Thursday, August 30, 2007

Environmentalism Meets Physics

Ryan is bringing some division in the Environmentalist movement to light. While old growth forests are sacred ground to most of the environmental movement, Greenpeace co-founder Dr. Patrick Moore points out that young growth is actually far superior at sequestering carbon dioxide. So logging old growth and promptly planting new trees is actually quite good for the environment. Who knew? Turns out Leo DiCaprio didn't.

VP Rendell

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell is being put forward as a possible VP candidate. Great... I'm not a big fan of Rendell and I'm even less of a fan now that he's going to be shutting down all gun sales in Pennsylvania. The state is upgrading their background check system, which will require closing the system down for three days over the Labor Day Weekend. This will essentially close down every gun dealer in the state for that period. Gun dealers aren't happy because Labor Day weekend generally brings out lots of hunters prepping for the start of various seasons. I suppose it could be worse for them, it was going to be down for four days.

The interesting wrinkle in this story is that under state and federal law, you only have to wait 48 hours for a response from the background check system. Any more and you automatically pass. We'll see if the gun shops have the stones to use the loophole or not.

Zombie Languages

Judge Alice Batchelder insists that latin is not a dead language. Unfortunately Latin isn't dead in her court, but frankly it should be. After all how can you write and enforce laws and regulations on a people who are not capable of understanding them? That's just bad documentation.

Should I become God Emperor of the Universe, I intend to make edicts to repair some of the great injustices in the World. My first law will be that laws applying to the general populace shall be written in a manner and language that is easily understandable by the general populace. This isn't hard to do, you just grab a bunch of congressional pages (who generally are in the middle of their college education), give them copies of proposed legislation, and ask them whether they can understand it. If not, you must rewrite it. Exceptions would be made for technical regulations which apply to professionals in a given field and not to the general populace as a whole.

For instance, all citizens should be able to understand most of the tax code and most criminal law. However corporate and business taxes could be more complex as could the criminal code apply to, say, securities fraud. The first apply to the general populace, the latter to professionals.

It is one thing if you break the law because you are ignorant of it. It is another if the law (and by extension the case law) is so obfuscated by technical jargon that it cannot be understood by a non-professional. The first is at least partially the fault of the law breaker, while the second is a fundamental failing of the government itself.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Alien Invasion

You know, I would be really intimidated if I ran across this many Daleks in Britian. Or I would if it didn't look like most of them would be defeated by a stiff breeze.

That's Where I'm a Viking!

Instapundit on not getting enough sleep when you were young:
I hear adults say "I can't go without sleep like I could when I was a teenager," but actually I think they can -- at least, I can -- it's just that we're now smart enough to realize just how bad we'll feel the next day.
Back when I was in high school I probably got the best sleep in my life. My mother liked to make sure I got between 7 and 8 hours every night. I slept in even more on the weekends. Ah those were the days...

It always amazed me how little sleep many of my friends got. And generally it was for stupid reasons like wanting to watch the Late Night comedy shows. One of my friends took the philosophy of getting little sleep and never making it up until it made her so ill she had to take an excused absence. She wasn't a stupid girl, but it seemed like a very stupid way to live. I can't imagine it has gotten any better with Myspace and other things available to today's kids.

I didn't start really short-changing myself until college. Even then I quickly learned that it wasn't worth it. Less than six hours of sleep was just not maintainable, especially with Calculus at eight in the next morning three days a week.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Top Gear

Top Gear, probably the best car show in the world, is on tonight at 8pm and 9pm EST on BBC America. If you have digital cable or satellite TV, you probably get BBC America even if you don't know it yet.

Kilt Day and I Missed It!

Had I known that today is Kilt Day, I would be much more comfortable in my air unconditioned cubicle. Stupid broken AC in stupid buildings built to fight not-so-stupid World War II.


Kim du Toit suggests everyone go out and buy a box of ammo. It will hopefully be a quiet reminder that not everybody is an idiot like the Brady Campaigners. The Firearms Coalition is calling this Exercise Your Rights Day. This isn't to be confused with National Ammo Day which is in November.

UPDATE: For those readers that do all their shooting with me using my guns, my guns are chambered in 9mm, .45acp, .22lr, .223 Remington (or 5.56 NATO), and .30 carbine. I also have a 12 gauge and a 20 gauge, but I don't really need ammo for those.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Mopiest Place on Earth

Boing Boing covers Goth Day at Disneyland.

Happy Birthday, Duke

John Wayne 100th Birthday Commemorative Ruger New Vaquero... drooooool. Gunblast has a review along with a copy of Ronald Reagan's eulogy for the Duke.

Word of the Day

So I had an eye doctor's appointment yesterday to determine why, after taking the strongest anti-biotic drops known to man for a week, I still had a pink right eye. Turns out I don't have an infection, I just have an inflammationof my sclera which is the outer white covering of the eye. So I'm on eye steroids to cut that down. Man, my eye is going to be ripped.

Back to the topic at hand, why do I have scleritis? My ophthalmologist says that 90% of these cases are idiopathic. Which is the word of the day. It means "arising spontaneously or from an obscure or unknown cause." Or in other words I have no idea why your eye is pink, but take these drops and it will get better. Honest.

This easily displaces my next favorite medical term: cyanotic. It means blue. So if you see an episode ER where doctors yell about someone asphyxiating being cyanotic, it means he's turning blue from lack of oxygen.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I'm a Muppet!

You Are Fozzie Bear

"Wocka! Wocka!"
You're the life of the party, and you love making people crack up.
If only your routine didn't always bomb!
You may find more groans than laughs, but always keep the jokes coming.

Via Dr. Bunsen Honeydew

Flip Flops

Flip flops are bad for your feet. I am now going to do something which will make every married man reading this cringe... See dear, I told you so.

I can't wear flip flops because I supinate. That extra bit of foot rotation means I'm constantly losing one or walking on the edge of the sandal. So I generally wear shoes that give me good support or I just wear full sandals.

I have to wonder if a lot of these problems are coming from people wearing cheap flippies that are just layer of foam with a thong through it. I can't see those being good for you. Amybear's favorite flip flops are from Under Armour. These actually have some arch support and a surface texture that should keep them from getting slippery. Hopefully they're less of a problem.

How Dare They Go on Recess

QandO points out that this is the current narrative coming out of the left. Yeah the surge is working, but it won't last or Iraqi politics will tear everything apart. Lord knows they may have a point, but much of what they have to say seems like complete defeatism.

More to the point though, am I the only one that finds our congresspersons a little hypocritical here? While they go on recess, they criticize the Iraqi government for doing the same. While they have approval ratings at historic lows, they criticize the Iraqis as do-nothings. Perhaps they should take a hard look in the mirror. Aren't we at war just like the Iraqis? We should be setting an example for what a stable government looks like, instead we bicker and accomplish nothing. Is it any wonder the Iraqis are in trouble too?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bands that Never Were

Hube and Instapundit both drew my attention to this Earvolution piece. What I find most interesting about a Top Ten of bands that never were is how many have been left off. Reynolds names a few. Hube names one.

I honestly think the Blues Brothers should have faired better. But perhaps having a real band and making two albums prior to the first movie hurt them as an "imaginary" band. That and Blues Brothers 2000. Whew! I'm still smelling that stinker.

But hey, at least the number one imaginary band had it's own Behind the Music special:

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

How Evil Am I?

You Are 30% Evil

A bit of evil lurks in your heart, but you hide it well.
In some ways, you are the most dangerous kind of evil.

The Problems of the Buffyverse

John the Methodist is using the characters of Angel and Spike to demonstrate the difference between Calvinism (Angel) and Wesleyan (Spike) schools of thought. Useful in an somewhat expired pop-culture reference sort of way.

Really though, I wouldn't put much stock in "Whedonist" theology if for no other reason than Joss is an atheist. Have you every wondered why we see thousands of different demons and dark gods in the Whedon's Buffyverse, but you never see any angels or good deities? Turns out it isn't a coincidence. About the only reference to Good superbatural entities is the "Powers That Be" in Angel. The PTBs were depicted as distant and disconnected beings which were rarely helpful to the main characters. You know, even thought the main characters were saving the world from evil every week. In fact the PTBs essentially kill one of the main characters with a horrible vision towards the end of the series.

I've often thought that the whole supernatural teen adventure genre would make for a great Christian TV show. I think the idea of a heroic Jesus freak who actually was defending his friends from evil incarnate would be great. Use the demons as a storytelling metaphor for overcoming various vices and temptations. It would make Bibleman look like a chump.

Monday, August 20, 2007

High School Musical 1 & 2

Amy and I spent some time watching these this weekend. If I was a parent, I'm sure I'd think that this kind of good clean entertainment was great for my kids and bearable for me. But I'm not a parent, so I thought they were a bit overrated.

The plot of both Disney TV movies is paper thin. The first is largely stolen from Grease. Boy meets girl on Winter Break at a Karaoke contest. When he returns to school she's the brainy new girl and he's the basketball jock. Will they overcome their differences, the peer pressure, and the school drama queens to sing together in the Winter Musicale? The second reminds me of a season of Saved by the Bell where everyone was working at a country club. Will the handsome jock become overcome the machinations of the wealthy drama queen and stay true to himself and his friends? Answer? Of course everything works out in a big musical number at the end.

But, as many people point out, the plot of these movies isn't really the point. The plot is largely a set piece to string together a bunch of big catchy musical numbers. And they're fun, but like the rest of the musical they are bubblegum. I have a hard time figuring out who is singing because everyone has the same over-produced pop-vocal sound. The boys all sound the same. The girls all sound the same. Because of this the songs never develop vocal depth or layered harmony. And the plot isn't deep, so the characters are shallow, so none of the songs can plumb non-existent emotional depths.

But hey they're catchy, right?

Oh well. So I'm not

Comparing Flash Gordons

I picked up the new Flash Gordon Savior of the Universe Edition DVD this weekend. It was all the campy stylized fun that I remember as a kid. Sam Jones' Flash is dashingly heroic, Max Von Sydow's Ming is garishly evil, and everything is over the top. God bless 'em, they do Flash Gordon properly as pulp adventure. Which is why the movie is a cult classic. I've heard the British DVD is even better, but honestly I don't really care much.

After seeing the movie again, the new Sci-Fi series really pales in comparison. Part of this is because the Flash movie had a great cast and the Sci-Fi show has castoffs from the WB. Part of it is that the movie has a budget and the TV show doesn't. But honestly, the movie's production values weren't that amazing. You could probably shoot it for a lot less today because special effects are so much cheaper.

More importantly though, the movie understood the important part of the Flash Mythos. Flash, Dale, and Zarkov don't belong on Earth. In the movie, they spend about 15 minutes on Earth establishing the three characters. Once they'd shown that Flash is the Earthling Everyhero, Dale is the Plucky Romantic Interest, and Zarkov is the Mad Scientist, everyone is rocketed off to Mungo for the rest of the movie. And they never come back. Seriously. The movie ends with Dale and Flash wondering if they'll ever get back to Earth and not really caring if they do.

Now it is possible that the TV show may be leading to everyone ending up on Mungo for keeps later in the season. They keep mentioning how bad wormhole travel is for the fabric of reality so at some point they will hopefully get stuck on Mungo in order to put a permanent stop to it. Or something like that. The truth is that they probably have to phase in Mungo incrementally over the first season to pay for the new sets. But hopefully they phase it in quickly.

Why? Because Mungo is cool and Earth is boring. I've been to Anytown, USACanada or wherever it is they shoot. I haven't been to another frickin' planet. Flash fixing a rocketship? Cool. Flash fixing a camaro? Not so much. Flash trying to clean battle armor is funny. Flash cleaning his current J. Crew wardrobe is pathetic. Get it?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Car Theft Reactions

I recall Amy's post-auto theft thoughts being quite similar to Army of Mom's reaction to her car being broken into:
I hate bad guys. I hope they get some rare form of herpes or syphillis and they get giant sores on their dicks and they ooze and hurt and then they go into the ocean and the salt water gets in the open sores and it burns. Then, and only then, do I hope they die. Not that I'm bitter or anything.

Soldier Suicides

If you haven't been paying attention to the latest batch of yellow journalism, they're up from last year. If you have been paying good attention, like Tamara, you'll notice they're actually lower than comparable civilian suicide rates by a fair margin.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Potter Pontifications

John C. Wright pointed me towards this Harry Potter series review written by Stephen King. You know, the spooky guy from Maine. King commends Rowling for her writing, criticizes the majority of book journalists, and puts the series in context with other young adult literature. It is a good piece.

Orson Scott Card has written a couple of pieces about Potter as well. The first is a discussion of religion and Potter at Beliefnet. The second is a review of the Deathly Hallows at his own blog.

In an unrelated but interesting aside, someone at RPGnet wonders what American arcane society would look like? Would we have our own Hogwarts or 5 magical schools as he outlines.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Coming to Grips with Modernism

While I'm not as big a fan of the current Pope as the last one, Pope Benedict does have some redeeming qualities. As Paul Smith points out in his review of the Pope's latest book, his take of Christ is a whole lot better than many modern theologians:
One thing that really struck, especially at the end of the book is how much of an effort Benedict is making to "recapture" the real Jesus from modern "scholars" who seek to redefine Christ in modernist terms. He frequently points out how some exegetes go beyond what the Gospel writers actually record to try to figure out what Jesus really meant, or which sayings attributed to him He "actually" said. Some go so far as to attribute sayings attributed to Christ as having their origins in works written centuries after the Gospels rather than believe the Apostles wrote down what Jesus actually said and that he meant what he said. They, like Thomas Jefferson, prefer to make God in their own image and ignore the parts of the Bible they see as not fitting that mold.
Good for the Pope for hammering on this. It seems to me that much of Modern theology has been an attempt reconcile the irreconcilable. A large part of it doesn't seem to be "theo"-logy because it strips so much of God and the supernatural from the text.

The main issue is that you cannot take a fundamentally Naturalist philosophy and marry it to religion. The fundamental concepts of the two are in direct opposition with Naturalism decrying the spiritual and religion accepting and fundamentally building upon it. When you take a religious work like the Bible and then strip the supernatural (and largely God himself) out of it, all you have done is gutted the text. And they have to replace those parts of the narrative with something, otherwise they'll just have a gaping hole. The question then becomes, what will the supernatural be replaced with? Looking at the results, it seems to be replaced with whatever the scholar's pet theories seem to be.

Someday soon people will point to the collected works of these theologians and say "Look there's what confounding the wisdom of the wise looks like!" That is if they're not already doing it.

Missing Loved Ones

I'm not a huge fan of Mainstream Baptist's Bruce Prescott. I keep his blog on my roll largely because our views are so different. His father died yesterday. Even though it is a life event most of us will face, I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

The Perils of Mountain Biking

You know, you might skin something or hit a tree. Or maybe you'll return to your car only to find that a grain silo had fallen on it and squished it flat. Man I knew I didn't mountain bike for a reason.

Via John Scalzi at Ficlets.

A Look at the Budget

A friend from work showed me an interesting article from The Kiplinger Letter. It listed the percentage of federal spending by program from three different years: 2008, 1983, and 1968. Some interesting things I learned:
  • Despite the fact that we're fighting a war, defense spending as a percentage of the federal budget today (~21%) is lower than in '83 when Reagan was rebuilding the military up during the Cold War (26%). It is much lower than spending during Vietnam (46%).
  • While Social Security's share of the budget has largely remained constant over the last 15 years (~21%), Medicare and Medicaid have been growing exponentially and are now as expensive as Social Security or National Defense.
  • The low income tax credit is much larger than it used to be.
  • Agricultural subsidies are actually down by quite a lot in comparison to past years. In '68 and '83 they were about three percent of the budget, now they're less than one.
I have to wonder what this data would look like in real dollars though instead of percentages. Has the federal budget just ballooned to such an extent that certain things look the same or have gotten smaller in proportion. We're probably paying far more in agricultural subsidies today than in '68, but the federal budget is so much larger the actual percentage of federal spending has dropped.

UPDATE: Jim the Baptist points out that largely the war has been funded by supplemental spending requests that don't appear in the main budget. He is right. However the reason Kiplinger did this comparison is that their 2008 budget doesn't have this problem. Which is why the Defense portion of the budget is $600 Billion instead of some smaller amount.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Big Trouble in Little China

Ah yes, convincing your wife to watch a movie from days gone by that she will probably hate. I'll probably have to do this with the new Flash (Aah Aah!) Gordon DVD that's coming out.

I must say that I find the cat bathing instructions to be much funnier. I'm planning on shoving him in a toilet with lots of soap and then flushing repeatedly.

Crappy Columnists

Were I running the Boston Globe, I might stand by a columnist who uses newspaper money to commit a felony straw purchase of a handgun. Might. But why would I stand by such a man when his column is almost 700 words of pure unadulterated ad hominem? To me that seems to be another thing entirely.

Ethanol Production

Kim du Toit has a piece up on why ethanol is a bad idea. Last weekend I had a talk with my sister and brother-in-law. They're chemical engineers who work for the EPA. My sister does research into cleaning up parasites and pollutants. My brother-in-law, oddly enough, does most of his current work on bio-fuels. I learned a lot which is one of the reasons I now know that articles like Kim's are largely hype with a silver lining of truth. Here is an overview of what I picked up:
  • While many of the criticisms of transporting ethanol are valid for all types, most of the criticisms of ethanol you see in print are only valid for corn-based ethanol production. While that is the process the US is currently using, nobody expects us to keep using it because, as all these articles are eager to explain, it is far too inefficient.
  • There are still invalid criticisms of corn-ethanol. One of them is that increased livestock feed prices from the use of corn for ethanol will cause horrible harm. This one is *ahem* bull. Ethanol is made from the corn's sugar and carbohydrates. The good livestock feed is made from the corn's protein (also referred to as distillers grain). You can do both.
  • The long term bio-fuel solution will problem come from crops like switchgrass. They grow quickly with less energy input in less restrictive soil types. They are nitrogen fixing so they don't deplete the soil like corn (and therefore don't require petro-fertilizers like corn). But the technology and the agricultural infrastructure is going to require some time.
  • The holy grail of biofuels is making them from waste streams like sewage or your household trash. It is also unlikely to happen any time soon. It is possible to reprocess a waste stream like this, but if they have been thoroughly processed already, it won't be easy. Or in other words, poop is poop because it is the stuff our bodies didn't want to bother breaking down any further for energy.
  • It is entirely possible that the long term biofuel solution may not be ethanol, but a different compound like butanol or propanol. These are less soluble in water, a major problem with the transportation of ethanol. They are also more soluble in fossil fuels like gasoline which makes them better additives. They also have higher energy densities.
So now you know and knowing is half the battle.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Top Gear Coming to America

I really like our satellite service at home. I like it even more now that BBC America will be showing episodes of Top Gear. Sweet!

50 Rules You Won't Learn in School

Michelle Malkin and her readers seem to really like Charles Sykes' book. His rules include such sage advice as "life isn't fair" and "looking like a slut does not empower you."

I wonder if it includes "look both ways before you cross the street." It seemed like at least one person died every year at U of Delaware because they didn't follow that simple dictum.

Putting Drops in Your Eyes

There a lot of things I thought I would know how to do by now. They just don't seem that hard. Over the last couple of days, I've started putting drops in my eyes to combat some redness that I hope is due to allergies. But I'll be damned if I'm not bouncing most of the eye drops off an eyelid, eyelash, or just missing my eye entirely and running them down my cheek. It shouldn't be hard, but for me it is.

So I turned to the internet for a solution to my problems. And I found one. The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary has a video on their website dealing with this very issue. They suggest using specific hands positions to index the bottle to your eye. They also suggest keeping that eye closed for a full minute after you have applied the drops to enhance their effectiveness. The video looks a little dated and is intended for Glaucoma patients, but drops are drops.

I Thought It Would be Higher

68%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

Portland Singles from Mingle2

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Christianity Explodes in China

Thinklings and Michelle Malkin are both commenting on a recent Asia Times article about the rise of Christianity in China. It cites numbers like 10,000 converts per day. Now how they get those numbers, I don't know as much of the church in China is underground in order to avoid religious oppression by the government. But still, those kinds of numbers are just amazing to me.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Cute Kitty

Amy has new pictures of Milo up at the cat blog. Aww isn't he cute when he's sleepy? Pay no attention to the doofus in the background with his nose in A Wrinkle in Time.

Shooting with Nothing to Show for It

Took my AR-15 to the range on Saturday to zero in a new scope. No dice, it wouldn't group. Honestly, I've shot better patterns out of my 12 gauge.

I suppose it could be my fault. It was hot and I was sweating profusely, so my grip was constantly shifting. I was also shooting a new brand of ammo that I'd never put through the gun before, so maybe the two don't mix well. But I'm far more inclined to believe that the scope I picked up for a song isn't worth even the minuscule sum I paid for it. And since I can't get a refund without the misplaced receipt, I'm guessing it'll end up on ebay as some kids bb-gun scope. It should still work for that.

With my new mortgage payments, I really need to think about shooting economically. If this weekend taught me anything, it is that commercial .223 is way to expensive to use learning basic riflecraft. I think it's time to start shopping for a decent .22 rifle. Used Marlin model 60s are reputed to be available for under $100 at pawn shops across our fair land. Considering the price difference between .22lr and .223, that rifle would pay for itself within the first brick of rimfire. By the time I'm ready to transition back to centerfire shooting, I'll probably be reloading it myself.

Chore Wars

I've been playing Chore Wars with several of my coworkers for over a week now. I've been cleaning their clocks, largely because I mow my lawn regularly and have to take turns cleaning up after the cat.

When I told my wife about it, she insisted on being included. Honestly, I can't see a downside.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Lost Words

Do you want to impress people with your vocabulary? Do you just want a word like epalpebrate that perfectly describes your great aunt with no eyebrows? Prontistery has a website full of old words that you just don't hear anymore. They're like snigglets except that people did actually use them at some point.

Now Where Did I Put My Scimitars?

What type of Fae are you?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Worst Dress Habits

Forbes has a list of men's ten worst fashion sins:
  1. Pants That Are Too Long/Too Short
  2. White Socks With Dress Shoes
  3. Mixing Patterns
  4. Ties Too Long/Too Short
  5. Stained Clothes
  6. Waists That Sit Too High/Too Low
  7. Scruffy Shoes
  8. Wearing Handheld Devices On Your Belt
  9. Over-Layering
  10. Mismatched Belts And Shoes
These are all classic mistakes, but some issues seem overstated. Does a guy with a stained shirt really need to go buy a new one on his lunch break because a pen leaked? Perhaps for a job interview or a major meeting, but for day-in day-out work that is overkill. Stains happen and your coworkers should understand, if they do not it is more of a reflection on them than a reflection on you.

One last thing that is touched upon, but not suitably explained is the ever-spreading creep of shabbiness that invades your closet. It is like virus. I work in a business casual office and my regular work wear is black oxfords with khaki pants, a collared shirt, and a matching leather dress belt. For a while the oxfords and belt did double duty with my suit, but they always performed their function poorly as regular wear had made them worn in a way that even a coat of polish could not wholly conceal. The best way to prevent its spread is to have dedicated dress clothing. I now have dress shoes and a dress belt that I take special care of and quarantine from my normal business wear items so that they stay nice.

Literary Tradition

There is long literary tradition that it is the clown or fool who tells the truth. ScrappleFace does this for the blogosphere. In print media, it is often cartoons like the one QandO noticed below:

Freewheeling Messerschmidts

Scooter Scoop linked to this video of a German stunt show that featured a three-wheeled Messerschmidt Kabinroller. Unlike the actual cars going up on two wheels, the trike foregos the usual launch ramp and gets onto two wheels the old fashioned way.