Saturday, February 6, 2016

Bail out Flint, MI?


The Washington Post opines that Flint, MI may need bailout money - big bailout money - to fix its water system.

The residents of this battered city have lived for years under some of the worst conditions in urban America: soaring levels of violent crime, poverty, unemployment and blight. Now, for many, the catastrophe of a water supply that may be poisoned indefinitely appears to be the final insult.

. . .

Less than a month after Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) declared a state of emergency, only one thing is clear: Resolving the crisis will be very expensive. Mayor Karen Weaver has estimated the cost of removing lead service lines from 15,000 homes at about $45 million. Combating the potential impact of lead poisoning in the 9,000 children exposed to tainted water starts at $100 million, according to Mona Hanna-Attisha, the pediatrician who is proposing the multifaceted program.

Overhauling Flint’s water­ distribution system, if necessary, could cost more than $1 billion, a tab only the federal government could pay.

There's more at the link.  Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.

In so many words, they're arguing that the federal government should pay for the overhaul or replacement of Flint's water system.  To that, speaking as a federal taxpayer, my answer is not just "No", but "Hell, no!"

The screw-up in Flint was the result of a wrong decision by a state-appointed emergency manager, who was trying to sort out decades of municipal mismanagement and corruption.  The problem is local, and was caused locally.  Why on earth should taxpayers all over the country be forced to pay for something that was not, is not and never will be our problem?

Sorry.  If Flint needs a bailout, it should come from local and State resources.  The city has no legitimate claim, moral, ethical, legal, constitutional or otherwise, on national taxpayer funds.  Any attempt to provide the latter to solve Flint's problems would be nothing more or less than robbery of the national exchequer for partisan political ends.  (Of course, that's happened often enough - on both sides of the political aisle - that it may well happen again.  That doesn't mean we should let it go without a fight, and doing everything we can to stop it.)

Peter

Another trip to la-la land for conspiracy theorists


I thought I knew most, if not all of the conspiracy theories floating around about just about anything - that the Moon landings were faked, that Elvis is still alive, and a host of others.  However, I've just come across one of the more lunatic-fringe conspiracy theories that has me shaking my head in disbelief.

A statue showing a young girl holding up what appears to be a laptop - complete with USB ports - has sparked a frenzy among conspiracy theorists.

The statue, ‘Grave Naiskos of an Enthroned Woman with an Attendant’ is in The J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu, California.

‘I am not saying that this is depicting an ancient laptop computer,’ said YouTuber StillSpeakingOut.

‘But when I look at the sculpture I can’t help but think about the Oracle of Delphi, which was supposed to allow the priests to connect with the gods to retrieve advanced information and various aspects.’

There's more at the link, including a photograph of the statue in question (and an excerpt from a 1920's Charlie Chaplin movie, claiming that it shows someone using a cellphone many decades before their invention).

I hadn't come across time-travel conspiracy theorists before . . . and I wish I hadn't still!  When will these idiots learn that correlation (of shape, or statistics, or whatever) does not imply causation?  Just because something resembles something else doesn't mean that it is something else.

Sheesh!

Peter

Very conspicuous consumption


I was mind-boggled to read that a 1957 Ferrari 335 S Spider Scaglietti has sold for a stratospheric price at the Artcurial 2016 Retromobile vehicle auction in Paris.

A 1957 Ferrari driven by the great British motor racers of the 1950s broke the record for the world’s most expensive racing car sold at auction after fetching just over €32 million [about US $35.7 million] on Friday.

Despite the stratospheric price at the Artcurial auction in Paris, the buyer cannot use the vehicle on the roads as it was designed purely for racing.



Only four Ferrari 335 S Spider Scagliettis were ever produced, and this one had been in the hands of a private French collector for more than 40 years – hence the feverish excitement at the RĂ©tromobile classic car show in Paris, where the auction took place.

The previous record for a racing car was for a 1953 Mercedes W196 racing car driven by Juan Manuel Fangio, sold for £17.5 million Bonhams auction at Goodwoods festival of speed in July 2013.

. . .

The sale – precisely €32,075,200 – was fresh proof that Ferrari auctions are going stratospheric, with a particular penchant for late 1950s and 1960s models, seen as hailing back to the golden age of motor racing.

Other highlights of the Artcurial sale still up for auction was the last ever 250 GT SWB Berlinetta, made in 1963 and estimated at £6.8 million to £9.1 million. An ex-Gianni Agnelli 1986 Testarossa Spider meanwhile sold for twice its estimate at €1.21 million.

There's more at the link.

Being a supporter of individual freedom and the free market (and, as a former pastor, of religious freedom, of course), I have no moral or ethical problem with someone enjoying the fruits of their labors, and spending all they like on something they want.  Nevertheless, I can't help feeling sad to know that so much money has been spent on something that'll end up as rust and scrap metal in due course.  At any rate, I suppose the old question, "But is it art?" has been decisively answered by the buyer - with his wallet!

Peter

Friday, February 5, 2016

The perils of aging furniture


Perhaps I should title this post 'The perils of aging cheap furniture'.  In my days as an active pastor, not so very long ago, I bought half a dozen 36"x72" bookcases to hold my library.  To my surprise, units made of 'real' wood simply weren't available.  Those I bought - the best of those available in local shops - were made of chipboard with a veneer coating.  I spent some time assembling them and loading them up with my books.

They've been with me through a few moves (the last being at the end of January, coming down to our new home in Texas).  Despite their relatively cheap construction, they've stood up to the strain of being carried to and fro . . . until now.  It seems that one of them has finally had enough.  Its cheaper chipboard can no longer securely hold the pins that support the shelves.  After two collapses in quick succession this morning, I had to run out and buy some L-shaped support brackets.  I'll have to drill holes for them and screw them into the shelves and the sides, to make sure my books stay where I want them.  A couple of others have enlarged support pin holes, and I've had to plug them and insert conventional wood screws to hold the shelves instead.

It's frustrating to find that the only bookshelves available for normal consumer purchase (i.e. at less than nosebleed prices) are made of cheaper materials like chipboard or fiberboard.  In browsing through online vendors, I couldn't find a single bookcase at an affordable price that was made of solid wood, the way I remember them growing up.  I suppose I could make my own if I had the time, space and facilities to do so, but I can remember them being in every furniture store in the 'good old days'.  Apparently wood's become too expensive, or is too heavy to be shipped at a reasonable cost when assembled into furniture.

The same thing applies to so much in the way of furniture that I see in the shops these days.  It's all cheap chipboard and stapled artificial fabrics that rip or come loose as soon as you look at them.  There's nary a screw or support bracket to be seen.  When I was growing up, a young family starting out could buy cupboards, or bookcases, or chests of drawers, or sideboards, in the sure knowledge that if they looked after them, they'd still be usable well into their retirement.  Not today.  Everything seems to be disposable.  You buy it resigned to the knowledge that in a few years, maybe (if you're lucky) a decade or two, you'll have to replace it.

Color me unhappy.  Yeah, I'm an old curmudgeon . . . but I miss the higher-quality world of my youth.

Peter

A measurement graph we can all appreciate


Borepatch says, 'Now that's a pie chart'.  He's right, too.  It's very communicative.  Click over there and see it for yourself.




Peter

Americans may die because of this folly


It seems that the US government is determined to allow illegal aliens to infiltrate across our southern border whether we like it or not.

The Obama administration has revived the maligned illegal immigrant “catch-and-release” policy of the Bush years, ordering Border Patrol agents not to bother arresting and deporting many new illegal immigrants, the head of the agents’ labor union revealed Thursday.

Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, told Congress that Homeland Security was embarrassed by the number of illegal immigrants not showing up for their deportation hearings, but instead of cracking down on the immigrants, the department ordered agents not to arrest them in the first place — meaning they no longer need to show up for court.

Mr. Judd said the releases are part of President Obama’s “priorities” program, which orders agents to worry chiefly about criminals, national security risks and illegal immigrants who came into the U.S. after Jan. 1, 2014. Mr. Judd said illegal immigrants without serious criminal convictions have learned that by claiming they came before 2014 — without even needing to show proof — they can be released immediately rather than being arrested.

“Immigration laws today appear to be mere suggestions,” Mr. Judd testified to the House Judiciary Committee’s immigration subcommittee. “That fact is well known in other countries.”

There's more at the link.

What this means, of course, is that terrorists, criminals and other low-lifes are going to take full advantage of our lax policy enforcement.  I have no doubt whatsoever that some of those now streaming across our southern border are going to commit crimes in this country, whether 'conventional' ones or acts of terrorism.

When Americans die because of these unbelievably stupid, short-sighted, ideologically-driven policies, will the person or persons who gave the order(s) to implement them be held responsible and called to account?  I won't hold my breath . . .




Peter

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Our first 'official' guests in our new home


Miss D. and I have been unpacking and sorting all day, with a brief excursion to the shops to stock up on essentials.  We found some big European-style stemless wine goblets on sale for only a dollar apiece.  I grabbed the last three four-packs in the sale rack, which gives us just enough to go with the twelve-place guest table setting we're building up over time.  We already have the cutlery;  now we have some wine glasses, and pretty soon we'll go visit the Corelle factory outlet store in Oklahoma City.  We like their hard-wearing, almost breakproof glassware dinner sets (particularly the rectangular designs).  We'll find a pattern we both like and buy enough to complete our table setting.

This evening Old NFO, Phlegmmy and Lawdog came over for supper, our first guests for a meal in our new home.  (Yes, I know they helped lay our new floor before we moved in, and did a lot to help in other ways, but this was their first 'official' visit.)  Miss D. made a very tasty chili with rice and a side salad, and I uncorked a couple of bottles of Chambourcin that we'd brought down with us from Beachaven Winery in Tennessee.  There was very little left of the food and none of the wine, so I think the meal was a success.  I'm pretty sure we're going to end up with each household cooking for the others on one night per week, giving us three shared meals every week.  That promises to be a lot of fun.  The conversation is animated and jumps all over the place, particularly as the level in the wine bottle(s) drops.

A big heap of empty boxes is growing in the corner of the garage.  As we empty each one we cut the tape holding it together, flatten it out, and add it to the pile.  This afternoon I reassembled two sets of plastic utility shelving, and will do a few more tomorrow.  I'm positioning them along the walls of the garage, where I can load boxes and other bits and pieces onto them to get them off the floor.  By the end of the week I hope there'll be enough space for Miss D. to park her vehicle in the garage, whereupon my old truck can move off the street and into our short driveway.  We've ordered a second garbage container, which should arrive within the next couple of days, so over the next few weeks we can dispose of all our packing materials and other junk without needing to clutter up our living space with it all.

So far, so good.  The new house is already beginning to feel like home.

Peter

This one's for Phlegm Fatale!


For the lovely Phlegmmy, courtesy of The Lonely Libertarian:




It's OK, Phlegmmy. We love you anyway - shoes and all!

(Does Fluevog make skates?  Inquiring minds want to know!)




Peter

Lawdog's not the only cop with interesting memories


Having worked with and alongside law enforcement personnel for some years, both in South Africa and the USA, I've learned to enjoy their stories of the seamier side of life, the universe and everything.  They tend to develop a grim, hard-boiled humor that helps them keep their sanity when dealing with the dregs of society and those who regard the rest of us as prey to feed their predatory instincts.

PawPaw is an interesting example.  He's a Louisiana lawman who sometimes shares tales of his experiences (although not nearly as often as I'd like).  Yesterday he shared a giggle-worthy account of a parole supervision incident back in the 1980's.  Click over there and read it for yourself.  If you'd like more, why not leave a comment asking for it?  If we can get more 'Lawdog Files'-type stories from the good cops among us, we'll all be more cheerful for it.

Peter

Taxes in today's digital world


I was frustrated and irritated to read about steps being taken in Britain by that country's tax authorities to monitor virtually every electronic data point about taxpayers, so that they know what tax is due long before the taxpayer has to report it.  The Telegraph reports:

Accountants, privacy experts, politicians and charities are voicing growing concerns about HMRC’s ambitions to “fully digitise” the tax return system.

They claim that vulnerable groups will be penalised for not wanting to use the internet, that the quantity of data sought by HMRC will hugely increase administrative costs, and that the trend to push everything online will result in far more tax investigations without necessarily raising extra revenue.

They also predict that – whatever it says to the contrary – HMRC’s ultimate intention is to obtain highly detailed data “equivalent to the individual entries on a bank statement”. This is likely to result in more frequent and earlier demands for payment.

There are two prongs to HMRC’s push to “create the most digitally advanced tax system in the world”. One is the introduction of “personal tax accounts” for all individuals, aimed at the majority of people whose tax affairs are relatively simple and who don’t have accountants.

Here, individuals’ online tax accounts will be updated automatically by HMRC with information it has obtained from other sources. You would log on, for instance, and see entries relating to your wages or pension, any taxable benefits you receive, such as the state pension, and any interest earned on your savings in bank or building society accounts.

The second digital drive relates to small businesses, landlords and the self-employed: these groups will have to report information to HMRC quarterly.

This has already caused a storm of controversy, with 110,000 small business owners petitioning against the change. They argue that quarterly reporting would cost time and money.

. . .

The concerns were reflected by Anthony Thomas, an accountant from Coventry with 30 years’ experience. He chairs the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group, which lobbies for a simpler tax system.

He said: “Digitisation is good and fine – but my concern is making it mandatory. There will be significant burdens and costs for many. HMRC says it will be as easy as ‘pressing send’, but that’s naive. It won’t be.”

. . .

“Say a builder goes to a supplier and buys breeze blocks. He uses an application on his smart phone to record the transaction, and it is immediately reported to the taxman electronically. HMRC has talked about making such apps and software available to the public, and that is perhaps what it envisages: the reporting of transactions in real time.

“It is an absolutely enormous shift. The Government is saying ‘if we’ve got the technology, why not use it?’ ”

There's more at the link.

The implications for privacy are obvious.  It seems that the Big Brother state is now demanding to know about every penny you receive or spend, long before you need to report your income and claim expenses for tax purposes.  Effectively, if taken to its logical conclusion, this could completely replace the process of submitting an income tax return.  You'd find your bank account debited with tax owed without you even knowing how it was calculated - and if any transactions were mistakenly attributed to you instead of the proper person, you might benefit or be penalized accordingly, with all sorts of subsequent complications as you try to sort out the errors.  Does this sound like an Orwellian nightmare, or what?

Does anyone know what the IRS in the USA is planning in this regard?  If Britain's this far down the road, I can't believe that the IRS isn't at least interested in following suit.  If you know, please tell us in Comments.

Peter

(Mis)adventures with refrigerators


I have to give a special shout-out to Lawdog and Old NFO.  Last night they went above and beyond the call of friendship to try to put together our refrigerator, which is large enough that it had to be disassembled to remove it from our old home and get it into our new one.

Trouble is, the hinges at the bottom of the doors had to be removed completely;  but getting them back on was a bit of a nightmare, as they required the insertion of screws that needed someone to lie on the floor in front of the fridge and negotiate some fiddly angles to get them in and tightened.  With my fused spine this was a non-starter for me, and Miss D.'s physical restrictions meant the same thing for her;  so we had to rely on our friends to do the fiddly bits for us.  They worked for over an hour, but still couldn't get the doors to close as smoothly and easily as they should, despite some... interesting...  additions they provided to our vocabulary.

We suspect that either the doors or the body of the fridge may have become warped or bent during the move.  We can't say for sure, but I'll call in a repair technician to take a look and tell us what's happened.  If the fridge can be salvaged, even at the cost of greater care and attention when closing it (and making sure it stays closed), we'll do that, because our budget is overstretched right now with other moving expenses.  If not, well, I guess a replacement fridge is in our immediate future whether we like it or not.  Craigslist, here we come!  (Lawdog has already suggested taking the old one up to Blogorado in October, filling it with Tannerite or something else suitably explosive, and shooting at it from a safe distance.  Anyone would think he dislikes our fridge for some reason!)

I guess the lesson learned from my point of view is to make sure that in future, we buy appliances that, fully assembled and operational, are no wider in one dimension (either side-to-side or front-to-back) than a standard internal door frame (which I think is 30 inches [76.2 centimeters] in most of the USA);  and also to make sure that it's compact enough to maneuver around or through tight spaces such as turns in corridors, or two doors set close together at a sharp angle to each other.  If the appliance has to be disassembled to get it through a door or a tight space like that, the odds are pretty good that it may not go back together again exactly as it was before.  I suppose repeated disassembly and reassembly make that more likely;  this is the second time we've moved this fridge, so it may be that there's a cumulative effect to removing and reattaching the hinges.

Those of you planning the purchase of new appliances might want to keep that in mind.

Peter

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The joys of moving in


Moving into our new home is certainly reminding us anew about how Murphy is really in charge.

  • We modified the refrigerator space in the kitchen, taking out moldings and a low-hanging cupboard so that our large unit could fit into it.  However, we failed to allow for the complications of moving.  We had to take off its doors to get the fridge out of our old home and into our new one.  It arrived safely, as did the doors and the shelves . . . but we couldn't find the mounting hardware to put the doors back on!  After much frustration and a bit of profanity here and there, we finally found them late yesterday.  Today we'll reinstall the doors, and hopefully by tonight we'll have a working fridge once more.
  • We bought new locks and deadbolts to replace the older units in the exterior doors.  However, the dimensions of the new locks weren't identical to those of the old, leading to sulphurous comments from Old NFO as he struggled to install them for us while we were busy with other things.  He succeeded with the help of a hammer and chisel, but at the cost of some short-term damage to his equilibrium.  We offered liquid consolation, which seemed to help.
  • NFO, Lawdog and a couple of their buddies did a wonderful job installing our new laminate flooring prior to our arrival;  but in the process they uncovered the fact that the original builders of our home, some twenty years ago, had some very strange ideas.  Some angles that are supposed to be straight aren't, the front door frame was installed with the aid of what one might best describe as 'creative carpentry' (which elicited sulfurous comments from our contractor), and switches for some lights are rather oddly placed - not what one might intuitively expect.  We'll fix what we can and work around what we can't.  Nothing we've found so far is a deal-breaker.
  • When unpacking most of one's boxes into one's garage, it's not a bad idea to leave a few paths so that one can get to them easily.  When one needs box X, and finds that it's taken up residence several yards out of reach behind and beneath a rampart of other boxes and bits and pieces, it's frustrating, to put it mildly!

Despite these trials and tribulations, we're getting ourselves organized.  We'll move ourselves in today, after spending a few nights in Old NFO's guest room while we made the place at least barely habitable.  Phlegmmy's annual blogger gathering is only ten days away, and we're hosting some of the guests, so we'd better get on with it if they're to have a place to sleep!  (I think I'll indicate a few of the heavier boxes and invite them to join us in unpacking them.  Insert evil snarky giggle here!)




Peter

What the retail sector says about the economy as a whole


Over the past few months we've seen how the transportation sector has contracted;  how heavy equipment sales have plummeted, revealing a decline in the sort of economic development that needs such equipment;  and how debt is crippling individuals, corporations and nations.

If one looks at how many major retailers are contracting their physical operations, it's very clear that the economy as a whole is still in dire straits, despite all those who insist it's improving.  After all, consumer spending comprises about 70% of the US economy - although precisely what such expenditure involves is open to question.  Nevertheless, when consumer spending patterns change to such an extent that overall economic activity is affected, we'd better sit up and take notice.  This is very visible at present in the retail sector.  Companies that have recently announced store closings and contraction of their bricks-and-mortar operations include:


These aren't the only closings, but they're the most recent and the highest-profile.  Each store closing affects thousands of jobs, because each employee at the stores supports other employees in other stores.  A supermarket sales clerk buys gas to get to and from her job, food for lunch every day, clothes to wear to work, and so on.  All those purchases are at least scaled back, if not eliminated, when she loses her job;  so employees in other businesses are affected by that lost expenditure.  Furthermore, property values are affected:  "In impoverished urban centers all over the nation, it is not uncommon to find entire malls that have now been completely abandoned.  It has been estimated that there is about a billion square feet of retail space sitting empty in this country...".

Some maintain that the loss of bricks-and-mortar stores does not equal loss of sales, pointing to the growth of online retailing.  For example:

Holiday sales in 2015 increased 3 percent to $626 billion compared with the previous year, according to the National Retail Federation, but online sales specifically saw the biggest growth. Online sales for the holiday season grew by 13 percent.

In apparel sales, brick-and-mortar stores saw a 5.7 percent decrease, but a 9.1 percent increase in online sales. The gains in online sales are making up for the losses in physical stores, though, especially when companies are competing with Internet giants like Amazon.

During the holidays, visits to Amazon's website about equaled the combined visits to eBay, Wal-Mart, Target and Macy's.

There's more at the link.

The problem is, when one looks at the real rate of inflation in many areas, exemplified by such sources as Shadowstats or the Chapwood Index (both of which we've mentioned here before, and which I find far more logical, rational and convincing than official sources), it's clear that much of the increased expenditure was doing nothing more than compensate for higher prices.  In fact, adjusting the numbers for true inflation (rather than the gilded, politically-correct numbers put out by the authorities), it's pretty obvious that consumer expenditure decreased significantly over the most recent Christmas season, compared to previous seasons.  If that's the case, then online retailers did no better than to hold their own against inflation, whereas brick-and-mortar retailers lost ground - some of them significantly.

On a contrasting note, I've also learned on the basis of personal experience how some (but not all) retail prices have undergone a significant deflation in recent years.  With our just-completed move to Texas, and buying replacement items for some of our older household furniture as part of the process, Miss D. and I have noted the following examples.

  • Memory foam mattresses, which used to be extremely expensive and limited to only a few suppliers, are now commonplace, and their prices have plummeted.  A queen-size 10" thick memory foam mattress used to cost upward of $2,000 from the 'name-brand' supplier in the field.  A mattress of equivalent quality can now be purchased online for well under $300, including shipping costs to our home.  Customer reviews of the newer version are even better than those for the older one, so clearly quality hasn't suffered from the lower price point.
  • I bought a top-rated office chair in 2006.  I didn't want to spend the $1,000+ it cost me, but my fused spine and nerve-damaged leg made it necessary.  Today, the same chair from the same manufacturer can be bought for approximately half as much if one shops around.

These lower prices are very welcome from our consumer point of view.  However, they point to the fact that companies manufacturing, distributing and selling these goods can't make as much money from them as they used to;  and therefore the employment they can offer will be more limited in terms of numbers of jobs, remuneration and benefits.  Furthermore, they'll spread less money around to their suppliers, and their staff will have less to spend at other businesses.  The 'knock-on effect' is considerable.

Store closings and the contraction of operations by 'brick-and-mortar' retailers aren't necessarily guaranteed to produce the results desired.

After closing nearly 600 stores in a one-year period, presumably removing the weakest locations from its footprint, sales at Sears Holdings stores that were open at least a year nonetheless slipped 8.6 percent during the third quarter.

. . .

At Aeropostale ... 84 locations were shuttered in a year's span. But same-store sales continued to tumble during the third quarter, dropping 10 percent.

. . .

Not only does closing a store result in lost sales — and often, erosion of market share to a competitor — it can be costly and complicated to exit a lease prematurely. It also removes a point of distribution for the brand, as consumers increasingly expect to be able to pick up online orders in the store.

. . .

Meanwhile, although underperforming stores may be operating at a loss, they're still contributing millions of dollars in sales each year. Macy's, for example, said the 40 stores it has closed or are on the chopping block account for roughly $375 million in annual sales. And at Finish Line, the stores it plans to close generate roughly $1 million in average annual sales.

While both retailers are optimistic that some of these revenues will be picked up by nearby locations or online ... it never ends up translating dollar to dollar. What's more, retailers who close a location lose a chance to market their brand among that consumer base, and give up a point of distribution.

Again, more at the link.

I look at all these developments and I find them very worrying.  If about 70% of the US economy is dependent on consumer expenditure, and if about 40% of economic activity is directly derived from consumer wallets, that portion of the economy appears to be still contracting, with no sign of any real improvement after adjusting for (real) inflation.

Peter

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Quote of the day


From a report in the Telegraph about the Iowa caucus results:

It just feels like she’s been around forever. Someday we shall discover that Hillary is immortal and has been running for office since 4000BC. When they crack open that hidden tomb in Tutankhamun’s pyramid, they’ll find a Vote Hillary hieroglyph chiseled into the wall: “Making Egypt Great Again!”

True dat.




Peter

Heh


From the BC comic strip yesterday, the misadventures of a turtle continue:







Peter

Hot spot!


While glancing at Accuweather this morning, my eye was caught by this graphic in the sidebar.




It brought back many memories.  Vioolsdrif (literally translated as 'Violin Ford' or 'The Ford of the Violin', after a legendary local who was said to play the violin there while waiting for wagons to arrive in the old days) is the main border crossing on the Orange River between South Africa and Namibia.  It's desert country, and the heat is fierce and vicious during summer - the sort of heat that can kill you before you know it.  Very few people live in the area due to the extreme climate.  It's so hot, in fact, that in high summer (i.e. now, in the southern hemisphere), from a long way off you can see a ribbon of steam rising into the air from the river as the blazing sun sucks up the water.  Courtesy of Wikipedia, here's how it looks.  (Click the image for a larger view.)




I've crossed the Orange River at Vioolsdrif several times, and the contrast in air quality never ceased to amaze me.  A few hundred yards on either side of the river, the heat is as dry as you can imagine - no moisture in the air whatsoever.  Step onto the bridge over the river, however, and suddenly the air is humid.  It's a very sudden and rather disconcerting change in the atmosphere.

I doubt I'll ever see Vioolsdrif again, but the memories linger. It would be nice to savor once more a Windhoek Export Lager light beer, brewed according to recipes and techniques brought to Namibia by German colonists in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was (and presumably still is) a favorite way to re-hydrate after a long day in the Namibian sun.  I can still taste the beer in my mouth as I think about it . . .

Peter

Word


Courtesy of Wirecutter:




It's funny, all right, but I wish it wasn't true as well . . .

Peter

Lawdog is back in the blogosphere


Old NFO, Miss D. and I have been working on our buddy Lawdog to get back into blogging and see about producing his Lawdog Files in book form.  I'm pleased to report that the first, at least, has been achieved.  Click over to his blog to see his resurrection, so to speak.

As for the book, we'll continue to work on that.  I think he might have a bestseller on his hands if he reworks his material to adapt it to book format.  If you, like me, have enjoyed his tales over the years, please encourage him to keep at it.  We'll do our bit by nagging supporting his efforts from this end.

Peter