A Viking Shipyard

Discovered at Birka, being investigated by the University of Stockholm. 

Cyberpunk 2022

A hit video game at the present moment is Cyberpunk 2077, which is tightly based on an old role playing game from the 1980s called Cyberpunk 2020. (Tightly enough that the original rulebook's sample adventure is actually portrayed in the game.)  The game was based on fiction by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, later filled out by others like Walter John Williams

How close are we to that world? There are occasional stories about people figuring out how to integrate computers with human neural networks; last week there was a story about the Japanese figuring out how to make living, self-healing skin. Political theorists worry about it. You might find a lot of comparison between the original sources' concerns about corporate power (and continuing trouble from Russia, especially where hacking and aggression are concerned) and the real world we inhabit.

Amusingly, though, when they set out to build 'dark future' gas prices for the 2077 game they did so during the Trump administration. As a result, fuel prices in the game are lower than they are today.

It's not quite gasoline, though; the fuel is CHOOH2, an alcohol fuel similar to the ethanol the Biden administration has decided to choke us with. It'll destroy your engines if the engine wasn't specifically designed for it, as most engines aren't at even the 15% Biden is mandating -- let alone a pure alcohol fuel. It's especially destructive to small engines, motorcycles, and watercraft.

Commitment > Balance

According to the NYT report, the Administration is weighing the trade-off between modest actions that would be legally defensible, and bold, symbolic actions with questionable legal authority.

I'd wager they're all in for symbolic actions with questionable legal authority. 

A Round for Freedom

Always remember that the two enemies are the Communists and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.

While the war raged in Korea, the war at home between beer lovers and anti-alcohol groups like the Woman's Christian Temperance Union was fought to keep beer out of the hands of the GIs. Then, a couple of brewing heavyweights escalated the conflict.

Milwaukee's own Jos. Schlitz Brewing Company and Blatz Brewing Company offered to buy the troops a round and see what might happen.

One of my favorite movies, on this very subject and from not too long after this era, is Hallelujah Trail

Science as a detective mystery

I've just finished a spectacularly dull county commissioners conference in Corpus Christi, something's that's required for continuing education hours. The only bright spot was the daily commute, about an hour each way, during which I turned to an audiobook I ordered more than six months ago. I'd started it, I think, and got bogged down in the first chapter or so. When I picked it back up this week it really took off. The book is "The Writing of the Gods," by Edward Dolnick, about the race to decode the Rosetta Stone. What a romp! And what a pleasure to read a well-put-together scientific discovery thriller written by an imaginative author with a graceful style, along with a gift for narrative and for developing broad techological themes.

I can't remember how I stumbled on this book last year, whether I was browsing on Audible or responding to a hint here or perhaps at Maggie's Farm.

When I was a kid my father did me the great favor of recommending Oscar Ogg's "The 26 Letters" and the World Books Encyclopedia entry on the alphabet. I never knew him to be interested in cryptology per se, though he loved puzzles. He did have a strong interest in the history of languages and often talked about the trends in sounds such as those identified by the collector of Grimm's Fairy Tales. He was also, even in adulthood, as fascinated as any young boy by the language and culture of ancient Egypt. We spent an enjoyable month once building a model pyramid for one of my school projects, complete with hieroglyphics on the tomb wall.

I've now ordered two more Dolnick audiobooks, one about the theft and recovery of "The Scream" (the Munch painting) and the other about Isaac Newton.

Swiftwater Technician

Usually it takes weeks to get exam results, but I guess they got excited. I am informed that all of us who survived to take the final have passed. We are now Swiftwater technicians, as certified by the state of North Carolina. 

Punishment Regardless of Fact

The Border Patrol agents involved in the so-called 'whipping' incident will be punished, in spite of the fact that they do not carry whips, the so-called whips proved to be reins, and they did not whip anyone in any case. The Biden administration will issue some sort of 'administrative' punishment -- loss of rank or pay, I imagine -- since there are no facts that would ground a criminal or even a civil one.

The Biden administration is also moving to 'take legal action' of some sort against an independent coin vendor who decided to mint a commemorative coin of the incident. However offensive such a coin may be, it's hard for me to see how there isn't a First Amendment right to mint one if you really wanted to do so. It's artistic expression, which doesn't have to be in good taste to be protected; and it could even be political expression (e.g. of support for harsh measures against illegal immigration), which is especially protected by the First Amendment regardless of whether the views are appropriate or offensive.



Shared Reality?

An analyst at CNN suggests that the January 6th hearings are 'testing whether Americans can agree on a shared reality," or if -- instead -- tribalism will reign. The problem is that those hearings are a show trial with only establishment voices being allowed to describe the 'shared reality.' What is really being tested is whether America will once again submit itself to elite preferences about how we should view the reality we live in. (I'm not entirely sure they believe it themselves -- at this point they must know the whole Trump/Russia thing was a mock-up -- but it is important that we do.)

Americans can probably all agree that it has been raining in Yellowstone, and hot in Texas and the Deep South. It's too much to ask that they should all believe the same people who have staged one such hearing after another, from Mueller to the two impeachments to this. It's a drama, not a reality.

In this drama, the heroes are the Democratic leadership acting in support of intelligence and Federal law enforcement communities in their tireless efforts to stop Donald Trump; the villain, of course, is Donald Trump. Now Trump is a buffoon, as I've always maintained, and regularly says and does careless or stupid things (though he also managed to do some surprisingly solid things as President, chiefly by ignoring the establishment view; when he acceded to it, it inevitably hurt both him and the country). This 'criminal referral' they are promising at the hearing is just another bite at the apple. 

Yes, some crimes were committed on January 6th. Almost all of them were misdemeanors. The only procedural outcome that was changed by the riot was that the objection to the certification of the election was dropped and no evidence heard before the vote. The vote was delayed a few hours. The world did not end.

Yes, it probably wouldn't have happened if Trump had been smart enough to hold his protest somewhere besides right by Congress. However, the people who started the riot never went to his protest -- they were already at Congress. 

And yes, the FBI's behavior here as in Michigan invites investigation into whether they were here as there engaged in entrapment and/or incitement. Also in the Trump/Russia business, no? Also in the Flynn affair. 

Share that reality. Donald Trump is just an old reality TV show and former president, not the chief enemy of the United States of America. He probably won't be president again, but making a martyr out of him turns him from Old News into Headline News. Perversely, his best chance lies with these idiots staging their show.

That Makes Sense

A California pet shelter has banned anyone who supports gun rights from adopting dogs. They also pledge to sue you for fraud if you lie about it. 

Well, at least they're up front about it. Thanks for not wasting my time. 

Army Veteran Held in Pre-Trial Solitary, Acquitted at Trial

In only two hours, a US Army veteran who defended himself was set free on all charges by a jury of his peers. The Washington Post thinks the problem was that he was black, though it sounds like everyone in that jail was being mistreated. 
...a nighttime encounter with two strangers in San Jose led to his arrest for attempted murder. Johnson insisted he was defending himself and had done nothing wrong. But at 26, he was sent to solitary immediately after he was booked into the jail to await trial....While Johnson was being held, he witnessed fellow inmates being beaten by guards and was beaten himself, according to a lawsuit he filed in 2018 alleging his civil rights were violated. From his tiny, barren cell, he listened to the cries of a mentally ill inmate as he was pummeled by three sheriff’s deputies, who were later tried and convicted in the man’s death.

Prosecutors offered Johnson a lesser sentence in exchange for a guilty plea, but he refused to accept a deal.

“My frustration with my case will not allow me to consent to a lie,” Johnson wrote his mother in a Nov. 15, 2016, letter. “I am a warrior until my death and I must stand [up] to injustice no matter how dismal the odds.”

It would take three years — almost half of it in solitary — before Johnson got the chance to testify in his own defense. It would take just two hours for a jury to acquit him.

This story is almost a litany of everything wrong with our criminal justice system. The author focuses especially on the brutality of solitary confinement as a practice -- pre-trial, even, while one is 'presumed innocent' -- but many other bad things are illuminated as well. The practice of using threats of severe prosecution coupled with pre-trial confinement to force a plea bargain on an innocent man is unethical.  It might even be unethical aimed at a guilty man.

Swiftwater Finals

Turns out we started with 18; eight survived to take the written final. We won't know for weeks who passed that. 

I actually can’t be 100% sure if I passed the written exam in spite of significant study because the course covers so much stuff. (What is the nighttime landing zone minimum for a UH-60 Blackhawk? Which of these is not one of the types of injuries you should be trying to prevent during rescue operations? What type of PFD is used in deep water shipping where long rescue times are expected? What parts should be lubricated on a boat trailer? Now for ethics…)

I never took a class in pursuing an academic degree that was a fifth this challenging. Not even our filter advanced logic course, Deductive Systems, because it didn’t require passing 26 practical exams showing that you could tie knots, swim against strong water, rig a high line to a boat and then successfully rescue people from it. You just had to do logic, and you had a semester instead of three weeks.

Should you ever meet these people in the course of your lives, show them some respect. They've earned it even if you haven't seen it.