Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Epi-Epilogue

For those of you who finished Deathly Hallows and felt the Epilogue created more questions than it answered, this webchat with J.K. Rowling does a great job answering many unanswered questions. But beware of spoilers!

Iron Man

Hube linked to the Iron Man movie footage released at a Comic Con panel.

I'm still not sold on Robert Downey, Jr as Tony Stark. While he is a good actor, I still think he's too old. But the movie itself looks amazing. Iron Man flying alongside F-22s? What isn't to like?

It Didn't Take Long

John Roberts had a seizure and already people are reveling in his misfortune. But remember, only the right wing is hate-filled.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Crime in Philly

Classical Values is looking at the skyrocketing Philly murder rate and is noticing something that will surprise very few pro-gunners: the killers are all ex-cons who procured their guns illegally. Unfortunately people like Police Commission Sylvester Johnson don't seem to make the connection:
"At this point, right now, we have over 32,000 people in Philly who have permits to carry (and) actually walk the streets of Philly with a gun. We only have 6,400 police officers. We're outnumbered nearly 5-to-1 with people who are on the streets with guns," Johnson said.
No, the police are outnumbered 5-to-1 by law abiding citizens with guns. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. The scary thing is that both groups are probably outnumbered by armed criminals. Unfortunately Johnson doesn't realize that law abiding citizens able to defend themselves and others are not liabilities, they are assets. That the media doesn't connect the dots is even more unfortunate. It's a shame really.

The scary thing is that no one seems to be looking at why the murder rate is skyrocketing. Everyone looks to blame guns, but shootings are largely a symptom. If guns disappeared today, we'd see them replaced by clubbings and stabbings within a month. The real issue is where is this violence coming from? And who is looking at that? Since the violence is tightly contained within a few Philadelphia neighborhoods, I'm betting it is the result of the city's perennial economic troubles and/or criminals fighting over local territory. My guess is that you could look at the victims and killers and find out a lot.

Brady Campaign Blog on Hiatus

It seems the massive numbers of pro-gunners posting on the Brady Campaign blog have shut it down. SaysUncle points out that as long as the BC have comments, they will almost certainly lose the debate on their own blog. Why? Because while the Brady Campaign has opinions, the pro-gunners have actual facts on their side.

I'm sure the Brady Blog will be back, most likely without comments. Hopefully they'll leave trackbacks or something people can respond to.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Let There Be Comics

Amy and I have been watching a lot of the G4 coverage of Comic-Con. Most of this is boring and repetitive, but you do occasionally pan a piece of gold out of that river of crap. One such nugget is the online comics section at the Image website.

The first issue of 38 different comics are available there. And they're not some annoying Flash document like the Heroes comics at NBC. Nope, these are just image files straight from Image. Some like Dynamo 5, The Walking Dead, and Invincible look pretty good. I was actually thinking about picking up Invincible's first trade paperback and now I don't really need much convincing. Other comics just aren't quite doing it for me for one reason or another. Some have art I can't stand (The Nightly News) or are too anti-heroic (Drain, Bomb Queen) for me to root for the main character.

But I'm still glad they're there. Go, kill time, enjoy. Don't blame me if you kill way too much.

Friday, July 27, 2007

New Computers

After reading the description of the computer Chris Byrne built for a friend, I'm realizing I've fallen out of touch with computer tech. SATA2 drives? What kind of RAM was that?

My last computer purchase was in Spring 2003 when my Dell laptop died. It was a $300 Circuit City Celeron special that I hooked up to a $150 15" LCD flat screen. Back when Amy and I tried out World of Warcraft, I added a gig of RAM. I also put in a DVD burner for viewing DVDs and backing up my hard drives. Oh and I put on an optical mouse to replace the old one which wore out. Even now this PC meets my needs nicely because I don't game on it, I only need it to websurf and play the occasional video.

What about work? Well I'm sure our IS/IT department has some sort of regulation that precludes me from even thinking about computer hardware for my work PC. Even though it does actually crunch the occasional number. Meanwhile my skills have atrophied to the point that I hadn't bothered to turn the PC off and back on again before calling their technical support line.

I think this is just one more area where I'm slowly turning into my father. I'm sure he was a young engineer on the cutting edge once. I mean he must have had an incredibly powerful slide rule or something. By the time I hit his age I'm sure I'll have to ask the grandkids to come over and help grandpa breathe his cyberspores properly so I can brainjack onto the Metaverse. And then they can escort me around there so I don't get lost.

What Kind of Conservative Are You?

How to Win a Fight With a Liberal is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Conservative Identity:

You are a Flag-Waving Everyman, also known as a patriot. You believe in freedom, apple pie, rooting for America at all times, and that God gave us a two-day weekend so we could enjoy football and NASCAR.

Take the quiz at www.FightLiberals.com

I must say that I really don't understand the last question though. Tamara came out as an Anti-government Gunslinger which seems right up her alley.

The Deathly Hallows

So I finished Book 7 of Harry Potter last night and I quite enjoyed it. I had seen some of the plot twists coming (plot twists which I will not spoil), but overall it tied up the books very well indeed. As with the previous novels, events that seemed mundane books ago were to be more significant than they appeared.

There is one thing that was just kind of weird though. All of the other Potter books follow a similar formula: introductory action over summer break, fall at Hogwarts, events of Christmas break, spring at Hogwarts, climax at the end of the school year, falling action as everyone goes home for summer. Book 7 doesn't do this. As Harry hints at the end of book six, he doesn't go back to school this time around. It really seems to effect the books pacing and the way I perceived the passage of time in the story.

Rocket Engine Accident

Three employees are dead after an explosion during an hybrid rocket engine test at Scaled Composites. Rand Simberg has been following the story. Will this be private space travel's Apollo 1?

UPDATE: Instapundit reports that this LA Times story has more. The incident happened as technicians were testing nitrous oxide flow through a nozzle. This is a standard and generally safe test. Unless something catches fire, which is what appears to have happened.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Christendom of Fantasy

I'm a big fantasy fan. It is my literary vice. But the fantasy genre as currently written has two major flaws: it is too damn long and it is not fantastic anymore.

In order to write fantasy today, authors seem to be required to write stories that stretch over at least three books and often four or more. David Eddings has written four of them and their total page count is still less than Jordan's Wheel of Time. And these are stories which could be better told in one or two books simply by focusing on the primary protagonist. If you want depth, flesh out the sideplots later in short story collections or short novels like L.E. Modesitt did with Recluce. Why are they like this? Because the market expects it and will buy these monsters.

The second problem is that modern fantasy is highly derivative. John C. Wright notes a side effect of this in a comment buried on his blog:
But let me make a comment about D&D. The generic fantasyland that Gary Gygax tried to erect, is, ironically enough, Christendom. Many of the features unique to the European Middle Ages -- features that do not make sense absent the context of local princes and a universal church -- are predominant. ... Now, of course, to make it palatable to the modern audience, Gygax stripped out the too-obvious Christian ideas, and substituted a pantheon for a monotheism -- but polytheists never had religious orders like the Roman Church in the middle ages. Rites were perform by the leading aristocrats, not by specially-devoted clerical brotherhoods.

In George RR Martin's GAME OF THRONES, the author there runs into the similar question. He wants to have the 'Dark Ages' flavor of ecclesiastic churchmen in the cities and paganism in the countryside, but he does not want to introduce a jarring note of monotheism, and so he has 'The Seven' gods of the official pantheon, and the groves and 'high places' of the older worship in the countryside.
When was the last time you didn't seen medieval fantasy? Even though you can't have medieval society without the Church. But if medieval society wasn't bad enough everybody is recreating Tolkien, largely because of Dungeons and Dragons. Tad William's Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn Trilogy is just Middle Earth run through a blender. I pick up a fantasy book and wonder how this guy is doing elves, dwarves, and dragons. And if they're not redoing Tolkien they're cribbing notes from Jordan or someone else.

In short, keep it short and original.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Lancet Critique

Michelle Malkin has the text of a paper criticizing the 2004 Lancet study. In short, Lancet's statistical work was fudged (by omitting data collected in Fallujah) in order to present results which were statistically significant. Using the full data set, their analysis falls apart because of statistical noise. This is not an unusual problem for many types of social analysis. The statistical noise is high enough that you need a huge sample size to make valid decisions.

On a personal note, hypothesis testing is cool. I've had to do it a few times for work and it is amazingly powerful when you are trying to identify problems.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

U.S. Top Gear

While the version aired on the Discovery Channel was pretty soulless thanks to the re-shot crowd sequences, it was still Top Gear on US TV. Unfortunately, Clarkson has nixed shooting a dedicated American version of Top Gear stateside. No word if he's worried about those Alabama rednecks tracking him down or not.

The Kilt Sweep

I wish I'd found this video by kilt collector Hamish Alexander before I wore my kilt to the highland games. Sitting down the first few times was really quite awkward, because you're so used to pants. Trying to get the kilt sorted out when I got into the car the first time was really a pain.

Hmm, perhaps that's why women tend get in a vehicle by the sit-and-turn method where men just climb in more directly. Unlike men who are almost always wearing pants, women often have skirts.

Learning Woodcraft

Lawdog is giving instruction on how to light a fire using common tools, some steel wool, and a battery. I quit scouts after WEBELOS, largely because the full boy scout troops in my area were a bit shady. As a result, I really don't have much firelighting ability. The apartment has a fireplace and even with modern tools including a blow torch, I can't keep the damn thing lit for any length of time. One of these days I'll have to get a weber kettle grill for the house and teach myself some essentials with it.

Lighting a fire with simple tools is just about the most important survival tool you can have, by the way. Human beings are ruled by the law of threes: 3 minutes without air, 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water, 3 weeks without food. Making fire is an important component of getting the heat and shelter you will require should you experience anything from ill-timed car trouble or the end of the world as we know it.

Oh and Mr. Dawg also has useful instruction in basic self defense. His advice? Get your hands in front of your chest. If you're under threat the only time your hands shouldn't be in front of your chest is if you're using them defensively or offensively elsewhere. Don't keep them at your sides where they are useless.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Otakon 2007

Amy and I went down to Baltimore for the festivities on Saturday. We spent at least an hour in the dealers room, talked to the artist on a webcomic Amy likes, and spent some time just gawking at the freaks. We also attended a Kendo panel which was surprisingly unexciting and spent some time in the manga library which was actually pretty fun.

After discussing the visit with a coworker, gawking at the freakscosplayers turns out to be a pretty popular thing to do. Plus the cosplayers generally find it flattering if you take pictures.

Just Like in Samurai Cat

So Miaowara Tomokato, a katana-wielding feline samurai, is fighting a horde of beweaponed mafiosi with his demented and heavily armed nephew Shiro at his side. Suddenly a gun control bill passes into law and the mafiosi are instantaneously disarmed through the power of our legal system. Of course Samurai Cat keeps his weapon because it isn't a gun and Shiro is a licensed collector so the M1917 heavy machine-gun he's dealing hot leaden death with is perfectly legal. Shiro turns to his uncle and says "Thank Buddha gun control works, Unc!"

This vignette comes out of Samurai Cat at the Movies and is about the only funny thing in the book. The 1/2 Hour News Hour derives similar humor from demonstrating the amazing power of Gun Free Zones. Because when that's what the effectiveness of these policies are: a joke. We would be much better off if we understood that the real role of police in modern society. Given response time, Cops are not heroes responding in the nick of time to save you from some crazy maniac. Instead they are the people who try to find your killer before he kills someone else too.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Harry Potter

Chris Byrne has a review of the latest one. He read an internet copy while his hardback was in transit. The review is safe from a spoiler standpoint, since Rowling herself already let us know people will die. The verdict? A great story poorly written. Or in other words, it's a Harry Potter book.

UPDATE: Amy and I picked up our copy on Sunday. I'm about 200 pages in. Pretty good but also really long winded in parts.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

1 to 1 Gundam

It seems that a theme park in Japan has built a full scale Gundam replica. The Gundam lantern was pretty cool and that was only half scale... The only bad thing is that the Gundam is lying on its back, definitely not as cool or towering as an upright model. I wonder if the beam swords work?

Thomas A Swift's Electric Rifle

The TASER C2 is an interesting piece of equipment. It is a small light unit, meant for personal defense and at $350 it is quite a bit cheaper than the $1000 police model. But it is not without issues. Many groups like the NYPD and Amnesty International have issues with the TASER and don't like civilians (or even police officers in AI's case) using it. Which makes no sense to me as the alternative is pepper spray which has more severe long term effects, or beating/shooting the guy.

But the lack of long term effects isn't necessarily a good thing. Popular Mechanics has a video of Assistant Editor Erik Sofge getting shot with a TASER. Obviously it hurts. Sofge is highly incapacitating while the current is running. The problem? That's only 30 seconds and as soon as the current shuts off, Sofge is back to normal in short order. This is the main problem with TASERs. It hurts like hell, then it stops and within a few seconds the attacker can start beating you up where he left off.

Incidentally, this is why TASER recommends dropping the C2 and using those 30 seconds of shock time to open up distance between yourself and your assailant. Which means the TASER C2 is essentially a $350 expendable. That's kind of rich isn't it? Especially compared to $10-15 cans of pepper spray.

Really, pepper spray (also called OC spray) seems like a better deal to me. Not only is it cheaper, but people hit with OC spray do feel it for a long time. They often can't see well afterwards either. Sounds good to me. And of course for $350 you're in the price range for actual firearms too, but then you might kill the guy.

An Interview with the General

Some people may be excerpting Hugh Hewitt's interview with General Petraeus, but I really think the transcript on Hugh's site, while long, is worth the read. Petraeus seems optimistic, but is honest and doesn't try to spin things into a cake wake. Operations over there are tough against a tough enemy, but we're having some success right now which is a good thing.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Pot Don't Grow on Trees

In Tennessee it grows in caves. That's some operation. And they would have gotten away with it too if it weren't for those meddling kidsguys from the power company. Unfortunately the place burned down before some rich survivalist got to it.

Handy Work

Well the house is starting to come together. It is surprising how many things around the old homestead can be set right with relatively simple tools. We had a door downstairs that stuck, four new screws and it hangs properly again. The shower in the bathroom wouldn't get warm. Turns out the knob for the temperature control was installed upside down. I'm betting the rain hitting our kitchen skylights is because of a clogged downspout. Now I just need a ladder to reach it with...

Harry Potter

Maybe I won't have to wait until Sunday to pick up my copy at Between Books.

Via Instapundit.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Scooter Economics

I ran some numbers with a coworker (as it turns out largely repeating both of our previous hybrid analyses) and I'm of the opinion that the scooter as a supplementary vehicle makes little economic sense given the current price of fuel.

I already own a car which gets approximately 27 mpg on my highway commute. In order to supplement this with a maxi-scooter, I'd need to spend at least $6300 for a scooter that gets ~60 mpg and can handle highway speeds. At $3/gal and neglecting service costs, it will take me approximately 100,000 miles to recoup that initial investment from the gas I would save. That is a lot of scooter riding considering you aren't going to use it in bad weather or extreme temperatures. Given my commute, that's probably 8 years of maxi-scooter ownership just to recoup my investment.

Now a better choice would be a small motorcycle like the Kawasaki EX250. Although ironically smaller in displacement and horsepower than many big scooters, the Ninjette performs as well because it weighs much less. It gets similar gas mileage, but only costs $3000 new. With half the initial cost, it will only take half as long to recouping the initial investment as well. I find 50,000 miles or 4 years riding a lot more plausible than 100,000 or 8 years.

But frankly neither are especially plausible. If I had $3000 right now I'd pump it into fixing up the house we just bought and buying some reloading gear to keep my shooting costs down. I'm betting those things will reap much larger benefits than a motorcycle will. Which probably will keep Amybear quite happy.

UPDATE: A commenter said that putting a lot of miles on bike is pretty unusual. 20,000 is a lot of riding. Frankly, I think it depends on what people are riding the bikes for. Most people use motorcycles like they use convertible roadsters, they keep them in the garage and take them out on pleasant weekends for drives down twisty roads. Which is why you can get both used Harleys or Miatas with relatively low mileage for their age.

I think you can put miles on a bike or scooter if you regularly commute long distances. Not as many miles as with a car in the same situation though. You aren't going to ride in the rain or snow or cold or boiling heat. So you're looking at putting a half to a quarter of your yearly miles on a bike. And that's at best.

My real concern with high mileage bikes above simple fiscal economy is two fold.

First, the engineering. We expect cars to go at least 100,000 miles these days and twice that for a "reliable" brand. No one expects that from motorcycles and the manufacturers design accordingly. Even 50k is a huge number of miles on a bike. And motorcycles seem to be a lot more maintenance intensive that cars. When was the last time you had to sync the carburetors your car? When was the last time you saw carburetors on a car? Adjust the valves? Lube the drive chain? Replace any number of fluids and seals on the drive train and suspension? This is routine owner maintenance on many bikes and much of it once was on a car, but not so much these days.

Second, the safety. Lots of miles means lots of time on a bike. Lots of time means coming into contact with lots of idiots. Since half of all motorcycle accidents are caused by the other guy, the more time you ride, the more likely you are to have an accident. And an accident on a bike is not the same as a fender bender on a car. Not by a longshot.

While the first means something to me, because my time isn't free, the second means enough to my wife that pontifications on motorcycling are about all I'll ever be doing.

A Time to Kill

Chris Byrne explains some very important self-defense concepts over at AnarchAngel:
What most cops won't tell you, because they don't want you "trying to be a hero", is that once there has been an escalation of violence in the commission of a crime, the chances of somebody not being killed or seriously injured are very poor.

If you're dealing with what cops call an ODC (ordinary decent criminal), then most likely nobody is going to get hurt; but once things tip over that edge, you are effectively a dead man already, unless you act to prevent that from happening.
Most criminals, while certainly amoral, are not out to hurt anyone. They are robbing you because they want your money, not because they are sick bastards that like sticking guns in people's faces.

But those sick bastards are out there. Chris goes on to give seven warning signs to look out for and seven rules to follow. Is the criminal showing violent tendencies or mental instability? Bad sign. Has anyone already been hurt? Worse.

If those warning signs come up, then you are not in a situation where nobody is going to get hurt. You are in a situation where someone will be hurt. Hopefully you have a weapon and can insure that the hurt is put on the criminals not the innocents.


I passed someone riding a Piaggio MP3 on the way to work today. It was the first time I'd seen one in the flesh (metal? plastic?) and frankly I don't really get it. It just looked kind of weird, but I suppose the extra wheel could really help in corners, especially on tricky pavement.

The BV500, which I stumbled across one the Piaggio site while looking for the MP3, is interesting though. A 460cc four-stroke 39 horsepower engine passing power to the ground through 22 inch diameter tires for a top speed of over 90? That's practically a motorcycle. For some reason I had thought only the Japanese were making maxi-scooters with those performance levels.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Handy Men

Instapundit and the Wall Street Journal are discussing men's abilities around the house.

Around the apartment I did some simple plumbing. I fixed the sink after the disposal didn't dispose properly. I replaced the flappers in several toilets so they would actually stop running. Now that Amy and I have moved into the house, I'm finding myself drawn toward further acts of handiness. I think it is part of home ownership because I'm building up my residence. So far I've put up some blinds, but I'll soon be working on getting hot-water to our guest bathroom tub properly. After that, hmmm, perhaps putting up a ceiling fan in the master bedroom. But I'm going to have to do wiring for that, I'm not really a big fan of wiring.

Oh and women can be handy too. In Amy's case, she handles almost all of the administrative responsibilities of our happy home. I pay the bills and fix the plumbing, but she's the one who sets up all the services and appointments. And I stay out of her way because she does it very well.

Order of the Autobots

AnarchAngel and his wife enjoyed the latest Harry Potter movie. Like most of the Potter films, the main criticism seems to be that Order of the Phoenix had too much ground to cover in such a short amount of time. If anything, Harry Potter would probably do better as an annual mini-series.

Amy and I saw Transformers last week. It was quite good. The plot of the film is kind of weak and hokey, but (1) so was the TV show (2) it's a Michael Bay movie what did you expect? The main problem with the movie is that the characterizations of the Transformers themselves were weak. Optimus Prime is dead on, but none of the others get significant screen time except Bumblebee. And Bumblebee can't talk for most of the film. Instead we get a lot of Sam Witwicky (not Spike?), Mikaela (not Carly?), and his dad who was definitely not Sparkplug. Oh and most of the soldiers, NSA teens, and sundry side characters could have been scrapped entirely. But hey, cars turn into robots and then back into cars. It really doesn't get old even though you have.

Classroom Ineptitude

Need an example of the poor public education (and educators)? Here is one: whole language instruction is still used in the curriculum of many school districts. While I am willing to consider that whole language might work for some students, it just does not work for the general populace. Those motivated kids will learn to read either way and, more importantly, the unmotivated children will still be literate with phonics. Phonics just works.

Want a second example of public educations sorry state? Think about the explosion of private education in this country. Don't just look at the growth of private, charter, and religious schools. Consider businesses like Sylvan and Huntington Learning Centers which are little more than tutoring firms. Why do those places exist at all if our education system is so good?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Power on the Side

At lunch my coworker and I were discussing motorcycles and other two wheeled vehicles. He has a Harley and I will have one when hell and my wife drop below room temperature. The topic of scooters came up and I mentioned this Vespa with 500cc of extra horsepower in the sidecar. It is an odd piece of work since I'm pretty sure you can't fit a grown adult in the sidecar anymore. But hey it should be fun in a straight line at least.

Heat Seaking .50 Cal Rounds

Man I wish the stuff this dingbat is talking about existed. Our boys and girls in the sandbox could use that kind of tech.

For those not in the know, an Armor Piercing Incendiary (API) round is a bullet designed to pierce light armor and then set afire anything flammable it hits. They are especially effective if they hit hydraulic or fuel lines. There is nothing heat-seeking about them, they are dumb munitions. They are also not generally sold to the American public because armor piercing ammo, incendiary or not, is already highly regulated.

Via View From the Porch

Thursday, July 12, 2007

More Than a Pretty Face

The newly crowned Miss Utah (America) is a Sergeant in the Utah National Guard. Jill Stevens is a medic who deployed to Afghanistan in 2004.

The GIGO in Global Warming

One of the big issues with climate change is finding good data. Without good data going into the models, how can you expect anything but garbage to come out of them. Much of the US surface data comes from the US Historical Climate Network (USHCN). The network is made up of 1221 small weather stations which have been in place for up to (and in some cases over) 100 years. These should provide the necessary data.

Should. Unfortunately a lot can change in 50 or 100 years. Unfortunately in that time many of these stations have been encroached upon by structures, parking lots, and industrial equipment. How useful is a temperature sensor that is next to an air conditioning unit, cell phone tower, or a parking lot? Not very. Should the USHCN be examining these structures to assess possible errors? Probably, but paying someone to examine 1221 sites across the country wouldn't be cheap. Instead they're doing statistical analysis to try to mitigate any errors created in the system.

Surfacestations.org is a group organizing volunteers to do hands-on surveys of all the USHCN stations. All you need to do this is a tape measure, a digital camera, a fairly inexpensive (~$100) GPS unit, and the instructions. Delaware has 5 stations: Newark, Wilmington, Dover, Milford, and Greenwood. I have a tape measure and digital camera, but I guess its time to put a GPS unit on my useful items.

Via Kim du Toit

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Perfect for Trips into the Venusian Wilderness

You can't help but admire the craftsmanship of Dr. Grordbort's Infallible Aether Oscillators. After coming through a nasty scrape with an raygun that proved all too fallible, you have to appreciate these wondrous weapons of warcraft. Perfect for repelling invading Moon Men or simply euthanizing a mount injured during an ill conceived Martian campaign.

Unfortunately, I don't think I'll be able to purchase one. Not only is the price of phlogistion and compressed aether phials prohibitively expensive at the moment, but frankly I don't think the backstop at Ommelanden could handle them. And really, what is the point of owning a portable atomic emulsifier if you can't shoot the damn thing? I suppose, if tuned to the proper setting, I could cook with it. But I have an oven that bakes wonderfully well already.

UPDATE: Atomic Rockets compiled a list of various ray-gun conceptions. They also mention some good modern props like the Whitney Wolverine, now produced by Olympic Arms. Or just cannibalize an Mauser Broomhandle, but at least have the decency to make it a Chinese copy not an original.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Electro-Cycle

Brammo, US manufacturer of the Ariel Atom, is planning to bring an electric motorcycle called the Enertia to market. The bike is light for a motorcycle at 240 pounds, is low maintenance, and of course uses no gas. Instead you can charge it from any wall outlet. The downside is that it's performance is frankly quite scooterish. Max speed of 50 mph, max range of 45 miles, etc. Oh and it costs $15,000.

Compare that to the Vectrix electric scooter, which is much heavier but has similar acceleration performance, a superior top speed, and only costs around $8,000. Were I an urban consumer and commuter, I'd probably go with the true scooter instead of the electric mini-bike.

But I'm not. I commute the other way: suburban to rural. Or as rural as you can get within the NY to DC corridor. I drive 70 miles round trip to work and need something that is competent at highway speeds. Electric vehicles can't meet my needs, even my wife were to allow me to ride something like a Enertia to work. Which is unlikely.

The Shotgun Taser

AnarchAngel noticed this new Taser round that can be fired from a 12 gauge shotgun. Hey I have one of those! I wonder if they sell to civilians. Instapundit had the common sensical concern:
Impressive -- but it'll be pretty important to be sure that your 12-gauge is really loaded with Taser rounds when you think it is, and not, say, slugs. Or vice versa.
I believe the Los Angeles County sheriff's department address this concern by having dedicated less-lethal shotguns. The furniture on the gun is orange as opposed to black. Currently they use them to fire rubber batons and beanbags when necessary.

Unfortunately the Achilles heal with less-lethal rounds is that they can still cause severe injury or kill. This is why they are called less-lethal instead of non-lethal. This is why Less-lethal rounds generally reside on the same level of the force continuum as lethal weapons. You have a choice between shooting said perpetrator with a taser bullet or with a real bullet and in many places the legal consequences are identical. Which is why the police like them, they have greater latitude to use lethal force, but civilians generally aren't buying tasers for self-protection. Why hurt a man when you can kill him and the legal consequences (especially civil consequences) for hurting him can actually be lower if you kill him.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Live Earth

Turns out there was this big concert thing this weekend. I think I accidentally caught a few minutes of it over the weekend when I flipped across the gay channelBravo. Turns out the globe is warming. Who knew? I'd certainly never heard of it before Al Gore threw this big multi-continental shindig. But I guess it must not be warming too badly if they're going to consume ungodly amounts of petroleum byproducts flying rock stars across the globe followed by unholy other levels of energy putting on multiple simultaneous multi-media extravaganzas. I mean if it was really bad, I'd imagine Al would tell me to stay home, turn the AC off, sweat, and read a book on my porch. A book? Ok, his book.

In other news Al's son Al (there's a clever name, how'd he think that one up?) let the world know that yes, you can get a Toyota Prius moving at over 100 miles per hour. This little bit of information was so important at least one national network morning show covered it yesterday. But if you want to get up to that kind of speed in a Prius, it does help if the cops are behind you and your car is full of pot. And no the Prius doesn't get especially good gas mileage when its going that fast. Also keep in mind that the Prius was is one of the worst handling cars ever, so don't try turning any corners at that speed.

Missions Blogging

The singles group at my church is sending a team to Hungary to do a missions-related English camp program. They're also blogging the whole thing. So far they have some serious prayer requests that could use attention.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Learning From Your Father

I spent yesterday at the new place moving boxes of sundries and putting up a venetian blind to prevent people on the street from casing our storage room from the sidewalk. Moving the boxes went over quickly, but I learned a few things about hardware while installing the blinds.

First, I learned why everyone buys cordless drills nowadays. The reason? Five foot power cords. I received a 1/2 inch craftsman drill as a wedding present. It's a nice piece of equipment, especially with the speed-lock bit set that came with it. But it only has a five foot cord. Give me ten feet and I could put holes almost anywhere in my house, but five feet wouldn't let me drill pilot holes for blinds even with an outlet next to the window. I now have a 100 foot indoor/outdoor extension cord. My lot is only 20 feet by 125 feet so that should do.

Secondly, I learned why my father rarely bothered to read directions. The directions for the blinds were worthless. I've seen better assembly instructions on the back of a Lego box. No parts list. No details. Their pilot hole size for the mounting screws was completely off. Through trial an error I went from a 1/16" hole up to 7/64". Now I know why there are so many home handyman books out there. They're just expensive collections of good directions to do this sort of stuff.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


John C. Wright discusses using profanity in your writing. He says that it is generally a trap that restricts your audience and largely causes more problems than it solves. And there are obvious ways around it:
Or, if you are writing science fiction, you can say Gorram, or Frell, Frack, Tanj, Taxes, or even Noy Jitat! Those are shiny words. Lily, cobber?
Jitatin kreld-eater! Pirates of Dark Water definitely had some of the best non-profanity ever to be uttered on kids TV. I'd say the best use of swearing by Hanna-Barbera characters, but I'm sure there is an episode of Harvey Birdman featuring Yogi dropping four-letter words like they're going out of fashion.

I'm a believer in using profanity rarely so that it doesn't lose its meaning. "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn" largely works because, as a good southern gentleman, Rhett hasn't been swearing his way through the entire book/movie. I like that when I drop the f-bomb, people really know I'm pissed.

Mini Manifest Destiny

Amy and I spent yesterday at our new house cleaning things up with the aid of my parents. What better way to celebrate the 4th than by subduing your own land with the help of kinfolk?

Thanks to my parents' carpet deep-cleaner and some detail work by Amy and my Mom, the carpets don't look half bad. The Tide spinbrush works very well for getting out carpet stains, which is odd because I've never found it to be especially effective on clothes. All the cleaning moved carpet replacement from our requirements column into our wants column. Which is great because there are more important things I really want fixed.

My mom lined all the shelves and drawers in our kitchen and bathrooms so it's time to start moving relevant household items into those spaces. Tomorrow I'm going to be spending a lot of time grabbing boxes and packing so we can do that.

Frankly after cleaning things up and making a few necessary changes the house is starting to feel more like home to us. That's a good thing since we'll be living there at the end of this month.

Oh and my Dad went to work mowing my lawn at one point this week. That little turnabout was almost worth the price of the house.

Going A-Viking

LawDog linked to a group of Danes who have built a 30 meter viking longship and are in the process of sailing the damn thing to Dublin. They have a video on their site which details why and how of the project and their course to Ireland. They should be heading into the North Sea within the next couple of days.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

$50 Paint Job

Well if I ever need to paint a car, I'll have to remember this. I don't know about using Rustoleum on your car, but the process of rollering it on might actually work.

Mistakes not to Repeat

I hadn't seen Strange Horizons list of overtold stories until Jane Espenson brought them up. I've heard that a lot of writers unpublished first work goes along the lines of number 2: Creative person is having trouble creating.

If I ever write the great American sci-fi novel, I'll also be sure to re-read the Evil Overlord's list and other related lists first.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Good Books

Ok, I'm linking to this John C. Wright post because I've realized I haven't read nearly enough of the works on his great fiction list.

Myth Busters

While I wouldn't exactly call their methods scientific or even statistically valid, the show makes for good TV. And some of their results have been eye-opening. I took note when they showed that poppy seeds actually could give false positives on drug tests. Myth Busters Results has an archived overview of their work and results.

German Superlative Envy

The new BMW 635d (d for diesel) is a nice car, but isn't "World’s most powerful production six-cylinder diesel". The Dodge Rams with 5.9 and 6.7 liter Cummins diesels both have six cylinders and produce 40 more horsepower. The BMW makes a lot of power for diesel, especially a diesel with only a 3 liter engine. But I'm betting the torque numbers aren't close, those Cummins plants produce so much torque they can grind weaker drive trains into dust.

I Brake For...

Sometimes you find the funniest things on Flickr. Feel free to use the comments to provide your own caption like they do over at John's place.