Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Am I a Bad Person for Wanting This?

I'm not going to buy it. $116.99 ... for a coffee cup (not an affiliate link). A coffee cup that is Internet-connected so you can control the temperature with a smart phone app. I'm not even going to buy the cheaper version that doubles as a wireless phone charger  (not an affiliate link) for "only" $33.99.

For one thing, I generally drink my coffee before it would get cold anyway.

For another, I have an insulated travel mug that I can use if I'm expecting to take a long time to drink my coffee.

Third, we have so many damn mugs around the house that I took two boxes of them to our storage unit a couple of years ago and the remaining ones still take up more cabinet space than I'd like (there's a tendency in our house to unthinkingly grab cheap but cute mugs at yard sales and thrift stores; I've personally defeated that tendency, but the household hasn't).

And fourth, even if I insisted on using expensive pre-made "K-Cups," I could get, off the cuff, about 500 cups of coffee for the price of the more expensive model above, and 100-150 for the cheaper one. I'd have to have a real "my coffee gets cold before I finish it" problem for that to make any kind of financial sense.

But I still just like the ... decadence ... of the idea of connecting my fucking coffee cup to the Internet so that the temperature of my beverage remains ideal.

Why was I even looking at this thing? Heard about something of the sort on today's episode of How to Fix the Internet, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's podcast, and couldn't resist.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Was I Right, Or ...

A few days ago, I blogged my view of what's going on in Ukraine as follows:

  1. The objective of the Russian invasion is to secure the "separatist areas" in the Donbas region, aka the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics, and a land corridor along the Sea of Azov to connect the DPR/LPR to Crimea.
  2. All other Russian operations, including the supposed attempt to take Kyiv, are feints intended to "fix" Ukrainian forces in the west so that they can't interfere with (1).
  3. When and if (1) is accomplished, Putin will declare victory, pull his forces in western Ukraine out, and unilaterally assert a new border with Ukraine incorporating Russian annexation of those LPR/DPR/land corridor takings.
As of yesterday, per Axios:

Top Russian military officials said Friday the operation in Ukraine was entering a new phase focused on the "complete liberation" of the eastern Donbas region, claiming Russia's assault on cities like Kyiv was part of a strategy to distract Ukrainian forces.

Does that mean I was right?

Well, maybe.

The three possibilities, as I see it, are:

  1. Yes, I was right. The DPR/LPR/land corridor objectives are the real ones, everything else was just a feint; or
  2. I was wrong, but the Kyiv attack, etc. have gone so badly that the Russians are going sour grapes -- pretending those other things were just feints and lowering their expectations; or
  3. This statement is the feint, and they're about to go all-out to e.g. take Kyiv.
Naturally, I think that (1) is the case. But as always, I could be wrong.

Friday, March 25, 2022

For Those Who Were Wondering ...

... because I just know that all of you spend your days wondering what I'm up to ...

There wasn't a Garrison Center column yesterday because I was feeling awful (some kind of stomach bug) and didn't trust myself to write 500 coherent words in op-ed format.

I wrote one today, but instead of mass-submitting it and posting it on the site, I opted to offer it to a prominent publication as an "exclusive." If they don't take it, I may shop it around to other outlets, or edit it down from 650 words to 500 or fewer for posting and mass submission.

OK, you can go back to whatever you're doing when you're not obsessing over me now.

Not That I Especially Trust Joe Biden's Character or Judgment ...

 ... but he says he expects there to be food shortages, and he says he expects them to be only abroad, not domestically.

If he's wrong and/or dishonest on both, no biggie.

But if he's correct and truthful on only one, and it's that first one, bad thing.

And I evaluate each of those two possibilities as more likely than that he's correct and truthful on both.

So, instead of seeing how my little garden grows and trying for a bigger one later in the year, I'm going bigger ASAP.

Tiller (not an affiliate link) arrives Monday. Some heirloom seeds (not an affiliate link) arrive Tuesday. I'll be looking into the fertilizer, etc. options over the weekend. I expect to have a bunch of seeds in the ground by the middle to the end of next week.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

If I was Into the "Send a Tchotchke" Kind of Lobbying Campaign ...

... you know, like where every doctor gets a pen with the name of a new pharmaceutical on it, or people start mailing tea bags to members of Congress ...

I would buy have 537 cheap hand mirrors individually shipped -- one to each US Representative, one to each US Senator, one to the vice-president, and one to the president. Across the bottom of each mirror would be printed:


In Which I Disagree with an Anonymous "Senior US Defense Official"

 Per Axios:

With "no progress" toward Kyiv on the ground, the U.S. is seeing indications that the Russians are putting far more energy into their operation in the eastern Donbas region, particularly around Luhansk, the senior defense official said. The U.S. believes Russia is trying to "fix" Ukrainian forces in the east "so that they can't be used elsewhere," including in Kyiv.

I believe the case to be the opposite. I don't know if I've mentioned it here on the blog, but my evaluation from pretty much the beginning (expressed in places such as comments at Antiwar.com) has been thus:

  1. The objective of the Russian invasion is to secure the "separatist areas" in the Donbas region, aka the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics, and a land corridor along the Sea of Azov to connect the DPR/LPR to Crimea.
  2. All other Russian operations, including the supposed attempt to take Kyiv, are feints intended to "fix" Ukrainian forces in the west so that they can't interfere with (1).
  3. When and if (1) is accomplished, Putin will declare victory, pull his forces in western Ukraine out, and unilaterally assert a new border with Ukraine incorporating Russian annexation of those LPR/DPR/land corridor takings.

One reason I think this is that I don't believe Putin is  either insane or misinformed to the extent of the archetypal "isolated dictator."

He is not going to conquer, occupy, and set about "de-Nazifying" Ukraine and remain in power, and unless he's mentally round the bend and/or in a king-hell "only tell me what I want to hear" information silo, he knew that before he launched his invasion. So the "de-Nazification" guff is just there as part of the distraction, and to "negotiate away" in any ceasefire talks.

Could I be wrong? Hell, yes.

Is it possible that the Russian forces are as ineffectual and in as much disarray as the western mainstream narrative asserts? Absolutely.

Is it possible that Putin has suffered a complete mental break with reality, and/or that he's isolated from good information by a clique who see their job as telling him what he wants to hear? Yeah.

And even if I'm right, and even if Putin pulls off what I think he's attempting, whether it's really a "win" is questionable.

Suppose he gets LPR, DPR, and the land corridor to Crimea out of this, and is willing to keep a force there of sufficient strength to make the Ukrainian regime think twice about trying to take them back.

What's he trading for that?

Well, Germany is re-militarizing (what could possibly go wrong?).

Poland is militarizing.

The Baltic NATO member states are likely set to receive major infusions of weapons, aid, and larger permanent US/NATO troop presences.

Absent an immediate possibility of direct confrontation with Russian troops, US troops and weapons will flood into Ukraine to "rebuild" it and "guarantee its security." Probably under the rubric of "peacekeeping," albeit without the imprimatur of the UN Security Council, on which Russia has veto power. Basically, Ukraine will instantly become a de facto, though not de jure member of NATO.

That doesn't sound like a very good trade to me. But it might to him. Especially if he can turn western sanctions into the straw that breaks the petrodollar camel's back as a bonus.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

So, What I've Learned About Backgammon ...

... is that doing fairly well in "expert" one-player mode against 247backgammon.org does not imply being very expert.

I registered at Backgammon Galaxy (thanks to commenter GregL for the suggestion!) and immediately started getting my ass whipped, even by players with pretty low ratings.

I'm already getting better. I'm starting to win a game now and again, even against players with higher ratings. But the only matches I've won were a couple of forfeits that seemed more likely to be of the "I just got yelled at that dinner is ready" variety than of the "this guy is beating me so badly that I might as well surrender" variety.

Backgammon Galaxy offers three modes with different time limits / forfeit clocks -- normal, speed, and casual. I'm playing casual until I get good enough at the game to move quickly and correctly.

If, that is, I continue to find the game interesting enough to pursue. When the writer's block resolves, I may not want to spend enough time on it to become a great player.

So Yeah, I Seem to Be Having a Hard Time Writing This Month

It seems unlikely that I'll average one post per day for March.

I have a hypothesis as to the reason I'm having "writer's block": The war in Ukraine,

Even over here on the blog side of things, I tend to hit things that are in the 1) political 2) news cycle.

Right now that news cycle is almost entirely Ukraine, 24/7.

It's not that other things aren't happening, so much as that they don't get noticed that much, and I notice what other people are noticing and riff on that. Even the non-Ukraine stuff that other people are noticing gets notice with a Ukraine "tie-in" most of the time.

When one topic sucks all the air out of the news cycle, I tend to get writer's block on pretty much everything but that topic ... and I hate being a one-note Charlie, so I just kind of lock up.

Over at Rational Review News Digest, we're putting in extra time tracking down stories so that it's not just 20 straight Ukraine-war-related news items and 25 out of 30 Ukraine-related commentaries every damn day.

At The Garrison Center, I've managed to go six columns in a row that aren't about Ukraine (well, one of them is a little bit about Ukraine, because it concerns the "Hunter Biden laptop" affair) and of our ten columns so far in March, only three have been on that topic.

I don't think the quality of my writing is hurting -- I made the Orange County Register this week -- it's just that quantity and quality of the available material to opine on is putting a lower ceiling on my enthusiasm for prolificity than usual.

So that's my March 2022 so far. How's yours?

Monday, March 21, 2022

I was Blind(ed), but Now I CBC

I may or may not have mentioned it, but a little while back I took part in a trial for chronic pain involving CBD taken orally as a capsule. I noticed/reported a slight but noticeable reduction in my pain levels, and a pronounced positive effect on my ability to get to sleep and sleep well.

The trial was "blinded" in the sense that there were different product/formulation assignments. Today, I received an email from Radicle Science (the firm conducting the study) "un-blinding" which product I received. It contains 40 milligrams of CBD, and 20 milligrams of CBC (another cannabinoid).

So if you're interested in that kind of thing, I can report that it's helpful (at least to me) on the sleep end of things. On the pain end, I don't know for sure, since I had variable reasons to be feeling pain during the study. So I might have had lower pain levels anyway based on having done less physical work that taxed my main pain center (lower back), etc. on a particular day.

When the study was over, I picked up a pack of CBD cigarettes, and also got a  couple of "free sample, just pay shipping" bags of CBD gummies (one bag even included melatonin in the gummies as well). Both of them seem to help with the sleep, not as much with the pain. A little web browsing tells me that CBC is specifically being studied for chronic pain relief, so that may be the difference.

I will probably play around with CBD, CBC, and also when I come across it CBN, and maybe keep a journal of pain levels and sleep effects. In fact, I should probably see if the place I got the gummies from offers any with CBC and/or CBN.

Another Go at Gardening

Generally speaking, my gardening projects don't accomplish much. It's probably a good thing I didn't go into farming.

Over the winter I did plant, harvest, and consume some potatoes (four plants), simply because I had a bag that didn't get used and started growing eyes. Not a big deal, but hey, they tasted good.

But I've got my 4' by 8' raised bed planted and it's looking good so far -- romaine, another variety of leaf lettuce, green onions, cayenne peppers, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, radishes, zucchini, and cantaloupe. One week later, I've got sprouts of everything but the cantaloupe. I bought a bag of single-use plant food packets, which as it happens are each supposed to be enough for a 4' by 8' area, to be used weekly, and set up an Alexa reminder so that I don't forget to feed the plants every Friday. I also plan to be more attentive to weeding, spraying for bugs, etc. this time around.

Obviously a 4' by 8' raised bed garden isn't going to feed the family, but it should provide some salad and stir-fry fixins. Since there will be time for at least one more planting season this year, I'm eyeing a much larger space in the back yard. Maybe a row of sweet corn (to throw on the grill!), and possibly more tomatoes and a row of kidney beans (add beef and seasoning, possibly including some of those cayenne peppers, and voila -- chili!).

On the food side, I'm only a "prepper" to the extent that I keep a fairly large selection of canned food around. We could probably eat canned food for a month and not run out. I do that mainly because if the power goes out for an extended period (as it does when a hurricane comes through), it can be heated over an outside fire fairly easily.

Do any of you do any serious gardening, and/or can the foods you raise? One thing I'm trying to figure out is how much effort and expense would be involved in doing it at the scale required to reduce our outside food needs to meats, spices, and grain-based stuff that would probably be a pain to take from "in the ground" to "that's a loaf of bread right there."

But He Repeats Himself

Thomas Kennedy at CounterPunch: "Florida is a State, Not a Piggy Bank for Corporations."

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Perhaps a Strange Request ...

... but does anyone know of a really good backgammon site that allows one player versus a computer?

After seeing a backgammon reference somewhere, I decided I might as well learn (actually, re-learn -- I played a couple of times in elementary school) the game. For some reason I can't remember, my board game site of choice is 247games.com, which operates 247backgammon.org.

I'm not experienced enough to know how well the AI plays in general, but it certainly has some design flaws in its handling of the "doubling cube." Sometimes it will offer a doubling of the game score when it doesn't need to (that is, when it's already going to win the the match if it wins the game), and sometimes it will forfeit when I propose doubling the game score, even if forfeiting the game is also forfeiting the match.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Calling the Truth "CIA Pro-War Propaganda" is no Different Than Calling the Truth "Putin Talking Points"


Is there any part of "Putin and his imperialist invasion" which is incorrect?

Putin claims to have ordered the invasion, and I haven't seen any reason to doubt that.

And whatever "legitimate security concerns" may have contributed to that order, those "legitimate security concerns" are rooted in a post-Cold-War doctrine of a claimed Russian "sphere of influence" in its "near abroad."

Which is just another way of saying "a peremptory and preeminent power to dictate to polities currently on the fringes of, and historically at times part of, the thousand-year-old Russian empire."

One can be opposed to (further) US intervention in the matter without pretending that Putin is some kind of misunderstood hippie peacenik. He decided he was going to dictate to Ukraine's regime, and invaded to enforce those dictates and punish disobedience to those dictates. Any justification for those dictates is inextricably linked to Russia's history as an imperial power vis a vis Ukraine.

image hat tip -- Matt Hicks on Facebook

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Free Candidate Advice ...

... and worth every dime:

If you think preaching talking points to your party's base, then whining that anyone who challenges them is just a big ol' meanie, is going to get you elected in a district where your party routinely polls 20% in two-way races when it even bothers to run a candidate at all, think again.

Friday, March 11, 2022

An Invitation to Debate Debating, Inspired by Commenter dL

Resolved, that for any offered proposition, the claim that "there is nothing to debate here" is both untrue and tends to redound to the disadvantage of the correct position on that proposition.

My opening argument, in favor of the proposition:

No matter how wrong or even evil a proposition or proposal is, declaring that proposition "non-debatable" cedes the field of persuasion entirely to that proposition's opponents.

No matter how wrong or even evil a proposition or proposal is -- "let's kill all the Jews," for example, or "hey, we've got these nukes lying around, maybe we should use them" --  some people will accept that proposition or proposal on its face without argument, especially if there is no argument offered against it.

"No! That's non-debatable!" is not an argument.

While it's true that some of the people who will accept a wrong or even evil proposition on its face without argument -- perhaps because it caters to their existing prejudices or is offered to them by someone they unwisely trust -- cannot be persuaded, it's plausible to assume that others will accept the proposition or proposal on its face without argument because they are ignorant of its implications. They've just never thought about it. If they thought about it, they might come down on the correct side.

"No! That's non-debatable!" is an invitation to those others to continue not thinking about it. It's a refusal to give them anything to think about it, other than what the other side is offering.

Even the most wrong and evil proposition or proposal should be met with reasons why it must not be accepted, rather than declarations that it's not subject to discussion.

Debate in comments if you wish. And if you consider it debatable.

Wednesday, March 09, 2022

I'm Tired of Hearing About the "Volatility" of Cryptocurrency ...

Oil prices fell by 13% today after a fast climb. Heating oil futures, 22%. Wheat prices have nearly doubled since January, and when the Ukraine war ends they'll crash again.

And these are long-established markets in basic commodities, not experiments that wouldn't be old enough to drive yet if they were people.

Monday, March 07, 2022

The Question Isn't What You Did, It's Will You Keep Doing It?

In the past, whenever I've criticized the Mises PAC (dba the "Mises Caucus"), one of the most common responses is "they're not anti-libertarian -- I'm a libertarian and I'm a 'member!'"

That's often true, and I've never doubted it. A number of libertarians have been conned, duped, and used by the Mises PAC. Some of those libertarians are friends of mine whose libertarianism I've never had occasion to doubt.

But now the situation has clarified itself beyond any reasonable doubt.

In New Hampshire, the Mises PAC busted its ass to nominate a toxic gubernatorial candidate who would scare away third-party-receptive voters by e.g. claiming that the Jews died in the Holocaust because they decided to and that Hitler went to heaven, so that Christopher Sununu would have an easier time getting elected.

In Pennsylvania, the Mises PAC busted its ass to nominate a toxic gubernatorial candidate who was convicted of masturbating in front of pre-teen girls and whose previous claim to fame is serving as Rudy Giuliani's meat puppet in a "Big Lie" press conference. Then when it turned out he was ineligible, they busted their asses to ensure that the Libertarian Party would have no candidate at all in the gubernatorial election.

The Mises PAC is a GOP "infiltrate and neuter" operation aimed at ensuring there aren't any libertarian alternatives to whatever authoritarians the Republican Party puts up for various offices. That's its goal. That's its purpose. It's just another page from the "nominate fake Green Party candidates to siphon off Democratic votes" playbook.

Now that the Mises PAC's true objective has been openly revealed, will you allow yourself to continue to be conned, duped, and used against the Libertarian Party and the libertarian movement?

If you're still a libertarian after the time you've spent rolling around in the Mises PAC manure pile, the answer will be no.

The First Step is Admitting You Have a Problem

Non-interventionists warned interventionists that continued US meddling in the Middle East after Desert Storm would come back to America as a punch in the nose.

So, who did the interventionists blame for 9/11? The non-interventionists, of course.

Non-interventionists warned interventionists that "nation-building" in Afghanistan and the invasion/occupation of Iraq would turn out badly.

So, who did the interventionists blame for the Afghan and Iraq fiascoes? The non-interventionists, of course.

For three decades, non-interventionists warned interventionists that post-Cold-War triumphalism and never-ending NATO expansion would bring the US to loggerheads with Russia, producing at best a new Cold War and quite possibly a hot one.

So, who do the interventionists blame for their latest debacle? If you need more than one guess, you're not terribly smart, are you?

Seems to me there's a "recovery" industry opportunity here. How does "Hubris Anonymous" sound? "Hi, my name is Joe and I'm a dumbforeignpolicyaholic."

Saturday, March 05, 2022

An Unusual Cryptocurrency Occurrence

I don't hold a lot of crypto, but what I do hold on to, I try to spend when the US dollar price is higher rather than lower, for obvious reasons.

Over the years, I've noticed a predictable trend: If I think the market is at its top and decide to spend some, within 24 hours or so it goes on a romp and makes me regret not waiting.

This last few days is the first time I've noticed the opposite.

There's a particular bill I have to pay each year, coming to (currently) $360. The recipient cheerfully accepts specified gift cards that I purchase with Bitcoin, and this year he was equally cheerful when I asked him if he'd mind waiting until Bitcoin got back up to $50k (which I didn't expect to take long, but which has).

The other day, I noticed that Bitcoin was in the $45k range and decided not to wait. Got him paid off, and sat back for the inevitable surge to $60k or so.

Instead, it immediately started been dropping (it's at about $39k as I write this).

It's like the sun rising in the southwest or something.

Friday, March 04, 2022

I Missed the 50th Anniversary ...

 ... of the release of Jethro Tull's Thick as a Brick. It was yesterday.

One of my all-time favorites. In fact, last year I probably listened to it 50-100 times, usually as my "drift off to sleep" music.

The World Would Be a Better Place ...

... if every politician in every polity lived in constant, abject terror over the possibility that this idea might catch on.

 Which is why most politicians in this regime are putting as much distance as humanly possible between themselves and Lindsey Graham's suggestion right now.

Tuesday, March 01, 2022

Thanks For Asking! -- 03/01/22

It's time for the monthly AMA thread -- the place where instead of having to f**k around if you want to find out, you can just ask instead!

Ask me anything (yes, anything) in the comments below this post, and I'll answer (in the comments, or somewhere linked to from the comments).