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Saturday, May 31, 2014

20 Things You Didn't Know About... Noise


20 Things You Didn't Know About... Noise

 

Did you know the Big Bang was noiseless? 

 


1. The Big Bang was noiseless. Everything in the universe expanded uniformly, so nothing came into contact with anything else. No contact, no sound waves. 

2. Astronomer Fred Hoyle coined the term Big Bang in the ’50s, not because he thought it was noisy, but because he thought the theory was ridiculous. 

3. For a really big bang, you should have heard Krakatoa in 1883. On Aug. 27, the volcanic island in Indonesia erupted with the explosive power of 200 megatons of TNT. The eruption could be heard nearly 3,000 miles away, making it the loudest noise in recorded history. 

4. There are people who would outdo it if they could. They pack their cars with stereo amps to pump out 180-plus decibels (dB) of noise at so-called dB drag races. That’s how loud a jet engine would sound — if it were a foot away from your ear. 

5. Jets get a bad rap. According to psychoacoustician Hugo Fastl, people perceive airplane noise as if it were 10 dB greater than the equivalent noise made by a train. 

6. Since the decibel scale is logarithmic, growing exponentially, that means a jet sounds 10 times noisier than a train when the noise levels of both vehicles are objectively the same. 

7. The only difference is that people find plane noises more annoying. The effects are dubbed the “railway bonus” and “aircraft malus.” 

8. The first known noise ordinance was passed by the Greek province of Sybaris in the sixth century B.C. Tinsmiths and roosters were required to live outside the town limits. 

9. Recognizing noise exposure as an occupational safety hazard took longer. The first scientific study was initiated in 1886 by Glasgow surgeon Thomas Barr. After he tested the hearing of 100 boilermakers, he determined that incessant pounding of hammers against metal boilers caused severe hearing loss. 

10. One of Barr’s solutions to the problem of “boilermaker’s ear” was to suggest that clergymen shave their beards so that workmen could lip-read their sermons. 

11. No wonder unprotected boilermaking was a problem: The human ear can perceive sound waves that move the eardrum less than the width of an atom. 

12. You can fight noise with noise. The first patent on “active noise cancellation” dates to 1933, when German physicist Paul Lueg proposed to silence sound waves by simultaneously generating waves of the exact opposite orientation. The principle is now used in noise-canceling headsets. 

13. Bring yours to the bar. Researchers at the Universit√© de Bretagne-Sud have found that men imbibe more than 20 percent faster when ambient noise is cranked up from 72 to 88 dB. 

14. And people are only getting louder. According to the World Forum for Acoustic Ecology, the volume of an animated conversation between Americans increased by 10 dB during the ’90s. 

15. Social and ambient noise causes hearing loss, often misdiagnosed as an effect of aging. Preventing it would require that cities become 10 dB quieter. 

16. Deafness isn’t the only medical danger of noise exposure. The stress causes some 45,000 fatal heart attacks a year in the developing world, according to researcher Dieter Schwela of the Stockholm Environment Institute.

17. And then there’s the unintended assault on ocean dwellers by noisy navy sonar. The disorienting sound drives beaked whales to beach themselves, and it makes humpbacks extend the length of their songs by 29 percent. 

18. To carry the same amount of information in a noisier environment, the whale songs have become more repetitive. Noise can be the nemesis of any signal. 

19. Except when noise is the signal. Back in the ’60s, Bell Labs astronomers Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson kept picking up static with their radio telescope. They eventually realized that the noise was the sound of the universe itself, a remnant of a dense, hot plasma that pervaded the early cosmos. 

20. Their discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation won them the Nobel Prize because the remnant heat showed that the universe must have begun with a violent explosion. Sorry, Fred Hoyle. The Big Bang is proven.

 

From Discover Magazine

Proselytizing With Pandemics, by D.C.

Proselytizing With Pandemics, by D.C.

Perhaps in the nature vs. nurture debate, it is going to turn out that people worried about emergency preparedness are just born that way. Certainly, I have tried for years to persuade many of my skeptical friends that having, say, some extra food on hand or some means of personal protection, or even a backup source of energy greater than an extra D battery, is just plain common sense. What I have experienced in response to my well-intentioned suggestions are rolled eyes, turned backs, and closed minds. I’ve pretty much despaired of ever making even the smallest dent in their evident disdain; I figure maybe it is just the way they are, like a law of nature or death and taxes. Maybe, but then again, maybe not. I’ve recently found that there just might be reason for the smallest sliver of hope on my part; for at least a select few, there may be a way to coax out some common sense. Let me explain.

An Opened Door

My youngest daughter lives in downtown Los Angeles and dates a boy who is predictably “left coast” in his attitudes– negative towards guns, prepping, and pretty much anything or anyone to the right of Hillary Clinton. I try to avoid talk of politics and religion when I’m around him, if only because, given the state of things, who needs more stress and conflict in his life? However, when I called her several months ago to see how her job search was going, I found them together and somewhat shaken by their most recent earth tremor. This particular one had not been terribly destructive, especially by California standards, but “it went on and on and on, and I thought it never would stop!” moaned my daughter. (I wanted to say, “If you live in downtown LA, earthquakes would seem to be the least of your worries”, but I was a good father and bit my tongue.) What bothered her boyfriend most was that in one particular area north of them, gas and electricity had been cut off for a rather long period of time. “If the ‘big one’ ever occurred, what would we do if that happened to us?” he exclaimed to my daughter. “No lights, no water. How would people react?” I thought I might be hearing one of those “mugged by reality” moments.
“How about putting a case of bottled water in your apartments, or maybe a case in each of your trunks,” I suggested. He agreed that sounded like a good idea. What I had not known was that his mother and her boyfriend had just recently been returning home to San Francisco from visiting one of his siblings. Their car had broken down at night in one of those “God-forsaken” parts of California that people back east don’t even know exist. They had not died of hypothermia because the man had left, by accident, some blankets in his trunk. Putting survival items in the trunk now seemed like the very definition of good sense to the boyfriend.
I knew I had to act fast. “When is your birthday?” I asked. It turned out to be just a couple of weeks off. (It was obvious to me at that moment that God was on my side.) “How about I send you something you can keep with you or in your car to help out if need be?” “That would be great!” he exclaimed, but honestly that might have been more a factor of someone caring enough to give him a present than any particular safety concerns. I rushed to Amazon, bought a good quality carabiner keychain, a compact whistle, the tiniest LED flashlight I have ever seen, and a small magnesium fire starter. I hooked them all together and threw in one of those credit card survival tools to boot. Now people online will argue back and forth ad infinitum about the pros and cons of the smallest piece of survival gear, as if the fate of mankind hung in the balance. Frankly my dear, in this particular case, I didn’t give a care if this was a particularly good set of tools to carry on a key chain or not. I had bigger fish to fry. The door had cracked open, and I needed to get an attractive-looking foot into it before it slammed shut.
What next? How do I exploit this opening?
Now when I am trying my best to convince acquaintances of the need to prepare by talking about electromagnetic pulses, biological and chemical weapons, or even attacks on the electrical grid, I am usually met with something akin to a yawn and “yeah, yeah, like that is ever going to happen”. Like the “black swan” metaphor of risk fame, if it hasn’t happened yet people find themselves incapable of even conceiving the possibility.
However, that response (or more properly, non-response) won’t do when the subject of pandemics is raised. Pandemics are real. They’ve happened in the remote past, the less distant past, and in the recent past. It is (almost) impossible to argue that they won’t happen again. Plus, unlike our hypothetical chemical attack, everyone has “seen” the flu– personally and up close. Mention a flu epidemic and the first thing people visualize is their pathetic and suffering selves, wrapped in blankets wishing they were dead. Influenza happens.
Then I realized, there it is. If we want to start people on the path to understanding the importance, not to mention the necessity, of emergency preparedness, you first must address a perceived need.
As an aside, it is interesting that this issue of convincing a “non-believer” has been addressed by Christian philosophers since almost the very beginning of the faith. “Believe, and the rationale will suddenly make sense,” the theologian says. “I’m not going to believe, until it makes sense,” replies the non-believer. As St. Augustine said, nobody ever believed what they didn’t first think was rational. Pandemics are rational.

The Pandemic Emergency Kit

So the remainder of this article discusses the Pandemic Emergency Kit I assembled for my daughter, and by extension, her boyfriend. It is designed to meet three (3) goals:
  1. Treat the infected individual,
  2. Keep the caregiver healthy and free of the infection, and
  3. Support both of them for a period of at least thirty days, while meeting and travel bans are in effect.
The kit is based in large part on a paper written by Dr. Grattan Woodson, MD, FACP for his own patients[1]. I included a paper copy of this article in the kit, since it contains a lot of diagnosis, treatment, and explanatory information. I added my own twist, based on a paper describing a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study into the use of Elderberry syrup (Sambucol®) to treat flu patients.[2] The study specifically looked for immune system response to viral pathogens (cytokines). The conclusion of the researchers was that formulations of Sambucol® activate the immune system by increasing cytokine production. I’ve listed another study[3] below that can be referred to by anyone caring to do so.
Goal 1 – Treat the Infected individual
The treatment of influenza has progressed very little in the last hundred years. We do have anti-viral drugs, such as Tamiflu®, but it is a prescription medication and, if not administered within the first two days of the infection, is pretty much useless. As several Internet writers have noted, it usually takes one day just to realize you have the flu. So in a flu pandemic, are you realistically able to get an appointment, see your doctor, get to a well-stocked pharmacy, and administer the drug, all within the time limit? Not likely. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough to be concerned about with trusting to Tamiflu®, it turns out that it is not that effective, even when you do meet all of the above conditions.
So the treatment (and hence the kit’s contents) are going to be pretty much the standard things your mother used to use– keep the patient comfortable, push clear liquids, and don’t let them infect others.
The kit’s Goal 1 contents include:
A basic fluid solution to be mixed from the following:
  • Salt – 1 lb.
  • Sugar – 10 lbs.
  • A source of clean water (not included)
General items for comfort:
  • Baking soda – 6 oz.
  • Caffeinated tea – 1 lb.
Over-the-Counter items for treating symptoms:
  • Tums Ex: 500 tablets
  • Baking soda – 6 oz.
  • Ibuprofen 200mg. – 100 tablets
  • Benadryl 25mg – 60 capsules
Essential equipment for measuring and recording progress and mixing the basic fluid solution:
  • Kitchen measuring spoons and cups
  • Electronic thermometer
  • Blood pressure cuff
  • Notebook and pen or pencil
Dr. Woodson’s paper talks about using all of the above, including the protocols for making and administering the basic fluid solution. The suggested quantities are enough to treat one person. They could easily be scaled for larger groups. Again, the modest goals of the kit were based on willing adoption, not optimal quantities.
My particular addition for treating the viral infection was:
  • Sambucol® Black Elderberry Original Extract – 12 bottles, 7.8 oz. size
The Sambucol® website has a “Most Frequently Asked Questions” section that I also printed out and put in the kit. The suggested adult dose for periods of immune system stress is one tablespoon four times per day. Since we will want to treat both the patient and caregiver, we need enough for 30 days for two people. This was the most expensive item in the kit, but even then it was not unreasonable.
Goal 2 – Keep the Caregiver Healthy and Free of the Infection
The Sambucol® need for the caregiver was taken into account as part of the patient’s treatment kit. (The dose is lower– two teaspoons four times per day, for the caregiver.) The primary items needed now were to prevent the spread of the disease, which can be spread through both the respiratory and digestive tracts.
The kit’s Goal 2 contents:
  • Procedure Facemasks – 1 box of 50
  • Hand sanitizing gel – alcohol based
Non-alcohol-based hand sanitizers have not been shown to be effective against influenza virus strains. However, I did not include hand sanitizer in the kit, since they already use the stuff by the barrel.
Goal 3 – Support Both of Them For a Period of at Least Thirty Days
This was the most problematic, since the topic of food storage might potentially set off alarm bells of prepping. (Some have super-sensitive hearing in this area.) So instead, I relied upon expediency. Alright, they probably have enough in the house for two adults to eat for 5-7 days, so I went with seven days that they’d eat– not eat well, mind you, but eat. The sick person will definitely not be eating much during the illness, so taking these two points together we have already met the dietary needs of the patient. I went low again in figuring a one month’s supply of food for the caregiver, basing it as I did on 1200 calories per day. I thought survival bars, peanuts, and beef jerky would be adequate. Okay, it is not haute cuisine, but nobody’s going to die of starvation with that. Whenever I visit, I plan to drop a few items in the box.
I understand that my solution for Goal 3 probably was not sufficient, but my point here was not perfection; it was adoption. I only was trying to address pandemics, not other situations, which I hope they, one day on their own, will also recognize as representing threats.
I have discussed my pandemic kit with various friends, and I have found a surprising lack of push-back about the contents. “Not a bad idea” or “Would you write those down for me” are the most often heard responses. Some folks are never going to change, and I just have to accept this. They figure the government would never let a pandemic happen in the first place and, if somehow it did, that same government would take care of all of us. Unfortunately, I do not have a kit for that way of thinking.
So, where do things stand now? The kit has safely arrived and has been stored in the back recesses of the apartment’s hall closet. They seem genuinely appreciative. We’ve even discussed some alternative scenarios they might encounter. They’ve told several of their friends, a few of whom have asked for more information. So at least, at an implementation level, my idea seems to be bearing fruit, and I think it may also be starting to have another effect. The two of them are coming back east to visit with our extended family this summer. Her boyfriend has asked me take him to the pistol range.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. Always check the actual products for the most accurate ingredient information, due to product changes or research that may not be reflected above. The statements made in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Nothing above is intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. If you believe that you may have any disease or illness, please seek treatment with your healthcare practitioner immediately.

References


[1]http://crofsblogs.typepad.com/h5n1/files/ComingPandemic.pdf

[2]http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11399518

[3]http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6882/11/16


From the Survival Blog

Friday, May 30, 2014

Cast Iron Cooking


Cast Iron Cooking

The Outlines of the Monster



By Richard Fernandez in PJ Media

Eli Lake warns that al-Qaeda is setting up for the potential kill in Afghanistan. “As President Obama outlines what he promises to be the end of the war in Afghanistan, new U.S. intelligence assessments are warning that al Qaeda is beginning to re-establish itself there.”

Specifically, the concern for now is that al Qaeda has created a haven in the northeast regions of Kunar and Nuristan and is able to freely operate along Afghanistan’s only major highway—Route One, which connects the airports of Kandahar and Kabul.

 “There is no doubt they have a significant presence in northeast Afghanistan,” Mac Thornberry, the Republican vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told The Daily Beast. “It’s a lot of speculation about exact numbers, but again part of the question is what are their numbers going to be and what are there activities going to be when the pressure lets up.”

A look at the map shows what this implies. If you imagine a triangle with Kandahar, Kabul and Peshawar across the border as vertices, then al-Qaeda is positioning astride the Kandahar-Kabul and Kabul-Peshawar edges. If it cuts these links, the game is over. Eli Lake can also read a map and sees the obvious.
 

If Thornberry’s warnings prove correct, then Obama is faced with two bad choices. He either breaks his promise to end America’s longest war or he ends up losing that war by withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan too soon, allowing al Qaeda to re-establish a base of operations in the country from which it launched 9/11.

But Rep. Adam Schiff, “a Democrat who serves on the House Intelligence Committee” says that is the least Obama’s worries: “he said today the threat from al Qaeda was far more worrisome in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq.”  Somehow, without the press noticing, al-Qaeda has metastized.

Still, there are forebodings that some kind of ‘Tet offensive’ will happen in Afghanistan as soon as American forces become too small to make a difference.  The 10,000 troops Obama will leave in Afghanistan will buy him time, but not much else.  When they go it may be the Last Helicopter Out of Saigon again.

One U.S. intelligence officer whose focus is Afghanistan said al Qaeda and its allies have already gained access to the Kunar River Valley as U.S. forces began to draw down its presence this year.

Another concern for the U.S. military and intelligence community is the access al Qaeda now has to Route One, the highway that runs through the provinces south of Kabul that connects the capital city to Kandahar. The U.S. intelligence official said there remains disagreement on the group responsible for a massive truck bomb that was intercepted last fall before it could detonate at its target, Forward Operating Base Goode near Gardez in Paktia Province. “There is a lot of evidence that this was al Qaeda,” this official said….

Needless to say, this is not the picture of Afghanistan painted this week by Obama.

This is not a scenario that any military planner wants to contemplate. There’s drums along the Don too.

This week the clashes in Ukraine came perilously close to open warfare between the regular forces of that country and Russia. “DONETSK, Ukraine – It’s no longer about amateurs. There is a full-scale war going on, and it’s fought by professionals. The Russians are here – and they’re making a grab for power in eastern Ukraine.” This came as Russian “separatists” shot down a Ukranian Army helicopter, killing 12 including a general.

Pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine have shot down a military helicopter near Sloviansk, killing 12 people, the Ukrainian military says. It says the rebels used a Russian-made anti-aircraft system, and that an army general was among the dead.

There’s trouble in Russia, little ducks. Who will contain it? We heard Obama at West Point. Somebody else will. America just needs to find out who and join up with them.

This comes amid news that NATO itself is in crisis. The alliance is embroiled in an internal debate over how to deal with Russia. Some members are looking to meet the threat from Moscow using non-NATO structures. Edward Lucas, the author of The New Cold War, writes: “The old assumptions of NATO and EU solidarity, in the eyes of the countries most at risk, are being tested as never before. Some are privately wondering about new regional security relationships and arrangements to deal with the Russian threat. The existing Nordic defense cooperation, Nordefco, is gaining weight; it includes Sweden and Finland which are not NATO members.”

Some NATO members are frankly balking at joining in any new arrangements.  Turkey for one, wants no part of any arrangement that could lead to a face-off with Russia.

The new regional arrangements are controversial inside NATO, because they imply a failure of the existing system. Turkey objects fiercely to any NATO involvement with countries outside the alliance, fearing that it would set a precedent for NATO cooperation with Israel. That has jinxed experiments such as trying to get Swedish and Finnish warplanes involved in policing the airspace of Iceland, a defenseless NATO member. Any new arrangements are best sold as a complement to NATO — but in the background, the countries involved appear to realize that they may have to be a supplement, or in the worst case even a substitute.

The ulcers of the Obama years are now festering. The menaces, once so vague, are taking on a definite shape. America may potentially face severe security challenges in Eastern Europe (Ukraine, Poland, Baltics), Southwest Asia (Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan), the Middle East (Syria, Yemen, Iraq), North Africa (Libya, Egypt, Sub-sahara) and East Asia (South China Sea, North Korea, Taiwan and Japan). All of these hotspots are simmering, though none as yet have blown up into an severe international crisis.

But in each of these theaters the design margin is ebbing away. The potential for danger in each of them is growing and in time they will flow into each other. For American resources that must rush to meet one of them cannot also meet the other.  Once the trouble starts in one place, the bad actors in other places will seize their chance for mischief.

Nor do we see a president tirelessly organizing the bulwarks of democracy at every threatened point, unless he is doing so from the golf course or at fund raisers. It is in this context that Obama’s rambling “defense policy” speech at West Point should be understood.

It was his “no mas” speech, to quote Roberto Duran.

He sounded basically beaten and was making anticipatory excuses for what he knows is  likely to happen. The phrase “we have to recognize Afghanistan will not be a perfect place, and it is not America’s responsibility to make it one”, is a masterpiece of understatement. It’s a shrug from the same man who said in August, 2009 that:

“This is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which Al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans.

He’s gone from “war of necessity” in 2009 to “so what?” in 2014. His string of failures since 2009 have essentially converted all of America’s security challenges into “wars of choice” — in the phraseology of Richard Haas. He’s defined success downward to the point where it merely consists of pointing out where he’s going to get clipped next. “Wars of choice” stripped of its resounding name, essentially means Obama is hoping evade everything coming his way in the next few years by choosing not to war, even when the enemy is attacking in full force. In the case of Afghanistan, he is doing the minimum necessary to keep the symptoms of his failure from spilling out into the open.

How long before the crisis breaks? How long before something comes along he can’t run away from or fob off with a speech? No one can say. The calm may last indefinitely or it may shatter tomorrow. Events are no longer in the hands of Obama, but drifting on the winds of chance. The ball is rattling round the roulette wheel of history. Round and round it goes. Where it stops nobody knows. We’ve glimpsed the face of the monster in the woods. All we have to do now is hope he doesn’t come our way.

 

The Shawshank Residuals


The Shawshank Residuals

How one of Hollywood's great second acts keeps making money

 
By Russell Adams  in the Wall Street Journal

Bob Gunton is a character actor with 125 credits to his name, including several seasons of "24" and "Desperate Housewives" and a host of movie roles in films such as the Oscar-winning "Argo." Vaguely familiar faces like his are common in the Los Angeles area where he lives, and nobody pays much attention. Many of his roles have been forgotten.

But every day, the 68-year-old actor says, he hears the whispers—from cabdrivers, waiters, the new bag boy at his neighborhood supermarket: "That's the warden in 'Shawshank.' "

He also still gets residual payments—not huge, but steady, close to six figures by the film's 10th anniversary in 2004. Since then, he has continued to get "a very substantial income" long past the age when residuals usually dry up.

"I suspect my daughter, years from now, will still be getting checks," he said.

"Shawshank" was an underwhelming box-office performer when it hit theaters 20 years ago this September, but then it began to redeem itself, finding an audience on home video and later becoming a fixture on cable TV.

The film has taken a near-mystical hold on viewers that shows no sign of abating. Steven Spielberg once told the film's writer-director Frank Darabont that he had made "a chewing-gum movie—if you step on it, it sticks to your shoe," says Mr. Darabont, who went on to create "The Walking Dead" for AMC.

The movie's enduring popularity manifests itself in ways big and small. "Shawshank" for years has been rated by users of imdb.com as the best movie of all time (the first two "Godfather" films are second and third). On a Facebook page dedicated to the film, fans show off tattoos of quotes, sites and the rock hammer Andy, played by Tim Robbins, used to tunnel out of prison. Type "370,000" into a Google search and the site auto-completes it with "in 1966." Andy escapes in 1966 with $370,000 of the warden's ill-gotten gains. The small Ohio city where it was filmed is a tourist attraction.

In the days when videocassettes mattered, "Shawshank" was the top rental of 1995. On television, as cable grew, it has consistently been among the most-aired movies.

In a shifting Hollywood landscape, film libraries increasingly are the lifeblood of studios. "Shawshank's" enduring appeal on television has made it more important than ever—a reliable annuity to help smooth the inevitable bumps in a hit-or-miss box-office business. When studios sell a package of films—many of them stinkers—a "Shawshank" acts as a much-needed locomotive to drag the others behind it.

"It's an incredible moneymaking asset that continues to resonate with viewers," said Jeff Baker, executive vice president and general manager of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment theatrical catalog.

Warner Bros. wouldn't say how much money it has gleaned from "Shawshank," one of 6,000 feature films in a library that last year helped generate $1.5 billion in licensing fees from television, plus an additional $2.2 billion from home video and electronic delivery, according to SEC filings. But it's on the shortlist of films including "The Wizard of Oz," "A Christmas Story" and "Caddyshack" that drive much of the library's value, current and former Warner Bros. executives say.

"Shawshank" was adapted from a novella, "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption" by Stephen King, who sold the rights to then-unknown director Frank Darabont in the late 1980s for $5,000. When he wrote the script several years later, it circulated quickly through Hollywood.

Martin Shafer, a co-founder of Castle Rock Entertainment, was at an airport when he got a call from a colleague. "She said, 'You've got to read this script right away. This story pays off like a slot machine,'" Mr. Shafer recalls.

Castle Rock, which took its name from one of Mr. King's fictional settings, was interested and executives there reached a deal with Mr. Darabont. But when studio co-founder Rob Reiner read the script, he broached the idea of directing it himself. He'd already directed films based on Mr. King's work, "Stand By Me" and "Misery," and he'd just made "A Few Good Men" with Tom Cruise and was looking to team up with the actor on a new project. So Castle Rock offered Mr. Darabont a "pay-and-play" deal under which he would get a few million dollars and a guarantee to direct another movie, if he agreed to turn "Shawshank" over to Mr. Reiner. "We were making [Mr. Darabont] a multimillionaire," Mr. Shafer said.

Mr. Darabont said he took a night to think about it. "But it was never an option," he said. "Most of it boils down to, 'Why are we here?' That was a passion I was very determined to pursue and not just sell to the highest bidder."

Mr. Darabont cast Mr. Robbins as Andy Dufresne, a banker who is wrongly sent to prison for the murder of his wife and her lover, and Morgan Freeman as Red, an omniscient lifer who befriends Andy on the inside. In the book, he is a redheaded Irishman.

Mr. King recalls: "I said, 'Frank, at that time there were like 16 black men in the state of Maine, and you still want this guy to be black?'"

Mr. Darabont chose the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield to serve as the fictional "Shawshank" prison, so the cast gathered there in the summer of 1993 to start filming. The prison, which had been closed a few years earlier due to inhumane conditions, was "one of the creepiest places I've ever been in," said William Sadler, who played the dimwitted inmate Heywood.

Despite the grim surroundings, the actors sensed they were part of something big. During rehearsal, "We were joking around and looking at each other in joyful wonder that we all ended up in this movie," said Mr. Gunton, who played the sadistic Warden Norton.

Then it came out and nobody seemed to notice. Though the film received mostly positive reviews (some complained it was too long and corny), it brought in just $18 million at the box office. "Shawshank's" participants cite a variety of reasons for the film's early struggles, including a confusing title with religious connotations, no female roles and competition from the year's two megahits, "Forrest Gump" ($330 million in domestic box-office) and "Pulp Fiction" ($108 million).

"Shawshank" only began to get moviegoers' attention after the Oscars, where it received seven nominations (but won no awards) and promptly was rereleased in theaters. The second run grossed an additional $10 million and primed it for its debut on home video, which at the time was still a robust revenue source.

If Andy Dufresne was the movie's on-screen hero, off screen it was Ted Turner, whose Turner Broadcasting System had acquired Castle Rock in 1993. His TNT channel took the cable-broadcast rights to the film in 1997 and made "Shawshank" an anchor of its "New Classics" campaign.

Over the next few years, TNT and other Turner channels ensured that "Shawshank" never again would suffer from a lack of exposure. "Mr. Turner, bless his heart, chose to show the movie every five minutes," Mr. Darabont said.

"Shawshank" was becoming that priceless entertainment property—a repeater. Viewers watched it again and again. Those who initially may have been turned off by the idea of a prison drama born out of a wrongful conviction were drawn in by likable characters who inhabit a world where the true horrors of prison are left largely to the imagination. The movie's wholly satisfying conclusion—a universal fantasy—gives people hope.

"It took a while," said Mr. King. "It was like that song, 'On the Dark Side' [by John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown band, 1983]. "All at once, after a period of time, it became a big thing. So it wasn't like a Harry Potter thing that goes to the theater and—boom. In that sense, I think it was like 'Casablanca.' It's one of those movies that we think of when we think of that iconic American movie experience."

Mr. Sadler, like his co-star Mr. Gunton, says he can't go a day without someone mentioning the film. And yet when it comes on? "I get stuck on it like everybody else," he said.

In Mansfield in north-central Ohio, tourism officials five years ago established a tour to capitalize on what had become the area's biggest draw. The prison, courthouse and oak tree where Andy leaves money for Red are among 14 stops on the Shawshank Trail, which one weekend last summer drew about 6,000 people.

"Shawshank's" last 20 years offer a guided tour through the myriad and evolving revenue streams of the entertainment business. After grossing $28 million at the box office in North America and another $30 million overseas, it went on to the video rental market and by the end had made about $80 million in sales, Warner Bros' Mr. Baker said. Television licensing fees to date likely have surpassed U.S. box-office receipts, according to a person familiar with the studio's finances.

As a general rule, studios pocket about half of box-office revenue (less than that overseas), two-thirds of home entertainment sales, and almost all of TV licensing revenue. Based on those margins, "Shawshank" has brought in more than $100 million.

"Shawshank is the quintessential catalog movie," said Tom McGrath, a veteran studio executive who spent more than a decade at Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures.

As viewers watch movies in new ways—streaming on Netflix and other services on different devices—top-tier library films get new customers. Long term, that's good news for studios in a world where DVDs are disappearing. In the short term, studios are still treading carefully into new technologies, in part because there is "some debate over how to know what some of this stuff is worth, digitally," according to Rich Greenfield, a BTIG analyst. "Shawshank" isn't available to stream on Netflix, like other valuable properties.

On cable, "Shawshank" is at an age when the licensing value of many films diminishes, but its strength hasn't wavered. "Shawshank" and other films are now being licensed for shorter periods to a bigger and hungrier universe of distributors. "Shawshank" has aired on 15 basic cable networks since 1997, including six in the most recent season, according to Warner Bros. Last year, it filled 151 hours of airtime on basic cable, tied with "Scarface" and behind only "Mrs. Doubtfire," according to research firm IHS. "Shawshank," despite its virtually all-male cast, was the most-watched movie on Oprah Winfrey's OWN network in the latest season and in the top 15% of movies among adults 18-49 on Spike, Up, Sundance and Lifetime.

The movie's profits to date may sound small in a world where some films gross $100 million in a single weekend. But such figures only begin to show a movie like "Shawshank"'s long-term importance for a studio's financial picture. That's why there are six big studios: Smaller ventures that lack a reservoir of films have trouble surviving flops.

"Libraries are the basic profit engines," said Edward Jay Epstein, author of "The Hollywood Economist: The Hidden Financial Reality Behind the Movies." "When you license a movie from your library, the money goes directly to your bottom line," he says.

Films like "Shawshank" pad their studios' bottom lines in less-direct ways, too. Studios generally license movies in packages, sometimes bundling one or a small number of hits with dozens of lesser films. So-called "package leaders" such as "Shawshank" can give studios leverage in negotiations with licensees, and prop up the weaker films in the catalog.

"You say [to a cable executive], 'I can give you 'Shawshank' and their eyes light up," a former distribution executive at Warner Bros. said. "You don't market it. You don't spend any money pushing it."

Mr. King never cashed the $5,000 check Mr. Darabont sent him for the right to turn his story into a movie. Years after "Shawshank" came out, the author got the check framed and mailed it back to the director with a note inscribed: "In case you ever need bail money. Love, Steve."

 

How to Stir-Fry


How to Stir-Fry
 

Posters comments:

1)  Stir frying is a style of cooking.

2)  You don't need a wok to cook using the stir-fry idea. A decent skillet with high sides is just as effective.

            2a)  A "seasoned" (really oiled into the metal's pores) wok is just as "non-stick" as the more modern "Teflon" type cooking instruments.  Think making an omelet, for example.

3)  Everything I use is pretty much dual use. So, for example, I do have a cast iron wok which I can use over a fire or a stove.  I prefer a carbon steel rounded bottom wok with a ring, but that is not very dual use for me.

4)  The key is cutting up the ingredients (ahead of time) sufficiently so the pieces successfully stir-fry (cook).  Smaller pieces are best.

5)  Homemade won-tons (either fried or steamed) are so much better than the store bought versions from the freezer section of your local store. I make mine with a lot of meat and ginger, usually using ground pork from WalMart. Plan B is to pick out a pork roast (or some kind of meat) and have it ground up.

6)  The argument between electric and gas cooking I have heard a bunch. Both seem to work OK for me in stir-frying.  The key is preheating (really heating) the cooking instrument you choose to use.

7)  Presentation is important. The world is boring and hard enough. For example, if you make your own bread call it "artisan bread" vice "homemade bread". Use this idea when serving stir-fried food. You don't need Asian things to serve stir-fry, or even cook it.

8)  Cook's prerogative!  Eat (and test) your meal as you cook. What's wrong with being full when sitting down to serve and watch others eat their meal.

9)  Stockpile cooking oil and even shortening. They do have shelf lives, so keeping them in cool dark places does help in extending the shelf lives. One may be surprised how long the shelf lives are, by the way.  And some oils have higher "smoking" temperatures than others, so experiment with them (ahead of time) if you can. It is reported that peanut oil and canola oil is best, but any oil or shortening should be effective in stir-frying.

10)  If your store does not carry won-ton skins, consider buying (if they have them) egg roll skins and quartering them up to make won-ton skins.  These skins (both with egg and without egg) do freeze well, also.  Vietnamese "spring rolls" and Philippine "lumpia" provide good examples.  Both styles skip the eggs and are still tasty to most.

11)  Stir-frying does not require wrapping ingredients in a "skin", like a won-ton or a ravioli or a pierogi.  Often rice or another grain is offered as part of the meal instead of wrapping them in a skin.

12)  I  have made my own "fortune cookies" from scratch, so I know I can do it if I have to.  Coming up with the "filling" can be kind of fun and often appropriate, too.  Cooking the dough with a stir-fry technique did help me at the time, by the way.   One can par-bake the thin dough, too.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

To Ramadi and Back


To Ramadi and Back


May 28, 2014 · in Charlie Mike
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Ten years ago this week our brigade learned it was being deployed from South Korea to Ramadi, Iraq. The orders came on 18 May but because of the time difference between the U.S. and Korea most of us did not find out until we assembled for a formation on the morning of 19 May. The next few months were hectic as we went on block leave, turned over most of our equipment to units staying in Korea, and retrained in order to prepare for urban warfare in a desert climate. By August we were in Kuwait, and after a short period of acclimation training in its insufferable heat we headed to Ramadi. This was the last place many of our comrades ever experienced. Over the next 11 months scores would be either killed or wounded so severely that we never saw them again.

October 2004 was particularly cruel, as snipers, rockets and suicide bombers took Kim, Merville, Fortune, Beard, and Downing from us, in addition to several Marines operating on the other side of the river. By the time our tour ended the following summer dozens more had joined them, including Lozada, Toy, and Stevens. They weren’t the only casualties. There were also the civilian truck drivers whose convoy was ambushed outside of Habbiniyah on a hot spring day, and whose charred corpses greeted our reaction force looking like something from a horror movie. And of course Iraqi civilians also died, mostly people who found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Those who survived the tour were never quite the same. A year of working in high stress conditions with little respite from work, coupled with the reality of losing so many coworkers and friends, wore everyone out. Even our Brigade Commander was treated for PTSD in a highly publicized case that made the Army Times. At least one member of our unit would take his own life within days of returning to the states, while a few bad apples would go off and commit a serious of horrific crimes that would be chronicled in a 2010 episode of the PBS series “Frontline”. Happily however, the vast majority of us quickly adjusted and went on to lead fruitful lives. Many stayed in the Army, enjoying productive careers as NCOs, senior officers, and even Special Forces team members. Some retired after more than two decades of service to collect well-earned pensions and transition to civilian jobs that offered a slightly less stressful working environment. Others went on to become students, teachers, financial planners, nurses, dentists, police officers, engineers, and dozens of other positions that help comprise a functioning society.

As bad as the tour to Ramadi was, there were some lighter moments, and some unforgettable ones too, like seeing the walls of Ancient Babylon up close while on a helicopter recon, or the Bedouin family who appeared at our rifle range in the vast Kuwaiti desert, collected all of our spent shell casings, and disappeared into the horizon like a mirage. The desert sky at night could be breathtaking, especially when you could get away from the lights of the cities and FOBs. Living and working next to the Euphrates River every day was impressive, as was roaming the ruins of the old British RAF base in Habbiniyah, where you can still see the hotel, cinema, church, and graveyard where the bodies of those who fell in a 1917 campaign against the Turks rest.

The tour was a great deal of work and stress, more than most people will ever experience in their lifetimes. And for a lot of our comrades it was the last job they would ever perform. I am not by nature an overtly political person. However, I hope that everyone out there who fancies themselves a high–level policymaker, whether on the left or right, civilian or military, takes the time to consider the human costs of their decisions as Memorial Day fades into the rearview and our final years of this long war come to a close.

Every one of those who died during our tour in Ramadi, as well as the thousands who met their ends serving in other locations in Iraq and Afghanistan, had value and the potential to contribute to both our military and society. They had dreams. They were capable of love and of being loved, and they all left behind parents, husbands, wives, children, friends and pets who are still coping with their loss years later. While Memorial Day is over, there is no reason we cannot honor them every day, through our thoughts, actions, and demeanor.

 

Mark Murphy served as an Artillery officer in the United States Army’s Second Infantry Division in South Korea, Iraq, and Colorado from 2003-2006. He currently works as a Defense Contractor, and is also completing an Executive Masters of Business Administration degree at Washington University in St. Louis.

 

Shock Therapy for a 2014 Naval Academy Graduate


Shock Therapy for a 2014 Naval Academy Graduate

By Deborah C. Tyler in the American Thinker

 

Let’s open our therapy session in response to the mental abuse of Chuck Hagel’s speech at your commencement and for the humiliation that is dumped on you by your so-called leaders with a gut-check question: How do you feel when you look at Chuck Hagel’s face? What do you see in his eyes? Does he inspire you with confidence? Would you want to follow him into battle? Learn to trust your gut about people, it will serve you well.

 
When I first saw Chuck Hagel’s face at his confirmation hearing, I didn’t know who he was, but I got a sick feeling in my stomach just watching his hang-dog shiftiness. He seemed insincere. I thought, “This guy is going to be the Secretary of Defense? OMG, America is in trouble.”

 
There are two basic texts for leftwing commencement speeches. One stirs up hate against men like you, and the other slyly urges you to hate yourself. The former was what the fat-cat feticidal Nancy Pelosi followed when she urged the dupes at UC Berkeley to be “disrupters.” “Let’s you and him fight,” always pitting the American people against each other, is a ploy to keep the power in the hands of people like Nancy Pelosi. And for your commencement, Mr. Hagel gave you the blame-and-shame sexuality dogma you have been subjected to all your life. Your generation was terrorized from the time you were toddlers with the swill that the earth is burning up. But as a male, you were singled out for special blame and shame. In the progressive belief system, a selective original sin attaches only to heterosexual males. Shamed for being masculine, threatened with drugging for being active, called racist, homophobic, and blah blah for unreservedly loving America as she is today.

Why did Hagel harangue you about sexual abuse when your graduation should have been a day of unalloyed pride? Obama and Hagel can never grant you or your family even one day of feeling good about America or yourself.

Today, mental land mines are being planted in your life by your own leaders. Be careful where you tread because mental suffering is worse than physical suffering. Inflicting mental confusion is the most powerful tool for weakening the military. It is important for you to be honest with yourself about who “they” are. You are a man and a naval warrior and you have to face the truth about your leaders so you can act with wisdom and caution as your career unfolds. (And BTW, don’t be modest about your ambition. Modesty is the enemy of humility. God has given you this game to play -- so play to win!)

Obama never loved America. He was steeped in hating the American way of life from birth. I don’t think he had any important ambition for his life when he was a kid. Without a father, religion, or moral foundation he hung with the druggies and gang bangers as such boys do. He started taking himself seriously when he hit the elite universities and noticed his butt was being kissed all the time -- and that he liked it. Just as you trained at the Naval Academy, Obama trained in a worldview that militarism is obsolete, and that the American military is especially evil. They don’t talk about it openly as they used to, but elite academics still believe that military service is a form of mental illness, a psychosexual maladjustment that anyone who learns how to handle weapons is pathologically aggressive. Their psychological defense mechanisms are built within a granite fortress of rationalized ingratitude for America. Obama never looks demoralized because he has no moral foundation of gratitude for America.

But Secretary Hagel is different. He did have faith in America once and believed in the military. Why he lost that faith I don’t know. Maybe he recognized which side the bread is buttered on. But he seems to have lost that love for America. Even God has difficulty forgiving hypocrisy. Sin can be repented and forgiven, but hypocrisy never repents. I don’t blame Obama or Hagel for their post-nationalism. I blame them for their hypocrisy. They are free Americans. They have the right to their beliefs and to act according to conscience. But those rights do not come from the UN. If Obama or Hagel worked for Amnesty International or Doctors Without Borders… cool. But Commander in Chief and Secretary of Defense? That’s hypocrisy.

Every American is free to hope, to imagine, to work for a world without war. We all can dream of that world that no one has ever seen, yet somehow believe will arrive someday. To give up that dream of a better humanity without the cruel and unreasonable enterprise of war would surely be our spiritual death. I hope I am wrong, but I don’t believe Obama and Hagel are hastening the arrival of that day by unilaterally weakening America.

You need three kinds of faith as you go forward: faith in God, faith in America, and faith in yourself. The truth never weakens those forms of faith. The truth about God, America, and yourself always uplifts your heart and fortifies your spirit. If you feel shamed by a so-called leader, that is not the truth about who you are, it is an unhealthy mental subjugation. Even when you need to accept correction, if the admonition is in the service of truth, it might not feel good, but it will fortify your courage. As far as this perpetual peroration about sexual abuse, you don’t deserve it. You never sexually assaulted anyone, you never will nor will the overwhelming majority of your fellow midshipmen. Just as you shouldn’t be blamed for taking money that someone else stole, you shouldn’t be blamed for someone else’s sexual misconduct. This constant chastisement aims to manipulate the way you feel about yourself and to prevent you from holding our “leaders” responsible for their policies. Homosexual abuse is increasing in the military because of their policies. It has nothing to do with you.

Progressive sexuality dogma weakens all three forms of your faith. It goes against your faith in God and perpetrates a hoax that America is intolerant. It undermines your faith in yourself. And if you challenge the “new normal,” well there must be something wrong with you.

Mental abuse is not a relationship problem, it is the sole responsibility of the abuser. You can’t choose your leaders, but you can choose whether or not to trust them. Anyone who undermines your faith in yourself is not trustworthy. Let’s close our session with a quote attributed to the naval hero Oliver Hazard Perry, updated for these psychological times: “I have seen the enemy, and he is not my true self.”

Let’s open our therapy session in response to the mental abuse of Chuck Hagel’s speech at your commencement and for the humiliation that is dumped on you by your so-called leaders with a gut-check question: How do you feel when you look at Chuck Hagel’s face? What do you see in his eyes? Does he inspire you with confidence? Would you want to follow him into battle? Learn to trust your gut about people, it will serve you well.

When I first saw Chuck Hagel’s face at his confirmation hearing, I didn’t know who he was, but I got a sick feeling in my stomach just watching his hang-dog shiftiness. He seemed insincere. I thought, “This guy is going to be the Secretary of Defense? OMG, America is in trouble.”

There are two basic texts for leftwing commencement speeches. One stirs up hate against men like you, and the other slyly urges you to hate yourself. The former was what the fat-cat feticidal Nancy Pelosi followed when she urged the dupes at UC Berkeley to be “disrupters.” “Let’s you and him fight,” always pitting the American people against each other, is a ploy to keep the power in the hands of people like Nancy Pelosi. And for your commencement, Mr. Hagel gave you the blame-and-shame sexuality dogma you have been subjected to all your life. Your generation was terrorized from the time you were toddlers with the swill that the earth is burning up. But as a male, you were singled out for special blame and shame. In the progressive belief system, a selective original sin attaches only to heterosexual males. Shamed for being masculine, threatened with drugging for being active, called racist, homophobic, and blah blah for unreservedly loving America as she is today.

Why did Hagel harangue you about sexual abuse when your graduation should have been a day of unalloyed pride? Obama and Hagel can never grant you or your family even one day of feeling good about America or yourself.

Today, mental land mines are being planted in your life by your own leaders. Be careful where you tread because mental suffering is worse than physical suffering. Inflicting mental confusion is the most powerful tool for weakening the military. It is important for you to be honest with yourself about who “they” are. You are a man and a naval warrior and you have to face the truth about your leaders so you can act with wisdom and caution as your career unfolds. (And BTW, don’t be modest about your ambition. Modesty is the enemy of humility. God has given you this game to play -- so play to win!)

Obama never loved America. He was steeped in hating the American way of life from birth. I don’t think he had any important ambition for his life when he was a kid. Without a father, religion, or moral foundation he hung with the druggies and gang bangers as such boys do. He started taking himself seriously when he hit the elite universities and noticed his butt was being kissed all the time -- and that he liked it. Just as you trained at the Naval Academy, Obama trained in a worldview that militarism is obsolete, and that the American military is especially evil. They don’t talk about it openly as they used to, but elite academics still believe that military service is a form of mental illness, a psychosexual maladjustment that anyone who learns how to handle weapons is pathologically aggressive. Their psychological defense mechanisms are built within a granite fortress of rationalized ingratitude for America. Obama never looks demoralized because he has no moral foundation of gratitude for America.

But Secretary Hagel is different. He did have faith in America once and believed in the military. Why he lost that faith I don’t know. Maybe he recognized which side the bread is buttered on. But he seems to have lost that love for America. Even God has difficulty forgiving hypocrisy. Sin can be repented and forgiven, but hypocrisy never repents. I don’t blame Obama or Hagel for their post-nationalism. I blame them for their hypocrisy. They are free Americans. They have the right to their beliefs and to act according to conscience. But those rights do not come from the UN. If Obama or Hagel worked for Amnesty International or Doctors Without Borders… cool. But Commander in Chief and Secretary of Defense? That’s hypocrisy.

Every American is free to hope, to imagine, to work for a world without war. We all can dream of that world that no one has ever seen, yet somehow believe will arrive someday. To give up that dream of a better humanity without the cruel and unreasonable enterprise of war would surely be our spiritual death. I hope I am wrong, but I don’t believe Obama and Hagel are hastening the arrival of that day by unilaterally weakening America.

You need three kinds of faith as you go forward: faith in God, faith in America, and faith in yourself. The truth never weakens those forms of faith. The truth about God, America, and yourself always uplifts your heart and fortifies your spirit. If you feel shamed by a so-called leader, that is not the truth about who you are, it is an unhealthy mental subjugation. Even when you need to accept correction, if the admonition is in the service of truth, it might not feel good, but it will fortify your courage. As far as this perpetual peroration about sexual abuse, you don’t deserve it. You never sexually assaulted anyone, you never will nor will the overwhelming majority of your fellow midshipmen. Just as you shouldn’t be blamed for taking money that someone else stole, you shouldn’t be blamed for someone else’s sexual misconduct. This constant chastisement aims to manipulate the way you feel about yourself and to prevent you from holding our “leaders” responsible for their policies. Homosexual abuse is increasing in the military because of their policies. It has nothing to do with you.

Progressive sexuality dogma weakens all three forms of your faith. It goes against your faith in God and perpetrates a hoax that America is intolerant. It undermines your faith in yourself. And if you challenge the “new normal,” well there must be something wrong with you.

Mental abuse is not a relationship problem, it is the sole responsibility of the abuser. You can’t choose your leaders, but you can choose whether or not to trust them. Anyone who undermines your faith in yourself is not trustworthy. Let’s close our session with a quote attributed to the naval hero Oliver Hazard Perry, updated for these psychological times: “I have seen the enemy, and he is not my true self.”