Meet Charlie

For a number of years now, I’ve not had a Christmas Tree. Since I am renting a room, it’s not like I had a house to decorate. All of my ornaments are in storage, and, well, it’s just not been a pressing issue. Besides, my current landlord does a pretty good tree and I’ve been able to enjoy it.

This year, however, I realized I wanted a tree, and some decorations. Had to be small as it needed to be in my room, and for some reason a part of me wanted a Charlie Brown tree. So, I started keeping my eyes open and finally found a small tree, not even two feet tall, that fit the bill. With the limbs all tight and up, it even looked a bit like the part. All of $5.94 it was too.

This is what it looked like after I got it home and started getting the limbs down. The Linus treatment had it starting to look much better.

Then, I found some battery-powered LED lights for about $5 and got them in the mix. I could have gotten a longer string, but it both cost more and I really didn’t want to overdo the lights. Maybe next year, but I’m sort of liking the minimalist approach.

Next up, I found a box of gold ornaments for $2.99, and what makes a nice tree skirt also for $2.99. Finally, I bought four nicer ornaments from the bookstore at the Church I’ve been attending for $3 each. Since I couldn’t find a star to go on top (even growing up Methodist I really didn’t think it was a good idea to symbolically impale an Angel) I got an ornament that features the Madonna and Child to go up top. The others I got just because they were pretty and I’m a little OCD on some aspects of symmetry.

So, I didn’t break the bank and have something bright and joyful for Christmas. A reminder of the season and the reason for the season.

Additional Thoughts On The Real Lesson From Ukraine

A while back, I did a post on the real lesson to be learned from Ukraine in year one. For all that people were jumping on drones, I pointed out that the real lesson was on data. Today, I would like to amend that to add flexibility in the form of innovation.

Don’t get me wrong, drones have reshaped operations on land and at sea. However, the real game changer has been the data and the flexibility to adapt and overcome. Right now, the usual bandits, beltway and otherwise, are out there with plans for specialized drones costing thousands (if we are lucky) and taking years to get into production. The procurement process in all its glory.

What really has made drones effective, and allowed Ukraine to prevent being overrun in the early days, however, was data and the ability to take that data and get inventive with responses. Data really comprises two interlinked facets.

First, there is the raw intelligence data: who is where, when, and what are they doing and saying? Thanks to Russian corruption, Ukraine and a host of others were literally listening in and getting massive amounts of data. Thanks to Starlink, wifi, cellular, and other data systems, they were able to not just collect data, but transmit information to troops and others and literally guide systems into place.

It still might not have saved them if not for the ability to be flexible, to innovate responses and tailor them to specific situations. The decisions to flood, blow select bridges and other infrastructure, blunted the major attack and gave Ukraine the ability to halt the advance against Kiev and go on the offensive. It gave them the opportunity to begin targeting not just Russian commanders at all levels, but to selectively engage effective commanders while leaving incompetent commanders in place. It also allowed them to engage in psyops and more.

That flexibility has carried over into drones, where innovation has come largely from the front, not the rear. Net result is observation drones turned into delivery platforms with good effect. Someone, somewhere, looked at all the anti-tank mines being collected after being helpfully left by the Russians, and got the idea of using about two feet of broomstick and a two-liter pop bottle to stabilize such, and then turn it into a grenade-detonated device with the punch of an artillery shell.

Inexpensive, effective, and developed and deployed within a very short time (hours/days). Devastating to Russian vehicles and positions thanks to data for intelligence and command and control. The same holds true for naval operations, and the Russian fleet has paid a price.

The key is, Ukraine appears to be allowing its forces to innovate, experiment, and modify on the front and down to unit level. This used to be a hallmark of U.S. forces.

Many years ago, I was part of some discussions on why American troops did so well in WWII, and how to shift that to modern battlefields. Two factors came out in our discussions in regards WWII. One was that rural, and even some urban, troops had extensive experiences with shooting and marksmanship. Thanks to the Great Depression, a lot of people got very good at hunting simply so they could eat. Guess who made good scouts, snipers, and general troops? The second was that American troops of all stripes were adept at improvised repair and adaptation. Truck or other vehicle break down? Rather than call for specialists, our troops quite often simply improvised a repair and kept going until a proper repair could be made. Something not working as it was supposed to? Adapt, improvise, and get creative.

The problem with translating that to modern battle was two-fold. First, the crucible that was the Great Depression was long gone. The hardship that had shaped and prepared so much of the population no longer existed, and by comparison modern youth had/has never truly experienced hardship (topic for another day). That, in turn, shaped a very different mindset. While there were, as always, a few exceptions it was clear they were exceptions. Even the drive to do your best and test yourself against others was being eroded by societal factors and education. It’s still there, just buried and vilified. Second, it was felt by many that where we needed that ability to improvise and adapt had shifted from conventional equipment to specialized equipment like computers.

Worse, to my mind, were those who did not like the idea of innovation and adaptation at all. At the root of that was both a desire to micromanage (can’t make the “wrong” decision if you are not allowed to make a decision) and a desire not to rock the boat. Innovation could interfere with current modes of operation, procurement, and development after all. Never mind that it might lead to better equipment, operations, or such… Sadly, I have seen this mindset expand.

A few years ago, when I was in the Indiana Guard Reserve (State Guard, not National), I had the pleasure of taking part in Junior ROTC. In fact, I got to teach basic landnav to the participants. The different teams then got dropped off to navigate a course to see how well they did. Most did fairly well, though I was betting we might have to go find a few as I watched them head in without orienting their maps.

One team, however, did something of which I am still pleased and a bit proud. Once in the exercise area, they stopped, improvised camo/ghillie suits, and decided to essentially E&E their way to the endpoint, avoiding detection by other teams — and our monitors. They pulled it off brilliantly. To my horror, an officer in the command tent huffed up and wanted to reprimand them for their actions. Think he was surprised when several of us, of all ranks, dogpiled him and told him that was a stupid fucking idea and that we needed to be commending them as that type of innovation and creative thinking was exactly what troops (esp. combat troops) need. He backed down, somewhat reluctantly as I remember, and the rest of us went out to congratulate and commend that team.

That mindset now, however, appears to have grown and become the dominant mindset in far too many commanders. Troops that innovate might do something that attracts negative publicity from the media, rights groups, and others. It can upset plans in place, even though in many cases it might allow those plans to be improved, and that can’t be allowed.

A few weeks (?) ago, Cdr. Salamander did a good post on inexpensive drones and giving troops a chance to experiment with them. It is a good post, and I agree that if we did so we probably would be richer by several new concepts/adaptations for a very low price. I just don’t think our current leadership, at almost any level, is capable of doing something that smart and simple. Isolated cases, perhaps, but not in the whole.

In looking at the decision to flood and destroy infrastructure in Ukraine in those first days, I wonder if any of our current leadership would make that decision or implement it? If raised, I fully expect a chorus of ‘environmental damage, destruction of expensive property, impact to indigenous people’, and a host of other dreck to come out.

To my mind, if you want to win, data and flexibility are going to be the key. To borrow from John Ringo, he who thinks fastest will be the one to laugh last. Thinking fast, and taking decisive action, have always depended on data and innovation. In future conflict, that will be even more important.

Getting hit by lightning is not fun! If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, which include moving once we have medical issues cleared up, feel free to hit the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo, use the options in the Tip Jar in the upper right, or drop me a line to discuss other methods. It is thanks to your gifts and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.

Week Wrap Up

There is a lot happening on and in the world. I’ve not been saying a lot because in both cases it’s hard to know what is really happening.

First up, in tales of the improbable, I’m starting to like John Fetterman. He has been a staunch supporter of Israel and Israel’s right to defend itself. To the point of mocking protestors (even making fun/use of his own brain damage) and hanging the posters of the hostages at his office. He has also been mercilessly trolling Bob Menendez and pushing to have him expelled from Congress a la Santos. His hiring Santos to make a video on Cameo to use in said trolling was a master-level move. Whatever else may come, I can respect and even admire these actions.

Next up, the situation in Yemen and the incompetent response to same. In this case, it’s not just the Biden Regency, but the senior leadership of our military which has reportedly not even briefed Biden and others on options for dealing with the situation. That is coming from multiple sources, and for some reason said leadership seems to know nothing about the history of such attacks or other pertinent information long in the public domain. It is to the point that I wonder about both Intelligence failures and the failure of basic intelligence in senior military (and political) leadership. At least someone seems to be paying attention and taking proactive steps, though everyone is keeping quiet about it. Pretty much rules out DC as that feckless bunch would have been leaking the news and taking credit before the strike ever hit. Wish I could find the video I saw the other day, as the secondary explosions are spectacular.

There are rumbles that part of the reason senior leadership hasn’t briefed Biden or others is because of the Biden Regency’s unwavering support of Iran. The Houthi are Iranian-backed and full proxies for the Mad Mullahs. Again, multiple sources are discussing that behind the scenes the Biden Regency has been pushing Israel hard to not destroy Hamass. To the point an open rift between Israel and the U.S., or at least the Biden Regency, is a growing possibility. The dance has been diplomatic so far, but it appears Israeli leadership is increasingly fed up with the pressure and interference. So much so, there is no guarantee the dance will stay diplomatic and papered over. Israel is in a fight for survival, and I don’t care who is getting ten percent, the Biden Regency needs to pull its sense organ cluster out of its ventral orifice and back off.

They need to be looking a bit closer to home at a potential Monroe Doctrine violation. Iran’s good friend Maduro in Venezuela is making a move to “annex” a portion of neighboring Guyana. A portion that just happens to be a good chunk of Guyana, and that has recently discovered rich oil deposits. Right now, I’m skeptical that this is all part of some overarching plan by Iran against the U.S., but I also have no doubt they are encouraging this. I’ve read some who say that if we had only done more to help Ukraine Maduro would not be doing this. I don’t agreee: Maduro is stupid, venal, and desperate enough to do this even without any encouragement. His recent vote on doing this has blown up in his face not just internationally, but apparently internally as well. The U.S. has been making deals with him recently (once bought, they do tend to stay bought), so I don’t see the Biden Regency as being all that eager to stop him. I think Brazil may be the major player in such, at least for now. Hoping this may stay below a boil, but…

Also, keep an eye on Chad. Something’s going on there, possibly more than just the upcoming election. Odd data patterns.

Going back to Iran and our incompetent leadership, rocket and other attacks against U.S. troops in Syria and Iraq continue. No effective response has been made yet to those attacks, which just encourages more. The lack of concern for our troops (and national interest) is beyond appalling.

Now to Iran’s fastest growing client, Russia. Lots going on beneath the surface. In fact, it sort of reminds me of one of those huge family get togethers where everyone is being super polite to each other openly because if not it will result in a fight where police from multiple jurisdictions have to be called in and the family gets invitations to be on whatever replaced the Maury Povich show.

Somebody on X joked that the sanctions were supposed to put pressure on Vladimir via his fellow oligarchs. The problem is, the oligarchs decided they preferred to be alive, if poorer and grouchy, than to experience defenestration. There’s a lot of truth to that. There is a lot going on beneath the quiet facade however.

Vladimir is having to allow (or create) at least some dissent on the war in order to legitimize upcoming elections. There are those who are pushing for a cease-fire (or more) in regards Ukraine. Just as his own re-election is a given, the results are going to show Russia wanting the war to continue. Allowing some token of opposition, despite the brutal and expanding crackdown on speech and more, can be used to put a flimsy veneer of legitimacy on the election. Russia now is not the Russia I visited or of 20 years ago. There is no free speech, no basic freedoms of any type left. It is toe the line or else.

Which apparently is a memo Kiva did not get. It’s easy to get on Vladimir’s bad side these days, as several of the turncoats are finding out. Yes, I do think it was Vladimir and not Ukraine.

This is something to keep an eye on as well. There continues to be a lot of shakeup/shakedown in regards Wagner and Africa in the wake of the death of Pringles. Interesting how some of the power and perks are shaking out.

Despite the repression and brutality, two things seem to be getting clearer. There are some who oppose the war with Ukraine and their numbers are growing. There also appears to be something of a resistance forming as well, as I’ve noted before. It seems to be mostly local and not some grand organized conspiracy, and is clearly separate from sabotage efforts by Ukraine. As to who is behind this I can’t say; but, there are a number of such incidents happening across Russia, far more than I think Ukraine is capable of doing on its own. Rail accidents, fires, and more that keep popping up. Given the restive nature of many of the non-Rus ethnic populations, as well as ongoing political conflicts, things could get really interesting.

Do I see this flaring up to severely damage or take down the Russian Federation? No. Not yet, and possibly never as it would take a fairly large event to rip the lid off. Could such happen? Yes. I can think of two or three scenarios right off the bat that would do it, but don’t see them likely at this time. For all that I think Vladimir’s control is slipping a bit, I don’t think – barring something off the wall – that he is in imminent danger of being deposed. Kadyrov still has his back for one thing, and he still controls a lot of power. Springtime? That may be different.

Now, if his health suddenly deteriorates much faster or more noticeably than it is now; or, if there is a major defeat (political or military), then we probably will see moves against him. If he makes a major political blunder (in Russian political terms), there are those who would move to take him out in a heartbeat (pun intended).

I will note that while I am sure Vladimir sees Russia as the senior partner in the Russia-Iran activities, I am not sure Iran sees it that way. In fact, I’m pretty sure they don’t which raises interesting possibilities.

Russia and Vladimir are presenting an image (illusion) of calm and unity to the world. It reminds me a lot of the USSR which did so even when literally bloody infighting was ongoing. Much was kept out of the public eye, at least until a new group stood in review along the Kremlin walls. That is happening right now I think, and while we could end up with a public meltdown I get the feeling a number of people/groups are trying to keep things out of the public eye.

Which is what makes Russia/Soviet watching so interesting. It’s trying to see past the illusions and find out what is going on beneath the surface. That there is a lot of movement underway right now is a given; but, the hard part is trying to see where the movements and currents from the movement lead. The big fish/strong man may not be what they seem, for the solid position they hold may be in whole or in part a Potemkin village. The person or persons who move against them often don’t seem to last long, as the next big fish/strong man was simply using them. Stalin and Khrushchev come to mind in that case.

Right now, Vladimir is standing tall and showcasing a mighty position of strength. How much of that position is real, and how much is illusion, is the key. There are people lined up and ready to take his place however they have to. Which, if any, of them survive to do it is the question. The ones to watch are those who profess loyalty and actively support Vladimir, and have privately and quietly indicated they would only consider stepping up at great need (and in the absence of Vladimir) for the good of Russia.

Sometime soon I need to do a post on the real lessons from Ukraine, focusing on data and flexibility. Quite a few are fixated on drones, and missing a key point.

That’s a run down of some of what is happening on the world. For more on what is going on inside the world, check out Volcaholic on X. There is a lot of volcanic activity underway beneath our feet, and his posts on strange and interesting weather and other phenomena are fun and interesting. Check it out.

More soon.

Getting hit by lightning is not fun! If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, which include moving once we have medical issues cleared up, feel free to hit the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo, use the options in the Tip Jar in the upper right, or drop me a line to discuss other methods. It is thanks to your gifts and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.

History

Those who don’t learn history are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. If you don’t teach history, it is much easier to deliberately repeat it because the marks don’t know any better. Also, keep in mind that it’s not a perfect repetition as there are some differences with each repeat.

Sarah has a good post up on history, red of tooth and claw, and why what happened Oct. 7 is not a surprise in a historical context. In fact, I agree it probably is the norm in more parts of the world than people think.

I simply watch our borders, especially the Southern, and all the military-age males who are coming in all alone. Quite a few of them are from the Middle East as well as other Muslim countries. It is documented that hundreds have made it in, one wonders what the real numbers are given the millions of people that have been allowed to flood in by the Biden Regency.

First the Saturday people. Then the Sunday. They say what they mean, and we should be making note of it. If you think it can’t happen here…

Keep your friends and family close, and your things where you can find them in the dark. Be prepared.

Getting hit by lightning is not fun! If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, which include moving once we have medical issues cleared up, feel free to hit the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo, use the options in the Tip Jar in the upper right, or drop me a line to discuss other methods. It is thanks to your gifts and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.

A Christmas Village And Inklings

Or, how I spent my weekend having exhausting fun. I’ve recently begun attending an Orthodox church, which had it’s annual Christmas Village and Market this last weekend. The structure itself was built a bit more than a hundred years ago by a Protestant group, and the Village proper, seen above, is in what was the original sanctuary but converted into general use space when they built a new sanctuary adjacent to it. The Village is made up of different vendors ranging from a man who makes stained glass items to one who does homemade soaps and such. There is even a special shop for the children, where most everything is a quarter, so that every child can afford to shop there.

I missed getting a photo of the bakery and cafe it seems, but there is food available. The cafe side had to raise prices this year for the obvious reasons, but there was a range of options and I stayed as far away from the bakery as I could. Lead me not into temptation…

There was a “General Store” area as well, with a variety of items for sale. This shows about half of it. I also failed to get a shot of the bookstore, which is one of the better religious bookstores in the area IMO. I love bookstores, though they are a danger to my budget.

Where I spent my time was in The Lamp Post. You may ask what a bar is doing in a church, even if it is right now strictly a coffee bar? There lies a tale, and it is part of what led me to visiting in the first place.

Look carefully at the bar. Very English, no? If you are familiar with good fiction, and modern Christian apologetics, you might even find it tugging at a corner of your mind. That’s because it is a reproduction of the bar in the “Bird and Baby” as the Inklings called The Eagle and Child pub where they met once a week. That’s why there are photos of C.S. Lewis (Anglican) and J.R.R. Tolkien (Catholic) on the wall.

I still don’t have the full tale, but somehow a C.S. Lewis museum at a university contacted the Church to see if they would like to have the reproduction. Given that the priest is a fan of C.S. Lewis, he said yes. A group rented a truck and made the trip to get it. I understand some refinishing and other work was done, and it now has a new home where it is hoped it might inspire discussions and conversations similar to what the Eagle and Child did for the Inklings.

There is still some work to be done on the room itself, and with luck I hope to be helping with that a small bit this winter. Mostly decorative, though the Deacon hopes to one day get the gas fireplace working, and they do need to have some rewiring done. Yes, it is possible that the ‘they’ may become a we as I am open to exploring and possibly joining the Orthodox Church. Not rushing anything, but I will say this Church has been amazingly welcoming and encouraging.

We did have a visit from Santa Lucia both Friday and Saturday (if you look behind her you can see the entrance to the bookstore). Saint Lucy was martyred by the Romans for feeding Christians hiding in the catacombs. To find her way around, and to help those hiding to find her, she wore a wreath of candles and white. I did not know of her following in Scandinavia however, in particular Sweden. It seems that during a famine, a ship was seen approaching a town with a woman in white, wearing a wreath of candles, standing in the bow. The ship came in and docked — and there was no one on board. Only much needed food. As a result, she’s extremely popular there. It’s hard to see, but there is a basket being held by our Lucia filled with a special bites of sweet bread which she gives out to everyone present.

There was a very good turnout this year, and I spent most of my time as greeter, explainer, and got into several good discussions on the Inklings, woodworking, and even into differences between Catholic and Orthodox services. Even clean-up wasn’t too bad. That said, I was dragging Sunday and noticed that a number of people who had worked the event skipped Sunday. Monday I rested a bit, but doing grocery shopping via bus and shanks mare yesterday have me a bit tired again.

More soon, but that’s what I’ve been up to since early Friday. My Christmas treat to myself is a book on the Inklings, which may be the first new book I’ve bought in almost two years. I think the last time I bought new books was just before I ended up having the open heart surgery.

Getting hit by lightning is not fun! If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, which include moving once we have medical issues cleared up, feel free to hit the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo, use the options in the Tip Jar in the upper right, or drop me a line to discuss other methods. It is thanks to your gifts and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.

More Soon!

I’m still going, but was exhausted yesterday from how much I did over the weekend. I did indeed help out at the Christmas Village and Market, which turned into the most activity and the most time I’ve been active in a while. Noticed a number of those who were in charge of various parts were not in Church Sunday morning, and could tell others that did make it were dragging. No one actually nodded off, but suspect it may have been close in a case or two.

Today is errands and such, having to take the bus which means a lot more time spent on getting to the stores. Tomorrow should see some soup being made at the least.

Off to the next round, back soon. Will share a little of the Christmas Village, my Charlie Brown tree, and maybe a bit on the world.

Quick Friday Update

Weather is doing a number on me, which bites on more than one level. Had hoped to do some baking today, wanting to experiment with smoked brown sugar in some chocolate cookies. Thinking it should pair well with dark chocolate. Not looking good for that. Was able to make a fresh batch of chili-lime mayo yesterday, which is a start towards being able to do real cooking again.

Also, no matter how I feel, plan to go help with the Christmas Market and Village at the church I recently started attending. I’m still limited in what I can do, but thing is I can do a bit and want to help out as they have been most welcoming to me.

Started active range of motion work yesterday and am happy even though feeling it a bit. So happy to be able to do it. Few more weeks then we can kick it up even more.

Got some sleep for a change, but between weather and melatonin, had some of the weirdest dreams in a while. One set included the Indiana Guard Reserve (state guard, not national) being federalized (! though it has happened) to go deal with an alien incursion/landing (in southern Indiana?). Some of my least favorite officers active duty or otherwise popped up in that one either as themselves or combined into one character. Throw in a civilian contractor who wanted everyone to use the old green cylinder duffels and was refusing to transport anything else (or weapons), and it was wild.

Especially as the “leadership” was assuring us that looking sharp and strong words were all that were needed, as the aliens were an unknown group called the Posleen. If you read science fiction, you know them. Two of us had a clue, but… I can live without more dreams like that for a while, thank you.

Also, if anyone expected Hamass to do anything other than refuse to follow the rules, kill multiple in a terrorist attack, and otherwise launch multiple rockets against Israel while under cease fire, please hang your head in shame. If you honestly are surprised corporate media is pinning all the blame on Israel, please put a paper bag over your head as you stand there in abject shame. I really didn’t expect them to release those women, especially since they are all of an age to be considered spoils of war. Forget the exact proper term for that type of slave, but…

More soon.

Getting hit by lightning is not fun! If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, which include moving once we have medical issues cleared up, feel free to hit the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo, use the options in the Tip Jar in the upper right, or drop me a line to discuss other methods. It is thanks to your gifts and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.