Saturday Afternoon AMV

Another one of Hayao Miyazaki's modern fairy tales. Both different and familiar.

Seeking Advice on Outdoor Gear, Horsemanship, Knives, Etc.

My projects for 2014 will include doing more hunting and camping, becoming a much better horseman, and getting back into martial arts, and I need some advice from my good companions here. I have been out of all of these activities for quite a few years now, and I was never especially good at any of them, so any advice would be appreciated.

As for hunting, does anyone have advice for hunting wild pigs? The local area apparently has a lot of trouble with them destroying crops, etc., and I'd like to be part of the solution.

For camping, I like to carry as little as possible, something that apparently is called "ultra-light camping" these days. Years ago, I used to go out for weekend trips in the summer with a military rain poncho, a set of bungee cords, and poncho liner, and that was my tent and sleeping bag. I'd like to expand into spring and fall camping as well, but still carry the minimum in terms of tent / sleeping gear. Any suggestions? And does anyone have thoughts on the military's "sleep system"? Also, any advice on hiking / trekking / hunting boots would appreciated.

Let's talk horsemanship. I am a long-term beginner; I have ridden a couple times a year since I can remember. I would like to get a lot better. I'm not sure what my long-term goal is, but I have a couple of possible aims: I think it'd be a lot of fun to join a Civil War re-enactor cavalry unit, and I'd like to be able to do some longer-term trail riding / camping, or off-trail riding / camping. Any thoughts or advice on improving?

OK, on to knives. In a post from 2005, Grim mentions he carries a Gerber folding fighting knife. That was years ago and I'm curious whether it's still his preferred knife for daily carry. I'm also interested in any other opinions on these kinds of knives in general, and what I should get if I'm going to carry one.

Finally, if you have any other advice about any of these topics, whether gear, what / how to learn, groups or associations to check with, cautions, etc., I'd be glad of it.

Thanks in advance.


Mark Steyn has apparently decided to play for keeps.
Apart from the wisdom of his move, Steyn has set the table for something potentially very entertaining and enlightening: discovery on Mann's research. The general wisdom seems to be that Mann is completely out of his mind for putting himself in a position where this discovery was a possibility. Yesterday, the judge in the case denied the defendants' motion for dismissal, and he lifted the stay on discovery in the case.

Wow! Time to stock up on popcorn, folks. And we wish Mr. Steyn all the best on this. While we worry about the (considerable) gamble he's taking, we can't help but admire the cojones he's putting on display...
The discovery aspect, if the court permits it fairly, has the potential to be of considerable service to all of us. He is risking a serious price for the chance to do that service, however.

Two on the NSA

Cass and I are having a discussion about the NSA, and the concentration of Federal Power generally, that some of you may be following.

On point is this piece on a NYT revelation about the NSA. This particular program (unlike many of the ones we have heard about lately) seems to have been correctly targeted and specific. The piece argues that its revelation harms national security without any counterbalancing benefit to the American people.

That's a good point, and in tackling the issue it's one we should consider. On the one hand, self-government requires knowledge -- and it requires ensuring that there is a capacity among the competing branches of government to oversee one another. On the other hand, many of these capacities are really only of use if they remain genuine secrets. It's a problem.

Another piece argues that we should protect not privacy but anonymity. This author is coming with a solution, so consider it carefully. What do you think?

UPDATE: NBC reports on a former NSA member who, at the National Press Club, said that during his tenure his agency spied on Congress, the rest of the military, and a candidate for the US Senate named Barack Obama. Saying it doesn't make it true, of course, but ought we -- or our representatives, at least -- not know?

Way harsh

But fair.  My opinion of Wendy Davis, never high, is crumbling.

Queensland: Losing The War On Bikers

One begins to think, given the War on Poverty and the War on Drugs, that modern governments are bad at domestic wars. They may not be fit to wage foreign ones, for that matter.

The new laws are incredibly stiff, with up to 25 year prison sentences and a six-month mandatory minimum, including solitary confinement. Many of the offenses are the kinds of things that Americans would take as clear cases of free association ("three or more members of a criminal gang (including those listed by regulation), being together in a public place" -- meaning that 'being a criminal gang' is established by government fiat alone).

Doesn't seem to be working, there as here.


It being the holiday set aside for Martin Luther King, Jr., and Harvey Weinstein being in the news for his plan to make a movie that will destroy the NRA, I decided to celebrate the holiday by watching his film designed to destroy the South.

It's kind of an interesting film.

What strikes me is how they got some parts of the history so very right, and other parts wildly wrong. Unfortunately the "wildly wrong" parts are serious enough that the counterfactual America can't be taken seriously. Had the CSA won the Civil War, they had neither the desire nor the intention to annex the North. The reason they fought on defense for so long was that they really weren't competing for leadership of the American project or command of Washington, D.C. The basic assumption that guides the movie is therefore flawed.

Likewise, the movie fails to understand the way the South conceived of Jews in the antebellum period. This leads the film to suggest that the South would have sided with Hitler and expelled Jews from America. In fact, as historian Kenneth S. Greenberg points out, the South accepted Jews as full social equals of Christians, so much so that Christian gentlemen would fight duels with Jews. The duel, because it gives your opponent a fair and equal opportunity to kill you, is a radical statement of equality. Antisemitism wasn't 'mild' in the South (nor were Jews accidentally part of the Confederate government); rather, Jews were integral parts of Southern society.

For that matter, with a divided America at the time of the first World War, it may well be that there would have been no fertile ground for Hitler after that war. It was the American entry into the war, and subsequent creation of a decisive victory for the British and French, that resulted in German defeat and the punitive peace that gave rise to a Germany that would accept Hitler.

Still, the movie has some interesting bits. It does correctly describe the Southern attitude toward secession, complete with the reasoning behind the great seal of the Confederacy with George Washington depicted; and the aspirations for a larger 'tropical' empire that could expand into the Caribbean. The best part are the ads -- the movie's conceit is that it is a documentary about the CSA, and so the televised documentary is broken up by fake ads for products. It turns out that these ads carry a substantial part of the weight of the movie's hidden message, which is that the whole American project has been a fundamentally racist one. To realize why, though, you have to watch to the end.

You have to suspend a lot of disbelief, and let your enemy have his say. If you can, though, it may be interesting to hear what he really thinks. Maybe it's worth doing that on MLK day: a day of self-criticism and reflection.

The Geometry of Herding Sheep

Over the winter break, I had the opportunity to help a friend move and sort some of his sheep. This was the first time I had worked with sheep, so my 'lessons learned' will be a novice's, but may be interesting to some.

There is a certain geometry to herding sheep. Two key points: their eyes take in quite a wide angle of the world, and they will avoid people. So, herding them means getting to a point where they are between you and where you want them to go. When there are two shepherds, there seems to be a perfect position for each that forms a triangle with the desired direction of movement; after half an hour, finding that position seemed to come intuitively to me, thanks to the constant feedback and opportunities for doing it over that sheep provide.

In moving sheep, sheepdogs are great if they know what you want; sheep will naturally follow them and the shepherd doesn't have to do anything. That said, they were mostly worthless that day, distracting me by wanting to play. Their main function is to guard the sheep, apparently. Sheep donkeys are just as good at leading sheep, and (from my extremely limited experience) more reliable in taking the lead. If you have both, however, the dogs will harrass the donkey. (I think the dogs are unionized.)

Finally, if it has a working horn, a 4-door sedan can be quite effective at herding sheep across a pasture, no matter how strange it feels to do so.