Friday, November 30, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth

Current Democrat reaction success is so very telling. For instance John Murtha changed his tune recently about the effectiveness of the Surge. Democratic leaders reaction? This truth is very inconvenient to us, the Speaker will be furious. Congressional Democrats are noticing that the war issue is quickly losing salience with the public. This is bad as it has been their major campaign point. Now they have to address major issues like the budget and immigration. Things they don't have good answers for.

And remember that the sad this is they brought this on themselves. Back when they were for the war before they were against it, the Democrats wanted to increase troop levels in Iraq. Then they went anti-war for the 2006 election. When the administration co-opted their strategy they ganged up on him for it. Unfortunately they were right before they were wrong. Oops.

Wet-Dry Vacs

Instapundit points out that if you have to have one, you really have to have one. My dad received a wet-dry shop vacuum as a present some time ago. Their use of it is uncommon but urgent. I know they've bailed out one of their neighbors after their basement flooded. I'll have to plan on getting one at some point, but I'll probably need a shop before I bother with a shop vac.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Wally and The Goatee

I suppose I can take heart because my beard has not done irreparable harm to the goatees of all mankind. I guess my level of uncoolness must be of a more mundane variety.

The De Camp Centennial

Instapundit notes that L. Sprague de Camp's 100th birthday was the 27th and The Cimmerian laments even his fans didn't notice.

Frankly, I'm not a de Camp fan. I'll haven't read much of his fiction except the Conan pastiches and I consider them inferior to Howard's original work. His non-fiction works are interesting, but tend to be marred by the character of their author. While Instapundit reports that de Camp was "a delightful person", in his writings he often came off as an uptight ass who was quick to adopt hypercritical and pseudo-scientific airs.

But even for his faults, he deserves to be remembered.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Girl Genius

I ran across Phil and Kaja Foglio's Girl Genius years ago. Girl Genius is a "gaslight fantasy" (essentially steampunk) comic about mad scientists. At the time it had just made the transition from conventionally published paper comic to webcomic. Because of how the Foglios chose to do that, releasing back issues gradually at the same time they issued new pages, I found it incomprehensible. You had the early stuff which made sense, then a continuity jump of unreleased back issues, then the new stuff which lacked sufficient backstory. I'm please to say that the gap of unreleased print material has been filled in since I last visited the site. What was once incomprehensible is now comprehensible. Or at least any incomprehensibility is purely the fault of the storytelling instead of the release schedule.

It's good stuff. But the archives are deep enough that it will probably take you the better part of a couple days to read it all. So don't get into it until you have the time to spend.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Norris for VP

While his recent campaign spot is brilliant, Steve Lamp hopes Mike Huckabee doesn't choose Chuck Norris as his running mate. I don't know about that. I think people would tune in to the Vice Presidential debates if they thought one of the participants could unleash a spinning roundhouse kick at any moment.

A Rhetorical Disembowelment

Steve Lamp read through Debbie Maken's Getting Serious About Getting Married over the holiday weekend. His five-part fisking (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5) covers the breadth of the book. Maken's book makesI Kissed Dating Goodbye seem like manna from heaven.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Debate Obsoleted

Well it's turning out that embryonic stem cell research is something of a dead end and that adult stem cell research is really the way to go. Why? Partly because adapting embryonic stem cells to a specific patient is too much work. Mostly because embryonic stem cells suffer from severe supply problems which are alleviated by using adult stem cells.

Who could have seen that coming? Well I did for one. I even mentioned it in passing almost two and a half years ago. It was essentially a throw away remark in a post about the moral considerations surrounding embryonic life.

I must say this whole thing really pisses me off. We've wasted how many years on this? Six or seven? Bush made this whole stem cell compromise before 9/11 didn't he? The whole issue is mooted and predictably so. What a waste.

UPDATE: As a response to comments, my prediction for future stem cell research is this: if stem cell treatments become practical at all, they will use adult stem cells for reasons of ethics and economics. Some fundamental research will still be conducted with the embryonic cells, but most applied research will also switch to some form of adult stem cells as soon as possible.

The Tenth Dimension

This is a really neat explanation of higher dimensional physics. It's probably wrong in a multitude of ways, but it's still mind-boggling.

Via John C. Wright

Monday, November 19, 2007

Dapper Fashion

A coworker came in this morning in an Old Navy Moleskin Blazer. He paid ~$20 for it over the weekend during a sale event. While the website successfully makes it look like a $20 blazer, it is actually quite handsome. Many inexpensive sport coats seem thin and bodiless because the manufacturers cut corners with the jacket material and construction in order to save money. While that may be true with the Moleskin, it didn't show it on my coworker.

It's also a sport coat, not a blazer. Sorry Old Navy, but blazers have brass buttons and no pocket flaps. Now if only it had three buttons...

Enough of Chuck

While this Mike Huckabee campaign ad is hilarious, I think the Chuck Norris list is about played out. It showed up in an illustration during one of my pastor's sermons two weeks ago. Enough already.

National Ammo Day

Did you know that today is National Ammo Day? National Ammo Day is an activist event designed to show the buying power of the shooting public. I have no idea if it actually works. So get out there an buy your ammo.

And if you don't have a gun and live in Northern Delaware, my guns are chambered in 9mm, .45acp, .30 carbine, and .223 Remington. I also have a .22lr, but that's the cheap way out. Drop me a comment or email and we can set up a shooting trip.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Be Your Own Bowyer

While I was out buying John Wright's Fugitives of Chaos, I finally paged through a copy of the Dangerous Book for Boys. Instapundit has been hyping it for quite some time. It looks like a really fun book. One chapter which caught my eye was building your own bow. This sounds like a fun idea. To the Internet!

It turns out that bow plans are widely available. The US Army Survival Field Manual has simple instructions for building a field expedient bow. Vintage Projects has more detailed plans for everything from simple flat bows to traditional long bows. I especially like the repeating crossbow on their site. It's perfect for surviving the Zombie Apocalypse.

Best of all, doing this stuff isn't expensive. Like many building projects, you just need time. Sam Harper has walk throughs for building bows from items available any Home Depot or Lowes. He even gives you great illustrations, although his spelling could use work. Similar advice can be found at the Bowyers Den.

Now if only I had a lot of time on my hands... Maybe I'll get around to finishing this after I complete that chain maille shirt I started back when Amy and I were long distance.

John Wright's Chaos books are great by the way. Or at least the first two are. I'll be picking up the last one when it comes out in paperback soon. I started reading his Everness stories and its patchier in its execution.

UPDATE: I have discovered the downside of bow-making, arrows are actually the expensive part of the equation. I thought modern arrows would be fairly cheap. They're just extruded lengths of aluminum rod with some cast or molded plastic parts glued or screwed on. I don't know why they're so expensive unless it has to do with production volume and durability. Take the demand curve of .30-30 ammo, then make everyone a reloader, and I suppose you would get something similar with firearms.

Bright College Days

From a new shooter report by Kim du Toit:
Herr Mayer insisted on retaining his shot-up target silouette, which he says he will proudly hang on his wall back in Munich (no doubt to the consternation of his friends and family).
While I was in college, my brother took me shooting with his Saiga 12 gauge. I put a fair amount of shot downrange and kept my silhouette. Not only was it peppered with birdshot, but the shot cups had torn gaping holes through the chest and neck of the target. It looked impressive. I hung it on my dorm room wall. I lived on a men's floor and everyone thought it was awesome.

Now I went to school at the University of Delaware in the late 1990s. Back when I was a student, the university was using Robert Wood Johnson Fellowship dollars to hammer home the idea that drugs and especially alcohol were bad, m'kay. And that worked really well. I mean I only drank from that bottle of Scotch in my room on rare occasions. And I would never have dreamed of downing a Killian's or Bass Ale in an underage friend's room. Not unless it was her beer of course. Really. Honest Injun.

I have to wonder if posting a target on my dorm wall today would result in something other than my floor mates thinking I was a bad ass. Would I be accused of a hate crime? Would I be sent to the re-education camps? I don't know. It bothers me to think that I might be treated more harshly today than all my pothead neighbors were back then.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


QandO is discussing a CNN piece on steroid use in professional wrestling. Dale Franks examines two versions of a statement by John Cena.

The first youtube feed is as aired by CNN and essentially says, "You can't prove it and I'll pass every test you give me." The second is raw footage taped independently by the WWE. In it Cena essentially states, "No, I have never taken performance enhancing drugs. I hate that people allege that I have or others have, simply because we excel. You can't prove it and I'll pass every test you give me. But the allegation will still remain and stain my achievements."

Big difference no? Makes you wonder what other stories they've doctored, doesn't it? Or to use Cena's own words in his interview:
This is a one-hour documentary on wrestling and as much as I like to think the world revolves around WWE because I’m so proud of what I do, there are bigger fish to fry out there like the war in Iraq, the presidential race, et cetera, et cetera. And if they’re messing with my quote for an hour documentary just to get the point across that they want the viewing public to think that we’re all on drugs, I can only imagine what [else] they’ve done. was my homepage. I’d get pretty much what’s going on with the world on a daily update. I changed it immediately because now I just get the inkling that they may be telling me what they want me to hear.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Unitarian Party

Eugene Volokh has brought to light an quote made by Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean to a Jewish group:
There are fundamental differences between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party believes that everybody in this room ought to be comfortable being an American Jew, not just an American; that there are no bars to heaven for anybody; that we are not a one-religion nation; and that no child or member of a football team ought to be able to cringe at the last line of a prayer before going onto the field.
Is proclaiming universal salvation something a political party should be doing? No, not really. By endorsing such an explicitly theological statement, aren't they destroying the atmosphere of religious neutrality they're trying to foster? Yes, probably. Does this show Howard Dean is a dumbass? Almost certainly.

Look I'm married to a Jew, so I get what Howard was trying to say with his pander to the important Jewish voting block. But once again he puts his foot in his mouth out of his own ignorance. His favorite New Testament book is Job after all. Maybe he doesn't really know or understand the implications of his statements. Again. I wouldn't be surprise if the Democrats quickly made a statement to bury this gaff as quickly as possible.

250cc's of Fun

I was surprised to see that Kawasaki is bringing out a new version of it's venerable Ninja 250 for 2008. The old Ninjette has been in continuous production with few changes since the late 1980s. The new one will see improved suspension, brakes, and tires. The outstanding fuel economy will stay about the same and it will still cost less than four grand buy one. Alas, I will still have to ogle it from afar.

I Know Something You Don't Know

In my required workplace leadership training, we did an exercise called the Johari Window. While it sounds like some form of eastern transcendental meditation, it is actually a simple diagram meant to emphasize concepts in interpersonal relationships. One of them is that sometimes other people know you better than you know yourself.

An example of this blind spot is a quote from Daily Show writer Rachel Axler's New York Times article about the travails of the current writers strike:
A man in a suit passes by. He yells, “I hope you all get fired!”

Look — this is weird for us, too, you know. Writers are not a naturally combative species. We’re used to sitting in front of our computers and crying. Fresh air is like poison to us. If protocol didn’t dictate otherwise, it’s very likely we would never wear pants. But we’ve given up our salaries and our jobs — easily the only jobs we’re qualified for — to stand outside and yell at people. So, for the sake of decency, could you please not yell back?
I don't know about you, but I've never found the Daily Show's mostly-political humor to be non-confrontational. Writer's aren't non-combative. They're just passive-aggressive about it. They have that luxury because their words are being delivered by third parties like books or anchormen. But non-combative? Not by a long shot.

This principle is also why I'm skeptical about personality tests. These test what you know or think about yourself. So they're drawing conclusions based on a very subjective data set. They'll probably sound right to you, but whether they correct in an absolute sense is anyone's guess.

An aside, I don't have a lot of sympathy for the writers. Yes they probably deserve an increase in their residuals because the 1985 VHS deal was a poor one. But the WGA is requesting twice the current DVD residual (from ~0.36% to 0.72%) and an electronic media residual of 2.5%(!). The former is probably reasonable, but the latter is ridiculous. They also want jurisdiction over non-union programming like reality TV, animation, and the internet. Also unacceptable. Unions should have to work to unionize a field. When you consider that the other media unions will be making matching demands when their contracts are up, I don't find these demands acceptable.

Where are the Beam Sabers?

The Japanese version of Land Warrior is called "Gundam." You know, I would think a Japanese Soldier in a Mobile Suit would be taller.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Products I Don't Need

I give you the Little Wizard Bird Shot Detector, are hilarious:
Detect that elusive piece of shot before you're even close to eating it! ... It's a worthwhile investment in ducking that painful and embarrassing bite...
Ducking get it? The Little Wizard is what it sounds like, a miniature metal detector to find any pesky bird shot in your food before it finds your sensitive dental work. For some people I'm sure this is serious business, but I'm not one of them. Like most Americans, poultry's natural habitat is found in various grocery aisles.

Tam pointed out Tactical Grilling tools. They offer Grill aprons with MOLLE webbing for your spatula sheath or beer pouches. Fortunately they're currently made in Army ACUPAT so the grillmaster will still be easy to spot from a distance.

UPDATE: Amybear has been browsing She thought the Chihuahua taco holders were funny, but the Hillary Clinton Nutcracker topped it.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Highland Sword Play

YouTube is great for finding clips and sometimes even whole episodes of your favorite TV shows. Even if they don't air in your country (like Top Gear did). But you can also find things on YouTube that you just couldn't get before. Like this simple video showing the basics of scottish highland swordplay:

You're never going to see that on TV or even commercial video. But it is mindboggling useful if you like playing with sharp pointy objects and want to develop your skills beyond "the pointy end goes in the other man."

Activism I Can Get Behind

From Jokers to the Right:
Saying he could no longer stand idly by while a vital part of American culture is lost forever, activist and Broadway producer Mel Brooks has founded a private nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the word "schmuck."

An emotional Brooks stopped short of kvetching at a schmuck fundraiser Monday.

"Schmuck is dying," a sober Brooks said during a 2,000-person rally held in his hometown of Williamsburg, Brooklyn Monday. "For many of us, saying 'schmuck' is a way of life. Yet when I walk down the street and see people behaving in foolish, pathetic, or otherwise schmucky ways, I hear only the words 'prick' and 'douche bag.' I just shake my head and think, 'I don't want to live in a world like this.'"
I like the word schmuck. It's Yiddish for "dick", both anatomically and figuratively. When I was getting to know Amybear's parents, words like schmutz and schmuck helped me bridge the cultural gap between this gentile and his in-laws to be. And for that I'm grateful.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Bedknobs and Broomsticks

While I don't recall Angela Landsbury being "kinda hot", I was a huge fan of the Disney film when I was a little. I remember trying to use the corner of my bed to work traveling magic on at least one occasion. Generally it was when I was bored out of my mind after I had been sent to my room by my Mom.

Angela Landsbury was in her late forties when she made Bedknobs. She might have been slimmer and trimmer than when she was doing Murder She Wrote, but I don't recall her being especially either. Now when Landsbury made The Court Jester, that was a different story. She was 31 and really in her svelte leading lady years. I was amazed the first time I saw it in college. She didn't remind me of Jessica Fletcher at all.

Explaining Military Procurement

Chris Byrne explains some of the obscurities of military procurement. The conclusion he comes to is this:
So, our barrier to entry here is this: Is the value of changing the chambering away from 5.56 nato equal or greater than $6 billion dollars; and the difficulty of changing chamberings in the middle of a war.

For right now, the answer is clearly no, at least as far as our government is concerned. As I said above, most of the time, the 5.56 chambering is getting the job done; and governments will take "adequate most of the time" over $10 billion dollars" most any day.
Of course how he gets to that conclusion is the interesting bit.

The problem of replacing the M16 series of rifles is they're very difficult to beat by a decisive margin. The design is highly modifiable and therefore flexible to meet mission needs and new capabilities. In order to justify the cost of replacement, you'd need outperform the current rifle in some key metrics by a margin of 15% or 20%. That's pretty difficult.

Similarly, 5.56 isn't ideal for all conditions but it also hits the sweet spot in weight, cost, recoil, and lethality. I personally don't like current general issue M855 ammo. It is designed to penetrate body armor at range. Unfortunately, we sacrificed the wounding ability of the older M193 round to get the armor penetration of M855. Even more unfortunately, our current enemy doesn't actually wear body armor so we've sacrificed something for nothing. But the old M193 round (which I like) and the newer mk262 round (which is nice at range but expensive) would both get the job done. And you can shoot them out of current guns without any problem anyway.

So expect to see the M16 around for a while yet. But look for a possible change in issued ammunition in the future.

Environmentalism Run Amok

California State Senator Tom McClintock's gave an amazing speech on global warming last month. In it he rails against Al Gore and outlines why California's economy is going into the toilet because of their progressive environmental regulations.