English isn't English

A colleague recently reminded me of George Bernard Shaw's famous quote that "England and America are two countries separated by a common language." I have lived through many situations where I have experienced that sentiment firsthand. And with that in mind, I'd like to share a story about a conversation that I had when I was working with the British RAF:

RAF: "You troffing today?"

ME: O_o

RAF: "Yamming?"

ME: O_o

RAF: "Nose-bagging?"

ME: O_o

RAF: "Scoffing?"

ME: O_o

RAF: "Bucking & gagging?"

ME: O_o

RAF: "Are you eating lunch?"

ME: "Yes."

The Assumption of Privilege is Racism

I saw this video when it came out, and I've always been bothered by it, because it is based on a flawed assumption, draws the wrong conclusion, and promotes a message that is toxic to diversity.

The textbook definition is racism is to act on one's pre-existing biases based on ethnicity; therefore, to espouse the concept of "White Privilege" is an unmistakable form of racism at its worst. To put it another way, if I walk into a room and you assume that I have some form of "privilege" based on my skin color, then for all intents and purposes you are a racist.

Because here's the thing - I grew up quite poor in a single-parent home, then I married young, and fell even deeper into poverty when I lost the dead-end job that I had when we were married. I had no career, no skills, no education, and no prospects for the future. My skin color didn't amount to anything; I was simply another nameless face in a crowd of nameless faces that would take any work to put food on the table. I eventually landed a job cleaning low-income houses after the occupants were evicted. I was paid by the hour, under the table; no insurance, no benefits, no hope.

Out of desperation, I joined the military, which offered me two hopes for the future:

  • I would have an actual/steady paycheck for the first time in my life.
  • I might finally have money to go to college when I was done.

I served eight years in crappy conditions that you can't even begin to imagine, but my perseverance and hard work paid off. I eventually got out, got my degree, and then I was hired by a great company.

It's Just Like Camping They Said

Here's something for you to consider: for everyone who served with me in the military, it didn't matter what color our skin was, what gender we were, whether our parents were together or divorced, how much money our families had, etc. Everyone was dogmeat when they got off the bus at Basic Training; the Drill Sergeants made that quite clear.

When we graduated from all of our initial training and got to our respective duty stations, it still didn't matter what color our skin was, what gender we were, whether our parents were together or divorced, how much money our families had, etc. All that mattered was how good we were at our jobs. If we were bad at it, we got to remain dogmeat. If we were good at it, we got promoted. Those were the rules. Period. (Of course, I am certain that there were racists scattered throughout the military, because in any large group you're going to have your fair share of idiots. But on the whole, none of that mattered.)

Here's what else I noticed: some people's illusions of who had "privilege" were just that - they were illusions. I knew a guy from a well-to-do African American family who went to private school and complained about the clothes his parents bought him when he was a teenager; he joined the military to run away from home. On the other hand, I knew a Caucasian guy who grew up poorer than me; he had to take a job at 12 to help put food on the table for his family. He had to buy all of his own clothes for as long as he could remember, and he commented that would have loved to have had parents that could buy him any clothes.

At the end of the day, the color of their skin was not a factor for either of these two soldiers' lives; one had privilege, and one didn't - but their skin tones don't fit into the "White Privilege" narrative, so you never hear about people like them. But here's the thing: I knew hundreds of stories just like those throughout my time in the military. One way or another, we were all dogmeat, and all that mattered was what we did with our opportunities.

As an FYI - both of those guys I mentioned left the military, got their degrees, and founded their own companies. Neither of them got to where they were at based on their environment growing up; they both succeeded by accepting the fact that they were dogmeat, and they both worked their butts off so they wouldn't remain dogmeat for the rest of their lives. Which is what I chose to do, too.

Several years ago the author Louis L'Amour put it this way: "Up to a point a man's life is shaped by environment, heredity, and the movements and changes in the world around him. Then there comes a time when it lies within his grasp to shape the clay of his life into the sort of thing he wishes to be. Only the weak blame parents, their race, their times, lack of good fortune, or the quirks of fate. Everyone has it within his power to say, 'This I am today; that I will be tomorrow.' The wish, however, must be implemented by deeds."

Choosing the Right Guitar Strings

I've shared a lot of Rick Beato's videos on social media before, but humor me. The following video has a great explanation and demonstration of the difference that the gauge of string will make.

I'm not sure which string gauges my fellow electric guitarists use, but long ago I settled on two off-the-shelf sets that go on all of my electric guitars:

That being said, I experimented for several years trying to find the gauge that I was most satisfied with when playing electric guitar. In the late 70s, I was fortunate enough to have a guitar store nearby that sold individual guitar strings. (The long lost "Sunshine Music.") So I experimented with buying specific strings and finding what worked best for me. I eventually settled on a custom set that ranged from .008 to .038, which - of course - sounds like the range for a stock .008 set, except that I had altered a few of of the the middle strings for specific tone/strength differences. Once that store folded, I was forced to go back to off-the-shelf sets.

Back in the day, I loved the Ernie Ball .008 to .038 gauge; they were bright and easy to abuse with multi-note bends. But they had one glaring problem for me: in the early 1980s I used the whammy bar - a LOT. (Hey, it was the 80s.) But with that in mind, I completely destroyed all of the strings in a gauge that light; those strings simply could not stand up to the whammy bar abuse. I eventually switched to .009 gauge just to reduce the frequency of broken strings. But the main weakness that I was running into was where the string wrapped around the ball end; that was the primary culprit for most of my string breaks. At one point in my life I would break at least one string per gig, and since I never kept the spring cover on the back of my Strats, the ball end would shoot off like, well - a bullet, which should not be confused with the Fender strings I would later use.

And that makes a great segue, because I soon discovered the Fender Super Bullet Light .009-.042 strings, which had a molded end instead of a ball end. That design change meant that I could abuse the heck out of those strings with a whammy bar and they could stand up to everything I threw at them. Since I was predominantly playing Strats and Kramers that both could use Super Bullets, they became my string of choice until sometime in the early 2000s.

All things change over time, and I eventually drifted away from my Strats and Kramers, which was primarily due to my wanting to shift back to the sound of double-coil humbucker pickups. (And yes, I could have mounted humbuckers on my Strats, but I decided to change back to Les Paul guitars... 'cause - you know - they're Les Pauls. Oh, and an Explorer, too.) However, the Super Bullet strings did not fit into the Gibson stop tailpieces, so I needed to find a new set of strings. After trying several sets, I decided on the D'Addario EXL120BT .009-.040 strings, because I wanted the strength of the .009-.015 high end strings with the lighter .022-.040 low end strings.

So, there you have it - 40+ years of electric guitar string choices condensed into a few paragraphs.

The Abuse of Presidential Pardons

In the wake of several pardons and commutations that were recently granted by the President, I have noticed that people's reactions to those pardons and commutations generally fall into one of two categories:

  • People who hate the president are screaming about "abuse of power"
  • People who like or tolerate the president do not seem to care

Setting the record straight, Article II Section 2 of the US Constitution states:

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

So there is no "abuse of power" here; the President is performing the duties that are granted to his office by the Constitution.

That being said, the following meme has been making its way around social media:

Presidential-Pardon-Statistics

Just in case someone doubts the authenticity of those statistics, here is the official Department of Justice website where they came from: https://www.justice.gov/pardon/clemency-statistics. For the record, the numbers in that meme are 100% accurate.

Of course, Trump is only ¾ of the way through his term as President, so I would expect his numbers to continue to climb. But not nearly as rapidly as Clinton's infamous Pardongate, and nowhere near the level of Obama's shockingly high numbers.

Some Thoughts on Bernie and Socialism

I recently posted the following image to social media, knowing full well that it would launch a tirade of complaints. However, with all of the information that has been offered by the prospective Democratic Presidential candidates during their debates, I think that it is an honest observation.

socialism-101-the-welfare-of-humanity-is-the-alibi-of-tryants

My intention was not to start any arguments on social media, and thankfully no arguments took place. However, there was a friendly differing of opinions offered by several people on my friends list, and I thought that I would share a few of the things that I said during our debate.

First of all, one of my friends labeled a veiled accusation that those who agree with that image must feel that providing Americans with access to healthcare is tyrannical. That was, of course, drawing an entirely false conclusion from the quotation. If healthcare was the only thing that "The Bern" was trying to socialize, then we'd have something to debate. But the truth is, Bernie is espousing a completely unrealistic, multi-trillion-dollar seizure of nearly every asset within our borders in order to fund an everything-for-free fantasy world that will fail horribly and permanently devastate our economy. Bernie's plan is so ridiculous because he's not actually a socialist; he's just using socialism as a smokescreen to get into power. Bernie is a card-carrying communist who's never held a job, and he is so far out of touch with the common man in this country that I am astounded on a daily basis that anyone is even bothering to listen to his incoherent ramblings.

The trouble with providing everything for free is that "Free" just means "Someone else is paying for it," and I highly resent the fact that the "someone" in this equation might be me. And this is one of the problems that I have with the "participation trophy" generation; they expect to receive "free stuff" simply because they're here - without having to do anything to earn it. Whereas everyone in the preceding generations worked our butts off for that we have; during my time in the military I spent hundreds of loooong hours separated from my loved ones doing manual labor in crappy conditions. I did all that with little to no thanks, and yet I expected nothing in return - except that which I have earned. So when a delusional communist comes along and says that he wants to take away more than half of what my generation fought for our whole lives and give it to someone who hasn't done a thing, my reaction is - what a load of crap.

Now that being said, there are a few social programs in America: Social Security and Medicare are two such examples. However, those are opt-in/opt-out programs. What people resent and mistrust is a government that raises taxes to obscene levels in order to create programs that will steal from productive people to pay for the lifestyles of lethargic people. Therein lies the whole problem with Socialism, which we have seen played out through history around the world. While it is not necessarily the goal of Socialism per se, the net result of Socialism is to share or redistribute wealth across an entire population. There are many people who will remain content to do nothing so long as someone feeds them, while there are others who will remain productive because they desire to achieve more. However, eventually the productive people will grow tired of supporting the lifestyles of the lethargic people, which will often result in each productive person trying to find a way to cease having to pay the way for one or more unproductive people, and the economy/society will eventually devolve into a situation where the government will have to seize assets in order to make sure that those who want to be less productive are escalated to the level of those who want to be more productive.

Capitalism, despite its many flaws, has done more for the common man than any other system in history; it has elevated more of the poor to middle class, distributed vast swaths of cash around the world through philanthropy, and helped elevate the United States into one of the wealthiest countries in world history. Yes, there is corruption under Capitalism; but here's a big surprise for you Socialists out there: there's LOTS of corruption under Socialism. And as history has played out, there has generally been far more corruption under Socialism. Think about this: look at how awful our government is with managing - well, EVERYTHING. But it's especially awful at managing finances. Do we really want those clowns in charge of the redistribution of wealth? And that is precisely why most governments that enact wide-scale Socialism eventually fail and become state-run monstrosities where the only equality is that everyone suffers together - except for those in charge, who live comfortably in their taxpayer-funded palaces.

At the end of the day, whether we are discussing Socialism or Capitalism, the root cause of failures in either system is the same: they have people, and people have different needs, desires, ethics, etc. There is an old adage that says something to the effect of, "Only a fool would say that the only reason why Socialism has never worked is that the right people have never been in charge;" and therein lies the rub - it takes a special kind of hubris to look at a failure after failure after failure and think, "If only I was in charge, I'd get this right." And that's how dictatorships are formed. What we need is to reform some of our shortcomings, condense our bloated government, while ensuring that we have the appropriate level of oversight for areas that are prone to misuse (like the healthcare industry).

As I mentioned before, healthcare is a serious issue, and warrants a much greater conversation that I can fit into a blog post. But that being said, that is just one issue; the idea of abandoning a flawed but successful economic model (Capitalism) in favor of a economic system with a proven track record of catastrophic failure (Socialism) is ludicrous. And I reiterate, if Bernie was ONLY talking about socialized healthcare, then he'd have some serious debate fodder. But he's not; he is espousing a complete shift of economic models, despite the fact that Socialism has not - and will not - ever work. Yes, some individual programs are socialized overseas in tiny countries with small GDPs and much smaller populations. Conversely, the USA is a huge country with 50 states that each want to self-govern as much as possible. If one state, let's say Ohio, decided to socialize their healthcare, that's up to them. But what about Pennsylvania? West Virginia? Indiana? They might not want to socialize their healthcare. Now can you imagine trying to organize that at the Federal level? With our politicians? People in Congress like AOC can't do basic math; should we allow someone like that to decide who gets healthcare? I think every state would eventually take the Federal government to court over one point of implementation or another.

Having said all of that, let's tale a quick look at Bernie; here is a man who has consistently praised Communists like Castro for his social policies, while completely ignoring the hundreds of thousands who that same leader and those same policies put to death. This is why many people believe that it is by no coincidence that Bernie is such a strong advocate for gun control, because in every failed Socialist society, one of the first steps to domination has been to disarm the public. I am no conspiracy theorist, so I do not subscribe to alarmist conjecture. However, I am not blind to history, either. Bernie's proclamations - and those of his devotees - follow a very dangerous pattern, which is summarized in the initial meme that launched this discussion, which I will restate here with a little more context since I think Camus' second point is also apropos to this discussion: "The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants, and it provides the further advantage of giving the servants of tyranny a good conscience."

Circling back to the initial meme - that quote sums up Bernie's sales pitch perfectly; Bernie is acting like he has the best interests of Americans in mind, but his plan is impossible to implement, so it's just a power grab. We have seen this political behavior manifest itself in the past, and we will undoubtedly see it again.

No One is Above the Law

There is an old adage that says, "If it weren't for double standards, some people wouldn't have any standards at all." I think the recent impeachment debacle in Washington DC is a perfect illustration of that concept. According to Nancy Pelosi and the House, "No one is above the law," and yet...

  • The Obama administration withheld national security aid to the Ukraine, unless they fired their prosecutor; regardless of whether that prosecutor was investigating Biden's son is immaterial - it was still an abuse of power. (The same abuse of power that House Democrats tried unsuccessfully to pin on Trump.)
  • The Obama administration conspired with foreign nationals to create a false narrative in order to illegally obtain FBI wiretaps against the Trump Campaign. (Oddly enough, this is the same crime that Democrats have held against the Nixon administration for years.)
  • The Obama administration deliberately misled the American Public about the details within Obamacare in order to push it through congress. (The writer of that legislation actually said that the only way that bill would succeed would be to rely on the economic stupidity of the American voter.)
  • The Obama administration conspired with DNC officials to steal the 2016 primaries from Bernie Sanders through manipulation of their "Super Delegates." (Oddly enough, Bernie was winning the Democratic popular vote, and the DNC played with the numbers to give the nomination to Hillary anyway, which casts a hypocritical light on the DNC's continued whining about Trump not winning the popular vote.)
  • The Obama administration conspired with DNC officials to provide the Hillary Campaign with the questions and answers for 2016 presidential debates. (The DNC chairperson was fired, but no one was prosecuted.)
  • The Obama administration conspired with the FBI and the Attorney General to sweep Hillary's guilt under the rug when the FBI had sufficient evidence to prosecute Hillary for crimes and obstruction of justice. (Those crimes would be running an illegal email server to avoid government oversight, the loss of a wealth of classified information to foreign intelligence services when her illegal email server was hacked, sending volumes of classified data from her illegal email server to unclassified devices, and the destruction of cell phones and her email server when they were subpoenaed.)
  • The Obama administration conspired with the Secretary of State (Hillary) to mislead the American public about their ineptitude regarding the destruction of an American Embassy in Benghazi and the death of an American Ambassador. (Despite a multitude of requests for additional security from the Embassy in Benghazi, the Secretary of State refused to provide reinforcements, resulting in several deaths. After their cataclysmic blunder was discovered, the Obama administration and the Secretary of State pinned the blame on an innocent filmmaker, whom they threw in jail, and intentionally lied to the American people to cover their guilt.)
  • The Obama administration conspired with the IRS to use IRS resources as a weapon against political rivals. (When this crime was discovered, hundreds of hard drives across the IRS were suddenly wiped clean, and amazingly enough - none of those computers had backups, despite being one of the largest agencies in our government with a huge IT staff. Note that all of the hard drives were destroyed before FBI agents were allowed to inspect them.)
  • The Obama administration illegally traded five known terrorists from Guantanamo for a known traitor, Bowe Bergdahl, without approval from Congress. (This was an illegal abuse of Executive power, for which no one was prosecuted.)

There are, of course, many other crimes committed and scandals that happened during the Obama administration; these are just the ones that I could think of right now. As I said earlier, if it weren't for double standards, some people wouldn't have any standards at all.

pelosi_justice

Classic Rock versus Contemporary Rock

One of my kids recently asked me why I preferred "classic rock" over much of today's music, and I replied that "back in the day," artists had to actually have talent - not just look pretty for their photo shoots.

Today's biggest "artists" have the majority (if not all) of their songs written by teams of songwriters, and if these "artists" actually sing their own material, then their voices are auto-tuned and quantized into something that barely represents their original voices, and then they lip-synch their vocals when they perform so that they can nail their dance steps while their label pays every possible outlet to promote their over-produced "music..."

At the end of the day, today's "musicians" are little more than performing monkeys. See the following video for what I mean...

Whereas in the past, musicians had to have amazing talent to make a dent in the club scene where they cut their teeth; slogging away through club after club, hoping that one day they would be "discovered" by a record label's A&R department, then hopefully they might land a recording contract and perform the heck out of their material in order to gain a fan base...

Whether that meant nailing three and four part harmonies and complex rock arrangements like Kansas' "Carry On Wayward Son..."

...or pulling off similarly complex multi-part pop arrangements like Journey's "Feeling That Way & Anytime."

The reason why I love classic rock is because that's the last time that music was genuine...


UPDATE:

I love videos from Rick Beato, and I noticed after I posted this blog that he had created a video a year ago, wherein he described an additional example of what is wrong with music these days: quantization. In the following two videos, Rick shows how modern-day producers and engineers ruin performances by forcing a drummer's groove into a fixed tempo, thereby destroying everything that makes a drummer great.

How Computers Ruined Rock Music
How Would John Bonham Sound Today? (Quantized)

I'll sign off with those thoughts for you to ponder.

Coloring Historical Photographs - First Attempt

I hang out in a few history-related forums, and I see a lot of great photos posted. Periodically, I see photos that someone has colorized, and I have occasionally thought, "I wonder how hard that is?" With that in mind, I saw a photo today that I thought seemed like it would be a great place to get started. Here is the before and after... it's not too bad for a first effort. There are a few historical inaccuracies that I learned about after the fact; for example: the buttons and belt buckle both should have been silver, not brass. (I obviously have room to improve.)

Pilot-Officer-James-Robbinson- Before-and-After

Colorizing that image was quickly followed by colorizing another image, which turned out okay, but I didn't have much to work with; the resolution of the source image wasn't that great. I did some research to get the colors right for the airplane and uniform, so I was trying to learn from my mistakes.

James-Robbinson-Spitfire-Before-and-After

So there you have it - my first two attempts at coloring historical images. I obviously have lots of room to grow.