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  • Archive for April, 2015

    History Friday: A Vietnam Meditation

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 30th April 2015 (All posts by )

    (Posted a bit early, as I have been reminded of the anniversary of the fall of Saigon. I wrote a version of this early on at SSDB, around 2004.)

    Never been there, never particularly wanted to: to someone of my age, it is Bad Place, a haunted place, where ugly things happened. It gave nightmares to friends, co-workers, and lovers for years after it dropped out of the headlines and the six-o-clock news. Today in light of the current war, it seems as far away in time and nearly as pointless as the Western Front. You look, and remember, and wonder, knowing that yes, it really happened, but really, what was the point of it all? Platoon seems as much of a relic as Journey’s End, the image of a helicopter hovering over jungle with “All Along the Watchtower” on the soundtrack an image as archaic as doughboys with puttees and soup-plate helmets, marching along and singing “Mademoiselle from Armentieres”.

    But it was a beautiful place. My friends Xuan-An and Hai brought away pictures of where they lived in Dalat, in the highlands, where they married and lived with their three older children, snaps of cool, misty green pines and gardens of rhododendrons, and a horizon of mountains. Eventually, they had to flee Dalat for Saigon, where their youngest daughter was born, and Xuan-An’s mother came to live with them. Hai had left Hanoi as a teenager when the Communists took over there, his family being well to do, part Chinese, and immensely scholarly. He worked as a librarian for the USIS, and Xuan-An as a teacher of English and sciences, so they were on the Embassy list of Vietnamese citizens to be evacuated in the spring of 1975, with their four children, aged 12 to 2 years old. They were waiting at their home, for someone to come fetch them, on that last day. Perhaps someone from the Embassy might have come for them eventually, but Xuan-An’s brother who was the captain of a Vietnamese coastal patrol vessel came to their house after dark, instead. He had sent his crewmen all to fetch their families, they were going to make a run for safety out to sea, and he came to get his and Xuan-Ans’ mother. He was appalled to find his sister and brother-in-law and the children still there, and urged them to come with him straight away, and not wait any longer for rescue. They brought away no more luggage than what the adults could carry, in small packs the size of student’s book-bags, and the youngest daughter was a toddler and had to be carried herself. Xuan-An’s brother’s motor launch was a hundred feet long, and there were a hundred people crammed onto it, carrying them out to an American cargo ship, the Pioneer Contender, which waited with other American rescuers, just beyond the horizon.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Current Events, Diversions, History, Immigration, Military Affairs, Personal Narrative, Vietnam | 23 Comments »

    Posted by Jonathan on 29th April 2015 (All posts by )

    Lincoln Road

    Chicagoboyz (not pictured) visit Lincoln Road.

    Posted in Photos | 2 Comments »

    President Obama’s Iranian Hostage Crisis?

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 28th April 2015 (All posts by )

    …And right in the middle of the U.S. Senate fight over his surrender of nuclear technology to Iran?

    That would be both a Democratic political nightmare and a Republican political gift from heaven, and it seems to have just happened.

    See the following hotlink to an Ed Morrissey piece at the Hot Air newsblog on why that is–

    Breaking: Al-Arabiya reports Iranian forces seize US cargo ship, Pentagon confirms; Update: Marshall Islands-flagged ship; Update: DOD: Ship was in Iranian waters

    I wonder if Pres. Obama will treat Marshall Islands regards this Iranian aggression the way he has treated Ukraine to Russia’s Crimean and Donbas aggressions.

    Update:

    Looks like someone in Tehran made a quick decision about which they wanted more, nukes or immediate humiliation of America —

    Zaid Benjamin
    ✔ ‎@zaidbenjamin

    #Iran has released Marshall Islands-flagged Maersk Tigris cargo ship according to al-Jazeera

    Posted in Middle East, Military Affairs, USA, War and Peace | 10 Comments »

    Poor Optics

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 28th April 2015 (All posts by )

    As we all know, Baltimore is going through some interesting times. I sat down for a bit last night and popped on the news to watch the spectacle. One thing I noticed right away was the optics. I don’t want to get all crazy about the mayor saying it was OK for the cops to let the fine, upstanding citizens of Baltimore destroy their own city. Many, many others are doing that just fine. I wanted to comment on the optics of the situation and how bad they were. Here is the original press conference from a couple days ago (the “destroy” part is around the 7.30 mark)

    What is she dressed in? Why is the pastor dressed with the odd black top and leather sleeves – and what in the world was he talking about? What on earth is the guy in the hoodie with “true religion” emblazoned across the chest doing there? To say that this doesn’t exactly instill confidence in being able to handle a situation of this sort would be quite the understatement. This is the mayor of Baltimore’s inner circle?

    Here is the presser from last night, where the mayor announces the week long curfew:

    Ah hah. Someone got a phone call. She now has make up on, jewelry, a nice top. Guys in suits and uniforms around her appeared later in the presser. The optics have certainly changed.

    Then the governor of Maryland came on:

    He is in a suit, tie and is surrounded by well dressed people (i.e. adults) and a person in a military uniform. He is decidedly overweight and looks pretty bad, but that is getting a bit off track. The Maryland governor stated later that he signed the emergency orders “about 30 seconds” after the mayor of Baltimore requested it. I imagine it was before that, but whatever.

    Tonight is another night, and I assume the optics of that first presser won’t be seen again.

    Posted in Current Events | 20 Comments »

    Generation Katniss

    Posted by David Foster on 27th April 2015 (All posts by )

    This is interesting.

    Posted in Britain, Film, Human Behavior, Media, Society | 16 Comments »

    Is Iran risking a Vietnam-style Quagmire ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 27th April 2015 (All posts by )

    I have previously expressed concerns that Saudi Arabia was in a fight for its life.

    The question is whether the Saudis will fall to their own Shiite population and whether the capture of Aden will allow Iran to block Saudi oil shipments.

    “Once hailed by President Barack Obama as a model for fighting extremism, the U.S. counterterrorism strategy in Yemen has all but collapsed as the country descends into chaos, according to U.S. and Yemeni officials.”

    Now, the Saudis take this war very seriously.

    As for Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom is waging the first war in its history. Yet with its small, weak and inexperienced army, it cannot commit ground troops to fight both the Shiite Houthis or the Sunni Jihadists, and is relying mainly on its air power that has, thus far, caused the death of many innocent civilians.

    It also is blockading ports to prevent Iranian resupply of Yemeni clients.

    The Saudi-led coalition that’s fighting against Shiite rebels in Yemen said it completed a blockade of the country’s ports and is ready to step up airstrikes.
    Bombing missions are seeking to stop the Shiite Houthis from moving forces between Yemen’s cities, Ahmed Asseri, a Saudi military officer, told reporters in Riyadh on Monday. Coalition aircraft and warships targeted the rebels as they advanced toward Aden, the southern port that’s the last stronghold of Saudi Arabia’s ally in Yemen, President Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi. Shipping routes to and from the ports are under the coalition’s control, Asseri said.

    The Egyptians are planning to help in Yemen. Even though Nasser’s campaign in Yeman was a disaster, that was in 1962 and run by Nasser, an incompetent.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Current Events, Iran, Islam, Israel, Middle East, Military Affairs, Obama, Terrorism | 9 Comments »

    Myopia and why it is increasing.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 25th April 2015 (All posts by )

    myopia

    A couple of interesting articles about the increasing incidence of myopia in children.

    Myopia isn’t an infectious disease, but it has reached nearly epidemic proportions in parts of Asia. In Taiwan, for example, the percentage of 7-year-old children suffering from nearsightedness increased from 5.8 percent in 1983 to 21 percent in 2000. An incredible 81 percent of Taiwanese 15-year-olds are myopic.

    The first thought is that this is an Asian genetic thing. It isn’t.

    In 2008 orthoptics professor Kathryn Rose found that only 3.3 percent of 6- and 7-year-olds of Chinese descent living in Sydney, Australia, suffered myopia, compared with 29.1 percent of those living in Singapore. The usual suspects, reading and time in front of an electronic screen, couldn’t account for the discrepancy. The Australian cohort read a few more books and spent slightly more time in front of the computer, but the Singaporean children watched a little more television. On the whole, the differences were small and probably canceled each other out. The most glaring difference between the groups was that the Australian kids spent 13.75 hours per week outdoors compared with a rather sad 3.05 hours for the children in Singapore.

    This week the Wall Street Journal had more. There are some attempts to deal with the natural light effect.

    Children in this small southern Chinese city sit and recite their vocabulary words in an experimental cube of a classroom built with translucent walls and ceilings. Sunlight lights up the room from all directions.

    The goal of this unusual learning space: to test whether natural, bright light can help prevent nearsightedness, a problem for growing numbers of children, especially in Asia.

    The schools have tried to get Chinese parents to send the kids outdoors more but it doesn’t seem to work.

    And it isn’t limited to Asians.

    In the U.S., the rate of nearsightedness in people 12 to 54 years old increased by nearly two-thirds between studies nearly three decades apart ending in 2004, to an estimated 41.6%, according to a National Eye Institute study.

    But Asians with their focus on education are the most effected.

    A full 80% of 4,798 Beijing teenagers tested as nearsighted in a study published in the journal PLOS One in March. Similar numbers plague teens in Singapore and Taiwan. In one 2012 survey in Seoul, nearly all of the 24,000 teenage males surveyed were nearsighted.

    So, what to do ?

    Though glasses can correct vision in most myopic children, many aren’t getting them. Sometimes this is because parents don’t know their children need glasses or don’t understand how important they are for education. Other times, cultural beliefs lead parents to discourage their children from wearing them, according to Nathan Congdon, professor at Queen’s University Belfast and senior adviser to Orbis International, a nonprofit focused on preventing blindness. Many parents believe glasses weaken the eyes—they don’t.

    Getting kids to spend even small amounts of time outdoors makes a difference.

    Why myopia rates have soared isn’t entirely clear, but one factor that keeps cropping up in research is how much time children spend outdoors. The longer they’re outside, the less likely they are to become nearsighted, according to more than a dozen studies in various countries world-wide.

    One preliminary study of 2,000 children under review for publication showed a 23% reduction in myopia in the group of Chinese children who spent an additional 40 minutes more outside each day, according to Ian Morgan, one of the researchers involved in the study and a retired professor at Australian National University in Canberra. (He still conducts research with Sun Yat-sen University in the Chinese city of Guangzhou.)

    That is a very significant effect of small changes in behavior. Now the researchers are trying something new.

    Dr. Morgan, Dr. Congdon and a team from Sun Yat-sen are now testing, as reported recently in the science magazine Nature, a so-called bright-light classroom made of translucent plastic walls in Yangjiang to see if the children can focus and sit comfortably in the classroom. So far it appears the answer is yes.

    In 2007, Donald Mutti and his colleagues at the Ohio State University College of Optometry in Columbus reported the results of a study that tracked more than 500 eight- and nine-year-olds in California who started out with healthy vision6. The team examined how the children spent their days, and “sort of as an afterthought at the time, we asked about sports and outdoorsy stuff”, says Mutti.

    It was a good thing they did. After five years, one in five of the children had developed myopia, and the only environmental factor that was strongly associated with risk was time spent outdoors6. “We thought it was an odd finding,” recalls Mutti, “but it just kept coming up as we did the analyses.” A year later, Rose and her colleagues arrived at much the same conclusion in Australia7. After studying more than 4,000 children at Sydney primary and secondary schools for three years, they found that children who spent less time outside were at greater risk of developing myopia.

    What is the mechanism ? Maybe it is this.

    The leading hypothesis is that light stimulates the release of dopamine in the retina, and this neurotransmitter in turn blocks the elongation of the eye during development. The best evidence for the ‘light–dopamine’ hypothesis comes — again — from chicks. In 2010, Ashby and Schaeffel showed that injecting a dopamine-inhibiting drug called spiperone into chicks’ eyes could abolish the protective effect of bright light11.

    Retinal dopamine is normally produced on a diurnal cycle — ramping up during the day — and it tells the eye to switch from rod-based, nighttime vision to cone-based, daytime vision. Researchers now suspect that under dim (typically indoor) lighting, the cycle is disrupted, with consequences for eye growth. “If our system does not get a strong enough diurnal rhythm, things go out of control,” says Ashby, who is now at the University of Canberra. “The system starts to get a bit noisy and noisy means that it just grows in its own irregular fashion.”

    Another possible treatment is the use of atropine drops in the eye.

    Atropine, a drug used for decades to dilate the pupils, appears to slow the progression of myopia once it has started, according to several randomized, controlled trials. But used daily at the typical concentration of 1%, there are side effects, most notably sensitivity to light, as well as difficulty focusing on up-close images.

    In recent years, studies in Singapore and Taiwan found that a lower dose of atropine reduces myopia progression by 50% to 60% in children without those side effects, says Donald Tan, professor of ophthalmology at the Singapore National Eye Centre. He has spearheaded many of the studies. Large-scale trials on low-dose atropine are expected to start soon in Japan and in Europe, he says.

    More than a century ago, Henry Edward Juler, a renowned British eye surgeon, offered similar advice. In 1904, he wrote in A Handbook of Ophthalmic Science and Practice that when “the myopia had become stationary, change of air — a sea voyage if possible — should be prescribed”.

    Posted in China, Education, Health Care, Medicine, Science | 5 Comments »

    The Battle of Britain + 75

    Posted by David Foster on 25th April 2015 (All posts by )

    An article in an aviation magazine pointed out that this summer will mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.  As a matter of perspective, it’s interesting to observe that the length of time separating the US Civil War from the Battle of Britain is the same as the length of time between the Battle and today.

    The archetypal fighter planes of the Battle of Britain were the Spitfire, the Hurricane, and, on the enemy side, the Messerschmitt 109.  Here are some recent pilot reports on what each of these aircraft is like to fly:

    Supermarine Spitfire

    Hawker Hurricane

    Messerschmitt 109

    It is now possible to take a ride in a Spitfire–allowing this apparently required some regulatory changes on the part of the British CAA. Here’s one company offering such flights. For pilots, it’s possible to get Spitfire training at Boultbee Flight Academy. I don’t think anyone is offering rides or training in the Hurricane or the 109…very few 2-seat versions of either were built, apparently–so if you want to fly one of these, you’ll probably have to buy one. Here’s a recently-restored Hurricane for sale.

    As an interesting historical irony, Israel’s first fighter was a version of the Messerschmitt 109.

    See also my post Radar Wars: a case study in science and government, which is about the secret decision-making involved in making Britain’s commitment to a large-scale investment in radar deployment.

    Posted in Aviation, Britain, Europe, Germany, History, Tech, War and Peace | 13 Comments »

    The Hillary Clinton bribery story.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 23rd April 2015 (All posts by )

    UPDATE: For those with short attention spans, a new timeline from Ricochet on the Hillary scandal.

    Best tidbit:

    Hillary Clinton’s family’s charities are refiling at least five annual tax returns after a Reuters review found errors in how they reported donations from governments, and said they may audit other Clinton Foundation returns in case of other errors… For three years in a row beginning in 2010, the Clinton Foundation reported to the IRS that it received zero in funds from foreign and U.S. governments, a dramatic fall-off from the tens of millions of dollars in foreign government contributions reported in preceding years.

    Must have been an oversight.

    Today, the New York Times ran a huge story about how Hillary Clinton and Bill took large contributions to their personal “Foundation” to sell US security assets to the Russians.

    The article, in January 2013, detailed how the Russian atomic energy agency, Rosatom, had taken over a Canadian company with uranium-mining stakes stretching from Central Asia to the American West. The deal made Rosatom one of the world’s largest uranium producers and brought Mr. Putin closer to his goal of controlling much of the global uranium supply chain.

    But the untold story behind that story is one that involves not just the Russian president, but also a former American president and a woman who would like to be the next one.

    At the heart of the tale are several men, leaders of the Canadian mining industry, who have been major donors to the charitable endeavors of former President Bill Clinton and his family. Members of that group built, financed and eventually sold off to the Russians a company that would become known as Uranium One.

    Today, Hugh Hewitt interviewed Mitt Romney on this story and Romney stated the obvious.

    What’s your reaction to this story?
    MR: You know, I’ve got to tell you, I was stunned by it. I mean, it looks like bribery. I mean, there is every appearance that Hillary Clinton was bribed to grease the sale of, what, 20% of America’s uranium production to Russia, and then it was covered up by lying about a meeting at her home with the principals, and by erasing emails. And you know, I presume we might know for sure whether there was or was not bribery if she hadn’t wiped out thousands of emails. But this is a very, very serious series of facts, and it looks like bribery.

    Now we know why the e-mails were deleted.

    As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation. Uranium One’s chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors. Other people with ties to the company made donations as well.

    And shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Mr. Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock.

    I looked at Huffington Post for reaction for the left and they have a story about Republicans and lobbyists.

    About the Hillary story ?

    ZERO !!!!

    This should be the end of her campaign but Democrats seem not to be interested.

    Posted in Crony Capitalism, International Affairs, Military Affairs, Politics, Russia | 18 Comments »

    The Matter of Law

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 23rd April 2015 (All posts by )

    And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast– man’s laws, not God’s– and if you cut them down—and you’re just the man to do it—do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

    So said the character of Sir Thomas More in Ben Bolt’s play A Man for All Seasons – essentially a warning about the misuse and abuse of authority – an authority which might once have been accepted as legitimate by all parties concerned. But once the law has been ‘cut down’ in pursuit of some supposed greater good – then all bets are off. The winds will blow, and no one will be able to stand upright, once the protection of equally applied-law and customs and habits of a well-ordered society have been dispensed with. This is the most horrifying aspect of what David Foster linked to regarding the John Doe investigation in Wisconsin – that both law and the constraints of custom and practice are being coldly cut down and trampled upon. Essentially, DA John Chisholm used his position to wage lawfare against supporters of Scott Walker, and with the full cooperation of Judge Barbara Kluka. Midnight SWAT raids against people who had done nothing more than to be politically-involved citizens exercising their rights to support a candidate with their vote, their donations and their words.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, Human Behavior, Leftism | 13 Comments »

    What Chicago Boyz Readers Are Reading (March 2015)

    Posted by Jonathan on 20th April 2015 (All posts by )

    Below is a list of the books, ebooks, music and videos ordered in March 2015 by Chicago Boyz readers via Amazon links on this blog. (A cumulative list of Chicago Boyz readers’ Amazon book purchases is here.)

    Your book and non-book Amazon purchases help to support this blog via the Amazon Associates affiliate program. Chicago Boyz earns a percentage on all of your Amazon purchases as long as you enter the Amazon site via the Amazon links on this blog (including the Amazon banner in the blog header, the link above the Amazon banner and any Amazon links on this blog for products other than the ones you are buying).

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes | 6 Comments »

    Truly Horrifying

    Posted by David Foster on 20th April 2015 (All posts by )

    Do not fail to read these links describing the use of the police in Wisconsin against individuals who dared offer opposition to the Democratic Party–Big Labor machine:

    Glenn Reynolds at USA Today:  Wisconsin’s dirty prosecutors pull a Putin

    David French at National Review:   Wisconsin’s Shame:  I thought it was a home invasion

    Also David French at NR:  The deep state knows how to protect itself

    If these reports are true, or anything like true–and I see little reason to doubt it given the conduct of the Democratic Party and its agents and allies over the past decade–then the threat to individual rights and the rule of law in America is even more serious than I thought it was.

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Law, Law Enforcement, Leftism, USA | 28 Comments »

    Make Them Own It

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 20th April 2015 (All posts by )

    Today we see that the latest bond offering from the Chicago Board of Education will be priced at over twice what a BBB offering demands. That is brutal. I still won’t touch that with a ten foot pole.

    It is inevitable that the State of Illinois and City of Chicago and their organs will be having major financial issues, to say the least, within a year or two. It could be Detroit on an inter-galactic scale.

    My question is this – why don’t the Republicans make the Democrats own these massive boondoggles? I understand that in Illinois, many of them are in on the fun – however, the State of Illinois, City of Chicago and Detroit have all been essentially run by Democrats for literally generations – and it is all blowing up.

    Is the issue too complex for Joe Six Pack to understand or care about? Are the Republicans afraid to be held to a higher standard? I just don’t understand why they wouldn’t shout from the mountain tops at how much graft, corruption and incompetence it takes to completely tank a city with as much potential as Chicago and a State with so many potential positives as Illinois.

    Posted in Big Government, Chicagoania, Illinois Politics, Politics | 36 Comments »

    The War in Color

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 19th April 2015 (All posts by )

    Found through a link on Ace of Spades HQ – a picture gallery at the Military Times, of (mostly) WWII black and white pictures colorized. Some of them more convincingly than others – but the best of them very well done indeed.

    Of course, now I have that Carbon Leaf song on playback in my head…

    Posted in History, Photos | 7 Comments »

    History Weekend — MacArthur’s Parachute Resupply in the S.W. Pacific

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 19th April 2015 (All posts by )

    When I started writing my History columns here on Chicago Boyz, one of my objectives was to explore the “military historical narratives” around General Douglas MacArthur, so I could write with a better understanding about the “cancelled by atomic bomb” November 1945 invasion of Japan. But in doing so for this column, the strangest experiences are doing deep, original, historical research. Trying to follow a trail of research on something you think you know — in this case trailing the classified “Need to know” Radar hunting “Section 22” in 6th Army Administrative Orders — and then going down Alice’s rabbit hole and finding a “Detailed Reality” about something completely different. The “completely different” in this case being a provisional parachute supply company created in February 1944 that used the Rebecca & Eureka, a “Retro-high tech” VHF (AKA Television bandwidth) Radar Interrogator-Beacon System — a distant technological ancestor to the civilian “secondary radar” transponders used for air traffic control on today’s wide body passenger jets.

    The Rebecca and Eureka radar beacon system represent something of a “Keystone military technology” By that I mean an analogy to the biological concept of a “Keystone species” in an ecosystem, not unlike the role of algae in the ocean ecosystem or grass for a prairie ecosystem. Rebecca and Eureka radar beacons are the “Keystone technology” for a wide range of ‘unconventional’ operations including clandestine supply, intelligence & pathfinder operations ranging from planting a few agents to the support operations for an airborne army. or large naval landing.

    Rebecca and Eureka was WIDELY used by the British Special Operation Executive (SOE) and American Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in N.W. Europe, Italy, Yugoslavia, and Burma. This beacon system was also used by American airborne pathfinder operations at Normandy plus Operations Dragoon, Market-Garden and Varsity. And now, its use is documented with this 6th Army Parachute Supply Company in the South West Pacific to support air drops to 6th Army Reconnaissance assets and possibly with both the Allied Intelligence Bureau agents and Filipino guerrillas.

    The Duxford Radio Society, of the Imperial War Museum, Duxford, England, describes the Rebecca & Eureka (shown Fig 1 above) as follows:

    A VHF (Secondary) Radar Interrogator-Beacon System
    .
    Rebecca & Eureka formed a system of portable ground-based beacons and airborne direction finding equipment initially designed to assist the air-drop delivery of supplies to the Allied Armies and Resistance groups in occupied Europe.
    .
    Rebecca was the airborne station, and Eureka was the ground based beacon
    .
    The ground based beacon consisted of a super-regenerative receiver and transmitter, originally operating in the frequency range 214 – 234 MHz**, powered from a battery via a vibrator power supply unit. A portable tripod mounted aerial was erected when communications was required.

    [**This Rebecca & Eureka bandwidth covers upper Channel 12 and and lower channel 13 in American Television.
    See “Retro-High Technology Background Notes” at the end of the column.]

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, National Security, Uncategorized, USA, War and Peace | 14 Comments »

    Cool Retrotech

    Posted by David Foster on 19th April 2015 (All posts by )

    Here’s a video and a short writeup about Weizac,  the first electronic computer built in Israel.  Einstein was initially dubious about the project, wondering how a tiny country like Israel could possibly keep such a powerful machine busy.

    The article mentions that the co-leader of the project was Jerry Estrin.  His daughter, Judy Estrin, is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who among other things co-founded Bridge Communications and has served as CTO of Cisco.  Her 2008 book,  Closing the Innovation Gap, is on my reading list.

    Posted in History, Israel, Tech | 8 Comments »

    History Weekend (Culinary History Division) – The Smell of Chili in the Morning

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 18th April 2015 (All posts by )

    (This is a slightly reworked piece I did for a local real estate blog, which alas seems to have gone dormant – enjoy! CH)

    For much of the 19th century and into the early Twentieth, it was a popular San Antonio custom. Various of the public squares, notably Military Plaza and Market Square were the domain of the Chili Queens who established a custom of setting up tables and benches along the edges of the squares, in the early evening and selling chili-by-the-bowl to all comers. They would bring huge kettles of chili which they had made over their own home cook-fire during the day, and keep it warm through the evening and into the wee hours over an open fire. The chili vendors would entice customers to their own particular stands by hiring musicians to entertain diners. There are some splendid descriptions of how marvelous this would have appeared – lantern and starlight shining down on the tables, gleaming on glass soda bottles, while the scent of the chili and the mesquite smoke from the fires which kept it warm hung on the night air. (I used this scene several times in Lone Star Sons, and in Adelsverein – The Sowing.) During South Texas summers before the invention of air conditioning, this likely would have been about the most comfortable dining venue for working men, for those out for an evening of gambling and drinking in the various saloons … and in later decades, for those visiting from the North or the East, desirous of absorbing a little exotic local color.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Entrepreneurship, History | 6 Comments »

    Chicago International Movies and Music Festival

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 18th April 2015 (All posts by )

    There is a festival here in Chicago focused on movies about music which also has a bunch of bands playing as well.  It is our attempt to have a little “South by Southwest” action in the city of Chicago.  At least they have some nice weather this year – this weekend seems to be the start of spring and everyone is out side and on balconies and has a lot of positive energy.  Here is a shot from one of the movies on the cover of the Reader.

    Unfortunately I can’t go to any of the events because I can’t stand in lines for too long and I can’t be jostled or have someone step on my foot and that’s what usually happens at a concert.  I will look for some of these movies out there on the internet though later or if they come to an art house movie theater or something.  Here is the site listing what is going on and an interview with the founder on Chicago Tonight (a great program) and below are some of the ones I’d go to see if I was able to do so.

    • Danny Says” which is a movie about the manager of the Stooges and the Ramones.  That guy must have seen a lot of crazy stuff
    • 808” a story of how a device never intended to be a beatbox helped launch hip hop and modern music
    • Morphine – Journey of Dreams” one of my favorite bands of the 1990’s was Morphine and I was very saddened when their lead singer / bassist dropped dead at a show overseas.  Also the remaining members played a show under “Vapors of Morphine” as well
    • Jaco” is about the fantastic bass player Jaco Pastorius who was a little crazy and unfortunately died young after being beaten by a club bouncer.  At the festival the bass player from Metallica (who is from Suicidal Tendencies if you go way back to “Institutionalized”) talks about Jaco, as well
    • Local H is playing too.  They are awesome and one of the few survivors of the 1990’s.  See them when they come to your town

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Chicagoania, Film, Music | 8 Comments »

    Chicagoboyz Feel Good

    Posted by Jonathan on 17th April 2015 (All posts by )

    It’s Friday.

    Posted in Music | 2 Comments »

    Paying Higher Taxes Can be Very Profitable (rerun)

    Posted by David Foster on 17th April 2015 (All posts by )

    (Originally posted in January 2010–now an April perennial)

    Chevy Chase, MD, is an affluent suburb of Washington DC. Median household income is over $200K, and a significant percentage of households have incomes that are much, much higher. Stores located in Chevy Chase include Tiffany & Co, Ralph Lauren, Christian Dior, Versace, Jimmy Choo, Nieman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Saks-Jandel.

    PowerLine observed that during the 2008 election season, yards in Chevy Chase were thick with Obama signs–and wonders how these people are now feeling about the prospect of sharp tax increases for people in their income brackets.

    The PowerLine guys are very astute, but I think they’re missing a key point on this one. There are substantial groups of people who stand to benefit financially from the policies of the Obama/Pelosi/Reid triumvirate, and these benefits can greatly outweigh the costs of any additional taxes that these policies require them to pay. Many of the residents of Chevy Chase–a very high percentage of whom get their income directly or indirectly from government activities–fall into this category.

    Consider, for starters, direct employment by the government. Most Americans still probably think of government work as low-paid, but this is much less true than it used to be. According to this, 19% of civil servants now make $100K or more. A significant number of federal employees are now making more than $170,000. And, of course, the more the role of government is expanded, the more such jobs will be created, and the better will be the prospects for further pay increases.

    If one member of a couple is a federal employee making $100K and the other is making $150K, that would be sufficient to allow them to live in Chevy Chase and occasionally partake of the shopping and restaurants. But to make the serious money required to really enjoy the Chevy Chase lifestyle, it’s best to look beyond direct government employment and pursue careers which indirectly but closely benefit from government activity…which are part of the “extended government,” to coin a phrase.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Taxes | 3 Comments »

    “Please Keep This Between Us, But….”

    Posted by David Foster on 15th April 2015 (All posts by )

    Sarah Hoyt, a science fiction writer and a thought-provoking blogger, has a long post called the architecture of fear.  One of the things she talks about in this post is an incident from several years ago, where on a mailing list for writers she:

    …dared question the insanity of a well-respected pro who said that George Bush (personally) had raised the price of stamps to ruin her (personally) in her efforts to sell used books through Amazon.

    There are levels of insanity I can’t tolerate and couldn’t even while in the political closet.  So I pointed out the sheer insanity of this, the inefficiencies of the post office and probable causes for it.

    The list went silent.  I figured tons of people were cussing me behind my back (this was when GB’s name was after all like invoking the devil.)

    So, I shrugged, figured I’d be kicked out of the list and went for a walk.  When I came back my email was full of “Oh, thank you, for saying…”  ALL OF IT IN PRIVATE MESSAGES.   The senders ranged from raw beginners to established pros, but no one would challenge this lady’s illusions to her face.  Only me.

    Sarah’s story uncannily parallels another story, this one told by long-time IBM CEO Tom Watson Jr and dating from the early 1950s.

    There was a moment when I truly thought IBM was going to lose its shot at defense work because of the kind of window blinds I had in my office.

    These were vertical blinds, which were not common at the time. An engineer who was in Watson’s office for a meeting made a sketch of the blinds, and inadvertently left it in his shirt pocket when he took the shirt to the dry cleaner. The laundry man thought the paper looked suspicious, and sent it to McCarthy. Pretty soon, a group of investigators came and said to the engineer, “We’ve identified this as a plan for a radar antenna, and want to hear about it. We want to be perfectly fair. But we know it is a radar antenna and the shirt it was found in belongs to you.”

    The engineer explained about the vertical blinds, and the investigation team then asked to see Watson. The chief executive officer of IBM showed them the blinds and demonstrated the way they worked.

    They looked them over very carefully and then left. I thought I had contained it, but I wasn’t sure, and I was scared. We were working on SAGE (the computerized air defense system–ed) and it would have been a hell of a way to lose our security clearance.

    Shortly after the incident with the vertical blinds, Watson was invited to a lunch at Lehman Brothers, along with about 20 other high-ranking businesspeople. During the lunch, he mentioned his concerns about McCarthyism

    Of the twenty-odd people present, I was the only one who took that position. That didn’t bother me. What bothered me was that the following week I got letters from several people who had been there, and they all had a similar message: “I didn’t want to commit myself in public, but I certainly agreed with everything you said.

    (Watson’s story is from his excellent autobiography, Father, Son, & Co, which I reviewed here)

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, USA | 17 Comments »

    The Return of Her Inevitableness

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 15th April 2015 (All posts by )

    As I called her, during the Hillary-Obama knock-down and drag-out over the Dem nom leading up to the 08’ Presidential Race festivities. I termed that particular contest “Ebony vs Ovary.” They were well-matched for awfulness, back then, weren’t they? Chicago machine politics vs Arkansas skeevy corruption; in the words of Henry Kissinger, it was a pity that both of them couldn’t lose.

    So she has lost out twice, but now we see Her Inevitableness mounting up once again and setting out to bash the windmills once again, although that particular image means that Huma Abedin is in the Sancho Panza role, which doesn’t work on so many levels that you’d have to explore other dimensions to reach them all. All props for grim determination, I have to say – and I’d also have to say that once upon a time, I might have respected her a lot more if she had only dumped that sweet-talking sleaze of a husband once they were done with the White House the first time, taken back her family name and … like actually done something efficient and effective on her own.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Feminism, Politics | 16 Comments »

    The Internet of Things… Connected Weather Station

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 14th April 2015 (All posts by )

    I have been laid up for a little while and like a good shut in I was shopping on Amazon for things to buy. One item that is always of interest to my parents and relatives is the weather. A while ago I bought them an Ambient Device weather forecaster which they still use today and they find very useful (sadly, that company went out of business).

    I recently spent about $150 to buy a Netatmo indoor and outdoor temperature / weather station. It is quite fascinating. Here is the indoor module that tracks temperature, sound (in decibels), CO2, humidity, and other elements. When you push the top button it will glow based on the CO2 levels (green is “good”). I plan to hide it behind a couch so you can’t see it. The indoor unit connected to my phone via bluetooth and then I was able to get it to sign on to my wireless network. It took about 5 minutes.

    Here is the outdoor component. This unit measures humidity and temperature and connects to the “base” station above. The outdoor unit is battery powered and all weather so once you put it outside (on our porch) you can ignore it and it will send readings to the base station.

    The really cool part is that you just download an app onto your phone and voila! you can have updates and graphs and charts and see your temperature in and out of your house anytime. They also have alerts so that you can be notified if there are temperature changes (such as below freezing weather outside or interior temperatures that drop enough to freeze your pipes) and also for CO2 alerts and other customizable features. It is all very easy to understand.
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    Posted in Tech | 11 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading & Viewing

    Posted by David Foster on 13th April 2015 (All posts by )

    Peter Thiel is interviewed by Tyler Cowen, in a conversation that ranges from why there is stagnation “in the world of atoms and not of bits” to the dangers of conformity to what he looks for when choosing people to why company names matter.

    Evaporative cooling of group beliefs.  Why a group’s beliefs tend to become stronger rather than weaker when strong evidence against those beliefs makes its appearance.

    More academic insanity:  the language police at the University of Michigan.

    Why Sam Sinai became a computer scientist instead of a doctor

    A National Archives official, in an e-mail comment that the people were not supposed to see:   “We live in constant fear of upsetting the White House”

    Why a pact with Iran throws Arab liberals under the bus  (“liberals” used here in the archaic and largely obsolete sense of “people who believe in liberty”)

    Garry Trudeau  (he wrote a cartoon called Doonesbury–is it really still being published?) gives his thoughts on the Charlie Hebdo murders perpetrated in the name of Islam–by accusing the cartoonists of “hate speech” and denouncing “free speech absolutism.”

    The secret Republicans of Silicon Valley

    Baseball, the stock market, and the dangers of following the herd

    Antoine de St-Exupery’s original watercolors  for The Little Prince

    Posted in Academia, Arts & Letters, Business, Civil Liberties, Human Behavior, Islam, Markets and Trading, Society, Sports, Tech, USA | 12 Comments »

    25 Stories About Work – It’s All About Cash Flow (Part I, Small Companies)

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 12th April 2015 (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)…

    The USA, early 1990s to mid 2010s

    Recently I saw this little blurb in the NY Times business section which perfectly encapsulates one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in all my years of working – it is all about cash flow.

    The simplest measure of success for a business is bringing in more cash than you pay out and having a positive bank account balance at the end of the month. When you are in charge of a business and attempting to make your payroll these sorts of concerns should always be “top of mind”.

    Cash Flows in a Smaller Firm

    When we started our consulting firm you had to put up enough capital to pay salaries for a while (we took a small “draw” to keep us afloat, not our former total compensation) until we were able to bring in cash from customers. However, this is a longer process than you might imagine if you weren’t educated in the realities of all the crucial steps in the chain necessary to get paid. Since we were accountants and finance people we went into this with “eyes wide open” but I can only imagine the types of trouble that creative types meet up with when facing this same conundrum.

    Thus our sequence of cash flows at a high level when starting up a consulting firm looked like this:

    – Additions – capital contributions from partners. Based on the equity you wanted in the final firm, you needed to put in capital (that maybe you’d never receive back) to start up the firm
    – Additions – loans. We didn’t take out loans but we could have. Banks generally never loan you money unless you have collateral and we didn’t so it would have been credit card debt at the time
    – Reductions – office space and rent. We needed to start somewhere. Initially we just used a room in our boss’s house, which worked out fine, and later we rented a space near a bowling alley. Note that everyone you are renting from eyes startups with a rueful glance and you can’t expect to get much in the way of credit because they don’t want to end up holding the bag
    – Reductions – insurance, legal fees, taxes, office staff, computers. All the ephemera of an office needed to be purchased but we did it second hand. We also used our own skills rather than hiring third parties whenever possible (almost all of the time)
    – Reductions – payments to core staff. We used “draws” which were minimal amounts to cover life expenses and in a way were payments in advance of what you’d earn, not like a salary that you receive regardless of the end state of the enterprise and your personal contribution. For office staff we picked up later we needed to pay them a normal salary

    All of this happened before we even met a potential customer. Then we needed to fly out and meet customers (we already had a lot of connections; much of our early success came from bringing on existing clients from former consulting firms), convince them to sign us up, agree on a price and contract terms, and then begin doing the work.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in 25 Stories About Work | 14 Comments »