Category Archives: Deep Thoughts

Deep thoughts, omphaloskepsis, and other random musings.

Rule Five Friday

2014_10_24_Rule Five Friday (1)This just in from the always-worth-reading Dr. Victor Davis Hanson:  The Politics of Victimhood.  Excerpt:

The questionable assumption we often accept about suffering is that enduring terrible experiences automatically make one an expert on the broader issues related to the causes of suffering. That’s why like other public victims of gun violence, (former Arizona Congressman Gabrielle) Giffords has spoken out as if her experience has made her an authority on gun policy. Thus she has attacked politicians for disagreeing with her on the issue of guns not by making a coherent argument, but by conjuring up her own experiences and sentimentalizing other victims of gun violence. Having created a fog of emotion, she then argues for 2014_10_24_Rule Five Friday (2)policies, such as more restrictive background checks for those buying guns, even though there is no evidence that such procedures keep guns out of the hands of those determined to get them. After all, the man who shot Giffords had undergone a thorough background check. Worse yet, such emotionalism sets aside the critical Constitutional issue––the Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms.”

Invoking overt displays of emotions is a staple of the gun-banners; it is likewise a staple of such kooks as anti-vaccine kooks and animal rights lunatics.  It is, after all, much easier to try to evoke an emotional response than it is to prepare a fact-based presentation and conduct a dispassionate analysis of the issues.

It’s important to note that, while both parties indulge in these kinds of histrionics, the most passionate appeals to emotion and the most 2014_10_24_Rule Five Friday (3)irrational arguments are – with a very few exceptions – made by those on the political Left.

An example?

Setting aside gun control for the moment, look at the arguments – and I use the word “argument” in the broadest possible sense – by the radical animal rights nuts.  Every argument against animal use, be it for food, research, entertainment, or even keeping as pets, is strictly emotion-based.  They argue against eating animals on the basis of the “suffering” of farm animals, even though they have no way of quantifying that suffering, and have no idea of the impact their own diets cause – those diets being by and large2014_10_24_Rule Five Friday (4) the product of monoculture plant agriculture, which causes animal death and suffering in vast quantities.

They neither know nor care about this savage hypocrisy; just like gun-banners neither know nor care that disarming the law-abiding will only produce an entire new set of helpless victims for adherents to the toxic urban thug culture that is infesting many of our larger cities.

Dr. Hanson concludes:  The trump card of suffering might be politically useful, but using it is a dishonest tactic that inhibits informed deliberation and debate. Relying on emotion and sentiment, no matter how understandable they are as a response to suffering, have since ancient Athens been the agents of bad policies and dangerous political decisions, and tactics for pursuing political advantage at the expense of the public good. They have no place in our already conflicted 2014_10_24_Rule Five Friday (5)and divisive public political discourse.

Today, our Imperial City is awash in politicians, lobbyists and advocates of every stripe, and nine of ten are pushing for policies that are not only bad but, as Dr. Hanson points out, dangerous.  They argue with emotion as their opening card, and very little if any pols or anyone else seems able to present a dispassionate analysis of fact.

To someone like yr. obdt. who has for the last ten years or so run a business whose main purpose is teaching problem-solving and cause analysis to high-tech companies all over the world, that is a situation that is increasingly frustrating.

2014_10_24_Rule Five Friday (6)

Rule Five Friday

2014_10_17_Rule Five Friday (1)Since today marks the beginning of our annual excursion afield in pursuit of a winter’s venison, I thought I’d present a few thoughts on the hunt, yr. obdt.’s history in such, and the state of hunting in America today.

I was born into a family of farmers and outdoor people.  The Old Man hunted and fished most of his life.  Both of my grandfathers were outdoor types, and fishing trips with both of them are among my earliest and fondest memories.

2014_10_17_Rule Five Friday (2)Since I was old enough to carry a .22 rifle in the woods, I did so – almost constantly.  Growing up in the hills, woods and fields of Allamakee County, Iowa presented plenty of opportunities to do so.  The endless summers of youth were long, in part because of my anxious awaiting of the opening of squirrel season in late August, the first of many small game seasons to open.  Hunting squirrels with a .22 teaches a boy to be quiet in the woods; it teaches him how to look over the terrain, to plan and execute a stalk, and how to shoot carefully.

2014_10_17_Rule Five Friday (3)Later in the year, I always laid aside rifle for shotgun when seasons for ruffed grouse and later, pheasant and Hungarian partridge opened.  In December, it was deer season – and hunting whitetails on the Old Man’s place in Allamakee County stuck me with a love of big-game hunting that has stuck with me ever since.

Moving to Colorado when I left the Army in 1989 was the icing on the cake.

2014_10_17_Rule Five Friday (4)Folks hunt for a variety of reasons.  Some hunt for trophies – and as every state requires, by law, the removal of all edible portions of a legally taken game animal, ‘trophy hunting’ as such should carry no animus.

Some hunt simply because they like to spend time wandering woods and fields, and that’s fine too.

Some hunt because they like eating wild game.  Why not?  It’s additive-free, lean, healthy meat – you don’t get any more ‘free-range’ than an animal you’ve hunted and killed in the wild.

I2014_10_17_Rule Five Friday (5) have hunted for 40 years or so for all of those reasons, mostly the second and third.  I like the chance at a big buck or trophy bull as much as anyone, and it’s no secret I like to eat.  You won’t find any better eating than an elk steak cooked over an open fire.  And, there’s no better way to kill a few days than bumming around mountains, fields and forests.

So tomorrow starts the annual ritual.  The bloodwind calls.  It’s time to hunt.

2014_10_17_Rule Five Friday (6)

Animal’s Daily Martian News

Martian Native.
Martian Native.

Could we terraform Mars, and make it habitable for humans?  Maybe so.  Excerpt:

Today, Mars has little atmosphere to speak of, sports an average temperature of -76 degrees Fahrenheit around the equator, and is pelted by ultraviolet radiation. It’s little more than a desert pockmarked by craters. And yet, there are some who think that Mars can live again.

“You don’t build Mars,” Chris McKay, a planetary scientist at NASA says. “You just warm it up and throw some seeds.”

It’s that simple.

Here are three easy steps to terraform Mars and make it habitable for humans.

Read the whole thing for an outline of the three necessary (and time-consuming – we’re talking thousands of years) steps.

Forgetting the astronomical cost (pun intended) and the time frame for a moment, and think about the implications of a population of humans living on a successfully terraformed Mars.  No, they aren’t likely to turn green, nor will they encounter thoats, exotic red princesses or any other boojums or boogers.  But they will change, as generations are born and grow on a planet with only a little over a third of Earth’s gravity.

The new Martians will be taller and thinner, most likely, as they adjust through growth on a low-gravity environment.  They will probably have to adjust to a colder planet, even after terraforming, but we can Silver Beardo that through technology as prosaic as coats; but gravity will have a more lasting impact.

Not least of which is this:  Native Martians may never be able to visit the home planet.  A 1G gravity field may kill them.

So, while this is interesting and may someday actually happen, any human population on Mars will probably have to be permanent.

Check out Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy for an interesting bit of speculation as to how this might actually work.

Labor Day Blues

2014_09_01_Goodbye Blue MondayNot really a blue Monday, but some traditions are too good to ignore.  And speaking of totty, thanks once again to The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!  Make sure to check out the extensive Rule Five linkfest.

No links or news today – off here in a few minutes to enjoy a (for once) work-free Labor Day.   But it’s worth noting that here we are on the first of September already, in the ninth month of a year that seems like it has only just begun.  Where the hell does the time go?  Upon a time it seemed the summer lasted forever, or as close as made no difference.

2014_09_01_Blue Monday II
Fall colors.

What happened?

Within the next few weeks the aspen will be turning in the high country.  Elk will start to bugle, the sage country mulies will be shedding antler velvet, and gangs of yearling grouse will be fattening on berries and grasshoppers, making them toothsome and ripe for the frying pan.

The year may be going by too quickly, but there is one consolation – some of the best eating of the year is coming up.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!
Happy Hump Day!

This just in from the wonderful world of astro-science – or, perhaps, astro-speculation.  NASA: Humans Will Prove ‘We Are Not Alone In The Universe’ Within 20 Years.  Excerpt:

Speaking at NASA’s Washington headquarters on Monday, the space agency outlined a plan to search for alien life using current telescope technology, and announced the launch of the Transiting Exoplanet Surveying Satellite in 2017. The NASA administrators and scientists estimate that humans will be able to locate alien life within the next 20 years.

“Just imagine the moment, when we find potential signatures of life. Imagine the moment when the world wakes up and the human race realizes that its long loneliness in time and space may be over — the possibility we’re no longer alone in the universe,” said Matt Mountain, director and Webb telescope scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, which plans to launch the James Webb Space Telescope in 2018.

Let’s forget the technical aspects of this for a moment, and let’s also forget the likelihood of NASA actually finding life – in fact, let’s forget about intelligent life altogether, since we’re still looking for that right here on Earth in the Imperial City.  Instead:  Imagine the consequences if NASA (or anyone else) were to find evidence of life somewhere other than Earth.  Some good candidates are present right here in our own solar system, after all – plenty of biologists are just dying to know what might be lurking under Europa’s ice pack.

Space ChicksFirst:  Earth loses it’s one-of-a-kind status.  We’re no longer the special exception.  Life exists elsewhere, and presumably – since in all the vastness of the Universe, we have found it on another world in our tiny little sphere of perception, life exists lots of places.

Second:  Imagine the consequences for the world’s religions.  Not being religious myself it’s probably easier in some ways to imagine the impact, but in other ways it’s doubtlessly harder.  What happens to adherents to mainstream religions when it is proven that Earth’s life-bearing status is not unique?

Finally:  If life is found elsewhere, how long will it be before the not-so-intelligent life in the Imperial City tries to a) tax it and b) regulate it?

Thoughts?

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!
Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Our thanks once again to The Other McCain for the Rule Five links, and we hope you enjoyed the vacation Rule Five posts.  Las Vegas was, as usual, fine in limited doses, and much steam was blown off.  Yr. obdt. is now in much improved state of mind and ready for more work.

Which is a good thing, as I find myself back in northern Indiana this morning for another on-site stint.

But I digress.  Back to Las Vegas for a moment:

Vegas by Night.
Vegas by Night.

Las Vegas is a place that is not quite like any other place in the United States, except perhaps (and only perhaps) Atlantic City, and never having been there I can’t really compare.  But Vegas is a great place for:

  • Shows
  • Food
  • Gambling (if you’re into that)
  • Best of all – people-watching.

On shows, we went and saw , the Cirque Du Soleil show currently running at the MGM Grand.  I recommend this how if you’re ever able to take it in – like most Cirque Du Soleil shows it is magnificent in scope and execution, with amazing acrobatics and a stunning soundtrack.  We took it in on a Tuesday evening and the auditorium was only 2/3 full, making for a comfortable experience.

Food:  Vegas used to be known for cheap, high-quality meals.  The first time I went there the Strip was loaded with “Prime Rib, $3.99″ signs, the objective being to draw you in for your gambling dollars.  No longer.  Eating there is expensive; you can enjoy all manner of food from hot dogs to the ubiquitous massive buffets to elite dining, but you’ll pay for all of it.  If you’re on a budget, take a cooler and sandwich fixings to stretch your food dollar.

Gambling:  I don’t.  Mrs. Animal has a small fondness for penny slot machines, but keeps herself on a tight budget.  This time she came home about $30 ahead, a nice little bonus.

VegasAnd last but far from least:  People-watching.  I don’t just mean girls, although that’s certainly a high point.  Las Vegas is a popular destination for people from all over the world, and you can find yourself in conversation with people from such disparate places as Australia, eastern Europe, China, Japan or (as Mrs. Animal and myself did this trip) Jordan – that last being a young Christian couple from Jordan who (wisely) decided it was time for people of their religious persuasion to GTFO of that area.

Vegas is a place I can take for four or five days, then I’m ready to leave.  But in another two or three years, I’ll be ready to go back.

And now work beckons, so we now return you to your Monday, already in progress.

Animal’s Rule Five America!

2014_07_04_Rule Five Friday (1)Happy Fourth of July, True Believers!

On March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry said to the Virginia House of Burgesses, “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

Now, two hundred and thirty-nine years later, that liberty has been vastly diminished.   The minions of the Imperial Federal government pry into our financial affairs, they regulate every aspect of our businesses from start to finish; they interfere with us in our very 2014_07_04_Rule Five Friday (2)homes.  The Imperial City sits like a Colossus on the Potomac, having proven itself a dangerous servant and a dreadful master, far from the limited and transparent servant of the people our Founders envisioned.

Among those gathered to sign the Declaration of Independence were three ancestors of Mrs. Animal and yr. obdt.  Two are in my father’s lineage, Thomas McKean of Pennsylvania and Delaware and (tenuous connection) Abraham Clark of New Jersey.  Mrs. Animal’s mother’s line can be traced back to Maryland’s Charles Carroll.  Our ancestors fought to establish this country, but that gives us no 2014_07_04_Rule Five Friday (3)special privilege or standing, merely a large dose of pride.  America is still, for the most part, a land where we are judged by what we do, not by who our parents were.

What would the Founders think of what their brainchild has become?

Consider the words of another Founder, Samuel Adams:  “If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animated contest of freedom, go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen!

2014_07_04_Rule Five Friday (4)It is a pretty pass we have come to.

Still, I try to remain cautiously optimistic.  While many in our nation freely accept the chains Mr. Adams warned us about, the chains of government dependency, the over-reaching Presidency of Barack Obama may have rekindled some small appreciation for liberty.  The upcoming Millennial generation of which my younger children are a part show strong sympathies with libertarian principles.  So perhaps it is not too late to bring the Imperial City to heel, to retake the rightful control of our affairs which Washington has usurped.

So today is a holiday for most Americans, and most of us (yr. obdt. and family included) will enjoy a day free from toil, a day to enjoy the company of family and friends.  But we should remember that this is also a day in which a small band of rebels threw off the chains of the greatest empire in the world to bring into being the greatest nation in human history, a nation that for whatever faults it has remains the best and last hope for peace, freedom and civilization in the world.

In a  1961 speech Ronald Reagan said “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

We must guard our liberty with great and overwhelming jealousy.  So much has already been chipped away, but if you look at the rest of the world – the Dark Ages mentality of much of the Middle East, the socialist morass of Europe, the fast-approaching demographic calamities of Russia, China and Japan – we’re still in pretty good shape.

The shining city on a hill has lost some of it’s luster.  But we should not be ready to give up on America yet.

2014_07_04_Rule Five Friday (7)

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!
Goodbye, Blue Monday!

What do you carry around in your pockets?  Hung on your belt?

An interesting conversation the other day, centered not only on pocket contents but the Manly Art in general, led to this discussion.  Yr. obdt. routinely carries:

  1. Wallet
  2. Bandanna (in a pocket, not worn; carries out all the functions of a somewhat more robust handkerchief)
  3. Pocket knife
  4. Pocket watch (I detest wristwatches)
  5. Cell phone
  6. Cigar trimmer
  7. Lighter
  8. Money clip
  9. Where jurisdiction permits, a sidearm
  10. And edit – I completely forgot my damn keys.

There’s probably nothing defining about what a person carries about with them, except perhaps armament (see item #9, above.)  But it’s a matter of curiosity.

So, how about it, True Believers?  What do you carry about with you, from day to day?

Animal’s Daily News

Facepalm-bearTrigger warning:  this post may offend the hyper-sensitive.  (Fuck ‘em.)  Parental Guidance Requested.  Excerpt:

Students have demanded trigger warnings at Oberlin College, Rutgers University, the University of Michigan and George Washington University as well as UCSB. The Times reproduces an excerpt from an Oberlin “draft guide,” which reads: “Triggers are not only relevant to sexual misconduct, but also to anything that might cause trauma. Be aware of racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, and other Issues of privilege and oppression. Realize that all forms of violence are traumatic, and that your students have lives before and outside your classroom, experiences you may not expect or understand.” (“Cissexism” refers to prejudice in favor of men and women who identify themselves, respectively, as men and women.)

Seriously?

Kudos, by the way, to article author James Taranto for looking up “cissexism;”  I had not the slightest idea what that was.  You learn something every day, eh?

But I digress.  This story begs several questions, at least three of which are “what the fuck?”  Are college students really so fragile, their poor little minds so insecure, that they are threatened by the fact that someone may disagree with them?  Note that I’m not talking about rape victims or combat veterans who may well be set off by images of graphic violence; I’m talking about the precious little snowflakes who may be butthurt if someone expresses (gasp!) homophobia.

Grizzly-Bear-FaceWhat good is an education – and I use the word in the broadest possible sense – if a student doesn’t learn to handle the fact that someone may not think like they do?  The obvious answer to the rational purpose is “not much,” but apparently some students feel the need to be sheltered from anything that might make them feel a little uncomfortable.

When I was a young fella we had a word for people like that.

We called them pussies.