The Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions." --American Statesman Daniel Webster (1782-1852)

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The Magic of Compounded Interest

We are pretty good about living under our means.  That is why I have a 20 year old F-150, Hey it works well and the occasional repair is much better than a note.  The spousal unit drives a 10 year old Edge, we don't carry a balance on our credit card..we have only 1.  I do new hire tours at my place of employment and I explain the magic of compounded interest in their financial future.  I use a phrase a good friend of mine used when I first met him 10 years ago.

 My Friend goofing off, this was about 10 years ago

 "Nobody takes better care of a old you than a young you, take advantage of the 401K match and every time you get a raise, you bump up your your percentage. so when you retire, you ain't shopping for cat food to supplement  your social security"  I get some strange looks but they remember that and that is the intent.  If you have financial freedom, you have a lot of options.

This meme is kinda tongue in cheek, but there is truth to this picture.  When you waste your money on frills or bad habits, you lose whatever you spent on the bad habits.  This stuff does you no good for you and it is the death of a 1000 cuts.  Each by itself don't mean much but when combined it adds up quickly, and then factor years of buying this stuff and you wonder why you are broke.

compound interest formula and benefits
“Compound interest is the Eighth Wonder of the World. He who understands it, earns it; he who doesn’t, pays it.”
Albert Einstein supposedly said that. Lots of quotes get attributed to him that he didn’t actually say, and this may be one of them; I personally don’t see the guy who imagined riding a light beam to figure out the Theory of Relativity waxing poetic about compound interest.
But even if Einstein really didn’t say compound interest was the Eighth Wonder of the World, it’s still a good point. Compound interest is pretty dang awesome. It’s a powerful concept — one that can mightily strengthen, or weaken, your finances. The man who understands it will have a tool to increase his net worth; the man who doesn’t will go through life stuck in a paycheck mentality.
My son recently opened up a savings account, and it offered me the chance to explain compound interest to him. It didn’t go well. It’s one of those financial concepts that’s so simple that you take it for granted. Consequently, when you’re forced to explain it to a child, you realize you don’t have as much of a grasp on it as you thought you did. Einstein also supposedly said, “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” Again, even if he didn’t say that, it’s a good point.
If your dad never sat you down to talk compound interest, you’re in luck; having honed my explanation on Gus, I’ll now pass it along to you.

What Is Compound Interest?

To understand compound interest, it’s useful to understand simple interest first.
Simple interest is calculated on the principal or the original amount of a deposit or loan. It’s really, well, simple to figure out.
Let’s say you take out a loan for $10,000 at a simple interest rate of 5%. The duration of the loan is four years.
To calculate the interest that’ll accumulate on the loan, you’d use the following formula:
Principal x interest rate x term of the loan
Plugging in our numbers, it would be:
$10,000 x .05 x 4 = $2,000
So that $10,000 loan will cost you $2,000 in simple interest.
Car loans, home mortgages, and student loans use simple interest. A loan you take from a family member or friend will likely use simple interest (if they charge you interest at all).
Now that you understand simple interest, we can move to compound interest.
Compound interest is calculated on the principal amount and — this is key — also on the accumulated interest of previous periods. It’s interest on interest.
Here’s what the compound interest formula looks like:
P (1 + r/n) (nt) – P
[P = Principal; r = annual interest rate in percentage terms; n = number of compounding periods for a year; t = number of years money is invested or borrowed]
Yeah, it looks confusing, but let’s plug in our numbers from the simple interest example to see what we’d pay if the interest was compounded.
So we got a $10,000 loan that compounds annually at 5%. The duration of the loan is 4 years. What would we pay in interest? Let’s look at the progression of the math:
$10,000 (1+.05/1)(1×4) – $10,000 →
$10,000 (1+.05/1)(4) – $10,000 →
$10,000 (1.21550625) – $10,000 →
$12,155.0625 – $10,000 = $2,155.06
So on a four-year loan that’s compounded annually, we’d pay $2,155.06 in compound interest. That’s $155.06 more than a loan issued on simple interest. Calculating interest on the interest already accrued on a principal can really add up. And add up fast as we’ll see in an example below.
If you’d rather not do the math yourself, there are plenty of compound interest calculators online.
Credit cards calculate balances on compound interest. Instead of compounding annually, credit card companies compound monthly. The high interest rates of credit cards coupled with their monthly compounding is why pretty much every single personal finance guru out there says “Don’t carry a balance on your credit cards!” You end up paying a lot for that extended credit. For example, a credit card balance of $10,000 carried at an interest rate of 20% (compounded monthly) would result in total compound interest of $2,193.91 over one year, or about $183 per month. Imagine what you could do with an extra $183 a month.
Compound interest can work in your favor, though. Big time. When you sock your money into a savings account, banks typically pay compound interest daily on the money you keep with them. Granted, the interest rate you get is pretty crappy — somewhere between .03% and 1% depending on the bank — but when you compound at that rate daily and you keep that money in there for a long time, things can add up.
If you invest in an index fund, you can leverage the power of compound interest by re-investing your earnings into buying more of the index fund which will allow you to earn even more, which you then re-invest, and so on and so forth.

Compounding Periods Have a Big Effect on Earnings

Looking at the compound interest formula, you’ll likely notice that the frequency of compounding periods can have a big effect on your earnings or how much you have to pay in interest. The more compounding periods, the more interest that is accrued. You’ll earn more in interest from a bank that compounds daily compared to a bank that only compounds monthly; you’ll pay more in interest on a loan that compounds monthly compared to one that compounds annually.
So when looking at interest rates for a savings account or loan, make sure to pay attention to how often interest is compounded.

Time Is Your Friend

The real magic of compounding reveals itself over long periods of time. The longer you let your money sit in an account and compound itself, the more money you make.
This is the big point I’ve been trying to make to my son. What’s helped flip on the light bulb in his head is this example from personal finance expert Beth Kobliner:
If you were to save $1,000 a year from age 25 to 34 in a retirement account earning 8% a year, and never invest a penny more, your $10,000 investment would grow to $157,435 by age 65. But if you don’t start saving until you’re 35 years old and then invest $1,000 a year for the next 30 years (that’s a total investment of $30,000), you’ll have only $122,346 by age 65. The bottom line: Start early, so your money has enough time to pile up.
Understanding this concept has helped turn Gus into a tightfisted Scrooge McDuck. “Man, imagine how much interest I can earn since I’m starting at seven years old!” At the beginning of each month, he loves to check his savings account to see how the interest he earns is going up little by little thanks to the magic of compound interest.

Use the Power of Compound Interest to Your Advantage

Understanding compound interest can really help you move ahead with your personal finances. Knowing that credit card companies compound the interest on your balance on a monthly basis should act as an incentive to pay off credit card debt as quickly as possible. Knowing that you can make money from your money should act as an incentive to sock away as much dough as you can and to not touch it for as long as you can.
The key is to get started today. If you’ve got credit card debt, start paying it off now so compound interest doesn’t devour you. If you don’t have a savings or retirement account, start one today so you can leverage the power of this Eighth Wonder of the World.
Now that we have a basic understanding of compound interest, we can start exploring things like APR and APY. We’ll do that in a future article.
    My Blog buddy Peter talked about financing and housing cost in his Blogpost.  It kinda inspired this posting.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Monday Music "Red, Red Wine" by UB40

I am continuing my 80's music that I don't like.  A lot of people liked this song and it was popular in the mid 80's, but to me it was one of those "Fingers on Chalkboard" songs.  This song will also force me to change the channel to either the 90's or the 70's.  From what I have read, the group is really talented, but it is a personal preference thing.
    "Red Red Wine" is a song originally written, performed, and recorded by American singer Neil Diamond in 1967. It is included on Diamond's second studio album, Just for You. The lyrics are sung from the perspective of a person who finds that drinking red wine is the only way to forget his woes. 

UB40 recorded their rendition for their album of cover versions, Labour of Love. According to UB40 member Astro, the group's former vocalist and trumpet player, they were only familiar with Tony Tribe's version and did not realise that the writer was in fact Neil Diamond. Astro told the Financial Times, "Even when we saw the writing credit which said 'N Diamond,' we thought it was a Jamaican artist called Negus Diamond."
UB40's version features a lighter, reggae-style flavor compared to Diamond's somber, acoustic ballad. The UB40 version adds a toasted verse by Astro, opening: "Red Red Wine, you make me feel so fine/You keep me rocking all of the time", which was edited from the single that reached number one on the UK Singles Chart in August 1983 and number 34 in the United States in March 1984 but not from the version that reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 a few months after being performed at the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Concert in 1988. In September 2014, the Official Charts Company announced that sales in the UK had reached one million.
Neil Diamond has stated that it is one of his favorite covers of his songs. He frequently performs the song live using the UB40 reggae arrangement, as opposed to the original version.

Labour of Love is the fourth studio album by British reggae band UB40, and their first album of cover versions. Released in the UK on 12 September 1983, the album is best known for containing the song "Red Red Wine", a worldwide number-one single, but it also includes three further UK top 20 hits, "Please Don't Make Me Cry", "Many Rivers to Cross" and "Cherry Oh Baby". The album reached number one in the UK, New Zealand and the Netherlands and the top five in Canada, but only reached number 39 in the US on its original release, before re-entering the Billboard 200 in 1988 and peaking at number 14 as a result of "Red Red Wine"'s delayed success in the US.
Following the record's success, UB40 have since released three further albums of cover versions under the Labour of Love title.
I could find no information on the video. Which is unusual for the 80's

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Last Volkswagon Beetle off the assembly line.

When I was little, we were stationed in Germany and my Dad owned several Volkswagons, including a beetle, 2 microbuses...
This was the first one in Germany..
I remember it looking like this one but gray.
The Second one was Yellow but it looked like this...
My Dads last Volkswagon was this one and it is still my favorite Volkswagon, and they are rare now..

As I recall, it was a 1966/1967 Volkswagon Type 3.  My Dad got it in 1976, and it looked like it rolled off the showroom floor, whomever owned it before my Dad did had taken really good care of it.  It was a European car so we couldn't take it back to the states., bummer I liked that one.    When I returned to Germany in 1986 as a G.I.  A lot of GI's bought Volkswagon beetles because they were cheap.  I had my Mustang so I was lucky or unlucky because I had a note and really expensive insurance.

The end of an era as the last Volkswagen Beetle was driven off of the production line in Puebla, Mexico.
Originally designed by Ferdinand Porsche in 1938 to answer Adolf Hitler’s call for a “people’s car,” or a “volks wagen” in German.
VW Beetle
First model of the Standard Superior, as introduced at the IAMA in Berlin in 1933
Few Beetles were produced before Word War II but the war put a halt to production. After the war, the British authorities restarted production and changed the name of the car to the Beetle in order to free it from the baggage of its Nazi history.

The Beetle became a worldwide hit, selling over 21 million over it’s lifetime. It even could be considered a Hollywood star after the “Love Bug” movies featured a Beetle in the title role.
Love Bug!
Love Bug!
The original Type 1 design called for an air-cooled engine. That was replaced in 1997 with a new version that had a more traditional engine in it. Volkswagen continued producing the Type 1 until 2003 where the last model of that generation was manufactured at the same plant that the last third generation Beetle was made this week.
VW Beetle
Wehrmacht Typ 82E in dunkelgelb. 

The Type 1, air-cooled Beetle was last sold in the United States in the 1970s. Until that time, it had been marketed as a not cool car with a low price tag. (A Beetle in 1969 cost $1,799.) Some of the marketing slogans used were “Live below your means,” and “It’s ugly, but it gets you there.”
It took until 1998 for the New Beetle to arrive. When it did, it found a generation of car buyers who were nostalgic for the 70s, but not interested in a car that ran on a 40-hp, 1.2-litre engine which had trouble hitting 60 miles per hour going up hill.
VW beetle

The New Beetle was an improvement over the old model in almost every way. It was quieter, has a smoother ride, vibrated less, and was much more reliable. It even had air conditioning and automatic transmission.
In 1999, Volkswagen sold 80,000 Beetles in the US alone.
In 2012, Volkswagen stopped referring to the New Beetle, simply referring to it as the Beetle again. It also made an effort to make the car more masculine and began manufacturing all Beetles at the Puebla plant and shipped them to ninety-one markets around the globe.
But the Beetle could not keep up with the popularity of SUVs in the US. It couldn’t even match the popularity of the Volkswagen Golf.
In 2019, a Beetle costs at least $20,000.

 Hippies sleeping off their chemical use....during the festival..
Just because Volkswagen has ended the Beetle does not mean the company has stopped looking to its past for new vehicles. Two years ago, Volkswagen announced that it would be producing the I.D. Buzz which is an electric take on the classic Microbus. The new model is expected to arrive in showrooms in 2022.
Meanwhile, the Puebla plant that has produced cars for over 60 years will begin producing a new compact SUV that fits just below the Tiguan in the Volkswagen line of cars.
Scott Keogh, the president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, said in a press release that it was not possible to imagine Volkswagen without the Beetle. He further stated that even though the Beetle was done, it would be “forever cherished” as part of the evolving brand of Volkswagen.
Karl Bauer, the executive publisher of Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book, said last year that the current market makes it difficult to justify producing small cars. He predicts more iconic brands will be canceled in the upcoming months.
The last Beetle will be on display in a Volkswagen museum in Puebla.

Friday, July 26, 2019

"Hitler discovers that Mueller knows nothing....." Parody video

I ran across this on another blog, I was looking for another "Hitler Parody" for my post yesterday and couldn't find one on "Youtube" but this one is comedic gold, LOL

Hitler Discovers Robert Mueller Knows Nothing: In the bunker, the Resistance learns the truth about Robert Mueller's testimony.

   I tried to put the actual video on my blog and was unsuccessful.  

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Some political musings...

I have been away from blogging a bit as y'all can tell, my postings have dropped down a bit.  I am studying for the next test that I need for my certifications.  Once I finish, my postings will resume at the pre testing level.

     The Democrats are spending their political capital again trying to go after President Trump.....for the umpteenth time, so they drag Robert Mueller to capital hill to be grilled by congress and hoping that Mueller will spill something that they can use as "Impeachable offenses" so they can make another run at Trump.   and according to Drudge today it was a *Bust*
Earlier in the week, the Democrats tried to do another "ImPeach 45" in the house
So Al Green (African, Africa) introduced another resolution to impeach Trump. How many times has this dingbat done that? Just like every other time it was voted down. This time 95 Dimocrats voted for it.
Not surprisingly Maxine Waters (Insane Old Lady, California) and Frederica Wilson (Dingbat Cowboy, Florida) voted for it. Here in Georgia Hank “Guam is gonna tip over” Johnson voted for it as did David Scott.
Much to my surprise civil rights icon racist pig John Lewis voted against it.
I love how Trump has made Idiot Omar and Rancida Tlaib, two antisemitic, America hating, terrorist supporting members of Congress the face of the Dimocrat Party and has made the Dimocrat Party support them. Also, he’s lucky to have Al Green, whom he can count on to introduce an impeachment resolution every time Trump comes out with an outrageous tweet.
Trump is really lucky to have such stupid enemies.
 And hopefully this will continue because this is the face of the democratic party in 2020 and I am enjoying the resulting trainwreck.
     Here in Georgia we had a democratic state representative make the complaint that she was verbally assaulted in a Publix in Mableton
"A Georgia state lawmaker appears to have been caught lying about her allegation that she was told to “go to back to where you came from” by a white customer in an Atlanta grocery store.
On Friday, Erica Thomas, a Democrat, alleged that a “white man” called her a “lazy son of a b*tch” and told her to “go back” to where she came from."
That didn’t take long. What brought that about?
“Today I was verbally assaulted in the grocery store by a white man who told me I was a lazy SOB and to go back to where I came from bc I had to many items in the express lane,” Thomas said in a Friday tweet. “My husband wasn’t there to defend me because he is on Active Duty serving the country I came from USA!
On the same day Thomas detailed the alleged encounter in a Facebook live video. She opened up by saying, “People are getting really out of control with this white privilege stuff.”
Gotta get that white privilege stuff out there,
But then the story started breaking down.
"On Sunday, Eric Sparkes stepped forwarded and claimed he was the man that Thomas was referring to in the grocery store. He denied ever making any racially charged insults towards Thomas and said he only called her a “lazy b*itch” because she had too many items in the express checkout lane.
“I’m a liar about what?” Thomas said while yelling at Sparkes, who were both being interviewed by local media.
“Everything that happened,” Sparkes responded. “Me telling you to ‘Go back where you came from.’ Did I say that? Is it on video?”
“Are you serious? What did you say to me then,” Thomas asked.
“I called you a lazy b*tch,” Sparkes answered. “That’s the worst thing I said.”
Now comes the fun part.
"Sparkes told reporters that he is a Democrat and a Hispanic American who vehemently opposes President Trump. He added that Thomas was only doing this to help further her political career."
     I learned a new word "Smolletted", or "Smollet 2.0".  I was expecting that she would then say that 2 rednecks wearing MAGA hats would throw bleach on her and yell out "This in MAGA Country".  The local iconic news station here in Atlanta was eviscerated on their facebook page with the apparent bias in the original article and the slowness of getting things updated as her story fell apart she to me is just another attention whore trying to get her 15 minutes of fame.  This will not reflect well on her reelection chances, most people don't like being deceived and they tend to get grumpy.
The Truth of the matter is that people are tired of hearing the word "Racist", most people are tuning out the word, the word has been so bastardized that it has lost its original meaning and impact.

On a different note, I heard that Rutger Hauer passed away.  I have seen him in several movies that I really liked including the original Blade Runner where a young Harrison Ford was trying to get away from being typecast as Star Wars only

 This is the "Tears in the Rain" clip from the movie.  According from what I have read, Rutger adlibbed most of that deviating from the script and making it memorable.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Monday Music "Its a Mistake" by Men At Work

I'm gonna change my Monday Music a bit, Instead of playing songs I like, I will play a few songs that I don't like and to the point that I will change the channel on my Sirius/XM rather than listen to it.   I like most of the music of that decade but there are a few songs that are like fingers on chalkboard to me.  I like most of the music of the group "Men At Work", but they had one song that I despised.  This song every time I hear it, I think "They should have gotten the "Order of Lenin" for that piece of propaganda."

"The Order of Lenin"
For that piece of music that supported the goals of the Supreme Soviet and
the peace loving people of the world against the warmongering decadent imperial West"

Cargo is the second studio album by Australian pop rock band Men at Work, which was released in April 1983. It peaked at No. 1 on the Australian Kent Music Report Albums Chart, No. 2 in New Zealand, No. 3 on the United States Billboard 200, and No. 8 on the United Kingdom Albums Chart. Four singles were released from the album, with "Overkill" being an international top 10 hit in Canada, Ireland, Norway, and US Billboard Hot 100.

"It's a Mistake" is a song by the Australian band Men at Work. The song was written by the lead singer and guitarist Colin Hay and the recording was produced by Peter McIan. It was released in June 1983, as the third single from their album Cargo and peaked at #34 in Australia. In the US, it entered the charts at #42 on July 2, 1983, and peaked at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August 1983. It was performed live on Saturday Night Live on October 22, 1983.

The song's lyrics deal with the mindset of military men across the world in the 1980s, wondering if and when the democratic countries of NATO and the communist states of the Warsaw Pact will end the Cold War standoff with conventional battle or a nuclear exchange. Hay sings in the persona of a mid-level officer wishing to learn from his superiors if his men are going to war or not. 

The video, which had moderate rotation on MTV (as opposed to the band's singles from their Business as Usual album), told a satirical story of the outbreak of a war between the Eastern and Western blocs. The beginning of the video shows the five band members dressed as children playing "soldiers" and being invited into an officer's tent by an American officer, inside of which are many allied officers of various services drinking and partying. The video then shows four adult men whom are working each as a businessman, a road worker, an anti war protester and a doctor. The video then shows each of them fading into a military uniform vaguely corresponding to each of their peacetime professions with a surprised look on their faces, as to imply they were drafted. We then see them walking through a burnt out forest and come across an elderly man, who beats one of the soldiers with an umbrella, one of the soldiers takes aim but upon realizing what is happening lowers his weapon. The latter half of the video is mostly set in an underground bunker or "War Room" similar to the NORAD facility of Cheyenne Mountain, and the band seemed to engage in a semi-retelling of the 1964 black comedy film Dr. Strangelove. At the end of the video, the officer is nervously tapping his fingers and inadvertently knocks open the protective cover from the nuclear button, which is right next to his ashtray. Then, when he goes to stub out his cigar in the ashtray, he accidentally hits the button instead.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

American Battle Cruisers

A few post ago, I had talked about the "Virginius affair" and "Great White Fleet", The American Battle cruisers were a next generation evolution from the ships used in the great white fleet. 
Artist rendering of the proposed Lexington Class Battle Cruisers.
The United States Navy’s only planned battlecruisers, six Lexington class ships authorized by the Naval Act 1916, were cancelled by the Five Power (‘Washington’) Treaty of 1922. Two – Lexington and Saratoga – were completed as aircraft carriers instead. The battlecruisers have often been considered something of a side-issue for a US Navy that was primarily interested in well-armed and armored battleships.
In fact, these battlecruisers had a central place in US naval thinking at the time. Their concept reflected a prevailing US Navy battle doctrine of ‘aggressive offensive action’. The same style of thinking was also applied to the designs of the first US ‘Treaty’ cruisers of the early 1920s.  And the Lexingtons drew from specifically American tactical naval needs and thinking.

Colourised photo of USS Saratoga (CV3), completed as an aircraft carrier, under way around 1942.
So how did they come about? The origins of US battlecruiser thinking can be traced to the naval ferment around the turn of the twentieth century when, like the British, French, Germans and Japanese – among others – US naval authorities were looking at the implications of a recent jump in the power of large warships. Heavy ships of the mid-late 1890s typically came in two flavors: battleships with a few heavy guns and a range of smaller weapons, backed with faster armored cruisers that carried a few medium guns and a usually similar array of smaller weapons.
By the last years of the nineteenth century, however, battleships were gaining medium guns on top of the rest – literally in the United States, where the medium guns were at times housed atop the main armament. The rise in fire-power also influenced armored cruiser designs, which gained displacement and scale of fire-power comparable to second-class battleships, yet retained greater speed. These developments then fed into emerging thinking about how the design components – protection, fire-power, sea-keeping, speed, range, displacement and habitability – could be mixed. Tactics and technology, in short, were entwined; and a conceptual revolution involving both was well under way by 1901-02.

USS New Jersey (BB-16), with her distinctive double-story turrets in 1906-1907
Although a relative late-comer as a nineteenth century naval power, the United States was well up with the play. In 1902, Lieutenant Matthew Signor proposed a new type of battleship featuring six 13-inch guns and a battery of 10-inch.  That was followed in 1903 with other proposals for a heavier armored cruiser – essentially a fast battleship, in terms of the standards of the day. The idea was further endorsed by the Naval War College Summer Conference of 1904. But cost was an issue. Into this was mixed warring theories about how naval battles might be fought. One result was tension between the conceptual ship proposals of the Naval War College and the more conservative designs prepared by the Bureau of Design and Repair. In a way it was predictable; the College could engage in blue-sky exercises, whereas the Bureau had the task of making warships reality, which included managing financial constraints and the political views that drove them.

USS Montana (ACR-13), a last-generation US armored cruiser laid down in April 1906
By 1904-05, all-big-gun battleships were on drawing boards in Japan, the United States and Britain. However, the British, pushed by Fisher – as First Sea Lord – added turbine propulsion, completed their prototype, Dreadnought, ahead of the rest, and extended the concept to an all-big-gun cruiser design. These ships, the Invincibles , were initially classed as armored cruisers – the ‘battlecruiser’ designation was not formally applied by the British until 1911. Exactly what Fisher intended has been debated. Beating the latest armored cruisers was one motive, demanding a significant step-up in fire power but no increase in armor. There was also the concept of such ships being a fast scouting wing, able to deliver heavy punch to the enemy battle-fleet.
This thinking was shared across the Admiralty. However, Fisher also felt the heavy gun had won the gun-vs-armor race. Because ships were going to be size-limited, primarily for cost reasons, he felt it better to put displacement into speed and massive guns.  Heavy armor was unnecessary. So too was anything other than minimal lighter weaponry. As Norman Friedman observes, by 1915 Fisher even opposed the heavier secondary guns required for anti-destroyer work.
The crucial point is that Fisher felt that all heavy construction should go into such faster ships. As early as 1902 he was arguing that there was little distinction between armored cruisers and battleships. ‘The Armored Cruiser…is a swift battleship in disguise’. And this is the point: to Fisher, the evolved armored cruiser became a replacement for the battleship. As First Sea Lord from late 1904 he put a good deal of effort into trying to persuade the rest of the Admiralty and the Cabinet to agree. In a way, he had a point. A fast ship with monster guns could keep a safe distance while dealing out massive blows. Fisher was not the first to come up with this idea: the Italian naval designer Benedetto Brin had explored it in the 1870s.

Benedetto Brin’s iconoclastic battleship Italia, laid down in 1876, seen here at La Spezia in 1897. She combined high speed for her day with minimal armor and very heavy guns. 
However, while this gained ground in Fisher’s circles – a group dubbed the ‘Fishpond’, the rest of the Admiralty disagreed. All an enemy had to do was build faster ships with larger and longer-ranged guns. And ships with speed superiority on paper might not be able to choose the range, thanks to weather or a raft of other factors such as loss of speed due to damage, or operational issues such as hull fouling, break-down or damage. For these reasons, Admiralty thinking leaned towards armor. The obvious answer was the fast battleship. However, although designs were mooted as early as 1906, they were unacceptably expensive to British governments trying to constrain military spending.
In the end, Fisher never convinced either the Admiralty or the British government to authorize battlecruisers in number. The original three were a windfall; the 1904-1905 building program called for one battleship and three armored cruisers on the basis that Britain was under-strength in the latter. Before any were laid down, Fisher’s Committee on Designs produced the Dreadnought and its cruiser homologue, the Invincible – and so Britain got one all big-gun battleship and three all big-gun armored cruisers, later dubbed battlecruisers. But aside from the 1908 ‘naval panic’ with the ‘contingency’ program approved in August 1909, only one battlecruiser was then usually authorized in each annual schedule, and the type was abandoned altogether in the 1912 program Battlecruisers were not re-visited until Fisher’s return to the Admiralty in 1914.

HMS Inflexible, second of three Invincibles, on trials in late 1908 after completion in the John Brown yard, Clydebank. Note the funnels of equal height; later, the fore-funnel was raised. 
There was similar tension in the United States, where Britain’s Invincible design of 1905 seemed to meet aspects of Naval War College thinking about faster and more heavily armed cruisers. However, proposals from various American naval pressure groups, publications and the Naval War College during 1907-08 to build Invincible-class ships instead of new US armored cruisers were apparently an academic and profile-raising exercise. In fact, there was no chance even of indigenous US battlecruiser designs being authorized. More than one historical analysis argues that the US government had no clear naval policy at the time. More crucially, budgets were constrained. Congress typically authorized about half the number of battleships variously recommended by the General Board or the Bureau of Construction and Repair.

But in any case, while professional opinion within the US Navy was better-defined than in government – thanks in part to the Naval War College– thinking leaned towards heavily armed and armored battleships with moderate speed but good unrefuelled range. This was largely to meet US strategic commitments of the day, which focused on trans-Pacific interests. Such ships were intended to form a solid battle-line, to which the enemy would have to come if they were to defeat the United States at sea. This influenced the occasional foray into faster vessels. In 1910, the Chief Constructor of the Bureau of Construction and Repair, Rear-Admiral Washington L. Capps, organized six potential designs for fast all-big-gun armored cruisers, which had relatively modest speed by the British battlecruiser standards of that period – 25.5 knots – but with armor closer to contemporary US battleship scale. These were rejected by the General Board, which felt such ships were cruisers, and what the US Navy needed were more battleships.
Yet, within a few years, the US Navy was indeed pursuing the idea of battlecruisers – and, furthermore, battlecruisers with the massive fire-power, remarkable speed and thin armor that Fisher thought ideal. But this was for wholly US-developed motives, which diverged from Fisher’s reasoning. Proposals along the way included a surreal 1,250 foot long monster displacing over 60,000 tons. We shall pick up the story of how that happened, and how the latest mainstream British ideas about heavier armor then infused themselves into US battlecruiser thinking, in the next article

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Polish Engineer that saved America

I shamelessly clipped this from "Angry Staff Officer".  I actually knew of Thaddeus, I remembered studying the American Revolution, he was one of the foreigners that were invaluable to the fledgling Army along with Von Steuben who taught the American Army how to fight on the European model and stand up to the redcoats and Marquis De Lafayette who was one of General Washington's most spirited generals and supporters. 

Thaddeus Kosciusko: The Polish Engineer You Never Heard of who Saved America

So, we know all about the heroes of the American Revolution, right? George Washington, John Adams, Paul Revere – OK, well, not him, he was a good silversmith, an average errand rider, and a godawful general. But odds are you probably haven’t heard of Andrzej Tadeusz Bonawentura Kosciuszko. Nor can you spell it or pronounce it; join the club, but we’re working on it.
Thaddeus Kosciusko was born in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (long story, don’t ask) in 1746, the youngest son of a member of the nobility, aka, “not going to inherit anything, might as well join the army.” Accordingly, he popped off to Warsaw in 1765 to go be a cadet, commissioning in 1766, and made captain by 1768. Which was an awkward year to make captain, because the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth decided to celebrate his promotion with a civil war to overthrow the king. Kosciusko decided that discretion was the better part of valor and headed off to France in 1769.
His purpose was to continue his military education, but as foreigners were not allowed to attend the French military academies, he opted to study art and architecture instead. Sort of a weird diversion there. But he still attended military lectures and read works of military theory, while also hanging out with members of the French Enlightenment, as one does.
In 1772, Russia, Prussia, and Austria do that national tradition of theirs: annexing bits of Poland and Lithuania. Kosciusko went home, to find that the family was basically bankrupt. To raise some cash, he began tutoring the family of the provincial government and predictably fell in love with the governor’s daughter. They attempted elopement in 1775, got caught, and Kosciusko got some severe treatment at the hands of her father’s bodyguards. This may have had something to do with his disdain for class hierarchy that he would develop in life.
With all this hanging over his head, Kosciusko decided that some fresh air would be good – specifically any air that wasn’t being breathed by the provincial governor. So in 1776, he decided to go off and check out this whole American Revolution thing. Sympathetic to the American cause, he offered his services to the Continental Congress, who assigned him to the Army the next day. Hey, when you’re trying to build an army out of nothing, talent management moves very quickly.
By October of 1776, Kosciusko is a colonel of engineers – that whole art and architecture thing – and does some work in Pennsylvania and Maryland. But it’s in 1777 that Kosciusko really gets his chance, when he’s assigned as the engineer for the Northern Army in upstate New York. He arrives at Fort Ticonderoga in the spring of 1777 and conducts an inspection of the fortifications as well as those on Mount Independence, a fortified point across the strait of Lake Champlain on the Vermont side. Although an artist, Kosciusko is no dummy and asks why no one is fortifying nearby Mount Defiance, which basically controls both Ticonderoga and Independence. General Arthur St. Clair, the commanding general of the garrisons, stated that there was no way to get guns up there.  Spoiler alert: of course there was.
Enter General John Burgoyne, aka “Gentleman Johnny,” with his British army coming down Lake Champlain in July, who sends his own troops up Mount Defiance because, in his words, “where a goat can go a man can go, and where a man can go he can drag a gun.” Which is ironic, because that’s how the cannon from Ticonderoga had moved from there to Boston in 1775. With artillery on Mount Defiance, Ticonderoga and Independence become untenable and St. Clair evacuates them, leaving Lake Champlain wide open for the British to cruise on into New York. By the way, we’ll meet St. Clair after the war when he heads up one of the worst defeats in U.S. military history, but that’s another story.
Kosciusko , in all this, is doing what an engineer does best: making life difficult for the enemy. In Burgoyne’s way, he fells trees, blows up bridges, dams streams, and does anything he can to slow the British movement. It works. These obstacle belts buy enough time for Kosciusko to select a good defensive position for the Northern Army at Bemis Heights, near the town of Saratoga. His fortifications play a major role in defeating Burgoyne’s army at the Battle of Saratoga – one of the keys to bringing international recognition to the revolution, and causing France to enter the war. Not bad for an art major…who also found time to compose a polonaise for harpsichord during that year. Because why the hell not.
From the northern campaign, Kosciusko now heads to West Point, which was then a fortified position on the Hudson rather than a factory for over-inflated egos, I mean, stellar officers. In 1780, Kosciusko requested to go back into a combat role, which Washington granted, sending him to the Southern Army. Now, the war in the south was going less than well, so Kosciusko spent most of his time scouting river crossings, gathering intelligence, and building the boats that the Continental Army would use to cross rivers while being chased by a superior British force. He helped pick the site where the Battle of Guilford Courthouse took place, which resulted in a tactical win for the British but a strategic win for the Americans. If that seems confusing, just think Bunker Hill: too many British casualties. This turned the tide of the war in the south.
Kosciusko would continue campaigning through 1781 and 1782 as the war in the south continued on a slow burn, with negotiations dragging on in Paris. During this time, he unsuccessfully laid siege to the British fort at the weirdly-named town of Ninety-Six, South Carolina. It was during this siege that he receives his only wound – a bayonet stab in the butt during a British attack on a trench he was building. One can only imagine the jokes surrounding this incident.
Kosciusko returns to Poland in 1784, with the war concluded, and an essentially useless certificate for pay from the U.S. government which is basically insolvent at this point. Finding the family still bankrupt, he helps to buy back some of the land and then institutes basic reforms of serfdom – essentially curtailing it on his estate. Which leads to it going under because of debt. By 1789, he gets a commission from the king as a major general. Here he lobbies for military reforms as well as social reforms, to allow peasants and Jews full citizenship as that would motivate their defense of Poland in the event of war. I know, crazy idea, right? But while there is some limited reform of the government, but Kosciusko doesn’t see that it goes far enough.
Still, it is radical enough that some in Poland decide that it’s too radical and ask Russia for help in overthrowing the government. Russia is, of course, all too happy to hop back into Poland and on May 18, 1792, a 100,000-man Russian army invades Poland. In a series of delaying actions, Kosciusko – now commanding a division – manages to inflict several defeats on larger Russian forces, winning the highest military award that Poland has at the time. His skillful defensive operations and the way he can read terrain allow him to out-general his Russian opponents – defeating an army of 25,000 with just over 5,000 of his own men at Dubienka. For this, he receives a promotion to lieutenant general. Still, the Polish are forced to retreat, and on July 24, 1792, the king capitulates and orders his armies to cease hostilities.
Annoyed at having to face defeat when his forces had never actually been defeated, Kosciusko leaves Poland and heads to Leipzig, where a group of Polish emigres have been plotting a revolution – as one does. Attempting to gain French assistance, Kosciusko arrives in Paris in 1793 – a Paris that has its own revolution brewing. However, he sees that no help will arrive from this quarter and returns to Leipzig. At the same time, Prussia and Russia once again partition Poland, their great national pastime, leaving Poland an embarrassing 77,000 square miles. They humiliate Poland, forcing her to reduce her military and incorporate large parts of it into the Russian army.
Substantially ticked off, Kosciusko slips by Tsarist patrols and enters Krakow in March of 1794. On March 24, he casually kicks off an uprising from the Main Square and begins building an army of volunteers, including untrained peasants as well as former members of the regular army. Throughout the spring and summer, he wages war against Russian forces, winning small victories but nothing large enough to turn the tide. Prussia of course hops in on this thing, and now Kosciusko is faced with a two-front war. On October 10, he is wounded and captured. This pretty much takes the heart out of the uprising, and Russia and Prussia annex what’s left of Poland – ending the Polish state for the next 123 years.
Fortunately for Kosciusko, Catherine the Great kicks the bucket in November of 1796, and Tsar Paul I frees Kosciusko and pardons him. Kosciusko calls it quits on this whole European thing and heads back to the U.S. in 1797. Here, the Federalist U.S. government gives him a lukewarm welcome because of his association with the French Revolution. However, he strikes up a firm friendship with Thomas Jefferson. But just one year later, Kosciusko is back in France, having received word that the Poles are siding with Napoleon to try to kick Prussia and Russia out and regain sovereignty. Kosciusko leaves his estate with Jefferson, with the express desire that his money go to the freeing of American slaves – including Jefferson’s – and their education. Predictably, Jefferson won’t do this. The bequest gets held up in courts – including the U.S. Supreme Court – until 1856. Go figure.
Meanwhile, Kosciusko arrives in France to find that the French government and Napoleon really don’t care about Polish sovereignty at all. After the fall of Bonaparte in 1815, Kosciusko travels to Russia to negotiate with the Tsar for an independent Polish state, with borders restored to their 1792 status, as well as social reforms. The Tsar instead creates the Kingdom of Poland, a tiny vassal state that Kosciusko descries as “a joke.” Thoroughly frustrated, Kosciusko moves to Switzerland. In 1817, he attempts to emancipate the peasants on his remaining lands back home, but the Tsar refuses to allow it. In obstinate pique, Kosciusko dies on October 15, 1817.
As his retribution to the Tsar, the Federalists, and Napoleon, Kosciusko will be one of the most well-beloved and memorialized Poles in history, with monuments to him in his native Poland – he has his own mound in Krakow, composed of earth from the battlefields where he fought – bridges named for him in Albany and New York City, his home in Philadelphia becoming the smallest U.S. National Park, and a museum at his residence in Switzerland. There are statues of him in Washington, D.C., Krakow, Lodz, Boston, West Point, Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Belarus, and Solothurn, Switzerland. He also is the namesake for the tallest mountain in Australia.
He’s one of many foreign volunteers without whom the U.S. probably wouldn’t exist. He’s also unique in that he was a social reformer who was an abolitionist before it was cool. The dude lived a metal life and I have no idea why there hasn’t been a movie made about him.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Developing Situational Awareness

I have blogged before about Gibbs's rules  , a character from the show NCIS on how to handle things and also Moscow Rules about how to be observant when you are an agent working on Moscow where the most feared anti-espionage system ever created existed to foil the agents from the West.  This is an article on how to increase your situational awareness.  I remember doings "Kim's game" when I was a boy scout.  It was a cool exercise on memory retention.  I saw this article on "Arts of Manliness".

10 Tests, Exercises, and Games to Heighten Your Senses and Situational Awareness

car accident on road two cars illustration
  • How many people total were involved in this accident?
  • How many males and how many females?
  • What color were the two cars?
  • What objects were lying on the ground?
  • What injury did the man on the ground seem to be suffering from?
  • What was the license plate number of one of the cars?
How did you do on this little test? Not as well as you would have liked? Perhaps it’s time you strengthened your powers of observation and heightened your situational awareness.
Enhancing one’s observational abilities has numerous benefits: it helps you live more fully in the present, notice interesting and delightful phenomena you would have otherwise missed, seize opportunities that disappear as quickly as they arrive, and keep you and your loved ones safe.
Today we’re going to offer some games, tests, and exercises that will primarily center on that latter advantage: having the kind of situational awareness that can help you prevent and handle potentially dangerous and critical situations. But the benefits of practicing them will certainly carry over into all other aspects of your life as well.
Ready to start heightening your senses and building your powers of observation? Read on.

Situational Awareness and Your Senses

five senses sight hearing smell touch taste illustration
Strengthening your situational awareness involves making sure all of your senses are turned on and fully tuned into your environment. It seems like your mind and body do this automatically — aren’t you seeing, smelling, and hearing everything around you, all the time?
But when someone asks you something like, “What’s your license plate number?” and you draw a blank, you quickly realize that it’s possible to have looked at something hundreds of times without ever seeing it.
In fact, while our brain gives us the feeling that we’re taking in the whole picture of our environment from moment to moment, this is an illusion. We’re really only paying attention to some sets of stimuli, while ignoring others.
Thus, if you want to strengthen your situational awareness, you have to be truly intentional about it — you have to consciously think about utilizing and directing all your senses to a greater degree. You have to train for observation. And the first step in doing so, is getting reacquainted with the powers and pitfalls of your senses:


Seeing is what we typically think of when we think of observation, and it’s what we lean on the most to make sense of our world. Yet what our eyes take in is also not as accurate as our brains would have us believe. Eyewitness accounts of crimes are notoriously unreliable, and famous studies — like the one in which folks are asked to concentrate on people passing a basketball back and forth, and in so doing miss a man in a gorilla suit walking through the picture — show us that we can look right at something, without actually seeing it.
These blind spots are due to the fact that our eyes don’t operate like cameras that record scenes just as they unfold; rather, our brains take in a number of different shots, and then interpret and assemble them together to form a coherent picture. Left on autopilot, our brain ignores many things in our environment, deeming them unimportant in creating this image.
Nevertheless, sight is an incredibly vital part of our situational awareness arsenal — especially if we train ourselves to look for things we’d normally miss. Our eyes tell us if someone looks suspicious or if something is out of place in our hotel room (indicating someone’s been there in our absence); they spot peculiar features of a landscape to help us create a mental map to guide us home from a hike; they take footage of the exits in a building or of a crime that we can remember later.


As sight-driven creatures, we take in a ton of information with our eyes (as much as a third of our brain’s processing power goes towards handling visual input), and most of us feel we’d rather lose our hearing than our sight.
But hearing is far more essential to keeping track of and understanding what’s going on around us than we realize — especially when it comes to staying safe. Our hearing is incredibly attuned to our surroundings and functions as our brain’s first response system, notifying us of things to pay attention to and fundamentally shaping our perception of what’s happening around us. As neuroscientist Seth Horowitz explains:
“You hear anywhere from twenty to one hundred times faster than you see so that everything that you perceive with your ears is coloring every other perception you have, and every conscious thought you have. Sound gets in so fast that it modifies all the other input and sets the stage for it.”
Our hearing is so fast because its circuitry isn’t as widely dispersed in the brain as the visual system is, and because it’s hooked into the brain’s most basic “primal” parts. Noises hit us right in the gut and trigger a visceral emotional response.
The quickness and sharpness of our hearing evolved from its survival advantage. At night, in dense forests, and underneath murky waters, our sight greatly diminishes or completely fails us, and we can’t see anything beyond our field of vision. But our ears can still pick up sensory input in darkness, around corners, and through water in order to build a mental picture of what’s going on.
Noises are nothing more than vibrations, and we’re completely surrounded by them every day. But just like with sight, your ears can be listening to tons of sounds in your environment, without your brain really hearing them; your antennae are always up, but they don’t always send a signal to pay attention. Such signals only register in your conscious awareness when they’re particularly salient (as in when you hear your name said at a busy party), or when they break the usual pattern/tone/rhythm that your brain expects (like when there’s a scream, crash, or explosion, or someone is talking in a strange/suspicious way).
We can tune into more sounds than we usually hear by “perking up” our ears, concentrating, and trying to distinguish and pull out noises we’re usually “ear-blind” to.


In comparison to our senses of sight and hearing, smell doesn’t get much attention and respect. It’s our oldest sense, and we tend to think of it moreso with animals than ourselves — like the wolf that can smell its prey almost 2 miles away.
While dogs indeed have a sense of smell that’s 10,000-100,00X more powerful than ours, the human sense of smell is nothing to, well, sniff at. Humans have the ability to detect one trillion distinct scents. And while our other senses have to be processed by numerous synapses before reaching the amygdala and hippocampus and eliciting a reaction, smell connects with the brain directly, and thus gets deeply attached to our emotions and long-term memories. This is why catching a whiff of something from long ago can instantly transport you back in time.
These ingrained, smell-induced memories serve the same kind of survival purpose in humans as they do in animals — to identify family and mates, find food, and be alerted to possible threats. Our sense of smell is able to distinguish blood kin by scent, and not only can it identify danger through picking up the scents of smoke, death, gas, etc., but can even pick up on fear, stress, and disgust in fellow humans.
Indeed, while the human sense of smell isn’t up to par with animals, studies have shown that we can track a scent trail in the same way dogs do, and that the reason we’re not better at it than we are, is that it’s a skill that has to be developed through practice. Consummate outdoorsman of days gone by who were highly observant of their surroundings often reported becoming able to track an animal by scent.
While both animals and humans process smell in automatic ways — when the smell of freshly baked cookies hits you, your tummy instinctively grumbles — human smell is in one way superior to the animal variety: we have the ability to consciously analyze smells and interpret what they might mean.
Smell can thus help you identify friend or foe, navigate an area — if we’re close to a factory or dump or a grove of pines or the campfire of home base, our nose will let us know — and even track game.

Touch & Taste

Touch and taste are two senses that are incredibly enriching for those seeking to live more mindfully and fully immerse themselves in their experiences. But for the purposes of being situationally aware of risk and danger, you won’t use them as much. Touch can come in handy though when you’re trying to navigate in the dark, and must let the sensations of your feet and hands lead the way.

Training for Observation: 10 Tests, Exercises, and Games You Can Play to Strengthen Your Situational Awareness 

“As a Scout, you should make it a point to see and observe more than the average person.” —Scout Field Book, 1948
If our senses are truly as amazing as we’ve just described, and what holds us back from using them more is allowing them to default to autopilot, then we have to find ways to intentionally exercise and challenge them in order to give them full play.
Mastering situational awareness involves learning how to observe, interpret, and remember. The following exercises, tests, and games are designed to strengthen these skills while activating the latent powers of your senses.

Some of the games and exercises can be practiced alone, while others would work best in groups, such as a club, gathering of friends, or Boy Scout troop (several of the ideas in fact come from the 1948 edition of the Boy Scout Fieldbook). The games are also great to do as a family — they’ll keep your kids entertained without your having to reach for the smartphone!

1. “Kim’s Game”

In Rudyard Kipling famous novel Kim, Kimball O’Hara, an Irish teenager, undergoes training to be a spy for the British Secret Service. As part of this training, he is mentored by Lurgan Sahib, an ostensible owner of a jewelry store in British India, who is really doing espionage work against the Russians.
Lurgan invites both his boy servant and Kim to play the “Jewel Game.” The shopkeeper lays 15 jewels out on a tray, has the two young men look at them for a minute, and then covers the stones with a newspaper. The servant, who has practiced the game many times before, is easily able to name and exactly describe all the jewels under the paper, and can even accurately guess the weight of each stone. Kim, however, struggles with his recall and cannot transcribe a complete list of what lies under the paper.
Kim protests that the servant is more familiar with jewels than he is, and asks for a rematch. This time the tray is lined with odds and ends from the shop and kitchen. But the servant’s memory easily beats Kim’s once again, and he even wins a match in which he only feels the objects while blindfolded before they are covered up.
Both humbled and intrigued, Kim wishes to know how the boy has become such a master of the game. Lurgan answers: “By doing it many times over till it is done perfectly — for it is worth doing.”
Over the next 10 days, Kim and the servant practice over and over together, using all different kinds of objects — jewels, daggers, photographs, and more. Soon, Kim’s powers of observation come to rival his mentor’s.
Today this game is known as “Kim’s Game” and it is played both by Boy Scouts and by military snipers to increase their ability to notice and remember details. It’s an easy game to execute: have someone place a bunch of different objects on a table (24 is a good number), study them for a minute, and then cover them with a cloth. Now write down as many of the objects as you can remember. You should be able to recall at least 16 or more.
Here’s an opportunity to play Kim’s Game right now: look at the illustration below for 60 seconds, then scroll past it, and see how many objects you can remember!
kim's game situational awareness test 24 odd objects illustration
How did you do? Better keep practicing!

2. Expand and Enhance Your Field of Vision

Most of us, though we don’t realize it, walk around with tunnel vision. We’re concentrating on a few things directly around or ahead of us, and everything else drops out of our line of sight. So when you’re walking around, remind yourself to take in more than you usually do. Intentionally look for details in your environment you’d ordinarily overlook. Take note of peculiar features in the landscape, what people are wearing, side roads, alleyways, car makes and models, signs, graffiti on the wall — whatever.
To practice expanding your field of vision when you walk, follow these tips from the Boy Scout Fieldbook:
“Learn to scan the ground in front of you…Let your eyes roam slowly in a half-circle from right to left over a narrow strip of land directly before you. Then sweep them from left to right over the ground farther away. By continuing in this way you can cover the whole field thoroughly.”

3. What’s That Sound?

Put up a blanket in the corner of the room. Then take turns standing behind it and making noises with random objects that the rest of the group has to try to identify. The more obscure and challenging the noises people can come up with, the better — think striking a match, peeling an apple, sharpening a knife, combing your hair, etc.  

4. Eyewitness Test

Invite someone who your Scouts/friends don’t know to a group gathering. Have them come in for a few minutes and then leave. Then have everyone write down a physical description of the stranger and see how accurate they are.

5. Navigate by Touch and Feel

Can you dress yourself quickly in a pitch black room? Can you walk through the dark woods without a flashlight? Can you walk around the house blindfolded? Practice maneuvering and navigating without the use of your eyes.

6. Whose Nose Knows?

Have one member of a family/group fill paper cups with a variety of fragrant materials — orange rinds, onion, coffee, spices (cinnamon, pepper, garlic, etc.), grass, Hoppes No. 9 (any of the sources of these manly smells are good candidates) and so on. Then hand the cups to blindfolded participants, who take a sniff, and pass the cup on. Once the cup has been re-collected by the facilitator, the participants write down what they smelled.

7. Feel It

Similar to #6, but place different odds and ends into a box that then gets passed around. The participants have to feel the object and identify it from touch alone.

8. Observation Scavenger Hunt

This is a great one to do with kids, and can turn a long walk in the woods or the city, in which they might be prone to complain, into a fun game, and chance to strengthen their powers of observation! Before you set out, come up with a list of things the kids need to find; for example, on a nature walk you could put down things like a bush with berries, a bird’s nest, moss, a pine cone, etc. As you walk along, the kids will be on the lookout for the listed items, and every time they’re the first to spy one, they can mark another item off their list. See who can find the most things. It doesn’t have to be a competition either; you can all look for the items together as a family and simply keep one checklist.

9. Exit Interview

When you go to a restaurant or other place of business with your family, make a note of a few things about your environment: the number of workers behind the counter, the clothing and gender of the person sitting next to you, how many entrances/exits there are, etc. When you leave and get into the car to head home, ask your kids questions like “How many workers were behind the counter?” “Was the person sitting next to us a man or a woman?” “What color was his/her shirt?” “How many exits were there?”

10. People Watching With a Purpose

In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study In Scarlet, Dr. Watson first becomes apprised as to his future companion’s keen powers of observation and deduction. When the pair notices a man walking down the street looking at addresses and carrying a large envelope, Holmes immediately identifies the stranger as a retired Marine sergeant. After the message bearer affirms this identity, Watson is entirely startled at Holmes’ observational powers. “How in the world did you deduce that?” he asks. The detective then offers this explanation:
“It was easier to know it than to explain why I know it. If you were asked to prove that two and two made four, you might find some difficulty, and yet you are quite sure of the fact. Even across the street I could see a great, blue anchor tattooed on the back of the fellow’s hand. That smacked of the sea. He had a military carriage, however, and regulation side-whiskers. There we have the marine. He was a man with some amount of self-importance and a certain air of command. You must have observed the way in which he held his head and swung his cane. A steady, respectable, middle-aged man, too, on the face of him — all facts which led me to believe that he had been a sergeant.”
“Wonderful!” Dr. Watson exclaims.
“Commonplace,” Holmes replies.
If you’d like powers of deduction similar to the resident of 221B Baker St., practice people watching with more deliberation than is usually lent the pastime. Notice the clothing, tattoos, and accessories of passersby, and observe their manners and how they carry themselves. Then try to guess their background and occupation.
With enough practice in this and the other exercises and games outlined above, your senses will be heightened, your powers of observation will increase, and your situational awareness will be strengthened. Soon you’ll be able to say with Holmes: “I have trained myself to notice what I see.”