Friday, August 31, 2012

Apocalyptic poetry Friday

Many moons ago, I used to post the occasional poetic musings on Fridays.  I got a bit out of the habit but ran across this famous passage at Wit's End.
Prospero in William Shakespeare's The Tempest Act 4 Scene 1
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd tow'rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
It is often associated with the approaching end of the author's life.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Peaceful Nukes

Matthew Fuhrmann has a new book out.  It is about how the use of nuclear power (peaceful Nuke) has lead to the spread of nuclear weapons.

The United States and Britain, as a joint effort in World War 2, developed the nuclear bomb, and from that developed the ability to harness nuclear power to generate nuclear energy.  I am not aware of any other country that separately developed this technology- all nuclear facilities, peaceful or otherwise, derive from this first success.

What I was not aware of, his how much of that secondary spread was through the "peaceful" energy efforts.

Matthew Fuhrmann's "Atomic Assistance"
Page 99 Test, 23 August 2012

Peaceful nuclear assistance increases the likelihood of nuclear proliferation by providing states with dual-use technology and knowledge that collectively reduce the barriers to building the bomb. My analysis of global nuclear commerce supports this argument, showing that higher levels of atomic assistance are statistically associated a greater likelihood of proliferating.

Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, South Africa, and other countries benefited from peaceful nuclear aid before they built nuclear weapons. For example, the individual who headed South Africa’s nuclear explosives program during the 1970s was previously trained by the United States through its “Atoms for Peace” program. The United States also inadvertently augmented Iran’s capacity to build nuclear weapons when it exported the Tehran Research Reactor and small “hot cells” to that country in the 1960s—when Washington and Tehran were allies.

Needless to say, with many other countries, particularly some of the big oil producting nations looking to ramp up their "peaceful" nuclear energy capacity, this is a major concern.  Note, there are very good reasons for oil producing nations to want to increase this capacity, some of them need the power for desalination plants to accommodate their growing populations, and others want to keep from burning up the very product that is their main source of outside funds.  Their best hope to get the capacity is while they still have something useful to bargain with.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Viral Conflicts

A local conflict in a remote section of India goes viral.

Violence in distant Assam boils over in the rest of the country
The Economist, 25 August 2012
ON JULY 6th, a month after an altercation at a mosque in a region run by (non-Muslim) tribesmen in north-east India, four men on motorcycles shot and killed two Muslims. Six weeks later, some 80 people have been killed in communal bloodletting; the army has been sent into Assam with orders to shoot to kill; tens of thousands of north-easterners in other parts of India have fled homeward in fear of their lives; India has accused Pakistanis of being the origin of doctored video messages designed to stir up religious hatred; and 400,000-500,000 Indians are homeless or displaced within Assam, the largest involuntary movement of people inside the country since independence.

Violent propaganda spread through mobile phones, are held responsible for fanning the flames.  Maybe, but the killing of an Arch Duke that nobody liked very much was the spark that ignited World War One.  Sometimes conflict just gets out of hand. Particularly when there is a long standing set of grievances and a history of past violence.
Refugees fearing further violence (form Economist Slide Show No. 13)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Round, round she goes where she stops...

From time to time we like to break away from the more global termination points, and address issues of individual finality.

Russian roulette and risk-taking behavior: a medical examiner study
Shields LB, Hunsaker JC 3rd, Stewart DM.Am Journal of  Forensic Medicine and  Pathology, March 2008 (hat tip: MR).

Fatal Russian roulette refers to death following an act of extreme bravado in which the individual spins the cylinder of a revolver loaded with at least one cartridge, aims the muzzle at the head, and pulls the trigger. The majority of victims are men younger than 30 years who, in the presence of others, are under the influence of ethanol or other drugs. This is a 10-year (1993-2002) retrospective review of self-inflicted gunshot wounds of the head, among which we culled and paid special attention to cases of Russian roulette, at the Medical Examiners' Offices in Kentucky. Of the 24 incidents of Russian roulette, the majority of victims were white (79.2%), and all were men between 14 and 47 years with a mean age of 24.8 years. Compared with other cephalic firearm suicides, the subjects engaging in Russian roulette were significantly more likely to have elevated blood levels (> or = 0.1%) of ethanol along with various drugs detected in urine. Although the presumed intent of the risky act is to survive, Russian roulette is deemed to be suicide, which is based on a comprehensive understanding of the inherently deliberate, volitional actions of the decedent.

Of course if you play Russian roulette, and get to use somebody else as the target, they might call you a derivatives trader.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The "Lucky Fool" path to success

There are a number of psychological-statistical traps that can throw people of as to understanding what leads to successful outcomes.  The one I see the most in business is Survivor Bias, but Fooled by Randomness (confusing random outcome for talent driven success) is a very close cousin.

Nassim N. Taleb, NYU- Poly, August 2012 (hat tip: Business Insider via NC)

A spurious tail is the performance of a certain number of operators that is entirely caused by luck, what is called the “lucky fool” in Taleb (2001). Because of winner-take-all-effects (from globalization), spurious performance increases with time and explodes under fat tails in alarming proportions. An operator starting today, no matter his skill level, and ability to predict prices, will be outcompeted by the spurious tail. This paper shows the effect of powerlaw distributions on such spurious tail. The paradox is that increase in sample size magnifies the role of luck.

Taking it outside the context of finance, in a very large market you are likely to reach a critical mass where there are enough competent players, and knowledge is sufficiently diffused, that there is no real possibility that any one player will have any particular advantage over another.  To the extent that some has an advantage, the noise of random results would prevent you from ever knowing for sure who they were.

This doesn’t mean that you can be completely clueless and succeed.  It just means that once you get beyond a certain level of wide spread competence, luck (randomness) is the larger force in play.  This can be true in everything from contracting, to survival situations.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Jazzy survival

There is another type of survivalist I  was not aware of.  The Jazz survivalist.

The piece I am quoting notes that there are far more people who graduate from University music programs with a burning desire to make their living at playing Jazz.  Although there are a number of strategies, entertainingly noted, that can be used.  But naturally,we gravitate toward the one called
"The Survivalist".

Careers in Jazz
Bill Anschell, All About Jazz, 17 June 2012 (hat tip: MR)

Unlike the more highly trained and thoroughly moneyed Career Professionals, Survivalists typically bounce among unskilled jobs, taking them mainly out of desperation as their gigging income falls short. More often than not this sets off a perpetual cycle of gigging, falling into debt, washing dishes or working at a music store to get back ahead, quitting to gig full-time again, then falling back into debt. Few have the wisdom to leave the jazz world altogether; many are trombonists.
Artists in this group are envious of Gig Whores [jazz lounge lizards], who are more successfully able to troll the depths of the music world for scraps. They view Epiphytes [starving artists] with ambivalence, being reluctant to admit that they are separated from them only by a lack of talent.
Identifying Sign

  • Air of desperation
  • Bad teeth
  • Domino's car-tops
Survival Techniques

  • Pyramid schemes
  • Selling cell phones and sunglasses in makeshift mall kiosks
  • Drug-dealing

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Bullet effects

 Not too surprisingly, a lot of our apocalyptic fiction involves gunfire.  So the little details of what is (supposed to be) actually going on are of interest to me.

The linked study deals with a lot of the basics of firearms, as it would pertain to you medical practitioner (presumably a coroner) attempting to determine the cause of death, and describe the injuries.

I have pulled out the small section on what are the primary inputs into causing injuries with modern firearms.  Be forewarned, these report is a medical report, and the wound illustrations are very graphic.

J. Scott Denton, Adrienne Segovia, and James A. Filkins, Practical Pathology of Gunshot Wounds, 2006.
Obviously, the anatomic location of the wound is critical - a gunshot wound to the central nervous system, even one of low velocity, can be more life threatening than ahigh-velocity wound through the arm. Involvement of vital structures such as the heart, aorta, lung, liver, spleen, and kidneys can quickly lead to hemorrhage, hypoxia, and death. Tissue damage is not, however, limited to the paththe bullet travels through the body. Damage may occurremote from the bullet path if the kinetic energy of thebullet is great enough to produce a shock wave. Cavitary effect is the concept that explains the shock wave produced by a bullet as it passes through an organ or otheranatomical structure.

As a bullet passes through a bodyand transfers its kinetic energy, it produces a shock wave that creates a temporary cavity greater than the bullet’s diameter. The greater the kinetic energy that is transferred the greater the size of the temporary cavity. Velocity is more significant than mass in determining kinetic energy; therefore, cavitary effect is more pronounced in injuries from high-velocity ammunition. The extent of damage depends on whether the transient expansion of tissues and organs exceeds the elasticity of the particular structure through which the bullet passes. Organs such as the liver and spleen, which lack elasticity, are easily lacerated. Organs that are more elastic, such as the stomach and intestines, may only suffer contusions. After the temporary cavity collapses, a permanent cavity wider than the bullet may persist (Figure 9).

Note that the study agrees with what I have seen of detailed examinations of the issue.  Shot placement is the number one factor, and velocity (and energy in general) is also a factor as the body temporarily balloons out from the bullets shock wave.   Note however, this shock wave is also rather placement dependent, so the idea that bigger bullets make bigger holes also has its merit.

The study, for obvious reasons, doesn't address non-common injuries.  I suspect if they saw a lot of them, the large low velocity, but erratic but tumbling shot gun slug, like the earlier musket- and mini-balls would do more damage than modern high velocity rounds.  Likewise, if they were using bow and arrow fire out there, I suspect that the clean slicing arrows would be about as effective as medium caliber pistol rounds.  That is about how effective they appear to be in the frontier accounts I have read in any case.

Friday, August 24, 2012

International Apocalyptic Fiction

Is still being worked on:  LOL.

I have a fair number of titles under the belt, but I cheated and went for some fast reads.  Karma has swung around and I have been bogged down in an interesting philosophical novel translated from Russian (Dmitry Bykov - Lost Souls), that also happens to be rather lengthy.  It's not bad, but don't these authors know I have reviews to write? LOL-again.  It would also be easier if they would stop using those strange accent marks in their names.

Not too surprisingly, a lot of these tales have a more dystopian, rather than straight forward apocalyptic tone.  There are apocalyptic foreign language novels, but they seem to rarely be translated.

International is intended to mean non-British, and non-American, because those two countries authors dominate the apocalypse-in-progress/dystopian genres in the English language.  Most of the other English language countries do well on a per capita basis, but are buried under the numbers.  Foreign language translations are tough.  Many worthy novels in the genre are never translated, this is not too surprising as a literary translation can take almost as long to write as a novel. 

A few of the novels are British and American in origin.  Mostly they were already read, or at least begun, when I started.  In a couple cases they were short and free, so I read them anyway.  Short and Free are universal, and thus international.

Here is what I have read, or in-part read:

2012 - Alisa Krasnostein and Ben Payne (editors) Australian short story collection

The Decline and Fall of the British Empire (1905) - Elliot E. Mills - British, but the past is a different country and all that.  Short and free.

Ashes, Ashes (Ravage) - René Barjavel - Vichy French

Quarter-Life Crises - Evan Murphy - Canadian - Graphic novel set in Toronto

Coming From an Off-Key Time - Bogdan Suceavã - Romanian

Enfold Me - Steven Greenberg - Israel

Vlad - Carlos Fuentes

The Literary Conference - César Aira - Argentinian, but mostly set in Venezuela

The Massive - Brian Wood - Graphic novel serial - American author with international setting

The Loom of Ruin - Sam McPheeter - American author set in the immegrant melting pot of Los Angelos

Fall Out - Gudrun Pausewang - West Germany

Friends and Other Stories of the Apocalypse- A.P. Menzie - American novel - but it was short and free.

La Jetée Ciné Roman - Chris Marker - French - Based on movie of the same name. Was the inspiration for the movie 12 Monkeys.

Memoria - Alex Bobl - Russian - Classic noir fiction in a dystopian future setting

Dog Eat Dog - David Rodgers - British with International setting. Has a RPG game (Yellow Dawn) associated with it.

Using a stricter definition, if we had not already reviewed them, we could include:

King of the Store Room - Antonio Porta - Italian

China Tidal Wave - Wang Lixiong -Chinese

Tobaccoo Stained Mountain Goat - Andrez Bergen - Australian

Malevil - Robert Merle - French

Yellow Cake Spring - Guy Salvidge - Australian

Kingdom of Four Rivers - Guy Salvidge - Australian

Red Queen - Honey Brown - Australian

Not sure how far I wil go. I told a crazy Canadian I would read Oryx and Crake, and I have one or two African novels, that I would need to fill out the continents, and at least one Japanese novel to fill out the Far East.  At this point I have more unread, than read.  So I will probably cut it short soon, and simply to get them posted before the world actually collapses taking the Internet, and my venue, with it.

Employment available: high risk involved

There is a downside to suicide tactics.   Too much success can lead to a lack of troops.

The Japanese use of Kamikazes in World War 2 didn't run into this problem because the war didn't last long enough, and they found that they could build planes (and boats, and subs) faster than they could adequately train pilots.  Training adequate pilots is a major stumbling blocks, and regardless of what illusions of silliness the 911 perpetrators were under, the requirements of training necessitate that you learn how to land.

Carrying around a bomb strapped to yourself requires very little skill.  So obviously you could run out of people much faster.  The "War on Terror" or maybe they would call it "The War on the Great Satin" has been going on long enough to tap supplies.

Asher Zeiger, Times of Israel, 14 August 2012 (hat tip: NC)
Apparently low on bombers, al-Qaeda is running a (short-term) employment advertisement on its Shumukh al-Islam Internet forum. Under the heading “Area of activity: The planet Earth,” the ad seeks jihadists to carry out suicide attacks.
Applicants must be Muslim, mentally mature, dedicated, able to listen, and utterly committed to completing their mission, the Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Tuesday…
The job description promises only a “very slight chance of being caught.”
No, you wouldn't want to get caught.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Chinese Ghost fleet sinking rivals

Earlier we had discussed the appearance of a Chinese Ghost Fleet. They are the previously unseen Chinese coastal shipping vessels released into the greater market place when Chinese shipping demand plummeted. The effect of the imploding market continues.

Lenders hold fire on ailing shipping firms (gated)

Keith Wallis, South China Morning Post, 13 August 2012 (hat tip: NC)

Sanko Line, Korea Line and subsidiaries of Berlian Laju Tanker are among a steady stream of Asian and Western shipping companies that have sought bankruptcy protection in recent months, victims of weak freight rates and hemorrhaging cash reserves. But the expected surge in corporate shipping failures has yet to occur, despite mounting losses and the prospect of lower freight and charter rates this year....
"Banks are better off rescheduling debt with existing operators rather than [taking] over and [selling] the ships," he said. "A lot of banks can't afford to take a hit," especially with the ongoing European debt crisis and new liquidity rules impacting on banks.

So there is an uptick in shipping company bankruptcies, but the last thing the banks need is to be trying to recoup loans with assets that are plunging in value. It will force them to take their losses at a time when European defaults are already stressing their balance sheets.

It is very similar to why you cannot bailout the banks by paying everyone’s mortgage for them. Without the interest payments to cover their existing losses, the banks will be deeply underwater. So they kick the can down the road.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

U.S. Dystopia

Dystopian novels are a close cousin to the apocalyptic (zombie or otherwise) fare that I tend to read.  Well in one of the rare instances of our government trying to actually give us what we want, they are working very hard to create a permanent dystopia, rather than a temporary novelistic immersion.

US Attorneys Refuse to Assure Judge That They Are Not Already Detaining Citizens Under NDAA

Tangerine Bolan, Daily Cloudt, 9 August 2012 (hat tip: NC)
The US government seems determined to have the power to do away with due process and Americans’ right to a trial.
I am one of the lead plaintiffs in the civil lawsuit against the National Defense Authorization Act, which gives the President the power to hold any US citizen anywhere for as long as he wants, without charge or trial. In May, following a March hearing, Judge Katherine Forrest issued an injunction against it; this week, in a final hearing in New York City, US government lawyers essentially asserted even more extreme powers – the power to entirely disregard the Judge and the law. Indeed, on Monday, August 6, Obama’s lawyers filed an appeal to the injunction – a profoundly important development that as of this writing has been scarcely reported.
Possibly they cannot tell the judge if they are detaining anyone is because they cannot remember who the detained versus who they ex-judicially blew up with a predator drone.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Clap Clap Clap: hold the applause

The clap - a.k.a. Gonorrhea - is getting added to the list of super diseases for which we are running out of cures.  As this article from the Atlantic notes, the clap can kill you, and if it doesn't kill you, it may very well make you infertile.

Here it Comes: Super Gonorrhea
James Hamblin, The Atlantic, 8 August 2012 (hat tip: NC)

The CDC announced that we're down to our last effective antibiotic.
The list of effective antibiotics has been dwindling as the bacteria became resistant, and now it's down to one. Five years ago, the CDC said fluoroquinolones were no longer effective, but oral cephalosporins were still a common/easy treatment. Now injected ceftriaxone is the only recommended effective drug we have left. And it has to be given along with either azithromycin or doxycycline.

For a disease that 700,000 people in the U.S. get every year, and 64 million worldwide, this is not good news.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Restricting homestead farms

Although many people like to complain about the intrusiveness and pig headedness of the Federal Government, State Governments have a long history of being just as compliant to special interests at the expense of the more diffuse and possibly less monied crowd.

Martin Harris, Newgeography, 13 August 2012

The “new agriculture” is typically small-acreage, intensively-managed, organic (in contemporary terms) in that it avoids both chemical use and genetic modification, and uniquely adaptable to such practices as niche-market services, consumer associations (community-sharing) and pick-your-own. One could argue that it won’t supplant present-day large-scale commercial generic-commodity agriculture any time soon. But one should also recognize that, if industry observers are correct in gauging the size of this producer-to-consumer sector at 20% of the total, then, logically, rural land-use planning ought to be moving to recognize this “new normal” and providing for it in statute and regulation.
Just the opposite seems to be happening. The so-called “Smart-Growth” doctrine, opposed to traditional low-density suburban development for both residential and commercial land use, now seems to favor smaller lots for residential and commercial use. No more wooded and lawned exurban campuses for business, manufacturing, or research; no more large-lot trophy-house-or-less subdivisions, but very large indeed minimum lot sizes in beyond-the-new-city-wall farmland.
In Oregon, for example, the minimum farm-lot size is 80 to 160 acres, and is described in various studies of Oregon’s land use laws as the smallest presently acceptable to the State Land Conservation and Development Commission. The same regulatory body calls for a minimum residential lot size of 20 acres for areas beyond the adopted Urban Growth Boundaries, “…to help contain Oregon’s growing urban population inside the growth boundaries”. Similar regulations in Illinois and Pennsylvania call for 40 and 50-acre minimum farm-lot sizes. And these lots come with residential prohibitions. In Oregon, for example according to The Cascade Policy Institute, there’s a State regulation “…requiring a piece of property zoned as high-value farmland to generate $80,000 in annual sales before a dwelling can be built for the farmer.”

The posting eventually discusses Vermont within the context of the raw-milk restrictions that were forced through by the big food retailers.
The author posits two reasonable claims for these restrictions, and I will expand on his reasoning.  One is to restrict competition.  The idea that the small farms are now 20% of the market is extremely unlikely to be accurate.  But what they can be is a very large percentage of the high profit margin, value added market.  One-percent of a market would be too much for the food retailers, if it is the one-percent where they get 20% of their profits from.
The author also notes that the restrictions on residential lots, requiring enormous lots is likely a set aside project for the wealthy is probably to some degree true, but is more likely true as a seconary result of other concerns.
Recall that landowners are always concerned with maintaining the value of their land.  In a society that allows land holdings to be split between many siblings (as we allow) the land can quickly get divided into such tiny parcels that it becomes impossible to farm, or more importantly today, impossible to develope.  The 20 acre restrictions are likely in place to keep the rural countryside from becoming a small patchwork of tiny homeowner lots that cannot be sold.
There is some historically viable logic to this from a farming prospective as well.  During the homesteading period, when they were giving out lots of land, they eventually came to find that there was a minimum farm size which could be sustained through the ups and downs of bad weather.  The farmers of the day could only make limited useage of fossil fuels to replace pasturage for horse feeding oats, and farms of well over 100 acres were needed to give enough diversity of resources to survive through periods of drought.
We noted in a long ago piece
Reflexiones finales, 23 September 2012

As American settlements pushed further west past the 100th meridian, dry farming techniques were promoted that were designed to deal with the dryer climate found in the area.
Unfortunately the lack of accurate information led the Great Plains to be settled too densely in farms that were later found to be too small, undercapitalized and insufficiently diversified to be sustainable. The initial problems were found to occur in Western Kansas when droughts in the 1890s reduced homesteads from a peak of 3,083 to a low point of 907 with only very slow growth into the 20th century. But at the same time farm sizes doubled from 221 acres to 461 by 1900. link4

So with regards to your smaller homestead farms, there is a something of the case of being wary of getting what you ask for.  Historically, large groups of small homestead farms without modern farming equipment, had a very poor survival rate.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


I am in Michigan enjoying the cool climate. 

I am on an apple and while I used them years ago, I am no longer particularly skilled.

I put in posts to cover while I as gone, but replying to comments will have to wait until I get back early next week.

I hope everyone is having a great weekend!

Application of diversionary tactics

Another real world tactic.

Demonstrated by an experienced professional.  Don't try this at home.

Locked in combat: Mother lion takes on deadly crocodile to give cubs safe swim across river
Kerry McDermott, Daily Mail U.K., 24 July 2012 (hat tip: NC)

Scanning the surface of the water, her amber eyes alight upon a threat to her pride - a deadly crocodile lurking in the river that the family of lions must cross.
The fiercely protective lioness did not hesitate, leaping into the water and grappling with the reptile to allow the rest of the pride to cross the river in safety.

Surprise works well in diversionary attacks as well:  helps reduce the loses.  Note that the action occurs so quickly that the photographer only realizes what has happened after she reviews her shots.

Lioness diverting crocodile (more photos here photographer Pia Dierickx's website)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The sinking economic spiral (a.k.a. The flush)

I do not always agree with Mish Shedlock on all of his economic pronouncements.  In my view he is to "religious" in his libertarianism.  A viewpoint, I also lean toward, but am more inclined toward accepting its limitations.

But I thought he made a very valuable summary of the economic situation we are in today without resorting to the idea that it most somehow lead to a complete economic collapse and anarchy.    And impoverishing deflationary spiral, maybe, anarchy, not necessarily.

I will only note the last line on his final conclusions.

Percentage Growth in Government Jobs vs. Private Jobs vs. Population Growth; Facts and Consequences
Upcoming generations are highly likely to see a drop in standard of living vs. the baby boomers. This has never happened in US history.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Banking Then and Now

It appears that financial shenanigans are not a new thing at all.  Bloomberg brings up a very interesting scandal from Medieval England that to their way of thinking looks a lot like today’s LIBOR banking scandals.
In Medieval England usury, lending at interest, was viewed with great suspicion, and generally illegal.  But a number of financiers to the crown used the foreign exchange markets to disguise the fact that they were charging heavy interest rates to the crown.  The crown of course knew this, but needed the money.  So when there was a great outcry, he at first bowed to public pressure and threw one of the main financiers, Richard Lyons, into prison.  But then as now, financiers are not treated the same as you or I.

Adrian R. Bell, Chris Brooks, and Tony K. Moore, Bloomberg, 27 July 2012 (hat tip: Big Picture)
Once parliament had dissolved and the public outcry had died down, however, the king’s eldest son, John of Gaunt, acted to reverse the verdicts of the Good Parliament. Latimer and Perrers soon reappeared at the king’s side and Lyons was released from the Tower and recovered his wealth, while the “whistleblower” de la Mare was thrown in jail. The government also sought to appease the wealthy knights and merchants that dominated parliament by imposing a new, regressive form of taxation, a poll tax paid by everyone rather than a tax levied on goods. This effectively passed the burden of royal finance down to the peasantry.
It seemed as though everything had returned to business as normal and Lyons appeared to have gotten away with it. In 1381, however, simmering discontent over continuing suspicions of government corruption and the poll tax contributed to a massive popular uprising, the Peasants’ Revolt, during which leading government ministers, including Simon of Sudbury (the chancellor and archbishop of Canterbury) and Robert Hales (the treasurer) were executed by the rebels. This time, Lyons did not escape; he was singled out, dragged from his house and beheaded in the street.
Well, the story at least started off the same.
In the end the King tricked the peasants into meeting with them, and then executed them.  So they didn't come out completely a head: so to speak.
1381 Peasants Revolt Postard (purchase here)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Lady Saint of Death

Santa Muerte, literal meaning -Lady Saint of Death, is a Mexican folk saint, worshipped by many criminals as well as those who might need help with some other activity (gambling) that might fall outside of the normal boundaries of concern for a Catholic saint.

Santa Muerte, a skeleton saint [], cult has attracted millions of devotees over the past decade. Although condemned by mainstream churches, this folk saint's supernatural powers appeal to millions of Latin Americans and immigrants in the U.S. Devotees believe the Bony Lady (as she is affectionately called) to be the fastest and most effective miracle worker, and as such, her statuettes and paraphernalia now outsell those of the Virgin of Guadalupe and Saint Jude, two other giants of Mexican religiosity. In particular, [] Santa Muerte has become the patron saint of drug traffickers, playing an important role as protector of peddlers of crystal meth and marijuana; DEA agents and Mexican police often find her altars in the safe houses of drug smugglers. Yet Saint Death plays other important roles: she is a supernatural healer, love doctor, money-maker, lawyer, and angel of death. She has become without doubt one of the most popular and powerful saints on both the Mexican and American religious landscapes.   from the Summary of  Devoted to Death Andrew Chestnut Professor of Religious Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University 
On the humble backgrounds of the Mexican Streets, started by a humble street vendor, she was   given her first nudge to greater  stature when her son who was released from prison early.  The street vender's  home has become a mecca for the many believers.  The video link by video link to the Fox News report (hat tip: Borderland Beat) gives additional background.

When you start looking you can find her imagery everywhere:

Sanat Muerta in a traditional look

14k Gold Pendant for Sale


There are even reports of bobble headed Santa Muertes on dashboards, but the closest image I could find looks more like her good friend Death.
Everyone needs a bobbleheaded Death to show there driving skills

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tacticool parady video link

Evike TV Mo Molle

The para-military pocket obsession meets the mall ninja is the best explanation I can think of.  Even has out-takes at the end.  I am not sure why they don't bring the Jack Daniels: are they too young?

I am going to be out of town a little bit.  I have posts scheduled, but may be slow on comments until I get back early next week.

Lurking horrors: sweating sickness

We have not had it for some time.

Don't know why.  Nobody really knows why, because no one is completely sure what it was/is.  Some say it may have been an enterovirus,  which would make it a hyper-active cousine to Polio,  others a hantavirus, which would make it a hyper-active deadlier version of the "Korean hemorrhagic fever" that knocked out thousands of our troops during the Korean War.  Both of these disease are connected with our RNA (messenger DNA).  Hantavirus are generally associated with rat droppings, but as we will not below: not always.

For our quick blurb:

The Pessimist's Guide to History (updated)
Doris Flexner and Stuart Berg Flexner, Harper Collins, NY NY, 2008

1485: Outbreak of English Sweating Sickness
Sweating sickness first appeared in England in 1485 and spread rapidly among the populace.  Apparently healthy individuals were struck down and died of the disease overnight.  Largely confined to England, seating sickness killed thousand in epidemics that occurred in 1485, 1506, 1517, 1528, and 1551.  It seemed more severe among the rich than the poor.

After what turned out to be what was the last epidemic, a report was written by physician, John Caius.  It is of interest mostly because it shows how heavily languages change over time and is close to unreadable.  The best portion is where the learned writer has to make excuses for why he is writing it in the vernacular English, rather than Latin or Greek.

John Caius, 1552, from a Cambridge 1912 edition of Caius' Works.

I wolde geue none example or comforte to my countrie men, (whom I wolde to be now, as here tofore they haue bene, comparable in learnyng to men of other countries) to stonde onely in the Englishe tongue, but to leaue the simplicite of thesame, and to procede further in many and diuerse knoweleges bothe in tongues and sciences at home and in vniuersities, to the adournyng of the common welthe, better seruice of their kyng, & great pleasure and commodite of their owne selues, to what kinde of life so euer they shold applie them. Therfore whatsoeuer sence that tyme I minded to write, I wrate y^e same either in greke or latine.
I think this is is vernacular still common to parts of Canada, particularly after they have had a few at the local pub, so maybe some of our Northern friends can help us with it.

Note that hetravirus was argued to be an unlikely candidate, because it was not known to be transmitted directly from people.  However, that has proven to be untrue:

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome outbreak in Argentina: molecular evidence for person-to-person transmission of Andes virus, Padula et al, Instituto Nacional de Enfermedades Infecciosas, 15 February 1998

Although human infection principally occurs via inhalation of contaminated rodent excreta, our results with Andes virus show the first direct genetic evidence of person-to-person transmission of a hantavirus.

So just another fun little think to look forward to in a spic-n-span post-apocalyptic spic-n-span world .  A rat turd disease with wings.  If it were fiction, it would turn us to zombies.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Collapse of Empires: The Nok

The Nok appeared in the upland plateaus of Nigeria around  1,500 BCE, and seem to have disappeared somewhere around 200 AD.  The use of Empire is likely inappropriate as they seem to have straddled the divide between small villages and urbanized centers.  They were at the forefront of the introduction of iron making to Africa, possibly as early as 1600 BCE (for those who want an indigent African origin for Iron smelting), but certainly be 550 BCE.  They are now referred to as the Nok Culture.    There pottery first gained notice when discovered at a tin mine in 1943 near the town of Nok, which is of course how they were named.
They were located very near Cameroon which is sited as the center point for the great  Bantu Expansion Expansion into Southern Africa, but their role, if any, in that event is very unclear.  There influence has been discussed, but there is no known direct connection - no smoking gun.
The Nok are best known today for their terra cotta sculptures.  As terracotta figures go they are complex enough to believe that they originated from an earlier unknown tradition.

Nok Terracotta at Louvre
Nok Terracotta (from Wikipedia)

The map shows the areas associated with their artifacts.  Given the way that the rivers run in this area, it is likely that they filled up a considerably larger area of the upland Niger River drainage basin.  They had iron weapons, and some of their statues seem to indicate warlike events with bound naked captives being possible depictions of  prisoners of war.

But outside some art, and a few physical remains, there is not much known.  They were very advanced for their day.  How did it all end?

Roger Atwood, Archaeology, July/August 2011

Little is understood about how Nok society ended. Sometime after A.D. 200, the once-thriving Nok population declined, as attested to by a sharp drop in the volume of pottery and terracotta in soil layers corresponding to those years. Overexploitation of natural resources and a heavy reliance on charcoal may have played a role, says Breunig.

Even more puzzling is Nok’s legacy to later cultures. Art historians have long seen Nok as an isolated phenomenon, a splendid relic cut off from the sequence of African art over the next two millennia. Later civilizations in southern Nigeria had advanced metalworking skills and a tradition of naturalistic portraiture, and art historians are looking more closely at what they might owe to Nok. The most celebrated of these later cultures was Ife (pronounced EE-feh), whose people in southwestern Nigeria turned bronze into stunning portrait heads around A.D. 1300.

So we have yet another no-name people, greatly advanced in comparison to their contemporaries, and they are gone  - almost without a trace.

Monday, August 13, 2012


I have noted Peter Turchin and his cyclical, or more accurately, wave-pattern view of history.  I have probably sited Jack Goldstone even more often.

Without exactly calling it that, they are looking at wave-like patterns of decline and fall in organized societies.  While at times I think they over-use the tools they have, particularly Turchin, one huge advantage their work has over the popular, in collapse-circles anyway, Joseph Tainter, is that they have specific mechanisms by which you can see where you are in the collapse.  Too many advanced degrees required for previously unexceptional positions? Check,  Too many young adults with difficulties finding employment? Check.  Inflation in food (and now fuel) while other product's pricing stagnates? Check.  Wage pressures? Check.  They are all there in various portions of their writings.  It has all been seen before.  Goldstone's best work is on the pre-industrial societies of Europe.

So when I saw that they were featured in Nature Magazine, I thought I would make a point in mentioning it.

Human Cycles: History as science
Laura Spinney, Nature, 1 August 2012 (hat tip: NC)

Sometimes, history really does seem to repeat itself. After the US Civil War, for example, a wave of urban violence fuelled by ethnic and class resentment swept across the country, peaking in about 1870. Internal strife spiked again in around 1920, when race riots, workers' strikes and a surge of anti-Communist feeling led many people to think that revolution was imminent. And in around 1970, unrest crested once more, with violent student demonstrations, political assassinations, riots and terrorism (see 'Cycles of violence').
To Peter Turchin, who studies population dynamics at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, the appearance of three peaks of political instability at roughly 50-year intervals is not a coincidence. For the past 15 years, Turchin has been taking the mathematical techniques that once allowed him to track predator–prey cycles in forest ecosystems, and applying them to human history. He has analysed historical records on economic activity, demographic trends and outbursts of violence in the United States, and has come to the conclusion that a new wave of internal strife is already on its way1. The peak should occur in about 2020, he says, and will probably be at least as high as the one in around 1970. “I hope it won't be as bad as 1870,” he adds.
Turchin's approach — which he calls cliodynamics after Clio, the ancient Greek muse of history — is part of a groundswell of efforts to apply scientific methods to history by identifying and modelling the broad social forces that Turchin and his colleagues say shape all human societies. It is an attempt to show that “history is not 'just one damn thing after another'”, says Turchin, paraphrasing a saying often attributed to the late British historian Arnold Toynbee.

This is only the introduction.

What is interesting is that at the very end of the article, Herbert Gintis, notes that the revolutions of the 1960s  that-

secure civil rights for women and black people. Elites have been known to give power back to the majority, he says, but only under duress, to help restore order after a period of turmoil. “I'm not afraid of uprisings,” he says. “That's why we are where we are.”

It is just this type of thinking that causes societies to collapse.  Elite groups (including wealthy retirees) think the world will be a better place without the current social order.  They pull start pulling out pieces, and the whole structure collapses.  Often bring complete ruin on everyone.

Note that the key successes in the Arab Spring where initially in countries (Tunisia and Egypt) where the Army, previously part of the ruling elite, had had to undergo cutbacks as the governments were finding it hard to keep all the inner circle groups happy.  No longer identifying with the regimes in power, the officers were willing to stand by.  How the dust will settle is not yet entirely clear.

The revolutions of the 1960s, that Mr. Ginits notes,  to my mind were mistimed youth bulges.  An accident of history, caused an enormously oversized teenage cohort throughout the world, but the rioting preceded the population-resource problems by a few years.  In fact, to some degree, the resource issues of the 1970s, highlighted by the Arab Oil Embargo and accompanied by accelerated debt accumulation, are what finally bookended the period.  The hippies went to work and turned into yuppies. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Pre apocalyptic urban war heats-up

There is a vicious turf war going on in New York City.

Fark asked the question:
In New York "A turf war has exploded this summer, leaving a trail of sabotaged trucks, bloody noses and even death threats"  Is it over
A)Mob-controlled garbage pick-up?
B) Gang territory?
C) Ice cream trucks?

The answer is:   C

New York's Ice Cream Truck Turf Wars Get Ugly
Jen Doll, Atlantic Wire, July 2012

A turf war between Mister Softee trucks and rival ice-cream and frozen-yogurt peddlers has exploded this summer, leaving a trail of sabotaged trucks, bloody noses and even death threats.

“It got ugly fast,” said a 21-year-old Yogo frozen-yogurt driver of a recent run he had with a fuming team of Mister Softee men on Madison Avenue.
Author of piece, Jen Doll, holding a purchase. Oddly enough, the picture is not from the story, its from here.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Attack on nuclear facility: by nun.

And she was successful.
As part of a protest against nuclear power, or possibly wanting to make nuclear reactive materials available to the common folk as a way to reduce global warming (see link here), they cut through three fences and posted a sign on the side of the building reading “Woe to the Nuclear Empire”.   Then they poured human blood at the site, as either some sort of symbolic ritual or possibly trying to summon Azathoth, the amorphous nuclear chaos that sits at the center of the Cthulhu Mythos

As one commenter noted:
Mia Steinle, POGO, 30 July 2012 (hat tip: Fark)
When a nuclear weapons facility can’t stop infiltration by an octogenarian nun, it’s time to reassess its security standards…
“The Department of Energy has repeatedly claimed that security at the site, which houses 300 to 400 metric tons of bomb-grade uranium, is robust enough to defend against more than a dozen heavily-armed terrorists with inside knowledge of security procedures” Peter Stockton, a nuclear security expert at the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), ironically observed.

“It looks like the Boy Scouts could have done a better job” securing the site, he added.

Why would we be surprised?  Right after the 911 attacks, we put together a huge bill to raise defenses against terrorists in the United States.  And congress insisted that the money be split evenly between the 50 states.  That’s right, no prioritization. 
Here are our intrusion experts.

I couldn’t find a good picture of our nun, Megan Rice, in garb.  But I did find this one of Megan Fox.

Megan Fox, Nun (from here)
We don't see a lot of Ms. Fox, in the picture, but I thought there might be a little resemblance between the Megans, so I looked for a comparison picture of Megan Fox, preferably holding up a banner or sign.  I couldn't find any with her holding up a sign, but I did find one with her on the sign.  She is up on the side of a building, so picture her a little older, and pouring out blood from a decanter - yes? -no? 
Megan Fox as a billboard (from here)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Collapsing Windmills

I saw the following in an interesting article about the ongoing struggles with those who go through the job training programs finding work.

What caught my eye, was a side discussion about how the wind-power industry has been faring.

The key here is not arguing what the potential of wind power, or other renewable sources, but what is actually happening.  Note, even if you want to have the economic where withal in the right place and the right time to make that happen.  We may be the greatest county in the world and all that, but we don't seem to be building many windmills.

U.S Faces Uphill Battle in Retraining the Jobless
Ianthe Jeanne Dugan, Wall Street Journal, 31 July 2012

Through one Recovery Act program, Congress allocated $500 million to states to train workers for jobs in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

"We put an emphasis on green energy in the Recovery Act," says the Labor Department's Ms. Oates. "We let people apply for what that meant in their areas—some wind, some solar, some energy efficiency, some natural gas"...
Greg Matlock, 39, who lost his job as manager of a wood pellet and gas stove manufacturer near Spokane, Wash., turned to wind energy, he says, because the government predicted a booming market. He attended a six-month program at a technical school, learning electrical skills, hydraulics, computer programming and federal safety regulations. In late 2010, he received a certificate in wind energy.
The wind industry has lost 10,000 jobs since 2009, according to the American Wind Energy Association, because of uncertainty over federal subsidies and other factors. Mr. Matlock says he was offered a wind job that paid less than his previous $55,000 salary, and it was in Colorado. He took a job closer to home earning more money, $80,000, as a manager of a plant that makes newsprint.
A federally funded green-energy training program aimed to land some 80,000 workers in such jobs. Through the end of March, 25,212 trainees had landed new jobs, including more than 14,500 unemployed people, the Labor Department says.
After Joseph Quiroz, 38, lost his job at a cement factory near San Bernardino, Calif., in 2010, he went to a job fair where he picked up a flier raving about the demand for "building analysts"—people who inspect homes and businesses for energy efficiency.
California in 2011 launched a program, with the help of federal funding, to subsidize energy-efficiency upgrades for homes. The state aimed to get homeowners to retrofit 130,000 homes by the end of 2012, which would require thousands of new contractors and building analysts.
Mr. Quiroz was put on a waiting list for several months before a spot opened up for a three-week course at a community college—paid for with federal funds. By the time he was certified last year, the market was glutted with nearly 3,000 analysts. Homeowners, meanwhile, are on track to retrofit less than 10,000 homes by the end of this year, state officials say, a fraction of the 130,000 originally expected.