Archive for March, 2011
27 Mar 2011

A Generation Without Skills

, , ,

Sharpening a knife

Anne Merritt complacently describes a list of skills which today’s millenials are apparently content to go without. Her list includes using a standard transmission (no real sports cars for you, kiddies!), cooking anything from scratch (no real food either), building anything, fixing anything, penmanship, and even sharpening a knife.

Compare the late Robert A. Heinlein‘s opinion of minimal masculine competence.

A man should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.



The best method is to use a flat stone. Ideally, to do a really excellent job on a very dull knife, you want three stones: in order of coarseness, a coarse carborundum, a soft Washita stone, and a hard black Arkansas stone, but you can pick up a flat rock off the ground and use it if you have nothing better.

Wet the stone. A light machine oil is best, but water, even spit, will do.

Take your knife and pretend that you are trying to cut a thin slice off the stone, cutting away from you. Do one side and then the other. The angle you want is quite effectively approximated by pretending to be cutting a thin slice off the stone.

Obviously, if you have coarser and finer stones, you start with the coarse and end with the finer stone. Hard black Arkansas
stones are expensive, but you can produce the finest finished edges with one of those.

High-end custom knife makers, like Randall, commonly supply small medium India whetstone in a pouch outside the sheath. One little India stone of that sort is basically adequate.

27 Mar 2011

Earth Hour, 2011


The lights went out in Southern California, and other centers of contemporary intellectual life, last night as the bien pensant intelligentsia cursed the technology that delivers light and embraced the darkness.

KTLA News reported the day before:

Notable Southern California landmarks such as the glowing pylons at Los Angeles International Airport and the Queen Mary in Long Beach will go dark between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Saturday night in observance of international “Earth Hour.”

Millions of people from more than 100 countries and territories are expected to participate in the event by switching off lights and nonessential appliances in order to conserve energy and demonstrate an awareness of environmental conservation.

At LAX, the 100-foot-tall pylons will glow solid green an hour before the event and then go dark, according to airport officials. The color-changing LAX Gateway pylons were installed in August 2000. Five years later, airport workers installed a new system of LED fixtures that consume 75% less electricity than the previous lamps and burn for 75,000 to 100,000 hours, compared to 3,000 hours for the original lights, according to airport officials.

In Long Beach the Queen Mary’s exterior lights will be turned off. The event will be accompanied by entertainment, such as the ship’s captain answering historical questions and local competitive cyclists producing energy for a light display. Participants will also receive vendor giveaways. Hotel guests will be asked to turn off their nonessential stateroom lights.

In Santa Monica, the famous Pacific Wheel on the city’s pier will go dark. The ferris wheel’s emergency lights will remain on.

At the Home Depot Center in Carson, in partnership with Chivas USA of Major League Soccer, will turn off all nonessential lighting of the 27,000-seat soccer stadium, including all lighting in the venue’s 42 luxury suites, according to AEG, the company that owns and operates the venue. The Chivas will be hosting the Colorado Rapids.

Other AEG facilities throughout the state will also participate, including LA Live, the entertainment hub in downtown Los Angeles.

Earth Hour is organized by World Wide Fund, one of the world’s largest independent conservation organizations, and started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia, when 2.2 million individuals and more than 2,000 businesses turned their lights off for an hour to stand against climate change.


Watts Up With That reprinted for the occasion Ross McKitrick‘s dissenting 2009 essay.

I abhor Earth Hour. Abundant, cheap electricity has been the greatest source of human liberation in the 20th century. Every material social advance in the 20th century depended on the proliferation of inexpensive and reliable electricity.

Giving women the freedom to work outside the home depended on the availability of electrical appliances that free up time from domestic chores. Getting children out of menial labour and into schools depended on the same thing, as well as the ability to provide safe indoor lighting for reading.

Development and provision of modern health care without electricity is absolutely impossible. The expansion of our food supply, and the promotion of hygiene and nutrition, depended on being able to irrigate fields, cook and refrigerate foods, and have a steady indoor supply of hot water. …

The whole mentality around Earth Hour demonizes electricity. I cannot do that, instead I celebrate it and all that it has provided for humanity.

Earth Hour celebrates ignorance, poverty and backwardness. By repudiating the greatest engine of liberation it becomes an hour devoted to anti-humanism. It encourages the sanctimonious gesture of turning off trivial appliances for a trivial amount of time, in deference to some ill-defined abstraction called “the Earth,” all the while hypocritically retaining the real benefits of continuous, reliable electricity.

People who see virtue in doing without electricity should shut off their fridge, stove, microwave, computer, water heater, lights, TV and all other appliances for a month, not an hour. And pop down to the cardiac unit at the hospital and shut the power off there too.

I don’t want to go back to nature. Travel to a zone hit by earthquakes, floods and hurricanes to see what it’s like to go back to nature. For humans, living in “nature” meant a short life span marked by violence, disease and ignorance. People who work for the end of poverty and relief from disease are fighting against nature. I hope they leave their lights on.

[T]hrough the use of pollution control technology and advanced engineering, our air quality has dramatically improved since the 1960s, despite the expansion of industry and the power supply.

If, after all this, we are going to take the view that the remaining air emissions outweigh all the benefits of electricity, and that we ought to be shamed into sitting in darkness for an hour, like naughty children who have been caught doing something bad, then we are setting up unspoiled nature as an absolute, transcendent ideal that obliterates all other ethical and humane obligations.

No thanks.

I like visiting nature but I don’t want to live there, and I refuse to accept the idea that civilization with all its tradeoffs is something to be ashamed of.

26 Mar 2011

Al-Qaeda Has Acquired SAM-7s and Heavy Weapons in Libya

, , ,

Nicarauguan Army training with SAM-7

The Australian Daily Telegraph reports that the uprising in Libya has produced a weapons windfall for the North African al-Qaeda branch, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Al-Qaeda’s offshoot in North Africa has snatched surface-to-air missiles from an arsenal in Libya during the civil strife there, Chad’s President says.

Idriss Deby Itno did not say how many surface-to-air missiles were stolen, but told the African weekly Jeune Afrique that he was “100 per cent sure” of his assertion.

“The Islamists of al-Qaeda took advantage of the pillaging of arsenals in the rebel zone to acquire arms, including surface-to-air missiles, which were then smuggled into their sanctuaries in Tenere,” a desert region of the Sahara that stretches from northeast Niger to western Chad, Deby said in the interview.

“This is very serious. AQIM is becoming a genuine army, the best equipped in the region,” he said.

His claim was echoed by officials in other countries in the region who said that they were worried that al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) might have acquired “heavy weapons”, thanks to the insurrection. …

“We have the same information,” about heavy weapons, including SAM 7 missiles, a military source from Niger said.

26 Mar 2011

The Coalition of the Unwilling

, ,

Charles Krauthammer rants over the disarray of the NATO coalition and the irresolution of its leadership.

As of this writing, Britain wanted the operation to be led by NATO. France adamantly disagreed, citing Arab sensibilities. Germany wanted no part of anything, going so far as to pull four of its ships from NATO command in the Mediterranean. France and Germany walked out of a NATO meeting on Monday, while Norway had planes in Crete ready to go but refused to let them fly until it had some idea who the hell is running the operation. And Turkey, whose prime minister four months ago proudly accepted the Qaddafi International Prize for Human Rights, has been particularly resistant to the Libya operation from the beginning.

And as for the United States, who knows what American policy is. Administration officials insist we are not trying to bring down Qaddafi, even as the president insists that he must go. Although on Tuesday Obama did add “unless he changes his approach.” Approach, mind you.

In any case, for Obama, military objectives take a back seat to diplomatic appearances. The president is obsessed with pretending that we are not running the operation — a dismaying expression of Obama’s view that his country is so tainted by its various sins that it lacks the moral legitimacy to . . . what? Save Third World people from massacre?

Obama seems equally obsessed with handing off the lead role. Hand off to whom? NATO? Quarreling amid Turkish resistance (see above), NATO still can’t agree on taking over command of the airstrike campaign, which is what has kept the Libyan rebels alive.

This confusion is purely the result of Obama’s decision to get America into the war and then immediately relinquish American command. Never modest about himself, Obama is supremely modest about his country. America should be merely “one of the partners among many,” he said Monday. No primus inter pares for him. Even the Clinton administration spoke of America as the indispensable nation. And it remains so. Yet at a time when the world is hungry for America to lead — no one has anything near our capabilities, experience, and resources — America is led by a man determined that it should not.

A man who dithers over parchment. Who starts a war from which he wants out right away. Good God. If you go to take Vienna, take Vienna. If you’re not prepared to do so, better then to stay home and do nothing.

26 Mar 2011

Libya versus Iraq

, , ,

Hat tip to Richard Fernandez who reflects on history, while contemplating the unhappy spectacle of escalating regime violence in response to protests in Syria:

Deraa, the site of one of the many protests, was where the fledgling Royal Air Force won its first ground-air battle in 1918 in support of Colonel T. E. Lawrence’s Arab Revolt. He was cutting the lifeline of the Ottoman empire. Viewed from the 21st century, the battle seems almost quaint: biplanes dropping a few pounds of bombs from low altitude and landing to rendezvous with riders in flowing robes on steaming horses. But those riders, all encased in cotton, creaky leather and sweat, had the virtue of knowing which end was up. Today we are even luckier to be led, not simply by the competent and daring, but by leaders who are truly awesome.

25 Mar 2011

The Scientific Swindler (1884-1891)

, , , , , ,

A scientific swindler preyed on American scientists working in Geology during a period extending from 1884 to 1891, obtaining books, specimens, and money from a number of American scholars. He had a good knowledge of Eastern European languages, was well acquainted with the field and frequently assumed the names of prominent authorities. By the time he vanished from history, he had also accurately identified large numbers of specimens in American museum collections.

25 Mar 2011

Whose Side Are We On in Libya?

, , , ,

PJM explains that we are supporting, among others, Abdul-Hakim al-Hasadi who fought American troops in Afghanistan and recruited Libyans to fight American troops in Iraq.

Shortly after unrest broke out in eastern Libya in mid-February, reports emerged that an “Islamic Emirate” had been declared in the eastern Libyan town of Darnah and that, furthermore, the alleged head of that Emirate, Abdul-Hakim al-Hasadi, was a former detainee at the American prison camp in Guantánamo. The reports, which originated from Libyan government sources, were largely ignored or dismissed in the Western media.

Now, however, al-Hasadi has admitted in an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore that he fought against American forces in Afghanistan. (Hat-tip: Thomas Joscelyn at the Weekly Standard.) Al-Hasadi says that he is the person responsible for the defense of Darnah — not the town’s “Emir.” In a previous interview with Canada’s Globe and Mail, he claimed to have a force of about 1,000 men and to have commanded rebel units in battles around the town of Bin Jawad.

“I have never been at Guantánamo,” al-Hasadi explained to Il Sole 24 Ore. “I was captured in 2002 in Peshawar in Pakistan, while I was returning from Afghanistan where I fought against the foreign invasion. I was turned over to the Americans, detained for a few months in Islamabad, then turned over to Libya and released from prison in 2008.” …

In his more recent remarks to Il Sole 24 Ore, al-Hasadi admits not only to fighting against U.S. troops in Afghanistan, but also to recruiting Libyans to fight against American forces in Iraq. As noted in my earlier PJM report here, captured al-Qaeda personnel records show that al-Hasadi’s hometown of Darnah sent more foreign fighters to fight with al-Qaeda in Iraq than any other foreign city or town and “far and away the largest per capita number of fighters.” Al-Hasadi told Il Sole 24 Ore that he personally recruited “around 25” Libyans to fight in Iraq. “Some have come back and today are on the front at Ajdabiya,” al-Hasadi explained, “They are patriots and good Muslims, not terrorists.” “The members of al-Qaeda are also good Muslims and are fighting against the invader,” al-Hasadi added.

25 Mar 2011

The Wisdom of the Whoosh

, , , ,

Gary Wills reviews, with well-deserved derision, Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly’s All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age, a recent effort by two prominent academic philosophers (Mr. Dreyfus is a professor of Philosophy at Berkeley, Mr. Kelly is chairman of the Philosophy Department at Harvard) to find an authentic basis for values compatible with postmodern Continental Nihilism.

The authors set about to solve the problems of a modern secular culture. The greatest problem, as they see it, is a certain anxiety of choosing. In the Middle Ages, everyone shared the same frame of values. One could offend against that frame by sinning, but the sins were clear, their place in the overall scheme of things ratified by consensus. Now that we do not share such a frame of reference, each person must forge his or her own view of the universe in order to make choices that accord with it. But few people have the will or ability to think the universe through from scratch.

So how can one make intelligent choices? Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly call modern nihilism “the idea that there is no reason to prefer any answer to any other.” They propose what they think is a wise and accepting superficiality. By not trying to get to the bottom of things, one can get glimpses of the sacred from the surface of what they call “whoosh” moments—from the presence of charismatic persons to the shared excitement of a sports event. This last elation is sacred and unifying:

    There is no essential difference, really, in how it feels to rise as one in joy to sing the praises of the Lord, or to rise as one in joy to sing the praises of the Hail Mary pass, the Immaculate Reception, the Angels, the Saints, the Friars, or the Demon Deacons.

How proud Harvard must be.

Read the whole thing.

I had a number of courses at Yale from the late John N. Findlay, whose normally lofty and Olympian demeanor could actually be ruffled by any reference to Heidegger (whose thought is the foundation of the Nihilism of Messrs. Drefus & Kelly).

Findlay’s customarily serene blue eyes would flash fire at the mention of the odious Swabian sexton’s son. I remember Findlay once pausing to explain, in Oxonian tones dripping with bitterness and contempt, that Heidegger was guilty of systematically confusing emotional states with metaphysical objects. As Dreyfus and Kelly demonstrate, that kind of thing leads, if not to murderous totalitarianism, at least to incontinent puerility.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

25 Mar 2011

Gonna Make Kinetic Miltary Action No More

, ,

Jonah Goldberg mocks the Obama Administration’s latest weasel words.

Kinetic military action‘ is out and ‘a time-limited, scope-limited military action’ is in.

What was it Robert E. Lee said, ‘It is well that a time-limited, scope limited military action is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it.’


Jake Tapper
, at ABC News, mockingly headlines his report: Make Love, Not Time-Limited, Scope-Limited Military Actions.

24 Mar 2011

“The Man in the Doorway”

A tribute to helicopter gunners and pilots in Vietnam by Marine Michael Rierson.

From Theo.

24 Mar 2011

Elizabeth Taylor, February 27, 1932 – March 23, 2011

, , ,

I’m a cinemaphile, and I cannot even identify the film that the above photo represents. I found few of her movies very interesting, and Elizabeth Taylor was never a fantasy girlfriend of mine. Her feminine personae were too old-fashioned and conventional, too guilty, and too campy. She always seemed to me to play roles embodying the notions about sexuality of my parent’s generation. I never even thought she could act particularly well until I saw her amazing performance in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966). Her performance as Martha permanently changed my mind about her skills and abilities.

Her passing has clearly, however, provoked a deep response and many writers are pausing to contemplate her career and cultural significance.

Camille Paglia argues that Elizabeth Taylor was not only a better actress than Meryl Streep, that she was a “pagan goddess” who wielded “the world-disordering” sexual power of the eternal femme fatale. Quite a tribute.

Elizabeth Taylor’s importance as an actress was that she represented a kind of womanliness that is now completely impossible to find on the U.S. or U.K. screen. It was rooted in hormonal reality — the vitality of nature. She was single-handedly a living rebuke to postmodernism and post-structuralism, which maintain that gender is merely a social construct.

26 little-known facts about Elizabeth Taylor

How good looking was Elizabeth Taylor? Buzzfeed supplies 100 photographs so you can judge for yourself.

23 Mar 2011

Japanese Man Performs Solo Rescues

, , ,

Hideaki Akaiwa

The exploits of one Japanese man who took the job of rescuing his wife and mother into his own hands are being celebrated widely on the Web today.

The LATimes version:

Whereas many Japanese have adopted the nation’s unofficial mantra: Shou ga nai, or, more politely, Shikata ga nai, loosely translated as, “What can you do?,” “It’s beyond our control” or “It’s out of my hands,” [Hideaki] Akaiwa stands out as a virtual live-action hero.

Akaiwa said he was at work a few miles away when the tsunami hit, and he rushed back to find his neighborhood inundated with up to 10 feet of water. Not willing to wait until the government or any international organization did, or did not, arrive to rescue his wife of two decades — whom he had met while they were surfing in a local bay — Akaiwa got hold of some scuba gear. He then hit the water, wended his way through the debris and underwater hazards and managed to reach his house, from which he dragged his wife to safety.

“The water felt very cold, dark and scary,” he recalled. “I had to swim about 200 yards to her, which was quite difficult with all the floating wreckage.”

With his mother still unaccounted for several days later, Akaiwa stewed with frustration as he watched the water recede by only a foot or two. He repeatedly searched for her at City Hall and nearby evacuation centers.

Finally, on Tuesday, he waded through neck-deep water, searching the neighborhood where she’d last been seen. He found her, he said, on the second floor of a flooded house where she’d been waiting for help for four days.

“She was very much panicked because she was trapped with all this water around,” Akaiwa said. “I didn’t know where she was. It was such a relief to find her.”

A more colorful (and profane) account lists him as Badass of the Week.

Hat tip to Claire Berlinski.

23 Mar 2011

“Like the Chameleon on the Aspen”


Reportorial jaws were heard dropping out as far as the Blue Ridge, when Barack Obama hinted yesterday that regime change in Libya might not be essential.

The Politico reports

President Obama indicated on Tuesday that Muammar Qadhafi may still have an opportunity to “change his approach” and put in place “significant reforms” in the Libyan government.

Asked by NBC’s Savannah Guthrie what the U.S. commitment is in Libya if Qadhafi remains in power but continues to pose a threat to his people, Obama appeared to leave the door open for political reforms.

“You are absolutely right that as long as Qadhafi remains in power, and unless he changes his approach and there are significant reforms in the Libyan government that allow the Libyan people to express themselves, there are still going be potential threats against Libyan people—unless he is going to step down,” Obama said.


James Poulos contends that this kind of erratic policy shifting has become a recognizable pattern of the Obama presidency.

Obama’s puzzling leadership style has driven more than a few critics to plunge into labyrinthine investigations of his personality in the hopes of finding some explanatory key tucked away at its center.

Nonetheless, this is a fool’s errand. What matters is not whether the president is, for instance, a passive-aggressive guy, but whether he is a passive-aggressive president. The soap opera surrounding our Libyan engagement, and Obama’s halting and irregular efforts at managing it, have me convinced that the answer is yes.

A pattern has emerged. With the Wisconsin union drama, with the long, tormented passage and reversal of Obamacare, even with the Skip Gates scandal, the president has oscillated, one way or the other and sometimes both, between a mild-mannered non-interventionism and a terse, testy, yet attenuated variety of interventionism. So it is again with Libya. Neither the passivity nor the aggressiveness is without its bemused critics, right and left. And neither has proven very effective. Put together, they seem to deliver the worst of both worlds. His errors unforced, his support unreliable, his strategy inscrutable, Obama as president has time and again left allies and opponents in an uncanny perpetual lurch.

I think myself that, as was speculated by some on the basis of Obama’s autobiography and his 2008 campaign, that Barack Obama operates in most circumstances with the most extreme caution, voting “Present” 130 times in the Illinois State Senate, defining himself with broad strokes of gorgeous rhetoric, and intentionally allowing his audience to project their wishes and fantasies onto him without committing himself to very much.

Barack Obama proved to be personally deeply invested in socializing health care, but beyond that single issue he has merely played the part of a conventional democrat, faithfully delivering the goods to important constituencies from SEIU to Goldman Sachs. Outside of trading political favors for support, and extending the welfare state one more big step, Barack Obama has proven timid, indecisive, and prone to reverse positions.

He has not withdrawn from Afghanistan, he has not closed the holding facility at Guantanamo, and he has reversed course on civil trials for terrorists. Serious issues, particularly risky choices in the realm of foreign policy (where former law lecturers, foundation board members, and state senators may feel just a bit out of their depth) seem to induce paralysis and vacillation.

Watching Obama’s behavior with respect to the civilian insurrection against the Libya dictatorship, I find myself reminded of John Randolph of Roanoke’s description of his cousin Edmund Randolph: “Like the chameleon on the aspen, always trembling, always changing.”

23 Mar 2011

Julian Assange, Houseguest


A dramatic reenactment of a visit from Julian Assange.

Hat tip to Rob Long.

Your are browsing
the Archives of Never Yet Melted for March 2011.

Entries (RSS)
Comments (RSS)
Feed Shark