Thursday, February 28, 2019

Florida Flying With The Family

In Florida I got an opportunity to fianlly take the whole family flying with me.

I wanted to rent a plane and take them up. Any rental facility at Ft. Lauderdale Airport requires a checkout with an instructor which made this a reasonable opportunity. I also don't have the high-performance endorsement yet, but I would find the experience so far in the Dakota helped with Flying the 6-300.

There was also the little matter of getting the passengers to come along.

You see, getting my eldest daughter up in the air is a bit of a challenge. While she doesn't mind flying on commercial jets, she thought that a small aircraft was not her thing and she required an instructor to be with us just in case. The level of confidence she has in my piloting skills is rather humbling. Younger daughter is, by contrast, of the opinion that my flying skills are just fine and she was raring to go and psuhing her older sister to quit worrying and get in the plane.

So I contacted Airplanes4Rent and ended up booking a flight and checkout on the Piper Cherokee 6-300. This was rather spendy but had the requisite number of seats.

A nice six-seater version of the Archer and Dakota that I fly.

Basically they stretched a Cherokee and added a bigger engine. Nice, big, and comfy, and will likely transport a piano with no complaints.

This one is from the 60s, and has pull knobs for the mixture, prop and throttle instead of the throttle quadrant I'm used to, not to mention the instruments are not arranged as a standard six-pack and the tach and manifold pressure is way over by the right side of the panel. This would take a little getting used to.

So I did the pre-flight briefing, made sure seatbelts were on and started her up.

Starting her up was fun as she's fuel injected. Fuel pump on, mixture rich, then pull out the mixture, turn the magnetos to both, crack the throttle, and then press the start button.

She fired right up.

>We then got clearance and then ground permission to taxi and we then taxi'd, I did the run-up and it was pretty much just like a Dakota for a run-up procedure so no problems there.

Took off from Runway 9 with a bit of a crosswind and wow that 300 HP engine demanded a LOT of right rudder. Up in no time and we were then cruising first at 1000 feet and headed for the coast, then as we immediately entered Ft. Lauderdales' Class C I got the clearance I was hoping for:

"Maintain 500 feet or below."


Along the coast we flew, often lower than some of the buildings.

Passing a cruise ship:

Flying into the intracoatal waterway for some sightseeing:

Then flew by the Biscayne National Park and Biscayne Key.

Everyone had fun sightseeing while I flew the plane. It handled like a big sedan, nice and smooth.

Then we headed back and landed at KFXE and I did a decent enough landing for my first time in the plane, no bounces, bit of a crosswind, smooth enough but certainly not my best landing ever.

The family stated they all had a great time and Abby even enjoyed herself, so I at least have a shot at taking her flying again.

1.1 and 1 landing, and the goal of taking the entire family flying has now been achieved.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

When Seconds Count, The Police In Detroit Are 12 Minutes Away, Or Maybe Over An Hour Away

When anti-gunners claim you don't need a firearm to defend yourself because the police will protect you, point them to the police response times in Detroit:

Channel 7 WXYZ Detroit: Detroit 911: Thousands in crisis left waiting for Detroit police

At a time when the city touts the fastest response time to 911 calls in well more than a decade — 12 minutes for priority one calls — thousands of the most urgent calls to police each year still leave victims waiting 30 minutes or more for help. Hundreds wait longer than an hour.

A 7 Action News investigation reveals that, over a 20-month period, 650 priority one calls took more than 60 minutes to receive a response. The calls include reports of active shootings, rapes in progress, felonious assaults, armed robberies, armed attacks from the mentally ill and suicides in progress.

12 minutes to respond to on ongoing rape, shooting, felonious assault, or other armed attack can be an eternity in and of itself. Having to wait over 60 minutes for a response can be a lifetime.

You're still very much on your own in Detroit, and probably in most cities across the USA that have high crime rates. The police will get there in enough time to write up a report and maybe catch the bad guys after the fact, but that's cold comfort when you're facing a deadly threat for over 60 minutes on your own waiting for them to arrive.

One of the reasons for the lousy response times, aside from sheer negligence and incompetence in handling calls, is there's just not enough police in Detroit to adequately protect the citizenry. The same unit can't be in the different places at once.

Detroit has too few cops and too much crime.

In Detroit you're still very much on your own, plan accordingly.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Miami Beach

After the Little Havana Tour, and wandering around the area a bit more, we drove down to Miami Beach.

A fair bit of traffic, but it's tolerable with palm tress and an ocean view.

Driving down to the beach we passed by many cruise ships.

Then we managed to find parking, no easy feat, and headed to the beach.

Very hoity toity Mami Beach is, with some very nice oceanic scenery, as thong bikinis seem to be in style there.

Lots of fun swimming in the ocean, then we headed back to Ft. Lauderdale after a nice long day.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Without Fake Hate Crimes, There'd Be Damn Few Hate Crimes At All

On the national stage we have Jussie Smollet now being charged with faking a hate crime in an attempt to smear whites and Trump supporters and make himself newsworthy in the process.

Locally, we've had quite a few fake hate crimes.

This latest one however brings the heat and may top them all for sheer depravity.

In Jackson, Michigan, a gay rights activist is now being charged for felony arson by faking a hate crime - burning down his own house, along with five pets (2 dogs and 3 cats) of his still inside it.

The Detroit News: Jackson gay rights leader accused of burning down own home

It takes a lot of commitment (or being quite the narcissist or sociopath) to do a fake hate crime where you burn your own pets to death.

After doing a lot of good things, and being properly recognized for it, including being named Jackson Citizen of The Year, apparently this jerk needed to spend more time in the spotlight and felt a fake hate crime would bring him and gay rights more attention. This of course fed the media frenzy that loves to paint the stereotype of the City of Jackson and its citizens as homophobic etc - by the way, it's not.

It turns out that while he like Smollet got initial sympathy and lots of attention, and money to boot, he's now not getting the kind of attention he wasn't originally seeking. Instead of being painted as a poor victim, he's now getting felony arson charges as just like with Smollet, the timeline just doesn't work and his purchasing $10 worth of gasoline just before the fire started isn't going to help much either.

Burning your own animals to death to fake a hate crime has got to be a new low in the annals of Fake Hate Crimes.

The Little Havana Tour

Our first day in Florida, we hit the pool, relaxed and took it easy after driving in.

The next day we were up and headed into downtown Miami for our Little Havana Food and Walking Tour.

Not just food, the tour also encompassed Little Havana's history and culture.

There was statues of roosters at every corner, very much a symbol of Little Havana.

Thence to our first stop for Cuban Coffee and Empanadas.

Very tasty indeed, especially with a little hot sauce. The coffee was awesome.

On to various stops including a Rum Bar / Art Gallery of Cuban Art:

As we sat there, a fellow came in with a live rooster. This apparently is not an uncommon occurrence on the streets of Little Havana.

Then on to a restaurant with excellent Cuban Sandwiches.

Walking along we saw many murals painted on buildings including this one of the Women in White - honoring the brave Cuban women protesters who regularly assemble on white and protest against the jailing of political prisoners in Cuba:

Then for a stop to sample some fresh made mojitos and for some to try some salsa dancing with the live band at the bar.

On we went to a cigar factory, where hand rolled cigars are made with tobacco seed from Cuba grown in Honduras or elsewhere and then made right in Miami. This fellow has over 20 years experience hand rolling cigars.

Then on to get another beverage as it was a hot day. This one was interesting:

The shop owner ran sugar cane through this machine and the resulting liquid was nice and refreshing but not overly sweet. Quite tasty and it really hit the spot.

We then stopped at the Bay of Pigs memorial.

A memorial to the failed invasion of Cuba to overthrow the Communist government in 1961. In short, the lesson of the Bay of Pigs is: Don't try a halfhearted amphibious invasion without sufficient men and arms, proper air support, and after leaks of the date and time of the invasion have been made to the opposition.

Cuban Americans are still not a fan of Castro and the commies by any means.

Stopping at Azucar, a famous local ice cream shop, I noticed a certain flavor being advertised (look at 3 over right and 5 down):

Yep, in Little Havana, they're really not a fan of commies, and considering how many of them or their families suffered under Castro one can't blame them a bit.

We ended the tour at the ice cream shop and it had been an excellent few hours full of learning about Cuban-American history, culture and food.

I highly recommend the tour if you have a few hours in Miami. Just don't eat anything first, you're going to want the room.

A Glorious Time Away With The Family

Just back from an excellent vacation, just in time to drive into the bomb cyclone were having in Michigan. Driving in 40-60 mph winds was rather fun yesterday. We came home to find the swing on the porch blown right off the porch, which is impressive given its weight. Luckily, it blew away form the house rather than towards it.

We drove to Florida last weekend and spent a great week in the Ft. Lauderdale area.

Many things were accomplished and experienced, including some relaxing on the beach with well earned sunburns to match.

Much to blog on, including a Little Havana Food Tour, Finally taking the entire family up in a plane, a Man O War Sting, and more.

A nice time relaxing and experiencing was had by all.

Friday, February 15, 2019

While People Paid Less Tax This Year, They're Upset They're Not Getting Larger Refunds

In other words, less of their money was withheld form their paychecks this year so they actually had MORE money during the year to spend and are now getting less of a refund than expected.

Of course this is because a lot of people can't do math and also somehow think a tax refund come tax time is money they're getting from the government. It's not, it's their own money coming back to them after giving the government an interest free loan for the year.

The Detroit Free Press: Frustration grows as Trump tax cut affects refunds

The IRS should have kept the same withholding tables and people would be happy that they gave more of their money during the year and got back more come tax time. Doesn't make any actual sense, but people aren't always rational actors.

Only about 6 percent of tax filers are actually expected to pay more under the new tax rules, according to the the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center in Washington, D.C. The average tax increase would be $2,760.
Another 29 percent are expected to see no change in their taxes. But that doesn't mean they're going to see the same sized refund, either.
"There is a difference between having a tax cut and getting a bigger refund this year," said Frank J. Sammartino, senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center.
"Most taxpayers received a tax cut," he said.
"But because the IRS changed withholding tables to withhold less tax during the year, many will see a smaller refund than in past years."

In short, yes you are getting a smaller refund, but you are paying less in taxes as you had less taken out during the year.

This again goes to my personal plan to eliminate tax withholding and make everyone write a check on April 15 for the full amount of their taxes owed so they absolutely know how much in taxes they are paying. Oh, and have national elections on April 16.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

FUTA - The Most Complicated Way To Pay The Feds $42, Ever

FUTA apparently stands for "F U TAxpayer!".

Since I'm a single employee business, namely myself, I get the joy of paying not just state unemployment taxes, which I can't claim or ever use as it is not like I can fire or lay myself off.

I also have to pay annually to the Feds the FUTA tax, which is short for the Federal Unemployment Tax Act, a tax the Feds use to buttress states that need more unemployment funds. Yep, you don't know it if you're an employee but your employer is, on top of everything else in terms of taxes and deductions, sending in at last $42 and possibly more depending on their state, for each and every employee.

The FUTA calculation is quite convoluted, starting at 6% of the first $7,000 of an employees wages or $420, and it gets credited down in general to .6% or $42 per employee depending on the calculations - and that's where the fun begins. Of course they can't do a simple form with (total number of employees x total amount of employee $wage up to 7,000 per employee) x .006. That would be too easy.

The form to do so instead is Form 940. Get a load of that beautiful form, and the lengthy instructions.

It's a great cure for insomnia.

The problem is if you follow the rather convoluted instructions and the form itself you will likely pay more tax than you should.

In short, after tearing my hair out as the numbers wouldn't work when following the instructions, I broke down and called an accountant friend and asked about it, as applying the credit calculations for prompt payment of state unemployment taxes etc led me to paying more tax which is kinda counter-intuitive.

In short, for a single member company you basically ignore the instructions and steps on the form and just enter in the baseline $42 for a single employee and don't even try and apply any credits or calculations.

Sheesh. Hours spent in frustration just to comply with a rather stupid requirement to send them a check for $42.00.

Yes School Wednesday - Snow But Without The Snow Day

Breaking precedent, school was surprisingly not cancelled today.

By 6:00 2 inches had already fallen and the snowfall is continuing.

Surprised they didn't continue the run of no-school Wednesdays, but I think the teachers and administrations have figured that they are out of bad weather days and they don't want to be tacking additional school days on in June.

Short of the governor resetting the bad weather day count and "pardoning" the missed days, they will have to extend into the summer, and they don't want that.

Plowed the Driveway of Doom™ twice already so the kids and Tash could get out. Roads suck yet again, but thankfully we fully chipped the ice off the driveway yesterday, otherwise we would have been well and truly hosed today and it would have been impassable.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Warranty Covers Everything But The Part That Breaks

I have a Kwikset electronic lock installed between the garage and house. Having a locked entrance form the garage to the house itself makes sense, especially as not very long ago there was a rash of break-ins by thieves who had a garage door opener reader that mad it easy for them to open a garage door, drive their car in, close the garage door, open the unlocked door into the house, load up and go. So a locked door there was a good idea, and a keypad makes it convenient to get back and forth.

It's lasted for almost twelve years now and just began acting up now. In short it won't open via the keypad anymore and can't be fixed. While the finish and mechanics have a lifetime warranty, the electronics of it only have a one year. Sigh.

Off to amazon to buy a replacement. The joy of shopping from home and home delivery in an ice storm.

Ice Storm The Second, Now With Even More Thrills and Spills

A nice ice storm with snow and freezing rain began this morning. I had to head out to an early morning appointment and boy was I in for a fun time. Plowed the Driveway of Doom™ and it worked decently enough with the snow with a crust of ice on top.

Traffic was super slow with a solid inch of snow on the street and rapidly freezing rain settling on top of it and everything else in sight.

Multiple accidents on the highway on ramp and on the highway itself, mainly spin outs, some of which looked like they took some talent to achieve. The highway was 25 mph at its best with no lane markings visible and no sign of any plowing.

Get to my destination and after the appointment have to scrape ice off the car. Back to the office on still very lousy roads. The office parking lot was a complete skating rink.

Then after some time at the office, as it seemed to keep getting worse I grabbed some work and headed home.

The Driveway of Doom™ was a complete sheet of ice by this point and slippery as heck. The car barely made it up and it was a close run thing with a fair bot of slip, thankfully the kids had heeded my text and threw some ice melter down in quantity just before I got home.

On to chipping the ice off the driveway with the kids who get yet another snow day.

About a tenth to a quarter inch of clear ice had accumulated that had to be chipped away with shovels and was slippery as heck,

I fell - ouch, the kids fell, even Jett the dog fell - and he comes equipped with 4-paw drive.

Chipping done, driveway is clear for now, but another storm is rolling on in. This winter is starting to suck pretty darn hard.

Now to do some work with the computer with a hot beverage in hand.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Movies Worth Watching: They Shall Not Grow Old

Last night I drove in a un-forecast snow storm to meet up with Pete at a local movie theater and watch They Shall Not Grow Old.

To say it was a fantastic and powerful documentary about a small slice of the British soldier's life in the First World War would be an understatement.

Well worth seeing and the usage solely of 100 year old film footage and its flawless restoration and colorization was amazing both for the technical aspects as to its revival and for the raw power of the footage itself.

Definitely stick around for the documentary that runs after the credits close that goes into how the film was made and the techniques used. The technical aspects that went into selection of the audio and to restore and make usable 100-year-old film all shot with different frames per second is simply amazing. The stuff that can be done today with computers with what otherwise would be unusable footage is incredible, and to colorize it accurately was rather awesome.

Thence to drive home in yet more snow and unplowed streets, and then it was the first time this year that the car could not make it up the Driveway of Doom™, complete with a quality backslide down. Then to get the snowblower out and realize I couldn't make it up the driveway with the snowblower or without it in boots either. Rather slippery and a bit painful it was. Then put the cleats on the boots and I got it clean enough to have the car make it up.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

BJJ: Cat And Mouse, Starring Me As The Mouse

After doing Gracie Jiu Jitsu for about six months now, I've progressed along to become a 4-stripe white belt. Now it's basically spending time refining and attempting to master all the techniques before I can formally test for the Gracie Combatives Belt, which is the belt before blue belt.

Yesterday, There was a seminar at the training center taught by a 3rd degree black belt.

To say it was like drinking from a firehouse would be an understatement. Learned a lot, need to drill out a lot of the new things I learned, and it was a great seminar. Lots of neat new counters and guard passes and lots of stuff that is above my current level.

After the seminar, we 4-stripe white belts were eligible to have our first rolling experience.

The rules were we had to roll with higher ranks than us as white belts rolling with white belts tends to lead to injuries.

So I got to roll with some very experienced blue belts.

It kinda went like this:

Pretty much it was cat and mouse with me starring as a mouse as the cat played with its food.

Let's put it this way, the first blue belt (an instructor btw) I was paired up with, had me begin in a superior position and then did the entire match with his eyes closed and won handily. In short, humility and lack of ego is rather important at this my current level, and future levels for that matter.

Much of the initial Blue Belt curriculum are techniques that counter and neutralize the combatives level curriculum, and it shows. Combatives works great against non-jiu jitsu trained opponents but has definite limits against more experienced practitioners.

A lot of the time I was pretty much in observation mode while trying to hold my own - What are they doing?, Should I try to stop what they're doing?, Oh, drat I should have tried to stop that, but too late! I did get to try one counter I learned from the seminar and it worked, at least for a little bit.

Forget about trying to tap out the blue belts, it was more a case of try to hang in there and try to see what they're doing and how to try and defend against it while seeing if there's any opening at all for an opportunity to improve your own position. Most of the time defending against one technique led you down a path where you were brought into and nailed by the next technique.

To say they're darn good is an understatement.

I did manage one match to a stalemate where neither side tapped the other out, but it was a very close run thing. I suspect he was deliberately holding back.

Feedback I got was that I did good, remained calm, observed well, and did a decent job trying to hold them off and went for what opportunities I could.

A full hour rolling with 6 different blue belts, pretty darn amazing.

Tons of fun, rather exhausting, and I learned a lot.

Friday, February 08, 2019

The Dem's Soylent Green New Deal

Ocassional-Cortex released her Green New Deal position paper and it's a doozy.

About the only thing its missing preventing it from becoming a path to a perfect utopia is a demand that the population of the cities be driven into the fields to work on communal farms.

I figure that'll be phase 2.

Reading the overview, from her office quite a few things stand out (Note they have since taken this down, but the Internet is kinda forever):

Ending air travel and replacing it with rail. Shows a complete lack of comprehension about economics, efficiency and the fiscal and engineering impossibility of running high speed rail track to every community in the United States. Its a monorail sales pitch all the way down.

Banning nuclear power - if they were actual environmentalists they'd know that nuclear is pretty darn clean and about the only reasonable and reliable alternative to fossil fuels.

Banning all fossil fuels and going to all "clean renewables" so under this plan prepare for power outages and brownouts in your area soon, comrade.

Even better is the communist approach to the Green New Deal, less environment and more about total state, union and Democrat control of the economy:

Build on FDR’s second bill of rights by guaranteeing:
Economic security for all who are unable or unwilling to work

Read that one again.

Funding for it is blithely suggested to be done by the Fed simply printing money and incurring trillions and trillions of debt, not to mention all Green New Deal Jobs are to be union jobs under this scheme.

Hilariously, the position paper even admits that even if all the vilified billionaires and all companies in the US kicked in, it still wouldn't be enough money, only running the printing presses in overdrive might produce enough. Economics and reality really doesn't work that way. Basically this is impossible crony socialism at its worst.

Yep, its a watermelon plan all right. Green on the outside, red on the inside.

Anyone who believes in this nonsense is gullible at best to be charitable.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Detroit - Now With 42% Less Arson!

In a race to claim with pride the title of tallest midget at the fair, Detroit officials are happy to report that while there's more active arson in Detroit than elsewhere with many, many, more structural fires than comparable cities by an order of magnitude, the overall arson is now down by a lot.

The reason for the reduction could be there's less stuff left to burn now.

The Detroit News: Detroit blazes see huge decline

The fire fighters union on the other hand notes that this is nice but just changes the conditions from have improved merely from "Armageddon" to "insane.".

the city is now fighting an average of seven structure fires per day. That's down from about 30 per day that firefighters say they were battling five years ago.

Despite some progress, other large Midwestern cities reviewed by The Detroit News revealed Detroit's daily structure fire average outpaces them by more than three times. For example, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Columbus, Ohio, both average fewer than two structure fires per day even though Milwaukee has a greater density of people and Columbus has 56 percent more land.

In short while a percentage reduction is nice, and hopefully is reducing the risk to firefighters and other innocents, the total number of fires still ongoing is much too high. Detroit still has a huge problem with arsonists playing with matches.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Ice, Ice, Baby.

Today we experienced another of a Michigan Winter's charms: An ice storm.

Road are slick and slippery and the Driveway of Doom™ is covered in a quarter inch thick sheer coating of ice and schools are closed again for the 4th consecutive Wednesday in a row.

The kids claim this means the No School Wednesdays clause is invoked and is now in effect and their schools can no longer hold classes on Wednesdays after consistently cancelling them for a month in a row. It may be a myth but if enugh students beleive it with sufficient fervor....

The School Board rejects this reality and is substituting it own as Michigan schools are running short of snow/bad weather days.

On the upside both kids have decided that school time off means they need to do other things and one of them is baking. They just made an awesome chocolate cake complete with icing from scratch following a recipe with most tasty results. After chipping all that ice, a chocolate cake is rather happy-making.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

When The Left Runs Out Of Outrage, It Just Manufactures Some More

Whether as a desperate distraction from the Democrat Governor of Virginia's dalliance with blackface, or just a standard cry for attention, the latest leftist manufactured outrage is getting a fair bit of media coverage.

The outrage? That the venerable children's classic movie Mary Poppins, made in 1964, is racist! This is because Mary, Dick Van Dyke, and the kids get soot on their faces while acting as chimney sweeps, which is clearly racist because, well, the left declares it to be so.

The Detroit Free Press: Is 'Mary Poppins' racist and using blackface? Twitter is not having it

Anyone who actually viewed the movie with half a brain-cell not corrupted by leftist cant isn't having it either. Sometimes soot is just soot, and chimney sweeps are indeed chimney sweeps.

Considering the professor that wrote this clap-trap has a BA in History from Yale and a PHD in English from Harvard It doth seem that our so-called elite academic institutions have turned out "scholars" incapable of understanding context nor of being able to conduct non-ideologically based critical thinking.

Or conversely, all the great things in the English department have already been written about, and this surplus of scholars turned out by these elite institutions are now stuck inventing imaginary offenses of racism and creating issues of class struggle wherever they can manufacture them so they can publish something.

Monday, February 04, 2019

So Why Is It Called Forensics?

Easily confused with Forensic Science, Forensics the colloquial and standard short-form of "Forensic Speech" is the study and practice of public speaking and debate.

So why the heck isn't it just called a public speaking? Probably because public speaking just isn't fancy enough a term and lacks the history, pomp and circumstance of the word forensics.

Looking at the dictionary its easy to see why these are confused as the word forensic has multiple meanings.

Definition of forensic

(Entry 1 of 2)
1 : belonging to, used in, or suitable to courts of judicature or to public discussion and debate a lawyer's forensic skills
2 : argumentative, rhetorical forensic eloquence
3 : relating to or dealing with the application of scientific knowledge to legal problems forensic medicine forensic science forensic pathologist forensic experts

forensic noun
Definition of forensic (Entry 2 of 2)
1 : an argumentative exercise
2 forensics plural in form but singular or plural in construction : the art or study of argumentative discourse
3 forensics plural in form but singular or plural in construction : the application of scientific knowledge to legal problems especially : scientific analysis of physical evidence (as from a crime scene)

Of course finding out why forensics is the word used for speech and debate and the history of the usage of the word forensics isn't exactly easy or clear.

The word forensics comes from Aristotle's work "The Rhetoric" in which he divided rhetoric int three general categories: epideictic (ceremonial), deliberative (policy), and forensic (legal). Public address and debate skills were important in the Ancient Greek courts and also in public life, and this continues even in modern Western Courts and in public life as well. After all, we tend to like our leaders to be able to speak well and you probably wouldn't want a lawyer who couldn't get a word in on your behalf.

Since we do like our Classical origins and the classics, Universities and other educational institutions applied the term forensics to speech and debate activities.

The word forensics apparently first pops up in English around 1659 being first used in regard to speech in the legal system and by the 1830s seems to have entered the universities as a word for the study of, and competition in, public speaking and debate.

Legal speech and policy debates were very popular in the US (think Lincoln-Douglas debates for example) and the public wanted to be educated andable to speak and argue effectively. Later in the United States a variety of speech, learning and competitive activities beyond just legal and policy got grouped together under the term forensics or forensic speech. Then the categories under the rubric forensics expanded even more to include other oratorical events such as interpretations including poetry recitals, impromptu speaking, and now includes sales presentations, broadcasting, storytelling, Duo, and Multiple events.

So now you know (whether you wanted to or not) why its called a forensics competition without a single person from CSI attending.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

The Kids Are Alright

Today I had to getup at an unnatural hour to take Abby to her first high school forensics competition. I also had the assignment of being a judge for the competition. Yes, parents get voluntold to judge these and if your kids are on the team you need to judge at least one competition.

So, we drove out to the host high school early in the morning and signed in and I got my judge packets together.

As a judge you have no control over what sections you are assigned to judge, you only will never judge anyone from your home school. In the morning I would be judging the following competitions: Storytelling, Impromptu, and Duo.

Not sure what to expect for any of these, I hurried to the first room, which was ridiculously hard to find - it was an annex in the lower level of the school, but not the normal lower level, and it was only reachable by one staircase. I wasn't the only one hunting around for that elusive staircase.

Found the room and did the random draw for order with the students and they began their timed performances and I began watching and rapidly filling out the judging sheets. Storytelling is the telling of a children's tale in a manner appropriate to children to watch.

To say the performances were amazing is an understatement.

Polish, poise, and performance level wasn't what you would expect of high schoolers - it was much, much higher.

The fellow I judged to be in first in this round ended up winning the entire competition. To say he was amazing was an understatement - gestures, facial expressions, movement, and different voices for different characters that were perfect every time. This guy better have a bright future in acting is all I have to say. Simply an incredible performance and the others weren't bad either. You can tell they all put a lot of effort into their presentations and it really showed. Quite an enjoyable way to begin the tournament.

Then I had to race to finish the scoresheets, run to the tabulation table and run to the next event.

The next one was impromptu - one student at a time got to come in the room, then had a minute to prepare after I handed them a slip with a statement on it and then had 5 minutes to give a speech on it. Once they were done they couldn't leave the room until everyone was done so no one could get a heads-up as to the topic. Challenging but most did well. There was a funny tick two of them had - memorized biographic sketches of people/things etc that they tried to work into the statement. It didn't really work but it was kinda funny to watch them try. Neither the Bee movie nor Mikhail Bakunin had much to say on the topic: A resolution that standardized testing was good for the American educational system. But, watching them try to put them in was kinda interesting. One poor kid simply froze after the first minute which was rough, hopefully he learns to push through it and just say anything remotely about the topic to get back on track.

Then off to Duo. This is where a pair of students dramatizes the story from a book/script/movie. They're not allowed to have eye contact with each other and can't touch each other.

To say they delivered amazing performances is again an understatement. I was wondering if the schools had brought in professional actors as ringers - they were that good. Judging that one was hard as two of the 4 groups were clear front runners with what felt like flawless performances and to choose between both awesome performances was very difficult. To say these kids are going places would be an understatement.

Then racing back to the tabulation table and then lunch.

Then after lunch as the semi-finals. I was assigned to Sales. Unfortunately I had a bit of a surprise, one of the competitors while from another school, (you never ever judge kids from your school, ever) turned out to be a family friend who I know and whose parents we get together with on a pretty regular basis. That would not work so it was recusal time for me. I contacted the appropriate person and we got a judge swap done and I had a session off.

Then on to finals.

I was assigned to judge poetry. Ugh. Can't say I'm a fan, especially of the modern very leftist poetry that seems to be in vogue among the majority of the competitors. Judging the finals was a panel of three judges, but we each had to score independently of each other and not discuss it among us.

On the upside, the finalists had a lot of skill and their selections, with a maximum of 8 minutes had to have a theme and blend multiple poems into their theme.

But we had stuff like a BLM angry Black girl; a leftist take that combined the Pledge of Allegiance and Let America Be America again and other similar stuff that was a very leftist critique on the USA, an Afrocentric Black Egypt one, a #MeToo Boys will be Boys collection, a pretty interesting one on a relationship breakup, one on addiction and loss, and one that was classical poetry.

As a judge I had to ignore the content. Instead, I would focus on the presentations and I must say all of them were darn good in terms of poise, emotion, delivery, gestures, tone and pace. Most could effortlessly slip between selections as if they were performing a single seamless work.

As one might expect, the judges had differences of opinion over who won. I actually voted the Leftist America poetry performer as first as she simply nailed it on the presentation, but again it was a hard choice in terms of the winner as all were really, really good. In reviewing the scores later, it turns out my number 2 pick was another judge's #1 pick and my number 1 their #2. Interestingly all 3 of the judges picked the same person to come in 3rd and 4th of 7, and we had a few other consistencies so I guess I was judging pretty well.

Then there was the awards ceremony and finals.

All the kids throughout the day were unfailingly polite, respectful to all, helpful to us new judges, supportive of each other, and just a bunch of great and talented kids that clearly put a lot of time and effort into this competition. Yes, the kids are alright.

Proud Parent moment: Abby made it to the semi-finals in oratory in her very first competition in forensics ever. She had joined the team in November and had been working hard on her speech ever since. As a freshman on her first outing she placed 9th out of 50 contestants including experienced seniors. The competition better watch out as she gets more experience.

It was a very full and tiring day but worth it and rather enjoyable. I'll likely step up to judge another competition.

Friday, February 01, 2019

Fragile Systems Are, By Definition, Fragile

During the height of the cold yesterday there was an emergency gas shortage caused by a fire at a Consumers Gas processing plant.

With just one facility knocked out of service, Consumers lost access to about 64% of their supply of gas available for heating and power generation. This caused emergency alerts throughout the state, complete with appeals for people to turn their thermostats down to use less gas, and the closure of factories to also conserve gas.

When a problem at a single facility can imperil 64% of your product at a time its most needed, that suggests you've got a less than reliable system with insufficient resiliency and emergency capacity in place for then the unexpected happens.

Combine this with Michigan Enviro's desire to get rid of coal and nuclear and use natural gas more heavily for power generation in the state as reported in detail by Right Michigan, and expect more of these unnecessary crises in the future.

Ouch You know it's Been Cold When...

You look at your car outside temperature gauge this morning:

And you consider that -7F isn't all that bad compared to the last couple days. Sheesh.