We’re alive.

And due to the magic of Wi-fi at the California Bean Company web-cafe on the Terez Korut, I can even check emails.

Hoping everybody’s well.  We’re less well than we’d like, but better than we could be.

State of the Russ Address, Dec. 2006

In four hours, the Bunny and I will be at an airport enroute to Hungary for Christmas, hopefully to wipe most of this fall’s discontent away with old friends not seen in a while.

  1. This fall and this year has seen a lot more sickness and death than we usually see around here, in both the kith and the kin, the (way too goddamn-)young and the old.  I handle death very well in the immediate, and poorly in the long-term;  I’m precisely unlike the old monk in A Canticle for Leibowitz, who is “like mercury.  I splatter, but somehow I always run back together.”  No, I’m the guy who’s like wood, and gets brittle, and this year is has really shown.
  2. I finally go to the levee to pull some arrows and shoot at a reasonable distance.  There is a feeling involved with instinctive shooting that you simply don’t get using three-point western archery.  (And you the latter is more accurate, but you can’t do it from horseback.)
  3. On that front, I took a short break from savate due to the combination of starting to burn out, and the commute involved not letting me do any of the other things that make me who I am without neglecting my wife (who felt the weight of me being gone an extra night of the week) …  some of them things that make me very happy, had simply sat to the side mouldering for lack of hours in the week.  Some people like to talk about it, but I know what I’d be doing if I hit the lottery.
  4. My third article in “the trilogy” is being looked at both by Clifford Rogers at JMMH, and by a friend of my Dad’s who has friends elsewhere in the field.  My hope with these three articles is to exert just enough weight in my field that sachkritik becomes de rigeur in research, and to promote the use of experimental archaeology and the “worm’s-eye-view” of raw, detailed physical realities to solve historical problems where the written sources tend to disagree.  Yeah, I’m arrogant that way, but I’m already starting to pop up in footnotes, and article two, which takes the “fish slapping dance” to most of the big names of the field, is going to make a splash.  The third takes aim at two generically cherished notions in the field, and both will likely draw fire from folks who are far more learned than me (or more specialized, which in this case amounts to the same thing), but in that process influence the discussion.
  5. On that front, my friend Csaba needs to get published, preferably in English, for the sake of his career, and he is running dead into ideological opposition at home.  So I may wind up working on a full-length manuscript faster than I intend to.
  6. The novel is yet another one of the many things that was supposed to get finished this fall, and hasn’t been.  I’ve got somewhere between two and three chapters left to write, and will either take it to Baen, or else self-publish (which has gotten a lot more respectable over the past couple of years as technology makes its impact, with a number of very good authors taking this route).
  7. Made sling bullets for James Baird this Christmas.  I should be able to start actually making them more uniform in mass once it’s determined what the best “standard” size is for the type of slings we use (which are leather, and longer in the arm than most woven slings).
  8. Other random things waiting in the wings to be written:  messerfechten with Grzegorz Zabinski, and two different martial arts books with Kevin.  And either a sequel to said novel (which flows obviously and organically from the first), or two others, including a romantic comedy idea that makes The Graduate look tame and sane by comparison.  Clearly I need to invest in those drugs that let you skip sleep for half the week.
  9. Terra Preta experiment is kind of stuck due to the need for powdered charcoal in bulk.  Anybody know of a supplier?  The activated stuff is too expensive and probably a bad experimental source.
  10. I’m teaching seven sections next semester, in three different counties.  And have been accepted at UTA for the additional coursework I will need long-term to escape the accreditation demons.  Suffice it to say, the gamble paid off, and I’m now fully-employed as a history lecturer.
  11. Picked up a new .45, since I can’t even think of doing El Presidente races with my Llama, which is safe to shoot, but mechanically faulty.  It’s a Taurus Millenium, which is a nice carry pistol with a small magazine but an equally small footprint (it’s not much bigger than a .380), and a grip that suits my hands.
  12. I and Jim Braith are now officially Johnny Redwood-seed, and his land should be absolutely perfect for starting a redwood grove in the Oachitas.  I’ve got big hopes in that direction.
  13. The side business making parchment is ready to go pending the first customer’s bulk order.  He did a nice illumination on the samples I provided him, and is hot to go.  Once that starts rolling, word of mouth should do the rest, as I can provide reasonable parchment at *much* less than the main commercial supplier charges.
  14. Squirmybutt McPoopytail is officially the property of Ms. Autumn Jackson, though he’s still here for a couple days snarfing and curling up in peoples’ laps.  So I guess I don’t have to turn him into gloves after all.

As usual, I’m sure there’s something else, but it doesn’t spring to mind at the moment.  Merry Christmas, y’all, and see you next year.

Does this planet make me look fat?

How about this one?

Let me tell you of the days of high adventure…

It’s been a while since I posted. This will be an abbreviated personal post for the folks at home.

So. I’m working on a doctorate in Psycholinguistics. The study of cognitive differences in languages with a heavy semantic recall vs. languages with phonological links is given a nice little lab setting in a culture with a language that includes Hangul (orthographically transparent) and Chinese (semantic picture recognition). That will be my master’s and doctoral work.

To pay for this, I need a job. The options for jobs are to become a white monkey at a Korean academy, to become a white monkey at public school, become a white monkey at a the college, or teach illegally without getting caught for the next three years. Festive.

Never one for the simple solution, I decided to make my own job. I decided to start a company in Korea that would basically cater every desire I had in a job while still maintaining market viability. Maximum autonomy, no security, maximized ability to instantly exploit any and all opportunities that came my way in the current market conditions. In a (pair of) word(s), educational subcontracting.

The catch? No Confucian culture goes for any of that. As I was explaining this (over and *%$#ing over) to the business folks, the Korean businessmen and profs looked at me like I was from Mars. The Korean legal philosophy, by the way is that of strict construction. Everything is illegal until it is made legal. This was not covered and therefore was inherently illegal.

This went on for three months. This included the business and legal guys who were looking at my contracts. They understood the term, but in much the same way they understood third trimester abortions. Finally, I ran into a young Korean MIS fella, named Kim Sung Dong. He looked at me and said “Blue Water!”

“What’s Blue Water?” I asked.

“No horizon! No competitors!” Now I’m getting somewhere. Turns out he wasn’t sure about the full extent of subcontracting, but latched onto one example of how subcontracting could whip the dog nuts off of the in house fellas that get hired. It was still a start. At least one of my throwaway ideas could work. But this guy can negotiate. All the negotiation below? Him. He’s amazing.

So we went about getting licensed. So, here is sentence fragment theater. Recruited two others: Vietnamese economist, American teacher/business admin fella. Secured funding for four months. Working seven days a week. Upgrade contracts. Develop charter. Secure E-commerce licence. Vietnamese economist goes home: sets up contacts at home for business in Korea. American goes home: sets up American business and tax codes. Try IT subcontracting with Korean companies: stillborn due to lack of information flow. Recruit our first American English teacher. Want a business licence. Need a building. Get a building. Knock 50% off the rent (take it and LIKE it). Want an educational licence. Need a bigger building. Need a to get a sugar daddy. Got a sugar daddy. Daddy will give sugar if we have an office in the nice part of town. Secure said building in four days. Get saddled with a 6k francise licence with the rent. Knock 25% off the rent and 5k off the licence with additional 2k insurance for business failure (We are the droids your looking for!) Remodel the interior in two days for $600 under budget. Clear the fire inspection by charmingly mooching assistance from a hardware store owner. Clear the Educational Government Inspection by correcting the moronic inspectors feeble grasp of his own frickin’ category of law to him (got help from the Fire Marshall on this). Four, count ’em four, seperate trips to immigration to change my visa status (they were asking for different and new paperwork every time). Visa status clears the day before I must be teaching at least ten students. Recruited 10 butt-in-seat students in 12 hours (I actually dragged a Jehovah’s Witness into this, real quote: Him “Do you believe in the end of the world?” Me, big smile “In fact, I do. Follow me.”) Got our first American teacher over here and set him up with his contract. Recruited two more contracts.

So. Where does that put me? I can do e-commerce, and education. I have a company that can hire any of the Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean students. We have cooperation agrements with a number of schools. We can place a modest number of English teachers, and can push language instruction to any school via the internet. You need some language? I can hook you up.

I also started the International Students’ Association so I can recruit from the foreign students that come here, provide legal work, and health benefits. You want to learn Chinese? I have teachers and a curriculum. We’re developing an English language game, a Korean as Foreign Language curriculum, and we’re securing trade with midsized Korean companies and Vietnam the second they enter the WTO.

And I have a girlfriend. We’re talking two kids, one adoption. She brought me a watch and homemade cookies on my birthday. I didn’t tell her when my birthday was and was working so hard I forgot it was my birthday. She researched it with the psych department.

That’s the short version. If anybody can help me get ahold of Amercian Science books, middle school level, I would appreciate it. Also, if you know of anybody who needs IT work done, lemme know. And if anybody wants to lecture over the internet, let me know.

Now to catch up on some papers.

Light posting through Christmas

I have to say, so far this Advent has sucked sea urchins through a pair of sweat socks.  But the Bunny and I are going to Budapest on Saturday, and will be back just in time to post a list of laughably inaccurate New Years’ Resolutions and best wishes.

Consolations

There are moments…

dscn3324.JPG

JIPTC

There’s a secret in the desert.

Man hath no greater love than this…

Rumsfeld article in RCP

Real Clear Politics links to an article on Rumsfeld that should be required reading.  Mainly because I agree with it.  I know it took a bit to convince Eason that Rumsfeld’s ‘da man,’ but I’ve always liked the guy. Then again, I like John Brown, too…

(Since I’m home trying to take the edge off something I picked up from a student, I had plenty of time.  What is it, five years you need before you develop the Battle of the Chesapeake-quality immune system?  Fair warning, it’s lengthier than your typical blog post.)

Getting serious about the Moon and Mars

Okay, so we want to go to the Moon.  And there’s serious evidence of water on Mars.

So why aren’t we going?  There’s certainly no shortage of Americans yearning for a new frontier, and perfectly willing to train up on waldos and whatever else would be involved in creating a new set of colonies.  We’re even reasonably sure what that sort of work would entail.

But NASA’s plans aren’t serious.  The Moon in twenty years?  Based on the gradual refurbishment of 1960s technology?  So that five people can stay there for half a year, doing who knows what?  Lift, now that the ABM Treaty is done and gone for: if the US were serious about getting into space, it would pioneer and Orion drive and be done with it by putting the equivalent of the USS Enterprise into orbit with every launch, with sufficient tonnage both to carry water shielding against radiation and to possess rotating decks for spin gravity.

Believe it or not, this ain’t science fiction any more.  So why isn’t it being done? It’s not like we can’t contain the radiation effects at the launch site — they had that figured out in the 1970s.  So what’s the deal?

When our enemies have fallen…

such as the Ayatollah Khameinei… do we invite them to RIP (rest in peace), or RIH (rot in hell)?

The symptoms being described sound a lot like congestive heart failure, which on top of cancer, doesn’t bode well for his long-term investment returns.  And yet, as much as Iran’s mullahcracy has inflicted evil after evil upon the world for the past thirty years (and don’t get me wrong, the US had to do some evil mean shitty things to win the cold war: folks forget that international Sunni terrorism/guerillas was our weapon against Godless Communism in Afghanistan)…

I find myself with no feelings of animosity at all, merely a desire that all of these schmucks get off the stage so that the Iranian people can return to their true historical greatness.  And that’s odd, because I’m not exactly known as the most charitable of my friends… what I saw done by the Communists in East-Central Europe would have inspired me to a revolution, but I can guarantee you that there wouldn’t have been a “Velvet” thing about it.

So what, I wonder, makes the difference?  It’s not the depravity: the mullahcracy is every bit as bad as the Soviets were, and form the same sort of brutal kleptocracy that characterizes Putin’s Russia today… with the possible exception being that the Russians may generally hate Jews, but they don’t send strike teams all the way to South America simply because they have a chance to whack a few who have their guard down.

What gives, I wonder?

Bid for SCO Energy Cartel reveals staggering Russian weakness.

Here’s the link from Eurasia Times (run by Jamestown Foundation, good folks if you’re in the wonkosphere).

Russia’s bid here is playing a weak hand, and admitting it in the process. China and Russia have starkly different energy needs (Russia is an energy exporter, since they can’t be bothered to provide to their own subjects, and China is a noted importer), and if the ‘Stans were still under Russia’s thumb, their participation in SCO would be a non-issue. If Russia tries to dictate energy policy to the SCO, then the SCO will become as toothless as the CIS has become.

Russian leaders still don’t get it, and are playing a late-19th-century game in the 21st century. There is no way that Russia, in combination with any number of other players, are ever going to “balance” the US and the West without developing a functional economy.

Even military pressure won’t count long-term:  right now ballistic missile defense is hard.  In another fifteen years, even if Topol-M were everything it was advertised to be, it’ll be merely taxing.  In thirty, it’ll be easy.  The old weapons simply won’t count for squat in a world where the powers with functional economies can R&D their way into Buck-Rogers stuff.  And even if Russia were to develop some form of coherent cooperation here in the SCO, the NATO countries’ economic growth will allow them to handily pay for said energy long after Russia has become utterly dependent on making the sale.  That’s what functional economies do.  They grow.  No number of “Zaires with permafrost” are going to seriously challenge the Chinese economy, which is only a quarter as productive as ours, let alone the US-EU-“Westernized Asians” bloc.

China will tag along as long as it’s convenient, just for another chance to get its thumbs further into the Central Asian pie. But Russia has no leverage on this stick, let alone the ability to dictate where it’s swung.

Stop Discriminating by Race?

Douglas Kmiec posts a reasonable, if myopic, little article, positing that, as in the blurb, ” Rigid ratios of white, non-white only indulge ugly stereotypes.”

I’d like to go one step further.

Stop discussing race at all.

Why?  Because race is irrelevant.  And it’s irrelevant because race doesn’t exist.  There’s no such thing.  It’s a bad theory that, like phlogiston, has been replaced by DNA and genetics.  And not only has genetics killed that off, but the newly-emerging field of epi-genetics is starting to tell us, quite distinctly, that genes are mutable, activatable, and de-activatable, by no means a hardcoded map to our future.  The only reason we worry about race is because of the horrific stew of poisons and historical damage floating all around our culture, left over by (generally) well-meaning people working from a horribly ignorant understanding.  And using the term in any active way forces you to buy into all of the damage, rather than simply begin to cut a clean slate and fix it for good.

The best way to heal said wounds is to give a leg up to the needy, whoever they are, and to actively discourage any use, any use at all, no matter how high-minded, of this world-is-flat, outdated theory.

Seedling theory gains evidence?

“We are stars…”

Okay, sorry, couldn’t resist.  But if this turns out to be true, our chances of finding neighbors out there go way, WAY up.

Democrats’ College Disaster Plan

The plan to push a college-tuition tax-deduction plan must be opposed.

Don’t get me wrong: if I had kids going into college, I’d love this.  It’d mean I could afford to pay more… etcetera etcetera.

So, come on,  BA, what’s so wrong with this?

Well, let’s go Socratic for a minute.  What happens when lots of money chases a relatively stable product?

That’s right:  there’s less pressure to keep prices down.  And that means that if this goes through, you’re going to see costs per credit hour JUMP.  Which will be fine for those folks who are helping their kids, as the relative increase will probably not keep up with the economic benefits.

But what happens if you’re putting yourself through school?  What happens if you’re poor and trying to scramble your way up out of the working class?

You’re screwed, that’s what.  And while, libertarian that I am, I’m all about the tax cuts, a specific, targeted deduction policy that will inherently support class divisions within society is not a quality policy.

I have a better idea.  Let’s stop taxing income tax altogether in favor of a consumption tax, and establish tuition fees as non-taxable items just like food.

But if we did that, Republicans and Democrats playing Icarus would have no way to try to engineer society from their arrogant, enlightened perches.

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