Free Markets, Free People

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I made some Quickscript fonts. Yay!

One of my personal little personality quirks is a deep sense of privacy, bordering on misanthropy*. I mean, I’m civil enough, I suppose, but deep down, I don’t really trust people very much, and I don’t what them to know much about what I’m thinking or doing. For instance, because I have to attend meetings and take lots of notes, I don’t want people to see what I’m writing. But, I also don’t want to be the wierdo whose obviously guarding his notes from the prying eyes of the other meeting attendees.

So, I taught myself the Cyrillic alphabet, and for years I was able to take all my meeting notes in it. Sadly, last year, our team was joined by a perfectly nice Polish woman who is highly educated and speaks several languages, one of which is Russian. So, she can read everything I write in Cyrillic.

I thought about learning something like Teeline shorthand, which no one anywhere in the world uses but British journalists, who were taught it in journalism school. But shorthand is hard to learn, and I am lazy. Oh, and you have to transcribe it into English pretty quickly or you’ll forget what it actually says. Which seems like a lot of work that I wouldn’t want to do being, as I said, lazy.

Then I learned about Quickscript.  Quickscript, also called the Read Alphabet, was invented several decades ago by a Brit named Kingsley Read. He was really into English-language spelling and writing reform. Over the course of several years, he created the Quickscript phonetic alphabet which uses 40 letters that correspond to the 40 phonemes of spoken English. You can learn all about it here, because I am, if you’ll remember, too lazy to take the time to explain it in any more detail. Anyway, I learned it, and now I use it all the time, and no one has clue what I’m writing about them at meetings.

But, because I also like to play around with techy things, I’ve also created two OpenType fonts for Quickscript. Quickscript Regular is a sans-serif font that more or less is a tidier version of the handwritten alphabet they have at the Wikipedia page I linked above. But I thought there should be a classier, formal version of it, so I deconstructed the universal screen font known as Georgia, and made a type ready book font called Quickscript Georgian. I’ve uploaded them to QandO in a zip file here.

Some Quickscript letters are very similar, like the letters for "f" and "b", but they are placed differently on the baseline, like the English letters w and y. Also, English phonemes like "TH" or "OW" that are represented by two letters in English are represented by a single letter in Quickscript. And there’s a different letter for the "TH" in "thick" and the "TH" in "that", or the "OO" sound in "book" and "boot". So, most of the time, you write significantly less text in Quickscript than you do in English, a boon for the lazy.

Here are some English/Quickscript samples of words that have a letter-to-letter correspondence with English. Note the b and f letter placements in Quickscript:

quickscriptsample2

Here’s a longer piece of text, showing a phrase in English, Quickscript Regular and Quickscript Georgian. After that are the keys I had to type to write in the Quickscript fonts.

quickscriptsample

The "As Typed" bit is weird, I know. Because Quickscript uses 40 letters instead of 26, and some English letters like c and q aren’t used at all, the keyboard mapping is a bit odd. The numbers and punctuation and everything are the same, except for the Tilde (~), which I have replaced with the little dot that signifies proper nouns in Quickscript, in lieu of capital letters, of which, Quickscript has none.

Also, notice what I did with the word "the" in the sample above? We pronounce it two different ways, "thuh" and "thee", and we do it in the same sentence. SO, the same word can be spelled two different ways in Quickscript, because it’s phonetic, and pronunciation, not spelling, rules. Unlike English, when you try to "sound it out" in Quickscript, the way grammar school teachers used to tell us, you really do sound it out.

Here is the keyboard mapping, which is the same for both fonts:

QuickscriptMapping

Basically, I’ve used the lower case for all the regular letters, and capitals for the odd phonemes or long vowel sounds. I’ve tried to make the mappings as logical as possible. For instance, the two TH phonemes are mapped to the T and t keys, SH is mapped to S, and so on. Though, admittedly, I just couldn’t figure out what to do with the OO as in "book".

There are actually Quickscript users other than me, so I thought I’d contribute the fonts to the Quickscript community by making them publicly available here.

—————————-

* "Bordering on"? Who am I kidding? I’ve invaded misanthropy, sacked the capitol, and set myself up as President For Life.

~
Dale Franks
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Ever have one of those days?

Well I’m having one of those days.  Nothing horrific.  Nothing tragic.  Nothing to worry about.  Just one of those days.

So, other than this, I’ll likely not be saying much more today.

Well, except a reminder to join us on Facebook for QandO plus (which I also haven’t had time for today).

Later.

~McQ

Twitter: McQandO

Facebook: QandO

Be Prepared

It’s no secret that I’m a pessimist about the economy, as we travel along our current path, and the danger of a collapse of the currency and financial system, and the possibility of civil disturbance that might follow. Because I occasionally make snarky comments on Twitter and elsewhere about being prepared for 20 days of combat operations, I am occasionally asked about what that actually entails.

Of course, the still-remote possibility of civil unrest isn’t the only reason to be prepared to rough it for a while. There are plenty of earthquakes, floods, fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters that might require up to several days of living in the pre-industrial era.

So, since I have a couple of hours free this afternoon as I wait for my flight to Albuquerque, I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts.

First off, there’s all sorts of survival lists on the Internet. This is a good one. There’s about 1,000 others available if you simply Google "survival checklist". That’s just a list of items, which is a good start, but here are some other things you might want to think about.

Map out a route away from urban areas, using roads that are off of the main routes of travel. Highways, freeways, etc., may be jammed with traffic, and you’ll be going nowhere fast. Find the little-used back roads. It’ll require a more circuitous route, but your chances of getting caught in traffic while escaping the city are much smaller. Go sooner rather than later, however, or you still might not get out. If you live in, say, Manhattan, and you wait too long, you’re screwed as far as escaping goes.

If you have a diesel vehicle with a towing package, you’ve got a 12-volt generator. If you don’t have a towing package, but have a cigarette lighter or 12-volt vehicle outlet, you’ve still got a generator, but you’ll need a couple of AC converters, like these.

If your vehicle is not diesel-powered, it should be. You should also have a portable generator, of course. It should also be a diesel. Dependence on gasoline is, in general, not good. If you have a diesel, you can, in an emergency, run it on heating oil, kerosene & vegetable oil, lamp oil, or almost any other low-volatility flammable fuel. You can even make your own bio-diesel fuel. Leveraging your future to gasoline is a Bad Thing if civilization collapses.

Get a small travel trailer, and keep it stocked with your survival supplies. One nice thing about travel trailers is that they already have a 30 or 50 gallon water tank. Drain and fill it every couple of months at minimum, and if you have to leave, you can hook up and go in minutes, and you’re already stocked with food and water for several days. Small used travel trailers are cheap, and easily turned into mobile, pre-stocked, survival shelters.

Have lots of honey on hand. Honey doesn’t spoil, so it keeps for ever. Bacteria cannot live in honey. Archeologists once found a huge pot of honey that was a couple of thousand years old. They ate it, found it very yummy, and suffered no ill effects from it. (They later discovered a body preserved in the bottom of the pot.) In a pinch, honey can be used as an antibiotic covering for wounds, though it does raise the chance of further injuries from bears trying to lick the wound.

Also, if you have honey and salt, you can mix them in water to drink when you get diarrhea, which you almost certainly will in the wilderness, and they will keep you hydrated and supplied with electrolytes so you won’t crap yourself to death, which, prior to 1900, was not an uncommon way to die. So, have salt, too.

Speaking of wounds, if things are really bad, and civilization is actually collapsing, you need to head over to CVS or Walgreens and raid the pharmacy. First, take any drug that ends with "cillin". That’ll be an antibiotic. Also, take anything that ends with "codone" or has "codein" in the name. Those’ll be painkillers. Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Oxycontin…you know what I’m talking about. If you have antibiotics and painkillers, you’ve got a far better chance of surviving an open wound than if you do not. Like, 1000 times better. Use the painkillers sparingly. Don’t get hooked.

Get a copy of the US Army Field Manual 21-76. It’s easy to find. Here it is. Print it out. Read it. Know it. Live it.

Guns. In general, pistols are useless. Sorry, but there’s nothing you can hit with them with any reliability beyond 25 meters, and in combat, beyond 10 feet. At the OK Corral gunfight, 10 guys were jammed into an enclosure about 20 feet square, and two of them walked away without a scratch, after about 50 rounds being fired. You need rifles, and you need more than one. Two guns is one gun, and one gun is no gun. You need at least two rifles per person in the same caliber.

What caliber? Personally, I prefer the 7.62×39 over the 5.56mm/.223 caliber. It’s a harder-hitting round, punches through brush or obstructions more reliably, and is widely available cheaply, as are the weapons which fire it. It’s a better all-round caliber, in my opinion, for hunting or combat, though hopefully you’ll need it for the former, rather than the latter. You cannot go wrong with an SKS rifle in good condition, and you can find a surplus SKS for cheap as dirt. You can also get 1,000 round cases of 7.62×39 cheaply as well. If you want to spend real money on something more modern than the SKS—though, I stress again, the SKS is as fine, accurate, and dependable rifle as you can buy—then spring for a Czech SA Vz58, and you can add all the cool dongles to it. Do not buy an AK-47. For survival purposes, the SKS or Vz58 are superior in every conceivable way. You should assume a combat day will require 100 rounds of ammunition with a semi-automatic rifle (The combat load for the M1 Garand, for example, was 96 rounds per day in WWII). You should have enough ammunition for at least 20 combat days. If you are in, or going to, a big-game area, a surplus Springfield rifle or a Garand are perfect for elk, moose, bear, or other big game. 30-06 ammo is really expensive, however.

Finally, you have to think about your attitude. There’s no easy way to say this, but if things get really bad, like an asteroid wipes out civilization, then you need to be determined and ruthless to survive. Many ethical concepts that are useful in civilized society will be…how does one put this…counter-productive to survival in the state of nature. Many of the survivors you may encounter will be really bad people. Everyone you encounter will be desperate and/or terrified, which will make them extraordinarily dangerous. You will have to keep this uppermost in your mind at all times, and make the appropriate decisions in your dealings with others to ensure your own survival. And that’s all I have to say about that.

In less extreme circumstances, attitude is still everything. Remain calm. Think before you act. Remain positive.

Happily, we do not, for the most part, have to worry about the complete collapse of civilization as a high-order probability.  But there is a chance of some natural disaster in which you may need to be ready to go for two weeks or so living roughly. Ensuring you have adequate food, water, and shelter for those two weeks is not survivalist extremism. It’s just good planning, and good planning may save your life, and will certainly make those two weeks more comfortable.

On the other hand, if you’re also prepared for the asteroid’s arrival…well, you’re prepared for that, too.

~
Dale Franks
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On a personal note …

One of the things I’ve been eternally grateful for is the family I was lucky enough to marry into.  For over 3 decades, I’ve been a part of a family that I both admire and respect.  They are, to me, the salt of the earth and they represent the type of people who’ve made this nation great. 

I’m out here to celebrate the birthday of the matriarch of that clan, my mother-in-law, Mrs. Ruby James Weaver’s 100th birthday.

Here in the Cookson Hills of eastern Oklahoma, the Weavers are well known and loved.  I’ve always joked about visiting my “outlaws” instead of in-laws.  My mother in law’s maiden name is James and I have two brothers-in-law named Younger.  But, as a mentioned, a more all-American family can’t be found.  Farmers, ranchers, you name it, they are part of the generation that has helped make this nation the richest and most powerful on earth.  And, as you might imagine, some of the last of what was once a very common thing – rugged individualists.

Mrs. Weaver raised 10 kids on, well, not much and did a magnificent job.  She has 23 grandchildren, and as she admitted last night, has lost count of the great and great-great grandchildren.  

I married the baby of the family.  Like I’ve said, I got lucky.

So, to the best mother-in-law in the world and matriarch of one of the finest families I know, happy 100th birthday, Mrs. Weaver.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

No Podcast, Again

For the second Sunday in a row, our boxer, Apollo, got loose and attacked Lucius. This time, he got life-threatening injuries from Lucius, who is twice his size, and Apollo had to go into emergency surgery. We had been keeping them separated since last week, but Apollo got loose and went straight for Lucius again.

So, not only do we have to pay about $1600 in vet bills today, we now have to find a new home for Apollo. We can’t have a dog-aggressive dog in the house, no matter how much we love him. And we love him to death.

The vet was a nightmare as well. It was our 1st time there, but we went because they had emergency care on Sundays, and they are much, much closer than the other animal hospital. All I’ll say about that is that we hate them and will never go back to them. The only reason Apollo is still there is because his injuries were so bad, we couldn’t take him to the other animal hospital without endangering his life. We will be going to our regular vet for the post-op checkups.

This is one of the worst days ever.

UPDATE: We changed our mind. Rather than try to get rid of Apollo, we’ve decided to change the other side of the equation and find a new home for Lucius. I suspect it’ll be a lot easier selling an intact, pure-bred, registered Cane Corso male than it will be to find someone who wants an older boxer with impulse control issues. Lucius will be better off as the king of his own castle anyway.

~
Dale Franks
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Memorial Day 2012

No image portrays the true meaning of Memorial Day like the following image.    I posted it last year, and I’ll probably post it every year I draw breath.  It best encapsulates the day’s meaning for me.

 

Memorial day

 

Freedom isn’t free.  And it doesn’t come without a horrendous cost.  God bless the fallen.  And God comfort their families.

[In memory of SP4 Stuart Lee Barnett, KIA 8/26/70, Republic of Vietnam]

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Impressions of my time among heroes

I‘m not really one of those people who goes to events like Salute Our Troops in Las Vegas and spends his time trying to get interviews.  It’s not that there’s anything wrong with that, it just isn’t my style.  Maybe it should be if I ever want to go anywhere doing this, but its not what I’m comfortable with.

I’m more of an observer.  A listener.  Oh I talk and laugh and exchange small talk, but for the most part I’m one who likes to sit back and watch the interaction of a group, see what they’re all about and then relate my impressions in writing.

That’s not always as easy as I’d like it to be, but it works for me.

The 3 days and nights I spent in Las Vegas at the Palazzo hotel with our wounded warriors was probably one of the more inspiring and satisfying times I’ve spent in a long time.  From the moment I watched them walk into the hotel until I watched them leave 3 days later, I was on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster.

Pride was a dominant emotion.  I was extraordinarily proud of how they conducted themselves.  The event was very emotional for them as well.  You could see the trepidation in their faces when they first got off the busses on day one.  A perfectly human reaction.  But as they moved through the welcoming crowd, you could see the unease disappear and the wonderful emotion of the moment begin to take hold.

The genuineness of the welcome made the whole experience resonate with the warriors.  Remarkably it remained a constant through out the entire visit.  It was real.  Tangible.  The thanks rendered wasn’t perfunctory or pro forma, it was heartfelt and always present.

As I watched the wounded warriors begin to interact with the crowd, I knew they felt it too.  I wasn’t just proud of the warriors,  I was equally as proud of the crowd.

Over the next few days, as I got to know the personalities within the group, certain things became obvious to me that might have been missed by those who didn’t have the opportunity to spend the time I had with them.

Brotherhood.  In this case it’s a generic term that includes the wounded women as well.  This small group was a brotherhood who in so many subtle and unthinking ways took care of each other the entire time they were there.  It wasn’t a duty.  It wasn’t something they had to do.  It was what they did. It is who they are.  They had a shared experience and shared sacrifice that made them unique. But they also had an entirely human desire to ensure those they had shared that experience with were well taken care of.   Nothing was too much for their friend or comrade.

Families.  Families by marriage.  Families by service.  Family by experience.  One of the extraordinary things about wounded warriors is they belong to many families and all of them were evident in Las Vegas.  All of them were at work as well.  It was gratifying to see but not unexpected.  Marines checking on other Marines.   A wife taking care of her wounded husband.  One wounded warrior watching out for another.

Normalcy.  One of the more poignant moments for me was overhearing two chaperones talk about a request by one of the wounded.  Each of the warriors and their guests had been given a blue t-shirt identifying them as a part of the Salute Our Troops group.  One of the wounded had asked if they had to wear them all the time or might take them off.  The chaperone relaying the request said, "they just want to be normal, to blend in, to be part of the crowd.  They don’t want to stand out".  I found that request to be incredibly endearing.  They just wanted to again, as much as possible, be normal.

As I watched these young warriors interact with others, another impression hit me – quiet dignity.  It was how they handled themselves.  Their humbleness.  Their gratefulness for what the Armed Forces Foundation, Sheldon Adelson and all the other sponsors were doing for them.  None of them took it as their due.  None thought they were owed this.  All of them showed and expressed their appreciation throughout the week in countless ways.

Humor.  As you might expect there was plenty of that.  Self-deprecating humor.  Ribald humor.  Ragging.  Among military folks nothing is sacred and lord help you if you start feeling sorry for yourself.  These men and women kept each other up, took and delivered shots with the best of them and acted like every Soldier and Marine you’ve ever known.  It brought back fond memories of times gone by for me.

Humor was their currency.  The night of the Blue Man Group show is a great example.   During their show the 3 Blue Men walk through the audience literally moving from arm rest to arm rest as they advance row by row through the theater.  At intervals they’ll pause, stare, pick something up from the audience, hold it up and examine it.  When they got to our group one of the guys handed a Blue Man his prosthetic leg.  The place went wild.  It couldn’t have been more perfect.

But the reality of what these fine warriors face never quite left me.  I couldn’t forget it.  There was a young Marine that who had lost his right leg and wore a prosthesis.  He may have been 5′ 4" if you’re being kind, and maybe weighed 100 pounds with rocks in his pocket.  He was an infantryman. He tried to bluff his way into a club that night but he wasn’t old enough to get in (not to worry, being a good Marine, he did a recon, gathered intel and got in the next night).

For whatever reason that incident struck me hard.  He had lost a leg in combat in  service to his country before he was old enough to buy a drink legally.  Next year he’ll be legal but he’ll also be medically retired from the Marine Corps.  At 21.

When I was at Brooke this past year with Cooking with the Troops, I remember one of the people who worked there standing next to me as we watched the wounded moving through the serving line.  He said, "what you have to realize is not one of these young warriors you see are working on their "plan A" anymore."  That made an impression on me. 

You have to imagine yourself in that situation and wonder how you would have coped with having to come up with a "plan B" at such a young age.   All the hopes and dreams you might have harbored about a certain way of life are now radically and totally changed forever.

Yet even understanding that, the most important message I gathered from all of them is they aren’t victims.  And please don’t treat them like they are.   They’re proud of what they did, what they suffered, even what they’ve sacrificed.  They may not like what happened, but they accept it.  They understand that what happened to them was a part of the risk of the service they willingly undertook.  They knew and understood that risk and yet they volunteered anyway.  And since they’ve been wounded, they’ve been dealing with the aftermath .  But as one amputee told me, "yeah, this happened to me, but others gave their all".   Context. Clarity. Strength.

Not one of them was asking for sympathy, just understanding.  These were Soldiers and Marines.  They are used to adapting and overcoming.  And while they still have much to endure, and many low points to weather,  there was no question that the spirit was willing. 

As one of the chaperones at the event said as we were quietly sharing a drink and watching the group finish a wonderful dinner, "you don’t have to worry about the next generation and  the future of our country.  These guys are that future and the future is bright".

I’ve thought about that a lot since he said that. He’s right. They are our next "greatest generation".  They stood up.  They answered the call and I’ve come to firmly believe that the strength of our nation is to be found in those who serve.   If what I saw in Las Vegas is any indication, the future is indeed bright.  If nothing else, my time with our wounded heroes made that point crystal clear to me.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

God Speed, CAPT Carroll LeFon (Neptunus Lex)

It’s been a tough week.  A good friend and neighbor died this week after a year long bout with cancer.  He put up a hell of a fight.

Then, last night, I learned that milblogger extraordinaire and retired naval aviator Carroll LeFon had been killed when his F21 Kfir fighter jet crashed near the west gate of Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada.

Lex, as most people knew him, was probably one of the best writers in the milblog community, bar none.  A retired Navy Captain and former carrier squadron commander, he loved flying and detested “life in a cube”.  After retirementNeptunusLex he managed to land a dream job for men of his ilk – flying fighter jets for a civilian company contracted to provide the opposing force for naval aviators at the TOPGUN school.  Lex, during his active duty days, had been the Executive Officer at that school.

I had the privilege of meeting Lex at one of the milblog conferences and then, over the years, kept up an on again, off again email  relationship with him.  I enjoyed our conversations immensely and I was a huge fan of his blog.  I mostly lurked because, well, I’m a grunt and that wasn’t my world, but I learned more about naval aviation and aviation in general than I would have ever learned elsewhere.   I also enjoyed his slant on other topics as well.  He had a large and engaged commenting community, the sign of a healthy and well-loved blog.

The stories in tribute to him are just now starting to come out.  There’ll be more as the days go by.  He was a heck of a guy, a brilliant writer, a man who loved and adored his family and died doing what he loved best – flying a high performance aircraft.

His last post at the blog was a bit eerie but pretty much stated his philosophy best when it came to what he was doing.  He’d had a drag chute malfunction on landing and had to “wrestle snakes”, as he put it, for a bit before finally landing the aircraft safely.

When I taxied back to the line the maintenance guys told me to go away for 10 minutes. Just in case the brakes might, you know: Catch fire. Which they didn’t, so no harm done.

It’s funny how quickly you can go from “comfort zone” to “wrestling snakes” in this business.

But even snake wrestling beats life in the cube, for me at least. In measured doses.

Every fighter pilot out there, in fact every pilot in general, knows that at some point or other they’re going to have to wrestle snakes.  And, they also know that the possibility exists that the snakes may, at some point, win.

Yet even knowing that, they’d never trade the opportunity to do what they do for that “cube” of safety. 

Lex was a good man doing a necessary and dangerous job training our future naval aviators.  He paid the ultimate price.  But he did it his way doing what he loved to do. 

Fair winds and following seas, CAPT LeFon.  You’ll be missed.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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