Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hurricane Irene Hype Analysis

Myrhaf, at The New Clarion, analyzes hurricane Irene hype in a post titled Metaphysics On Display.  Why the hype?

The reason is much deeper that any of that; it goes to our culture’s fundamental idea of man’s nature. Widespread disaster represents the metaphysical essence of altruism. Catastrophe is not the accidental to altruists, it’s the way things should be...

Remember back in the ’90s when Al Gore in a convention speech called healthy people “temporarily able”? That’s the altruist vision of man: we’re all victims or potential victims. The essence of life, the really important thing, is helping victims. Morality is not about happiness and how to live well; it’s the duty to sacrifice for others.

So media and politicians cannot help themselves at the prospect of disaster. They want it. The routine of daily life — people going about their business, pursuing happiness, achieving goals — this is as false to the altruist as the world of facts is to the Platonist. But potential disaster brings them to life, for they see it as the chance to escape the illusions of happiness and success and find true morality in sacrifice.

Posted by John Venlet on 08/31 at 03:05 PM
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“King Rat” and “Atlas Shrugged” Comparisons

Last week I re-read James Clavell’s King Rat.  I’ve read this novel at least once every two years since I was first introduced to it in the late ‘70s.  It’s a good read.

I was struck, once again, while re-reading it by the similarities between Clavell’s first novel, King Rat, and Rand’s last novel, Atlas Shrugged, and not simply the comparsion noted by Marsha Enright at The Fountainhead Institute.

What’s even more surprising in this day and age, his heroes were often businessmen.

In searching around the internet for comparisons between these two works, I was surprised to note the shallowness of the understanding individuals displayed.  For example, Random House’s synopsis of King Rat.

The time is World War II. The place is a brutal prison camp deep in Japanese-occupied territory. Here, within the seething mass of humanity, one man, an American corporal, seeks dominance over both captives and captors alike. His weapons are human courage, unblinking understanding of human weaknesses, and total willingness to exploit every opportunity to enlarge his power and corrupt or destroy anyone who stands in his path.

Note Random House’s misunderstanding of The King’s reasons for trading with their utilization of descriptives such as “seeks dominance,” “total willingness to exploit,”  and “to enlarge his power and corrupt or destroy.”  It makes me wonder if the Random House writer who wrote that synopsis ever even read the book.  Did The King dominate trading within the Changi camp?  Indeed he did.  But did The King dominate the camp trade because he sought dominance?  Hardly.  The King dominated trading because he was the best trader.  A fact which was acknowledged throughout the camp and which resulted in The King being approached by the lowliest of the low and the highest of the high within the camp hierarchy.  Did The King exploit?  If he did, I wish someone would point out a specific example for me.  Did The King enlarge his power and corrupt or destroy?  If so, I’d also like specific examples of this in Clavell’s work.

One review I read, at Bakerstone Broadcast, comes a bit closer to understanding that there are similarities between King Rat and Atlas Shrugged deeper than just heroic businessmen.

In the words of ‘the King’ (one of the 2 main characters), how do you look after “Number one?” So this book is all about survival – what are the steps, what are the levels we are willing to go to in order to protect number one? The variety of characters Clavell puts into the book present various types of ways of responding to the obstacle. In way the King could be viewed as a proactive man who is willing to risk a lot for his survival whereas others are more comfortable with knowing what little they have is safe, even if it is so little. It seems Clavell asks what kind of person would you be? Everyone, over the course of their years in the POW camp developed into their roles, some more mentally fragile others more assertive, but all based on their fundamental need to survive and how they each choose to achieve survival.

But even this review of King Rat veers off course towards the end when the writer states the following.

But I think Clavell finishes the book with a very interesting thought. As the rats beneath the camp break free and fight for supremacy, one always comes out on top – an all rounder of strength and cunning but most importantly the one most adaptive to his environment. What is the fall of the King in this book is that his position of power is usurped as the war finishes and people no longer need him, and he can no longer use them to his advantage. He could not adapt his skills or his ideas to the new environment. It is difficult to presume how his life turns out later, but he himself is resigned to a state of loss – he can no longer be the King.

Though one could interpret Clavell’s ending in the manner described above, I think The King’s marginalization is the result of the failings of those who abandoned him after he had taken the larger risks in actively trading for their benefit.  There are far worse characters than The King in King Rat.

You could say that Clavell’s King Rat depicts the end result which could occur if society followed the path Rand so clearly lays out and denounces in Atlas Shrugged, but I think Rand clearly states the ultimate comparison between King Rat and Atlas Shrugged in this comment about her famous work.

Rand said she “set out to show how desperately the world needs prime movers and how viciously it treats them” and to portray “what happens to a world without them.”

Clavell’s King Rat shows what Rand articulates.

Last Rand quote taken from this article.

Posted by John Venlet on 08/31 at 01:32 PM
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“Dude, Where’s My Country?”

Tam in a post titled National Hair Shirt.

Ten years after Pearl Harbor, we had reduced Japan to a glowing pile of radioactive cinders and then rebuilt it and were buying cheap Japanese consumer goods by the shipload. Ten years after New York City was attacked by foreign enemies, all I see as evidence around Indy are a maudlin memorial being erected downtown, TSA probulators and porn-O-scans at the airport, and the occasional young man with an empty sleeve or trouser leg.

LauraB, The Trooper’s Girl, voices somewhat similar wondering in a post titled SOP Will Now Be SBD?!

All this pussification of war has me fed up. It is supposed to offend the opponent! It is supposed to be so damned offensive that he gives up and walks away!

Posted by John Venlet on 08/31 at 10:59 AM
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Jeb Corliss “Grinding the Crack”

Theo Spark says, regarding the video linked below, “It is simply awesome and is a must see.”  He’s right.  Wow!

Video: Jeb Corliss “Grinding the Crack.” (3:30)

Posted by John Venlet on 08/31 at 10:00 AM
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Cutoff the ‘Federal Family’

The State is not your friend, and it sure isn’t my family, but if it were, I’d cut it off immediately, like my folks did to me when I would not abide by the family rules.

Shove off FEMA.

Out: ‘US Government’ — In: ‘Federal Family’

Via Andrew McCarthy at The Corner.

Posted by John Venlet on 08/31 at 09:35 AM
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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Looks Good On Radar

Being a former submariner, the following headline caught my eye.

“Stealth” Boat Could Revolutionize Naval Warfare

Submarines are, of course, the original stealth boat so naturally I read through the article to see what this revolutionary concept could be, and found this.

A stealth boat that moves through water at high speeds and with near invisibility could revolutionize the Navy’s ability to carry out special operations on water.

The craft, called The Ghost, moves by generating a layer of gas around submerged surfaces, greatly reducing friction. It’s unique design makes it ideal for special operations, according to DiscoveryNews. The ship can reach speeds of 60 miles per hour and has a shape designed to reduce its visibility to radar, similar to the Navy’s “Sea Shadow” project of the 1980s…

The Ghost keeps a low radar profile the same way stealth planes do, by making the radar waves bounce off of its surface.

Though this is all rather conceptually interesting, I surely hope the U.S. Navy isn’t spending any money on The Ghost, because though it may look good on radar, The Ghost’s friction reducing gas technology system does this.

The friction reducing gas technology, called supercavitation, works by generating a low-pressure zone around the ship’s surface. (bold by ed.)

Cavitation is not a submariner’s, nor stealth’s, friend.  It’s noisy, and relatively easily detected by passive sonar systems, and I would be hard pressed to believe that a technology referred to as supercavitation would not be easily detectable by even more rudimentary passive sonar systems.  Additionally, I would think that The Ghost would have a rather recognizable individual sound signature, as all boats and ships do.

The Ghost may look good on radar, but on passive sonar it probably would stand out like a sore thumb.

Posted by John Venlet on 08/30 at 04:28 PM
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A Hoplophobia Moment at Trader Joe’s

From a post at The Newbius Papers titled Hoplophobia.

So, I am at a Trader Joe’s in Northern Virginia. I am perusing the selection of Cabernet when I realize that I am blocking the aisle with my cart. I look up and apologize to the woman with the pained expression for blocking the way, when she begins to apologize profusely and say it is her fault for intruding.


She says (in a panicky, rapidly-rising squeak) that she wouldn’t dream of upsetting me, especially considering the shirt that I am wearing, all while skittering away to the other end of the store like a cottontail evading a coyote.

I think I may get one of those t-shirts.

Posted by John Venlet on 08/30 at 02:02 PM
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Turning Goat Herders Into Sheep

I’ve never owned a goat, nor herded them around, but I do like goat cheese, which has become quite popular in the last 10 to 15 years.  With the rising popularity of goat cheese, the plight of goat herders has butted the U.S. Department of Labor right in the noggin, evidently.

The Obama administration is setting new workplace regulations to assist foreign workers who fill goat herding positions in the U.S., including employee-paid cell phones and comfy beds.

These new special procedures issued by the Labor Department must be followed by employers who want to hire temporary agricultural foreign workers to perform sheep herding or goat herding activities.  It describes strict rules for sleeping quarters, lighting, food storage, bathing, laundry, cooking and new rules for the counters where food is prepared.

I cannot determine whether goat conjugal rights are addressed.


Team Obama Regulates Goat Herders’ Workplaces

Linked via Scooter Oi’s Duck and Cover Blog.

Posted by John Venlet on 08/30 at 10:02 AM
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Digital Fortune Tellers

I don’t think much of fortune tellersFortune-telling has been around for ages, and individuals great, and small, throughout the years have succumbed to fortune tellers’ guiles, often with their pockets measurably lighter and quite possibly a goat or chicken eviscerated.

Fortune-telling is still alive and well in this the 21st century, having gone digital, and it is plumbing the depths of 1s and 0s of the internet.  The website Half Past Human is one such digital fortune teller, basing their predictions on the following methodology.

We employ a technique based on radical linguistics to reduce extracts from readings of dynamic postings on the internet into an archetypical database. With this database of archtypical language, we calculate the rate of change of the language. The forecasts of the future are derived from these calculations. Our calculations are based on a system of associations between words and numeric values for emotional responses from those words. These ‘emotional impact indicators’ are also of our own devising. They are attached to a data base of over 300/three hundred thousand words. This data base of linked words/phrases and emotions is our lexicon from which the future forecasting is derived.

Hoping not to be left behind, the Director of National Intelligence is launching their own fortune-telling effort in a program they are calling Open Source Indicators (OSI) Program, and their methodologies for predicting the future are not all that different than Half Past Human’s methodology.

Many significant societal events are preceded and/or followed by population-level changes in communication, consumption, and movement. Some of these changes may be indirectly observable from publicly available data, such as web search queries, blogs, micro-blogs, internet traffic, financial markets, traffic webcams, Wikipedia edits, and many others. Published research has found that some of these data sources are individually useful in the early detection of events such as disease outbreaks. But few methods have been developed for anticipating or detecting unexpected events by fusing publicly available data of multiple types from multiple sources.

IARPA’s Open Source Indicators (OSI) Program aims to fill this gap by developing methods for continuous, automated analysis of publicly available data in order to anticipate and/or detect significant societal events, such as political crises, humanitarian crises, mass violence, riots, mass migrations, disease outbreaks, economic instability, resource shortages, and responses to natural disasters. Performers will be evaluated on the basis of warnings that they deliver about real-world events.

Adherents of fortune-telling, and government control, may want to contribute to the Office of Director of National Intelligence’s fortune-telling efforts by purchasing and gifting to the ODNI a tarot deck, along with a copy of Alexander Chee’s essay The Querent, or pooling their monetary resources and purchasing The Gypsy, a rare talking fortune teller machine, from the Montana Heritage Commission before David Copperfield gets his hands on it.

ODNI Launches Research Program to Predict Big Events

Link to ODNI story via Fred Lapides.

Posted by John Venlet on 08/30 at 09:17 AM
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Thursday, August 25, 2011

What Did Steve Jobs Do For You?

Steve Jobs has resigned, I see, and while I have never owned an Apple computer, I do have an iPod Shuffle.

So what has Steve Jobs done for me, and you, besides provide a convenient and exceptionally portable means to carry around alot of music to listen to?  My friend Greg Swann has a few thoughts on what Steve Jobs has done for me and you, and shares these thoughts in a post titled Reifying Steve Jobs: Think different. Do better. And thrive.  Here’s a short excerpt.

So let’s cut to the chase: Here is what actually matters about the working life of Steve Jobs:

With one incredible product after the next, with one brilliant strategic move after the next, with one astounding financial milestone after the next, the most wonderful thing Steve Jobs made in his working life was:


Posted by John Venlet on 08/25 at 05:08 AM
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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Neither Cops Nor Robbers Desire To Be Filmed

Radley Balko has been chronicling the fact that cops don’t want to be filmed for some time now.

I think Radley is going to have to start a new series, chronicling the robbers that don’t want to be filmed.  The first in the chronicles can be Congressman Steve Chabot (R-OH).

Posted by John Venlet on 08/24 at 01:59 PM
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Bambi, You’re Supposed To Use The Crosswalk

From the mailbag in Northwest Indiana.

A lot of deer get hit by cars west of Crown Point on U.S. 231. There are too many cars to have the deer crossing here. The deer crossing sign needs to be moved to a road with less traffic.

- Tim Abbott, Crown Point

Move the deer crossing to where there’s less traffic

Via Neanderpundit.

Posted by John Venlet on 08/24 at 08:51 AM
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Sunday, August 21, 2011

My Freedom Loving Roots Run Deeper Than I Thought

My Mom just returned from an 18 day cruise, visiting St. Petersburg, Estonia, Finland and the Netherlands.  While in the Netherlands, she delved a bit deeper into our family geneaology, which she’s been compiling over the past ten years or so, and dropped an email to me on the subject of an individual by the name of Pier Gerlofs Donia, or Greate Pier (pdf of 5 pgs), wherein I learned the following.

Grutte Pier, his life for the most part is shrouded by legends, but there is no doubt the Grutte Pier or Pier Gerlofs Donia really did exist. He was for a time a wealthy farmer in Western Friesland at the beginning of the sixteenth century near the terp village of Kimswerd.  Piers homestead Doniastate, was a short distance east of Kimswerd along the Arumerdijk, between Kimswerd and Arum. According to the annals a tower of a fellow as strong as an ox, of dark complexion, broad shouldered, with a long black beard. A natural rough humorist, who through unfortunate circumstances was recast into an awful brute. Out of personal revenge for the bloody injustice that befell him with the killing of kinsfolk and destruction of his property he became a freedom fighter of legendary standing. Although he was feared for his rough and merciless behavior he was admired for his love of freedom and justice.

Greate Pier is kin to me on my mother’s side of the family, Bonga, through Fokel Sybrants Bonga (born about 1440), who was the daughter of the Schieringer noblemen.

According to the information compiled in the two links (above) regarding Greate Pier, he was for a time a pirate and also commanded a mercenary army of 4,000.  What I found most interesting, though, is that Greate Pier is credited with coining the phrase “Better dead then slave.”

Posted by John Venlet on 08/21 at 11:52 AM
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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Palm is Dead.  Long Live Palm.

Donald Sensing notes that Hewlett-Packard is killing off the Palm in a post titled Palm is Dead.  Remember Them?

Well, technological advances won’t kill off my Palm, nor will technological regression.  Long Live Palm.


Posted by John Venlet on 08/20 at 08:46 AM
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Friday, August 19, 2011

Moral Poverty First and Foremost

Interesting article at titled Society without solidarity commenting on the recent riots in Britain.

Written by Kenan Malik, the article is introduced as follows.

Were the riots in the UK a political upheaval of the poor? No, says Kenan Malik, the riots were not protests in any way. Instead they revealed that a second kind of poverty stalks Britain: moral poverty…

Malik is correct in stating that moral poverty stalks Britain, and the world also for that matter, but this moral poverty is not a “second kind” of poverty, but rather moral poverty is the first and foremost poverty stalking the world.

Linked via Fred Lapides.

Posted by John Venlet on 08/19 at 12:16 PM
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