expert systems' (early, primitive implementations of artificial intelligence or AI), technical (military) computers and systems, and so on.  That part of my life came to an end when I changed career directions and studied for the ordained ministry, but it gave me a useful foundation in computer technology that's stood me in good stead ever since.

I've been applying that with good results until Microsoft came out with Windows 8.  The paradigm has now shifted to the point where the user interface is something I can't intuitively understand from a programming and systems point of view.  Of course, it's probably easy enough - heck, people are taking online classes in writing an 'app' (what I used to call a program) on their smart phones, so it can't be too tricky!  Even so, the underlying nature of the systems has shifted gradually over time, until we're no longer manipulating bits or bytes or fields, but rather 'objects' or 'elements', each with associated classes and properties and attributes and . . . you get the idea.  The basic elements at the bit-and-byte level aren't in the equation at all any more as far as developers are concerned.  Where I'd sometimes write an assembler routine to wring the best possible performance out of a memory-challenged computer partition by minimizing code size and maximizing efficiency, people today would laugh at the very thought.  Processor speed and memory size have grown so vastly since my early days in computers that it's almost impossible to compare common systems.  (My first work PC was an original 4.77MHz 8-bit IBM PC with 256KB memory and two 320K - not the later 360K - 5¼" floppy disk drives.  It was considered 'state-of-the-art'.  Today it's hard to find any system starting with less than a gigabyte of memory, and floppy disk drives haven't been made for years . . . )

Today I began setting up a new laptop computer.  Miss D. and I bought matching ones from the local outlet of Consumer Depot.  I have to give them a serious shout-out:  they had outstandingly good prices on reasonably well-equipped refurbished laptops, the salesperson knew what he was talking about and could answer my questions, and they took time and trouble to show us the options that were available.  We bought our systems for at least $250 less (each) than I've been able to find comparable computers anywhere else, and so far they're running just fine.  We'll be shopping there again.

The process of setting them up is reinforcing to me how my knowledge of modern user interfaces needs to be updated.  I've always loathed Windows 8.1 on my desktop computer.  It's a very clunky interface when used with a mouse and keyboard.  I keep it only because it's what came with my desktop system, and changing it would be more of a pain than working around its limitations (which I do by booting into desktop mode, using a Start menu clone, and working as if it were a Windows 7 machine).  However, on a touchscreen laptop with sufficient memory and processor performance to make it fly, Windows 8.1 presents an entirely different and much more useful interface.  I'm reluctantly being forced to admit that I need to move away from my technological-dinosaur past and learn to live with the new generation of software . . . even if that does mean mastering a steep and sometimes frustrating learning curve.

I can't help but think back wistfully to my assembler language coding days.  If we'd had available then the sort of computing horsepower that's taken for granted today, would we have bothered to code so efficiently at the bit-and-byte level?  Or would we have grown lazy and said, "Never mind efficiency - we've got processor power and memory to burn!"  Methinks we'd have followed the latter course, even though my old-timer's computer brain sometimes curses modern programmers for the sloppiness of their work.  I suppose that also shows in the way I write my books.  I come from a little after the 'Golden Age' of SF, when the trinity of Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein dominated and many of the edgier modern themes hadn't even been invented.  I guess I still write accordingly.  Fortunately, a lot of you seem to like it that way!  I'm sometimes accused of writing stilted dialog;  but it's not really stilted - just 'different' to modern ears.  I talk that way, too.  It's partly the result of a classical education and a background in classical SF, and partly because I think and write in English-English rather than American-English.  (Miss D. teases me a lot about that.)

Oh, well.  I suppose I'm still an unrepentant dinosaur in many ways . . . but if Miss D. loves me like that, and you like my writing and occasional rants like that, I guess I can live with it!


Lawdog at his finest . . .

I have a little collection of blog posts by (and, in some cases, about) a few of my friends.  A leading light among them is Lawdog, who also wrote the foreword to my memoir of prison chaplaincy, since he and I have come into contact with many similar critters over the years.

This one, describing the (mis)adventures of Joe Critter and a gang of unimpressed construction workers, made me laugh my ass off when I first read it almost seven years ago.  Whilst rearranging old bookmarks and clearing unwanted links, I found it again, and re-read it.  It again made me cackle until the tears came.

If you want a good laugh, go read it for yourself.  You won't be disappointed.  Lawdog's on top form.


I wonder if I could train our cat to help like this?

It'd certainly relieve us of some housework . . .


Friday, July 18, 2014

Dinner with Old NFO

Miss D. and myself had a most enjoyable evening with Old NFO, who's passing through town on his way back home after a couple of weeks touring the country and meeting friends hither and yon.  We took him to supper at one of our favorite local restaurants, where the food is ambrosial and the atmosphere casual and friendly.  As usual, we sat and talked for a long, long time over our food . . . conversation always flows freely when we're together (which is never often enough).

It's always fun to meet a fellow blogger like Jim (and now a fellow author, too, since his first book came out last year and he's well advanced with his second).  We're going to have to make this a more regular occurrence.  Perhaps we should organize a weekend get-together where we can have writing competitions as well as shooting contests.  Maybe we can morph our annual Blogorado gathering into Bookorado?


A most intriguing man

Now and again one comes across someone whose life and works are so out of the ordinary, so far beyond the norm, that one's eyebrows rise and one wishes one could meet them.  In Anthony Smith's case, that's no longer possible, because he died earlier this month:  but his obituary makes fascinating reading.  Here are a few excerpts.

Anthony Smith, who has died aged 88, was a bestselling author, broadcaster, balloonist and octogenarian rafter.

Exploration lay at the heart of Smith’s varied pursuits. He was one of the first presenters of Tomorrow’s World; a science correspondent for The Telegraph; he published some 30 books; and had a fish named after him. He was also the first Briton to fly a balloon across the Alps and, in 2011, made headline news when he celebrated his 85th birthday mid-Atlantic on a home-made raft — a party shared with three fellow amateur adventurers of advanced years whom Smith had recruited through a small ad in these pages.

. . .

Smith joined the RAFVR in 1944 and trained as a pilot, and after being demobbed in 1948 he continued to fly with the Oxford University Air Squadron.

His first book, Blind White Fish in Persia (1953), chronicled a student expedition to Persia where he explored the Qanat subterranean irrigation tunnels. During these travels he discovered a new species of blind cave loach, which was subsequently named Nemacheilus smithi.

In 1953 he joined The Manchester Guardian as a general reporter before leaving for South Africa to manage Drum magazine (a period he later detailed in Sea Never Dry, 1958). He described Drum as “the voice of black unrest, of segregated misery, of political aspiration”. When he left the magazine he cashed in his ticket home and bought a motorcycle which he rode from Cape Town to England. The five-month journey resulted in the book High Street Africa (1961).

. . .

In 1962 Smith took three months off to fly his hydrogen balloon, Jambo, across Africa for “The Sunday Telegraph Balloon Safari”. Fellow explorer and author Douglas Botting and the film maker Alan Root joined him on a flight from Zanzibar across northern Tanganyika, over the Ngorongoro Crater, where they were reported to have “come down quickly with a loud bang”. In his account (Throw Out Two Hands, 1963) Smith also described how they narrowly avoided being killed when the balloon flew into an enormous thunder cloud.

Smith’s African escapade fuelled a passion for ballooning. The following year he made his landmark crossing of the Alps, and in 1965 founded — with the aviatrix Sheila Scott — the British Balloon and Airship Club, of which he was president until his death. He worked on airship sequences for the films Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1967) and Superman II (1980) and became the proud owner of a three-seater gas airship, the Santos Dumont.

There's more at the link - far too much to list here.  Highly recommended reading.

I wish I'd known Mr. Smith.  He must have been a fascinating person.  There are too few in his league.


Packaging shenanigans . . .

Ever wondered why shipping charges are sometimes so inordinately high?  Check out how this lone photographic battery charger was packed for delivery.

I'd guess the shipping charges on that package were several times the value of its contents!  Still, I think the person posting the video clip was wrong to blame DHL (the delivery service).  They would simply have delivered the package as it was received by them.  In this case, the shipper's to blame.

Of course, when "standard shipping charges" are used, that's also an opportunity for canny sellers to make a dollar.  There are any number of used book vendors on who charge a mere 1c for a used book, plus Amazon's minimum $3.99 standard shipping charge.  They send it via the Post Office for somewhere between $2 and $3, and keep the difference as their profit.  I don't mind that - if they can make a living while delivering a book to me at low cost, who am I to complain?  But I don't think that covers the extraordinary packaging above . . .


Thursday, July 17, 2014

"10 things no one tells you before you take up golf"

That's the title of a very amusing article in the Telegraph today.  Here's an excerpt.

2.  Don't wait to hear 'fore'

Anyone with the vaguest grasp of golfing etiquette knows you’re supposed to shout “fore” when that embarrassingly wayward drive starts veering off at a fellow player. But whatever the incomprehensible, panicked splutter that emits from your throat as the ball homes in its prey, it rarely sounds much like the number after three.

General rule – if you hear anything resembling a distressed hyena, take cover.

3.  Nobody can hit a one iron

Club selection is always a tricky one, but if you ever catch yourself reaching for a low iron, stop and remember the greatest piece of golfing wisdom ever spoken: “If you are caught on a golf course during a storm and are afraid of lightning, hold up a 1-iron. Not even God can hit a 1-iron.”

There's more at the link.

I'm one of those who regards a golf course as an unconscionable waste of a perfectly good rifle range.  However, even with that handicap (you should pardon the expression), I definitely enjoyed the author's sense of humor.  Recommended.


Yesterday, Russian rifles - tomorrow, Russian ammo?

As an afterthought to my previous post about the apparent shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines flight over the Donetsk region of Ukraine, here's something for shooting enthusiasts to consider.  Yesterday President Obama banned the importation of many popular Russian rifles and shotguns based on the famous AK-47 design.  In the aftermath of today's tragedy, he's sure to face pressure for further sanctions on Russia . . . and a very likely candidate will be its ammunition manufacturers, who sell their products by the container-load to the USA.  Brand names with which you may be familiar include (in alphabetical order) Barnaul, Brown Bear, Golden Bear, Golden Tiger, Silver Bear, Tula and Wolf.

Back in March I pointed out that the Ukraine crisis might lead to restrictions on the importation of Russian and/or Ukrainian ammunition.  I'd say that's just become a probability rather than a possibility . . . and the major Ukrainian ammunition factories, which might have replaced Russian imports, are in the disputed regions of that country.  They may end up being run by dissidents who won't want to supply the USA, or even being taken over by Russia if it grabs the disputed regions for itself (as it has the Crimea).

I'd say this is probably a good time to check your reserve stocks of 7.62x39mm, 7.62x54mm., 9mm. Makarov and other Soviet or Russian calibers and cartridges (and any Western calibers for which you buy lower-cost Russian or Ukrainian ammunition).  I've got sufficient to last me for a while, but I know others have allowed their stocks to run down due to the increased ammo prices encountered since the 2012 elections.  If I were in their shoes, I'd be remedying that situation most ricky-tick.


Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

We're watching a tragedy unfurl in the far east of Ukraine as news becomes available of the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.  It appears that all 295 people on board have been killed.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that US intelligence sources claim that a ground-to-air missile brought down the aircraft.  If these reports are confirmed, we can be fairly sure that those sources already know the location from which the missile was fired.  Its launch signature was almost certainly plotted by satellites monitoring the ongoing civil war in the region.  I doubt very much that it was Ukraine that fired the missile, as it has never yet used ground-to-air missiles - there haven't been any suitable targets for them, as the separatists don't have their own aircraft.  I'd say the odds are more in favor of this being a missile fired by either Russian forces, or by Donetsk separatists (who were seen by Associated Press journalists to be in possession of at least one Buk missile system a couple of days ago - what's more, near where the airliner is reported to have crashed).  A separatist Web site also published claims (since taken down) that suggest their involvement.  Finally, the fact that the plane's flight recorders have allegedly been sent to Moscow seems like an attempt at a cover-up.  After all, the investigation is supposed to be conducted by the nation in which the wreckage falls - and that wasn't inside Russia.  One wonders whether the data recorders will be examined for any evidence of Russian or separatist involvement, and any such evidence deleted before - if ever - they're returned to more appropriate authorities.

This might be the trigger to a major upsurge of hostilities in the region, both military and economic.  The consequences might extend far beyond the location of the tragedy, affecting all of Europe and the entire Russian sphere of influence - and possibly the entire world.  While we pray for the souls of those who've died, let's also pray for what peace may still be had there.  It's going to be a very worrying few days as the details emerge.


Love . . . saying it with animals

The first video below I discovered at random while searching YouTube on a completely unrelated topic.  The second was linked on the first video's page.  Both made me smile, so I thought you'd enjoy them too.

All together, now:  Awwww!