Thursday, December 28, 2006

Scott Adams Does It Again

I wasn't too happy to see this in print:
My long term goal is to develop such a reputation for household incompetence that I am never again asked to do anything around the house. So far my plan is right on track.
You're not supposed to say that out loud, our wives will catch on. Eventually they start to think about how we can't take crockery out of the dishwasher without supervision, but somehow we are trusted to push a machine with sharp spinning blades around the yard. They'll either figure out we're faking or they won't let us do anything. The former would suck and I'm betting the latter would be far less enjoyable than it sounds.

He did hit the ball out of the park with this one though:
I always check a movie’s critical reviews before committing two-plus hours of my life to it. This method of movie filtering does not work because movie reviewers are sick bastards who enjoy misery as long as it is well crafted.
Exactly. Art in the modern age is supposed to be painful for some reason. That's why you never see comedies on the list for Best Picture and why modern art gives you a headache if you stare at it for too long.

I'm a Man Baby!

Or so says the BBC. I might have been more of a man if I took my time doing the tests. Or maybe not.

Goin' Shootin'

Tomorrow should mark my first trip to the range since before Thanksgiving. All my free time has been taken up shopping or doing other holiday related work. Over a month is too long for shooting trips, especially for a handgunner like me. I'm expecting to suck tomorrow when I finally get there.

Hopefully I'll be able to pack in a few more trips to the range before winter really sets in, temperatures drop, and the range starts to ice up.

If any DCBA members out there have tomorrow off because of the holiday and want to tag along, let me know and we'll work something out.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Man of the Year?

I second Hugh Hewitt, this guy should get it.

I remember back in 2001, right after September 11th, the feds started actually doing things. People gave them tips about people acting weird or threatening and instead of dismissing them and sitting on their asses all day, or whatever they did before, they actually followed up on them. Two guys with sport jackets, credentials, and maybe even guns actually went out to knock on doors and politely talk to people. Not arrest people. Just talk to people, get their side of the story, and leave if they were asked to do so.

The left side of the internet went up in flames. This was Nazi persecution! How dare they drive to my home and ask if I have a few minutes? How dare they ask me questions until I asked them to leave? How dare they? Gestapo! Fascist bastards! This is an intolerable oppression!

Of course I pointed out that this was not persecution or fascism. This was government agents actually doing what we pay them to do. Of course I had not yet learned about Bush Derangement Syndrome. I did not know that I was casting pearls before swine as I do now. And I still find it hilarious that the left wants to grant phenomenal cosmic power to centralized authorities, but are shocked when those same authorities actually use that power.

But I digress. If you want to see what persecution and oppression actually are, keep an eye on that student holding up a sign criticizing Ahmadinejad to his face at an Iranian university. That man is taking his life into his hands. I assure you that the government agents who knock on his door will show you what oppression really is.

Now if you excuse me, I have to go listen to Folk Song Army by Tom Lehrer.

Babylon 5

Dale Franks is opining on the greatness that is the Babylon 5 television series after picking up the box set.
If you are looking for something unusual, compelling, exciting, and thought provoking, I heartily encourage you to log on to Netflix or Blockbuster and add Babylon 5 to your queue. Be advised, you really need to start with Season 1, and watch the episodes in order.
B5 is pretty great, especially the second, third, and fourth seasons. In the first season, the series just wasn't quite right yet. The plot and look of the series just hadn't quite come up to speed. The fifth season was something of an afterthought because they actually tied up the original five year arc in season four when they thought they were going to be canceled. But the heart of the series is very good.

I also enjoyed Crusade and most of the TV movies. Crusade suffered from bad network management from TNT. Legend of the Rangers on Sci-Fi was god-awful though.

Part of my distaste for BSG is that it really just isn't as good as B5. Not only do I dislike its brooding pretentiousness, but BSG often can't get simple continuity right. I might tolerate that in Star Trek, but if you want to be "the best show on TV" then don't have major episode plot points conflict each other.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Ministry of Silly Hats

Amy tried learning to knit a while back. While she was doing it she stumbled across a girl who made knit hats with ears and other features. In the end she didn't have much luck with the knitting, but I wonder if these sort of fleece hats might be more up her alley.

Christmas Movies

Tam and ColtCCO state that Die Hard is the best Christmas movie ever. I'm going to have to disagree and go with my brother's pick: Lethal Weapon. The first and best of the Lethal Weapon movies.

I also had a warm spot in my heart for A Christmas Story, since it's about a boyhood love of firearms. But it's just too overplayed these days. I can't take 24 hours of any movie.

Richard Hammond Interview

I'm an unabashed fan of the BBC's Top Gear. It is everything a car show should be. So when host Richard Hammond was seriously hurt in a jet car accident while filming an accident, I was worried that this might be the end for the show. Even if they didn't actually lose Hammond as a host, they might lose the ability to mock him mercilessly on British television. And that might be even worse than death.

But fortunately the Hamster has made an almost miraculous recovery. He's given his first post-accident interview and AutoBlog has the YouTube clips.

Christmas Come and Almost Gone...

Christmas Day may be gone, but I won't finish celebrating the holiday until mid-January when I get together with my extended family. Possibly even later than that depending on when my sister actually comes for a visit. She was going here this year, but one of her labs needed emergency surgery. He's doing well, but she was unfortunately but understandably absent from the holiday festivities at my parents house. Her portion of Christmas has been postponed until an unspecified later date.

And what festivities they were! The drain for my parents kitchen sink became blocked after their garbage disposal failed to sufficiently digest some of my mom's potato peelings. Unfortunately the clog was actually in a bend in the drain pipe below the kitchen floor, not in the disposal itself (which would have been easy to fix). Amy and I walked into the house to find my dad and my brother snaking the drain pipe with little success. Fortunately CVS was open and we were able to buy some generic Drano. The rest of Christmas afternoon was spent cycling chemicals down the drain. But at the end of the day, the sink was running well enough to turn on the dishwasher so Huzzah! Or as my lovely wife would say, Woot!

Out of our little family, Milo seems to have made out better than anyone with the presents. We had to hide some of his new toys last night just so he would let us go to sleep.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree...

How do I get this cat out of thee?

Friday, December 22, 2006

With Friends Like These...

How not to compliment Anna Venger:
I've never seen pictures of your children before. Wow. They're very beautiful.

They must take after your husband. They look nothing like you.
Ouch. I think I was that guy a few times in college. And at work. And probably other places too. I had a tendency to bounce my Timberlands off my uvula on a regular basis for a while there in college though. Sometimes you think you're saying something clever and it just don't come out right you know?

Fortunately I'm generally smart enough to realize it after I've said it. I pays to be good at apologizing profusely. I also can be pretty objective when it happens to me now. The guy says "Oh my gosh! I'm sorry! That didn't come out right..." and I just tell them they're going to have to shove that foot in a lot farther in before they impress me.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


Physics Geek is talking about how much he hates it after a friend recently filed. A guy in my old bible study was divorced, he has two daughters with his ex-wife. He has actively counseled several friends and coworkers not to do it especially if you have kids. The long and short of it is that if you intend to be a good father after the divorce, just stay married. Getting divorced won't make your life any easier because the kids mean you'll still be seeing your ex-wife on a regular basis. Plus he was constantly moving to keep close to his daughters after every time his ex changed boyfriends (and therefore residences).

I often wonder if the prevalence of divorce is one of the reasons why homosexuality is on the rise in American culture. Geek deals with the debasement of the sanctity of marriage over at his place. And he's probably right. Once upon a time, the failure rate of homosexual relationships was a pretty good reason to oppose same-sex marriage. Now the heterosexual failure rate is also huge, so that rhetoric is just a wash.

But I often wonder if divorce isn't promoting the homosexual lifestyle in other ways than just debasing the institution of marriage. I've heard a lot about strong correlations between gay lifestyles and poor parental figures (distant fathers or weak mothers depending on the sex of the individual). I wonder if there is also a correlation with divorce for similar reasons. It seems to me that divorce would often degrade one parent as a role model. The current high divorce rate would increase the likelihood of children growing up under those conditions.

UPDATE: At the end of last month, Anna Venger discussed a study that examined family life and gay marriage rates in Denmark. It essentially confirms my suspicions.

Open Lesson Plans

Joanne Jacobs is hyping Open Planner, which is a website that provides lesson plans in a distribution scheme similar to open source software. You download and use the plans and can modify them as you please, but you should provide your modifications (and the reasons for them) back to them for incorporation with the rest of the planning documents.

It seems to me that a large repository of good lesson plans can't be anything less than a good thing for teachers and students. But then again I'm not a teacher and never really have been. It is my understanding that ownership and originality of your own lesson plans is a contestable issue in the education industry. I think some teachers would consider using outside plans as something akin to plagiarism (similar to the pastoral plagiarism issue that cropped up a while back). And this might just make lazy teachers lazier. On the other hand what I really care about is the quality of the kids educations...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

AD in an MRI

Turns out the magnet in a Magnetic Resonance Imager is strong enough to fire a 1911, even if all the gun's safety features are still on. Like most gun incidents, this one required multiple people to screw up: the firearms owner (a cop BTW) and the MRI tech.

Via Tamara and SayUncle.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Beware the Mall Ninja

For his black pajamasBDUs provide concealment that allow him to strike at any moment. But mostly he only strikes on the internet or at firearms events.

Mall Ninjas are something like the Mary Sues of the firearms community. They lay claim to a vast stores of experience, none of which they can actually demonstrate. At one time it was easy to spot them. Most Mall Ninjas are in their early to middle twenties and, for a while there, you just couldn't be a war vet (or have their breadth of "experience") and be their age. Now you generally have to rely on someone who has been there and done that to pick out someone who hasn't.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Reform in Iran

Turns out the results of this year's Iranian elections mirror the results of their American counterparts. Out with the conservatives, in with the liberal reformers. Well that's what the rhetoric will be at least...

Thumbtack Code

An interesting tidbit of information came up during the discussion of a shooting over at Kim du Toit's place. Turns out the way to get Mormon's and Jehovah's Witnesses to leave you alone is this:
If you put a black or red thumbtack in your door frame they don’t knock.
Green means they're receptive to your message. Yellow means they aren't adverse to it. Red means the owner responded belligerently. Black means stay away. I'll have to remember this if I see people passing out Watchtower in my complex.

My Life in Comics

I've had this problem with my branch secretary a few times. I managed to smooth it over though, you do not want the Secretaries mad at you. Secretaries make the world go round.

I also thought this "comic" was great, both because I love bad puns and because of the extensive explanation of Maxwell's equations in the commentary text.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Dangerous Toys

Radar has a top ten including the infamous Jart. One toy that didn't come put is the science kit. Science kits used to actually have chemicals children could do serious bodily harm to themselves with. They could mix up their own explosives or accidentally create poison gasses. Now? Please you can probably build a better science kit with things from the supermarket.

Currency Reform

So now that coins like the penny and nickel are worth less than the metals they're made of, can we finally demonetize them? Lets start with then penny. I mean can you buy anything for a penny these days?

Via Tamara.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Christmas Meme

1. Eggnog, Cider or Hot Chocolate?

Hot Cocoa

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just set them under the tree?


3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?


4. Which of Santa's reindeer -- Rudolph, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Donder, Blitzen, Cupid and Comet. -- are you? And why?

Tsk tsk, learn the order question-giver guy. It's Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Dunder/Donder/Donner, Blixen/Blitzen. I'm a Blitzen guy myself. I recieved a country tape called "Truckers Christmas" as a white elephant gift in College. My favorite song on it is "Dammit I'm Blitzen". Its about how Rudolph (the new guy with the flashy nose) gets all the credit and Blitzen (being the last reindeer) ends up taking all the crap. The name also means lighting in German.

5. When do you put your decorations up?

Early in December, although I'm running late this year because they're under a pile of stuff in my storage space.

6. What is your favorite Christmas dish?

The turkey and stuffing sandwiches the night of Christmas (since Christmas "dinner" is actually served as a late lunch in my house).

7. Favorite Christmas memory as a child?

Playing games with the whole family at my Grandparents in Connecticut.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?

My family never really played Santa up, so I have no conscious memory not knowing the truth.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?

Sometimes, it was a logistical thing. If we went to Connecticut to visit family, we would often travel Christmas morning to avoid traffic. Then we would open our presents Christmas Eve. But generally if we were opening on Christmas day we didn't open any early.

10. What kind of cookies does Santa get set out for him?

None. It's the stingy Scot in my I suppose.

11. Snow! Love it or hate it?

As a kid it was great, now I'm typically driving to my parents so not so much.

12. Can you ice skate?

Not well.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?

Buzzy, a stuffed Raccoon I bought when I was little. I still have him. He's sitting on Amybear's dresser at home with my college graduation cap and medal on.

14. What's the most important thing about Christmas to you?

Family. I wish I could say "Jesus being born to take the sins of the world," but like most people I basically take that for granted.

15. What is your favorite Christmas dessert?

Pie. Pumpkin, cherry, apple, strawberry rubarb, it's all good.

16. Favorite Christmas tradition?

Getting a little piece of coal (the same piece actually) in my stocking every year.

17. What tops your tree?


18. Which do you prefer--GIVING OR RECEIVING?


19. What is your favorite Christmas Carol?

"Silent Night", the 3/4 version without the showboating. I'm also partial to "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" because we did some fun stuff with that in Chorus.

20. Candy Canes?

Not the peppermint ones, but some of the other flavors are ok. Except they get messy too quickly.

For others responses try, Hube, Anna, or Paul.

Merry Criminal Christmas

How can you not enjoy a story that ends like this:
"I d-d-didn't n-n-nknow S-santa Cl-Clause was such-such a s-s-sumbitch."

"Believe it. Into the back seat, Nanook. Let's go put you into a nice warm cell."
My that LawDog has lead a colorful life down there in Texas.

Like Not Learning to Land

Thankfully, a driving school in Rhode Island thought it was strange that a forthright young Muslim only wanted to learn how to drive Hazmat vehicles didn't want to bother with learning to back up. They contacted the authorities and one would-be terrorist is in custody under a number of charges.

Grand Theft Ego

Amybear finally has her car back after the theft. But her confidence has still taken a hit. Your car is kind of like your home on wheels, and getting one stolen out of your apartment's parking lot means neither one feels particularly safe anymore.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Pinochet, Allende, and Chilean History

The essay republished at is worth a read if you like serious historical analysis. Kim du Toit gives another reflection on the state of Chile after the death of Pinochet and how it relates to current events:
Now here’s the interesting thing about Pinochet: his example is seductive.

I have said several times in the past few weeks that Iraq doesn’t need a parliamentary democracy—at least, not yet. What Iraq needs is a Pinochet: a man who could bring the country to heel, subdue the more violent elements of the country with the utmost brutality, and set the economy on a track which would lead to long-term prosperity.

And then he could step down, exactly as Pinochet did.
I don't know that I'm a fan of Pinochet, but I can understand the sentiment. I have often wondered if the reason the American experiment succeeded where so many others have failed, is the presence of a few key individuals like George Washington. Men who were respected, had the authority to govern, but also had the morality to stop governing when their time was past. Power is a difficult thing to turn down, yet doing so may be the key to building a successful nation.

UDPATE: Kim has more.

We Will Make Everything... Metal

Who knew Benny Hinn was so angry?

Via Locusts and Honey

Free Leisure Reading

Thanks to novelist and blogger John Scalzi, who is publicizing the release of Peter Watts novel Blindsight for free on the net.

Gun Owners in Ohio Rejoice

From David Kopel at the Volokh Conspiracy:
A few minutes ago, the Ohio Senate voted 21-12 to override Republican Governor Bob Taft's veto of a bill to reform Ohio's gun laws. The Ohio House had previously voted 71-21 to override the veto of House Bill 347. Because both houses achieved the necessary 3/5 majority, the bill will become law in 90 days.
The details?
The bill makes a variety of changes to Ohio's Shall Issue law for concealed handgun licenses. It explicitly prohibits local governments from creating no-carry zones, except in places where state law already forbids carryings. The bill also removes the requirement that concealed carry permitees must, when driving, keep the handgun in plain view in the car, or in a locked container.

Even more significantly, the bill eliminates over 80 anti-gun local ordinances, including bans on cosmetically-incorrect self-loading firearms (so-called "assault weapons") in Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, and Cincinnati. Like the vast majority of states, Ohio does not have an "assault weapon" ban, but Ohio has had more cities with local bans than has any other non-ban state.
Now if only we could get the Delaware legislature to look into reforming our firearms laws.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Christmas Time is Here By Golly...

Paul has several great Christmas posts up, here is taste:
This is the time of year when we think back to the very first Christmas, when the Three Wise Men; Gaspar, Balthazar and Herb, went to see the baby Jesus and, according to the Book of Matthew, "presented unto Him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh."

These are simple words, but if we analyze them carefully, we discover an important, yet often overlooked, theological fact: There is no mention of wrapping paper. If there had been wrapping paper, Matthew would have said so:

"And lo, the gifts were inside 600 square cubits of paper. And the paper was festooned with pictures of Frosty the Snowman. And Joseph was going to throweth it away, but Mary saideth unto him, she saideth, 'Holdeth it! That is nice paper! Saveth it for next year!' And Joseph did rolleth his eyeballs. And the baby Jesus was more interested in the paper than the frankincense."

But these words do not appear in the Bible, which means that the very first Christmas gifts were NOT wrapped. This is because the people giving those gifts had two important characteristics:

1. They were wise.

2. They were men.

It goes on for quite a bit more. I wonder who actually wrote this thing, the tone reminds me of Scott Adams.

For more topical humor, I give you wrapping gifts with pets. I'm sure Milo will be a huge help wrapping presents this year. Because cats are known for nothing if it isn't their helpfulness and obedience.

Food Science Fun

I linked to Cooking for Engineers over two years ago because I thought their recipe format was amazing. It still is of course, but the recipes themselves are pretty darned good too. Like this one for making your own marshmallows. I always wondered how to do that.

Turns out that just one of the Top 25 Food Hacks at Slashfood. Some are old internet staples like making ice cream with liquid nitrogen or lighting the grill with liquid oxygen. Several others involve making or refining liquor with available household equipment. Oddly enough some of these seem to have been the subject of Mythbusters episodes.

And last but not least on this topic, this DB Fletcher table would be really cool in the dining room.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Executioner's Tale

A Saudi executioner talks about his work in video or plain text. Freaky.

If you're going to kill people, beheading or hanging really isn't a bad way to do it. With the gas chamber or lethal injection, execution creates systemic damage throughout the body so that even if you wanted to harvest the organs, it is impossible. The major organs can still be viable with beheading, hanging, or even firing squad.

Of course required organ harvesting after capital punishment has been considered a bad idea in some SF.

The Problem of Novelizations

John Scalzi's recent interview of Karen Travis is quite good and it carried me through to her recent essay defending her work on the Star Wars Expanded Universe. It is an excellent essay that highlights the difficulties of writing works using corporately owned copyrights.
So apart from the fact that it can be a lot harder for the author, there’s no fundamental difference between writing a tie-in for any franchise and a creator-copyright piece. It still has to stand the tests of good fiction, except that it’s got to be done fast, it’s got to be done right, and it’s got to be done despite changes, deadline shifts, studio diktats, or — here’s the real white-knuckle ride — trying to fit in with an ongoing TV series that’s still being written, as many of my colleagues do. Those who’ve novelized movies tell me stories of not being allowed to take scripts away home, and having one chance to read them with a security guard standing over them: and a movie script makes a novel of about 20,000 words. Adding another 80,000 words without deviating from the film takes real talent. Tie-ins are not a job for the faint-hearted or the dilettante.
I mentioned that last bit about the movie scripts to my brother over the weekend.

Military Survival Manuals

Since I'm something of a military buff (what with working for the Army and all) Instapundit's reference to the US Army Survival Guide came as a bit of a surprise. While I can get access to the PDF internally through the Army, it is also available to the public through a currently instatrashed link found on his site.

For printed versions of this and other works (like the excellent pre-2000 military Combatives manuals), I highly suggest you turn to military surplus sites like Cheaper Than Dirt. You can buy this stuff through Amazon, but you'll generally be paying service manual prices of at least ten or fifteen dollars. Or you'll be buying it used. On a surplus site you're looking at five bucks or less for the same document.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Blogger Beta

Well I bit the bullet and made the switch over to the new version of Blogger, but I'll need to update my layout before most of the new features will show.

Oh and vote for me!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Guns and Politics: DC Firearms Prohibitions

The current courtroom battle over the Washington DC residents' 2nd Amendment rights is shaping up well. We have the proponents:
"We interpret the 2nd Amendment in military terms," said Todd Kim, the District's solicitor general...
And at least one good judge:
"Show me anybody in the 19th century who interprets the 2nd Amendment the way you do," Judge Laurence Silberman said.
And then we have the scariness:
Silberman and Judge Thomas B. Griffith seemed to wrestle, however, with the meaning of the amendment's language about militias. If a well-regulated militia is no longer needed, they asked, is the right to bear arms still necessary?

"That's quite a task for any court to decide that a right is no longer necessary," Alan Gura, an attorney for the plaintiffs, replied.
Not only is it "quite a task" but it isn't their place. If you wish to rewrite the Bill of Rights, then do so. But you damn well better do it with the amendment process.

Blogging: New Blogger Version

Well it seems that the power that be at Google have figured out how to fix some of the older restrictions. Being on a group blog and a blog with over a thousand posts was good enough to keep you out, but no longer. Now I have this note saying I can change over whenever I want.

But do I want? That's the question. Any thoughts out there on the interweb? Last I heard blogger beta had it's issues. Any idea if they've been fixed? Comments, as always, are open.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Wheels: Aluminum Rims

Autoblog has a great YouTube clip of how they make forged and cast aluminum wheels for your car. There are a couple of clips of these folks shaping a hot aluminum rim as if they were just throwing a pot. I think it's pretty cool, but then again I'm an engineer so I would.

Fun: Tactical String?

I've heard many things called tactical in my day: knives, guns, pants, fanny packs, even door stops... but silly string is a first for me. I can't deny that it's useful though.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Blogging: Vote "Baptist" in 2006!

The 2006 Weblog Awards

It seems that I am in the running for the Best of the Top 2501-3000 Blogs. Unfortunately so is fellow DCBA member Colossus of Rhodey and he's probably a better blogger than I am.

So to quote Black Adder, there is only one thing left to do: Cheat! Pretend you're a Chicago Democrat and vote early and often on whatever computer you can lay your hands on. Err, once the polls open on the 7th.

Fun: Strange Design Esthetics

I guess the Soviets went through an interesting design period in the late '70s into the '80s. The first building gave me a flashback of John Huston's voice describing Minas Tirith from the old Rankin-Bass version of Return of the King.

Not that the US is any different. I remember visiting my sister when she was doing her doctoral work at Cornell, there was a museum designed to look like a sewing machine for no particular reason I can remember.

Via Digg and my brother.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Guns: Assembling an AR

I'm thankful that I built Mabel exactly the opposite from how this guy put together his AR-15. I assembled my own lower and bought a custom upper from a reputable manufacturer/assembler. It is my opinion that unless you intend to build a lot of AR-15s, or do a lot of customizing on a single one, you are better off going my route.

You are only going to make a profit of a couple hundred dollars by building your own gun instead of just buying one. Half of that is in the lower and half is in the upper. Now the lower doesn't require expensive tools. You need a hammer, a pin punch or two, and a wrench most stock-manufacturers throw in for free. I had all that stuff lying around my apartment. On the other hand building an upper requires a vice, a sturdy work table to clamp it to, a receiver block, a barrel wrench, and some other odds and ends. You can easily blow that hundred dollars you "saved" on tools you may never use again.

Also keep in mind that the upper is where the accuracy is or isn't. Building an accurate AR is just putting a quality barrel into the upper and a good trigger into the lower. The latter is easy. The former is trickier. If you put too much torque on something (or not enough) it will show in how your gun shoots. Why risk it? Just buy the darn thing assembled.

Blogging: Reading Patents

I seldom enjoy the media's coverage of technology. The media operates on principles it shares with sales, sometimes for good reason given salesmen's use of press releases. Salesmen like to say that a good salesman can sell anything. Suits, stationery, cars, houses, doesn't matter. Reporters like to think that a good reporter can write on anything. Local, religious, politics, op-ed, etc. Unfortunately this isn't actually true. Salesmen are much better at selling what they know and reporters are much better at writing what they know. And most writers don't really know technology.

But sometimes even bloggers I respect get it wrong. Whenever you see someone railing about the outrageousness of a patent, read the patent. In the case of the McDonald's sandwich patent, a quick read will demonstrate that they aren't trying to patent making a sandwich with ordinary utensils like you or I would do. What they are trying to do is patent the process and associated tools they have developed to quickly produce sandwiches in a streamlined process within the food-service industry. This won't effect you at home at all, but if the patent does go through then Quizno's or Subway might have cause for concern. McDonald's new process is probably better than what those sandwich makers currently use and by patenting it, McD's competitors can't just copy it.

Politics: Bolton Goes Bye-Bye

I share AnonymousOpinion's sadness. Unlike others in the administration like Donald Rumsfeld, John Bolton has done a great job. I don't know that he has convinced a lot of people to vote our way, but he toed the line and was generally pretty well respected at that institution. People knew where he stood and that he wasn't going to take crap. And I can respect that.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Review: Thank God It's Only a Rental

Dodge Caliber

So Amy has a Caliber right now while her Civic is being repaired post-theft. Let's just say that I'm really happy we're not paying to drive this thing.

Our Caliber is a mid-grade SXT. Which means the interior shouldn't be cheap but it still is. The car itself has a peaky 2.0 liter engine with a narrow power band located way up in the RPM band. The engine doesn't have any life below about 4500 RPM (peak torque is at 5200, peak horsepower at 6500). And the gearing is too tall because they went for fuel economy. If you stand on the accelerator, you wait several seconds for the car to accelerate to the point that it can actually accelerate. And the car is 3000+ lbs, pretty heavy for a "compact".

But of course the combination of the high beltline, low roofline, and poor window layout means that you can't see out it anyway. So whats the point of having enough power to get out of someone's way if you can't see them in the first place?

My Mazda has an engine the same size, but the gearing is lower and the powerband is wider so it doesn't have these problems. It is also much lighter so I get similar gas mileage. Oh, and I can see out of it.

The Camry

My parents are Toyota fans. Ever since we bought a Camry in the mid 1980s, they switched over to the Japanese and haven't looked back. They currently have a late '90s Camry and a Sienna minivan. I dislike both of their current cars. They are slow and don't turn well, so they drive like Japanese Buicks. I believe my brother concurs.

But the 2007 Camry rental I drove down south last week was pretty nice. It was a four cylinder but was peppy and handled well. The interior looked nice and everything worked, with one exception: the automatic transmission lever was confusing as hell. Unlike most of the standard forward and back affairs, this one was shaped like some sort of strange lightning bolt. You can kind of see it in this picture. You have forward, reverse, neutral, and gear settings for 5 or less, 4 or less, etc. So there are 8 positions on the stick and some of them are next to each other. We drove around for quite a while before we realized we were locked out of overdrive because the stick was too the left instead of the right.

Just make it tip-tronic Toyota, ok? Their higher trim grades have them and it's the same 5-speed in both cars. My Mazda has a similar lightning bolt shifter pattern, but all the "or less" gears are condensed into a "manual" mode that lets you just select what you want within reason. It works well and if you don't want to use the manual mode, it is easy to just ignore it, unlike in the Camry which is just befuddling.

Gear: Those Wonderful Toys

Interesting tech toys I've noticed in the past week:

When the British took to calling flashlights "electric torches", I don't think they meant using them to actually set fire to things.

The big problem with a lot of locking knives is that if the lock breaks or the blade comes unlatched, the knife blade swings down onto your knuckles. I have had that happen once with a cheap swiss army knife. It sucked. The usual technique to prevent this is overbuild the knife lock so this can't happen. The Van Hoy Snap Lock has an interesting solution to this. While normal knives open and close in the plane of the blade, the Van Hoy's blade opens and closes perpendicular to it. The site has pictures that are worth a thousand of my words, but it is a very interesting idea.

Last but not least, building your own hovercraft (and playing games with it) over at MAKEblog. They call them Shoverboards. You can make one out of some duct tape, heavy plastic, a sheet of plywood, an old chair (or not), and a leaf blower. I suggest hearing and eye protection if you do though.

Fun: Cat Stuff

Amybear updated the cat blog with new pictures of his cuteness. She also notes the horrible failure rate of our laser pointers. We're on his third one. This seems to be caused by the general cheapness of the units we've found. They lack the proper circuitry necessary to prevent power spikes from burning out the Laser Emitting Diode.

Fun: Day of the Ninja

The Day of the Ninja, the counterpoint to Talk Like a Pirate Day, is tomorrow. Be sure to dress accordingly where appropriate.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Family: Why I'm No Longer Allowed to Leave the State

My business trip went well. I flew down south, worked hard, ate good food, and drank gallons of sweet tea. But things at home sucked for Amy.

Amy woke me up in my hotel room at 2 am Wednesday morning. Maybe it was 3 am. Really early anyway. Her car had been stolen. The good news is that she found out her car was stolen because the police pulled the thief over while he was driving it. The police made some phone calls to track down the vehicle's owner. Eventually Amy and a local cop were able to confirm that yes her car was not where she parked it.

Amy had a sleepless night (as did I a thousand miles away) and, because I was out of town, she had to take care of all the details of insurance and getting the car from an impound in Dover back to our local shop. She did a great job and I'm very proud of her. But she is definitely not happy about it.

She's also feeling very vulnerable and understandably so. It's time to sit down and start teaching her about guns again. I think I'll start with basics of grip and stance (since she seemed to be having trouble with that on our last range excursion) I can do that with an airsoft pistol in the comfort of our home.

It's also time see if BJs carries the Club. And I need to buy defensive ammo. My stock of 55 grain 5.56 should work in the AR, but I want some hollowpoints for the Hipower and 1911. I'm thinking 185 grain or 230 grain JHPs in .45 and 147 grain JHPs in 9mm. I haven't researched the subject in a few years, so I need to look into good cost-effective ammo.

Government: Abuse

Anonymous asked me "Why didn't you think of this?"

Who says I didn't? The problem is that I took an oath and I don't break oaths easily. The other is that these people eventually get caught and then they go to jail. I don't want that either.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Family: 6 Months and Counting...

Six months ago today, I married the most beautiful woman in the whole world. How are we celebrating? I'm leaving town on a business trip and will be gone until Friday. I guess that's what my wife gets for marrying such a bad boy.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Guns and Politics: Liberty

Someone's signature on a firearms forum I frequent had the following quote from a New York Times editorial written by editor (and huge liberal) Verlyn Klinkenborg:
Sometimes I think the N.R.A. isn’t really about guns at all. It’s about making certain that the public — our political and civil society, in other words — has no ability to limit the rights of an individual. That is really what the logic of the “concealed carry” and “shall require” and “shoot first” laws says.

Guns make a perfect test case, because the end result is an armed cohort that is very prickly about its personal rights.
Uh oh, fellas, they're catchin' on!

Lord knows this is why I give the NRA my money in any case. The 2nd Amendment is not in the Constitution to protect hunters. It is there so that the people will have the means to violently resist local tyrants and overthrow their own government if necessary.

UPDATE: David asked if Short Barreled Rifles are legal in Delaware. A quick scan of the Delaware Code indicates that silenced firearms, automatic weapons, and any sort of short-barreled or sawed-off shotgun are illegal. The law does not mention short barreled rifles so they may be legal in Delaware provided you purchase them legally and have the appropriate tax stamp to satisfy federal law.

Guns: Tiny Terrors

Several people have shown me this .17 caliber small scale browning machine gun. Frankly, were I to purchase a small caliber "automatic" weapon, it wouldn't be that one. The gun is a true Class III machine gun which means it is illegal in Delaware (and would require giving Uncle Sam additional money if it wasn't). .17 rimfire ammo isn't cheap either.

No I'd much rather go with a gatling gun in .22 long rifle. The ammo is cheap ($10 for 500 rounds) and it isn't a machine gun according to the Feds because you have to constant turn a crank to fire it. There are kits available so you can build one yourself, but they don't appeal to me. I would rather go with the unfortunately expensive small-scale historical guns.

Politics: Global Warming

Hurricane season ends on Thursday after a grand total of 9 named storms. A little over half made it to hurricane status. What did the globe stop warming or something?

Family: Leftovers

Amy and I dined on some lasagna my Uncle cooked for the crowd at my parents place over the weekend. And some pie and banana bread nobody got around to eating. Man, I have to start hitting the gym.

I have come to the realization that lasagna is practically the perfect "leftover" food. Once-cooked lasagna becomes "twice-baked" lasagna when you reheat it. Provided you don't overcook it, the reheated variety is even yummier than the original. I shall have to look into this further...

Blogging: Not the Grammar Police

But I might be an informant. I thought I did pretty well, especially for an engineer:
Your Language Arts Grade: 100%

Way to go! You know not to trust the MS Grammar Check and you know "no" from "know." Now, go forth and spread the good word (or at least, the proper use of apostrophes).

Are You Gooder at Grammar?
Make a Quiz

By the way, the last question does count. I did the test both ways to see. Thanks Anna.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Gear: Pneumatic Rocketry

My cousin's kids were playing with an Air Hogs pneumatic rocket during their stay at my parents place. It is an amazingly simple yet fun toy. My brother and I even had a go pumping it up and launching it. About the only way to hurt someone with it is if they're standing on top of the rocket when someone fires it off. When playing with careless 4 year-olds, that happens more than you might think. But even then I think most of the injury would be to the person's pride. Really, it's fun for all ages.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Fun: Taking Them at Their Word

Kim Du Toit is relating an amusing and surprisingly non-firearms related anecdote.
Clearly, our soon-to-be ex-motorcyclist is either a young man, or on his first marriage, or both. For the benefit of my Readers who may fall into any of these categories, allow me to translate.

“Do whatever the f*** you want!” does not actually mean you may do whatever you want.

It really means: “If you don’t buy me flowers within the next two hours, you’re a dead man.”
Yup. If a woman ever defers to your preference in a statement that includes an exclamation point or profanity, you're in trouble. It doesn't mean she actually defers to you. It means she is so angry with you that she can no longer articulate it.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

God and Politics: Thanksgiving

I really like Thanksgiving. It is probably my favorite holiday just because the Puritans seem to have gotten it right. They said that Christmas was too commercial (even in the 17th century) so lets establish a non-commercial holiday. A holiday you celebrate by getting the family together, thanking God, and eating food. And it worked.

To this day Thanksgiving is practically commercially incorruptible. Other than turkey sales and a few other things, businesses go from Halloween costumes straight to Christmas decorations. And Thanksgiving, if not about God in many households, is at least about family. Which I'm fine with because, in comparison, a modern Christmas is ultimately more about things than people.

Anyway, Steve put up the original Thanksgiving Proclamation made by George Washington in 1789. I'm sure if someone gave it today, people would be screaming "Theocracy!" Which just goes to show how far we have come.

Guns and Politics: No-Knocking on Heavens Door

So a 92 year-old woman was killed in a mistaken no-knock raid in Atlanta, Georgia. I initially saw it on Instapundit, but he links to good coverage at Reason. QandO also has good commentary and thankfully avoids standard Libertarian rhetoric like "how many people have to die in the War on some Drugs."

I hate no-knock warrants. Cato has a Google Maps chart of where they have gone wrong. It is an impressive list, yet it is not a comprehensive listing. While I conceed that these types of warrants may be necessary, I think police officers should be held liable for their actions in civil and even criminal courts when they go wrong (instead of assumed sovereign immunity). That should drastically reduce their frequency.

Guns: Abercrombie & Fitch

Why can't I get these at the mall? It would blow away an overpriced fleece that's for damn sure. At one point Abercrombie was much closer to Cabela's than its current incarnation. At least Old Navy hasn't gone crazy yet. I just wish I could buy an Colt 1851 there.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Wheels: Danish Speed Control

Words escape me. Might this have the same effect as traffic cameras, less speed but more frequent accidents?

Fun: Maps and Statistics

World Mapper scales the physical size of nations according to various statistics like land area, population, or GDP. Some make for interesting pictures, others make me wonder about how some statistics may skew analysis when used in a vacuum (like birth rate).

Blogging: Test of the Week

You paid attention during 100% of high school!

85-100% You must be an autodidact, because American high schools don't get scores that high! Good show, old chap!

Do you deserve your high school diploma?
Create a Quiz

Via Tamara.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Blogging: Speeling and Grammor

So I just searched my archives for the word "udpate." You know, my most common misspelling of "update". There were more occurrences of that than I care to admit. But they're fixed now. I wonder what other common transpositions I have lurking in my archive?

Wheels: The Super 7

Did you know that there was a Caterham 7 dealer in Wilmington? Yup Mid-Atlantic imports and sells them from New York to DC. I never realized they were so close.

Anyway, the Caterham cars are pretty amazing. Unfortunately they're also fairly expensive and impractical. Until you realize that a 7 will outrun and out-handle a Ferrari. The CSR can take an Enzo at a 20th the price. The $30-50k you spend on one might be a bargain.

Guns: What is Wrong with this Picture?

I've never tried to do that, but it can't be easy...

UPDATE: Here is a closer look...

For those not in the know, AR-15 mags don't normally bend that way. This police officer has somehow managed to put her magazine in the rifle upside down and backwards. How I don't know, because they're designed so that they won't go into the magazine well that way. It does not look like she has multiple mags clipped or taped together. Even if she did, they wouldn't normally bend that way.

Fun: Worst Burglar Ever and Friends

Anna Venger lead sent us this YouTube video after the Friday night DCBA meet up. Why doesn't it surprise me that this guy knew how to properly assume the position at the end of the video?

For another more self-deprecating bit of humor, check out this commentary on blogging from Philtube.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Gun Politics: Fool or Patriot

I don't know what to make of this guy. Long story short, a bunch good ole boys get together a form a militia under the laws of the state of Arkansas which provide for such things. As a duly constituted and regulated militia, they manufactured several sub-machine and machine guns. Then they called the Feds and asked whether the ATF would like to arrest them for what they did. After an 8 month long post-confession investigation, the Feds finally serve warrants and arrest them. They aim to test the constitutionality of current firearms law in court. Hopefully in the Supreme Court.

Well he's got stones. Brains? Jury is still out on that one, but definitely stones.

Politics: Vietnam and Iraq

Steve has this to say about President Bush's recent statements on the war:
So President Bush shared in his trip to Vietnam that one of the lessons learned from that war was, "We'll succeed unless we quit." What? That's the lesson we learned in Vietnam? I am not an expert in the Vietnam war, but I'm pretty sure that wasn't the primary lesson that we learned.
Actually it was, especially when you get down to the military nitty-gritty of the war. As someone who has worked or contracted for the US Army since I was in college, the lesson the military (and by extension the government) learned from Vietnam is that the only place we will lose a war is the home front. The enemy cannot stand against us in battle in either a fair or an unfair fight. They can sting us and hurt us, but they cannot stop us. But the people of the United States can and probably will lose heart if the enemy bloodies our nose badly enough and often enough.

Because of this realization, the military has extensively researched force-multiplying technologies since the end of the Vietnam War. Better armor. Better weapons. Robots to do dangerous missions instead of men. Etc. Etc. Why? So the enemy can't put pictures of American dead on TV like in Vietnam or Somalia or Iraq. The military can't fix America's glass jaw, so their only option is to try to win the war quickly and decisively so we don't take those casualties in the first place.

Gear: Sucking It Up

PGJF has this to say on vacuums:
Bagless is ten times filthier than any bag vacuum I had ever used. You have to empty the canister after each use, which means you have to do it outside if you don't want to spray dust everywhere (and I do mean everywhere) inside your house. The HEPA filter is great, except that it completely clogs after each use. So you have to remove and tap out the filthy, dusty filter after each use. It's positively nasty.
That is my experience with the bagless Dirt Devil I bought several years ago. I often have to vacuum and clean the kitchen after I empty the dirt cup, because there is no sense cleaning it before. Nasty gray dirt gets everywhere. And it seems Dirt Devil has changed filter designs on me so I'm just reusing the old one over and over. I generally prefer my parent's bagful machines to the current bagless ones.

I don't have any complaints about the suction or cleaning power of the vacuum itself though. Generally if it isn't picking anything up, it is because I've "vacuumed" our entire apartment with the vacuum set to "hose" instead of "floor". Doh.

Blogging: The Bloggies

Nominations for the 2006 Weblog Awards are now open. Physics Geek, Jesus Freak nominated me for Best Individual Blog. That's really flattering. And I didn't even have to twist his arm or put a gun to his head. As I have no chance of winning in that category, if someone wants to nominate me (hint hint nudge nudge knowhatimean) for something I might potentially win, then Best 2500 to 3500 Blog is probably the way to go.

Oh and did anyone notice that there is no Best Religious Blog category this year? I wonder why since God Blogging is a major blogging subcategory.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Gear: Small Scale CNC

I get to see cool stuff because of work sometimes. Working for the Army does that. Today that cool thing was a desktop or worktable-top computer controlled CNC mill. A bunch of robotics engineers needed a mill and rather than wait in line at the base machine shop, they just built one from the equivalent of an old drill press. There are sites to help you put the hardware together and free software to handle the Computer Numerical Control of the system.

Oh and if those engineers got really bored, maybe they'd CNC their Etchasketch.

UPDATE: Fixed the link to the Linux EMC software.

Fun: Zombie Games

Other battling the undead hordes in Urban Dead (which I really enjoy) you might want to try playing Zombies 4 and Winter Zombies. They're simple java-based shooters where you try to contain and confront a zombie outbreak on a series of maps. It's good fun. Winter Zombies seems to be a bit more difficult than Zombies 4 so you might want to start with Zombies 4 first.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Wheels: Minicars

If even I'm in Atlanta, I'm going to have to stop by the Bruce Weiner Microcar Museum. As their excellent website demonstrates, it's the home of more microcars than I thought existed in the US. The Whattadrag Isetta is great of course, but for some reason I kind of like the Messerschmitt KR200s and the lotus-esque styling of Goggomobil DART.

I can't help but wonder what would happen if you put a modern engine, even a sub-800cc motorcycle or scooter engine, into something like this. The KR200 only weighed 500-550 lbs, so it wouldn't take much. Unfortunately I doubt the suspension could handle it, but hey you'd have built yourself a pretty quick little coffin.

UPDATE: Hey somebody in the UK makes reproductions of these things.

UPDATE2: The ME KR200 is a trike, which means it is probably classified as a motorcycle in the US. Does that mean you might actually have a reason to own one of those stahlhelm-styled motorcycle helmets? I mean if I owned a Messerschmitt I'd certainly think about buying one. Or maybe a pickelhaube, that would have less Nazi overtones.

Guns: Marine Corps. Rules of Gunfighting

Joe Carter posts these oft-mentioned rules of combat. Also as usual, most of the comments that follow are barely worth reading. It really must suck to be Joe, he writes good stuff and then has it torn to pieces by idiots. Sometime I wonder why he keeps it up.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Fun: Evil Tree Rats

From Steve on squirrels:
It's been a little while now since the breaking and entering incident when one snuck in to my apartment, snagged a Little Debbie brownie and relaxed on my fouton, but I still find them to be strangely amusing but destructive little creatures.
I knew we got the cat for a reason.

Guns: Robbing the Wrong Guy Redux

Two guys break into your house and start threatening your kid with a pistol. What do you do? You grab the only weapon that is handy, in this case a sword you have under the couch, and cut the guy's trigger finger off before he can do any damage. He and his buddy high tail it. The best part? The cops print the finger and the guy had a record.

Gear: Electric Motors

MakeZine is linking to these old plans for building your own electric motor. We made something like this in high school as a lab experiment. Lets just say that it didn't go very well for most of us. The plans we used were frankly pretty crappy and everyone had trouble getting them to work. In the end we had to make them work by altering the design as best we could. I think I finally threw my motor out when Amybear and I were busy trying to fit all our stuff into one apartment.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Fun: Great Caesar's Ghost!

I'm no Perry White, but two British cops dressing up as Batman and Robin to catch a crook off his guard is hilarious. Several British papers are covering it. A few funny quips:
PC Eames said: "The bad thing about the operation is that we had to endure hours of terrible puns from PC Holman [who was dressed as Robin]."
Unfortunately form didn't exactly follow function:
"But it was difficult finding somewhere to put my CS spray. There was nowhere for the handcuffs, but then Batman does not need handcuffs."
Come on Sgt Smith, everyone knows that is what the utility belt is for!

Will they do it again next year? Same bat-time, same bat-constabulary?

Fun: Shonen Knife

Shonen Knife is what you get when you have Ramones-style music played by Japanese women. Turns out Amybear likes them a lot after being introduced to them by my brother. I have to admit that a lot of the tracks on their Happy Hour CD are darned catchy.

Guns: Robbing the Wrong Guy

If you're going to hold up a used car salesman, don't rob the one in the NRA hat.

As an aside, I'm not fond of wearing second amendment related merchandise while carrying. Whenever I see someone wearing pro-gun t-shirts or hats, I start looking for tell-tale lumps or concealment devices. Is that a fanny pack placed in the cross-draw position? A big lump on their belt? A "photographers" vest with nary a camera in sight? Come on people, at least try.

I remember way back when one of the News Journal Columnists, maybe Rhonda Graham, suggested that Delaware should require individuals exercising their concealed carry permits to wear a special identifying badge to let people know that they were armed. It was a very stupid idea, especially considering the tiny number of Delawareans who are actually allowed to carry by the state. Yet hundreds of gunnies do it to themselves when they walk out of the house.

Gear: The True Meaning of Tools

If Mister Murphy wrote a metal shop manual, it would look much likethe descriptions of tools and shop devices written by other members of Team Moon Robotics. A friend of mine had a Mustang for which this holds true:

A tool ten times harder than any known drill bit that snaps off in bolt holes you couldn't use anyway.
Their description of the true nature of owners manuals (A completely useless object containing the manufacturer's liability disclaimers and inane safety warnings) is equally true.

Gear: The Hammock

Thanksgiving is approaching and with it my family's annual contest to see how many relatives we can cram into my parents house for the holiday weekend. Perhaps these would be of some use. Or maybe not.

I actually spent a week or two sleeping in a hammock on a missions trip to Mexico back in High School. We were building a seminary down there. The hammock is still around somewhere, but I never found the thing to be minutely comfortable. Even when I was in my teens and they bothered my back if I spent any amount of time in them. I can't imagine what a hammock would do to me now.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Guns and Politics: Gun Control

Now that the Democrats are in control of congress, the big question is "How long until we see gun control legislation coming out of the Capitol Building?"

It's a good question. Gun control has been one of the issues that the Democrats have avoided in the past few years, largely because it has been seen as a loser for them. They passed the Assault Weapons Ban in '94 and lost Congress. Bill Clinton has blamed gun control for Gore's lost in the 2000 presidential election. And the new class of Democrats are a fairly conservative bunch for the party considering how heavily they mined the ex-military for candidates.

That said I still don't trust them. I agree with most of the firearms community, that a new Assault Weapons Ban or other more egregious legislation could find its way into the next anti-terror bill. So I'll be stocking up on high capacity magazines for my AR-15 and Hipower just in case. Oh and I may put together that cartridge converted C&B cowboy pistol I've wanted for a while. It can't hurt to have a pistol off the books (but still legal) at this point.

What is really going to hurt is the coming tax increase. Most of the Democrats around here seem to have run on that platform. That is going to really cut into any money I can put towards a house especially in terms of monthly mortgage payments.

Guns and Politics: Veterans Day

It's tomorrow, but have you thanked a vet yet?

I've always been to republish past posts, but this one from a D-Day is still topically relevant.

UPDATE: This is how to thank a vet properly.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Politics: Rumsfeld Resigns

Good. People have been saying that we are losing the war for a while. "Iraq is sliding into Civil War, etc." We've heard that for months on end. And mostly it's scaremongering. They're generally wrong about us losing the war. We're taking constant, but sustainable, losses. That doesn't mean we're losing the war. Losing the war is taking constant and unsustainable losses. There is a difference.

But taking constant losses is still a problem. It means things aren't getting any better. We are currently just holding our positions. We aren't winning. We aren't going to lose in Iraq unless we lose our will to fight (which may have happened yesterday). But we can't keep doing what we're doing and expect good things to come of it.

We need to change, adapt, and overcome to win. Rumsfeld has been hesitant to do any of that. So he's out. And I don't think many people will miss him.

Fun: Lockpicking

Just what we need in these troubled times, a comic book on how to pick locks.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Politics: Voting Twice

It occurs to me that I might be able to vote twice. No, I didn't discover a dead aunt who is still on the voting roles. We all know Democrats get the zombie vote anyway. No, my lovely wife simply hasn't made up her mind yet. I think all the TV advertising has brought her to the conclusion that all the candidates are lying. Well to some extent they probably are. But after dinner tonight when I head to the polls, I'll be trying to convince her to join me in voting for Ferris Wharton with my last breath.

Oh and for other stories of people voting twice or not at all, try Colossus. And remember, if the Republicans scrape by, it's a fix. And voting for Black Republicans is voting for Barrabas.

Political Fun: Comedy Gold

Via Locusts and Honey, it's the further comedy stylings of John Kerry!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Family: Darn Genetics

Ah so it's recessive gene MC1R that I have to blame for my inability to tan. Darn you Chromosome 16!

Fun: The Trojan Horse

It still works in Australia, although it seems the Turks learned their lesson. Via Geek with a .45.

Family: The Southern End of a Northbound Cat

Well we found out something is wrong with our cat. Or should I say that something else is wrong with the cat since he has already been treated for worms and some minor flea troubles.

Milo had an accident last week. It was all the more momentous because he had it on me while I was half asleep in bed. We had purchased a new litter box a few days before, it was covered and I assumed this was our cat telling to us that he didn't like the new way of doing things. We took the lid off the box and haven't had any more trouble. Amybear, being a better kitty parent than I am, though he might being having urinary tract trouble in addition to trouble with the litter box.

A few days later I went with her to our vet, who is an interesting guy. He just seems to spend a lot of time around animals and perhaps not enough time around people. When we told him what was going on, he suggested that there might be urinary tract trouble and proceeded to feel up the cat to see whether he could provide a urine sample. Milo hadn't gone in a while so the vet took him into the next room and squeezed the piss out of him. Literally.

When the lab results came back, it turns out that Milo does indeed have a moderate problem with crystals in his urine. Sort of like kitty kidney stones, only not as severe. We're in the process of switching him onto a special diet and Amybear is looking into a new water dish or other product to get his fluid intake up.

UPDATE: Amybear has a slightly more up-to-date take on the story at the cat blog.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Gear: Fun with Electrochemistry

So you have an LED, thirteen pennies, thirteen dimes, thirteen metal paperclips, an ice cube tray, and some salt water. What else do you have? A flashlight. File that away in your survival tech folder.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Fun: Accents

From Hube:

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: Philadelphia

Your accent is as Philadelphian as a cheesesteak! If you're not from Philadelphia, then you're from someplace near there like south Jersey, Baltimore, or Wilmington. if you've ever journeyed to some far off place where people don't know that Philly has an accent, someone may have thought you talked a little weird even though they didn't have a clue what accent it was they heard.

The Midland
The Inland North
The South
The Northeast
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

Fun: Powerpoint Rangers

Heh, you'd think this would have occurred to me while I was making slides today.

Fun: Truest T-shirt Evar

From the Onion, via Tamara.

Update: Well that was an embarrassing typo. It seems Firefox's spell checker contains some four letter words I didn't expect. I'll have to remember that.

Fun: Urban Dead

If you're feeling a little bored, try Urban Dead. It's an online massive multiplayer where you are a survivor of the zombie apocalypse. Or one of the zombies. You play it through your web browser via a scripting language. Currently I'm the latter, largely because I chose the wrong class to start with (fireman or scout are good choices if you want to live). Scouts get you into buildings. Firemen have an axe so you can't ever run out of ammo.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Politics: John Frickin' Kerry

Truth be told, I'm sick of this election cycle and have been for months. You probably have noticed that considering the amount of time I'm spending writing about the cat and what girlie movies Amy made me watch this weekend. And I'm already sick of John Kerry. I've been sick of him for over two years now.

But this response to his recent comments by the Minnesota National Guard deserves a link. Via the Anchoress.

Wheels: Steaming Away

So I have steam power on my mind right now. For fun stuff to look at I suggest the Steam Car Club of Great Britain and Steam Automobile Club of America. I especially like the Field Mk II steam bike at the UK site. Steam bikes seem like the way to go from a practical (if steam power can be called practical) sense since it gets you around a lot of motor vehicle regulations. If I ever want to really piss Amybear off, a steam bike is the garage project for me.

Gear: The Periodic... Spiral?

What an interesting idea. As many people remember from high school and college chemistry, the periodic table is useful. But in many ways it is only sort of useful. Hydrogen is only sort of like the other elements in its column. You have that staircase where properties start shifting as the atoms get bigger. The lanthanides and actinides don't really fit where they belong in the middle of the table. The periodic spiral tries to remedy all that. Whether it actually does it is for you to decide.

Family: All Saints Day

I hope everyone enjoyed Halloween. Amybear and I celebrated by dressing up the cat. Doesn't he look happy? I hope everyone celebrates All Saints Day with equal vigor, by ... uh ... going to convenience stores and picking up lots of candy for 50% off. As a good Christian, I intend to do my duty in that regard.

Review: Lost Loses a Viewer

I'm not a Lost watcher. It seemed like too much work to me at the time. Now that it's a few seasons in, it is definitely too much work for me to catch up. So I never got the show and I never got into the show. Now people that have and did are getting out:
I'm acting as Gabe's proxy in this strip - essentially, he's "broken up" with Lost. It's complicated by the fact that he holds weekly "Lost Nights," where Lost-themed snacks are sometimes offered, but he's come to conclusion that there's no story actually being told. He no longer believes that events are happening according to some overarching plan. Watching the show now is apparently awful, because where he once perceived a carefully revealed structure he now just sees a couple guys out back beneath a tarp, flashlights held under the chin.
That sounds like the reason I stopped watching the X-files in college. There wasn't any there there. X-files had lots of different puzzle pieces, but it was pretty apparent that the writers had never figured out what the picture looked like before they made the pieces. Nothing really fit. I wonder if Lost is having similar problems.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Wheels: Steam Car Speed Records

The British Steam Car Challenge noticed that the steam powered land speed record of has stood for over a hundred years. It was set at 121.57 mph in January of 1906. The Brits have decided to do something about it.

I considered making some pithy references to steam punk and Queen Victoria here, but honestly I've been thinking about steam cars for a while and not just because Jay Leno owns two. I wonder if examining the old technology would result in new found efficiency.

You see with the internal combustion engines you have a pretty involved system. Fuel and air has to get into the combustion chamber, get burned efficiently, and the results have to get pumped out. Then the process repeats. You have to worry about fuel spray and flame fronts and all sorts of things.

On the other hand with a steam engine, you can decouple the combustion process from the rest of the engine mechanics. Fuel burns efficiently in the boiler to produce pressurized steam (which can be handled in a closed system via condensers so you don't need to regularly add water). The steam is then used to carry that energy to the pistons. Unlike modern gasoline engines, you don't have waste products from combustion you have to expel which means an efficient two-stroke engine is fine. Even better, you can push the pistons both ways (up and down) and use the steam as it's own lubricant for the engines internals. Potentially this could create a very robust and efficient engine.

The problem is weight and start up time. Old steam engines used relatively lightweight, but still heavy, boilers which took a long time to reach operating temperature and pressure. But I think modern boiler design could overcome that. While we haven't been developing steam engines all this time, we have been developing more advanced boiler designs for all sorts of other uses like power plants and heating systems.

So I'm hopeful. Maybe the ecological answer to making power is steam. Wouldn't that be a kick?

God: The Inhumanity of Man

Have you ever heard the old saw that men are the only animals that kill for sport? Animals just kill to eat, but humans kill for fun. This is because we're so evil compared to the rest of creation or something. A month and a half of cat ownership has blown that whole concept out of the water.

We have a minor bug problem. Somehow crickets finagle their way into the apartment. I think we have some foundation cracks or something. BC, before cat, I took care of them by spraying them with insecticide or picking them up in a tissue and crushing their fragile six-legged bodies within my mighty fist. But now we have a cat, so generally one of us just points the cat towards the bug and watches him deal with it. In a way Milo performs an important "man of the house" function for Amy when I'm not home.

Lets just say I grant the insects a much quicker death than the cat. They meet their ends with overwhelming force from a Strong's Concordance or other solid reference work. Or the aforementioned mighty fist. My cat, on the other hand, plays with them until they tire and then he kills them right before he loses interest. On at least one occasion, I've had mercy on a bug Milo had discovered and killed it quick. Milo was very disappointed. In me.

And he doesn't eat these bugs. They do go into his mouth briefly so that he can administer the death bite, but he generally just leaves the carcass on the floor for Amybear to find later. Which she loves doing by the way.

If I hear this whole men are the evilest animals schtick again, I'll just tell that hippy to get a cat. I'm not saying we're good and cats are evil. I'm saying that once again my belief in the sinful screwed-upedness of the universe is confirmed.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Blogging: Firefox 2.0

Several people in my workplace are browser rebels. We use Firefox instead of the organization standard Netscape. Up until recently this was a major scandal. We were recently told by our IT group that it was fine so long as we performed the regular updates.

Initial reviews seemed positive, so I became our Firefox 2.0 guinea pig. So far so good and I like the automatic spell check. I've used it a few times in this post already and you'd have never known if I hadn't told you. All my bookmarks and settings seem to have ported over from just fine. I'll have to play around with skins sometime when I don't have work to do.

UPDATE: I'm having an awful time getting 2.0 to load blogspot blogs. Not sure why.

Fun: The Corns A-Poppin'

While I don't use the scent to mask any sort of personal aroma, I have gotten a similar reaction to making popcorn at work. I usually bring two bags from home in case I create too much hot-buttered popcorn lust at the office.

Politics: Ouch!

Via Steve Lamp:
It looks like baseball isn't the only thing Detroit is second to St. Louis in. Though maybe that's not such a bad thing in this case.
The morning radio show I listen to out of Baltimore were very happy that B-more had dropped six places on the list and is now out of the top ten. I don't see any Delaware cities on the publicly released parts of the list, which isn't a bad thing.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Fun: Parkour and Free Running

My brother showed me a video of Russian guys doing a sort of apartment complex gymnastics in some abandoned Russian housing project. It seem the phenomenon is really popular in Europe and YouTube is full of similar videos.

Technically this is "free running" since they're doing tricks. Parkour is dedicated to "efficient movement" so un-needed tricks are out. Most people can't tell the difference of course.

Politics: Refreshing Dialogue from the Left

McQ is right, this Camille Paglia interview at Salon is amazing. I like hearing from Democrats who make sense and she definitely makes sense.

Fun: Don't Mess with the SAS

65 years after they were founded to fight the Nazis, former members of the British Special Air Service are still kicking German ass.
"I saw his boot coming towards my face and I thought: 'No you don't, sunshine.' I grabbed his leg and twisted it until he too was screaming out in agony.

"Then I got to my feet and kicked him in the chest."
The article is a blow-by-blow of this 70 year-old grandfather of three taking the fight out of four German muggers. Man I need to read through my copy of the SAS Self-Defense Handbook again.

For those not in the know, the SAS are the original commandos. The US Delta Force is largely modeled after them.

Via Kim du Toit.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Reviews: Stick It to the Proposition

So Amy and I rented two movies this weekend that I'm just getting around to mentioning.

Stick It

Stick It is Bring It On with gymnastics. Except that it lacks most of the talent and racial tension that gave the latter movie its edge. Instead the conflict is between the main character, gymnastics bad girl Haley Graham, and most of the rest of gymnastics world including coaches, judges, and other athletes. The movie generally tells its story from her point of view and criticizes much of professional gymnastics, especially the judges. Whether that criticism is actually warranted, I honestly don't know.

Stick It kind of works and I don't regret renting it. I think it would be a good movie choice for pre-teen children. It is edgy in that suburban pre-teen way totally clean movies can be. I think a lot of adults and older children might get bored.

The Proposition

This is an Austrailian "western" starring Guy Pierce. I'm not going to waste your time with a summary of this movie, because it sucks. There really are no good points that are good enough to make it worth seeing. I like westerns, but I hated this movie.

For what ever reason, nobody makes a good western anymore, except perhaps Tom Selleck and TNT. Probably because westerns have become plodding dramas not action movies (as most of them really were). Filmmakers today don't seem to know how to make an action film without huge fireballs and explosions. Thankfully I can still see good old westerns on cable TV whenever I want.

Family: Health Benefits Meet Mr. Murphy

They're offering new ones at work, most importantly they're finally going to be offering dental and vision benefits which I would certainly use. Unfortunately for me, while discussing this with my coworkers I removed my glasses saying "well these have held up pretty well for me so far" and then they broke. And the new benefits don't start until January even if I did sign up for them. Great...

UPDATE: Well I went back to the Lenscrafters at Christiana Mall where I originally bought my glasses. Unfortunately they don't carry my frames anymore so they couldn't just put a new earpiece on. Fortunately they were able to use a cross between scotch tape and Shrinky Dinks to put my earpiece back on as a temporary fix. It should hold until I can get an eye exam and new glasses.

Politics: Ditto

From Ryan at Jokers to the Right:
The more I thought about it, the Lesson of 1998 kept coming to the forefront of my mind. If Jason and his ilk gain control of Congress in January, then this country will be torn apart by investigation after investigation and trial after trial. Most will turn out like the Clinton impeachment proceedings, politically motivated, damaging to the political enviroment in general, and mostly fruitless. I am sure that many of you remember the Plamegate/Libby thing that turned from anticipation of Dick Cheney on a silver platter- 'Fitzmas," to nothing. Imagine two years of that.

I think the Republicans deserve to lose. They have done nothing to merit my votes, but the Democrats have done everything to make me want to keep them out of power for the next two years.
Yup. I'm not voting Republican because they deserve it. Frankly I don't like anything they've done in the last 2 years. No I'm generally voting Republican because the Democrats haven't show that they have the capacity to do any better. So I'm hoping the Republicans dodge the bullet, but that it doesn't miss by much. Maybe it'll wake the bastards up so they start doing the peoples' business for once.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Fun: Coffee Anyone?

You Are an Espresso
At your best, you are: straight shooting, ambitious, and energetic

At your worst, you are: anxious and high strung

You drink coffee when: anytime you're not sleeping

Your caffeine addiction level: high

Fun: Fortune Cookie Wisdom

We have a regular cycle of after-church lunch spots on Sundays. This week was the Grand East chinese buffet by Naamans and Foulk. All-you-can-eat sushi, chinese, etc. what's not to like? Anyway this was my fortune:
You will have many friends when you need them.
The writer would have won extra Confuscious points if the back had said "You will have even more friends when they need you."

Guns and Politics: Bans and Crime

Turns out banning guns hasn't changed the homicide rate in Austrailia. Massive abridgement to the fundamental right of self-defense. No effect on crime whatsoever. This is similar to observed effects in the UK where crime has actually gotten worse.

It could be worse. They passed a sweeping gun ban in South Africa a while back. It was successful enough that criminals started killing cops just to take their sidearms.

Of course, the right way to reduce crime is not by trying to regulate the criminals. That obviously doesn't work because criminals don't care about the law. The right way is by allowing the public to defend themselves from criminals with equal and opposite force. But that is dangerous so we'll never see it.

God: Anti-Christians

So Paul suggested Hugh Hefner as a model anti-christian. He spreads sexual immorality and calls it sexual liberation. He does evil and calls it good. He's a good choice, but I had more of a scientist/philosopher. Joe Carter provided an excellent example when I was reading his blog this morning: Richard Dawkins.

Dawkins is an athiest and secular humanist. He is originally an evolutionary theorist and popular scientist who has largely devoted his life to opposing religion and convincing people that religion is something of a mental virus. Of course he does this under the guise of bringing them enlightenment.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

God: Why Only One?

I'm History Channel fan, both because I'm a history nut and because it is a non-pharmaceutical cure to Amybear's occassional bouts of insomnia. While I watched an show on Dracula's castles last night, I didn't catch the one on the Anti-Christ. Paul Smith did though:
In it, historians speculated on past historical figures who had been identified, however incredibly, as the Anti-Christ. Names suggested included Hitler, Mussolini, and Ronald Reagan (!).
I often wonder how useful or accurate "end times" theology is. It seems like there are major differences in points of view (a-, pre-, post-millenial, etc.). Some of the big concepts that have impacted our culture are either vaguely mentioned or created by inferring information from multiple disconnected sources and prophecies. For instance the word Anti-Christ comes from John's letters like here in 1 John 2:18:
Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come.
You'll note that while the Anti-Christ is often referred to as a singular figure John uses the plural. Why does everyone today talk about the anti-christ as if there were only one of them and try to analyze the Bible in the same way. 1 John 2:22 continues his discussion on the subject.
It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist—he denies the Father and the Son.
And in 2 John 1:7...
Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.
So we talk about the Anti-Christ figure, but really we're combining aspects of "The Beast" from Revelations along with sections of the book of Daniel. Perhaps that is appropriate, but perhaps not. Oddly enough we're rarely talking about 1st and 2nd John which are the only places the word "antichrist" really shows up in the Bible.

To go back to Paul's point, I also think our conception of evil is biased towards the flashy. Yes Hitler was evil and killed lots of people. But frankly I'm more concerned with John's anti-christs, those slowly eroding the foundation of the Gospel and the difficult truths therein with easy "liberating" lies.