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  • Received Cynicism is a Bigger Problem than Anti-Americanism

    Posted by Jonathan on October 24th, 2014 (All posts by )

    Rush Limbaugh was speculating today about the causes of anti-American sentiment in disaffected young people like the NYC hatchet jihadi. He attributes the anti-Americanism to leftist ideas and historical ignorance endemic to our schools. I think this is correct to some extent.

    However, the jihadis and other violent anti-American Americans are extreme outliers. The vast majority of people on the Left are not nearly so hostile to American institutions and culture, though they tend to hold grievances against this country and its political system and culture that conservatives do not. Limbaugh makes the typical culturally tone-deaf conservative error of attributing to anti-Americanism that which could better be attributed to cynicism and ignorance.

    The USA is a political, economic and cultural wonder, but you need some history to appreciate this fact and our schools no longer teach it. If you don’t know much history, facile cynicism and the tendentious explanations of people who really don’t like the country become plausible. It’s difficult for someone who understands the origins of this country’s institutions and traditions to become a jihadi. It’s even more difficult to become a jihadi if you also understand the intellectually convoluted roots of modern Islamism.

     

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Education, History, Leftism, Political Philosophy, Rhetoric, Terrorism | 1 Comment »

    History Friday: There was a Lady…

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on October 24th, 2014 (All posts by )

    There is a Lady, sweet and kind
    Was ne’er a face so pleased my mind;
    I did but see her passing by…
    Thomas Ford 1580-1648

    Her name was Lottie, probably short for Carlotta, and she was a lady. She was usually described as a gorgeous red-head, who arrived in the wild frontier ‘ville that had formed around the military outpost of Fort Griffin, west of Fort Worth, in the years after the Civil War. She was intent on making a fortune for herself … but not in the way that bold, pretty, enterprising and unescorted women usually intended to earn it on arrival in a wide-open frontier town. Or anywhere in the barely-tamed far West, come to think on it. She was not an investor in some chancy enterprise, a mail-order bride or an enterprising whore or brothel madam. She stopped clocks and hearts … but never a poker game.

    That was Lottie Deno’s profession – and supposedly, she was good at it; very, very good, with ice-water in her veins instead of blood. One legend has it that one night in the saloon in which Lottie was at the poker-table (likely skinning a green-horn, an unwary cowboy, soldier or drummer of all the coin and valuable property on him) when a sudden exchange of lead civility broke out, and everyone not immediately involved hit the deck. When they rose up from the floor, it was to see Lottie, calm and perfect to every curl of red hair and ruffle on her elaborate dress, saying, “Gentlemen, I came to play poker, not roll around on the floor.” She came by the alias she was best known by after an evening of marathon poker matches in which she had won every hand, when an appreciative and well-likkered-up onlooker with a command of Spanglish whooped, “With winnings like that, you otta call yourself Lotta Dinero!”
    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Diversions, History | No Comments »

    The Art of the Remake XVI

    Posted by Dan from Madison on October 24th, 2014 (All posts by )

    Over the past year or so I have been dinking around on the banjo. I bought a decent instrument along with a couple of books and have been watching a few youtube videos here and there. In general, along with getting some basics down, I am trying to listen to bluegrass songs to try get my ear put together. I am stuck for time – running a business, raising kids, running a tiny farm and all the rest and didn’t want any big commitment – so when I feel like playing, I play. When I don’t, I like looking at it in the corner of the room. After I get some decent basic technique put together and know basic cords, and have some extra time, probably in 2024 or so, I may start taking some lessons.

    The banjo is a surprisingly fun instrument to play, and even when you miss, the mistakes aren’t really cringeworthy, like if you were playing a clarinet or trombone. Progress has been slow, but I probably have 25 or 30 years left on this mortal coil to perfect my skills – or not.

    Anyways, on the way home from work, after I get the financial headlines from Bloomberg on XM, I typically flip it over to the Bluegrass channel. A few days ago I heard this remake of a (bad) familiar song. The original, from The Proclaimers:

    I really have always hated that song.
    This is the remake I heard, by Wayne Taylor and Apaloosa:

    Obviously, this is the way this song was meant to be played.

     

    Posted in Music, Video | 1 Comment »

    Jihad in New York City.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on October 23rd, 2014 (All posts by )

    It is seeming more clear all the time that the attack on four police rookies in New York was another “lone wolf jihad attack.

    The photo of the attacker shows his beard. Other evidence suggests that:

    Police Commissioner William Bratton said that investigators were still trying to confirm the identity of the assailant and determine a motive.

    Asked if the attack could be related to terrorism, Bratton didn’t rule it out.

    New York already has an Ebola case with a returning doctor who went bowling the night before he called 911 with a 103 fever and vomiting.

    The situation seems to be complicated and the New York Mayor is unlikely to handle this well.

    Thursday evening the New York Police Department issued a patrol bulletin alerting officers to be in a state of heightened awareness after Wednesday’s murder of a Canadian soldier and shootout at the Parliament complex in Ottawa. The bulletin warns of potential attacks on uniformed officers.

    Well, now we have one. The other interesting thing is this:

    The 2 p.m. apparently unprovoked attack occurred as four police officers were posing for a passing photographer when the suspect charged the group, swinging a hatchet with a four-and-a-half-inch blade, officials said. He struck one officer in the arm and another in the head before two officers drew their weapons and opened fire as he swung the hatchet a third time, officials said.

    I would hate to implicate the photographer so we will see what, if any, connection there was between the staged photo and the attack.

    Four rookie police officers were working near 162nd Street and Jamaica Avenue when a freelance photographer asked them to pose for a photo in front of a Conway store. While they were posing, another man, described as a 32-year-old male, attacked without saying a word, Commissioner Bratton said at a press conference Thursday.

    The Chief of Police does not believe the photographer was connected.

    Commissioner Bratton said he doesn’t believe the photographer was working in any way with the hatchet-wielding man. Officers are now reviewing his photos from earlier in the day.

    The attacker has a Facebook page with radical Islamic statements in Arabic.

    Hmmm.

     

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Islam, Law Enforcement, National Security, Religion, Terrorism | 16 Comments »

    25 Stories About Work – Lost Productivity and Typing

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on October 23rd, 2014 (All posts by )

    I was recently on a plane doodling and thought of some funny / interesting stories from 25+ years of working and traveling. So I decided to write them up as short, random chapters of a non-book with the title of this post. Hope you enjoy them and / or find them interesting. Certainly the value will be at least equal to the marginal cost of the book (zero)…

    Vermont, the early 1990s

    When I was interviewing for my first job I had a chance to visit IBM in Burlington, Vermont. At the time IBM had a large contingent of workers and management staff at that location. On an unrelated note, IBM still has about 4000 workers in the state, and recently offered a company $1B TO TAKE THEM OFF THEIR HANDS. To confirm, they were willing to sell this business for negative one billion dollars (to quote Dr. Evil). And the sad thing is that the “buying” company wanted IBM to PAY THEM two billion, so they rejected the “offer”. Read about it here.

    I had been on a plane maybe once or twice previously and was completely clueless about what to do. I packed my bags and took a cab to the hotel. In the morning, before my interview, I got into the shower and turned on the water. I did not think to check what the temperature was before I got into the shower and it happened to be set on a scalding level; I ended up falling back out of the shower, grabbing the curtain on the way down, and scattering the shower curtain rings throughout the bathroom. I wasn’t seriously hurt. To this day I always check the shower temperature while standing outside the shower stall (or tub) and I only go in when it is at an appropriate level.

    The day started out on an ignominious note (with the shower incident) and the interviews were a disaster. I think we ended the day with a discussion that maybe someday I would at least utilize IBM equipment (they were primarily a manufacturing company at that time) since it seemed obvious that I wouldn’t get a job offer in Vermont.

    What I remember most of all was the endless sea of desks. IBM had workers that manually calculated their managerial accounting reports and they sat in a giant room that seemed to go on for infinity. I don’t have a photo but in my head it looks something like this…

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Business, Personal Narrative | 7 Comments »

    The First Rip in the Iron Curtain

    Posted by Grurray on October 23rd, 2014 (All posts by )

     Hungarian Freedom Fighters in 1956

    Today is the anniversary of the start of the 1956 Hungarian Uprising..

    In contrast to David’s previous discussion about young European women abandoning Western civilization, in Hungary that year women were fighting for freedom and to be part of the West.

    In Budapest last week . . . the Russian masters and their desperate Hungarian puppets faced a new and formidable foe. The city’s women, some of whom had fought earlier at the side of their men and then had bitterly buried the men who had fallen, suddenly banded together in a series of fresh demonstrations of defiance.

    “Only women are wanted this time,” they shouted as they joined up in the streets. Then, ignoring the ominous presence of security police and Russian tanks, they marched with flowers and flags to a service commemorating their dead. The men doffed their hats in tribute as the women paraded past and joined with them in the stirring words of a forbidden song—“We shall never be slaves.”

    Despite the fact that the uprising was crushed by Soviet tanks in the following weeks and months, the oppression eventually eased to the point where Hungary came to become one of the “Happiest Barracks” of the Soviet sphere. Thanks to those brave young men and women, freedom eventually found its way through to the rest of Eastern Europe.

     

    Posted in Uncategorized | 17 Comments »

    Women, Islam, and the West’s Loss of Cultural Self-Confidence

    Posted by David Foster on October 22nd, 2014 (All posts by )

    Young European women, as well as young European men, are joining ISIS, in numbers which–while not huge–are still large enough to raise concern.

    And in the United States,  more Hispanics are turning towards Islam, and  more than half of Miami’s 3,000 Hispanic Muslims are female.  One converted-Muslim Latina, who holds a masters degree, explained the appeal of the religion partly as follows:

    It defines their world on a clear grid of what’s permitted or ‘halal,’ and what’s prohibited which is ‘haram’. So they know exactly where they stand. So the Qur’an becomes this guidebook that tells you exactly what to wear, what to eat, how to wash, how to behave, when to pray.

    From the above-linked article about European girls converting to Islam and joining ISIS:

    The girls sought out IS fighters because the West seems weak and unmanly and they pine for real men who are willing to kill and die for what they believe in.

    Why? Europe’s got great health care, welfare, and lots of attractive young men and attractive women who, unlike the vast majority of women in the Middle East outside of Israel, are sexually available. So, why given a choice between a comfortable, if somewhat boring, life as a pharmacist in Hamburg, or fighting and dying in the desert, are thousands of Western Muslims opting for the latter?

    Because, for all the awesome social services and consumer goods it can offer, Europe has become incapable of endowing the lives of its citizens, Muslim or not, with meaning. A generation of young European Muslims are giving up their relatively easy lives in Malmö, Marseilles, and Manchester for the battlefields of Syria and Iraq, because Europe is devoid of values worth living—or dying—for. They are leaving for the same reason that Europe’s Jews are moving to Israel: Strength and a sense of purpose can be found elsewhere, whether it’s ISIS, Vladimir Putin, Ali Khameni, or the IDF.

    Karim Pakzad, of the French Institute of International and Strategic Relations, said some young women had “an almost romantic idea of war and warriors.  I think this has been true in many if not most places throughout the world and many if not most times throughout history…but today’s West, in many if not most of its subcultures, does not honor its own warriors very much these days.

    The motivations of the women referenced in these articles are similar though not identical to the motivations of Arthur Koestler’s protagonist Hydie Anderson, in the 1950 novel The Age of Longing.  (My review of the book is here.)  Hydie is a young American woman living in Paris, a former Catholic who has lost her faith.  She is not attracted to any of the American or European men she knows, but falls hard for a committed Russian Communist. Koestler makes it clear that Fedya’s sexual appeal to Hydie is due in large part to his cultural self-confidence:

    “Listen, please,” (Fedya) said. “We have talked about these matters often before. You don’t like that we make scientific studies of human nature like Professor Pavlov. You don’t like revolutionary vigilance and lists on the social reliability of people, and discipline and re-education camps. You think I am brutal and ridiculous and uncultured. Then why did you like making love with me? I will tell you why and you will understand…”

    “I am not a tall and handsome man…There are no tall and handsome men who come from the Black Town in Baku, because there were few vitamins in the food around the oilfields. So it was not for this that you liked to make love with me…It was because I believe in the future and am not afraid of it, and because to know what he lives for makes a man strong…I am not handsome, but you have felt attracted to me because you know that we will win and that we are only at the beginning–and that you will lose because you are at the end…”

    In my review, which was originally posted almost 5 years ago, I linked a British Muslim woman who said that ““Since 9/11, vast numbers of educated, privileged middle-class white women have converted to Islam”…she identified these converts as including women at “investment banks, TV stations, universities and in the NHS.” Her concern was not that they are converting to Islam…something I’d presume she would applaud…but that they were converting to “the most restricted forms” of the religion.

    In the review, I said:

    I don’t think Koestler’s protagonist would have been attracted to a fundamentalist Muslim in the way that she was drawn to the communist Fedya. The gap in values would have been far wider: while Communism is a bastard child of the Enlightenment, radical Islam is counter-Enlightenment, and does not make the kind of universalist, humanitarian, and secular promises that the Communists made–the cruelty is closer to the surface.But the loss of Western self-confidence has greatly accelerated since Koestler wrote, and today’s Hydies are unlikely to share the educational and religious depth of the woman Koestler imagined.

     

    Posted in Book Notes, Britain, Christianity, Deep Thoughts, France, Islam, Philosophy, Society, Terrorism, USA | 23 Comments »

    Posted by Lexington Green on October 22nd, 2014 (All posts by )

     

    Posted in Anglosphere | 7 Comments »

    Canyonlands

    Posted by Jonathan on October 21st, 2014 (All posts by )

    Early morning view from the top of Mesa Arch to the surrounding desert lowlands, Canyonlands National Park, Utah. (© 2014 Jonathan Gewirtz / jonathan@gewirtz.net)

     

    Posted in Photos | 11 Comments »

    Retail Therapy ‘n’ Woes

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on October 20th, 2014 (All posts by )

    With so many other bad and dangerous things hanging over us like a Damocles sword – an Ebola epidemic in the US, ISIS setting up a new and brutal caliphate in the middle east, the final two lame duck years of the Obama administration, and the anointing of a minimally-talented yet well-connected legacy child like Lena Dunham as the media voice of a generation – and the upcoming marathon of holiday markets and book events in front of me like so many hurdles to be gotten over in a frantic two-month-long dash – where was I?
    Oh, yes – amidst all the impending gloom, doom, and Bakersfield (that’s a California joke, son) my daughter and I are coping with the rather minor tragedy of a friend of ours loosing her job. Minor to us, of course – but not to our friend, a vivaciously charming English lady of certain years whom I shall call Kay, whom we met when she managed a thrift shop to benefit a certain well-established local charity, in a preposterously wealthy outlaying town within driving distance from San Antonio.
    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Business, Customer Service, Diversions, Personal Narrative, USA | 5 Comments »

    Miami Street Photography Festival

    Posted by Jonathan on October 20th, 2014 (All posts by )

    This is a cool event that runs concurrently with the big annual Art Basel art show in Miami Beach in early December. (The MSPF is hosted by a gallery in the Wynwood arts district, which is near downtown Miami rather than Miami Beach and is a fun area to visit during Art Basel.)

    The street photography festival is a recent event and has been growing by leaps and bounds, perhaps reflecting the renewed popularity of this type of photography and the fact that there are no other events quite like it. There is a lot of great work on display if you are into this kind of thing — check out the 2012 and 2013 finalists galleries for a sample.

    Other street-photography links:

    iN-PUBLiC

    OBSERVE

    Urban Picnic

    Street Photographers

    Street Photography London

     

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Diversions, Photos | No Comments »

    China Syndrome comes home to roost.

    Posted by Mrs. Davis on October 19th, 2014 (All posts by )

    Two viruses are making the news these days. One, Ebola hemorrhagic fever has infected two in the United States with no deaths yet. It has created wide spread concern bordering on panic. The other, Non-Polio Enterovirus D 68, appears to have infected 825 this year and been directly responsible for at least one death and indirectly responsible for many others, primarily among children. It has generated comparatively little media attention and very little panic. Why the difference?

    First the victims of D 68 are primarily children, Ebola also strikes adults. As a culture we no longer value children as much as we once did. Children are an option, almost a luxury. They have become more expensive than most luxuries we consume. Perhaps it is because the high cost to rear a child is reflective of the damage we humans are doing to the planet Or because so few of them die at an early age as compared to the past. And I suspect that childlessness is far more prevalent among our media elite opinion makers. In any case, few children vote and so they don’t really matter to policy makers.

    Second, D 68 generally kills indirectly by weakening the child so that pneumonia or some other respiratory illness can be the cause of death. Ebola eats you alive! I’ve seen it on TV! And it is a terrible new way to die unlike ways we’ve died before.

    Finally, WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE. D 68 is poorly understood and we have no idea how prevalent it is in the population or how many childhood deaths it has contributed to. And it’s non-Polio. But we know Ebola has a 50-70% fatality rate among those who contract it in African third world countries. After all it’s hemorrhagic fever. We’re going to bleed to death. So, if it gets loose here we could have millions of deaths like that! But we actually have all the tools we need in our public health system to prevent it from spreading widely, once we get the Bozos out of power. So it’s highly unlikely that this outbreak will spread among the general population.

    It’s a very small probability of a terribly frightening event. And some folks have used the propensity of people to exaggerate the possibility of catastrophic outcomes to further their political goals. I’m thinking of nuclear power, an energy source that has killed no one in the US. Compared to the coal industry, which routinely contributes to the death of both its producers and consumers, nuclear power is harmless. However, some used Three Mile Island to shut down the development of power plants that could have cushioned us from the effects of the OPEC cartel. Or how about the Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) fraud? Or the reaction to a terrible but unrepeated terror bombing? The public has been taught to fear by leaders who want to harness public opinion to support their political goals.

    Now comes Ebola. True, a threat. But a highly improbable one. Except when the incompetence of our elite leaders is made abundantly clear for all to see. And then those leaders have the audacity to be surprised when a formerly courageous people are reduced to trembling? The chickens are coming home to roost.

     

    Posted in Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Ebola, Health Care, Human Behavior, Science, Statistics, Terrorism, Tradeoffs | 23 Comments »

    25 Stories About Work – “Don’t Hang Up” and the Recruiter from Detroit

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on October 19th, 2014 (All posts by )

    I was recently on a plane doodling and thought of some funny / interesting stories from 25+ years of working and traveling. So I decided to write them up as short, random chapters of a non-book with the title of this post. Hope you enjoy them and / or find them interesting. Certainly the value will be at least equal to the marginal cost of the book (zero)…

    Champaign, early 1990s

    As I graduated from college in the early 1990s, I went through the interview process on campus. About half the companies really liked me and about half the companies hated me. I guess I was a polarizing interviewee but who knows I had little idea about what to expect in an interview or how to behave. I do remember buying a suit with my mother for about $400 which seemed like an astonishing amount of money at the time.

    In addition to the on campus recruiters, I also fielded some phone calls. Looking back before the age of cell phones it is amazing that anyone ever got in touch with anyone else – they must have called me in my dingy hellhole of an apartment in the 5 minutes that I happened to be there in between class, prepping for the CPA exam, and going out drinking. I guess we had an answering machine but I’m not even sure about that and my roommates at the time weren’t exactly the most reliable.

    I was enamored with the idea of work and getting the heck out of Champaign so I was like a happy puppy when anyone called. The joke is that I would select the last recruiter to call.

    One day I did receive a call: Hello. I’d like to talk to you about a job opportunity in the transportation industry, he said. I was interested. I was always interested. Then he said something I’ll never forget.

    The job is in Detroit. Don’t hang up!

    The recruiter combined both sentences into almost a single thought, with urgency, because he apparently was used to people instantly hanging up as soon as they heard the job opportunity was in Detroit.

    I didn’t hang up. But I surely did not pursue that opportunity. Because it was in Detroit, of course. No wonder that city went down the drain…

    Cross posted at LITGM

     

    Posted in Business, Personal Narrative | 18 Comments »

    The Cuban Missile Crisis, as Viewed From a Soviet Launch Facility

    Posted by David Foster on October 19th, 2014 (All posts by )

    (rerun)

    This month marks the 52nd anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which brought the world dangerously close to thermonuclear war.

    A couple of years ago,  I read  Rockets and People, the totally fascinating memoir of Soviet rocket developer Boris Chertok, which I’m still hoping to get around to reviewing one of these days.

    Chertok’s career encompassed both military and space-exploration projects, and in late October 1962 he was focused on preparations for launching a Mars probe. On the morning of Oct 27, he was awakened by “a strange uneasiness.” After a quick breakfast, he headed for the missile assembly building, known as the MIK.

    At the gatehouse, there was usually a lone soldier on duty who would give my pass a cursory glance. Now suddenly I saw a group of soldiers wielding sub-machine guns, and they thoroughly scrutinized my pass. Finally they admitted me to the facility grounds and there, to my surprise, I again saw sub-machine-gun-wielding soldiers who had climbed up the fire escape to the roof of the MIK. Other groups of soldiers in full combat gear, even wearing gas masks, were running about the periphery of the secure area. When I stopped in at the MIK, I immediately saw that the “duty” R-7A combat missile, which had always been covered and standing up against the wall, which we had always ignored, was uncovered.

    Chertok was greeted by his friend Colonel Kirillov, who was in charge of this launch facility. Kirollov did not greet Chertok with his usual genial smile, but with a “somber, melancholy expression.”

    Without releasing my hand that I’d extended for our handshake, he quietly said: “Boris Yevseyevich, I have something of urgent importance I must tell you”…We went into his office on the second floor. Here, visibly upset, Kirillov told me: “Last night I was summoned to headquarters to see the chief of the [Tyura-Tam] firing range. The chiefs of the directorates and commanders of the troop units were gathered there. We were told that the firing range must be brought into a state of battle readiness immediately. Due to the events in Cuba, air attacks, bombardment, and even U.S. airborne assaults are possible. All Air Defense Troops assets have already been put into combat readiness. Flights of our transport airplanes are forbidden. All facilities and launch sites have been put under heightened security. Highway transport is drastically restricted. But most important—I received the order to open an envelope that has been stored in a special safe and to act in accordance with its contents. According to the order, I must immediately prepare the duty combat missile at the engineering facility and mate the warhead located in a special depot, roll the missile out to the launch site, position it, test it, fuel it, aim it, and wait for a special launch command. All of this has already been executed at Site No. 31. I have also given all the necessary commands here at Site No. 2. Therefore, the crews have been removed from the Mars shot and shifted over to preparation of the combat missile. The nosecone and warhead will be delivered here in 2 hours.

    Chertok, who at this point was apparently viewing the Cuban affair as a flash in the pan that would be resolved short of war, was concerned that moving the Mars rocket would cause them to miss their October 29 launch date, and suggested that the swap of the rockets be delayed for a few hours. Kirillov told him that this was impossible, and that he should go to the “Marshal’s cottage,” where some of his associates wanted to see him. Chertok’s response:

    Yes, sir! You’re in charge! But, Anatoliy Semyonovich! Just between you and me—do you have the courage to give the ‘Launch!’ command, knowing full well that this means not just the death of hundreds of thousands from that specific thermonuclear warhead, but perhaps the beginning of the end for everyone? You commanded a battery at the front, and when you shouted ‘Fire!’ that was quite another matter.

    Kirillov:

    There’s no need to torment me. I am a soldier now; I carry out an order just as I did at the front. A missile officer just like me, not a Kirillov, but some Jones or other, is standing at a periscope and waiting for the order to give the ‘Launch!’ command against Moscow or our firing range. Therefore, I advise you to hurry over to the cottage.

    At the cottage, four men were seated at a table playing cards while a fifth was trying to glean the latest news from a radio and Lena, the housekeeper, was in the kitchen drying wine glasses. It was suggested that since Chertok didn’t like playing cards, he should help Lena fix the drinks. This involved a watermelon and lots of cognac.

    I took the enormous watermelon and two bottles of cognac out of the fridge. When everything was ready, we heard a report that U.N. Secretary General U Thant had sent personal messages to Khrushchev and Kennedy. Once again, Voskresenskiy took the initiative and proposed the first toast: “To the health of U Thant, and may God grant that this not be our last drink!” This time we all drank down our toast in silence and very solemnly, realizing how close we now were to a situation in which this cognac and this watermelon could be our last.

    Still hoping to avoid the cancellation of the Mars mission, Chertok went to another cottage and, with considerable difficulty, made a forbidden call to S P Korolev, overall head of the Soviet rocket program, who was then in Moscow. Korolev told him that things were being taken care of and not to worry.

    It was already dark when I returned to the Marshal’s cottage. On the road, a Gazik came to an abrupt halt. Kirillov jumped out of it, saw me, swept me up in a hug, and practically screamed: “All clear!” We burst into the cottage and demanded that they pour “not our last drink,” but alas! The bottles were empty. While everyone excitedly discussed the historic significance of the “All clear” command, Lena brought out a bottle of “three star” cognac from some secret stash. Once again the Mars rockets were waiting for us at the launch site and in the MIK.

    Reflecting on the crisis many years later, Chertok wrote:

    Few had been aware of the actual threat of a potential nuclear missile war at that time. In any event, one did not see the usual lines for salt, matches, and kerosene that form during the threat of war. Life continued with its usual day-to-day joys, woes, and cares. When the world really was on the verge of a nuclear catastrophe, only a very small number of people in the USSR and the United States realized it. Khrushchev and Kennedy exercised restraint and did not give in to their emotions. Moreover, the military leaders of both sides did not display any independent initiative nor did they deviate at all from the orders of their respective heads of state. Very likely, Khrushchev wasn’t just guided by the pursuit of peace “at any cost.” He knew that the U.S. nuclear arsenal was many times greater than ours. The Cubans did not know this and viewed Moscow’s order to call off missile preparation and dismantle the launch sites as a betrayal of Cuba’s interests. President Kennedy had no doubt as to the United States’ nuclear supremacy. The possibility of a single nuclear warhead striking New York kept him from starting a nuclear war. Indeed, this could have been the warhead on the R-7A missile that they didn’t roll out of the MIK to the pad at Site No. 1.

     

    Posted in Book Notes, Cuba, History, Russia, Space, War and Peace | 7 Comments »

    Tributosaurus Plays “One Hit Wonders of the ’80s” at Copernicus Center in Chicago

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on October 18th, 2014 (All posts by )

    Tributosaurus is a Chicago cover band that has been around over a decade and has covered an astonishing range of songs and artists. When they cover a song they go to great pains to sound as close as possible to the original song – this usually involves multiple guitarists to do overdubs which are tracked in the studio, horns, strings, and an array of drummers, synthesizers and backup singers. Here is their web site and they are a lot of fun. I have seen them do XTC, Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, Dire Straits, and most recently the “One Hit Wonders of the ’80s” at Copernicus Hall at Jefferson Park in Chicago (it is a few blocks off the blue line stop; we took the train and walked).

    Here they are at the start of the show. Later they bring on the horns, the strings, more backup singers, and more of everything. It was a lot of fun – they played a lot of forgotten songs like “This Beat Goes On / Switching to Glide” by the Kings which got the whole place rocking (it was a huge hit in Chicago) and also Dexy’s Midnight Runners with real banjo players.
    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Chicagoania, Music | 6 Comments »

    A Cool Startup Story, Revisited

    Posted by David Foster on October 18th, 2014 (All posts by )

    In 2005, I posted about a company called Theranos, as part of the “cool startup story” series at Photon Courier.  The company was founded by Elizabeth Holmes, who left Stanford at age 19 in order to pursue her idea for a quantum improvement in blood testing.  The original focus was on the detection of adverse drug reactions and the analysis of drug effectiveness on a more-individualized basis.

    My, how this little company has grown up.  Theranos now has 500 employees and a valuation of about $9 billion.  They can currently perform 200 of the most commonly-ordered blood diagnostic tests, and can do it without a syringe–only a few drops of blood are necessary, and these are obtained from a finger prick using “a patented method that minimizes even the minor discomfort involved with that procedure.” (The Fortune writer tried it, and said “to me, it felt more like a tap than a puncture.”)  Theranos now has a deal with Walgreens, initially making its service available in stores in California and Arizona and with plans to roll the service out to all 8200 Walgreens stores nationwide.

    Holmes:

    There are a billion tests done every year in the United States, but too many of them are done in the emergency room. If you were able to do some of those tests before a person gets checked into the ER, you’d start to see problems earlier; you’d have time to intervene before a patient needed to go to the hospital. If you remove the biggest barriers to these tests, you’ll see them used in smarter ways.

    and

    Phlebotomy is such a huge inhibitor to people getting tested. Some studies say that a substantive percentage of patients who get a lab requisition don’t follow through, because they’re scared of needles or they’re afraid of worrying, waiting to hear that something is wrong. We wanted to make this service convenient, to bring it to places close to people’s homes, and to offer rapid results.

    From a 2005 Daily Duck post about Theranos:

    …in how many nations of the world could A TEENAGE GIRL get a serious audience, and then MILLIONS OF DOLLARS in VC funding, to develop her idea ?!?

    There are many unpleasant consequences to American society being perpetually adolescent, a bit shallow and thrill-seeking, with an attention deficit and a naive optimism born of ignorance about the odds, but this type of thing is one of the UPSIDES of being that way.

    In America, if you can do, the odds are pretty good that you’ll be allowed to do, regardless of your shortcomings and quirks. We’re flexible and goal-driven, not so much wedded to process.

     

    Posted in Business, Entrepreneurship, Health Care, Tech, USA | 15 Comments »

    How many ebola cases before a travel ban is justified?

    Posted by TM Lutas on October 17th, 2014 (All posts by )

    The usual formulation for discussing air travel bans is how many ebola cases making it to the US before President Obama is forced to stop air travel to and from west Africa. But there’s another variant of the question, how many ebola cases in the US before others will stop air or sea travel to and from the this country?

    I do not think it likely that we will reach such numbers in this outbreak but it’s an interesting change from the usual breathless journalistic speculation of the US imposing a ban. If we don’t keep our house in order, others will isolate us to keep themselves safe.

    10/22
    Update: Since this post was written the arrival of travelers from the ebola hot zone have been restricted five airports where screening has been put in place and just now the CDC has announced that all arrivals will be under 21 day observation from entry in a sort of loose post entry disease defense regime. If they travel, they need to notify the CDC and they need to call in daily temperature readings and report any ebola-like symptoms. This might work, and considerably reduces the possibility that we will be under travel ban because we let ebola come in and get out of control.

     

    Posted in Health Care, Politics, Transportation | 6 Comments »

    Posted by Jonathan on October 17th, 2014 (All posts by )

    on if not of the beach

    When heading for the hills doesn’t cut it Chicagoboyz head for the beach.

     

    Posted in Photos | 2 Comments »

    Politically correct opera

    Posted by Margaret on October 17th, 2014 (All posts by )

    Last week the West Australian Opera briefly decided to drop a planned performance of Carmen for fear of losing the sponsorship of a state government health promotion agency called Healthway, whose policies prohibit supporting any arts organization that portrays people smoking on stage. Healthway currently subsidizes the opera company to the tune of over $350,000.

    Australian politicians have since twisted Healthway’s arm to allow the performance, but it’s not clear whether they’re going to put Carmen back on the schedule.

    The episode left me wondering (1) what other operas need to be cleansed of incorrect material, and (2) whether the folks at West Australian Opera have actually listened to the lyrics of any of the operas they perform, and what will be left after they cleanse their repertoire of potentially offensive operas. Given that most opera plots lean heavily on rape, incest, adultery, prostitutes with golden hearts, murder, suicide, and blackmail, the answer would seem to be, “Not much.”

    This year’s lineup:

    Otello – domestic abuse! Spouse murder! Besides, racism.

    The Magic Flute – the child custody case from hell. Besides, anti-feminism.

    Il Trovatore – witch hunts, attempted abduction, and throwing the baby into the bonfire… oh well, I suppose that could be written off as post-natal abortion. Pass.

    Tosca – torture, blackmail and unassisted suicide. If only Tosca had asked a doctor to throw her off those battlements!

    Oh, well. There must be other operas, right? Let’s see:

    Don Giovanni – Serial fornication is probably OK, but did the Don obtain affirmative consent every time? Also, the last scene, where he descends into Hell, has to go. That’s forcing religion onto people!

    La Fille du Regiment – Bad language alert, illegitimacy; pass.

    Madame Butterfly – False marriage, suicide, but the fatal problem is Pinkerton’s failure to pay child support.

    The Marriage of Figaro – classic case of workplace sexual harassment.

    Pagliacci – The adultery is OK, but, hunchback abuse.

    Rosenkavalier – One word: Cougar.

    La Traviata – Prostitution is probably OK as long as it’s voluntary, but that song glorifying drinking must be cut.

    I’m sure this list is far from complete; feel free to add your own favorites.

     

    Posted in Arts & Letters | 15 Comments »

    Economic and Political Turmoil a Century after the Great War: Is it De Je Vu All Over Again?

    Posted by Kevin Villani on October 17th, 2014 (All posts by )

    This year marks a century since the outbreak of WW I and coincidently the initiation of US Federal Reserve System operations. Prior to these events, politics were democratizing, economic growth was booming, economies were liberalizing and global trade and finance were growing, all at a pace not seen again for almost another century. Recognizing that achieving these mutual benefits required an externally imposed political discipline, all of the countries participating in this happy situation voluntarily followed a set of rules governing domestic and international trade and finance for automatic and continuous adjustment to changing economic reality, then provided by the gold standard.

    It was during this enlightened period that philosopher George Santayana wrote: “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Hedge fund manager and Brookings Director Liaquat Ahamed set out to remind us why countries failed to recapture this economic dynamism after the Great War with the publication of the Pulitzer Prize winning Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World in 2009. This book took on greater significance when in 2010 Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke recommended only this historical account in response to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission’s request for a book reference explaining the 2008 financial crisis. What history had this most recent financial crisis already repeated and what was Chairman Bernanke determined to avoid repeating in the aftermath?

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Book Notes, Current Events, Economics & Finance, History, Public Finance, Systems Analysis | 6 Comments »

    Market Shrugs Shoulders at Ebola

    Posted by Dan from Madison on October 17th, 2014 (All posts by )

    One of the ways I like to put “disasters” into perspective is to try to understand what the markets, in general, think. This from today’s Bloomberg Municipal Market Brief:

    Debt issued for Texas Health Resources is gaining even after the death of a patient from Ebola and the infection of two nurses raised questions about practices at one of its 25 hospitals. Bonds sold through an agency of Tarrant County, Texas, that mature in February 2021 traded Wednesday at an average yield of 0.55 percent, or 0.09 percentage point above benchmark munis, data compiled by Bloomberg show. That’s the smallest yield spread in at least 20 months. Obligations due in 2036 and 2040 changed hands this week with the least extra yield since last month.

    Hospital debt has gained 12 percent this year, better than any other investment-grade area of the muni market, Barclays Plc data show. Texas Health has the fourth-highest grade from Moody’s Investors Service, which said in August it could raise the nonprofit’s rank. That was enough to make David Jaderlund of Jaderlund Investments LLC a buyer Wednesday. “I’ve been following them for years and they continue to have
    strong debt coverage — I’m really not worried,’’ said Jaderlund. “I’ve been a buyer of that hospital for years and will continue to be. I’m not concerned and the market doesn’t seem to be either.’’

    Well, I guess, at least for this company, Ebola doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal, for now anyways.

     

    Posted in Ebola, Markets and Trading | 9 Comments »

    Don’t Panic: A Continuing Series

    Posted by Jay Manifold on October 16th, 2014 (All posts by )

    [Readers needing background may refer to the first member of this series, Don’t Panic: Against the Spirit of the Age, posted last month. This post, unlike that one, was hastily written due to time constraints involving, perhaps ironically, international travel to a Third World country.]

    Constructive foreword: suggested case studies in disruption are the Chicago blizzard of 1/13-14/1979 (~3 million commuters immobilized) and the Milwaukee Cryptosporidiosis outbreak of 3/23-4/8/1993 (~400k residents sickened simultaneously).

    Thesis: I argue that, at least with Ebola, inept and overwrought responses pose far greater risks to American society than the disease itself. With regard to managing the risks associated with Ebola in the US, it is vital that we identify easily disrupted institutions and design our processes intelligently to avoid creating bottlenecks, mostly by resisting the urge to overreact; likely candidates include …
    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Big Government, Bioethics, Civil Society, Current Events, Ebola, Health Care, Human Behavior, Organizational Analysis, Predictions, Systems Analysis, Tradeoffs, Transportation, USA | 9 Comments »

    25 Stories About Work – Office Hoteling and the Elusive Consultant Desk

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on October 16th, 2014 (All posts by )

    I was recently on a plane doodling and thought of some funny / interesting stories from 25+ years of working and traveling. So I decided to write them up as short, random chapters of a non-book with the title of this post. Hope you enjoy them and / or find them interesting. Certainly the value will be at least equal to the marginal cost of the book (zero)…

    Chicago, the ’90s…

    When I first started out as an auditor I had a tiny cube that consisted of just a desk and a chair with a big phone in a giant warren full of other cubes. There was a big bay window that let in the sun and lights far overhead. I didn’t know anything and was happy just to have a place to call my own.

    How accounting worked at the time was that you were assigned to clients and were “on the road”. If you were in the office you charged a code for down-time and struggled for something to do. You could take a training class, do research in the library, or more often than not you’d be assigned some sort of drudgery administrative work. Most of the time I ended up photocopying our audit files when clients transitioned to new auditors, which is much more work than it sounds because you had to dis-assemble the work papers, copy them, and then re-assemble the files again. The copier tended to regularly jam and you soon learned how to take that copy machine apart, as well. Not a good use of a master’s degree…

    After a while the managers learned who was good and who wasn’t and I was constantly busy as a result. We worked and traveled all the time and often I had overlapping clients, meaning that tasks I couldn’t complete onsite piled up for me at the little cube while I was at a different client. This was before any concept of telecommuting and we didn’t even have our own laptops. The only way to get work done was to show up at the office (on Saturday or Sunday, since I traveled all week) and do the remaining tasks.

    One time our office engaged in some sort of ISO process and they decided that having a “clean desk” was mandatory. So the (usually worst) staff that were in the office packed up everyone’s desk and sent it off site so that when the office tour occurred, my little rat cube was completely clear. Thus when I showed up on a Sunday a couple of weeks later to follow up on some annoying task from a parallel client, all of my papers were gone and that was an entirely wasted day. The fact that I still remember this over 20 years later shows how angry I was at this bureaucratic stupidity.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Business, Chicagoania, Personal Narrative | 6 Comments »

    American Gothic – Texas Style

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on October 16th, 2014 (All posts by )

     

    Sweet, simple, American suburb – old-style. (And BTW, Lone Star Sons is now up on Amazon, for your ordering pleasure.)

     

    Posted in Photos | 3 Comments »

    Ebola and the “Open Borders Derangement Syndrome”

    Posted by Trent Telenko on October 16th, 2014 (All posts by )

    Sometimes looking at politics, the only explanation that makes sense is a personal identity based mental illness affecting the politicians involved.

    So, we see this reported —

    Texas Health Presbyterian nurse Briana Aguirre criticizes hospital over Ebola response
    Nurse speaks out on TODAY Show

    Ashley Fantz, Holly Yan and Catherine E. Shoichet CNN
    9:54 AM, Oct 16, 2014

    “The federal government is weighing putting those who treated Duncan on a list that would prohibit them from being able to fly, an official familiar with the situation told CNN.

    In June 2007, federal agencies developed a public health Do Not Board list, which allowed domestic and international public health officials to request that people with communicable diseases who meet specific criteria and pose a serious threat to the public be restricted from taking commercial flights departing from or arriving in the United States. The CDC and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security manage the Do Not Board list. “

    So follow me here.

    American citizens who have been in the vicinity of an Ebola patient, particularly healthcare workers, would be considered “a serious threat to the public” even though;

    1. They have simply been around people with Ebola but,
    2. They are not exhibiting signs of the disease.

    These individuals (who demonstrate no symptoms of Ebola) may soon be placed on a “Do Not Board List” by the Center for Disease Control and Department of Homeland Security.

    Meanwhile, non-citizens, people from West Africa who are now:

    1. Surrounded by an “out of control” Ebola virus outbreak,
    2. Who are living in countries saturated with Ebola due to its rampant community spread,
    3. Who are not now showing symptoms of the disease yet,
    4. Are free to travel to America, plus wherever they like to in America without restrictions after they get here.

    A sane Federal government would have put all passengers from Ebola Pandemic affected West African nations on a “Do Not Board List” long past. Yet they are not sane, and it gets worse.

    Not only is this “American Citizens With Ebola Only “Do Not Board List” a dumb policy that destroys the credibility of the Federal Government in time of crisis when it is needed most. It is law suit bait on equal protection grounds in Federal court. Yet both Obama and Congressional Democrats, plus a few Republicans, support limiting AMERICAN CITIZENS rights to travel, but not that of WEST AFRICANS.

    What we are seeing here is the outstanding symptom of a mental illness called OPEN BORDERS DERANGMENT SYNDROME. A mental illness shared by 99.5% of Democrats and the Republican leadership in the US Senate.

    A political identity based mental illness now set to kill lots of Americans by Ebola for the sake of cheap immigrant labor now and future Democratic votes later (like 2016 via voter fraud enabled by Democratic Party opposition to Voter ID laws).

     

    Posted in Current Events, Ebola, Health Care, Immigration, Politics | 10 Comments »