The ability to fly lower means it won’t have to spend time climbing

Sunday, July 30th, 2023

Eviation, a Washington State-based startup aiming to be one of the first companies to produce electric planes for commercial use, says its electric planes due in 2027 will make air travel less costly and cleaner:

The Alice is a nine-seater aircraft with a length of around 57 feet and a wingspan of 62 feet. These dimensions put it in the ballpark of a Cessna Citation Excel or a Piaggio P.180 Avanti. “I like to say that we found the sweet spot for electric aviation with this aircraft: we have a nine-passenger plane,” Aviation CEO Gregory Davis told InsideEVs. “You can fly with a single pilot in North America, so it means that it is more cost-effective to operate than a ten-passenger plane where you need two pilots.”

Keeping this plane flying in the air requires significant research and development — and that starts with the battery. Namely, the Alice stores a 900kWh battery pack in its underbelly. “In terms of the size of the battery, it is an 8,000-pound battery,” says Davis. “That 8,000-pound battery is fairly similar to what a full fuel load on a plane that size might weigh,” Davis told InsideEVs. “It actually works out well inside the existing rules for aircraft sizing.”

The 900kWh battery pack gives the Alice a range of around 250 nautical miles (with an additional 30 minutes for reserves), meaning it’s geared strictly for short-distance travels.


We need to have a good battery life, but it doesn’t need to be a 20-year battery. What we’re actually doing is designing our battery to be a 3,000-cycle or 3,000-hour battery, and they’ll get replaced during routine maintenance. We make sure that you’re also operating in the top 10% of battery utilization.”

Interestingly, aircraft turbine engines need to be rebuilt around every 3,000 cycles, and after several rebuilds, they’ll need to be replaced entirely.


“For the aircraft, electricity that is derived from the grid is between 30 and 70% cheaper than aviation fuel, and that’s in today’s environment,” Davis told InsideEVs. Besides the fuel cost savings, electric motors providing thrust will be less maintenance intensive than a turbine engine. “The electric motors are so much less costly to maintain than a traditional turbine engine,” Davis said.

But ditching the turbines comes with an unexpected benefit. Namely, the plane won’t have to reach 30,000+ feet to achieve maximum efficiency.


The ability to fly lower also means that Alice won’t have to spend more time climbing, which is a highly energy-intensive task. Along with cutting down carbon emissions, the Alice will also reduce noise pollution, an adversary of residential communities located near airports. “One of the advantages of an electric aircraft is that it’s very quiet. It’s incredibly quiet, especially compared to a turbine aircraft,” Davis said. With the quieter flight, these planes might be allowed to fly into airports with curfews during off-hours, like John Wayne Airport (SNA) in Irvine, California.

“The idea is that with an {electric} aircraft, you can access the airport infrastructure at 2:00 in the morning to do an overnight package delivery,” Davis told InsideEVs. “That rapid point-to-point package delivery for the freight provider is {highly beneficial}. Being able to knock twelve hours off your delivery time is very valuable to freight companies.”

There is no neutral party that really is playing the role of trying to end the conflict

Saturday, July 29th, 2023

William Arkin is afraid that the Biden administration has squandered the possibility of being a third actor in the Ukraine-Russia war:

The United States has aligned itself 100% with Ukraine. And as a result of that, I don’t see much movement or much interest even on the part of the U.S. government in Washington to be a third party, to actually be a negotiator, to find a peaceful resolution. So, really, no one is playing that role. The United Nations is not playing that role. Sweden is not playing that role anymore, now that it aspires to be a member of NATO. There is no neutral party that really is playing the role of trying to end the conflict between the two parties, who are essentially stalled right now in combat, where there’s not really much movement on either side, but the killing continues.

So, it was the case that in the minds of Russia, the expansion of NATO was provocative and may, in the theory of national security, been a strategic threat to Russia. And it is probably the case that when history is written, we will say that NATO was a little bit too greedy in its zeal to expand into Eastern Europe. But the reality is that that doesn’t excuse the Russian invasion, not in 2014 nor in 2022. And the reality for the CIA is that they need to understand what Putin’s intentions are, not only to understand the implications of Ukraine’s actions, particularly its increasing actions in Crimea and across the border in Russia, but also to understand what it is that Putin will settle for as part of a settlement and also what it is that Zelensky will settle for. So, it’s a tricky situation where I don’t really have a lot of confidence that the CIA is fully on top of what either of these two leaders think.

It was too “technically sweet” not to develop

Friday, July 28th, 2023

Oppenheimer opposed the H-bomb, which would be 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bombs that ended World War II, but not entirely for moral reasons:

At first, he thought it was infeasible. Then, when the math proved it feasible, he dropped his resistance, admitting that it was too “technically sweet” not to develop. (The film does not quote this rather famous line of his.) Still, he remained unenthusiastic, worrying that the H-bomb would divert money from Hiroshima-type A-bombs, which he thought the Army should continue building as weapons to be used on the battlefield if the Soviets invaded Western Europe. He argued that H-bombs were too powerful for battlefield targets—they could destroy only big cities—and, if the Russians built them, as they would if we did, a war would devastate American cities, too. He did eventually come to the view, as portrayed in the film, that this mutual vulnerability might deter both sides from using the weapons or even from going to war at all. But he was not opposed to nuclear weapons in general.


His hedged attitude toward the H-bomb threatened the project’s funding. And so its leading advocates set out to destroy him.

Abusers give vice a bad name

Thursday, July 27th, 2023

According to our prevailing civic religion, Bryan Caplan asks, who are we supposed to resent, stigmatize, and punish in response to drug and alcohol addiction?

First and foremost, the producer. Anyone who makes money off of human misery.

Second and secondarily, the typical user. Sure, they rarely experience severe personal blowback. But they normalize deviant behavior. And they put money into the pockets of the vendors of sin, allowing them to flourish.

Last and least, the “abuser” or “addict.” Personally, they may disgust us. Yet the bipartisan position is that archetypal abusers are victims who deserve general sympathy and taxpayer assistance.

I say that these priorities are confused at best.

Visualize a world full of moderate users of every alleged vice. You might not approve, but what’s the big deal? The moderate users do their jobs, live in homes, take care of their families, and keep their friends. They’re not perfect, but who is?

The picture doesn’t change if you add thriving legal businesses supplying all these moderate users with their desired products.


The difference between me and normal observers: I don’t consider extreme abusers or “addicts” to be victims. I consider them victimizers. They aren’t a symptom of a greater social problem. They are the greater social problem. Abusers have and continue to make evil choices. Granted, it logically possible to end up on Fentanyl Row through tremendously bad luck. Empirically, however, everything I’ve read on poverty convinces me that the root cause of such residence is almost invariably extraordinarily irresponsible behavior.


Abusers don’t just mistreat their families, friends, neighbors, and passersby. Even worse, they give vice a bad name. Abusers inspire the indiscriminate, unjust “wars” on innocent users. They inspire prohibition, which takes production out of the hands of ordinary businesspeople and into the hands of criminals.


At minimum, you can impose the standard punishments for theft. Which is easy, because if you examine encampments, ill-gotten wares are in plain sight. Stealing shopping carts is a crime. Stealing bicycles is a crime. It’s crazy for cops to look the other way when shifty characters violate property rights in plain sight. And unless you oppose the very existence of public property, you can also consistently favor enforcement of laws against trespassing on, vandalizing, and defiling public property. Enforcing all of this doesn’t precisely make abuse illegal, but it comes close.


But in a strange sense, both gun control and prohibition grow out of softness. A system with the moral courage to harshly, swiftly, and surely punish violence would have little need of gun control. A system with the moral courage to harshly, swiftly, and surely punish abusers for stealing, trespassing, vandalizing, and defiling would have little need of prohibition. In both cases, we haphazardly punish millions of innocents because we refuse to decisively punish thousands of clear-cut criminals.

Desert warfare was strangely similar to war at sea

Wednesday, July 26th, 2023

Rommel immediately grasped the essence of the war in Libya and Egypt, Bevin Alexander explains (in How Hitler Could Have Won World War II) — everything depended upon mobility:

“In the North African desert,” he wrote, “nonmotorized troops are of practically no value against a motorized enemy, since the enemy has the chance, in almost every position, of making the action fluid by a turning movement around the south.”

This was why the Italians had been beaten almost without a fight — they had moved largely on foot; the British were in vehicles. Nonmotorized forces could be used only in defensive positions, Rommel saw. Yet such positions were of little consequence, because enemy motorized units could surround them and force them to surrender, or bypass them. In other words, foot soldiers in the desert had no impact beyond the reach of their guns.

Rommel discerned that desert warfare was strangely similar to war at sea. Motorized equipment could move at will over it and usually in any direction, much as ships could move over oceans. Rommel described the similarity thus: “Whoever has the weapons with the greatest range has the longest arm, exactly as at sea. Whoever has the greater mobility…can by swift action compel his opponent to act according to his wishes.”

Studying children in school is like studying orcas at Sea World

Tuesday, July 25th, 2023

Can a school make your child smarter?, Michael Strong asks:

Two hundred years later, after free public education has extended beyond the three years endorsed by Jefferson to thirteen years, we are seeing more skepticism around the benefits of education than ever before. The spirit of the times is quite different than it was when Jefferson was manifesting the Enlightenment in the U.S.

Freddie DeBoer has an essay “School Doesn’t Work” summarizing the ineffectiveness of a wide range of educational interventions


Economist Bryan Caplan’s book The Case Against Education makes the case that schooling is mostly signaling rather than adding human capital.


Between the emphasis on genetics, on the one hand, and the ineffectiveness of most education, we have reached a point at which many people believe that most K12 spending is a waste of money; Scott Alexander somewhat facetiously suggests that we give everyone the $150K (now more like $200K) we currently spend on each child so they can buy a cabin rather than waste time in school.


But clearly human performance can be improved. Anders Ericksson, the researcher most responsible for researching “deliberate practice” as a technique for improving performance, one of the world’s leading researchers of expert performance, has been arguing against the genetic determinists for decades.


From a young age, your child is biologically programmed to be a status optimizer within a given cultural milieu seeking niches for optimizing social status (including love and attention as good things!). In order to do so, they will reflexively imitate the behaviors of those who are regarded as prestigious, successful, and skillful in their social group, and whose sex/gender and ethnicity cues are something that she can emulate successfully.


These people (including Montaigne, Pascal, Mill, Bertrand Russell, Virginia Woolf, etc.) were raised by parents who were keen to immerse their children in environments in which interesting people were constantly around thinking and talking about ideas.

Today, teens with access to the internet who choose to devote themselves to achieving excellence for the sake of optimizing status among a chosen community of peers can learn extraordinary amounts without any classroom environment at all.


In the best circumstances, a school is a place where your child is exposed to a peer culture that supports learning. In the worst circumstances, the peer culture so undermines learning that all of the academic instruction becomes largely irrelevant.


Harvard’s David Perkins makes the case that much of what we regard as “intelligence” is a matter of dispositions towards thinking. Thus while it may or may not be the case that we can increase “g,” the underlying factor that is believed to result in high IQ scores, we can improve the ways in which minds think.


But as Carol Black, the screenwriter for The Wonder Years TV show notes, studying children in school is like studying orcas at Sea World. I regard almost all educational research as inconclusive garbage insofar as it is premised on schooling.

For instance, many people are excited by Bloom’s “2 sigma” finding, that students tutored one-on-one using mastery techniques performed two standard deviations better than students in a classroom environment. One reading of this is, “Wow, tutoring is powerful.” Another is, “Wow, classroom instruction is garbage.”


Schooling is a cultural monoculture that is far more damaging to human cultures than is agricultural monoculture on natural ecosystems. To shift from the Sea World metaphor, imagine studying Monsanto treated industrial wheat farms in Kansas and suffering from the illusion that one understood plant life.

These engineering works include concrete-lined trenches, barbed wire, dragon’s teeth, anti-tank ditches, and plenty of anti-tank and anti-personnel mines

Monday, July 24th, 2023

During World War II, German soldiers marveled at how skillfully Red Army troops used a shovel, and Russian engineers seem to have lost none of their skill:

“Russian constructions follow traditional military plans for entrenchment, largely unchanged since the Second World War,” British military intelligence said in a December statement about Russian activity in Luhansk.

The problem for Ukraine is that since late last year, Russian forces have been building up their defensive positions in eastern Ukraine and along the northern approaches to Crimea. These engineering works include concrete-lined trenches, barbed wire, dragon’s teeth, anti-tank ditches, and plenty of anti-tank and anti-personnel mines, and they “pose a major tactical challenge to Ukrainian offensive operations,” the RUSI report said.

Each Russian brigade has two engineer companies, which is roughly comparable to the engineer battalion attached to a US brigade combat team. One company focuses on building fortifications, while the other lays and clears mines.

There is an initial line of infantry foxholes. Behind this is a second line of trenches and concrete firing posts, screened by multiple obstacle belts — each a little over a half mile wide — and comprising barbed wire, dragon’s teeth, and anti-tank ditches about 20 feet wide and 13 feet deep.

The second line isn’t continuously manned but rather consists of company-size positions in wooded areas and on ridgelines, placed so that the defenses are entirely covered by fire.

The third line, about 3 miles back from the initial outpost line, consists of fallback positions and concealed areas for reserves. And these fortified zones may have several echelons of Russian units.

“The overall depth of defensive fortifications exceeds 30 kilometers (19 miles) on some axes,” the RUSI report, which was based on interviews with Ukrainian military officers, said.


Perhaps the most formidable part of Russian defenses is mines, which the Russians “have no shortage of,” the report said.


Clearing minefields is difficult because Russian mines have multiple triggers and anti-tampering devices. The RUSI report said it’s common for Russian antipersonnel mines “to be initiated by a seismic sensor and to have an immediately adjacent mine initiated by wires, which are laid out in a cross from the device.”

Russia has also laid “instant” fields of magnetically activated anti-tank mines that are deployed using multiple rocket launchers.

Russia is recruiting former Afghan commandos who were trained by the US military

Monday, July 24th, 2023

The war between Russian and Ukraine has become a magnet for foreign fighters:

In a recent interview with the Nepal Express, two young Nepalis described their service. One was a student at a Russian university, while the other was a former Nepalese Army soldier who worked as a security guard in Dubai before visiting Russia as a tourist and then enlisting.


“We were thinking of joining the French army,” said the ex-Nepali soldier. “There was a long process and it was difficult to enter Europe. Russia became easy.”

Ironically, Russia is also recruiting former Afghan commandos who were trained by the US military to fight the Taliban (and whose families probably fought the Soviet soldiers who occupied Afghanistan in the 1980s).

Like the Nepalis, the Afghans aren’t joining out of love of Russia or hatred of Ukraine. They are being hunted by the Taliban who now rule Afghanistan and need sanctuary and money to support their families, so the prospect fighting for Moscow — for $1,500 a month — is likely the least bad alternative.

A two-sided game reopens

Sunday, July 23rd, 2023

The exponential growth in electronic computational power has, Azar Gat (War in Human Civilization) notes, transformed naval and air warfare:

At sea, the heavily armored, big-gun capital ships have vacated the scene, and warfare is waged offensively by electronic guided missiles and defensively by electronic disruption and interception systems. Similarly, air warfare, once based on the kinetic capabilities of planes and their armament, now relies primarily on electronically guided weapons and electronic defensive systems. Both at sea and in the air, victory now depends on who is one step ahead of its rivals in these crucial techno-tactical spheres.

The medium in which land warfare takes place is immeasurably more complex than those of sea and air warfare, because of both the numbers of combatants involved and land’s complex topographical features. But at least since the early 1980s the direction has been clear to those who grasped the broader context. The revolution that land warfare is undergoing is no less profound and far reaching than that generated by the mechanization revolution and the introduction of the tank and other AFVs. It was J. F. C. Fuller, the leading pioneering theorist of mechanized warfare, who firmly placed the mechanization revolution in war within the context of the second industrial revolution and thereby helped people understand its full significance and scope. Incredibly, as early as 1928, he looked further ahead, predicting that the third revolutionary wave of the future — which would shape war, as well as all other fields of life — would be “electric and robotic” (the word electronic did not yet exist).

Let us focus on the tank, a product of the second mechanization revolution and the backbone of land warfare for about a hundred years. Ever since World War II, tanks have been optimized, primarily to fight other tanks, and second, to withstand hollow charges. Their main armament is a high velocity gun firing kinetic projectiles. Half of their 60-70-ton weight in most armies consists of heavy armor, which in turn requires a 1500 horsepower engine.

However, tanks will no longer come within kinetic firing range of each other, and will be discovered and attacked at much longer ranges. This is no different than with the mighty battleships of WWII’s Pacific theater, which never came within firing range of each other.


The wholesale destruction of the hapless Armenian army in the 2020 war against Azerbaijan, like the stranded and harassed Russian convoy en route to Kiev and the image of the Russian armored battalion massacred during its attempted river crossing in the Donbas, with the shattered bridge in the middle, starkly demonstrates the current reality. The same can be said of the rash retreat from the Saluki wadi by the Israeli army’s 401st Brigade Merkava Mark 4 tanks during the Second Lebanon War (2006) when faced with second-generation Russian Kornet anti-tank missiles fired by Hezbollah.


This does not mean that the tank and other fighting vehicles are history. But the answer is not to be found in further reinforcing the heavy armor or in improved tactical practices, clumsy as Russian tactics proved to be. Rather, the answer lies in a full-scale adjustment of land fighting vehicles to the ongoing electronic revolution — above all, in adopting active defense systems, such as the Israeli Trophy and Iron Fist, now purchased and installed by the US, German, and British armies. Active defense means electronic detection, disruption, and interception of incoming projectiles, launched from land or from the air — the same revolution that sea and air warfare have already undergone.


The current reality, in which being detected on the modern battlefield means almost assured destruction, will no longer hold. A two-sided game reopens. Thus, battlefield survival and success will depend on the question of which side possesses the last word in terms of offensive and defensive electronic systems and counter-systems for detection, attack, and disruption. As in air and sea warfare during the electronic age, it can also be expected that when one side holds a decisive advantage in these systems, we shall see crushing, almost one-sided victories in regular conventional land warfare.


While electronically guided projectiles are already widely and effectively used in the Ukraine War, electronic interception and disruption system are largely absent. The trench warfare stalemate that has attracted so much attention — as if we were back one hundred years to World War I — may be a function of this imbalance, as armored fighting vehicles are paralyzed by the lack of effective active defense.


Indeed, relying on electronic detection and interception systems enables a drastic reduction in the armor of fighting vehicles for what is necessary against small arms, shrapnel, and blasts. Thus there is an expected reduction in their weight to about 10 to 25 tons; a parallel reduction in engine size and weight; and design re-orientation to electronically guided defensive and offensive systems. This, I believe, is the direction in which land warfare and land weapon systems is heading in the electronic-computerized age.

Why do they have to bootleg Coors?

Saturday, July 22nd, 2023

I have seen the number one movie of 1977, Star Wars, multiple times, but I somehow never caught the number two movie of 1977, Smokey and the Bandit, until recently.

The film stars Burt Reynolds, as Bo “Bandit” Darville, and four 1976-model cars, as his 1977 Pontiac Trans Am:

Hal Needham saw an advertisement for the soon-to-be-released 1977 Pontiac Trans Am and knew right away that it would be the Bandit’s car, or, as Needham referred to it, a character in the movie. He contacted Pontiac and an agreement was made that four 1977 Trans Ams and two Pontiac LeMans four-door sedans would be provided for the movie. The Trans Ams were actually 1976-model cars with 1977 front ends (from 1970 to 1976, both the Firebird/Trans Am and Chevrolet Camaro have two round headlights and in 1977, the Firebird/Trans Am was changed to four rectangular headlights, and the Camaro remained unchanged). The decals were changed to 1977-style units, as evidenced by the engine size callouts on the hood scoop being in liters rather than cubic inches, as had been the case in 1976. The hood scoop on these cars says “6.6 LITRE”, which, in 1977, would have denoted an Oldsmobile 403-equipped car or a non-W-72, 180 hp version of the 400 Pontiac engine.

The cars were 1976 models, the engines fitted to them were 455ci power plants, the last year these engines were offered for sale before withdrawal. All four of the cars were badly damaged during production, one of which was all but destroyed during the jump over the dismantled Mulberry bridge. The Trans Am used for said jump was equipped with a booster rocket, the same type that was used by Evel Knievel during his failed Snake River Canyon jump. Needham served as the driver for the stunt (in place of Reynolds), while Lada St. Edmund was in the same car (in place of Field). By the film’s ending, the final surviving Trans Am and LeMans were both barely running and the other cars had become parts donors to keep them running. This gives rise to various continuity errors with Justice’s patrol car, which during some chase sequences is shown with a black rear fender, which then reverts to the car’s bronze color again in later scenes. When it is finally torn off along with the car’s roof in the impact with the girder, the missing fender still reappears later on in the film.


After the debut of the film, the Pontiac Trans Am became wildly popular, with sales almost doubling within two years of the film’s release. It outsold its Chevrolet Camaro counterpart for the first time.

The premise of the film is that wealthy Texan Big Enos Burdette and his son Little Enos have sponsored a racer in Atlanta’s Southern Classic and want to celebrate in style when they win, so they bet Bandit and his truck-driving partner Snowman $80,000 that they can’t bootleg 400 cases of Coors from Texarkana to Atlanta in 28 hours.

Wait, why do they have to bootleg Coors? Beer’s not illegal in Atlanta:

In 1977, Coors was unavailable for sale east of Oklahoma. Its lack of additives and preservatives meant that Coors could spoil in one week without refrigeration, explaining the film’s 28-hour deadline. A 1974 Time magazine article explains that Coors was so coveted for its lack of stabilizers and preservatives, and Coors Banquet Beer had a brief renaissance. Future President Gerald Ford, after a trip to Colorado, hid it in his luggage to take it back to Washington, D.C. President Dwight D. Eisenhower had a steady supply airlifted by the Air Force to Washington. Carl Yastrzemski of the Boston Red Sox would bring several cases after playing on the West Coast, by stashing them in the equipment trunks on the team’s plane. Frederick Amon smuggled it from Colorado to North Carolina and sold it for four times the retail price.

Coors is still brewed just outside Denver, Colorado. It is now sold in all states as Coors ships it in refrigerated train cars and bottled locally and sold in different parts of the country including the eastern US states.

During their run, Bandit annd Snowman are pursued by Texas county sheriff Buford T. Justice, played by Jackie Gleason:

“Buford T. Justice” was the name of a real Florida Highway Patrolman known to Reynolds’ father, who was once Police Chief of Riviera Beach, Florida. His father was also the inspiration for the word “sumbitch” used in the film, a variation of the phrase “son-of-a-bitch” that, according to Reynolds, he uttered quite often. Gleason was given free rein to ad-lib dialogue and make suggestions. It was his idea to have Junior alongside him throughout the film. In particular, the scene where Sheriff Justice unknowingly encounters the Bandit in a roadside diner (a “choke and puke” in CB lingo) was not in the original story but was rather Gleason’s idea.

Gleason’s Buford T. Justice follows quite clearly in the footsteps of Clifton JamesSheriff J.W. Pepper, from Live and Let Die (1973):

When asked about the Blaxploitation element of the film, screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz said he invented Sheriff J.W. Pepper as a racist small-town southern sheriff, setting him up for mockery as a foolish pompous figure that the audience is meant to side against.

This reminds me that Bandit and Snowman are conspicuously non-racist, in contrast to Justice.

Anyway, Clifton James’ sheriff also falls in the footsteps of another:

Actor Joe Higgins, who was born in Louisiana in 1925, landed the role of Sheriff J.W. (and added his real name Higgins) for a series of Dodge commercials starting in 1969. He was prolific on American television for guest roles in many series including ‘Gunsmoke,’ ‘Hill Street Blues,’ ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ and ‘The Twilight Zone.’

Over the course of the TV campaign for the new Dodge Challenger, Sheriff J.W. evolves from pulling over drivers for having a “racing vee-hickle” in the city limits, learning of how affordable the new car is, to later schooling his younger deputies in slapstick fashion. The last spot from 1972 ends in his humiliation when flying chickens escape the trunk of a car and would have been a comedic moment right at home in the Roger Moore era.

Seeing success with the spots, Dodge anointed Higgins as the “Safety Sheriff” and Higgins would tour the country at motor shows and conventions, as well as speaking to high-school kids about driving and promoting the use of seat belts.

At the peak of his popularity, Higgins filmed a PSA for the Office of Traffic Safety with then-Governor Ronald Reagan.

Would a cup of “Pee-kwod” appeal to anyone?

Friday, July 21st, 2023

When I was a kid, Starbuck was the name of a cocky fighter pilot in the original Battlestar Galactica. It was a fanciful, sci-if name, like Skywalker. Somewhere along the way I picked up that it was a real name, but it was still surprising to see a coffee-shop chain of the same name (but with a non-apostrophe s):

In 1971, our founders got together with artist Terry Heckler to define their new brand. They wanted the company’s name to suggest a sense of adventure, a connection to the Northwest and a link to the seafaring tradition of the early coffee traders. Co-founder Gordon Bowker, a writer, initially proposed calling the company “Pequod,” after the ship in Herman Melville‘s classic novel “Moby-Dick.” But Terry objected – would a cup of “Pee-kwod” appeal to anyone?

The brainstorming continued. While researching names of mining camps on Mt. Rainier, one of the best known landmarks near Seattle, Terry came across “Starbo,” which eventually led the team back to where they’d started. In “Moby-Dick,” the name of the first mate on the Pequod was, you guessed it, Starbuck. A brand was born.

I somehow forgot the name of the first mate on the Pequod. It turns out Starbuck is the name of a prominent real-life whaling family.

Bankhead’s father had warned her to avoid alcohol and men when she got to New York

Thursday, July 20th, 2023

In Aliens, loudmouth Colonial Marine Private Hudson asks his butch female squad mate, “Hey, Vasquez, have you ever been mistaken for a man?”

“No, have you?”

All the Right Movies recently noted that Cameron took this from a story about the husky-voiced 1930s icon Tallulah Bankhead. A columnist said to her “Have you ever been mistaken for a man?” and she replied, “No, darling. Have you?”

This got me to track down a few more stories about Tallulah Bankhead:

Her father hailed from the Bankhead-and-Brockman political family, active in the Democratic Party of the South in general and of Alabama in particular. Her father was the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1936 to 1940. She was the niece of Senator John H. Bankhead II and granddaughter of Senator John H. Bankhead.


As a child, Bankhead was described as “extremely homely” and overweight, while her sister was slim and prettier. As a result, she did everything in her efforts to gain attention, and constantly sought her father’s approval. After watching a performance at a circus, she taught herself how to cartwheel, and frequently cartwheeled about the house, sang, and recited literature that she had memorized. She was prone to throwing tantrums, rolling around the floor, and holding her breath until she was blue in the face. Her grandmother often threw a bucket of water on her to halt these outbursts.

Bankhead’s famously husky voice (which she described as “mezzo-basso”) was the result of chronic bronchitis due to childhood illness.


She soon moved into the Algonquin Hotel, a hotspot for the artistic and literary elite of the era, where she quickly charmed her way into the famed Algonquin Round Table of the hotel bar. She was dubbed one of the “Four Riders of the Algonquin”, consisting of Bankhead, Estelle Winwood, Eva Le Gallienne, and Blyth Daly. Three of the four were non-heterosexual: Bankhead and Daly were bisexuals, and Le Gallienne was a lesbian. Bankhead’s father had warned her to avoid alcohol and men when she got to New York; Bankhead later quipped “He didn’t say anything about women and cocaine.” The Algonquin’s wild parties introduced Bankhead to cocaine and marijuana, of which she later remarked “Cocaine isn’t habit-forming and I know because I’ve been taking it for years.”


After over eight years of living in Great Britain and touring on their theatrical stages, she did not like living in Hollywood; when she met producer Irving Thalberg, she asked him “How do you get laid in this dreadful place?” Thalberg retorted “I’m sure you’ll have no problem. Ask anyone.”


Her 1932 movie Devil and the Deep is notable for the presence of three major co-stars, with Bankhead receiving top billing over Gary Cooper, Charles Laughton, and Cary Grant; it is the only film with Cooper and Grant as the film’s leading men although they share no scenes together. She later said “Dahling, the main reason I accepted [the part] was to fuck that divine Gary Cooper!”


In 1933, while performing in Jezebel, Bankhead nearly died following a five-hour emergency hysterectomy due to gonorrhea, which she claimed she had contracted from either Gary Cooper or George Raft. Weighing only 70 lb (32 kg) when she left the hospital, she vowed to continue her lifestyle, stoically saying to her doctor “Don’t think this has taught me a lesson!”


In 1944, Alfred Hitchcock cast her as cynical journalist Constance Porter in her most successful film, both critically and commercially, Lifeboat. Her superbly multifaceted performance was acknowledged as her best on film and won her the New York Film Critics Circle award. A beaming Bankhead accepted her New York trophy and exclaimed: “Dahlings, I was wonderful!”


Bankhead had no children, but she had four abortions before she had a hysterectomy in 1933, when she was 31.


An interview that Bankhead gave to Motion Picture magazine in 1932 generated controversy. In the interview, Bankhead ranted about the state of her life and her views on love, marriage, and children:

I’m serious about love. I’m damned serious about it now. … I haven’t had an affair for six months. Six months! Too long. … If there’s anything the matter with me now, it’s not Hollywood or Hollywood’s state of mind. … The matter with me is, I WANT A MAN! … Six months is a long, long while. I WANT A MAN!


For these and other offhand remarks, Bankhead was cited in the Hays Commission’s “Doom Book”, a list of 150 actors and actresses considered “unsuitable for the public” which was presented to the studios. Bankhead was at the top of the list with the heading: “Verbal Moral Turpitude”. She publicly called Hays “a little prick”.


In addition to her many affairs with men, she was also linked romantically with female personalities of the day, including Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Hattie McDaniel, Beatrice Lillie, Alla Nazimova, Blyth Daly, writers Mercedes de Acosta and Eva Le Gallienne, and singer Billie Holiday.


Bankhead never publicly used the term “bisexual” to describe herself, preferring to use the term “ambisextrous” instead.


Her last coherent words reportedly were a garbled request for “codeine … bourbon”.


Bankhead’s voice and personality inspired voice actress Betty Lou Gerson’s work on the character Cruella De Vil in Walt Disney Pictures’ One Hundred and One Dalmatians, which the studio calls “a manic take-off on famous actress Tallulah Bankhead”.

The assault on Crete guaranteed two catastrophes for Germany

Wednesday, July 19th, 2023

Hitler decided to use his highly trained parachute and glider troops to seize the relatively unimportant island of Crete, Bevin Alexander explains (in How Hitler Could Have Won World War II), but he refused to capture Malta, which lay directly on the seaway between Italy and Libya:

This absurd choice — made over the objections of Admiral Raeder, the navy high command, and elements in the OKW — marked Hitler’s final rejection of a Mediterranean strategy that could have brought him victory.


Once the Balkans had been seized by the Germans, Crete strategically fell into a twilight zone. For the British, long-range bombers based on Crete could reach the Ploesti oil fields in Romania, 675 miles north, but RAF bases on the island could be blasted by German aircraft a hundred miles away in southern Greece. For the Germans, occupation made no more sense, because aircraft based there would be farther from Cairo and Alexandria than planes in eastern Cyrenaica.

The situation was entirely different in regard to Malta. This small British-ruled island group (122 square miles), only 60 miles south of Sicily and 200 miles north of Tripoli, was a dagger sticking into Italian and German backs in North Africa. Here the British had based airplanes, submarines, and warships with the explicit purpose of interdicting traffic to Libya.


Officers examined the possibility of neutralizing Crete and Malta solely by air raids. But any successful bombing campaign lasts only as long as it is continued. The only certain way to eliminate a threat is to seize the ground with troops, and Admiral Raeder and the navy high command agitated for an assault on Malta. Capture of this island, they asserted, was “an essential precondition for a successful war against Britain in the Mediterranean.”

Raeder and his senior officers were trying to reverse a preliminary decision of February 22, 1941, when the OKW informed them that Hitler planned to delay the conquest of Malta until the autumn of 1941 “after the conclusion of the war in the east.” Thus Hitler was expecting to dispose of the Russians in a swift summer campaign, then turn back at his leisure and deal with the small problem of Malta!


Hitler’s final decision came on April 21, 1941, as the campaign in the Balkans was winding down. He decided to attack Crete, which was given the code name Operation Mercury. Malta would have to wait. Crete, Hitler declared, was more important. He wanted to eliminate all danger of British sea and air forces from southeastern Europe. British forces on Malta would be dealt with by the Luftwaffe. Furthermore, Barbarossa, the attack on Russia, was set for June 1941, and Mercury had to be completed before then.

With this decision Adolf Hitler lost the war. The assault on Crete guaranteed two catastrophes for Germany: it limited the Mediterranean campaign to peripheral or public relations goals, and it turned German strength against the Soviet Union while Britain remained defiant, with the United States in the wings.

Most burglars enter a home through the most obvious paths

Tuesday, July 18th, 2023

You might be tempted to point home security cameras at the spots around your home that are difficult to see:

You might think these hidden areas are a burglar’s preferred place to break and enter. But the fact is, most burglars enter a home through the most obvious paths. According to data collected by security company ADT, 34% of burglars enter through the front door and 22% use a first-floor window. You might imagine that these are spaces where your eyes or your neighbors can spot any malicious activity, but they are also the most used-routes for break-ins.

You obviously don’t want to place a camera behind obstructions, but camera obstructions aren’t always so obvious:

Outdoors, this might mean allowing space for tree branches to swing in the wind. Be careful of quick-growing plants that will require you to move your camera every year or two.

Consider your camera’s range of view inside, too. Will your camera see everything you want it to when interior doors are opened and closed? You’ll also want to avoid placing the camera in a spot where a pet might interact with it. If you place it on a shelf, will your cat knock it off?

If it was good enough for Heracles and Theseus, it’s good enough for us.

Monday, July 17th, 2023

When asked about a potential Zuckerberg-Musk MMA fight in the actual Roman Colosseum, Marc Andreessen said, “I think that’s all great,” and then explained why:

I was also asked whether I consider Mark and Elon to be role models to children in their embrace of fighting, and I said, enthusiastically, yes. And I further recommended to the audience that they have their children trained in MMA, as my wife and I are. Kids as young as 8 and maybe even younger are totally capable of learning both the striking and grappling dimensions of the sport. MMA teaches not just combat skills — and it does teach those — but also discipline, emotional control, respect, and a deep sense of responsibility.

The message to kids is not, this is how you beat people up. The message is, this is how you protect yourself — and as important, this is how you protect your family, your friends, your community. You use these combat skills in the service of others — you never start a fight, but when someone is threatening someone you love, or even an innocent bystander, this is how you end a fight.

To a lot of people, this sounds like a message out of time. Surely in the modern world, one would never need to protect oneself or one’s family with actual interpersonal physical violence?

I would love for that to be the case, but unfortunately, the world is evolving in such a way where that is becoming less true every day. Many of the biggest and most important cities in the United States have decided they don’t need law enforcement, and street level violence is on the rise, as anyone in those cities with functional eyes can see. People get attacked in the street, or in carjackings and home invasions, daily, in plain sight, and little to nothing happens. It’s terrible, but it’s true.

And so, yes, if there aren’t going to be police to protect you and your loved ones from real world violent assault, there is a practical need to know applied self defense. And hand-to-hand fighting — MMA — is the core self defense skill.

Another benefit of MMA training, he continues, is physical fitness:

We all know our culture is in the grip of an obesity crisis — according to the CDC, “Obesity in the United States now affects 100.1 million (41.9%) adults and 14.7 million (19.7%) children.” This is a terrible situation that curses people to shorter and unhappier lives. President John F Kennedy saw this coming in his time (!):

We are underexercised as a nation. The remedy, in my judgment, lies in one direction. That is in developing programs for broad participation in exercise by all of our young men and women, all of our boys and girls. The sad fact is that our national sport is not playing at all, but watching. We have become more and more, not a nation of athletes but a nation of spectators. There are more important goals than winning contests — and that is to improve on a broad level the health and vitality of all our people.

We did not listen to him in the decades that followed, but we can now. MMA training is likely the best path for widespread gains in physical fitness, particularly for children. MMA training itself is both effective exercise and motivates one to improve one’s strength and endurance. And not just in the abstract, as a pointless hamster wheel process, but for a purpose — to win fights.

Finally, consider the combination of physical fitness and the ability to defend one’s loves. The result is self-respect — not the self-respect of armchair therapy and wishful thinking, but real self-respect, the earned realization that one is strong and useful and of merit, and of value. Skilled fighters carry themselves differently, and this is why.