Israel at War

Some of my left-wing acquaintances have explained that the apparently unprovoked attack on Israel today was surely a false flag actually carried out by their own government. It’s a kind of backhanded compliment: the reputation of Mossad and the IDF is such that, though they despise the current government of Israel, they cannot accept that Israel would be caught by surprise. 

I have some friends in the IDF, to whom I wish victory. 

Another Hobbit Recipe

Pork pie.

I’ll probably make the honey cakes later this week. This afternoon, I made Bombur’s request from Bilbo’s kitchen. I rendered almost the same amount of lard pre-cooking the pork as I used to make the rye short crust. 


Lending Library

A neighbor enrolled my community in the Little Free Library program. Her husband built the kiosk, which she asked me to paint with local Rockport flora and fauna. The Big Tree was a requirement, of course, but I also found room for a whooping crane and a ruby-throated hummingbird.

Road Dog

That's the Barnyard Stompers at the nearby (well, two hours each way, but it's on a motorcycle) Bobarossa Saloon

Goodbye to the Tape

The USMC doesn't use tape, never has as far as I know. The Army does that, as a way of trying to ensure that soldiers whose BMI was out of line weren't "fatbodies." The new problem is that the kids just don't have any muscle at all under the fat. 

This whole thing has been a mistake, if you ask me. Back in the '80s and early '90s, before Clinton got in, Marines looked like the professional wrestlers they took as their inspiration. I remember a Gunnery Sergeant Zieck who could have given Hulk Hogan or Macho Man Randy Savage a run for their money. 

At some point they decided to adopt BMI-based metrics in order to help Marines look good standing guard when the new President walked by. How much Clinton himself had to do with that I don't know, but by the time I was in Iraq from 2007-9 the Marines were the tiniest people there except for the Filipino laundry women contractors (who were wonderful people and good workers, but not ideal combateers). The Marines now have an eating disorder problem in order to make weight.

Recently the USMC has adopted a policy of selection, training, and policy exemptions in order to build bigger, stronger Marines -- but only to carry the bodies of fallen Marines to their graves. They have also started creating waivers for Marines who excel in the physical fitness tests to be bigger than is otherwise allowed.

It takes mass to move mass. Even for the strongest will, F=ma. 

Imaginary Time

This is another popular explanation of just what the “imaginary” numbers are doing in the wave equation: they’re accounting for the difference, in spacetime, between the three spatial dimensions and the ‘fourth’ dimension of time. You really can treat it as a graphable dimension — we used to draw the graphs as an exercise in understanding special relativity— but the fourth dimension has different qualities than the first three. It turns out that the nature of the imaginary number aligns with these. 

I realize James doesn’t really like the connotations of “imaginary,” but it’s what they’re called. I didn’t make that up. You can call them something else.

Spotted-Tail Quoll

If you have not heard of this animal, that’s because it’s been considered extinct for well over a century. Until this Australian farmer caught one, that is. 

Around here they say the panthers that gave Panthertown its name and the red wolves that Wolf Mountain was named after are extinct. People keep reporting sitings, though. 

Appalachian Woman

Hate Crimes and HAMC

Likely most of you, not being from California, didn't hear about this incident. Fortunately, no one was killed; but the ATF jumped in on what was clearly a local matter and turned it into a Federal "hate crime." The intent seems to be to paint the motorcycle club as a version of the Klan, a ‘hate group’ in need of destruction. 

Sose the Ghost, as this fellow is called, is himself Latino and doesn't buy a word of that "hate crimes" talk. He spoke to one of the involved parties, as he details in this clip. 

Now, many of you probably won't like the aesthetics of this clip. Nevertheless, he makes some excellent points here -- including that the basic facts being alleged are demonstrably false. Many of his best points, I note, are aimed at understanding across cultural and racial divides. Some of them would be very surprising (perhaps even inconceivable, in The Princess Bride's terms) to many: that militias aren't per se hate groups, but are tied to a traditional Constitutional right; that the Confederate flag might be a symbol of heritage and home not only for white Southerners, but for black ones he has met and spoken to about it. 

Other times he's talking about human universals, such as how all peoples are likely to stand up and defend their women against strangers who are harassing them. This sort of talk is the opposite of the racial division that we are told we are supposed to expect.

Now we were talking recently about the misuse of RICO by the Feds, famously also against this particular motorcycle club; here we're seeing the misuse of 'hate crimes' legislation (if indeed there is any correct use of what is essentially a criminalization of thoughts allegedly thunk). As Sose points out towards the beginning in talking about the Proud Boys, the effect is to define whole parts of American politics out of bounds. Criminalizing them is a short step afterwards. 

Is this a reasonable way to think about our Federal law enforcement? Funny you should ask

“Sociopolitical developments — such as narratives of fraud in the recent general election, the emboldening impact of the violent breach of the U.S. Capitol, conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and conspiracy theories promoting violence — will almost certainly spur some domestic terrorists to try to engage in violence,” the [FBI] report [establishing a new category of 'domestic terrorism'] stated.

Newsweek noted that each of the threats listed by federal authorities is closely associated with the MAGA Republicans who support Trump.

It's a short jump from painted-with-disapproval to criminal prosecution these days, whether for "hate crimes" or "domestic terror." One might reasonably defend those facing less than credible accusations in the hope of winning space for others disfavored by the powerful; perhaps even anyone who gains such disfavor. 

UPDATE: I remembered that the Hells Angels had a documentary made about them that released in 1983. There's a section where the filmmakers asked them directly about race relations. Language and general content warning for this entire film, but it's directly relevant.


Now that was forty years ago, and it leads with Sandy -- the New York City Charter President of the Hells Angels -- stating that while some members were prejudiced, he "believes deeply that you judge a man by his behavior, not his color." That's not a hate group, not when four decades ago they were choosing themselves leaders who were rejecting racial prejudice even among the often racially-charged violence of 70s/80s NYC. 

After some back and forth -- there's one of their lawyers, who says his initial impression was that they were a bunch of fascists 'but it's not true!' -- you actually see one of them wearing a t-shirt with a swastika and the words, "WHITE POWER." They ask him about why he's wearing it, and he says one of his brothers gave it to him, so he's going to wear it. Then they all have a big debate about what it actually means, and whether it should be "German power," but it's clear they're all drunk and probably high as well. Nobody has a speech prepared about white power or supremacy; even the worst guy they found is making excuses for it and laughing along with everybody else about having the guts to wear it in defiance of normal mores.

It's a pretty remarkable documentary, and this is the worst part of it. Most people would try to put forward the good and hide the bad about themselves; that's human nature. They seem to be willing to put it all out there, so you can judge for yourself how bad (and how good) they are. That part, at least, is praiseworthy.

That also happens to be the subject of my favorite line in the documentary, which comes from no less than Grateful Dead lead singer Jerry Garcia, who was performing at one of their events. Asked if he's scared of them, he affirms that he is. Asked why, he answers, "Because they're scary, man!" But then the goes on to explain how much he respects how honest they are about who and what they are, which includes being unwilling to put up with people acting like fools. 

Life Expectancy by American Class

If you use college as a rough proxy for social class in America -- which is indeed very rough, given how big the deltas are for those who went to Ivy League schools, ordinary public colleges, versus small regional state schools, versus community colleges that issue mostly near-vocational degrees in nursing or radiology and the like -- you get a picture in which those below the college class are really suffering.
It is this grim trend of shortening life expectancy among Americans without college degrees that explains why the U.S.'s mortality rate is a stark outlier among rich nations, far lower than countries such as Japan and Switzerland.... "It is the experience of those without college degrees that accounts for America’s failure."...

Case and Deaton note that they've found no precedent for this college divide in modern history except "in the former Communist countries of Eastern Europe after the collapse of the Soviet Union." 

There's a graph about two-thirds of the way through the piece that shows how big an outlier this is, the second of two graphs. 

What Evidence of Race?

As an aside, a co-blogger  at Instapundit made the following statement:
The American Anthropological Association now wants to pretend that there are not two biological sexes, which is even more appalling than the group’s earlier decision to pretend that there is no such thing as race (never mind the genomic evidence revealing five distinguishable races).

Is there such evidence? My understanding of the science is in accord with this National Academy paper. As far as I know, all attempts to define race or account for it scientifically have failed for all the hundreds of years it’s been attempted. 

This isn’t a matter of fashion, and therefore unlikely to be the result of cognitive bias, either. At one time all the Wise believed in race, and couldn’t account for it; now none of them do, and still can’t. In the early 20th Century the same people who advocated for Darwin also were committed to race theory; generations before aristocracy used it to explain their commitment to slavery as a sort of humanitarianism. Now scientists are mostly on the Left (social science up to 44-1 Dem/Rep), and they want to use race too, for “anti-racist” action. It’s still not definable. 

Is that understanding challenged by new evidence? I’m genuinely not aware of whatever this co-blogger is so confident in referencing. 

A(nother) Secret Police

Just yesterday I was complaining to a friend that the NC legislature passes so many laws that even as an attentive and involved citizen I can’t keep up with the changes. Today I learned that one of those changes is that the legislature voted itself a secret police

Right now the Republicans have supermajorities in both houses, but that kind of thing doesn’t last forever. It sounds as if they can search and seize documents and enter both public buildings and private homes at will. Worse, you’re required to keep their activities secret even if you are the victim. 

This is unacceptable, and my legislators definitely did not seek my consent, or even try to make me aware that this was being proposed. 

Pride on Display

So this weekend was the Mountain Heritage Festival at the local university, which I've blogged about several times. This one was an enjoyable day as always. The Shape Note singers were back, and there was good bluegrass and Cherokee stickball. 

On the walk back to my motorcycle, I passed these dorm windows:

That sort of thing would never have been allowed when I was a college student, though something like it might have featured in the wilder sort of 'college life is crazy' movies. In those long-ago days, there was a notion that outright expressions of sexuality were disruptive and needed to be suppressed. 

What college dean could object to it now, though? After all, what is this but an honest expression of pride in one's sexuality? "Love wins," as they say, and this here is an expression of love. A proud expression. It's just another sort of pride display, isn't it? 

We fly that Pride flag at our embassies now, and put it centermost at the White House in a display paired with our national flag. Given such an official endorsement, how could a mere state university object to such openly and honestly displayed sexual pride? 

Further Research on Honey Cakes

I spent part of last evening reading the relevant chapter of The Hobbit, just to focus a bit more on what the target is. The cuisine that Beorn serves is not described in great detail except for two things: the drink is mead, and there is a form of cake he makes with honey that is twice-baked for long-lasting storage. These are probably intended for winter rations rather than for journeys, as we know that he can travel quite rapidly in the form of a bear (for whom the whole world, more or less, is food). 

That suggests to me that there is a normal, everyday honey cake that is not twice-baked, but that a certain number of the cakes gets twice-baked to further preserve them for winter storage. Honey is mentioned as an ingredient of these cakes, and honey also has strong preservative qualities. 

Now if you look at this list of twice-baked foods, you'll note that there is very substantial variety: everything from biscotti to Detroit-style pizza and New York-style cheesecake. The most interesting one on the list to me is the first one, Bappir, an ancient Sumerian way of preserving grains and gruit for beer-making.
An historical Sumerian twice-baked barley bread that was primarily used in ancient Mesopotamian beer brewing. Historical research done at Anchor Brewing Co. in 1989 (documented in Charlie Papazian's Home Brewer's Companion, ISBN 0-380-77287-6) reconstructed a bread made from malted barley and barley flour with honey and water and baked until hard enough to store for long periods of time; the finished product was probably crumbled and mixed with water, malt and either dates or honey and allowed to ferment, producing a somewhat sweet brew. It seems to have been drunk with a straw in the manner that yerba mate is drunk now.
Probably closer to Beorn's product is the medieval biscuit, however. Given Tolkien’s work in philology, he would have known this root. 
The Middle French word bescuit is derived from the Latin words bis (twice) and coquere, coctus (to cook, cooked), and, hence, means "twice-cooked". This is because biscuits were originally cooked in a twofold process: first baked, and then dried out in a slow oven. This term was then adapted into English in the 14th century during the Middle Ages, in the Middle English word bisquite, to represent a hard, twice-baked product.
This gives rise, as they point out, to the English usage of the word "biscuit" as a kind of cookie, drier and crumbly compared to the soft American biscuits. Given further Tolkien’s love of English traditions, I think this is likely the concept he was thinking of when describing a twice baked cake. 

So I think the final product should be much like a biscuit, capable of being twice-baked in a slow oven to produce the preserved form that will store well, but also of being enjoyed once-baked when long-storage is not a concern.