Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Theocratic Wolf!

A few posts ago I noted that both sides of the political divide tend to run up their strawmen to raise support and visibility. For the right, we cry about confiscation of property or government mandated immorality. The left has been using (or overusing) cries of theocracy. Geek with a .45 looks into one such fundraising attempt.

The truth is that the US is far from theocracy nor is it ever likely to become one. In a true theocracy, the clerical priesthood has a direct role in government. They are typically wield both religious and civil authority. In Iran, the Imams have veto power over the government. Compare that to the US where religious leaders can, ummm, lobby with the same influence as anybody else. Well actually most religious leaders can't even do that because it would jeopardize their tax exempt status.

More importantly though, the American system of religious involvement is being copied abroad to avoid theocracy. This article over at the Wall Street Journal points out:
One of the principal leaders of the Supreme Islamic Council for Revolution in Iraq ... brushed aside the talk of a Shia theocracy. ... He was sure that the Najaf school of Shia jurisprudence would offer its own alternative to the world view of Qom, across the border. He wanted no theocratic state in Iraq: Islam, he said, would be "a source" of legislation, but the content of politics would be largely secular. The model, he added, with a touch of irony, would be closer to the American mix of religion and politics than to the uncompromising secularism of France.
The American model is that the values of the people, be they religious or social, are used to inform and motivate political discourse.

Now I'm not going to give conservatives a complete pass on this one. I still think our long term interests would be better served with an endorsement of limited government rather than the ham-handed moral authoritarianism advocated by people like James Dobson. But lets face it, we aren't theocrats here. Our ministers and priests may exert influence over the political process, but the only people wearing robes and speaking with authority from on high these days are members of the Judicial system.

Student Loans

I don't have them, but I know some people my age who do. The point being that the interest rates on student loans are scheduled to double starting in July. If you have student loans, I would highly suggest consolidating at a lower interest rate by June 30th to avoid this.

That or you can use the old method of taking care of large outstanding student loans: declare bankruptcy. That is if the latest bankruptcy reform law hasn't made it legal for the loan companies to send a burly Italian over to break your legs when you default.

Serious Commentary

I share the astute assessment of Matthew Yglesias and many of political staffers. The most important issue of the day: Why is Lindsey Lohan so skinny? Amy and I both prefer the healthy curvy Lindsey to the current sickly stick girl. For more breaking news on this earth shattering subject, go here and here.

UPDATE: In other critical news of urgent importance to the nation, Paris Hilton is engaged. Her fiance is also named Paris which should help her remember his name. She also wants to reproduce in the next few years. *shudder* Oh and she's in a racy Carls, Jr. commercial which has been described as softcore porn. Be nice people, softcore is a step up for Paris Hilton.

UPDATE: Oh and Britney's show on UPN is showing the world that you can have a gazillion dollars and still be Louisianna trailer trash. Who knew? Well we all did really. Lets just hope the kids watching her show are learning that "money doesn't change who you are" instead of "being a whore will get me rich." Ok being a huge whore will get you famous, at least locally, but it isn't the kind of fame you generally want.

Spending Money

This weekend was fun. I was actually at home for the first time in a while so I was able to clean and do laundry and get caught up on stuff. Oh and I bought another gun which Amy was really happy about.

It's a Browning Buck Mark Standard I found used at Millers for $200. Those of you who pay attention to my gun habit have heard me mention that model before as a possible purchase. That is why when I saw it used I jumped on it. I'm guessing the last person to own this particular gun may have had some trouble with it. My reason for thinking this is that the workings of the gun are absolutely filthy. Being rimfire, 22lr is generally a dirty round, but this was a lot of filth. I cleaned it a little hurriedly because Amy arrived in the middle of the job, so I missed some spots. Oh well I'll do a more thorough job tonight.

The Buck Mark requires tools to take down (a screwdriver and an allen wrench), but disassembly and reassembly are fairly simple and straightforward. You rarely see an "I can't get my buckmark back together" post on messageboards unlike the Ruger 22 pistols. I had to buy boresnake to clean the bore of the gun as well.

In other spending news, Amy and I also watched In Good Company with Dennis Quaid and Topher Grace. It was good, but not in the way we thought. We both had it pegged as a romantic comedy about a young boss who is dating his co-worker's daughter. It turned out to be a more substantial movie than that but I still recommend it. I'm sure it will never be recognized as an officially good movie by critics or awards organizations. It isn't either pretentious enough or ostentatious enough for those groups, but it is well worth the rental.

The Embryo Debate

The rhetoric is already getting hot and heavy on this issue. Here is an example from Dawn Eden:
Either an embryo is a human life—or it isn't. There is no middle ground. Either you and I were each once entirely contained within an embryo—or we weren't. If we were, then taking apart an embryo is morally the same as taking apart you or me.
I agree with the first and second sentence, but after this things go south. I think this is because "entirely contained" is a heck of a simplification.

An embryo is a potential person however it does not "entirely contain" all that we are. After all an embryo is a small group of cells. It weighs next to nothing. How does that entirely contain what might be an eight pound child in nine months? The Law of Conservation of Mass says that it can't. In order to make the mass balance out you have to consider the nutrition supplied to that embryo by the mother. The mother is a non-negligible part of that equation and the system of fetal development.

So is the embryo negligible too? Just a cluster of cells? Of course not. There are those that would say an embryo is "just" some genetic material like say the tip of your finger or the "tag" at the end of hair. The "just" gives away which side of the debate these people are on. Unlike your finger or a hair, the embryo is a unique genetic whole unlike anyone else on earth. It is special in its own way, different from all others, and sacred.

Traditional Jewish logic on this subject has been growing on me. Jews traditionally believe that unborn children are potential life. They are created by God, however they are not accorded the rights of a full-fledged individual because they are physically dependent on their mothers. This is why Jews do not traditionally oppose all abortion on principle and may require it if the mother's life is in jeopardy. This seems about right to me.

This does not mean I support the current changes to stem cell law. I don't. I think the president's plan is generally a good compromise and that, in the end, it is adult stem cells which will have to be used for supply reasons. The alternative for embryos is pretty gruesome.

What it means is that I do not like the oversimplified rhetoric of the right to life movement, which is different. Having given financially to several conservative causes, I am aware that fund raising among many political groups basicly encompasses trotting out strawmen in order literally scare up more money from the membership. I don't like that one bit.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Wedding Bells

This time next year Amy and I will be married. The wedding clock is counting down to Memorial Day weekend 2006. The room is booked and Amybear even bought her dress this weekend.

It looks like we'll be going the Justice of the Peace route for the actual ceremony. Neither my church nor Amy's synagogue will co-officiate. My pastor would really really like to have a part in the wedding somehow, but he's hamstrung by my church's rules on the subject. Ah well. Amy's mother knows an inter-married Justice of the Peace who attends their synagogue and he is willing to help out.

So we have a location, dress, and officiant with a year still to go. Looking good.

Blogging Infrastructure

I've started to realize that becoming a huge blogging phenomenon requires a lot of investment. For instance I went out of town for work, hence the lack of posts. Most of this time was spent in hotels and airports away from tradition land-lined internet connections. There was no way for me to whine about the enforced intimacy of air-travel.

This usually doesn't stop the big guys though. They go wireless, text message it, dictate it in via cell phone, or perhaps they are so attuned to the blogosphere that they can just think really hard. I do none of those things. I do have a laptop. I bought it in grad school and needed a superior computer for research. Enough components have broken since that its viability as a long distance blogging tool is severely hindered. No wireless, no working battery, dying DVD drive, and AOL disemboweled the OS when I uninstalled it a year or so ago.

So I considered investing in something that would let me bloc from any random wireless hotspot I might encounter. In the end I decided against it. The first reason is that I have no good reason to buy a new laptop. I can't use it for work and desktops work just as well at home. The second is that Amy owns a laptop which I will inherit in a year. The last and most important is that connectivity works both ways.

I like being unreachable. I enjoy my privacy. I didn't get a cell phone until I needed one to make my wedding proposal work in February. I don't want to be one of those people having a one-sided conversation with an entire restaurant. It stays turned off in my car because that way people can't use it to impinge on my life without my permission.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Israel the Schmuck

Kim du Toit takes aim at Israeli protesters in one of his daily rants yesterday. The response to this from many has been "but Israel is our steadfast and true friend". In a word, no.

Israel is the guy that always seemed to be around in High School. Maybe you hung out together because you happen to like the same music and he's the son of a friend of your mom. You don't tell him anything important because you know he will spill it to anybody who'll give him the time of day. If he manages to finagle his way into your house, you'll find him going through your stuff looking for things to borrow and not return. If you give him a ride somewhere, the only time he pays for gas is with cash he bummed off you the week before. God help you if he gets into a fight, because he won't be checking to see who he's swinging at. Half the time he is just using you and God knows he's never going to stick his neck out for you in the slightest. In short, Israel is a jerk who just happens to share some common interests.

Now keep in mind I am talking about the nation-state of Israel here. I do not mean Jews in general. I'm marrying a Jew. We're going to have little Jews together some day. I like Jews, they're good people. They're even better when food is involved... mmmm kugel.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Amybear and I are big fans of the books. They remind me a lot of C.S. Lewis actually. Jo Rowling has announced that a major character will die in the next book. Here are the current odds. The collective wisdom is Dumbledore which works well considering one actor who played him has died already.

I'm debating whether I should preorder book 6 for when it comes out July 16th. I think I may get a price break and since I will be buying it either for myself or Amy, maybe I should just preorder. Getting burned in the Incredibles pre-order is still annoying me though. Luckily books don't come in wide- and full-screen versions.

Car Accident Number Three

It is like Mambo number 5, but much less fun and you really can't dance to it.

I was front-ended trying to leave People's Plaza after Revenge of the Sith. I was driving, Amybear was in the passengers seat. The genius in the GTI in front of me starts to go, realizes he can't, then starts to back up. He keeps backing up. I honk. He stops. Then he backs into me. Great.

We pull over to the side, call the police, and wait for the staties to show up. This way I have a police report so I am officially not at fault. Turns out the guy (who sorta looks like a young Woodie Allen) is a doctoral candidate in English at Delaware. I'm sure he can diagram a mean sentence but he can't drive a car.

He was quiet, nervous, and apologetic. I was nice and felt sorry for him. I duct-taped his damaged license plate into his rear window for him and called my mom so she knew we would be late. That makes three love taps in the last year. At least this one was the front bumper to keep it interesting.

The Luggage

I'll be flying down south on business later this week. I will have to bring a suit and, since I loathe checking my bags, it will have to go in my carry-on. While the suit will work with my current bag, a samsonite fold-over garment model, the following will not:
  • I'm flying Delta. They are notorious carry-on bigots. My garment bag, though large, will fit perfectly in the overhead. They won't care.
  • I'm going through Atlanta. If you have never been, you do not want to lug a bag on your shoulder across the breadth of that installation. Trust me, I did it in January coming back from Sarasota.
So last night led me to the mall in a quest for a new carry-on bag. I wanted wheels, small size to keep Delta happy, and capable of packing a suit. I also wanted inexpensive but not cheap. I still have a little suitcase my mom bought me when I was five. I use it for the occassional overnight to visit Amy.

Oh and sapient pearwood would be nice too, but I'm not holding out for it.

It quickly became apparent to me that this wasn't going to be easy. Specifically, the inexpensive models rarely had a trifold area for packing a suit. I hit Strawbridges and Macy's with no luck. I could either get a $50 POS, an $80 with no way to pack a a suit, or a $130 suiter than was more than I wanted to spend. Finally I found something at Penney's. They have a generic house brand called "Ricardo" which is $80, has a trifold compartment to pack a suit, and seemed sturdy enough. Huzzah!

So I paid for it at the nearest register (which was actually in lingerie). As I was about to wheel away from the counter, the eagle eyes of the sales clerk noticed I didn't have any locks. A trip to the luggage department, an even exchange, and now I have locks. Real locks that take an actual key, not those worthless skeleton key padlocks on most bags. Well hey I'm pretty happy.

However wheeling a carry-on bag through the mall is strange. An airport or train station? Ok. A mall? I feel like someone is going to think I'm either a tourist or a vagrant. Especially when I stopped in the food court to pick up a sandwich at Arby's.

So I get home happy. I eat my sandwich. I start clearing all the tissue paper out of the suitcase so that I can pack clothes into it. What do I discover inside but a second bag, one of those little travel totes. But it's a second bag with a second price tag.

Now some people of a particular moral persuasion would think, "Hey free bag! Sweet!" I am not one of those people. As Amybear likes to say, I am Captain America. So tonight I take my precious time go to return free stuff.

UPDATE: I took the bag back and called first to make things easier. The reaction of the employees was "Wow your really honest!" Yeah yeah. If it happens again anytime soon I will probably be less honest. I don't like spending over an hour of my time to fix someone else's screw up. An hour of my time is worth more than that bag was.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Wookies and Libertarians

Evidently some Libertarians have taken offense to a statement by Bill Oreilly that he "can't tell a Wookie from a Libertarian."

I mean have you ever heard one politician counsel another that they should "let the libertarian win"? No. Why? Well wookies are known to rip a man's arms off when they are unhappy. What will the libertarians do? Debate their principles, fracture on the application of them, then whine about nobody caters to their every political whim. If you're really unlucky some grand high muckety muck might get on the website and complain about being compared to a fictional character. Oh no, not a strongly worded reprimand! (Apparantly despite being well stocked with nerds, the libertarian party doesn't know the difference between Star Wars and Star Trek: the Next Generation.)

Besides, while wookies only have slightly more body hair than the average libertarian and are only slightly less articulate. They also generally smell better. I'd much rather hang with the wookie. I mean have you ever seen how chicks dig a guy with a puppy? Man, a wookie would be like ten times better than that.

Pink Lord of the Jeff

That is what I felt like after a trip to Antietam thursday. I burn easily and I didn't wear sunscreen or a hat. Oops. Luckily I was just Freckled Lord of the Jeff by the wedding Saturday.

Amybear and I went to see Revenge of the Sith saturday. It was good. Not great, but good and definitely better than the last two. I liked it, but Amy got a little bored in a few parts. It was a bit long at two and half hours.

My biggest complaints have to do with direction. George Lucas is a notoriously poor director of actors. However this is to be expected and Revenge of the Sith was better than previous movies. My real problem was some of the action sequences and camera angles chosen. I have to say that the sequences in the Clone Wars cartoons were better implemented than those in parts of this movie. If I'm seeing a lightsaber duel (of which there are many in the movie) I would really like to see the duel, not two people's faces with flashing light in between. I mean when you have General Grievous wielding 4 light sabers at once, and all you see is his face and whirls of light, then it's a little disappointing.

UPDATE: Syntax Yoda use. Means it that German he is.

Going the Distance

Amybear and I went to wedding Saturday. It was nice affair with a ceremony at church followed with a catered horse-doovers in the church gym. It was simple but nice and we liked it. We took notes at this one just like we have at the last few we've gone to.

Amybear has two posts up at the wedding blog, both posts revolve around distance. The first is our theme which will be something like "going the distance". We've been seeing each other for almost 6 years now, and of those only about 15 months have been local so we thought it was appropriate. The second is on bridesmaid logistics using David's Bridal.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Next Gen Consoles

All of the major console players are showing their next generation product for the first time at E3 this year. Microsoft has XBox 360, Sony has PS3, and Nintendo is releasing their Revolution.

The big question is who will come out ahead? For the record I'm putting my money on Sony.

Unlike many entertainment markets, the console gaming industry is not driven by the American consumer market. It is driven by the Japanese market which is where more of the profits are made. While Xbox is doing fairly well in the US, it isn't in Japan. It is too large among other things. This is a big part of why, despite the hype, Xbox is actually fighting with Gamecube for second place in the console market with Sony far ahead. Nothing about the new Xbox tells me that they have learned their lesson.

Many people don't realize that the original Xbox hardware was a major miss-step. It is fast and the PC hardware made it attractive to game designers, that is true. However it never became possible to produce it profitably, so Microsoft was taking a loss on every system. The chief cause of this is the hard drive. The original idea was for Xbox 360 to drop the hard drive and go with a more console based architecture. However without the hard drive they also have to drop backwards compatibility with their existing XBox game library. Either way they lose. PS3 doesn't have any of these problems and it is backwards compatible all the way to PS1.

Lastly, take a look at a technical comparison of PS3 vs 360. The Xbox had undeniably superior graphics compared to the PS2. This is one of its biggest claims to fame. The XBox 360 does not outperform the PS3, in fact the PS3 may be superior.

Has Sony made mistakes? Sure. They have the perfect controller which everyone likes, but they replaced it with the boomerang. Granted the boomerang is wireless, but if I was Madcatz I'd be bringing out a bluetooth PS1/2 style controller for PS3. It would sell like hotcakes.

Evangelical Diablog

Jeremy Pierce mentioned the Evangelical Diablog. It is a site where evangelicals can get their fill of interdenominational dialogue. Unfortunately it uses Typepad, which means comments are linear and discussion doesn't scale especially well. I'm of the opinion that if you want to have a discussion blog, use a discussion code base.

Stripped from My Memories

Yes I remember this moment in grad school.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Perfect for Sweeps Week

The Volokh Conspiracy has cited the most titilating legal opinion I've ever read. Man that guy was screwed...


That's Base Realignment And Closure, not that guy on Space Ghost and Adult Swim. QandO is covering Wesley Clarke's comments about them.

When I was down visiting Amybear and her parents this weekend, BRAC was a major topic of discussion. They live outside the beltway in Northern Virginia, so many of the DC area realignments were significant for the people at Amybear's graduation party Saturday night. Overall though, the folks at the party were generally supportive of the plan. There were concerns about traffic (a perennial problem in the DC area), but by moving many jobs outside the beltway to Ft Belvoir, traffic into DC may actually improve.

Of course people like Wesley Clarke are bashing the plan because the military is "losing it's small town roots". This is bunk. There are small town installations which will be closed, that is true. However most of the larger realignments are not in small towns, but urban centers. This is because real estate prices are a big part of what drives BRAC. Smaller towns have cheaper land prices and lower operational costs so the military actually prefers them. So while small installations will be closed and their mission rolled into the larger ones, in general I expect to see staffing drift out of the cities not into them.

This weekends wisdom says that the military generally sees BRAC as a good thing. I agree. It makes the military more efficient in the long run and that is very important when budgets are tight and we're fighting a war. However, congress will make a stink bipartisanly. Military spending is the pork of choice for the Republican party and the Democrats like it almost as much. Expect to see the Congress put up a fight, especially when jobs move across state lines.


The haloscan isn't working in the previous post. I wonder why...

That was strange. I ended up deleting it and reposting the text and it worked. A simple repost or whatever wouldn't do it though. I wonder what was going on.

How Liberal or Conservative Are You?

Your Political Profile

Overall: 80% Conservative, 20% Liberal
Social Issues: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal
Personal Responsibility: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal
Fiscal Issues: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal
Ethics: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal
Defense and Crime: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal

How Liberal / Conservative Are You?

So I'm conservative, not big surprise. The votes I went liberal on:
  • Healthcare: People should receive care based on a combination of need and potential benefit as determined by medical professionals, not finances.
  • Corporate responsibility: Profits are too simplistic a metric. Corporations are also for managing their own waste, for ethical treatment of their employees and contractees/contractors.
  • Affirmative action: Affirmative action is a corrective measure. After taking a required class in Equal Employment I have a better understanding of it. This is a hotbutton issue that is poorly explained to the general populace.
Via Risawn.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Firearms and the World's Ills

It seems like anti-firearms groups are always trying to link guns to all sorts of things. David Kopel responds to an attempt to link guns and poor economic development.

Guns are a tricky subject with a lot of this stuff. Some attempts are laughable of course. People are attempting to show that gun ownership causes civil rights problems. Isn't self-defense and owning the means to self-defense a fundamental civil right? If so then wouldn't strong gun control equal a civil rights problem? Secretary of State Rice made some excellent remarks on this subject on Larry King.

Now I can imagine that many bad things do actually correlate to gun ownership fairly well. In an urban or suburban society, guns aren't strictly necessary to perform work. You don't need to hunt for subsistence. Most neighborhoods are pretty quiet. In general shooting is a hobby, much like golf only with more of a sulfurous scent.

However when things start going bad people start looking for guns. If you live in a high crime area, a gun starts getting attractive. Firearms ownership rates will rise. If you don't believe the authorities can or will protect you, then they will rise even more. This creates a correlation, but not causation. Gun ownership is just metric for various forms of tension because of the link to self-defense. This is why in many areas of the country and the world you see gun ownership rise shortly after things start going bad.

Graphic Novels

When my brother went off to college he started reading comic books. He brought some home with him (and bought me a couple subscriptions to Iron Man for my birthday). So I got into them a bit too, especially over the summer while I was bored out of my mind and his massive comic collection was in the next room.

I say just a bit though because, frankly, comics are expensive. At one point in my brother's comic habit, it would have been cheaper for him to just take up smoking. So I like comics, but not enough to pay for them on my own. I will still occasionally pick up a graphic novel or trade paperback. Amy sees the point, but still thinks they are a bit over priced compared to, say, a good book. She's probably right.

Anyway for those of you on the outside of the comic scene wondering what it is all about, Evangelical Outpost has a good overview.

A coworker and I have talked about several of the topics covered. We are both of the impression that many of the Ultimates line of comics are soul-less bastardizations of better books. Specifically Ultimate X-men seems weak in comparison with the original titles. However restarting the Avengers has a certain appeal especially since many of their origin stories and backgrounds have not aged nearly so well as the X-Men. I may have to pick up one of those books in trade paperback.

I have also been picking up several of the CrossGen trade paperbacks lately. CrossGen made comics following the model of the big, fat fantasy novels from the likes of Robert Jordan or David Eddings, long sagas with lots of continuity. Unfortunately the company is bankrupt so while I may see the end of Meridian, I will have no such luck with Sojourn.

Wild Graduation Tricks

Well ok, not that wild, but wild enough Amy would have never allowed me to build one into her mortar board. Yes the designer of this clever hack does indeed look just like you would suspect.

Via Gizmodo.

What Age do You Act?

You Are 28 Years Old


Under 12: You are a kid at heart. You still have an optimistic life view - and you look at the world with awe.

13-19: You are a teenager at heart. You question authority and are still trying to find your place in this world.

20-29: You are a twentysomething at heart. You feel excited about what's to come... love, work, and new experiences.

30-39: You are a thirtysomething at heart. You've had a taste of success and true love, but you want more!

40+: You are a mature adult. You've been through most of the ups and downs of life already. Now you get to sit back and relax.

Via ParableMan.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Afghani Unrest

QandO is discussing current unrest in Afghanistan. McQ has this to say:
Just my opinion, but I doubt that the "slow pace of reconstruction" in a dirt poor country still mostly living in the 19th century is the cause for the unrest.
Perhaps, but they may be looking at reconstruction in Iraq and wondering why things aren't happening at the same pace in Afghanistan. After all we've been there longer, but we have spent significantly more money on Iraq. Someone may point this out and neglect to mention that Iraq has natural resources, transportation infrastructure, and a history of functioning government, whereas Afghanistan has a history of dirt farming, drug trafficking, and provincial despotism.

That or they may have come to the (probably correct) conclusion that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. So they're starting to squeak in hopes that some of the Iraqi money will head their way.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Lego Musical Instruments?

I grew up on Lego. I loved it. With this one toy you could build lego equivalents of all those toys your parents wouldn't buy you. But for some reason I never asked my parents for a harpsichord.

Yes it is a working harpsichord build entirely out of lego bricks and the relevant pieces of wire. That boggles my mind. Especially since harpsichords pluck the strings instead of hitting them with hammers.

I'm guessing it doesn't produce concert quality sound, though. I wouldn't think that thousands of little plastic blocks would be able to vibrate properly for good tone. I know all my lego stuff got awfully creaky once they started getting large.

Contractor Relations Indeed...

It is nice to know that government-contractor tensions reaches even to long long ago in a planet far far away.
Due to the haste with which we are proceding through the latter phases of this battle-station's construction we have been forced to employ scores of civilian contractors from across the galaxy in addition to our own Imperial Corps of Engineers. This had led to a certain clash of working cultures.

For instance, this morning I critiqued a tragically sub-par piece of workmanship on a tractor-beam repulsolift inversion assembly by snapping the neck of the site supervisor and throwing his limp corpse down a disused elevator shaft.

Imperial engineers would have snapped to crisp attention, of course, but all these civilian contractors did was give me was grief. "Oy, you do that again and I'll have the union on you!" barked one red-faced buffoon.

"It is vital that you enhance the inter-departmental syngergies of your operation," I said. And then I killed him.
Man I wish I could do that to a few contractors. This is all from Darth Vader's blog of course.

Via Vodkapundit

5 Questions

Joan sent me this list of 5 questions after this post of hers. I will not be giving out a list of 5 questions like Joan though. It took me two weeks to get this posted, can you imagine how long it would take me to come up with 5 questions of my own should anyone ask? I can't do that to you folks.

1. If you were given the option of living to be one hundred years old but would never be able to have sex again from here on out, would you take it? Or would you rather live to be fifty years old and have an incredible sex life until the day you die? Why?

I'll die young and hornyhappy. I would do this not because I believe in living hard and dying young. I don't. I'm a boring engineer. I would do this because Amybear and I aren't married, aren't having sex, and want kids with each other. Maybe if I had already had kids and lots of great sex with the woman I love, the former might be an option. But as it is, it's not gonna happen.

2. If you suddenly found out that the person you love was dying, and the only way to save them was to betray every spiritual belief you have, would you save them?

No. God has to come first. That and I'm assuming I wouldn't be purchasing her immortality. She would still eventually die because we all do. So I would have traded something eternal for something important but still wholly temporal. That's a bad deal. Instead I would spend as much time with her as possible and ease her pain in the best ways I could. If I did a good job we'd still have eternity together.

3. What is the one thing you would never forgive the person you love for doing/saying? Why? (And you can't say, "nothing"...everybody has something.)

This is hard one because I really do think I could forgive anything if she was remorseful and asked me to forgive her. So I suppose that one thing would be unrepentance. If Amybear did something truly horrid to me and reveled in it, it would be over. I might still love her, but I couldn't be with someone like that.

4. If there was a soundtrack to your life, what would be the theme song?

Beats the heck out of me, I'm not a huge music guy. I tend to be alone a lot so Eleanor Rigby would probably cut it. This question is the reason I sat on this thing so long. I honestly have no idea.

5. What do you hope to accomplish with your blog? Is there a particular reason you decided to rip yourself open for the amusement of others on a daily basis?

Hmmm... a plan... that would be a good idea wouldn't it? I originally started because I was reading blogs a lot and commenting on them a fair bit, but I seemed to be spreading myself thin over enough blogs that I could never find what I wrote again. I also noticed that many of the blogs I wanted to comment on didn't allow comments but did allow trackbacks. So I started my own. Now if I'm writing a copious post on someone elses blog I give it a thought and then usually end up putting it here and tracking back.

The topics on the blog here basically reflect my interests. Guns, God, Gear, Government, and the occassional bit about my personal life. Not necessarily in that order of course. I'd like to post in more depth, but unfortunately I never seem to have the time.

Management Hokey Pokey

I had an important meeting this morning which went well. Unfortunately it means the last few days have been replete with random acts of management from my higher up. This is why I haven't been blogging as much for the last few days. My reward for doing a good job was that I get to do the same good job to several other audiencies. Wee.

Anyway hopefully I should be up and blogging soon, once I clear a few things off my plate.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

How Lightsabers Work

You know you wanted to know. Not that the gyroscopic effects that are mentioned are important. This is what allows the Jedi to wield one as if it were balanced like a real sword. The suggested uses section is hilarious. Via A Small Victory.

UPDATE: On the Star Wars front, Messy Christian just saw the new movie as did Eyeris. They're press so they get to see it early. The gist: it was non-stop action with the standard poor dialogue and acting. Good, but par for the course.

Current Ops

Belmont Club are discussing how the Marines are bringing hell to the terrorists along the Syrian border. Donald Sensing mentioned this yesterday.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Kingdom of Heaven

Evidently it isn't a very good movie. Thats a shame. I enjoy a good sword and armor flick. This shouldn't be a surprise since I both own a sword and have a chain maille shirt started at home.

Ridley Scott went with the wishy washy route with the script. There isn't a strong hero with good motivation. There is just this guy who is sorta there doing whatever. The Crusaders are in it for the money, etc, etc. Big frickin' deal. Knowing Orlando Bloom he will do whatever with lots of deep breathing.

All this has reminded me of is that while Scott made Gladiator and Blackhawk Down, he also made GI Jane, a movie so awful that Demi Moore couldn't show her face for years.

I'll probably still rent Kingdom of Heaven eventually, but I won't be forking over 8 bucks anymore.

And about the Crusades, I don't think that they are Christianity's finest hour by any stretch of the imagination. But you really need to understand that the Muslims had been gobbling up Christian nations for centuries by the time the first Crusade rolled around. When the Byzantines in Constantinople thought they were next to be put to the sword and appealed to Europe (and Pope Urban II) for help, that started the First Crusade. Many liberal historians like to paint the Crusades as some imperialist onslaught where the warlike Christians attacked the peace-loving Muslims out of a desire to get rich quick. This is a pretty skewed version of history.

Theology Crusaders

Messy Christian is upset with arguments over theology. She has a point. I don't think a lot of the doctrinal disputes out there are anything to break fellowship over.

For instance I'm a Calvinist. You may not realize that because I don't discuss it much. Guys in my bible study are Arminians. So what? My pastor sent out emails to gauge interest in a sermon series along these lines and my response was "Should it matter? The walk is the same."

This whole discussion brings to mind the message to the Church Ephesus in Revelations:
I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.
But you can't just throw doctrine out the window either. That chapter continues with this message to Pergamum:
Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore!
The message to Thyatira is similar.

You need love and strength of spirit, but you also need good teaching. You can't get away with just having one or the other.

Overhearing People in Traffic

Joan is discussing the merits of convertibles in a post tantalizingly titled "Lessons Learned While Topless". I don't drive a convertible. The parts of Delaware and Maryland I live in are either frigid in the winter, god-awful humid in the summer, or raining in the spring and fall. This means there are approximately three days a year I want one. Frankly on those days I'd rather own a motorcycle anyway.

Anyway now is the part of the post where I reference a story from my storied past of myth and legend. In this case I'd like to point out this particularly salient piece of advice:
Anything you say can be heard by anyone around you! If a cop is directing traffic and you're getting irritated because you've been sitting there a while, calling him names and swearing at him isn't going to get you out of there any quicker.
This true even if you aren't in a convertible and the guy isn't a cop.

One of the most jaw dropping traffic incidents happened to me when I was in college, getting around campus in the summer on my ten-speed bicycle. In this case I was crossing the street in front of the student center to get some tasty Chick-Fil-A nuggets. Mmmm nuggets... *homer drool* Sorry I skipped breakfast.

Anyway I did something I never do. I believed the drivers who said they weren't turning. I was stuck at a corner of a four way intersect. I looked up the one-way street to see which way the oncoming traffic on that street was going. No one was signaling for a right turn, so I decided to cross as quickly as possible.

Well one guy in a big red pickup turned anyway. So he had to slow down and we missed each other. It wasn't a huge deal. He swore at me for not knowing how read a "Don't Walk" sign and I mumbled something under my breath about that being funny coming from a man who didn't know how to work a turn signal.

Now I had underestimated two things. First, he had sharp ears and heard me say something. He didn't know what, but he heard something. Secondly, he was an even bigger idiot than I thought.

He stopped, got out of his car, and screamed at me. He started lecturing me on the finer points of traffic safety. Now that wouldn't itself be funny. In fact given his general level of greasy unkemptness, it would be kind of frightening. But Joe Whitetrash had stopped in the intersection. He had heard me say something, stopped then and there, got out of his truck, and started screaming at me in his shorts and sweaty wifebeater while standing in the intersection. He was lecturing me on traffic safety while blocking a significant portion of traffic in both directions.

I was agape. I shook my head and left him there and made a mental note (1) not to play fast and loose with traffic rules and (2) not to argue with fools or people might not be able to tell us apart.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Holy Popemobile!

Gizmag is reporting that the man owning Pope Benedict's old Volkswagon has auctioned it off on ebay for 189,000 euro ($245,000). He bought the car for 9500 euro in 1999.

The winning bidder was GoldenPalace.com who will be adding the car to a collection of other "holy relics" at their brick-and-mortar casino in Antigua. One has to wonder if they consider a signed Madonna album a holy relic...

I'm back

But getting caught up on things. Blogging should resume later in the day.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Out of Town

Amybear is graduating this weekend. I'm going down there to celebrate with her and as cheap labor for her move home. Blogging will probably be light until next week.

Capital Punishment

Sgt. Hasan Akbar has been sentenced to death by lethal injection after killing 2 of his officers and wounding 14 other soldier during a grenade attack in Kuwait in March 2003.

There was a discussion of capital punishment over at QandO a week ago. It is worth a read.

For the record, I have no problem with the morality of the death penalty. If a man kills another man, there is a certain elegant reciprocity to taking his life in retribution. Morally though, I think when people start speaking of human life as if it were of infinite value, I get concerned.

I've written about this before. Life isn't cheap, but it also isn't of infinite worth. This is especially true when weighted against other lives. I've noticed that when a society says that the state may not enact the death penalty out of moral considerations, soon after they begin restricting things like self-defense rights in kind. After all if the life of the criminal is of paramount importance that the state cannot legally execute someone, how can we allow some gun-wielding hick to take it without even the hint of a trial? This seems like a silly argument, but when you look at countries like Britian who have banned capital punishment, you see this sort of rhetoric flying about all the time.

I do have some concerns over the practicality of the death penalty though. As many know, it is very expensive. It is often stated that permanent incarceration is cheaper than the death penalty due to the mandatory appeals and court costs. I can believe it. However more importantly is that capital punishment, in order to be accurate, must also be slow to ensure accuracy. Nobody wants to see an innocent man hang. But slow justice is bad justice from the perspective of deterrance. Punishment must fit the crime, but the populace must also see that it does and the longer there is between when the crime is committed and the sentence is carried out, the worse the deterrance.

One final note: There are those who, after applying modern forensics to old death row cases, have come to the conclusion that the death penalty cannot be trusted. "Look at all the people who are being cleared!" they say. If all these people are being cleared then we have to stop using capital punishment.

This logic is faulty. Improved forensics is not a reason to throw away the death penalty. What they are showing is that modern forensics are much better than older methods, so we are capable of more accurately applying the death penalty than ever before. Those people being found innocent on death row would never even be tried today. So how can this be a strike against the death penalty? It can't.


Instapundit linked to Ann Althouse on marriage. It was probably because she used the words marriage and tantric sex in the same sentence. Since I'm making wedding plans, I was intrigued. Turns out her post didn't have much to do with sex so I was disappointed. Amy and I aren't cohabitating so our marriage will be one in the more traditional sense and a lot of her complaints simply don't apply.

One comment did strike me though:
I wish there were fewer long, boring, conventionally extravagant weddings. But that goes for everyone, not just weddings after cohabitation.
I don't want my wedding to be an affair where people get together, eat a meal, talk with their relatives for 3 hours, and then leave after they feel propriety has been satisfied. I want people to come and enjoy themselves and not want to leave. Unfortunately I'm not exactly a party animal so doing this may be a problem.

Oh and a reward for those of you who slogged through this: pictures of ugly dresses. Don't let them happen to you.

Soldiers and Comics

Evidently, Marvel is sending comics to the troops. The comic is an Avengers/Fantastic Four title and the 1 million book print run will be distributed to the troops for free. Now word about whether this means the Pentagon is paying or Marvel is donating them.

This is part of the "America Supports You" campaign run by the Department of Defense and the comics were the result of lots of soldiers requesting them. I have to wonder whether they were requesting Avengers or whether they would prefer other Marvel titles like X-Men. I guess you take what you can get for free in a war zone.

Its actually a pretty good deal for Marvel too. Coke was the dominate soft drink for a generation after WWII. Why? Because the military teamed up with Coke to build bottling plants and get Coke to the troops during the war. This built a mammoth brand loyalty among the returning vets that lasted until their kids started buying Pepsi in the late 1960s.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


I've had a vague dis-satisfaction with how I've been spending my money lately.

I'm not going into debt or anything. I've never been one for doing that. I pay my credit card off at the end of every month. I've accelerated my car payments so that lump of debt is shrinking quickly as well. I have a retirement account at work to save for the future while I'm young and my money can work for me best.

I just feel like I have been spending on things I don't need. I buy my lunch at work instead of bringing it. I look through catalogs of crap. I hit gun shops looking for a good deal. A good deal on what? On something I don't need?

I think I need to scale back my spending ambitions, put myself on a better budget, and above all start saving. I want to have a healthy house downpayment saved up for after Amybear and I are married. That has to start now.

D&D Resources

Izzy and I were reading yesterdays Order of the Stick comic and we both had the same reaction: What the heck is an Annis?

This bit of worthless trivia is brought to you by SystemReferenceDocuments.org, not to be confused with DnDResources.com. If you want to learn about DnD 3.5 ed rules and not pay for it (completely legally mind you), SRD.org seems like the place to go. They even have zipped html and ebook versions.


Sounds like some sushi item, but its actually an online massive multiplayer strategy game. Evidently it is big in Germany and there is also an English language version available at Ogame.org. If you have time to kill and like strategy, maybe it is worth a try. Myself, I already have enough hobbies that destroy my free time.


Michael Dean has had trouble with someone on eBay and, by association, PayPal. His response was to invoke credit card consumer protection on PayPal. We'll see what happens.

I'd like to note that I try to avoid eBay and PayPal. I really should sell some stuff off on eBay, but I just can't bring myself to do it. I don't trust the consumer and I have a hard time trusting the seller. But I have friends that do it all the time. So eventually (like before I move next) I will sell off the protege intakes that are sitting in my storage space.

PayPal is another matter. I don't trust them. For those not in the know PayPal likes to keep itself in a business model gray area in order to avoid government regulation. They aren't a credit card company. They aren't a bank. They are both or neither as the situation requires to avoid the applicable credit card and banking laws. If that sounds hokey to you, it is because it is. If you want to know more about the dark side of PayPal, here is a good place to start.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Personality Testing

My Bloginality is INTP. Messy Christian is an ENFP.
As an INTP, you are Introverted, iNtuitive, Thinking, Perceiving. This makes your primary focus on Introverted Thinking with an Extraverted Intuition.
These are Myers-Briggs personality types. The Keirsey personality group calls me an architect or engineer. I wish these people knew how offensive it is for engineers to be called architects.

Those Wonderful Toys...

Cool tech at Gizmag and Gizmodo today. Ever wanted one of those sticky cams like they use in Splinter Cell? Remington now makes something like them. Ever wanted a spare tire that couldn't ever go flat? Michelin has you covered. Oh and ever wanted to be in a tank battle in Baghdad? Yeah me neither I'd rather read about it too.

Amybear Would Like These

Like all women, my girl really likes Tom Cruise. And now Tommy boy is dating Katie Holmes, formerly of Dawson's Creek. It is kind of funny, because Tom Cruise is significantly shorter than she is, especially if Katie is well heeled. They still manage to look good in pictures though. Thats a good thing cause Katie isn't going to get much action with Tom being gay and all.

Laura Bush at the Press Club Dinner

Bill Bennett complained about Laura Bush's speech at the Whitehouse Press Club Dinner this morning. Gasp! She mentioned Chippendales.

Lighten up Bill. My mother caught it on C-SPAN this weekend and she thought it was funny. She told me about it while we were waiting for my brother to get home from the hospital. If my mother thinks it's funny, then it can't be that bad. See for yourself though, Trey Jackson is hosting a streaming video of the speech. A transcript, which isn't anywhere near as funny, is here.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

You Know Your A Graduate Student If...

My beloved is graduating friday with her masters degree. I can tell this two ways. First is that she has told me this. The second is that when I asked her why she wasn't here snuggling with me, she responded "but if I came to see you, I'd miss the free lunch tomorrow!" Ah yes the power of the graduate student, it is strong with this one.

But what do I know? I was seduced by the Dark Side.

Home Again

Well my brother came home from the hospital today. He'll be staying at my parents for a couple of weeks at least. Probably more. He isn't exactly enjoying himself, but things could be worse and he knows it.

My mother and I were tasked with bringing another load of stuff from his apartment today. This one was computer equipment so he can start working from home part-time as he recovers. Our job involved me taking apart my brother's computer setup. The sheer number of cables brought to mind the harvest fields from the Matrix. Evidently his computer systems reproduce by budding or something. A cable would run off into a corner and behold another cybernetic outbreak.

In the end I think I managed to grab a cord and cable for everything, but God only knows if I succeeded at this point. Fortunately my brother also realizes he has no right to complain if I unfortunately failed him.