Thursday, July 31, 2014

A great video clip of a great plane

A Consolidated PBY Catalina amphibian, brought from South Africa to the USA two years ago, has been fully restored to wartime condition for the soon-to-be-established Greatest Generation Naval Museum in San Diego.  In celebration of this achievement, and as an overview of the history of the plane, a seven-minute video has been prepared.  It makes great viewing for aviation enthusiasts.

I can't embed the video here, but I urge you to click over to Vimeo and see it for yourselves.  It's worth your time and trouble to do so.


The 'Internet of Things' is shaping up to be a security nightmare

In our most recent 'Around The Blogs' segment we linked to Karl Denninger discussing the very real security threat posed by the so-called 'Internet of Things'.  Now the Telegraph reports:

The Internet of Things (IoT) has connected everything from smoke alarms to fridges and cars, making life easier and safer – but it has also given hackers a new way to attack their victims, warns HP.

In a study of the ten most popular IoT devices (which it did not name in its report) HP found 250 potentially dangerous security vulnerabilities.

The devices came from manufacturers of TVs, webcams, home thermostats, remote power outlets, sprinkler controllers, hubs for controlling multiple devices, door locks, home alarms, scales and garage door openers.

All of the devices included remote smartphone applications which were used to control them.

It was found that 90 per cent of the devices collected personal information, 70 per cent transmitted that data on an unencrypted network and 60 per cent had insecure user interfaces. Eight out of ten failed to require a strong enough password.

There's more at the link.

The real danger is that these devices inside your home are also inside the firewall provided with your wireless Internet router - in other words, if they're designed or programmed with malicious intent, you'll never know it until after they've done their job and compromised your security.  In fact, unless you have very good tracing programs, you may never know that your security has been compromised.  Think about it.  In the not too distant future your light dimmer switch, or your TV remote, or your refrigerator, may be storing every login ID and password you use over the Internet, storing them, and sending them to a remote site either on a fixed schedule or on command.  So much for your online bank accounts . . .

Personally, I'll be avoiding anything linked to the 'Internet of Things' like the plague - and if I can't avoid buying a 'connected' item (because there are no alternatives), I'll be disabling its connectivity first thing, if necessary with a knife or a pair of pliers.  I'll also be using the most comprehensive monitoring software I can afford, to track anything in my home that's trying to call out - and stop it.


Wholesale corruption in action?

Readers will remember the recent fuss when the Obama administration proposed to award a $50 million contract to 'Baptist Child and Family Services', or BCFS, to run a resort to house illegal alien children.  The uproar caused by the news was so great that the plan was abandoned.

Keen-eyed investigators have been looking into BCFS since that news broke.  What they're finding is, to say the least, disturbing - not to mention outrageous!  See this exposĂ© at The Last Refuge for some mind-boggling facts and figures.  As the report also points out:

It is important to remember this information is only for one of the “faith-based organizations” you have heard about recently.   There are many others who are in the same operational business model as Baptist Child and Family Services.

. . .

Federal Charity courtesy of the U.S. Taxpayer.  Is it really “charity” when the federal government is using the IRS to collect the “offering”?

There's more at the link.

So hundreds of millions of Federal taxpayer dollars are being spent through organizations like BCFS and other so-called 'faith-based' charities, with (as far as I'm aware) little or no accountability and few restrictions on how, where and when the money can be spent.

Can anyone spell ACORN?  Redux?

I thought you could . . .


A burglar brought down by a blowhard (sort of)

I had to smile at this news from Kingsport, Tennessee (with a tip o' the hat to reader Dwight for forwarding me the link).  Tornadoes rolled through the area last weekend, and one of them helped solve a crime in the process.  A good citizen went to help his neighbors clean up their storm damage, when:

"The first thing [Mr. Cleek] noticed was this bright red air compressor that he just reported stolen the day before, so obviously his eye was drawn to it," says Thomas Patton with the Kingsport Police Department.

. . .

"Basically the end result was we were able to solve two burglaries out of this damage from the tornado," says Patton.

There's more at the link.

I guess the tornado brought down the burglar by being a blowhard . . .


Accuracy in action

Here's a B-52H bomber of the US Air Force dropping 45 M117 750lb. bombs on Farallon de Medinilla, an uninhabited island in the Marianas group used as a target range.  From a shooting perspective, it's what I'd call a nice group.

It's a bit more potent than the average handgun group, though . . .


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Doofus Of The Day #779

We haven't had a "Doofus Of The Day" for over a month.  To break the drought, today's award goes to the administrators of a sports stadium in Tonghe County, China.  The Telegraph reports:

Sports officials in northeast China have claimed the gold medal for incompetence after authorising the construction of a running track with right-angled corners.

The track was completed recently as part of a major refurbishment of a 1,000 sq ft stadium in Heilongjiang province’s Tonghe County.

The stadium itself appears to have been impressively built and features an immaculately laid artificial grass football pitch at its centre.

But the running track’s designers got their angles badly wrong – painting 90-degree corners onto the track rather than the usual curves.

Stadium officials ... claimed their original track had once featured curves but said its rubber surface had become severely worn down from overuse.

When senior Communist Party leaders recently announced plans for a last-minute visit to the stadium, a quick makeover suddenly became necessary. Painting right angles was faster than painting curves, one official admitted.

“In order to get it ready for the leaders, we painted it like that,” he confessed. “We think it is ugly too but if the leaders don’t ask us to change it, what are we supposed to do?”

The botched attempt to please visiting Communist Party dignitaries has turned the Heilongjiang stadium into an online laughing stock.

“Does the designer have a square brain?” wondered a user of Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media network.

There's more at the link.

Now, if I were the nasty type, I'd try to get some lubricant onto those square corners and see how many wipe-outs I could cause in the turns . . .


Moral equivalence and the Palestinian question

I've found myself - yet again - nonplussed at the outpouring of emotion over the situation in Gaza.  All over the world Israel is being condemned for defending itself against terrorist attacks, which aren't even mentioned by most of its critics.  At the same time, many of those defending Israel are ignoring the fact that Palestinians have a legitimate grievance against being dispossessed of lands that were theirs and being treated like dirt by the 'occupiers'.

The situation is not dissimilar to that faced by many people in South Africa under the iniquitous policies of apartheid.  Those opposed to apartheid (including myself) regarded it as one of the most evil systems of government since Nazi Germany;  but while some argued that violence was acceptable to overthrow it, others (again including myself) believed that "two wrongs don't make one right", and that violence inevitably would backfire against those it sought to help.  That was why I had no moral objection to serving in the South African armed forces against terrorism, because the terrorists were worse than the system of government they sought to overthrow.  I've spoken of their tactics elsewhere.

One can condemn Israel's continued occupation of Palestinian lands, and its mistreatment of the Palestinian people.  Those are undeniable realities that no objective observer can ignore.  However, that same objective observer must acknowledge that the terrorism employed against Israel by Hamas and its fellow travelers is an evil far greater than occupation or mistreatment.  The terrorists seek to destroy innocent civilians, to terrorize - literally - an entire people.  They know only the politics and the rhetoric of hatred and religious-extremist nihilism.  They have got to be stopped, because they're worse than the problem they allegedly want to resolve.  Consider:

  • Hamas deliberately conceals its weapons in and launches them from civilian sites, including hospitals, schools and residential buildings, knowing that Israeli retaliation will cause civilian casualties that they can exploit for propaganda purposes.
  • Hamas deliberately brainwashes its children to become murderers, suicide bombers and 'martyrs', as evidenced by their own TV programs.

It's a moral quandary that in the end has only one practical, feasible answer.  The worst evil must be confronted and defeated before the lesser evil can be addressed.  That means that the cancer of terrorism must be rooted out and eradicated before issues of occupation and subjugation can be given the attention they require.  To do it the other way around is to place human life at a lower level than political correctness . . . and Israel has every right to reject that position with all the contempt it deserves.  This is the ultimate failure of the argument that "the end justifies the means".  When those means are terror and indiscriminate murder, which Hamas has employed against Israel, they cannot possibly serve any good 'end' or objective;  and when one side is consistently guilty of employing such tactics first, then decrying the enemy's use of retaliatory tactics, there's not much room left to doubt who's the most guilty party.

I don't believe for a moment that Israel is blameless in this fight;  but I believe it has more right on its side in the present impasse than does Hamas.  The latter is using terrorism as a normal modus operandi;  the former is trying to oppose it.  The facts speak for themselves.


I can so relate to this . . .

Shamelessly stolen borrowed from Bob S.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Book of Barkley

Our dear friend Brigid lost her beloved black Labrador retriever, Barkley, earlier this year.  They'd been together for a long time, and I know it was a difficult period for her.  Rather than sit down and mope, she sat down and wrote:  and the result is now available.

She's produced a rich tapestry of tribute to a dog who wasn't a pet so much as a friend.  Barkley (whom Miss D. and myself both knew, meeting him on several occasions when we visited Brigid) was full of everything fun and good in a dog.  My first encounter with him was when he cheerfully stole a shoe out of my overnight bag and disappeared into the living-room, daring me to chase him and retrieve it.  He did the same to Miss D.'s unmentionables and anything else that was left lying around - his idea of fun was a vigorous game of "catch me if you can!"

If you love animals - dogs or others - this is a wonderfully warm, loving, gently grieving farewell to one who was part of Brigid's heart and hearth for many years.  She was - and we were - privileged to share his life.  I hope he has a special place in the afterlife, ready to greet her when she crosses the river (although knowing Barkley he'll upset her boat before it's touched ground, and dump her in the water while wagging and barking like mad!).

It's available in print and as a Kindle e-book through (the two listings will probably be unified into a single one within the next couple of days).  If you're looking for a good read, here's one I can unreservedly recommend.


Don't kill Sean Bean!

I had to smile at the news that fans of Sean Bean, the British actor, have launched a Twitter campaign to persuade the producers of his latest TV show not to kill him.  The Telegraph reports:

Sean Bean has appeared in blockbuster films and TV shows as well as small independent movies, but he rarely comes out of them unscathed. Having been run off a cliff by rampaging cows, shot in the neck with a grappling hook, beheaded and quartered by horses in his 31-year acting career, the Sheffield-born actor hasn’t had much luck cheating death.

. . .

Now, after a tongue-in-cheek plea by fans, the producers of Bean’s latest TV series Legends have launched #DontKillSeanBean on social media in order to try to keep Bean alive in his new show. The campaign has already gone viral after launching over the weekend, with T-shirts supporting the hashtag appearing at San Diego Comic-Con. Tricia Melton, a marketing executive at TNT, said: “Sean laughed out loud when we first talked to him about it and is 100 per cent behind not getting killed in Legends. He’s got a great sense of humour and is enjoying the fun the fans are having.”

There's more at the link.

Here's a compilation of the "best" deaths (21 of them) suffered by Sean Bean.  Not safe for work, and a bit gruesome to view around kids.

Yeah . . . after all that, it'd be nice if they left him alive for once!


Monday, July 28, 2014

Music for the mind and soul

As regular readers will know, I'm a big fan of Mike Oldfield's music.  Here are three tracks from his 2008 orchestral performance "Music Of The Spheres".  It draws heavily upon his original masterpiece, "Tubular Bells", and its sequels for inspiration, with some of its themes readily recognizable as reworked versions of the originals (hence my irreverent nickname for "Spheres" - "Tubular Balls"!)

I highly recommend taking the time to listen to these if you need to relax and unwind.  Here's the opening track, "Harbinger".

From the middle of the work, here's "On My Heart".

And here's the penultimate track, "Empyrean".

The entire album's on YouTube, if you're interested. Also, here's an interview with Mike, interspersed with video of the inaugural live performance in Spain.

Lovely stuff!


Time for Facebook to reconsider its "community standards"?

From Facebook:

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg:

If your enterprise's "community standards" are such that they don't find that page unacceptable, perhaps you need a better set of community standards?  Yesterday, if not sooner?


Want to know where the "poor children" are going?

If you'd like to know where all the "children" streaming across our southern border are being sent by the authorities, Numbers USA has a very informative map.  Click over there to see whether your state and/or city is among the targeted areas.

Considering the nature of some of those "children", I expect crime statistics in those areas to show a significant upward trend starting right about now . . .


A traffic hazard with a difference!

It is to laugh . . . The Austrian Times reports on an incident in Vienna.

Motorist Michael Kienast told local media: "I was behind two guys who had a fender bender because the motorists in front took their eyes off the road to glance up at the view. The young woman was obviously keen on getting some sun in a place where it doesn't usually shine.

"I heard the guy who was rear-ended shout to the motorist who had hit him: 'Didn't you look where you were supposed to be going?'

"The driver who hit him said: 'Sorry, I was distracted,' and pointed up to the window where the woman was lying. The guy who was hit then said: 'Oh, right, I see what you mean'."

Several cars were blocking the road before police arrived but by then she had disappeared inside and closed the windows.

There's more at the link.

I wonder if the insurance companies involved will sue her for causing a distraction?


"A sudden and acute failure of the victim selection process"

That's how my friend and teacher Massad Ayoob would doubtless describe the thought (?) processes of the hapless criminals in this case.



Sunday, July 27, 2014

Around The Blogs 2014-07-27

Let's start tonight's roundup with two powerful images inspired by or related to the court declaration that Washington D.C.'s absolute ban on carrying firearms outside the home is unconstitutional.

CenTexTim applauds the decision, and offers this informative graphic:

Blue has his own take on the liberal logic behind D.C.'s gun ban:

Quite so . . . I don't think!

# # #

I hadn't previously heard of the Community Link Integrated Transit of Tucson in Arizona.  Apparently it's a new streetcar service.  The Lonely Libertarian points out that someone clearly forgot to imagine how that name would appear as an abbreviation . . .  Unfortunately it turns out to be a hoax story:  but full marks to the man who thought of it!

# # #

Michael Stephen Fuchs writes an open letter to Jeff Bezos of concerning that company's policies towards independent authors, and thanks him for all he's done for us.  I concur, and gladly associate myself with his letter.  (The link he provides to an article in the Guardian is incorrect - here's the correct link.)

# # #

Francis Porretto has two interesting articles this week.  In the first he considers the concept of freedom, and notes:

"It often seems as if the original American conception of freedom -- the absence of coercion or constraint from all matters that don't involve aggression or fraud -- has given way to a welfarist conception, in which what the individual is supposed to prize most highly is "freedom from want:" i.e., the absence of significant unsatisfied desires for material things ... the original conception of freedom has been displaced by the Marxist conception of freedom as 'an absence of tension or conflict'."

In the second article he offers some thoughts on the place occupied by sex in the life of a properly bonded couple.  I'm not sure I entirely agree with all his perspectives on the matter, but he certainly makes one think.  Both articles are recommended reading.

# # #

Mr. B. has some serious concerns about President Obama's current actions.

"At first I thought it was incompetence or naivete that led to the terrible things he did/has done to our country. No more. I am coming to believe that his actions and the actions of his supporters are a series of actions which indicate that there is a plan to harm both the country as a whole and the citizens upon which its strength resides. Now, I wonder if he was, in fact, placed where he is by our adversaries to facilitate damaging our country and economy."

I'm wondering much the same thing right now . . . and it has nothing to do with the President's party affiliations.  George W. Bush severely damaged this country with his post-9/11 security legislation, interminable wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and overall neglect of the fundamentals of good government.  Instead of resolving those issues, the Obama administration has made them exponentially worse.  We're going to have our work cut out for us to repair the damage that's been done to this country in the opening years of the new millennium . . .

# # #

Daddybear links to a news report about a Florida auto dealership that appears to regard its customers with contempt, even when they obtain a DMV injunction against it.  Based on that report, I can only suggest that my Florida readers take their auto business elsewhere, and advise their friends and relatives to do the same.

# # #

The Bearded Backyarder points out that the so-called 'children' flooding across our southern border aren't always what the mainstream media portray them to be.

# # #

Have you ever heard of "Amish pornography"?  I hadn't either, until MSgt. B. decided to introduce us to the concept.

# # #

Charles Hugh Smith has four articles in a series on the US economy and the failure of our politicians to do their job in managing it.  All four are highly recommended reading.  In sequence, they are:

Corroborating his pessimism, Monty Pelerin points out that economic laws are not optional, and that our government has been ignoring them at its - and our - peril.  He concludes:

The smoke and mirrors obfuscating true economic conditions for five years has been deliberate. The economy has not recovered. It has been made more distorted and imbalanced by the futile attempts to pretend that all is well. Government has more smoke and mirrors left. Yet, even the political class now seem to sense that they are playing out the clock without altering the ultimate conclusion. When your time frame is limited to the next election, longer-term consequences of current policies are ignored.

The economic piper will be paid. All that has been accomplished by these actions is a deferral of the correction and the creation of a bigger debt upon which the piper will collect.

. . .

A collapse is coming. It is unavoidable and will be worse than it should have been as a result of political duplicity.

Regretfully, I'm forced to agree with him.  It's not going to be pretty.

# # #

Old blogbuddy AEPilotJim has a new moral patch.  If you can't translate it, invert it . . .

# # #

Karl Denninger has three excellent articles dealing with internet security (or the lack thereof) and why we should be very, very worried about the news this past week.  In the first, he points out that the so-called 'Internet of things' is dangerous, and concludes:  "... given the lack of care (and outright insertion of code that has no reasonable proper purpose, such as the recent IOS disclosures) you'd have to be nuts to allow devices like that in your home and office."

In the second article, and in the second half of the third article, he goes into detail about revelations that Apple has deliberately built 'backdoors' into its signature operating systems, and points out that they pose a completely unacceptable risk of penetration of any level of computer security.  I couldn't agree more - in fact, if I were a corporation dependent on Internet and communications security, I'd be suing Apple right now for flagrant and deliberate violations of my security systems.

Anyone with any security-consciousness concerning their Internet activities and computer privacy needs to read these articles carefully, taking notes as they do so.  It's that serious.

# # #

Contributor ASM286 over at Borepatch's place reminds us of a treasure-trove of back issues of Guns magazine, now available online.  As Old NFO pointed out in a comment, it's a real time-sink.  Since they span the year in which I was born, I guess that makes me a back issue too . . .

# # #

Dan Gordon, an officer in the Israeli Defense Forces, reminds his readers 'Why We Fight'.  It's a powerful and emotional piece.  Recommended reading.

# # #

Last but not least, Wirecutter warns us about something we should never say to a pregnant woman.

# # #

That's all for this week.  More soon!


The most prolific writer of Westerns you've never heard of?

I read a couple of days ago that J. T. Edson, a very well-known (outside the USA) author of Westerns, has died.  His books were a big part of my younger days, and the news of his death brought back many memories of them.

Most Americans have never heard of J. T. Edson, being more familiar with Westerns by authors such as Louis L'Amour:  yet Edson wrote over 130 of his trademark short novels and sold tens of millions of copies of them.  He lived in Melton Mowbray in England, occasionally visiting the USA but never living here.  He was almost entirely devoid of any personal Western or associated background.  He once famously said, "I’ve never even been on a horse. I’ve seen those things, and they look highly dangerous at both ends and bloody uncomfortable in the middle."

Despite this seeming handicap, he immersed himself in Western movies from the 1950's onwards, and surrounded himself with replica firearms, research materials and the like.  At his peak he was publishing up to half a dozen novels every year.  Whilst they never sold in large quantities in the USA, they were extremely popular in England and several Commonwealth countries, including South Africa where I encountered them.  Along with Louis L'Amour's Westerns, Edson's books were common in military camps and similar settings, and I understand they were popular among British servicemen as well.  I can remember many nights spent reading two or three of his books, consuming them rapidly, many of them already familiar, then turning to another one to while away the hours spent on radio watch.  In due course the copies floating around military camps became so dirty and dog-eared that they probably represented a major health hazard;  yet they were still passed around until they fell apart at last.  I recall that one of his books, 'Apache Rampage', was a source of great frustration to me because several individual pages were missing from the only available copy when I first read it.  It took me several years to locate another, more complete copy and 'fill in the blanks' in my memory of the story.

Edson isn't the only non-American author to be a prolific producer of Westerns.  Fellow Englishman Terry Harknett has written well over a hundred under pseudonyms such as George G. Gilman (the 'Edge' and 'Adam Steele' series) and several others.  Again, I haven't often come across them in the USA, but they're very widely read overseas.  I'm living here now, and I've traveled widely across much of what was once the Old West;  so who knows?  Perhaps I'll try my hand at a Western series one of these days, just for the heck of it.  I must have read many hundreds of them in my time, and I'm not hampered by political correctness, so it might be a fun challenge.