sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Friday, April 19, 2019

Admiral Gorshkov (Book Review)

The Naval Institute Press published a book this year (2019), Admiral Gorshkov: The Man who Challenged the US Navy, by Norman Polmar, Thomas A Brokkis and George Fedoroff. 

Sergey Gorshkov joined the navy at the age of seventeen, in defiance of his family and rose to be a junior surface warfare officer, commanding, ships, squadrons and then fleets.

He was clever (or lucky) enough to survive Stalin's purges and possibly their thinning of the ranks gave him the ladder that he needed to ascend to a position where he made critical decisions for the Soviet Navy.  He's fairly considered to be the father of the Soviet Navy, and one can only opine how he would feel were he alive to see the surface fleet rot. 

No reading and understanding of the Cold War can be truly complete without a perception of the man who developed the Soviet Navy from 1956-1983. How many Russian Admirals were on the cover of Time magazine (back when the publication amounted to something)? Right, just Gorshkov. Such is the shadow that this man cast.

Finding a book that would do him justice is not easy, but Polmar, Brooks and Fedoroff pulled it off.

The Americans who faced Gorshkov's fleet during the Cold War understood that they were up against a visionary man, and a master strategist. 

The book takes advantage of hindsight offered by history, declassified US intelligence analysis and various publications to weave a tapestry of Admiral Gorshkov's life, and contributions. Sure, he was the enemy, but you can always respect a worthy adversary.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

On Tour, etc.

On Tour

The Bangles will be playing in Huntington Beach, CA, on Saturday, May 11. I'm sure that they will be walking like Egyptians. As with Buffet the show,  the parking lot before the concert is the party. Some suggest the Bangles may be a little long in the tooth. Maybe. I'll talk to my kids and see if they want to take in the concert. Worst case, a day at the beach.

The Mueller Report

It cleared the President of wrongdoing, but the donkeys want another investigation, hoping for a different result. Rep Adam Shifty (D-CA) would walk like an Egyptian (see above) for a different result.

Tonto Natural Bridge

Pine Creek has been flowing through a hole in the travertine for a very long time. It's a state park about a 35 minute drive from the mine. I had some time on my hands, so I drove over. I have not been there since I was seven. Long time to be away.

There are a couple of trails down to the big hole in the ground. (right) This is the Pine Creek Trail.

When I was a young man, I swam in the lake/ponds under the natural bridge, but regulations prohibit that sort of fun. Whatever. I hadn't planned on getting too wet.

Yes, I may be getting long in the tooth too. But you can't beat the clock, so I have this arrangement with Father Time and the Grim Reaper. Only the good die young. 

Easter week means that things are going slow with work as people travel here or there to be with family or friends for the holiday. I'm spending Easter Sunday with my daughter and three granddaughters who live in Arizona. Not much of a trip as trips go. Naturally I will bring plastic eggs full of quarters. The kids like that more than candy. Smart kids.

On the way to the Bridge, I saw 11 elk (crossing the road), one coyote (also crossing the road in front of me), a bald eagle, and once I arrived at the bridge and parked, there was a Javalina.

Peccaries are odd creatures (right). Something of a blend of a pot belly pig and a wild boar. They are tuskers but tend to keep to themselves. We also have them at the White Wolf Mine, but I don't see them that often.

You'll note leaves on the trees. The Natural Bridge is about 3,000 feet lower than the White Wolf Mine, where it is still winter.

Ice age notwithstanding, summer is coming (eventually).

Photo (below) of the bridge from the west, looking east.

Photo of the bridge from the east, looking west. Note that there is a waterfall that splashes down from the rim.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

In the News, Your Humpday Blues

North Korea

Chairman Kim is going to Russia … to meet President Putin. Russian officials told a South Korean diplomatic delegation visiting Moscow this week that plans were being made for a summit but offered no details on a time or place.

One South Korean news service reported that the Kim-Putin summit will likely take place on 24 April in Vladivostok, before President Putin's 26-27 April visit to Beijing to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov met Kim Jong Un for the first time in May 2018 in Pyongyang. Lavrov conveyed President Putin’s invitation to meet in Moscow and Kim accepted. Putin’s scheduled trip to Beijing makes it convenient to double up on his summitry, by meeting Kim en route.

Some analysts have warned about a North Korean strategy of triangulation that plays the Russia, China and the US against each other for North Korea’s advantage in negotiations. China is the key driver in North Korean foreign relations. 

That warning is exaggerated because Russia has so few assets to offer North Korea without compensation and North Korea lacks the means to pay. California has a larger GDP than Russia and more to offer for socialist construction. 

Russia is a spoiler. Its meddling is mostly to annoy the US and to profit from potential US investment and economic aid to North Korea. That's about the only card left for them to play and they wish to remain valid in a world that tends to ignore them (certainly not the Congressional Democrats, though).

Kim is acting out his vision of himself as a world stateman. Russians have cooperated in violating the UN sanctions and earned Kim’s gratitude and probably invitations to participate in future joint ventures. 

Russia will exert no pressure on Kim to agree to denuclearize with the US. Putin is more likely to encourage Kim to drive a harder bargain with the US.

American Political Dimwits

Crazy Bernie Sanders, the old communist, wants to be President, Commander-in-Chief, and leader of the free world.

He's quite the curmudgeon and I'm sure that while he'd interject a lot of humor over however long he's in the White House before he seizes up and dies and leaves Vice President Spartacus or Pok-a-haunt-us to run the place, he may not be the best choice. But if not Bernie, which one of the now three dozen contenders? Look what happened to Hillary.

Will Crazy Bernie survive the campaign trail to ascend and make a few more million $$?

Will you Wear the Rag?

Trending --

A difference of opinion or a clash of culture or both? You be the judge.

Imagine how the press would have reacted if somebody had said that Americans need to "raise hell and make Muslims uncomfortable?" 

In rural Arizona, where many people open-carry, it would likely be a mistake for Muslims to go into a steakhouse wearing their traditional clothing and scream "Aloha Snackbar" or whatever. Raising hell could all too easily turn into "sending them to hell". (You don't see a lot of Muslims here, stirring up shit)

This trend to pit one group against another is that it has been a tactic of Muslims traditionally and it has worked in much of Western Europe (Eastern Europe has a different take). Whether or not it will work in the US remains to be seen, but my sense is that Omar and her Muslim followers may have played their hand too early. They need another hundred million or so of their kind if they expect to succeed.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Random Rants

The Coming Ice Age

All of those climate deniers who felt that Earth was going to turn into a cinder are having to revise their plans.
(h/t CW at the Daily Timewaster) Chicago's O'Hare Airport was whitened by 5.3 inches of snow on Sunday. That made April 14 one of the top-two snowiest days this late in the season. The snowiest day in the city's history from April 14 to early May is 5.4 inches of snow on April 16, 1961. 
It was enough to bring Chicago O'Hare and Chicago Midway airports to a ground stop for arriving flights, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). O'Hare canceled 436 flights on Sunday amid snow and ice, according to Flight Aware. 
The latest trace of snow recorded in Chicago occured on June 2, 1910.
The weather service is predicting snow here in Arizona tonight, sort of a blizzard because it's coming with wind. I shall react by burning cedar and putting some greenhouse gas into the atmosphere to try and stop the coming ice age. You're welcome.

Holy Week
I had plans to go shooting today in the hopes of improving my range scores - and having those rounds guided to the target (since it is Holy Week and LSP threw down the gauntlet). But shooting at 800 meters in the wind is an exercise in frustration. 800 meters is about as far as you can send .308 rounds and hope to keep them in a two or three minute of angle group, but you can't do it with a crosswind. I've set up a small range about three miles from the White Wolf Mine on BLM land, in country that is a bit more open than the heavily timbered area where I live, but there are crosswind issues at times.

The Afghan Quagmire

It's a lot easier to get into small regional wars than it is to get out of them. You'd think that the US would have learned by not, but apparently not.

After announcing Operation Victory on 12 April, Taliban fighters staged attacks in 15 of the 34 provinces on the 13th. Most of the attacks were small group operations that were beaten back with few casualties. They literally were staged and caused little damage. It was an exercise in Taliban command, control and communications.

The most serious attacks targeted Kunduz City and continued through the 15th. The Taliban captured the town three times for brief periods since 2015 and are trying again.

In the city of Kunduz, Naeem Mangal, head of the regional hospital, told the press that at least eight people were killed and 62 wounded in fighting on the city’s limits.

If you ask why we're there, I don't know except that we are. And we still take casualties. I wouldn't like to be the officer trying to explain to the grieving widow with three small children how her late husband's life was laid down in a worthy cause.

Chinese Economic News

In February, exports dropped 16.6% - their steepest fall in three years - while imports fell by only 0.3%, due to its trade war with the US. 

The Chinese economy is expected to slow by 6.2% in 2019, according to a Reuters poll, due to slowing demand for goods both abroad and domestically.

So far, the US has imposed three rounds of tariffs on Chinese goods, totaling more than $250 billion . 

The duties range from 10% to 25% and cover a wide range of industrial and consumer items - from handbags to railway equipment.   

The political situation in China makes a decline in the economy more serious than it might be elsewhere. The Chinese public has been led to expect good economic news all of the time, and the military and domestic spending has reflected that. President Trump threw a wrench into the works.

Make up your Mind, Charlize

I'd have to give a lot of thought before I picked up Sean Penn's cast-off, but Charlize did say that she was looking for love. What the heck? Then this comes along.
Academy Award-winning actress Charlize Theron recently spoke about being “shockingly available” and was waiting for someone to “step up” and date her — but she seems to have rescinded on those claims. 
Theron is now saying that she is not currently looking for love. She told Extra in a new interview: “I’m gonna finish this press tour then I’m gonna shoot a movie in London, and I’m figuring like around September we’ll talk about this.”
So now I have to wait until September? 

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Engines of Entropy? (Sunday Sermonette)

It's not a photograph, because the astronomers who captured the image of the star becoming a black hole/singularity didn't use cameras. It's not an image of a black hole, because that's not possible. It's a composite image of the energy escaping the accretion disc that surrounds that black hole, rendered from the data collected by the coordinated efforts of the staff at several radio telescopes scattered around the globe to image this object. 

I'm sure when they manage to increase the resolution available via those radio telescopes, or improve the algorithms that render that data into visual imagery, we may well learn two or three years from now that the lopsided orange blur that amazes us today has many features and facets we can't see now. It might not even be orange. Science being science, the science is never settled. Science journalism being what it is, they might have oversimplified immensely.
From these images, theorists and modelers on the (observation) team have determined that the black hole is about 6.5 billion times as massive as our sun. Slight differences between each of the four images suggest that material is zipping around the black hole at lightning speed. 
"This black hole is much bigger than the orbit of Neptune, and Neptune takes 200 years to go around the sun," says Geoffrey Crew, a research scientist at Haystack Observatory. "With the M87 black hole being so massive, an orbiting planet would go around it within a week and be traveling at close to the speed of light."
Black holes provide the gravitational glue that holds galaxies together. Evidence indicates that super massive black holes at the center of galaxies which spin, tend to create spiral galaxies. Those which don't spin, create star cluster galaxies. That may be horsefeathers because we really don't know, but the speculation has some science behind it.

We are all subject to entropy. We are born, we die (repeat). I leave it to each of you to work out the eternal plan if indeed there is one. One of the benefits of the age that we live in is that we know much more about the universe around us than people could conceive of 100 years ago. I'm not just talking about the Higgs Boson, quantum foam, gravitational string theory, and Hawking radiation (a theory that explains that black holes shrink over time through release of specific radiation) that put Stephen Hawking's pin in the map. 

When a star goes through its life cycle it will return a significant amount of mass back into the interstellar medium in the form of stellar winds. For a large star with an initial mass of 10-20 times the mass of the sun, the star may return 80-90% of its mass to the interstellar medium in the form of stellar winds, or a nova or even a supernova. So while a star may start out as almost entirely hydrogen and helium when it forms, the gas that returns to the interstellar medium will be slightly enriched with metals, that is, the metallicity will go up. 

This enriched gas that has been returned to the interstellar medium will go on to form a second generation of stars, which will still be almost entirely hydrogen and helium, but now with a tiny fraction more of metals. The process will repeat, and each time it does the gas will become more enriched with metals. In order to have enough metals that rocky planets such as the earth can form the gas must go through at least 20 star formation and enrichment cycles. To date, the highest metallicity ever observed in a star is about three times the metallicity of the sun.

The elegant universe where we live is a massive clock, a time machine, and we can enjoy it every cloudless night if we are in an area without light pollution. On of the best places in the US is the Arizona highlands, where I live, home to a few observatories. Anyone who looks up and is not humbled, is insufficiently educated. And that is your Sunday Sermonette. I will also make a plug for the Sky Guide App, available on phones, or mobile devices. If you aren't in the dry air without light pollution of the Arizona highlands, you can still enjoy exploring the sky with your I-Pad.

Saturday, April 13, 2019


I'm not sure what constitutes "journalism" in 2019. I don't consider that my blog is "journalism", but you'll find more truth here than in the greatest bastions of American journalism: The New York Times and the Washington Post

In truth, and by most definitions of output, what is the difference between the New York Times and Wikileaks? Is Facebook an expression of Journalism? What about Google? What about state-run-news outlets such as Pravda?

Views of a dystopian future as found in Orwell's 1984 or in Rand's Atlas Shrugged portray a media that has been totally co-opted by the state and operates as an extension of the state. Today, we question whether the Deep State (which controls the media) runs the nation or are we a Constitutional Republic? It's a an uncomfortable question. The corrupt, lying, filthy, sly, smug, elite media reacted with shock that the Attorney General would say that the Obama Administration spied on the Trump Campaign, but it's been an open secret. Only in the hallowed halls of journalism has it been something that was not discussed.

Journalists tell bloggers that they (the journalists) have professional ethics, but to be frank, I haven't seen much if any of that over the past decade. Quite to the contrary, I find that the media is increasingly shedding its mantle of respectability and we can all see the rot that has been concealed beneath that cloak.

Practical Answer to a Reasonable Question

Welcome to the Weekend!