09 December 2013

In the workshop–router table

My main project for the past year has been working on a router table for my workshop.  I don't have much time to do such work and things that take me well nigh forever would take someone who was relatively healthy a much, much shorter period of time.  Also my general lack of skills also has something to do with this, and I took up making a router table as a skill teaching project for myself, and for that it was worthwhile even if the result was failure.  Yes failure is always an option, and to combat it the idea with limited time is to set minor goals one can achieve in a short period of time.  Bit by bit you move forward and at the end, if you played your cards right, you get something half-way useful.

Works, too!

So with no further fanfare, I'll start in on the thing, itself.  No images are color corrected, btw, and the overhead lights don't give a visible yellow cast to things, but that is the way stuff in the distance gets without color correction.  As an example the Incra tracks are an orange-gold color, not that weird yellow green.



This is the front end view, or the business end of things.  My first decision a few years ago was to get a Veritas router table plate from Lee Valley Tools.  I did that because I needed more work surface than your standard router table plate inset into a basic benchtop router table.  My main point of dissatisfaction with a benchtop system is that it couldn't easily handle long  pieces of material: they are great for smaller pieces, but the moment you get to 2x the width and active work portion of it, then you have a problem of actually getting a piece to stay flat to the table.  What I wanted was a system that could deal with that problem by having a larger work surface, and a couple of inches here and there get doubled and the pieces get slightly bigger.  Still the Veritas surface, even with a couple of inches extra, and lovely steel plate with which to use rare earth magnets to hold pieces down, needed some more space.  To get more space means a longer dimension and then pick up the outfeed of longer pieces on something else.

That set up the parameters of being 34" high to use my workbench for outfeed, or manipulating larger pieces, and having a long dimension in which I could shift the fence system around and use that long dimension.




With the trim and such I have 48" of space for active use, and nearly 50" overall long.  Two Incra T-Tracks with measuring tape pieces are on the major sides starting up at the miter slot and going to the end of the table.  Internally there are some regular old aluminum T-Tracks that I got from Orange Aluminum

Just under the top on the right side is a large drawer, which I'm using to hold all my 10" saw blades, and on each side is a small circular saw till for the 7 1/2" blades and one of my dado sets.  Saw tills are tilt out, not pull out drawers.

The side exteriors have a 4" dust collection blast gate which is currently serviced by a Ridgid shop vac.


Now I have finally gotten the shop vac out of the way of the rest of the shop and centralized it.  It is still easy to get out and use on its own when that is necessary, like for outdoor cleanout tasks.  This met the requirement for having the shop vac stowed away to where it would have some standardized fittings to it, so that it would be easy to set up between multiple pieces of equipment.  Any future machining pieces will have a 4" blast gate at the same height so that it can be easily attached to an ad hoc collection arrangement.  I don't have the space necessary for a dedicated system, and this will do nicely until then.  Also I can fit a portable dust collector I have to this system and take the vac out and put in a blast gate on its side, so that an actual 4" system can run through all of this.  That portable system is loud and really needs to be run outdoors or with something between it and the shop environment.


All of this gets powered up from the rear with two inlets for 120v AC.  Internally it is wired with 14 ga. Romex or equivalent and I ran it all through the 'can I power it all up and have no shorts?' phase of things while the top was still off.

Note that the entire affair is on casters with brakes on the corners and one in the center to support the bottom of the table so that it doesn't sag. This is a 'must have' necessity of any pieces of shop machine equipment from this point out until such time as living environment allows for a real shop to be put in place.  With that said it is damn handy to be able to wheel heavy equipment around, and anything made out of nearly 5 sheets of 3/4" Baltic Birch plywood is to be considered a bit on the heavy side.


At the front again, the controls on the left are for one of the internal outlets (it is a duplex with the connector between outlets removed) and I have some LED strip lights to put in yet which will be run off the left side switch panel.  Also on the left is the shop vac outlet switch.  On the right is a standard 15A machine switch to run the Hitachi M12V2 router I picked up reconditioned from Big Sky Tool and they did a great job of getting the missing couple of pieces from my router that were supposed to be with it, and are one of the few places I could find that had such a router available at a price I could afford.

On the left and right are drawers running approx. 17" and 3" across, which is handy for putting small parts into.  I have to see if tins from mints can fit in them as handy organizers.  Right now they have my miscellaneous jig pieces, router bits and whatever else belongs with a router or jig work.  The bottom drawer contains all the other router stuff and over-size bits, plus any of the excess stuff necessary for the table or making jigs.  One of the great positives of having that huge expanse in the rear of the table is being able to put Incra jigs on it, and I'll be starting out with a very basic positioner type and seeing how well it can integrate with the Veritas fence.

One thing I've noticed is that the T-slot nuts I get from Lee Valley will work in either the Veritas or Incra equipment, but the Incra nuts only work with their own equipment.  In theory each of these is using standardized slots, but in practice they are not using standardized fittings.  Go figure.

One additional piece to add to this will be a car jack with one of those circular cups made of plastic.  That I will put under the router and use for gross positioning of it, because trying to get the elevation right by lifting it by hand is a PITA.  Time to repurpose one of the jacks I got for squaring up the refrigerator and freezer and pray I never need it for that again.

Also to be done are light door catches for the side doors, and for those small rare earth magnets should fit the bill.  That front door was made out of ripped trim pieces... am I the only one to have thin ripped hardwood tend to warp?  In any event, all of that was given a temporary glue-up, then glued to plexiglass and the thing warped to the slight warping of the trim pieces.  I had always thought I would use a hasp or small cylinder lock on the door, but it would be unsightly if the top and bottom were pulling away.  The answer is to 1/2" cylinder x 1/2" long rare earth magnets (with something like 35 lb. pull apiece) on the interior frame corners and then two 3/4" nominal square pieces of 28 ga. galvanized sheet steel glued to where they can't be seen from the front.  Works like a charm!

Other than that the basics are 5 sheets of 24"x48" Baltic Birch ply from Rockler, plus a couple of sheets of 1/4" ply from them, and then Padauk cut to size, ripped and mitered at the corner (and the fit is not so hot, but the benefit of not gluing the in is that I can always replace them), plus some 3/4" square nominal Padauk for the corners (dowel top and bottom), and 1/4" thin rip 15/16" Padauk for the lower trim.  Mostly that was done for looks, but also it hands me a clamping surface on the top which is needed for jigs.

Originally I had ideas of making the entire thing knockdown and if I sacrifice the lower trim, it still can be.  The top, however, is totally removable and separate from the router plate support system which has all the drawers in the front in it.  This means that if the top gets totally ruined, it can be replaced completely as nothing is attached to it.  At one point I had ideas of putting a set of heavy duty chest hinges in the back which would allow the entire top to swivel up like a car hood... but the thing was already complex enough that I didn't want to do that once I realized that the tills would have to go or be seriously downsized or a major tray put in on the top which would replace the drawer and tills.

Hardware I got from all over with a lot coming from D. Lawless Hardware, but other pieces are coming from Lee Valley and Amazon.  And about a zillion other places I've scrounged parts from... I have a long list of hardware suppliers from the absolutely modern to the 'if it has to be stock period Victorian, we got the knob for you!' sort of place.  Mostly I went cheap on the knobs and handles, but the concealed Soss hinges are a nice touch for the doors even if they are a PITA to install. 

I make no money, get no benefit and no perks from any place I link to – I am just a customer. YMMV.

Basically the table is in the 98 to 99% stage, lacking the LEDs (which I need to splice some wires together to let them fit) and magnet catches.

I finished it with walnut oil (1:4 limonene for a couple of coats, then progressive 1:3, 1:2 and 1:1) and have used an equal portion by volume of beeswax and carnauba wax (90/10), linseed oil (not boiled) with just a bit of leftover walnut and tung, plus limonene.  If you don't need the wax finish all that quickly, just put the limonene (or turpentine if you use that) together with the beeswax in a sealed glass jar (like a mason jar) and set it on shelf that gets sunlight for a week, and it should be dissolved.  I used wax flakes and did a basic 'shake the hell out of it' dissolving, left it sealed in a jar in a warm room for a few weeks and then finally had to use a double boiler, and to do the final dissolving and add the oils.  A fun note is that by basic volume you get a soft wax suitable for rubbing on surfaces, if you do it by weight, you get a hard wax suitable for your tools.  Too much air in wax flakes to do it properly by volume, but it makes for a great wax to rub on, like I did with the surface of the router table.  I have one batch of wax with just linseed oil and a bit of lavender oil (like a quarter teaspoon to a cup of linseed oil), and need to find someone who has lost their sense of smell to pawn it off on as a furniture wax.

The limonene I got as 'technical grade' from someplace on Ebay, and it is derived from oranges.  My prior stuff was from limes.  When I use the waxes as a finish it smells like I've just made some tea... and when I applied the walnut with limonene, it smells like a salad dressing.    Limonene is your turpentine replacement and it is used in shampoos, cosmetics, and as a sort of universal solvent for all things sticky.  Use just as turpentine, and while it is nice you still need heavy ventilation...non-toxic doesn't mean it won't give you a headache.

The trim is done in super blonde shellac that I got from Shellac Shack and with just one 2# cut coating using a French padding technique, and it came out just fine.  Padauk has a lot of natural oil in it and I really can't see wanting to try and mess up the character of the wood by an oil finish.  Only two coats and then a bit of final rubbing out to cut the luster of the shellac and I have zero complaints on that.  A router table finished that you can eat off of if you had to, but I wouldn't recommend it.

Currently doing some of the minor tasks that got put aside for this.

Nearly done with a Oneway grinding/sharpening/honing jig for my 6" DeWalt bench grinder.  Simple compared to a router table.

Next up will probably be a toolchest/workstation/shelving unit for all the major tools that need a real home (like my bench planes and hand saws) and it must conform to the 34" height requirement.

A real benchtop for a set of rivet shelves/workstation has to be done, as well, and that will probably be a rip and glue up sort of deal, with lots of planing and sanding at the end of it.  I got in a couple of small 8/4 Maple slabs to cut the ends for such a thing, but the ripping of other woods will be the major chore.

General tool storage is a big headache and that really should be in boxes, so that is on the agenda at some point.  Custom boxes.

A miter saw station (mobile) to conform to 34" standard and dust collection standard.

I would love to get the contractor table saw down to 34", but see no way to do that with its current stand.  Although I tend to use that outdoors, if it had a proper dust collection system for all the stuff that doesn't go down its exhaust, that would be splendid... no way to cut the noise, though.

Then on the household end a Queen size loft bed would be great to get floor space back in an upper room, but that is looking to be a 'purchase' option rather than hand-made custom option, save for creating a lower interior sewing and computer space under the bed.

A gun display case, not that I have that much to display, but it's the principle of the thing.

All of this should go so much faster with a router table.

In theory, at least.

Practice is something else, again.

01 December 2013

The play's the thing

Normally I don't do much in the way of examining plays, opera or the like, which is not to say that I haven't been to same and enjoyed them, but my ability to actually find a production that I might like and one that  I could physically attend are limited.  Generally my television watching has tended away from the norm and went to science fiction and some fantasy series, and since my troubles I've shifted from those to the so-called 'reality ' programs all of which center around small businesses.  My viewing habits have changed radically due to those programs and a subscription to Amazon Prime and owning a Roku box.  At some point I can see a massive paradigm shift in television programming where what you watch will be directly supported by you for programs that you want to see.  The concept of ala carte television, that is picking and choosing just channels you want and ditching the rest, is something that should have happened with the advent of cable television.  Unfortunately those local monopolies acted like monopolies and gave you 500 channels of which you maybe watch something from 3 or 4.  Today I have no idea how many channels are offered by the semi-competitive subscriber based system I'm on, probably a couple of thousand when you include HD channels, and out of all of those I watch stuff from maybe 5 or 6 channels.  More specifically I watch just a few series on those channels and ignore most everything else.  With Amazon Prime I can now find programs that are offered for no charge with the Prime subscription and that has meant finding presentations from television and films that I would normally not run across.  Needless to say about 98% of that is stuff I'm not interested in.  This is, of course, just a variation on Sturgeon's Law, and that is a handy thing to keep in mind when you approach any information, program, film, novel, short story... if you see a vast warehouse of material in front of you 90% of it is crud.

Of the non-crud based stuff I've run across is a set of specials from PBS, which I don't watch, looking at the historical roots of Shakespeare's plays.  Knowing a bit of history of England and being able to see what changes were made for the information to be presented as plays is fascinating.  So is the work by the actors who have just come off a particular play or are heading towards one, or who have a background in the works in part or in whole.  In particular looking at Richard II and Henry IV/Henry V was most interesting as there are so many different aspects of history that have a vital role to play in the background of that entire set of transitions between Kings.  For all the liberties taken by Shakespeare in presentation, what we get is a view of the history that was known in that period and can examine some of what was known then that may not be that interesting to the modern viewer of the works.  Yet it is not those works that are the most intriguing, but possibly the most famous play by Shakespeare which is Hamlet.

Knowing science fiction and fantasy and seeing the strong parallels drawn by authors on historical material and then presenting new material within a future or fantasy framework means that as a reader and viewer there are different ways to present material that may not be all that obvious to the average viewer.  With that said I have no strong background in all the historical productions of Shakespeare's works, so I may just be treading on an old idea, but it is new to me and a lot of fun to play with.  For me the main aspect of the play, that of the psychological development of Hamlet, is one that has been done so well, so many times, that it is hard to see how one could improve on it for an actor or director: what we have are flourishes, some modern interpretations, and a few changes in scenes that are modern in circumstance to fit what we know or think we know about human psychology.  The fantastical element of the play is limited to just those four appearances by the late King who is known in the play as 'Ghost'.

Here is one of the key elements that really struck me: the pact with the Ghost.  It is a simple one, actually, given what goes on in the play, and I'll take it from Act I, Scene V (and I'll use this copy from the Gutenberg Project):

Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.


Murder most foul, as in the best it is;
But this most foul, strange, and unnatural.

Haste me to know't, that I, with wings as swift
As meditation or the thoughts of love,
May sweep to my revenge.

I find thee apt;
And duller shouldst thou be than the fat weed
That rots itself in ease on Lethe wharf,
Wouldst thou not stir in this. Now, Hamlet, hear.
'Tis given out that, sleeping in my orchard,
A serpent stung me; so the whole ear of Denmark
Is by a forged process of my death
Rankly abus'd; but know, thou noble youth,
The serpent that did sting thy father's life
Now wears his crown.

A simple enough proposition, really, and it is the driving force behind the entire play.  Yet do consider that Hamlet has made a pact with his father's ghost, and the ghost has also told us just prior to this of its limitations:

I am thy father's spirit;
Doom'd for a certain term to walk the night,
And for the day confin'd to wastein fires
Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature
Are burnt and purg'd away. But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison-house

Strange that he is forbidden to tell of his after-life prison while just having told us of essential information of it.  Still the logic holds that at night it may roam and during day it is confined to wasting fires.  So those are the basic rules of it and on that hinges a view of the play based on the soliloquies of Hamlet which are internal monologues spoken out loud so that the audience can know what a character is thinking.  Thus a retelling centered on the pact and the soliloquies becomes a vital part of a review of the play, itself.  By putting the center on the pact, and what is the normal outcomes of such pacts in other works, we can come to a different telling in which the Ghost may make its presence felt beyond just the four scenes.

As was mentioned in the episode there have been productions in which there is no actor playing the Ghost, presumably with someone out of sight giving the lines to which Hamlet responds.  The audience is then left to decide if Hamlet is going slowly insane or if he can just see the Ghost and the audience can't.  Either way it is an effective staging for the play and allows for a view of Hamlet the Prince that you don't get with the physical presence of the Ghost.  My thought was that the best way to stage the play was to take advantage of some of those soliloquies that seem to have an internal structure in which Hamlet is speaking and then answers himself.  Thus to properly set the stage for a modern production with the Ghost as absent is to have the actor playing Hamlet record the lines of the Ghost with a somewhat lower pitch to them, as his father is usually depicted as not a frail old man but a sturdy man in his middle age.

With that established in opening scenes the actor who is playing Hamlet the Prince can now utilize the voice of his father in those spoken internal monologues and even in some of the directly spoken dialogue.  In fact it is the latter when speaking with the Players in Act II, Scene II when speaking in the AEneas' tale to Dido:

  'The rugged Pyrrhus,—he whose sable arms,
   Black as his purpose, did the night resemble
   When he lay couched in the ominous horse,—
   Hath now this dread and black complexion smear'd
   With heraldry more dismal; head to foot
   Now is he total gules; horridly trick'd
   With blood of fathers, mothers, daughters, sons,
   Bak'd and impasted with the parching streets,
   That lend a tyrannous and a damned light
   To their vile murders: roasted in wrath and fire,
   And thus o'ersized with coagulate gore,
   With eyes like carbuncles, the hellish Pyrrhus
   Old grandsire Priam seeks.'

That all done in the somewhat lower voice of his father which would be scene appropriate for Hamlet to speak in a voice of a character in a play.  It would be somewhat unnerving to Polonius, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, perhaps, but would they truly recognize the voice of the late King transfigured through Hamlet?

Then the soliloquy just after and I will use bold to indicate the shift in voice from Hamlet to his father:

Ay, so, God b' wi' ye!
Now I am alone.
O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!
Is it not monstrous that this player here,
But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,
Could force his soul so to his own conceit
That from her working all his visage wan'd;
Tears in his eyes, distraction in's aspect,
A broken voice, and his whole function suiting
With forms to his conceit? And all for nothing!
For Hecuba?
What's Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,
That he should weep for her? What would he do,
Had he the motive and the cue for passion
That I have? He would drown the stage with tears
And cleave the general ear with horrid speech;
Make mad the guilty, and appal the free;
Confound the ignorant, and amaze, indeed,
The very faculties of eyes and ears.
Yet I,
A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak,
Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause,
And can say nothing; no, not for a king
Upon whose property and most dear life
A damn'd defeat was made. Am I a coward?
Who calls me villain? breaks my pate across?
Plucks off my beard and blows it in my face?
Tweaks me by the nose? gives me the lie i' the throat
As deep as to the lungs? who does me this, ha?
'Swounds, I should take it: for it cannot be
But I am pigeon-liver'd, and lack gall
To make oppression bitter; or ere this
I should have fatted all the region kites
With this slave's offal: bloody, bawdy villain!
Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain!
O, vengeance!
Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave,
That I, the son of a dear father murder'd,
Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,
Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words
And fall a-cursing like a very drab,
A scullion!
Fie upon't! foh!—About, my brain! I have heard
That guilty creatures, sitting at a play,
Have by the very cunning of the scene
Been struck so to the soul that presently
They have proclaim'd their malefactions;
For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak
With most miraculous organ,
I'll have these players
Play something like the murder of my father
Before mine uncle: I'll observe his looks;
I'll tent him to the quick: if he but blench,
I know my course. The spirit that I have seen
May be the devil: and the devil hath power
To assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps
Out of my weakness and my melancholy,—
As he is very potent with such spirits,—
Abuses me to damn me: I'll have grounds
More relative than this.—the play's the thing
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king.

With Hamlet there is internal structure to his thoughts that are both question and response, and even he realizes that the thoughts in his own head now settle within him to begin the process of answering to him.  With his father now an active voice there is an active role for him in the play beyond mere Ghost as he speaks to his son within his own thoughts.  Indeed for what is Hamlet but the man who would be King if all had taken its natural course?  This is something that Claudius knows and fears, and takes active steps to counter in the play, itself.  Yet Hamlet's father existed in a court where there was intrigue and Hamlet is no stranger to it, but how does one deal with such intrigue when it is pointed at oneself and has already taken his skilled father?  It would not be surprising to hear Hamlet begin to grow into the role of not just a revenging son, not just a Prince revenging his King, but as the Prince who is heir to the throne of Denmark beginning to grow out of the shell of being the young Prince.  Yet this is not Henry IV, where the son has support from a somewhat errant older fellow, but a young man who is possessed of revenge and who has revenge possessing him.  Staged like this we not only get the tormented problems of Hamlet, but also his father being in the torment with him: being there with his son is to be in the wasting fires.

The Ghost has powers not granted to the living and has already warned Hamlet about certain things, the main one is not to confront his mother.  What the Ghost can see is a future for Hamlet and is trying to find that path which will lead to the fruition of the plan and save his son, both at the same time.  Yet he can not be the one to exact the actual revenge and must have his son do it for him.  This is torment to him, the warrior king reduced to spirit in torment that must have revenge upon his slayer by the only one who would do so.  Would he not exercise any of that to be with his son as much as able to try and help him through this deed which is a revenge murder, not something done in the heat of battle?  It is the necessity of being a King to have unpleasant tasks that must be done by the King and King alone, not one that you can hand off to an underling so sensitive is its nature.  His son steps into the den where knives aplenty are turned against him and where even small pieces of advice could mean the difference between success and failure if his son but has the wits and reason to listen to the inner responses to his inner questions.  In most normal 20th century staging this is something that Hamlet must grope towards, but in such a staging as this Hamlet is guided to be that one that will exact revenge not only for his father but with some help from him, as well.  Thus this requires that the scenes be played as true to original as possible, and to strip out the 20th century Freudian conception and to turn Hamlet into someone who will start the process of revenge in a cold and calculating manner.

And yet he gets the singular opportunity to end this all after the staged play with King Claudius in prayers.  Yet, in the witching hour at night, is the prime time for the Ghost and this is when the internal monologue allows this viewpoint to come forward:

Now might I do it pat, now he is praying;
And now I'll do't;—and so he goes to heaven;
And so am I reveng'd.—that would be scann'd
A villain kills my father; and for that,
I, his sole son, do this same villain send
To heaven.
O, this is hire and salary, not revenge.
He took my father grossly, full of bread;
With all his crimes broad blown, as flush as May;
And how his audit stands, who knows save heaven?
But in our circumstance and course of thought,
'Tis heavy with him: and am I, then, reveng'd,
To take him in the purging of his soul,
When he is fit and season'd for his passage?
Up, sword, and know thou a more horrid hent:
When he is drunk asleep; or in his rage;
Or in the incestuous pleasure of his bed;
At gaming, swearing; or about some act
That has no relish of salvation in't;—
Then trip him, that his heels may kick at heaven;
And that his soul may be as damn'd and black
As hell, whereto it goes
. My mother stays:
This physic but prolongs thy sickly days.

This is the heart of the Ghost guidance staging: the one who points out that this is not success but grossest failure is Hamlet's father.  Revenge, you see, is a dish best served cold when one of treachery is not prepared to meet his maker but, instead, finds his death at the hands of his un-maker to bring justice to one who can place himself above normal justice.  And, really, are not these parts highlighted those of someone else speaking within Hamlet as part of the question and response that makes up Hamlet's thoughts?  Revenge can only served hot if it means justice in disposition, when there is reward to the one who has betrayed and wronged, then there is no justice at all.

At this point when Hamlet confronts his mother the idea of it happening in a space off the bedroom where personal business is transacted, letters written and talking with close friends done, one where he is coming into being as a person of revenge.  Instead of the heated bedroom romp that it was changed into during the 1920's, it becomes a focal point of coldness and Hamlet has gotten a bit too far in the role of avenging son.  A Queen has maidservants, ladies in waiting and others of the Chambers who would normally assist her and be there, but in the private Closet there is supposed to be no one who shouldn't be there.  Mind you in the heat of the moment he has forgotten his own father's warning about doing this: thus not only trying on the role of avenging son but the heat of lost opportunity drive him. 

Killing Polonius is, however, something that would be true to form for a Prince who is seeking privacy with his mother in the one place in a castle that should be private to them both.  Save for the King, of course.  For Hamlet this is not just the heat of missed opportunity but operational security and removing a listener who is a spy.  Actually that is relatively chilling and the King takes it that way as Hamlet wanted to be private with his mother and that meant no one else was to be there: not even him.  Still that gets a bit ahead of the story and what Hamlet does next, with his mother having to sit still on her chair, is listen to her son... with a corpse and, as we see later, the Ghost of Hamlet's father:

What have I done, that thou dar'st wag thy tongue
In noise so rude against me?

Such an act
That blurs the grace and blush of modesty;
Calls virtue hypocrite; takes off the rose
From the fair forehead of an innocent love,
And sets a blister there; makes marriage-vows
As false as dicers' oaths: O, such a deed
As from the body of contraction plucks
The very soul, and sweet religion makes
A rhapsody of words: heaven's face doth glow;
Yea, this solidity and compound mass,
With tristful visage, as against the doom,
Is thought-sick at the act.

One can picture Hamlet ticking off on his fingers: an act that blurs, calls virtue hypocrite, takes the rose of innocent love and sets a blister there, makes false marriage vows, such a deed rips the soul from the body against all religion.  Point by point he tells his mother of the case against her.  This is not the stuff of running around a bedroom, but of a judge speaking a verdict and going through the particulars in a cold, matter of fact manner that chills one to their bones.

This makes the visitation when Hamlet is disobeying his father to see his mother to be all the more important, not less, as he utilizes the deep power of the witching hour to try and set Hamlet's course straight by a direct appearance:

Do you not come your tardy son to chide,
That, laps'd in time and passion, lets go by
The important acting of your dread command?
O, say!

Do not forget. This visitation
Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose.
But, look, amazement on thy mother sits:
O, step between her and her fighting soul,—
Conceit in weakest bodies strongest works,—
Speak to her, Hamlet.

Of course this can be staged as all the prior visitations of the Ghost in this staging so that it is the recorded voice of the actor played off-stage.  The added bonus is that the one who has blunted the purpose is not Hamlet, directly, but Hamlet following the internal voice of his father.  It becomes a long list of particulars this accessory to regicide business, and Hamlet gets into it pretty deeply. But raging against the Queen is revenge and hatred somewhat misplaced as she did not do the dirty deed of killing King. 

This is why the Ghost warned Hamlet against such a meeting as it was sure to get emotional in some way, although not by the form we have come to expect in a modern staging of the play, to be sure, the confrontation is still there and extreme in its character.  The Ghost knew what it meant to kill in cold blood, it was a pretty nasty era to live in, after all, and you didn't get to the top without some large amount of bloodshed going along with it.  To do the necessary work Hamlet must now be pulled back from the brink of talking himself into killing his mother and, perhaps, starting a murderous rampage that would not properly get the King as he has too many guards.  That is the wisdom the Ghost brings in the play as it is, but in this sort of telling it becomes something quite other.

Throughout the rest of the play when there is an internal monologue or the time where Hamlet appears to reached a decision, the voice of his father would be used.  In time, as we no longer see the Ghost, the actor might, by the end, be speaking in his father's voice entirely and be the Prince prepared for the tasks of a King, even recognizing that if his own life is forfeit to the task, it must be done well or not at all.

This gives rise to a very subtle and yet potent variation of this staging, and one that plays into the heart of revenging the spirit of the dead.  It hinges on exactly what has gone on in all the regular presentations of the play in the form of the Ghost.  The Ghost is seen by others, or can be seen by others, but that is selective by the Ghost as witness in Act III, Scene V which up to the 20th century has traditionally taken place in the Queen's Closet which was a personal office.  Now if that is the case then the Ghost can also appear only to the audience and not to any of the other actors as a silent and on-stage  presence. 

That, in itself, would be a bit creepy.

What would be even more disturbing would be that at those points as I've previously outlined, instead of having the actor change his intonation of voice without his father present, would be for his father to lay a hand on his shoulder for each of those parts and for the actor to come to resolve in his own voice.  Here the guidance is direct and the audience is allowed to see the full activity of the Ghost throughout the entire play.  Castle Elsinore is the wasting fire and having to be there and during most times be unable to do much and only guide the thoughts of his son when there is opportunity would be further torment to him.  With such staging would come the actor playing Hamlet to have the voice of manhood as guided by his father, so that when conclusion comes to internal thoughts it is the learning of Hamlet of what to do in his position with so many hostile people around him.

It seems such an obvious way to stage the play that it must have been done before.  But this is not the pre-Freudian nor post-Freudian way of doing it, of course, and staged like this it would have a deep impact on any audience of any era.  Once the mother fascination is removed and Hamlet becomes dedicated to the deed of revenge, he is no longer that young man who is seeking to get himself up to the task, but one who has help to work through these questions as they are ones which not only plagued that era but all eras.  Which is why I'm sure that this is not new to me as it could have been done at any time since the first staging of the play.

Hamlet as the instrument of revenge is not done by a relatively unsettled spirit, but by one who has compassion and wisdom of experience: he was a King, after all, and the ways of being a King did not leave him.  He truly does want his son to succeed not just in the deed, but as a man and to take the throne as the rightful Heir.  His son needs seasoning, however, beyond just warfare and going after bandits and such, but to deal with the intrigue of the Court when it is running cold and villainous.  The Ghost was the man who failed at that, and he can see the many paths his son might take that lead to ruin of him as a kinslayer and Kingslayer will have few compunctions about removing the rest of the prior royal line.  While Hamlet is 'of age' and a true young man, he doesn't have that necessary depth of understanding to deal with all aspects of intrigue within the Palace walls.  He has experienced it, yes, but when a child largely protected from it and as a young man kept from it in many ways, but poor Yorick needs to be kept buried and Hamlet to deal with life and death, both after having his father slain.  And yet in the famous soliloquy there is this:


But that the dread of something after death,—
The undiscover'd country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns,


But that is not the case with Hamlet, now, is it?

01 November 2013

Evils of government

Examining the Declaration of Independence past the famous opening lines shows a type of society that is unique amongst mankind.  It is a society that is tolerant of much in the way of government abuse and over-reach and yet one that has its limits and will, in the end, push back against that government which has over-reached itself in regards to the individuals in society and society itself.

The pertinent text is as follows and I'm using the site Early America for this:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

One cannot find such ideas in, say, Italy or Spain, nor in Greece nor Germany, but only in the English tradition.  England is that place which has multiple roots and the name, itself, Angla-Land comes from the Angles who settled the Island along with the Saxons.  Together these Norse peoples, originally from Denmark, created a society that had fused with the local culture so as to form a new society, as I described in Roots of Constitutional Government.  With the formation of England under King Alfred the Great also came the recording of these people's history so that they could know the events of their own past and that was recorded in multiple versions of The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.  Together the local versions of the Chronicle form the historical understanding of a people up to the Norman Conquest, which would be the third and last major Norse infusion of people and culture into England (original Anglo-Saxons, the victory of Canute and then of William the Conqueror).  The last brought French influence to England, but the local ruling system survived, with changes, even after that time and it was a durable system that left local nobles able to check the power of Kings who over-reached themselves.  Yet, as seen just prior to Canute's victory, it was a system in which years could go by in building pressure to bring a King's grasp under control.  That internal set of divisions did cause the loss at the Battle of Maldon, but the battle itself served as a unifying point for Anglo-Saxon culture.  By that point in time the basics of the society and how it reacted to its government were set.

It is a society in which government over-reach is tolerated to an extent, but the more that government pushes for power over localities, the more that resistance will build.  A central conceit of Progressivism is to encroach so slowly on society with the power of government that the people are corrupted with their own funds. Just as the Declaration came out so, too, did Tom Paine's Common Sense, in which he laid out the case for Independence.  He recorded the state of society in the colonies as follows:

The present state of America is truly alarming to every man who is capable of reflexion. Without law, without government, without any other mode of power than what is founded on, and granted by courtesy. Held together by an unexampled concurrence of sentiment, which, is nevertheless subject to change, and which, every secret enemy is endeavouring to dissolve. Our present condition, is, Legislation without law; wisdom without a plan; a constitution without a name; and, what is strangely astonishing, perfect Independance contending for dependance. The instance is without a precedent; the case never existed before; and who can tell what may be the event? The property of no man is secure in the present unbraced system of things. The mind of the multitude is left at random, and seeing no fixed object before them, they pursue such as fancy or opinion starts. Nothing is criminal; there is no such thing as treason; wherefore, every one thinks himself at liberty to act as he pleases. The Tories dared not have assembled offensively, had they known that their lives, by that act, were forfeited to the laws of the state. A line of distinction should be drawn, between, English soldiers taken in battle, and inhabitants of America taken in arms. The first are prisoners, but the latter traitors. The one forfeits his liberty, the other his head.

Notwithstanding our wisdom, there is a visible feebleness in some of our proceedings which gives encouragement to dissensions. The Continental Belt is too loosely buckled. And if something is not done in time, it will be too late to do any thing, and we shall fall into a state, in which, neither RECONCILIATION nor INDEPENDANCE will be practicable. The king and his worthless adherents are got at their old game of dividing the Continent, and there are not wanting among us, Printers, who will be busy in spreading specious falsehoods. The artful and hypocritical letter which appeared a few months ago in two of the New York papers, and likewise in two others, is an evidence that there are men who want either judgment or honesty.

The media of old is reflected by the current media: it adheres to power, gives it succor and thinks only of itself in relation to power.  Look not for honest amongst them.

The Declaration gives a long list of abuses and usurpations of power by the King, and that puts a final bit into place that describes the society that is forming the Declaration.  These had been going on for years, indeed well over a decade in building up to a breaking point.  It is not a society that takes umbrage quickly nor is it one that seeks to upset the applecart at the slightest excuse, but one that bides its time to judge its government and seek ways to bring it into line with society.

To get a feel for this we can move ahead to the early part of the 20th century and to a piece by Rudyard Kipling called The Beginnings:

It was not part of their blood,
It came to them very late
With long arrears to make good,
When the English began to hate.

They were not easily moved,
They were icy-willing to wait
Till every count should be proved,
Ere the English began to hate.

Their voices were even and low,
Their eyes were level and straight.
There was neither sign nor show,
When the English began to hate.

It was not preached to the crowd,
It was not taught by the State.
No man spoke it aloud,
When the English began to hate.

It was not suddenly bred, 
It will not swiftly abate,
Through the chill years ahead,
When Time shall count from the date
That the English began to hate.

Notice that those preaching hate to crowds, preaching divisiveness and utilizing government to try and stir hatred amongst the citizenry are the ones who become the target of the ire of society.  It does take a long series of abuses and usurpations leading towards despotism to cause such a culture as this to begin to hate... its government.

And no amount of lies by the government or its media sycophants can forestall society when it finally does shift to secure its future once more.

18 October 2013

Voting in the 21st century

The 20th century is over and it left a long, blood-stained path behind it.  Unfortunately our political class is married to it, still, and continue to campaign like the 20th century is still going on.  The politics of division such as 'The War on Women' or wanting to put a huge, government led system down for 'health care' ignore the realities of the 21st century.  These realities I've talked about before in Dawn of a New Era, and those drivers are the ones that are currently shifting the basis for what we know as our modern civilization.  Yet the 20th century, for all its problems, has also blessed us with an infrastructure that is vital for the immediate continuance of civilization in the 21st century: electricity, potable water, sewage systems, paved roads, airports, and a vast web of pipelines.  Without this infrastructure in all of its parts modern civilization quickly decays.  A major disruption of the pipeline system crossing the Mississippi River would cripple the entire Nation.  I outlined five major events that are either cyclic (meaning they happen on a regular basis due to forces of nature) or a singular event that has its now understood predecessors so that it is not cyclic, as such, but part of an understood and ongoing process, and all will happen at some point in time to North America.

I will add to those yet another: solar weather.  In testimony on 12 SEP 2012 to the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies, the head of the National Protection and Programs Director gave us this on the topic of solar weather:

Solar Weather is created as a result of massive explosions on the sun that may shoot radiation towards the Earth. These effects can reach the Earth in as little as eight minutes with Solar Flare X-rays or over 14 hours later with a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) plasma hurricane. An extreme CME is the Department’s biggest Solar Weather concern. It could create low-frequency EMP similar to a megaton-class nuclear HEMP detonation over the United States, which could disrupt or damage the power grid, undersea cables, and other critical infrastructures. The United States experiences many solar weather events each year, but major storms that could significantly impact today’s infrastructures are not common but have previously occurred in 1921 and 1859 and possibly in several other years prior to the establishment of the modern power grid. The U.S. Department of Energy and utility owners and operators have been focusing on potential threats and steps that utilities can take to reduce possible impacts.6 Work is underway in cooperation with a number of federal agencies including the: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Nation Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), United States Geological Survey, Department of Energy, Department of Defense, and DHS with industry support and participation to ensure this threat is understood.

The concept of 'ensuring the threat is understood' for a known threat that is understood is verbiage for 'we want to get a few bureaucrats to hold meetings and write reports that might have some conclusions in a decade'.  Just so you know what that means.

The 1921 storm fed power into the nascent grid and took the telegraph service down with blown fuses and damaged equipment and lasted from 13-15 MAY 1921.  Over at Space Weather there is a somewhat longer look at the effects of the 1921 event:

May 13, 1921 - The New York Railroad Storm - At 7:04 AM on May 15, the entire signal and switching system of the New York Central Railroad below 125th street was put out of operation, followed by a fire in the control tower at 57th Street and Park Avenue. Railroad officials formally assigned blame for a fire destroyed the Central New England Railroad station, to the aurora. Telegraph Operator Hatch said that he was actually driven away from his telegraph instrument by a flame that enveloped his switchboard and ignited the entire building at a loss of $6,000. Over seas, in Sweden a telephone station was 'burned out', and the storm interfered with telephone, telegraph and cable traffic over most of Europe. Aurora were visable in the Eastern United States, with additional reports from Pasadena California where the aurora reached zenith.

Such storms originate from a sunspot and can last for hours, days or even weeks.  They have two distinct parts to them when they happen on the orbital plane of Earth and intersect with the planet as the Sun rotates.  First is the initial wave of particles and lightweight radiation: gamma rays, x-rays, along with UV.  Transit time from the sunspot to Earth is just a bit over 8 minutes as they are going at the speed of light.  These interact with the Earth's magnetic field and are deflected by it to the north and south magnetic polar regions.  These particles give the first real taste of the storm and if it isn't much of storm that is all you will get and have some aurora effects a bit further from the poles than normal.  Larger storms send particles along that path and they also interact with the Earth's magnetic field, but due to their mass they also start to push it lower.  This brings the aurora effects to lower latitudes and can make them quite spectacular, and also bring down more in the way of heavier particles to cause secondary radiation effects when they interact with the atmosphere.

This is the stuff that also starts to effect satellites, and if it isn't hardened against this sort of radiation that can be the end of the satellite.  The major problem with this part of the storm is first the pushing in of the magnetic field, which causes ripples that cause long wave ground currents which travel through anything conductive at or just below the Earth's surface, but then as the storm passes, the magnetic field springs back and oscillates, causing more of these currents.  How much current is induced is effected by the wavelength of the magnetic oscillation, which can induce a current down to half the wave length of the oscillation.  What this effectively does is puts a current into things like transmission wires (above and below ground) and into any pipe made of conductive material.  Thus a water system with metal pipes will have an electrical charge going through them. 

Also power plants will have an electrical current fed into them via long-line transmission wires, usually taking out transformer stations, but those may not fail fast enough to protect the power station, itself.  Grounding out a plant does no good as the ground wire is most likely 'live' with current.  In your home if you are grounding out through water mains made of metal pipe, then you will also experience this effect, particularly if the ground wire is not going through the central fuse box or circuit breaker box.  Even killing the main switch to the grid from your home won't stop this unless the ground is centralized through there.  It is much better to have a local ground that is only a few feet long instead of one that is the equivalent of miles long.

A solar storm like this is known as a Carrington Super Flare and one like that was responsible for the Solar storm of 1859.  At Space Weather there is a collection of newspaper articles and I'll give a few excerpts to give an idea of what this sort of ground current means:

Singular Effect of the Uarora Borealis on the Telegraph Wires. New York. August 29, The Superintendent of the Canadian Telegraph Company's line telegraphs as follows in relation to the effect of the Aurora Borealis last night: '…so completely were the wires under the influence of the Aurora Borealis, that it was found utterly impossible to communicate between the telegraph stations, and the line had to be closed.' The same difficulty prevailed as far South as Washington. [Chicago Tribune, p.4]

.…The French telegraph communications at Paris were greatly affected, and on interrupting the circuit of the conducting wire strong sparks were observed. The same thing occurred at the same time at all the telegraphic station in France…[The Illustrated London News, September 24, 1859].

…Lousiville KY, August 31-The telegraph wires between this city and New York, as also throughout Canada, were interrupted by the unusual overcharge of electricity which always pervades the atmosphere during the continuance of this phenomenon…[The New Orleans Bee, September 1, 1859].

…During the auroral display on Thursday night in Boston some curious phenomena were witnessed in connection with the telegraph wires. The following conversation, says the Boston Traveler, between the Boston and Portland operators on the American telegraph line, will give an idea of the effect of the Aurora Borealis, on the working of the telegraph wires: Boston operator, (to Portland operator)--"Please cut off your battery entirely from the line for fifteen minutes." Portland operator-"Will do so. It is now disconnected." Boston-"Mine is disconnected, and we are working with the auroral current. How do you receive my writing?" Portland-Better than with our batteries on. -Current comes and goes gradually." Boston-"My current is very strong at times, and we can work better without the batteries, as the Aurora seems to neutralize and augment our batteries alternately, making current too strong at times for our relay magnets. Suppose we work without batteries while we are affected by this trouble."
Portland-"Very well. Shall I go ahead with business?" Boston-"Yes. Go ahead."
The wire was then worked for about two hours without the usual batteries, on the auroral current, working better than with the batteries connected. The current varied, increasing and decreasing alternately, but by graduating the adjustment to the current, a sufficiently steady effect was obtained to work the line very well. This is the first instance on record of more than a word or two having been transmitted with the auroral current. The usual effects of the electric storm were manifested, such as reversing the poles of the batteries, etc…[The Daily Chronicle and Sentinel, Augusta, Georgia, Thursday AM, September 8, 1859].

In addition to the technological issues posed by these 'earth currents' entering the telegraph lines, was the very real potential for direct human injury. The most spectacular, and now legendary, story is told by Frederick Royce: a telegraph operator working in Washington DC. at his station between 8 and 10 PM. " I did not know that the Aurora had made its appearance until 8 or 81/2 o'clock. I had been working 'combination' to Richmond, and had great difficulty from the changing of the current. It seemed as if there was a storm at 'Richmond'. Concluding that this was the case, I abandoned that wire and tried to work the Northern wire, but met with the same difficulty. For five or ten minutes I would have no trouble, then the current would change and become so weak that it could hardly be felt. It would then gradually change to a 'ground' so strong that I could not lift the magnet. While the Aurora lasted the same phenomena were observable. There was no rattling or cracking of the magnet, as is the case in a thunder storm. I looked at the paper between the arrestors, but found no holes. Philadelphia divided the circuit at the request of New York, and we succeeded in getting off what business we had. The Aurora disappeared a little after 10 o'clock - after which we had no difficulty, and we worked through to New York. During the display I was calling Richmond, and had one hand on the iron plate. Happening to lean towards the sounder, which is against the wall, my forehead grazed a ground-wire which runs down the wall near the sounder. Immediately, I received a very severe electric shock, which stunned me for an instant. An old man who was sitting facing me, and but a few feet distant, said that he saw a spark of fire jump from my forehead to the sounder. The Morse line experienced the same difficulty in working." [New York Times, Sept. 5, 1859]

Do remember this is with the telegraph system at the period, and it tells us of the problems of induced ground currents under that pushing down of the magnetic field, during the event which lasted from 28 AUG – 2 SEP 1859.  This all with equipment made of simple coils of wire and batteries.  Now put that sort of electrical charge into the entire power grid of every Nation on Earth in this, the early part of the 21st century.

Unlike a nuclear EMP you probably won't have much of your personal electronics effected by this sort of event unless you are far north of the aurora and getting a lot of that secondary radiation bouncing around: then you might get some of that sort of thing.  What most nuclear EMPs don't do all that well is induce ground currents across the surface of the planet like a CME.  No, the problems aren't from that, but that other part: the induced ground current.  The 1921 event saw transformers explode from a relatively minor solar storm without much of an electrical grid to do that.  Modern electrical grids have orders of magnitude more transformer stations than were on the entire planet in 1921.  Large Nations may utilize some very large transformers for their long-haul lines, and the US has about 6 of these which are vital in connecting up some of the major hydro-electric generation systems into the rest of the grid, and no one really makes those things any more.  Even worse there is at least one of them that took a special rail line to put in place and that has since been removed, and as geomorphology and geography dictate where these things go, it was and is in an ideally situated spot for its function.

Now this effects my voting... I mean this is what the article is about, no?

I've read a bit about what it would take to put in isolation systems for power plants, and it is about $1M per power plant, which comes out to $0.03/month for an individual customer for about 5-10 years to get the project done for existing plants of all sorts: coal, natural gas, nuclear, solar.  You name it and if it isn't built with this sort of protection to start with, it needs a retrofit if it is slated to stay online longer than the life of the retrofit project.

This does not need to happen at the National level: individual States can do this on their lonesome and even coordinate efforts if they want.  No law against it and nothing in the Constitution prohibits it so long as it doesn't tread on federal power grants from the people.

Now find a politician who even KNOWS this stuff.

Go ahead, try and find one that puts SURVIVAL first.  Because if we get a CME from a Carrington Event, then modern civilization is toasty.

'War on women'?  Without electrical power you don't get potable water.  You don't get a sewage system.  You don't get fuels transported via pipelines (and how the induced currents will hit them is anyone's guess).  A good part of the satellites will be dead, although you might still have GPS, but that depends on the size and strength of the event... and taking into account that the Earth's magnetic field has been declining for a few decades since it looks like it is time for a pole reversal in the next few thousand years.  So which is more important: birth control/abortion or survival?

Your choice in the voting booth decides your fate in the future.

More locally the regular geophysical disasters have some very grave implications, like the New Madrid Fault Zone letting slip for a few months.  That will most likely take out bridges, pipelines and a good number of long-haul electrical lines, plus damage or destroy some dams close to the event.  That St. Louis to Memphis region hasn't experienced anything like that since the quake events from 25 DEC 1811 to 7 FEB 1812, which was three major quakes and so many small quakes that it was hard to ensure one's footing during the time it happened.  As so much of the Nation's goods flow north and south along the Mississippi, a sudden onslaught of debris flows going through the river system will cause damage.  For some hours the Mississippi River ran backwards near New Madrid, and the river shifted its course in a few places, drained one lake and created another, as well as causing sand geysers... you tell me what this means for the flow of goods, services and power throughout North America.

And being close to the East Coast means that the island of La Palma's Cumbre Vieja having an earthquake causing a massive landslide will have dire consequences for the entire Eastern Seaboard of the US, Canada, and the entire Caribbean, not to speak of the reflected and refracted tsunami events hitting Europe, Western Africa and Eastern South America.

So how does the 'War on women' play out when National and probably international trade is effected by a large portion of the US going off-line?  Devastation from the NMFZ to the Mid-West and the lower Mississippi River will probably take out a few refineries and pipelines from the Gulf, too, so getting back up and running with those might take a few years.  And as for the Cumbre Vieja landslide event for the Eastern Seaboard, well, there are major population centers and the tsunami will travel across the ocean as a wave at about the speed of a jet liner so you get 6 hours of warning if it can be identified and detected.  A wave form coming in that tops the Empire State Building when it hits NYC isn't something to sneeze at, and similar will hit across the entire coast.

Can we find a politician that puts basic survival first?

Or at least encouraging citizens to prepare because our government is so woefully inadequate that it can't figure out if cheap disaster preparation is more important than birth control when the survival of civilized life is at stake?

Or how about decentralization and disintermediation of government services from the federal to the State and local levels?  The federal government has proven incapable of keeping unguarded memorials open during a government furlough... I mean that is worse than lackluster, it is criminal to prevent the people from seeing public memorials due to a funding fight.  That is piss poor stewardship of sites entrusted to that government and the States really do need to step in and intervene by rescinding permission for the federal government to hold lands in their state for public use.  Eminent domain those babies to get rid of the awful steward in charge of them: we can get more accountable buffoons, cheaper than the federal government can.  On the State level strange functions like 'liquor control boards' are buggy-whip deals and need to go.  And for roads that aren't Interstates and don't really go beyond a couple of counties in a State, why aren't those handed over for purely local control?  Hardening the electrical grid takes State level initiative and waiting for the federal government to study it to death is a recipe for disaster.  And that disaster WILL effect you if the right event hits with NO preparation.

You, at least, can prepare.

A few days of food, potable water, and some method of dealing with physical waste products goes a long way towards dealing with the small problems.  At a month you are at least buying time to take good stock of a much larger disaster.  You can and should prepare beyond that, but when you are in that mode then the problem OF GOVERNMENT comes to the forefront.

It isn't serious about anything.

Politicians care more about dividing electorates than serving them.

Politicians and their parties want political and polarizing fights, ignoring survival level problems that should be the domain of government: self-government, local government, State government and last and least is the federal government.  Yet all we get are top-down solutions for bottom-up problems.

That is the 20th century mindset and it is a recipe for disaster.  It was in the 20th century and it is worse now because we have spent zero time preparing for anything larger than heavy wind storm... and even those don't get any preparation and days of power going out.  Super Storm Sandy gave us the time from civilized behavior to barbarism in the 21st century: 72 hours.  And the supplies to 'deal' with it were so far away that it took a week or more to get them to the disaster... that is a guarantee of a bad disaster going barbarous.  And yet simple decentralization of goods to local management would have alleviated the immediate problems long enough to allow a better regional response.

Didn't happen.

Now with that in mind, picture a Carrington Event in the 21st century.

Not the destruction of Super Storm Sandy, yes, and even gets you a pretty light show for a few days.  The lack of all infrastructure, however, gets you the same decay rate, everywhere that is not prepared.  And we don't have Interstellar friends to bail us out of a global CME.  Yet with some basic preparation for the power plants, getting a decent set of replacement transformers in storage in a salt mine or other safe place, a basic grid can start to reappear in days.  With distributed food and water, plus some localized systems for processing same, you can keep civilization going and get it back on its feet.  Birth control and abortions will be in short supply, I'm afraid, but then having food to eat, water to drink and a safe place to bed down for the night will rise far above any 'War on women' sort of deal as we try to stave off barbarism and a war of Each For His Own.

Thus I have a list of things that politicians must be willing to talk about or they do not get my vote at all.  Period.

Decentralization of services along with an understanding of disaster preparation at all levels of government.  That means FEMA can go away and have its stores divided up by the States and distributed locally.  They suck at disaster response.

This goes double for the State level.

Prioritization of threats so that mere lifestyle 'threats' come long, long, long after basic survival threats.  Yes, nothing is going to save us from Yellowstone if it goes through one of its major eruptive events, unless we have a viable way to get off this planet.  Preparation right up TO that for ANYTHING ELSE should be a priority of all governments starting with self-government.  It isn't costly to be prepared.  A bit of extra canned food stored away after each shopping trip does wonders over a few months to a year.  Stored containers of water with basic additives to allow them to stay potable for up to 5 years is cheap, so is bleach or compounds for swimming pools to make bleach.  A bucket and plastic bags to deal with human waste, plus knowing where to dispose of it doesn't cost much at all.  Each locale has its own other requirements, but getting the basics in place means you won't be a victim of a disaster unless it directly takes you out with its direct damage. If you don't want to take care of yourself, then you have only yourself to blame for the consequences.

If you have read this article: you have been warned.  Nature doesn't care much about you, about me, about our civilization and isn't all that nice, come right down to it.  Don't bother me with 'climate change' if you are unwilling to face realities of Carrington Events that seem to get to us about every century or so.  Oh, its heading on towards a century since the last one... aren't we lucky?  And New Madrid is hitting its readiness for an event in its cycle.  Ditto the Cascadia Thrust Fault.  And who knows when just the right quake will hit La Palma?

I'm looking for a politician willing to address the realities of infrastructure repair (not just 'jobs bills' or that Interstate stuff but the REAL INFRASTRUCTURE) and hardening, along with disaster preparedness.  Because if we don't get serious about these things then civilized life as you and I know it will be cut off with a real disaster.  And the more we let politicians divide us and try to centralize power, the more certain that the first disaster we get will also be ending our civilization increases.

So far, no luck.

01 October 2013

Sub-pack for field target pistol

Part of going through inventory and cleaning out old junk, mostly boxes that had a single small item in it or things that should be consolidated like my cord and nylon web pieces, was moving stuff for camping/emergency use to a more prominent place.  I mean after cleaning out shelf space something has to go there to keep more small boxes from migrating to it, right?  And when I found my sub-pack for field use of a target pistol, my lady suggested that others might like to see what I used and possibly get an idea from it.

I have no idea if anyone else uses this stuff in this way, and didn't look, either.  This just seemed blindingly obvious to me when I was getting equipment that I never much fastened onto it as a topic.  Yet having the ability to do a basic bit of field cleaning to a pistol is something that I've seen incorporated into a number of older holsters, stuff like some Lugers, Browning 1910/22 police rigs, and similar.  There isn't much room devoted to that sort of thing and, after the pistol and a couple of magazines, you quickly run out of space in the holster and you really don't want a small bag of cleaning swabs or bottle of oil to go flying out when you take your pistol from the holster.  But the cleaning rod can be incorporated into them, so that is always with the firearm so you can always do some expedient cleaning with whatever is at hand.  Most of the other stuff can migrate to a small pouch.

That was what I had in mind, just something that would allow for a bit more kit with the kit, so to speak.  No one makes that sort of thing, at least at first glance... second and third glance as well... and that means adapting something else to fit the need.  There are tons of pouches out there, but you usually end up with something thin and rectangular and your grip riding out of it, or larger and square that requires modification to keep the pistol secure.  Neither is optimal, really, and only when going through a milsurp site did I actually see something that would work.


As the tag shows:


23386 ASSY 1600495-1


Basically comms equipment carrying case.  Nicely made, too!  Belt/ALICE type, but you can change it over to MOLLE with adapters.

Now how does it get used when you don't have the comms equipment?


Pop the top and you get to see a lot of stuff it can hold.  That top is secured via four slide buckles, all nice and snug, as well as adjustable.


In the front compartment goes a cased pull through, 4 magazines (you could probably get six in there), and a short 50 box and longer 100 box of ammo.


That is a decent amount of storage when you come right down to it.  What did have to be done is an internal divider had its stitching undone and removed so that grip could slide into the case.


Like that.  Spare manual slid into the now open area at the top of the case.  There is also a place where you can store small 2oz. or squat 4oz. bottles.  Mine had walked over to my cleaning equipment area and need to walk back to the case.


Also a great place to store patches, swabs, brush heads... any of those nice things from home that you just never know if you are going to need in the field that is compact is perfect for that.


And that is your sizing reference, if the magazines didn't do it for you.  A 6 7/8" Bull Barrel Ruger Mk III.  And as you saw in prior pics, the gun sock fits well in there and keeps things from rattling around.  It can be improved upon, yes, but for... I think that was a $25 carrying case... its been a few years... you can't go too far wrong.

A perfect piece to go on a 2" belt with a MOLLE thigh platform previously pictured.  Not an EDC pack, to be sure, but something that has everything you need for a short excursion that might run into a couple of days. With zip lock bags you could easily waterproof this stuff and yet still have it readily available in the field.

Like I said this seemed blindingly obvious to me at the time.

Now back to getting the router table finished.  Losing a month in the summer due to upper respiratory tract infection and stomach flu have made catching up a top priority so I can get the finish on before the cold weather arrives.

04 September 2013

What are tactics and what is strategy?

From dictionary.reference.com:




1.  ( usually used with a singular verb ) the art or science of disposing military or naval forces for battle and maneuvering them in battle.

2.  ( used with a plural verb ) the maneuvers themselves.

3.  ( used with a singular verb ) any mode of procedure for gaining advantage or success.

4.  ( usually used with a singular verb ) Linguistics .

a.  the patterns in which the elements of a given level or stratum in a language may combine to form larger constructions.

b.  the study and description of such patterns.

And from the same source:



noun, plural strat·e·gies.

1.  Also, strategics. the science or art of combining and employing the means of war in planning and directing large military movements and operations.

2.  the use or an instance of using this science or art.

3.  skillful use of a stratagem: The salesperson's strategy was to seem always to agree with the customer.

4.  a plan, method, or series of maneuvers or stratagems for obtaining a specific goal or result: a strategy for getting ahead in the world.

Using just the dictionary style reference, I would disagree with strategy item #3 example as a salesman is employing a tactic in pursuit of the strategy of a sale.  I'll use die.net to show how a prior generation examined these two words:

Source: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913)

Tactics \Tac"tics\, n. [Gr. ?, pl., and ? (sc. ?, sing., fr. ? fit for ordering or arranging, fr. ?, ?, to put in order, to arrange: cf. F. tactique.]

1. The science and art of disposing military and naval forces in order for battle, and performing military and naval evolutions. It is divided into grand tactics, or the tactics of battles, and elementary tactics, or the tactics of instruction.

2. Hence, any system or method of procedure.

And strategy:

Source: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913)

Strategy \Strat"e*gy\, n. [Gr. ?: cf. F. strat['e]gie. See Stratagem.]

1. The science of military command, or the science of projecting campaigns and directing great military movements; generalship.

2. The use of stratagem or artifice.

Both of these items involve planning, but their scales are very different given the problem to be addressed.  Tactical decisions are typically battlefield decisions with goals set on the battlefield as guided by overall strategy.  Thus an operation to 'take a hill' to divert the enemy and feign an attack in one place so as to distract from the main thrust is a tactical decision of the best way to carry out the larger theater tactical or theater strategic goals.  A theater of war is one that encompasses a number of areas, so that there was a European Theater of Operations in WWII as well as a Pacific Theater of Operations in that same war.  Each Theater of Operations had its own set of goals set by the Theater of Operations Strategic Objective.  Individual battles were tactical instances of utilizing force to achieve the larger set of objectives set in the Theater of Operations.  In the European Theater of Operations there was an over-arching Grand Strategy above the Theater level that required that Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany be defeated. 

At the Theater Level this required a series of operations starting in Africa, to dislodge the Afrikacorps and Italian forces from there so as to remove pressure on British shipping.  For a time that was the only part of the European Theater of War that was operable for the Allies, beyond a basic defense of the UK.  To achieve the end of the Theater Strategy required Theater Tactics on the deployment of troops, their numbers, types, amounts and logistical support without which the operation would have failed and the Theater and Grand Strategy set back.  All of the subsequent battlefield tactical decisions, the stuff you see so many programs about, are all in pursuit of the larger goals.  There are different skill sets and approaches required for these different areas of operation, and one must discriminate between them so as to ascertain just what the strategy is and which tactics are suitable.

And this quote sums up the applicability of strategy and tactics as concepts to diplomacy:

All diplomacy is a continuation of war by other means.
- Zhou Enlai

That is why the US State Dept. has different areas of responsibility or Theaters of responsibility to it, and what diplomats seek to gain is the advantage for their Nation by finding agreement with other Nations.  It is much, much better if everyone agrees with each other's requirements and things can be done in a peaceful manner because you lose far fewer lives and have a lower cost (perhaps even a mutual cost reduction or net benefit!) via diplomatic agreements than you get via warfare.  In the early days of warfare, when produced items and agriculture were relatively primitive, one could gain great riches by going to war and plundering one's enemies.  Today that is much less the case and mechanized warfare has a high cost to it that goes higher the more sophisticated the equipment comes.  Diplomats, then, are the first wave of troops and commanders you send overseas to see if you can find some agreement amongst Nations: they are the shock troops that employ a set of tactics that do not, typically, involve killing others.  Diplomats are servants to the Grand Strategy of the Nation State, which is set by whoever is put in charge of that stuff, but it is usually an Executive function of a Nation State (although there are exceptions like the Republic of Venice and its Council of Doges).  It is that Grand Strategy that guides the Nation State and it is executed by diplomats and by the military of a Nation that takes into account when diplomacy fails.

Diplomatic failure does not always lead to war as that is situation dependent, so that a minor faux pas with a friendly power is something to snicker at, while the same faux pas with an antagonist might lose you the diplomat, the Embassy and put the Nation State into a war without any preamble to it.  The back-up plan for the first wave of effecting a Grand Strategy is the military might of a Nation.  Failure of diplomacy is not always something a diplomat can do anything about, particularly if a belligerent Nation cuts off diplomatic ties and accepts no behind-the-scenes talks.  At that point, when diplomatic means are refused at all levels, it is the responsibility of the military to pick up the slack and begin preparing for a hostile Nation to go into an active state of hostilities.

Diplomacy is part of a spectrum of warfare and George Washington underscored that point while as President by making all diplomatic efforts part of the War Dept.  Because any minor failure, with even a modest foreign power no matter how distant, might mean disaster for the trade and survival of the young United States, the diplomats all understood the gravity of their situation by going through a military command structure run by the military.

Can mere tactics create strategy?

Yes, it can.  The best case in point is the set of tactics described between WWI and WWII by B.H. Liddel Hart in his book Strategy in which he described how mechanized warfare would work and the necessary change in Strategic approach it required not just in warfare but in the logistics behind warfare.  A series of papers between the World Wars described just how armored and mechanized mobile troop units would create a new style of warfare and that Nation States would need to adjust not only their tactics but their strategies to accommodate this new warfare.  He was not alone in this review of how mechanized mobile armor platforms would change everything about how war was fought (just as the machine gun did for World War I, though very few pre-WWI strategists recognized the importance of this tactical innovation).  World War II and the post-WWII era saw the bulk of those insights come to pass and we now live in a world where the foundational understanding of warfare is mechanized and mobile warfare in all venues of all theaters of operations.

From World War I also came a modernized reprise of chemical weapons attacks done on a large Grand Tactical scale on the Fronts during the war.  Grand Tactical is a set of arms or methodology for deployment of troops and arms that are employed across all Theaters of War.  Chemical and Biological Weapons pre-date the modern era and were used in the siege of castles and the subduing of cities going back to an era that predates riding horses into battle.  This class of weapons only gain the Weapons of Mass Destruction moniker when they can be produced on a scale large enough to turn the tide of war when an enemy has no defenses against it.  As such these tactical devices in the CW and BW areas can only meet the WMD tag when used against those without defenses, but are little different from other mass forms of arms utilizing conventional forms of attack.  Nuclear devices gain the WMD tag by destroying a mass in an instant, and that effect is a large scale one, hence weapon of mass destruction in both size, scope and effectiveness.  CW and BW arms do not meet those criteria of size, scope and effectiveness, even when all the stars are aligned for use of them.  Against the defenseless these sets of conditions are easier to meet, yes, but nature will have her way with them in the way of wind, humidity and a number of other factors that will limit or negate the use of them in a way that nuclear devices are not prone to.  Fallout is an effect of a nuclear device, not the reason you use one, thus how nature moves a cloud of radioactive fallout is secondary to the use of the device itself, while spreading chemical or bio components in a direction of the wind that is not wanted thwarts the primary intent of the weapon, itself.

This now moves us to the present and what President Obama wants, or doesn't want, in regards to Syria.  I'll take a part of a piece by Miriam Elder in BuzzFeed on 01 SEP 2013 on the topic of Strategy and what President Obama wishes to do in Syria:

The results of this mystifying lack of preparedness have been abysmal,” he wrote, calling Obama’s decision to seek congressional approval for the strikes “constitutionally sound, but strategically appalling” and suggesting the White House find “an objectives-based strategy.”

Hof struck at what, for those who spend their time thinking about grand strategy and not domestic politics, is the heart of the matter. The administration has consistently separated the goals it hopes to achieve with a military strike — punish Assad, send a warning to similar states, restore U.S. credibility — from the objectives it hopes to achieve politically: to reach a negotiated peace in Syria with Assad no longer at the country’s helm. In terms of strategic planning, the separation of the two is almost a rookie error.

I do understand that Miriam Elder may not be up on the differences between strategy and tactics, as the middle ground of the two realms can be hazy even to those on the inside of the operational spheres in question.  However, with analysis, it is possible to separate what is strategic and what is tactical from her review.

First is the lack of preparedness cited by Frederic Hof, and that is an easy thing to designate as a tactical error.  Being unprepared to enforce a policy decision, which is a part of the overall Strategy of the United States, is a tactical error by a President.  I do agree that seeking the approval of Congress is not just sound, but a necessity so as to gain the necessary funds to supply the military for doing anything with regard to Syria.  And when a President seeks to perform offensive operations that expend logistical supplies, equipment and possibly lives, that means that Congressional approval can show support for the policy decision.

That policy decision is one that drives objectives, and here Mr. Hof states that the strategy is objectives-based.  Objectives are to be driven by strategy from policy, and when those get reversed it demonstrates that you have no policy and no strategy at work.  Thus an 'objectives-based strategy' is no strategy at all as objectives are driven out by strategy.

As seen previously tactics can drive strategy and, perforce, change objectives, but that only comes from the understanding of the change in tactics.  An 'objectives-based strategy' that does not clearly and succinctly say what the larger strategy framework is to drive out those objectives actually is, then gives the appearance of having no larger based strategy at work.

The goals as outlined are multi-fold and deserve some examination to determine if they are just goals or if they are tactical or strategic plans.

First is to 'punish Assad', presumably through military strikes.  Yet this can be achieved through non-military means like has been seen in the case of Iran, Cuba and North Korea, through diplomatic sanctions, seeking to cut off aid in the form of banking to the regime, or through other non-military means.  Indeed, even though Syria is not a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention, a President can go to the other CWC signatories and point out that their lack of action with regards to Saddam Hussein has now led the world into a realm where terrorists are now getting their hands on CWs via the means of civil war.  The goals given in the CWC is to prevent such spread and proliferation from happening and the CWC signatory Nations should have it pointed out to them that they have an obligation to act to their stated Foreign Policy goals that they voluntarily signed up for via diplomatic means.  A much wider array of Nations could be asked to either put up and support what they signed up for, or to walk away from the CWC saying that they cannot support it any more.  If punishing Assad and the Syrian regime is a goal, it is questionable if it is best served by any military strikes by the US without gaining the backing of a treaty group that said they wanted to curb if not end such activities. By pointing out this venue there are also other treaty venues outside of the UN to go through to 'punish Assad' through diplomatic means, and they might actually be effective and save lives, and curb the spread of CWs.  All of this can start with a simple policy statement that the US has no interest in the outcome of the civil war in Syria, but that we deplore the use of WMDs and will seek agreement amongst all those Nations with similar foreign policy goals to start achieving those ends.

When translated to a military level, then, 'punish Assad' is a tactical goal in service to a stated Strategy.  Yet, when it is a 'goal-based strategy' that is effectively saying that the goal is the only thing in the strategy and that there is no larger framework to the goal.  It is a goal in service of itself, which is not just irrational but can have long-term consequences when the aftermath of trying to reach the goal, or failing to do so, happens.  And it will happen once the goal is stated and achieved or not achieved because it has been stated as the goal of the Nation of the United States.

Second is 'send a warning to similar States'.  This can be achieved through multiple means, as well which I outlined in the first goal area: cutting off banking, seizure of accounts, cutting off US trade with such regimes, working with the CWC treaty organization of Nations... all of that done without a single shot fired by the US.  In fact that would be a much clearer warning that the US is fed up with such things than a military attack, as it would be done quickly as part of a stated foreign policy with objectives to stop the proliferation of WMDs at the Nation State level.  Of course that would take actually having that as a policy.  That can only be done by the President as he is the one who creates much of the foreign policy execution and how it is done, without having to go to Congress.

When translated into the military realm this concept of 'sending a warning to similar States' is nebulous.  There are many ways to achieve this when given a military set of conditions and not all of them deal with actually trying to destroy or eliminate the weapons themselves.  As a goal it must have a framework of what is to be achieved, and simply curbing the use of such weapons in Syria can be done by such things as destroying infrastructure, attacking shipping, or dropping lots of small arms to the civilian population with a note on each piece asking nicely if they would 'take care of this tyrant for their own safety' in a way similar to dropping Liberator pistols in occupied France during WWII to help the Underground Resistance there.  That is something that would be guided by conditions and by Congress, if there can be an actual foreign policy statement given to this 'goal' that puts it in service to some larger strategic framework.

The third goal to 'restore US credibility' means that the US has already lost credibility in this case.  That is due to the lack of having a foreign policy that can be stated as a Grand Strategy: there is no Grand Strategy at work to drive out policy and, from that, goals and instances of objectives in service to the Grand Strategy.  Without having a Grand Strategy that can be clearly and succinctly stated, this cannot be achieved.  It does not have to be a great foreign policy statement and the US has gotten away with rather short ones in its history:

- Walk softly and carry a big stick.

- Keeping the worlds worst weapons out of the hands of its worst people.

- Confronting an Evil Empire and calling it to reform.

- Carter Doctrine of Blood for Oil.

- Monroe Doctrine to keep foreign powers from the Western Hemisphere.

You don't need something fancy and convoluted to hang a foreign policy on and, in fact, the shorter and easier it is to remember the better off you are.  Each of these drove policy not only for the Administration that stated them but were an influence on future Administrations and the direction of the Nation as a whole.  The simplest way, then, to restore US credibility is to have a foreign policy that can be clearly stated as a Grand Strategy for the Administration.  That doesn't take ANY military maneuvers and can be accomplished by one man and one man only: the President of the United States.

The political objective that all of this is supposed to tie together is to reach a negotiated peace in Syria and end up with Assad out of power.  That should actually be a foreign policy objective tied to a Grand Strategy.  By trying to make it a political objective, to score 'points' by showing you can 'get something done' which has as its goal bolstering the status of the occupant of the Office.  Without having any real planning on the foreign policy or military side, the result of even achieving this objective is put in doubt as, without any pre-planning for success, others can step in to define it for themselves and actually snatch success away and for themselves.  That would be contrary to the stated objective, and is a result of a lack of any foreign policy to drive out goals and objectives which then puts the entire State Dept. and Dept. of Defense into the picture to help understand what the aftermath of such an objective is before you even attempt to achieve it.  That then creates not just a foreign policy failure but a political failure, as well, plus damages the credibility of the US still more.

In fact going through this entire procedure without a stated Grand Strategy for foreign policy damages the credibility of the US.  One way to not damage the credibility of the US is not to go through this procedure in the first place and have the President understand that some failures have a single father and that for the good of the Nation his personal credibility must be sacrificed. 

Yet he could just figure out a foreign policy Grand Strategy and avoid all this, while using the non-military options to show how that Grand Strategy will play out.

For as much as this President talks, he can't appear to say what his foreign policy Grand Strategy is.  Instead he gives us a few objectives that don't even require a military response, but that is the first thing he goes to.  And that loses him credibility far faster than choosing anything else he could choose.

No good shall ever come of that.