Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Suggestion, Cognitive Dissonance, and a Trip to Lourdes

Professor Hale offered this comment in the ghost thread:

"I think you have to be suggestible in nature to see such things. Kind of like why only Catholics see Mary, only UFO nuts see them, and only Pentacostals see and cast out demons everywhere."

I'm not one to let an opportunity like this pass. So I have a question for you. Have you ever heard the name Emile Zola? Its no shame that you probably haven't. Indeed its a credit to mankind that his name has largely been forgotten.

Now... why bring him up here?

See... Emile was a famous novelist in the 1890s... and he was a world class prick. He was a thorough prick though. He had a reputation for meticulous research and he was revered among the elites of the day... but again... he was a prick. He was the kind of prick that would ask a christian how someone could believe in God in an age of telegraphs and steam engines.

Emile had a lot in common with Richard Dawkins. But come... let's hear more of his story.

Now ol' Emile had a particular hatred for Lourdes and the claims of miracles that happened there. So much so that he famously announced that he was going to write a scathing novel debunking them... and in 1896... he traveled there to research his project.

I'm not at all certain if you know about what happened at Lourdes but to make a long story short... its a place of Christian Pilgrimage where folks came to pray and repent. There also were frequent healings in the baths there.

So on his way to Lourdes Emile met a girl with a trifecta of afflictions. She had tuberculosis in both lungs... Lupus... and leg ulcerations. Her name was Marie Lemarchande. Zola became quite close to her and also befriended some local medical doctors when they arrived at Lourdes. In fact... when Marie went into the baths one of the doctors, Dr Bossiarree, who was president of the medical bureau, was standing next to him.

Imagine their surprise when Marie came out of the baths completely healed. Bossiarree was amazed. He said, "Behold Monsieur Zola! The case of your dreams!" But Zola turned away. He refused to look at her... and claimed she was still ugly to him.

As if it was not enough... God forced Zola to witness at least one more healing in Lourdes...

And yet when his novel came out... he claimed neither healing actually happened. In his novel "Lourdes" he claimed that the healings were just the result of suggestion and an atmosphere of hysteria... and that neither had lasting effects. He wrote that, in spite of the fact that he remained in close contact with Marie for 16 years after the trip and knew she was permanently healed.

Bossiarree confronted Emile Zola about the false claims... and his reply was... "Its my art. I can say what I want to say."

He had come to Lourdes claiming to only want to see a cut finger dipped in the water and healed. While there he'd seen at least two bona fide miracles that were documented by medical professionals. Yet still... he refused to see... and knowingly lied in his novel.

And that Professor Hale... is all I have to say about Suggestion.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Ghost Stories

Ok y'all. Lets have some honesty. Who here has at one time or another.. seen something that one could describe as a ghost?

I'll tell ya now...

I have... and my wife has. So... how about you?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Two Up and Rollin'

Time for an update. JAC and I are still out with the girls. Spent all day yesterday letting them wander around the Biltmore... then it was back up to the Blue Ridge Parkway for more ridin'. We made a buzz through Little Switzerland and thought about some far off friends... but there was no room at the inn. No worries. Its the South. If they don't have a room... they find you one. And they did.

We ain't much interested in comin' home yet. So we ain't gonna.

More updates over at JAC's. Hit the link to Threeway on the sidebar.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Blue Ridge Bound

Well we're gettin' a late start... and as usual its my own damned fault. Still... a late start is better than no start at all. 5 days in the mountains. We'll be riding the Dragon and the Blue Ridge Parkway. We may even find our way to Mayberry and visit Floyd's Barbershop.

Y'all be good.

You may expect nightly updates.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Aspen 20 - Ground Speed Check

*** I did not write this. To my knowledge the author is anonymous. ***

There were a lot of things we couldn't do in an SR-71 Blackbird (The Air Force/NASA super fast, highest flying reconnaissance jet, nicknamed, "The Sled"), but we were the fastest guys on the block and loved reminding our fellow aviators of this fact. People often asked us if, because of this fact, it was fun to fly the jet. Fun would not be the first word I would use to describe flying this plane - intense, maybe, even cerebral. But there was one day in our Sled experience when we would have to say that it was pure fun to be the fastest guys out there, at least for a moment.

It occurred when Walt and I were flying our final training sortie. We needed 100 hours in the jet to complete our training and attain Mission Ready status. Somewhere over Colorado we had passed the century mark. We had made the turn in Arizona and the jet was performing flawlessly. My gauges were wired in the front seat and we were starting to feel pretty good about ourselves, not only because we would soon be flying real missions but because we had gained a great deal of confidence in the plane in the past ten months. Ripping across the barren deserts 80,000 feet below us, I could already see the coast of California from the Arizona border.

I was, finally, after many humbling months of simulators and study, ahead of the jet. I was beginning to feel a bit sorry for Walter in the back seat. There he was, with no really good view of the incredible sights before us, tasked with monitoring four different radios. This was good practice for him for when we began flying real missions, when a priority transmission from headquarters could be vital. It had been difficult, too, for me to relinquish control of the radios, as during my entire flying career I had controlled my own transmissions. But it was part of the division of duties in this plane and I had adjusted to it. I still insisted on talking on the radio while we were on the ground, however. Walt was so good at many things, but he couldn't match my expertise at sounding smooth on the radios, a skill that had been honed sharply with years in fighter squadrons where the slightest radio miscue was grounds for beheading. He understood that and allowed me that luxury.

Just to get a sense of what Walt had to contend with, I pulled the radio toggle switches and monitored the frequencies along with him. The predominant radio chatter was from Los Angeles Center, far below us, controlling daily traffic in their sector. While they had us on their scope (albeit briefly), we were in uncontrolled airspace and normally would not talk to them unless we needed to descend into their airspace. We listened as the shaky voice of a lone Cessna pilot who asked Center for a read-out of his ground speed. Center replied: “November Charlie 175, I'm showing you at ninety knots on the ground.” Now the thing to understand about Center controllers was that whether they were talking to a rookie pilot in a Cessna or to Air Force One, they always spoke in the exact same, calm, deep, professional tone that made one feel important. I referred to it as the "Houston Center voice." I have always felt that after years of seeing documentaries on this country's space program and listening to the calm and distinct voice of the Houston controllers, that all other controllers since then wanted to sound like that and that they basically did. And it didn't matter what sector of the country we would be flying in, it always seemed like the same guy was talking. Over the years that tone of voice had become somewhat of a comforting sound to pilots everywhere. Conversely, over the years, pilots always wanted to ensure that, when transmitting, they sounded like Chuck Yeager, or at least like John Wayne. Better to die than sound bad on the radios.

Just moments after the Cessna's inquiry, a Twin Beech piped up on frequency, in a rather superior tone, asking for his ground speed in Beech. “I have you at one hundred and twenty-five knots of ground speed.” Boy, I thought, the Beechcraft really must think he is dazzling his Cessna brethren. Then out of the blue, a navy F-18 pilot out of NAS Lemoore came up on frequency. You knew right away it was a Navy jock because he sounded very cool on the radios. “Center, Dusty 52 ground speed check.” Before Center could reply, I'm thinking to myself, hey, Dusty 52 has a ground speed indicator in that million-dollar cockpit, so why is he asking Center for a read-out? Then I got it, ol' Dusty here is making sure that every bug smasher from Mount Whitney to the Mojave knows what true speed is. He's the fastest dude in the valley today, and he just wants everyone to know how much fun he is having in his new Hornet.

And the reply, always with that same, calm, voice, with more distinct alliteration than emotion: “Dusty 52, Center, we have you at 620 on the ground.” And I thought to myself, is this a ripe situation, or what? As my hand instinctively reached for the mic button, I had to remind myself that Walt was in control of the radios. Still, I thought, it must be done - in mere seconds we'll be out of the sector and the opportunity will be lost. That Hornet must die, and die now. I thought about all of our Sim training and how important it was that we developed well as a crew and knew that to jump in on the radios now would destroy the integrity of all that we had worked toward becoming. I was torn. Somewhere, 13 miles above Arizona, there was a pilot screaming inside his space helmet. Then, I heard it - the click of the mic button from the back seat. That was the very moment that I knew Walter and I had become a crew. Very professionally, and with no emotion, Walter spoke: “Los Angeles Center, Aspen 20, can you give us a ground speed check?”

There was no hesitation, and the replay came as if was an everyday request. “Aspen 20, I show you at one thousand eight hundred and forty-two knots, across the ground.” I think it was the forty-two knots that I liked the best, so accurate and proud was Center to deliver that information without hesitation, and you just knew he was smiling. But the precise point at which I knew that Walt and I were going to be really good friends for a long time was when he keyed the mic once again to say, in his most fighter-pilot-like voice: “Ah, Center, much thanks, we're showing closer to nineteen hundred on the money.” For a moment Walter was a god. And we finally heard a little crack in the armor of the Houston Center voice, when L.A. came back with, “Roger that Aspen. Your equipment is probably more accurate than ours. You boys have a good one.”

It all had lasted for just moments, but in that short, memorable sprint across the southwest, the Navy had been flamed, all mortal airplanes on freq were forced to bow before the King of Speed, and more importantly, Walter and I had crossed the threshold of being a crew. A fine day's work. We never heard another transmission on that frequency all the way to the coast. For just one day, it truly was fun being the fastest guys out there.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


I just thought I would brighten your day a bit. Have a look at this little graph from the St Louis branch of the our very own Fed.

I don't have time to explain this in full... as JAC and I are busy prepping for a big ride with the girls.

However... it don't take a genius to figure what it says.

Heep bad juju mon. Spirits... day in der... talk talk.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Tinkering with Attitudes

If you can imagine... I have been teaching Vacation Bible School classes. Me.

If you're horrified and ya know it clap your hands.

Ok good... done now? You in the back... Sarah... you can stop clapping now. And bring me a beer.

Anway so I'm Recreation Leader. Thus... I am responsible for games and such. We've played human scale foosball... dodgeball with socks instead of balls... and I keep promising them we're going to field strip AR-15s but I am a few short so that will have to wait till next year.

Well... it so happens that I have a 4th and 5th grade class that only has 10 kids in it... and one of them hasn't seen his daddy in years. His ol' man is off in Iraq ya see. I do believe we all know the critical nature of these years when it comes to boys.

The effect is predictable. The kid acts out all the time. Not malevolently, but he just always acts like he thinks he's Spongebob Squarepants or something. He's extremely insecure... he has to win every game or he literally runs off and cries and will try to hide from everyone. If you said to yourself... "He's way to old for that." Congratulations. You get a cookie.

Clearly I have some work to do.

I started today. After class today with them.. I sat them all down and I gave them the fairness speech. Now I don't know if you've ever gotten the fairness speech or not... but think of the modern concept of fairness... now wad it up and throw it away. That's pretty much the speech.

It goes something like this...

"Ok guys... listen... The other kids are probly to young for this... but you're old enough now that you need someone to tell you. Ya know what the Bible is? Ya know what we use it for? It tells us about ourselves, about God, and about how to live our lives. Now... I want you to think about something... "fairness" isn't really in there. In the Bible, the words, "fair" or "fairness" are only used to describe God or God's judgment or business dealings. Life is not fair. Life's outcomes aren't fair. Human justice is not fair. Only God's justice is fair. You're not always going to win. Sometimes people are going to be better than you are... and sometimes people who aren't better than you are... will cheat... and they will win. Cheaters do win sometimes. You know it. I know it. Everyone knows it.

So what are you gonna do? You can get upset and be unhappy because its not 'fair'... but what have you gotten out of it? Nothing. You're just mad and you've wasted a bunch of time being upset about something you can't change.

Accept that life isn't fair. Instead of worrying about how much of something someone else got... appreciate what you have."

When I was finished I had some very skeptical kids on my hands... so I asked them if they believed me. One of the boys actually looked up and said he wasn't sure yet. Can't blame him. There was a 16-year-old girl that had been helping me that thought I was full of crap to.

Thankfully there was an old lady that had been listening in... and she had my back big time.

And tomorrow... tomorrow its time for the Ecclesiastes talk.

Vacation Bible School... they are so busy teaching kids that God loves them... they ignore the practical matters. Yes... yes God's love is a practical matter. But for crying out loud when that is all you say to them... eventually they tune you out dammit! One doesn't think much about the words coming out of a parrots mouth... its simply impressive that it can speak at all.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Elections Don't Matter

Right now... a group of unelected bureaucrats have proposed a rule change that would literally effect millions of people throughout the country. No one voted for these men. They are not part of the political process... and yet... they are proposing a rule change that will basically ban the most popular knives in America today.

I thought the proposal was just an Internet rumor.

I was wrong.

Specifically its the US Customs... attempting to ban the importation of all folding knives that can be opened with one hand. Everyone complains about judges legislating from the bench. We better start worrying about bureaucrats legislating from the cubical.

Monday, June 15, 2009

JQP Update

Got an email from our hiker today. Its been a haywire week... and its a tale I have no interest in sharing here. He can tell it if he decides to. Right now all ya need know is... he's in Denver for a while... and he's good. He'll post an update on his blog when he gets time but he's pretty busy right now.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Prayers for the Traveller

I ain't overly sentimental... nor could I reasonably described sensitive. I do find myself worried tonight though... about a fella I've never met.

JQP is somewhere between St Louis and Denver... hitch-hiking his way south-east. Now... I know times are tough on almost everyone... but I don't know how many people can rightly claim to need your prayers more than him. If you happen to know of some folks... no worries... pray for both. Prayer ain't expensive and God has the time to listen.

JQP's blog is over here. I've tried to convince him to put up a tip jar so folks could help him out but the stuborn S.O.B. won't have none of it.

Well... I can't say much else I don't reckon. If ya know anyway to help... then help.


Friday, June 12, 2009


Think of this as motivation... if you think you might want to stop by for the ATF tonight... maybe this post will convince you to join us.

Have a gander at this picture of some Cricket Girls from Panama.

Now... expatriating doesn't quite seem so bad now does it?

Oh? I guess I should fill in the blanks...

The plan right now is as follows...

A: Modelo... then Bookers.
T: Some glorious cigar.. undecided.
F: Steyr .40. Various AR-15s.

You're welcome.


Whatcha drinkin? Whatcha smokin'? Whatcha carryin'? And who ya havin' all that fun with? Those are the rules... Let's roll!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The JohnQ Dilemma

I've been meaning to post this for a long time. Full props to JQP, who's baby it is.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Soccer is Gay

No seriously. I'm trying to think of an american professional athlete that would walk around in tight shorts, a pink shirt, and a flower in his hair.

Its no wonder the Germans are continually trying to take over Europe.

And what is this crap about "comfortable with your sexuality". Does that mean you know you're a faggot and therefore you don't mind if everyone else knows to? That's about all I can come up with.

Have fun boys.
Ambiguous Tool Bleg II

Note: the spring actually holds the thing open. You squeeze it closed against the resistence of the spring.

Any ideas?
We need to help Welldigger with his ambiguous tool!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

See? I told ya...

Vox is short.
A Son's First Firearm

I know this is late... but you wouldn't believe how much I've had to wrestle with the horror of actually having to post this on the web.

I mean... have the manly arts been so desecrated and ignored that men actually have to search the internet for this? One day... will dads really go to yahoo answers and type "When should I get my kid his first gun?"

Maybe we're already there... I mean the subject certainly evidences the assumption... but its a hard one for a guy like me to come grips with. Ah well.. fact is... I've been asked... and cain't nobody be much blamed for the situation... least of all them what need to know. It ain't like they're the ones that neglected their responsibilities. They're trying to make up for some other no account good for nuthin's past sins.

Well... hell... its already late... I reckon I should get on with it and stop ramblin'.

First things first.. ain't no hard fast age where your boy will wake up and be ready for their first firearm. Its like respect. Its something that has to be earned. Once its been earned... it's given.

Your kid has to show responsibility. One thing I could ask is... could you give your kid 20 bucks.. tell them to walk to the store a get some milk? Would he give you the correct change when he got back?

If the answers are yes and yes then he's probably ready.

Personality is another thing to consider though. Do you have a dare devil on your hands? Does he understand actions and consequences? Can he reasonably access risk? I mean if you continually have to explain why he shouldn't ride his bike off the roof of the barn... it probly ain't quite time yet.

And does he have a mean streak? Does the kid take a little to much pleasure in causing harm? You have to watch this stuff.

But lets say in your mind you're confident that the boy is responsible and has earned the right to own his first firearm... He's probably 8 or 9... maybe 7... maybe 11. Ya never know... but regardless... ya want to start with something in 22lr. A ruger 10/22 is a great option... though semi-auto isn't the traditional choice. A Taurus Model 62 LAR in .22lr is a great choice to... especially if the boy already has a Red Rider BB gun. Still... tradition says single shot rifle.

Just remember... there are long talks that have to be had. Gun safety is perhaps the most cherished of the Manly Arts. Treat it as such. Teach him to clean and care for the weapon. Make sure every single time he fires it... he takes the time to clean it. Talk to him about how important it is to never put a weapon up dirty. Cherish that time together... cleaning the weapons you've just shot. There is no way to over-estimate how important those things are to a boy.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Wierd Tool Bleg

umm... can someone tell me what the hell this is?

Its some kind of tool for God knows what. If this crew don't know... no one does.

Welldigger bought an old timer's tool box and this thing was in there amonst all manner of other arcane devices both ancient and mystifying. This is one of the few we simply could not divine.

Friday, June 05, 2009

ATF Returns!

A: Modelo Especial... Wild Turkey Russell's Reserve... a White Russian for DrWho

T: Onyx. Next best thing to ganja.

F: Custom.. hand fitted.. one-off 1911... S&W M&P15... Glock .45 for DrWho. Jeb has a Daisy lever action Red Rider BB gun.

Just out of the pool... Its a tough life y'all. It really is.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Kids and Guns

A post on a boys first gun has been requested and I am in the process of cooking one up. Until its finished... I think it would be wise to point you to a previous and related post.

This is an older link that relates to firearms and kids and safety.

The Trainwreck of Academic Science

Science has historically been practiced by rebels. From Galileo to Copernicus to Newton to Pascal to Tesla... the great leaps have come from single-minded geniuses unwilling to accept the norms of their day. They were characters... individualistic and often larger than life... with bizarre quirks and steel trap minds that were highly susceptible to both wander and obsession.

Today... we screen for these brilliant minds. One of the most well funded systems society has created was designed specifically to sift through our young to find these people. We have whole professions devoted to identifying them. And once they are found...

They are labeled and all the exceptional qualities are promptly drugged out of them.

There is no question people... if Albert Einstein were born in America today... unless he was home schooled he would've spent his whole childhood in a drug induced stupor. He would've been labeled a problem child, fallen into the drug culture, and probably would've spent his life in jail. The exact same thing would happen to Nikola Tesla.

We have created a system that destroys the truly exceptional. It drives them out. The best and the brightest figure the game out extremely early... and play it. They do just enough to get by in school because getting by is all they need to do. They may harbor grand dreams of a liberating university experience where they can finally be challenged... but those dreams go up in smoke with English Lit 101. They haven't been on campus for more than a few weeks when they realize they have another 4 years of what amounts to high school before they can even begin to do anything even remotely resembling research... and two more years after that before things actually get interesting.

They probably try to stick it out for a couple years though. It takes that long for the grind of the hoop jumping to wear them down... at least usually. In the end its the same though... they go off and find something else to do.

Of course... the simple fact that academia have rejected them doesn't mean that they give up their interests... nor does it mean they are incapable of achievement. After all... Micheal Faraday had no formal education. Ah... but...

But. But is a very small word... disproportionately foreboding.

In the world of Faraday science was not monopolized by a university system. A college degree was not an admission slip. And as I stated earlier... the slip is based more on once ability to jump through hoops than any scientific talent. Combine this with the fact that there are way to many people going to college to begin with.

What you end up with is a dual edged sword which both weed's out the exceptional, and leaves those few that remain starving for attention... often drown out by the millions of idiots who happened to have a talent for hoop jumping... but suck at science.

In the end... I'm not at all certain one could've designed a better system to insure mediocre science. Almost from birth it weeds out the undesirables and either destroys them completely or molds them into mediocre drones... and as they progress... each level of the system filters out more and more of them until what's left are only the purest and most well-heeled... guaranteed to never stir up trouble to take reckless risks.

No Rebels Allowed.

Trouble is... the willingness to stir up trouble is one of the most essential attributes of a brilliant scientist.