Friday, January 20, 2017

Thunderstruck indeed!

Since today seems to have been a video-clip day here, let's finish off with a Spanish bagpipe band.

People often forget that bagpipes are a widely used instrument in Europe.  They're not just Scottish or Irish, but also found in France, Spain and elsewhere.  This is the group Rondalla Santa Eulalia de Mos (link is to their Facebook page) performing a rather unique version of the AC/DC hit 'Thunderstruck'.  Love the massed castanets providing an assist to the percussion section!

It would have been fun to hear that song performed in Washington D.C. today.  It's probably a pretty good summation of the feelings of all the nefarious denizens of the Washington swamp, who've just seen their nemesis take the oath of office.


This is so over the top, it might as well be Bollywood!

I laughed out loud on viewing the trailer for the new Vin Diesel movie, 'xXx: Return of Xander Cage'.  It's so over-the-top in almost every way that it could come from any of the Bollywood movies we've profiled here over the past few weeks.  See for yourself.

Some of those scenes are so ridiculous, I've already said to Miss D. that we need to plan on watching that together.  Neither of us are movie addicts, to put it mildly (the last time we went to a movie together was to watch 'Act of Valor', back in 2012, about which I wrote here), but this looks like it'll be a hoot.

(No, I'm not advertising the movie.  I merely have a well-developed sense of the ridiculous!)


Ice-skating on a frozen peat bog

Since the last two videos I've posted, yesterday afternoon and this morning, both dealt with cold, icy conditions, why not make it a threefer?

The De Weerribben-Wieden National Park in the Netherlands is the largest bog in north-western Europe.  It was used for peat production before the Second World War.  This has left large segments of open, very shallow water throughout the bog.  Naturally, these freeze over in cold winters, offering wonderful opportunities for long-distance ice skating.

Here are some Dutch skaters taking full advantage of this year's cold weather.  Watch the video in full-screen mode for best results.

Beautiful scenery!  It looks like they're having a great time.  Personally, I think I'd prefer to stay warmer than that . . .


A car, three moose, and a snow-covered road

A Canadian motorist recently encountered three moose on a snow-covered road where his car didn't have enough traction to brake in time.  The result was filmed on his dash camera.  Watch it in full-screen mode for best results.

That's about as close an encounter as I ever want to have with a moose!  You can read more about the incident here.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

An ice circle spins its way downriver

Coming from Africa as I do, I'd never even heard of ice circles until reaching the USA, and I've still never seen one in the flesh.  Nevertheless, this one in Washington state earlier this month certainly looks fascinating.  I'm still trying to work out the energy vectors that produce the spinning motion.

There are more images and video clips of the ice circle on the photographer's blog.  One day, I'd really like to see one of those for real.


To set the tone for tomorrow's Presidential inauguration . . .

. . . here are some video clips.  LANGUAGE ALERT:  Some of our left-wing and progressive friends are rather potty-mouthed.

And, of course:


This should make protesting in North Dakota more interesting . . .

I note with a certain schadenfreude that North Dakota may soon have a new traffic law.

Republican lawmakers in the state introduced a bill last week in the legislature that would not hold motorists liable for negligently running over someone obstructing a roadway. The bill was introduced in response to a year of protests over a proposed pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

. . .

Lawmakers told the Bismarck Tribune that the bill is needed after protesters blocked traffic during oil pipeline protests.

"It’s shifting the burden of proof from the motor vehicle driver to the pedestrian,” Rep. Keith Kempenich told the paper. "(Roads) are not there for the protesters. They’re intentionally putting themselves in danger."

There's more at the link.

I'm not suggesting that anyone would deliberately use such a law to run over protesters and get away with it.  Nevertheless, I, like many others, have been infuriated by protesters taking over and blocking public highways in order to draw attention to their cause(s).  Not only are they impeding my right of free passage, they have, in some cases, caused harm to people trying to get to hospital in a hurry, or emergency services trying to respond to situations that required their presence.  I think such protesters are dangerously deluded as to their importance (or lack thereof) in the greater scheme of things.  Certainly, if protesters blocked the safe passage of someone on the road - particularly if the driver was rushing his or her spouse or child to hospital, or something like that - I wouldn't blame the driver for a moment if he or she hit one or more of them.  As you may recall, that happened a few months ago in Ferguson, MO, earning the protesters our Doofus Of The Day award.

I've never forgotten the outrage and disgust caused in Nashville, TN a couple of years ago, when Black Lives Matter protesters blocked city center roads and an interstate highway.  Instead of removing them, police offered them coffee and hot chocolate!  I think that was a ridiculous decision, which only encouraged them to break the law again in future.  Many of us living there at the time were very angry at such an insipid, politically correct response by the authorities.  (It certainly wouldn't happen in northern Texas, where I now live.  I'm quite sure residents would take matters into their own hands, if necessary.)

People have a right to protest.  I have no problem with that at all.  However, their rights can't be allowed to interfere with or abrogate my rights - and blocking my passage comes under that heading, as far as I'm concerned.  I think this proposed North Dakota legislation is no more than a legal recognition of that reality.  I hope it's enacted.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

What happens when a bass boat's steering gear fails at high speed?

This happens.

Slo-mo replay begins at 2m. 12s.  I'd say they were lucky to get away with that . . .


OK, you asked for it!

After I put up that video clip of an elephant playing in snow a couple of days ago, a couple of readers asked why, since Miss D. and I have cats, we hadn't put up a video of cats and snow.

All right, then . . .

Happy now?


"Which AR-15 magazines should I buy?"

I tried to answer that question in general terms a couple of years ago, but it's recently been raised again in e-mail conversations with a few readers.  I thought it might be a good idea to get specific in terms of brands and versions that I have personally tested, and trust.  Obviously, there are many more brands out there, but unless and until I've checked them out myself, I'm not going to recommend them.  YMMV, of course.

My top choice, hands down, is the Magpul 3rd generation PMAG.  This has just been selected by the US Marine Corps as its standard-issue combat magazine, which speaks volumes, IMHO.  (The USMC will continue to use the 'traditional' metal STANAG magazines for training purposes.)  The G3 PMAG has several improvements over earlier generations, including being certified to work in several weapons where the G2 PMAG exhibited problems (such as the HK 416 and the M27 IAR).  These and other issues had led to the G2 PMAG being banned by the US Army and USMC in 2012, but the G3 resolves them.  The G3 also feeds newer types of 5.56x45mm. ammunition, such as the US Army's M855A1 and USMC's Mk. 318 Mod 0, without any difficulty.

The PMAG is available in 20, 30 and 40-round sizes in 5.56x45mm, and in other cartridges as well.  (I find the 40-round size to be too long - it gets in the way when shooting from a prone position.  I prefer 20-round magazines for prone use, and 30-round for general-purpose use.)  The PMAG comes in two versions;  one with solid sides, the other with windows in the sides allowing you to see the rounds it contains.  If you shop around, the G3 PMAG can be purchased online for between $11-$15, with the windowed versions usually (but not always) one or two dollars more expensive than the plain ones.  They're available in black and flat dark earth, and also in a sand color that's specifically designed to work with Rit dyes, so you can color them any shade you want.

I have a number of sand PMAGS dyed in colors that suit me, including a few 20-round versions in a bright red to indicate ready-use expanding ammunition in my gun safe.  (I even dyed a couple of 30-rounders in passionate purple, to accessorize Miss D.'s purple AR-15).

My second choice is the Troy Battlemag.  I think this is a good design overall, with a couple of advantages and a couple of drawbacks.  Advantages include:
  • The magazine is thinner side-to-side than either the PMAG or the L5AWM (discussed below), and its baseplate is narrower.  This means you can fit 2 or 3 Battlemags into magazine pouches that won't accept the same quantity of the other, fatter, magazines.
  • It's slightly lighter than the PMAG or L5AWM.  If you're maxing out your load, and every ounce counts, this might be important.
  • It comes with a built-in magazine 'pull tab' assist, making it easier to extract from a mag pouch if you're in a hurry.  If you don't want to use the tab, you can replace it with a flush-fit floor plate (included).  On a PMAG or L5AWM, fitting a mag assist or a ranger plate to do the same job is an extra-cost option, whereas it's free with every Battlemag.
Possible disadvantages include:
  • The Battlemag's plastic appears to be softer and more pliable than that used in the PMAG or L5AWM.  This has not proven to be a problem in my use of the Battlemag thus far, but if you intend to leave magazines in storage, loaded, for a long period, I think the feed lips might stretch or deform.  I obviously don't know this for sure, but it's a factor to consider.
  • The Battlemag design incorporates an internal rib running down the front face of the magazine, fitting into a notch on the follower.  It's been reported from several sources that this prevents the use of .300 Blackout ammunition, which is 'fatter' than the 5.56x45mm. round for which the Battlemag is designed.  Obviously, if you only intend to use .223 or 5.56 rounds in the magazine, this is no problem at all;  but if your magazines might have to do double duty with the larger cartridge, the Battlemag is probably not a good choice for you.  (No problems have been reported using .300 Blackout ammo in PMAG's or L5AWM's.)

Those reservations aside, the Battlemag is plenty tough enough for serious use.  Caleb Giddings of Gun Nuts Media actually shot one and then tested it, with impressive results.

Other sources have also provided satisfactory feedback about the Battlemag.  They can be expensive, but if you wait for a sale by Troy Industries, you can sometimes pick them up at excellent prices (as I did, a couple of years ago - at under $7 apiece, they were an absolute steal!).

My third choice is not yet an outright recommendation, because I'm still evaluating it:  but so far, it's done pretty well.  I'm referring to the Lancer L5AWM (shown at left).  This has attracted favorable attention from many sources, although as far as I know it's not been adopted by any large-scale military or law enforcement agency or service.  It's available in solid colors, or with smoke or clear sidewalls.  I'd rate it as superior to the G2 PMAG, although not to the G3.  I only have three of them at present, as they're usually not as widely available as PMAG's, and are often more expensive;  but if I had the chance to get some at a comparable price to PMAG's, I'd have no hesitation grabbing them.  Given more experience with them, they might move up to second place on my list of desirable magazines, as the plastic from which they're made seems heavier and more durable than that of Troy's Battlemag.  We'll see.

My fourth choice, which is also still under evaluation, is the ETS AR-15 magazine.  This is available in clear or smoke finishes, and with or without a coupler device allowing two magazines to be linked together.  Here's a brief video showing how easily the coupler can be used.

I've bought a few of the ETS coupler magazines for evaluation, and will be testing them over the next few months.  I like what I've seen of them so far, and if they continue to perform as well as others have said, I'll probably buy more of them and add them to my magazine rotation.

There are many more makes and models of AR-15 magazines out there, but the four I've mentioned above are those I've actually tested for myself, and am therefore prepared to recommend, in the order listed.  (I also have several dozen STANAG military magazines, ranging from very old to fairly new.  I've refurbished them all by installing Magpul magazine followers, new magazine springs, and new floor plates.  I use them primarily for training.)

I hope this helps answer my readers' questions on the subject.


A miniature tree with maximum complications

I had to smile at this account of the trials, tribulations and problems connected with getting a gift bonsai tree from China to England.

When the Queen was presented with ceremonial gifts during a visit to China in 1986, her officials were tasked with arranging their safe transit to Britain.

In the case of a 60-year-old bonsai tree, that was easier said than done.

. . .

The tree - later nicknamed 'Jack' - was a gift from the Governor of Guangdong and the plan was to put it on the Queen's Flight to Hong Kong for the next leg of the trip.

For Frank Savage, a diplomat in Peking, that was where the problems began. In its ornate bamboo cage, the tree was too big to fit through the cabin door. The hold had no temperature control.

"I was not prepared to risk the health of our venerable tree in temperatures of -50C," Mr Savage wrote.

Instead, it was arranged for the tree to travel in the first class freight van of the mid-morning train to Hong Kong, while Mr Savage and his wife had to make do with second class.

. . .

At the airport "the tree was greeted by two high officials from BA plus around twenty lesser mortals," Mr Savage recalled.

"I was informed that BA would put a guard on the tree 16 hours a day in order to attend to its every need (I recommended a Cantonese as opposed to a Mandarin speaker so that the tree would not be unduly lonely)."

He was "somewhat horrified" to learn that for the remaining eight hours the tree was to be stored in a pen with two Alsatians as guard dogs, noting "this plan was dropped with some alacrity when I pointed out the obvious."

There's more at the link.  Whimsical, funny, and a reminder that even bureaucrats have a lighter side.  (I just wish the rest of us could see it more often - particularly at the DMV!)

The sting, of course, is in the tail.

After being released from quarantine, 'Jack' took up residence in the plant centre at Windsor Great Park, according to the documents.

Since learning of the story of the Queen's bonsai, a park spokeswoman said staff are seeking to discover what happened to it.

Wouldn't it be funny if, after all that, they'd lost it?


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

"The Greatest Fight Scene in the History of Cinema"

That's what one enthusiastic poster at YouTube called this Bollywood fight scene, from the movie 'Singham Returns'.  Personally, I think he was rather over-enthusiastic . . . but judge for yourselves.

Once again, the laws of physics (and basic combat strategy and tactics) don't seem to apply in Bollywood.  Oh, well . . .


Tom Kratman delivers the smackdown to Rosie O'Donnell

Retired US Army officer and author Tom Kratman exhibits his usual tact, delicacy and social graces (which may have been compared to those of an enraged rhinoceros) towards Rosie O'Donnell's latest idiocy.

So you think we should impose martial law to prevent Trump’s taking office on the 20th of January. A little education would seem to be in order. The first part of the lesson is that “martial” means warlike, or military; you know, as in Mars, the Roman god of war. “Campus Martius” not ringing any bells? “Court-martial”? O tempora. O mores.

. . .

Now about that military junta you apparently want to see in charge, how do you think they see you and yours? No clue, huh? Well, given what you’ve asked for, I am, I confess, unsurprised.

So here’s the truth: With a few exceptions, they hate you. They hate everyone like you, by which I mean lefties / progressives / liberals, to the extent those may differ. They hate what you all have done to them, turning them into a frightfully well-armed gay bar cum feminist feelings fest. Even some numbers of the gays and feminists, folk who are soldiers and marines, airmen and sailors, first and foremost, hate you. They’re sick of SHARP training being the number one priority. They hate what you and yours have done to the country, both at home and overseas. Moreover, though veterans broke nearly two to one in favor of Trump, I would be shocked to the innermost fiber of my being if active military didn’t go even more heavily for Trump, and ground gaining combat arms and combat support didn’t go Trump much more heavily still. I would guess better than 90% of Army and Marine Corps combat arms, for example, went for Trump, sometimes, perhaps, reluctantly, but in the knowledge that anyone would be better than Hillary or the people who supported her.

And you want martial law? You want to put them in charge? Let me tell you how that plays out, dumb ass.

There's more at the link.  Go read it, and have a good laugh.


A Swiss watch like no other

I had to laugh at this report from Switzerland.

In a protest to show that Switzerland’s new rules on Swiss-Made are too lenient, a luxury watchmaker has built what it calls a 100 percent Swiss timepiece, composed only with locally produced natural resources, such as a strap of cowhide rather than alligator leather, plus a more unusual ingredient: cheese.

At Geneva’s annual watch fair, which opened Monday, H. Moser & Cie. unveiled the one-of-a-kind piece, whose watchcase is made of resin mixed with pasteurized Vacherin Mont d’Or cheese. The “Swiss-Made” designation is so meaningless that the brand will no longer use it, the Schaffhausen-based company also said.

“As much as 90 percent of components can be made in Asia, but the watch could still carry the Swiss-made label,” Chief Executive Officer Edouard Meylan said in an interview. “The Swiss watch industry doesn’t want people to know that. We don’t want to be compared with a label that’s not strong enough and that many brands are abusing.”

As of Jan. 1, 60 percent of the value of timepieces needs to come from Switzerland for them to gain the title, up from 50 percent previously. Most of H. Moser’s watches are 95 percent Swiss. In a satirical video, which also takes swipes at Swiss banking and Heidi, Meylan appears wielding a crossbow and wearing red suspenders and a cap that says “Make Swiss-Made Great Again.”

There's more at the link.

Here's the video.

Nicely done, Moser!  I suppose, with a watch casing made of resinated cheese, we should be grateful that Limburger isn't native to Switzerland . . .


Monday, January 16, 2017

Laundry Day, Here Again

(This is a guest post from my wife, Miss D.)

Many luxury items have a price, and a cost. The price is what it is, but the true cost counts in maintenance and upkeep, and the time for same. Some people love huge lawns. My husband wanted 5 acres around the house, until I looked at him, and said "Who's going to mow that?" When I was little, I thought a mansion would be pretty nifty. These days, I like my small house, because it only takes two days a week to clean.

This doesn't mean I don't have my own intensive luxuries. For example, I have king-sized fluffy blankets, comforters, and duvet. Because when there's enough material, it doesn't matter if we both steal the sheets... we both win! But these are too large to fit in a standard washer and get clean, much less a household dryer. So, every now and then, I have to commit a few hours and around $12 in quarters to the local laundromat.  

The last time I had to do the Washing Of The Duvet (and blankets), I went off to the laundromat in Nashville, and spent three hours in clothes-guarding boredom trying to ignore the spanish soap opera blaring at 85 decibels over the incessant jangling from the video game machine. Every time I do this, I weigh the cost of my time against the cost of laundry service for them... but you don't want to know how much other people would charge for their time and labour to clean the large and fluffy things.

This time, I walked into the laundromat in a small North Texas town, and found it deserted... with several machines washing. The various bottles of laundry detergent and boxes of dryer sheets, bags of dryer balls, etc. were totally unguarded. The TV was on an inevitable game show, but it was muted, and the place was clean, bright, quiet... empty.

Because in a high-trust society, it's perfectly fine to leave things unguarded. In a small Texas town, the routine is to pop the laundry in the wash while your daughter plays with the cats outside on the street (can you really call the feral when they'll happily mug you for pettings if you look at 'em too long?), and then take the kid to breakfast at the cafe as soon as everything's in the dryer.

So I loaded the washer, and went grocery shopping. I love small towns!

Elephants in the snow

I had to smile at this video of an elephant in the Oregon Zoo being introduced to snow - something it would normally never encounter in its natural habitat.

Judging from the behavior and the happy noises, that elephant was certainly enjoying himself.


Is the Washington Post becoming yet another 'fake news' leader?

I used to have moderate respect for the Washington Post.  It was clearly left-wing in orientation as far as US politics were concerned, but it appeared to work towards at least some semblance of balance;  and, where it didn't, one could usually 'read between the lines' of its reportage to get at the root of the matter.

Since the election of Donald Trump, that seems to have changed.  Two recent examples in particular have caught my eye.  The first was the Post's insistence that a Russian 'operation' had 'hacked' a Vermont power utility.  It's since corrected the article, but only after days of prodding by other news sources, demonstrating conclusively that the report was inaccurate.  The second, just a couple of days ago, was the alleged 'removal' from office of the commanding officer of Washington D.C.'s National Guard, in the middle of the inauguration festivities.  It rapidly emerged that he had not been 'removed' by the incoming Trump administration at all;  in fact, the transition team had offered him the chance to stay on for Inauguration Day, but he had himself insisted on leaving at the scheduled hour.

If the Washington Post continues in this vein, it'll rapidly become as untrustworthy - and distrusted - as the Gray Lady herself, the New York Times, which is not only a shadow of its former self as a newspaper, but is almost a parody of its own slogan - "All The News That's Fit To Print".  It now appears to print verbatim only the news that fits its political, social, economic and ideological agenda, and slant everything else until it does fit that agenda.  If the WaPo goes down that road, it'll end up as a parody of a news site - a little like the editor of Buzzfeed insisting that his outlet's publication of the fake Trump dossier was appropriate, while appearing on CNN, another outlet that publicized the fake dossier.  Talk about the pot and the kettle getting together, to call everyone else black . . .

One wonders whether the editors and owner of the Washington Post really want that to happen to their newspaper.  If they do, they may find it backfires on them rather spectacularly, not only as far as the Trump administration is concerned, but in terms of the reactions of ordinary Americans.


Two worthwhile perspectives on the state of US intelligence services

In the light of speculation about whether our intelligence services and agencies are deliberately trying to sabotage President-elect Donald Trump, I found two articles over the past week that were very interesting.

The first is from Karl Denninger, who isn't very complimentary about the report alleging Russian 'interference' in US politics.

If in fact the CIA outpost in Benghazi was part of an arms-smuggling operation into Libya that went wrong and wound up with some of the weapons going to Daesh, and Ambassador Stevens was murdered in no small part because the CIA and he tried to reverse some of the damage, then it certainly appears quite logical that Russia, which has no interest in Daesh causing problems for them (terrorism is bad even if the targets are Russian, right?) would have a logical reason to not want the person who, in their judgment ARMED Daesh on purpose, in the White House!

Maybe you can explain to this little American peon exactly how that, and expressing that preference, is bad?

I wonder if your explanation would include a discussion into the reasons why Secretary Clinton has never faced an actual inquest as to whether her actions, those of Obama and others (including those in the CIA) violated US law by quite-effectively providing material aid and comfort to terrorists?  You know, an act for which you or I would (quite properly so) do hard felony prison time?

. . .

What does the DNI/ICA report amount to?

Simply this: The Russians preferred Trump as a candidate.  They believed, for what may or may not have been good cause, that Hillary Clinton might have incited a war with Russia, and deemed this undesirable.  In response they ****-posted on social media to this effect and ran slanted news stores on RT.  This makes them evil, where all those who ****-posted on social media and ran slanted news stores on other media for Clinton, including media here in the United States who not only slurred Donald Trump they also intentionally ignored the DNC's rigging of an actual election (the Democrat primary) are good and holy people who should be deified while the Russians should have sanctions applied, their diplomats expelled and property seized.

Yeah, that's about the size of it.

. . .

PS: The intelligence "community" (e.g. DNI in all of its components) work for the President, not the other way around.  If this "report" is demonstrative of the quality of their "work" the entire lot of them deserve to have their next assignment to be shoveling dog**** at the local pound.

There's more at the link.  Recommended reading.

Another interesting, more thoughtful assessment comes from Captain Tightpants, who has some personal experience in the field.

Analysts, whether deliberately or unconsciously, tend to tilt things towards what "they" want them to be, and to report what they are "expected" to find. This can be as unintentional as the mid-80's support to Afghan "freedom fighters" against the USSR ignoring all the signs that such groups would be a future threat to others, or as deliberate as the recent concerns that U.S. military reports out of the Iraq region were blatantly skewed to show the fight against Islamic State forces was more effective than what actually was occuring. Either way, to one extent or another, it has a tendency to tint the reporting from what in a perfect would would be a relatively pure result. This is also connected to the politics of public exposure. The analyst is a shy creature, frightened of bright lights and criticism. The last thing an agency wants is to publicly be called WRONG on a conclusion, or to go against the prevailing social winds of what should be. Compare "Russia 2012" comments by the administration, in which Romney's statements of concern were viewed as cold-war holdovers, to "Russia 2017 is our foe" - Russia and their goals haven't significantly changed in that time, but the political and public perception of how they affect us has.

Finally, there is the whole "consensus" issue - in that, there is NEVER a 100% consensus, no matter what you hear. It simply. Does. Not. Happen. Not with 17 different agencies, different threshholds of reliability in terms of the information and outlook, and different resources. Intelligence agencies as a whole don't even LIKE the concept of saying something is 100% one way or another - they're drawing conclusions based on data, and projecting it forward. Think about the last family get together you had, and if you could get people to agree 100% on things? The "Intelligence Community" is a federal-level group of Uncle Ted, with all his opinions out at the dinner table. The only reason I bring this up is that if you ever see news reporting on a "unanimous consensus" among intelligence agencies, it's either over something irrefutable such as "the sky is blue," or a total lie.

Again, more at the link, with some interesting examples from the field to illustrate his points.

Bottom line:  I don't believe our intelligence agencies at this point.  The only things they seem to have demonstrated are partisan bias, relative incompetence, and blind knee-jerk political correctness when called upon to justify their positions.  That's not good for America in general, never mind Mr. Trump in particular.

I suspect it's long gone time for a house-cleaning.  One hopes the new Administration will provide it.