Monday, June 29, 2020

This Knife Might Not Work Once

This Northwest Trail knife is built wrong. Clipped into your pocket, when you take it out, you have to flip it around before you can open it. You get what you pay for.

My neighborhood Walmart is my pharmacy and I enjoy walking the store while waiting for my presscription. The abundance of stuff speaks to our deep, broad, and wide prosperty, a direct consequence of the market economy. Free markets = free minds. Usually, as much as I like looking, I seldom buy. However, over the years, working in physical security and serving in the Texas Military Department, I have bought extra gear. I learned that lesson from a classmate in criminology. She looked into the trunk of my car and said, "You only have stuff for yourself. I always carry extra." 

And you can always use an extra knife. I never leave home without at least one knife and at least one way to make a fire. That was a lesson from a team-building exercise when I worked for Coin World. We had a series of monthly Monday morning meetings to get to know each other in order to improve our quality of worklife. There were about 40 of us from Coin World, Linn's, Scott's, the press operators, and pre-press at about six or eight tables. The last exercise was a survival scenario.

You are coming home from a vacation in South America with the team mates at your table. Your plane hits a storm and you go down. You crash land. The pilot is killed. The plane is unflyable. The radio does not work. You are all mostly all right. You have to come out together. This is an inventory of what you all packed on your vacation. Golf clubs... a bottle of rum... a .38-cal handgun with six bullets... a Christmas candle... and a bunch of other stuff I don't remember. Not everyone got out. One team gave up right away and decided to settle in place for the rest of their lives. The one press operator on our team said that she was going out on her own. I said that in real life I would join her and leave them behind, but we all have to come out togther, that's the rules. I told my team mates to leave the gun and the rum or not everyone is going to make it. They ignored that. One guy said to bring the gun so that we could fire it into the air to attract natives who would help us. I thought that was a bad idea on several levels. He asked why I wanted the Christmas candle. I replied, "To help make a fire." He said that we are in a jungle and can build a fire anytime. He said to bring the golf clubs. "Whatever for?" I asked. "To make a stretcher and carry someone who is wounded or to kill small game." The others saw the wisdom in both of those plans. You see, this guy was obviously the de facto leader, well known and well liked. It went on for about 45 minutes. Then they gave us the answer from the back of the book.

According to the Army Rangers, you stay with the plane for 72 hours. Someone knows you are missing. They will come looking for you. The plane is unflyable. If you hear help coming you can set it on fire as a signal. In any case, after 72 hours, set it on fire anyway and head out. Find a stream and follow it downhill. Somewhere near the water's edge, probably at the mouth of the river, you will find a village. Whatever you took, you always need a knife and a way to make fire.

Since that day in AD 2000, I never leave home without at least one knife and at least one way to make a fire. 

How many knives do you need? How many can you carry? As the public affairs officer for the Maritime Regiment of the Texas State Guard, I went out with our dive team several times. One time on shore, one of the divers was fussing with some line and needed to cut his knife free. He reached around left and right and went for the leg he was sitting on and then tried to lean over his tanks to grab his pack. I handed him one of mine. His unit leader saw that. "Don't you always have three knives?" he barked. "Well, yeah, but this one is tied up and ... " His leader shook his head and walked away. 

I do not know what I will do with the Northwest Trails knife. I won't toss it out, but I cannot have it for an everyday carry. My Victorinox is my EDC. When I retired from the TXSG, I stopped carrying the Benchmade that I always clipped to the right pocket of my ACUs. The Benchmade works the way a knife is supposed to. I still need a replacement for civilian life. (See, also Gibbs's Rule #9 from NCIS.) You can always use an extra knife; and in the worst case, it only has to work once.

When I was learning to fly, I was coming in a bit low, and the instructor pushed the yoke forward for a little more airspeed and lift. When we were done, he asked, "What you have done if you had come down in the bean field at the end of the runway?" I replied, "Stay with the plane 72 hours, then set it on fire and walk in to the terminal." 


Sunday, June 28, 2020

Austin’s Homeless: Laissez Faire in a Mixed Economy

Here in Austin, Texas, the reductio ad absurdum of the city government’s policies toward the homeless is that you (and all your friends) can take over any public space for your own use. The city council and mayor have declared de facto privatization. I want a school. They are not being used now and I can make good use of one. Once in, I will be hard to extricate because schools are defensible fortresses. (See, for example, The Girl Who Owned a City.) Perhaps you would like a park or a sports arena. Just find one that is not being used and make yourself a home. 


Menchaca and Ben White Jan 2020 and June 2020 

Austin Statesman

City Council rescinds measures that critics say criminalize homelessness

By Elizabeth Findell 

Posted Jun 21, 2019 at 3:36 AM

Updated Jun 21, 2019 at 6:14 PM


The Austin City Council early Friday rescinded city prohibitions on sitting or sleeping in public and panhandling — measures social advocates said wrongly criminalized homelessness — after hours of emotional testimony from passionate residents on both sides of the issue.


The decisions, made after 2 a.m. during a meeting that started at 10 a.m., capped a long day of intense discussion surrounding several homelessness-related votes at City Hall.


Ben White opposite Target Then 

Summary of Changes to the Ordinances

On October 17, 2019, the City Council made several revisions to the city ordinance that prohibits camping in public areas.  Other ordinances, including those prohibiting obstruction on sidewalks in the downtown area and aggressive confrontation, remain unchanged.  The ordinance changes went into effect on October 28, 2019.


The Texas Tribune

Greg Abbott says TxDOT could remove homeless camps from Austin's highway underpasses



The governor has vowed to use state resources to clear Austin's homeless residents from public spaces since city officials began changing local ordinances dictating where people can and can't camp.


Gov. Greg Abbott's office said Friday the Texas Department of Transportation could force homeless Austin residents out from under bridges and overpasses where some of them live or camp if recent changes to city ordinances don't result in less feces and fewer needles by Nov. 1.

Ben White opposite Target Now 


After more downtown stabbings, Abbott says Austin's 'reckless' policies on homelessness 'must end now'

Author: Drew Knight, Luis de Leon

Published: 5:16 PM CST January 24, 2020

Updated: 8:16 AM CST January 25, 2020

AUSTIN, Texas — After a series of Downtown Austin stabbings overnight left three people injured, Gov. Greg Abbott released a pointed statement for the Austin City Council on Friday.

"City of Austin leaders have allowed lawlessness throughout the capital city that is resulting in violence against Austin residents, including those who are homeless," Gov. Abbott said in a statement released to KVUE. "Last night’s tragedy, leaving three injured, is just the most recent instance of this violence. This rise in violence has corresponded with the revocation of the camping ban that the Austin City Council passed in June. Public endangerment and murder can no longer be tolerated because of the actions – and inactions – by City officials. Mayor Adler and the city council should re-instate the camping ban and restore the rule of law in Austin. The City’s gamble on these reckless policies has been a loser and must end now."


Fox-7 TV

Gov. Abbott working to override Austin homeless camping ordinance

By Steven Sarabia 

Published February 7 [2020]

Homeless Crisis FOX 7 Austin

While talking about Austin's homeless issues Wednesday, Abbott said on Twitter, "Next step should be to reinstate the ban on camping and work with non-profit organizations to assist with shelters. That's exactly what I will ask the Texas Legislature to do."

Wikipedia provided this definition from the Communist Party of Texas

LUMPENPROLETARIAT - German for "rag proletariat." Generally unemployable people who make no positive contribution to an economy. Sometimes described as the bottom layer of a capitalist society. May include criminal and mentally unstable people. Some activists consider them "most radical" because they are "most exploited," but they are un-organizable and more likely to act as paid agents than to have any progressive role in class struggle.  See


Previously on NecessaryFacts


Workers’ Paradise Promised an End to Money 

Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny 

Karl Marx and the Dustbin of History 

Furloughs for Freedom: Downsizing Government 

Toxic Leadership 


Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Désirée (Miss Kitty)

We put our cat to sleep last night. We adopted her from the Pets Alive shelter here in Austin on August 29, 2016. She seemed close to two years old then and was diagnosed feline leukemia positive. 

She was an indoor cat. She was content to be in her own space. She liked to sit on her tower and watch the street. She did hang out on the porch, often under it. A couple of times, she got through the fence to the neighbor's yard; and a couple of times she jumped into our front yard. The most interesting moment was when she was nowhere to be found in the house or in back. We found her in the front yard. But the front window screen was secured. Apparently, she pushed her way out and it snapped back into place behind her. 

She came into my office every morning to be petted. Then I would feed her while I made my coffee. At night, she sat with us and watched TV. 

The shelter listed her as Desiree. I liked the name for the 1954 film biography of Bernardine Eugénie Désirée Clary that starred Jean Simmons with Marlon Brando as Napoleon Bonaparte and Michael Rennie as Jean Baptiste Bernadotte. Laurel called her Miss Kitty, which was also okay with me for the Gunsmoke leading lady played by Amanda Blake. 


Saturday, June 13, 2020

Backyard Astronomy

As a member, I borrowed a Meade 10-inch Maksutov-Cassegrain Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope from the Austin Astronomical Society for the next three months. [Edited 24 Sept 2020.]

It took a couple of hours with the manual and practice indoors to understand the computer controls. Weighing about 80 pounds (35kg), it is meant to be set up and left outdoors, if you can. At the orientation, the equipment manager cautioned against letting rain get directly on the computer console. I waited for a week of weather to pass and bought a heavy plastic tarpaulin to supplement the ones I have. Once aligned and programmed, the computer encoder and 18-volt DC motor will drive the telescope to any of 200 targets in its database. For the first night (morning, actually), I just took the easy targets: Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars. The next day, I went back to the user manual to figure out the finder scope. Everything is a lot harder in the dark.

Snapshot changed 24 September 2020

With a smaller telescope, adjusting the tripod is always an option. With this, it never was. Once leveled and aligned, you pretty much change chairs, stools, and outdated tax manuals to sit or stand on, about as often as you otherwise change oculars. I used just two eyepieces, 32 mm and 20 mm for about 30x 62x and 50x 100x respectively. [The telescope has a 2000 mm focal length.-MEM] I also was happy to have filters for the Moon. It was bright enough to shine through two, the standard Moon filter and the Red for total transmission of about 1.8%. 


Viewing Jupiter, I could see turbulences along the bottom of the top band. Saturn’s rings were split. I could not tell if the “band” on Saturn was a “shadow” of the rings. Mars was a challenge because I was sure that I could detect shading in the middle two-thirds. 

As often as I go out in the backyard to view celestial objects through instruments, I am not sanguine about the activity. The stars are pretty at any magnification. If you do not understand what you are looking at, you have gained very little by the experience. My most surprising lessons were identifying the Andromeda Galaxy and the Beehive Cluster, both of which are naked eye objects that were catalogued a thousand years ago. 


Friday, June 12, 2020

Technical Writer Job Description

After a year at EOS-North America in additive manufacturing ("3D printing"), I accepted a new contract with a state agency. The EOS-NA human resources department asked me for a job description. You can find  boilerplate online; and that is often what I respond to in Help Wanted ads. Those cut-and-paste lists tell me that the people doing the hiring have no clue what is involved. For example, they often ask for a college degree in communication. To me, that's the degree for podcasters.

Here is a general description of what I did as  your technical writer. It is an outline of who I am and what I brought to the job. What you want to avoid is looking for another person just like the one you lost. You are not replacing a part in a machine. You are bringing in a family member. Your next technical writer could be a science talented high school student.

A technical writer has a demonstrated history of professional non-fiction writing. The preferred experience is in creating user manuals for information systems. That documentation can be intended for final users, such as clerical or automation workers. It can also be system documentation intended for programmers or engineers. Related experience can include journalism, academic research, advertising or feature writing for online or print media.

Common tools include the Microsoft Office Suite, especially Word, but also Excel, PowerPoint, Paint, and Visio. Experience with desktop publishing can include Microsoft Publisher, Adobe Creative Suite (or Adobe Creative Cloud) or Madcap Flare. Adobe has been aggressive in acquiring other companies such as FrameMaker, InDesign, and PageMaker. So, an experienced writer could have used those before they were elements of the Adobe package. All of the current documentation was created with Microsoft Office. It resides as Microsoft Word documents.

The important benchmarks are measurable. The current EOS-NA User Manual runs 234 pages, 27,000 words; and it reads at a ninth grade level with 8% passive-voice sentences.

A technical writer interviews subject matter experts, usually by email, though often in person, to get specific answers to complex or subtle questions. A technical writer works with new systems as a tester, taking the user viewpoint as an involved but uninformed participant.

For this job at EOS-NA in Pflugerville, knowledge of factory production and factory automation, including both mechanical and electronic systems, as well as basic physics and chemistry are also helpful. Important as all of those can be, they are secondary to being inquisitive, curious, and persistent in the pursuit of measurable facts.

Facility with a camera, whether single-lens-reflex or a cell phone, is important. Being able to generate flow charts and other logic diagrams is also a key component of this job. Much of the graphical work consists of manipulating, enhancing, and annotating screenshots.

The job demands the ability to ensure that terminology is correct and consistent across all publications.

The technical writer is a Team of One. Mindful of the needs of the company and its customers, the technical writer sets their own intermediate goals and meets their own incremental deadlines.

Hope that helps.
Best Regards,
Mike M.

Michael E. Marotta
Senior Technical Writer | EOS North America
3813 Helios Way, Suite B298 | Pflugerville, TX 78660
Office +1 512.388.7916 | Mobile +1 734.223.9054