Friday, December 30, 2005

The Island

It's a good rental, especially since not a lot of people saw it in the theatre. Could it have been better? Yes. Unfortunately Michael Bay was involved. If you want a critique of every Michael Bay movie ever made, rent Team America. But not the unrated copy.

Anyway the movie is has a solid premise, but unfortunately the middle of the movie is stupid. If you are told to clean something up, then destroying large swathes of Los Angeles is a bad idea. But what do I expect from the geniuses behind Con Air?

It's really much better than any Michael Bay movie has a right to be. You wont be thinking Oscar at the end, but you won't be kicking yourself for renting it either.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Gun Books

I bought a new one yesterday with the aid of a $25 borders gift card I received from my sister. She should be thrilled that I used her card for that. The book is an illustrated gun guide by David Miller, I'll try to get a title and link up as soon as I can.

The good: Lots of great pictures with some decent historical commentary to go along with them. The illustrations are beautiful. Most of the subject choices are quite good, for instance there are three Glocks pictured which vary by frame size and caliber. They also mention a fair number of early designs like the Austrian Roth-Steyr.

The bad: They omit the CZ-75 from the handguns section. Considering how widely copied this pistol is (the Israeli Jericho/Baby Eagle and the Italian made EAA/Tanfoglio Witness are two examples), it deserves at least a passing mention. It is probably one of the most important handguns developed after WWII. I'm sure there are a few more omissions people could argue about, but this was a prominent one.

They also completely botched the M1 Garand and M1 carbine in the rifle section. Both are mentioned together and they describe the Carbine as a miniature Garand. While they look similar and have similar names, the carbine is completely different from the Garand. They use different cartridges, different operating mechanisms, and are intended for different purposes. It is a grievous error.

The ugly: The firearms are broken down by nation of origin. It makes for a pretty muddled narrative. If they had been broken down by date of introduction and then nation, the book would have flowed much better. At the very least, they need to add an index.

A Commute of Cool Cars

My morning drive to work can be interesting. Interesting has different connotations of course. Sometimes traffic is horrible, the weather is bad, and it is "interesting" like the old Chinese curse. Other times you just get to see cool stuff. Things are clear and you can see for miles of lush green country. Today was a cool stuff day as there seemed to be an inordinate amount of nice cars on the road, especially for a day where the weather is bad.

I hadn't left my complex when a Pontiac Solstice pulled past me and into the shopping center next door. It was the first time I had actually seen one driven, mostly I just see them on trailers coming from the assembly plant in Wilmington. They are cool cars. Perhaps not practical, but definitely good lookers. He pulled into a shopping center. I hope he isn't buying much with his tiny trunk.

Further down the road a Dodge Charger passed me. They are also good looking cars. Even this one, which only had the V6, seemed to have enough power to move it around comfortably. The V6 probably isn't much faster than my car, but on the other hand I could park my Mazda inside it.

Finally an older Porsche 911 passed me on the highway. Picking up a theme? Yes I don't drive especially fast on local roads or near any of the speedtraps on I95. Anyway, this 911 was from back in the day when mere mortals could afford to buy them. It was a very nice car with a lot of old school pride to it.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

What Kind of Food Are You?

You Are Chinese Food

Exotic yet ordinary.
People think they've had enough of you, but they're back for more in an hour.

Via Reverend Ed.

Narnia, Dude!

Amy and I went to see the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe on Friday. It was ok. While the Dreamworks version had vastly inferior special effects (and a far more annoying Lucy) it was truer to the actual story. Some of new movie's additions and alterations to the story worked well. They emphasized Edmund's betrayl more. Lewis had a tendency to put character vignettes (like the Witch running into the animals Christmas dinner) into his story that were outside the main plotline, the movie tried to merge them back in. It was fairly successful. I even liked the bickering beavers.

I really hate the bashful hero theme though. At no point do the children actually commit to their roles as the future Kings and Queens of Narnia. Even at the last moment they are talking about running back home. I can't imagine them staying and ruling for more than a few months before they got sick of it and popped back through the wardrobe door. In the real story the kids committed to help almost immediately after finding out about Mr. Tumnus and the prophecy. The filmmakers could have made this very powerful by emphasizing the parallelism between England fighting the Nazis and the children fighting the Witch. But they didn't. So what we have is annoying whiney kids for almost the entirety of the movie. Peter never acts like High King, which is good because they never call him High King either. He's just the bossy one.

I also thought there were a few Britishisms that could have been explained away with a few bits of expository dialogue. Most people didn't know who Father Christmas was when he showed up. He doesn't look like Santa Claus. He is a British Father Christmas: thin (in comparison), bearded, and all clad in fur. But if one of the kids said "Father Christmas", everyone would have understood.

All in all it is worth a watch, but it could have been better.

White Man's Burden

Joe Carter is apologizing for a lot of things, most of them very funny.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Foundations of Virtue

Hube is getting philosophical. It is a great post and please go read it. He mentions this quote from Robert Bork:
We have learned that the founders of liberalism were wrong. Unconstrained human nature will seek degeneracy often enough to create a disorderly, hedonistic, and dangerous society. Modern liberalism and popular culture are creating that society.
John Adams would agree. He once wrote:
"The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue"
"Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
Limited government can only work in a moral society. A moral society will regulate itself. Once the morality goes out the window, the government will have to break its limits in order to keep society functioning.

He goes on with this quote from Robert Heinlein:
Man has no moral instinct. He is not born with moral sense. You were not born with it, I was not -- and a puppy has none. We acquire moral sense, when we do, through training, experience, and heard sweat of the mind.
I disagree with Heinlein. I would argue that most people are born with a moral sense just like we are born with arms and legs. There are a select few who may have an amoral birth defect, but for most people it is there. However like a child, we have to train it. We have to nurture it. We have to exercise it. If we don't our moral discernment will atrophy away and it may be less than worthless.

UN and Overhead

Wizbang is criticizing the UN for excessive overhead in their Tsunami assistance programs. Almost $600 million has been spent and critics are charging that a third of this has gone to "overhead". I expect a lot of conservative bloggers to jump on the bandwagon soon because, well, it's the UN.

Good charities like to have overheads of less than 10%. Checking some local literature shows that overheads of 20%-25% aren't unusual. Wizbang cites museums as having overhead of only 17%. Maybe so, but this is because museums have large endowments so that contributors rarely see overhead. In terms of their budget, it is probably much higher than 17%.

The "good" charities often take the form of grant writers and volunteer heavy organizations. If your charity takes in money and then redistributes it, then your overhead is low. All you need is a small office and a few people to answer phones, research requesters, and someone to sign the checks. If your charity is staffed mostly by self-financing volunteers, then we have another low overhead situation. However relief organizations don't work either of these two ways.

But the real problem is this: who and what is included in "overhead"?

This UPI article states that the one third number includes "staff, administration and other costs." Another states that "some UN agencies will not disclose staff costs and others account for items such as transport and equipment differently." Now depending on the staff and what they do, this may not be overhead at all. If you are a charity offering medical care, the doctors and medical personnel employed by your charity are staff. Christian organizations like Young Life have trouble with the 10% requirement too, their staff is a major expense and spiritual guidance does not have an associated monetary cost. The Red Cross has traditionally had a hard time meeting the 10% overhead requirement for these reasons.

In the case of Tsunami relief, we have a large number of relief workers entering a ravaged region. Even if they are unpaid volunteers they must still be transported there, clothed, fed, and sheltered all at considerable expense. Then we have the logistics tail of getting any supplies the region (both to distribute and support the volunteers) eating up money as well. Is that overhead? It could be.

My point is that all this talk of "overhead" is not cut and dried. Overhead is a very fuzzy amorphous term. 30% looks bad and probably means there is some fat that could be trimmed, but you have to consider the mission they are undertaking and what "overhead" includes.

Security Leaks

Michelle Malkin is discussing classified leaks to the press. She suggests that the Whitehouse:
1. Strengthen collective spine.
2. Subpoena reporters.
3. Find the leakers.
4. Prosecute the lawbreakers.
Ditto. Ditto to this response from one of her readers:
My fiancee and I both work in the defense industry and hold security clearances of varying degrees. What strikes us both, and anyone else in our sphere of professional acquaintances, is the seeming double standard in place where the protection of classified information is concerned. While it seems that senior managers (and I use "manager" as a term of derision) and policymakers are cozy enough with the oversight committees and agencies that they feel at liberty to divulge carefully selected pieces of classified information whenever it suits their purpose, I *KNOW* that anyone at my level would be swiftly and thoroughly wrung out following anything but the most benign security violation.
I also have a security clearance and the actions of people like Sandy Berger burns me up. The man smuggled classified data from the national archives, then he unlawfully stored it, failed to report what he did, and illegally disposed of it. If I did that I would be in jail. But he is a former Secretary of Defense so he got a slap on the wrist.

I think we need strengthen the law in this area, especially with regards to elected officials who drop classified tidbits for political gain. Right now Congressmen have claimed separation of powers privileges with regards to their access to classified information. Senior managers should also be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. If the upper echelons aren't held to task, then how can you do so with the lower ranks?

I also think Bush and Co. should start creating some really heinous programs. Awful things that would be completely unconstitutional. Create these programs on paper and only on paper. Make sure you have an ironclad trail that proves this. Then filter them down through the intelligence ranks to find out where the leaks are (hint: start with the CIA). Then prosecute with extreme prejudice.

Questions for Jeff?

I was reading this post by Joe Carter and thought I might do something similar. Do any you guys out there in bloggyland have questions for me about me? Ask them in the comments and I'll answer them right here. Or email me and you will be kept anonymous.
Do you plan to stay in Delaware? - John
Amybear and I both like Delaware a lot, so if we had our druthers that is where we would put down roots. But at the moment it depends on where Amy finds work. If she finds work far enough south (like Baltimore), I may end up moving to Maryland so we both have reasonable commutes.
What sort of engineering did you study in school? - John
I have a Bachelors and a Masters of Science in Mechanical Engineering. I specialized in advanced composite materials and numerical modeling. Like most people, I don't exactly do what I went to school for, although some of the computer modeling is still useful.
Do you ever think you'll get your PhD? - Michael
I started my Masters degree with an eye towards extending it into a Ph.D. My graduate advisor even approached me, asking if I would like to stay. But I had had enough of school sometime in the middle of my Master's program. I still loved the research, but the coursework was a chore I grew to hate (and my grades show it). Maybe I'll go back for a Ph.D. some day, but I'm in no hurry. I won't regret it if I don't.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas

And a Happy Holidays too.

I'm going to be tied up with Christmas activities until Monday or Tuesday. My family is exchanging gifts tonight, many of which I still have to wrap. Actual Christmas dinner will be after church services tomorrow.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Tragedy of the Commons

Someone has stolen the softsoap from the men's bathroom at work. Now I wouldn't mind if this was a product that the cleaning staff provided, but it isn't. I bought those soap dispensers with my own money, put them in the bathroom I use, and I refill them on my time. Ah well, what did I expect? For shame soap thief whomever you are.

A Very Army Christmas

Christmas Operations Order

Date: Mon, 19 Dec 2005 12:20:01 - 0800 (PST)

From: OIC, Director of Christmas Operations

Subject: Ops order for Dec. 25 Christmas Operations Order: 12-24-05

Subject: Christmas

1. An official visit by Lt Gen Santa (NMI) Claus is expected at this headquarters 25 December 2005. The following instructions will be in effect and govern the activities of all personnel during the visit.

a. Not a creature will stir without official permission. This will include indigenous mice. Special stirring permits for necessary administrative actions will be obtained through normal channels. Mice stirring permits will be obtained through the Office of the Surgeon General, Veterinary Services.

b. Personnel will settle their brains for a long winter nap prior to 2200 hours, 24 December 2005. Uniform for the nap will be: Pajamas, cotton, light, drowsing, with kerchief, general purpose, camouflage; and Cap, camouflage w/ear flaps. Equipment will be drawn from CIF prior to 1900 hours, 24 December 2005.

c. Personnel will utilize standard field ration sugar plums for visions to dance through their heads. Artificially sweetened plums are authorized for those in their unit weight control program. Specifications for this item will be provided by the servicing dining facility.

d. Stockings, wool, cushion sole, will be hung by the chimney with care. Necessary safety precautions will be taken to avoid fire hazards caused by carelessly hung stockings. Unit safety Officers will submit stocking hanging plans to this headquarters prior to 0800 hours, 24 December 2005, ATTN: DCSLOG, for approval.

e. At the first sign of clatter from the lawn, all troops will spring from their beds to evaluate noise and cause. Immediate action will be taken to tear open the shutters and throw open the window sashes. DCSOPS Plan (Saint Nick), Reference LO No. 3, paragraph 6c, this headquarters, 2 February 2000, will be in effect to facilitate shutter tearing and sash throwing. Division chiefs will familiarize all personnel with procedures and are responsible for ensuring that no shutters are torn open nor window sashes thrown open prior to start of official clatter.

f. Prior to 2400, 24 December 2005, all personnel will be assigned "Wondering Eye" stations. After shutters are thrown open and sashes are torn, these stations will be manned.

g. The ODCSLOG will assign one each Sleigh, miniature, M-66, and eight (8) deer, rein, tiny, for use of Lt Gen Claus' driver who, IAW current directives and other applicable regulations, must have a valid SF 56 properly annotated by Driver Testing; be authorized rooftop parking and be able to shout "On Dasher, on Dancer, on Prancer and Vixen, up Comet, up Cupid, on Donner and Blitzen".

2. Lt Gen Claus will enter quarters through standard chimneys. All units without chimneys will draw Chimney Simulator, M-6, for use during ceremonies. Chimney simulator units will be requested on Engineer Job Order Request Form submitted to the Furniture Warehouse prior to 19 December 2005, and issued on DA Form 3161, Request for Issue or Turn-in.

3. Personnel will be rehearsed on shouting "Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night." This shout will be given on termination of General Claus' visit. Uniformity of shouting is the responsibility of division chiefs.

//Original Signed//


He's a Mean One...

So is this what the Pope looks like right before he steals Christmas?

Via Geek with a .45.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Gamer Pillow

Do you need more support while crouching in front of the TV, merrily mashing buttons like mad? Try the lazy gamer pillow. Now you won't have to use any of those pesky buttons in your back or abdomen. Unfortunately for me, my feet go to sleep long before my back or abs get tired of supporting my weight.

Loose Women

The Onion askes "Where Are All These 'Loose Women' My Pastor Keeps Warning Me About?" My take: College. Via John the Methodist.


Amybear has a job interview today. I didn't think she needed to bring her interview suit on this trip, but she proved me wrong. Any prayers would be appreciated.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Methodological Naturalism

Several scientists are invoking this philosophical point to shut down Intelligent Design advocates. As I pointed out less than a month ago, Intelligent Design makes for poor science because it violates this fundamental scientific assumption.

The problem with all this is that, as Joe Carter is pointing out, what happens if God really did take direct supernatural action on the physical world? Then this fundamental philosophical scientific tenet becomes not an asset, but a philosophical blinder to the real cause behind the effect.

Why Am I Surprised?

Joe Cathey has an excellent rant on the current "Bush is spying on the American people" rhetoric coming from the left. The hypocrisy of the whole situation still infuriates me. You would think I would get used to it by now.

For those that don't know, the federal government has built several systems to monitor digital communications. One is called Echelon and is operated by the NSA and another is called Carnivore and is operated by the FBI. These were created with bipartisan support during the Clinton Administration. Techno-libertarians on Slashdot used to rant about these programs for pages at a time when I was in college and grad school. You know, back before Bush was even running for President.

Now for the record, I'm not fond of either program because the techno-libertarians have some valid concerns. There are core civil liberties issues and important constitutional protections that are at least being bent, if not broken. The possibility and consequences of abuse are downright scary. I don't especially like any of that.

What enrages me is how this has become "Chimpy Bushilter Lied Version 2.0". Suddenly some of the major democratic backers of this program are claiming to have never heard of it. It was shocking news to Senator Rockefeller before someone reminded him he had known about it for years. My friends, someone here is lying to the American people, but it isn't George Bush. The democratic leadership has known about this all along. They helped create it. They have just brought it up now with the hope that the can pin it on Bush and put his approval ratings back in the crapper.

And this isn't an isolated case. It happened with PATRIOT Act II as well. Liberals were up in arms. The same liberals like Harry Reid who were celebrating after they passed PATRIOT Act I.

To be bipartisan it also happens when the rightwing gets on the conservative talk circuit. But that doesn't mean I have to like it.

Death of the Gunwriters

Once upon a time in a land not very far away, but a time that seems long forgotten, there were gunwriters worth reading. People like Elmer Keith. And they wrote and editted magazines worth reading as well, like the old Guns and Ammo.

But those days are gone, a fact ably demonstrated by the fact that none of Keith's books are currently in print. Today the gun mags are really just gun rags. You will never hear a bad word spoken of any firearm because to do so would anger the advertisers. You will see pretty pictures and little else. Unless you read Gun Tests, then you will see lots of shoddy statistical analysis. I subscribe to one gun mag, American Rifleman, because it came free with my NRA membership.

Which is why some of the best gun writing done right now is on then internet for free. Blogs, shooting forums like The High Road and The Firing Line, and dedicated model websites like this one for the excellent and inexpensive Bersa Thunder all do great work. Gun writing isn't dead, but it is slowly becoming an amateur art again. What a shame.

Narnia Rap

This is why white men shouldn't rap. Dropping Hamilton's indeed. Via John the Methodist.

UPDATE: QandO has the lyrics.

Braveheart's Endtable

Yea, though I am stuck in the UK and cannot defend myself with firearms, my self-defense bedside table, it comforts me.

Ok, so I'm no psalmist.

Like most of us in the civilized world, the idea of defending my home with cherry tabletop and a stout piece of hickory doesn't excite me. That is what firearms are for. But make the tabletop out of kevlar and maybe we'll talk. Build a light into it and then you'll have a buyer.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Video Game Ratings

From Instapundit and the WSJ:
Yesterday a trio of Democratic senators with presidential ambitions introduced federal legislation that they believe can pass constitutional muster.

The legislation, unveiled at a press conference by Democratic senators Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Evan Bayh of Indiana, would essentially codify the industry's current voluntary rating system. It assigns games letters from "EC," meaning appropriate for early childhood, to "AO" for "adults only." Retailers who sell games rated "mature," "adults only" or "ratings pending" to children under 17 could face fines of $5,000 per violation.
Some people are blaming the Democrats for this and that is all well and good, but I'd like to thank Rockstar games for this wonderful new development.

Now I enjoy many of Rockstar's fine products, including the Grand Theft Auto series. But they broke the current industry rules by not disclosing the existence of the so-called "Hot Coffee" code to the ESRB. This demonstrated that the ESRB is essentially powerless in the face of huge market pressures. All the ESRB could do is refuse to rate Rockstar's games. Those games would probably still be hits and by being unrated hits, would therefore weaken the ESRB even further.

Thank you Rockstar for Hot Coffee. Without it, do you really think we would see Congress looking to pass new mandatory restrictions?

Chuck Norris

I never knew their was so much to know about the man. Or just skip to the top thirty Chuck Norris facts.

King Kong

Speaking of Peter Jackson related properties, my brother and I caught King Kong this weekend. It was big and bold and long. Which is fine, because it is still a very good movie. Especially when you get to the end and realize who the villians of the piece really are.

The movie paces itself well, but it's 3 hours. Peter Jackson could have easily cut 30 minutes out of it, but he doesn't. There is a lot of third string characters that could have been cut down to streamline the movie, but weren't. It still isn't a bad movie. I'm just getting worried that Peter Jackson may not be able to make a movie that isn't a rambling multi-hour epic. I'm more worried that he may be taking the rest of Hollywood with him. There is something to be said for telling a simple emersive story and I really think Hollywood has lost the touch for it.

Lord of the Rings: The Musical?

Did you think that the movies were a little gay? Well you haven't seen anything yet! It's Lord of the Rings: The Musical! No, I'm not kidding. I can't wait to hear Sam's heartbreaking ballad "Don't Go Where I Can't Follow". Although if the elves actually sing some of the original songs in elvish, that would admittedly be pretty cool.

My real problem is that I really can't see how they will condense down 1000 pages of epic fantasy into a ~3 hour stage production without leaving everything on the cutting room floor or satirizing itself.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Spirit of Christmas

I'll be celebrating the true meaning of Christmas from 3 to 5pm today by ringing Salvation Army bell at the entrance to Concord Mall by Sears.

Unfortunately Bill, the guy taking over from me at 5, just found out that his father may not be around for Christmas. His father fell and hit his head. He is on life support and is not expected to recover. Please pray for Bill and his family.

UPDATE: I actually ended up in front of Strawbridges instead. All in all it was very nice. The last time I did this, it was outside in front of a Target on bitterly cold December night. This time I ended up inside the mall itself where it was nice and toasty. Two hours inside the mall is much easier than one outside.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Angels We Have Heard on High...

Tell us to go out and buy. From the ever appropriate Tom Lehrer.

The nice thing about working a compressed schedule is that you get some Fridays off. So it is time for me to get working on my Christmas purchases. Amy and my brother are good. My sister and brother-in-law aren't coming so I'll have to get something shipped. My parents are chronicly difficult to buy for. My more distant relations won't need anything until mid January.

Anyway off for a good workout at the gym, then clean myself up, and get to shopping.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Winter Weather

It is snowing and I have to drive through it. Not my favorite thing to do, but I'd much rather drive through the snow than the freezing rain that the weatherpersons were originally predicting. Plus I don't have to work tomorrow so if the roads are bad, I stay home, sit by the fire, and drink hot cocoa.

Military Notes

Wizbang has a Milblog of the Week feature. This week's is Chairborne Stranger. His description of being in an IED attack is chilling:
You get the smoke and the metal hitting all around you before you actually hear the sound of the explosion. If you hear the explosion-you know you made it through ok. Wiggle the hands and feet to make sure you have all the parts.
Instapundit has linked to foreign policy concerns with Britian over the JSF. They want the best stuff. We want assurances that our technology won't end up in French and German aircraft through the Ministry of Defense's other defense technology transfers. It is a very reasonable request considering how we have gotten hosed by other countries in the past tranferring technology not just to our friendly competitors in the EU, but our possible future opponents like China.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Value Entertainment

Several pundits are pontificating on the problems of the film industry. Ticket sales are down. Why? Tammy Bruce says it's because the movies suck and Stephen Green concurs. Furthermore they both think there is an essential values disconnect here. From Tammy:
They had better start considering the fact that filmmakers are so disconnected, so nihilistic, that the hopelessness and hostility they feel toward the world now permeates their work. Americans will no longer go see movies which are nothing more than the manifestation of the backwash of malignant narcissists.
From Stephen:
Most of Hollywood's tragedies can't sell tickets even on opening weekend because in the stories they tell, the people are still flawed -– but only because the entire world is crap, too.

Shakespeare taught us that the wicked would get their just desserts. Hollywood wants us to think that we're all wicked, and deserve whatever we get.
Which brings me to my point: Why aren't Christian or other conservative media groups filling the gaps?

Sadly one of the problems is that Christian media is preoccupied with wholesome family fare. I have no problem with good family films and television that I can sit down to watch with my cousin's kids. I have written on bad family fare in the past. So I do care.

But family fare isn't everything. How do you tackle a serious spiritual issue like lust, in a wholesome family program? How do you send the proper message that adults need to solve their own problems without undermining the concept that children should seek help from an adult? Michael Spencer has bemoaned the fact that at some point this childrens mandate becomes a hindrance to tackling serious issues in a Christian medium.

And the sad thing is that there is a real audience out there for this stuff. John Mark Reynolds has lamented that Buffy the Vampire Slayer is well written TV devoid of healthy moral underpinnings. I share the same lament. That genre, the teenage supernatural/paranormal action drama, has been prominent across several networks in recent years. We have shows like Buffy, Angel, Dark Angel, Supernatural, and Smallville. These are shows that touch on spiritual issues, but are essentially visions of a Godless supernatural universe.

I would love to see someone try a teenage Christian supernatural action drama. Make it a show where the power of the hero/heroine is not their strength but their their faith. Use the demons that show up every week as a means of addressing prominent sins like lust. Tackle issues like redemption and forgiveness when our hero fails. (A really hot succubbus comes to town, will our hero be seduced?) It would work. It would make for interesting TV. It would have values. But it will never be made, because it wouldn't always be suitable for children.

Mmm Chicken Soup

In between discussions of really fun toys for the kids and the rights of women to defend themselves, Dr. Helen "Instawife" Reynolds has a recipe for Lemon Chicken Soup I'll have to try.

Retroactive Determinism

From Evangelical Outpost's Yak Shaving Razor feature:
Retrospective determinism -- the logical fallacy that because something happened, it was therefore bound to happen.(Example: "When he declared himself dictator of the Roman Republic, Julius Caesar was bound to be assassinated sooner or later.")
Nice to know there is a name for this.

I remember when Ronald Reagan died, there was an undercurrent of this going around on the left. Yeah he beat the Russians, but judging from what we know now, they would have collapsed under their own weight anyway. So he wasn't that great a man.

Now this wasn't what they said while Reagan was president. In fact Reagan and the conservatives were the only ones saying that the free market was the future and if we leaned on them they'd crumble. Furthermore, other communist nations like China are still here and growing because they have been given the time to reform. But if Retroactive Determinism works for you, who am I to make you think?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Professional Christians

I commented on Real Live Preachers "reimagining" of the church about a week ago. But my current study of 1 Corinthians brought another aspect of it to mind. From RLPs original post:
We would never pay anyone to be a professional Christian. There would be no staff, no paid ministers, no salaries, and no overhead. ... If there is preaching, it would be done by everyone. All who feel ready to share would take their turn. You would have weeks or even months to read your passage of scripture prayerfully. Then you would simply share the wisdom you found in the scriptures with your good friends.
How does 1 Corinthians fit in? Well in chapter 9, Paul discusses the rights of apostleship and specifically talks about so called "profession believers."
Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk? Do I say this merely from a human point of view? Doesn't the Law say the same thing? For it is written in the Law of Moses: "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely he says this for us, doesn't he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn't we have it all the more?

But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ. Don't you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel
In other words Paul states that there is nothing wrong with being a professional christian. It is an extension of the biblical precendents of reaping what is sown going back to the establishment of the Aaronic priesthood. It is completely in keeping with biblical principles.

Honestly I'm concerned about some of these groups seeking to remove professional ministers. While ministers aren't perfect, this new emphasis on laity seems to be coming from exactly the kind of people who need their reimaginings of christianity straightened out by an experienced believer.

Inner City Economies

QandO is criticizing urban politicos. It starts out about how you would expect:
The truth is that, rather than improving conditions for average residents of their cities, many urban politicians and interest groups have promoted policies that actually exacerbated a metastasizing underclass.
They criticize a lot of Great Society social policies for basically meeting immediate needs without thinking about long term improvement. Valid sure, but not exactly ground breaking.
Local leaders had become convinced that becoming a "port of cool" was the ticket to success. Never mind the grubby fiscal and regulatory basics of encouraging business activity. Instead, city and state leaders adopted Richard Florida's trendy "creative class" theory...
I've noticed this trend before, but I haven't heard it addressed. Cities and sometimes even states are turning their backs on major statewide industries to focus on what are essentially service sectors. Delaware has two major industries, credit card companies and chemical manufacturing. Of the two, chemical companies like DuPont are being left to rot, while the financial service industry is seen as the future. The revitalization of the Wilmington waterfront has not taken the form of bringing in new industry to use old buildings, it has taken the form of shops and boutiques.

I think this is ultimately very foolish. Basic industry is the foundation of the economy. The next tier of finance and transportation is also important. But we are becoming a nation of middlemen. Retail is not where the money is. It is not the productive part of the economy. We need to stop focusing on trendy shopping districts and revitalize the industrial base we have let languish.

Me Church

Want a church that is all about you? Well this the place for you.

From the people who brought you Evangelism Linebacker and MeWorship.

Armed Robbery for Dummies

Don't do this. Via Evangelical Outpost.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Blogger Wedding

Somehow I suspect my nuptuals won't draw the same linkage as Sarah and Frank's, but I can live with that.

Viva la Revolucion!

Every once in a while a liberal writes a column that comments how if things are getting any worse, the proletariat will rise up and overthrow our corrupt regime. Instapundit is highlighting another load of this sort of BS.
At a certain point in the near future, if the current oligarchy cannot be removed via the ballot, direct political action may become an urgent and compelling mission. It may then be necessary for many people in many walks of life to put their bodies on the line.
Am I the only conservative laughing at this? Hey, we liberals are going to put our bodies on the line. We're going to remove this corrupt regime by force if necessary. Viva la revolucion!

Except here's the thing. The conservatives? We have guns. I even own some with super-scary bayonet lugs. And I have the bayonets for them too. How many neo-Marxists have you run into at the local shooting range? About the only time I see a leftist holding a gun is when they are taking credit for banning that particular flavor of firearm. And even then they aren't holding it properly.

Of course this is all somewhat of a misstatement. The writer is supporting general strikes ala Europe and massive sit-ins ala Tiananmen Square. Except that union labor doesn't have that kind of power over here and "the large public squares" in the US are deep in the heart of the Democrat controlled cities.

What is really sad is that his major complaints are about the government subverting the protections of the US constitution. It is a valid problem. I would love to see a real conservative government in power so we could see the constitutional restrictions on government restored to what they were before FDR entered office. But this guy is a liberal! They built the uber-state and were willing to step on all sorts of constitutional toes to do it. They forged the weapon that is being used against them. Haven't you liberals learned your lesson yet about concentrations in power?

No I guess not.

UPDATE: Joe Carter is also disdainful of this new activism.

Verbal Bible Reading

Izzy is in his cubicle, reading a passage of the bible out aloud. Only for the angelic/divine dialogue, he is using the world's worst Sean Connery impression. It is hilariously awful and I can't stop listening to him. And it's sad, because Connery is easy. You just over enunciate out of one side of your mouth.

Shooting Misfire

I packed up two of my pistols and hiked over to my old range yesterday. I like my new range better, but it's outside and it's darn cold out right now. No thank you.

As I was about to give them my money, the clerk said "Don't you remember why you stopped shooting here six months ago?"

Actually he didn't say that. He said, "You can't shoot those bullets here."

Why? He said "Because we want wring every last cent from your worthless hide by making you buy our ammo for your guns."

No not really, he said "Because our ventilation system sucks and we won't spend our money to fix it."

Really? No actually didn't say either of those things. He said "Lead bullets are hazardous to your health, blah, blah, blah."

I said, "You know what, I'm in no mood to take your crap. I'll be taking my business elsewhere."

Shooting ranges run by cheap tightasses really annoy me. For the record, lead bullets aren't hazardous to your health, even in a closed environment like an indoor range. The hazardous lead salts that are formed during shooting come from the primers (the little percussion caps at the base of the cartridge), not from the bullet. Any lead coming from the bullet, comes off the base and most jacketed bullets still have an exposed lead base.

Now casting lead bullets in an enclosed environment, that can cause unhealthy lead exposure. And the amount of heavy metals lodged in a typical backstop is impressive and ecologically troublesome. But actually shooting the damn things is pretty darn safe as long as you are on the proper side of the gun when the trigger is pulled.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Dinner with the Smiths

I rented a couple movies last night.

Mr and Mrs Smith with Branjolina was surprisingly good. It moved well, had good action, and pretty good characterization as well. The juxtaposition of everyday situations and vigorous hitman/woman gunplay was funny. It didn't work as well as in the Incredibles, but still good. Definitely worth the rental if you haven't seen it yet.

The other was a western called Gunslinger's Revenge. I have a thing about westerns, but this was no John Wayne movie. Gunslinger's Revenge sucks, don't even rent it.

The thing about a movie with a title like Gunslinger's Revenge, you would expect there to be guns, some slinging of said guns, and perhaps a plot centered around revenge. None of that really pans out.

The movie is told from the perspective of a half-indian boy and his white doctor father. The father character is just annoying. He's a vegetarian pacifist and is played by an Italian actor who's voice is badly overdubbed (the film seems to have been shot in Europe). Because the doctor won't do anything to actual solve his own problems, like the villains kidnapping his son and threatening his family, other characters like his Indian wife and crazy neighbor essentially do his fighting for him. This is not something I can respect. Harvey Kietel does well as the famous gunslinger grandfather. David Bowie plays the villain. His American accent isn't American enough, a common problem on the film, but he makes for a decent dangerous lunatic.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Registration and Confiscation

On the topic of guns, members of the gunblogosphere are quite upset with Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin who is running for re-election on a platform of leveraging Canada's current firearms registration laws into a full blown handgun prohibition complete with confiscations.

Gun controllers like to pretend than registration and confiscation are unlinked or linked only by a specious unproven slippery-slope argument. It not just a lie, it is a damn lie. England, Australia, and Canada have all passed registration laws. England and Australia both have passed handgun bans. Now one is proposed in Canada. For something in our own country, look at the results of gun registration efforts in US cities and how they have led to gun bans in places like San Francisco, Chicago, and DC.

This is not a fallacious slippery slope. This is real life and it is happening again.

Oooh Presents...

I would like a present like this.

I usually buy myself something nice as a Christmas present to myself. Yes it is somewhat narcistic, but hey its my money. Previous purchases have included firearms and performance car parts. This year my ride needs new tires, so I've picked out a nice set that performs well and is economical. Since we just got a load snow and ice last night, some good new all season tires are high up on my priorities right now.

I may still buy myself a new gun for Christmas. I'm not leaning towards the AUG though. I've wanted an AR-15 for a while now, but I haven't wanted to spend the money. I've also wanted a single action revolver (wee look I'm a cowboy!). The thought of a percussion conversion myself interests me. Another pistol is more promising since I actually have some local ranges where I can shoot pistols at decent distances.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

One Plus One Equals...

Matthew Yglesias is making a common liberal complaint. "The poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer." He makes it in a very reasonable way however and points out that this trend has continued through both Republican and Democratic administrations. So it isn't a knee jerk anti-Bush piece. I did some thinking and to some extent I don't have a problem with trend.

Now if there is one thing any American business man will tell you, it is that American labor is expensive. If are trying to compete internationally this can be a real problem. If your workforce is heavily unionized and you are trying to compete internationally, the costs are almost prohibitive. See the US auto and the US steel industries for specifics on how high labor costs (and poor management) are destroying once powerful businesses.

So American workers are often overpaid, at least in international terms. If those businesses are every going to become profitable in the face of international competition, they must be paid less. Then once the business makes a profit, the rich business owners will admittedly get richer. But this is what has to happen. Otherwise we simply won't have any business and both the rich and the poor will be bankrupt. Everybody is even worse off.

So while I don't like the idea of really poor people starving, I don't really have a problem with American labor making a bit less money than they used to because right now many of them are making far too much.

Now is there a way out of this inequality so that the rich and the poor both come out ahead? Maybe. I think we should work to increase the workers' share of ownership in their employing companies. Use profit sharing or some sort of investment system. Then the loss in wages will be made up, at least partly, by an increase in their investments net worth. Even a switch to 401k retirement savings or better yet, private investment accounts via social security, would be something.

Which Action Hero Are You?

You scored as Indiana Jones. Indiana Jones is an archaeologist/adventurer with an unquenchable love for danger and excitement. He travels the globe in search of historical relics. He loves travel, excitement, and a good archaeological discovery. He hates Nazis and snakes, perhaps to the same degree. He always brings along his trusty whip and fedora. He's tough, cool, and dedicated. He relies on both brains and brawn to get him out of trouble and into it.

Indiana Jones


Batman, the Dark Knight


Neo, the "One"


James Bond, Agent 007




William Wallace


Captain Jack Sparrow


The Terminator


The Amazing Spider-Man


Lara Croft


El Zorro


Which Action Hero Would You Be? v. 2.0
created with

Dang missed Batman by this much > <.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Cartoon Censorship

I don't mind modern cartoons being made to crappy standards. But I hate crappy modern standards being applied to great old cartoons. Among other things, the cuts often ruin the proper comedic timing of the show. The original directors were Oscar winners like Chuck Jones. Do you honestly think the censors are of their caliber?

But what really gets my goat is that this censorship is really just enabling poor, lazy parenting. Trust the networks, use TV as a babysitter, nothing bad can happen. You won't have to keep track of what your kids are watching. You certainly won't have to talk with them about it or teach them right and wrong. Let the TV do that.

Oh and if you want to get me something for Christmas, uncensored Looney Tunes collections are probably a good choice.


Someone asked me whether I agree with everyone on my blogroll or not. In a word: No.

My blogroll is made up of people I read on a regular basis. I'm not one of those guys who's blogroll contains links to everyone who has ever linked to them. Some people do that and I won't speak ill of them. (That is where most of my incoming links come from after all.) But I like my blogroll to be more practical than that. My blogroll is a tool to guide my own blog consumption.

I have blogrolled people that I don't agree with, like Mainstream Baptist or Matthew Yglesias. I'm wary of turning my blogroll into an echo-chamber for what I already believe. I think a lot of bloggers do that and I don't think it's healthy. Besides things you disagree with make for great posting fuel. That said a lot of lefty commentary is crap and I'm not going to bother polluting my mind with it. You won't ever see me blogrolling DailyKos or Eschaton.

I have delinked good bloggers who blog erratically, like Ambra Nykol. If I'm looking for some reading and not finding anything new on a regular basis, you'll probably be gone. I have delinked good bloggers that I don't find myself reading much. Stephen Camp's blog and Howard Tayler's blog are on the cusp right now. They're a great blogs, but I don't find myself stopping by very often.

Oh and some people are just friends, e-friends, or loved ones of course. If I wasn't marrying Amybear her blogspot blog would probably be gone. She does most of her blogging on a diary site and there just isn't much new content on blogspot.

UPDATE: Oh and I really like the BlogRolling system. It is very handy and much better than hardcoding the links. But I don't trust the update markers anymore, some blogs aren't on a system where they get tagged as updated.

How to Dance

Scott Adams blog is great. His current post shows his usual wit and humor. Here is a brief synopsis.
I will attempt to teach the dance-challenged among my readers (okay, the hetero guys) how to move on the dance floor in a way that does not invite spectators to point and snicker. I feel your pain, because for many years I desperately wanted to know how to dance in a less frighteningly retarded manner. There is indeed a simple secret, and when I employed it, I transformed instantly from a Turbo-dork to a mildy uncoordinated guy. The secret is this: hip movement.
Read it all. I'll have to try out his advice in the mirror at home.

The Nature of the Church

Evangelical Outpost is blasting Real Live Preacher's reimagining of the church.
Even if you've never visited RLP's site you know the type: a hipster pastor who has the tongue of Tourette's sufferer and the epistemology of a French Deconstructionist; the type who thinks that cussing and fideism are signs that they are "authentic" when they are merely immature.
Ouch. RLP's essay If We Could Do Church is a vision of a community based organization. But it is neither a church nor a body of believers. The trouble starts here:
First of all, we probably wouldn’t call ourselves a church. That English word is rather tired, I think. It really doesn’t communicate very well, and it’s not a biblical word in any case. We might call ourselves “A Gathering of Friends,” or perhaps, “A Community Living in the Way of Christ.” I don’t know what we would call ourselves; maybe we wouldn’t have a name at all.
First, church is biblical. The Greek word in the bible is ekklesia, but it means church. The real problem is that of his two names, the first "A Gathering of Friends" is far more appropriate than the second. Here is his next paragraph:
I don’t think we would concern ourselves very much with what individuals in the community say about Jesus or even believe about Jesus. It’s not that what we say about Jesus doesn’t matter, but this community would begin with real living. There will be time enough for pretty Jesus words later on.
It is a good thing RLP does not refer to this as a church. It isn't one nor is it a new age, revolutionary replacement for one.

The church is God centered. It is supposed to be the projection of Christ into this fallen world. His "community" is not God centered. It is people centered. It is self-centered. He raises six bullet points on the core role of his new "community." Only one mentions God. His community is about "we" not about He. Tell me, what is "real living" apart from God? Apart from Christ? A quick read of Romans will show you that real living apart from God is worthless.

It isn't that his bullet points are wrong. They aren't. They are generally what a church should be doing. It is that his bullet points are like an arch without a capstone. They lack the key piece which holds everything else together. And RLP doesn't seem to see anything wrong with that.

Any replacement for a traditional church must be God-centered. It must be start with Jesus and then spread to the world, not the other way around. Now some of his emphasis on doing instead of talking is just fine. I think the modern church often talks too much and does too little. But his belief that talking just amounts to "pretty Jesus words" is completely off base. Some of that talking is establishing a firm spiritual foundation upon which to build. You must build upon the Rock.

If you want to go about being a pre-church christian you do not start with a "community" and move towards God and Jesus. The early church was a household of people serving the same master. Before there was a church, there were just disciples: Followers of the Way. They were fellow travelers walking the same path towards God. They started with God and built their community around Him. That is not what RLP is describing.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Charlie Brown Trees

So I mentioned A Charlie Brown Christmas yesterday. Urban Outfitters has a version of the "pathetic" christmas tree from the special for sale for $24. But they're sold out. People are reselling them on ebay for $50.

And so we have a huge group of people who missed the whole point A Charlie Brown Christmas. That sound you hear is Charles Schulz casket spinning.

Holiday Cheer

For something a little lighter, there is the Cavalcade of Bad Nativities. HT: BHT

John the Methodist is linking to the Ten Least Successful Comedy Specials of All Time. John likes the Ayn Rand one. I prefer the Lost Star Trek Christmas episode. It is light years ahead of the Star Wars Christmas Special and the Star Wars special was actually made.

Losing Loved Ones

I've lost two of my grandparents. My dad's father died in Washington state when I was little. His mother died when I was 16 and she was sleeping down the hall in my sisters old room. One morning I came home from school and she was gone. She had cancer and heart problems and mental issues. It wasn't a surprise, she had been very sick for quite a while.

Joan's grandmother just died. I don't know whether this is a surprise for her or not. Joan has really had a heck of year, so please keep her in prayer and vote for her blog (Seven Inches of Sense) in the Weblog Awards.

Monday, December 05, 2005

War on Christmas

Instapundit has some commentary on the Christmas culture clash.
I find the whole thing kind of bemusing: Merchants who desperately want people to spend money because it's Christmas are afraid to say the word, while those who are complaining are basically demanding that we commercialize Christmas more openly. Sigh.
I don't think many Christians are demanding that we commercialize Christmas more. Christians in general have come to accept the commercialization of Christmas. It has been this way for centuries. As far back as the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the Puritans were rejecting Christmas as too commercial. American Puritans celebrated Thanksgiving instead. Many people know that Thanksgiving didn't become a national holiday until the early twentieth century. Truth be told, Christmas wasn't a national Holiday either. Most of New England didn't celebrate it until after the Civil War.

But if we have accepted some commercialization of Christmas, we don't have to like it. Many of us see the Christ in the Christmas as the seasons only redeeming virtue. The silver lining as it were. If you drop that mention of Jesus, then this is simply the season of Fat Commie Elves and horrible mall traffic. Why the hell would I celebrate that?

In the end if I have to put up with all this secular crap for Christmas, if I have to put up with being called a bigot by leftists who can't discern the difference between types of discrimination, if I have to put up with driver's IQs dropping within a mile radius of a shopping mall, if I have to watch my holiest of holy days turn into a tinsel-covered sham, then frankly, I damn well better get told to have a Merry Christmas. Because otherwise I just might forget.

I can turn on a TV and see Seasons Greetings from my local TV news. I can be told to have a Happy Hanukkah, a Kooky Kwansaa, a Riotous Ramadan. Well excused me, but you missed one. I may be the majority, but that is no excuse to discriminate against me. All I'm asking for is some equal time. Don't stop wishing people a Happy Hanukkah, but please slip a Merry Christmas into the rotation. It won't kill you. The other folks won't be offended, because with 98% of the US population celebrating Christmas, the other 2% knows when it's Christmas time. They aren't stupid. They've noticed even if it is just to pencil in December 25 for "Jews Eat Chinese and Go to the Movies" Day.

Why do put ourselves through this every year? For this I have to cite the wisdom of Charlie Brown. When Charlie Brown is fed up about the materialism and the hypocrisy and he asks why am I doing this, Linus answers:
"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not, for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you this day is born in the City of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel, a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men'". That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.
Thank you Charles M. Schulz and thank you Lord God Almighty. I give because I have received and trust me, that is the only reason I keep doing it.


Today's Penny Arcade, while profane as usual, is hilarious. A few more obvious spoilers for everybody:
Darth Vader? Luke's Father. Leia's too.
Titanic? The boat sinks.
Any Jesus Movie? His death is not the end.
Hope those didn't ruin your movie rentals this weekend.

P.S. Amy and I rented Stealth this weekend. The spoiler? Jessica Biel is hot and the movie is not.

Little Cars for Big People

Citroen has a new two-door micro-car concept that may be future competition for the Mini.

The Citroen isn't a powerhouse. Only 110 horses, but that's 16 more than the competing Ford Streetka. In a micro-car you don't need a lot of power because you don't have a lot of weight. So provided I fit, it could still be a fun ride.

It still amazes me that the mini is selling at it's inflated price point, but no US company has bothered to bring out a state-side competitor. It wouldn't take much to undercut them on price and options. Ford and GM both make cars in that size class (like the aforementioned Streetka), but they don't sell them over here. This is probably because making a sub-compact car that can pass US crash regulations is extremely difficult. Thank you Ralph Nader.

The sad thing is that even dedicated right-wingers like myself would buy a small car for commuting if it could do zero-to-sixty in under a week and didn't cost more that larger competitors (like the Mini does). Oh well.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Christian Peacemaker Teams

Four Christians from the Canadian-based Christian Peacemaker Teams have been kidnapped in Iraq. The hostages themselves are blaming the US occupation for their captivity. One would think they would blame their kidnappers a bit more....

Donald Sensing has responded and his post opens with this anecdote.
There'’s an old story about the Old West when railroads were still new. A train was chugging down the track across the Great Plains one day when the engineer espied a small, dark dot on the track near the horizon. As he and the object drew nearer, he could see that it was a buffalo bull charging straight at the locomotive. The buffalo's head was down with the horn pointing straight ahead and the animal was running full tilt.

The engineer shook his head and muttered, "“Fella, I admire your courage but your judgment just stinks."
That pretty much sums up my thoughts on pacifism as well. I think evil needs to be confronted and sometimes violent means of confrontation are necessary. If someone is routinely employing violence and terror like Osama Bin Laden or Saddam Hussein, I have little problem using violence against them.

A friend of mine is Christian and a pacifist. He was raised Menonite/Quaker, but now he's Baptist. He's a good guy and I generally respect his wishes. But generally his views and mine are not dissimilar. He is not anti-confrontation, his is simply anti-violent confrontation.

John the Methodist has noted that the CPT members who are being held captive have expressed their wished not to be rescued by violent means.
Should we (a) respect their wishes and restrain the military or (b) permit the use of force to rescue them from their captors?
I don't have a good answer. In general, I would just ignore their wishes and do what needs to be done. Since I would prefer a peaceful conclusion to this situation, peace would come first. But in the end kidnappers have to be caught and criminals must be brought to justice. If we have to resort to violence, I would consider it justified and their wishes be damned. There are more things at stake here than just their lives.

Fun with Photoshop

Over at John the Methodist's place. Star Wars Kid eat your heart out.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Ok we've looked at baby names. Now where does your last name rank in the grand scheme of surnames?

Smith is number one. Jones is number four. I wonder what two and three are? Mine is in the high 15,000s. Amybear's is off the charts. Looks like she is moving up I suppose.

Trash Technology

Some people think we can't learn anything from the Europeans. Kim shows us one great idea from the streets of Amsterdam.

I honestly wonder whether the US perception of Europe isn't tinged a little by our closeness with Britian. We share a language (sort of) and some of the same perceptions as the British. When we look to do bright new things (or bad ideas like socialize medicine) we often use them as a model. But Europe as a whole is much more diverse than just the UK. Perhaps we need to get out more as a nation and experience the non-anglophonic European nations.

Audio Annoyance

Do you have an infestation of teenagers? Repel them off with high frequency sound.
The device, called the Mosquito ("It's small and annoying," Stapleton said), emits a high-frequency pulsing sound that, he said, can be heard by most people younger than 20 and almost no one older than 30. The sound is designed to so irritate young people that after several minutes, they cannot stand it and go away.
The whole point is to keep teenagers from hanging out in front of your shop and annoying customers who will actually buy something.

My mother bought me an ultrasonic mosquito repeller a while back. It is a little box you can strap to your arm or leg and it drives off the little bloodsuckers. No word whether it works on teenagers too. According to the advertising, the frequency was high enough to be out of the human audio range. My brother and I could hear it just fine, although my parents and my aunts could not.

I play ultimate frisbee after work and the field we were using was quite buggy. So I brought it to work with me. Coworkers my age could hear it, those closer to retirement could not. I found that a little background noise would also keep me from hearing the tone. I was fine when I wore it on my ankle outside, but I could hear it clear as a bell in the office.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Disputed Definitions

One of those discussions that seems to come up over and over again is the meaning of fundamentalist. Joe Cathey, Rob Bradshaw, and Jim West are talking about it now. I was commenting on it over at GetReligion before the 2004 elections.

The problem with the term Fundamentalist is essentially twofold:
  1. People like to use "fundamentalist" similar to "neo-con". It is a buzzword that says "you don't have to like this person." This is what Jim West's definition draws upon.

    Within the Christian faith, Fundamentalists are characterized by rigid and uncompromising adherence to the Fundamentals. The Fundamentals are six theological principles: biblical inerrancy, the divinity of Christ, the virgin birth, his atoning death, resurrection, and a future second coming.

    Nowhere in there will you find economic policy, US foreign policy, or recent historical theory. The construction of the Fundamentals is such that they exclude Catholic and Orthodox Christians.

  2. Many people seek to connect the fundamentalist movements together across religious lines. All fundamentalist religions are based at least in part to a reaction against Modernist religious criticism. This reaction to a common philosophical foe leads to some commonalities like a reliance on a definitive revelation and a concentration on core religious principles. However the fundamental tenets of each religion are completely different from each other.

    Which is why attempts to tar Christians with the same brush as Islamic fundamentalist terrorists are so loathsome. Violence in Christian Fundamentalism has never been on the same scale as Islamic fundamentalism because of the difference in fundamental tenets between the two religions. Christianity has no theological construct similar to Jihad and an emphasis on civil government.
I doubt this will clear anything up, but I thought I would write it anyway.

Artificial Stupidity

Intelligence tests can be fun. I've mentioned them in the past.

The last one I took sent me a link to a "free" report giving the detailed results of my test instead of just a single IQ number. In order to see this report I had to wade through a massive amount of spam. I clicked "no thanks" to at least a dozen offers for educational and other services. I'd like to make a suggestion to anyone running these sorts of sites. If someone ranks in the highest percentile on your intelligent test, don't bother presenting us with bogus "opportunities" we are far to smart to take.

I suggest you make up for any revenue lost from us smart people by presenting those in the lowest percentiles with lots of links offering bright shiny objects for them to purchase. Or maybe just a lot of those smack the gopher ads. Yes it is a sort of stupid tax, but I live in a state with a lottery so we already have those anyway.

Honestly, isn't life some sort of stupid tax? P.T. Barnum certainly would have thought so. This way to the great egress.

Monday, November 28, 2005


Joe Carter is discussing why it bothers us so much. I swear sometimes. Not a lot, but when it reflects the nature of my heart at the moment. I am a firm believer in being honest with yourself and others. I would much rather swear than put up a false face. If I say darn, God knows what I meant and so do you. If anything refusing to tone it down encourages me to cut it out entirely.

No one over there has pointed out that not all "cussin'" is not the same. There is profanity which comes from taking the Lord's name in vain and other offenses. Then there is cursing, which involves invoking a curse on someone or something. This is what you are doing when you say "Dammit!" Then there is swearing, which is "I swear to God, I will never do that again." Then there is obscenity, which is the current four-letter craze of f-bombs and the like.

The Bible pretty explicitly forbids us from profanity, cursing, and swearing. The only swearing we may do is to make our Yes mean Yes and our No mean No. Obscenity is much more of a cultural thing and should probably fit in the Christian liberty, don't-cause-your-brother-to-stumble category. People have considered a lot of stupid things obscene. For instance in the eighteenth century, talking about a woman's ankles was considered obscenity. Well let me tell you, my Amybear has very shapely ankles. I've even seen them! Before marriage! I'm sure a lot of long dead dandies are now spinning in their graves. Even now women are wearing burkhas because of cultural customs surrounding obscenity.

But the overarching theme of the bible is that profanity and the like are really indicators of the state of the heart. Make your heart right and the swearing will stop. If you wish, fight against the act of speaking them. That might be a tool to help you discipline your heart and mind. But in the end realize it is the heart and what is before God that counts. Work from without and pray that the spirit will work from within.

The Scientific Paradox

Scott Adams has a pretty keen intellect. I'm reading his non-dilbert book God's Debris right now, and it definite a work to make you think. That work is available for free here.

Scott isn't a Christian, but his current demonstration of the problems surrounding intelligent design is worth reading.
Imagine that lightning suddenly carves into the side of the Washington Monument the words “I am God. I created you. Darwin was a nut.” And let’s say there are hundreds of witnesses who all have video cameras and capture it from multiple angles.

Now imagine that the same phenomenon repeats every day for a month, each time on a different monument. Scientists study the phenomena and conclude that humans probably didnÂ’t cause it, but beyond that, there are no further scientific clues about how lighting could seem so directed.

If I crafted my thought experiment right, no one would have any idea how to devise a test that would confirm or exclude the possibility that God really did it. Hypothetically, being omnipotent and all, he would be capable of leaving no clues, other than signing his name. Therefore, any speculation as to the cause is not science.
Here we have one of the fundamental problems of science. Scientific inquiry is based on fundamental assumptions just like anything else. Specifically, scientific inquiry is based on the philosophical principles of Methodological Naturalism. This means that physical phenomenon can only be studied through natural, physical, and material approaches and explanations. Therefore anyone caught saying "God did it" is guilty of being a bad scientist because they are using the supernatural, not the natural. This is why Intelligent Design is considered to be bad science, it is a discipline which centers around "God (aliens, Xenu) did it".

The problem comes with miracles. What if God did do something through direct supernatural intervention? They certainly wouldn't be able to prove God did it, would they? Well a good scientist would simply have to withhold judgement if they couldn't find a natural cause. Their own fundamental principles keep them from using the supernatural as an answer.

Of course there are scientists out there who are not just adherents to Methodological Naturalism, but are also adherents to Ontological Naturalism. Ontological Naturalism says that the supernatural doesn't exist at all, only the natural world exists. Usually these folks are the scientists being given awards from humanist and athiest organization. Were a miracle to occur before them, they would proclaim it a hoax that they just can't prove yet.

I'm not a big fan of religion masquerading as science. But I am even less of a fan as science masquerading as religion. At least religion purports to have answers to everything, where as good science admits to how limited the scope of scientific discussion really is.

Tis the Season

With Thanksgiving behind us, many families are putting up their decorations. Or perhaps turning on the ones they have had up since last year. Amybear and I have enjoyed the ones in my parents neighborhood, but this guy's neighbors take the cake.

I have a bad case of back to work busy, but I'll try to put regale you with the story of my holiday later.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Blue State Skinflints

Hube is bringing some attention to this study on statewide charitable giving.
"We believe that generosity is a function of how much one gives to the ability one has to give," said Martin Cohn, a spokesman for the Catalogue for Philanthropy, a Boston-based nonprofit that publishes a directory of nonprofit organizations.

Using that standard, the 10 most generous states were, in descending order, Mississippi, Arkansas, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, Utah, South Carolina and West Virginia.

The 10 stingiest, starting from the bottom, were New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Minnesota, Colorado, Hawaii and Michigan.
Now you may be noticing that all the top ten are red states and nine of the bottom ten are blue states. Colorado is the exception.

Now the obvious answer to this is that the blue states have higher costs of living and higher taxes. This is the reason many Massachusetts based groups are giving for their poor performance. But really is that any excuse? This is a democracy. If your state is taxing you too much, why don't you vote to cut them back a bit?

So we come back to the fundamental red/blue dichotomy. Blue states take your money via taxes and redistribute it. Part of those taxes go to social spending which is like charity, except with out the voluntary giving part. Red states want to have a small government, low taxes, and then decide for themselves how to give their money. I must say I'm with the rednecks on this one.

Rednecks and Red States

Terry Mattingly is talking country music. Is it the new sound of America? Well maybe. If you want to be literal it has probably been the old sound of America at some point too.

A lot of my family has gotten into country lately. My brother was raised a rockaholic and now listens to a lot of Toby Keith. I don't know whether Amybear's dad has a long country past, but I know he's much the same. The reason for their switch has been many fold.

The first is that rock and rap has gotten decadent. All the big names are singing the same songs of sex, drugs, liquor, fast cars, and loose women. I don't have any of those things. I don't want them either. I'm not having sex until marriage, not doing drugs (unless you count allergy meds), drive a little Mazda, and I have no interest in fooling around when I have Amybear to come home to. Ok ok maybe I'll have a fast car or motorcycle some day. If I have the money and Amybear lets me.

I think most of America is married, dreaming of retirement, and wishing the kids didn't need braces. Rock offers them escapism. Country offers them solutions and moral support. Try hard, maybe fail, then pick yourself up, ask for forgiveness, and try hard some more. Terry puts so very succinctly:
As the old saying goes, the secret to country music’s appeal is that it can deal with what happens on Sunday morning as well as Saturday night.
Tim McGraw's conclusion in "Live Like You Were Dying" are that if your time is to make the most of what you've got and be the best man you can. It seems like Rock's conclusion is let us eat and drink for tomorrow we shall die.

And that's really what has gotten most of my family into country. It's the values stupid. The unbridled patriotism is nice too of course. After 9-11 we had some pretty boring songs from pretty boring rockers. Then we had "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue" from Toby Keith. Yup, I wanted to put a boot in their ass because its the American way. Didn't we all? And where is the rock equivalent to that? While Greenday is calling me an American Idiot, TK is putting out "American Soldier" and touring with the USO. I can respect that.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Things I Suck At

Messy Christian puts evangelism on her list and I guess I'm right there with her. I'm not the type to go out and present myself as perfection incarnate bringing all the answers to the ignorant masses. I knew some people in college that could do it, they would walk up to people and it flowed out of them. But they aren't me. I don't have that attitude and frankly I'm just not enough of an extrovert. Messy has similar thoughts:
Back to the evangelism issue. I've never been enthusiastic about evangelism, even when I was a happy card-carrying Christian. I've been at the end of many silly and awkward attempts, and to imagine inflicting them on others just makes me wither with mortification inside.

The kind of evangelism I espouse to takes a loooot of time (years, decades), a looot of commitment, doesn't involve much of a goal except being friends and no guaranteed results.

Evangelism to me means loving people as they are, living my life as best as I can as a Christian (knowing that I'm a f***ing poor example) and harbouring no illusions that my "pure" life will inspire anyone towards Christ.
Sounds about right. I'm a flawed man, living out his flawed life. But I try and hopefully it is more than just me trying. Hopefully the spirit tries through me and together I get better. I'm not going to lie to people and pretend I'm perfect, but I'm not going lie to people and pretend I'm not different either. I am who I am and if you like it, maybe we can talk.

Papa Ratzi

I'm an evangelical and I really don't know what to make of the Pope either as a man or as an institution. Were I a fundamentalist, I suppose I could regard him as a minion of Satan preaching an earthly apostasy. But I'm not a fundamentalist. I grew up with Catholics and many of them are good people. They don't see faith quite the way I see faith, but there are still a lot Christians there. In the end my soul hurts when I think of the fracture of the Church and how much those prospects pained Jesus himself.

Internet Monk has a great article about a group of Protestants meeting then Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.
In 1988, representatives from the French Reformed Seminary of Aix-en-Provence in southern France where I taught for 18 years were guests at the Vatican through the auspices of some very orthodox French priests who loved Christ and the Scriptures and who wanted us to visit Rome. We were shown the more protected tourist sites, such as Peter’s tomb and the pagan necropolis under St. Peter’s Cathedral. We were also received in the private quarters of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who at the time was serving his seventh year as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Who is Ratzinger? Here is my personal testimony, for what it is worth. This very powerful ecclesiastical figure, even then the No. 2 in the Vatican hierarchy, warmly received us, an unimpressive group of French orthodox Protestant/Reformed theologians, for two hours. In the first hour, in fluent French, he gave a magnificent overview of the state of theology and of the dangers of German liberal theology in particular. His critique of Bultmann was superb. We Protestants then took an hour to present the case for orthodox Protestant theology. Cardinal Ratzinger listened with rapt attention. Our time together was not a casual, nor perfunctory “audience,” but a genuine theological exchange. I was impressed by his intellect, by his linguistic ability (fluency in at least five languages), by his theological wisdom and by his openness to biblical theology. As we left, we gave him a bound copy of Calvin’s Institutes, and he graciously accepted my article on the apostle Paul as the last apostle. Clearly my article did not change his mind about the papacy, but I have it on good authority that he has been reading the copy of Calvin’s Institutes. So that was that, I thought. However, the next day while sight-seeing in Rome I happened to meet his secretary, a French priest. “How did the Cardinal enjoy our visit?” I asked. Without hesitation he replied: “The Cardinal said he wished there was a seminary like that in the Catholic Church.”
Concerns about Catholics aside, it seems as though this Pope is a good guy worthy of respect. Not exactly my kind of guy, but hey that's why I'm Baptist. I wouldn't kiss his ring, but I would be more than willing to shake his hand and call him my brother.

UPDATE: Somehow I missed putting in a link. Oops. Fixed now.

Jack Lewis Could Pick'em

With the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe coming out in a few weeks, interest in C.S. Lewis is up. This amusing anecdote from one of Lewis' stepsons David Gresham, an executive producer of the movie:
A favorite memory of Mr. Gresham's happened one day while walking behind his mother and stepfather at the Kilns, Lewis' home. His mother was apt to carry a shotgun and hunt pigeons in the trees.

While enjoying the outdoors, a young man jumped from the bushes carrying a bow and quiver of arrows. When Lewis asked him to leave the property, the man pointed the arrows at him and Mr. Gresham's mother.

"Immediately, Jack displayed his chivalry, his courage and his sense of duty by stepping in front of my mother to shield her from the arrow," Mr. Gresham says. "He stood there for a few seconds, until he heard my mother ... behind him saying, 'Jack get out of my line of fire.'"
What a woman!

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe opens December 9th.

You're So Stupid

Scott Adams is going into depth with the many ways to show how stupid someone is on the internet. He leaves out a few, like the blanket assertion. "You're stupid, everyone knows that." He also forgets the appeal to authority, "You're stupid, because I have a PhD in this very subject." That one is especially great because it is impossible to check the qualifications of an anonymous poster. Oh and of course "You made a minor grammar/spelling error, therefore you are stupid."

Democrat War Plans

Yup this seems about right.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Weekends and Meeting the In-laws

My experience this weekend was much like Joan's. Ok ok no I wasn't propositioned by a bunch of married blue-collar workers and other horny commuters, but I did end up with surprisingly little free time or rest.

Saturday, my parents and I went to Northern Virginia to see Amy and, more importantly, her parents. My parents drove and we got started early on Saturday morning when I would rather have been sleeping. They had never driven down through Baltimore and into DC before. So basically I drove from the back seat of the minivan, it was slightly hair raising and mostly annoying. Traffic around DC was predictably bad and the beltway was it's usual intimidating self.

Once we got to Amy's house, things got better. We saw the wedding site, and ate dinner at the rehearsal location. We saw the hotel everyone will be staying at. Sometime in there we squeezed in the new Smithsonian Air and Space Museum over by Dulles Airport. It was fun but very busy. We conked out early on Saturday, got up early Sunday ate a good meal, saw some more sights in DC and drove home. The trip back was better than the trip up, but not by much.

At home, I had to do laundry, get dinner, go to church, and get set for some Thanksgiving stuff happening at work today. Then Amy called, we talked, and I finally conked out. It was a good weekend. It went well. But I'm still tired.

I am so looking forward to sleeping in on Thursday and Friday.

Geek Novels

I'm sorry to say I've only read nine of the top 20. Mostly this is because I haven't read much Neal Stephenson, Asimov, or Phillip K. Dick, who have 7 books in the top twenty.

There are some disappointments though. Way too much Stephenson, but no Arthur C. Clark or Tolkien or Orson Scott Card. I am also disappointed that Stranger in Strange Land is Heinlien's book in the top 20. I thought some of his other novels were much better. It could be worse though, George R.R. Martin could be on the list.

Walk the Line

Jared Wilson says this Johnny Cash movie is good, very good. Good music, good acting, good everything. If there is anything he'd like to see, it is a little more Jesus. In the movie, what turns Johnny around is the love of June Carter and her family. In real life, Johnny gave God the credit too, especially after he survived a very novel suicide attempt. Cash went on to work with the Billy Graham Crusade and other Christian groups.

Mini Cooper S

There is a new one coming out, the new Mini Cooper S with John Cooper Works GP Kit. You get lighter weight, 220 horses, better aerodynamics, and ... still not enough car for what you are spending.

I looked at the Mini when I was planning to get rid of my Escort. It was nice, and quick, and ten thousand dollars more than anything its size. For the same price as a Mini I could have bought the V6 Mazda 6 which is as fast, as nice, and can seat four adults comfortably. But instead of either of those, I bought a Mazda Protege which is a bit slower, more reliable, and much cheaper than either. And I paid off my 60 month car loan in 30.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Gods of the Copybook Headings

I'm not a poet. I don't, as a rule, read a lot of poetry. But this poem by Kipling caught my eye after seeing it mentioned here. It appears I must read more of Rudyard's work.

Hay Rides

Amy and I went on one last weekend. I'm wearing the same fleece now I wore then. It occurs to me that hayrides are the fall seasonal equivalent of the beach. Just like the beach, I will be finding little pieces of hay in various things in my possession for months.

But the ride itself was fun. It was a singles group activity and we had enough folks for two carts. When the tractors pulled one past the other, we unleashed a furious broadside at each other. I kept hitting this one guy in the face. We've known each other since High School. It was great. Thank goodness I don't have hay allergies though.

The Lighter Side of War

Michael Yon's latest dispatch is quite good. I'm glad the boys of the Deuce Four are home and man Bruce Willis is a great guy.

To Quote Jim Kirk

Iran obtained detailed instructions on how to set up the complicated process of enriching uranium, which can used to make nuclear arms, from the black market network of Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan..
Khan also manufactures knock-offs of Russian MANPADS (MAN Portable Air Defense Systems) for the Pakistani Army. It wouldn't surprise me if he let other people have them too.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Machine Gun Fun

A friend send me a link to this google video.

Some gun enthusiasts complain that 5.56 is a poor anti-vehicular round. It is, but what do you expect? For that matter 7.62 is a crappy anti-material round too. When you see the volume of fire a vehicle can soak up and keep going, you need to realize that stopping a car with anything less than a lot of high explosive is a difficult proposition.