Friday, April 29, 2005

Health Update

My brother went through surgery this morning. They set his leg and put in a plate and six screws. He's on blood thinners in case the surgery causes some clots that could move around dangerously. He is probably going to stay in the hospital over the weekend and will be looking at around 3 months of recovery.He hasn't come out of anesthesia yet and I'm headed up there in a few minutes.

Blogging will be light for the rest of the day and probably most of the weekend.

Thursday, April 28, 2005


The kitty clothing from yesterday was bad. I can't top it. But I can show you that, yes, dog people can make their pets wear stupid things too. In this case sunglasses or protective goggles. If only Snoopy had these when he was looking to shoot down the Red Baron. Via Gizmag.

Runs in the Family

I sprained both my ankles playing Ultimate a week ago. I got a call from my mother this morning. My brother broke his leg playing soccer yesterday. It's a nasty break in the tibia inside his knee. Nasty enough that surgery will be required to set it and that happens sometime today. I and my family will be grateful for prayer.

My brother is a fairly large guy and I hope that doesn't hamper his recovery. He has already had some back problems and that won't make things easier. Maybe I can go up there tomorrow on my day off and take care of him a bit.

This also means no shooting for us this weekend. I may still be able to play driver for him if he wants to get out though. A group of his buddies will be watching the new eps of Dr Who on saturday so the weekend may not be totally lost.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Tennis Shoe Tech

Well Cross Trainers, but that doesn't create the necessary titular alliteration.

After screwing up both my ankles last week I went out and bought a new pair of sneakers. I had been wearing New Balance 609s which are essentially similar to these. My new pair are 853s. With the higher number came higher price of course. My old shoes were basically cheap generic sneakers. The new ones will help give me the foot and ankle support I need. The neat thing to me, as a former composite materials engineer, is the graphite rollbar built into my new shoes.

When I first went to University of Delaware as a prospective student, the man who would become my advisor for 6 years showed us this neat little widget. It was a little piece of fiber reinforced composite about 8 inches long, an inch and a half wide, and maybe an eighth of an inch thick. The neat thing was that you could bend it all you wanted and stretch it a bit too, but you couldn't twist it if your life depended on it.

When I was finishing my bachelors I took a class on composite structures and I found out how the little dohickey worked. The fiber reinforcement is the strong part and the plastic around it is fairly weak. When you bend it or stretch it, the fiber isn't supporting anything so you can flex it like it was a normal piece of cheap plastic. However the fibers are in the +/-45 degree directions. The engineers who know structures out there will recognize these as directions of shear stress. So if you load it in torsion, a fancy way of saying "twist it", you are pulling on the carbon fiber which is both strong and stiff.

So something like that dohickey is now in my shoes to allow me to run in them, but prevent me from turning my foot the wrong way. Hopefully it will keep me from spraining an ankle in the future.

Oh, after we got to play with the composites we watched a 20 minute video on paint drying. I am not kidding you. One of the fluid mechanicians at Delaware (the Dupont state) does a lot of work on getting even paint coverage on corners/etc. But it was perhaps the dullest thing I have ever witnessed.

Well the dullest thing I have ever witnessed until I was forced to attend a 3 hour breakless briefing this morning.

Star Wars Television

Penny Arcade has some very sage observations about science fiction on television.

First, George Lucas is bringing Star Wars to TV again. In two different ways. There will be a 3D animated series similar to the current Cartoon Network Clone Wars vignettes and also live action show. Maybe the live action show won't suck, but no promises.

Now what make Clone Wars great is Genndy Tartakovsky, the same guy behind Dexter's Lab and Samurai Jack. If he isn't a part of the new show, I expect it to be about as interesting as, say, Droids was.

But that isn't what really caught my eye. What caught my eye was:
It's not that those people don't like sci-fi, it's that sci-fi as it manifests itself in television programs is people talking about grand shit in the future equivalent of a cafe. I don't know if it's television budgets or what, but I'd imagine that people sitting at a space table is pretty cheap. There is a lot of room for an action-oriented war serial with characters who aren't immortal and more occasional intrusions of the supernatural elements of the Star Wars universe.
Exactly. People don't want to see the same story told over and over again. It gets tired. His suggestion of a gritty trench-side view of the Clone Wars is a good one. Show us something new and different in the same fictional universe.

Incidentally, this is why very few people are actually giving a damn about Star Trek. We've seen this before. Stop putting people on a Federation starship and sending them out to explore the universe. You're telling the same story with different set dressing. Take us on an excursion into what somebody not encumbered by the Prime Directive does. Maybe they're a freight hauler or a bounty hunter or a smuggler. Show us how the other half of the Star Trek or Star Wars universe lives already.

UPDATE: Messy Christian is opining on the death of Star Trek. For the record I liked the Vulcans in Enterprise. The fact that they were mean and logically ruthless was wonderful. The problem was the rest of the show which was two dimensional crap that was retreaded from better series.

And Don't Call Me Shirley

In this post about Young/Bainbridge bias affair, Southern Appeal makes relays this sage observation:
I had a professor once note that writers use the term "surely" to indicate some proposition that seems all but irrefutable to the writer, but for which he or she has no actual evidence. It's a remarkably good rule of thumb.
For that matter "it can be shown that" means "I've forgotten these steps" and "a trivial exercise for the reader" means "this will take way more space than I care to spend, even if I could remember how to do it." If you have some other common caveats and translations, feel free to post to the comments.

Via Evangelical Outpost

What is Your Exotic Death

Have you been listening to too much Pink Floyd? Do you want to know how you will die? Take the Exotic Cause of Death Test.

I will be struck down by a meteor!

Warning some causes of death may be misspelled...

Via Locusts and Honey

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Democratic Contract with America?

I saw the Democrats 9 point campaign points for the 2006 election. Allow me to list and explain them:
1. Women’s Health Care. “The Prevention First Act of 2005” will reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions by increasing funding for family planning and ending health insurance discrimination against women.
Democrats will require health care insurers to fund contraceptives and begin brainwashing educating people about the morning after pill. We will also claim that this will improve STD rates even though many forms of contraception do nothing to prevent STD transmission and facilitate behavior that causes them to spread.
2. Veterans’ Benefits. “The Retired Pay Restoration Act of 2005” will assist disabled veterans who, under current law, must choose to either receive their retirement pay or disability compensation.
Currently, disability pay requires a corresponding reduction in retirement pay so vets don't get something for nothing. We Democrats believe in getting something for nothing so we will pay them twice instead.
3. Fiscal Responsibility. Democrats will move to restore fiscal discipline to government spending and extend the pay-as-you-go requirement.
Yes, we'll be fiscally responsible. That is why we have 8 spending increases and one tax increase on this 9 point list. Remember: something for nothing.
4. Relief at the Pump. Democrats plan to halt the diversion of oil from the markets to the strategic petroleum reserve. By releasing oil from the reserve through a swap program, the plan will bring down prices at the pump.
We propose using the strategic oil reserve to influence the market. We will to this by a highly technical process called buying high and selling low. This will not be a bad idea because of smoke and mirrorshighly complex economic stuff. Ok, we'll just conceal the huge net fiscal losses in the defense budget. We will certainly not give people a break by allowing more domestic drilling or increasing refinery capacity. This won't compromise the national security purpose of the reserve either. I mean when was the last time we went to war with a major oil producing nation?
5. Education. Democrats have a bill that will: strengthen head start and child care programs, improve elementary and secondary education, provide a roadmap for first generation and low-income college students, provide college tuition relief for students and their families, address the need for math, science and special education teachers, and make college affordable for all students.
We will pander to the teachers union a lot. We will give people money for programs that don't work. We will ignore the fact that private schools often do much better with less funding. Instead of fixing skyrocketing college costs by using grants to create more colleges or expand enrollment (and thereby destroy the college supply bottleneck that is driving prices), we will simply hand people money. Hopefully nobody realizes that we're just handing the kids their parents money after squandering 30% of it on overhead.
6. Jobs. Democrats will work in support of legislation that guarantees overtime pay for workers and sets a fair minimum wage.
We hate the markets. We're smarter than those people. But definitely not elitists.
7. Energy Markets. Democrats work to prevent Enron-style market manipulation of electricity.
We really hate the markets. We hate the markets so much that we're going to mention Enron even though it no-longer exists as a coherent corporate entity.
8. Corporate Taxation. Democrats make sure companies pay their fair share of taxes to the U.S. government instead of keeping profits overseas.
Democrats will decide what is their fair share. Again, this is the only revenue generation plan on the list, so you can imagine their fair share is going to be rather large.
9. Standing with our troops. Democrats believe that putting America’s security first means standing up for our troops and their families.
We'll stand with them, but won't actually physically stand next to them. After all they get shot at. And they also vote for the other guys and wouldn't like it. And we probably won't give them the supplies or systems they need to fight either because that would cost money. And we won't support their mission because that might benefit the other party. Instead we'll basically sympathize with them after they are shot or wounded, blame the other party for it, and then we'll pander to retiring military who might have a prayer of voting for us.

Christian-Muslim Divide

Another good post over at One Hand Clapping. This one deals with the fact that while Americans generally do not have a complete grasp of Islam (and examples are given for those who wish further understanding) the reverse is even worse. Muslims tend to be pug ignorant of Americans and Christians. Worse it is an ignorance enforced, at least in part, by the weight of law.

On a Lighter Note

Messy Christian is linking to ways to humiliate your cat. There are pictures. Oh and some dark humor.

I'm sure Amybear would consider those cute, but we are never doing that to our pets.

General Schoomaker

Last I checked many of my readers were Army employees. One Hand Clapping is offering a stern fisking of Charmaine Yoest's hit piece on Peter Schoomaker, US Army Chief of Staff.

Its not an especially good hit piece either. It lies far too much. For instance it is not a violation of Posse Comitatus to allow law enforcement use of military facilities or even military support.

Religious Discrimination Roundabout

Professor Bainbridge has replied to Cathy Young with the exact same argument I made yesterday. She has replied in turn. Reactions are breaking down along Pro-Choice/Pro-Life lines. I side with Bainbridge obviously and I find the reaction of Instapundit and Eugene Volokh disheartening. You would think two lawyers would know discrimination law better.

Young's first argues that Abortion policy is inherently job related. Now she has a point and I made the same one in my previous post. However it isn't trivial to say that abortion policy is inherently job related. A judge's job is interpreting the law and statutes, not making or enforcing policy. It could be argued that a job interview of a judge should weigh much more heavily on constitutional construction than end policy goals. But you can bet that won't happen.

Young's second argument is far more specious.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but weren't conservatives supposed to be against nebulous standards like "disparate impact"?
The standards are not nebulous, they are statistical and fairly concrete. 80% is not nebulous. The question, once disparate impact is established, is whether this measure is justifiable in terms of job performance.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Rifle Tips

I'm going shooting this weekend. Yes I go shooting most weekends, but this weekend is clays which is a lot of fun. I'll also be able to try my M1 out at longer ranges like 50 and 100 yards. Sweet.

On that topic, here are some suggestions to improve your riflecraft.

Who Then Is Saved?

Part of me finds it strange that Salvation, something all christians must share, is such a hotly debated topic. Perhaps it's because it's so personal. Perhaps it is because it is there is a lot of theological argument surrounding it.

Messy Christian has more.

Religious Discrimination

The Volokh Conspiracy is talking about the conservative backlash against judicial filibusters by posting excerpts of this piece from Cathy Young:
Of course, the issue isn't simply "faith," but a nominee's views on public policy issues. A pro-abortion-rights litmus test for federal judges may be wrong, but it's preposterous to claim, as some conservatives have, that it amounts to a religious test that disqualifies "serious" Catholics and evangelical Protestants from public office. Surely, it would apply just as much to atheists or agnostics who oppose abortion on secular grounds.
Its funny because, being a good little federal peon, I just completed an Equal Employment Opportunity class. So let me quote some legislation that would apply, if these judicial nominees were applying for a non-political job in the civil service. In the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978:
All employees and applicants for employment should receive fair and equitable treatment in all aspects of personnel management without regard to political affiliation, race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age, or disabling condition, and with proper regard for their privacy and constitutional rights.
What is the standard way to ascertain whether a policy is discriminatory? The answer is adverse impact. Essentially if a policy drops the selection rate of one group below 80% of the most often selected group, then that policy is de-facto discriminatory. So yes they are discriminating, because approximately 0% of Catholics or Evangelicals are going to pass this one.

It also doesn't matter that they are saying "we'll we are selecting based on abortion not on religion" if there is a high level of correlation between them. Abortion not Religion is the exact same logic that says "hey were aren't discriminating against hispanics, we are doing objective selection based on English language skills." The latter doesn't fly, why should the former?

Now you can do the talk around and say "well that policy is important and job related". Really? Think about it. You aren't testing how that person does their job in 99% of cases. Nor are you using any selection criteria based on their method of interpreting the law in general. You aren't testing their previous conduct or judicial record. You are discriminating against people based solely on fairly narrow ideological grounds and it is having an adverse impact on a significant minority of applicants. It is bullshit.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Readability Scores

Via Eugene Volokh, Via Stephen Bainbridge, this page at Juicy Studio compiles basic readability statistics on your website. According to them, my blog is understandable at the 8th grade reading level. I don't know whether to be happy or offended.

Silly Catalog Products

I order a lot of stuff from websites and consequently I receive a hell of a lot of catalogues in the mail trying to get me to buy more. One of the catalog was from the NRA. I have been a card carrying member of the vast right wing conspiracy since earlier this year.

One of the items listed was the NRA Concealed Carry Vest. This is basically a rebadged Royal Robbins 5.11 Vest. Now I have a question for you folks, both the shooters and non-shooters. If you were going to conceal a gun on your person, would you want large shooting organization logos on your clothing? I mean, its not like the NRA vest is for photography.

Almost three years ago now, Amybear and I went to her local 4th of July fireworks display. One man was there with his wife and few kids. He was more alert than the typical local, which drew my attention. I noticed he had on a second amendment t-shirt and hat. I also noticed he had a fanny pack on his left hip in the crossdraw position. This rang some bells and whistles in my head. Chances are the guy was carrying, which I wouldn't have minded if he wasn't picnicking on a high school football field.

In the end I didn't do anything. He was minding his own business with his kids. I have no clue what Virginia weapons laws are in this case. Plus that guy had a police issue haircut and mustache.

Just a thought here to any concealed carry people in the audience, might it be a good idea not to wear clothing that says "GUN OWNER" while you are carrying?


Amybear and I are big sushi fans. We eat it and, if we have the time, we make it ourselves. It is surprisingly easy to make provided you live near an asian grocery or sufficiently stocked supermarket. You obviously have to be careful with the quality of fish you use, but that is still fairly simple.

Why am I mentioning this? Because Amy found someone who is also nuts about sushi. So if you want a throw pillow that looks good enough to eat, look at these folks.

In other news on the Amy front, she finished her last assignment today and she just got published. Hoo-rah. Graduation is less than two weeks away!

Friday, April 22, 2005


I don't like it. One summer I was going research at college, I roomed with a guy who was listened to Ska incessantly. It completely ruined the genre for me because, frankly, I came to the realization that all ska sounds the same. If I want happy music with sad lyrics, I'll stick with swing. At least there is variety there because I can listen to songs about liquor, gambling, women, gangs, and cars.

Why am I bringing this up? Izzy had me listening to the Supertones in the car going to lunch today. They are a Christian Ska band, so their music is happy and their lyrics are happy. Happy and biblical. This completely misses the point to me. I don't like ska, but even I realize that it is the contrast of the music that makes it work. The happy bouncy music is the jauntily-placed citrus wedge of refreshment that allows you to stand the over-priced mexican swill-beer of life.

Anyway, I think I'll stick to Brian Setzer.

Abortion and Ultrasound

Illinois has passed a law that forbids ultrasound without a doctor's orders. Now the legislature is saying this is because ultrasound may be shown to cause harm to the fetus in the future. Sounds tenuous? Good it is.

The real reason is completely political of course. Pro-life organizations practically give ultrasounds away. They do this because once the pregnant woman actually sees that her baby, she has an awfully hard time killing it over a trivial justification. Abortionists perform ultrasounds too, but they go to great lengths to ensure that the mother doesn't see the screen. They want the mother to think that the fetus is a piece of meat, not a living, moving person.

Which brings me to my proposal for counter-legislation. I think the Republicans should tack a rider on this bill that requires mothers be shown their ultrasounds. It is an easy thing to do and then the abortionists will do the pro-lifers work for them.


Dawn Eden is listing her favorite parts of Passover. Amy and I also enjoy the charoset and the wine. Alas, no big passover meal for me this year. Dang.

Secrets Revealed!

Messy Christian has come forward with her true identity. Her first name is actually (duh duh duh!) Elizabeth and she goes by Liz.

I shall follow her example and let you know that my first name is (duh duh duh!) Jeffrey. I know that r-e-y instead of e-r-y was a huge shock for some of you. I'm sure you will adapt.

She also has a picture up and does reveal her full name if you want to go looking for articles she has written on Google or something.

Pagans within the Church

The Episcopalians are seriously screwed up. This isn't anything we didn't know, but still. Locusts and Honey is mentioning the case of W. William Melnyk, who recently went from Episcopal priest to full time Druid of Downingtown Pennsylvania. He did this after the church got upset when he and his wife began introducing pagan liturgies under the guise of feminism. Now he has changed his mind and is renouncing his Druidity based on recent personal experience.

Now I'm not overly shocked by this as Episcopalians can be quirky folks. Dabbling in druidism doesn't strike me as particularly out of character, nor does creating liturgies for people who practice both Christianity and Druidism (however the hell that works). No what amazes me is that his wife, the Rev. Glyn Ruppe-Melnyk, who co-wrote these liturgies is still the rector of St.-Francis-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church in Malvern. How the heck does that work? If you are going to remove one of them, shouldn't you remove both? She's a witch, burn her already!

NOTE: The link is demanding a login, paste the link into Google and it will let you in without that crap.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Someone Set Us Up The Bomb

Question: How hard is it to make an atomic weapon? Answer: Not very.

Back in the 1960s, when proliferation was first becoming a problem, the government decided to take a few Physics post-docs who were completely ignorant of nuclear technology and assign them to build a nuclear device. They would provide support personnel who would manufacture the device and "conduct experiments", the good doctors had to supply the actual design with only their wits and non-classified literature for reference.

And they did. And they didn't just build an easy bomb. They built an implosion device, because the gun model device wasn't a difficult enough problem to be interesting for them.

Now there is a tendency to say that this shows building a nuclear bomb is easy. I'm not going to go that far. Truth be told they had to do a lot of research and many of their experiments would be potentially expensive and dangerous if conducted for real. (Their experiments were basically relayed to experts who would create "correct" results and report them back.) So there is a fair bit of know how and resources that are necessary. Those three brainiacs are the pointy tip of the intellectual spear as it were, but the support staff is still a non-trivial and non-neglectable part of the system. But still it isn't as hard as you might think.

Via In the Agora.

UPDATE: Some people don't know the difference between an implosion device and a gun device. A gun device has a sphere of fissile material with a hole in it. You shoot a plug into the hole to get a critical mass. It's fairly simple and is the type of bomb dropped on Hiroshima. An implosion device is more complicated. The sphere of fissile material is broken up into wedges and a series of explosives are detonated with very precise timing to blow them together and create the critical mass. This is more complicated and trickier.

Is the Pope Catholic?

Well the answer to that question seems to be: Yes, very. Liberals seem to be having a real problem with this. If they want an Episcopalian to be Pope, they should start work on the necessary time machine to go have a chat with Henry the VIII. Otherwise deal with it. Frank J. has similar thoughts.

UPDATE: James Lileks also is thinking similarly and expressing himself better than I ever will:
At the risk of sounding sacreligious: it’s the Catholic Church, for Christ’s sake! You’re not going to get someone who wants to strip off all the Baroque ornamentation of St. Peter’s and replace them with IKEA wine racks, okay?

Getting Old

Ultimate was somewhat less than fun. We play on a field that hadn't really been mowed or taken care of in a while. So the grass was long and, more importantly, patchy. And the field has ruts and divets in it.

As a result of this and my choice of sneakers with poor ankle support, I managed to hurt both my ankles within the span of the first 15 minutes of the game. The first one was minor and so I kept playing. The second one was worse, but I still kept playing and managed to pull in a score for our team. In the end though I could feel the bad one start to swell. I knew that it was time to call it quits, go home, get my weight off them, and ice them. So I did.

I bought an ankle brace for the bad one this morning and I'm hobbling around ok. I'm taking advil and eating lots of pineapple (a natural anti-inflamatory). I'll probably take off work early too.

Amy was also feeling emotionally old last night. Next door neighbors have been listening to loud music that goes right through her paper thin walls. More importantly though, people are making a lot of noise right outside her apartment. Talking on phones and the like. Amy was stiffling a strong urge to run out there, yell, and shake her fist in their general direction.

Well at least we're moving into fogeyhood together. I've got the bad ankles old man walk down and she can yell at those meddling kids and their dog. I can't imagine how old I'll feel when I'm actually 30.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Thesis Finished

Amybear got final approval for her Master's thesis today. So go congratulate her already.

Ultimate Frisbee

I get together and play once a week during the summer months with some of my coworkers. I'm not especially good, but I do get out and run around for an hour. And I do mean run around for an hour, Ultimate is supposed to be non-contact but it involves a lot of running just like basketball. Granted as the hour wears on, the running slows down, but I'm fine with that.

The first game of the season was last weekend and it went pretty well. My muscles were tired and a little sore the next day so I must have done something kinda healthy. I was also very happy that my muscles were less tired and sore than the same time last year, which is a sign that I'm in better shape than I used to be.

Custom Keyboard

Here is a neat bit of kit. 25 keys that you can place and define to create a custom keyboard layout. Ever wanted an open word key? Rework the keyboard layout of efficiency?

When they get this thing up to 40-50 keys so I could make a real keyboard out of it, maybe I'll buy one.

Benedict and Nazi Germany

Rumors have been flying around that the new Pope is some sort of Nazi. In a word, nope. Ratzinger joined the Hitler Youth in 1941 when he was required to after he turned 14. He wasn't very happy about it and was as inactive as possible. He evidentally spent most of his time in the Hitler Youth actually going to seminary. Once out of Seminary he refused to take any part of it.

Now this isn't stopping some people from criticizing him:
If the Church were going to select a Nazi-era German as pope, would it have been too much to hope that the Church would select a man who fought the evil of Nazism in some way, rather than a man who just muddled through it...
Referring to Ratzinger even as a "Nazi-era German" is a bit of an overstatement. Benedict was 12 when Hitler invaded Poland. The war in Europe was over about a month after he turned 18. What do you expect him to do? Shoot a member of the frickin' Gestapo with his slingshot? Yes John-Paul II covertly subverted Nazi rule in Poland, but he was also eight years older than Ratzinger and an adult at the time.

Funny Stuff

Joe Carter has a revisited the humorous posts he has written for Evangelical Outpost. Here is a teaser that is especially applicable:
On being a Baptist -- Jesus’ cousin was a Baptist. That’s pretty good company to be in. You don’t hear about our Lord having any Lutheran cousins, do you? I figure there must be a pretty good reason for that.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

New Pope

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany has been selected as the new pope. Ratzinger has chosen Benedict XVI as his papal name. Sweet Benny 16. I would have gone with John Paul the Second II myself. Ratzinger turns 78 this weekend, so if you don't like the choice hey maybe he'll die soon. ;)

Here is a brief outline of Ratzinger's candidacy. Wikipedia also has a biography up. Funny they don't mention him playing Cliff Claven on Cheers.

UPDATE: It seems I am not the only one to make the obvious John Ratzenberger joke.

Planned Parenthood Teen Edition

Dawn Eden has noticed that Planned Parenthood has created a teen lobbying group called Teen Advocates for Sexual Health or TASH. Planned Parenthood the inexorable anyone?

Anyone that can come up with a name for a counter-group that abbreviates to ASLAN should post it in the comments.

Protestant vs. Catholic

The Marty Minto case has really brought up the question of whether Pope John Paul was saved or not. It showed up on GetReligion today for instance.

I'd like to point out that you guys reading this are way ahead of the curve. Michael Dean asked this question in the comments on April 5th:
Do you think the Pope was a born again believer? After his death I have often wondered and hoped that he was.
For the record I'll go out on a limb and say that yes I think the Pope is in heaven right now. Just like I think Mother Teresa is too. When you look at the lives these people lived, I can't imagine them doing so without immense amounts of faith. I don't know whether the former Pope had a dramatic conversion experience, but I do know that he went through seminary in WWII when the Nazis would have executed him if they had found out. I think that is a good indication of a "calling".

I think Protestants and Catholics still have a heck of a cultural divide to work through. As a Protestant, we see Catholics as anything from institutional christians who are just going through the motions to idolators. I'm sure Catholics see us as rebels denying the true apostolic authority of the Church.

I think the truth is probably in between. There are a lot of Catholics out there who really don't get their own faith. They think that going through the motions is enough. This is bad news, but isn't any different from a lot of Baptists I know. My church is conspicuously more crowded around Christmas and Easter.

Also I understand that the saints are not prayed to like God is prayed to. At least they aren't supposed to be. The saints are prayed to as intermediaries who will carry your prayers to the ear of God, sort of like holy lawyers who will argue your case before the eternal judge. I'm Baptist so why I would need any intermediary other than Christ is puzzling to me, but at least understand the concept. Dawn Eden has more about praying to the saints.

I think Protestants should probably spend some time reading Catholic thought and philosophy. While I don't hold their Natural Law philosophy to the same standard as scripture, there is a lot of good stuff there. A lot of catholics have spent a lot of time building up a body of thought and it isn't something to sneeze at.

My Signature Weapon is...

John asked me what kind of weapon I would prefer to have if I were in the trenches of WWI. My response was the trench shotgun. Oddly enough this quiz noted that my signature weapon was:
You preferred a weapon with 52% power over speed and 58% range over melee.

You use a Shotgun. While not the fastest gun in the west, a shotgun's raw power and ease of use make it an extremely potent weapon. Some shotguns can also be loaded with many different types of ammunition, providing a versatility many guns don't have. Choosing your shots, you fell your opponents immediately and without pause.
My test tracked 2 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 71% on power
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 73% on range
Link: The What's Your Signature Weapon Test written by inurashii on Ok Cupid

That gun is a Remington 870, but I have a mossberg 590 at home. It has the heat shield and bayonet mount of a trench gun, but 8+1 capacity instead of 6+1.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Covert Christians

Messy Christian asks:
What if you are a sincere Christian, but outwardly you have to behave like you're a Buddhist/Muslim etc because of societal/familial pressures?

I couldn't publically proclaim my conversion by joining a Christian church when I first became a Christian. In fact, the first five years of my life as a Christian I still went to temples and sat in religious Buddhist blessing ceremonies with my family because it was required of me. For five years I lived an "outwardly" Buddhist life while maintaining a Christian faith secretly.
I think there are two sides to this coin.

There is sense in attending these activities in order to maintain your relationships with family members and others. This isn't a bad thing and I have attended synagogue with Amybear and her parents several times. I'm sure I will again. They know I am a Christian, but they like having me go with them. It also often gives us opportunities to talk about our faiths that we would not have otherwise. So obviously I won't condemn this behavior. Biblically you have the freedom in Christ to do this and in the end, what you are doing is not so much about worship as about relationships. Plus it opens doors and gives you an opportunity to be a light to your loved ones. I think the passage Paul wrote in Corinthians applies here. Don't make others stumble and you'll be ok.

As in Messy's case I think adding her parents into the mix makes things harder. The bible says to honor them. You don't get to stop although an argument could be made if they attempt to compell you to break with your conscience.

On the other hand if you are concealing your faith from everyone in order to avoid conflict, well frankly that isn't a good thing. You aren't being a light to them or a Christian example, because you have hidden your light and they are ignorant of your faith. You are essentially denying your faith by going through the motions of this other religion. You are concealing the hope you have within you. The bible is full of people who have chosen martyrdom before doing this. You probably feel guilty about it and I think you should consider whether that guilt is the Holy Spirit convicting you of sin.

UPDATE: Let me clarify. I think that if you are in the second case, even if I were to say nothing about guilt, a person in that situation would still feel guilty. This is because they are doing something wrong (albeit under duress). But the thing to do is not to condemn that person, but to support them and build them up in love. Making the decision to tell your folks something they won't like is tough. Some people will need to mature spiritually before they have the confidence to take that step and you should be helping them to grow to the level that is necessary instead of tearing them down with even more guilt. In short, don't shoot the wounded.

Linguistic Quiz

I saw this on Matthew Yglesias's blog.

Your Linguistic Profile:

55% General American English
35% Yankee
10% Dixie
0% Midwestern
0% Upper Midwestern


Some of you may have noticed my graphics are down. Unfortunately, the server I host them on is doing server maintenance. They should be back soon.

UPDATE: Seems like things are back up.

Christian Radio

Im not a big fan. Part of it is that my parents listen to it a lot, which naturally means it is uncool. The other part is that there are a lot of cults of personality in the industry.

For instance Hank Hanegraaff, the Bible Answer Man, got in some trouble a while back over how he was mis-spending the Christian Research Institute's money. CRI also fired a whistleblower that took this information to the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. There may be a problem with their fundraising practices as well. CRI raises millions annually.

Now LaShawn Barber is linking to the story of Marty Minto. Marty was fired from his talk show because he shared the essence of the Gospel on air in relation to the recent death of Pope John Paul. When asked if he thought the Pope was going to heaven, Marty replied that he would if he had faith in Christ as his savior. I would have a problem with someone being fired for this on any private station, but Marty broadcasts on WORD FM in Pittsburg. That's right a Christian station is firing a guy for sharing the gospel. Christianity Today is also carrying this story.

New Q

Well the Cardinals are picking a new Pope and MI5 and MI6 are picking a new Q. No not the old guys from the James Bond movies, the real Q.

Why They Lost the Wars

My brother and I went shooting yesterday. This is not unusual. I shot my M1 carbine, one of the guns that we used in WWII, Korea, and even into Vietnam. My brother brought along his CZ-52 and his new-to-him Mauser Broomhandle. We had a lot of fun shooting. We had a lot less fun cleaning afterwards. When I say "we" I mean him.

The internal workings of the broomhandle are a wonder. Until you take them a part to clean them. Then they are one of the most fiendish jigsaw puzzles ever devised. I have no idea how a German soldier of WWI or WWII would ever clean his weapon in the field. There are little pieces that are easily lost. Grit in the wrong place and you would surely be screwed. Putting everything back together requires tools and a lot of know-how. It isn't fun.

We didn't have a hard time dreaming up a scenario where an American Doughboy came up against a German Gerry in the trenches and had this conversation:

"Hey Fritzie, whatcha doing?"

"Achhh, mein mauser she is impossible. I cannot get her back together..."

"Really mine comes apart like this..." clackity clackity "and goes together like this" clickity clickity.

"Oh damn." Violence follows.

"Hey Klaus, whatcha doing?"

"Achhh, mein Luger she is impossible..."


Joe Carter is advocating a regular blogging Sabbath. It sounded like a good idea to me. Blogging can start to get intrusive and can keep you from doing work of more substance like meeting with your God.

I usually don't blog much over the weekends anyway though. They are my traditional blowoff and slackoff periods.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Tax Day

Well I finished them last night. Haven't printed out all the copies and mailed them yet. Last year, I got everything done a week or so early and mailed them off. It was a horrible mistake. I screwed up itemizing and had to file 11th hour adjustments to all my returns on the 15th. Uggh. I learned my lesson and started them several weeks ago, but I've been looking at them and mulling them over since. They'll go out with hours to spare and be right the first time. I also found out that my apartment complex has copying facilities which is handy.

I saw a link to this brief piece of tax advice on Gizmodo. If you owe taxes and don't have the money, then file for an extension or simply file paying what you can. The penalty for not paying enough is ten times lower than the penalty for filing late or not at all.

For those of us getting money back, Kim du Toit has been hyping April 15th as Buy A Gun Day for a while. I don't think I will be doing that, although I am eyeing some .22s and maybe a cowboy gun in .357 to add to my collection. The former is for training, the latter is mostly for fun.

I just spent my birthday money on a "scout" scope for my M1 carbine though, so I'm feeling pretty good on the firearms front. Turns out the one I bought has an illuminated reticle too. It was a cool bonus when I opened up the package this morning. If I do splurge with my refund money, it will probably be on a dremel tool. They're awfully handy and I have some polishing/sanding/grinding jobs where I could put it to use.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

The Philosophy of Science

I've been meaning to write something about the philosophical underpinnings of science. Unfortunately Kevin has beaten me to it. He does a wonderful job too, how annoying.
Science operates on the principle of methodological materialism, which means that science can only study the physical universe. Popularly though, science is often misappropriated and misrepresented to promote philosophical materialism, the unverified belief that the physical world is all that exists.
That basically hits all the bases.

Science is dedicated to only making judgements on things it can measure quantifiably. You can't measure the supernatural, not directly, and attempts to measure it indirectly, like the double blind studies about the effectiveness of prayer, are often treated with skepticism as well. Now this dedication to the physical and measureable is a good thing as a whole because resorting to theology to explain how something happens is usually a dead end. Think about it, can't "God did it" be the answer to every question in one way or another? And once you conclude that God did it, going any further is not a matter of physics but meta-physics. You transform science into philosophy and theology.

However there are people that talk about science as if it proves that God doesn't exist or that there is no supernatural. Science proves philosophical materialism as it were. This is circular reasoning at a fundamental level. If the supernatural is not an allowable conclusion, then your results will never conclude that an event is supernaturally caused will they? This is the case even if the event in question was the result of direct divine intervention. So even if the supernatural is the right conclusion, science isn't allowed to make use of it.

The Archetypes

Via Locusts and Honey, Via Vodkapundit, Via Matt Groening: It's the 9 archetypes of boyfriends followed by the 9 archetypes of girlfriends. Amybear is Ms. Dreamgirl of course, although she does have the occasional bout of Ms. Vaguely Dissatisfied when she is, well, vaguely dissatisfied about something. I don't know what category I fit into, but I'm sure Amy will tell you in the comments once she sees this.

Gun Buy-Backs

Joan is questioning why her local cops are struggling to find funding for rifles. Why not issue the firearms brought in from gun buy-backs and taken as evidence from a crime?

Well it is a problem of performance and red tape.

Very few of the guns that come in through these buy back programs are reliable weapons. Many are grandpa's old shotgun/revolver/whatever that has been rusting in the attic for years. Others were pieces of crap right off the assembly line like the Cobra/Jennings/Bryco automatics. If someone is going to put the effort into buying and maintaining a quality firearm, it is doubtful they will part with it for $50 or $100. Put simply, they aren't up to police standards of reliability. Some are downright dangerous.

Evidence and buy back guns are also required to be destroyed. It is a condition of the buy-back program. The organizations that fund the buy backs don't want those guns used in crimes or going into police inventories to eventually be resold on the open market. Even now, a lot of people are lobbying city and state government to prevent cops from reselling their used service arms to raise money for new ones. The idea being that those guns could find their way into criminal hands and be used against their original owners. That is a major revenue stream for police and it is being destroyed because a few people are uncomfortable with it.

One thing to note, part of the reason those gun buy-backs are so "successful" is that they are often revenue streams for gangs to get rid of their old junk and buy better stuff. I've known more than one security guard who bought his coworkers cheap service revolvers off them for $50 (they were getting new guns) and then sold them to a buy-back for $100. This netted him several hundred bucks in net profit. The street value of stolen gun is almost certainly less than what the buy-back is paying. So it becomes a revenue stream for enterprising thugs. Not a particularly good idea.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Oh We've Got Trouble...

John at Locusts and Honey noticed this thread on Evangelical Outpost. The quote from my comment on John's blog was:
As for Joe Carter, honestly my opinion of him is growing more and more mixed. I can't remember when the last time "Evangelical" Outpost even mentioned God or Jesus.
Now for the record, I spend a lot of time talking about guns, my girl, and politics. But my real beef is not that christian bloggers need to talk about Jesus to establish their Evangelical equivalent of street cred. That isn't it.

My beef is that Evangelicals tend to throw around words like "christian" and "biblical" a lot. However those words have meanings, "of Christ" and "of the Bible." If you say something is christian/unchristian, you probably should be able to cite an example where Jesus or at least an apostle spoke for or against it. Similarly if you say something violates biblical principles or a biblical worldview, cite a frickin' verse. If you can't cite a verse, paraphrase an example. If you can't do that, then resort to quoting John Piper or C.S. Lewis. But realise that you are quoting secondard sources at that point, not primary ones.

This isn't hard and the apostles themselves did it all the time. Check the various speeches in the New Testament for examples. Peter's speech in Acts 2 is a good choice. The Gospels make reference to prophetic books all the time too.

In the end though, just be careful about using words like "biblical". It becomes a bludgeon after a while and if you don't validate your "biblical principles" enough they can become deeply colored with your own prejudices. Without the citation you are just committing an appeal to authority and that doesn't impress me much, nor should it.

Website Personality Quiz

Quizzes seem to go well around here. ASV links to this one on websites Unfortunately, I'm:

You are You  are geeky.  You value freedom, but not spelling.  People look to you to find out what's going on.  You inspire spirited discussions and ad hominem attacks.

So Hot Grits, Natalie Portman, AYBABTU, and good luck to whomever gets "Frist Post!".

Oh and all the possible answers are here if you missed it on their page.

Oil for Food

Instapundit is linking to an article which includes pictures. I must be burned out on UN scandal though. I looked at the article and the only think I could think was "Holy crap! Alex Trebek is Iraqi Ambassador?"

Engineers and Politics

Will Collier wrote a short piece about how, despite claims to the contrary, engineers tend to be conservative. I've been meaning to write about it for a while and now I have.

I'm an engineer. There is a general tendency towards conservatism in the engineering community. I think this comes from two things:
  1. When engineers screw up people die.
  2. Engineers appreciate solutions that work.
Engineers have instruction on safety margins and how to minimize error and different failure modes. Our whole discipline is about trying to make sure things don't break. A big way to do this is general conservatism about how much material you need, etc. Engineering is a high stakes game and those high stakes breed a certain approach towards mitigating danger and risk.

We also like known processes and practical solutions. That stuff that worked yesterday ought to work today, although perhaps better solutions may now exist. Solutions that have lasted a long time generally do so because they are very very good.

It is no coincidence that many great engineering disasters come from using revolutionary solutions to problems. The original Tacoma Narrows Bridge was longer, lighter, and widely considered a breakthrough in bridge design. It also turned out to be infamously unsound. Another novel solution that thankfully didn't take many lives was the collapse of the hartford civic center roof, which was a revolutionary computer-designed space frame. Turns out the civil engineers in charge flubbed the boundary conditions on the analysis. In both these cases the engineers in charge didn't know as much as they thought they did.

Old methods of finding solutions still work too. Newtonian physics isn't right. It has never been right. Neither is Hooke's Law. But both are widely used because they are good approximations. The truth about science is not that it is finding out how the world works, the truth is that by and large it is about modeling how the world works which is different. But don't tell this to a scientist, they won't appreciate you informing them that they may not be unlocking the secrets of the universe.

This does not mean that all engineers are going to be technolibertarians or the like. We do not tend to be extremists. You will find a fair number of engineers who are moderate Democrats. You will find a fair numbers of engineers who vote Republican. Mostly this will break down ideologically, there are engineers who prefer centralized planning and control and there are engineers that would prefer a more modern, but less predictable, decentralized distributed network like the market. Academic engineers will probably prefer the former, engineers in business will probably prefer the latter. In the end though, we all respect good practical problem solving which is the heart of our field.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Ughh Work Busy

Blogging will be light, Amybear has a couple of posts about Sesame Street's reaction to rising childhood obesity. Long story short, I think Oscar the Grouch is going on Prozac soon.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Removing Qualifiers

When I was in grad school, my advisor used to tell me that I quibble in my writing to much. I use too many "near", "almost", etc wussy words. They just muddlied up my writing he said. Get rid of them and my prose will be be much tighter and more concise. So I did and people when from saying "hey you're a pretty good writer" to "hey why were you such a jerk in that email?".

You see those quibble words are important because they soften my language and make it acceptable to everyone isn't a hard ass like my old advisor. It has taken me years to deprogram this.

Unfortunately Rep Charlie Rangel hasn't had this lesson.
MATTHEWS: I mean, Charlie, Jesus didn‘t hang around with the swells, the rich people.

RANGEL: Well, he said the rich are going straight to hell.
Hmmm I don't recall that from the bible. In fact this is so doctrinally incorrect that Chris Matthews corrects him. Holy crap. The day Chris Matthews corrects my understanding of scripture is the day I hang it up.

Incidentally the biblical principle behind wealth is that it is a blessing by God to be used to further God's purposes. In a biblical world there may very well be rich and poor. Instead of distributing wealth uniformly, he will distribute it according to the capabilities of the servant similar to the Parable of the Talents. But the rich would use their wealth morally by helping the poor both with immediate needs and by bankrolling investments so that they can earn their own living.

The left doesn't seem to understand that second part. They get so hung up on the obligation towards charity they forget about teaching men to fish and lending them money so they can buy a rod and a boat. Investment is also the moral obligation of the rich and the rich do that in spades. The modern rich aren't misers who sit on their gold. They are investors.

But the modern left is too focused on socialism and economic class warfare to remember the policies of relative centrists like Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt. These were men who loved the market but also saw the ruthlessness in a system that both made men and broke men.

Not that the modern right is sinless here. They seem to be modeling themselves after the robber barons of the past. You know, the ones who hated TR. To quote another blog's commenter:
Whenever I hear that someone is "fiscally conservative and socially liberal" I immediately think that translates to "selfish and greedy."
Amen to that.

UPDATE: Someone emailed me asking "doesn't the camel and needle verse say the same thing as Charlie Rangel?" Allow me to elucidate from Matthew 24:23-26:
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, "Who then can be saved?"

Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
Theologically it is impossible for any man to enter the kingdom of God apart from Christ. The miracle of salvation is something even the angels rejoice over. The rich can be more hard-hearted than most and arguably require a greater miracle. Their wealth allows them to trust in themselves more and God less.

The idea that all rich people are going to hell without qualifiers is foolishness though. Much of the Proverbs are about the benefits of wealth and how it can liberate people from mundane earthly concerns and worries. Wealth allows the rich the freedom and free time to devote themselves more fully to God and his service. Wealth is a blessing from the Lord after all.

Modern Efficiency?

Joan is registering for classes. It is a pain.
I've come to expect problems when trying to register for classes. What's funny is that I never had a problem when we didn't use computers for it. [snip] Now that my university is all interconnected by a network, no matter who I call or where I go, they send me somewhere else.
You have to go to all this trouble because computers are stupid. They are literally stupid in that the average computer is about as smart as an earthworm or perhaps a housefly. But they are also pretty stupid from a logistical standpoint. Today you get to do all the crap that the registrars office used to do for you back when actual people were involved.

That is what has really happened with the information revolution. All the crap that service staff used to do for you, you now have to do yourself. Why because with computers now they can make you do it. You don't want to do it, mind you, but you can and it saves the school money if they force you to. This is especially true if you are a customer (an unpaid position in the fiscal heirarchy). The school pays for the staff's time but not your time. So it is cheaper for them to make you wait than it is to give you good service. This is why you can never find a person to help you in a departments store. Those people cost the department store money and you waiting around annoyed doesn't.

It gets worse when you consider that the information revolution has done similar things at the office. Where I work, engineers are expected to do secretarial work like booking travel plans instead of having secretaries do it for us in less time at their lower pay. Some how through the magic of the internet, a $30/hour engineer spending an hour figuring out the internet travel system is more efficient than a $15/hour administrative assistant doing the same thing in 15 minutes (because the secretary does it all the time). Smart real smart.

Vanilla Ice?

I bought a whole bunch of flavored lip gunk as party favors for a dinner the men's groups at church hosted for the ladies groups. There were an handful left over which included the one below.

Vanilla Ice? I mean I'm thankful that they have killed Robert Van Winkle, ground him up, and then sealed him into thousands of separate reliquaries to prevent his reanimation for another god-awful album or reality television show. But do you actually think I will put that on my lips? I kiss my fiancee with those. No thank you.

Motorcycles Continued

Heh, maybe Amybear would let me have this one. But with a top speed of about 20 mph, it would be a long commute to work.

UDF, Concealed Carry, and Crime

Kim du Toit is writing that the United Dairy Farmers (UDF) have begun posting "no-guns" notification signs in the states of Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. I assume this is the Ohio equivalent of WaWa or 7-11? Ohioans For Concealed Carry (OFCC) noticed this last week and expressed their distaste for the new policy. UDF says that they are worried about store safety so they posted the signs.

OFCC wasn't the only one to notice the signs last week. Five UDF stores were robbed shortly after the signs were put up. But remember those signs make you safer.

Oh and some people may wonder if this is an attempt by gun owners to get even. It's possible, but I doubt it. Law abiding gun owners and Concealed-Carry Weapons permit holders (CCWers) in particular have a ridiculously low crime rate. Law enforcement has twice the crime rate of the CCW community. So it could happen, but I doubt it. More likely local crooks are targeting the stores because they are considered lower risk.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Happy Birthday to Me

Thats what it felt like last night just after midnight. I'm 28 today. I'll have a partyish thing with my brother and parents and then probably go shooting.

The thing I want most for my birthday is to share it with my Amybear, but it isn't going to happen. We're not going to see each other until next month and deep down I'm fine with that. She is very busy right now and I know she doesn't have time to drive fourteen hours round trip to come see me. But I still have a deep longing for her inside.

Joan's birthday was yesterday. She hasn't spent more than a month with her boyfriend in the last two years. Happy Birthday Joan.

Friday, April 08, 2005


I've been reading up on them a bit. I'll probably never have one mostly because Amybear would kill me and, frankly, I might kill me too if I went ahead with it. But they're still neat.

This all started with the skyrocketing gas prices. I commute about 70 miles round trip a day. I drive a small car, a Mazda Protege. But even at that, it is costing me between $20 and $25 dollars to fill the tank right now and I have to do that a couple times a week. So what can I do to stretch my driving dollar? Well something with lower per mile costs seemed like a good idea.

That brought me to cruising bikes. Comfy for the hour and a half I'd spend in the saddle on nice days. The Kawasaki 800 Drifter has style and will get roughly twice the gas mileage as my car. I'd have to fill it up every few days, but it's only a few bucks a fillup. Once I got the hang of riding, I could move up to something larger with a bit (ok a lot) more power like Vulcan 1600 Mean Streak or more power and longer cruising range like a Honda 1300 sport/touring bike. I believe my friend Rob has one of those.

That is he has one unless you are his mother, in which case: Motorcycle? No Rob doesn't have anything like that. Rob is a good boy who only drives safe and boring lumbering beige sedans. Like Toyotas. Toyota doesn't make a motorcycle. What are you talking about?

Anyway why not buy something? Well for starters I live in an apartment with nowhere to keep and maintain the damn thing. Motorcycles are not take-to-a-garage affairs. You do your own work. Unless you want to be sneared at.

But more importantly I have connected the dots on the riding experience. If you talk to motorcycle guys long enough you will here things like "I really messed myself up a year ago in an accident" or "my buddy really messed himself up a year ago in an accident". As Izzy put it, there are bikers who have had accidents and bikers who will have accidents and bikers who fit in both groups. And spending a lot of time on a bike commuting is only increasing the likelihood of that sort of thing happening. So the practical part of me that wants to be in one piece for an extended period is more than worried enough to say no.

And fortunately one of my coworkers has moved to within a mile or so of me, so I may be carpooling soon anyway. Yeah.

But motorcycles are still cool. Its just that I'm not. I mean I called them "neat" in the third sentence of this post, wasn't that your first clue?

Baptist! Really?

Hmm, this quiz has confirmed my appellation. 100% Reformed Baptist baby. Come and get it.

I'd like to note that some of the questions didn't really have my option in them though. Thanks to Messy Christian for pointing me there.

Sick Doggies Suck

Messy Christian's family dog is getting on in years. Nicky is having trouble breathing and may not last too much longer.

Amybear and I have both lost family pets in the last few years. My last dog died of cancer when I was in graduate school. Amy's dog died of old age and kidney problems two years back. It's hard. Pets are like family, at least ours were. We miss them both terribly and are looking forward to getting married and getting an animal.

When we talk about it online, we inevitably start looking at dog breed sites. I like the Sheltie and Amy has picked out some other eastern breeds that she saw in a tv dog show.

Anyway, best wishes Messy and I hope Nicky keeps on keeping on.


Michael Dean's birthday was Wednessday. Happy belated birthday, Michael!

My birthday is Sunday. I'll be 28. For those of you who are into weird calendar trivia, that means that yes I was born on Easter. So I'm either extra holy or the anti-Christ, your pick.

Now shower me with lavish gifts already my blogospheric minions!

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Lawn Mowers

Instapundit just bought a rotating push motor. No not a power motor, one of those rotating drum mowers like on the Simpsons. My parents have one but it is old. Old old old. I had to use it once when the gas mower broke down and it was rough. Perhaps they work better new. They certainly cut cleaner than your standard power push mower since they actually cut the lawn instead of battering it to death.

My parents just bought a new power mower. The housing for their old one had rusted out and, much to my chagrin, they threw it out on bulk trash day and bought a new one. Darn. I wanted to try to build a hovercraft out of the two stroke engine.

My grandparents had been urging them to go self-propelled. Why I'll never know, after my grandfather's heart surgery I had to mow his lawn for him once. I hate his self propelled mower. You can't turn it with the wheels going, it turfs the lawn when you first start them, and when the wheels are off it's twice as hard to push.

Slow Day

Not the work. The work is pretty decent as it has been all week. No I'm just slow today. I didn't get especially good sleep and my morning was somewhat hazier than usual. Someone was wandering around the compound where I work looking for a building number, I had to think really hard to remember which building I worked in.

Luckily I walked to the Officer's Club for lunch. The stroll got my blood moving and the food has put some nutrients in it. So maybe I'll be capable of some light thinking this afternoon. Hopefully I will by bible study time tonight.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


Well Project Minuteman has been going for 6 days. Even longer when you consider setup time. LaShawn Barber has a report from one of the pilots involved. So far they have "caught" one illegal who had been left to die in the desert by his guide. Other than that they have been friendly to the border patrol and the neighbors and generally courteous. Pretty boring work for dangerous vigilantes.

New Pope?

I saw this joke on IMAO and it just gave me a good chuckle:
How long does the new pope have to be in charge before we can stop calling him "new pope"?

As soon as people stop saying "Classic Pope was better?"
Short Attention Span has a rundown on his pick for Pope, Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria. He makes a good case. He also thinks Arinze race (duh he's black) will be a bigger deal in the US than elsewhere.

I disagree. Compared to most of the world, the US is racial heterogenous and has been for a very long time. Crime is skyrocketing in Europe. This is because those countries are transitioning from European mono-cultures to more American style melting pots due to immigration. Crime rates are just reflecting increasing social tensions. A friend of mine is Czech and taught in Scandinavia for a while, his reaction to the racial issue was "yes the Europeans are very nice open-minded people towards other races as long as you don't try to marry their daughters." To put it bluntly, Europeans are very happy to be around other peoples as long as the other peoples know who is boss.

But I have digressed. Slate ran an article a while back about the front runners to be the next pope. It includes Arinze but also mentions a Hispanic cardinal, a Ukrainian American, and even a Jewish cardinal. Included were these folksey Italian words of wisdom: "Always follow a fat pope with a skinny pope."

John Paul II was very very young when he became pope. He was 58. The cardinals probably picked such a young man because John Paul I died so shortly after becoming Pope. Do not expect the next pope to be so spry. Mid sixties to early seventies is a definite possibility.

It is also quite possible that the new Pope will be Italian because John Paull II wasn't. I hope not, but it is possible. The Italians have had a hammer lock on the Catholic heirarchy all out of proportion to their population. I think a non-Italian pope would continue to globalize the office and that would be a good thing.

UPDATE: Volokh Conspiracy pointed this livejournal out. It has a brief overview of Papal names. We've had two John Pauls now so I'm going to go out on a limb and go with what flows naturally -> George Ringo. Pope George Ringo the First. Or perhaps he'll be George Richard if he wants to be formal. The first person who successfully makes a "bigger than Jesus" joke in the comments gets a gold star.

UPDATE II: There is another old Italian saying about the choosing of a Pope. It goes something like "He who enters the conclave Pope, leaves a Cardinal." So, to quote another great spiritual leader, it ain't over 'til its over.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005


Some in Japan has actually built a walking mech. Gizmodo has the story. They also have a link to a video of the thing actually walking.

In other Gizmodo news, have you ever wanted Kaneda's motorcycle from Akira? What red blooded male hasn't? Well you have to keep waiting. But a scooter tuner shop has made a kit that will turn a Honda Fusion (Helix in the US) into a 3/4 scale replica. Now this would be cool. If they had done it to an actual motorcycle I could respect. But a 250cc scooter? No thanks, if I were going to spend stupid money on a stupid bike it would have to be stupid fast.

Blogger Annoyances Part Infinity

It sucks and I'm getting sick of it. I don't like going through hoops just to log in. I don't like finishing an entry and then watching as blogger refuses to post for hours. Even worse, I don't like blogger swallowing my entry whole never to be found again. Or failing to post only to post it a million times a few hours later. You know what they say about free services: you get what you pay for.

Joan is moving off Blogger to new digs. I understand how she feels and I hope she has better luck with Movable Type on her new domain. Frankly if I move off blogger I want it to be to something really nice, like a Scoop powered discussion blog. I want threaded comments and the current packages of blogging software don't seem to have them.

UPDATE: To clarify a bit, I want the following features in blogging software:
  • Topical Departments: I want to be able to group my posts into sections like "guns", "wedding", "god", etc.
  • Trackback: Self explanatory, I want people to be able to trackback my posts if they are good or, more importantly, if they are bad.
  • Threaded Comments: Once you get above 10 comments, linear commenting breaks down and you can't tell who is replying to what. Threading groups comments and replies.
  • Comment moderation: It allows the more recent comments to move to the top above older but less relevant ones. This is also important if signal to noise ratio gets high and as the number of comments increases.
Scoop is actually a discussion site codebase. It was originally created for Kuro5hin and is written in Perl. It is also used by some blogs like DailyKos.

In the end though, if I do switch, I only want to have to do it once. I don't want to go to Wordpress, then Movable Type, then Greymatter, etc, etc. I just want to migrate once and stick to it.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Classified Bloggers?

An Army captain thinks that bloggers on the classified internet might be a good idea.
Encourage blogging on Intelink [classified internet or SIPRNET]. When I Google "Afghanistan blog" on the public Internet, I find 1.1 million entries and tons of useful information. But on Intelink there are no blogs. Imagine if the experts in every intelligence field were turned loose - all that's needed is some cheap software.
UPDATE: I've given this some thought and I'm not sure if it will work. Part of the reason blogging is so successful is that there are a bunch of people out there that will do it for fun on their free time. You don't surf the classified internet on your free time, you surf it at work. And not anybody can do it. So I'm not sure if this is something that will scale on the classified side of the Internet. But it would be cool if it did.

Another problem is compartmentalization. It is dangerous to create a resource that shares classified data openly without restriction. If it is compromised, the bad guys can get a handle on all that analysis. There is no way to enforce need-to-know in these sorts of environments. That is why regions that shared classified information openly have historically been huge faucets that also leak it profusely. The reason the Soviets got the bomb was not captured German scientists, it was a few individuals working in the classified but open nuclear labs on the US west coast believed a "balance of power" was better nuclear policy. So they essentially gave the bomb to the Stalin's Russia and put us into 50 years of the Cold War. Yes a few people smart enough to work in the nuclear program were also dumb enough to think that giving the bomb to one of the worlds most tyrannical regimes ever was a good idea. It is strange but true.

The final problem is one of analysis. In short, good analysis elevates the classification level of data. You can boil down a lot of unclassified data and find out things that are sensitive or classified. Incidentally, this is why I don't often talk about work here. You can do the same thing with classified data. So if you take a bunch of SECRET information and boil it down, you get TOP SECRET information. That is important because the SIPRNET is not to be used for transmitting anything above SECRET, so you run into information security very quickly.

Death of Pope

The world mourns the loss of John Paul II. And we should. He was a great man and a great Christian. Trust me, from a Baptist that is high praise for a Catholic. Evangelical Outpost and Short Attention Span are reflecting on his life and death.

QandO has had a great series of posts dissecting his critics. For some reason now that the man is dead, people who disagreed with him are crawling out of the woodwork like cockroaches. And for some reason people don't like a pope who is a very devout traditional Catholic.

Sunday at the Range

After fixing the sump pump, I stopped off at the range to get in some practice. Ever since I let my Targetmaster membership slide, my marksmanship has been sliding too. I put 50 rounds through Sunshine and used up the last of my winchester white box bargain pack in my hipower.

Technically you aren't supposed to shoot white box at Targetmaster. This is not because it is bad ammo. They say it is, but it's a lie. This is because you can buy 100 rounds of white box at walmart for about ~$12 when the same ammount of Remington ammo costs ~$16 at Targetmaster. You can't shoot it because it cut into into the ranges ammo sales. Now if I was shooting one of their guns, I'd shoot their ammo. If white box was berdan primed so it would cause problems with them reselling the brass, I would shoot their ammo. However none of these things are true, so I'll shoot my ammo in my guns, thank-you-very-much.

They also do not want you to shoot blazer ammo there, but this is because blazer has an aluminum case instead of brass. You can't reload it. And it is also non-ferromagnetic so unlike the steel-cased wolf ammo, you can't sort it out with a magnet. So you have to sort it out by hand and it isn't worth it. Lots of ranges have this rule and I don't have a problem with it.


Can't live with 'em, can't live without them. I intended to finish a bunch of stuff yesterday. Unfortunately with the heavy rains over the weekend, my parents had an inch of water in their basement. And they were out of town. My brother had spent most of Saturday fighting it. We spent Sunday afternoon setting up my parents sump pump properly so that this didn't happen again. In the near future we will probably have to make the fix more permanent.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Busy Little Bee

I've been a busy guy today taking care of things around the house. I also have been *shudder* doing my taxes. So far I'm a couple hundred behind, but I have both state returns still to go. I hear Maryland increased their non-resident income taxes. So much for the American Revolution destroying taxation without representation.

If you are interesting in people who have actually been blogging then I recommend going over to John's place at Locusts and Honey. He's doing good work over there.

Amybear has also written a bit about the trip to DC that feel through this weekend. I had been intending to go see a place with Amy's mom saturday, but she called ahead and found out it wasn't worth going. Long story short, Memorial Day weekend is one of those dates when getting married at a military base officer's club doesn't work out. So we scheduled the country club instead before it got booked up.

Friday, April 01, 2005

The Papacy

It looks like Pope John-Paul II won't be with us much longer. I think he will go on record as being one of the greatest popes ever. Hopefully he won't be followed up by some stupid Italian.

So folks may be wondering what happens after the Pope dies. Luckily for us, Q and O linked to this great page with the straight skinny.

She Passed!

Amy defended her thesis again at 3pm today. She passed her defense and now has to make a few revisions. The next step is her department chair and following that she has to have the final version to the school by April 14th.

I'm very proud of her especially for hanging in there after she got ambushed by her previous defense. And none of you can have her, she's all mine.

UPDATE: Amybear's account is here.

Intellectual Diversity on College Campuses

The Volokh Conspiracy has a good post on this topic. If you haven't noticed this, another survey has shown that college professors overwhelmingly define themselves as Liberal or Moderate. Those that do almost unerringly vote Democrat. This leaves only a small fraction of professors, around an eighth, who are Conservative.

The Liberal response to this is "it's because we're smarter!" The Conservative response is "wow a bunch people in an ivory tower largely funded by federal grants skews liberal? You don't say..."

I thought about going into academia once. That is why I did a stand-alone Masters program instead of getting it through work. I wanted to use it as a testing period to see if I wanted to get my doctorate. I didn't. It also taught me that college professors are smart, but they aren't that smart. I was one step ahead of my advisor on a lot of things. And they have an awful tendency towards arrogance towards anyone without a Ph.D. after their names.

Incidentally, if you have a choice between a standalone masters and work paying for it, choose work. You will progress faster at work and still won't have to pay for anything. The people at my workplace who started working and went back for their masters are at least a year ahead of me, maybe two.