Friday, December 30, 2011

Get Stuff'd, LLC

A question I have been asking online - and trying to answer - has been, "How do we get there from here?" Mostly this has been confined to the human societal context of employment and wages during the transition from the historical model of trade and markets, capital concentration in large manufacturing businesses and marketing efforts from corporate to individual, to the projected model of individual fabrication on demand at the (for the most part) strictly local, individual effort level of operation. The former model we all grew up participating in; the transition away from that to the projected fabber/maker model has imposed numerous and growing demands on the ways and means we have available to us to continue our individual ability to obtain the things we all need to meet the daily demands of our and our family's lives. Adding complexity is the simple fact that such changes are more of a process, a series of separate events permitting advancement to a nominally greater level of individual capability.

It's often said in recent years that the US is losing it's manufacturing capability. This is a falsehood. The truth is that the US produces more now then ever before in it's history (as does Japan for example - this isn't a US-centric occurrence); it's just doing so with fewer pay-earning, tax-paying people doing the work than ever before. And there's the crimp in the bright and shiny futurist's dream; how do we - especially those of us like myself who earn our daily crust building something for others to buy - continue to make a living (and occasionally buying some of the stuff for our own use) when the jobs we have need of are being performed by machines instead? How do we get from here - putting Tab "A" into Slot "B" on an assembly line - to being capable of fabricating what we need for ourselves as the need for an item arises (or as another's desire for an item makes them willing to exchange value to acquire an example)?

Instapundit has linked obsessively to the on-going meltdown of education (and by implication skills training too) efforts and institutions in the US and elsewhere, and more power to the good Professor for doing so. His recent link to Stephen Gordon's Speculist post is in my opinion an examination of this education/employment dilemma from the actuarial other end my own approach has pursued. Which is good; we need to develop a remedy that meets current needs as well as those almost certain to develop in coming years.

My personal belief has long been that individual education, both technical as well as classical, offered the most reliable mechanism for relieving the employment opportunity dilemma as well as the "education bubble" which is both a financial and subject matter issue I think. Too many new lawyers (or whatever - too many degreed people generally) having both a dearth of practical skills to earn a living and a financial debt that requires an upper-middle class income level just to fund basic payment levels is the crux of the problem. From my perspective, too many manufacturing workers no longer having a recognisable opportunity to earn a living using their years-in-the-learning skills as they get progressively older is the actuarial other end of the same condition.

Instead of placing these two groups of people in active opposition to each other, we need to devise a mechanism whereby they can both achieve their desired ends. And therein lies the strategic opportunity my other personal interest speaks of (a strategic opportunity is, by definition, one that no-one else has recognised and taken advantage of).

I recognise and agree with Stephen's observation that much of retail and individual business is transacted in the "comfy chair" environment that booksellers like Barnes & Noble and coffee shops like Starbucks are associated with. Stephen's contention that education ought to transition to such an environment and away from the historical "groves of academe" model that modern universities strive for is well taken. Such a model would permit learning at the individuals pace and ability (and remove most doubt as to the source of failure as well), and do so at a potentially much reduced cost at the same time, Stephen notes that much of the current cost of education derives from administrative overhead endemic to the current school model, though I notice he pays little attention to the near-certain efforts people will make to create equivalent drags on the "coffee shop" model of school too. Even so, anyone not named Kevin Baker can only put so much into a single blog post, and Stephen makes a good case for his observations on education.

I want to take a different approach to addressing the same circumstance (and not only because my middle name isn't actually Contentious either :)) and place this issue in the context of human rights, in particular the right enumerated in the Second Amendment of the US Constitution. I select this particularly contentious human right because it is my belief that it best addresses the dynamic we also face in the education and employment "bubble"s.

In a nut shell, the US Second Amendment asserts that we each possess an inherent right to defend ourselves within certain delineations - principal among these being that our efforts not impose upon another's equally valid individual right. My argument is that this principle can be also equally validly expressed as an inherent right to fend for ourselves, and that this logically leads to the necessity to structure our society in such a fashion as to maximise the potential opportunity for everyone to do just that, as their interests guide them and from within the identical delineations and limitations on mutually acceptable options and actions that constrain their other expressions of their rights.

In this model (and I recognise I'm stretching the definition of the word here - it's a work-in-progress), education is a life-long pursuit to provide a context for the skills training one acquires to obtain the wherewithal we each need in life. A practical knowledge of plumbing (more specifically, the mechanics of a fluid under pressure within a confined space - like the brake lines in your car, for example, and not just the drain under the sink), electricity (why not wash out the interior of a plugged in toaster again?), CPR (see: electricity), arithmetic (yes, I understand that spreading the risk of real estate mortgage finance among numerous parties reduces the level of individual risk, but how does assuming any additional risk entail advantage to me again?), the potential subject list is probably longer than the lifespan of even Lazarus Long and all of it offers added opportunity for individual advantage particularly from within the context of the ethic imbued within the Second Amendment. Classical education provides the shared context for practicing the specific skills we need trained in to meet the challenges of supporting ourselves in the ethical manner prescribed by the equal and inherent human right of self defense from proffered threat (whether deliberate or circumstantial).

This is a very good - if somewhat dated - paper on the nature and general types of fabrication processes and though presented in 1997is quite readable to a non-specialized audience of which I certainly am a part. As a practical matter, something like what is described here is what most of us would need familiarity with to be positioned to make the leap from building things using Industrial Revolution methods to what I regard as a likely seeming near-term future manufacturing model. Much as an apprentice plumber doesn't start out building the high pressure steam lines for a nuclear reactor-driven power plant, a qualified new-hire fabricator needs a demonstrated competence with the basic knowledge and operating principles of deposition fabrication before taking charge of a commercial fabrication machine. Documenting a level of competence using essentially a hobbyist version of the technology achieves this I think.

An example of what I'm saying (and not too surprisingly, I hope, consistent with my Second Amendment thesis) can be seen here. A personal machine shop has the capability to build a complex machined tool (which is the practical definition of a gun after all) from refined metals stock. A fabricator has the capability to build the same machined tool from refined metal (and other) stock by building up succeeding layers of material to construct the desired end shape rather than by removing the excess raw material to reveal the desired end product. Another example of a potential application for this entry-level professional fab shop business opportunity lies in special orders of complex machined objects that are no longer being produced, such as the example noted in this Oleg Volk post.

Our education "coffee shop" needs to offer that specific level of training/education, to anyone willing to learn the subject matter at the least financial cost manageable. From my past association with Stephen Gordon and Phil Bowermaster, I'm sure they have no objection to doing any of what I've suggested here, but it isn't clear they're actually seeing the connections and thus the strategic opportunity that I assert exists.

A recurring concern with any alteration of the education/training model has to do with the accreditation/documentation of the subject matter learned. I think Phil Bowermaster's employer sells a product that could readily be adapted to achieve this end. As Richard
Fernandez writes in his Belmont Club critique of Stephen's education post:
Your diploma would essentially become your reputation log, rather like the debits and credits that you see when you view your bank account. That is your “rep”; your human capital balance.

That strikes me as a very eloquent description of Zapoint's SkillsMapper technology, and making their business product into the world standard for documenting individual education and occupational skills ought to be an obvious opportunity I would think. That aside, having some commonly acceptable standard of documentation is necessary to escape the constraints of the existing education/employment models while not making matters even worse. Given the frequently competitive nature of business and employment generally, pursuing such a program from an ethical basis such as that imbued in the inherent human right of self defense seems merely common sense as well. A business and manufacturing model that allows us to make and get the stuff we want to make our lives safer, more satisfying or just plain livable is certainly an improvement on the hopeless dependence that is being offered to us in the present, as is an education process that is as unlimited as we choose to be ourselves. Styling that idea as a Limited Liability Company is just my idea of humor.

It isn't really possible to "solve" a systemic problem such as those under discussion here. The best we can hope to accomplish is to create a mechanism whereby individuals have the opportunity to make the necessary change for their own reasons. By structuring the opportunity such that ethical action is more rewarding than some other choice because that creates the greatest chance of personal success seems the least intrusive method of preventing deliberate mis-use of the skills and knowledge learned, and not coincidently I believe, not a method chosen by our present educational and employment structures.

Edited to add: Al Fin independently arrives at a similar conclusion on the education topic that contains a variation on the business opportunity I note above. Very much worth your attention and consideration.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Picture Of War Crime Justice

At the very end of his Dec. 22 Chaos Manor post, Jerry Pournelle links to a Treppenwitz post, now several months old, which examines a famous photo from the Vietnam War. Therein blogger David Bogner reviews some of the lesser known facts surrounding both the picture itself and people's perception of the recorded image.

All of that is interesting, yet the single most operant fact that contributed to the circumstance playing out as it was recorded at the time is never directly mentioned.

Without recounting the Treppenwitz post, the basic facts are: in 1968 the Communist Viet Cong/Viet Minh insurgent forces staged extreme acts of violence in violation of a negotiated truce throughout much of then-South Vietnam. Captured in the act of mass murder, one of these VC was summarily tried and executed by the military and civil police commander for the city and military district of Siagon (the city since re-named as Ho Chi Minh City). This summary execution was captured on both still and motion photography, the still image probably being the more historically famous of the two.

Here's the thing; the executed man (formally Captain Bay Lop, South Vietnamese Communist Party Army, Viet Minh) was properly judged and sentenced "in accordance with the provisions of the Geneva Convention (aka Laws of Armed Conflict) regarding "Armed Partisans", " civilian combatant s", and "crimes against non-combatants". Were an American or other NATO officer to be presented with an insurgent in Afghanistan captured committing the same crimes, he would be equally in accordance with the law (negotiated treaty having force of same in the USA) in also issuing a summary judgement and execution. We would also subsequently crucify him too.

We cry about how terrible something is, empower someone to impose our considered will upon any perpetrator of that thing, and then cry in horror that we didn't mean for what then happens to take place, all while we set out to destroy those who did our bidding in our name. Police, soldiers, politicians; you name it, the list is virtually endless. We put people in a position to act with our authority, then refuse to accept responsibility for the predictable results of our decision. If we want honest and open enforcement of our societal decisions, we must be prepared to accept responsibility for what those we so empower do as a result. Further, if we want an open and honest society (government, law enforcement, whatever) we must judge all things - not least ourselves - just as openly and honestly.

In executing Capt. Lop, South Vietnamese General Nguyen Ngoc Loan was photographed performing his sworn duty in an entirely lawful manner. The honest image of that honorable act was subsequently used in deliberate campaigns of lies and misdirection, both here in the United States and elsewhere, which are themselves symptoms of what still ails American society - possibly fatally. We very well may not be able to elect ourselves out of our present national condition, but I suggest Gen. Loans experience is instructive of the consequences if we don't.

My thanks to Jerry Pournelle for this timely reminder at the outset of our latest national election year. Sometimes, harsh facts are best illustrated by harsh images.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Getting The Business

I recently bought a TS-200 Aperture Sight from Tech-SIGHTS for my SKS. Then last Friday, I read this post at Oleg Volk's blog about the Tech Sights for the Saiga 7.62 x 39 rifle. Having the same gun in .223, I commented asking advice:
My Saiga is in .223, and the Tech Sight is on my SKS instead, and I haven’t done the conversion to AK mags, of course. Not having done the conversion myself, does anyone have experience just modifying the recoil spring cover plate to accept the Tech Sight? It looks like it ought to be a fairly straight-forward matter for drilling the necessary hole, but I’m concerned the sight would make removing the spring cover difficult thereafter. I’ve got the Pro-Mag scope mounting plate installed and it causes the scope to sit too high for comfortable shooting so I’m looking at alternatives.

Now, I want to make clear that the optical scope works perfectly well as mounted on the Pro-Mag mount except for the excessive height problem. It seems to hold zero and permits easy use of the factory sights, but the pronounced muzzle flash these Saiga rifles produce really degrades the scope performance as perceived by the shooter post-shot (an observation made by several others who own a Saiga or have shot my rifle). The Tech Sight seemed a known option to look into.

Initially not being able to post a reply to my comment at Oleg's, Larry Nesseth of the Tech-SIGHTS company wrote me an e-mail clarifying what was involved. He has since managed to put it on Oleg's blog:
The Tech-SIGHTS will fit your Saiga with out any problem. The sight actually mounts to the receiver and not the cover. You replace the rear portion of your recoil spring assembly. The part with the button on it that locks your current cover in place. Once you replace that part with our sight assembly, you assemble the rifle the same way that you always have. Then install the new cover that comes with the sight and you are ready to zero the sights. The AK100S and AK200S models for the AK47/74 will fit the 5.56, 5.45 x 39 and 7.63 x 39 Saigas. The sight will fit the 308 Saiga as well but requires a recoil buffer to be installed in the recoil spring assembly to limit the bolt carrier travel just ast the original recoil assembly does. I hope this helps. It tried to post this on Olegs blog on the Saiga but it would take for some reason.

I have a friend actively searching for a Saiga in .308 so that bit of data will come in handy for him, and a look at the Tech-SIGHT FAQ page for the AK-47 answers most of my questions, though finding the data without Larry's help was needlessly difficult for this customer at least.

Suffice to say, while it will likely be late February before the Christmas "sticker shock" recedes sufficiently, I will be buying the TS-200 for my Saiga .223 rifle just as soon as the wallet permits.

Thanks Larry. Taking care of business like you have makes for a modest amount of economic recovery.

Eventually. ;-)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

In Leiu Of Originality

Part of Phil Bowermaster's actual job is to post daily entries at the Transparency Revolution blog.

I console myself by imagining the off-line depths he plums in his occupational Augean Stable.

It isn't very convincing as flights of fancy go, is it?

Beginning here and then here, he and the commentariate have used the #occupysomething example as a vehicle to illustrate the wealth of opportunity available to those individuals and companies willing to recognise and seize them.

Should any of them just happen to use the tools his employer Zapoint markets, so much the better.

The latest entry in the series (and circumstances seem to indicate that it will be a series) was posted this past Friday, and prompted this response from me:
Since this horse refuses to die, lets give it a really good flogging.

“And today we’re at 200 rigs, producing almost 500,000 barrels a day and we’re going to permit 2,000 wells this year.”

That would be on the order of 5 million barrels (42 US Gal./bbl) needing to be delivered to a refinery somewhere … Every. Single. Day. A quick wikiwander later, it appears that one semi-truck trailer of heavy distillate would weigh a bit over 33 tons and consist of about 200 barels (sic) of oil needing transport to a refinery. Call it 5 trips per 1000 bbl (move the decimal point over three places to the right and times 5=) … that should require about 5,000 semi-truck trips south every day.

If only 10% of the projected 5m bbls of production coming online is transported over the road (instead of by railroad or barge – pipeline you say?), that requires slightly more than 20 truckloads leaving for points South every hour of every day or one every three minutes.

All of which leaves unanswered the question of what to haul back North on the return trip (unless you want to double the cost of the oil).

Occupy North Dakota my aging Butte Ox!

How about a nice truck stop/fuel station with a really good central air system near Salina Kansas instead? A couple different fast food franchises along with a shower and laundry service and a T-1 line to send all the money to the bank as quickly as it gets collected. I’ll be in the bar … consulting with my investor millionaire partners, of course.

Now that’s a strategy!

Realising my comment was a little more flippant than I actually intended, and recognising a salvation-ary opportunity when Brian Wang posts one, I added to my comment with:
Brian Wang has a good deal more serious post about this issue up at his Next Big Future site, that also manages to give my own silliness a certain patina of reality.

A man of true talent, that Brian.

One of the great failings of those involved with the #occupy whatever event(s) has been their determined unwillingness to advance a positive message or objective. Pointing out the failings of “Wall street” or the banking industry more generally is all fine and well, not to mention fully deserved, but the failure to promote a positive alternative to the identified failing is where the #occupyers themselves fail.

Speaking only for myself, I offer these bon motes as illustration of just how commonplace financial (or any other classification really) opportunity actually is if only the attention of a sufficient number of fellow venturers can be attracted to give substance to the potential position. Human Resources professionals too often in my experience are unwilling to even consider doing the one thing their job title ought to make the most commonplace and basic of professional duties, managing the strategic environment within which the resources of their companies particular humans can be allied with others to create a position that advances any of these potential opportunities into an improved corporate financial statement.

In that strategy regulation isn’t a boundary, it’s a fulcrum to leverage advancement off of. Come on HR, get out of the “overhead” category and start troweling on the value with the rest of us hod carriers.

There is an unfortunate perception of Human Resources as being the willing enforcers of corporate whim upon the workforce, as well as being an expense on the company financial balance sheet instead of a product value adding component of the business. Leaving the company hit (wo)man image for another post, altering the duties of HR personnel to make their efforts more directly apply to adding value to the company product would mostly involve a reversal of perspective as regards HR's approach to company (and even industry) regulatory practices.

Being seen to explain why a particular practice is mandated, and how to go about doing so at least additional effort (added effort = reduced rate of production over time), ought to be a regular (daily) part of HR's job responsibility. It is commonly the case that, understanding why some particular bit of stupidity has been declared often reduces the frustration experienced by those actually doing the stupidity I find. Going about their daily rounds to communicate with the employees, HR could do much to reduce the stress levels that so often inhibit workplace production by making clear the context within which a directive is issued ("... and because the effing EPA said we have to", could be one example of this :)). Focusing on the production details to the point of excluding attention to the environment the product is made and marketed in causes a sense of cynicism and disillusionment in people, which in turn promotes inattention to detail and reduction in product quality and quantity. HR can help to reduce all of this by a change in perspective regarding their approach to regulatory influences and how that change in turn modifies their communication approach and practice.

The #occupy meme developing on Transparency Revolution will likely fade away as the societal effort loses prominence in the news reporting cycle, but the strategic principles Phil and I use it to illustrate will be a recurring theme at both our blogs.

Which also means I at least won't have to keep coming up with so much occasional original blog post fodder; I can just copy-and-paste from Phil's page instead.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Just Bad Strategy

Via Say Uncle comes notice of recent events in Houston (actually, the north-west outskirts of the city).
The mission was supposed to be a textbook “controlled delivery” — a routine trap by law enforcement officers using a secret operative posing as a truck driver to bust drug traffickers when their narcotics are delivered to a rendezvous point.

Instead, things spun out of control. Shortly before the marijuana delivery was to be made Monday, three SUVs carrying alleged Zetas Cartel gunmen seemingly came out of nowhere and cut off the tanker truck as it rumbled through northwestern Harris County ...

Leaving for another time the whole issue of structuring a war so as to inflict the greatest amount of damage upon your own territory and people, let's focus our attention on what is reported in the Houston Chronicle story linked above and some of the known behavior of the participants mentioned there-in.

Skipping right past the obvious willingness of US law enforcement officers to resort to apparently unrestricted rules of engagement as regards their own firearms, not to mention their shameless willingness to place a non-LEO citizen in such an obvious high profile target position, we have self-identified Mexican national criminal gang members operating within the US just as they are accustomed to doing in Mexico.

So let's look at that for a moment. Both of the major gangs operating in N. Mexico routinely target law enforcement personnel (and their families) who display even the slightest willingness to oppose their activities. The newspaper makes a good effort to clearly identify as many of the cops (or at the least their agency) involved in this incident as could be fit into the story.

How long can we expect to wait for the news report on the execution of any of these officers and/or their family members by other elements of the Zetas as is that group's long established practice?

What might the 1st Amendment consequences be throughout the United States as a result of such an obvious occurrence?

What is the likelihood of such an organisation (Zetas) being willing to spread cash around to politicians and senior cops (pardon the redundancy) so as to not overload their limited personnel's ability to inflict damage on an enemy without interfering with "business"?

Any "strategy" that doesn't clearly articulate both recognition of obvious problems like these as well as obviate them via conceptual structural organisation is an exercise in deliberate failure. Or a false-flag operation to disguise some other intended objective, depending on your preferred flavor of kool-aid or hat materials.

The cops named in this story (along with their families) are now all under death sentence per long established Zetas protocol and the Houston Chronicle has obligingly provided the initial target list for that groups all-too-experienced killers with the willing cooperation of the targets police themselves.

Well done all.

The only "improvement" this story could have is if it should turn out that Fast & Furious guns (those provided to Mexican drug gangs with the active connivance of US federal law enforcement) were used in this gun fight too.

This is all the fault of ordinary American's unwillingness to refrain from any activity their government decides they shouldn't be doing, you understand, so take up your share of the blame and send more money to your government as restitution for your failure as a citizen.

Or not.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Staking Claim To My Position

Kevin Baker (who hasn't been on Vicious Circle in too long) has his faith in human failure reinforced by a series of expository posts by Mike-istan. In a comment to the third post, I wrote:
One aspect of the position the police might choose for themselves that hasn't been overtly examined in your series to-date is the degree to which law enforcement (in general terms, the armed segment of every level of the US civil and criminal courts system) might gravitate into creating its own "estate" (recalling your earlier reference to medieval societal demarcations). What if they effectively choose, "We The Cops, The Estate; To Protect And Serve Ourselves"?

On a different tack, "we who don't need to be ruled" are always going to be confronted by a comparatively overwhelming force in any such dystopian (un)civil confrontation with organised government forces. An Army Of One was a stupid recruitment slogan and in the context of your series is a certain loser in any conflict opposing a coordinated group effort. S/He may not go alone, but ...

Freedom and independence are wonderful experiences for an individual when viewed from within the mutual support and association of a like-minded group; they're a wonderful goad for one to dominate and lead as many others as you can otherwise. The people who have already made the choice to join the effort to provide for themselves at the expense of the rest of the citizenry (which is an admittedly unfair description of government employees) are actually faced with the subsequent choice of destroying their personal lives or continuing as they have already chosen to do. Does anyone really think there's much question as to their likely resolution of such a quandary?

Personally, I think it's bad strategy to position any potential rival with an us-or-them threat (even if only metaphorically, as in the case above). Much better to present a selection of potential (and often interdependent) options for mutual assistance between positions. Ideological arguments are best confined to discussions with one's self, or at most a select - and very private - group. Using them as a basis for positional identification is a virtual guarantor of violent reaction (and likely of actual violence too).

Never force someone into choosing for or against you; even if he picks you, he'll still resent you for it and be an unreliable ally. Better to present yourself as an attractive choice potentially available to the right proposition instead.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Electoral What-If-ery Fiskiness

Brian Wang links to an electoral analysis post on the Conservative page of the broad-spectrum political commentary Nolan Chart blog. Contributing columnist Abraham Hamadeh addresses the question, “What if Ron Paul runs as an independent?”.
Ron Paul could potentially capture enough Electoral votes to prevent both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney from reaching the 270 Electoral votes needed to become president. If this scenario plays out, the presidential election would be decided in the House of Representatives with the top three highest electoral vote getters being decided on who becomes president. In 2012, the House will most likely still be Republican controlled, leaving Mitt Romney and Ron Paul vowing for the highest office. With the growing number of tea party representatives in Congress, the election could look more similar to a European parliament vote, in building coalitions with many factions to support a prime minister.

Where to start?

Mr. Hamadeh notes several times in his article that Dr. Paul has repeatedly stated he isn't considering a third-party run for the Presidency, so it seems clear from the outset that this whole effort is an example of making the known facts fit a premise to illustrate a preconceived notion and not any sort of critical analysis.

Mr. Hamadeh's seeming conviction that Gov. Mitt Romney will be the presumptive GOP candidate is inconsistent with his own observation elsewhere in the article that, "Mitt Romney can barely capture 20 percent of Republican primary voters ...".

Mr. Hamadeh makes clear his shallow grasp of US electoral procedures (or the most basic of data searches) with his attempted description of the role played by the US Congress in an election in which no candidate secures sufficient Electoral College votes to attain the office. From wikipedia:
Pursuant to the Twelfth Amendment, the House of Representatives is required to go into session immediately to vote for President if no candidate for President receives a majority of the electoral votes (since 1964, 270 of the 538 electoral votes).

In this event, the House of Representatives is limited to choosing from among the three candidates who received the most electoral votes. Each state delegation votes en bloc - its members have a single vote collectively (and the District of Columbia does not receive a vote). A candidate must receive an absolute majority of state delegation votes (currently 26) in order for that candidate to become the President-elect. Additionally, delegations from at least two-thirds of all the states must be present for voting to take place. The House continues balloting until it elects a President.

The House of Representatives has chosen the President only twice: once under Article II, Section 1, Clause 3 (in 1801) and once under the Twelfth Amendment (in 1825).

And, as provided for by the referenced Twelfth Amendment:
Under the Twelfth Amendment, the House has the power to elect the President if no presidential candidate receives a majority of votes in the Electoral College. The Twelfth Amendment requires the House to choose from the three candidates with the highest numbers of electoral votes. The Constitution provides that "the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote." Electoral College deadlocks are rare; in the history of the United States, the House has only had to break a deadlock twice. In 1800, it elected Thomas Jefferson over Aaron Burr; in 1824, it elected John Quincy Adams over Andrew Jackson and William H. Crawford. The Senate elects the Vice President if the Electoral College deadlocks.

{I seems fair to note that two distinct constitutional issues were addressed by the House in the two historic occasions it had the duty to resolve an electoral question. Jefferson and Burr were the two candidates running on the same (and then new political concept) party ticket, for President and Vice-President respectively. They each won the same number of votes from the Electoral College which had no legislative authority to determine which to award what office to. The House wisely agreed that each man was entitled to the office he had campaigned for, making Jefferson our second President. Adams, Jackson and Crawford were from competing parties, so the House fulfilled it's intended 12th Amendment function in this instance.}

From this it can be seen that, quite unlike a parliamentary coalition to determine a prime minister, each state's delegation (however many members of the House that may entail) gets one vote and a majority of all the states (again, that would be a minimum of 26 for the Obama supporters amongst us) must vote for a candidate for him/her to attain office. In the event the House is somehow unable to resolve the issue "before the fourth day of March next following", the newly-elected Vice-President fills the office of President until the electoral conflict is resolved. In no case is there any form of party coalition, nor is the President's (or VP's) term of office in any way dependent upon retaining Congressional support. Mr. Hamadeh's allusion to parliamentary procedures and conditions is misleading at best.

And all this from only one paragraph.

Next Big Future disappoints this time

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Health Care Update

Via Instapundit comes notice of just how drastic the lack of health care coverage is in the US. Only 25% of the total patient pool receive the treatment they so clearly need. There does seem to be an effort underway to correct that defecit though, which should go some way toward relieving the stress inflicted upon the remainder of the national population.

Can't happen soon enough in my experience.

Friday, November 18, 2011

FTL Is Real

As I noted a couple weeks ago, there was a re-test of the charged neutrino transmission test scheduled by CERN. The results have been announced as Brian Wang reports:
The new tests, completed 6 November, did away with the statistical analysis by splitting each pulse into bunches just 1- to 2-nanoseconds long, allowing each neutrino detected at Gran Sasso to be tied to a particular bunch produced at CERN. These tests were carried out over 10 days and provided 20 events. The researchers confirmed that the neutrinos arrived 60 nanoseconds early, with an uncertainty of about 10 nanoseconds, comparable to that of the initial result.

[My bold.]

I still don't get the time travel part of all this, but the fact (apparently) that we still don't know all there is to be learned about our universe isn't a surprise at all (and an idea I'm confident Albert Einstein himself would have agreed with).

Monday, November 14, 2011

Modern Chemistry

I wonder what this product does to a garment material's breathablility? If NeverWet turns my tee shirt into a rain coat, does it simultaneously turn it into a sauna? If you build your next bathroom shower stall out of ordinary plywood and spray a coat of this stuff on all exposed surfaces, will it keep the water inside the stall ('till it goes down the drain) and out of the rest of the house?

If this product does what's claimed there would seem to be a long list of potential applications to consider, many of which rise to the level of "game changing". One example; constructing houses out of compressed earth is an economical and structurally robust design if you can keep water out of the building material. A coating of NeverWet would appear to achieve that requirement, making mud pies the building material of choice for at least single and two story structures.

Almost anywhere on Earth.

That strikes me as "game changing". NeverWet is supposed to become available through retail sources next year. If so, this is a product to investigate for yourself.

Via Instapundit.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Are You Ready For Some "News"?

I'm gonna get a jump on the whole end-of-year prediction silliness and make mine now.

For the next 10 months or so, we in the USA can expect to be treated to a steady stream of "news reports" about college sports-related stories of debauchery, crime and moral titillation whenever either major political party (or their media allies) feel the desire to deflect public attention away from the latest act of stupidity committed by the Criminal-In-Chief and his cohorts or the GOP's contender for the title.

Call it the College Sports Proctoscopy Strategy.

Fast & Furious? Shocker In The Showers!

Rising Unemployment? Cheerleader Upskirts!

And if the rate of revelation of political disgrace should cause the media to burn through too many schools too quickly, expect the Olympics and the professional leagues to be offered up as well.

I mostly watch the movie channels these days anyway. That Roku box is looking a more and more attractive alternative to cable every day.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

China To Revolve Ushan

That's revolution according to this guy's read of the 8 November economic forecast from The Conference Board. I took a quick look and didn't see much mention of the endemic financial corruption and blatant market manipulation that is the PRC economy, so I have to think that the next few years self-inflicted antics and outrages ought to be quite entertaining from this more-or-less remove.

For a given value of "entertaining".

Via Instapundit.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Housing Bubble Bursts

In China.

All over mainland China at that.

Residential property prices are in freefall in China as developers race to meet revenue targets for the year in a quickly deteriorating market. The country’s largest builders began discounting homes in Shanghai, Beijing, and Shenzhen in recent weeks, and the trend has now spread to second- and third-tier cities such as Hangzhou, Hefei, and Chongqing.


What started slowly in September turned into a rout by the middle of last month—normally a good period for sales—when Shanghai developers started to slash asking prices. Analysts then expected falling property values to move Premier Wen Jiabao to relax tightening measures, such as increases in mortgage rates and prohibitions on second-home purchases, intended to cool the market.

They were wrong. After a State Council meeting on October 29, Mr. Wen affirmed his policy, stating that local authorities should continue to “strictly implement the central government’s real estate policies in the coming months to let citizens see the results of the curbs.” Then, the selling began in earnest as “desperate” developers competed among themselves to unload inventory.

One presumes that none of Premier Wen Jiabao's family are financially invested in the Chinese residential real estate markets. One does wonder how many of his potential opposition within the CCP are?

In any case, in Mr. Wen's strategic context he and his are the only one's "too big to fail", everybody else's balls bounce along as his little baton directs.

h/t: Instapundit

Saturday, November 5, 2011

500,000 Manufacturing Jobs Lost

In China.

To robots, no less.

So, if we buy/build under license our own robots, does that mean the manufacturing jobs sent out of the country over recent decades can be brought back to the US?

Here's a thought; how about we form a consortium to buy some of these robots and have them manufacture stuff for sale so that we can avoid having to have a job ourselves? Since robots don't have any use for money (though I admit they can account for spending a good deal of it), anything they make we can sell and divide the money amongst ourselves.

What a strategy!


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Second Try At Breaking Universal Speed Limit

Those not-so-wacky boys (and, presumably, girls) at CERN are going to repeat the experiment they announced last month. The speed of light was apparently exceeded by the charged neutrinos released in a comparatively lengthy stream by the CERN experimenters, so a slightly different format (two short bursts released separately over a measured time period) will be used this time to test for that outcome specifically.

The maths are all well beyond my fuzzy calculations (fuzzy, math; it's a math funny :)), but this seems to me a most honest and transparent method to check their earlier results. I may not understand the process, but it's obvious even to a mathematical ignoramus like me just how profound a change in humanity's supposed understanding of our universe is potentially put to the question here.

Exciting stuff.

h/t: Instapundit

Friday, October 21, 2011

I Already Know The Answer

It seems my clever stratagem is going to prevail and I will soon be able to demonstrate first hand as it were exactly what a man wears beneath his kilt.* I told JayG in my bid e-mail that I planned to kilt up for next years KTKC effort and the first step in my strategy proceeds apace.

I'm already looking into structuring my contribution solicitation efforts by means of the Zapoint Skills Mapping tools to organize my efforts. Lance Armstrong's Livestrong charity collection and documentation system of course; the money never touches my hands. I also hope to use the Skills Map to put together an item or two as prizes for next years event. If KTKC is "the company", and my blog is my "production unit" therein, I hope the Zapoint Skills Mapping tools will permit me to diversify and broaden my contribution solicitations prior to next September's Prostate Cancer Awareness campaign (and maybe convince Zapoint to agree to a bit of corporate sponsorship withal).

Just over 10 months to go; should be time enough to build a winning strategy I think.

* Answer: All that God gave him. Of course.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cain/Gingrich 2012

More on this some other time, I just want to establish the concept this morning.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Profundity Found Here

Well, here. Click on the little audio player gadget, the interview lasts 15 minutes.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Exchange Rate Established

So, 1 Israeli is worth 1000 Palestinians.

I'd say the IDF has it's work cut out for it the next time the neighbors get all unruly. That's a lot of ammo to hump.

Friday, October 14, 2011

War! What Is It Good For?

We keep doing this military advisor disguise for our extra-constitutional military combat deployments.

At least it's a shorter supply line than Vietnam (for the history challenged, our involvement there began the same way). Which doesn't really make up for the lack of harbors, so everything has to be flown in this time.

Thoughts On Situational Awareness And Guns

In and amongst all of the other distinctions we gun owners like to discuss is that of situational awareness, most commonly as that concept applies to our potential for having to use a gun in self defense. I want to propose the adoption of a three-stage classification of SA to better distinguish between the options available.

[Now that I've done all this, someone point out how long ago someone else did it much better. :)]

In reading a recent blog post by Rory Miller, he was making the point that there are visual cues related to detecting a physical attack specific to short range encounters:
There are ranges and positions where someone can stand and hit you without any telegraph. The threat has to be in range (drop-step exception) and have their limbs in certain positions. This is a code red thing, or what Marc calls "1". The bad guy can hit you in one motion.

For the most part that's not true. Even in range, most positions require you to shift your center of gravity (CoG) before delivering power (again, there is an exception for the drop step. I love the drop step). Marc calls this a "two". It will take two motions, a precursor and the attack itself, to do you any harm.

"Three" means the threat has to change his foot position (and the drop step, in certain positions turns all three to a one... very cool) as well as shift CoG.

I spent a lot of time in close proximity to very bad people. More than a few commented on how relaxed I was. It's powerful. Relaxation can be disconcerting, it makes the criminal think that you know something he doesn't. This was why I could do that. Not only could I tell if the bad guy could reach me, I knew, in advance, exactly what he would have to do or where he would have to shift his center in order to attack. I knew when I was safe and I knew exactly what to watch for should the threat try to move.

This is close range, from a maximum of 3 yards/10 feet to handshake distance. Any attack initiated within these distances simply cannot be reliably defeated by resorting to a holstered gun, whatever it's condition or method of carry. For the determinedly argumentative amongst my gunnie bretheren and sisteren, I will happily stipulate that an exception is indeed possible to almost any given general postulate such as the one offered herein. I simply am not agreeable to staking my life or anyone else's on the likelihood of such appearing just when needed most, thankyouveddymuch.

At the other end of the scale is long range - for the design of pistol/revolver one is likely to attempt to carry (commonly concealed) on their person. This is when "strategic thinking" comes to the fore; how attractive a target are you relative to others, is this an actively disputed part of town by rival gangs, any recent "social actions" (read: riots or demonstrations) in the area? Things of that general nature, factors not directly related to you necessarily, but relevant to the decision-making process. Go/no go, alone or in a group only? You can't completely predict specific occurrences, but you can develop techniques for measuring the relative likelihood of extreme events occurring in a general locale during given times or other metrics.

The local Walmart parking lot at 9:30 am on a Sunday morning? Almost certainly too early in the day for most of the criminally inclined segment of the populace as well as the - how shall I put this? - the more socially restrained segment of the Walmart clientele? The exact same terrain at Midnight Friday night watching the drunk college chicks stop in to make a quick purchase? Much more entertaining (ask me how I know :)), but also more likely to attract others willing to seize the opportunistic moment as well. Same business locale, same basic social function taking place, entirely different levels of threat involved. Long range SA, assessing and identifying the conditions that contribute to a threat of violence being more or less likely at a given place/time of day, and that can be accounted for and efforts taken to negate.

For the purposes of this proposal, I'm going to stipulate that these are threats of attack that can be identified from a minimum physical distance of 15 yards/50 feet away, regardless of the time of day or locale. That's a distance of 5 to 6 cars parked side-by-side or three or more aisles away in a store setting. Plenty of distance to physically escape or create a defensive or hide position (with greatest emphasis on the first of these - RUN).


A carload of rowdy individuals get out of their car(s) in the same parking lot aisle you are walking down towards your car. You immediately walk between parked cars to the next aisle over, keeping track of them while not making direct eye contact. If they follow into your new aisle, change to the next, now openly watching them. Consider beginning a trot/side-step/backpedal towards the store entrance instead of your car. If they continue an aggressive advance, dump the groceries and sprint for the store entrance (or car if that should actually be closer at this point). Draw your firearm only if you have no other alternative and aim center mass at the nearest target until they retreat or they overwhelm you (an event not to be ignored - but your gun might be more effective as a hammer at that point). Never threaten, never try to intimidate; if someone intends to attack you it won't stop them and might attract the attention of the one who hadn't quite decided yet.

End of story. Maybe.

A common enough situation that might degenerate into violence and taken to it's ultimate point of potential conflict. I hope the many steps available to avoid or escape are self-evident.

So, that leaves the mid-range of situational awareness, something that makes itself apparent between 3 and 15 yards away. These are the toughest to defend; the least amount of time/distance within which to make an assessment and decision before the attacker's action makes the choice for you. Even someone like myself, who determinedly carries a 1911 in Condition 3 (Yo, Weird, pffffft! :)), has time to draw, cycle the slide to load a round in the chamber, aim and deliberately fire OR make an effort at escape, but not to think about it much. Mid-range threats aren't those that transition from further out (like that illustrated above), but only appear after you are too close to easily decide on a response and take the action. If the threat is directed at another you might have some additional time to make a judgement in, but you can't count on it. This is gun range, but that isn't a cut and dried option to choose.

I've got no advice to offer on this particular circumstance except to note that, absent some legislative mechanism specifically exempting you from it's application, it is a tenant of American law that no one can pre-emptively defend themselves (or some other person or property). There has to be an after-the-fact demonstrable direct threat of physical violence or death being imminently offered to justify a ruling of "not guilty" (or a Grand Jury "No Bill") if you kill someone. Most especially if you offer the spontaneous confession of homicide that is the plea of "self defense", which are the last words you ever want to come out of your mouth should you become involved in a shooting.

If you say self defense at any point during the investigation, you just freely confessed and the po-po are released from any further consideration of Miranda (or pretty much any other rights you had up to then) as regards the admissibility of any questions asked of you, any answers you might make or evidence gathered from you thereafter. Let me be clear on this, if you make a claim of self defense you just confessed to homicide, and assert that the evidence the cops gather will support your additional claim of an absence of any criminal guilt on your part.

I will offer this advice, surrender to the law peaceably, present your identification willingly, and then decline (politely) to answer any further questions without the advice of your legal counsel. Oh, and memorise your lawyer's phone number; Officer Friendly won't be at the crime scene, or during the booking process, and your cell phone will be taken into evidence and unavailable to you once the cops arrive on-scene.

If you doubt any of this last bit, rent your own lawyer and find out for yourself.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

It Isn't Just For Gun Control

..., now socialist production planning is for farming too. RTWT for yet another example of the tactic say the same thing in a slightly different application approach to government (mis)management.

Comes in for a good kicking in the comments too, which Watts Up With That is usually good for in these circumstances.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

He's A New Jersey Rebublican

Headline NBC New York: Chris Christie To Endorse Mitt Romney Today.

Which is to say that he is only notionally to the right of Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. Anyone who thought that R = Conservative needs to adjust the ol' pharmacope settings towards something closer aligned with reality.

h/t Drudge Report

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

And That Gives Me The VC Trifecta

Heard about the Kilted To Kick Cancer hem liftingfund raising effort? If you've got a prostate you ought to be digging deep ... err, lending a hand ... no, that's not right. You ought to be spending money now since a pinch of prevention is better than having your ass ripped out of you later!

Anyway, I put $10 in Stingray's collection plate on Sept. 9th. Me being me (and living in Texas and all), I figured it would be fun to goad JayG a little about the lack of accoutrement's his kilt had. He really is a sucker for a challenge, so that was another ten spot down for the cause. After that, I pretty much couldn't pass up the (help me out; honor isn't really quite the word I'm searching for here) ... opportunity to claim the bragging rights so, third time's the charm if a day late for all that.

Best $30 I ever spent, now cough then get out your wallet and get up off some money too.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

More Getting There From Here

[Now with update!]

The future is always just around the corner, and it seems the promise is always outweighed by the challenges of making the turn. The objections range from "how do we learn to do ..." to "what will we do for jobs?" and always seem to wind up with the perennial "what happens to the people who can't do it?". As if I had answers for questions about things that haven't even happened yet ...

One of the regular dismissals of proclamations about the future has to do with how a given technology will be adopted by industry and just people in general. Take for instance the future technology of 3D Printing. This is the stuff of Star Trek, right?

Nazzo fast, Guido.

A little segue here, to take another look at those questions that keep getting asked. I tend not to get all worked up about the how's and what's that always accompany change; people have been successfully adapting to changing circumstances for as long as there have been people. Now, because it's all of a sudden us having to make the change, we've somehow forgotten how? I don't buy it, and we would all be better off trying to find a way to incorporate whatever opportunity we can into out lives instead of objecting to others doing the same. No one is able to be successful at everything - and some of us seem incapable of mastering anything - but the more of us who do succeed at doing so, the more of us there are who are able to help the rest along. Which is pretty much the same messy way humans have adapted and developed throughout our history.

One of my principal hobbies is shooting (and generally spending money on) firearms. It's an American thing. I spent much of my teen years shooting 1903 Springfield-pattern rifles and 1911-pattern pistols and have taken every opportunity that came along to try my hand at whatever firearm I have been presented the chance to shoot in the years since. I'm well aware that the shooting sports and industry is steeped in the traditions and technologies long since refined to achieve the degree of finish and performance now regarded as routine and normal, so imagine my pleasant sense of surprise to read this and this and not watch the blogger have to wade through a storm of objections and dismissal by others. Those old reactionary American Gunnies slipping into the future like it was scripted by John Moses Browning himself.

Actually, I submit that the culture and mental attitude that is fundamental to modern ownership of firearms in America has much to do with why such fantastic-seeming technology, and the individual empowerment it provides, seems so readily accepted. The near-universal acknowledgement of The Four Rules (enthusiastically encouraged by the showers of scorn heaped upon those who publicly violate them) along with the widespread practice of personal licensing for private concealed carry of handguns (in 49 of the 50 US states) has, I contend, nurtured a somewhat self-reinforcing atmosphere of accentuated personal responsibility among gun owners, especially notable within the online members of the gun owning community, that exceeds anything experienced by our gun-toting ancestors. I expect the historically recent efforts to exile guns from private hands, and the apparent rejection of those efforts by our fellow citizens, has had much to do with the psychological attitudinal change that has accompanied the shift away from the "group rights" mindset toward that of individual rights common today and has also contributed to this willingness to consider the unorthodox as well. Whether or to what degree I'm right about any of that, I do think that gun owners seem better prepared to accept and adopt potentially disruptive technologies that offer the potential to expand their capability to participate in gun ownership then other sub-sets of the American populace have so far demonstrated. No doubt the historical attitude of self-sufficiency and independence associated with gun ownership strongly contributes to this willingness to accept the challenges that accompany untried opportunity as well.

What this instance also provides is a real-world example of how disruptive technology gradually transitions from threat to routine practice. Go read that wikipedia link to 3D printing in closer detail; the boys and girls at Cornell University can print food? When is that home appliance going to be for sale at Walmart?

One of the regular objections raised in discussions of this type of technology relates to education. At Phil Bowermaster's site Transparency Revolution I've recently participated in a discussion on a variant of this concern; here, here, and here, with a related post here. How we gain knowledge and experience in using it for some practical purpose isn't only a matter of having it presented to us in a controlled fashion within a regulated and structured environment (to the extent our public schools ever really were such a thing), especially now that the capability to obtain the information is literally at almost anyone's fingertips.

An example of what I mean can be read here. World of Warcraft is certainly one of the most popular time sinks online multi-player games in the world today (can you tell I'm one of the few to have successfully resisted the allure? :)). It is also the forum of choice for a presentation of the latest research findings into individual and group cognition by a research group at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. If that topic of research is of interest to you, and you can gain access to "... the Ironforge Library on the Saurfang server", your attention and contribution will likely be welcome.

The more general education point of the linked post by Labrat at her personal blog Atomic Nerds (and you too should contribute to her husband Stingray's efforts to help raise money for prostate and testicular cancer research) can be summed up best in her own words:
The thing is, though, that what game developers are essentially in the business of is making learning such a fun and organic activity that people pay in real money and real time in order to do it. It doesn’t matter how basic the game is, all that any of them offer is a chance to master an activity at progressive levels of difficulty; Tetris is a spatial puzzle that speeds up. You can see rotation of objects through space as a challenge on many, many different IQ tests. Pac-Man is another spatial puzzle- track yourself and several other moving objects through a maze, complete the maze within a time limit and without running into any other moving object. Any of the original simulation genre is complex systems manipulation and mastery, and the flight simulator became so detailed that its devotees can spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on equipment and the software to do something that has no game goal but is just as complex and difficult as flying a real plane, minus the g forces and fatal consequences. The later Sims games are a combination of resource management, virtual architecture, and learning how the AI works. Portal is another spatial puzzle, speeded up and with extra dimensions and physics problems added.

MMOs take things to the next level; something like Portal is meant to be played out over a certain number of potential gameplay hours, but an MMO developer has to make the game interesting enough, and content extendable enough, that players remain interested and engaged with the game for years. Depending on the game and the size of playerbase it’s looking to command, there are usually multiple layers of gameplay to learn and potentially master; a developer’s challenge is to make the transition between “kill ten rats, get ten silver” to “level up (gradually increase in complexity)”, to “master your class and take part in competition demanding great knowledge of the game and your role in it, teamwork, practice, and research” fun enough to be worth paying money for- and the fun is in the learning process; even very achievement-oriented players walk away if there’s no challenge to it.

EVE Online is probably the most extreme example; the point of the game is participation in a player-driven economy, which rather than being centrally controlled by the parent company is entirely player-organized and run, to the point where fantastic acts of economic sabotage that nearly any other gaming company would put their foot down on is merely part of the game experience. It’s also the only game with a player-created and elected governing political body, the Council of Stellar Management, which exists to represent the playerbase to the developer team. It is, in essence, a virtual state with virtual corporations and virtual militaries and mercenaries who do what is in nearly all respects work, with the difficulty curve to match and little effort made to make it more accessible to newer or more casual players. The work IS the point of the game. In essence, people pay real money for a non-real job with far fewer protections and benefits than a real job, except for the freedom to experiment.

One more link to consider before you dismiss all this as wishful thinking. Al Fin is one of the more consistently well written and wide-ranging of topic blogs I'm aware of. S/He and/or they recently posted about an interesting educational practice the Israeli's have developed called Talpiot. From the Al Fin post:
Talpiot is a program for bringing the best of the best of Israeli youth together into an intensive mental, physical, and military training regimen. 5,000 youth apply every year, and 50 are accepted. Out of those 50, only 40 will complete the training, and be commissioned as lieutenants in the IDF. They spend 9 years total, including education, training, and military commitment ...

... Talpiot is run by the Israeli Defense Force with the aim of creating an elite officer corps which is capable of responding to any threat by the innovative use of the most advanced technologies -- or any tool within reach. If these elite soldiers later become leaders in business, technology, finance, and other vital areas of society, it should come as no surprise to anyone who is paying attention.

Consider if you will an online game community structured much like the EVE example from Labrat's post, that begins at the basic levels of academic instruction and proceeds ultimately (and only really expected to attract the most fractional percentage of the total player community) to some reasonable facsimile of the Israeli Talpiot program structure (or at least it's academic/intellectual content), that is available to anyone who can gain online access at whatever schedule s/he requires and at the pace of advancement they are capable of achieving.

Think it could never work? From Labrat again, consider this Proof of Concept:
More accurately, this would be titled “clever biochemists induce a population of people who do spatial reasoning puzzles for fun to solve their spatial reasoning problem for entertainment and bragging rights”.

If American business entities large and small were to jointly create a mechanism (a straight-forward trust fund to finance purchase/maintenance the servers, etc once the game itself was written would accomplish this - look at the EVE model, management and repair/expansion of the game is a player responsibility), they could fund this EVE-like online educational game to their - and our - mutual advantage. If their HR departments could track at least some of their individual employee's achievements within the game, and a financial benefit for the individual employee was offered for success achieved in stipulated courses of instruction, the pending skilled/educated employee crunch that gets much moaned about might become a non-issue and the question of where the jobs will come from become self-evident. Players would probably have to roll their eyes at the inevitable product placement, but whatta ya gonna do?

Some disclaimers; I don't play electronic games, online or otherwise; there's only so many hours in a day, and so much money to be extracted from the wallet, so I'm all too aware of just how far all this strays from an personal expertise I can claim. That said, I've repeatedly learned new (to me) skills and knowledge throughout my life in order to continue some semblance of gainful employment. If I can pull this off for going on six decades now, pretty much anyone who can see the screen and hit the keys can too.

I will also readily admit that some better mechanism for gaining practical expertise to accompany all the theory needs to be developed along with the educational game I suggest here too. There's always going to be some problem needs solving. Indeed, this may not prove to be a practical mechanism at all, but I contend it does illustrate that a solution to being able to take advantage of the opportunities the disruptive future will present are available to us now. It only remains for us to make the effort to begin the gradual process of preparing ourselves to overcome the risks that are always associated with opportunity.

UPDATE 9/27/11: RobertaX takes a look at this too.

10/07/11: And Clark at Popehat gets all linked up on the details.

10/10/11: Phil at Transparency Revolution points out yet another application for educational games.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bullet Point Fodder*

Some strategy-related thoughts.

It has been said that Principle determines Strategy which in turn determines Tactics. Yes and No, I think. Better I think to phrase it as: Principle modifies the relative value placed upon the available Strategies, which in turn influence the valuation of the Tactics to be selected among. It isn't quite as straightforward as the first aphorism makes it seem. Strategy isn't determined only by what is acceptable or desirable to the strategist, but also by what the various allies expect/require as well, and all parties are ever subject to the demands of circumstance. Tactics are boring since they don't really change, there are only three basic options anyway: defend, attack or avoid. Admittedly there are several options within each of these but they aren't mysterious either; tactical surprise is achieved through successful misdirection of an opponent as to one's immediate intention(s). Rommel knew exactly what Eisenhower was going to do and had covered all the options quite well. Students of history are aware of the role Patton played as Ike's misdirection of Rommel's preparatory concentration.

Jobs, and Presidential policies to create them, are much in the news in recent months. The influence on employment that presidents or state's governors policies can have is more akin to the influence Principle has on Tactics, I think. There is a link, of course, but it's so indirect that it's essentially impossible to determine a specific tactical outcome from a given policy/principle statement prior to the event. What any leader must do is delineate the boundaries within which all must participate (or suffer "the consequences") as well as to ensure that transgression is swiftly and publicly rebuked. Beyond that, any attempt to influence individual Strategies that conform to the general principle(s) defined serves only to inhibit action being taken at all - IOW, remedial tinkering with policy to influence results inhibits normal market activity due to uncertainty as to boundary placement and infringement enforcement. Opportunity always entails risk, but an uncertain policy principle increases the degree of risk unmeasurably which results in depressed market activity and increased unemployment.

The more extensive a business structure is, the more important it becomes for close adherence to the precepts of classical Strategy. If the CEO is "the Prince", then the corporation division heads are most closely akin to the role of "the General". The CEO coordinates the individual contributions by each of the Generals separate "army" toward achieving the agreed-upon strategy of the corporation. While attention must be paid to the methods utilized by each "army", once again the degree of influence a CEO has over the tactics chosen by a division's subsidiary department is just as ill-defined as a president's is at a national level.

I think most American companies would benefit from a deliberate policy of devolution of authority so long as the corporate statement of principles made clear the limits and the degree of responsibility such authority conferred (read: imposed) upon the individual. It's a very different corporate culture that has a department shift team leader (commonly, an hourly employee selected to coordinate his immediate colleagues activities during the course of a work shift) determining work schedule fulfillment priorities based upon the logistical realities of the circumstantial moment as opposed to the do whatever is necessary to make the scheduled production target regardless of circumstance that is more usually the norm today. The latter results in production runs of defective product and inventory stocking levels that don't reflect current market demands for only two examples. The former requires a more intuitive grasp of the corporation's strategic environment at a much greater depth than is currently the case. It is also fair to say that the latter business model inflicts a much greater false sense of control and understanding than does the former.

Enough for now, and just my view from the factory floor anyway. What do I know?

* An inside joke just for us insiders. ;-)

Friday, September 16, 2011

It's A Good Thing I Didn't Have A Love Life To Start With

Saves me having to choose between it and ... well, living.

Introducing my latest (and likely only) sleeping companion, The Snout, including the warm and wet option to complete the sensuousity of it all. With all the hangman's noose hose and filters, I just tickled the old health insurance for a grand, easy.

What's the sense in living longer if every woman that arouses your interest staggers off laughing hysterically once she catches a glimpse of your bedroom attire?

CPAP my ass; CRAP!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

So Much Mis-Information And Confusion

There are two new laws concerning guns in personal vehicles due to take effect here in Texas tomorrow morning, Sept 1.

One makes explicit that anyone eligible to own a firearm may keep the weapon in a personal vehicle "out of plain sight", though with certain restrictions - not on federal property, not on state property used by the courts or prisons, not on schools and hospitals or private property as declared by the owner all being examples. This law replaces an old law that allowed Texans to keep a gun in their vehicle while "traveling" - the definition of which said law notoriously left decidedly vague. This resulted in numerous definitions being enforced in different jurisdictions within the state, but always allowed for property owners (to include businesses) to exclude personal firearms from their property at their discretion. The "traveling" stipulation has been removed and how the gun(s) may be carried within the vehicle clarified, but the exclusionary option remains in place going forward from tomorrow's date.

There is a second law taking effect tomorrow as well. This law (search: Texas Senate Bill 321) specifically identifies concealed handgun licenee's as being granted a limited authorisation to keep handguns (no mention is made of long guns in the act) "locked up" in their private vehicles within their employers parking lot irrespective of said employer's established policy regarding such*. Once again, this law specifies concealed handgun licenced employees as being the only employees subject to this act (there is some disagreement between Texas lawyers and the NRA's as to whether or not this act also extends to employees who lack a CHL ... my lawyers predict this point of distinction will go to the courts for resolution). There are enumerated classifications of business excluded from this act as well as specific requirements of compliance that employees with CHL's must conform to, prominent among these being that the weapon remain inside the vehicle at all times while on company parking areas and, again, stored "out of plain sight". Pertinent here, I think, is that Texas requires that concealed handguns be concealed from ordinary view by the concealing mechanism/clothing worn in the ordinary way, with no mention of "printing", and that "inadvertent exposure" is recognised as not violating the concealed stipulation of the law. Keeping this in mind (with the acknowledgement that there is no case law regarding any of this in the parking lot example), the informed opinion is that exposing the gun to someone else's sight while transferring it from a holster to another method of storage is allowed as being inadvertent so long as the gun never leaves the confines of the employee's private vehicle while the vehicle is in the company's parking lot.

There seems to be a common belief that these two laws are actually one and that the CHL requirement of the parking lot law doesn't apply because ... well, frankly, I'm not sure why it doesn't apply really. I've had several other employees with whom I work argue that "That's not true" or that "it's a constitutional right". I don't know. Added to that is the lack of specificity regarding the excluded businesses. As only one example, my employer uses a flammable gas as part of the manufacturing process of our product. Does this qualify for the exemption regarding having explosive liquids/gases as the primary purpose of the business? Does this particular exemption also rule out the common gas station as well? Don't know yet.

One thing I do know is that it seems to be the habit of the Texas legislature to write laws in such a manner as to permit the courts to define the specifics of application. Another thing I know is that I intend to be very circumspect as to how I go about my lawful activities for the immediate future. And that's all I have to say about that.

*The analogy I've settled on to describe this is a poker based example; the legislature wasn't willing to go "all in" on this first deal of this particular law, so they limited the number of citizens as well as the types of business participating. The "risk" is confined to people who have passed a criminal background investigation and who, as a class, have a documented history of compliance with the law generally and excludes companies with an obvious-seeming threat of potential mass disaster resulting from a firearms discharge in close proximity to the businesses facilities.

Friday, August 5, 2011

That's The Thing About "Target Rich Environments"

In the real world, the targets aren't static.

Or even especially obvious before the fact.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Goodness Gracious

If things get any more gracious around here I'll have to take out a patent of nobility to handle it all.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Gratuitous Innuendo

I ought to re-title this "Gratuitous Self-Embarrasement"; see the update below.

Just drop it woman. I have long since stipulated that the proclaimed wisdom of the blogospheric commentariat has pronounced on this distinction and declined further disputation, choosing to rely on the advice and counsel of those I had (also long since) previously retained to provide such instead. I don't suppose there's much hope of others doing the same, is there?

Just in passing, is it truly your position that my having objected to the suggestion of shooting someone in the back of the head as not quite rising to the level of "self-defense" is somehow equivalent to publicly and explicitly threatening to murder someone during the course of abusing the authority entrusted to those in public service? Wow, I never dreamed others found my poor erudition so lethal.

While I quite enjoy your extra-planetary fiction (I suppose an autograph for my copy of the book is right out), your more down-to-Earth delusions - at least as they involve myself - are becoming tiresome and quite rude. Please desist.

UPDATE 7/26/11: In comments, RobertaX has made clear that it was indeed another William her post made mention of. Apparently the fellow Mr. Harless so publicly abused is also named William.

I'd like to claim that it's been a more challenging year than usual for me, but that doesn't excuse my over-sensitivity anyway. I hope Roberta will accept my apology; I was out of line and out of order.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Market Forces In Practice

Like most gun owners, I've run the holster gamut. Already having a suitable pocket pistol, I've taken my time in deciding where to spend my money to best effect and satisfaction.

Reading reviews and product specifications are all well and good (and a necessary part of product research), but it was being able to listen to Dennis Badurina of Dragon Leatherworks interact with and describe his product process to the gun owners on Vicious Circle that ultimately decided me to buy this product instead of continuing to look.

Only after having completed the sale did Dennis and I exchange e-mails that concluded with the following:
That being said...the VC logo will be made available on the Quantums later this evening (when I finish up the first one and get to taking pictures of it...), so I'll extend you the offer to stamp the logo onto your Quantum, free of charge.

I accepted immediately, of course, and look forward with excitement to having the first Quantum VC holster! Dennis and I continue to discuss the second holster I wish to buy from him entirely due to his decent treatment of someone who he didn't know and had already gotten the money from. All of which is perfectly consistent with the man I listened to with such enjoyment over the past few weekend's podcast. With his patient explanations of the limits of his craft and materials, I'm certain we'll arrive at a mutually satisfactory version soon enough. Illustrative of that process, the following exchange between us is quoted in it's entirety (less address headers) with the authors' permission:
Hi Dennis,

So, I was just going to reward your earlier generosity by dipping into the savings and ordering a second, OWB fancy dress holster. Coming as absolutely no surprise to me, you don't offer what I really want. :)

A standard Flatjack in black leather, cut for a 2" belt that has the sanded Stingray (would love to read Labrat's review of that whole process; I was in the USN, I've heard Stingray's response - or it's generic equivalent*) material inset with the VC logo pressed into it, with the logo further highlighted by contrasting colored (maybe a light shade of blue?) stitching in the logo depressions. Call the basic design Alan's Consternation. The kicker is, I want it fitted for a Smith & Wesson 325 Night Guard, the "N" frame version of one of these:

JayG not being with us, the N frame is the largest of the four frame sizes S&W offers (J,K,L,N), so you'll have to arrange for a blue gun first (though I can't imagine there won't be a sample N frame you could do a trace-and-measure from available at the upcoming NE blogshoot - I'm reasonably certain both Weer'd Beard and JayG has mentioned owning an equivalently sized gun). From what I can see of the Flatjack design it shouldn't matter, but my gun has Crimson Trace sights fitted as the added grip width helps to alleviate some of the recoil impact along with the more usual laser sight benefits.

So, possible? My birthday is in late October so we have time to fumble around with potential problems/options. Assuming you've no objection to the above, what will my present to myself cost?

Bonus: mention all this on tonight's 100th VC show and hear Alan be sooo unimpressed.

Best regards,

Will Brown


Hey Will,

OK...a few things about what you are looking for....

The stamp for the VC logo has to be impressed on what is called *tooling leather*, or *carving leather*. Its the only leather that has gone through the tanning process in such a way as to accept embossing or hand-tooling.

That being said, the only tooling leather is Cowhide or Horsehide, and the tanning method must be vegetable tanning, not chemical or chrome-dipped. All my holsters are made from veg-tanned leather (as are almost all holsters, regardless of manufacturer), and during the process of making the holster, I take steps, after the dyeing and stamping, to stiffen the leather so that it will properly support the pistol.

Ergo, the logo cannot be embossed onto stingray (or anything else that isn't veg-tanned cow or horse). Stingray skin has calcium deposits on it. That's what makes stingray skin so tough once its tanned. The Japanese Samurai used Stingray skin as an armored layer atop a softer hide, because stingray skin is practically indestructible. A razor-sharp sword WILL NOT slice through stingray. (I should know...I have to actually cut all my stingray pieces by hand with a pair of sheet metal shears, the damned stuff is so frigging hard....all my regular leather cutting tools don't even mar the surface of stingray.)

As for stitching into the depressions of the logo, it would take a very fine needle (too fine to punch through stingray), and to do decorative stitching, the stitches need to be very close together. What happens in veg tanned leather is that the stitching perforates the leather so badly, the leather literally falls apart when you try to stretch it around the gun during the molding/boning process. Chrome-dipped or chemical tanned leathers, either calfskin or another such supple leather, can take the fine needlework, but not the veg-tanned leathers I use in my holster making.

Lastly...I've yet to be able to find an *N* frame model...the best model-maker out there is BlueGuns, but the stuff they do is LEO-based, or military-based weaponry. They have J and K frame models, no L or N. There is another modeler called Duncans Customs, but their models aren't of the quality and exacting standards of BlueGuns. I've used their models before in holster making, and had to refund the money to clients because the holsters were too loose, even though I used the exact same technique as with my BlueGun models, where all the holsters made off BlueGuns are balls-on-perfect for fit. I have also tried using tracings, but the fit, again, isn't exact, and will wind up too tight or loose, and a refund gets made. So, I now stay away from using tracings...if I don't have the actual gun or a BlueGun model, I politely decline the work.

So...there's the reasons you see limits on what I offer. Part of it is a physical or technical impossibility, and other (such as more of a gun selection) are because the best models made are only offered in a limited amount of popular LEO/Military model handguns.

I like the way you're thinking, though...a holster like that would be unbelievably cool. :-)

Warmest Regards,

Dragon Leatherworks

Since my N-frame wheel gun is apparently out, it's back to my Commander. Maybe the sanded Stingray as highlight trim for the VC logo in some (contrasting to the holster) shade of dyed cow/horse hide but without the stitched highlighting of the logo itself. Have to think on it some more.

This post is characterised as a "product review", but it's really more of a producer review. Go see for yourself.

*Edit to add: Begins with "Fuck ...", features "... gonna need a whole lotta help ..." and concludes with "... will not live to see the results!", or words to the same effect. Feel free to insert pretty much whatever combination of obscenity, slang, curse or insult (added points for anatomically unlikely combinations) anywhere in the discourse you think most entertaining/pertinent and you'll pretty much capture the spirit of the response I think.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Butler May Have Done It

But apparently the maid didn't.

The Frog may indeed hop in and out of lots of ladies beds, but it seems he in fact does ask first.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I Wonder ...

Gov. Rick Perry signed Senate Bill 321 (the one allowing people to keep guns locked in their cars in company parking lots) yesterday, how long will it take my employer to try and weasel out of compliance in some way? I'm confident that they will make the effort and that at least one of my fellow assailants of the bastions of Capitalism workers will not actually comply with the law as written in some obvious fashion giving the company all the "justification" it needs.

And maybe not; if we make it through September without incident everybody should adjust happily enough. I hope so.

In any case, well done to Rick Perry and those members of the states legislature who supported this effort. Now, about that idea to remove the word "concealed" from Texas' handgun legislation ...

Friday, June 17, 2011

Words Mean Things

It seems my viewpoint on what actions rise to the level of self defense, but not exceed it, differs in significant degree from other's (see comments).

'Nuff said.

For the record though, there is a recognised and established standard for matters such as these despite the severe lack of snarkiness in their expression:
self-defense n. the use of reasonable force to protect oneself or members of the family from bodily harm from the attack of an aggressor, if the defender has reason to believe he/she/they is/are in danger. Self-defense is a common defense by a person accused of assault, battery, or homicide. The force used in self-defense may be sufficient for protection from apparent harm (not just an empty verbal threat) or to halt any danger from attack, but cannot be an excuse to continue the attack or use excessive force. Examples: an unarmed man punches Allen Alibi, who hits the attacker with a baseball bat. That is legitimate self-defense, but Alibi cannot chase after the attacker and shoot him or beat him senseless. If the attacker has a gun or a butcher knife and is verbally threatening, Alibi is probably warranted in shooting him. Basically, appropriate self-defense is judged on all the circumstances. Reasonable force can also be used to protect property from theft or destruction. Self-defense cannot include killing or great bodily harm to defend property, unless personal danger is also involved, as is the case in most burglaries, muggings or vandalism.

[My bold]

I see no advantage in providing any potential courtroom adversary with free material to use against me should such a circumstance ever confront me, especially in a vain effort to convince another of their "error". Sufficient to acknowledge that opinions differ on what activity rises to the level of self defense and confine my efforts to matters closer to home.

And that's my final word on this topic on anyone else's blog.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Uncomfortable Question

In the opening minutes of his shows third hour segment today, Rush Limbaugh asks, "What would a modern Paul Revere be warning about?" He goes on to posit that it wouldn't be "the Chi-Coms" or the Russians coming, so who would be the object of such a warning given Limbaugh's viewpoint on the current US political climate?

Ask yourself, who do "the authorities" send in to register their displeasure with the "inappropriate behavior" of We the People?

That's right, James Carville's "imminently possible" civil unrest will be directed at the cops, 'cause you can bet it won't be Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid or Barack Obama on the streets asserting control over the "extremists" nor their Republican accomplices either.

Kinda doubt this was the answer Rush was looking for.