Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Stuyvesant today, from the back

The no-longer-new Stuyvesant High School looks about the same as it did when we moved in Fall 1992, at least from the outside, but the surrounding neighborhood has changed a lot since then. This picture of Stuy from the rear with the nearly completed Freedom Tower in the background is dated August 10, 2014.


The new Stuy had its perks, but I preferred the old Stuy.



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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Stress: Portrait of a Killer

Stress: Portrait of a Killer is a 2008 National Geographic documentary starring Stanford neurologist Robert Sapolsky.

In the state of nature, stress is a survival mechanism. When faced with a burst of danger from a predator, the stress response switches on to change the running mode of the whole body. Just as importantly, the stress response switches off when the imminent danger has passed and returns to the body to its normal running mode. The 'fight or flight' mechanism is not unhealthy stress when limited to actual fight and flight.

However, the psychological pressures of modern social life have switched on the stress response and left it on. Stress has become a chronic psycho-physiological condition with sweeping impact. Prenatal stress passed in a stressed mother's blood to the developing fetus is insidious with fundamental lifelong effects. The obvious symptoms - fat around the middle, stomach pain, frequent illness, reduced memory and cognitive function - point to a chronically stressed condition. I worry about the symptoms that are less sensorially apparent. Stress not only adds negative effects, it also dampens dopamine reception so that pleasure is reduced.

Always cut down stress wherever possible. Construct a healthy social environment. Physically hard work is not stressful. Anxiety in all its caustic forms is stressful. Control is an antidote to stress.

Add: Good stress includes diet, exercise, and fasting.

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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Moral dilemma, Lone Survivor, Torture Report

Comment at this post about the possible declassification of a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on the use of torture in the War on Terror:
It’s a moral dilemma to be sure.

Last week, I watched the movie, Lone Survivor. It’s based on the account by former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell whose team, along with a Chinook crew and whole squad of SF operators, were killed in action.

Nineteen of the US military’s best men died because PO Luttrell’s commanding officer, LT Michael Murphy, decided to release 3 prisoners – 1 old man and 2 boys – rather than kill them outright or bind them, which the SEALs believed would likely result in their deaths (animal predators, weather).

LT Murphy made his decision in accordance with his morality, the rules of engagement, and laws of war. He also made this decision expecting that his erstwhile prisoners would inform the nearby Taliban forces of his SEAL team. These particular Taliban were known to be responsible for, and thus capable of, killing US Marines, which is a hard thing to do.

Nineteen of America’s best men, many of whom were husbands and fathers of young children, were killed because LT Murphy made an all-American moral decision, the kind we teach our soldiers to make with their dedicated ethical training from the earliest stage of their military indoctrination.

His only reprieve is that he didn’t survive long enough to see his close comrades in the rescue squad, whom he had called to save his team with his last act in life, also die as a result of his moral decision to spare the lives of the old man and 2 boys who would kill him and his men.

LT Murphy honored the highest traditions and values of the US military and was awarded the Medal of Honor, posthumously.

The moral dilemma of “enhanced interrogation” does not rise to killing old men and young boys who accidently stumble on a secret op. It’s usually not even torture by the standard of our enemy in the War on Terror.

But the other side of the moral dilemma of “enhanced interrogation” is even heavier than the life-or-death choice that faced LT Murphy and killed him.

Rather than LT Murphy’s own life, the lives of the three men in his command, and even the doomed rescue team he didn’t live to see, our interrogators are tasked with preventing the killing of 10s, 100s, 1000s, maybe even 10000s or more – depending on the kind of weapon the terrorists can obtain from terrorist supporters like Saddam – civilians, not just soldiers. Interrogators are charged with protecting the homeland itself.

When the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, I was disgusted, as was every other Army veteran I knew. But my reaction was tempered by the appreciation that the terrorists were assassinating and mass-murdering 10s and 100s of Iraqis at a time, almost every day, along with humanitarian aid workers and the coalition soldiers defending Iraq. Our interrogators at Abu Ghraib were wrong … but they were wrong while trying desperately to save American, coalition, aid workers, and most of all, Iraqi lives by stopping an enemy who was – and is – zealously committed to achieving social dominance through unrestrained terror-style murder and real torture.

Our morality – Michael Murphy’s morality – demands our judgement that certain acts are wrong and intolerable. Had I been in command, I’m certain I would have made the suicidal decision that LT Murphy made. I also would have penalized the interrogators and MPs at Abu Ghraib.

But know that that our morality, while we are competing with this enemy, comes with a very, very high price. At least consider the price when you judge.


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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Thoughts of the day

Yikes, it's been three months since I started new thoughts of the day. There's no schedule; I cap one and start the next one by feel. But three months is a long time. The last one is stuffed. I delayed starting a new one because of several posts, such as my OIF FAQ, that I wanted to keep at or near the top of the main page. They've been pushed down since, though.

R.I.P. Robin Williams, July 21, 1951 - August 11, 2014. Williams was great. I liked him best as a dramatic actor and better as a subdued comic actor than a hyperactive improvisational comedian. My favorite Williams role is teacher John Keating in Dead Poets Society (1989).

R.I.P. Joan Rivers, June 8, 1933 - September 4, 2014.

Grantland's Saturday Night Live 40th anniversary series. See the feature on the late, great Phil Hartman.

The US Embassy in Libya has been totally evacuated amid battles between rival militias. Obama's Libya intervention was touted as his alternative-to-OIF showpiece. What a disaster.

UAE and Egypt vs Qatar and Turkey in Libya.

WaPo Marc Thiessen: George W. Bush was right about Iraq pullout.

Article by Nadia Schadlow about Obama's failure to use the military to build the peace. (h/t)

Comment and again at a Thomas Ricks article. Offering advice on the case for OIF. Giving away the OIF FAQ at QandO. Laying out my updated explanation for OIF at Neo's. Presenting my case at MSNBC.

I can only hope making the case for OIF moves the needle of the zeitgeist. Hoping to win over particular OIF opponents is quixotic. It's like throwing pebbles into a river - slight ripple and then the flow resumes. Here's how one OIF opponent reacted to primary-source quotes justifying OIF when I responded to her challenge: "Please, I’m sure you totally believe in what you’re saying, but the barrage of missives to prove your point will only suffice to make you feel better and aggravate the hell out of me." Those "missives" were primary-source authorities. She dismisses the fact basis for OIF out of hand and reduces the issue to unmoored belief. She rejected the truth when I laid it out bare for her. She wants narrative only.

Kurds want help from the US to fight ISIS but the State Department is scuffling while saying no. Update: The West is slowly coming around with direct support to the Kurds, air strikes on ISIS, and Maliki is out.

The Ambassador Ryan Crocker on the ISIS crisis.

A good summary of our choices facing ISIS by zenpundit.

Western women of ISIS recruit, propagandize, and fulfill traditional wife/mom household role. They are serious people on a serious mission who believe the West is weak in character, frivolous and trivial.

Byron at bigWOWO again displays the contradiction between his advocacy of resolute American liberal leadership and opposition to President Bush's resolute liberal leadership. He asks what the US should do about Putin's actions in the Ukraine and ISIS. I called on him to help set the record straight on OIF with the OIF FAQ. Let's see if it makes a difference. I might incorporate my comments in the thread as an answer section in the OIF FAQ.

Video of Columbia SIWPS panel, ISIS in Iraq, Syria, and the United States. Panelist Austin Long discusses the potential of the airstrikes on ISIS. Panelist Stuart Gottlieb writes, Blame The Obama Doctrine For Iraq.

Columbia Professor Nacos issues a call to action vs ISIS and I call her out, and again.

Columbia Professor Jeffrey Sachs advocates an exclusively soft-power approach to ISIS.

Columbia has a Program on Peace-building.

Peace operations: (DOD) A broad term that encompasses multiagency and multinational crisis response and limited contingency operations involving all instruments of national power with military missions to contain conflict, redress the peace, and shape the environment to support reconciliation and rebuilding and facilitate the transition to legitimate governance. Also called PO. See also peace building; peace enforcement; peacekeeping; and peacemaking. Source: JP 3-07.3 (source)

I rebut Jonathan Turley's claim that the anti-ISIS strikes are unConstitutional here, here, here, and here. For the President's basic counter-terror authority, look at PL 107-40 (2001), PL 104-132 (1996), and PDD/NSC-39 (1995). I unpacked the anti-ISIS legal authority issue here.

From August 15, 2014, Security Council Adopts Resolution 2170 (2014) Condemning Gross, Widespread Abuse Of Human Rights by Extremist Groups in Iraq, Syria. UNSCR 2170 appears to activate PL 107-243 and, along with the State Department designation, definitely activates PL 107-40.

Lawyer John Hinderaker at Powerlineblog points out that the rationale for confronting ISIS was more fully manifested the rationale for confronting Saddam, yet the same Democrats who opposed Bush now support Obama. (h/t)

The Army Capstone Concept sounds interesting. It matches my prognostication for Columbia ROTC.

Book Review: The Betrayal of American Prosperity is thought-provoking because it holds two of my core political beliefs in direct conflict where I've held them to be collaborative parts of the same set: a strong America leading the free world. If I must order the two values, then I'll follow the same order that I apply to individuals. A man must first be a better man in order to make the world a better place. America must first be a strong healthy nation with a strong healthy economy, culture, and people in order to be a sustainable, resilient, effective leader of the free world.

Mark Krikorian shares my reaction to CDC head Tom Frieden's irrational defense of not restricting flights from Ebola-stricken West Africa in the wake of the Duncan case in Dallas.

The wholesale narrative strategy in activism is based on the evolutionary concept of paradigm shift. Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park, pp 383-384:
"Paradigm shifts" Harding said. He knew about paradigm shifts. For the last two decades, they had been the fashionable way to talk about scientific change. "Paradigm" was just another word for a model, but as scientists used it the term meant something more, a world view. A larger way of seeing the world. Paradigm shifts were said to occur whenever science made a major change in its view of the world. Such changes were relatively rare, occurring about once a century. Darwinian evolution had forced a paradigm shift. Quantum mechanics had forced a smaller shift.

Value social "stability, trust, and cohesion".

New York Times: The High Line Opens Its Third and Final Phase officially on Sunday, September 21, 2014. The third section's "soft" opening to the public is on Saturday, September 20, 2014. Update: As I walked through the long curving third section on Sunday afternoon, I fortuitously caught onto the artist giving a small-group tour of the art exhibit that's spread out along the tracks in the third section. His explanation was a non-stop patter of pretentious bullshit.

Bowlmor Lanes (300) at Chelsea Piers has kicked out PSAL bowling. Stuy boys games have been moved way out to Astoria Bowl. I wonder how many boys team members, many of whom would be returning from last season, will drop out due to the harder commute. Stuy girls games are being moved more reasonably to Frames (formerly Port Authority Bowl). I wonder why the boys team couldn't make the same move. Logistics, I guess. Stuyvesant's division (Manhattan I) is not the only PSAL division in Manhattan. Frames is likely maxed out for the PSAL.

The formal version of perk, ie, extra benefit, is perquisite.

The adage about an overnight success that's a lifetime in the making is true. It refers to a natural phenomenon that plays out in many ways. A long process of transformation often only appears as small incremental changes, or may be hardly apparent at all, until there is a seemingly sudden large change, a breakthrough, like a volcanic eruption following a long build-up of magma. I baked crackling and potatoes in the Nesco today, which takes hours. The potatoes gradually browned and the pernil skin gradually hardened from the outside in. For hours, the changes were slow. Then within the last hour, the potato slices transformed into oil-soaked thick, crunchy potato chips and the whole pernil skin slab turned into crackling. The life lesson is sticktoitiveness matters because immediate returns on investment are not the norm.

An example of the mastery learning road to success is LeCharles Bentley, offensive lineman guru, who approaches his craft as a science and art.

Astros 2nd baseman Jose Altuve was told to sit in the last game of the season against the Mets by his GM and manager to protect his 3-point lead in the batting title race. Instead, he talked his way back into the line-up, went 2-for-4, and won the batting title by 6 points. Good for him. Win it swinging on your feet, young man.

Fatherly advice from a 20-something who isn't actually a dad yet. Read it with a grain of salt, but it's worth noting anyway. (h/t)

Elusive Wapiti: Men's Health: Guys Need to Cultivate Relationships. The post draws from a study that showed the life outcomes (dependent variables) of Harvard graduates (controlled variable) differed greatly due to childhood upbringing and relations (independent variables).

Japanese dystopian cult-classic movie Battle Royale (2001) explores the same theme, namely that childhood characteristics are prologue to adult life. The 3-day Battle Royale on the evacuated island with 40 classmates, 2 dangerous transfer students, and elimination of their protective teacher is a microcosm of life's Hobbesian struggle. Former teacher Kitano is angered by his former students' disrespect for adults and in response to Mimura's question of "why are you doing this", sets the philosophy of the Battle Royale, "don't forget, life is a game, so fight for survival and find out if you're worth it". The theretofore seemingly harmless childish idiosyncrasies, relationships, fancies, prejudices, suspicions, etc, of the young teens instantly define their life-or-death judgements, decisions, and behavior on the island. The movie illustrates how what we are as children shape what we are as adults and our lives. Right before Mitsuki is killed, she says to the dead Kotohiki, "No one is going to save you. That's just life." As far as review, Battle Royale was conceptually interesting and entertaining, but it was lighter fare - hokey with choppy composition and little character development - than I expected from the high praise for the film. The movie was less graphically violent than its reputation and the hokiness deflated the reputed disturbing social themes. The soundtrack is very good, reminiscent of Ennio Morricone. The movie's maudlin, manic tenor reminded me of Peter Jackson's Dead Alive.

Ouch. Sketch comedy mocks a beta "tosser" who is outclassed by a charismatic scarecrow and loses the girl. Except he really liked Jill and his heart got crushed. Nobody cares about his hurt, loneliness, and downgrade of his life; they used him with an utter lack of regret. Reminds me of the hello m'lady sketch. Rather than fight for his honor, the beta left in a huff that incited barely a ripple of reaction from his 'friends'. Another sketch from the same comedy team shows off the PUA technique of "negging", which strikes me as a technique borrowed from cult leaders.

The INFP romantic rejection dilemma as a postsecret. As in real life, the female reaction in the postsecret community is unsympathetic. More red-pill postsecrets this week: this and this.

Two attractive (female) teachers, one of whom is married with 3 children, were arrested for having sex with the same 16-year-old (male) student at what is implied was the same time. The two teachers were investigated by police after he bragged to his friends. Hm. Realtalk. Well, the truth is out there.

From a letter to his son Michael, JRR Tolkien on marriage and relations between the sexes. Based on this letter alone, it appears that The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien is a must-have gift to any boy (or biological man in arrested development) who is deficient in sober paternal guidance on the ways of life and the world.

Added to the reading list: Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius's Meditations. Meditations is reputed to be a seminal work of applied Stoic philosophy. Follow with Seneca's Letters.

Columbia Veterans is the new Columbia military alumni association. I'm glad it's reified. I'll sign up when it feels right.

Single Stop for Veterans looks useful.

The NYS Prepare (prior version) "training event" didn't really train us. It was a rapid powerpoint briefing by a NY Guard captain that was more in-depth than the website. The powerpoint briefing is not offered on the website, though; it may be proprietary. The captain's briefing was mostly about raising awareness of the importance of self-sufficiency and prior preparation, what to think and do generally in case of a social-breakdown emergency, and warning us that we may not be able to count on incapacitated or overwhelmed government services (while also reassuring us the government can be counted on). The message was disturbing as it was meant to be. The government has its limits and if you're not ready for those limits when you need help the most and looking for a shepherd, you'll be shit out of luck and suffering, maybe dead. A city without services and utilities is the wrong place to be in a social-breakdown emergency. I did get a free NYS Disaster Preparedness Kit for attending. It smells like a typically musty Army conex, like it was stored with camo netting. NY-Alert looks useful.

Moon (2009) is well-crafted with a seamless mix of CGI and practical models and a well-acted small, indie sci-fi set piece starring Sam Rockwell as Sam Bell opposite Sam Rockwell as Sam Bell 2, and co-starring Kevin Space as Gerty. The movie has touching background music.

Lone Survivor (2013) is an engrossing tearjerker that depicts the incident where a "total of 11 SEALs died that day in the War against Terror, in the biggest single loss of life for Naval Special Warfare forces since World War II." Eight soldiers, the crew of the CH-47 Chinook from the Army's 160th SOAR "Nightstalkers", died in the rescue attempt, too. The running battle is frightening to watch. The humanizing characterizations of the SEALs reminded me of the depictions of the Delta soldiers in Blackhawk Down.

Captain Phillips (2013) and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) are depressing in their portrayals of the social trap of futile, meaningless endeavors where individuals commit their lives but are used as mere pawns in enterprises run by and benefiting others. The Somali pirates made bad choices, but they were also their only choices. It shows that the situation in Somalia is unchanged from the Blackhawk Down episode twenty years ago where warlords are at fault for the failed state.

The Hunger Games is a catchy serial story that I'm tempted to read after watching the 1st 2 movies of the trilogy, keeping in mind however its premise is a schlocky tweenage girl-heroine action-romance fantasy, not a masculine action-adventure-intrigue fantasy. All the boys love Katniss and the world revolves around her. The setting works, Katniss is a plausible heroine, and the Hunger Games are a cool concept, but in terms of the Mockingjay rebellion against the Capitol, she and the Hunger Games themselves are assigned a social-political impact that seems unrealistically out of proportion.

Ender's Game (2014) the movie was a disappointing hack job of a favorite book. I can't say how much fault for the clumsy interpretation is due to the director and how much is the medium. The director's commentary emphasizes that funding, including the bankruptcy of a visual effects company, was a big problem. Perhaps, an animated series would work better to allow a proper telling of the story. Along with the ham-handed storytelling and characterizations, the movie is unfaithful to the book. At least the Starship Troopers movie made no pretense of faithfulness. The anti-military/anti-war premise of the movie distorts the theme of the book. In Card's telling, war comes with terrible costs, but they are necessary costs to prevent worse things than war. In Hood's telling, war and everything associated with war are the worst things and there are no such things as an intolerable enemy and war as a foundational step for peace. The contrast is the Atlas Shrugged movies, which were also made on a shoestring budget, but are loyal to Rand's themes.

Looper (2012), Kick Ass 2 (2013), and All Is Lost (2013) are solid movies. Looper is a well-told story except for its suspect ending. Kick Ass 2 shares the Batman ethic of the harder right and emphasizes the need to connect with your inner unique, heroic identity. All Is Lost shows the importance of staying calm, competence, working a problem, and working through your mistakes.

Draft Day (2014) is a glossy professional product all-around with a straightforward story using a standard heroic arc for Sonny Weaver Jr, played by sports-movie staple, Kevin Costner. The paternalism of the movie is appealing. It tugged some tears out of me.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) is a sci-fi, special effects masterpiece. Its deadpan dialogue and disciplined pace straddles a line of tense and boring. Gravity (2013) also has nice sci-fi special effects. Some parts were questionable. I wonder what force pulled Matt Kowalski away from Ryan Stone at the ISS; he seemed to float away lazily once unclipped. Why is the orbiting debris field chasing Stone to the ISS and Chinese space station which presumably have different orbital altitudes, or else they should have been hit on the 1st pass that destroyed the Explorer shuttle. Did Stone's impossible transit from the Soyuz to the Tiangong using a fire extinguisher and without an oxygen line imply she only dreamed her escape just she like she dreamed Kowalski's return? Why would the Tiangong drop into the atmosphere? Shouldn't the Shenzhou be buoyant for water landings? Could they have salvaged Sharrif's oxygen pack?

The World's End (2013) is the last installment of The Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, preceded by Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007), from the team of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright. Common themes of the trilogy include arrested adolescence versus adult conformity and the inner circle versus the mob. The movie features the lovely Rosamund Pike as Sam. Pegg shows off an impressive range as an actor. In the director's commentary and making-of feature, his voice is deeper than his acting voice. Like other comedians, Pegg is serious and clinical about his work when outside of his role-play. Completing the Golden Mile for Gary King (Pegg), which he fell short of achieving as a high-school graduate, reminds me of my regret over my truncated Stuyvesant bowling career. I tried to make up for it with later achievements, but they weren't the same. You only get to be young once.

Final Destination 5 (2011) is light, fun fare with an effective twist ending. Every death had a misdirection. I watched the movie in 2D though it's designed to be watched in 3D. The film franchise's premise doesn't get old.

Summer's ending again. River Flicks Big Hit Wednesdays wrapped up this week with Captain Phillips (2013). Last night, Family Fridays finished with the classic, Wizard of Oz (1939). Wizard of Oz is a well-crafted classic and I'm glad I watched it on a relatively large screen. However, Dorothy's lesson learned that "if I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own backyard; because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with" bothers me; I don't know what the quote means. River Flicks was a riveting part of my life last summer; not so this summer. My attendance has been sporadic. Of the 7BHW-7FF movies, I watched all of 1-1 (Aug 20 Captain Phillips, Aug 22 Wizard of Oz), most of 2-2 (July 9 Iron Man 3, Aug 6 Lone Survivor, July 18 Ghostbusters, Aug 15 Smurfs 2), some of 2-1 (July 16 American Hustle, July 30 The Lego Movie, Aug 1 Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2), missed 1-3 (Aug 13 The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, July 11 Despicable Me 2, July 25 Ghostbusters II, Aug 8 Groundhog Day), and 1-0 was rained out (July 23 This is the End). The highlight was the group that dressed up as the Ghostbusters with fully detailed costumes. I regret not going to more showings and not arriving early - before show-time - to the movies I attended. Whatever my interest in the movie of the night, the value of the experience derived not from the movies themselves, but from the pleasant, relaxed communal mood, summer event park setting, and the fellow audience, especially the young families and pretty girls. I'm sad Rivers Flicks is over, and I'm depressed that the same thing that added significant value last summer was negligible this summer. It's the shifting, ever-changing impermanence of life.

Tonight, I caught the closing act, Big Sam's Funky Nation, of Blues BBQ, the last event of Hudson River Park's summer evening series. Most significantly, I spoke (briefly) with the conscientious, competent, taut, gray-eyed, dark copper-colored Shirley-Temple-curly-haired girl on the HRP crew who I saw at all the River Flicks showings I attended this and last summer. Apparently, the crew worked at all of the HRP summer evening events. If I had but known - oh well. I asked and she confirmed her hair is naturally curly. She graduated from college this year. Working for HRP as a seasonal employee was her summer job for the last 3 years. She was the only returning member from last summer's crew and expects this will be her last summer working for HRP. So I accomplished that mission on literally my last opportunity to do so. I don't know her name or anything else about her, but I would recognize her hair anywhere; I haven't seen hair like hers on anyone else.

ESPN Replay is a trove for the sports fan who has internet access but not cable television.

I liked the young edition of Team USA that won the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain. It was a deep, versatile team with active, defensive bigs and high-scoring guards. The team defense was vigorous and the team offense scored in spurts. Team USA regularly started games slow, pulled ahead by halftime, then blew out the opposing team in the 3rd quarter. The half-court offense began the tournament rough as usual for Team USA, but improved enough to look cohesive if not sophisticated by the end of the tournament. The offensive philosophy reflected the current trend of 3s and scoring at the rim with less emphasis on mid-range scoring. Kyrie Irving shined as a lead guard on offense. Derrick Rose looked explosive but couldn't hit on lay-ups let alone his jumper. Kenneth Faried showed the value of his energy game as a defender and offensive rebounder. Klay Thompson showed off his well-rounded game on both ends. Steph Curry and Anthony Davis were serviceable on offense and defense, respectively, but underwhelmed their pre-tournament expectations. James Harden and DeMarcus Cousins fulfilled their expectations. Unfortunately, the most anticipated match-up of the World Cup, US vs Spain for the gold medal, was derailed when Spain lost to France in the quarter-finals. France then lost to Serbia in the semi-finals, though defeated Lithuania in the 3rd-place match to win the bronze medal. I believe the US tournament formula of good defense and offensive spurts would have been enough to defeat Spain.

20-pound bag of white rice, opened 17APR14, finished 28JUL14. That's 103 days or about 3.5 months. Update: Subsequent 20-pound bag of white rice, opened 30JUL14, finished 13OCT14. That's 76 days or about 2.5 months. I had a sense I ate rice more frequently with the subsequent bag of rice, but nearly a month or 25% faster is a surprise. Habit accrues quantity.

I bought 8 ramen packs - 2x each of shrimp, oriental, beef, and chili flavor - on sale for a dollar and ate them over a week. I added carrots, spinach, okra, mackerel, tomato sauce, and ziti. Ramen gives me the off after-feeling of unhealthy junk food, but it's quick and easy to prepare.

On 05AUG14, I butchered a pernil pork shoulder that I bought in March with about 8 pounds of meat and skin. Picking clean the baked residual meat, fat, and gristle from the shoulder bone is a treat. This time, I divvied up the meat using produce bags and packed them into 1-gallon ice cream tub. Next step is to boil out some 1st-boiled bone broth, which is quality stuff.

Bananas make for a good savory ingredient. The banana oil provides a robust mellow sweet flavor. I used banana as a topping for pizza bannock with a thick vinegar-and-baking-soda bannock, Marzano crushed tomatoes, Essential Everyday sour cream, sausage, pernil, ginger, and garlic. I also added some banana chunks to a bachelor stew. Good stuff.

Turkey wing gives robustly flavored oil and the meat tastes good, but the meat and skin are tough. They need to be boiled or perhaps steamed. Baking by itself isn't enough, though perhaps baking after boiling may work. Dicing turkey meat into bite-sized chunks works well, especially for a sandwich.

Essential Everyday brand is good quality for a good price, like Shoprite. The sour cream is thick with good flavor, better than Best Yet. The creamy peanut butter is okay. I'm again devouring peanut butter and Smuckers grape jam like pudding.

Goya Spanish-style tomato sauce is just like ketchup. I'll try it out as a base for bachelor stew.

59-oz Minute Maid grape punch is like the Minute Maid pink lemonade. It tastes like candy but doesn't dilute well so I drink it more or less straight.

Good meal: White rice with Luigi Vitelli rigatoni, 1 Idaho potato, and 1 carrot; Ships Ahoy salmon with Cabot sour cream, Tuttorosso tomato puree, ginger, garlic, and onion, heated in toaster oven and 1-qt mixing bowl; 2 chicken drumsticks with onions and seasoned salt, cooked in Nesco; Betty Crocker fudge brownie.

Ouch. 17SEP14. At the supermarket, the prices were raised on what have become staples in my diet. 16-oz bag Goya black and red beans were raised from $1.50 to $1.99. 15-oz can Sunny Seas mackerel was raised from $1.50 (often $1.25) to $1.99. 18-oz jar Everyday Essential creamy peanut butter was raised from $1.99 to $2.39. Ginger was raised from $1.99 per pound to $2.493.99 per pound. I was jarred by the change in price for the beans last week and saw the other changes today. I expect I'll unpleasantly discover cost increases for other staples. There have been other recent significant cost of living increases in rent, utilities, and internet that are concerning and compelling.

I've decided that tasty canned salmon is best as a featured flavor, even an uncooked stand-alone flavor. Not-so-tasty but cheaper canned mackerel is best cooked as an ingredient in bachelor stew or at least cooked and mixed with other strong flavors.

Vinegar is a cheap way to add a tasty tang to bachelor stew.

My last 2 containers of Breakstone sour cream were weak-flavored.

I've said this before, but I'll note it again as a reminder to self: Frozen chopped spinach is tasteless and not worth the sale price. Buy whole-leaf spinach for spinach flavor. Bacala Rico pollock fillets are tough and salty, and tasteless other than the salt.

Interesting bannock result. Baking soda, flour, hot-warm pasta-starch water made for a thick, spackle-consistency dough. No vinegar. Baked on toaster setting for 15 minutes. Thick burnt crust, thick body. I ate it dipped with Francisco Rinaldi spaghetti sauce. Ate half. Inside seemed wet, so I baked it for 5 minutes on toaster setting. Dried the body out some, but consistency was about the same. I think I repeated the unoiled bannock result I had with my oiled versus unoiled bannock pizza experiment. The interesting point was discovering the bannock result with the toaster setting. Higher temperature does seem to make a difference in the consistency of the body as well the crust. Watering makes the most difference in the consistency and taste. Vinegar and baking soda makes the bannock more bread-like.

Using half the water (4 oz) instructed in the recipe (1 cup) makes a difference in the flavor of Betty Crocker carrot-cake mix batter. It tastes better. For flour-based cake, brownies, and bannock, the amount of liquid in the dough or batter makes a big difference.

I improvised knife-sharpening using the rough side and edge of a tempered glass panel, my Leatherman PST II's diamond-coated file, and bottom of a stone coaster. Of the 3 improvised whetstones, the PST II file is the only one that's purpose-designed to sharpen a metal tool. With my 2 dull long kitchen knives, KAI paring knife, Victorinox beak knife, Victorinox serrated knif, and Leatherman PST II knife, I either made no difference, honed but likely not sharpened the edges, or dulled the edges. The kitchen knives seem to be sharper, the paring knife seems to be the same, but the Victorinox beak knife seems to be duller. I dunno. Gray residue came off the knives with the PST II diamond-coated file and stone coaster, which says a difference was made - for better or worse, I don't know. Update: I watched a professional knife sharpener. She used an electric grinder, a diamond-coated plate, oil, a steel rod, and tested the edge by cutting paper strips. She used a 10-degree angle. She said she used the plate normally and reserved the electric grinder for duller knives. On the plate, she rubbed the knife edge back and forth, so not just 1 direction. She advised against using the Leatherman diamond-coated file for shaving off too much metal.

Rubber bands seem to be growing brittle faster than they used to.

My 1.5mm (1/16") kernmantle accessory cord clothing line snapped under load, which I've guessed has 100-lb strength. I was hanging custom-tailored suits that I mostly haven't used because I had 'outgrown' them by the time I had the chance to use them. The line snapped when I added my Army garment bag holding my Class As, shirts, sweater, and all-weather coat, which are fairly heavy combined, onto the clothing line. The break was instantaneous. I heard it. I didn't see it. I'm lucky there was no whipping. Instead, the line seemed to wrap around the outer hanger. I repaired the break with a zeppelin bend, then reattached the end with an alpine butterfly loop and trucker's hitch.

I was dismayed to find clothing moths on 1 suit jacket, though not the pants hanging inside the jacket. It appears they infested only the 1 suit despite that they were stacked tightly together under my bed. Perhaps it's significant that the infested suit is the only one I had worn for a full day (Shin's wedding). It doesn't appear they've attacked my Class As, despite that they're made of a polyester/wool blend and I've worn them often. However, I found what appear to be carpet beetles on several of the suits, and my Army all-weather coat and sweater were infested with them.


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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cool website of the day: Der Lauf der Dinge

Hip and cool summer art on the High Line: A looped showing of Peter Fischli and David Weiss's 1987 30-minute film, "The Way Things Go" (Der Lauf der Dinge).

The artists made an industrial monster Rube Goldberg chain. I can't think of a better demonstration for introducing young kids to why physics and, to a lesser extent, chemistry matter and how the two fields can interact in interesting ways. A technical explanation for each step would enhance the viewing experience.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Tim Duncan

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Jeremy Lin traded by Rockets to Lakers for salary cap space

Jeremy Lin is on the move again. Lin was traded along with a first-round draft pick by the Houston Rockets to the Los Angeles Lakers for salary cap space to sign Chris Bosh. Rumors had Lin being traded to the 76ers for the same terms of the deal struck with the Lakers. The Rockets had already traded Omer Asik, the other 'poison pill' contract they acquired in the summer of 2012, at the start of the off-season to the New Orleans Pelicans.

There's no reaction to the trade yet on Lin's twitter or facebook. The Lakers will be his fourth NBA team entering his fifth season after the Warriors, Knicks, and Rockets, not including his first summer league with the Mavericks.

Leaving the Rockets should help Lin. Before his first season in Houston, the primary playmaking role that he was signed to fill with his new team was given to James Harden. After that, Coach Kevin McHale and the Rockets never did figure out a comfortable role for Lin. It remains to be seen how Lin will be used with the Lakers, who are a team in flux and have yet to replace Mike D'Antoni as head coach. [Update: The Lakers' new head coach is Byron Scott.] Current Lakers guards include SG Kobe Bryant, PG Steve Nash, PG Kendall Marshall, G/F Nick Young, G/F Xavier Henry, G/F Wesley Johnson, SG MarShon Brooks, SG Kent Bazemore, and rookie PG Jordan Clarkson. [Update: In a surprise move that clears the way for Lin at PG, Kendall Marshall was released by the Lakers.]

Given the contretemps over the Rockets recruiting Carmelo Anthony by showing him in a Rockets uniform with 7, the uniform number he shares with Lin, it will be interesting to see how Lin and the incumbent Lakers number 7, Xavier Henry, will work out who wears 7 next season. [Update: Lin will wear 17 and Henry will keep 7.]

A year in the company of Kobe Bryant and maybe Steve Nash should boost Lin's development. It's also possible Lin may be traded again during the season. It's important for Lin to rehabilitate his NBA stature this season for next off-season, when he'll be an unrestricted free agent.

Sunday update: Done deal. "The Lakers also received a future first-round pick and a 2015 second-round pick in the deal, sending the rights to center Sergei Lishchuk to Houston." Lin has updated his twitter and instagram with his Lakers hail and Rockets farewell.

Update: Lakers games that will be broadcast on ABC this season are Sunday, February 8 at the Cavs and Sunday, March 1 vs the Thunder.

25OCT14 update: Steve Nash is out for the season due to his back, which most likely means the end of Nash's career. The remaining PGs on the Lakers roster are journeyman Ronnie Price and rookie Jordan Clarkson. With Bryant slowed due to his age, mileage, and injuries and requiring extra care and with no other starter-level creative guards on the roster, Lin will bear the burden of the Lakers backcourt. Lin is the only Lakers guard who can create offense for his teammates off penetration. The regular season begins on Tuesday, October 28 versus Lin's old team, the Rockets. Lin is starting his 5th NBA season. He's now a veteran entering his prime. This season is Lin's time and Lin's team to fully establish himself in the NBA.



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Friday, July 04, 2014

The oaths I've taken

In honor of the 238th birthday of the United States of America, the oaths I've taken:

"I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God." (Title 10, US Code; Act of 5 May 1960 replacing the wording first adopted in 1789, with amendment effective 5 October 1962) *

"I, (your name), do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States, and bear true allegiance to the National Government; that I will maintain and defend the sovereignty of the United States, paramount to any and all allegiance, sovereignty, or fealty I may owe to any State or Country whatsoever; and that I will at all times obey the legal orders of my superior officers, and the Uniform Code of Military Justice." (The Cadet Oath taken upon entering the United States Military Academy) *


* Originally posted 7/23/2007 11:17:00 PM

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Fall of Mosul and legal authority for anti-ISIS strikes

The Wall Street Journal reports The Fall of Mosul.

I am angry, but there isn't more I can add to what I said in January when Fallujah fell to the terrorists invading Iraq from the Syria war:
The feared consequence of the Obama administration's weakness in the Arab Spring, abandonment of President Bush's Freedom Agenda, and bungling of the SOFA negotiation causing our irresponsible exit from Iraq is becoming real. [Read the rest.]
Blaming President Bush for current events in Iraq relies on the fallacy of attenuated causation. The proximate causes of the crisis in Iraq are, one, the construction of ISIS in Syria that combined with, two, the U.S.-abandoned vulnerability of Iraq. Both conditions arose from post-Bush events, such as the degeneration of the Arab Spring, that are related to policy course changes made by Obama that fundamentally deviated from Bush's foreign policy.

Always remember that President Obama inherited Iraq from President Bush as a strategic victory and keystone strategic partner growing at peace.

President Obama, May 19, 2011:
Indeed, one of the broader lessons to be drawn from this period is that sectarian divides need not lead to conflict. In Iraq, we see the promise of a multiethnic, multisectarian democracy. The Iraqi people have rejected the perils of political violence in favor of a democratic process, even as they’ve taken full responsibility for their own security. Of course, like all new democracies, they will face setbacks. But Iraq is poised to play a key role in the region if it continues its peaceful progress. And as they do, we will be proud to stand with them as a steadfast partner.
Statement on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq website:
After a long and difficult conflict, we now have the opportunity to see Iraq emerge as a strategic partner in a tumultuous region. A sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq that can act as a force for moderation is profoundly in the national security interests of the United States and will ensure that Iraq can realize its full potential as a democratic society. Our civilian-led presence is helping us strengthen the strong strategic partnership that has developed up to this point.
The Iraq praised by President Obama and the U.S. Embassy website as a "strategic partner" was the post-Saddam Iraq that developed under U.S. protection. What is happening to Iraq now is because Obama made the historic error of prematurely leaving Iraq unprotected surrounded by danger instead of staying the course like President Eisenhower stayed the course with Korea. The necessary condition for securing and building the peace is security. Obama took away Iraq's security. Obama's foreign policy has created insecurity.

The issue of the President's legal authority to deploy the military to Iraq under current circumstances, absent a new statutory authority, presents interesting legal questions.

President Clinton deployed the military to Iraq throughout his presidency with the statutory authority of P.L. 102-1 (1991). President Bush deployed the military to Iraq with the redundant statutory authority of P.L. 102-1 and P.L. 107-243 (2002). Because a "specific statutory authorization" is equivalent to a declaration of war under the War Powers Act, within the constitutional scope, there is no domestic legal controversy over the U.S. military mission with Iraq from 1991 to 2011.

The failure to negotiate a new Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq that was effective past 2011 was cited as the main reason for the withdrawal of U.S. Forces from Iraq. However, did the departure of U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011 coincide with an actual severing of all the relevant, or at least plausible, statutory authorities for deploying the military to Iraq? Or was some legal authority retained, perhaps applicable in the event of an emergency such as the current crisis, despite the physical removal of U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011? I don't know; I hadn't thought about the post-OIF legality of deploying the military to Iraq without a new statutory authorization.

Note that the United States has a Strategic Framework Agreement with Iraq. See the State Department press release, U.S. Iraqi embassy statement, and a PDF of the agreement. Also see this CRS legal summary and CFR legal summary.

The first question is whether P.L. 102-1 and/or P.L. 107-243 are still live. Since they authorized the President to enforce the UNSC resolutions relevant to Iraq, a related question is whether the UNSC resolutions related to the security of Iraq are still live. For example, UNSC Res 1511 (2003) "authorizes a multinational force under unified command to take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq". Update: The answer is that the 17NOV08 Status of Forces agreement between the US and Iraq terminated the authority of the older UNSC resolutions. That means P.L. 102-1 is dead law, since its authorization specified enforcement of UNSCR 678. However, I haven't come across that P.L. 102-1 and P.L. 107-243 have been repealed, so if the UNSC passes a new resolution for Iraq, the President should be authorized to enforce it under P.L. 107-243. Update2: See UNSCR 2170 (15AUG14).

The second question is whether P.L. 107-40 (2001) or other counter-terror law cover the situation in Iraq "in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism" (P.L. 107-40), especially if a plausible 'organizational' link can be drawn between ISIS and al Qaeda. Furthermore, the standing policy since the Clinton administration has been "the President has authority under the Constitution [Article II] to take action to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States". The unsettled question, which was debated for OIF, has been the specific character of a threat that opens such authority. If President Obama can make the case that ISIS "threaten[s] the security of U.S. nationals or the national security (national defense, foreign relations, or the economic interests) of the United States," this seems the most likely route for Obama to take military action without seeking additional authority from Congress. Update: The President's counter-terror authority is the strongest legal basis for countering ISIS as long as the counter-terrorism neither targets nor is opposed by the sovereign nations, Syria and Iraq. The State Department has designated ISIS as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT). UNSCR 2170 states, "ISIL is a splinter group of Al-Qaida", which activates the specific statutory authorization of P.L. 107-40 (2001) in addition to the premise of the President's inherent Article II counter-terror authority and apparently the specific statutory authorization of P.L. 107-243. In addition to P.L. 107-40 and P.L. 107-243, see section 324 of P.L. 104-132 (1996), PDD/NSC-39 (1995), and Clinton's practical precedent for overseas counter-terror military action. War against a sovereign nation-state actor, such as the Taliban or Saddam, is a different issue than counter-terrorism against a non-state actor such as al Qaeda or ISIS.

The third question is whether the U.S. has an operative Congressionally approved multi- or bilateral security agreement (treaty) that covers Iraq. For example, President Clinton cited to the NATO treaty when he skipped Congress for the Balkans intervention. As far as I know, we only have the Strategic Framework Agreement with Iraq, which only states a commitment to "close cooperation" on defense and security issues. That does not by itself rise to a treaty.

The fourth question is whether there is a statutory authority linked with a security agreement under international law. For example, President Obama claimed the 'Responsibility to Protect' justification was authorized by the general U.S. agreement with the United Nations covenant when he skipped Congress for the Libya intervention. I thought R2P was a weak stand-alone legal basis in domestic and international law to deploy the military even before Obama severely stretched an already controversial novel application of R2P in the Libyan regime change. Nonetheless, it is a precedent.

The question of statutory authorization may be rendered moot if a U.S. entity is attacked in Iraq. According to 50 USC 1541 (1973) of the War Powers Act, other than by Congressional declaration of war or specific statutory authorization, the military can also be deployed by the President "pursuant to ... a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces." For example, a legal basis for OIF was Iraq firing on the American aircraft enforcing the no-fly zone pursuant to UNSCR 688. When I served with 2ID in Korea, we sometimes would joke that our function was less to stop (really, delay) a north Korean attack than to serve as a tripwire for the insertion of U.S.-led UN forces.



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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Another one: Elliot Rodger

Aaron Alexis, Jared Lee Loughner, Charles Carl Roberts IV, George Sodini, Chris Dorner, James Holmes, Robert Bales, Adam Lanza, Seung-Hui Cho, Yoselyn Ortega, Nidal Hasan . . . not an exclusive list, but a famous segment of a growing and diverse list of killers who, often without significant prior indicators of murderous violence, suddenly exploded in their homes and communities by committing a few or many homicides openly, impersonally if not randomly, with considerable forethought, and with little or no attempt to escape. (I didn't include the Tsarnaev brothers, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, and Eric Bellucci Stuy'98 on the list because they tried to get away with their actions.)

Those are exceptionally publicized recent cases, but this isn't a new phenomenon, of course. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, Colin Ferguson, and Charles Whitman come to mind.

Many of them had unexceptional, if not ideal, middle-class backgrounds. However, many of them also had psychological treatment and medication histories.

Like the Columbine high school killers, they weren't murderers or serial killers who tried not to be caught. Many of them publicized off-beat manifestos like the Unabomber, except Ted Kaczynski tried not to be caught. They acted like attention-seeking political Islamist suicide attackers, but with the exception of Nidal Hasan, without the conventional script of political Islamists.

Add murderer-suicider Elliot Rodger to their ranks. He was a rich, style-conscious, good-looking 22-year-old kid. His use of multi-media to set the stage reminds me of Seung-Hui Cho. Reading his autobiography/manifesto, My Twisted World, his motive sounds like George Sodini's. Rodger suffered from acute sexual alienation, or involuntary celibacy, which is a serious life-changing problem shared by many men. Rodger's obsessed approach and psychotic solution to his problem, however, were atypical. The incongruity is that like Sodini, Rodger looked like a guy who should have had no problem getting it on with the ladies. There's a lot more to sexual dynamics than looks.

Rodger felt boxed in and acted with hopeless desperation. If just one girl had given him intimate feminine affection - not sexual intercourse, just affection - would that have provided enough hope for Rodger to hang on and prevent his "day of retribution"? Parts of his autobiography claim it would have made a difference. Other parts imply it wouldn't have been enough. Rodger's mind was trapped in a corrupted inner dialogue and who knows what he needed to break free.

It sounds like he had a psychological profile similar to Adam Lanza's with a diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome. I've also read he was extremely paranoid and heard voices, which are indicators of schizophrenia. He wrote his mother was on birth control and a medication for an unspecified illness when he was conceived, and I wonder if his DNA was damaged from the start. My armchair layman's diagnosis is Rodger suffered from schizoaffective disorder.

The proximate cause of Elliot Rodger's "retribution" is his psychosis. Of possible contributory social factors, however, the thing that stood out from his autobiography is the seeming absence of his father teaching him how to be a man, especially guidance on sexual relations. They weren't estranged, yet there doesn't seem to have been even a birds and the bees talk. A strong father can powerfully influence his son, perhaps even enough to help his son overcome a phobic aversion to approaching girls. An actively paternal, positive masculine role model provided by Peter Rodger for his eldest son might not have prevented the harm caused by Elliot Rodger's mental illness. But it might have. Add: Insight from a family friend, Dale Launer, who tried to help Rodger with his lady problems.

It's not enough to chalk this up to the mysteries of maladaptive mental abnormality. There's that, but there's also something wrong here, a cancer in the social fabric that's deeper even than the things we normally worry about.



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