Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Delaware Schools

Hube is a teacher. He's found some good news about improvements in Delaware schools. Hube thinks that this is thanks to Delaware's emphasis on standards-based education reform.

My wedding less than four months out now. Amy and I will probably be settling down in Delaware once we're married. We don't have kids yet, but we are looking forward to any improvements to the Delaware school system.

Happy Birthday!

Joe Cathey just turned 40 today. He claims that 40 is the new 20. Please be nice and don't correct him.

UPDATE: When it rains it pours. Joe's wife Nancy is expecting their second child.

Wedding Fun with Legos

Amybear found someone who's wedding cake is far geekier than normal, but is also unfortunately inedible.

What I found amazing was that the guy built the cake and designed the bottom two tiers to be sliced so that people could take a piece home as wedding souvenirs. The top tier was kept by the newlyweds of course.

Geocaching for Dollars

Unfortunately Delaware and Maryland have a good cell phone infrastructure, but if you live down south where cellular reception isn't very good, you might be able to make some bucks geocaching.
A company called Space Data found a way to make money by repeatedly launching weather balloons with cellular transmitters called SkySites, and charging what must be astronomical fees for getting your cell-on in the boonies. These eye-in-the-sky cell towers hover between 70,000 and 100,000-feet and provide coverage for a 200-mile radius on Earth- but the darn things only stay aloft for 24 to 48 hours before freefalling to the ground (or tree, or lake, or Grand Canyon). Once a balloon hits terra firma, or something close, it radios its location back to its successor in the sky, which then relays the data to the SkySite website.
Skysite then puts a $60 bounty on their old grounded cellular units. They paid out $93,000 in bounties last year. The highest paid bounty hunter made $10,000.

Unfortunately you can't just pick these things up, you have to go through Skysite's bounty registration process which is pretty extensive. They don't want people fighting over the bounties. But if you live in the South, it might be fun to try to find one. It would help pay for the hiking trip at least.

Paying Inattention

I catch myself doing things similar to this:
I also get myself into the “how are you” loop. It works like this.

Me: “How are you?”

Other person: “Good. How are you?”

Me: “Good. How are you?”

Other person: “Um…still good.”

That’s pretty much a signal that you weren’t listening and don’t care.
I have a daily pseudo-conversation with a security guard coming onto base. I show him my badge. He looks at it, waves me through, and tells me to either have a good day or to drive safely. I always answer "Thanks, you too" as I drive off.

But "Thanks, you too..." is only an appropriate response to "Have a nice day." It makes no sense whatsoever if the guard is wishing me a safe drive, because the guard is on foot. Oops. Sorry. Hope you weren't listening either buddy.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Sacrament of Communion

Thinklings has been doing a series on Church practices. They've come to communion. What are the who, what, when, and hows of communion at your church?

My church serves communion on the first Sunday of the month. The articles of communion are a little thimble cup of grape juice and small pieces of matzoh. We have a moment of silence to prepare for the sacrament. Generally a church member prays, the bread is served, then everyone partakes together. We repeat with the cup. You aren't supposed to partake of communion if you aren't a christian or aren't in the proper spiritual state.

Nothing spectacular there.

However at our contemporary services we sometimes do it differently. Anyway the way the service works is this: the articles of communion are set up on stands or tables at the front of the church. Ministers and other church leaders are positioned at each location. The Senior Pastor prays and people are invited forward at their own pace and can go to whichever location they want. The first people in line are served and partake of communion with the minister or leader. Then they turn around and do the same to the second person in line (a notecard with what to do is on the table). And so on and so on until the Ministers and leaders are served by the last people in line.

I don't know anybody else that does it this way, but it's great. I'm a traditionalist, but I would attend this service every communion Sunday if it didn't mean sitting through interpretive dance during the worship.

The Sacrament of Baptism

John asks How does your church perform baptism?

I'm Baptist, so in my church we immerse and we don't baptize children. The person being baptized has to be old enough to make a conscious choice in that direction. The person doing the baptizing must be an ordained minister even if they aren't a minister at my church. We have several ex-ministers who attend my church and have baptized their own children. You can't become a member of my church unless you were baptized by immersion as an adult.

Incidentally this is why I'm not a member of my church. I was baptized as an adult but by sprinkling in a PCA church. I have no desire to get re-baptized. I suppose its the once-saved always-saved Calvinist in me.

Approval Ratings

Bush's ratings have crossed into majority territory again. Instapundit had this to say:
I'm not sure why, but it seems as if he does better whenever John Kerry and Ted Kennedy get face time on the national news. The Democrats would be wise to let other people represent them.
I think this is especially true with John Kerry. Everytime Kerry makes an ass of himself people not only think poorly of the Democrats, but also think "Thank God he didn't win." I know I do at least.

The real reason for the uptick is that the Alito hearings are going well for the Republicans. The Democrats really don't have a leg to stand on, but they're hopping on their stumps as hard as they can.

There is the Abramoff scandal, but that has been focused congressionally. Bush accepted money from him, but it was the same money all the Democrats took as well. They won't be making a big issue of it.

Always Edgy

John had two good posts over the weekend.

Clicker training your wife is not a joke I would make. Probably because I'm not married yet. I was offended until I realized that his wife has been training him for far longer than he has been doing the same to her. If he just started training her he's way behind the curve.

Now Jihadi barbershop? I've seen pictures of jihadis. I don't think most of them know what a barber is.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Katrina Relief

My church has been involved with Samaritans Purse relief efforts in Kiln, Mississippi and in Biloxi. When I heard this I felt God tugging me in that direction. I'm not a preach-the-word street side missions kinda guy. But I can rip down drywall like maniac.

So it turns out that Samaritans Purse is well staffed in Mississippi and my church has a plethora of volunteers. This means that I am now the first alternate for a missions trip to New Orleans at the end of February. I have mixed feelings. But if they need me I'll answer the call.

Now I get to adjust my schedule for a tetanus shot and make time for the trip.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Fun with Power Tools

In the grand scheme of power tools, I never really thought of belt sanders as being much fun. Until now. Thanks to Michael for the link.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

A Stretched Military

I expect much to do will soon be made about this statement from General George Casey:
"The forces are stretched ... and I don't think there's any question of that."
The article goes on to make this statement:
His comments are likely to fuel a debate inside the U.S. government over whether the United States can sustain the fight long enough to break the back of the Sunni Arab-led insurgency.
Now if someone were to ask me, is the Army going to have trouble sustaining the fight long enough to break the back of the Sunni Arab-led insurgency? I would probably answer yes. It would be a stupid answer and would probably be broadcast around the world as the Bush Lied! soundbite of the week. This is why I'm not a General or spokesman for the Bush administration.

If I was smart I would not answer "Yes". I would answer like this: Breaking the back of the insurgency isn't our job. Our job is to build up and defend the Iraqi government, military, police, and people so that they can defeat the insurgency themselves. In the long run, the Iraqis need to be able to be able to deliver peace and security for themselves. You sir, asked the wrong question.

Wedding Rings

Amy and I had ours enscribed with our wedding date and three initials. She has a list of other possible inscriptions up on her blog.

Palestinian Politics

Hamas has won big in the election. I'm disappointed of course. A lot of people are. I wish the Palestinians would wake up and look at their leaders for the corrupt men they are.

But there is a good part of this whole thing. The Palestinians have just institutionalized Hamas. First, now Hamas has to fix things. This may point out just how bankrupt the organization really is. Maybe. But I'm betting they'll just blame the US and the Jews for their problems. Second, we're really good at taking down institutionalized foes. A terrorist home state? Wonderful, now we know who and where to bomb. A thousands scattered foes are hard to hit, but in many ways an organized army is much easier. Palestine has gone from a state at peace with Israel, to one they can very conveniently declare war on.

UPDATE: David Bernstein has similar thoughts on the silver lining of the Hamas victory.

A Trick I Have to Learn

We have these printers at work, but I never realized how much fun they could be.

The Scarcity of Intelligence

CNN Money's 101 dumbest moments in business has some amusing entries. The list revolves around a lot of ethics scandals, housing bubbles, and of course the dot-coms. Oddly enough their list of the smartest moments this year only features ten things. Coincidence?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Things Nerds Do

Amy has said I can't own a motorcycle, but she never mentioned one of these.

Which Sports Car Are You?

I'm a Chevrolet Corvette!

You're a classic - powerful, athletic, and competitive. You're all about winning the race and getting the job done. While you have a practical everyday side, you get wild when anyone pushes your pedal. You hate to lose, but you hardly ever do.

Take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz.

Well, umm, I guess it got a few of those superlatives right.

Fortune Cookie Wisdom

Grandfather say:
You are going to have a very comfortable old age.
In bed. Huh. That doesn't even make it naughty.

Weather or Not

This morning's commute was a strange one. When I left home it was wet and icy, but the sun was out. On the road I passed through rain and then some snow. At work it's sunny again. I think I've run the gammut of weather for the day. I think tonight we're getting frogs or locusts.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Anti-War Intellectual Honesty

I received We Were Soldiers for Christmas. I like the movie and I especially liked the commentary from Col. Moore. He said the story of the war was one of a dramatic dichotomy.

The American fighting man is one of the bravest, most gallant images in existence. He (and now perhaps she) is an embodiment of self-sacrifice, brotherhood, determination, and victory in the face of daunting odds. He is the hero and anyone who has served counts themselves in a proud company and a noble tradition.

But there is a counterbalance to that symbol of heroism. War is hell. It is dirty, disgusting, bloody, and costly. It exacts a physical, mental, and spiritual toll. It is not something to be praised. Because of the battle for landing zone X-ray, 79 families didn’t have their sons, husbands, and/or fathers return to them. War is an awful thing.

I think many protestors have really latched onto these concepts. Joel Stein hasn't. He has officially come out as anti-troops. That makes him intellectually honest. Perhaps the other war protesters are presenting an ideology that isn’t exactly rationally coherent. Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean those "oppose the war, support the troops" protestors are being dishonest with themselves.

I think there has been a real push from the right to impose a version of what the protestors believe onto the protestors themselves. Lets redefine the protestors as dishonest because the stance they hold is logically untenable. If my experience has taught me nothing, it is that people aren’t necessarily reasonable or logical. Some people really do believe six impossible things before breakfast. Most of these people are acting on their feelings and emotion rather than their reason. They feel the war is wrong and that war is hell, but they also feel that a grudging respect for the military fighting for what they, the soldiers, believe is right. War is still hell, but soldiers are still the heroes of their own narrative.

I suppose we might be entitled to some smugness because the pro-war stance is on a sounder philosophical footing. But I don’t think we are entitled to call those other people liars just because they haven’t worked out the incoherency of their own beliefs. Joel Stein might admit he doesn’t respect the troops, but I don’t think it necessarily follows that everyone else also believes the same and are attempting to deceive us.


The committee vote is expected to break down along partisan lines. From Michelle Malkin:
Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said he'd be "sorry" to see a party-line vote.
Speaking as one of his former constituents, let's hope Arlen doesn't feel so sorry that he votes with the Democrats.

Conservative Canada

The Conservatives are in and so the Conservative blogosphere is celebrating. And tomorrow when they sober up, the Canadian Conservatives will have to face the fact that they don't a clear majority and so they won't actually be able to do anything without a great deal of coalition building.

I'm half-Canadian, both my Grandfathers were born north of the border and both ended up eventually becoming US citizens. I suppose they saw 13 years of liberal rule coming.

Well good luck you hosers. You'll need it eh.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Everyday Epiphanies

Every once in a while, I see something that renews and reshapes my understanding of people. Here are two such instances.

The first was shooting this weekend. Several guys walked into the range. They looked like stereotypical street toughs. You get the occassional one of those at the range. The body language, the clothes, it was all there. Turned out it was their first time shooting. One had bought a .45 and a box or two of ammo. They all wanted to learn basic shooting. The Range Officer gave each of them instruction and I chatted with a couple of them as I reloaded. Turned out they lived a few miles away from me. They even rotated a couple girls (related to the gun's owner) from the minivan outside. I let the girls shoot a mag each from my .22 just in case the .45 was a little too much pistol for them. Sometimes looks are decieving.

The second was slighty later. I was in K-mart. I was only buying beef jerky and batteries. Honest. There was an Indian man in the detergent aisle talking on his cell phone in an language I don't know a word of. But yet I understood everything he said. His wife had sent him out to do some shopping and now he was calling her from the detergent aisle because buying "Clorox" turned out to present him with far more possibilities than he had previously imagined. It warmed my heart to know that deep down, all men are equally bewildered.

Educating English

A post over at Kim's place had me thinking about my own education. The discussion focusedme in on the quality of education in English classrooms. I must admit I have a lot of problems with how I was taught English when I went through public school 10+ years ago.

The first is that it tends to focus on books which are frankly quite dull. I remember reading a lot of critically acclaimed stuff in Junior and Senior High and thinking they were really boring. This was because I was reading stories by people like Sartre that weren’t so much novels as a philosophical statements. It was awful. And I read for fun, so I can only imagine what my jock classmates would have thought. There were a handful of enjoyable books every year. I remember liking Tolkein, le Guin, Dumas, Voltaire’s Candide, Treasure Island, etc. But still, if I hadn’t been reading on my own the lesson I would have taken was that most books are boring and suck. I think a lot of english education basically teaches our kids that reading is work and not at all fun.

The second problem is that a lot of literature is taught completely wrong. For instance many Dickens “novels” aren’t actually novels at all. They’re actually serials Dickens wrote for magazines that were later repackaged as novels. David Copperfield is one of these. That’s why it is long and meandering and I never got a sense that it was going anywhere. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen is a chamber novel. It is meant to be read aloud to your friends in manageable sections, so reading it straight through is painful. Most Shakespeare is painful to read off the page because you never understand the flow of the words, but if you read it aloud then the language and pacing starts to work its magic.

Third and most importantly, reading was more about a novel’s content than how it expressed those contents. What literary mechanisms is the author using? How is he/she accentuating important themes? Beats me. All Quiet on the Western Front was about WWI and the overall theme was war destroying the innocence of the youth. I don’t remember anything else. We wrote essays on thematic analysis. Who writes literary essays like that in real life? We never got to write fiction even though we had been studying fiction since kindergarten.

I don't think the English departments in most schools are necessarily bad. They definitely need to pick books for their audience and not just for their the level of comprehension but also the level of motivation.

Local Pro-Life Politics

Roe v. Wade's 33nd anniversary was yesterday. La Shawn Barber has had a good series of posts up on abortion. I'm not going to go on an abortion rant, but I will bring this whole thing home.

When I was a teenager I did fundraisers for Delaware's Crisis Pregnancy Center which has since changed it's name to A Door of Hope. The fundraiser was called the Alternathon, they held it at Lum's Pond, and I road my bike for 25-40 miles earning dollars per mile. Door of Hope no longer holds the Alternathon because the fundraiser was loaded with expenses that ate up their funds. Now they do the much cheaper "baby bottle boomerang" which is going on right now.

A Door of Hope provides services advocating abstinence and positive alternatives to abortion. They also provide basic pre-natal medical care (like ultrasounds) for women with financial difficulties.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

AP and Army

Just once I would like the news services to get simple things right. For instance my Yahoo Mail showed this AP headline: "Army Officer Found Guilty in Iraqi's Death."

Now this is not a the-Associated-Press-hates-America post. This guy sounds guilty as sin and there is nothing wrong with publicizing it. No, my complaint is that the soldier in question is Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer Jr. Warrant Officers are not "officers" in the military sense. They are more like senior enlisted men. Even the lowliest lieutenant outranks the highest warrant officer.

If you are going to write a story, please have at least a passing familiarity with the background of the story. The Army's rank structure is a good place to start with stories involving the Army.

UPDATE: If you want some background on warrant officers, the Army is a good place to start. Michael makes a good point in that Chief Warrant Officers are recognized as a commissioned officers. But CW2+s are not commissioned officers in the traditional sense of leading units. They're technical specialists. I still think that using the term officer (which usually refers to a commissioned officer) is misleading.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Neener Neener Nader

Autoblog is linking to comments by Ralph Nader scolding Chrysler for irrational exuberance.
Nader said he couldn't believe that one of Chrysler's executives driven a "muscle car" through a plate glass window at Cobo Hall. The vehicle actually driven through glass was a new Jeep Wrangler. "It shows a high level of juvenile delinquency," said Nader.
Yes how awful that they would waste that glass showing how cool their vehicle is. Couldn't they just have done it by sipping tea or something? But that would probably waste tea.

Nader went on to criticize Chrysler's behavior as typical of domestic auto producers. Except of course that Chrysler isn't a domestic auto manufacturer anymore. For those that aren't aware, Chrysler is owned by the Germans and the board is 7/10 German. Of the three non-germans, one is Canadian. There is no Big 3 anymore, there is only the Big 2.

He also suggested:
Nader also suggested only half in jest that the auto industry ought to consider outsourcing executive jobs to India or China. The U.S. also might want to consider doing the same thing with Congress. "I guarantee I could go around the world and find 535 extremely honest legislators who would be willing to do the job for $8,000 per year," added Nader. "But that's never going to happen," he acknowledged because Congressmen and CEOs have far more job protection than the average worker in the U.S.
No only is this incorrect because Congress has to run for re-election regularly, but outsourcing congress? How the hell do you outsource jobs representing Americans in the halls of government to non-Americans? Either Nader is joking, senile, or has a warped view of the role of congress.

Need Some Cuteness

Are Osama's recent threats getting you down? Does the prospect of Roy Blunt becoming House Majority Leader fill you with dread? Well look at some cuteness to cheer you back up. Warning: Cute Overload may not be safe for some diabetics.

Gas Prices

Where are you going to fill up today? Well check out this site for where in your zipcode you will find the best prices. Don't say I never did anything for you.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

End of the Spear

This is movie about the martyrdom of five missionaries attempting to spread the Gospel in the jungles of South America. The story itself was widely publicized by Elisabeth Elliot's book Through Gates of Splendor. Elisabeth Elliot is the wife of one of the deceased, Jim Elliot.

There is some controversy surrounding the film. Namely that Chad Allen, who plays Nate Saint and his brother in the film, is gay and a gay activist. Some people have real trouble with this. Reverend Ed doesn't and explains why. I'm not so sure.

If Chad Allen was just a gay actor I wouldn't really have a problem. I'm not a fan of his lifestyle, but if he does a good job in the movie, then ok. He's also a gay activist. That bothers me a bit, but I suppose he's allowed to advocate his lifestyle. It's a free country. As long as the movie is ok, I'm still willing to look the other way.

As part of his activism he produced and starred in the LA version of Corpus Christi. This is a movie that tells the story of Joshua, a gay man, and his twelve male lovers. The writer of Corpus Christi boasts in how blasphemous the play is.

Now I don't have an opinion about the film. I may still see it if I hear it's good. But now I very uncomfortable with this actor playing a Christian role. Yes, he's just an actor playing a part. But his actions have shown that he really doesn't get what is motivating the character he plays. Now he certainly isn't the devil shooting gay rays at me from the silver screen, but part of me wonders if I'm now condoning blasphemy by supporting this film with my entertainment dollars.

So I'm very torn. Part of me thinks that this movie could still be a great film and may be a great witnessing tool. Another part of me wonders what kind of witness I will really be if I go to see it. Is seeing the film going to be construed as supporting this guy's lifestyle and body of work? We've been working through 1 Corinthians in small group. Paul makes it pretty clear you need to think about this sort of thing.

The answer is that I don't know. I think protesting a film you have never seen based on hearsay is foolish. It is being proud in ignorance and exercising poor judgment. If the politics had never come up, there wouldn't be a problem. But now they have and there is. I think the Christians leading the charge chose poor ground to fight over. I don't think this is a worth the fight and I don't think there will be a clear winner in this round of spiritual warfare either way.

The New State Department

Condi's plans for the State Department are shaping up. Austin Bay refers to them as "(1) common sense, (2) critical to any sustained diplomatic effort but (3) especially critical when pursuing a reformationist foreign policy."

What are her changes? Condi intends shift the diplomatic corps away from Europe and the developed world and towards India, China, and the Mideast. In order to get diplomats out of their cushy Parisian offices, she intends to reward and promote those who take difficult positions around the world. She is also planning to restructure some of the management surrounding the State Department like the US Agency for International Development.

Expect to hear a great gnashing of teeth coming from State. This is going to require a lot more work from them. If someone wants to make a political issue of this, expect a speech like "Bush's reorganization of the State Department is abandoning our traditional allies like France and Germany."

Big Labor Gets Smaller

Autoblog has outlined the UAW President's plan for saving the Big 2. His plan is to end free trade, nationalize/socialize medicine, and then get a big government handout for pro-environment vehicle development.

Kind of highlights everything that is wrong with UAW (and US automotive) management doesn't it? My plan is to flush the UAW down the drain and start over using principles based on the foriegn manufacturers. I think I'll get what I want first.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Wedding Blogging

Amybear has a few new posts up at our wedding blog.

UPDATE: Question for the married guys, boutonnieres or no? Amy would like the guys to wear matching flowers. I'd just as soon not. It just makes me feel like I'm going to the prom.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Political Slant

Hube has an excellent breakdown that explains why I don't read comics anymore.

UPDATE: John makes the point that many of pop culture icons seem to be poor at reading and artistic comprehension. It's very true, but often the thematically inept are not the writers. They're artists or actors who aren't so much creating the work as reading their lines or drawing the pictures others are asking them too. They aren't paid for critical artistic analysis of their subject, they are paid to act and draw pretty.

What really annoys me is not that the writers are crappy or that the artists and actors are clueless. What annoys me is that the people running the business who are supposed to be evaluating their work as good or bad don't seem to be paying attention, either. I remember when they did the great Captain America switcheroo in the eighties. I have an Iron Man comic with "the Captain" in it. It was very very stupid and I doubt it sold comics. I remember when they were fiddling around with Superman in the 90s because their crappy writers ran out of ideas. How do hacks like Chuck Austen keep getting hired to work on comics? A while back Chuck went to DC from Marvel and a coworker and I celebrated. Mostly because the only DC superhero we like is Batman and we didn't care how Chuck screwed up the DC universe.

Influential Christians

There is a new list of the top 50 most influential Christians in America. Evangelical Outpost looks at the under-represented (Catholic clergy), the over-represented (televangelists), and how things break down. Thinklings relays this Michael Spencer quote:
When will American Christians realize that “leaders” aren’t appointed by God through book or album sales?
The Internet Monk has a point. The problem is that in a contest of influence, the man (or woman) who shouts the loudest wins. There are plenty of blogs with spiritual instruction superior to Joel Osteen. But many of them only have a hundred readers. As many a missionary has pointed out, you can't follow the Word if you never hear it. It stinks that many people will read this list as "The 50 Best Christians in America" when in fact they should read it as "The 50 Loudest Christians in America" but living in a fallen world is like that.

UPDATE: Matthew notes that at least Pat Robertson isn't on the list. Amen to that. Can we all stop paying attention to him now? Major media outlets this means you.

Limited Government

Al Gore's MLK day speech is turning a lot of heads and getting a lot of commentary on both sides of the aisle. The right is correctly noting that Gore never acted on any of this when he was in power.

The left is blaming this on those authoritarian right-wingers.
America needs a conservative of conviction and integrity to issue a call to defend the constitution. We have a lot of conservatives with conviction and a few who have integrity, but none, so far, who have been willing to rise to the defense of the constitution.

In my view, nothing demonstrates the bankruptcy of conservative thought in America more than it's willingness to achieve its goals by sacrificing the constitutional "checks and balances" that undergird our system of law.
They have a big point about the lack of conviction, integrity, and respect for the constitution from the American right. This doesn't mean they have any of those values, but in a way they aren't supposed to. Progressivism has never been about respecting the past. Conservatism is about conserving things, like values and essential limitations on government. This is what conservatives are supposed to be doing. It is a shame that the libertarians are the only real party calling for limited government.

The real problems is the position of limited government in politics. The left only wants limited government for the right. They want unlimited government for their own causes. But that is what the right wants too. We want conservative rights to advance our causes. Instead we really need is a whole lot of neither and to get the government out of the rights and entitlements business. I think that the conservatives are in a superior position to pursue this agenda, but we aren't and that is to our shame.

Still a Big Nerd

I'm getting a lot more old Penny Arcade jokes now that I've actually played WoW. This is especially true since I've been playing with my fiance. After waiting for 2 hours (no I'm not kidding) I was able to get on the server. Fortunately for most of that time I was watching CSI in the next room. We played, we leveled, we had an ok time.

Amy is still getting used to the differences between WoW and Fairyland, especially when you encounter monsters. In Fairyland you walk around the empty world map and various encounters pop up randomly. Then you have a clean turn-based combat system to resolve things. In WoW the monsters are wandering around the world map just like you. You can try to avoid them or you can set an ambush. The combat itself is dynamic and real time so you need to use your hotkeys and be on top of things. Plus new monsters can join in your fight or other characters can horn in on your kill. Oh and Fairyland is very cute.

It can be annoying yet very fun. When I was playing some last night at (time withheld to protect the guilty), I was hunting boars so I could cook up some tasty boar steaks. These bears kept showing up and kicking the crap out of my Hunter. I never knew dwarves were capable of being such good sprinters. I really need to learn trap skills so I can get unexpected opponents off my back long enough to kill their electronic butts.

But enough about me being a big dork.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Big Nerd Right Here

Today's Penny Arcade is vaguely appropriate. Amybear has been a big massive multiplayer fan for a while, but she recently decided to move up from our bush-league Fairyland roots into something a little more A-list. So she bought a copy of World of Warcraft last week.

We played a little over the weekend after fighting with her laptop just to get the game running. Laptop video cards can be like that. It is a fun game and Amy, who doesn't have a lot of RPG experience outside of Fairyland, is slowly warming to it. I played on her account a bit this weekend. It was fun enough that she gave me her free 10-day pass to set up my own account.

After a long install, it is running on my computer. My computer doesn't have as much problem with it, but I had to upgrade my RAM from 256 megs to full gig. Honestly, I should have done this before now, my computer has been having some trouble with it's memory for while. WoW just gave me a good excuse. Circuit City had a RAM deal advertised this weekend, but per the usual they were out of stock. So I bought my gig for more money at Best Buy. Hopefully Amy and I will be playing together tonight.

I say hopefully because I've been waiting to log on the server for an hour and twenty minutes. Now this isn't because the server is down or unreliable. No this is because the server has it's maximum number of clients and I'm waiting in a queue. I assume that I've been waiting so long because I'm a freeloader. At one point I was 50th in the queue. Now I'm in the low hundreds. How you can go up in a queue is beyond me. Is there an electronic equivalent to frontsies?

If this is representative of the game experience as a whole, then there is no way I'm going to pay good money for it. If there is one thing I have learned about business, is that you should treat a prospective client as well as a current client. Otherwise you should not expect to get their money. I don't like to give people my for nothing and Circuit City has already learned that today.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Night of the Living Stupid

Phantom Prof is relaying her recent experience walking in on a sorority rush day.
And here was the uniform of the day, head to toe: Bottle-blond ponytail, cellphone pasted to ear, pastel cashmere pashmina tossed carelessly but perfectly around the shoulders, thin T-shirt, teeny-tiniest cotton knit shorts (typically gray) showing off tanned legs, beige Ugg boots (the high-calf style).
When I was a student at Delaware, I once ate dinner at the student center on sorority rush night. I didn't realize it was sorority rush night. At 7pm the gates of Trabant opened and in walked hundreds of would-be sorority girls all dressed exactly the same. It was like a cowboy movie where you see a few cows and then the herd crashed through camp all at once. Everywhere there were boots, boot-cut jeans, form fitting shirts, 3/4 length leather jackets. Evidently there was a dress code. Obviously I didn't meet it.

I continued eating my Chick-Fil-A 12-pack nuggets (mmm... Polynesian sauce), agape at the emergence of the UD sorority hive mind. I looked around and saw one other male in the entire student center. I edged to a table closer to them. I hoped he would have my back if the mob became violent. Secretly I knew it would be every man for himself. Should trouble arise, our first action would be to throw the other in front of the estrogen crazed crowd.

I raced to finish my meal and left. My footspeed added a sense of security. There was no way they could keep up with me in the shoes they were wearing.

I know now that I was in no real danger. But trust me, that many sorority girls can suck all the intelligence right out of a room.

Intelligent Design

Americans United for Separation of Church and State is suing a California school district for teaching Intelligent Design in their high school. The catch? The course is a philosophy elective. Somehow a philosophy elective constitutes an unconstitutional oppression of those students religious rights.

I'm not a huge fan of ID, but I'm not buying it.

Home State Politics

I've been keeping up on the Alito hearings. After reading remarks from Chuck Schumer and Ted Kennedy I kept asking myself a question. I said, "Self, how the hell do these people get elected?" I was rapidly developing a hefty streak of moral superiority about all those yahoos in California, New York, and Massachusetts who elect these dumbasses. Then I realized one of my own senators, Diamond Joe Biden, is one of those dumbasses. Well from the 41% of us who voted for the other guy, I'm sorry America.

Instapundit relays this quote about ol' Diamond Joe:
"The only thing standing between Joe Biden and the presidency is his mouth."
Come now there is one other thing standing between Diamond Joe and the presidency: the state of Delaware. I live in Delaware. I love Delaware. But do you honestly think either party is going to nominate a candidate who can only bring in 3 electoral votes from his home state? It ain't gonna happen.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Gun Myths and Ownership

Joe Cathey has some excellent coverage of firearms and gun control myths. It is long but very good and cites original sources which isn't something you see everyday in the blogosphere.

One of myths worth addressing is the "less guns are more dangerous." Now in the theoretical abstract this looks like a good idea. If everyone had fewer weapons, the world would certainly be safer. But...

The problem is that there is no way to make everyone have less guns. The truth about gun control laws which restrict ownership is that they only effect the honest law-abiding people. The criminals all purchase their guns on the black market, which is obviously unregulated. So when ownership is restricted, the criminals keep their guns and the honest people lose them. So this unbalances the natural conflict between criminal and citizen. It turns honest people who were capable of defending themselves into easy targets for violent crime.

You see criminals fear armed citizens. They know how long it will take the cops to respond to an emergency call. They know cops won't shoot them if they give up. On the other hand an armed homeowner has zero response time and just might shoot them no matter what. I like scared criminal.

Which is why I support civilian gun ownership. Civilian gun ownership is fault tolerant. In a perfect world, nobody needs guns. But we don't live in a perfect world, we live in a world full of armed criminals. We must give honest men and women the capacity to oppose them with physical force unhampered by excessive regulation.

Time Management

I'm in training for most of the day today. I've learned that in order to manage my time better I have to be more organized. I also need to focus on setting short term goals and objectives. Spending less time on the internet at work would probably be a good idea too.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Guns and Church

One of the big questions a lot of gun owners struggle with is whether to carry firearms at church. I don't have a concealed carry permit and I will not break the law in order to carry in house of God. However if ever there has been a story which makes me think about getting a CCW permit, it is this one.
Harford County authorities canvassed the Fountain Green community near Bel Air last night where worshippers were robbed of their cash and valuables during a New Year's Day service, a spokesman for the county Sheriff's Office said.
Now this is bad, but it gets worse when you realize that I work in Harford County so it hits especially close to home.

Progressive Christian Brunch

For some reason, I have been put on a "Progressive Christian" email list. It's probably because Mainstream (heh) Baptist links to me. While I am certainly a Christian and I am progressing in my walk with Christ, I doubt that is what they mean.

Anyway, they are holding a brunch this Sunday from 11 until 2 at Polly's Cafe in DC. I'd attend, but I'm pretty sure I'll be in church for most of that time.

Humorous Education

From Scrappleface:
"If Christians would read the Bible, instead of just watching TV, they would understand that people who claim to know exactly why God does what He does are usually false teachers,” said Mr. Robertson. “God disciplines American Christians for their willful ignorance of the Scriptures by having me embarrass them every 60 days or so with another ridiculous remark.”
Evangelicals need a prime example of why we should break with the cults of personality taking over Evangelical christian culture. Thankfully we have Pat Robertson.

God and Country

Reverend Ed is discussing separating the our allegiance to God from our allegiance to any nation-state. He has suggestions for how to make the dichotomy clearer.

While I'm not going to spout "Christian nation" rhetoric, I'm not sure if I completely agree with him on all points. There are old testament examples of Jews operating in ungodly societies like the Books of Daniel and Esther. Both set the precedent that a Jew (or a Christian by inference) should support his nation unless it takes a position diametrically opposed to the will of God such as idolatry or denying religious liberty. This is the same theme that is reiterated in Paul's writings on the subject.

In the end, we should seek to have God and Country. But as the good reverend says, God is before Country and over country. God comes first. I agree that this fact should be hammered home in our churches.

Milwaukee's Finest

Michelle Malkin is covering the trial of 5 vandals who slashed tires on Republican campaigner's cars in an attempt to influence the 2004 election. Of the five men, two are the sons of political officials (an ex-mayor and a congresswoman).

But Milwaukee isn't alone in having these problems. Michelle also has a more comprehensive hall of shame from court cases around the country.

Monday, January 09, 2006

New Addictions

I encountered sudoku a little while ago from a friend. Like Quaid at Thinglings, I'm more than a little hooked on it. Fortunately you can find the puzzle for free online.

It started appearing in my parents papers and after I showed them how to do the first one, both my parents are hooked as well. My dad is even supplementing his perennial crosswords with sudoku.

Finding the Humor in Traffic Tickets

Joe Carter makes discusses his last traffic ticket:
Several weeks ago I was out for a ride and inadvertently ran a stop sign. Though I didn’t see the sign, a cop did see me. He quickly pulled up behind my chopper and signaled for me to pull over.

Now I've been a biker since I old enough to work a kick-stand so getting hassled by the fuzz is nothing new. I also, as you can probably imagine, have quite the outlaw streak in me. So I did what any self-respecting rider would do: opened it up full throttle and tried to make a run for it. I gave it all I had but the cop must have had some super-charged cruiser because he caught up to my moped like I was standing still.
Now how should you go about getting out of a ticket? I used to suggest that you drive like local cops, because cops are unlikely to be such hypocrits that they will ticket someone for driving like they do. This has proven to be wrong.

Instead take it to court. Tell the appropriate sob story about how this ticket will have a disproportionally adverse impact on your job, etc. In short lie like a skunk. Depending on your district, you'll get off.

UPDATE: Oh and some would say "be a good citizen and drive like an old lady" is a way to proactively get out of tickets. I have tried this. It does not work. Perhaps for some people, but not for me.

You see I work on an Army base in Maryland that is full of bored cops. I have accepted the fact that I will be pulled over at least once a year for the rest of my life. I have been pulled over for doing 26 in a 25. My speedometer only shows 2 mph increments. I have been yelled at for not having a front license plate, even though I'm a Delawarean and my state doesn't issue them. I'm sure I will soon be yelled at for driving safely while in the possession of a cell phone.

Lileks Gets it Right

James Lileks confronts the future of the West. It is a truly excellent piece and contains sentences like this:
The telling line in Steyn's piece quotes that fine Gaul Jean-Francois Revel: "Clearly, a civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself."

Guilt is a problem, but it’s not the entire enchilada. It’s guilt married to a peculiar belief that Western Civilization is unique only in its sins. The only thing Western Civ really gave the world was slavery, imperialism, war, and capitalism...
Via Kim.

The End of the Season

With our trip to Connecticut this weekend, Christmas is finally over in The Baptist household. Amybear and I received the last of our presents Saturday. Everything went well and we had a nice leisurely trip up and back. Games were played with family members I hadn't seen in a while. Plus I don't seem to have picked up any new diseases off the little ones. Unfortunately I didn't get to see my grandparents as much as I would like, but that can be rectified on later trips.

The traveling was leisurely by the sleeping was not. We spent the weekend at my Aunt Nancy's and played with her bull terrier Deuce. This is a dog that resembles a cinderblock in both in his stout built and minute intelligence. But he is a sweetheart, just a stocky and spoiled sweetheart. He woke me up both mornings I was there by battering my bedroom door down with his thick skull. The first time was because my mother was at the door to help start "Christmas" dinner on Saturday. He was the dumb dog that saved Christmas. The second time he just wanted attention and heard me moving rolling over in bed. I was not amused.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Canadian Rum Rationing

Via Rhodey:
The way to get free liquor? Answer: Turn homeless.

Via Reuters: "Giving homeless alcoholics a regular supply of booze may improve their health and their behavior, the Canadian Medical Association Journal said in a study published on Tuesday."

Rumor has it that many college students plan on "becoming regular homeless" on weekends.
True, there is good cause for cynicism about this sort of thing. Just giving out liquor is stupid. On the other hand liquor is a drug that you can't go without once you have formed the addiction. It will kill you. You have to come down slowly or your nervous system can't cope. This may be why so many homeless people are on the edge of sanity.

The military has had a lot of trouble with this in the past, especially in reserve units. Sarge leads his men into the wilderness on extended recon, then one develops the DTs when his liquor supply runs out. If they can't get him alcohol or back to civilization in time, he won't make it.

Now I'm not saying that we should start handing out liquor to homeless people. But there is a controlled setting wheere giving them liquor (in order to ween them off it) might be a very good idea.

Picking Targets

I took my Hipower and 1911 out to the range this weekend. It was the first time I had gone shooting over a month. I shot mostly rapid fire to use up the last of my crappy commercial ultimax reloads in .45 and 9mm. Even shooting quickly and often one-handed, I was keeping all my rounds in an 8" diameter circle at 7 yards. This isn't stellar target by any means, but that sort of accuracy should still be effective.

I really like shoot-n-c targets in low light. Right now I only have cheap black on not-really-white paper targets. The problem with black targets is that you can't actually see the holes you are making. This is especially true poor light, like the cloudy weather we've been having. So I stuck a shoot-n-c on my target which puts a nice green or orange ring around each hole. One of the other pistol shooters borrowed one from me on permanent loan. I generally like using the white on red rifle zeroing targets because they don't require shoot-n-sees for good visibility. Even better you can add those little black shoot-n-c spots to the middle of the target so you can actually see when you bullseye.

My 1911 bit me a few times. The GI hammer and safety can do that with a high hold. The hammer spur and safety tang pinch a little skin on the web of your hand. It hurt, but it won't kill you. I'm going to follow Teddy J's advice and shorten/re-radius the spur hammer by a fraction of an inch with my dremel. It seems silly to spend cash on a beavertail grip safety and commanders hammer for a gun as inexpensive as my 1911. Besides this will give me something to do on MLK day.

Sunday Dick's had a sale on 9mm, 50 rounds for $6. I bought 500 rounds which should last me until the weather warms up at the very least. I also stopped by Miller's for their New Years sale. They cut their prices on a lot of single action pistols to get stock out the door before inventory. I also handled a bersa thunder .380 and a walther ppk. Buy the bersa. The walther is three times more and an inferior design. Another local shop is now carrying Rock River AR-15s. Sweet. I may have to look into them.

Crash Physics

Slashdot is linking to this analysis of American car crashes. The conclusions are very concerned with the difference in crash performance between typical unibody vehicle construction and light-truck ladder frame construction especially when one hits the other.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Racial Dialogue

A bunch of my coworkers are black. This is a good thing. It is a great thing and they're great folks. But...

It can be very interesting listening to them talk about everyday subjects. It makes me realize that there is a whole world of which I am profoundly ignorant. There are a whole types of hair and skin care products I don't understand and shouldn't ever use. White folks get oily naturally, black folks tend to do the opposite and dry out.

They are free to describe people in ways I just can't. It isn't using forbidden words like the n-word. It's simple things like describing people's skin color. As a white man, I just wouldn't feel comfortable describing a black man's skin tone. I've been trained not to notice that stuff.

It is just weird. Not bad, but different. And it's right on my doorstep. It makes me wonder what else I'm missing. But I'm sure I'll learn some whole new stuff once I get married too.

Truth about Libertarianism

John the Methodists speak the truth about the libertarian party:
But most of all, because the Party is filled with utter wackos (and I'm saying that about these people). There isn't a place for moderates -- that is, non-anarchists. I don't use the term "anarchist" lightly, but in full reference to the Party leadership and dominant body which advocates a completely stateless society.
I agree completely. The founding fathers realized that government is a necessary evil. They supported limited government for this very reason.

Egregious Charles at Geek with a .45 points out neo-anarchism primary flaw:
I'm an anarcho-capitalist in the same way I'm a pacifist; that is, I'll become one at the same time as everyone else. It's moral position seems as unassailable as that of pacifism. So if either one were a realistic option at all, it'd be the only option. But with pacifism, in the real world, there are too many situations where refusing to participate in violence does nothing to reduce violence, but simply makes it one sided.
Amen. Anarchy can be attractive in a Fuzzy Lumpkin's "Stay off'n my proportay!" sort of way. But it is unable to react to problems in any sort of organized manner. Even contractual forms break down because there is no court to decide questions of contract law. It isn't fault tolerant and it is very easy to create faults.

This is why the guys over at QandO are creating something they call neo-liberatarianism. They want smaller government, but they still want government if only for roads, courts, and a common defense.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A Writers Life

Joan is talking about taking writing classes:
It's a Creative Writing class. And while typically, I think those classes do more damage than good for aspiring writers, this one is taught by an actual writer...not just someone who couldn't get published and decided to teach instead. Combine that with the fact that it was pointed out to me, by someone I actually respect, that I seriously need to work on tenses in my writing, and I really think the class would be good for me.
Writing classes would be good for me too. Or as well. Or whatever. I'm an engineer so I haven't seen the inside of an English classroom since I was a college Freshman. I didn't do especially well. The problem with creative writing classes at Delaware was that you had to be a good writer just to get into them. The minimum class size was 15 or so, but then the instructor would cut another 5-10 in the first few weeks until only the cream was left. In short, I'd never have made the cut.

One note though, a lot of actual writers also teach. Very few writers have the luxury of just writing for a living. Most of them have to have an additional job to pay their bills. Teaching is very popular for this, but a coworker's wife is a housewife/novelist. Neil Stephenson once told this anecdote::
I went to a writers' conference. I was making chitchat with another writer, a critically acclaimed literary novelist who taught at a university. She had never heard of me. After we'd exchanged a bit of of small talk, she asked me "And where do you teach?"

I was taken aback. "I don't teach anywhere," I said.

Her turn to be taken aback. "Then what do you do?"

"I'm...a writer," I said. Which admittedly was a stupid thing to say, since she already knew that.

"Yes, but what do you do?"


Because she'd never heard of me, she made the quite reasonable assumption that I was so new or obscure that she'd never seen me mentioned in a journal of literary criticism, and never bumped into me at a conference. Therefore, I couldn't be making any money at it. Therefore, I was most likely teaching somewhere. All perfectly logical. In order to set her straight, I had to let her know that the reason she'd never heard of me was because I was famous.
He goes on to explain that there are two kinds of writers, those that can make money through it and those who can't and survive on literary criticism. Those who can't are far more common, but neither is especially superior to the other because most commercial writers make money by no fault of their own.

Denomination Decentralization

Here is one that has been sitting in my draft folder for a while...

The United Brethren in Christ are changing from a centralized denominational system to a more distributed congregationally-based system. Comments are here.

As a Ex-presbyterian Baptist, I am a great lover of a congregational "connectional" denominational model. I think it forces the individual churches to mature instead of using the denominational heirarchy as a crutch. I also think that it can simplify the process of church discipline.

My family left the PCA denomination after trouble with the senior pastor's church management. We stood with about a third of our church and unsuccessfully tried to voice concerns to the denomination (through whom all concerns had to pass). We failed and my parents and I left soon thereafter. My brother stayed and watched as the senior pastor essentially tried to lie himself out of his problems. My brother bounced around and ended up at our current church as well.

When we began attending my current church, it was having trouble with church management too. Except my church is Baptist, so instead of pretending nothing was wrong, my senior pastor put the breaks on everything and addressed the problems on Sunday mornings. So we stayed. And the church has grown. Many families from my old church have bounced around and now attend my new one.

Via Reverend Ed.

Fun in Zero G

Flying weiner dogs = comedy. Via Locusts and Honey.

P.S. John has some serious stuff up on Peter's epistles. Also worth a read.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Low Carb Fever

Amybear and I also stopped at Cheeburger Cheeburger on the way home from the airport. We got ourselves stuffed with delicious red meat, onion rings, and milk shakes. Tha's just as well because we're going to start low carb dieting together soon. Amy's mom is a nutritionist, so we'll be using a plan of her devising.

Amy's done low carb before with great success. I've never tried it. In fact to my knowledge I have never lost weight in my entire life. When I graduated from high school, I was 6 feet tall and 145 pounds. That is tall and thin for you people who use the metric system. I gained about ten pounds in college, ten pounds in grad school, ten pounds when I was looking for work, and now twenty over the course of my current employment.

I have used diet and exercise to slow down my weight gain, but generally I haven't lost much weight. Hopefully this diet will help me drop some fat while still being able to put on more muscle mass as I work out.

Oh and if my posts make even less sense than usual next week, it's just the diet plaining hell with my body chemistry.

Returning from Hibernation

Amybear is back staying with me for a week. She flew south to visit family after Christmas, but I picked her up from BWI today. She'll be doing family stuff with me this week.

It is really really nice to have her back. I miss her horribly when she is gone. Her visits just fill me with confidence about how well we will be able to live and grow together once we're married. The first thing I did after the New Year turned was to call Amybear at her grammy's place.

As a side note, I'm finally done my Christmas shopping. I picked up a gift card today that will take care of my grandparents. They'll get it this weekend when we go up for a visit.