Friday, April 28, 2006


John is having a small discussion on Total Depravity over at his place. As a Closet Calvinist, as opposed to one of the Truly Reformed, I have found the discussion somewhat interesting.

Some background for those not versed in Calvinist Theology. Total Depravity is the first of the five points of Calvin's theology regarding salvation. The five points are total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistable grace, and perseverence of the saints and are often abbreviated using the anagram TULIP.

Total Depravity states that people are inherently sinful and incapable of contributing to our own salvation. All that is good about us as human beings is graciously given to us by a loving God as part of being made in His image. Calvin based this theological concept heavily on Romans 3:9-20.

Just how "totally" we are depraved is up for grabs though as John's comments attest.

Immigration Irritation

The Geek is linking to this article on California's reaction to illegal immigrants staging boycotts:
California's state senators on Thursday endorsed Monday's boycott of schools, jobs and stores by illegal immigrants and their allies as supporters equated the protest with great social movements in American history.

By a 24-13 vote that split along party lines, the California Senate approved a resolution that calls the one-day protest the Great American Boycott 2006 and describes it as an attempt to educate Americans "about the tremendous contribution immigrants make on a daily basis to our society and economy."
These boycotts are an attempt by the illegal immigrant community to strong arm the rest of us into supporting their position. Everyone, Republican or Democrat, is slowly coming around to this undeniable fact. The difference is how we will react to the thinly veiled threat.

As California demonstrates, when the Democrats are faced with a confrontation they put up some token political resistance so they don't appear like complete cowards and then they go into full appeasement mode. Illegal immigration isn't a problem. They just want honest work. Blah, blah, blah, lets just pay them off with other people's money.

As California also demonstrates, Republicans don't necessarily react that way. This is a problem and problems need to get fixed. The solution is either:
  • Lets make these people legal immigrants and get them into the democratic process. Hopefully they'll love us (the Republican especially) for it and vote our way.
  • How dare these people enter our country illegally and then start throwing their weight around demanding that we reward them after breaking our laws. Let's built a big damn wall and put as many of them on the other side of it as fast as we can.
I favor the second option because the first seems like little more than wishful thinking, political opportunism. You aren't fixing the problem when you make a whole new big one at the end.

So soon we're going to see how this shakes out. I think most Americans, especially in the immigrant heavy border states, are going to side with the Big Damn Wall methodology. If the Republicans turn into the Democrats with what is basically a program of appeasement through amnesty, then they're going to lose because I see no reason to keep them around. Why? Because I voted for Republicans, you dumbasses! I wanted elected officials who have a pair of big brass ones! It's things like this that make we want to run for office.

UPDATE: McQ thinks this activism is going to backfire as well:
Americans are a generous people. And, as was demonstrated during the civil rights era, they will admit being wrong and work to correct that wrong. But they don't like being pushed and they aren't particularly sympathetic to people who demand things they don't deserve.
Well at least my opinions are in good company.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Transformers that Never Were

Parkimus Metron is just number three on the list.

Go The Extra Mile?

There was a useful analysis on the news a few days ago. It was about the economy of driving farther to pay less for gas. Unfortunately I didn't see it, but I bet I can recreate it with some simple analysis.

Divide the gas prices in your area ($2.899/gallon) by the fuel economy of your car (29 mpg). This gives you the fuel cost to drive your car a mile. For my car this is about 10 cents. Now the actual operation cost per mile is higher than this because you have to account for repairs, oil changes, etc. But that stuff varies by car and driver temperament, so for me 10 cents/mile is an ok estimate.

Now divide this by the number of gallons in a typical fill up. For me that's between 10 and 12 gallons. This gives you the amount you need to save to drive that extra mile to the next gas station. For me I need to save about 1 cent/gallon/mile of extra driving. So if I drive 5 miles to save 2 cents/gallon, I'm coming out on the short end of the stick.

Chances are you will get around a penny per gallon per mile as well. Larger cars may have lower fuel economy and cost more per mile, but will have larger gas tanks so that you save more when you do fill up.

Now this is a very basic analysis so keep the following things in mind:
  • Gas prices fluctuate and so does your cars gas mileage. This is at best a rule of thumb.
  • The 1 cent/gallon/mile is actually a minimum estimate based on fuel costs. It could be 2 for some people when you factor in other operation costs as well.
  • That 1 cent only applies if you are just driving to get gas. Getting gas is the only thing you are doing for that leg of the trip. If you are driving for other reasons don't worry about it the 1 cent. If you pass a lot of gas stations going to work, stop at the cheapest one not the first one. You were going to drive by them all anyway. I like to get gas at BJs in Newcastle which is a hike from my place. But I only get gas there coming home from the gun range or when doing other shopping in Newcastle. I'm not making a special trip so there is no sense in trying to calculate it.
  • None of this takes into account that you may not know if the next station will be cheaper. That is an expected value problem and is a lot harder.
If you want to get the cheapest gas on the way home, planning is good. I hate passing a gas station up only to realize that they had a good deal after I get to the next one. For gas prices in your area, try MSN's local gas price site. All you need is a zip code and it will hook you up with the best, worst, and everything in between.

Health Care

Dale Franks is writing on health care and comparing various care systems found around the world. The thing I really really hate about all the Democrat health care proposals is that they are all modeled after the British and Canadian systems. Those systems suck and rather than repeat their mistakes we should learn from them.

On the other hand the French and German healthcare systems seem to work better, but they are not single-payer socialist systems. They are more of a private/public hybrid. But they would still require a massive amount of investment to make them work and I can't see where we would get the money.

Dale has a lot more on this subject so please go read his stuff.

Political Comparisons

Usually I don't link to the junkmail solicitations I often receive. But this satirical test of conservative, liberal, libertarian, and communist ideologies is pretty funny. Here is an example:
What is the meanest most low-down thing a person can do during a kid's soccer game?

CONS: Cheat.
LIBL: Keep score.
LBRT: Play the game in a municipal park.
COMM: Hog all the glory by not being a team player.

Real Republicans

Frist and others have assembled 34 signatures to back a threatened presidential veto of a grossly bloating supplemental spending bill. Hooray! They're actually doing something right! There is one nice thing about gutless politicians who simply ape what they perceive to be the will of the people, sometimes they actually get it right.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Alternative Fuels

Popular Mechanics has a pretty good overview on different alternative fuel options to straight gasoline. They cover ethanol, methanol, bio-diesel, natural gas, electrics, and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.

Unfortunately the results of their summary chart are a bit biased. Their control vehicle is a new Honda Civic. Unfortunately since generally only larger cars and trucks are available as factory flex-fuel vehicles, they based their flex-fuel vehicle comparisons on Fords 3.0L Taurus which is a significantly larger car. This shows E85 ethanol and M85 methanol in a pretty bad light.

Using their estimates of mileage changes, a flex fuel Civic would have a fuel economy of ~27 mpg on ethanol and ~21 mpg on methanol. Using these numbers, a 3000 mile trip on E85 would cost $267 and M85 would cost $413. E85 is therefore pretty competitive with standard gas which requires $213. They also quote bio-diesel as costing $231 for the same trip, but that is only for 100% biodiesel. B20 (a 20% bio/80% petro blend) is actually cheaper than gasoline per mile.

Ranger Shooting

Yesterday Amybear was worried about a shooting involving Park Rangers on the news. She had been told that this happened during the day at Lum's Pond State Park near where she works. Well she can rest a little easier because it turns out that the shooting was in New Castle by the St. Georges Bridge not in Glasgow by the Summit Bridge.

Paul had some coverage of the event. He also notes that park rangers are essentially law enforcement within the confines of the park. In Delaware they enforce state law and undergo the same training as state troopers. In many of the parks out west, being a ranger is an even tougher job. Many narcotics groups use national park land to grow drugs, usually marijuana, so the rangers can face violence, booby traps, and all sorts of things in the performance of their duties. It isn't just tracking down lost campers folks.

Dubya's Troubles

Schultzie via Kim:
Republicans will not lose because they lose the Democrat vote - which is really quite irrelevant. They’ll lose if they lose my vote. If I get so fed up with Republicans’ failure to protect borders, slash spending, and execute Mary McCarthy for treason - so fed up that I don’t vote, then Republicans are in trouble.
Exactly. Why is the Bush administration in so much trouble currently? It isn't because the liberals are pissed off. The liberals have always been pissed off. It is because the Republicans are unhappy too. The War is losing salience as a political issue and Bush's domestic agenda is way too moderate for most of the conservatives who elected him.

How can he fix it? As much as the current administration wants to pretend this is an image issue it isn't. The administration is pushing too much compassion and not enough conservative. Start pushing fiscal responsibility which everyone wants on both sides of the aisle. Stop pushing big government programs that no one wants and we can't afford. Hey presto the presidents approval ratings will go up.

PhD Comes to Delaware

I mentioned it before, but I'll mention it again 'cause it's happening tomorrow: Jorge Cham is giving a talk at University of Delaware. While the PhD website (link available at right) isn't listing a location, the U of D website says that Jorge will be speaking at 6pm in the Trabant University Center Theatre.

I still don't know whether I will be attending or not. Otherwise you could meet Jorge and me! Two obscure people from the internet for the price of one. Amy and I will have real trouble getting off work in time to make his six o'clock start. But we'd really like to and if we don't attend, it won't be from lack of trying.


Please, it's been done.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Spirituality and Smarts

Scott Adams has a discussion going about the connection between spirituality and intelligence. Honestly, I'm pretty conflicted on the subject. God is more than capable of confounding the wisdom of the wise. But here is what I think:

I think that there isn't generally a correlation between intelligence and religious observance. From the Christian perspective I think that the Church is made up of people from every walk of life and intellectual capacity. I think Paul's description of the body of Christ being diverse in our various gifts probably substantiates that concept. We are a people of many different faculties and not all of them are mental.

The whole concept of "Christians are smarter" smacks of a sort of arrogance I don't think God would approve of. We certainly aren't Christians because we earned it through feats of mental gymnastics or any sort of spiritual or logical mathematics. If I suggested that Christians were physically stronger than others you would laugh at me, why doesn't a discussion of innate intelligence bring about the same reaction? We are Christians because either God chose us (Calvinism) or freely gave us the capacity to choose him (those other guys). That's it.

That said, my personal experience leads me to recognize some differences that I hesitate to call intelligence, but may look like it under casual observation. Let me give you some personal backstory.

Back when I went to college at University of Delaware, I was in the Honors Program. I also participated in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. IVCF was essentially broken up into three groups: East Campus, West Campus, and a small North Campus group. Prior to my freshman year, Honors freshmen were housed on West Campus in Dickinson. Starting with my freshman year, Honors freshman housing moved over to the Russell (and Lane) dorms on East Campus.

Prior to my freshman year, West IV was larger than East IV. It must have been considerably larger when you consider the number of Christian Russell Fellows who switches Campuses after being on West the year before. As I went through college this changed. West shrunk and East grew. Leaders from East began deliberately moving to West to fill needs. By my senior year, West and North had merged but were still only about the same size as East. IV leadership on both sides of campus favored Honors students for all but my freshman year. If you can't tell, I think the Honors program had a lot to do with the shift in the center of campus Christian life.

Now I think I've successfully argued against "Christians are smarter" in general. But the Honors program in particular seemed to draw in a lot more Christian students per capita and a lot of spiritual leaders grew out of there. I can only explain this by saying that the Honors Program attracting students who were self-motivated and self-disciplined rather than kids who just wanted four years of parentally subsidized alcoholism. I think those sorts of kids would also be Christians for reasons having nothing to do with intelligence and everything to do with Christian values.


My coworker Izzy and I were doing puzzles over lunch for while. Someone had given him a puzzle of the day calendar and we went through the days puzzle. The weekend puzzle was like a bonus. We especially liked the cryptograms.

I stumbled onto the code-breaker website which would have been really handy back then. Type in the cryptogram and it will automatically calculate the letter frequencies and then allow you to perform given substitutions. I bet it makes for a lot fewer screw-ups.

UPDATE: If you'd like something to try it out, here is a cryptographed quote:
"ag dvu wapanatcsadg, cgx vgxyu dvu uyzvqnawcg iduj di rdpyugjygs, agsynnarygwy ao od farfnb fdgduyx sfcs as ao uykcuxyx qb ylyjzsadg iudj sfy wcuyo di diiawy." -cjqudoy qayuwy
This is courtesy of Clifford Pickover's Mind-Bending Puzzles.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Tank Chair

Were I horrible maimed in an accident, one of these would definitely be on my shopping list. I want a gatling gun on mine for that Terminator II look. It can be hand-cranked if that is required to maintain legality.

Via Autoblog.

Green Nukes

Anna Venger brings up brings up the story of Dr. Patrick Moore. Moore is a co-founder of Greenpeace who has come to the conclusion that adopting nuclear power is fundamental to reducing greenhouse emissions. Well duh.

While I think there may be some future in solar for distributed energy generation, if you want to stop burning stuff for energy then nuclear is it. I'm guessing more has come to this conclusion by actually doing a proper cost-benefit analysis and studying current energy generation infrastructure.

Local Fun Time

People email me on a regular basis with highlights of social events happening in the area. Most of these come from my churches singles group email list. But sometimes it is a considerate individual that likes this blog thing I do.

This weekend the social events at church were watching Anne of Green Gables for the chicks or Braveheart for the dudes. Despite being well equipped for a Braveheart party, Amy's bridal shower was on Saturday so I performed varying degrees of carrying heavy presents and being jeered at from estrogen laden mother hens.

Anyway early May sounds like fun. May 1st to 6th is Restaurant Week '06. Sample good food at good eateries for fixed prices. I'm sure I would enjoy the whole thing much more if I actually worked within an hours drive of downtown Wilmington. But some of you folks might be able to partake so have fun.

On May 6th Hockessin Baptist is holding a Narnia Night where they will be showing The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. More info is available on their website, but it sounds like a fun dinner and movie night. Interestingly enough Rick Beno is the pastor at Hockessin Baptist. His wife is one of the IVCF staff members at University of Delaware. Rick is the guy who opened my mind up to the real story behind Jonah.


Well that was the first time in a while that blogger has been completely down. Hopefully the good folks at google and fixed their database problems.

One Step Ahead

You are 76% likely to survive the end of the world.

You're alive, with minimal effects from whatever disaster struck. You're in good health, with moderate supplies, have a plan, and maybe a few other survivors with you to help out with manual labor. Congrats, you're gonna do just fine when all hell breaks loose.

Link: The Apocalypse Survival Test written by ci8db4uok on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

Unfortunately, 76% means I'm barely keeping my head above water with the male population. Tamara is a woman and therefore is doing much better.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Fun with Legos

The Brick Testament looked like a really cool site, until I read a few of the stories. Lets just say that I probably wouldn't use it to teach my kids.

I'm a Ford Mustang!

You're an American classic -- fast, strong, and bold. You're not snobby or pretentious, but you have what it takes to give anyone a run for their money.

"Take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz.

So this story got me looking at Ford's Mustang specs. I'm starting to realize why the American auto industry is in deep trouble. They keep putting out crap because it will do.

The V8 Mustang has a 4.6 liter engine. It is essentially two 2.3 inline fours put together on the same block. However instead of using excellent dual overhead cam 4 valve headers they already make for their four cylinders, they use crappier 3 valve headers. Why? Perhaps it is slightly cheaper. Perhaps it is also so they can charge a huge amount of money for a version with the good engine later. I suppose I should be thankful, the previous version of the engine had only two valves when it should have had four.

Also Ford doesn't offer a six speed transmission in the Mustang. Why? Beats me. There are excellent six speed manuals out there. Ford ginned up an excellent six speed auto with GM too. With gas prices going way up they need to offer a better transmission to increase fuel economy.

Anyway. Back to drooling over Mustangs. Mmm shelby turbo 4.0 V6...


Holy crap, Amybear just let me know that Jorge Cham of the PhD Comic is coming to University of Delaware next week. No location yet. Cool. I may have to skip bible study.

Three Lane Roads

I believe I have stated how much I hate three lane highways, but I'm going to be redundant. I hate them with the white hot passion of a thousands suns. And I have to drive on them every day.

Why the vitriol (25 cent word!)? Well ideally on a three lane road the break down would be: the right lane for entering, exiting, and driving slow, the middle lane for people driving at moderate speed, the left lane for people driving stupid fast. But this is not how it actually works.

In actuality all the slow drivers are in the middle lane so they don't have to deal with merging/exiting traffic. Either that traffic scares them or they're just lazy and want to drive in their own little dream worlds. So now the people moving at moderate speed are either driving on the left or having to pass the slow pokes on the left and right. The people driving stupid fast now have to do so wherever they can find room so they're weaving through traffic at high speed.

Four lane roads don't have this problem because there is generally enough room for the slow pokes to have their own lane apart from everyone else so they don't back up into the lanes with the real drivers.

Were I to become God Emperor of America my first edict would be "Keep Right on All Highways" punishable by Atomic Wedgie. That would push the slowpokes in with the exit/entering traffic. If that doesn't work, it's four lane roads and two lane road and none of this three lane crap.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Leaving Children Behind

Both Bruce Prescott and Lashawn Barber have commented that some children may be dropping through the cracks under No Child Left Behind. Well I don't think that is the case.

The situation is this. Under NCLB, schools now have to perform standardized testing and report the results not just for the entire population but for ethnic sub groups. Even if the general population's results meet requirements, if a sub population fails, then the school fails. Naturally, this may cause problems.

The scandal is that there is a clause in NCLB that says "if you don't have a statistically significant number of students in an ethnicity you don't have to report it". This usually translates to 20 to 30 kids. And since minorities tend to exhibit below average performance, many schools are not reporting them separately whenever they have a good excuse.

This phenomenon has lead to several people coming forward and saying "NCLB is disenfranchising minority kids. Why don't our kids count too?" I have several problems with this:
  1. These kids are still being included in any summary statistics for the whole school. They aren't dropping off the face of the earth, they just aren't being broken out into their own subgroup because there aren't enough of them.
  2. This is a good loophole. My high school had a total of maybe ten minority kids. We had a couple of asians, two or three black families, and a hispanic family. That isn't enough kids to make any sort of representative statistical distribution. A point is not a distribution. And since the results are public you probably know who that one point is and the childs legally required anonymity is compromised.
  3. If they can't get a large enough student population in each individual school, then they go to the district level to get a large enough population. This is the obvious first run fix for the problem.
  4. Prior to NCLB, federal law didn't require them to break minority students scores out anywhere! So while some schools may be abusing the loophole, the net effect of NCLB is completely positive because at least some minority kids aren't slipping through the cracks anymore.
So that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Outpost Nine

The Japanese are a weird people. Don't believe me? Read Azrael's experience as an English language teacher in Japan. It is sort of like Acts of Gord, but with more schoolgirls. Interestingly enough Gord went off to do a similar program in Korea.

I was introduced to the site with his "I am a Japanese School Teacher" editorials, but his diatribe on the unholiness that was Transformers: The Movie is also very readable. He has been half a man ever since seeing it. I'm shocked that he failed to mention the awfulness that is the music of Transformers: The Movie. "You've got the touch, you've got the Powah!"

Be warned though he uses (and more often repeats) some harsh language and sexual references.

Quote of the Day

From a commenter at the Volokh Conspiracy:
It occurs to me that the word blog is becoming to bloggers what the word smurf was to Smurfs.

I saw the bloggingest blog the other day. It was bloggingly bloggy.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Confederate States of American Idol

Terry Mattingly is wondering why are all these American Idol contestants from the south. All of the top two finishers but one have been from the south. Carrie Underwood is the sole exception and she's from a small town in Oklahoma. Why? Well it ain't because there are a lot of southerners.
"There's still an awful lot of old-school singers who got their starts in church, and many mainstream country musicians still do a gospel album," said John Reed Shelton, professor emeritus of sociology at the University of North Carolina and one of the region's most respected observers. "Everybody tends to go to church, and Southern evangelical Protestantism, both black and white, emphasizes and rewards musical performance."
Well I'll be damned.

I must admit I've descended from the first circle of music hell, pop, to the second, Country. Hopefully I'll never find out what the third is, although I suspect it's Western. I've been listening to lot of Brad Paisley lately. He certainly has that church connection down. He has songs about having to sit through a long sermon on nice summer days and has a hymn on each of his first two albums. My pastor even used "When I Get Where I'm Going" as an intro into a lesson series on the theology of heaven. His music is pretty good stuff especially because he has such a great sense of humor. For instance "All You Really Need is Love" has these lyrics which speak to my current predicament:
Let me say I'm happy for you both
And here's a little something that the two of you should know
If you want to do it right
Just take my advice
All you really need is love

And a license and a blood test and a bunch of invitations
A minister, a white dress, and of course a congregation
And flowers and music and candles and cake
And a bunch of rice for folks to throw as you drive away
It goes on like that for quite a while...

The Ides of April

Everyone knows what that means. It is time for all the conservative bloggers who just did their taxes to once again vocally support conversion to a flat income tax. For example, Shrode at Thinklings:
Your 1040 would be postcard size. Everyone’s would be. There would be no deductions, loopholes, extra forms or addendums for anyone. You just write down how much you make. Subtract $35,000. The number that’s left is your taxable income. Take 17% of that number. That’s your tax for the year. That’s it. All done.

How cool is that? So if you make $35,000 or less, you pay no taxes. If you make $40,000, you pay 17% of $5,000.
I like this plan with one or two changes. I think the deduction shouldn't be $35,000. It should be the local poverty line income to take subsistence into account. Anyone below the poverty line pays no taxes. Everyone above it pays a fixed percentage on the excess. I'm also not sold on 17%, although it will probably be around that level.

Or repeal the the sixteenth amendment entirely. I'm all for that too.

UPDATE: Paul thinks a sales tax is better than an income tax. As a good assimilated Delawarean I must say that sales taxes are tools of the devil just like the metric system and Donny Osmond. Ok they aren't that bad but I still prefer a flat income tax.

Yes you are being taxed for producing instead of consuming, but that is part of the point. Everyone rich or poor has a minimum level of consumption we need to survive, so sales taxes impact the poor just as much as the rich. Perhaps more when you normalize taxes against income and especially when you consider that rich folks have to resources to cross national borders more liberally and avoid consumptive taxation. This is why the luxury taxes failed miserably in the '90s.

I like the flat tax. Yes you are taxing production, but you are taxing it at a constant rate. So increased production isn't taxed progressively higher as with the current graduated scale. There is still incentive to make more money even if you only keep 80% of it. There are no sharp tax brackets where an extra $100 of income can actually cost you money. It works for me.

Sci-Fi Government

Eugene Volokh is noticing trends among fantasy and sci-fi writers:
In sharp contrast to legal scholars and other academics, the majority of whom tend to favor relatively centralized government, major science fiction and fantasy writers tend to support decentralized political systems or even anarchy. I am not arguing that decentralization is the main theme of these works and in some cases it isn't even conscious. But it does seem to be there.
He goes on to look at a wide variety of authors from Tolkien to J.K. Rowling to Frank Herbert. Even though many of them aren't libertarians or even conservatives, often their stories portray centralized government in a bad light. Hube is a Trek Nut and expresses these thoughts on Trek Government:
It's true that the Federation is a free association of planets that have willingly joined the alliance. However, one thing has to be centralized before joining the Federation: the planet itself. There must be a world governing body for a planet.
While some sci-fi makes for good commentary, I think reading too much into this political analysis is troublesome. DS9 criticizes the Federation for being to over-arching at several points in it's plot line. But again, this is because the Federation has departed from their core ideals. On the other hand, most Federation planetary governments (like Earth) are portrayed as near-utopian nanny-states where the state essentially provides for the people. Furthermore the Federation doesn't seem to have a free market economy or very much private industry. R&D occurs in various academic institutions like the Daystrom Institute. Starships are built in Federation shipyards like Utopia Planetia. Perhaps this is because all the Star Trek series to date have been focused on Star Fleet personnel.

Frankly, I don't think the Star Trek universe functions on a number of levels. First it fails to understand human nature in the way the Federation runs. But secondly, I don't think any of the other races are any better. Most of the other star-nations are near racial mono-cultures: the Klingons, the Romulans, the Cardassians. I honestly don't think that can work. Either these groups are far far older than humanity or we're not getting a complete picture of their national makeup.

Monday, April 17, 2006


I hope everyone had a good one. Amybear celebrated her first Easter with my family. Saturday we went over to my parents and she dyed eggs with my Mom. She had some fun.

I was in the other room assembling the AR-15 parts I ordered from RB Precision onto my Double Star lower using directions found online. I highly recommend RB to everyone, their parts were great and they even included extras of parts that tend to get lost or flung across the room in the assembly process. Not sure if I would recommend Double Star to everyone. A lot of the pin holes just didn't seem to be the right spec. The trigger and hammer pins went in very easy. Maybe too easy as I'm worried about them working out. The roll pins for the bolt release and trigger guard were just a bitch to get in.

I was hoping to bond with my dad over gun assembly but he was hurrying to get my parents taxes finished.

Sunday church was packed, we went back to my parents for a nice ham dinner and then we hid Easter eggs for the first time in a long time. We hide them indoors using the little foil-wrapped chocolate eggs. It was fun.

That's Durn Cheap Alright...

Lets say you want to make a very inexpensive MP3 player. No screen. No memory. Just plug in an SD card. The price? 999 Yen or about $8.50 US. Wow.

Political Codewords

Past words include Neo-con and Fundamentalist. Joe Carter covers a big one: theocracy. he defines Carter's Law along the lines of Godwin's Law:
As the number of religious conservatives expressing an opinion on a moral or political issue increases, the probability that someone on the political left will invoke the term “theocracy” approaches one.
Most of the individuals throwing around the term misunderstand both the nature of the theocracy and the meaning of their opponents:
Phillips, for instance, believes that the rising dominance of Baptists in American Protestantism is ipso facto evidence of a theocratic trend. What he appears to have missed is that Baptists can’t even tolerate a centralized church government much less a central government controlled by the church. A theocracy led by Baptists makes as much sense as anarchists establishing a centralized government.
Go and read.

So What Do I Believe Today?

You scored as Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan. You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God's grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavly by John Wesley and the Methodists.

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Reformed Evangelical






Neo orthodox


Classical Liberal


Roman Catholic




Modern Liberal


What's your theological worldview?
created with

Just like John, I seem to recall being more of a Reformed Evangelical when last I took this test. Unlike John, my problem isn't the Evangelical part. I've attended Evangelical churches for all my life and I can count the number of altar calls I've seen on one hand. Most of those were at ecumenical gatherings like Promise Keepers.

No my problem is probably more "Reformed" in nature. What this thing really shows me is that I'm not really fitting into any one theological category. My background is definitely Reformed, but I can't side with hardline expressions of Calvinism. While I don't have a problem with limited atonement as I would express it, I don't know that I would agree with it as Calvin expresses it. And I really have trouble with Perseverence of the Saints which just doesn't work for me in light of some of Jesus teachings.

Chances are my theology is just too wishy washy at the moment to get a good reading on things. More on that later.

Oh the other problem with the test is that it is loaded with either/or choices that don't really work for me. My answer to most of these questions is probably far more nuanced than the test allows for. For instance I abhor direct church involvement in politics and social activism. But social work is something different. Part of me reads these kind of questions and wonders if I think they mean what the writer thinks they mean.

UPDATE: People are calling me Arminian. I feel so dirty... Why won't it wash off?

Friday, April 14, 2006

QandO's Latest

Some good stuff going on over there. Article the First:

McQ discusses the recent spate of retired generals lining up to criticize Rumsfeld. His take?
That's my gripe with these generals. Instead of literally putting their stars on the desk, they chose to wait until they were safely retired to take a stand. It's too late then. When they gripe from retirement, many people are going to take that criticism less seriously. How many times in the past have we seen "sour grapes" cloaked as serious critcism from the safety of retirement?
Yeah. I think a lot of this recent criticism is more about the military venting about Rumsfeld's management style, than having valid concerns over his results. Rumsfeld has kicked a fair bit of ass in the military heirarchy and it is coming back to bite him.

Article the Second:

McQ's take on government-run science isn't quite so good in my opinion:
While science is science, how it is funded (and why) may drive the findings of various studies more than we'd like to admit. ...
It's all about securing funding. And you have a better chance of securing public funding by appealing to the particular agenda of those likely to provide the funding:
I think he, and John Stossel whom he quotes, are right in that there are a lot of programs getting funding by confirming what the government wants to hear. That said I think a lot of this problem stems from how poorly science and technology is reported. Unfortunately the comments go off on a huge global warming tangent and never come back. They need threaded comments over there something fierce.

I think a lot of the bad popular science that makes headline happens for two reasons: few reporters have any meaningful scientific background and the newest-research-is-the-best mentality.

I know blaming the Mainstream Media is very popular, but it is also very true in this case. Unlike politics which a lot of newsies love and obsess over, science is mostly unknown to them. Science is on the side of their brains they don't often use. Now in the advertising game they have a saying: "you don't sell the steak, you sell the sizzle." This carries over very well into the news media. Newsies can't tell if the science is any damn good. But they can sell the sizzle. Oh boy can they. McQ uses the example of "crack baby" stories which were based on shoddy research but made for great coverage on 20/20.

The other problem is far more endemic to the entire population. Our modernist mentalities assume that the latest research is the best. But that may not be so. People used to say that potatoes and starch made you fat. Remember that? Then researchers said no, potatoes are starch and good for you as long as you don't cover them with unhealthy stuff like sour cream and cheese. They were wrong. Now we realize that your body will metabolize all those carbohydrates into fats unless you burn them off with regular exercise. In truth, if an idea has a body of supporting research behind it, then discarding it after the latest far research may not be such a good idea.

Monkey See, Monkey Live

Cheeta the chimp turned 74 a few days ago. He's the monkey from the original Tarzan movies in the 30s and 40s. Not only is he still alive, but he's the oldest chimpanzee ever recorded.

Cheetah lives on a small animal sanctuary in California. He likes riding around in cars and painting. Although diabetic, he's healthy and happy.

Via Vodkapundit.

From Activism to Vandalism

This is an old story, but I never got around to posting on it. Via Gizmodo, I give you the N55 Rocket System.
The N55 is a small rocket designed for local activism. It can be used to disperse literature or genetically engineered super-weeds to disrupt agricultural crops that people don't like. It even includes a simple payload design to disperse organic material over a small area.

Who in God's name thought that this is a good product to sell? Yes lets put a rocket on the market that a terrorist could use to kill a lot of people. We'll even make a rudimentary biowarhead on it. Wonderful. Stupid stupid lefties.

NT Wright

I'm not sure what I think of the guy. I've heard that his books are quite good, if not perfect, but then he says things like this:
“I have friends who I am quite sure are Christians who do not believe in the bodily resurrection,” he says carefully, citing another eminent scholar, American theologian Marcus Borg, co-author with Wright of The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions.
Wright goes on to state that while he doesn't doubt Borg's faith, he does think that his unbelief causes foundational problems in Christian life.

I share a lot of Wright's concerns. There are a lot of things that can cause people problems, but the resurrection of the dead is an issue dealt with in Scripture by the Apostle Paul. In 1 Corinthians 15, the Apostle Paul covers this subject in some detail. Leaving out the Resurrection has two problems,. First, it undermines all theology and leaves Christians in our sins. Second, it undermines all testimony we have about Christ through Scripture, tradition, and the testimony of the Holy Spirit himself.

Sounds like foundational problems to me.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Martin Sheen

He recently turned down an offer to run for the Senate in Ohio.
"I'm just not qualified," he said. "You're mistaking celebrity for credibility."
Wow. I just gained a whole lot of respect for Martin Sheen. Of course I still disagree with him on pretty much every issue except abortion (Sheen is also Pro-Life).

Mmmm Mazdaspeed 3

Yummy. If only they would make it in 4 door instead of hatchback...

Some people are criticizing the Mazdaspeed3 for being too powerful for FWD. Maybe, but the 3 is essentially the same chassis as the Euro Focus. The Euro Focus had been doing as well as the AWD Subarus in the World Rally Championship so I think they can handle the power.

Ethnic and Cultural Geography

Paul Smith mentioned the religious maps a while back. However, Valpariso has this study and the graphics from several others available on a class website. The one on median income tells me why housing costs so much around me.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Inside Scoop On the DaVinci Code

From a Screwtape himself.

Eric Metaxas, the author, gives it the old college try. But he isn't Jack Lewis. For instance Lewis would never have written:
And don't get me started on Out on a Limb! Oh, but Wormwood.
I am ashamed to admit that when he did sidetrack me with this one though:
One must ever endeavor to capitalize upon ignorance, Wormwood. This is one of the chiefest weapons in our arsenal, and let me observe—and not without some glee—that the ignorance of contemporary Western Society in matters of history and theology both, is of an absolutely unprecedented greatness. Ask your average fellow in the street the slightest detail of a daft sitcom of forty years ago and he will move heaven and earth to supply you with the answer, and then will likely prate on with other similarly inane details—as if knowing who lived at 1313 Mockingbird Lane was his very passport to the Elysian Fields. Ha! But ask him to tell you about the Nicean Council, or ask him what are the Synoptic Gospels and you will suddenly find yourself in the presence of a weatherbeaten cigar store Injun! But then go ahead and ask him who played drums for The Monkees, or the name of that blasted itinerant peddlar on Green Acres and you will think yourself in the presence of a very Voltaire!
1313 Mockingbird Lane is what? The home of the Munsters. The drummer for the Monkees? George Michael "Mickey" Dolenz, Jr. The peddler on Green Acres was Mr. Haney (first name varies). Thankfully I divined these things through Wikipedia, I didn't know them off the top of my head. Honest.

MINOR NOTE: C.S. Lewis's nickname was Jack. He didn't like either "Clive" or "Staples" for some obvious reason.

Forming an Iraqi Government

Instapundit is bringing some of Austin Bay's Iraq commentary to light. Bay hypothesizes that it is taking the Iraqis so long to form a government (in the parliamentary sense) because they are having to grapple with weighty issues such as Muqtada Sadr steering them toward Iranian style theocracy.

Fortunately Grand Ayatolla al Sistani has lead to a gradual decline in Sadr's capabilities. I like Sistani. He's a smart man. Sistani's aides have referred to Sadr as "a nut but he’s a nut that requires special handling." Currently Sistani has suggested that Shiite politicians be open to compromise with Sunnis. Smart guy. I just hope his health holds up.

Soldiers to be Proud Of

Audrey at Empress Musings passes on a soldier's letter to the editor that starts like this:
I have been reading articles in The Daily Democrat online that suggest the support for our troops and our war in Iraq is fading or is lost. I am here to say that ... well, it's OK. It's OK because you can bet your life that we still support you.
Sometimes I wonder about all the Americans opposing the war (which is fine) and those helping the other side (which is not). Do they really want us to lose? Do they really think that losing won't impact them negatively? Maybe they're short sighted or maybe they realize that the men and women of the US military are willing to die for them anyway.

Via Seven Inches of Sense.

George "The Animal" Steele

Wrestling Hall of Famer Jim Myers aka George "The Animal" Steele is a Christian. Myers was brought up Baptist, but left the faith early in life. He refound his faith late in life after almost dying from complications of Crohn's Disease.

Myers is dyslexic, but has a Bachelors of Science from Michigan State and Masters Degree from Central Michigan despite his learning disability. He also taught High School and coached (football and wrestling) at Madison High School in Michigan. He is in both Michigan's Coaches and Football Coaches Halls of Fame. Keep in mind he did this while wrestling professionally.

I was always a George Steele fan. Something about the way he could rip apart a turnbuckle with his teeth I guess.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Ethanol and the Environment

QandO has a great post on this topic, largely because of some excellent comments including a short one by yours truly. Jon Henke has this to say:
Like Wulf, I'm disinclined to government intervention where the market should operate and I'm no fan of Dr. Robert Zubrin's suggestion that "Congress should immediately require that all future vehicles sold in the U.S.A. be flexible-fueled", but I can certainly see the value of structuring our economy such that the flex fuel alternative is not actively discouraged by tariffs or tax policies that reward probable dead-ends like hydrogen or electric powered vehicles.
I have to agree with Jon. I find the hybrid tax credit especially irksome because it is really the only think keeping those cars economically competitive.

Let us do a simple mathematical experiment. The hybrid civic retails at $22,150.00 and the equivalent Civic LX retails at $16,710.00 for manual transmission. The LX averages about 35 mpg, the hybrid about 50. So you are spending $5.5k to get about 15 mpg. Maybe more, maybe less depending on dealer prices and your daily driving. If we assume gas is $3.00/US gallon, that means you have to drive over 210,000 miles to break even on fuel economy alone. With the current $2000 tax credit, that number is only 100,000 miles. 210k is probably a pipedream, but 100k is doable for most people. Yes this analysis is pretty simplistic and makes a lot of assumptions of mediocre worth, but you get the point. Hybrids really aren't that great economically and economy is the only reason to drive them. Lord knows they don't accelerate or handle well.

But really my problem is this. Thanks to modern environmentalism our mindset is stuck on conservation. This doesn't work. Conservation doesn't raise efficiency fast enough to keep up with increasing demand. What we need is more or new sources of production because increased efficiency just doesn't pay off as an investment.

UPDATE: This is in the comments, but Haloscan has a tendency to make those disappear so I'm reposting it here. Michael had this to say:
I don't think 210,000 miles on a Honda or a Toyota is a pipe dream. My wife's first car, 1989 Toyota Corolla, had a tad over 400,000 miles on it and still got 38 mpg.
My boss has 250,000 miles on his Maxima too, but these cases aren't the norm. I'm guessing most people have a vehicle lifetime of 100,000 to 200,000 miles if they take proper care of the car.

Depending on the miles a driver puts on their car, recouping initial investment in gas savings may take anywhere from 8 (my commute) to 17 years (warrantee standard 12k/year). That is far too long. Toyota estimates the vehicle life of their Prius to be eight to ten years, which is also approximately the life of the battery pack. I would think you would want to recoup the investment by the time you paid off the car loan, so 5 years or less. "Pipedream" is an overstatement because yes you might be able to do it, but I don't think that 210,000 is a good return on investment in any way shape or form.

Gun Purchase Lists

Kim du Toit answered a question he probably hears a lot, but I rarely do: what guns would you buy if you had $5000. He compiled his first list trying for quantity of arms. His second is built on quality. My own firearms purchases are on one list or the other. Except my Ar-15. Kim hates those.

Bolton Lecture

Ryan at Jokers to the Right attended a lecture held by US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton at the University of Delaware.
Bolton started out by calling the UN a "troubled institution," and that it has strayed far from the UN Charter of 1945, something that I have hinted at previously. He said that reform for the UN must take a pragmatic and not an ideological position, and must start from the Volker report on the Oil-For-Food Scandal. He said even worse than a culture of corruption is a culture of inaction. He said this is what the President and Secretary Rice wish to rectify.
Ryan has a good overview of Bolton's talk. Eventually the video and podcast will be available from the University.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Of God and Government

The folks over at QandO are giving John Kerry a justified drubbing over this comment:
I will tell you, nowhere in there, nowhere, not in one page, not in one phrase uttered and reported by the Lord Jesus Christ, can you find anything that suggests that there is a virtue in cutting children from Medicaid and taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich.
This may remind us of Hillary's recent comments. I think most biblically informed readers are probably started shaking their heads as soon as they heard Kerry's name.

Paul Smith tackled this issue a while back. I meant to write about it then, but I never got around to it. That happens a lot for me.

My problem with the left is the problem I share with most socialist and communist systems: idolatry. Ultimately we are not supposed to justify our spending or property ownership to the government. The government doesn't own this land. Ultimately we are to justify our use of resources to the God who gave us those resources in the first place.

Liberals like to pretend that there is great virtue in redistributing wealth. There is none. There is no virtue for the rich, because they are not doing the right thing for the right reason. There is no virtue for the redistributor, because they are committing little more than state-sanctioned theft. There is no virtue for the poor because they are beneficiaries of immorality and that money often becomes a covetous entitlement.

For that matter, liberals like to treat poverty as if it creates some level of moral superiority over wealth. It does not. The bible exhorts people to do several things: be good stewards, use wealth to remove worldly concerns, live simply so that they can meet the needs of others more easily. While living simply may look like poverty, it is not. The difference is that people choosing to live simply and unhindered by possessions are doing it by choice. If you are poor because you do not know how to make, save, or spend money then you have no moral high ground.

This does not mean wealthy people are better than poor people. It means that there is no intrinsic morality to money or the lack of money. The morality of money is what you choose to do with it.

End unfocused rant.

Odd Bloggers

Turns out several GM execs blog over at Fastlane. They include guys like Bob Lutz who is the brains behind the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky.

Gospel of Judas

John has a good commentary taken from David Kopel over at the Volokh Conspiracy:
Suppose that sometime around the year 3,800 A.D., someone wrote a newspaper that began: "According to a recently-discovered document, which appears to have been written sometime before 1926, Benedict Arnold did not attempt to betray George Washington and the American cause, as is commonly believed. Rather, Benedict Arnold was acting at the request of George Washington, because Washington wanted Arnold to help him create a dictatorship of the proletariat and the abolition of private property."

A reader who knew her ancient history would recognize that the newly-discovered "Arnold document" was almost certainly not a historically accurate account of the relationship between George Washington and Benedict Arnold. The reader would know that the terms "dictatorship of the proletariat" and "abolition of private property" come from a political philosophy, Marxism, which was created long after Washington and Arnold were dead. The reader would also know that the most reliable records from the 18th century provided no support for the theory that Washington or Arnold favored a dictatorship of the proletariat or the abolition of private property.

This Friday's coverage of the so-called "Gospel of Judas" in much of the U.S. media was appallingly stupid. The Judas gospel is interesting in its own right, but the notion that it disproves, or casts into doubt, the traditional orthodox understanding of the betrayal of Jesus is preposterous.
Kopel then goes into some depth on various Gnostic and Marcion heresies represented in the Judas Gospel.

Joe Cathey has a lot of links at his place.


One of these days I need to get around to reading more about Teddy Roosevelt. Not only is he a colorful character, but I think he really points toward what Republicans should aspire to be. Kim Du Toit cites this TR quote:
"In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person’s becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American… There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag… We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language… and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people."
And he has given other speeches that are in a similar vein.


So I turned 29 sometime this morning. So far several people have given me money. Some would complain that this is unfeeling, but their checks will fund about 75% of the parts for my AR lower. And now I don't feel bad for spending the money because I'm supposed to buy myself a present with it.

So far the best gifts have been 200 rounds of Federal American Eagle .223 55gr FMJ Boat Tail from my brother and a nice poker set from Amy which is still in transit somewhere. My sister's gift has yet to be shipped which is fine because my gift to her was late to her too.

Turns out Federal makes a lot of good ballistics data available on their website. I'm pretty sure that their AE 55 grain FMJ-BT round isn't equivalent to milspec M193. The bullet design is a cheaper version that doesn't fragment properly. Federal used to make XM193 at Lake City, but I'm pretty sure only Winchester's Q3131A (which is actually made by the Israelis) is true M193 milspec. But the AE will punch paper as well as anything else.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


Have you ever been annoyed when people miss the whole point of an article? Yes? Well here is another one.

We start our tale at this Thinklings meta-blog piece titled "Point/Counterpoint: CCM and Modern Worship Music." It is about a recent Chuck Colson article where he (among other things) admits to hating a lot of modern worship music. Specifically, he mentions singing through interminable verses of "Draw Me Close to You."

Stepping up to defend contemporary worship are Sam Storms and many Thinklings commenters. The problem? Colson's article is not really about contemporary worship. That was only the introductory paragraph or two. Colson really wants to talk about this:
What is the job of Christian radio, after all? To give people what they want, or—as with any ministry—to give them what they need? Music is important in the life of the church and can inspire us to focus on Christ. But it cannot take the place of solid teaching.
The article is about christian radio and media abandoning teaching and instruction for entertainment programming (largely music) that yields higher ratings in their core demographics. And I agree with Colson, this is not a good thing. We're seeing a Joel Osteenation of Christian radio. The ratings are going up, but spiritual content and communication of Biblical truth to the audience is dropping fast.

My mom is a major christian radio listener. Or she was when I lived at home a few years ago. I found some of the programs to be to childish. Mostly these were children's programs like Adventures in Odyssey so that was ok. But others were religious broadcasters too obsessed with politics (Dobson) or themselves (Hank Hanegraaff). But the talk element, while imperfect, was still important. As Colson puts it:
Sure, skits and catchy music are good tools for drawing people in, and good Christian music on the radio can inspire us. But these things aren't an end in and of themselves; they should engage us in learning and applying truth.
Exactly. A lot of listeners out there have had long days and want some emotional relief. Granted, music gives them that. But on the other hand, while this music may give them some empathy, it doesn't help them solve their problems. It is like a bandaid or duct tape, a temporary fix. If the listeners are overworked and too busy, perhaps someone should do a show on that and how to live more simply. Good ministry here is not just more music. It is more music and targeted topical commentary meeting the spiritual needs of listeners.

Smell the Humility

I can see why Joe Cathey likes this video. I mean it would be wrong to rub this in someones face.

Not Bad Answers

This test gets my personality mostly right:

Your Five Factor Personality Profile


You have medium extroversion.
You're not the life of the party, but you do show up for the party.
Sometimes you are full of energy and open to new social experiences.
But you also need to hibernate and enjoy your "down time."


You have high conscientiousness.
Intelligent and reliable, you tend to succeed in life.
Most things in your life are organized and planned well.
But you borderline on being a total perfectionist.


You have high agreeableness.
You are easy to get along with, and you value harmony highly.
Helpful and generous, you are willing to compromise with almost anyone.
You give people the benefit of the doubt and don't mind giving someone a second chance.


You have low neuroticism.
You are very emotionally stable and mentally together.
Only the greatest setbacks upset you, and you bounce back quickly.
Overall, you are typically calm and relaxed - making others feel secure.

Openness to experience:

Your openness to new experiences is medium.
You are generally broad minded when it come to new things.
But if something crosses a moral line, there's no way you'll approve of it.
You are suspicious of anything too wacky, though you do still consider creativity a virtue.

Via Messy Christian.

Gettin' Old: Part Infinity

As further demonstration, I remember when running the video game Lemmings under Windows 3.11 taxed the resources of my PC to it's utmost. Now you can play the original PC game on DHTML. Enjoy.

Bringing the Funny

After winning the last caption contest over Locusts and Honey, I'm trying to bring the funny this time too.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Fun Maps

Paul Smith links to this illuminating introduction to the religious geography of America. It uses the typical county by county map we've come to expect from the red vs. blue political scene and applies the same methodology to religious views. This passage must really annoy Paul though:
The Catholics, Episcopalians, Orthodox and German Lutherans — members of denominations that Luebke called "ritualistic" — tended to join the Democratic Party, he said.
Unfortunately the piece spends a lot more time covering Methodists and Presbyterians than they do Baptists.

Women's Suffrage

Padua Academy in Wilmington fails a vocabulary test. It is amazing what a big nerd and liberal use of the word injustice can do. It's even funnier because Padua is an all girls school.

Terrorist Apprentice

Abu Musab al Zarqawi was "fired" as the head of Al Qaeda in Iraq. It seems that the judgement of the other side is that his tactics haven't been working.

Isn't it funny how the Democrats and our media haven't thought this was the case? Oh no! Quagmire! Civil war! Meanwhile terrorists are forcing their own leadership to step down because of a lack of results. But of course our news isn't giving us a one-sided look at the war. Of course not. Who says so? Well they do. When the NBC New York talking head interviews the NBC Baghdad correspondent, the Baghdad Bureau tool says of course the MSM is doing a great job. "We swear we're doing a good job over here Brock, back to you in the studio." Yeah. I think not.

UPDATE: Yes you can take the position that things are awful in Iraq and Zarqawi is being "promoted" to chief file clerk in the basement of Al Qaeda International. But frankly casualties in Iraq don't bear the promotion thesis out. At worst they were holding steady. At best US casualties have been dropping for several months from a local high late last year.

The Trouble with Targets

Targetz has a large list of free printable targets. So does My Target and Reload Bench All this goes to show that finding good shooting targets is tough, especially if you want them on the cheap.

Your typical cheap target has a lot of black on it and rapidly develops contrast issues. You can't see the black holes you are making on the black areas of the target. At least not from 10+ yards away in poor light on an indoor range. And you don't have a good aim point because the center of the target is a large black circle. And they are made from the thinnest paper possible so they tear.

Then there is the ever-popular silhoutte target. They're expensive. They're huge. They're often all black with poor contrast. And despite their size, you can only shoot on them in two places per target: the head and COM. They're over-rated and over-used in my opinion. But gun ranges love them and love to sell them cause it is money in the bank.

I switched 100 yard rifle zeroing targets pretty early on. You can get these or a variant of these at most sporting goods stores. Typically these have a nice red and white pattern so bullet holes show up well. You also typically get 5 targets on each sheet, so if changing targets is a pain (like at an outdoor range) then thats more fun per target reset. The problem is that you still often lack a good point of aim. All that red and white just turns into fuzzy blur when you're concentrating on the front sight. You can fix this cheaply and easily with a black magic marker by putting a big dot at the center of each pattern on the sheet. But that black dot has the bullet hole contrast problem, so if you shoot very well then you don't know how well until you can take down the target.

Shoot-N-C targets don't have the whole bullet contrast problem. They are constructed so each bullet develops a bright ring (usually green or orange) that contrasts nicely with the rest of the black surface. Most of these targets come with a single large stick-on disk marked with concentric rings and a few very small unmarked disks. The large disks are great for covering up areas on a target that you have completely shot out. The smaller ones are great for marking an aim point. I know I'm shooting well when the only thing I'm hitting at 7-10 yards is the little marker disk. Shoot-N-Cs are great for teaching new shooters because they can see exactly where the bullets go. But they ain't cheap for regular use.

I recently ran across a new brand of rifle target that is black on yellow paper. It is my current favorite. The holes show up well because the black lines aren't thick enough to obscure them. Aiming is easy because the target is black on yellow. 5 target patterns are on each sheet and they're good paper yet pretty cheap. I just wish I could remember where I bought them.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Blame Puritans!

First we blame Canada, now lets blame the Puritans.
Paul Verhoeven, director of the first "Basic Instinct" (which scored $353 million worldwide) as well as the widely ridiculed "Showgirls" (now regarded as something of a camp classic), attributes the genre's demise to the current American political climate.

"Anything that is erotic has been banned in the United States," said the Dutch native. "Look at the people at the top (of the government). We are living under a government that is constantly hammering out Christian values. And Christianity and sex have never been good friends."
The Puritan complaint is coming from people making sex-cinema in '87 through '95. Showgirls tanked in '95 the permissive Clinton Administration. Basic Instinct and Fatal Attraction were great successes coming out of the "ultra-conservative" Reagan ('87) and Bush ('92) eras.

Why? Despite what Verhoeven and others are saying, scandal sells tickets and there is no bad publicity. Basic Instinct's explicit sexual content was one of the stories of the year in 1992. People protested. Clips were shown at the start of the evening news with good looking people, not at 11:29 with Gene Shallit. I had a friend in High School who saw it multiple times. Granted he only paid for one BI ticket. For the rest he snuck in from another the theater. But that just goes to show you how the original's impact is probably underestimated. You could make the same argument about the Passion of the Christ. All the protests saying Don't See This Movie just made people think "I want to see what is pissing these people off."

In comparison Basic Instinct 2 has largely received a gigantic yawn. Reviews are saying that the sexual tension isn't there on screen, but that isn't the only place it is lacking. That driving social sexual tension the original tapped into isn't there in real life either. Nobody cares. Perhaps the Reagan and Bush eras did have an undercurrent of repressed sexual tension. But that's gone now. If the studies are true, the horny high schoolers from my yesteryear are now largely sexually active and sated. As Donald Sensing once said, the sexual revolution is over and we lost.

Couple this lack of an sexual undercurrent with how easy it is to get sexual content today. If all I want is sex, I can download stronger stuff off the internet for free. If I just wanted to see boobs, I wouldn't pay $10 to see Sharon Stone's moldy oldies. I could download a whole porn film for free with bit torrent. Sex may still sell products, but as a bankable movie commodity it has been supplanted by star power and special effects.

Via Instapundit. Similar thoughts at Wizbang.

Looking for Starter Blogs?

Well there is always Blogger of course, but Messy Christian highlights some other options like Wordpress and Honestly Blogger has gotten a lot better over the course of the almost 2 years I've used it. None of the free sites have much draw for me.

In the beginning, it was unreliable and you could never be quite sure if your post would go through or if you would lose it when you hit the "publish post" button. Not so anymore. Sometimes Blogger still has trouble publishing, but I haven't completely lost a post in a long long time. I just have to try to publish later if the server is laggy.

The old comment system stunk and there was no way to do trackbacks. Now you can open comments in popups and there are provisions for anonymous commenting within blogger. There is still no way to do trackbacks, but commenting improved to the point that I will probably be switching back to blogger comments in my next template revision. Especially once I realized that Haloscan forgets old comments.

Blogger now hosts images too, which it didn't do in the begining. My days of having to find a free image webhost are over because Blogger does that internally now, but I still use photobucket when necessary.

Oh and there are good hooks for Google Blogads if you want to use your blog to acquire money and power. Unfortunately if I made money off my blog, I wouldn't be able to blog when I get bored at work.

All in all, I like Blogger right now. If I wanted to move to something better, it would have to be considerably better. And I would probably have to pay.

Comedy Becomes Truth

You know when the jokes about someone finally become reality? Think about when Scott Ott's jokes start coming true.

I think Gabe over at Penny Arcade has finally reached that point:
The real reason I got it was for the sticker book it comes with. Yes that’s right, a sticker book with 400 stickers! Every time you meet a character or get an item you take the corresponding sticker off and place it next to the picture in the journal. Try to imagine a 28 year old man squealing in a high pitched voice to his wife in the other room. “Ooh honey I just met Mulan, I get to put her sticker in the journal, I GET TO PUT HER STICKER IN THE JOURNAL!”
Yeah because I would have never guessed that about him.

Science Fiction Philosophy

John lists a few of the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition, but there are more complete compilations out there. Some of his favorites and mine are:
44. Never confuse wisdom with luck.

48. The bigger the smile, the sharper the knife.

59. Free advice is seldom cheap.

60. Keep your lies consistent.


James Lileks scathing review of the movie is well worth the read. While I didn't think the movie was that bad, it still wasn't that good. At least I wasn't paying $10 for an 80 minute flick.

The whole problem with Jackson's King Kong was that he felt he needed to overtop the original. I hope and pray that the original version will still remain available. It may have aged poorly in terms of special effects, but as with most older films, the storytelling was superior. I remember seeing it in black and white when I was a kid. And I watched all three hours of it straight through. That speaks volumes about the film's worth when you consider how short my attention span must have been at the time.

Via Vodkapundit.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Gifts Freely Given

The Anchoress has a very true, but not often appreciated take on immorality:
I’m talking about the Gift of the Body of Christ. Christ gave himself to us - freely - of his own free will. A Gift freely given. If someone takes the Gift and spits on it or whatever - they’re only destroying what was given to them, they are destroying what is “theirs.” They don’t in any way destroy the Giver of the Gift, or lessen the Giver…OR the Gift. So they have no power over it, they can’t dominate it. All they can do is destroy themselves within themselves.
While the post is very Catholic, it is also excellent.

God gives us things, from the air we breath to the spark of life we were conceived with. While misusing what we have been given saddens Him and may even anger Him, ultimately it doesn't lessen Him. He chose to give it to us, for good or ill, while knowing how we would use those gifts. Yet he gave them anyway.

What it does is show us for what we really are. We are often like petulent little children who have broken all our toys by the end of Christmas Day. Yet God loves us and eventually will give us new toys, perhaps requiring us to learn a bit of a lesson first.

On a similar theme, my pastor noted a major difference between Christianity and Islam this weekend. Islam demanded that Mohammed be venerated and honored. It still does. Christianity required that Christ had give himself to be insulted, debased, and killed. While Christians may be upset with how people portray Jesus, ultimately it isn't any different from how he was treated when he was alive.

Getting Old

Pope John Paul II died a year ago yesterday. I didn't realize it had been so long already.

UPDATE: His successor seems to be doing a very good job though.
Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be "tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine", seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires.

We, however, have a different goal: the Son of God, the true man. He is the measure of true humanism. An "adult" faith is not a faith that follows the trends of fashion and the latest novelty; a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ. It is this friendship that opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false, and deceipt from truth.
Amen Padre. Too bad the guy interviewing him didn't get it:
It’s not the dogma; it’s the “culture” of Catholicism, warts and all, that attracts me. Religion now appeals to me less as a set of beliefs, than as mysteries and rituals that celebrate the miracle of life and our passages through it, deepen our spirituality, put us in a right relation to life and our fellow creatures, and point us, however ambiguously, towards the ultimate meaning of the universe. ...
Yes Christianity is about the path to the ultimate meaning of life. That much is true. But what you don't seem to be getting is that there is only one path and He has already revealed himself to us. If you are simply looking at "mysteries and rituals" you are looking in exactly the wrong place.

UPDATE2: And Benny 16 understands politics too.

Jesus Saves

For half damage... I would have thought Jesus might have had enough levels for improved evasion. I guess not.

I still prefer "Jesus Saves! ...passes to Gretzsky, Gretzsky shoots, Gretzsky Scores!"

Putting on Her War Face

Joan at Seven Inches of Sense is preparing to go embedded in Iraq:
The strangest thing has been happening to me over the last two days. I never thought I would understand why it is that soldiers often dump girlfriends before deployments, but I am really starting to get it.
Joan's an ex-Army girlfriend, so this is helping her understand a lot of about her Jimmy her ex. Read on if you're wondering about what is going on with some of our troops psychologically.

The DaVinci Code

In 9 Art Bloopers in the DaVinci Code, Middlebrow points out that theology isn't the only place where Michael Brown's DaVinci code get it wrong. On the list of things he got wrong are Leonardo's name (DaVinci just means "of Vinci"), the Mona Lisa's name (Leonardo didn't call it that), and he gets several technical artistic details wrong.

Mourning a Passing

Kim Du Toit is reposting Stephen Hunter's column on the end of Winchester rifle manufacturing in the US. It isn't just the end of a great American tradition of leverguns, but it is yet another sign of great decline in the US gun culture.

Fortunately, many Winchester designs are still in production but without the Winchester name. I don't know what the future holds for the 1300 shotgun or the model 70 rifle, but the lever guns will live on. Many of winchesters more recent '92 models were actually made in Japan by Howa. Rossi/Taurus have been building '92s and several old rimfire models (62s and 63s) in Brazil for years as well. Their fit and finish might not be up to the classic winchesters, but they are competitive with Winchesters more recent production.