Category Archives: Uncategorized is a menace (“Russia Today”) is a menace. I see its articles linked every once in a while as though this is a regular news organization. It’s not. It’s a news organization only in the same sense as Radio Moscow was during the Cold War. Russia is a rival power, and no longer an ideological enemy. It’s still propaganda.

Now they’re upset that “German teens enlist in record numbers thanks to social media drive.” By that, they mean 17 year-olds. This isn’t what people used to think of as “child soldiers.”

Germany now has a record number of children registering to join its army following an intensive social media campaign. More than 2,000 soldiers under the age of 18 served in 2017, according to new figures.

Yes, they said “children.”

It’s still pretty common to join the military at 17. In the U.S., you could once be drafted only at 18, but they’d let you join at 17 with parental permission and (in the modern era) a high school diploma. Until recently, once in, you were just like any other recruit.

This changed slightly in 2002 with the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. You can still join the military at 17, but they can’t send you into a war zone until your 18th birthday. It’s not a radical change.

Treaties like this aren’t surprises for proper militaries. Negotiators have military advisors in the loop when a treaty is still being written and debated. Once signed and ratified, the respective military manuals are updated to reflect any changes. If a responsible country doesn’t like a treaty, they either don’t ratify it, or they state their reservations. (Reservations are pretty common in treaties.)

This article at Russia Today eventually admits that Germany has the same policy we do — fully in compliance with the treaties it signed — and yet pretends this is supposed to be an outrage from medieval times.

The definition of a child soldier used to be a kid under 15. People are forgetting what a mess much of the rest of the world was, and still is. It’s all well and good that we’ve settled on 18 for going into combat, but is watering down some of the true outrages that exist in the world. That is, after all, their job.

Emergency supplies

Preparing for Hurricane Irma’s approach reminded me of this list of things to pack the event of a nuclear attack:

  1. Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  2. Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  3. Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  4. Flashlight and extra batteries
  5. First aid kit
  6. Whistle to signal for help
  7. Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  8. Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  9. Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  10. Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
  11. Local maps

If that looks like your standard list of things you’d need in a more mundane emergency, like a Cat5 hurricane, you’re right. They refer to FEMA, which also has more ideas.

They didn’t say it, but be sure there’s enough food for your pets, too!

tl;dr — The part that might have slipped your mind…

I’m sorry to say that it’s too late for some of this stuff, if you’re in Florida, as the stores have been busy for the last few days. But I’ll add a couple things you can probably still get or do:

  1. Set your refrigerator to max cold
  2. Charge your cell phone
  3. Plastic bags or containers for your personal electronics, including that phone
  4. Reading material that doesn’t need to be plugged in, especially if (like me) you don’t have a Kindle with weeks of battery-life
  5. Cash!

You’ve probably thought of most of this, but cash is an easy one to forget these days.

If you’re in an area that can get flooded, be sure to unplug everything, and move your electronics to where it will stay dry.


We were luckier than most. I’d lost a tree and my internet connection. That was followed by PC problems I just wasn’t ready for. It all coincided with a miserable cold. But like I said, we were luckier than most.

Free Speech Movement ends where it began

Actually, there never really was a “Free Speech Movement,” other than using that name. It was started in Berkeley in the ’60s by radicals. I’m sufficiently jaded that I can’t imagine them having supported Barry Goldwater’s freedom of speech. He may or may not have needed special protection to speak back then, but he certainly would today, and groups like this would be the reason.

In any case, it would be funny to think that it ends with Milo Yiannopoulos. His own Berkeley speech was cancelled last night due to a riot.

The linked article blames “black bloc” anarchists. That’s where a group wears masks and black clothing to make it more difficult for the police to identify and prosecute.

Here is such a group in 2007 Seattle: You obviously can’t say they oppose censorship. You can’t say they oppose torture. You can’t even say they oppose slavery.

You can’t buy this kind of publicity.

‘Loving Vincent’ van Gogh

Via art-site, here is the trailer for ‘Loving Vincent,’ a film animated by 62,450 oil paintings:

There’s a second video at the link that shows how they did it: First, using actors, then CGI for the background, and then 115 painters to actually put each frame on canvas.

The movie itself is about Vincent van Gogh, who I imagine would have appreciated this effort. They used 94 of his paintings to write the story.

They have a website here.

Movie poster peeve

Two movie posters with pictures of their casts, but the castmembers’ names are out of order:

Zoolander 2


Shouldn’t Amy Poehler’s name be listed above her picture instead of above Tina Fey’s? There isn’t a single actor/actress on the Zoolander poster who has their name above them in proper order.

Admittedly, almost no one would care about this, but it gnaws at the multitudes of OCD-tendencies I have in me.

Why would the designers do this? The actors’ contracts surely include something on billing order, but you might also guess they’d see some value in having their own name associated with their face. How would you like to be an actor on his way up, or down, then your big show-biz break comes up, and your name isn’t beside your face on the poster? Apparently, this is not part of the discussion.

It’s tempting to think there’s some subliminal advertising technique at work. Some of you may remember Vance Packard’s book The Hidden Persuaders. But I’m going to assume the guy who designed the picture had one idea, the lawyers already decided what the order would be, and nobody cared if it didn’t match.

Lawyers probably don’t have OCD anyway.

A Kindle deal

(Sorry! Link to this special deal disappeared after just a few days.)

I saw this and had to comment: Kindle + Kindle Unlimited for $99*

“The all-new Kindle plus 6 months of unlimited reading.”

As the link shows, they have a similar type of deal for those who want a different device, like the Paperwhite.

I’ve got three comments:

1. It looks like a great deal.

2. The six-month plan indicates that Kindle Unlimited will be around for a while.

3. It could change people’s reading habits. It will be easier to pick up a book by a new author knowing that you could drop it half-way through. It would almost be like going to the library.

If you’re not familiar with Kindle Unlimited, it’s normally a flat $9.99 per month for access to over 700,000 titles (including my book, of course).

* P.S. Look closely before you buy: The price was $99 when I first wrote this post. It dropped $20 for Black Friday but now it’s back to where it was. It may have changed again by the time you’re reading this.

P.P.S. Kindle Unlimited obviously isn’t for everyone. You’ve got to read or listen to audiobooks a lot, and enough of those books need to be in their library for it to be useful. If you’re already a member of Amazon Prime, then you’ve already got access to a book from their lending library every month.