Aboard the Zaphnora

Long-time readers of my blog (and a couple of newcomers as well) will probably recall first seeing the name Zaphnora in a post titled “Airships of the Nine Empires, Part 2.”  Well, given my new adventures with a high-resolution 3D printer, I have decided to make a much more detailled model of this ship than the one I had printed at Shapeways.  As of this post, I have spent the past four days designing a high-detail hull (which I will still have to have printed at Shapeways, owing to its size), as well as new conning towers, funnels with hollow vent stacks, and detailled guns of various types.  The guns are taking a while, owing to the fact that it took a while to work out the exact specs I wanted for deck guns that could be mounted on disappearing platforms, and I also wanted to make three different types.  Today, I finished the first type, which I am particularly proud of, and which I mention briefly in the following three paragraphs.

 

Rubina had not slept in days, yet exhausted as she was, she found no solace aboard Kveta’s vile airship.  Every thought she ever had flooded her mind, particularly the memories of all those who had died on her dubious quest thus far.  All but one of them had their lives cut short by the abomination she now sat inside, and now they had finally come back to demand “why.”  The eerie, pulsating whine of the ships levitators penetrated the hull and sent waves throughout Rubina’s body, even as she laid in a soft bed.  Staring up at the ceiling, a ghostly face slowly appeared in midair, hanging just above her.  It seemed to be coming closer as it became clearer, a tender look in its empty eye sockets.  Rubina tried to wave it away, expecting that it would dissipate like smoke, but to no avail, and she rolled out of bed and onto the floor in a panic.  She made her way to the door, unable to keep her own balance.  It seemed as if the ship was rolling violently, yet something told her that this was simply her mind playing tricks on her.  The door, surprisingly, was unlocked, and she threw herself out of the room, falling onto the floor of the corridor outside.  She forced herself to her feet, still feeling dizzy.  The walls seemed to move away from her, as if she was shrinking down to the size of a mouse.  The eyes on the walls, painted and static, seemed to come to life, their slit pupils narrowing and closing in on her.  Down one end of the corridor was a black void, from whence more ghostly faces came.  Down the other end was a light, and she ran towards it, sometimes tripping and having to crawl a short distance before getting back to her feet again.  After what felt like hours, she reached the light, which was coming down a staircase that led up and out to the ship’s main deck.  Still dizzy, she had no choice but to climb the stairs on all fours, with each step becoming steeper, until she felt like she was climbing a ladder.  The corridor behind her disappeared entirely, as she looked back to see if the ghosts were still following her.  All that was ahead was a blinding light, but after climbing a few more steps, her vision cleared, the stairs became stairs again, and the deck came into her sight.

On deck, her sense of balance seemed to finally return, yet the blast of cold air along with the even louder whine of the levitators instantly gave her a tremendous headache.  She did not recognise where she was, as the conning tower looked different from before.  She turned round, and upon seeing no raised deck, realised that she was near the stern.  Rubina decided to head for the bow, hoping to give Kveta a piece of her mind.  Along her walk, she noticed that the deck was completely devoid of crew members.  The ship’s deck guns were almost all stowed and covered, with only a few here and there that were ready in case the ship was attacked.  As Rubina finally passed the first funnel, the forward conning tower came into view, and Kveta was standing atop the flying bridge, gazing out to starboard.  As Rubina passed below, Kveta glanced down, but then went back to staring out toward the horizon.  Rubina noticed this, and thought “fine, ignore me.”  She then turned round, and noticed that the very first starboard deck gun was uncovered, and had a full ammunition box on its platform.  She looked back at the flying bridge.  Kveta’s eyes didn’t meet hers, and after a few moments of looking up, Rubina turned her attention back to the deck gun.  It was one of the Zaphnora‘s smallest weapons, but still quite formidable.  Rubina walked up to it, examining its mechanisms closely.  From its ammunition box, a belt of fat cartridges led up to the gun’s receiver, where they would be fed into the chambers of each of the gun’s nine rotating barrels.  Rubina walked round to the front of the gun, then looked back at the flying bridge.  Kveta still wouldn’t look at her a second time.  “Notice me, damn you,” Rubina thought, as she climbed up onto the platform and began stroking the gun barrels.  Each one was large enough that Rubina could easily fit her own fist inside.  She then turned her gaze to the seat, from which she could turn this gun onto its ship’s own bridge.  “I could do it,” she thought before taking one last look at the flying bridge.  Kveta slowly turned her gaze toward Rubina, then leaned forward, gripping the railing tightly.  Rubina couldn’t see Kveta’s face from such a distance, but she knew Kveta had a look right now that said “do it, I dare you.”  The two stared at each other as Rubina stepped onto the footrest and began cranking the handwheel that turned the gun.  She had the gun turned almost 90 degrees before she heard a gruff voice shout “what do you think you’re doing?!”  “Shit,” Rubina hissed.

Rubina climbed the ladder up the back of the pilothouse to the flying bridge, to find that Kveta hadn’t moved.  “I can see why you like it up here,” Rubina sneered.  “Oh, why is that?”  “Because then you don’t have to see them.”  “Who, my own crew?”  “Seriously?”  Rubina wasn’t sure if Kveta was mocking her.  “I’m talking about the ghosts.”  “Ghosts?”  “Of all the people your demonic flying machine has killed!”  Rubina was beyond frustrated at this point.  “Oh, that,” Kveta chuckled, annoying Rubina even further, “that noise certainly gets to people after a while.”  “What has the noise to do with it?!”  “It’s a problem that all glossarian airships have, sweetie-” “don’t call me that” “the noise and vibrations can cause people on board to experience nausea, hallucinations, and insomnia,” Kveta explained, “weak-willed aeronauts have been driven to utter madness, sometimes jumping off the ship in mid-flight.  Of course, you’ll never hear the officers of your own air force talking about it, on account of the fact that volunteers are already in short supply.”

 

What you just read is a passage currently slated to be in the latter part of chapter 8 in book 6, Storms of Retribution and Revolution.  I know, I know, I’m all over the place with my writing.  I’m also all over the place with my projects!  I keep promising a complete video walkthrough of Marie de la Cordelière, for instance, but I keep putting it off for a number of reasons, none of which are good.  The last time I teased that project was a month ago, but rest assured, IT IS COMING.  I’d like to finish the new version of the Zaphnora first, however, which brings me to an important announcement.  I’m going to make a video showing the process of assembling the airship, which I will upload to BitChute after the Cordelière walkthrough is finally done.  However, since the latter may take several days to record, owing to the fact that I will be making a higher detail model than usual yet again, beginning tomorrow, I’m going to start posting pictures of each new item to SubscribeStar.  However, a BIG however here, these little sneak previews will not be free, but subscriber-exclusive.  If you don’t wish to part with a dollar a month, then you’ll have to wait until the video is published to see any of the new models, including the 42mm 9-barrel autocannon I mentioned earlier.  I have no clue when that will be, so you could be waiting quite a while.  What can I say, other than “I can’t keep working for free, but I don’t know how to beg for money, either?”

So, You Want to Print Your Own Sailing Ships? Well, Here’s What You’re in For.

Variations on that title serve as the beginning of every video description in my latest 3D Print Shop episode on BitChute.  This is the first episode of this series that is divided into multiple parts, given how much footage I had to work with, and it is mostly unedited.  My purpose for doing so was to show just how long post-processing of models takes, especially when they are this intricate.  Now, let me be clear, I would never discourage someone from taking up 3D printing as a hobby, and in fact, I encourage it as much as I can.  However, even for a moderately experienced model-maker such as myself, sailing ships are not the easiest things to print.  Personally, I would suggest either printing them with selective laser sintering (SLS), or making them in multiple pieces, with each mast separate.  Of course, at the minuscule scales that I tend to work in, that approach may not be practical, which puts both myself and my customers in something of a pickle.

This entire print job was meant as a test batch for several of my existing models, so that I had printable files and photos to upload to Wargaming 3D.  Unfortunately, one of the models didn’t print properly, as you’ll see from part 1, and I broke another one trying to clean it up.  I have since made the masts on that one thicker, and I’m running another one while typing this.  I suppose I could upload even more footage documenting the replacements, but I think that these four videos are sufficient.  Assuming that all goes well with the next print job, I should be able to upload three more ships.

So, to those of you who are new to 3D printing, do you accept the challenge?  If so, watch the videos, enjoy some great classical music, and feel free to ask questions about my tools and methods.

Print Shop Ep 4-1

Man-of-War: https://www.bitchute.com/video/RBjjTbdv3XWd/

The man-of-war, or “Dutchman-of-war,” as I occasionally refer to it, is one of my earliest, but still one of my best and most popular sailing ship models.  Despite my nickname for it, it’s more Swedish than Dutch, though it is still something of a hybrid.  While the long beakhead is an obvious characteristic of Swedish fighting galleons, open quarter galleries were unheard of on Scandinavian ships, for reasons that ought to be obvious.

Print Shop Ep 4-2

Heavy Bomb Ketch: https://www.bitchute.com/video/BBwZqhuwunrI/

This type of siege ship was used throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, as there was no room for a foremast on a ship that mounted a large siege mortar.  After the turn of the 19th century, however, ordinary single-deck frigate hulls became large enough to mount siege mortars without special construction, thus the bomb ketch was replaced by the bomb ship.  At the time, a ship was, by definition, a three-masted vessel.

Print Shop Ep 4-3

Caravela de Armada: https://www.bitchute.com/video/ranbYLiSNvpA/

This is my favourite type of sailing rig, and this model is my first attempt at making one.  I have since made three others, all of which I think are much nicer, yet this one is still the most popular, for some reason.  Perhaps it’s because this is the only one with visible gun ports.

Print Shop Ep 4-4

Simple galleon game piece: https://www.bitchute.com/video/jkMZQpPAV2pv/

The last two of the four parts are considerably shorter, and I decided to include this last one, rather than another that I had sufficient footage for, because I wanted to show just how much easier it is to process a low-detail game token than a more accurate miniature.  This model is still popular, despite the fact that I’m not particularly proud of it.  By the way, part one, the man-of-war, would be the longest, but I sped up the first clip in that video by 100%.

As much as I’d like to say “you get the idea,” none of these ships have staysails, so I need to make at least one more video showing the post-processing of a sailing ship.  I’ve made one already of the 1812 frigate, but I could probably do better.

Important Print Shop Update

Today, I start running castable wax in the Form 3!  This is an important development, because it means I can start making my own jewellery.  I’ll be able to include as much detail as I want, rather than being constrained to whatever doesn’t get obliterated by the overly aggressive polishing processes that Shapeways uses.  Hopefully, this means that I can invest some more time into the Cooperative Artisans’ Guild, and maybe get some of the other artisans on the site involved in this project.  For now, I need ideas: I don’t know what would sell, and I don’t exactly know people who can tell me.

Rings always sell well, that much I know, and I have an idea for unique rings that aren’t particularly complex.  In case you didn’t know, hexagonal stones are virtually unheard of, and that’s because stone cutters use indexing wheels that are divided in increments of eight.  However, indexing wheels are made like gears, so it’s not particularly difficult to replace the usual index wheel with one divided in increments of six.  I think I’ll call these things “snowflake rings.”  However, I’m getting ahead of myself.  This is all I’m running today:

Wax prints 1

Wax prints 2

The cat is squished a bit to create a bas-relief effect.  This is my first time experimenting with such an effect, but if I can get it to work here, I may be able to give other models a similar treatment.  Depending on how this comes out, I may either trim the cat to make the bottom outline better and use it to make a large pin, or simply remove the head and frame it with a crescent moon.  I’m not sure if it would work better as a pendant or earring that way, but I suppose I could offer such a design as both.  If you think what I’m proposing is a bit tacky, don’t worry, so do I.  I’m very bad at this.  Good thing I don’t work with furniture makers!

In other news, I finally have a decent T-10M in 1:220 scale, which was a surprisingly pleasant result after numerous failures with coloured resin.  Assuming that today’s wax print goes well, and I can get some ideas for new items reasonably quickly, then it will be some time before I print more miniatures. When I resume, unless I get orders for 1:285 scale models, then I will start printing more and more 1:220 scale models for Z gauge railroads.  Basically, I’m looking for an excuse to build a nice animated diorama, and I’m not going to limit myself to models that I’ve rendered myself.  In case you haven’t already seen them on Steemit, I succeeded in printing two trucks in 1:285 scale with the next test (immediately after the video I linked to, but before the T-10 prints that I just finished).  Here are some photos of one truck next to a KV-2 and T-10M (both 53-tonne tanks) to give you an idea of how these things compare to each other:

Let me know what you think; do you think I should pursue making jewellery, or stick with miniatures?

 

 

A Point or Two About Morality

I’m writing this on 5 December 2019, but I probably won’t publish it right away.  In fact, what follows may end up being the script for a BitChute video, only because I will, inevitably, have to have this discussion with someone.  I have no intention of becoming an atheist vlogger, largely because every argument has already been repeated ad nauseam on YouTube, but the audience on BitChute is rather different.  With that out of the way, it’s time to get philosophical.

“An action or choice is moral or right if it promotes happiness, well-being, or health, or somehow diminishes unnecessary harm or suffering, or it does both.  An action or choice is immoral or wrong if it somehow diminishes happiness, well-being, or health, or promotes unnecessary harm or suffering, or again it does both.” – Scott Clifton.

Notice how there is no supernatural invocation anywhere within that quote.  What Scott said is probably the best summary of morality ever made, and I think we can all agree that it is true, even if it came from the mind of a mere human, rather than from a magical, anthropomorphic immortal (i.e. a god).  However, the most tired argument that I keep seeing and hearing from religious people is that morality cannot exist without god.  If that were true, how is it that gods are not required to explain morality?  Having dealt with religious apologists for as long as I have, I suspect that the next argument to follow, even though it isn’t necessary, is that “god is required for our spiritual well-being,” or something to that effect.  To this, I would respond “you may feel that god is required for your spiritual well-being, but I do not share that feeling, therefore I do not require god in my life.”  By the way, I take no issue with people who claim to need gods and magic in their life, which precisely why I am not an anti-theist.  I do not care what religion a person adheres to, as long as it doesn’t warp their perception of reality.  People who believe in a young Earth, or flat Earth, or have ludicrous preconceived notions about me because I’m a non-believer irritate me to no end.  On a related note, I should point out that humans are not the only animals with a moral compass; morality is a survival mechanism, because animals that exploit and consume members of the same species are a detriment to the species as a whole, whereas those who cooperate are far more likely to pass on their genes.  Therefore, the origin of morality is just as natural as its definition.

While morality may have a natural origin, nature itself is amoral.  I’ve pointed out in previous blog posts that morality is not the only factor one needs to consider when making a choice.  Consider the saying “you can be right, you can be dead right.”  In nature, survival trumps all, and some organisms have evolved to survive by doing some rather nasty things.  Sometimes, survival requires engaging in immoral acts, especially when resources are scarce.  For this reason, people living in the comfort of a first-world nation in the 21st century are usually appalled by the behaviour of people in poorer nations, or people of their own countries in the distant past.  Because choices in real life are rarely easy, morality is frequently the last thing that a person considers when making those choices.  Consider Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: physiological, safety, social, esteem, and self-actualisation, in that order.  While high-level evaluations of moral choices may fall into the last category, everyday considerations actually fall under social needs, and here’s why: if a member of a social species repeatedly engages in activities that piss everyone off and provide no benefit, that individual will be shunned, banished, or even killed.  I’d rather not go into too much detail here, because I’ll end up repeating myself a lot.  I will, instead, continue by pointing out that, contrary to the argument made for subjective morality, i.e. that morality is relative to the culture, and standards are different for different countries in different times, morality is an immutable law of nature, and any appearance of subjectivity can be attributed entirely to other considerations getting in the way.

I have heard the argument for subjective morality from only one type of source: religious apologists.  Morality is objective, but it isn’t absolute, for the simple reason that the best choice in one situation may not be the best choice in another.  Circumstances must be taken into account.  The word “subjective,” in the context of morality, is an intellectual weasel word that apologists use to justify objectively immoral teachings within their holy scriptures.  It is for this reason that I brought up the morally sub-standard nations of the distant past.  The argument for subjective morality seems to me a sly way of pining for “the good old days,” that undefined period of time before the world had all the troubles that it does now.  On that note, I should point out that the so-called “generation wars” (not actual wars that last for generations, a clarification I have to make for the people who read both my blog and Bracing Views) are nothing new.  Likewise, there is a cycle that is well-documented throughout history, and it goes like this: bad times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, weak men create bad times.  Good times and bad times are, of course, relative to the people who live through them.  Those at the very top and the very bottom of society rarely notice the cycle; those in between have a lot more at stake.  This brings me back to “the good old days,” when people were so much more moral than they are now.  There are all sorts of specific examples that I can work with in that sentiment.  That was sarcasm, in case you couldn’t tell.  Sorry, but I’m not actually going to tackle the subject of “the good old days,” or, as I like to call them, “the bad old days,” unless someone provides me with a specific example of people being better specifically because religiosity was higher then.  For every one of them, I can provide an example of things being better today for the exact opposite reason.  This is the point at which I invite discussion (or, more precisely, I dare my detractors to try arguing with me), and I’m going to conclude this article before it devolves into pettiness.

The fact that morality is both natural and objective is, I think, an airtight argument.  However, just because something is natural doesn’t mean that it’s perfect, hence the fact that morality is anything but absolute.  This also means that no-one is born immediately knowing right from wrong, and why children must be taught to not do naughty things.  Contrary to refuting the entire premise of this article, I would argue that the undeveloped moral compass of young children actually supports my position.  Ask yourself which is the better argument to use when a child asks why they shouldn’t do something: “because I said so” or “how would you like it if I did that to you?”  Of course, there are plenty of people who don’t stop to consider how others might feel about their own actions, even as adults; we call them inconsiderate.  Likewise, there are plenty of people who simply don’t care, or even who delight in the misery of others; we call them sociopaths.  Every animal is born with certain innate properties and must learn as they go, both from experimentation and instruction from their kin.  In every case, looking out for oneself is a behaviour that nature rewards, but looking out for oneself at the expense of others is something that one’s kin may punish; such is the blessing and the curse of being part of a social species.

 

A Point or Two About Depression

Depression is an interesting topic, and this time of year is appropriate to discuss it.  Before I go into further detail, however, I need to put my proverbial cards on the table: I am stuck in a particularly harsh spell of depression, and not for the reason you might expect.  I’ll go into the details about my own problems later.

Depression is a rather difficult condition to describe, and not straightforward to diagnose, as most other mental disorders are.  Personally, I would describe depression as a lack of mental energy; not specifically a lack of motivation, but the simple inability to function.  If you are depressed, then you probably don’t feel like doing things that you want to do, much less the things you don’t want to do.  Having too much on one’s mind can cause this, but being distracted or otherwise unable to think straight is not all there is to it.  Being momentarily frazzled is part of daily life, but becoming chronically frazzled is a much more serious problem.  While anyone who has had to deal with a stressful holiday season can probably relate, I’m talking about a response that is disproportionate to the offending stimuli.

Depression isn’t caused by external stimuli, as it is a mental illness, but can be exacerbated by them.  People who suffer from depression can lead happy lives, and even be quite energetic overall, without needing to turn to drugs.  However, there are certain thoughts that gnaw at us from the backs of our minds, and the slightest reminder can instantly drain our energy and keep us from being able to get out of bed in severe cases.  If it seems like I’m conflating depression with PTSD, keep reading, because there are specific differences.  When it comes to depressing thoughts, there is neither rhyme nor reason as to why such thoughts cause such responses.  For example, if a person suffers from depression, and they are emotionally “cut down” by seeing someone wearing purple, no amount of digging into a person’s past will ever provide an explanation as to why seeing the colour purple makes them depressed.  For this reason, many therapists have no clue how to tackle the subject of depression; as I mentioned, the response is disproportionate to the stimulus, and often quite irrational.  Allow me to provide an example of a problem I have to deal with: recording anxiety.

I get quite anxious before recording a CAD tutorial, and I have no idea why.  I’ve never had a problem with public speaking, and while I’m not fond of how my voice sounds in recordings, it took me about ten seconds to fix that problem (I simply speak with a much thicker accent in my videos than I do in normal conversation to compensate for the audio distortion).  So, why do I get nervous before recording a video, to the point where I keep procrastinating whenever I decide to make one?  There is no reason, none whatsoever, for me to have this problem.  In fact, there is a model that I started work on over a month ago that I want to finish while recording, but every time I’ve sat down to do it, I can’t seem to force myself to do so: “one more cup of chamomile tea, one more ASMR video, one more set of breathing exercises, THEN I’ll turn on the microphone,” but one more is never enough, because my mind just isn’t working properly.  Fortunately, I’ve had other things to do (such as hunting), so I’m not just sitting at my desk doing nothing.  In a previous post, I discussed taking breaks when you find yourself stuck; in case you couldn’t tell, that was mainly a motivational letter to myself.  Unfortunately, getting outside hasn’t been enough for me, either.  There is another source of stress that I have to deal with, but I’ll discuss that in a later paragraph.

In the interest of logic, I’m going to jump back and forth between general assessments about depression, and personal examples from my own life.  I’ve already discussed irrationality, and now I’ll move on to irritants, i.e. the stimuli that cause this mental illness to rear its ugly head and derail people’s lives.  To the best of my knowledge, seeing the colour purple isn’t a real example, and that’s because I wanted something as obtuse as possible to illustrate my earlier point.  However, a reminder of a person’s prior failures is a much better example.  To use an example appropriate for this time of year, one who is estranged from their family may be driven into a deep depression if surrounded by people whose families are all coming home for Christmas.  The obvious solution is to avoid contact with family-oriented people round this time of year, and also not turn on the television and be exposed to advertisements for sappy Christmas films.  Now, I can hear people typing away like mad, telling me that people shouldn’t be alone at this time of year, and that estranged loners need to make their own families, or some nonsense like that, and I would normally agree with that solution, but not for someone who suffers from clinical depression!  People with depression have disproportionate responses, partially, because their brains focus mostly on the negative parts of their situation, so they are very quick to find flaws in any “solutions” that anyone might propose.  This, unfortunately, leads to the belief that depressed individuals want sympathy, not a solution, or they simply want to wallow in their own misery.  In truth, the solution to a depressed person’s problem is not to find a way for them to work with the problem, but to work around it instead.  “Outside-the-box” thinking is required, by which I mean that conventional social expectations ought to be cast to the wind.  In the case of holiday depression, I genuinely mean that a person should be allowed to eschew participation in a holiday tradition if it makes them happy.  If you want a particularly humourous example, go watch “Christmas with the Kranks.”

Assuming you decided to keep reading, rather than take a break to watch a Christmas comedy, I have a somewhat amusing tangent to take you on regarding my own attitude toward Christmas.  I’m not particularly crazy about the holiday, largely because there are so many other things that I enjoy about this time of year, such as hunting, skiing (occasionally at the same time), and ice-skating.  I’ve never had to put up with nonsensical Christmas traditions since I was 14, when I started college.  Prior to then, my mother would insist on dragging my father and I on a two-hour road trip to visit her brother (whom she hates) because their mother (whom she also hated) always took an eight-hour road trip every Christmas to stay in his house, and “the whole family” should be together on Christmas.  So much for staying home on Christmas, and “the whole family” never included my father’s family.  After my first winter break in college, I dug my heels in and flatly refused to go anywhere, and called my mother out for subjecting the three of us to abuse every year.  Why would someone who hated her own family insist on visiting them, rather than my father’s family, who was much closer, and more pleasant to be around?  However, that’s not the funny part.  The funny part is that, ever since, we’ve never had snow on the ground on the 25th of December.  I am adamant about having a white Christmas, since we usually get our first snow in October, and winter doesn’t truly end until April.  I’ve suggested celebrating Christmas on the 6th of January as a solution, but no-one seems to want to do that.

As much as I had considered deleting much of the previous paragraph, I decided to leave it alone, because it actually makes it quite easy to transition into my next point: self-sacrifice.  There is nothing wrong with giving up something of yours in order to improve the life of another, but you must still put yourself first.  That is not to say that all things you do must, in some way, benefit yourself.  Rather, what I mean is that it is possible to give too much to others.  When everyone is indulging their feelings of generosity, then you have nothing to worry about; give to others as much as it pleases you, and others will give to you in turn.  However, my mother’s abusive family always had a tendency to take advantage of generosity; these are the people who will send you on a guilt trip for not giving enough, yet they themselves won’t give everything they can.  This is relevant because my little dissection of depression is about to take a very dark turn.  You have been warned.

Depending on whom you ask, depression may not be pathological, but an ingrained personal delusion; a feeling of inadequacy brought upon them by a long-term abusive relationship.  Abusive relationships, contrary to how they are typically portrayed in popular media, are rarely violent.  One party wears down the other with guilt and passive-aggressive insults, and assuming that the recipient is indeed a victim, i.e. compliant, then punishment in the form of violence is unnecessary.  However, when the would-be victim is of considerably stronger character, and unwilling to be controlled as a puppet, then the abuser turns to more aggressive means to get what they want, including violence.  The most commonly posited solution for dealing with an abuser is to simply leave.  However, this is not always feasible, and if the would-be victim is somehow trapped, then it becomes a contest of will with the abuser.  Since abuse is a common tool of sociopaths, who do not accept defeat and will never change their behaviour (because they think there’s nothing wrong with themselves), they usually win.  In the case of abusive parents, this means twenty years or more that children have to endure being told, among other things, that nothing they ever do will ever be good enough.  Such insults are easy to ignore when coming from strangers or even enemies, because the only ones who can truly insult you are those whose opinions you value.  We grow up seeking the approval of our parents (and siblings, if we have them), but if they won’t give it to us, then no amount of praise from the outside world means anything.  This perpetual inability to ascend beyond the third tier of Maslow’s Hierarchy, or even the second, depending on how severe the abuse is, leaves an individual emotionally stunted, and thus bearing many of the symptoms of a mental illness as a result.  It is, therefore, in an abuser’s best interest to keep their victims depressed, so that they silently surrender and relegate themselves to a life of dependence.  It is no coincidence that abuse victims display the symptoms of depression, including chronic pessimism, a practise of always looking at the bad side of a situation.  Ironically, the latter symptom results in depressed individuals being so much fun to be around that no-one wants to help them.  Without help, abuse victims have no means with which to satisfy their social needs other than crawling back to their abusers, which is exactly according to the latter’s plan.

If you’re wondering whether or not abusers know everything from the above paragraph, I assure you that they do.  Most probably can’t articulate it as well as I just did, but they know bloody well what they’re doing.  After all, abusers are typically sociopaths, who are known for being extremely calculating, unempathetic individuals.  However, since sociopathy isn’t the topic of this post, I won’t go into any more detail than I already have.  It is relevant only to the extent that those who suffer from depression should stay as far away from sociopaths as possible.  This brings us out of the dark portion of this article and into a much lighter topic: what you can do to make yourself feel better if you have depression (aside from taking antidepressants, which I don’t recommend).  The first step would be to identify the reason for your depression.  If you’re surrounded by happy, loving, supportive people, then if you’re depressed, it’s probably a chemical imbalance that could be fixed by changing your diet.  I’m not kidding, improving your diet can improve your mood.  Improving the quality of air that you breathe also makes a huge difference, as anyone who suffers from seasonal allergies will tell you; the difference between seasonal bad moods and depression is that depressed people are much more sensitive, and the moods are much more severe.  However, even if you think that the problem is entirely chemical, and nothing to do with the company you keep, you should still think critically about the people in your life.  No-one wants to admit that their own family could be abusive; abusers always train their victims well to place all blame firmly on themselves, and so victims reflexively make excuses for their abusers.  Anyone reading this who has known someone in an abusive relationship will probably agree that the signs are obvious from the outside, but almost invisible to the victim.  Perhaps, however, the reason for a person’s depression could be a combination of factors.  In any case, I’m not against taking drugs, but save them for a last resort.

More complex causes for depression, naturally, require more complex solutions.  As I’ve already mentioned, if an abusive relationship is the problem, then getting out is an obvious solution, but it is rarely an easy one.  Fortunately, I’ve dealt with enough sociopaths throughout my life that I’ve figured out ways to flush their proverbial toilets and have a good laugh at their expense.  However, there is a limit to what sort of retaliation you have to worry about from a coworker: most will not risk getting fired or arrested just to get back at you.  In the case of an abusive domestic relationship, getting the occasional moment of retribution, and especially showing enjoyment at it, can be physically dangerous.  Just as abusers don’t immediately subject their victims to the most horrendous conditions, instead slowly tightening the figurative noose, a victim who wants revenge needs to start small, perhaps with something the abuser doesn’t even notice, but would find irritating if they did.  The best method is to turn the emotional table about-face, by which I mean the victim must learn to delight in their abuser’s suffering.  I am not saying that hatred is a far more useful emotion than despair or fear, rather I am suggesting detachment as a solution for depression.  It’s a simple solution, but much like running away, it’s rarely easy, and requires some further explanation before I can conclude.

My generation (the dreaded millennials) have appropriated the term “trigger” from psychiatry, referring to an inciting event that can cause panic attacks in individuals with PTSD.  This is relevant because, returning to my obtuse example from earlier regarding the colour purple, sometimes certain thoughts can trigger a spiral of depression.  While there is neither rhyme nor reason, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a way to pick the process apart.  Once again, I return to my own life to explain.  My mother loves to shower me with ludicrous suggestions for what I should do with my life, because she knows (as well as I do) that I can’t make a living by selling wargaming miniatures, but she also sees me squandering my potential as an engineer (wait, I thought I wasn’t a “real” engineer?  Make up your bloody mind, mum) by making jewellery as well.  Most of her inane ramblings don’t bother me anymore, but there is still one that gnaws at me, one thought that I must still learn to detach myself from: going back to school.  I’m not going back to school any time soon.  While I began the process of looking into getting a master’s degree about a year ago, circumstances have prevented me from following through.  Fortunately, the only master’s program that I’m eligible for within reasonable commuting distance is “engineering management,” and as long as the job market acts as if I don’t exist, I see no reason to pursue a degree that serves no purpose other than to make money.  I don’t need to attend an institution in order to learn something, attendance is truly required only if I desire to work in the field, and require a piece of paper certifying that I know what I claim to.  There are benefits to attending classes beyond simply getting a degree, of course, but none of those are particularly important to me at the moment… and I just realised that I’m going into much more detail than I originally intended to about this example.  Now picture thoughts like this flooding my mind, infecting my dreams, and waking me up in the middle of the night.  Mere disruption of sleep, as well as lack of sleep, can exacerbate depression.  Whatever thoughts might keep a person up at night dominate the mind, and make focusing on important tasks rather difficult.  A single triggering thought can lead to an entire chain of hypothetical circumstances, worries, or even bad memories.  The key then, is to find a way to disconnect these ideas from each other, so that the mind can rest.  Regrettably, I don’t have an answer for this one yet, but I’ll update this post as soon as I figure it out.

Those who have depression are, frequently, their own worst enemies.  Some become complacent, partly because depression allows sufferers to indulge their own laxity to an unhealthy degree.  Change isn’t easy, after all.  On the other hand, some sufferers of depression aren’t good at communicating their problems, and therefore no appropriate solutions can even be offered.  After all, how could we know how to fix a problem if we can’t even identify it?  Likewise, social cohesion is considerably thinner than it used to be, with more and more people retreating into themselves, and not even noticing the cries for help in their midst.  There are plenty of perceptive people, however, but they may not know what to look for.  What those individuals need to watch out for is not chronic sadness or lack of bubbling enthusiasm, but a lack of energy.  It may seem like laxity at first, but if a person loses interest in something that was once their passion, it may be depression.  I don’t have all the answers, far from it, but I hope someone out there finds my Christmas ramblings helpful.

Getting Really Sick of the Anthroprogenic Climate Change Argument…

The climate is always changing, and humans weren’t always there to change it.  Even if it really is warmer now than during the medieval warm period, the planet IS NOT the warmest it’s ever been.  We still have ice caps, which didn’t exist for most (if not all) of the Mesozoic Era.  The planet has been through far worse than us.  I’m fairly certain that none of the above facts are in dispute.  However, I need to revisit this subject, because climate “scepticism” is, apparently, the worst type of pseudoscience.  By the way, before anyone attacks me for citing a single YouTube video, this is just the latest example.  If you want more examples, I’d be happy to provide them.

Normally, I wouldn’t bother beating a dead horse, but the video in question touched a nerve for two reasons: first, being sceptical is a good thing, and second, human impact on the climate is not understood as well as non-scientists tend to think.  I read the AAAS publication Science, so I actually have more access to raw data than armchair activists on YouTube, and I have yet to see a conclusive research article claiming that human activity is the single largest contributor to climate change.  Not that I’m denying that humans do indeed have a negative affect on the environment, and pollution is certainly a huge problem, but where’s aggregate conclusion?  I suspect that it doesn’t exist, because climate science is a much broader field of study than most people realise.

I’ll start with my opinion on pollution, because I agree with the stereotypical activist on this one, for the most part.  However, carbon dioxide is not what I’m worried about.  It’s an easy data point to measure, but one study (which I can’t find anymore, unfortunately) found that volcanoes pump far more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than any human activity.  I’m more worried about methane.  Methane is a much better insulator than carbon dioxide, and therefore a much more potent greenhouse gas, anywhere between 25 and 86 times as potent as carbon dioxide (depending on which study you look at; starting to see the problem?), and it’s produced mostly by industrial farms (methane burn-off from oil wells is, surprisingly, negligible) and landfills.  Methane also bubbles up from the bottoms of marshes, because it’s a product of decay.  The same process of decay at great depths also produces methane hydrate, an estimated 30 trillion tonnes of which is currently frozen at the bottom of the ocean, and it is very sensitive to changing temperature.  Fortunately, as long as the poles are still frozen, the planet isn’t warm enough for that to be a problem.

In the video I linked, Professor Stick points out, to his credit, that climate change alarmists don’t help solve the problem, they simply legitimise deniers when they get caught exaggerating the problem.  Maybe the intent is benevolent, but it’s hard to attribute the doomsday scare tactics to innocence when Al Gore is a lying tobacco farmer and oil baron with the personality of a shoehorn, and when Greta Thunberg is clearly a puppet who takes her anger toward the proverbial (and possibly literal) hands up her backside out on the rest of the world.  Seriously, somebody call child protective services and have them pay her house a visit.  However, returning to the subject of Professor Stick, he foolishly called his opponents on the subject “sceptics,” rather than “deniers,” and then glibly stated that humans are ruining the climate, as if this was established beyond all doubt.  If it’s established beyond all doubt, then why are all the legitimate climate studies in various disciplines not saying the exact same thing?!  A healthy scepticism is needed on the subject of anthroprogenic climate change, because there is no clear consensus.  Without knowing exactly what is causing climate change, how can we possibly hope to solve the problem?

This brings me right to my next point, which is the solution.  There is one, but it’s the responsibility of large entities (and large polluters) to implement it.  There is no solution that the average American or European can implement, given that, by country, the largest polluter is China.  The U.S. is a distant second, followed closely by India, which will soon pull ahead.  China is supposedly also the leader in “green” energy production, producing more electricity through wind and solar power than even the United States.  However, there are problems with this approach.  Wind turbines need a tremendous amount of oil to operate.  They use petroleum-based lubricants, and they are typically de-iced by helicopter.  They also kill bats and large birds, which has the conservationists up in arms, but that’s a topic for another time.  Likewise, although China has made some breakthroughs with solar cells (many of which I’ve read about in Science), even the new designs require rare metals, which require intensive mining operations.  I highly doubt Chinese mining equipment is electric, and even if it is, there is another problem I need to address: electric vehicles.  Environmental concerns regarding batteries aside, electric vehicles need to be charged.  Where is the electricity to charge them going to come from?  That was a rhetorical question, it comes from a power plant.  Since energy is conserved, then running a hundred electric cars off of a gas or oil-fired power plant is going to use the same amount of fuel as a hundred conventional cars with no electric power plant to speak of.  Replacing petrol-fuelled cars with electric ones simply puts more demand on the power grid, as do electric kitchen appliances and domestic electric heat.  Unless you cut the fossil fuels out of the power grid as well, the problem isn’t solved, it’s simply transferred from the public to the infrastructure.  If you want a perfect example of this, there are two countries to look at: Estonia and France, both of which have a larger percentage of electric cars on the road than any other country.  However, France also has a greater percentage of its electricity needs met by nuclear power than any other nation, while Estonia has mostly coal-fired power plants.  Estonia has not seen a significant change in air quality, for better or worse, since electric cars became commonplace, whereas France has significantly better air quality than 20 years ago.

Government controls are not going to solve this problem, which should come as a surprise to absolutely no-one.  Government has a terrible track record with this sort of thing.  Therefore, measuring pollution by nation is actually quite deceptive.  Since factories are generally owned by businesses, which love following regulations (that was sarcasm), then pollution ought to be measured by business, rather than by country.  The single largest polluter, by this metric, is… the U.S. military, which is exempt from emissions regulations imposed by the U.S. government onto civilians and private businesses.  Shocker.  Somehow, I suspect that the estimated emissions of U.S. Navy warships isn’t included when pollution by nation is measured.  Remember, the U.S. military operates in no fewer than 40 countries.  Since the state of California once penalised certain towns for having unacceptable levels of air contaminants after a polluted air mass wafted over from China, I highly doubt that the nation-based studies include only emissions of domestic entities, and not the contributions of foreign military vehicles within that nation’s borders.  None of my incoherent quibbles change the fact that China and India still have the worst air quality in the world, but their respective governments aren’t entirely to blame for that.  I’m not defending the Chinese and Indian governments, by the way.

Regardless of who is to blame for the pollution and what solutions can be implemented, I must still question the choice of words that climate activists use.  They are operating under the assumption that the science is already settled, and any conflicting studies are fake.  Well, when was it settled?  Where is the aggregate study showing the conclusions of all the completed research, and why is there still plenty of ongoing research providing new data?  Why is everyone complaining about carbon dioxide, when there are many more pollutants to worry about, some of which are far worse?  Most importantly, why is the information so hard to find?  I have access to actual research articles, and even I don’t see a clear picture.  Personally, I still maintain that the solution is to go nuclear.  I see wind and solar power as feel-good band-aids that are ultimately useless.  I’m on the fence about electric cars, mostly because of their short range, though the Tesla Cybertruck has me a little more optimistic.  Besides, I think my overall attitude is best summed up by the following meme:

climate policy meme

Strange Creatures of Rossbera, Part 4: Dire Toads

Sondor is probably the most interesting country that I’ve come up with, especially regarding its wildlife.  Effectively, it’s a time capsule, preserving populations of extremely old species, colloquially known as living fossils.  The non-mammalian cynodonts called weasel-rats were one example, but there are much more reptilian specimens as well.  The one I shall discuss today is found in drier regions, and also extends into the semi-marshy jungles of eastern Arcadia.

Dire Toad
Red Dire Toad, Batrachosuchus magnus

Despite its name and appearance, the dire toad is not a toad at all.  It’s not even an amphibian.  Its scientific name, Batrachosuchus, means “frog crocodile.”  Perhaps it would be more appropriate to call this animal a “frogodile.”  I had considered calling it “batrachosaurus,” which means “frog lizard,” but the contraction “frogzard” is already taken.  By the way, Batrachosuchus looks nothing like a frogzard.  It is an expressed hexapod, meaning that it has six limbs (frogzards have only two), though the first pair might not be noticeable at first, since they do not look like legs.  Batrachosuchus is closely related to the Sondorian Marsh Lurker, and both are classified together in a clade called Brachiodontosuchidae, which means “arm-tooth crocodiles.”  The clade is so-named because of a synapomorphy called a brachiodont, or “arm-tooth,” even though it’s not a tooth at all.

Brachiodonts are structures that exist only in my fictional world – no such thing has ever evolved on Earth.  They are functionally the same as pharyngeal jaws, but made out of legs.  The “tooth” is actually a single, oversized claw.  Transitional forms in the multiple lineages that spawned these creatures show that the claws first became absurdly long (which actually did evolve on Earth in a dinosaur called Therizinosaurus), then all but one of them reduced, and then the limbs became smaller and moved up the spine until they were situated right behind the animal’s head, thus functioning as pharyngeal jaws.  This feature has evolved independently three times: once in crocodilians, once in dinosaurs, and once in a bizarre clade of mammals called Plesiotheroidia.  In all three cases, its purpose is to aid in catching prey, usually by impaling it from two different directions, although the gigantic ambush predator Tyrannobrachiodontosaurus (I should probably come up with a shorter name for this tyranid-like critter) used its brachiodonts like the arms of a praying mantis to subdue sauropods many times its own size.  I’ll probably write a separate article about brachiodonts and their evolution after drawing up all the creatures that have them.  That article may even end up being the first in yet another series, depending on what other weird traits manifest from my twisted mind.

Despite the fact that the dentition of dire toads is virtually identical to those of true crocodiles, they do not eat the same way.  For instance, dire toads cannot use the “death roll” that crocs are known for, mainly because dire toads are mostly terrestrial, rather than aquatic.  Brachiodonts serve the dire toad well, since it doesn’t have the retractable tether in its mouth that amphibians and certain lizards have.  Therefore, it relies on additional appendages to hold on to prey that is struggling to keep away from the animal’s mouth.  Juveniles feed on rats and actual toads, while adults will happily swallow cats, dogs, and even goats (though they may not survive swallowing something that big).  As such, these creatures, which are about as long as large dogs and twice as wide, are quite dangerous to humanoids that trespass through their territory.  Though they prefer to swallow their meals whole, dire toads have sufficient bite force to remove limbs of any animal they get a hold of.  Fortunately, vigilant travellers can keep themselves safe quite easily, since dire toads are ambush predators, and not capable of hopping long distances quickly.  They are largely opportunists, sitting motionless for hours at a time in some of the densest foliage, keeping out of sight from passing animals.  With all this having been said, I’m not sure how I’ll incorporate them into the story.

I started work on cladograms for my fictional world as a way to not only explain how specific organisms evolved, such as flying dragons, but also as a means to come up with a larger variety of novel creatures.  I’m probably overthinking this entire worldbuilding process, but it’s fun, and now that I have time to work on designs again, I may actually finish them.

How Politics Ruined Public Education

It’s been a while since I wrote anything on the topic of education, and I have other projects that I need to stop putting off, but when thoughts get in my head, I feel compelled to write them down.  The current “trigger,” as I might call it, was an interview with Dr. E. Michael Jones on BitChute.  The subject of the video isn’t important for the points I intend to make in this post, much less whether or not I agree with Cullen or Jones.  The only reason I cite it is because it is yet another line of evidence that public education is failing – in Ireland.  It failed in the U.S. decades ago, and today, I’m going to discuss why.

I am not, nor have I ever been, against the concept of public education.  However, like many benevolent causes, such as labour unions and Planned Parenthood (both rants for another time), public education has since become corrupted.  This is what happens when money and politics infect any endeavour.  Now, before I continue, since the topic of this post concerns Europeans as well as Americans, I must explain something about the American public school system that differs from the systems of most European countries.  The United States does not have a nationalised school system.  There are few standards at the state level, and even fewer at the national level.  There have been many efforts to formulate national standards, and the U.S. Department of Education is obsessed with standardised testing – a concept that most Europeans probably find completely alien.  However, standardised testing doesn’t work, because the schools themselves are not all the same.  Public schools are governed by local politics, and if you think politics at the federal level is a farce in this country, the politics of most local areas isn’t any better.  Furthermore, the efforts to make sure the students all perform the same have all been dishonest bait-and-switch tactics.  The No Child Left Behind Act, in particular, was not, as you might expect, and effort to make sure that every student had a firm grasp of the curriculum before moving on to the next lesson (though there are problems with that method in itself), but would de-fund schools if the average standardised test score was too low.  By the way, I had originally intended to go in chronological order with the various problems that government interference has caused with the public education system, but I’ve already started with a fairly recent event, so I may as well jump around a bit.

Before I return to the history of the public school system, I need to explain how schools are funded and operated, for those who don’t already know.  In most states, they are paid for through property taxes, which are collected at the local level, but school districts do not coincide with either townships or counties.  Naturally, wealthier areas have better-funded schools.  Teachers are hired just like any other employees, and they must be licensed, just as they are in Europe.  However, the administrators are elected officials, and do not need any sort of qualification.  These are the people who determine what is taught in school, not the teachers, and they are elected based on what the parents want from the schools.  This may sound nice on the surface, but democracy works only when the voters are informed and concerned with the well-being of all who are affected by the election, not just themselves.  Parents are quick to criticise the public schools for not teaching children anything, but never their own school district, as long as their children are getting good grades (whether the children are actually learning anything never seems to come up in conversation).  Ah, yes, another concept that is probably alien to a lot of Europeans is the constant grading, from ludicrous amounts of homework and [nearly] daily pop quizzes.  None of it is designed to teach the students anything, but to keep them busy.  This is one of the many reasons that public school is known as “taxpayer subsidised daycare” in this country.

Since school administrators are elected by popular vote, then the schools ought to reflect the culture of the district, right?  Well, Americans tend not to be quite so politically active: most are too busy working to vote in local elections, much less become properly informed about whom they would be voting for.  The ones who are politically active, however, usually have an agenda to push.  This is how communists in California and evangelicals in Texas sabotaged the public school system.  I don’t know who fired the first shot, but the schools have become a battleground of reactionary politics because of extremist policies being pushed in both states.  However, you might think that, because the schools aren’t nationalised, that what happens in these two states would stay there, right?  Well, even if the schools aren’t effectively nationalised, the textbook publishers are.  California and Texas are the two largest purchasers of textbooks, respectively, and if California isn’t buying in any given year, then publishers will alter that year’s edition to match the demands of the Texas State Board of Education.  Furthermore, it is said that “as California goes, so goes the nation,” which used to be a good thing, but it has become rather frightening in recent years.  No-one is more hostile to Californian policies than Texans, and many Californians are actually fleeing to Texas to escape the collapse of their own state.  One hopes they don’t vote for the same policies that caused such a collapse in the first place, but that’s a topic for another day.  For now, I need to explain what I mean when I say that communists and evangelicals sabotaged the school system, but I need to go off on a tangent first.

When I think of a public education system that should be emulated, I think of the Soviet Union.  Odd, for someone who criticises communism, I know, but the Soviet system was far more meritocratic and, ironically, less communist than the current American system.  Children in the Soviet Union would be carefully monitored, but not constantly tested, and would be pushed into different programs depending on their aptitude.  This included a strong emphasis on trades from an early age, because the Soviet Union needed lots of factory workers and farmers.  College education was reserved for the few who showed higher academic aptitude, and would therefore be more productive as engineers, scientists, or artists.  Yes, artists.  Contrary to popular belief, the arts were well-supported in the Soviet Union, and not just because the government needed people to paint propaganda posters.  However, American educators reject every facet of the Soviet system, calling it “tracking,” failing to realise the hypocrisy that every student in the American public school system is on the college track.  American students are being tracked, and most of them for failure.

“Everyone should have an equal opportunity to go to college.”  This is the reason that American schools are all college-prep schools, at least in theory.  Trade schools no longer exist at the pre-college level.  Machinists and welders have to go to college to learn their trade, because those programs aren’t offered for younger students, not least of which because of the pearl-clutchers who don’t want their children getting dirty, or hurt, or not having a college degree and being denied opportunities because of it.  Most of them don’t realise that the current state of the public school system is the reason no-one can get a job in this country without a college degree, especially if a high school diploma is no longer a guarantee that a person can even read.  Colleges, meanwhile, have capitalised on this crisis (they are businesses, after all), offering 00-level courses for students who didn’t receive a proper education beforehand, effectively putting them all on the five-year plan.  I realise that five-year plans are not inherently communist, but the connection there is too strong for me to ignore.

Now that I’ve discussed how the communists ruined education, it’s time to discuss how the evangelicals ruined it.  Now, I imagine most of you reading this are thinking “they don’t like evolution.”  That’s true, but that’s not all they have a problem with.  As I said, I don’t know who fired the first shot in this perceived culture war, since said culture war pre-dates public education in the United States, but religion is relentless, and they don’t like the idea of secular public education.  Regardless of their stance on evolution, the greatest complaint from evangelical Christians is that Madalyn Murray O’Hair “took prayer out of schools” in 1963, which is a complete misrepresentation of what actually happened.  She took mandatory prayer out of schools, pointing out that it was a clear violation of the First Amendment.  Students could still pray in school if they wished, and no-one would stop them, not least because that too, would have violated the First Amendment.  However, evangelicals feel persecuted when they aren’t allowed to force their religion upon others, so they took this perfectly reasonable Supreme Court decision as an attack on their religion.  Personally, I view them as fragile snowflakes, no different from the modern social justice warriors.  This is exactly what you would expect from someone who lives in an echo chamber, whether it is a classroom or a church.

Perhaps I should cool it with the insults.  After all, there is one good thing that religion has done for education in the United States: it legalised homeschooling.  Actually, homeschooling has always been legal in the United States, but every state in the union had laws against it until 1972, when, once again, a Supreme Court decision overruled those laws because they violated a Constitutional Amendment (the 14th, in this case).  Homeschoolers, unfortunately, have a poor reputation (especially outside the U.S.), mainly because they are seen as under-educated religious fundamentalists.  College professors tend to disagree, and here’s why: homeschooled students who attend college were usually raised by parents who were dissatisfied with the poor standards of public school system, whereas parents who homeschool for religious reasons usually discourage their children from attending college.  Curiously, a 2012 survey of homeschoolers in the U.S. showed that 74% of parents did so for academic reasons, but only 64% did so because they wanted to provide religious instruction.  A 2007 study had also found that, while the leading reason for homeschooling was religious, only 35% of participants claimed that it was their primary motivation, compared to 17% homeschooling primarily for academic reasons.  However, there is a third category that is much more important, and ties in to a far more concerning issue in the United States: school environment.  In the 2007 survey, concerns about the school environment were the primary reason for homeschooling among 21% of participants, and an overwhelming 91% of participants in the 2012 survey said it was one of their reasons.  This may have something to do with the fact that public schools are basically prisons, and I need to explain what I mean by that, too.

Public schools have extremely high security in the United States, comparable to federal government buildings in districts that have the money for it.  The building is locked down during school hours, keeping punctual students in and tardy students out.  Students’ every move is carefully controlled and monitored, multiple security checkpoints with metal detectors exist, and, in many districts, students must have transparent bags for all of their books and other supplies.  For female students, feminine hygiene products are not exempt from this requirement.  Students are also subject to searches of bags and lockers (by police, not school staff) on a regular basis for weapons, drugs, and other contraband.  This is why I say that school is like prison.  Now, while I love the saying “never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity,” I cannot help but draw a connection between the high-security schools and the fact that the U.S. has a higher percentage of its population currently incarcerated than any other nation (and no, that statistic doesn’t include the detention centres at the southern border).  The bells and strict schedule were originally meant to prepare students for factory work; perhaps the lockdowns and searches are meant to prepare students for prison, since a good portion of them will end up there.  For you Europeans who think that homeschooling is a bad thing, and are glad that it’s probably illegal in your country (I know it’s illegal in Germany), have I changed your mind yet?

I need to return to the subject of evangelicals ruining the schools for a moment, because this is a story of reactionary politics that will make your blood boil, if you haven’t already heard it.  Early in 2010, footage began circulating around the internet of the Texas State Board of Education actively “whitewashing” their history textbooks.  When asked why he pushed such changes, despite protests from other board members, chairman Don McLeroy insisted that such changes were exactly what his constituents elected him for.  Specific omissions included hip-hop music, mentions of “people of various racial and ethnic origins,” and any mention of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, not for any of his legal decisions, but simply because he was black.  The justification was that “we want to promote All-American culture, not African-American culture.”  Shortly thereafter, California began amending history textbooks as well, smearing George Washington and Thomas Jefferson as “white supremacists,” and directed teachers to place special emphasis on the fact that they owned slaves.  These events kicked off a race war within academia, and exposed the social justice movement for what it was: pure reactionary politics.  In the wake of what I would describe as a puerile political flame war, both the NAACP and ACLU have largely lost respect from the American people.  This phenomenon isn’t limited to race, either.  Once again turning to the Supreme Court (and once again jumping around the timeline a bit), when President Reagan nominated Sandra Day O’Connor, evangelical Christians protested, claiming that such a decision went against everything the Republican party stood for.  Ironically, the reason that O’Connor is relevant today is because California school administrators have removed her name from textbooks, purely as a reaction to Texas doing the same thing to Justice Marshall.  O’Connor was the first female Supreme Court Justice, but since she was appointed by a Republican president, she must be tossed into the memory hole and replaced with Ruth Bader Ginsburg (the second female Supreme Court Justice, appointed by Democrat Bill Clinton), it would seem.  No, you’re not reading satire, public school administrators in this country really are that petty.

In closing, I would like to warn my readers that a massive exodus from public schools would not solve the problem, and here’s why: public schools may be dissolved if they can be shown to have failed.  Many political activists, mostly conservative, are against public education, and will do everything in their power to make it fail.  The No Child Left Behind Act, after all, was passed by President George W. Bush, a Texas Republican.  If the schools are made to fail, and they are closed as a result, then it will be years or decades before public education is restored.  Meanwhile, the only people with an education will be those whose parents have the means to teach them at home (or can pay for private school), thus denying an education to those whose parents need to work.  One could argue that is already happening, because if both parents are working, then they largely won’t care what happens in school.  The result, and this is already happening, is the creation of an apathetic and exhausted working class, followed by the subsequent disappearance of the middle class.  While detractors of the “property party,” such as Noam Chomsky, might say that this is the result of unrestricted capitalism, I would point out that the Soviet Union had the exact same problem: everyone was equally poor, save for the political class.  This isn’t a problem that can be legislated away, it must be educated away.  People must know that they cannot simply drop their children off at daycare, and expect that they will be prepared for life simply because they keep getting gold stars and participation trophies.  Such things are pacifiers to keep parents blissfully ignorant and apathetic, and the price of apathy is to be ruled by evil men.  Never forget the words of Plato.  Better yet, read the works of Cicero, who had some interesting things to say about education as well.

 

New Tank Database

Today, I finally finished work on a second tank model database.  Unlike a previous post on this blog, which is for Shapeways models, the new database is for models that I’m printing myself.  The new database is up on my website, and contains direct links to main entries as well as individual products, along with the prices.  Here is what it looks like:

Database preview

As you can see, these are a lot cheaper than from Shapeways.  I ended up pricing them in such a way that ordering even large quantities of a single vehicle is no more cost-effective either way, but that ordering small quantities (or one of everything I offer) saves my customers money (as long as they are outside the UK, because of the enormous tax on non-EU goods).  I fully intend to offer different scale options on each product page, so there isn’t a need for me to add hyperlinks to the price entries.  I intend to add different colour options as well, but that will come later, and will not affect price.  I will probably offer dark olive fairly soon, only because it will look better in photographs.  However, I see no reason to offer either grey or beige until I have a larger collection of German and British tanks, respectively.  Beige will most likely appear first, for the simple reason that Soviet vehicles were painted beige when in Syrian or Egyptian service.  Besides, I intend to paint one of each vehicle currently in my inventory, this way my photos will look better and, hopefully, draw more eyeballs.  As it is, I have yet to experiment with any sort of SEO, so the vast majority of my traffic is coming from Wargaming 3D.

Much as with Shapeways, my intent with this database is to make finding specific products easy.  There are three ways to browse for products, but the database is the only effective way to search – and also compare prices, to see if ordering the larger scale is worth it.

Expanding Miniature Inventory

Today, I took another batch of pictures and posted them to Steemit.  Click here to see them all.  I’m building up an inventory of 1:285 scale tanks, while also testing some of my model ships.  Some of these ships I will sell the files for on Wargaming 3D, but others I’m just making for fun, at least for now.

DSC_0489

DSC_0496

Currently, there are 41 different tanks available for sale in my shop, and you can buy the files for 34 of them.

I have two separate plans for the future, and I’m not sure which I will be able to make progress on first.  The first plan is to begin printing in different materials, particularly castable wax, so that I can start selling jewellery.  I need some new ideas in order to proceed, however.  How many stars of chaos would I ever sell?  I also have two or three diamond ring designs that I’ve never showed anyone, but I need more than that.

The second plan is to expand my online miniature shop.  Currently, the title page is “Kaja’s Tiny Tanks,” but I intend to make that a section later on, with other shop sections devoted to ships, buildings, and other things, while the home page returns to my original title of “Kaja’s Models and Machinations.”  I need more ideas for that, too.  The fictional factions from The Nine Empires would fill up an entire section easily, but that’s a very distant goal to meet.  I’m test-printing two airships as I’m writing this, and depending on how well they come out, I may be able to proceed with that fairly soon.  I need to practise painting first, of course.

There are many more experiments to perform in the mean time, and as soon as I get the wash unit (another few days), I’ll probably make a video showing the printing and post-processing of a tank batch.  If you’re even remotely interested in what I do, please leave me a suggestion.

That is all, I need to get back to work.