Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Prayer Support Update

My friend is back from visiting his terminally ill father.

His father is improving in small ways. His attitude has improved. You can tell because he is complaining more and wants to be more active, probably more active than he actually should be. By the end of the week long visit, his dad was looking a lot better. Still his life expectancy is still fairly short.

He's been moved to a nursing home where he can recieve health care and physical therapy, but still be out of the hospital. Everyone is hoping that his quality of life will remain high and that he'll still be able to do the things he enjoys until the end. The quality of care available at the nursing home should help with that. The family gets together for an annual trip to Disneyworld every December, they're hoping he will be around and able to participate.

On the spiritual side, his physical improvement has also helped the families anxiety. They haven't been able to really talk with him about God or salvation though.
We still need to have a clear talk with him about eternity but are hopeful that maybe some of the people at the facility will be able to remind him of God's love so he will be open to hearing about it from us (he thinks we are "brainwashed"), so prayers are still needed on that front -- on all fronts, I guess.
More prayer? Its the least I can do.

Last MP3 Post

Until the next one at least. While perusing Gizmodo, I found a link to a great Digital Audio Player Review site called, ironically enough, They have a very fair review of the Mobiblu Cube among other things. They have reviews of a wide number of players and allow comments to those reviews which gives good balance to them. Its good place to stop if you're in the market.

Rebuilding New Orleans

Via Evangelical Outpost, Gerry Phelps is asking the question that everyone is thinking but no one has been saying: How should we rebuild New Orleans?

As everyone with access to cable news knows, New Orleans is located in a bowl-shaped depression. Most of the city is several feet below sea level. It lies between two major sources of water, the Mississippi river and Lake Pontchartrain. Both the river and the lake are slightly above sea level. As many have noted and Katrina has now proved, this is a very stupid place to put a city. Even the French had the common sense to build on the relatively high ground for fear of flooding.

Now it may be too expensive to move the city outright. There will certainly be a lot of steel and concrete commercial buildings that will come through this without major structural damage. However calls to rebuild exactly as it was, should not be heeded. If you are going to rebuild a city inside a bowl between two major bodies of water, at least put in systems that are capable of localizing the flooding in the case of severe weather. Redundant levee walls around the perimeter would be a good start. Running additional flood walls within the city would also be a great idea. This way when there is flooding of this nature next time, we won't lose the entire city.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

1 Hamster Power

What a great idea. Make your rodents work for you.
Peter Ash of Lawford, Somerset designed a hamster wheel that utilized gears and turbines to charge his cell phone. According to his tests every two minutes of wheel time gives his phone 30 minutes of talk time. If only the hamster knew how he was being exploited for free energy he would be going on strike demanding bigger carrots and more wood bedding.
Stupid organized hamster labor. Knowing British organized labor, I'm sure the guinea pigs would sympathy strike too.


Michelle Malkin has an extensive roundup of Katrina coverage. Things don't look good in New Orleans after several levees broke and have flooded much of the city.

Eric Seymour is suggesting you give to Samaritans purse.

There has also been rumors of looting. The police are trying to stop it but aren't having much luck.

There are many ways to kill a man, many of them involve bodily trauma. A different route is to steal from someone on such a massive scale it destroys their livelihood and puts them on the street. Generally, this is what looters do. They destroy people's lives because they want their stuff. This is why I'm normal a shoot-the-looters kind of guy.

However in this case, I'm actually more inclined to tolerance. Much of New Orleans is under water. The roads in and out are cut. The storm has had a similar impact in other areas. If you were stupid enough to get stuck there, your possessions may be under 20 feet of water. That includes food, which certainly isn't edible now that it has been immersed in God-knows-what. Looting is still not something to be happy about, but it is pretty understandable in this case.

UPDATE: Michele has some first person coverage of New Orleans at A Small Victory.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Here Sally!

This comic is so true. My brother bought a Nintendo DS and Nintendogs to go with it, I helped him move some stuff Saturday and saw him play it for bit.

Seeing a grown man hunched over his gameboy and yelling his electronic puppy's name to get it's attention is, well, disconcerting. Have you ever watched a tape of people dancing, but with the sound turned off? They just seem to be flailing about for no reason. Yeah it is that kind of awkward. Maybe I would consider the game if it didn't involve making an ass out of myself, but as it is I think I'll wait and buy the meatspace version.

WoT is that?

Messy Christian reads the Robert Jordan Wheel of Time books. The next one will be coming out shortly. I might pick it up in paperback. I have many of the others. Somewhere I stopped caring and stopped reading. When his last book in the continuity was over eight hundred pages and took place over the course of a single day, it broke me. Ok I'm done. I don't care that I have been reading this crap since I was in high school. Robert, when you finish the series, I'll pick up the back books. Until then, if I have an urge to read one of your novels, I'll read Tolkein instead. The entire Lord of the Rings trilogy has a lower page count than Lord of Chaos. It will be easier on me.

Jordan writes in the genre of Big Fat Fantasy. These are the fantasy authors who are incapable of writing a book of less than 500 pages length. They are also incapable of writing a fantasy series of less than 4 books length. Generally they only have about 4 books of material planned out, but that doesn't stop them from writing eight or ten. Jordan obviously ran out of material to connect the dogs several books ago, but he keeps writing them. The good news is that he knows how his books are supposed to end, so maybe it will get better at some point.

Making Change

I am in the usher rotation at my church. Normally this entails wearing a suit or sportcoat, smiling, saying hello, offering bulletins, and occasionally scrambling when not enough people show up to take the collection. There are a few other things that I might have to do. I have first aid training, know CPR, and am familiar with where the church keeps the defibralator. I've even wondered what would happen if the church were to be attacked by ak-47 toting terrorists. I have never considered what would happen if someone were to need change for a $20 in the aisle during the offering.

It was almost a surreal event. An older man, very polite and devout but probably on a fixed income, couldn't afford to give all of the $20 in his wallet. My co-usher was thinking ahead and simply told him to keep it and talk to us after the service. Then we had to scramble in order to find someone who could actually make him change. The cash in the offering plates would be counted and in the church safe by the end of the service. The church administrator wasn't in, the pastors don't handle money, what do you do?

In the end what he wanted was $10 back. I had a ten in my wallet so that took care of things. I left the money in an envelope on the administrator's desk.

MP3 Bug

Rainy Day Magazine has a good independent review of the Mobiblu cube. The review is nice because, if nothing else, they have pictures of the thing that did not come out of the manufacturers press kit. They also have wired one into the stereo on their Porsche.

Video Music Awards

And the VMA for Most Over-rated Band goes to....

Green Day!

Congrats guys. You made an album with a few good songs on it and your vitriolic hatred of conservatism made it a huge hit with critics and the anti-war set. Now if only I could tell half of the songs apart, I might have an urge to listen to my copy again.

In other TV related news, the season finale of the 4400 was amazing. It makes me sad that I probably won't see any new episodes until next summer.

UPDATE: Michele Catalano seconds the motion.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Asking for Support

I've post-dated this entry so it stays at the top of the blog for awhile, the new stuff starts below it.

A lot of bloggers ask for support. Usually it is for money and it turns the blogosphere into a strange PBSish pledge drive, only without all the reruns straight from the BBC.

In my case I'm not raising money, I'm asking for prayers.

A member of my bible study (and good friend) has just learned that his father has pancreatic cancer. I'm not going to mention his name and God knows it anyway. The cancer may be terminal. Doctor's opinions are currently divided between "easily operable" and "six weeks to live." His father is 78 and he's been moved a hospital that specializes in both pancreatic cancer and geriatrics so there is hope.

My friend has taken off work for the next week and is driving back to his old homestead. He and his family could use a lot of prayer. Not only is his father very ill, but there is also a question of whether he is a Christian. He believes in God, but he also has lived through a lot including the Japanese conquest of the Philippines in WWII.

So I am asking for prayers for health for his father and family, both physical and spiritual. I pray that God would soften the heart of his father and spiritually equip the rest of the family such that his father may come to a saving knowledge of Christ.

UPDATE: They have replaced his father's pacemaker and given him drugs to help his depression and insomnia. The cancer situation is still unclear, but they believe it has spread from his pancreas to his internal organs. Using chemotherapy, current estimates are 4 to 6 months. That is a lot longer than the six weeks estimate they were given. Keep on praying folks.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

No Parking

Turns out the porch at the Deer Park Tavern in Newark is good for more than just excessive drinking. Amybear and I were there celebrating with friends. The occasion was one of the friends freshly minted paralegal certification. After we had finished our meal (beer, nachos, burger, sundays, woo hoo) we had some unexpected vehicular "entertainment."

The Deer Park is situated right next to the CSX railroad tracks. The second story deck, where we were seated, has a perfect view on them. At one point in our meal, a train went by uneventfully, that was kind of fun. The next engineer would not be so lucky.

To make a long story short, a driver did something very stupid. The railroad crossing is right next to a major intersection involving 4 roads. The idiot in question must have made a wrong turn, so instead of using a real road he decided to cut down the tracks. Not across, down like he was a train.

Either his car stalled or he lost traction or he had a death wish, in either case his car wasn't moving when the gates came down. He stayed in the car for a few seconds more, perhaps trying to save it or perhaps contemplating his own mortality. In any case, he bailed out leaving the sedan empty and on the tracks with it's truck pointed towards the oncoming train. The trains whistle cut through the air with urgency as the sound of it's approach grew ever louder. The tension rose to the breaking point as the headlamp of the locomotive illuminated the intersection.

The car crumpled like a cheap paper cup and was pushed along the tracks until it left our view behind some nearby trees. The collision rattled most witnesses although thankfully no one seemed to be injured. The car was empty and the railroad workers would be insulated by the freight train's massive size. Police and fire department were on the scene in barely a minute. The local reporters from the Review, University of Delaware's paper, beat them easily. They had been drinking only yards away on the porch.

Now that it's all over, I really really wished I'd brought my digital camera to the party. But that's just the sick bastard I am.

Speeding Cops

Do cops that speed on the highway annoy you? My answer is yes, but Jared at Thinklings feels otherwise.
I know and agree lawmen aren't above the law. But I don't mind if my local police speed. I consider it a perk of the job. They have a lot to worry about; they bear a public burden I wouldn't bear. I like to think of them at least getting some satisfaction in driving fast. It's fun to drive fast. So I say let them have that small pleasure as a release of the pressures of their duties.
I don't mind when cops speed in their cruisers on the job. There are good reasons for them to do this, like seeing more traffic than what is immediately around them. So really, I don't have a problem with it. That is unless I'm pulled over for speeding when I was keeping pace with one.

But that applies only while on the job. Cops also routinely let each other and each other's families out of speeding tickets. It is a professional courtesy among law enforcement officers. I have a real problem with it. It is using your position for personal advantage, something civil servants like me (and presumable them) have foresworn.

For the record, cops are not above the law. It is perfectly reasonable to allow them some wiggle room while they are enforcing the law. But I have a real problem when they show contempt for the law. It is a poor and hypocritical example and it pisses me off.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Structure of the Left

Both John and Glenn Reynolds are linking to some strategerizing about Cindy Sheehan:
It's as if Rove has set the Democrats up with a Kobayashi Maru. If a major Dem goes to Cindy's side, they're doomed as a national candidate. No one in Tennessee or Indiana is going to support someone who agrees with the policy that Afghanistan was a mistake. But if they don't, as Kaus points out, they'll never get nominated by the emboldened left-wing base.
Maybe. But doesn't this same analysis apply to the primaries in 2004? Howard Dean was the favorite of the far left and he didn't really get anywhere. Instead old reliable Lurch received the nomination.

There are two reasons why this might be the case:
  1. It is quite possible that the Democratic base is actually made up of people significantly further to the right than the loonies on Democratic Underground or DailyKos. Were those people the true democratic base, would they have to pander so them so heavily in 2000 and 2004 to keep them from going Green?
  2. As with the the 2004 presidential race, many Democrats may be much more interested in getting someone elected than who that person might be. Many primary voters went for Kerry because they thought his military record might make him more electable. Kerry ran on vaguely pro-war platform, not Dean's "get us the hell out" platform.
If either of these are true, then Cindy might not be the deathtrap democratic insiders are taking her for.

Television Physics

King of Fools has proposed several bullet points (pun intended) about how guns seem to work on TV. I especially like these two:
  • Guns are not subject to the laws of physics
    Neither friction or conservation of energy seem to apply to a dropped gun. It immediately moves out of reach of the original holder when dropped regardless of the impact surface, angle of impact or impact velocity.
  • Bullets make moral judgements
    The stopping power of a bullet is not a function of its caliber or composition but rather the motive of the target. Any bullet from any gun can immediately incapacitate a bad guy; however those of a friendlier disposition can take multiple bullets from very large gun with little or no adverse effect.
These two principles also compliment each other a lot. Badguys will be blown back thirty feet by the power of the hero's gun, while he barely budges when he fires it. Conservation of Momentum be damned.

Blogging about Blogging

Simon World has is giving advice to new bloggers. The guys at QandO have read it and are adding comments.

Some of his advice is great. Blogging is a random event. You can never tell how people are going to react. You will spend lots of time on it even though 99% of what you write will never be seen by anyone outside of a small circle of people. Most of them won't even bother to comment.

A few pieces of good advice:
  • Comments do not have any connection to post quality. Most people feel no need to comment on a post if they can't add or correct something.
  • Chances are you will never be one of the big boys. Blog for yourself. I have seen people complain about how few readers they get, when they get more readers a day than I get in a week.
  • Put effort in the look and location of your blog. I ran a stock Blogger format for the first six months here. Nobody came back. You aren't a real blogger until your blog has your unique fingerprints to it. I will probably move off blogger eventually, because blogger has Noob stigma, but right now I don't know what I want to move to. I only want to move once if I can help it.
  • Build friendships with other bloggers, if you have a small readership then get to know them.
  • As Signal11 once proved on Slashdot, people react better to heat than light. If you want to shed light, expect to have a long slog ahead.


Amybear has one tomorrow. Hooray! If she gets the job we will finally be local for the first time in over 4 years. Prayers on her behalf would be welcome.

The Trouble of Tipping

Volokh Conspiracy has an interesting thread up on how to tip. I eat at buffets a lot and I have similar questions about how to tip. Is 15% too much since it isn't full service? What about pizza delivery, etc?

Thursday, August 25, 2005


I've been leading my bible study on the subject for a couple of lessons now. We started with the Lord's Prayer which is a simple model for our personal prayer life. Then we moved on to Jesus's intercessory prayer in John. It deserves more depth than I can give it here. Tonight we'll probably be covering Jonah's prayer for deliverance from (what a shocker) Jonah.

While googling the subject of prayer, I ran across a link to the Presidential Prayer Team. This is a non-partisan group dedicated to praying for US leaders present and future. I may have to check back there on a daily basis.


Amybear finally has pictures of one of her targets up on her Flickr account. She was shooting at the green and black shoot-n-c target in the middle. The smaller groups on the outside are mine. Amy did really well.

The bottom right target was shot with my hipower, as you can tell I'm not as good with it as with the .22. This is mostly a function of the trigger. The buckmark has a great trigger right out of the box. The hipower has a notoriously bad trigger although mine has been cleaned up a little by a smith.

MP3 Alternatives

A coworker showed me the VR3 MP3 FM Modulator this morning. It retails at Walmart for $30. At this point you may be saying "so what?" That is what I was saying to him. I'd seen these sorts of things before. I even mentioned them in a previous post.

This one is different though. It does the work of those other guys, that is true. However it is also an MP3 player in its own right. On the bottom of the unit is a USB port. It will play the MP3s stored on any flash drive you plug in there (up to 512 mb capacity). Now a 512 flash card is cheap, about $40. So for $70 you have a pretty decent MP3 player for your car. My coworker reports that the sound quality is pretty darn good as well.

The Side of the Devils

The Army is getting new body armor. They realized that improvements could be made to the current units and so they went to the contractors and commissioned improved vests. The total turnaround time was a few months. That is incredible responsiveness.

The NYT covered this. They covered it completely wrong. Read Jack Kelly's commentary for more.

SUVs and the Family Car

Instapundit has a very expansive post up on SUVs. He talks (and relays correspondences from others) about how the SUV craze was not just created by low gas prices, but also by loopholes in the CAFE standards. Tax breaks for business and industrial equipment also have loopholes that make SUV artificially attractive. I had heard of both of these before. A new factor he considers is that child safety seat laws and similar ordinances increase the space requirements for children, requiring more room in a family car.

Many people look to the minivan to replace the SUV. My cousins all have minivans. My parents have a minivan. Lets face it, if you are anything of a driving enthusiast, minivans suck. They are big and fairly heavy. They wallow through turns. SUVs have these characteristic too, but hey also have large V6 or V8 engines to get them going in the straights. Minivans don't even have that. I had to drive my parents Sienna once the last time I moved. Shudder. Not for me.

Reynold's family car is a Volkswagen Passat Wagon. I would be more inclined to go with something similar, perhaps a Mazda6 sportwagon, as a family vehicle. That is once my family has outgrown my Protege. I drive too much on a daily basis to do it in a car I hate.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Jurist Imprudence

A stand-up comic once pointed out that the problem behind juries is that they are made up of twelve people who weren't bright enough to get out of jury duty. Couple this with jury selection processes that attempts to exclude potential jurors who can rationally analyze facts and aims for idiots who are easily swayed by emotional arguments. John points out how problems with the jury pool were a major factor in the recent Merck lawsuit.

Several suggestions have been made to remedy this problem. The most obvious one is to remove juries entirely and instead rely on the expertise and experience of a judge. The big problem with this is that jury trial is a massively important legal institution. Instead of arguing your case before the government (often against a government representative) you are arguing your case before people like you. While it is possible to stack jury, it is also likely that many judges come pre-stacked (as it were) for your convenience.

I think the most obvious thing we could do is tighten up the jury selection process. If that doesn't yield results than perhaps making juror a real part-time job might not be out of the question. Thoughts?

I Want a Puppy

Games like Nintendogs, which let you have an e-dog on the Nintendo DS portable, don't quite scratch the itch. In fact the posters at Walmart featuring adorable little e-puppies just remind us that the itch is there.

Now when I was in college, there was a game out called Dogz. It let you play with an electronic dog on your PC. This has developed into Petz, which has versions for dogz and catz. These were great when I was living in a dorm room and the family dog was a state away. In the end though they're just playing with a bunch of electrons on a computer screen with a mouse. It ain't a puppy.

So I'll wait and wait. Once Amybear and I get married, it is puppy time.

Perils of Perfect Theology

Jim Gilbert is discussing the relative worth of theology.

My thoughts are pretty mixed. In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis calls theology the science of God. It is very Modern sentiment. He harkens it to geography. You know where you are and your immediate surroundings, but you need geography to tell you how your location relates to the rest of the world and everyone else in it. Theology does something similar.

In general though, I think a lot of Christians spend far far too much time talking about God and not enough time talking with God. Deep thought does not necessarily imply deep faith.

There is an old saying "perfect is the enemy of good." I think many Christians, especially Christian bloggers, may be hitting the point of diminishing returns on theology (and philosophy) and would do better talking about more concrete topics like personal application.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Iraqi Constitution

QandO has not just one but two posts commenting on the current draft of the Iraqi Constitution. Overall it looks quite promising.


When the military fails to meet it's recruiting goals, it is news. When they succeed, all is quiet. Instapundit and some of the guest bloggers at Michelle Malkin are on it and giving very balanced coverage at that. Long story short, they seem to be meeting some goals but not others.

In different military news, Michael Yon is discussing the difficulties of talking about what is going on without actually breaching security. Its a toughie all right.

Hope Brings the Funny

Several bloggers are saying this clip is the funniest thing ever. I wouldn't go that far, but it is nice to know that while some things change, others stay the same.

Even More on Oil

Commenter Rob pointed out that increases in crude oil prices aren't just effecting us at the gas pump, but also in other markets like plastics. He's right of course. Petrochemicals are used in plastics, in fertilizers for farming, and all types of other products. However, he also asserts:
Gasoline is a drop in the bucket compared to the manufacturing demand using hydrocarbons as a raw material for materials such as synthetic polymers.
I didn't think this was the case. The Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration report on demand and consumption backs me up.

They estimate that approximately two thirds of US oil consumption is used for transportation fuels. Now this includes not just gasoline, but diesel, aircraft fuel, and heavy fuel oils for shipping. Gasoline itself accounts for 45% of total US oil use. This is not a drop in the bucket.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Lava Sledding

Some Hawaiians are reviving the ancient sport of lava sledding. Lava. Sledding.

The sport fell into disfavor in the mid 1820s because of pressure from Christian missionaries. Sledder Tom "Pohaku" Stone claims this is because "they didn't want people to have any fun." The fact that the sport was used as a form of worship for Pele the fire goddess might also have something to do with it. (This is similar to why the Olympics fell into disuse.)

The sport actually involves sledding down runs made from lava rocks on a bed of slick mud and grasses. Nobody has died yet but Stone has broken his neck. Stone teaches at a local college by the way. That is less of a surprise than it should be.


Economics and Oil

I've heard a lot of talk lately about the oil "peak." Supply is a bell-curve and now we're on the declining side of things. Instapundit has links which demostrate why this is untrue.

To put it simply, while the total supply of oil on earth may be fixed (still up for debate actually) the accessible supply of oil on earth is not. Various ecologists have previously predicted the oil peak and have generally gotten the year wrong. People were saying that oil would be gone in 20 years for most of my lifetime and the critical year was continuously revised upwards as new deposits of easy oil were found.

The problem is that generally their calculations were based on a huge faulty assumption. To put it simply, most resources are not bounded by their amount on earth. There is lots of oil, steel, or gold out there. More than we'll ever need. Resources are bound by the ease at which they can be extracted from the ground.

Aluminum was as precious as gold in the Napoleonic era, which is why Bonaparte himself had aluminum flatware. It is also why there is an aluminum pyramid on top of the Washington Monument. Now we make whole cars out of the stuff. The difference is that now we have a good refining process to turn bauxite into refined aluminum. As the price of oil edges higher, companies are getting ready to pounce on a lot of new sources for oil like tar sands. We just haven't hit the break even point for those sources to make business sense. But it's coming, oh yes it's coming.

The Fatalistic Four?

Well the writers at Marvel are a pretty liberal bunch, but thankfully not this bad yet. Well maybe Chuck Austen is.

Modern Morality Plays

Once upon a time, tales centering around moral dilemmas were difficult. The good guys made hard choices. When the hero had a dark past, there was always the question of whether he would beat it or it would beat him. This was the stuff of countless westerns.

Today there seem to be two trend in movie morality. First is the meme which says "the world is screwed up and learn to live with what you can get away with." Kim du Toit opines upon this trend. The second is the moral train wreck, the movie which depicts a person making all the wrong choices and turning his life into a hell of his own making. An example of this is the Bill Paxton movie A Simple Plan or perhaps (I haven't seen this one) Ben Affleck's Changing Lanes.

More on MP3 Players

Even though Amybear and I are pretty convinced that MP3 CD players like this one are the sweet spot in features/dollar metric, we're still willing to consider other options. Both PCMAG and CNET have extensive product reviews including all-important customer feedback. We'll probably be mulling over all that information for a while. The MobiBLU MP3 cube is particularly interesting to us, even though none of our local Walmarts seem to carry it yet.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Wedding Planning Results

The cake tasting was really good. We went to a local Swiss Bakery here in Virginia. Run by actual Swiss people no less. The samples were very tasty, but the owners tendency to declare neutrality on any topic of dispute was quite annoying... We're probably going to go with a vanilla poundcake with chocolate ganache filling. It was very yummy and the poundcake was heavy enough to be quite satisfying, unlike the lighter sponge cake.

We also went to a great Italian place called Bravo's. It is the current frontrunner for the rehearsal dinner. Very yummy and Amy liked the sparkly tree decoration in the restaurant. What can I say, my beloved has a thing for bright shiny objects.

Wedding Update

Amybear and I are going cake tasting with her parents today. All of my married coworkers consider this their favorite planning event. Mmm cake. I don't know if I like this one, I better try it again... We're both chocolate freaks so we're going to feature that flavor in several of the layers.

In other news I just found out where Amy is keeping her wedding dress. It's in the closet of the very room I'm typing in. Word to the wise ladies, if your mother goes into the closet where said dress is kept while the groom is around, wait until the groom isn't around to yell at her for it. Also make sure said closet has a lock on it.

I have promised upon my sacred honor not to look at the dress. For some reason, that doesn't seem like enough for Amy. I suppose she knows me to well. But she wants her moment at the wedding where I see the dress on her for the first time and I promise to give it to her (or she'll never forgive me).

Anyway time for cake. Yummy.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Discmen Won't Die

Gizmodo has an interesting column up considering why Discmen are selling so well.
One of the great puzzles of gadgetry goes thusly: Why are portable CD players outselling digital audio players three-to-one? No, that’s not a misprint—for every American who bought an iPod or Dell Jukebox in 2004, three of their countrymen bought a descendant of the 21-year-old Discman.
His answer encompasses many things. First, not as many people as you think are into MP3s. A lot of people don't want to be bothered with ripping CDs or futzing around with a personal computer. It's cumbersome and technical and lots of people don't like it. So they stick to the CDs they know. It's what their old music collection is on and they don't have to rip or pay to get music in the new format.

Second, price. You can purchase a plain jane CD player for as low as ten dollars. You can purchase one with MP3 and WMA capabilities for perhaps twice that. Even cheap flash MP3 players start at around $30 and those are the 32 MB ones that can only hold half a CD. So MP3 players are comparitively expensive in the absolute sense.

It gets worse if you consider capacity/dollar. You can get over 20 megabytes of memory per dollar with the CD player. You don't start tipping the scales in the MP3 player's favor until you move to the ~$200 multi-gigabyte hard drive based units like the iPod or Zen Micro. That's more than I really want to spend.

Is it hard to see why they're outselling the competition? They still make good sense.

Worst _Blank_ in the World

This is a meme I see everywhere on the internet. Keanu Reeves is the world actor ever. H.P. Lovecraft is the worst writer ever. Titney Spheres is the worst singer ever. Michele Catalano is an example.

Honestly, I find it very annoying. I've seen enough American Idol to know that there are many singers out there worse than Ms. Spears-Federline. If someone has reached the awareness of the culture at large, he probably isn't the world's worst anything. They may not be very good, but they have some non-negative level of talent. I mean even William Hung was good for campy enjoyment. He wasn't so off-key that we couldn't bear to listen to him.

The world's worst singer ever is probably someone who managed to talk her Uncle Morty into letting her headline Cousin Irving's bar mitzvah. So great was the outcry against her caterwaulling that emotional scarring prevented her from performing ever again.

Surely these people may not be especially good. Perhaps they are the worst X to ever make it onto the national scene. That much can be true. But the worst ever? Hardly.

Dark Jedi

James Lileks seems to be settling the issue of who the dark Jedi are.


Dawn Eden has links to good abortion commentary. The interesting thing is that despite the characterization of pro-lifers as religious nuts, her links are point to people and organizations like the Athiest and Agnostic Pro-Life League.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

iBook Massacre

Kevin mentioned a story I heard on the morning drive into work. The Richmond School District sold off 1000 old iBooks for $50 a pop. The problem is that between five and eleven thousand people showed up for them. The competition over laptops results in nigh-unto rioting. Hilarity did not ensue.

The district is taking it on the chin. People are criticizing them for lack of crowd control and a number of other things. The truth is that this could all have been avoided if the district had just charged more money for each laptop. The district would have made more money from the sales and the decrease in demand caused by the higher prices would have prevented violence.

Writing about Writing

Via the Boar's Head Tavern, the Phanton Professor is holding a free (my favorite price) online writing class. The first lesson is up and enrollment is open to everyone who wants to participate.

Of course if you are more interested in bad writing, The Bulwer-Lytton Bad Fiction Contest is the place to be.

Shooting References

Sometimes I post stuff just so I know I can find it later. I use my blog as a permanent bookmark list. In this case here are some great links on rifle shooting:
  • The four rifle shooting positions with multiple pictures. It is ok to start shooting from the bench just so you can hit something. However you should rapidly progress to field positions because that is where the skill is.
  • Using a GI sling. Oddly enough, it is really hard to find a places that actually show you how to use a sling properly. Well now you know.
  • This guys rifleman series is full of advice. Some of it is good. Some is not. He is an old school rifle shooter, so take his advice on equipment (as opposed to technique) with a grain of salt. The M1A is a great rifle, but guns like the DPMS Panther are as rugged, cheaper, more ergonomic, and more accurate. Of course he would never say that because its gas system "shits where it eats."
So there are some good shooting links. I'm going to have to read over them again before I go to the range again.


Gizmag is calling it one of the most brilliant inventions of the new century. Essentially, it is a small, cheap, and portable water filtration system that can be mass produced to drastically reduce third world illness from contaminated drinking water. It sounds good. Part of me wonders how effective it will be considering most of these illnesses could already be avoided using simple measures like boiling your drinking water.

Pop Quiz

I haven't posted one of these in a while, so...

"Which Holy Grail Character Are You?"

The Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog
That's the most foul, cruel, and bad-tempered rodent you ever set eyes on!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Elvis is Everywhere

Today is the anniversary of the King's death. Michele is relating how she inaptly broke the news to her mother. It's kind of funny actually. A few months ago everyone had an Elvis movie or special out. I asked my mom what she thought about the whole deal and her statement was "I didn't like the man when he was alive, why should I care now that he's dead." Ouch. I guess I know where I get my tact from.

Biotechnology and the Law

While I'm a pretty conservative guy, I'm trying to avoid turning into yet another member of the right wing echo chamber. For this reason alone, I have Left2Right on my blogroll. A lot of the bloggers there aren't really worth reading, but J. David Velleman is one of the standout exceptions.

Velleman is Professor of Philosophy at NYU. He is writing about same-sex marriage and why he opposes it. In essence, his argument has to do with the relationship between marriage and having children. Specifically that same-sex partners can't have children without availing themselves upon modern medicine. Current self-interest groups are lobbying so that same-sex partners can have their names on the birth certificate, despite the fact that they are not the biological parents.

With biotechnology the way it is, it might be time for states to revise their birth certificates anyway. Amy and watched a program on embryo donations, where a couple donates some of their extra fertilized embryos for implantation into an infertile couple. In essence the baby has two mothers, the genetic parent and the one who actually bears the child. I'd like to see a birth certificate keep track of that. As a practical matter I think any attempt to revise a birth certificate will lead to the sort of partisan catfight I want nothing to do with.

Velleman also touches on the differences between a marriage based on mere affection and a marriage formed on more solid commitments. As they say in Downhomesville: lovin' don't keep him, cooking does.

Another excellent post by Velleman is on Moral Relativism, what it is and what it isn't. It was very interesting to here this articulated by a philosophy professor. I'm not sure I agree with all of his statements, but it is worth the read none the less.

Smart Guns

I'm not a big fan of the concept. Geek with a .45 is posting on smart gun development. Engineers have done the analysis realized there will essentially be two types of smart gun (1) the ones that still shoot even if the smart stuff breaks (2) the ones that won't. Thanks, I did that analysis myself in two seconds and it cost you a lot less of your tax dollars.

The implications are these. Some petty bureaucrat is going to decide whether you fit in one of two categories. Are you a person who needs guns in order to shoot things like bad men? They should have the guns that always work. Are you a person who wants guns in order to shoot things like tasty animals, clay pigeons, and pieces of paper? These people should get the ones that don't.

The bureaucrat will almost certainly decide you fit in the second category unless you are a cop, security guard, or have paid him lot of money. You might get into the first category if someone is actively threatening your life, but you will likely be dead before the paperwork to actually get your new gun goes through.

The reason for the bureaucrat is simple. The smart technology on the guns that always work can probably be more easily disabled. If it fails the gun has to work so you take a chisel to it an break the gun's smarts. Now you have a normal working stupid gun. The bureaucrat can't have you get dumb guns in this way so he will have to limit their circulation. The ones that don't always work don't necessarily have this problem. If you break their "smarts" you probably don't have a gun anymore. You have a 2 pound paperweight.

In any case, I like dumb guns. Because smart guns aren't actually that smart. In general I think smart guns will just make stupid people complacent, lazy, and dangerous. This will soon demonstrate how stupid "smart" guns really are.

A View of Mosul from the Ground

Michael Yon is posting from Mosul, Iraq on the current state of War on Terror. He gives a good overview of weapons, tactics, and who our friends and enemies are. He explains that IEDs are not the work of master craftsmen:
In most cases, the enemy in Iraq collects munitions such as unexploded artillery shells—available by the truckload, and cheap—then rigs the shells to explode by one of several easy methods.
I wonder if we have tried poisoning the well of cheap artillery shells yet.

In Vietnam it was not uncommon for the Vietcong to use our own weapons against us. We would air drop loads of grenades, etc. for our use and the VC would pick some of them up before we could get there. The solution to this is was to booby trap some drops. Normal grenades have a fuze time around 5 seconds. The booby grenades had no delay. So instead of blowing up the other guy, the booby grenade blew you up. We knew the trapped grenades, but the VC didn't. The VC learned you couldn't trust found weapons.

We should be able to do something similar with artillery fuzes. My guess is that the first step in making an IED is removing the old fuze so you can jury rig a new one. Make a booby fuze that will go off (and detonate the main charge) if removed. You would have IED makers blowing themselves up all over Iraq. It wouldn't bother our ordnance disposal guys because, unlike in the movies where you cut the red wire, we generally dispose of unexploded artillery shells by blowing them up.

Monday, August 15, 2005


This is what happens when you translate from English into Chinese, then back to English again. Who knew that the bootleggers of Backstroke of the WestRevenge of the Sith were adding so much value. The mistranslation of "jedi council" to "Presbyterian Church" is especially good. Who knew I joined the Jedi order when I was 13? Explains all of Pastor Smick's backflips I suppose.

Pwned by Madison Avenue

I got around to eating lunch a bit late today so I drove off to grab a bite at the Burger King on post. I originally intended to get a tendercrisp salad, but when I arrived at the cash register, televised advertising made me it's bitch. I ordered the Chicken Fries.

I don't know if they are over-rated, since I have yet to see anyone rate them. I can say that they are heavily over-sold. In advertisements you see a batch of fries nigh unto bursting from a bucket-like container. The thought may go through your head (as it did in mine) how can such glorious contents fit in such a paltry cardboard bucket? How do they close the damn thing?

The answer is that the actual chicken fries are far more meager. The sum total of the actual fries are equivalent to what is shown erupting from the container in their advertisements. The real fries do not burst from the container but are, in fact, easily contained within. Each fry is about the size of a typical home-fry, only made of admittedly yummy chicken bits covered with batter. They come with a tasty buffalo sauce. And six cost $1.89, the meal (with medium fries/rings and drink) is $4.59. Not cheap for glorified chicken tenders.

In short, Taco Bell's crunchwrap supreme advertizing revealed an excellent new lunch option to me. BK Chicken Fries reminded that if I want meal suggestions from someone wearing a chicken head, I'll ask YoUDee.

New Shooter Update

A few months ago, Amybear suddenly started to get interest in firearms. Not a lot of interest mind you, but enough that I was able to convince her to hit the range with me this weekend with only a trip to Hibachi as a bribe. This is especially impressive considering it was hot as a crotch out this weekend. Unless you live in Florida or something. Then 96 with 100% humidity is probably a brisk day requiring a sweater.

Things went ok and we had a good time. We both double bagged with both plugs and muffs on the range. I did it because I would like to keep my hearing as long as possible. Amy did it because it helps avoid flinching from the sound of your own shots and alleviates problems with range noise from other shooters. It worked well.

We also started slow. Amy shot my .22 and did well. She only put a round or two through my hipower. The 9mm was a little much for her. I never realized how small her hands were until I saw her hold the grips of my guns. If she enjoys shooting enough, we may have to buy her some guns of her own just to get something that fits well. Then she can work on her grip and form. Until then we'll just use the .22 which barely recoils at all.

Amybear used shoot-n-c targets, while I stuck to standard paper bullseyes. Shoot-n-c are black and leave a fluoresence ring (green or orange) around the bullet holes. It helps the individual holes to stand out and adds a real sense of accomplishment. You can buy these at any good sporting goods store (like Dick's). As you get more experienced you will get a feel for where you are shooting and won't need them as much. This is good because they are a bit on the expensive side compared to standard paper bullseyes or, for the truly cheap, discount paper plates.

While Amy was shooting, I stood behind her telling her where each shot went and generally told her what a good job she was doing. Her first group was a little rough, but then she got the hang of things and improved a lot. I'm very proud of her. She might become a better shot than me eventually, especially considering that she has more patience at the shooting line than I do. Right now I can show off a bit because I have a couple years more shooting experience than she does.

Towards the end of our session, her arms started getting tired and that meant it was time to go home. She had a good time and we kept the targets. Amybear may have a picture of hers on Flickr when she gets back to her parents place later today. We shot for about an hour and by the end the heat was getting to us. For those not in the know, having drinking water (or food) on a range is a bad idea. Many of the toxic chemicals in a cartridge are hygroscopic lead and mercury salts. Hygroscopic means they are attracted to water, so any open container is contaminated with them and any closed one is still probably covered with them. We hurried home and washed our hands and faces before we tanked back up on fluids.

Hibachi was very yummy and I went 1 for 2 on catching shrimp in my mouth. Mom would be proud.

UPDATE: Instapundit is linking to Kenneth Anderson teaching his daughter to shoot. They were using a Ruger 10/22 rifle and another 22lr pistol. There are pictures.

Sky High

I saw this with my Amybear, my brother, and a friend after church on Sunday. It was proof that you don't need extravagent special effects to make a good movie. Much like Galazy Quest, the budget for Sky High was modest but allowed for a good quality and quantity of effects. It was no where near as pretty as, say, the Fantastic Four, but it was more than pretty enough to suspend disbelief.

My co-worker thought it might be an X-men ripoff, but it wasn't. X-men is about recasting racial tensions in a superhero light. Sky High is more of a teen movie, a coming of age high school story but with superpowers. The young kid with nothing to recommend him because the school hero. Literally. Some parts are a bit predictable, but others work well. The movie is generally clever and well-cast, both in the young leads (who I had never seen before) and the experienced adult in the supporting cast.

Despite the fact that this movie is not, to my knowledge, based on a comic book, it roots itself in the comic book genre very well. The movie starts with panels telling backstory and ends with some other panel fillers in the credits. The costumes and sets are bold primary colors with a bright feel that harkens back to stories from the golden and silver age. If you only like comics that involve lots of brooding and shadow, this probably isn't the movie for you.

It was well worth watching, but if you want to hold off until DVD I'd understand.

Gas Prices

They are skyrocketing, but Kim du Toit does an excellent job of putting them in perspective with the Consumer Price Index.

Kim correctly points out that gasoline prices have increased 700% since 1960. On the other hand the price of bread has gone up 1000% and the price of a new car (which is far more relevant to this topic) has gone up 800%.

Honestly, we have been really spoiled by gas prices throughout most of the 1990s. They were incredibly low by historical standards. Now things are re-adjusting themselves and prices are going back up to where they probably belong. So all those SUVs and V8 sedan sales are going to slow down with higher oil prices. Maybe someone will start selling a decent compact in the US to compete with the Mini.

Part of me wonders if this market correction is because the Arab states don't need us to keep Saddam in check anymore. They don't have to buy us off with cheap gas anymore.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Too Much of Good Thing

For those that don't know, the most wired country in the world is South Korea. There is not such distinction as "broadband" there. Or, to be more precise, everything in South Korea is broadband. I suppose this averages out since North Korea doesn't even have their communications system up to a paper-cup-and-string level yet.

What are the pitfalls of their wired and wireless lifestyle? Well, it turns out too much online gaming can kill you.
Lee had recently quit his job to spend more time playing games, the daily JoongAng Ilbo reported after interviewing former work colleagues and staff at the Internet cafe.

After he failed to return home, Lee's mother asked his former colleagues to find him. When they reached the cafe, Lee said he would finish the game and then go home, the paper reported.

He died a few minutes later, it said.
Wow. While I have gone on a gaming bender that lasted all night (under the influence of profound amounts of Mountain Dew), when the sun comes back up, that is the point when all sane individuals realize it is time to stop.

Morning Radio

Michelle Malkin is posting on the dearth of wholesome family fare on the radio, especially in the morning and evening drive timeslots. I believe she lives in DC.

Like Michelle, I'm not a big Stern fan. I don't like Don and Mike much either, and I detest Opie and Anthony. I can listen to their shows, but it is with the awful fascination of passing by a horrible car accident. The kind where blood and oil are sprayed across the asphalt.

Anyway I try to find lighter fare. I have a fairly dark and cynical sense of humor though, so I don't want the Care Bear Morning Show or anything like that. What I want is a a morning show that has the general level of decorum and consideration of an adult office water-cooler conversation. It actually isn't that hard to find in the Philadelphia and Baltimore markets.

I previously listened to the excellent Barsky show on 96.5 out of Philly, but that has been gone almost two years now. It was good, then the station changed formats and now it is gone. I miss it. I fill the gap with Preston and Steve on WMMR, which is a good show with good music in between the conversation. I like it, but the stations broadcast range isn't up to my morning commute into the boonies of Maryland. So I listen to JoJo and Kenny out of Baltimore. They aren't as good as the others and the music is awful. Their playlist is tiny and completely mediocre. No amount of good banter will make up for the fact that Avril Lavigne is not punk and Holla Back Girl is a horrible song.

So yes, it is tough to find good talent to listen to. And that is what working clean takes: talent. Make dick and fart jokes all day isn't hard, which is why I don't respect the shock jock genre. It is cheap. A copout. They make a living not by being clever, but by simply doing things that people with higher standards wouldn't. If you aren't funny enough to work at least one clean set, you aren't actually funny. Which is why I can respect Richard Pryor, but can't really respect Howard Stern.

Bank of America

Joel Thomas is filling in for John over at Locusts and Honey. He has some complaints about Bank of America.

I have a Bank of America credit card. Unlike most of you folks, mine is for work and I am forbidden by my employer (the US Army) to use it for anything other than work. This is fine, I use it only when I have to go on business travel which is what I was given it for in the first place.

Now that all fine and dandy. Except that earlier this year Bank of America misplaced hard drives containing the financial information of several hundred thousand Department of Defense employees. Luckily I was not one of them. Unluckily for them, several of my other coworkers were.

This really pisses me off. Not just because people's records are missing with all the general annoyance that causes. It is the Department of Defense. Many of those people work with classified information. This isn't just a list of employees. It is espionage-ready list of military intelligence sources. That is what pisses me off.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Hoorah for Microsoft!

Microsoft is actually put their vast wealth to good use. In this case they have mobilized their massive legal department and won a court case against a major spammer. Said spammer must now pay MS seven *pinky raised* million dollars.

I must admit, I have been much less pissed off with Microsoft lately. Perhaps it is because they finally have released an operating system that doesn't cause my home computer to crash thrice daily. Perhaps it is because I abandoned IE for Firefox long ago and am never going to look back. Now they are shutting down spammers and have me praising their legal department. Ughhh I suddenly feel really dirty.

Boom to Busted

Ambra Nykol is linking to CNET's list of Top Ten Dot-com Flops. Yes it does include a certain sock puppet.

Guns and Work

Kim du Toit received an interesting comment yesterday. It concerns a state department requesting qualified civil servants to carry their guns at work in order to improve security. Well that is refreshing.

I've probably stated this before, but I'm going to rant it again anyway. Self defense is a fundamental human right. It should not be abridged easily. In the case of a business, requiring an employee go unarmed should bestow the responsibility for that person's defense on the employer. You don't want your employees to carry, then you damn well better have security. I'd love to see a bunch of conceal carry permit holders gang up on their employer after someone is injured by a nutjob while on the job.

I am more than willing to admit that there are cases where guns and work don't mix. I interviewed with a rocket motor manufacturing plant after I left grad school. I wouldn't want a firearm or anything else which ignites flammable chemicals anywhere near that place and for obvious reasons.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Horny Eating Machines

Well in this case horny in the literal sense of having them on their heads. I never know why a barowner would think keeping goats is a good idea, but at least they make for a funny story.

SCA Gone Wrong

This is one of the funniest police reports I've seen lately. Speaking as a man who owns a longsword and is making his own chain maille shirt, if cops ever try to haul me in after I've gone crazy, I definitely want to declare that "I have 1000 years of power!" while brandishing steel.


I am a big fan. It was a shame that Fox killed it before it ever started, a fate similar to Crusade on TNT. The execs at Fox didn't realize they did so, but when you air the show on Fridays out of chronological order, you have to expect the audience to react by saying "what the hell?"

Anyway Ann Althouse and others are talking about the libertarian tendencies in Firefly and sci-fi in general. They do a lot of analysis and it sounds good, but they miss the common thread. Lots of science fiction is just westerns in space. Firefly is deliberately staged this way. The backstory is essentially the civil war and Mal and the crew are ex-confederate soldiers. If you look at it this way, these themes tend to sort themselves out.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The Lorax Revisited

I think everyone has read the Lorax by Dr Seuss. Someone people are reading it more deeply than others.
The traditional interpretation is simply that we must all care more for the environment. If we only control corporate greed we can prevent environmental ruin. But perhaps it means something else. Perhaps the lesson is that this boy should plant his truffula trees, and act as their steward. Perhaps giving the boy the last seed is an act of transferring the truffula from the open-access commons to private stewardship. Indeed, the final image -- the ring of stones labeled with the word "unless" -- could well suggest that enclosure, and the creation of property rights to protect natural resources, is necessary for the Lorax to ever return.
Comment 10 is especially good.

The Quiet Bus

An old family friend of mine now drives a bus in Wilmington. The kids he busses are learning disabled. I asked him whether that created a lot of problems for him and he replied that the kids were autistic. They generally didn't say much or get in much trouble at all.

Simon Baron-Cohen has an article personality, the sexes, and links to autism.

I believe that the differences between traditionall male and female personality types are generally inherent not learned. I believe this because of the testimony of a lot of mothers like Barbara Curtis (or my own) who have observed the differences between their children in just the first few minutes of their lives. I'm not sure about this whole autism link though.

Perhaps my beloved will comment some on this since her thesis dealt with some of this.

Air Defense

Sometimes videos like the one over at Geek with a .45s blog make me wonder if our air defense missile warheads shouldn't just be loaded with a payload of geese.

UPDATE: A coworker just pointed out to me that this is only a problem with western jet aircraft. The russian and chinese planes are designed to eat birds for lunch.

Planned Parenthood

I'm not a big fan and that shouldn't come as a surprise. Dawn Eden has the breakdown on one of their latest indoctrination cartoons.

More upsetting to me than the content of the cartoon (which is crap and includes blowing up christians for disagreeing with PP) is the content of that chapters annual report posted at the bottom. Planned Parenthood Golden Gate gets 53% of it's funding through the government. The majority of their finding comes out of citizen's pockets via taxation. Now this is San Fransisco so perhaps this is state and local, but I still find that number offensive. I need to look into local Delaware chapter's finances further.

UPDATE: Michael Dean has a listing of few more Planned Parenthood outrages. They're the usual really: bullying, brain washing, mild instances of mob violence, and covering up child molestations...

Death of Canadian

The news is covering Peter Jennings death fairly heavily. Jenning died of lung cancer yesterday at the age of 67.

One Canadian's death you won't hear about is Ernest "Smoky" Smith. Smoky is the last Canadian soldier to receive the Victoria Cross, England's highest honor. He was 91. Smoky was a colorful character much like D-Day Vet Ralph Kelly.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Sci-fi Friday

I'm a huge sci-fi fan, but frankly I'm starting to get really sick of the shows on sci-fi fridays. I'm sure Amybear will be thrilled by the prospect of that since she isn't a sci-fi nut.

The Stargates are interesting, but the plotlines are increasingly running along the lines of "team does something stupid making a new enemy and then does something smart to get themselves out of it." This is great except for the fact that I don't like shows about incompetents and they're creating new villians every weeks.

Galactica was interesting, but currently all the characters I give a damn about are either in comas or stranded on Caprica. Rosalin doesn't interest me, would you like to be led by someone with that much of a god complex? Apollo is annoying and Ty is incompetent. I am well and truly sick of many of the storylines that they refuse to wrap up, like Boomer and Baltar's hallucinations and everyone stranded on Caprica.

It would also be nice if they bothered to maintain a semblence of continuity. This weeks episode focused on people refusing to resupply Galactica because of the declaration of martial law. The problem with this are twofold:
  1. In the first season it is shown that Galactica has extensive stores and is actually used as a supply vessel for the fleet, not the other way around.
  2. Galactica is the only ship in the fleet capable of repelling an enemy attack and it is doubtful that the fleet will impair their only means of defense.
These aren't even touching issues like the social relationships within the fleet are all wrong. You can't get organized civil resistance if your population is split up over hundreds of vessels many of whom have crews of a hundred or less. You really can't do it if Galactica simply jams intership communications (which they've done to the Cylons) to prevent organized resistance.

Perhaps this season is the second act, where everything goes to hell? Even if it is, they have no excuse for implementing it so poorly.

Financial Planning

On of the guest bloggers at Evangelical Outpost has advice on your personal finances. The specific suggestions are:
  1. Maximize income from all sources
  2. Minimize expenses
  3. Control liabilities - eliminate liabilities and limit or eliminate borrowing of any kind
  4. Invest in appreciating (or at least neutral) assets only
  5. Protect the value of your assets
And on this topic I'd like to announce that sent off my last car payment today. This puts me out from under my car loan in about 30 of the 60 months of the loan. Yeah. Now I shall start putting that money towards a downpayment on a house.

Changing Plans

Today is one of my scheduled days off, the result of working a compressed (9 hour/day) work schedule. Its nice to have the break, but it's unfortunately really really hot out. So while I would like to take up some of the manly activities I've been missing for the past few weeks, like shooting stuff, it's too damn hot for it. Instead I'm taking care of business inside my apartment, cleaning up what has been lying around for months.

Tomorrow is supposed to be considerably cooler so here's to hoping for some good shootin' weather.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Youth Pastors

Michael Spencer has a great post on the failings and temptations of youth pastory.

Being a youth pastor seems to be fraught with peril. First, they are usually young guys with little spiritual depth who are then expected to take on what is effectively one of the most important positions in the church. Oh the older folks may not recognize this, they just want the kids quiet and out of the way. Still raising the next generation is potentially far more important than babysitting the last one.

Secondly, there is this weird stepping stone expectation in many churches. I can proudly say that my home church was a good one. We wanted a youth pastor, not our next associate pastor in training. However some churches use youth minister as a testing ground for higher office. Tis a shame for the kids since that guy will not be their in a few years one way or another.

My young life was shaped by my youth pastors and also by the lack of them. The church I grew up in started to fracture as I entered high school and one of the first signs of it was that my dedicated youth minister, who was a great guy, decided to high tail it to florida and attend seminary. So I had a church falling down around my ears without a pastor to talk to. It sucked.

So we went to my current church. It has its troubles too and our youth minister left over disagreements with the senior pastor. However the church wasn't falling apart, it was actually getting stronger, and before he left he set up a team of students and parents to keep things going until his replacement was found. We kept things going and growing until the current youth minister, who is a great guy but different than the last one, was found. It wasn't fun but it was rewarding in ways that I would later discover.

I never had a college student pastor or an in-and-out pastor. Looking back on things I suppose I should take time to thank the Lord for that.

Tales from Iraq

Donald Sensing is posting a marines tale of his time in Iraq.
I have never seen a member of the media, and I haven’t spoken to anyone who has. Baghdad and the 90% remainder of the country are separate worlds, each wholly detached or even unrecognizable to the other. The Green Zone is altogether extraterrestrial; it is Coppola-esque. For the Marines with whom I work, it might as well be Disneyworld...
He also discusses the various motivations for violence in Iraq. He uses the same words I have heard from others telling their stories. The violence is caused by criminals and thugs who do it because they think they can get away with it. Most of it is not organized in any way.

Red Tape

I'm busy jumping through various hoops today crafted of paper and red tape. I'll try to have something up after lunch.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Tiny Treasure

Susan Anne Catherine Torres was born today. She is two months premature and weighs less than two pounds. In most circumstances this would be considered horrible, however Susan's mother has been brain dead for over three months so that changes things.

The mother, also Susan Torres, suffered a stroke in early May because of brain cancer. Little Susan was born not just because of the wonders of modern medicine, but also because of the kindness of strangers who have donated $400,000 to cover all the medical bills that the insurance companies won't. There will surely be a lot of people praising the doctors for this little medical miracle, but I think it is high time to praise those charitable individuals who gave of themselves so that little Susan might live.

Caffeinated Baptist

Joe Carter is linking to a website that will calculate the necessary soda consumption for a lethal caffeine overdose. You simply choose the soda and your weight.

Just for the record I'm betting this thing is over simplistic if for no other reason that it does not take into account any previous caffeine tolerance or your body composition.

UPDATE: Joe is also linking to a Yahama site full of different paper models. I downloaded one of the motorcycles because I figure at least Amybear will let me have a paper motorcycle model. Keep in mind some of them are designed to be used with European A4 paper not American 8.5" by 11".

Eating Sushi

Instapundit is linking to lessons on how to eat sushi by Noriko Takiguchi. So far it is a five part series.

Amybear and I are sushi nuts. Making it ourselves is a fairly time intensive process. Cooking the rice properly takes at least an hour and half, if not two. Getting good fish isn't that hard, most supermarket fish while not excellent is good enough provided it is fresh. It can be troublesome though, we only have the time on weekends but fresh shipments come in on a monday, wednessday, friday schedule. If you want to make your own sushi, get to know when the local markets restock their fresh fish.

Because of this we've started going to some local chinese buffets who offer all-you-can-eat sushi bars for a reasonable price. It is a good deal and the sushi, while not spectacular, is usually as good or better than what we can make ourselves and is far more convenient.

It has become so convenient that even my parents are trying out sushi on a more regular basis. My mother makes sure that she only eats vegetable and "cooked" sushi (most shellfish sushi is cooked).

No Masturbating

John really knows how to take the fun out of internet access at the public library.

Having done research in the Morris Library at U of Delaware, I have yet to actually see someone partaking of this particular activity. However, the third floor men's room does have a reputation for skankiness in many shapes and kinds.

My problem with internet access at libraries mostly stemmed from kids given the run of the place during the summer. When I say kids I mean children who weren't yet in their teens. I don't know whether their parents would just drop them off for free childcare or whether they were involved with some sort of program hosted by the university. But they would hop on a library computer and look at porn and better yet they would make lots of noise while doing it.

Driving Records

I have resigned myself to never having a good one. You see I work on a military base. MPs have an operation philosophy wherein it is as good to show that you are working as it is to actually catch criminals. Because of this MPs will pull you over for doing 1 mph over the speed limit just to let you off with a verbal warning. This isn't to penalize you, it is so they can flash their lights and demonstrate to all your co-workers driving by that the MPs are on the job. Look civilians, this could be you next so slow down!

Such was my lot this morning. What was really hilarous is that the biggest leadfoot I work with was right behind me and waved as he passed by.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


Instapundit is linking to top ten list of marital advice given by Mark Daniels on his thirty-first wedding anniversary. Congradulation Mark. It is well worth a read.

Despite the fact that I'm not yet married, I'm going to wax intellectual on something I know little about. That is what the blogosphere is for, isn't it?

Anyway there seems to be two related memes that really will kill a marriage.
  1. Not getting to know your mate before you get married
  2. Unwillingness to accept your spouse for who they are
  3. Unwillingness to change
At this point in our relationship Amybear and I know each other quite well. We understand both our strengths and our weaknesses. While she gets annoyed at me for occasionally be tactless and I get annoyed at her for being emotional, we're honestly trying to improve ourselves so we can be happier together.

I just don't understand some people. Isn't marriage about wanting to spend your life with someone? Before you make that commitment shouldn't you (a) find someone you want to spend the rest of your life with and (b) be willing to make the sacrifices necessary to spend the rest of your life with that person without "growing apart".

UPDATE: On a slightly different marital note, a conversation with a coworker leads me to believe that you know the honeymoon is over if....

You'd rather sleep five more minutes than shower with the wife.

UPDATE2: Hehe. He just read this and is blushing like crazy. I love terrorizing my coworkers...

Boy Scouts

Unfortunately it seems that the liberals have unraveled the truth: the Boy Scouts are nothing but an elite paramilitary organization developed by Christians and other theists. I mean if swearing to do your best and your duty to both God and your country isn't indoctrinating children in order to establish a theocracy I don't know what is. As if saying the children have a duty to God wasn't bad enough.

Oh and to quote Homer Simpson: In case you can't tell, I'm being sarcastic.

Business and Pleasure

Dale Franks has come up with some really great shockwave animations. The first is a breakdown of US military rank insignias by service. I have never served in the real military, yet I have had to deal with members of the Army, Navy, and Marines as part of my job. It helps to know someones rank beyond just "Sir."

The second is a breakdown of military rank from David Weber's Honorverse. The Honorverse series is a set of excellent military space opera books that roughly parallel the golden age of sail in the napoleonic period. They are quite good although Weber need to work on his characterizations a bit more, he tends toward white knights and mustache twirling villians a bit more than he probably should. Word is that there is another book coming out in the series quite soon.

Dale's Honorverse insignia are actually so good that Baen books has used them officially. Honor's beret on the cover of War of Honor has Dale's manticore on it. Congrats to him.

Monday, August 01, 2005

My Life in Pictures

Amybear has pictures up of the demolition derby and the country fair on Flickr. She also has some of of my Aunt's bull terrier Deuce, the worlds dumbest wonder dog.

The Weekend

Amybear and I had a good weekend. We shopped. We went to the Cecil County Fair and watched a friend of mine compete in the demolition derby. We saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on Saturday and went with my brother to see The Fantastic Four on Sunday.

Charlie was a good film. It was probably truer to the book than the Gene Wilder version, but I can't help but have a warm spot in my heart for the Wilder version too. My one criticism of the new movie was the tone. The books and earlier movie always seemed bright and wondrous to me as opposed to this film which often seemed dark and weird. There is also the allegation that Willy planned for these kids to meet their horrible fates. I liked the new musical numbers, but Amy missed the older ones.

I liked Fantastic Four too. There has been a lot of criticism that it doesn't have the depth of Batman or Spiderman, but that isn't a criticism that I find particularly valid. This is a movie about a team of superheros and it is trying to tell the story of five people instead of just one or two. You have to sacrifice some depth to do this. Although honestly, the Fantastic Four don't have that much depth to start out with.

This movie is pretty comparable to the first X-Men film in quality. My brother's biggest criticism is that they got Victor Von Doom's origin story all wrong. In the original comics Von Doom was scientific genius descended from Gypsy magicians. He had both magical powers and technological powers from an armored battlesuit. This movie empowers Doom in a manner closer to his Ultimate Fantastic Four origin.

UPDATE: For those of you who haven't read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, there is a really nice hardcover version out with both of the Charlie books for only $10.

Morning News

Air America may be in deeper trouble than previously thought. Their tab to a non-profit is up to $800,000 and allegations of fraud have given birth to allegations of forgery.

On the support our troops front, Matt Hickethier is shipping to Iraq. Before his deployment his family took him to The Fort, one of the Denver area's best and most expensive restaurants for a good-bye dinner. Hickethier had been wearing his Marine dress blues and an unknown benefactor from a nearby table picked up the tab after he figured out what was going on.

Do you like Little Caesers? The owner of the chain is giving Robbie Doughty, veteran of Iraq who lost both legs in the conflict, a franchise when he leaves the Army.

Lastly, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia has died. Crown Prince Abdullah has ascended to the throne. Abdullah is reputed to be a moderate with liberal leanings, which will hopefully be a good thing with respect to the Arab world.

UPDATE: There is officially a tenth planet in the solar system. Discovered over two years ago, it is 50% larger than pluto, but three times as far away. Scientists have referred to it Xena. You may do the yell now. If they name it's moon Gabrielle, I'm moving to another solar system.