Sunday, November 11, 2018

One Hundred Years

At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the guns fell silent.


Conventional wisdom says that the "Buddy" the song is about was KIA on the Western Front.

Turned on the TV today and TMC was running the first part of the Veteran's Day (AKA Poppy Day, AKA Decoration Day) Marathon. Caught the end of Hell Below (1933), a World War One submarine drama I'd never heard of, then The Fighting 69th (1940), finished up (for now) with Sergeant York (1941).

Once in khaki suits
Gee, we looked swell!
Full of that Yankee-Doodle dee-dum!
Ten thousands boots
Went marching through Hell
And I was the kid with the drum!

I'm currently reading Thunder in the Argonne: A New History of America's Greatest Battle, a 21st Century US Army officer's analysis of the final campaign of the First World War. It's pretty good, although occasionally the 21st Century operational terminology -- jargon, if you will -- can be jarring.

Nevertheless, it's an excellent analysis of the performance under fire of the American Expeditionary Forces. I'm not sure how realistic it is to regret (a hundred years ago, or now) that the US military had no experience with conducting combat operations on that scale, since... well, the closest the US military had to having that level of expertise was 50+ years in the past, in the Civil War. Even if Pershing had listened to all the advice the French and British had offered, it would have been too much to expect command and staff at all levels to do so.

Anyway. Recommended.

This showed up in my Twitter feed today. Not bad. World War I Centenary: 100 Legacies of the Great War.

And in my in box:

Friday, October 12, 2018

Hammy Stuff

Procrastination -- it's been a month since I posted, and I haven't even been out of town! -- results in multiple posts, some of them short, being consolidated.

Part of the procrastination is due to disgust with The National Scene, ifyouknowwhatImeanandIthinkyoudo. Part of it is laziness and inertia, part waiting to see what will happen...

Anyway. The 98-Double-Ought-3 Amateur Radio Club celebrated its 20th Anniversary yesterday. Yay, us!🎆🎉 Yes, there was cake and ice cream. 🎂🍨
Now, there are bigger and older clubs out there; Western Washington is pretty "radio-active", so to speak. The Radio Club of Tacoma is over a hundred years old, and the club "radio shack" -- yes, hams really do use that term -- is an actual house that the club purchased 50 or 60 years ago. Which is pretty cool, and yes, there is a certain amount of envy there. But. It isn't our club, and it doesn't really serve our needs.

Speaking of which...

Tuesday, September 11, 2018


Just ask yourself, What Would Rick Rescorla Do?

There many heroes on that terrible day.

And while at some point it is futile and foolish to try and argue which was the "bigger" hero, I would submit that there are few heroes in American history -- and certainly none who more clearly illustrate the point that one need not be native-born to be a Great American  -- than Rick Rescorla.

Read his story at the link above, or at Power Line: A day to be proud… | Power Line. Or watch it on YouTube link.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Readers Notes -- Geography is Destiny

In comments to my previous notes I mentioned that reader Arthur's comments provided me with a segue to my next post. Which this is.

I believe I saw Tim Marshall's book Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World (Amazon link) linked in an Instapundit post.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that has studied military tactics that geography has a controlling factor on what you do, and how you do it. It therefore follows that geography has an impact on your application of Operational Art, and of your strategy, not to mention of what used to be referred to a your "Grand Strategy", but in this less-poetically inclined age we simply refer to as "Foreign Policy"; in other words, "geo-politics" is more than just a word.

British journalist Tim Marshall attempts in this book to lay out the geographic causes behind how nations have developed, and fallen.  As the sub-title says, he lays out 10 maps of significant nations or regions to be studied, one chapter each. This analysis addresses current issues in international geopolitics as well as "how we got here."

He starts with China, then moves on to Russia and the USA; he then looks at regions: Europe, the Middle East, Africa, South America, the Indian sub-continent, northeast Asia, and finally, the Arctic.

He describes, for example, how geography (including climate, topography and hydrology) impacted the development of Mexico as contrasted to the United States.

There are few earth-shattering (heh) revelations here for the student of history, especially of military history, at least, not when examining well-studied eras and campaigns. But few westerners have an appreciation of how, for example, African geography constrained the development of civilizations and societies beyond the tribal/village level, and even now prevents most nations there from taking full advantage of the potential available to them.

So I believe that this book will have some useful information to anyone, and might serve as a primer for students with an interest in why nations make the decisions they do, but it is far from an in-depth study.

I will note, on the other hand, that at a certain level it is typical of books that address current events in that in only 3 years, some (much?) of the commentary is already obsolete. For example, he mentions that Obama's Iran deal has dissolved fears of an Iranian nuclear attack.

On the gripping hand, I did see some examples where the author's reasoning was a bit, well, facile. As an American, I am used to the subtle sneers and jibes of Europeans who shrug off anything we do in a sort of  "Well, you know, Americans. AmIright?" way. But Marshal spends a lot of time explaining why Mexico did not grow into the socio-economic powerhouse that the USA did, implying that the United States sort of fell into the jackpot, easily and undeservedly, while poor Mexico got stuck with the North American booby prize.

But the only reason Mexico did not inherit an empire that covered all of North America is that the Spanish Empire's interest in the New World was primarily as a source for the gold that would allow Spain to conquer and maintain a European empire: All that gold was pissed away in the Netherlands, the English Channel, and Italy.

Consider an alternate universe, where Spain saw the Great Plains as an opportunity for colonization for more than just extractive reasons. Where Spanish trappers paid Native Americans for furs, instead of complaining impotently while gringos took them directly, trapping the mountains almost bare of beaver in the process. Where instead of inviting American settlement in Texas as a buffer between Mexico and Comancheria, Spain found loyal subjects who would take on that challenge. But Spain didn't find any subjects who were interested in settling on the frontier, they were interested either in milking the New World for all they could get, or in converting the natives -- and it is questionable just how serious they were about saving native souls.

Whereas Americans were not just interested in settling on the frontier, they were downright insistent that they had a right to and would do so even when their own government said they didn't and couldn't. And, oh by the way, it wasn't all that easy. Europeans, amiright?

In other words, while geography shapes strategy and policy, so does culture. Geography also has an impact on culture, but culture has an impact beyond just "a people who arise in such-and-such terrain will be characterized thus-and-so."

Having spotted these issues in the chapter on the United States, I couldn't help wonder if I was missing similar issues in the other chapters.

Mind you, I'm not saying it ruined the book for me; far from it. The analyses of how geography has and will continue to impact national-level policy and strategy were, IMHO, spot on.

So this book is recommended, just be prepared for an occasional jolt as you think "Did he really write that?" or "THAT statement didn't age well!"

Here is the Amazon blurb:
Maps have a mysterious hold over us. Whether ancient, crumbling parchments or generated by Google, maps tell us things we want to know, not only about our current location or where we are going but about the world in general. And yet, when it comes to geo-politics, much of what we are told is generated by analysts and other experts who have neglected to refer to a map of the place in question.

All leaders of nations are constrained by geography. In “one of the best books about geopolitics” (The Evening Standard), now updated to include 2016 geopolitical developments, journalist Tim Marshall examines Russia, China, the US, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Japan, Korea, and Greenland and the Arctic—their weather, seas, mountains, rivers, deserts, and borders—to provide a context often missing from our political reportage: how the physical characteristics of these countries affect their strengths and vulnerabilities and the decisions made by their leaders.

Offering “a fresh way of looking at maps” (The New York Times Book Review), Marshall explains the complex geo-political strategies that shape the globe. Why is Putin so obsessed with Crimea? Why was the US destined to become a global superpower? Why does China’s power base continue to expand? Why is Tibet destined to lose its autonomy? Why will Europe never be united? The answers are geographical. “In an ever more complex, chaotic, and interlinked world, Prisoners of Geography is a concise and useful primer on geopolitics” (Newsweek) and a critical guide to one of the major determining factors in world affairs.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Reading Notes, Revolutionary Edition

 So, if you read my blog you probably also read Tamara's blog and saw this post:
This was actually a Re-Tweet with commentary of a Tweet of mine:
which was in itself a reply to others being surprised that Twitter has gotten too hot for Will "Weaselly Crusher" Wheaton, who had up until very recently been one of the most reliable of knee-jerk leftist narrative followers.

(If the Tweets themselves do not show up, just text with funky formatting, you can click on the date of the tweet to see the things in their original glory.)
(Side note: I just noticed that I have 1776 Tweets..)

Part of the reason for this tweet was that I just finished reading Russia in Flames: War, Revolution, Civil War, 1914 - 1921: Laura Engelstein (Amazon link), which I borrowed from the King County Library.

Here's the synopsis from Amazon:
October 1917, heralded as the culmination of the Russian Revolution, remains a defining moment in world history. Even a hundred years after the events that led to the emergence of the world's first self-proclaimed socialist state, debate continues over whether, as historian E. H. Carr put it decades ago, these earth-shaking days were a "landmark in the emancipation of mankind from past oppression" or "a crime and a disaster." Some things are clear. After the implosion of the three-hundred-year-old Romanov dynasty as a result of the First World War, Russia was in crisis-one interim government replaced another in the vacuum left by imperial collapse.

In this monumental and sweeping new account, Laura Engelstein delves into the seven years of chaos surrounding 1917 --the war, the revolutionary upheaval, and the civil strife it provoked. These were years of breakdown and brutal violence on all sides, punctuated by the decisive turning points of February and October. As Engelstein proves definitively, the struggle for power engaged not only civil society and party leaders, but the broad masses of the population and every corner of the far-reaching empire, well beyond Moscow and Petrograd.

Yet in addition to the bloodshed they unleashed, the revolution and civil war revealed democratic yearnings, even if ideas of what constituted "democracy" differed dramatically. Into that vacuum left by the Romanov collapse rushed long-suppressed hopes and dreams about social justice and equality. But any possible experiment in self-rule was cut short by the October Revolution. Under the banner of true democracy, and against all odds, the Bolshevik triumph resulted in the ruthless repression of all opposition. The Bolsheviks managed to harness the social breakdown caused by the war and institutionalize violence as a method of state-building, creating a new society and a new form of power.

I think someone at Amazon couldn't bring themselves to make any observations about how the "Bolshevik Triumph" was due to the Bolshevik's being better at slaughtering anyone who didn't toe their party line better than any of their rivals. Also, that "true democracy" as espoused by the Bolsheviks was just a word to dupe the masses.

While this book is organized more-or-less chronologically, Engelstein covers the events of 1905-1921 geographically as well, examining events in all of the former Russian Empire, including those arts that managed to break off from it to become independent -- as well as in those that failed in their attempts to do so. (Growing up in Detroit, more often than not I heard Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia referred to as The Captive Nations"; they had a weekend Ethnic Festival all their own.)

The Reds did not so much defeat the Whites as the Whites defeated themselves: They were not an "Army" so much as being a chaotic shambles under a blanket descriptor. This process is well described, as is the way that Lenin and Trotsky, et alia,  blithely had thousands if not millions slaughtered for the crime of... existing.

As I noted in my tweet above (limited to 280 characters) not only was the process of the revolution devouring it's own not finished, but it was neither the first nor the last to do so. If you can find it, I highly recommend The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression: Jean-Louis Panné, Andrzej Paczkowski, Karel Bartosek, Jean-Louis Margolin, et al. to describe the manner in which various revolutions have betrayed those in whose names they were carried out. Note that it was written by an assemblage of European commies.

(From the Review: When it was first published in France in 1997, Le livre noir du Communisme touched off a storm of controversy that continues to rage today. Even some of his contributors shied away from chief editor Stéphane Courtois's conclusion that Communism, in all its many forms, was morally no better than Nazism; the two totalitarian systems, Courtois argued, were far better at killing than at governing, as the world learned to its sorrow.)

Now, I've tried to read Russian history before and gotten so bogged down in Russian names that I had to quit; I was simply unable to keep track of who was doing what to whom. (I suppose there's a Lenin joke in there somewhere...) Robert Conquest just, well, defeats me when it comes to it. (Maybe Daddy Bear can recommend something...) I managed with this one, so there's that.

This is another of those books which run 800 pages, 200+ of which are notes, index, and bibliography. At some point I extended the loan from the library, but I managed to finish it by the original due date. It probably wouldn't have been a challenge if my reading habits haven't been severely impacted by my work schedule, i.e., working graveyard shift, I do most of my reading on my weekends.

If you've ever wondered how Russia went from the Tsar to Kerensky to Lenin, and how Lenin hung on until his death, this book covers the period well. Recommended.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Oral Rehydration -- a PSA

Hopefully, news you can't, and never will need, to use.

So while we were at the emergency communications team meeting the other night discussing Go Kits and Bug Out Bags, one of the members offered some real world observations about first aid kits, to wit, based on the "historical re-enactment" his church did for the youth group -- he's LDS, so I'm assuming he was talking about a Pioneer Trek. (The reason I know about it is that I recalled Howard "Schlock Mercenary" Taylor commented once that he was told not to call it Oregon Trail LARPing...) He was observing that the first aid kit needed blister care supplies, because kids today will get blisters if they have to walk more than a mile, since they are not used to that, and they probably have stylish, not functional, socks. (And their shoes are probably suspect, too.)

Then he made an offhand remark about how simply drinking water is not enough, you need to replace electrolytes, as well.

And that made me remember reading in one of P.J. O'Rourke's books -- All The Trouble In The World, I think -- where he was talking to some American aid official (or maybe non- or semi-official) about famine and pestilence, and the guy reaches into his desk and says that the death rate in whichever part of Africa they were in could be slashed dramatically with "this" -- "this" being a 25 cent packet of oral re-hydration salts.

Oral rehydration therapy - Wikipedia
Oral rehydration therapy (ORT) is a type of fluid replacement used to prevent and treat dehydration, especially that due to diarrhea.[1] It involves drinking water with modest amounts of sugar and salts, specifically sodium and potassium.[1] Oral rehydration therapy can also be given by a nasogastric tube.[1] Therapy should routinely include the use of zinc supplements.[1] Use of oral rehydration therapy decreases the risk of death from diarrhea by about 93%.[2]
The formula for the current WHO oral rehydration solution (also known as low-osmolar ORS or reduced-osmolarity ORS) is 2.6 grams (0.092 oz) salt (NaCl), 2.9 grams (0.10 oz) trisodium citrate dihydrate (C 6H 5Na 3O 7⋅2H 2O), 1.5 grams (0.053 oz) potassium chloride (KCl), 13.5 grams (0.48 oz) anhydrous glucose (C 6H 12O 6) per litre of fluid.

A basic oral rehydration therapy solution can also be prepared when packets of oral rehydration salts are not available. It can be made using 6 level teaspoons (25.2 grams) of sugar and 0.5 teaspoon (2.9 grams) of salt in 1 litre of water. The molar ratio of sugar to salt should be 1:1 and the solution should not be hyperosmolar. The Rehydration Project states, "Making the mixture a little diluted (with more than 1 litre of clean water) is not harmful."

The optimal fluid for preparing oral rehydration solution is clean water. However, if this is not available the usually available water should be used. Oral rehydration solution should not be withheld simply because the available water is potentially unsafe; rehydration takes precedence.

...Sports drinks are not optimal oral rehydration solutions, but they can be used if optimal choices are not available.
Not gonna lie, I don't know what all the ten dollar words in there mean. But, really, in the documentation or inventory of your first aid kit, or even just a 3"x5" index card in there, write down "6 tsp (2 Tbl) sugar and 0.5 tsp salt 1 quart water."

Or, you can get fancy. Found this one researching the subject:
  • 1 quart water
  • half tsp sea salt
  • half tsp baking soda
  • quarter tsp salt substitute (potassium chloride; can use cream of tartar instead)
  • 8 tsp sugar
That supposedly replicates the WHO formulation, described in the Wikipedia quote above.

Or, you can buy them: oral re-hydration packets. Some of these are flavored.

Now, Oral Re-Hydration Therapy such as Wikipedia is talking about is an in extremis thing, not "Been mowing the lawn in the hot sun, I need a glass of iced tea" (or whatever) in someone who is more or less healthy and well nourished. It's usually applied in cases of extreme life threatening illness, the sort that results in diarrhea, like cholera. But some folks just won't admit they're not Superman, in the course of my military career I saw more than a few people rushed to the hospital for what turned out to be dehydration.

And especially in a first aid kit that is expected to be used in true, disaster-type emergency, throwing a ten pack of these in, as well as making sure you have the recipes to make some if you need it, seems like a Good Idea.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

I did not know that.

SO, reading this article -- MRE Shelf Life and Stockpiling MREs -, I wound up at this page: USDA -- Food Product Dating.

Where I learned that the "pull dates" on food items have nothing to do with food safety or health. (With one exception, see emphasis added below):
Does Federal Law Require Dating?
Except for infant formula, product dating is not required by Federal regulations.

For meat, poultry, and egg products under the jurisdiction of the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), dates may be voluntarily applied provided they are labeled in a manner that is truthful and not misleading and in compliance with FSIS regulations. To comply, a calendar date must express both the month and day of the month. In the case of shelf-stable and frozen products, the year must also be displayed. Additionally, immediately adjacent to the date must be a phrase explaining the meaning of that date such as "Best if Used By."

Are Dates for Food Safety or Quality?
Manufacturers provide dating to help consumers and retailers decide when food is of best quality. Except for infant formula, dates are not an indicator of the product’s safety and are not required by Federal law.

What Date-Labeling Phrases are Used? There are no uniform or universally accepted descriptions used on food labels for open dating in the United States. As a result, there are a wide variety of phrases used on labels to describe quality dates.

Examples of commonly used phrases:
  • A "Best if Used By/Before" indicates when a product will be of best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
  • A "Sell-By" date tells the store how long to display the product for sale for inventory management. It is not a safety date.
  • A "Use-By" date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. It is not a safety date except for when used on infant formula as described below.
Although experience says that the bread mix you found in the back of the pantry from 5 years ago may no longer have fully (or any) active leavening...

So the other evening at the emergency communication team meeting we were talking about "Go Bags" and Bug Out Bags. I took my Go Kit -- which is to say, my bag for CERT or ARES/RACES work, not my "Get Out Of Town" bag.

I also took my car kit in, to show a couple of thing in it. Now, my car kit is mostly a cheap packable rain suit, such as you find at a big box store, hat and gloves, reflective vest... It also has a package of Datrex Lifeboat rations. (Might have been another brand.)

And it was pointed out to me that "These are almost expired."

The packaging is intact, these are safe to eat.

"But they're almost expired!"


Friday, August 3, 2018

Cue the hysteria! -- Edit

OK, I'm actually a few days late with the "Cue the hysteria!" title, still...

You may be aware that the US Government has lifted the restriction on the sharing online of files with instructions to 3D print firearms components.

This, of course, is merely the latest in a series of events which are going to kill us all.

The thing is...

There are many inherent issues with manufacturing a firearm, or firearm parts, using a 3D printer. For instance, the plastic used isn't exactly up to withstanding the pressures of a modern firearm cartridge being fired, which limits which parts of the firearm they are suitable for. In order for the firing pin to detonate the primer on a cartridge, it has to be made of metal, or possibly, I suppose, some other hard material, which would probably be so exotic as to be impractical.


A fact which escapes those convinced that the availability of these files online mean the end of civilization is that it has always been legal to manufacture a firearm in your garage workshop, as long as you did not attempt to sell it.

Here, for example, is a thread about building a glorious revolutionary AK47 from a people's shovel, purchased for a whole 2 kopeks I mean rubles I mean capitalist pig dollars at an antique barn in Vermont: DIY: Shovel AK - photo tsunami warning! | Forums

So, why (one might ask) was the distribution of files with instructions on how to 3D print firearms components banned? Well, the US State Department takes its responsibility (not to say authority) to control export of firearms and weapons technology seriously.

Now, this authority does extend to some information technology, namely, computer security/anti-virus files. (In an earlier job I had to help some sales reps for a local aviation firm process requests to Uncle Sam to let them take their laptops, with anti-virus software installed, overseas.)

But these are 3D printer files are hardly innovative in and of themselves, and cannot be seriously be considered a threat to national security.

What made the US State Department lift the ban on Internet distribution of 3D printer files is that the US State Department does not have a broad legal authority to ban the distribution of information.

That's right: The ability to download these files is a First Amendment issue, as well as a Second Amendment one. (Some would even argue that it is not a Second Amendment one at all.)

Elsewhere, Roberta X addresses the issue in her post The Adventures of Roberta X: That's Not How This Works.

There is also an excellent Twitter thread that starts with this one:
(There is a Thread Reader version of the full thread here: Thread by @CorrelA_B: "Ok, on this, the eve of one of my favorite things ever - the of technology - let's have a serious, sober-ish conversation a […]" #democratization #StopDownloadableGuns #Stop3DPrintedGuns #guncontrol

EDIT: Meanwhile, a commie judge here in Western Washington has ordered Defense Distributed to shut down their site again: DEFCAD

Fortunately, the files are available elsewhere: