Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Django Reinhardt & Stéphane Grappelli - J'attendrai

I just ran across a Jazz musician who I'd never encountered before: "Django" Reinhardt, perhaps the first significant European Jazz artist.  There's a lot about him at Infogalactic, but in addition to his musical creds, he was a Gipsy jazz musician in occupied France during the war.  The Nazis hated both gipsys (and killed boxcar loads of them) but hated jazz as well.  He survived because there were a number of Nazi officers who actually liked the music, including Luftwaffe officer Dietrich Schulz-Köhn who was known as "Doctor Jazz" (!):
However, it's Kubrick's interest in jazz-loving Nazis that represents his most fascinating unrealized war film. The book that Kubrick was handed, and one he considered adapting soon after wrapping Full Metal Jacket, was Swing Under the Nazis, published in 1985 and written by Mike Zwerin, a trombonist from Queens who had performed with Miles Davis and Eric Dolphy before turning to journalism. The officer in that Strangelovian snapshot was Dietrich Schulz-Koehn, a fanatic for "hot swing" and other variations of jazz outlawed as "jungle music" by his superiors. Schulz-Koehn published an illegal underground newsletter, euphemistically referred to as "travel letters," which flaunted his unique ability to jaunt across Western Europe and report back on the jazz scenes in cities conquered by the Fatherland. Kubrick's title for the project was derived from the pen name Schulz-Koehn published under: Dr. Jazz.

The Intarwebz are a wonderful place.

UPDATE 16 August 2017 17:28: Here's a short documentary on how Reinhardt survived the War.

Palate cleansing news

It seems like the Republic is going to Hell in a hand basket, torn asunder by totalitarian pricks on both sides.  As a ever so brief respite from that, here is the big news from Ellsworth, Maine (courtesy of childhood friend 2cents).  Warden guides wandering moose back into the woods:
ELLSWORTH — A sickly looking moose that slowed Bayside Road traffic Monday morning was found to be healthy and sent back into the woods by a game warden.
Detective Dotty Small said the moose, which looked thin and sickly, was first reported to police at 7:37 a.m. Monday. It was seen in the area of 505 Bayside Road, just south of Spindle Road.
Sure, it's not exotic and dangerous like Bison chasing tourists at Old Faithful.  It's Maine - the way Life should be*.

* Well, that's what the sign on I-95 says.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Amazon recalls unsafe solar eclipse glasses

You'll, err, shoot your eye out with those:
Amazon has "proactively" recalled solar eclipse glasses that "may not comply with industry standards" before darkness descends on the US next week, August 21. 
To directly observe its awesome power without destroying their eyes, stargazers can use special filtered glasses that meet the ISO 12312-2 safety standards. 
But the American Astronomical Society based in Washington DC has warned that some companies have been printing the ISO logo and certification label on faulty glasses and handheld viewers "made with materials that do not block enough of the Sun's ultraviolet, visible, and infrared radiation to make them truly safe". Some manufacturers were also allegedly displaying bogus test results on their websites.
The American Astronomical Society has a list of tested and certified eclipse glasses.  If you (like The Queen Of The World and I) plan on going to see the eclipse, you should double check the glasses you have.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Driving Miss Brigid - A Guest Post

We live in a 100+ year old Village in Chicagoland.  The streets are small, and most houses have tiny garages that exit to the alley. With a lot that has side yards with lots of space between we and neighbors plus a long driveway exiting to the street, we are a bit unusual (we think the original owner bought two entire lots for the space, then added the two car garage in the 50's or 60's). A stand of 100 year old Spruces between us and the southern neighbors is nice, and the retired Veteran neighbor to our north also bought two lots and added a driveway, so we have some space., unusual for this area.

The problem is, people don't consider that we have to get OUT of that driveway to a very narrow street. After the giant four door 4 x 4 truck and I moved in after getting transferred to our office here, there were a couple of mornings I had to wait until the neighbors that park on the street left to get out. The house across and one down had been a  multi unit rental (basement, first floor, and second floor) after the previous single owner retired and moved, putting it up for sale.  There were several parties living there with multiple vehicles. There's plenty of open space further down, but that entails driving further, even if it's not any further away from their door. I made sure everyone got homemade baked goods, an introduction to the bat truck and an explanation as to how much space I need to get out without whacking their vehicles.  Other than having to sometimes put out cones when someone had a family member or sleepover date visiting on a weekend, everyone had been awesome.
But that house across and one door down has new owners - according to neighbors that had met them, a family who is going to live in it with the exception of the tiny upstairs dormer rental that a couple of their college age kids will occupy, with multiple cars, including a new Ford truck that likely will NOT fit in their little garage.  With several cars there as their extended family helps get the house ready for final move in, some spending the night, it's been a bit crowded getting out.

Yesterday, rather than consider the thought of going through THAT learning curve again and having to use leave because I am late to work - when I came home and the new owner and what looked like (from the resemblance) either adult sons or little brothers were standing outside waiting for a contractor (since it's been a rental, I'm sure there's a bit of work before it's move in ready) - I HAD A PLAN!
They spot cute redhead in big, shiny black truck and all hold their stomachs in, smile and give a friendly "hello new neighbor" wave.  I waved back.

I normally back in - in one fluid movement, as it makes it easier to get out in the a.m. Having been a jet pilot for many years, I can usually back that truck in very quickly and very efficiently, in one try (unlike the Reno airport in the snowy/icy winter where you just use differential power to SLIDE into the gate and hope you get it right).

Yesterday, while they all looked on, I deliberately took about 4 wide tries at it, less than gently stomping on the brakes, and on the last one deliberately taking the truck THROUGH the lawn (that will buff out) and intentionally almost hitting one of the spruce trees, before finally, getting the truck backed in with a screech of brakes.

Today, all the new neighbor's vehicles and those of their family were parked WELL down the street, away from my driveway.

My work here is done.

So who thinks that the climate data is bad?

Besides me, of course?  The National Academy of Sciences does, too:
In 1999, the National Academy of Sciences, the research arm of the National Research Council, released a study expressing concern about the accuracy of the data used in the debate over climate change. They said there are,
“Deficiencies in the accuracy, quality and continuity of the records,” that “place serious limitations on the confidence that can be placed in the research results.” 
This is huge - if you can't trust the data, you can't trust the results.  The science is settled?  Orlly?

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Commas: not just a good idea, a requirement

Poor dog.


It's a summer day. I know I took this picture and I know it was the 4th of July. I don't know what year. That's okay. It makes it timeless. It's my grandparent's home in New Hampshire.

This is what comes to mind when someone says "your family home". We moved frequently enough that I don't have a childhood memory of another permanent place. This was "home".

A big New England farmhouse. A fair amount of property that went with the house, some planted in pines, some fields overgrown with brambles and berry bushes, a few apple trees going wild, an old graveyard under big oaks far back in the woods. A lot of land for a boy to explore.

I found this picture in the course of my scanning project and it brought me to a standstill, lost in a reverie of my childhood and the America I grew up in.

Johann Pachelbel - Chaconne in F minor

Have you ever wondered what the "B Side" is of a composer known for a single great work?  Johann Pachelbel is renowned for his Canon in D (so renowned, in fact, that it has been parodied).  As it turns out, Pachelbel wasn't a one hit wonder, he was quite prolific.  His Chaconne in F minor is perhaps his next best known work.  He composed it for organ, as with most of his works.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Nina Simone - Feeling Good

Doctor said things look good and I don't need to go back for another "oil change" for 3 years.  It's a new day, baby.

The importance of maintenance

Once you reach a certain age, things begin to go off inside you, and so a regular program of maintenance is called for.  Part of this is them going in to clean out any odd growths from your digestive tract.  And so it's off to the doctor for a rather uncomfortable morning.

Actually, the morning should be fine; the prep work last evening was the uncomfortable bit.

The last one was 6 months ago, and they found (and removed) something sort of big and sort of strange.  Today is to check that they got it.  Hopefully it will be in and out, and good news from the doc.  I expect that if it's not good news it would be pretty bad news, so we've all learned the importance of a proper maintenance schedule, haven't we.

Blogging has been off for a bit and will continue to be off for a bit.

UPDATE 11 August 2017 12:50: Back home with a clean bill of health.  A little woozy still, but don't need another "oil change" for three years.  Go team me!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Emptiness and Form, an Aircraft Boneyard - A Brigid Guest Post

What is it about old places filled with the past that fascinate so?

The landscape of the desert. The feel of machinery against our shoulder. The smell of oil and might on the breeze. I had a chance to re-visit a resting place of old aircraft.

In the desert just outside of the city of Tucson is a a place where old airplanes go to die. Davis Monthan Air Base and it's resting grounds. A business trip had me down that way so I made the effort to go visit.  The"Boneyard" in the desert has been a fascination, a place where titans of the air rest before going on their way to the aviation afterlife.

The Air Force calls the desert facility "Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center" (AMARC), many visitors refer to it as "the boneyard". We are probably both right. Here the U.S. Air Force mothballs planes until they either need them again or it's time to salvage them for parts. Whenever the U.S. sells surplus planes to foreign governments part of the sales pitch is that there will always have a ready supply of spare parts. Some are turned into pilotless drones and used for missile target practice. Many, too many have all the earmarks of being skeletal.
There are only three ways to view the aircraft at the heart of the Davis-Monthan facility: fly over the place (tough unless you're riding in on an F-15); from a satellite; or by Bus from the PASM. Since I can't afford either an F-15 nor a KH-12 Spy Satellite, I rode with a couple dozen other tourists and took the bus tour.

There's enough information on the place on the web and numerous aviation blog posts, so I won't get too wordy here, but suffice to say there's about every military plane ever made here, including the leviathans of the site; 100 plus B-52s, all that remain of nearly 400, slowly being destroyed as part of the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaties, and the force reduction treaties. These bombers are chopped up using a 130 ton blade, then left for a week or more to allow the Russians to photograph and confirm their destruction. I have watched several airmen view a documentary of those aircraft being dismembered and I know, that had they been alone, they would have been crying, tears for the incredible creativity as well as the terrible destruction that man is capable of.

I could picture these craft in their prime, in the flight line each morning as each bird began its wandering life.  As men bustled about, shafts of light struck polished metal in thin lines of gold, bending and then twisting over the cowlings as if rendered molten by the touch.  The engines still slept, hushed by an absent hand and watched over by a gentle breeze.  As always, there would be one aircraft off on its own, having a heavy (maintenance) check, bearing the ground with the excitement of a disenchanted philosopher.

Today, all is still, their only remaining the shells of what was once thunderous with life.

Just beyond the remaining Buffs, where the bus turned to make its way back to the museum, are two parks of odd looking equipment. The equipment is the tooling and jigs for the B-1 and B-2 bomber production lines. One day those bombers will take up residence under the clear blue Arizona sky, and there might still be B-52s to keep them company.
It's an amazing, still place. The first time I went there, security was much freer and we were able to get up closer and look. Wander among the husks of aircraft. The aircraft, sharp and large against the backdrop of a desert sky, holding so many stories in the empty spaces they form and contain.

I can almost hear the echoes of the words shouted over the sound of the ramp. "Clear Two" is shouted out just before that first engine rumbles to life in that that strong confident tone that is used when heavens fall and justice is served, unheard words that now hang on the air as gentle as dew, as hard as molten lead.

It's mysterious, exciting, the kind of place where as a kid your dreams went. It's even more mysterious as night falls on the Sonora Desert. There, the aircraft stand like ghostly sentinels upon the hard earth, under unfathomed sky. They loom, over tiny scrabbles of cactus and the small desert creatures. They wait, on hard earth splayed with the tracks of tiny feet, and larger feet, making their own shadows of violent shade until the unrestrained stars come out at night. Their forms, so silent, yet with so much to tell.
When I was a student of the Martial Arts, my Sensei once said, that "emptiness is form and form is emptiness", a phrase I never really understood until that moment, staring at those cavernous behemoths of the sky. One moment they are simply an empty form, in another memory brings back to life the souls they contained, the might they rendered, the absolute force in which they sliced the sky as they dealt with life or death that oblidge no delay

Some of the airmen that flew many of these aircraft have died already, so many aircraft, so many souls on board. As I think about that, their empty bodies float in my mind, light, unfettered by gravity, I became aware of my own heartbeat in the setting sun, the labor of my lungs against my chest. Form is emptiness. Emptiness form, I say as with warm and eager breath I take in the landscape, as my mind grasps just how real, how tangible these husks of aircraft still are, even as some of their crews are but dust.
Overhead, desert thunderstorms loom and erupts, heavy drops of water hitting us as we scurry for the tour bus, threads of moisture hitting the packed earth like gunfire. The remains of the aircraft fall behind us, the forms of inevitable truth here in a world so often less than truthful.

The sound of thunder echoes across the boneyard, nature's taps playing as the sky weeps for the dead with crystal purity.

These thoughts were broken by the chatter of some of the other tour members. For a moment I wanted to hush them, as this was a solemn place. To tell them to be quiet. . . . . or something. Something about interfering with the shuttered windows of these forms, the dark alleys of an airplane's final resting place and the sky's remembrance of such places, filled with the elemental silence of those who have flown away.

- Brigid

Electric cars and child slavery

It's all about Cobalt.

This is a key element in the manufacture of the batteries needed for electric cars and solar/wind farms.  It's mined in the Congo, and like "blood diamonds" the locals use child slaves to get it:
When Sky News investigated the Katanga mines it found Dorsen, working near a little girl called Monica, who was four, on a day of relentless rainfall. 
Dorsen was hauling heavy sacks of rocks from the mine surface to a growing stack 60ft away. A full sack was lifted on to Dorsen’s head and he staggered across to the stack. A brutish overseer stood over him, shouting and raising his hand to threaten a beating if he spilt any.

The article is pretty sickening, but includes this tidbit:
The planned switch to clean energy vehicles has led to an extraordinary surge in demand. While a smartphone battery uses no more than 10 grams of refined cobalt, an electric car needs 15kg (33lb).
The wages of "green" energy: exploitation of 4 year olds.

And subsidies.  Elon Musk has pulled down $5B in government subsidies.  That's our money, going to fuel what's happening in Congo.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

What were ancient battles like?

Absolutely terrifying.  At least if you were there.

This is some excellent ancient history geekery.

Cheating on climate data?

Most countries enthusiastically signed up to the Paris climate accords.  It looks like the enthusiasm was due to the countries planning on cheating:
Potent, climate warming gases are being emitted into the atmosphere but are not being recorded in official inventories, a BBC investigation has found.
Air monitors in Switzerland have detected large quantities of one gas coming from a location in Italy.
However, the Italian submission to the UN records just a tiny amount of the substance being emitted.
Levels of some emissions from India and China are so uncertain that experts say their records are plus or minus 100%.

At this point I'm starting to wonder if there are any reliable climate data at all.