Climate Change, Solar Output, Ice Ages, The Planet Vulcan, And Old Guys With Beards

“That’s the human body raising its core temperature to kill the virus.  Planet Earth works the same way.  Global warming is the fever. Mankind is the virus.  We’re making our planet sick. A cull is our only hope.” – Kingsman:  The Secret Service

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Pugsley and sand.  Yup.  Hot day.  Probably the influence of planet Vulcan!

The calculations proved it.  The planet Mercury’s orbit wasn’t quite right.  It was really, really close.  Really close.  But not quite.  How close?  If my calculations are right, Mercury was 28 miles from where it should have been.  Given its orbital velocity, that was one second.  One second in 88 days.  And this error was found in 1843.  According to the accepted physics theories, this was proof of . . . another planet!

Schwabe

Samuel Schwabe:  Though not commonly known, all astronomers in the 1840’s were also expected to play linebacker at a moment’s notice, hence, Schawbe appearing in full shoulderpads.

This was just the sort of proof that German astronomer Samuel Schwabe was waiting for.  In the previous 17 years, Schwabe had dutifully recorded the sunspots on every clear day.  He wanted to be able to pick out a new planet that people believed was inside the orbit of Mercury.  Heck, they were so sure it was there they even gave it a name after the god of fire – Vulcan.

spock

Not this kind of Vulcan, silly. 

But Schwabe never lived long enough to see the discovery of Vulcan (although it was reliably spotted several times in the late 1800’s) because it doesn’t exist.  But Schwabe did notice (for the first time) that the number of sunspots varied over time.  After 17 years, he predicted that the Solar Cycle was about 10 years in length.  He was close – but it’s closer to 11.  This discovery was picked up by Swiss astronomer Rudolf Wolff (what a cool name, right?)

rudolf wolf

Rudolf Wolff:  Is it just me, or does he have the beard and hair of an NFL assistant coach?

Wolff began counting sunspots as well, but also gathered information on sunspot activity from all over Europe, as far back as he could – 1610.  Wolf also looked at the data and determined that Sunspots impacted Earth’s own magnetic field.  Wolff’s work validated Schwabe’s theory, and Schwabe was honored with the Royal Astronomical Society’s Gold Medal, the same one that Einstein and Sir Fred Hoyle (LINK) would later win (I’ve got two in my closet somewhere, I think).

Sunspot_Numbers

CC-SA:3.0 – Robert Rohde

So, a dude named Gustav Spörer discovered a period nearly zero sunspot activity – naturally, they named it the Maunder Minimum after the NEXT people to talk about it, Edward and Annie Maunder.

Edward and Annie aren’t that interesting, but the Maunder Minimum was – especially since we discovered other things . . . like the impact the great thermonuclear reactor in the sky has on temperature.  High sunspot activity correlates to higher solar output.  I wish it correlated to me having more hair.

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CC-SA:3.0 – Robert Rohde

Which makes sense if you look at other data, like this from the IPCC’s first report:

little ice age

Clearly, it was colder when there were fewer sunspots.  Is that enough?  No, there are some pretty other significant adders to the climate picture (though none are larger than the input from the Sun).  Other things that really matter?

Well, CO2 has been increasing – that’s for certain.  And, CO2 is a greenhouse gas.  That’s for certain, too, otherwise the Earth would be too cold for life.

And as the temperature goes up, (maybe due to, say, solar output?) then the ability of the oceans to store CO2 goes down.  Cool us off with, say, a new Maunder Minimum?  Yeah, then the CO2 that can be stored in the oceans goes . . . up again.

And the CO2 balance isn’t very far off from balanced.

ipcc flux

But climate is determined by a batch of things – such as the current oscillations of the North Atlantic current, the amount of Bavarian-produced PEZ®, and our Sun’s output.  The mere fact that no one can explain why we have ice ages should tell you that climate science is exceptionally incomplete – it’s as if physics couldn’t explain why STOP signs are octagons.

In the last 500,000,000 years of the existence of the Earth, the climate has been pretty steady.

All_palaeotemps.svgCC by SA 3.0, Glen Fergus

And as I looked at the graph, I noticed two data points at the end, showing projections via a mathematical model.  Certainly, they’re still in the realm of habitable.  But are they real?

Probably not.  Climate predictions have systematically overestimated the amount of global warming over time.

modelvreality

Via https://judithcurry.com/2015/12/17/climate-models-versus-climate-reality/

But when I hear people on NPR® talking about climate, what I hear is a lot of panic.  It’s as if the world sits on a global climate hill, and the people of Earth, dressed in clown suits no doubt, are nudging it downslope, where it will go out of control and fry us all.  But 500,000,000 years of climate history says that won’t happen.  And the resources that are to be diverted?  What could they do to make all of humanity wealthier with all of the money being spent on Global Warming?

Back to Vulcan.

It doesn’t exist.  At all.  The 28 mile gap?  It’s real, but the reason it exists is because of the gravitational well that bends space time – Einstein hadn’t yet explained that mass bends space . . . and time.  So given the mathematics and theories of the day, there had to be a planet.  The observations that showed a planet?  Maybe it was aliens or asteroids?  Godzilla?

So, a strong consensus of astronomers had a belief in Vulcan.  No other ideas made sense.  So, one could say that there was a strong scientific consensus, but it was based on ignorance of physical facts.  And, congratulations to the New England Patriots, Super Bowl LII champs by consensus!  Point spread was 4.5 in favor of the Pats, so they won, right?

My concern remains that there is a group of people, with almost religious fervor, who feel mankind is the source of all that is wrong in the world, the source of all that is bad.  The end point of their philosophy is a hatred of mankind.  We are all that is wrong with the world.  The irony is many of them are atheist, just replacing one religion and sin with another.  And many see climate change as a method to extract political power (and money) from the world as a whole.  I do recall that in the 1970’s that the next thing we’d see was . . . another ice age.

ice

But we are not.  All light, all love, all beauty has been either made by us or recognized by us.  There’s no evidence a badger ever stopped and said, “Hey, beautiful sunset.”  Nope.  Without a human recognizing it, it doesn’t occur.  Badgers have notoriously poor aesthetics.

And large amounts of the CO2 went to feeding humanity.  Who decides who will suffer, sacrifice, and die so we can spend money to be carbon neutral, when there is some evidence that solar output is declining and might lead to a climate that’s actually colder, longer term (LINK)?  I’m sure somebody will be able to pin that on people.

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You can see that solar output is declining.  Perhaps it’s a conspiracy?

Besides, our robot overlords after the singularity (LINK) won’t be all that tied to temperature.  They’ve got air conditioning . . . maybe solar powered?

12 Rules For Life: The Peterson Strikes Back (Book Review Part II, Episode 5)

“Search your feelings, Lord Vader. You will know it to be true. He could destroy us.” – Star Wars:  The Empire Strikes Back

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The Boy and Pugsley engaged in an epic Lightsaber® battle.  At the end, The Boy cut off Pugsley’s arm and said “You are my brother, Pugsley, join me and we’ll rule our parent’s house . . . together.” 

As promised, there is the second part of my book review for Dr. Jordan Peterson’s new bestseller, “12 Rules for Life.”  You can find the first part here (LINK).  The third and concluding post is here (LINK).

You can bet I won’t call it “The Peterson Awakens.”

Rule 5:  Do Not Let Your Children Do Anything That Makes You Dislike Them

Children, are, perhaps the only legacy many people will leave on this Earth after they die.  Some parents are horrible and provide no limits to their children, creating tiny toddler tyrants, rather than children people like to be around.  You have seen these children.  You despise them.  Yet they exist.  Why?

Increasing divorce rates since the 1960’s increases the severity of this problem, creating fractured families.  Peterson blames a LOT on the 1960’s:  “. . . a decade whose excesses led to general denigration of adulthood, an unthinking disbelief in the existence of competent power, and the inability to distinguish between the chaos of immaturity and responsible freedom.”

See, I told you he was Dangerous.

This is the opposite of the nihilistic (at its core) “if it feels good, do it” philosophy that stems from Aleister Crowley’s “do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.”  Which was written by this guy:

crowley

Wilder Rule #56:  Hats make the man!

Here are some takeaways from this chapter.

  1. Order is required – children want limits.  But there can be too many rules as well, and parents are the key to sorting that out, as their interactions with their children determines the future of society.  Parents seem to have difficulty imposing their will on their children.
  2. Peterson: “Two year olds, statistically speaking, are the most violent of people.”  This cracked me up.  But it’s true.  And you have to tame them, either with rewards or punishment.
  3. Is physical punishment acceptable?   But only the minimum amount required.  The world is filled with physical punishment – just check out any middle school fight.
  4. You need two parents because being a single parent is a tough, tough job. Single parenting isn’t preferable – Dan Quayle was right, Murphy Brown was wrong.
  5. Understand your weaknesses, your dark side as a parent.
  6. Parents are simulators (for their children) of the real world. Use your efforts to make them “socially desirable.”

Peterson must be an interesting parent.  But I assure you, growing up at his house wasn’t boring.

Rule 6:  Set Your House in Perfect Order Before You Criticize the World

This is, so far, my favorite chapter (though the next one might be even more impactful).  Although I expected this to be based on an outward focus, this is Dr. Peterson adapting and providing a more generalized version of his “clean your room” lecture.

“Clean your room” is Dr. Peterson’s advice to those who have issues.  And, it’s literal, not just a silly metaphor or slogan.  He wants you to clean your actual room.  Why?  A variety of reasons – but it’s a way to start you off realizing you can make the chaos in your life go away, if only you try.  And cleaning a room, making it better, is something anyone can do.  It’s not hard.

But in this chapter, Dr. Peterson starts at the basics of broken people.  It’s a dark path.  “Everyone is destined for pain and slated for destruction.”  He takes us from mass shootings to serial killers to a suicidal Leo Tolstoy (The War and Peace author dude) who wouldn’t be around rope for a period of time, since he was pretty sure he was going to hang himself.  Peterson takes us to these places, because it’s important to understand what brought them to this state.

  • A belief that the world lacked meaning.
  • Suffering (in some cases) horrific abuse at the hands of others.
  • A belief that God or the human race was evil.

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Tolstoy, looking for all the world like a garden gnome wearing dominatrix boots.

Although Peterson starts with mass shooters, the same beliefs that led them down the road to hurting others causes some people to destroy not outward, but inward.  Those beliefs are poison for the soul.

But some people, when confronted with a great evil, turn and face it right back, like Alexandr Solzhenitsyn.  Dying of cancer, released in the nick of time for surgery to save him, Solzhenitsyn did what every good Soviet citizen did:  he wrote critical articles and, eventually, a novella critical of the Soviet state.  One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was actually published in the Soviet Union.  The Gulag Archipelago was published in the West.   Solzhenitsyn won the Nobel® Prize© for his writing – writing dedicated to making his home country better by showing the true horror of the Soviet state.  He turned what could have been bitter resentment into something that changed the world and toppled a totalitarian state.

Solz-gulag

Solzhenitsyn, looking dapper in his Soviet prison outfit, circa 1950.  (image from http://www.solzhenitsyn.ru)

I went through a similar situation with my first marriage.  It was constructed on mutual mistrust, and was painful for both of us.  I used that experience to reflect on who I wanted to be, and used that experience to reflect on who I wanted to be, and used that . . . sorry, stuck.  I figured out who I should be as a husband, and as a result?  I became better than I was.

I got a better life out of my difficulties.  Solzhenitsyn’s work helped end the Soviet system and made nuclear annihilation less likely and won a Nobel®.  To-MAY-to, To-MAH-to.

But Dr. Peterson has a sure-fire (seriously) way to fix this:  clean up your life.  There are a large number of questions in this section that Peterson asks that you really think about.  I’ll not repeat them all here, buy the book, cheapskate.

Peterson:  “Start to stop doing what you know to be wrong.”  Start to . . . because starting is the hardest part.

And how do you know if it’s wrong?  Seems like if it feels good, you should do it, right?

Peterson:  “Do only those things you can speak of with honor.”

And after you fix one thing?  Another thing to fix will become obvious.  And another.  And another.  After a while?  You’ve fixed yourself.  You’re useful.

Peterson:  “You will be then left with the inevitable bare tragedies of life.  But they will no longer be compounded with bitterness and deceit.”

Rule 7:  Pursue What Is Meaningful, Not What Is Expedient

There is a LOT of philosophy in this book.  And there is a LOT of the Bible.  Peterson feels that the Bible itself is an “emergent” document – one that has properties that exceed its sum.  It’s the distillation of thousands of years of stories culminating in the crucifixion and resurrection, honed and explained and shared until they have literally changed the way the Western world thinks (and paved the way for pesky things like science, freedom, liberty, and the abolition of slavery).

One emergent property is the idea that instead of instant gratification (which would allow you to lie, cheat, steal, and kill in the extreme) is replaced by delayed gratification.  This delayed gratification can be Earthly in the Christian world, or it can be Heavenly.  This ability to delay gratification is a significant difference between animals and humans and a defining part of Western civilization (though not exclusive to Western civilization).

Dr. Peterson explains that the delay of gratification can be compared to a bargain with reality.  I can do something now-like lift weights-to create a future that I want to exist-being strong so I can drive my enemies before me and hear the lamentations of their women.  No single weightlifting session makes me strong, it’s the sum of them that create the future state.  But my actions, like magic, create a different future.

Honestly, Conan the Destroyer was better than this one.  But the music was sublime.

As we begin the religious parallelism – the future is a “judgmental father” that wants you to sacrifice now, for a potential future gain.  Sacrifice what, exactly?  What limits are there to the sacrifice?

Maybe everything?

Peterson:  “If the world you are seeing not the world you want, therefore, it’s time to examine your values.  It’s time to rid yourself of your current presuppositions.  It’s time to let go.  It might even be time to sacrifice what you love best, so that you can become who you might become, instead of staying who you are.”

Powerful.  And think to the parallel construction of God sacrificing Jesus to transform the human race.  Just as Cain and Able had a sacrifice war, as Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son, God swaps the equation and makes a sacrifice for us, so that we might be saved.

But, Peterson returns to Cain.  Cain sacrifices.  And sacrifices.  And sacrifices.  And God says:  “meh.”  So Cain kills.  And that is the tragedy.  Cain was not necessarily evil before he became a murder, but Dr. Peterson observes: “. . . convictions must die – must be sacrificed – when the relationship with God has been disrupted.”

In this battle between the now and the future, proper action must be based on honesty, and generosity that is aimed at producing actions that make the world better – actions with meaning.

Rule 8:  Tell The Truth, Or At Least Don’t Lie

I’ve mentioned (in some other post) before about The Mrs., and how I promised her (and, more importantly, me) that I would never lie to her.  It gave me the power/ability/responsibility to bet truthful.  “Do these pants make my butt look big?” is a question that she’s never asked me.

It’s almost as freeing as a superpower – the freedom to always be honest.  One time in the B.C. (before cellphones) I was late coming home from work.  Really late.  It just so happens that the governor of the state of Alaska (not Palin, Murkowski) was next door talking to my boss.  And there were at least three television stations broadcasting.  I stayed until they left, and then went home:

The Mrs.:  “Why are you late?”

John Wilder:  “Governor, television stations, all next door talking to my boss – and I didn’t want all the ladies in Fairbanks to come knock down our door chasing me?”

The Mrs.:  “Okay.”

No questions, no disbelief.  Just . . . “ok.”

And, as I’ve said before, if I told The Mrs. that aliens took me time travelling to go dancing with Marilyn Monroe, Gary Busey and Cleopatra, well, she’d at least believe that I believed that.  She might think I was as nuts as Busey, but she wouldn’t think me deceitful or doubt my sincerity.

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Dr. Jordan Peterson:  “What should you do when you don’t know what to do?  Tell the truth.”

Peterson is a Truth absolutist.  He believes (in opposition to Post-Modernist thought) that there is Truth.  All things are not shades of gray.  There is Truth.  Additionally, speech that’s spin – meant to manipulate you?  It’s a lie, too.

Life sucks.  It’s going to be hard.  But to make it Hell?  You need to add lies.

Why not lie?  It contaminates everything.  Small lies become big lies.  Which infect and overwhelm everything . . . it gets to a situation where “. . . lies have destroyed the relationship between individual or state and reality itself.”

The pain from lying isn’t all outward – if you lie, your character is injured, and when life gets rough (as it will) you won’t have character to support you – only lies.  And lies hurt you in a different way – they create a victim mentality in you.  You believe that the world should conform to the lies that you have even begun to tell yourself, and when the world doesn’t?  You blame the world instead of yourself.  You create a victim narrative to explain it all.

What’s the benefit of telling truth?

Peterson:  “Truth reduces the terrible complexity of man into the simplicity of his word, so that he may become a partner.”

And that’s a pretty good reason to tell the truth.

And the truth is?  Peterson likes Trailer Park Boys, but probably not as much as I do.  Here’s a bit of Bubbles doing Bowie.  Enjoy.  Next Friday we’ll conclude this review, and maybe dismember some Ewoks®?

Retiring on the Bare Essentials at $10,000 a Month

“The Fester Addams Offshore Retirement Fund?” – The Addams Family (1991)

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When I retire, I just want to travel by plane when I want to.  A plane like this one.  That I own a fleet of.

I was at work the other day and a friend sent an Instant Message to me over the company system.  The message was as curious and enigmatic as an Easter Island statue:

“How much is enough?”

I responded.

“78 years.”

That’s what I thought the average life expectancy was.  I’d been intending to wear out all of the parts before the warranty expired, but in doing a bit of research, if you’ve lived as long as I have, the average life expectancy goes up to 81.  Meh.

78 is probably enough.  If I can’t finish binge-watching Breaking Bad on Netflix® by then, well, it’s on me.

A bit later we talked on the phone, and I got clarification – it turns out the question was really:

“How much money does a couple need each month to retire on?”

My friend’s working answer was $10,000 a month for the bare necessities.  $120,000 a year – cash, which would be equivalent to a job paying $180,000 before taxes.  A year.

I laughed.  “That’s insane!”

Is it?

I checked my own retirement spreadsheet – my model assumes that I’d spend ~$7,000 a month if I retired now (and I don’t have the money to do that, yet) rising to $8,500 a month by the time I’m sixty five.

All of a sudden, my friend’s ballpark number didn’t seem so large, after all.

Then my friend shared the family budget:

Property taxes:  $2,500/month.  Yeah.  They live in a pretty cool house, in a pretty high tax state.

Electricity:  $600/month.  Yup.  It’s hot there.

Natural Gas:  $50/month.  Seems legit.

Cable/Internet/Phone:  $350/month.  A big bundle, but you’ve got to get the Food Network® after you retire.

Car Insurance:  $250.  This seems low – they have kids and live in a major metropolitan area that looks like the Indy 500 most days.

Monthly Expenses:  $3,000 each for the Husband and Wife.

Add it up?  Pretty close to $10,000.

What do they have?  Heck, I have NO idea.  Again, they’re doing great, and in no hurry to retire.

It used to be that a financial planner would have said that you could pull out 6% of your stash of cash each year.  If you were 65.  I’m not sure, but I’m betting that none of them are saying that now.  Especially in your fifties.  Perhaps 3% or 4%?

Starting Amount %  Drawn
 $           4,000,000 3%
 $           3,000,000 4%
 $           2,400,000 5%
 $           2,000,000 6%

The lower the amount that you draw down, the less risk you are taking.  Me?  If I was in my fifties and wanted to be sure that I was going to have $10,000 a year until I died?  I’d want at least $3,000,000, and $4,000,000 would be nicer – remember, this has to last you for at least thirty years, and the longer you live, the greater the chance of significant risks, like those that hit Rome (LINK) or stupidity like the Dutch over flowers (LINK).

What has inflation done in 30 years?  $10,000 today would be worth roughly $5,000 in 1988 dollars.  And medicine, something you’ll be needing more of as you grow older has been especially prone to inflation.  Especially medicine that keeps older folks alive.  And as I’ve said before (LINK), we are soon due for a reckoning in medical costs.  My plan is to force my cells to evolve through sheer willpower to create all the drugs a doctor would have given me.

My budget varies, and is a lot more detailed.  That $3,000 has to pay for maintenance, painting, new cars, homeowner’s insurance, clothing, cell phones, food, mowers, PEZ®, vacations, eyebrow rings, good wine, everything.  Oh, and health insurance.  And medicine.  And Christmas gifts.  And ammunition.

After reviewing their number and their proposed lifestyle, I guess I have to unlaugh.  It seems legit.

It seems . . . prudent.

And it also seems very much in their power to get there (easily).

Sure, they could move away from their great neighborhood in the big city they live in, but why?

Now, I’ll note that this is more than three times the average household income of $59,000 a year.  But my friends are very much above average in every way – they’re smart, they have great jobs that they love, they’re raising kids you’d be proud to call your own, and they’re nice.  You would like them.  I mean, you might not like them as much as you like me, but there really only can be on John Wilder.  Okay, there are at least a dozen others.  But we all know I’m the only one for you.

Anyhow, these are great people.  But, they’re also frugal – they do buy nice stuff (they have better taste than I do) – but they don’t waste anything.  They’re responsible with their income and resources.  But they don’t want to be a burden on society or their children as they age.  They’re prepping against the Iron Triangle (LINK) of retirement – Time, Money and Lifestyle.

IRON TRIANGLE

Time:  They’re young, and healthy.  They’ll probably retire whenever they want in their fifties.  They’ll have a longer retirement than most, but as you have seen, they’ll be ready for it.

Money:  They’re in great jobs that require smart, trained people with advanced degrees.  People like them are in demand, and they work in strong sectors (LINK) of the economy.  Low probability they’re be replaced by A.I. (LINK).  They’re doing well.  (Yay, them!)

 

Lifestyle:  They could probably retire right now if they were willing to retire to Sedan, Kansas (LINK).  They could still eat steak whenever they wanted and they and their kids would never have any real need that couldn’t be met.  They’re not choosing the Mr. Money Mustache or Early Retirement Extreme path (LINK).

 

But why should they?  Again, they’re working jobs they love.  And if they retired, they’d probably start a side business that would garner more money than IBM® in a year or two.  If they keep working at their current jobs into their fifties?  Yup, no worries.  Ever.

The above describes about seven or eight married couples that I’m friends with.  They’ve got great talent.  They’re smart.  They studied hard for an undergrad degree in an elite field at a tough school, then got grad credentials (most of them, but not all) and then burned decades of 60+ hour stressful weeks and have succeeded.  They married a single spouse and then stayed married.

Is that what they call lucky in 2018?  Hmmmm.

How come everybody I know who did all those things . . . is doing great?

Also, I’ll leave retirement alone for a while.  Probably.

This is not financial advice.  Really.  I’m a blogger.  I’m not a licensed therapist, doctor, lawyer, oregano peeler, shrimp boat owner, or financial adviser.  Talk to a pro.  Or a psychic.  Or your TV.  Or Miss Cleo.  I really don’t care.  It’s your money.

Richard Dawson, Quantum Mechanics, The Mandela Effect

“No, it’s the Mengele Effect.” – X-Files

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Remember when a wax Rocky Balboa knocked out President Gore after the Soviets invaded Pakistan?  Me neither.

For me it started somewhere in my early thirties.

The Mrs. and I were watching the television one night and a show called “World’s Funniest Gameshow Moments” came on.  We started to watch – it was narrated by Richard Dawson.  Richard Dawson was the host of Family Feud® back in the 1970’s and 1980’s.  On the celebrity scale he was higher than most – parts in two big feature films and almost two straight decades on television.

No big surprise that he’d be narrating a show about game shows, right?  It even makes sense.

Except he was dead.  And the dead are notoriously bad at calling back their agents to get roles narrating television shows.  Except Bono®.  He’ll do anything.

I clearly remember reading Dawson’s death notice in the paper on a winter morning almost a decade earlier from the time we were watching the show in year 2000.  It was on the right hand of page 2 about two inches from the top.  I was sitting in the back of a classroom.  It was winter.

John Wilder:  “Hey, this is Richard Dawson.  But he died.  Right?”

The Mrs.:  “Yes, I certainly remember that he died.  Wonder when they filmed this?”

I booted up my computer.  I clicked on the network icon and connected to the Internet, via a nice 56k modem.

Yes, this was the sound of the Internet in the before time.  Imagine watching Netflix – it would only take 6 or 7 days to download a non-HD movie. 

After I logged in, I did a quick search, and I found out that . . . Richard Dawson was indeed alive (at that time – Richard Dawson is dead now, having passed away on June 2, 2012).

Richard_Dawson_Family_Feud_1976

Ahhh, the sweet morning scent of piano cinnamon trees.

The Mrs. and I both had very specific memories of Dawson being dead.  Very specific memories, and based on our recollection it was roughly in the same year.  And the same cause – cancer.  But we were wrong.

Now it’s understandable when one of us is wrong.  People goof.  But for us to have the same, specific detailed memory was spooky.

 

We brushed it off.  But we never forgot it.  It’s the sort of odd coincidence/occurrence that sticks pretty firmly in your mind.  Not that I dwelled on it, but every so often it came back up.  In one instance, I was travelling for work and thought that it might be the basis for a short story.

First, some background, from Wikipedia – stick with me, it’s worth it:

In Dublin in 1952 Erwin Schrödinger gave a lecture in which at one point he jocularly warned his audience that what he was about to say might “seem lunatic”. He went on to assert that when the equation that won him a Nobel prize seems to be describing several different histories, they are “not alternatives but all really happen simultaneously”. This is the earliest known reference to the many-worlds.

Catch that?  When you flip a coin, does it land heads or tails?  Schrödinger appears to be saying, “yes.”

Essentially, any time there’s a decision, the universe splits into two.  One pops off and becomes another, nearby, nearly identical universe.  Nobody remembers who won the coin flip to get the next beer, so these small changes that make universe splits go largely unnoticed.  Heck, maybe they collapse back into themselves for not being sufficiently unique.  It’s not like a big event like when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor, right, or when we nuked Berlin?  (I’m just kidding.)

As a side note:  we have discovered parallel dimensions – check out this (LINK) for more amazing (not kidding) details.

The most common example of this theory is Schrödinger’s Cat, which is a pretty famous thought experiment at Schrödinger’s expense (rumor has it this made him kinda pissy after he heard about it).  The really short version of this “experiment” is one takes a cat, and puts it in a box.  There’s some mechanism that has a 50-50 chance of triggering, say, poison gas to be released with our kitty cat.  Pretend it’s the radioactive decay of a cesium atom.  Let’s say you set the cat-killing machine in motion, toss a cat in, and wander off.  After a while, your Internet addled brain looks up from your MyFace© page and remembers you left a cat in the Death Machine again and should go and see how it’s doing.

This is funny if you like physics jokes.  I like physics jokes.

Is it alive or dead?  According to Schrödinger’s equation and Futurama, yes.  It’s in a state of quantum superposition.  And the quantum waveform collapses only after you observe it – and this isn’t some sort of made up thing – it has been proven through repeated experiments that observation (not interference) changes the pattern that light makes.

If light were a wave, it would make a pattern of alternating light and dark spots passing through the slits:

Doubleslit3Dspectrum

Source:  Wikimedia, Fu-Kwun Hwang, CC BY-SA 3.0

Stay away from the light, Carol-Anne!  The quantum collapse might put your eye out!

But if it’s a particle, it will make a dot on the back.

If you don’t check and see where the photon comes through, it makes the wave pattern.

If you check and count the photons going through (they have a way to do this) it just shows up like a dot.

Observation matters.  There is some debate as to whether or not that observer has to be conscious or not – certainly Nobel® winning physicist Eugene Wigner thought that a conscious observer was required for quantum mechanics to work.  And if quantum mechanics doesn’t work, the universe doesn’t exist.  At all.  At the heart of physics there is a (debatable) proposition that conscious observation is required to make the whole thing (you, me, PEZ®, a potential multiverse) even exist.

I wish I were making this up.  I’m so not making it up – this is actual physics.  You can check out this link for more background (LINK).

Back to my story idea:

The concept is there was a guy who began noticing things . . . like Richard Dawson’s death/not death.  These were trackable events, but events so subtle you’d never notice them if you weren’t paying attention.  Let’s say you could go back and forth between the universe where Richard Dawson died and the one where he didn’t.  Not a lot of change?  Probably not.  But maybe, you could make yourself notice less . . . or make yourself believe you’d observed things you hadn’t.  Maybe you could move to universes that were more and more different . . . and maybe you got unstuck in reality and started drifting through various universes.

Who knows?  Maybe that’s what makes a certain category of insane people the way they are – they can actually observe and move through universes, or are maybe adrift – they don’t have a grip on reality, since reality keeps morphing around their consciousness.

Still haven’t figured out how to write that story.  But I’m willing to bet you’re a bit creeped out right now, so I win, anyway.

Which brings us back to the Mandela Effect.  It’s so named because one of the big examples is South African leader Nelson Mandela and his death in prison in the 1980’s.  Except he didn’t die then – it was December 5, 2013.  There are a bunch of other examples here at this great website (LINK) for your viewing pleasure.  It’s like an Internet meme made of words.  My addition is just Richard Dawson.  And, no, I don’t remember Mandela dying before 2013.  Just the Dawson story.

I had decided to do this article on the Mandala (or Dawson!) Effect prior to the X-Files doing the best episode of this season (so far) with their episode “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat.”  Just funny it surfaced right before I was going to do this one – and, yes, sometimes a coincidence is just a coincidence.

Or maybe another Mr. Wilder has it right:

wilder

 

Jordan Peterson’s Cannon Lobster and 12 Rules for Life Review

“This is Peterson, your new replacement.” – Idiocracy

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The Texans had a cannon, the lobsters did not.  Therefore?  The lobsters lost control of vast swaths of Texas very quickly.  Except the Alamo.  The lobsters won there. 

Here is the first of three posts on Dr. Jordan Peterson’s newly released bestseller, “12 Rules for Life.”  The second post is here (LINK). The final post is here (LINK).  There’s a link to the book on Amazon down below.  I don’t (as of this writing) get anything if you buy it there, but that might change over time.  Regardless, buy the book.  Jordan Peterson is amazing.

Peterson puts more ideas into a five minute YouTube video excerpt from a lecture than most college courses do.  Dr. Peterson is unfailingly moral and gutsy.  He is willing to share uncomfortable facts and naked truth, which is anathema to those that would prefer the safety of soft and pretty lies.  He is unfailingly polite.  And blunt.  And I’d be fascinated to see him with a glass or two of wine in him.

Dr. Peterson’s work is based on decades of study combined with a keen intellect and countless hours of work as a clinical psychologist helping people with everything from addiction to performance measurement and enhancement.  He has earned his wisdom.

Jordan Peterson is Dangerous.  He’ll make you think new thoughts, and question your basic assumptions about who you are, and who you can be.

We need a thousand more like him.

I’ve only read a third of the book as of this writing (it was released on Tuesday), but that’s enough to get the first four rules.  By observation, the book is already in thirds – the first four rules are about an inward focus.  Rules 5-8 are about obtaining and creating control in your own life.  Rules 9-12 are about facing outwards, so my strategy of breaking this review/discussion into thirds makes sense to me.

Rule 1:  Stand Up Straight with Your Shoulders Back

This is also the first lesson in super hero school, except they add “and put your clenched fists on your hips, and stare up at a waving American flag.”  See, Dr. Peterson and I just saved you $75 in superhero school tuition.

This is actually awesome advice, even as weird as it sounds, since adopting this pose will immediately make you feel better, more powerful and more in control of your own life.

Huh?

Yeah.  And the secret is buried 350,000,000 years back into the past.  As Dr. Peterson notes, that far back there weren’t even trees on land.

But there was serotonin.

How do we known this?  Crunchy, tasty lobsters whose life diverged from ours 350,000,000 years ago.  Turns out that lobsters have social status, and those who have good status produce more serotonin.  And a big lobster that wins the big lobster fight?  A big boost of serotonin.  One of the same, powerful brain chemicals in humans.

The loser?  The loser of the big lobster fight, well no serotonin for him.  He has to settle for having his brain melt so it can rewire itself because it literally cannot cope with his new, lower status.  And you thought you were depressed after losing the annual Christmas Monopoly game to your snot-nosed nephew who still has a lisp.

Serotonin, winning, losing and social hierarchy have been around forever. Prozac® works on lobsters to make them less depressed.

But the winning lobster wins even more and becomes more dominant.  If he were a person, he’d be setting himself up for a successful career.

Because loser lose. And they pay for it.  They’re sicker, they die earlier, and they have a lower likelihood of producing offspring.

Dr. Peterson then references Price’s law – Price’s law pertains to the relationship between the literature on a subject and the number of authors in the subject area, stating that half of the publications come from the square root of all contributors.

Winners win.  He brought up classical music.  Half of classical music played is from four composers:  Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky.  And only a small number of the songs from those four are the most beloved songs in classical music.  The same principle explains why Jeff Bezos is planning to create an Amazonian Interstellar Empire while you can’t afford to pay your car insurance bill this month.  Winning is awesome.

It’s so awesome that if you win?  You live longer.  You’re healthier.  You enjoy life more.  You’re confident.  And you have all the serotonin and PEZ® that you could want.

And we can’t all be Bezos.  But we can stand up straight like a hero.  It will make you feel better, stronger, and just adopting that confident pose will help spike your serotonin and stop your lobster-brain from melting into loser configuration.

Back to Peterson:  “To stand up straight with your shoulders back is to accept the terrible responsibility of life, with eyes wide open.”

And back to Wilder:  “I want to go out of this world as I came into it – screaming and covered in someone else’s blood.”  (This apparently is from Sniper: Reloaded, per the Internet, but I’m going to pretend I wrote it.)

Rule 2:  Treat Yourself Like Someone You Are Responsible for Helping

This chapter has a fairly long digression on Order and Chaos.  Interesting, philosophical, but Dr. Peterson could have anchored it more firmly to the Rule.  I’m not complaining, but I’m not going to talk as much about it since it was rather obliquely tied to the rest of everything going on in the chapter.  This chapter probably could have used a bit more ruthless editing.  Again, great stuff, just needed to tie it all up in a bow.  Dr. Peterson:  I volunteer if you need a hand next time!

Back to the Rule:

Think of how you talk to yourself when you look in the mirror or have just screwed up.  It’s horrible.  And if a friend talked to you EVEN ONE TIME as much as you berate yourself?  You’d cut them out of your life pretty quickly.  But it’s much messier when it’s you treating you like that, because you can’t tell you that you never want to see you again.  Just not practical.  Unless you’re an old timey vampire and your reflection can’t be seen in a mirror.

I digress.

Other takeaways:

On “protecting kids” from this chapter . . . you can’t keep them away from the evil of the world so . . . “It is far better to render Beings in your care competent than to protect them.”  Why anything less for yourself?

Peterson has several powerful questions at the end of this chapter, an example:  “What might my life be like if I were caring for myself properly?”  And no, I won’t list them all.  Buy the book.

Rule 3:  Make Friends with People Who Want the Best for You

Thoroughly enjoyable chapter, with all of the backstory that you’d expect in a superhero origin movie.  Reading Peterson’s version of his adolescence brought memories of mine back, as we both grew up in rather small, remote, cold places.  And, no, that doesn’t refer to our father’s hearts.  It ends with a friend that couldn’t be saved – because the friend didn’t want to be saved.

I’ve had a great friend walk down the drug path, where they’d do and say anything to get more money to buy more drugs.  Did I want the best for him?  Sure!  Did I try to help?  Absolutely.  But the last night he was in my car was the night he snorted coke in it.  And the reason why I didn’t lend him anymore money was he never paid me back the $75 that I lent him.  Oh, he paid me back, he said.  Left it under my front door mat.

I didn’t have a front door mat.

And friendships are reciprocal.  I was promoted at work (years ago) and placed in the partially uncomfortable position of managing the people who had been my peers, sometimes for years.  One of them was Willie.  Willie was a certified genius.  When he was a summer college intern, he (and all the other interns) were offered 3% of anything they could save the company.

He saved them three million dollars.

They gave him a cool computer and a check for several thousand dollars.  But not $30,000 to an intern.

So, I’m in the position where I’m supposed to lead Willie.

He kept coming in late to work.  It made sense because the people that he mainly worked with were several timezones west.  He’d get in later in the morning, and stay until 7pm or 8pm.  Makes sense, right?

Not to the company president.  “He’s late again.”

Oh, man.  First time leading a department and Willie was going to sink me.

“Willie, you’re killing your career.  The president of the company is on my back.”  The president was six layers of management above me.

“I don’t care.”

“Willie, you’re killing me.  They’re going to fire me if you keep coming in late.”

“Oh.”

And Willie was never late again.

A friend?  Absolutely.  We still talk to this day, even though we haven’t worked together in well over a decade.  If I needed to borrow silly amounts of money?  Yeah.  I could do that with a group of at least seven friends.  Find those people.

Surround yourself with people who will not stand for you hurting yourself, and would do anything to avoid hurting you.  Avoid those who you are friends with only out of loyalty, and whose motives are suspect.  Lies?  Deal breaker.

One of the things I love about Dr. Peterson is that he’ll quote Homer Simpson.  And Dostoevsky.  In the same chapter.   And he does it in this thoroughly enjoyable chapter.

Rule 4:  Compare Yourself to Who You Were Yesterday, Not Who Someone Else Is Today

The Internet makes it easy to compare any aspect of yourself to the best of seven billion people.  And you’re not one of them.  Someone is smarter.  Someone is richer (unless your name is Bezos) and someone plays better guitar than you.  If you get caught up in making these comparisons, you’re always going to lose.

And we’re not wired that way.  We’re wired to know about 150 people really well and trust them.  We can get to trusting larger numbers (through various means) but the competition for best storyteller was once a village-wide event, not a world-wide event.  It’s not really hard to be strongest out of 150 people.  It’s not really hard to be one of the best singers.

But today?  At the touch of a button I can make myself feel inadequate by comparing myself against tons of different people.

Peterson:  “Who cares if you’re the PM of Canada when someone else is the president of the United States?”

But the only real competition for me is me.  Am I getting better?  Am I pushing myself to be the best Wilder I can be?  And are the people really happier?  Was Tom Petty (LINK) happier than me?  In a hobby, I sometimes look to see what happened to famous people who I envied in my youth.  Almost universally, I turn out ahead of them.  And many of them are dead, youthful, untimely deaths.  Tom Petty or me – who has it better?  Me.

Realize that you can strongly influence your daily progress.  Do you want to be CEO?  Really?  Probably not.  80 hour weeks every week probably aren’t your thing.  Understand how your talents can best be used, and then work like hell at being the best you possible, because competing against seven billion?  That’s going to kill you.

So will fighting a giant radioactive lobster with a cannon . . . more on Peterson next Friday.

I’ve written more about Peterson’s ideas here (LINK), here (LINK), and here (LINK).  Click on them if you love Truth.

Warning Signs, The Economy, Didier Sornette, and You

“We have no Great War.  No Great Depression.  Our Great War is a spiritual war.  Our Great Depression is our lives.  We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires . . .”

Fight Club

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This is the corpse of FDR, brought back to life every 75 years to fight Robot Hitler.  Notice we added a laser eye for this year.

I’ve talked about both the causes (LINK) and effects (LINK) of economic bubbles and economic depressions in two articles that won the Coveted 2017 Wilder Prize for Excellence in Journalism Related to Things John Writes About®.  You should read these articles.  They’re fun and may save your life, if you require expensive medicine from fresh squeezed bats each day and need the cash to pay for bat juice.

But what happens before everything goes straight to hell?  What are the precursor signs before a recession or depression takes hold?  Where are the danger signs that say . . . beware of dragons beyond this point?

mother of dragons

Game of Thrones would not be as popular if this was the casting choice for Daenerys.

Let’s start with definitions.  A recession (and a depression is just a bigger recession) is when the economy starts to contract, and the definition is that this contraction lasts at least two financial quarters.  A depression is the same thing, but there are great dust storms and everyone moves to California and no one bathes for a decade.

Why does the business contract?

Let’s take the last recession.  Everyone wanted houses.  Lots of houses.  In 2007 people were buying houses on speculation that they’d go up in price.  Because houses always went up in price.  And for a few years?  Yeah.  But when houses stopped going up in price?

People stopped building houses, six was enough for the average family.  But if you have no new houses to roof, and you’re a roofing company?  You fire your roofing crew and stop buying shingles.  The people you fire stop making truck payments.  The shingle company stops making shingles, and lays off the factory workers at the shingle factory.

Prices collapse.  Everywhere.  And in 2008-2009 this cascaded throughout the economy.  And the first thing that happened is that EVERYTHING got cheaper.

Perhaps the first sign that things will be going south is that . . . things are going well.  Too well.  It’s like the frat party at midnight before the heaving begins – laughter and joy everywhere.  And everyone believes that this party is different – they’ll escape the hangover gods in the morning.

So what is a gauge of the measure of market intoxication?

The VIX.

VIX stands for . . . Volatility IndeX.  VIX.  Like PEZ®, only with money instead of those small bricks of candy that build a wall of love around my heart (my doctor calls that arteriosclerosis), the VIX was created in 1990 and attempts to predict the market volatility for the next 30 days.  Here’s the graph of the VIX for the last 27+ years, thanks to Yahoo Finance©:

^VIX_YahooFinanceChart

If you look closely, you can see that when the VIX spikes, people are running and screaming in the streets because the economy is collapsing.  But what happens before the spikes?  Everyone is calm.

And, historically that’s been the case.  Everybody is an expert when the stock market keeps going up.

“Taxi drivers told you what to buy. The shoeshine boy could give you a summary of the day’s financial news as he worked with rag and polish. An old beggar who regularly patrolled the street in front of my office now gave me tips and, I suppose, spent the money I and others gave him in the market. My cook had a brokerage account and followed the ticker closely. Her paper profits were quickly blown away in the gale of 1929.” – Bernard Baruch, famous dead trader dude (from Fortune Magazine, April, 1996)

And that’s what that low VIX number tells you.  Everything is great!  Sunny sky and the wind is in your sales.  Not a cloud in the sky.

So, one big signal is that everything is going great.  Not sure how useful that is, but the current VIX is very near an all-time low.  This is why in my (very brave) 2018 prediction (LINK) I said it wasn’t going to blow up in 2018.  Obviously I could be wrong, but as low as the VIX is, I’d expect some upturn prior to things falling apart.  In 2007 the VIX turned up before everything blew up.  So?

My expectation of an economic recession/depression/crack-up number one?  The VIX will turn up prior to the fall, probably at least six months in advance.  So here’s one indicator of future economic downturn, and it’s been shown to work.  Perfect?  Certainly not.  Sudden dislocations (think 9/11) could throw it right out of the window.

Currency and Trade

What else might indicate a coming crack up?  One that was pretty popular was high interest rates.  Back before the FED so tightly controlled the currency and interest rates by buying all of the United States’ debt that’s unsold (yes, this is somehow legal), this was a sign that the party was going to end.  Failing businesses led to banks only lending to the best projects – the ones that could afford high interest rates.  Interest rates were (kinda) set by the market.

I’m pretty sure this one is long gone . . . and not sure that there’s a replacement.  The economy of the United States is such that, if we experience difficulty, other countries experience collapse.  Think the riots in Egypt, Syria, and Libya were spontaneous – no – they were the result of economic trouble in the US.

Another major indicator would be if another currency became as well accepted in the world as the dollar – and imports rose significantly in price.  Sadly, if this happens, the entire economic system is near collapse.  As I’ve pointed out before – the only thing that keeps our currency going is belief.  I can trade two pieces of paper with $100 printed on them to a liquor store owner and have a nice bottle of Johnny Walker Blue© handed to me.  Oh.  It has to be the government that prints the $100.  Not me.

Why?  People (silly people!) believe in the government more than me.  They believe the government won’t print too many.  Just like Bitcoin (LINK) is limited in the total number that will ever exist.  Except governments everywhere print money whenever they can.  Except the Swiss.  I blame it on the cocoa.

Energy

Other signs of big trouble?  Oil above $100.  Oil above $140 is screaming collapse.

Modern economies run on energy.  What would we do without it?

This is from Kentucky Fried Movie.  Good times.

Oil is consumed by every product you buy, generally in the production, packaging and transport.  Because of that, it acts as a general tax on the economy when prices go up.  And because oil extraction infrastructure takes years to get going – high oil prices can distort the economy for years.

Cash Ban

Horrible sign.  Venezuela will look awesome in comparison if this happens.

Math

I’ve mentioned Dr. Didier Sornette before.  He’s a French geophysicist that applied advance math previously used to predict earthquakes to predict whether or not a bubble exists in stocks, and, if so (at least in prior work) how long the bubble had until it popped.  He pegged that we were going to enter a singularity around 2045 or so where all bets are off, based solely on the math.  Don’t know if he still stands by that, but he produces a monthly report at the Economic Crisis Observatory (LINK).

In the latest report, of the sixty stocks in the US he studied, 35% were in a bubble.  That’s up from the previous month.  From this, we’d deduce the bubble is (potentially) inflating.

And Dr. Sornette absolutely called the big Bitcoin bubble a month before it topped.  Pretty amazing.

I’d keep an eye on this work.  It shows that there’s plenty of bubble a brewing in the record setting stock markets around the world.

And be careful.  There may be dragons here . . . .

NOTE:  I AM AN INTERNET HUMOR-DUDE, NOT A FINANCIAL PROFESSIONAL.  Consult someone sane prior to making investment decisions.  Like your Mom.  Or a lawyer.  Or a carnie.

12 Strong Movie Review, Exploding Tide Bottles, Rifles, and Significance

“Good Lord!  We can’t get them.  I never figured on having to shoot through dirt!” – Tremors

 shoosting

Good times.  Not pictured:  plastic Tide® bottle.

How many of you remember that perfect day?  That wonderful day where the Sun was shining, everyone was in harmony, and you lost yourself in the activities you were engaged in?  Those days are significant in their perfection – days that you remember now and that you’ll remember when you’re 50 or 60 or 70.

I imagine The Boy and Pugsley will both remember watching their dad’s form silhouetted in front of exploding Tide® laundry detergent bottle at least that long.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

One of the place where I think I’ve been negligent as a dad is in not taking The Boy and Pugsley shooting often enough.  Shooting is fun, but it also teaches patience and persistence.  How do you get good at shooting?  By shooting.  Nobody’s great at shooting coming out of the box, but by patience and practice you learn to get better – and the feedback loop is literally supersonic – you can see the result of your efforts nearly immediately.  And you have to be patient.  And disciplined.

Two weeks ago we went shooting, and had a great time.  We brought only .22 rifles (I’m sure that in California these are registered as assault weapons or orbital bombardment cannons or something) that time.  It was about 40˚F out (-371˚C for you living in Great Britain) so after a while (400 rounds or so) we decided to go and get warm.  But a good time?  Absolutely.

metric

I have no idea where this meme came from, but I bet it wasn’t Europe.

I’d been watching the weather because it’s no fun shooting when it’s colder than a brass monkey in the fridge on the dark side of Pluto.  We couldn’t go Saturday, since The Boy was busy with athletics.

Fortunately the weather looked good for Sunday.  And on Saturday night we got home early enough to rope in Pugsley and go see 12 Strong.  12 Strong is a true story about the first Special Forces (Green Berets) unit into Afghanistan after 9/11.  It’s rated “R” primarily because it features Americans being unambiguously good, moral, and upright against unambiguously evil people even though it stars an Australian as an American Special Forces Captain (Chris Hemsworth) in a clear case of cultural appropriation.

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I’m pretty sure Warner Brothers wants us to share this image, since it gives sixteen buttons to share it . . .

The movie was good, in a “I love America and the values that it stands for” way as shown by the bravery of the troops, the fidelity of the spouses, and the idea that a promise made is one to be kept.  In this movie there are no politics of division.  And the American men and many Afghani men (almost every character in this movie with more than two lines is a man) were brave.  And it didn’t try to discuss deeper issues – it had the decency to allow us to have and believe in heroes of flesh and blood.

How good was the movie?  Pugsley is 12, and is now contemplating how he’s going to become a Green Beret (a little less likely for The Boy – I think he’d rather create nuclear-powered x-ray space lasers).  Scary for a dad to think that?  Yeah, it is.  But boys grow up, and the responsibility of holding a rifle is sobering for a 12 year old, given its sheer destructive power.

My ranking on the movie?  5/5.

Okay, back to shooting.  Today we went shooting again.  It was one of those fun coincidences that as we left the house “Freeze Frame” by The J. Geils Band was playing on the radio . . . Pugsley started doing a dance when the lyrics, “shoot, shoot . . . deedle leedle lee” kept repeating since I think he was excited about going shooting, or “shoosting” as we called it, in an homage to Lisa from Green Acres®.

However, we also brought two additional things that we didn’t bring last time:  an AR-15 I’d bought from a friend several years ago that I’d only put about 20 rounds (for New York readers – that means I’d shot the rifle 20 times) through.  The Boy had NOT liked shooting it several years ago.  Scary.

Also, I brought explosives with the explicit idea that we’d shoot them and create a series of explosions.

I know what you’re thinking.  More on that later.

The Boy and Pugsley each jammed out a few hundred rounds of .22 down range.  Then I pulled out the AR-15.  An AR-15 shoots a .223 caliber bullet – really only slightly larger than a .22, but whereas a .22 comes out of the barrel at 1600 feet per second, a .223 comes out of the barrel at over 3,000 feet per second.  And a doubling of speed is a quadrupling of energy.  (Really closer to 8 times, since the bullet is larger.)  For all of you purists – we are NOT getting into the difference between a 5.56 and a .223 in this post – go get technical somewhere else.

The Boy and Pugsley each shot the AR and pronounced it . . . amazing.

So, I thought, perhaps it’s time to mix up the explosive?

Sure.

We tried to use the .22 to initiate the explosion.  You were supposed to be 100’ away . . . and we shot at it for a ludicrous number of shots (it was about 2” x 1”, so it’s not that small of a target at 100’).

Nothing.

The Boy went downrange and checked.

“You went clean through it twice.”

Hmm. I put another explosive packet together since the powder had leaked out of the first through the bullet holes.  I stuck it on the side of a plastic Tide® laundry detergent jug – one of the big ones that does 5,000 or so loads of laundry.  I took a shot with the AR.  Hit the Tide® jug, and the explosive fell off.  (Stay 100’ away, the instructions said.)  I went down range and put the explosive back on.  Walked back.  Shot, and hit the jug again.  And knocked the explosive off.  (Stay 100’ away, the instructions said.)  Again.

I finally determined the add-on sight that I was using wasn’t even remotely accurate, and pulled it off to use the basic sights (“iron sights”) that come with the rifle.  Frustrated, and thinking the explosive was a dud based on the previous experience we’d had with the first packet, I stuck the packet back on the jug, and then moved back and I took aim at the explosive stuck to the Tide™ jug not 20’ away from me.

There was a flash.  Lots of smoke.

And the Tide® jug . . . ceased to exist.  Gone.  Left this plane of existence.  The only thing left was the label.  I could see something that looked like tiny orange fragments of plastic jug, but only a few.  But the jug?

Vanished.

Wow.

I felt my face.  Small particles of dirt or unexploded explosives were imbedded in a dusty patina all over my face.  Thankfully I was wearing glasses and hearing protection.

So, the explosive did work.  And 100’ was certainly a much better idea than my 20’ – I’m guessing something about fools rushing in where angels fear to tread?  I walked back to the firing line.

The Boy:  “How on EARTH can that be legal???”  His grin was huge.

It is, at least where I live.  Your mileage may vary depending upon what location you live in.  US Federal law allows this explosive to be sold because when they sell it, it’s two compounds . . . a “binary” explosive.  You have to mix the compounds yourself.  And you can’t transport it after mixing (without insurance, permits, etc.).  You have to use it for personal, non-commercial use.  And . . . you should research this yourself.  I believe in California they will ____ your ____.  And you don’t want your ___ to be ____.  Very uncomfortable for your _____.

No.  Seriously I think they’d call that a felony.  But where we live?  It’s Sunday afternoon.

Hint:  Google® “Tannerite©” – although Tannerite™ wasn’t the manufacturer of the stuff we used, it’s the easiest search term.  This is NOT a law blog – you need to figure out if this stuff is legal where you are.

So, it is legal here.  That doesn’t mean it’s always used in a smart – one gentleman filled a lawnmower with a binary explosive, shot it, and it promptly lopped off a leg.  But that’s the definition of freedom – not stopping idiots from being idiots.  If we go too much further down that road, every surface in every house will be mandated to be made of Nerf®.

Regardless, the Tide® bottle was gone and I still had all of my parts.

Second shot?  We taped an explosive packet up to the plastic cylinder the explosive originally came in.  The Boy took aim with the AR, and . . . first shot it exploded and likewise disappeared into another dimension.  I went to check for more things we could blow up in the car we brought (it was The Mrs.’ car) and was rummaging around in the back seat.

And found a Wal-Mart bag containing two pounds of thick-cut bacon and three pounds of hamburger.  Sitting in the back seat.  Of a car The Mrs. hasn’t driven in three days.

Pugsley:  “Oops!  Guess I forgot to bring that bag in.”

Normally I’d give him a much harder time about leaving $30 in meat to rot in his mother’s car, but in this case?

We had explosives.  And guns.  And meat.

It’s even better if you imagine they’re singing “gone shoosting”.

Two explosive charges and the bacon was unrecognizable.  One charge took care of the hamburger.  Both The Boy and Pugsley were dead-on in their shots, hitting the explosive charge on their first shot in almost every case.

We picked up the exploded stuff (left the bacon and burger for the coyotes) and packed up and went home.

But the bigger perspective?

I was talking with another dad the other day – he was coaching a group of kids at the same sporting event The Boy was at.  We talked back and forth.  He was coaching his own son, which he felt was really the toughest coaching he had to do.  But, he indicated, he thought he’d keep coaching even after his son was done.  He really enjoyed it (and he was a good coach – his team did well that day).

“You know,” I said, “it’s not the money.  It’s not the things you do to things that matters in this world.  It’s the opportunity to be significant to someone – to give them training and experiences that change them for the better.  And these kids will remember what you did for them and how you changed them, coach, for the rest of their lives.  Now that,” I paused, “is the definition of significance.”

“That’s pretty well said,” he responded.

“Yeah, I’m Noted Internet Humorist John Wilder.”

And these perfect days can be the perfect days that will form memories for The Boy and Pugsley that will reinforce their character forever.

I wonder how many perfect days I’ve got left?  Not too many if I stand too close to too many exploding Tide® jugs, so I think I’ll avoid those from now on.  It would be good to be around to see what happens with The Boy and Pugsley . . . Green Beret or not, I’m sure I’ll be proud of both of them.