Monday, February 28, 2011

Castries and Points South

I took this photo in the central park on the Island of St. Lucia in the Capital City, Castries. The tree is 400 years old. I asked what sort of tree it is. Legend has it that a British officer asked the same question over 100 years ago and a local boy said, it's a masab. It was so classified -- only 'masab' in St. Lucian means "I don't know".

Castries as seen from the military barracks and the old colonial governor's mansion to the south.

Marigot Bay is one of the most charming places on St. Lucia. The narrow harbor surrounded by steep volcanic cliffs presents one of the only hurricane-safe anchorages on St. Lucia.

The two peaks (Pitons) are walls of an ancient and still somewhat active volcano. The city of Soufriere served as capitol of the island during periods of French rule. The island was the scene of fighting between the British and French and changed hands a dozen times over about 100 years.

I ate lunch today at the Ladara hotel, overlooking the volcano's caldera. It's a very nice hotel and the view is spectacular. It's very difficult to show a photo that will do it justice. The hotel and the restaurant is perched on the peak.

Inside the caldera there are a series of sulfur pools that continually steam and bubble, reminding you that all glory is fleeting - and the island could go up in smoke.

A waterfall in the caldera of the volcano - note the iron oxidation on the rocks.

Typical St. Lucia street - taken from the car while in motion.

Outside Rodney Bay (heading north again) the rain fell, but the rainbow was vivid!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Peace through superior firepower

h/t John Coffey (thanks John)

The video is worth watching.

California - higher taxes, fewer services

California is broke -- more broke than most states in absolute numbers because we're upside down by $25 billion. Citizens of California pay more tax than any other state in the union when you combine state sales tax, excise taxes (on gasoline, etc.) and personal income and property taxes. The governor proposes that we  prolong an emergency tax increase planned to sunset this year. It's not shocking that the tax increase didn't go to pay off anything. It was simply spent/squandered. The five year tax hike ($55 billion) appears to have the votes in the legislature to pass. (LINK for varying opinions)

By a show of hands, who thinks that the politicians will be responsible with this $55 billion and will balance the state budget by 2016?

California has a state budget of $86.6 billion for FY 2010-11. That is roughly equal to the ENTIRE military budget of the People's Republic of China for the same period. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Thoughts on Teachers

My daughter is a teacher - a very good one. 

For the past week, I've seen a different type of teacher parading across the television screen in Wisconsin. They don't seem like very good teachers. They went up to the sick slip booth (on camera) and proudly had a doctor sign a note that they were sick and thus they marched without losing a day's pay. Corruption, greed, and a total lack of sensitivity for the financial situation in Wisconsin or for those who don't enjoy the same level of pay and benefits that they (the teachers) do.

It's not about teachers being over or underpaid, it's about teachers as part of a union-machine, and it reeks. The teachers on television were screaming for workers of the world to unite, they had communist slogans painted on their signs and the self-centered mob howled while their classrooms had no teacher.

The teachers who caught the spotlight acted like spoiled children, impelled by their union masters and supported by a corrupt president and his SEIU thugs. The teachers I see who are marching and shouting have nothing in common with the sort of teachers I had growing up, who worked extra hours and took collateral duties in the school for the benefit of the students. 

I think that their stunt will end up backfiring on them horribly. The public pays their salaries. Ultimately the public votes. If they loose the confidence of the public with their union antics, the result becomes a forgone conclusion.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Motorcycle Riding in Arizona

Thomas Jefferson wrote that, "A government that was big enough to give you anything you want is also big enough to take everything you have."

In homage to the Arizona open carry law:

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Toyota FJ Cruiser Moments

2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser:  The Scorpion   (LINK)

We actually drove deep into this mine - Death Valley, CA

Recovering a buggy that tried to follow... Martinez Canyon, AZ

It speaks for itself.

Taken in Southern AZ. It looks clean because I drove it
down a stream bed for miles. This area is presently off limits
because of high illegal alien/organized crime activity that the Federal
Government is controlling by telling US Citizens to "keep out".

Beaty, NV, near Death Valley.

Big Bear Lake, CA -- in early winter.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Great (and eternal) Pizza Debate

Who makes the BEST pizza?

Ask the question and you'll get a biased response. I used to work with Pirelli Tire Co. and that work took me to Milan, Italy. In Milan I had some GREAT pizza. And I teased some of the Pirelli people that to get a great pizza, you had to go to the USA. Somehow they felt offended... but the horrible truth is that you can get a pizza in the US that rivals that in Italy. Mezzaluna comes to mind.

The best Italian pizza is made by the little neighborhood bakers. Sometimes I found myself in a little neighborhood and saw a bakery -- I stopped and always bought the pizza, because it was universally wonderful. Like a slice of heaven!

In the US there are places where you can buy a pizza, cooked by somebody who knows what they're doing, baked in a wood fired oven that's been cured over the years and the pizza is delicious. The pizza delivered by the pimple-faced kid, driving Dad's car, made of grade-C ingredients is never all that good. Therefore the myth that American pizza is not as good as Italian. Americans are simply willing to accept less. The same could be said of French and their obsession with bread. 

Now that we've trudged through that morass we come (back) to the US, which brings us back to regional pizza differences. In New York, they think that their thin crust pizza is best. In Chicago, their thick crust pizza is king. Allow a little bias to slip in here because I think that Chicago is the best place to get a great meal in the US. Yes, New York is up there, but it simply doesn't make the grade when the harsh light of truth shines. San Francisco, New Orleans and other American cities have great food but they're not known for pizza and that's what we're talking about here. In San Diego, you can get a Mexican Pizza - it tastes good, sure, but it's an ABOMINATION in the parlance of pizza.

Next there are the toppings. A genuine pizza is pizza margherita. It's a cheese and basil pizza. (seen right) In Italy, that's it. There are regional variants in Italy, but Pizza Lazio and Pizza Napolitana are  slight variations on this original.

In the US you can get a "Hawiian pizza" topped with pineapple. If you tried that in Italy, you might not make it out of the country alive. As for me, there are only two kinds of pizza - hot and cold, and I more or less like them both. One for dinner and the next for breakfast the next day. There aren't any toppings that I don't like...with the exception of jalapeno peppers. They simply don't belong on a pizza.

This is an example of a REAL pizza oven - in Little Italy, NYC

This is the leaning tower of Piza, it has NOTHING to do with pizza.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Toyota FJ Cruiser Obsession

I am starting to think that I may be slightly obsessed.

I bought a Toyota FJ Cruiser in 2007 and have been modifying it and bolting things on ever since.

This is a photo of me sitting in The Scorpion in a remote area between Kanab Utah and Bryce Canyon National Park. You'll notice that there is no road...

If you GOOGLE  "Toyota FJ Cruiser Wikipedia" and scroll to the bottom, the first two photos are of the Scorpion (one taken at Soda Lake south of Baker, California and the other taken near Payson, Arizona).

The question you should be asking is, "how much of that vehicle is still 'made by Toyota?" 

-ARB Bull Bar - Front Bumper
-DeMello Offroad rear bumper w/swing arm
-Bud Built front, middle, transmission and transfer case skidplates
-Bud Built rear crossmember and fuel tank skid plate
-Bud Built ARB spacer armor plate
-Inchworm e-locker motor skid
-Rear lower shock skid
-Rear differential plate (welded)
-DeMello hybrid sliders
-Manic tail light guards

-Walker Evans beadlock rims
-Nitto Terra Grapler tires (305/70R17)
-DeMello frame chop
-Icon racing shocks and front coil-overs
-OME heavy duty rear coil-overs (OME886)
-Icon racing front upper control arms
-Light Racing jounce shocks
-Icon lower control arms

-Lowrance Baja 540c GPS
-MAF aux. fuel tank (22 ga)
-Wet Okole seat covers
-Scangauge 2
-Aux. battery (Optima Yellowtop)
-Main battery (Optima Redtop)
-Dirty Parts aux. battery kit
-Circuit Boss 7 circuit fuse block
-6 REL40 40 amp custom amber switches
-Stebel Nautilus Compact air horn
-Passenger side arm rest
-2 x Wedco Jerry Cans (gas/water)
-Relocated the rear differential and e-locker breathers (scuba-driver mod)
-Fire extinguisher
-ARB Safari Snorkel
-Death Stalker Scorpion transfer case shift knob

-SPOT satellite tracker
-Midland 75-822 CB Radio
-CB Antenna - 5' Firestick
-Yaesu FT-1802 M/E 2 meter transceiver (HAM)
-Comet 3D5M mobile mounting hardware (HAM)
-2 meter diamond NR-770HA 2M/70CM 3/5.58db antenna for HAM

-Airflow headlight covers
-Hela Black Magic 6" Driving Lights
-N-Fab front light bar bracket with 3 Acro x1879M driving lights and 2 40 B/U PIAA flood lights
-N-Fab rear light bar bracket with 2 40 B/U PIAA flood lights
-2 Oznium flexible super thin (red) LED dome lights
-2 Puck (white) LED dome lights
-LED red dash lights replacing the white lights in the dash gauge lights

-Fiskars long handle axe
-Short handle shovel
-Long pry bar
-Eagle Talon
-Husqvarna 350 18" chainsaw
-Jumper cables
-Tool Kit
-JB Weld
-Spool of 1000' of 550 cord
-Roll(s) of 100 MPH/Rigger's tape
-FJC Spare parts

-Scorpion Mount - an endoskeleton made of steel to provide hard points and MPAC storage
-Pelican cases (modular storage of load-out)
-Four Treks shovel/axe mount
-Four Treks dual mount
-Springtail MPAC rack and MOLLE gear
-Springtail MPAC side rack

-20 lb CO2 Auxillery Tank (internal mount)
-10 lb CO2 Powertank
-Ingersol Rand #2135 TI pneumatic impact gun
-Powertank super coupler
-Stebel trailhead deflator
-ARB tire repair kit + spare valves and cores

-Warn XD9000 winch
-Viking kevlar winch line
-Winch safety thimble
-Viking delrin fairlead rollers
-Warn hitch shackle (and spare shackles)
-30' rescue strap
-100' braided steel line
-ARB Snatchblock
-Pull Pal
-4 x 3/4 ton D-rings
-ARB Bushranger X-Jack
-Hi-Lift Jack
-Wabfab slider attachment

-First Aid Kit (large)
-First Aid Kit (expanded - for expeditions)
-Misc. kit including compass, loaded day pack, 2 canteens, etc.)
-Model 78 Flare gun (26.5 mm) with star flares

If the Zombies arise from the dead, the vehicle is ready to repel the attack...

Monday, February 14, 2011

St. Valentine's Day - One Man's Perspective

Today is the day where men send roses to the ones they love.

But it wasn't always like that because today is the day when the slaughter/martyrdom of a number of guys unlucky enough to be named "Valentine" (or Valens, or Valentinus). I suspect that if they'd changed their names, their fates would not have led to such an unfortunate fate on such a date as this one. ;^)

And who can blame men for taking out the demand for chocolate covered strawberries, wine, wine glasses, a fancy meal, flowers, etc. that is levied on them on this day? Heiromartyr Saint Valentine (Bishop of Interamna, Terni, Italy), Saint Valentine the Presbyter, (St) Valentinius, a Roman who died in Africa and the Greek Orthodox Saint Valentinios could have all led happy and productive lives if not for their advocation of fancy dinners. Do you know how difficult it is to get a dinner reservation on THEIR day? Do you know how frustrating it can be for men - men who are threatened with the prospect of being 'cut off' if they don't observe the day?

If you took a poll of men (hooked up to a polygraph so their integrity wouldn't be questioned) and asked them what fate all of the St. Valentines deserved, I'm guessing that they'd say, DEATH!

During the Great American Depression, things got so bad that the St. Valentine's Day Massacre took place as men fought for prime seating at peak hours at one of Chicago's most exclusive restaurants. At least that's my take on it. There are other interpretations by people who wanted to sensationalize the spontaneous battle as a "gang fight", but we all can discern the truth.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


July 2011 will have 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays! What does this mean to us? Does it mean that aliens will land, ask be taken to our leader, will meet Obama, take him captive and depart? Our luck isn't that good.

It doesn't mean anything...except that it gave me something 'profound' to blog about this morning.



Phases of the moon: 1: 8: 15: 23: 30: 
Holidays and Observances: 4: Independence Day

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Romance Country Style

When you leave, walk out backwards so I'll think you're walking in -- Take me out to the cornfield honey, I'll kiss you between the ears -- country music toe-tapping for your Saturday enjoyment.

Aaron Wilburn at his best..."If my nose was running money..."

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Cheap Shot at Academia

The goal of liberals in general is to take control of other people's lives. It's manifest today by their push to remove toys from McDonald's children's Happy Meals. We see it in the way they want to regulate the temperature of coffee served at Starbucks and in the radical, nonsense of the Global Warming campaign, necessitating regulations as to the temperature of your home, whether or not you should be able to drive a car and so forth. They absolutely need the environment to be on the verge of catastrophe; just as they need victims for whom they can champion so that they can keep this image of themselves as being heroic, compassionate, champions of the oprressed (including the oppressed planet). They simply cannot accept that they desire power; that they want to control others; that, from a psychological perspective, they are not much different than any other dictator or authoritarian ruler who sees himself "above" the common masses. ("All pigs are equal but some are more equal than others" - Orwell)

We see this same psychological pathology in academia's bizarre justifications and rationalizations as to why their ranks are practically devoid of conservatives. Liberals, who are usually quick to assume that underrepresentation represents some form of discrimination--structural or personal--suddenly become fierce critics of the notion that numerical representation means anything when the scarcity of conservatives in their ranks is challenged. Moreover, they start generating explanations for the disparity that sound suspiciously like some old reactionary explaining that blacks don't really want to go into management because they're much happier without all the responsibility. Conservatives are too stupid to become academics; they aren't open new ideas; they're too aggressive and hierarchical; they don't care about ideas, just money. In other words, it's not our fault that they're not worthy.

The social/psychological delusionist chooses to remain delusional in order to protect their self-image or their hidden motivations or to preserve an ideology that does not work in the real world. They do not want to accept reality and prefer instead to claim their dysfunction is the only reality.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

New Book

Bloody Mexico: A Novel of Cartel Wars hit the ether for Kindle today. The print version will follow. The book will also be translated into Spanish - likely release date for the Spanish version in June 2011. When it makes it to the Spanish market it will also be available on Kindle/e-books, etc.

The tide of publishing and the preference of readers seems to be headed in the direction of electronic media. As an author, I can track my sales nationally and internationally. There are different markets for books (both electronic and print) and the commission structure varies to some extent based on geography. To put it kindly, the profit associated with a book isn't all that great unless you're somebody in the limelight selling a million copies of your biography, or if you are Stephen King or a major author. 

Publishers like a sure thing. Niederhauser Andwendungen (Asia) Ltd., my publisher, is a subsidiary of a Swiss company, doing business in Hong Kong. So I'm clearly NOT top tier... And to make it worse, it's a family owned company (Niederhauser is a family name and we're from Switzerland originally). It makes me look like a fifth rate writer, which is precisely what I am. 

I can only hope that the books themselves bring entertainment... bringing the thought to mind of the feature film GLADIATOR, where Maximus (Russell Crowe) asks the crowd in the small colosseum in Africa, "ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?"

Monday, February 7, 2011

Utopian Fantasy

Social Justice  -  Human Nature  -  And the Pursuit of Happiness

Who wants to be a utopian socialist?

The idealistic and progressive intellectuals of the left as typified by Barack Obama, consistently refuse to acknowledge the reality of human imperfection. The squalid utopian fantasies of socialism, communism--or any variant of Marxism for that matter--appeals primarily to people who refuse to acknowledge their own human imperfections (narcissists), and hence their own capacity for evil. They don't want to admit it, but those who are drawn to the leftist view of the world, tend to see themselves as superior; above all the other boring, ordinary human beings around them; more virtuous, more compassionate, smarter; and of course, much better qualified to decide what's best for lesser beings like you and me.

It is extremely ironic, considering the left's rhetoric to the contrary, to realize that it is conservatism and its underlying priniciples that fundamentally embrace the awful truth about human nature; and understand that the reality is closer to your average selfish, lazy, superstitious, and money-grubbing con artist than to that utopian "ideal" or "new" man--so prominently promoted in the rantings of communists, socialist, or any collectivist or totalitarian. 

As a consequence of understanding that fundamental truth about human nature, conservatism and its economic policies (i.e., capitalism) are able to harness even the most negative aspects of human nature to bring positive good both to the individual and to the larger society as well. Yes, that means allowing people to pursue their own selfish happiness (without initiating force agains others); as opposed to "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need." Benevolence toward others is up to the individual and a voluntary matter in the former system; but it is forced upon you by the omnipotent State in the latter. 

Next, the idealistic and progressive intellectuals of the left also refuse to acknowledge the reality of how wealth is created and how capitalism is able to produce it so well and their systems are not. 

The left's fundamental economic assumption is that the only way to get wealth is to steal it from someone else, because they simply cannot imagine how to go about creating it. It is a zero-sum game for them; and thus, all their political policies are imbued with an infantile economic primitivism--of the sort a caveman, whose only strategy is brute force, would come up with: Ugg hits Grog over the head with his big club to get his "rightful" share of nuts and berries--and that's the only economic theory they can understand.

This economic blindness about the creation of wealth is the origin of what Ayn Rand calls "the looter mentality." It is the mentality of the parasite who wants the benefits of wealth without the effort of having to create any; who is always demanding "his 'fair' share" of wealth without the necessity of providing any value to anyone. Looters are people who think that wealth just appears out of nothingness and that it is perfectly justifiable to steal it from someone else, since it is a zero-sum game; and therefore it is a matter of "social justice" to redistribute it according to their whim.

Capitalism does not pretend that those messy negative human emotions like greed or envy can be "stamped out" by the will of a tyrant or a "benevolent" State. It accepts human nature as a given and provides a system through which humans are able to pursue their own happiness which allows them to sublimate and redirect those negative emotions to better both themselves and incidentally the larger society. 

(H/T Dr. Sanity)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Game Day

At 3:00 pm Pacific Daylight Time, the only football game that really matters all year will be played. The reason that it matters is that if you're not first, you're last.

As the head of the house, I decreed by fiat that the Steelers would be the team everyone would cheer for as the Steel Curtain grinds the Pack under it's relentless attack. However I have tried to raise my children correctly, I have failed.

Emilie bought a Green Bay Packers jersey in support of her team. Which goes to prove that the apple does fall a LONG way from the tree from time to time. My oldest daughter, Amanda, is also a Packer's fan. Heather (25) backs the Steelers because she's a very smart girl. My grandson, Griffin, will be here clapping and cheering at every Steeler touchdown, field goal and conversion.

As to the decor, Emilie is standing in a corner of the living room (common rooms include a living room, parlor and family room). I do the decorating and you can see a framed piece of air-drop counterfeit Vietnamese currency, and the bust of Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky, given to me by an old friend. My house does resemble a museum in small part because all of the pieces have a story behind them. Everything from the French Foreign Legion kepi to my Naval Officer's sword and the bottles of wine from the French Foreign Legion vineyard to the statue of Kwan Gong and my Hong Kong Police billy club.

In the same way, I follow the Pittsburg Steelers because they alone DESERVE the title of Superbowl Champions.

**********HALF TIME**********
The Steelers are down 10 to 21, but there is still hope.

Griffin is watching the game, concentrating as hard as his Grandfather is. (Taken from his mother's cell phone)

Don't be bitter, Race, because the Cowboys didn't make it to the Superbowl...
Opus, I have never opposed cheerleaders at a football game.
Innominatus -- The Steelers still have a chance to pull it out, but it will require some effort.
WoFat -- He's grandpa's little guy.


Friday, February 4, 2011

Fundamental 3D Matrix Calculations

The engineers at Ashima (a company I work with) are dealing with this problem in a flying platform that we're working on. I could explain it but it's easier to show you the YouTube Video.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

It's not my bag...

This comes to you by way of bored panda and WoFat.

Advertising has to catch the eye and the imagination to be truly effective. We're subject to mountains of commercial propaganda every day. These are some of the more original entries:

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Persuasive Postmodernistic Rhetoric

Obama, the perfect postmodern President is a master at the art of rhetoric--which is at the heart of all progressive postmodern leftist attempts to obtain and consolidate power. With postmodern rhetoric you can "talk" tough, but carry a limp stick. You can say whatever your audience at the moment wants to hear and still be philosophically consistent when you do exactly the opposite. Or you can say the opposite to a different audience since truth is not the objective; only manipulation and deceit to achieve the desired political effect. 

It's a sleight of hand known as using "contradictory discourses" and it is a political strategy where truth is rejected explicitly and consistency is an extremely rare phenomenon. What matters more than truth (or honesty) is achieving the desired political outcome (i.e., getting others to believe what you want them to believe about what you believe). 

For the postmodernist, language cannot be cognitive because it does not connect to reality, whether to an external nature or an underlying self. Language is not about being aware of the world, or about distinguishing the true from the false, or even about argument in the traditional sense of validity, soundness, and probability. Accordingly, postmodernism recasts the nature of rehtoric. 

This explains the harsh nature of much postmodern rhetoric. The regular deployments of ad hominem, the setting up of straw men, the regular attempts to silence opposing voices are all logical consequences of the postmodern epistemology of language. Stanley Fish calls all opponents of racial preferences bigots and lumps them in with the Ku Klux Klan. Andrea Dworking calls all heterosexual males rapists and repeatedly labels "Amerika" a fascist state. With such rhetoric, truth or falsity is not the issue: what matters primarily is the language's effectiveness.

In postmodern philosophy and rhetoric, the left and its mouthpiece Obama have found the perfect epistemological, ethical and political vessel to reassert their ideology--an ideology that requires the willing suspension of reality by its adherents to "win the future."
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