Monday, January 31, 2005


No, not the things you put on your head. I'm talking about Erkanoplans. What? Cross a hovercraft and airplane you get an erkanoplan or Wing In Ground effect (WIG) vehicle. The russians used them as high speed sea transports during the Cold War.

Wings have increased efficiency very close to the ground (or water). This has to do with wing-tip vortices. So if you stay in that region, you can "fly" across ground or water at low altitude very efficiently. Like a hovercraft except the air cushion the vehicle is created aerodynamically instead of with a fan.

The problem is that these vehicles can have some stability issues. Anyway I'd never heard of them before, but they are a neat idea I thought I would share.

Legalization and Morals

Here is an interesting story. Thanks to the German social system, if you are out of work for long enough, they can force you to take a job. This wouldn't normally be a problem until prostitution was legalized 2 years ago:
Under Germany's welfare reforms, any woman under 55 who has been out of work for more than a year can be forced to take an available job – including in the sex industry – or lose her unemployment benefit.

The government had considered making brothels an exception on moral grounds, but decided that it would be too difficult to distinguish them from bars. As a result, job centres must treat employers looking for a prostitute in the same way as those looking for a dental nurse.
So now the state is turning out former secretaries and computer programmers into the sex industry. Wonderful.
"There is now nothing in the law to stop women from being sent into the sex industry," said Merchthild Garweg, a lawyer from Hamburg who specialises in such cases. "The new regulations say that working in the sex industry is not immoral any more, and so jobs cannot be turned down without a risk to benefits."
And in this lies the real problems folks, the government does not decide what is moral or immoral. Higher authorities than men decide such things. I've talked about this before. One of the disadvantages of socialism is that it tends to blur the roles of God and Government. Insert slippery slope here.

UPDATE: Evangelical Outpost also is covering this. Volokh Conspiracy believes this story has been overblown by shoddy journalism. The original article that started it in German and was translated here.

(HT: Risawn)


Pissed that your government is spending lots of money on aircraft it doesn't need? No you're not in the US, you're Britian and Germany. Turns out the Eurofighter Typhoon is a giant barely-flying turd. The fighter was originally called Eurofighter 2000. That name was dropped because there was no way they would be coming out in 2000. Plus it sounded like it should be a Sci-fi channel original movie. This Thursday, it's Dean Cain in Eurofighter 2000! Only on Sci-fi!

(HT: Vodkapundit)

Iraqi Voting

I think the world ought to be proud of Iraq. Large turnout and lots of enthusiasm. A coworker pointed out that these elected officials will be the ones to vote on the nations permanent constitution so lets hope they picked good people.

Scrappleface basically sums up my thoughts on the media coverage.


Instapundit is noting that the UN report on the ethnic cleansing in Darfur, Sudan does not use the word "genocide". Why? The answer lies in the UN Convention on Genocide. The UN defines Genocide as:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Genocide itself is crime, but conspiracy, incitement, and complicity are also crimes which require punishment.
Persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in Article 3 shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals.
It is the "shall" that matters here. It means the UN is required to act. Despite the fact that (a), (b), and (e) have been performed in Darfur, you won't see the word genocide used because that would require the world community to do get off their asses and do something about it.

Now we can blame this all on the UN, but keep in mind the US sits on the Security Council and can call this genocide just as much as any other nation. But we haven't done it, mostly because we don't have the resources to do that and fight the WoT.

For more on this look here. My apologies to The Shadow of the Olive Tree, I trackbacked without a link going his way.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Only in Europe

Question: You are a Slovak trapped by an avalanche in your Audi. How do you free yourself?

Answer: You drink the 60 half-liter bottles of beer in your car. Then you piss your way to freedom by melting the snow with your own urine. I salute you sir!

(HT: QandO)

Friday, January 28, 2005


My last post about the TNIV has made be curious about bibles in general. I ran across a couple of interesting versions.

The Complete Jewish Bible is a version paraphrased by a Messianic Jew in Israel. This site has an example of how this version compares with the NIV. I know a lot of Messianics probably love this bible, if only because it translates "Law" as "Torah" in the New Testament. Messianic Jews often don't have a lot of affection for the early Church fathers who really liked Greek culture and logic to the exclusion of their Hebrew equivalents. Anti-semitic heresies like Marcionism didn't help.

Unfortunately I can't help but be skeptical about a paraphrase version of the bible written by one person. It just raises my hackles and screams theological bias at me. But I wouldn't mind reading it with critical eye. Supposedly, he takes time to point out Messianic prophecy throughout the Old Testament (Tanakh) too.

Another bible I would like to get is the NAS Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible. A guy in my bible study has one of these. Its like a mix of Interlinear Bible, Strong's Concordance, and several other things all in one handy tome. I have some skepticism about it though. The Strong's in this bible seems to diverge from mine frequently and I don't know which one is correct.

Today's New International Version

You may have heard of it after Rolling Stone said they wouldn't run Zondervan's advertising and then changed their mind. My friend Patrick sent me an article that covers the actual changes between the NIV and TNIV.

Long story short, some words that have taken new meanings are different. For instance "alien" is now "foriegner" because of the effect science fiction has had on the English language. Others are more precise. "Inner parts" in the Mosaic Law is now "internal organs." However the translation has also stripped gender out of much of the text as well, "sons" is now often "children". I find this less satisfying than the previous two.

The original NIV was translated in 1978. It straddled the line between two different styles of translation: Word-for-Word and Thought-for-Thought. I actually knew Dr. Laird Harris who, if I'm recalling correctly, helped translate Lamentations. The TNIV moves more towards thought-for-thought and away from word-for-word. This isn't exactly a good thing. I'd really like to pick up a copy of the NASB one of these days as it is supposedly the best modern word-for-word translation.

The Rules: Comments and Trackbacks

I thought I had written this before, but I can't find it so here we go again.


I insist on civil discourse in the comments. You don't have to agree with me. In fact you probably won't and that is why you're commenting. That's fine. But I insist on a certain level of decorum.
  1. Please be polite. It is a skill that is out of favor in the modern age, but I insist on it or at least an attempt at it.

  2. No name calling or personal insults. Racial or sexual epithets will get you banned. Aspersions on someone's intelligence and accusations of being a parrot or herd animal will cause your post to be edited or deleted.

  3. Attempts to start a flame war will be deleted. Comments responding to them will be deleted. Shame on you people. You both should know better.

  4. Try to keep the swearing down to a minimum. I swear occasionally so you can too. But I'll take action if it's too much for civil discourse.

  5. I like content. Telling me your opinion of a post is content. That you like or dislike the blog itself is content. I want and need feedback like that so don't be afraid to comment. Right now the comment volume is such that I will try to edit comments to preserve their content if they break the rules . If this gets to be too time consuming, I will have to delete them instead.
I'm using Haloscan for comments and trackbacks. Haloscan has a 1000 character limit, so keep that in mind while you are writing. You may want to string a long commentary out over multiple smaller comments if you think it may get cut off.


I insist on two things with trackbacks.
  1. Your post must contain a direct link to my blog or blog post. Not a link to a post that links to me or link to a search engine page that might contain a link to me. This is simple reciprocity. I insist on it or your trackback will be deleted. Yes more people follow real links than trackbacks, but I read my trackbacks and make post updates. That means a good job on your part may get you a real link soon enough.

  2. Your trackback excerpt should remain relatively polite and relatively free of profanity. Your post is on your blog so you be as rude and profane as you want there. But your trackback goes on my blog, so if I take offense I will change or delete it.

Abortion in the Muslim World

McQ at Q and O is linking to this story in the International Herald Tribune. It is an interesting profile of abortion and illegitimacy in the Muslim world.
The standard three-step program for any unmarried, upper-class Egyptian girl who gets pregnant is an abortion, an operation to refurbish her virginity with a new hymen and then marriage to the first unwitting suitor the family can snare.

But Hind el-Hinnawy, a vivacious 27-year-old costume designer, did the unthinkable here: She had the child and then filed a public paternity suit, igniting an unprecedented scandal and prompting a national debate over the clandestine marriage contracts that young couples are using to have sex in this conservative, religious society.
It is well worth a read. The cultural contrasts in sexual relationships, marriage, abortion, and family honor are very interesting to me.

University Liberals

Todd Zywicki is concerned over intellectual diversity on campus. He is specifically talking about the presence of conservatives at Dartmouth, his alma mater. Long story short, most of the conservative professors he knew about were retired or retiring.

At my Alma Mater, I found that there was a bias against conservatives. But it was significantly less present in the hard sciences than the "soft" sciences and liberal arts. I don't think that is an aspect that has really been covered well my the media or the blogosphere.

I went to the University of Delaware. I am a christian conservative. The interesting thing is that I attended various churches close to campus. Since professors live close to campus, they also attend those same churches. Plus I was the treasurer for the largest christian group on campus so I knew the faculty that was willing to support our organization. So I got to know a few conservative professors through mutual religious interests. I noticed that, by and large, the professors that were conservative tended to be from the hard sciences. A chem prof here, an engineering professor there, but I met very few conservative english professors.

Many of my engineering professors were moderates or liberals. But when you work in a field dominated by hard science, politics doesn't come up very much. Gravity is 9.8 m/s2 whether you are a Republican or a Democrat. Plus research in the hard sciences tends to be driven by military spending a fair bit, not by social spending which skews the political spectrum slightly. The arch-liberals wouldn't be able to make the grade without accepting those research dollars.

Iraqi Elections

Only 72 hours to go until elections in Iraq. Jordan's monarchy has announced that it will be delegating more power to elected local officials. Perhaps this is a trend, but I'll be much happier when Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Iran make similar concessions to liberty.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Barbara Boxer

Someone thinks she should be President. Why? Who the heck knows..

One of Boxer's more infamous bills where I work is this one. It involves putting the latest classified countermeasures gear from military aircraft on commercial airliners at government expense.

I was at a class populated by air defense and aircraft survivability people in Washington in 2003 when this came out. Suffice it to say that no one there thought it was a good idea. The first thing that bothered us is the cost. We are talking about $10 billion dollars or so, just to get them installed. Thats a lot of money and the International Air Transport Association considers it prohibitive.

The sad thing is that it is the smaller of the cost concerns. The second and more important costs are maintenance and security. This system will have to be serviced on a large scale over the entire commercial airliner fleet by trained professionals with the necessary security clearances and in a secure environment. That won't come cheap. It must also be protected from prying eyes and prying spys while the plain is simply sitting on the tarmac being loaded with baggage. This is an even bigger deal.

So nobody can afford this, but who cares its an example of "The Republicans aren't securing the Homeland!" so lets run with it anyway.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Mmmm Scrapple...

As an Eagles fan and a former resident of the Philadelphia suburbs, this Scrappleface story struck home. Its scary because I could see it happen.

By the way, Scott Ott, the writer of Scrappleface, is a Christian. I particularly liked this joke on Tsunami Aid Relief.

Mercury Poisoning

For aircraft aluminum? Aluminum forms a nice oxide layer that keeps it from "rusting" in the air like iron does. Unless you smear mercury on it. Then it's oxide layer is disrupted and the mercury will catalize the oxidation reaction to the point that a few hours will destroy a whole lot of aluminum. This is why bringing mercury on an aircraft (even in a thermometer) is strictly forbidden.

I wish I had some mercury so I could try this on a pot I have at home.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

More Words

Back here I mentioned that seeing words like "delicious", "handi", or "reality-based" fill me with dread. William Safire has another to add in one of his retirement columns:
9. Cherchez la source. Ingest no column (or pinionated reporting labeled "analysis") without asking: Cui bono? And whenever you see the word "respected" in front of a name, narrow your eyes. You have never read "According to the disrespected (whomever)."
Ah. "Respected." I knew I forgot one of the good buzz words.

Oxymorons and the Press Corps.

Professor Bainbridge is reporting that Barry Gellman, a reporter for the Washington Post, broke a big story on how military intelligence is operating in Iraq. Asks the good Professor:
Did the Pentagon intend to disclose this program or did it only to do so in response to Gellman's investigation? If the latter, why isn't his conduct basically treasonous? Did he put personal self-interest as a journalist ahead of the national security? If operatives are killed or missions blown as a result of this story, will Gellman feel any remorse? If the countries named in his story as targets of the missions pull out of the war on terror, will Gellman accept any responsibility for the resulting harm to our national security? I think he and his fellow members of the MSM owe us answers to these questions.
I think he does too. But there is a reason he isn't being indicted for treason.

The writer was a journalist. Under the constitution, the government cannot stifle the freedom of the press. Gun control laws violating the 2nd Amendment? So what. Judicial fiats stifling religious expression? Who cares. Making the press accountable for their actions? We can't have that!

Fortunately and/or sometimes unfortunately, the freedom of the press clause is deeply ingrained in American law. Which means if the Pentagon cared, about the limit of what they could do is ask Gellman not to publish and punish his sources of information within the military. This is what happened when the Congressional Bunker at the Greenbriar was exposed.

That's assuming that his story is actually that serious. There are levels of security classification. Officially, the lowest is Confidential. But lower than that is Sensitive. Sensitive is stuff that isn't classified officially, but if you gather too much of it in one place you could draw classified conclusions from it. Chances are this guys article is Sensitive and therefore unactionable even if you or I wrote it instead of a godlike media watchdog.

Ok maybe not me, I work for the military and know better. But you.

(HT: Vodkapundit)

Ughh Two Gross...

A map of sexual activity in a midwestern high school shows that the circle of direct and indirect contact spread to 288 students. Wow. Thats a lot of kids. I wonder if it was that bad when I was in high school? Scary.

Dawn Eden is suggesting that maybe a new emphasis on sexual abstinence in relationships would be a good idea. I think it will reduce the number of sexually active kids as a percentage of the student population, but I don't think it will have a huge effect on disease transmission among those who are active. I suppose it might break the pool into smaller sexual groups which would tend to isolate diseases. On the other hand you may just end up with a large pool of only a 150 students, which is still huge.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Spam History

Are you an anal retentive computer professional? If so then why not graph all the spam and virus email you have recieved for the last eight years.

I wish he would graph the total monthly email traffic and bandwidth used by the spam myself. Or release his data set so we can play with it.

By the way, Ike suggested this link.

ILDC Exercise

Michael Dean just went through the Army Intern Leadership Development Course. I took it two years ago. It is basically a set of personality tests and group exercises that teach you how to approach group dynamics and relate to your co-workers. The ice breaker exercise looks like this:
A businessman had just turned off the lights in the store when a man appeared and demanded money. The owner opened a cash register. The contents of the cash register were scooped up, and the man sped away. A member of the police force was notified promptly.
  1. A man appeared after the owner had turned off his store lights.
  2. The robber was a man
  3. The man did not demand money.
  4. The man who opened the cash register was the owner.
  5. The store owner scooped up the contents of the cash register and ran away.
  6. Someone opened the cash register
  7. After the man who demanded the money scooped up the contents of the cash register, he ran away.
  8. While the cash register contained money, the story does not state how much.
  9. The robber demanded money of the owner.
  10. The story concerns a series of events in which only three persons are referred to; the owner of the store, a man who demanded money, and a member of the police force.
  11. The following events in the story are true; someone demanded money, a cash register was opened, it's contents were scooped up, and a man dashed out of the store.
Michael has the answers up here.

The fun part is that in the context of the course, the answers don't matter. The real objective is to get people working together in groups and then analyze their behavior. I basically took charge in my group which some people liked and others thought was too high-handed. But we got the right answers and were done in record time which was my objective. As the course went on and we got to know each other, I stepped back from leadership. We bickered more and got less done, but people weren't mad at me. Besides completing exercises is meaningless because the course is completely process oriented anyway.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Gender Biases

Another article is talking about President Summer's remarks. This time its by William Saletan from Slate.

One of the things that has really annoyed me about this is that it has brought out the worst of the Left. Yet few have had the stones to call them on it. What do I mean? The right-wing religious community is widely criticized, especially by the left, of putting our faith about facts or reason. Yet on this issue I have heard more than a little reactionary rhetoric coming from the left.

I have heard several people say that anyone who would consider that men and women may have different capabilities in different areas are neanderthals. In spite of the fact that:
The inferable difference in genomes between two people of visibly different races is one-hundredth of 1 percent. The gap between the sexes vastly exceeds that.
Yet we consider racism foolish.

Similarly god forbid someone suggest that there might be a statistical disparity of ability. Quoth Saletan:
It's a claim that the distribution of male scores is more spread out than the distribution of female scores--a greater percentage at both the bottom and the top. Nobody bats an eye at the overrepresentation of men in prison. But suggest that the excess might go both ways, and you're a pig.
I actually think the greater variance concept is very interesting. I had thought that men and women would have difference means but a similar variance. This turned me on my head, but its actually a "better" result politically anyway.

Neither of those are touching on the folks that think we should stop researching this now. What if men and women are different? It could lead to horrible things so it is better to just live the lie. But don't forget conservatives are the closeminded ones.

(HT: The Volokh Conspiracy)

Cooking Meat

Usually I get a good meal with my family on Sundays after church. Church was called because of weather, so my trip to the supermarket included getting stuff I could use as a good meal. In this case, a pound and a half of beef sirloin steak. Don't worry it will be eaten over multiple meals. I'm not going to gorge myself on red meat. Much.

Anyway the last time a cooked a steak I did it on my George Foreman Grill. I overcooked it and it turned out tough. I bought a better cut of meat this time. I'm also using a better marinading tenderizer (Adolph's) and broiling instead of using the Foreman.

I found some good cooking instructions on Ask the Meatman.


Well we got a bunch of it this weekend. Granted if you live in Michigan, you'd probably laugh at the effects it's having. We might have gotten a foot. But for us it's a lot.

I do miss living in Pennsylvania a bit when it snows. My parents place was always plowed out promptly and early by the municiple snow equipment. So with a little work, you were ready to go once the snow stopped falling. Not so with Delaware. Delaware has almost no local government so until you get on a numbered state road, it is pretty darn scary out there. This is about the only time of the year having a home owners organization makes sense.

If anything the weather is making me feel old. But remember when you were 10? It snowed and you were like "Woo hoo! Snow! Lets go outside!" I hear the wind howl around my apartment now and think "Man, I'm glad I'm not out there." Perhaps its because I don't have school anymore and work doesn't close unless the base does (almost never). Or maybe its some strange surface area to volume threshold so the fun of the snow doesn't scale properly. Beats me. So yesterday I stayed inside all day watching Rah Xephon and Red vs. Blue.

I did go out today though. I walked to my supermarket to get a little exercise and see something that wasn't the inside of my apartment. 600 square feet gets really boring after about a day.

I wish Amybear was here. We could snuggle up in front of the fireplace. Amybear is good at that. Or maybe we could go sledding somewhere. Haha just kidding Delaware doesn't have hills. Well ok thats not quite true, but all the good sledding hills I know of were caused by landscaping around apartment complexes. Still cold weather is a good time for company.

Friday, January 21, 2005


I talked a little about the use of christianese before. There is something of jewish cultural equivalent though: Yiddish.

Its interesting because in American, Yiddish has been mainstreaming for years but a lot of Jews don't realize it. I remember eating dinner with Amybear's parents and telling her Dad that he had a little schmutz on his face. Her mom practically hugged me. I think she thought I was making a cultural overture or something. The truth is that I'd probably heard that word a thousand times on TV.

American entertainment has basically been influenced by Jews since at least WWII. This is especially true in comedy. Alan King, Mel Brooks, Steve Allan, Gary Marshall, and a host of others have been putting a little Yiddish in their acts for as long as I can remember. I mean the first words in Laverne and Shirley were Yiddish (schlemeil, schlemozzle, Hausenfeffer Incorporated!) I didn't know it at the time, but again its not like I've never heard Yiddish before.

So don't be a putz, schlemeil, schmuck, or scheissekopf. Enjoy your bagels, latkes, and perhaps even a knish or kugel. And may the schwartz be with you.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Nerd Quiz

I am nerdier than 92% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Alas only 92%. Darn these verbal skills holding me back!

(HT: King of Fools)

Language and the Ghetto

Amy and I had a good talk last night. One topic that came up why christian's talk so weird. Please peruse this humorous anecdote for an example of what we were talking about.

Frankly I think the rise of "christianese" is part of the whole evangelical christian ghetto phenomenon that has been touched on elsewhere. In other less net-centric areas of christianity it is often called the "holy huddle." People go from their church to their small group to their circle of christian friends and rarely converse with others outside their religious viewpoint. This is especially prominent while in school, because there you can be particular about your social circle. Once you get out into the workplace, you usually have to work with other people.

Jesus-speak is just a symptom of that phenomenon. Any subculture develops verbal shorthand to speed communication. I work for the Army so every new project is a chance to experience strange and wonderous new acronyms. I need a DISUM for your TDY to the IPT for the LRIP HIMARS. Sadly statements like that now makes perfect sense to me. Christianity is no different in that regard.

However at some point the shorthand begins to take over. We just start throwing words like "saved", "sanctified", "moved by the Spirit" around like they, well, meant something to other people outside our circle. So while I understand you, you aren't coming across loud and clear to the folks who are both in the world and of the world.

Speaking of which, we are commanded to be in, but not of the world. We seem to have the "not of" down, but not necessarily in the way Paul meant. God wants us to be "not of" spiritually but not especially culturally. Paul said:
To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. ... To those not having the law I became like one not having the law, so as to win those not having the law.

Unfortunately the "in" often needs some work. For a people who take the name "evangelical" we seem to need more work at evangelism.

And in World Events...

As a counterpoint to the Bush Inauguration, Victor Yushenko's inauguration in the Ukraine has been scheduled by Parliament. Vodkapundit reports on Vladimir Putin's response:
"Accept my congratulations and warmest wishes in connection with your election to the post of president of Ukraine," Putin said in a statement.

"The development of good-neighborly and equal relations with Ukraine is one of the most important national priorities of Russia," he said.
Putin continued:
"And we promise not to poison you anymore. Unless you do something we really really don't like. Then its fair game."

"Oops. I mean Russian had nothing to with that poisoning thing. Sorry, that last bit was from my speech after the meeting of the Russian Agricultural Authority. I must have gotten the two sets of index cards mixed up."
Putin then did his best not to look like a giant Russian rat. His nose didn't help.

Ok ok I made up that last part. Sorry couldn't resist.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005


Words are funny things aren't they?

For instance I have had people in the last month read a lot into my words. For instance I described a political group as having an "agenda". This person went on to explain how my use of that word indicated I had deep-seated mistrust of a certain political group (makes no difference which one). Of course it is also the technical term for a list of points a group/meeting/whatever wants to cover. When I talk about an agenda at my workplace, it is usually not in the context of the illuminati scheming quietly to sell our children sugary snacks on the front end so they can make a money peddling dental products on the back end. Although I do work for the government so maybe it does... Mwah hah hah! And you thought the flourine was for your teeth. :)

Sometimes the words people choose to include make me laugh though. Why is it fast food chains are compelled to include words like "delicious" and "mouth watering" in their advertisements? Buy our delicious McWhopper with a new mouth-watering starch rings... If these products are so delicious and mouth watering should we be able to tell for ourselves? I mean they have those nice doctored pictures...

In the political arena, the left has taken to calling itself the "reality-based community". Again, if this is true then why do you need to publicize it? If your community is so reality-based, then why are you insisting you represent the American majority when the other side got 51% of the vote in a presidential election? Let alone that this is the first time someone has in 16 years.

This same tactic is used by countless made for tv products. Everything on info-mercials is handi-something. Handi-wrench, handi-spaghetti-pot, handi-capable scooter, handi-ice-melting-tray. One, why should I trust you oh fast talking salesman? Two, why would I buy something from someone that can't spell "handy"?

Oh and yes this is all from the guy that bills himself as an "evangelical christian" but dropped the f-bomb in the title of a post two days ago. So take it with a big ole grain of salt.

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh has some similar thoughts about "-based".

More Gender Issues

Dale Franks at QandO has an excellent post that basically sums up my position on most of these gender issues.
In truth, human proclivities, for both males and females, exist on a bell curve. There are men who prefer to fight, and men who prefer to care for the wounded. There are women who are perfectly happy as mothers and homemakers and women who are perfectly happy as driven careerists. Nor is there any reason that we should, by law or by custom, restrict anyone from following whatever path they choose for their own happiness.

At the same time, it is foolish to pretend that the male and female bell curves are distributed perfectly. The male bell curve has the big hump nearer to the "fighting" end than the "caring for the wounded" end, just as the female curve is skewed in the opposite direction.
Exactly. Dale goes on to talk about the where the traditional social relationships come from.

For instance the rationale of "keeping women safe" comes from the fact that a woman is capable of bearing ten or perhaps even twenty children in her lifetime. A man unconstrained by monogamy can have hundreds or thousands provided he can attract enough women. So when you look at maintaining the birth rate, women are far more important.

Similarly if there is a feminine trend towards nurturing, you have only to look at the investment the genders must make to have children. For a man it was a matter of economic provision for the children (for a man of good character) and a few minutes of very enjoyable physical labor. For a woman, the physical process of having children is more costly. While carrying the child to term, she is subject to increasing levels of physical discomfort and impairment. The chances of lethal complications are also present and have historically been quite high. So after all this trouble and risk, is it any wonder that women tend to want their kids to turn out well?

Still I think it's important to note that people who insist on certain gender relations are being inflexible. God gave us diversity for a reason. Lets not force and enforce conformity where it is not needed.

Kim and Connie du Toit have both written pieces on this in the past which show similar analyses.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The Gender Divide

The President of Harvard, Lawrence Summers, gave remarks on women in the hard sciences that have swept the blogosphere lately. Matthew Yglesias, a Harvard alum, has some reaction here and here.

If you haven't heard, Summers basically says that men are overrepresented in the hard sciences because of the long hours required to excel, innate physiological differences, and the lack of self-corrective measures that would indicate an untapped resource base. A lot of pissed off people have countered with accusations of deep systemic biases in education.

I think Summer's may have a point. Feminists have long wanted to treat men and women as if we are exactly the same. We aren't of course. The sexes have physiological differences that start with reproduction but go all the way to brain construction. So the question is how much does this matter? Yglesias points out quite correctly that even if this only matters a little, once you get to the elite levels of scholarship even a small handicap can have large effects.

One of Yglesias commenters had this to say:
In particular, it's known that until the 7th grade, women perform just as well as men on math tests and profess to like mathematics at least as much or more than men do. In between the 7th and 10th grades, however, the percentage of women who claim on surveys to enjoy mathematics and to find it easy plummets, along with the relative scores of women as compared with men.
Another commenter replied that this change in performance coincides with puberty. Another replied to him saying that 7th-10th grade is a little late for pubescence to be the major causal factor.

My take is this. During my high school years, 7th to 10th grade is when abstract conceptualization started coming to the fore in my mathematical instruction. Prior to this my mathematics training was in the simple arithmetic of rote study. This was adding, multiplying, order of operations, simple perimeter/area calculations, etc. On the other hand 7th grade was Pre-Algebra (Ms. Gera), 8th Algebra (Mr. Koz), 9th Geometry (Ms. Lonquist), 10th Algebra II/Trig (Mr. Withelder), 11th Pre-Calc (Mr. Roche), 12 AP Calculus (Mr. Owsley). It was when we really started expressing complex problems (for us) in terms of mathematical equations. I was on the advanced/gifted/AP track so figure that others my age could lag up to two or three years behind me.

I seem to recall geometry being an especially tough course that separated the adults from the children. It was almost all abstract geometric conceptualization and proofs with very little in the way of 1+1=2 mathematics. Note that the teacher was a woman so sexism didn't play a part in it.

Amybear may have more to say about this since her thesis is about this sort of thing and I'm just shooting the breeze.

UPDATE: The Volokh Conspiracy is weighing in too.

Playing Cowboy

So part of my fun this weekend was visiting gunshops in northern Delaware. I hit X-Ring in Newark, Miller's in Newcastle, and the Gun Stock Shop in Wilmington proper. it was fun. X-Ring has the most of what I want, but the highest prices. The Gun Stock Shop is the cheapest, but doesn't maintain much in the way of inventory. Millers is in the middle and has the most personable sales staff.

When I went to Miller's Saturday, I talked Cowboy Action Shooting with a salesman named Jock. Yes with an "o". He showed me a bunch of guns they had in stock. We compared the merits of .45 colt and .38 special (.38 is cheaper and faster, .45 is more authentic and usually has better balance). We talked different grip geometries like plow handle, bisley, Ruger bisley (actually an Elmer Keith grip design), and birdshead. Neither one of us really likes the dangling pinky style of single action shooting so we discussed alternatives. I mentioned the new Ruger's coming out and he said Miller's hadn't gotten one yet. I asked if he knew anything about Remingtons, but he didn't and didn't have one to show me.

He also told me that there is a Cowboy club in Delaware north of the canal. This was news to me. All the ones I knew of were 2 hours south of my house in slower lower Delaware. I have no urge to go that far out of my way to do something non-church related on a Sunday. However there is a club in Brandywine 100 that holds shoots starting around Mayish. Jock gave me a card and someone to call. He's a good guy. Plus he knew that if I wanted to start cowboy shooting, I'd need at least 4 guns (2 pistols, 1 shotgun, and 1 rifle) that I would likely buy from him. Jock ain't stupid neither.

I told Amybear about all this at our regular phone conversations. Well, no not all of it, because she really couldn't care about guns and grip geometries. I save that great stuff for you folks. But I told her enough. She wasn't especially happy.

"You have enough guns." Note that this must be said with a very cute pout in your voice.

"But dear I don't even have a rifle yet, how can I have enough guns?"

Annoyed silence. "You do, and dressing up like a cowboy is goofy. Why can't you be into something normal like SCA?"

Now for those of you who haven't experienced the Society for Creative Anachronism, the hilarity of this statement cannot be underestimated. The SCA. Normal. Two words that have never before and will never again go together. SCAdians dress up like knights and bash each other with sticks. For fun. They make up fantasy names for each other like "Sir Tristrum Pompusname". For fun. This is normal? Methinks thou hast quaffed thy draught of mead far too heartily if thou doth think thusly.

I laughed. Amy laughed. I told her I was going to blog it, she relented, and now I've written this.

P.S. Just for the record, Cowboy shooters also make up funny names for themselves. It's required. But they are usually intentionally funny and silly like Rick O'Shea, Jack B. Kwik, and Marshall Ignatious Bartimaeus (I.B. to his friends) Dead. Riotous punslingers those cowboys.

P.P.S. Just want to clarify that Amy realized how stupid SCA=normal is as soon as it left her mouth. Sort of like when Ike said "What is so funny about Rick O'Shea? Oh wait I get it..." Won't be the first time I've done something like that and it won't be the last.

Public Outpourings of Grief

Kim du Toit turned me onto this piece by Mr. Free Market:
Perhaps all this public sharing of grief is merely an attempt to replace what used to happen every Sunday in those big buildings with spires on top. In the old days everyone would have rolled into church, the vicar would have talked about the tragedy, you'd have had a few prayers, sung a hymn or two and had a collection. Job done. Guilt assuaged.

Now society has more or less abandoned organised religion, there's no framework for handling a tragedy of this scale. But there is clearly still a need for it. Cue endless, cringeworthy attempts to find other ways of publicly expressing what individuals feel about the situation.
Kim adds:
You know what gets up my nose most of all? Those little flower-covered crosses at the side of the road, denoting the spot where someone wrecked their car and was killed....

....I remember seeing one of those little white crosses on the side of an interstate in Idaho -- then another, and another, and another, until I realized that the state had placed them there, undoubtedly to remind us to Drive Carefully Because People, Lots Of People, Die In Traffic Accidents Each Year.
I remember in my younger days, my Pastor had returned from a vacation to Japan. I'm guessing this was somewhere in the mid-1980s. He said one of the things that struck him was the roadside shrines to people who had died on that spot. He chalked it up to buddhist and Shinto ancestor worship. He made the point that you would never see such a thing in the US. Now twenty years later, states are enacting it.

The funny thing is that Kim du Toit is an atheist mourning the demise of organized religion. Mr. Free Market is no deep christian thinker either.

The real question is how do we in organized religion embrace the culture. Frankly it ain't by screaming about politics, thats for sure.

Monday, January 17, 2005

The Break and GameFAQs

I've been taking it easy this weekend. I work for the so I had MLK day off. Plus I work a compressed schedule so I had Friday off too. It has been good. Hope you all don't hate me or anything. I just hope I can get to sleep at a reasonable hour so I can get to work on time tomorrow morning.

Anyway that free time has partially translated to getting caught up in GTA: San Andreas. If I get stuck or don't feel like looking for something in the massive world that is San Andreas, I make use of the faqs at GameFAQs. The San Andreas FAQ is here. GameFAQs is great and if you need suggestions or a walkthrough for anything, it's the place to go.

Fucking Jewelers

Yes I'm swearing. It comes from being pissed.

I've been checking in with Michael Gallagher Jewelers of Fox Run for several weeks now. I wanted green heart-shaped moissanite for use on Amybear's engagement ring. Gallagher is one of the only jewelers in the area that carries the stone. They were ordering me a sample at no cost to me, for which I was moderately grateful. They were also being very unresponsive considering the amount I was going to end up paying them in the long run. So after my last trip to Bear today (they're back ordered... we'll have one on Thursday... we promise...), I returned home to find they left a message on my machine.

Turns out there is no green heart-cut moissanite. Oops. Somewhere wires were crossed. Charles and Colvard make heart shaped or green, but not both at the same time. We're really sorry. Bye.

Now this would be fine if not for two things: they had been treating me like crap for almost a month now and they should have known this a month ago when I first asked.

For some reason jewelry stores tend to treat single men age 20-30 like shit. I suppose it's because we come in in our jeans and t-shirts. We don't look like we're made of money. In fact we probably look like we don't have enough cash for a haircut and laundry. Still this prejudice is damn stupid. We are the engagement ring demographic. He who treats us well will get a whole lot of sales volume when word spreads around. Oh and while some of us aren't made of money, two months of my pretax earnings is enough to buy a god-damned car. When is disposable income at its highest? Before you have kids and after they finish college. We are nestled firmly in the former demographic.

By the way, that month you cost me? I've asked Amy's dad already, so all I'm waiting for is a ring. That means I'd be engaged right now if it wasn't for you. Amybear now knows this too so you aren't getting any of her jewelry money either.

So fuck you Michael Gallagher Jewelers of Fox Run in Bear, Delaware. Looks like I'm going to be consulting Izzy on who he bought his ring from again. I believe it was Barclay Jewelers in Christiana Mall.

UPDATE: Izzy gave me the card for the person he talked to Barclay. Thanks.

To clarify, Moissanite is a synthetic stone made of crystalline silicon carbine. Its very hard (9.25) and has excellent clarity. It does not form naturally on Earth, although some samples have been found in meteorite impact craters. Currently one company manufacturers this stone, Charles and Colvard. C&C have the patents on the process so they are the sole supplier. While they make a heart-cut clear stones and green faux-emerald stones, they do not make a heart-cut green stone. In the end its a supplier problem not a jeweler problem. But since Gallagher is one of the only true jewelers in the state to carry moissanite (Penney's does too but they don't count as a real jeweler and they don't carry the colored stones) I assumed they would know their own product line. Unfortunately not.

Instapundit and Homeland Security

Glenn Reynolds has a post up about people transporting a replica nuclear bomb cross country without a hint of interest from homeland security. He thinks this is a bad thing.

My take on this is: IT'S A REPLICA. It is made of steel and wood. It does darned good job of looking like Little Boy, but the similarity to the real thing is completely superficial.

Now if it was transported on the back of a flatbed, I'd still expect it to raise eyebrows. But the people that built it were not stupid, so they loaded it into the back of a yellow Penske moving truck. So the only similarity to the real thing was superficial and no one could see it. Some security at the Boeing Wichita plant may have inspected it but they had already been notified that it was just a steel and wood replica.

For the benefit of those that don't know, most attempts to track nuclear weapons by the US government actually track nuclear materials like plutonium and uranium. Of which this "bomb" has none. This is because nuclear bombs can take multiple shapes and sizes, but they all have to contain a critical mass of nuclear material to work. Plus nuclear material is radioactive so it is the easiest component to track at a distance.

Nuclear bombs also must contain goodly amount of conventional explosives to trigger the detonation. Those can set off warning bells too. But the replica didn't have any of these either. Again, there is no surprise that it didn't raise heads.

So if you loaded N pounds of plutonium in the back of your Penske truck and drove it around, the government might take an interest. Similarly I would hope a truck loaded with fertilizer would raise eyebrows somewhere. But without that, this is much ado about nothing.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Range Time with the XD-9 and the Ladies

My range membership is up this week. I have the gold membership which gives me free rentals and range time for a $250 yearly fee. I did this because I wanted lots of range time and access to a wide variety of guns so I could figure out what I liked through experience. It was a good plan. I now know what I like and own several guns.

But now I've shot my way through the rental selection and I'm wondering if I should look towards a less costly range like Ommelanden in New Castle or the range at Elk Neck State Park. My brother is my shooting buddy and he may be moving soon so he's reluctant to re-up as well. I may go with a cheaper plan that covers range time but leaves out rentals.

This weeks gun was the Springfield XD-9. I shot the 4" service model in "blue". Incidentally, if you ever buy one of these guns, make sure you avoid the standard matte blue finish. It wears very poorly and that was already apparent on the range rentals. The bitone is prettier and wears better.

Anyway the XD is actually a Croatian gun that attempts to take the best parts of Glocks and Sigs and marry them together. It is striker fired with a polymer frame like a Glock. But it has a sig-esque slide and take-down system. They use a trigger safety similar to the Glock, but add a grip safety to prevent accidental or negligent discharges which are the bane of Glock existence.

I hate Glocks. It's not that they are polymer. I used to be a composites engineer so that doesn't bother me in the slightest. It's that the little trigger safety on the gun digs into the tip of my finger. The XD trigger safety is much broader and doesn't do that.

All and all I shot it ok. No failures to feed or fire. Some have reported first shot fliers with this gun, but I didn't have any trouble. Maybe it's that I'm not really accurate enough to tell.

On curious thing. There were a lot of women at the range today. Now there are usually one or two. Some guy brings his girlfriend, wife, daughter, etc. But this time there were a three or four in multiple groups.

The group of girls that set up next to me had never shot a gun before. I tried to give them a few pointers and made sure that they were loading their guns properly and give them pointers on form. More importantly for a novice shooting next to me, I also made sure they were observing basic range safety rules. They were.

The girls had a bit of trouble with the gun they were shooting though. The ladies weren't mechanically inclined. Their beretta .380 automatic was somewhat mechanically complex for them. Plus some idiot must have thought a little gun would be easier to shoot so he gave them that beretta.

For those out there that don't know, little guns recoil more than big ones because they weight less. Don't give someone that might be recoil sensitive (like a woman, sorry ladies to whom this doesn't apply) a recoilful gun. It isn't fun. Especially avoid giving a novice a recoilful gun. Their lack of skill and poor form will magnify the problems and pain of recoil. It will also discourage them from further pursuing the enjoyable pastime of pistolcraft.

The group they were with also had a nice heavy revolver. They seemed to take to that a lot better. The bullets could only go in one way and the gun was heavy enough to take the bite out of the recoil. Good for them. One of them seemed to be enjoying herself by the time I left.


I was late for church this morning. Not much later than usual mind you, but I would still be well past "fashionably" and into "disruptively".

My trip to church is straight up 95 North. What should I see in the distance but red and blue lights flashing. Well trained speeder reflexes kicked in and I slowed down to about 5 miles per hour above the speed limit. You know, the point at which few cops are going to bother to ticket you...

Looking forward I realize that this was not, in fact, a cop. It was an ambulance. So what the hell am I going slow for? Speed back up. I notice a few minutes later that the ambulance, lights still flashing, is a lot closer. A few minutes after that I pass it. Hmmm perhaps I should slow down. The funny thing is that I wasn't going that fast. 70 miles per hour on that stretch of highway (its a 55) isn't even particularly uncommon. Thats about what I am doing and here I am passing a paramedic. So Newark AETNA firehouse, if your reading, you can go faster than that with the lights on...

Now what is really funny about this is that I almost passed another one going home. Maybe its an ambulance thing. They can't turn that well so perhaps they just don't take the darned things over 70.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

CSS Ideas

Matthew Yglesias has made some snazzy changes to his blog layout. Its really spiffy. He also posted some of the code for those changes if you are curious.

Military Money

Kim du Toit has a misplaced rant about military pay. I'm the first comment on the list so you can see my reply. Here is a bit more just for you folks.
When people decry the Pentagon for wasting resources and / or money, this is what they're talking about. But the Brass are too busy persuading Congress for more money to help building their little empires and getting shiny new weapons sytems, because those are the things which Congress can see an immediate ROI: more $$$ gets you another wing of F-22 fighters, built in Congressman X's district.
Do you know how much of the militaries budget is spent on shiny new equipment? Not much. The budget percentages break down something like ~10% new equipment/facilities, ~40% maintaining the old equipment/facilities, and ~40-50% payroll. There is of course some "other." I tried finding the specific number but alas I have lost my copy of the Army greening lecture that contained them.

The Army is just like anything else. Most of their money goes to labor. So the answer to the problem of pay is the same there as in industry. When you are employing several hundred thousand people, a million dollars for a tank gets spread awfully thin. This is just like how cutting a CEOs salary will not stop 10,000 people from having to be laid off.

D&D 3.5 Ed

Ok I play RPGs. I'm even such a nerd that I play them pen-and-paper. I play tested the one my brother is developing. Anyway long story short, when the 3rd Edition Dungeoons and Dragons books came out, I purchased them. Then a couple years later they came out with version 3.5... Crap now what do I do? What are the changes? This guy has some pdfs that explain.

The Holy Observer

Its like the Onion version of local church bulletins or Christianity Today. Current articles are "Pentecostal Man’s Glossolalia Echos NBA Rosters" and "Local Emergent Church Recedes". If you don't get those, maybe your not Christian enough. ;)

UPDATE: Link is here.

Blogging on Blogging

From the desk of LaShawn Barber:
Blogger’s (Blog*Spot) commenting system stinks. There’s no trackback feature and you have to sign up for Blogger to leave a comment, or go “Anonymous.” Attention Blog*Spot bloggers: GET HALOSCAN! It’s much more flexible, and they insert the code for you.
Amen! You will note I use Haloscan myself. The only tradeoff is that comments have to open in a popup window.

Email Etiquette

We got a pamphlet at work today with suggestions of what to do and not to do when writing work related emails. One of the suggestions was:
Religious allusions aren't kosher.
Heh. Indeed. Either the writer was being clever or sadly missed his own point.

What I find of a little more concern is that that whole section details how the Air Force is automatically censoring religious content out of the signature lines of its staff members. So much for rights to free religious expression. I guess someone else's right to "not be made uncomfortable" trumps it. Lets call the ACLU! Yeah right...

Order of the Stick

Ah a biweekly comic with lots and lots of 3rd edition D&D references. Thanks to the good folks at Penny Arcade for pointing this out. Time to add it to the comicroll.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Consumer Reports

Dawn Eden and After Abortion Annie are noticing that Consumer Reports coverage of birth control is a little skewed. For most people, Abortion is not a topic to be grouped with birth control. Oddly enough the CEO of Consumer Union, the group that puts out Consumer Reports, is the former head of Maryland's Chapter of Planned Parenthood. So much for objectivity.

Now this isn't a post about birth control or abortion. It is about magazines like Consumer Reports or the firearms equivalent, Gun Tests. Their testing methodology is to spend their own money and purchase one of several models of comparable products like cars or humidifiers or 1911 pattern automatic pistols. Then they perform comparison testing on these products and assume that these tests reflect the overall performance of the entire model line.

Did I mention that for most products, they only use a single example of each model? For those that aren't aware, one is not a statistically significant sample size. Now for some things this won't matter, because the variation between examples of a single model is small. However if you are talking about say the access speed of competing harddrives or the accuracy of competing pistols, those quantities can vary at lot within models.

The other problem is that these folks don't seem to know what they are talking about half the time. The bigger problem is that that half the time seems to coincide nicely with when I know something about their topic. Meaning that I have no reason to believe they aren't full of "it" all of the time. This is a problem I find with a lot of journalists working in technical and near technical fields. For instance, when Consumer Reports comments that the Corvette isn't a good car because it doesn't have good trunk space and gets poor gas mileage, it shows they have no freaking clue why people buy Corvettes. As if all cars should have the performance/comfort mix of a Honda Accord or something. Cars that are built around tight crisp handling tend to be louder and have rougher rides. Its an engineering tradeoff in the fundamental physics of the thing. Grrr.

So that is why, when I want to get reviews of a product, I look to the internet. There are many product review websites. When I'm thinking about buying a gun, I go to a relevant gun forum and look at what people complain about. This way I usually have a wider sample of model performance and user wants. Plus the people tend to know what they are talking about. Horray for the internet!

In Recent Political News...

President Bush has an Ipod. Evidentally he listens to Van Morrison on it. Go figure. Oh and after his knee injury last year, he seems to have switched from running to cycling.

The US government posted a $1 billion budget surplus in December. We're still in the hole $114 billion for the year though. This time last year we were $130 billion in the hole so thats still an improvement.

Handgun fingerprinting in Maryland and New York is a failure. Handgun fingerprinting is where they analyze the fired case from a pistol for the various marks left on it by the gun's firing pin, extractor, etc. In theory this would allow the police to solve crimes easier. In practice, deliberately altering this pattern is cheap and easy. The pattern also changes with mechanical wear on the gun, so after one thousand rounds or so its completely different. Maryland has spent $2.5 million over 4 years on this. They have not caught a single criminal. New York spends $4 million per year with identical results.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Americanism: Religious Descendant of Puritanism?

David Gelernter has written an article on the religious nature of Americanism. His article is 6000 words. In PDF form this translates to about 8 pages. He doesn't start getting to the point until page 3. My college English 110 professor called this writing technique of rhetorically circling your topic "buzzarding." You can probably guess that she didn't like it very much. Gelernter is a computer science professor at Yale though, so I suppose I should be thankful he was this comprehensible and not written in algorithmic symbology or as an obfuscated Perl script.

Oh and after getting halfway into writing this post I really wished he had changed his name to Smith or Jones sometime in his wild Computer Science past. Something straightforward and hopefully mono-syllabic would be good. "Gelernter" doesn't exactly roll off the tongue or the fingers. I think I'll just call him "Dr. Dave" from here out. Hopefully I'm never jumped by an angry comsci prof in a shadowy New Haven alleyway.

What is his point? Firstly:
From the 17th century through John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Americans kept talking about their country as if it were the biblical Israel and they were the chosen people.
Secondly that the basic tenets of Americanism (individuality and individual dignity, community, freedom, equality, and democracy) can be derived from Christian thought. Dr. Dave does this as follows:
The fundamental fact: the Bible is God’s word. Two premises: first, every member of the American community has his own individual dignity, insofar as he deals individually with God; second, the community has a divine mission to all mankind. Three conclusions: every human being everywhere is entitled to freedom, equality, and democracy.
Lastly, that Americanism demanded outreach. This originally took the form of Manifest Destiny spurring the drive across the frontier. But with the end of the frontier:
The United States believed that American moral idealism could be extended outward, that American Christian democratic ideals could and should be universally applied...
I think Dr. Dave is at least half right.

Puritans have long been given the short end of the stick in America. They are portrayed as joyless bigots perpetually dressed for any opportune funeral. Usually so they can intone on the sinful state of mankind. These thoughts are usually expressed by people like Ivy League academics who wouldn't exist if the Puritans hadn't built their universities in the first place.

It would be wise of historians to note that this explosion of freedom and democracy happened in Western Europe, home of the religious humanism and the Reformation. Or, going back further, that the stature of Greek philosophy might have something to do with the how the Church adopted their methodology into our own theology early in the Patristic Period. Dr. Dave is dead on about some of the philosophical connections. It would also be wise to note the importance of both the Great Awakening and the Enlightenment on American culture.

This last bit is the shortcoming of the article in my view. Its nice to give the Puritans and religious folks a good pat on the back. Thanks, we don't usually get that from academics. But in doing so he misses the great confluence that is America.

The American Ideal was formed back when America was still the great melting pot. The ideas of the prophets of the Great Awakening were melded with the thoughts of philosophers from the Continent like Locke and Rousseau. Dr. Dave never mentions those guys. That has long been the great strength of America, that we take the best of all these concepts and simmer them together into a delicious stew. Unfortunately we don't do that anymore which brings us to the present day...

In general I think he misses the point of resistance to Americanism. One of the main reasons religion is singled out was not because of its deep connection to the topic but because of its availability. Pro-religious and anti-religious rhetoric is easily. Just look at any liberal blog's post-2004 election coverage for great anti-Christian terminology that was whipped up on a moments notice. But that is rarely the heart of the conflict. For instance current problems in the use stem from the modernist/post-modernist clashes over the "universal applicability" (see the third quote from Dr. Dave) of the American ideal. Older criticisms were often about more practical matters of who controls the government.

Long story short, the article is worth a read if you are a Puritan needing a pick-me-up (or a liberal needing something to get angry about) but somewhat one sided.

Blog Symposium

Joe Carter at the Evangelical Outpost is putting together a blog symposium on this article. Its a piece written by David Gelertner on the Religious connotations of Americanism and specifically how it relates to Puritanism. The deadline is 1am EST, so maybe I'll make it maybe I won't. I'll post something here either way.

I wouldn't usually do this sort of thing, but he actually sent me an email calling my by my first name. That means he at least generated his form letters with some halfway intelligent software. Plus he is offering prizes, only one of which I want.

So I printed the pdf version of the article out and I'm off to my thinking chair in the bathroom. Yeah yeah that last bit was probably too much information.

Supreme Court and Gun Laws

McQ at QandO is discussing recent Supreme Court decisions. The case I want to draw attention to is the refusal to dismiss a case holding a set of gun manufacturers liable for the shooting death of a Postal Service letter carrier. McQ points out, look at the chain of custody of the gun:
...the gun Furrow used to kill Ileto was originally sold to the police department in Cosmopolis, Wash. ... According to court records, the department sold the weapon to a gun shop in exchange for a different model. The shop sold it to a gun collector who is alleged to have sold it to Furrow, an ex-convict prohibited from purchasing weapons, at a gun show in Spokane, Wash.
So the manufacturers great crime is selling firearms to the police.

What is so annoying about this is that there have been a slew of these cases in the past decade. It is a vain attempt to sue the firearms industry into submission. Vain because most of these cases are dismissed and the rest go for the gun company at trial. To date they have won one case out of at least a hundred. So looks like this one goes to trial, where the gun companies will almost certainly win.

Concealed Carry Rates

I found the statistics here interesting. Its a list of the percentage of a state's population that has a concealed carry permit. The top three states by percentage are South Dakota, Indiana, and Pennsylvania. Connecticut and Washington round out the top five. Texas, popular conception to the contrary, is in the lower half of the list.

Journalism and Fundamentalism

GetReligion is covering a article written by Laurie Goodstein in the New York Times. She does an excellent job talking about what really constitutes religious "fundamentalism."

The article requires registration at the NYT site. But if you don't want to do that. Open a google window and paste one of the following URLs into the search box (use the correct page).

Page 1:

Page 2:

The NYT doesn't put the login screen up for people coming in from search engines. So this technique will get around it, if you already know where you are going. Don't know if it helps with other sites or not.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Church Membership

Messy Christian is writing about church membership. Messy has had a rough time with churches lately so she's a little gun shy.

My thoughts on the matter are also mixed. I've been attending the same church since I was in high school. I am not a member and check "regular attender" on the pad of paper that circulates every week in the service. This status hasn't stopped me from being an usher, small group leader, and on the singles group leadership team. I tithe or come close most months.

Why aren't I a member of the church? Well I was baptized as an adult, but by sprinkling. I was not emersed as my church requires. I have no desire to get baptized again in order to qualify. I've thought about sucking it up, but I'm feeling stubborn right now. A water distribution methodology seems a silly thing for them to draw a line in the sand over. But hey it may be a clue that my doctrine might not be my church's doctrine. A funny thing to worry about after I've been leading a bible study there for over a year.

Joining a church is about throwing your lot in with a body of christians. I'm fine with that. I've already been doing the work of a member for quite some time. I suppose my bigger worry is that they will throw their lot in with me as well. It's especially worrying since I will shortly be getting engaged to a lovely Jewish girl. Not much chance of us getting married in my church (although we have no desire to do that anyway). If I'm lucky one of my ministers would agree to perform my part of the wedding. If not there is always a Justice of the Peace I suppose.

HOV Lanes

Todd Zywicki is posting about HOV lanes over at The Volokh Conspiracy. Zywicki suggests that these lanes should simply have higher tolls and anyone should be able to ride them.

I think that High Occupancy Vehicle lanes are about the smartest innovation in traffic management in the last twenty years. Then someone decided to let anyone with a hybrid car ride in them. That person should be shot. Or beaten. Better yet, beaten then shot. Being shot then beaten would probably be counter productive.

The whole point behind HOV is that putting multiple people in a car increases the population density on the highway while reducing the vehicle traffic density. The great thing is that these effects reinforce each other synergisticly. Lowering the traffic density means that while the regular lanes have ground to a halt because of over-capacity, the HOV lanes are still moving steadily. So if you look at the number of people moving down a stretch of highway in a minute, the HOV beats the regular lanes by an even wider margin.

Then some idiot decided they should promote hybrid cars by letting them use the HOV lanes. Now we have a ton of people driving hybrids in order to use the HOV lanes without picking up slugs. This means that the population density is dropping and the traffic density is rising. Everything hits capacity again and HOV grinds to a halt just like the regular lanes. All HOV gets you is more people in your car (or not) to share in your discomfort. The last time I went through DC this was the case south on 395.

What's worse it isn't even smart from the ecological perspective. Hybrid cars get around twice the highway mileage of a typical commuter (50-60mpg compared to 20-35ish). But the hybrids will probably only contain the driver, while the standard cars will have 3 or 4 people in them. So per commuter, the standard cars will pollute less. Since the number of commuters will remain relatively constant, pushing hybrids actually increases commuter air pollution. Idiots...

Armstrong Williams

Well here is a big story breaking across the blogosphere. If you have been living under a rock, Armstrong Williams accepted money from the Department of Education to publically back the No Child Left Behind act using his TV show and Column. Instapundit, Jeff Jarvis, Q and O, and Left2Right should represent a good overview of coverage.

Lots has been written. Just a few thoughts on the coverage:
  • Is it just me or can you basically pinpoint someones political affiliation by looking at who the scandal is attributed to? If this scandal is mostly attributed to "the Bush administration" its a liberal. If Williams and the Department of Education are being railed at: conservative. Note I am not blaming Bush directly or indirectly, so draw the proper conclusions.
  • What makes this case more prominent than some in the past is that Williams was explicitly paid for airtime. This is not a case of "hey we agree, let me contribute to you financially or purchase some ads." This was a business arrangement. Its partisan payola.
  • Williams was a partisan commentator not a true "unbiased" journalist. Thankfully the blogosphere is drawing the proper conclusions of "hey we're all partisan hacks too, how long before some of us get offers?" Note that several bloggers have already been on the payroll of partisan organisations (DailyKos was criticised for accepting DNC money last year, Atrios turned out to be paid by a thinktank). The money floating around the blogosphere has been of the "you pat my ideological back, I'll pat yours" persuasion, not direct payment for a given amount of coverage.
  • People are wondering about journalistic ethics in general. This is a good thing since of the professions of public interest, journalists have very little in the way of hard professional standards. There are lots of soft suggestions about them from journalist organizations, but there isn't a licensing body that can really make standards stick. Lawyers, doctors, accountants, engineers, and others do not get off so lightly.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

The Geek Heirarchy

I saw this chart of the geek heirarchy on Penny Arcade. A few things that seem to have been left out of even the unabridged chart are cosplayers and collectable card gamers.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

GetReligion has two posts up about how a good God could allow a natural disaster like the South Asian tsunamis. They are here and here.

Long story short, my answer comes down Romans. There is none of us righteous, not even one. If you measure us against each other perhaps some are more righteous than others. But when you measure us against the absolute yardstick of God righteousness, not a single one of us will measure up. And so all of us are condemned to physical death and eventually stand before our Maker.

Does the method he uses to bring you into his presence really matter? The time of his choosing? At some point you might as well ask "If there is a good and loving God, why aren't we all immortal?" It may be a bit of straw man, but only a bit of one.

Why do bad things happen to good people? Because there are no good people in the absolute sense. A better question is "why do good things happen to bad people?" The answer is because God still loves us despite the pain we give him.

Birth Control and STD rates

Eugene Volokh is posting that over then counter use of Plan B, the morning after pill, has no effect on STD rates compared to prescription and clinic use of the same pill. So it probably does not increase the likelihood the woman will have unprotected sex. On the other hand it also had no effect on pregnancy rates compared to prescription use of Plan B.

However some other birth control methods may increase STD rates. Hog on Ice has a rather irreverent column on Depo Provera. DP has STD rates that are 3 times other methods like the pill. Some have postulated that this is because DP only requires the user to get shots 4 times a year and so it caters to a less responsible clientele.

STD rates are shooting up. People seem to be incorrectly equating birth control with safe sex. Most methods of contraception offer little STD protection. Just because you won't get pregnant does not mean you will not suffer other consequences.

I'm basically an abstinence and monogamy guy though so don't look to me for advice about how to cavort without consequences.

Thoughts on Iraq

Matthew Yglesias has thoughts on the grand strategy of Iraq and Afghanistan.

I find his analysis lacking on several levels. Here are some quotes:
  1. Eliminating the Afghan sanctuary cut down on al-Qaeda recruitment because despite the continuing appeal of the al-Qaeda ideology, people who wanted to sign up didn't know where to go.
  2. By invading Iraq and then botching the aftermath, we've created a new location for would-be jihadis to travel to in order to join the war.
  3. Thus, we're creating some number of new anti-American warriors.
  4. Right now, those warriors aren't killing people in America because they're in Iraq.
  5. But at some point, some of them will leave Iraq, and start launching attacks in the United States, Europe, and other countries.
I have problems with concepts 2 and 3.

It does not follow that they would not have established training areas somewhere else if we had not invaded Iraq. Libya, Hussien's Iraq, and Somalia are all potential locations. They did not congregate in Afghanistan so they could fight there. All they needed was a friendly regime.

Our containment of Iraq by having bases in Saudi Arabia were the offense that began really empowering this stage of Bin Laden's growth in the first place. So they would also be creating new warriors if we hadn't gone to Iraq. The question is, after attrition from contact with US forces, are they still posting a net gain in followers?

To answer this question we have to look at this Yglesias statement:
The vast majority of insurgents are, by all accounts, native-born Iraqis.
All accounts I have seen say otherwise. The only numbers I have seen say that 10% combatants are known Iraqis, 20% of are Saudi, 15% are Syrian, 10% are other, and a whopping 45% are of unknown nationality. Which means that the Iraqis might be a simple majority in the insurgency depending how many of the unknowns are actually Iraqi nationals. They are certainly not a vast majority.

So what we are doing over there is killing a lot of foriegn terrorists from all over the Middle East and Africa. This may explain the change in rhetoric from Osama bin Laden prior to the last election. They are suffering highly asymmetric losses and this is a good thing.

His last two points have merit however. We cannot count on the insurgents being foolish forever. Our great advantage is that they do not have the sort of command structure that leads to a lot of foresight, complex operations, or advanced planning. Part of our actions in Afghanistan was to substantially cripple these capabilities. But when Iraq is over, we should be preparing for them to turn their eyes toward us again once they have rebuilt their forces.

IT Whining

I have an intense dislike for my IT management at work. I won't talk about work much, but suffice it to say I'm making an exception. The current brainstorm is the IT Online Helpdesk. Thats great except these are the three most common problems I have with my computer:
  • The network is down.
  • The email server is down.
  • My computer is down.
You will notice that in all of these situations, an online help desk is no help to me. (The help desk requires me to login with my username and password from email, so the two systems are probably linked). This is why I have the phone numbers of everyone in the IT department pinned to the wall of my cubicle.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Gift to Self

Usually around this time I celebrate the season by giving myself something. After all, I've bought my family and loved ones presents so why not something for me? Previous idolatrous contrabutions to the temple of self have been a performance intake for my car and a longsword.

My ideas for this year are:Anyone with other ideas may express them freely in the comments.

Corporate Welfare from Left2Right

Left2Right is a website run by liberals trying to build concensus across the partisan divide. Its an admirable mission. Sometimes they do pretty well, sometimes not. This is a bad one.

Steve Shiffrin is talking about corporate welfare. I know of no conservative who uses that term by the way. He has the following to say:
Almost ten years ago, the Boston Globe estimated that $150 billion in the form of subsidies and tax breaks was funneled to American companies.
It was greater than the program aiding families with dependent children, student aid, housing, food and nutrition, and all direct public assistance taken together (excluding Social Security and medical care).
The first thing the wise reader will note is that they are comparing apples to oranges. Their initial corporate figure is made up of "subsidies" (money paid out) and tax "breaks" (money never paid in the first place). They compare this with financial aid programs which only include subsidies and no breaks. So amazingly the second figure is smaller! To quote Homer Simpson, "If you can't tell I'm being sarcastic!"

This doesn't even touch on something more important. A lot of those tax "breaks" aren't. They are accounting practices like depreciation of capital expendatures. Similarly lots of those subsidies are things that liberals traditionally support, like keeping family farms in business or ensuring that there is always milk and bread on store shelves despite market forces favoring scarcity. The market is a pretty ruthless thing when you get down to it.

So this one was definitely a miss for Left2Right.

Force for Good

The US Navy has some amazing capabilities. Michelle Malkin is covering how they are being used for disaster relief in her column.

A friend of mine is a naval officer training to be a pediatrian. The Navy maintains these folks not only to care for families on naval bases and populate VA hospitals, but also to act as goodwill ambassadors in times like these. Some of the most effected by the tsunami are children after all. I don't know if Josh is being deployed or not, I don't think he is done his training yet.

One knit to pick, Jan Egelund is a UN official who said something stupid about the US being stingy. He has since repudiated it and apologized. Lets give the man a break.


Michael Dean has a post on aging over at his site. Michael and his wife are on the cusp of rolling over from 26 (mid-twenties) to 27 (late twenties). He and a friend are pontificating on youthfulness. Like a good engineer he even has a diagram.

There is just one thing I disagree with though. The peak of youthfulness on their diagram is 23-24. This seems wrong to me. The peak of youthfulness is your 25th birthday, especially for men. At 16 you can drive, at 18 you can vote, at 21 you can drink, at 25 your auto insurance rates plummet. I can't think of anything good that happens after 25 that is inherently age triggered.

Ok there are two things. His use of pink for Paul's dialogue was didn't have enough contrast and was giving my eyes fits, but highlighting the text in my browser fixed it.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Delaware in the Blogosphere

Eugene Volokh mentioned Delaware, my home state. Unfortunately it's in the context of age of consent laws. It's better than getting mentioned because of a horrible refinery accident or lending laws that benefit usurerscredit card companies.

Evidentally age of consent in Delaware is 16 unless you are over 30, when it jumps up to 18. What happens if you are 29 and start consensually schtupping a 16 year old? Disgusting as that is, when you turn 30 she will still be 17 and you will be facing potential jail time.

Not something I have to worry about anyway, since Amybear is over 21. I'm not going to be more specific than that because at some point she might not want her age written down and associated with a date in history. Best to plan ahead with that.

Also, am I the only one to find overfamiliarity with state age of consent laws icky?

Writing on the Internet

Instapundit has remarked on the inability of the media to get stories about blog and blogging right. One of the problems is that they can't tell a blog and a bulletin board apart.

To be fair, the dividing line is a bit grayer than it used to be. Kuro5hin is a discussion forum. It is powered by a codebase called Scoop. DailyKos is a blog. I believe it uses a variant of the same software. Slashdot could be a discussion forum, but it could also be described as a group meta-blog.

The difference between a blog with a large number of comments/commenters and a discussion forum often gets pretty miniscule. There are clear-cut cases of either/or, but there are also gray areas where both apply.

UPDATE: Slashdot is picking up the 58% growth in blog readership story. Some of the comments are interesting and relate to blogging and specifically what defines a blog, others are worthless. As with all Slashdot comments, set the threshold around 3 and rank them by score. You will get the cream without the crap.

Academic Hornswoggling

Jim Lindgren is talking about Michael Bellesiles over at the Volokh Conspiracy.

Bellesiles published a book entitled Arming American several years ago. It was greeted with a lot of acclaim mostly because it questioned long held beliefs about the American gun culture. Bellesiles basically stated that firearm ownership culture never had broad popular roots. Instead he claimed that the gun culture has always been a niche phenomenon.

The book won at least one major award in its field because academics these days love books that completely rewrite history especially in the favor of more liberal modern (in both the temporaly and philosophical sense of the word) ideology. The only problem is that much of the work was a complete fraud. Many of the records Bellesiles sited had been destroyed in a fire over a hundred years ago. The records were a complete fabrication. Unfortunately for Bellesiles, several people knew this and brought it to light. His awards were revoked and I believe he may have been asked to step down from his position at Emory. Of course, some liberal think tank is still publishing his book for political reasons because "its need to be read" lies or not.

Long story short, I expect to see this sort of thing happen much more. There is a lot of pressure in academia for groundbreaking scholarship thanks to the prevailing liberal "give me something new" mindset. It is how you make your reputation as a young professor. This is especially a problem in history and the classical fields, where the subjects for new study are somewhat more limited than the hard sciences.

The real problem is that at the rate new scholarship is coming out, no one is bothering to check it anymore. I've written in a scholarly journal or two, but I doubt anyone ever bothered to read my sources. Granted I worked in a hard science and the principles cited are well known, but you see my point. Comments on journal publications tend to be of the "you need more references" type, not the "I checked your references and they don't exist." Checking references and reanalysing data is fairly rare and in some fields asking for raw data is considered an insult.

Incidentally this is why I don't think I could ever turn off trackbacks on this blog. I want other people to be able to check my work.

The Trip Back

I'm home, but I'm playing catch-up after a week away. Blogging may be light until I get back on my feet.

The trip up from Sarasota on Delta was uneventful. I left Sarasota on time and arrived in Atlanta earlier than expected. With only a personal item and carry-on to my name, making my connection was easy even if it mean traversing a fair part of the massive Atlanta/Hartsfield airport. My only regret is that I didn't have the spare time to get a nice glass of sweet tea like in Charlotte. I'd had plenty to time in Charlotte. Given the situation I prefer the Atlanta experience.

I got in at Philadelphia on time. After a week in clean pastel Florida, Philly was filthy but warmer than expected. Meeting my parents was more problematic. Once we did get together, my brother met us for dinner at a nice chinese buffet. Then I picked up my car at their house and went home.

I've decided that the next time I have to fly will be from BWI and will not involve my parents. I love them, but their house is not my home and I would much rather have skipped the family dinner and cut straight to settling in at my apartment.

On a completely different topic: "its" or "it's" which is the contraction and which is the possessive? Its (It's?) one of those grammatical rules I have long neglected and, now that I'm writing here fairly regularly, not knowing has severely annoyed the perfectionist in me.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

The Trip Down

Well I'm going back to the frozen north tomorrow, so I suppose I should write that piece about my eventful trip down. Hopefully getting back will be easier than getting to Sarasota was.

I'm sure the blogosphere has been as abuzz as the mainstream media about the troubles of travelling after Christmas. I can tell you as someone stuck in the system that it was every bit as horrible as people are saying.

I flew out of Philadelphia on US Airways. I was in the eye of the storm, but I knew that would be the case anyway, so I opted for the wise choice of a large personal item (a backpack) and a large foldover carry-on bag. People were amazed at the size of my carry-on, but I got to my destination with all my stuff so it served its purpose.

My original flight plan was Philly with a short layover in Charlotte then on to Sarasota. My flight out of Philly had us sitting at the gate for an hour and half. The only good thing to come out of this was that I got to know a few other people on the flight. We made up a little time on the way to Charlotte, but I still arrived after my connection had left.

This sent me to the ticket counter so that the airlines could find me a new flight out. That was when the horror of my situation started to sink in. It took them over thirty minutes to tell me there was no way to get me to Sarasota without me spending two days in a Charlotte hotel. That was not what I signed up for. Tampa is within driving distance of Sarasota, so I asked if they could work through the larger airport there. They did more typing. I gave some serious consideration to flying back to Philly. More typing and finally I had tickets to Tampa via Jacksonville, Fl. Still going South, better than nothing.

I consoled myself with some sweet tea in the Charlotte airport. Thank God for the south and sweet tea.

A ninety minute delay and a short hop, I'm running between terminals in the Jacksonville airport. Let me say that Jacksonville is very very proud of hosting the Super Bowl this year. It was on every resident's lips. I get to my gate and find it surprisingly devoid of people. My puddlejumper was down for maintenance trouble. Off to the Charlotte Clarion for a night away from my loved ones.

A free night and meal at the Clarion later and I'm winging my way on a prop-driven commuter to Tampa.

Let me say that this whole trip new insight into the strange comraderie that develops in airports. Like soldiers stuck in foxholes not of our own devising, we were fighting pitched battle against our airline opponents. In Charlotte I met a nice family of valiantly trying to get to Jacksonville. They had started the day in Albany, NY and were on their fourth connection of the day. Each one had faced such delays that the couple and their three boys were also on their third standby list of the day. They were told by the airline that they would be stuck there for two days and that things were so bad, all the rental cars at the airport had been rented out. Their story was not unusual. I was actually in the healthy middle of the airtravel bell curve.

If there is one thing this whole thing taught me it was that I really need to get a cell phone. Trotting between payphones working my Walmart calling card for all its worth was emotionally taxing. One of my fellow travellers let me borrow his for a few minutes. Thanks buddy. If I ever need a shrink in Charlotte I'll look you up.

Tomorrow I fly home, but I'm going Delta so here's hoping things will be better.