Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Galactica Connection

Geek with a .45 releases some spoilers for this season of Battlestar Galactica. Colonel Tigh runs for President based on his military service record with a Number 6 posing as his second wife, a beer heiress.

Via Kim du Toit:
Of course, this would explain a lot. We all thought that McCain was talking about throwing open our borders to Mexicans, when in fact his plan was to allow unrestricted intergalactic immigration.

The Electric 7

The ThoRR is a nice idea. You take the chassis of a Caterham 7 (or clone) and replace the internal combustion components with electric equivalents. Since the car weighs next to nothing to start with and is designed to run well on a comparatively small engines, you get an electric car with relatively high performance. As a bonus, sevens are so minimalist that they don't have many power draining features like air conditioning or even radios.

The design also cures some problems with the original design. Stock Sevens are very loud, but the Thorr is nearly silent. The driver and passenger foot boxes of sevens are notoriously hot because of residual engine heat. The electric shouldn't have that problem either. Interesting. I wonder if they implemented some form of regenerative braking? More importantly, what's the ThoRR's final sales price?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Game Lust

Amy and I watched a fair amount of GTA4 coverage on the G4 network last night. I want it. PS3 and GTA4 please. My brother brought his PS3 over a while back so we could feed the HDTV some high def. It was pretty. With bluray and built in wireless networking so I could websurf on my HDTV, it's useful for more than just games.

The problem? Nobody seems to be selling anything other than the 40GB unit that completely lacks backwards compatibility. Eventually my PS2 is going to die. I want backwards compatibility for those games on the PS3, even if it is just software emulation.

So looks like I'll be saving the $600 Uncle Sam direct deposited into my account yesterday. At least until my options improve.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Poor Are Hardest Hit

The wealth of the rich is their fortified city, but poverty is the ruin of the poor.
John Scalzi phrases this biblical truth more snarkily in a recent criticism of cliched newspaper writing:
Really? The poor suffering the most? It’s hard to imagine. Because, you know, usually when there’s a major global crisis of any sort, it’s the poor sitting there on the sidelines, going whew, dodged that bullet.
Via Instapundit.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Learning Shooting Technique

Riflecraft is tricky because while you have a longer sight radius and better sights than pistolcraft, you are shooting at much longer ranges. I generally don't bother shooting pistols past 10 yards, but the Ommelanden rifle range goes out to 50 meters (~55 yards) and that's still pretty short by rifle standards. These longer ranges requires actual technique to support the weight of the gun and build a level of consistency that I haven't found in practical pistol shooting.

There are essentially 4 shooting positions: prone, sitting, kneeling, and standing. This is useful information, but like many explanations I've found, these are overly brief. Finding detailed explanations of these is difficult and the devil is in the details. Example: do not support your elbow with your knee when kneeling. It's like trying to balance one ball on top of another one, everything just starts rolling all over the place. Oops. Many of the detailed guides are also very text heavy and picture light, which also isn't helpful.

This week I stumbled across a short YouTube series called Improving Your Shooting, created by a high power rifle competitor. While he hasn't gotten to the classic Standing, Sitting, Kneeling, Prone rifle positions yet, he does have three videos on sling use (hasty sling, the leather 1907 sling, and the GI web sling) and one on shooting from a bench. Since I've been trying to find explanations of good sling technique forever, these were a real boon to me. Now I just need to put sling swivels on my .22

If you know any good sites on the subject, feel free to list them in the comments.

Making Garfield New Again

Once upon a time Garfield was funny and innovative. I think that was when I was five. Since then? Well not so much. Izzy at work pointed Garfield Minus Garfield to me. It is far better than anything Jim Davis and Co. have put out in a long time.

It is a site that removes Garfield and his thought-bubble commentary from the strips. Because nobody in Jon Arbuckle's world can actually hear Garfield talk of course. You are left with the world Jon inhabits and it's bitter commentary on the pathetic life of a single suburban male.

UPDATE: Huh, there are two strips like this. Arbuckle features redrawn Garfield strips that still have Garfield and Odie, just not their thought balloons.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Contest Outcomes

My household was left reeling from last night's results. No, not Clinton/Obama. The outcome of that match up was as expected, an 8-12 point win for Hillary. I mean that the Flyers beat the Capitals last night in Game 7 to clinch their NHL playoff series. That's right dear, my Flyers just knocked out your Capitals. Hope this doesn't ruin your day off.

Monday, April 21, 2008

G.I. Joe

I have no idea if the movie's script will suck, but I must say that Ray Park's Snake Eyes and Dennis Quaid's General Hawk both look pretty sweet. But Duke, Scarlett, and the Wayan's brother look like they're about to go BMW biking or something. Storm Shadow looks even worse. I guess I shouldn't expect fashion sense from a ninja who dresses all in white.

Understated Activism

If you notice students sporting empty holsters on the University of Tennessee campus today, it's likely the sign of a protest, not a lost handgun.
This was organized by the national student group Students for Concealed Carry on Campus. It's an interesting idea and I like it.

The only problem with pursuing this sort of thing is that concealed carry on college campuses is bound to be less effective than with the general public. Why? Because buying, possessing, and carrying handguns is much more difficult for people under 21. That's most of the undergraduate student body. But hey, if I was 21 I'd still want to be able to do it.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Breaching the Hive

At lunch today, the topic of over-seasoning food came up. I mentioned that Marylanders put Old Bay on everything. Everyone at the table looked at me and said "But it does taste great on everything." They began to go around the table listing the wonderful Old Bay flavored foods they enjoyed. Many of them, like Potato Chips, were completely unrelated to crab. They were hard pressed to come up with any food that wouldn't taste better with the addition of Old Bay.

It was at that moment I realize that I was eating among pod people or perhaps crazed cultists. Sure they looked just like me, but something was terribly wrong with them. I didn't drive, so I quickly said "Yes, of course it tastes great on everything!" to the true believers before I wound up stranded far from the office for my culinary sacrilege.

When I arrived back at the office, I walked straight to a former Midwesterner. "Old Bay Chips really are nasty, right?" "Oh God yes." Whew, safe.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Power Outage

Work lost power for an hour and a half because of a sub-station fire. Members of my branch were forced to perform team building exercises around our conference table.

Dropping XP

It doesn't make much sense to me either.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Steam Wars?

Action figure character designs for a Steampunk Star Wars. Kind of neat, but Luke is boring and Obi-wan is overwrought. Vader could use a cape and something to suggest that his legs and arms are mechanical, but his concept is generally solid.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Working in a Toxic Atmosphere

Amybear has been working at Sylvan Learning Center since we came back from our honeymoon. She does their testing and is currently the acting Director of Education at a Delaware center. It's been a rocky two years for her, mostly because of Sylvan's toxic management style.

Sylvan's curriculum and testing systems are fully developed and work well, but their attitude towards their employees stinks. The company just needs warm bodies to fill the instructor and administrative slots. Staff members are largely interchangeable provided they are trained within the existing system and curriculum. This works because there are lots people with education degrees (new graduates, part-time homemakers, etc.) they can hire to staff most open positions. Interchangeable staff also allows them to control costs and maintain profitability. That's important when you're paid by kid's parents directly and not through their tax dollars.

But, staff members are treated like gears in a machine, pushed and pulled, bent and spindled. Amy has been lied to on several occasions by management in order to manipulate her for their advantage. She changed centers because she was promised the possibility for promotion, only to have that snatched away. They've placed ads for her job and her boss's online as an incentive for them to work harder, keep quiet, and do as they're told. When staff members have had enough, they quit.

Amybear just found out that it is her turn to quit. A job interview last week paid off and she can give Sylvan her two weeks notice. Her new job will give her higher wages, more hours, and a shorter commute. She is understandably happy about this. I am understandably happy about this as well because I don't have to cheer her up after every crappy day at work anymore.

UPDATE: Amy's been gone from Sylvan for quite a while, so I'm restoring this post to its original honesty.

Monday, April 14, 2008


I spent some time on Saturday seeding the barren swathes of my back yard with grass seed. It rained yesterday, which was handy because grass seed likes that sort of thing. In hopes of continued propitious precipitation, I have just washed my car.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

From My Cold Dead Hands!

I picked up a Marlin 60 SB at Walmart yesterday as a birthday present and Buy a Gun Day purchase. It's a semi-automatic tube-fed rimfire .22 rifle. It even came with a really crappy scope (complete with crappy rings). I went with the stainless model mostly because it has better "iron" sights. The 60 is the most popular .22 in the world with over 11 million built since 1960.

While not as modifiable as the Ruger 10/22, the nice thing about the 60 is that you don't really have to change much. Rugers commonly get worked over quite heavily with new triggers, stocks, and barrels. All the 60 really needs is a fluff and buff to improve the trigger a bit. I'll probably take it to the range and then see if it needs it.

Should it prove itself worthy of a name, I believe I may call it Charlton or perhaps Charlie.

UPDATE: While Simmons scopes don't generally get a lot of respect in the gun world, their .22 mag Adjustable Objective variable seems to be well liked. Well that will save me some money.

The Home Depot Naginata

I ran across the Ames Ditch Bank Blade at my local Home Depot today while looking for a yard rake, insecticide, and grass seed. Wow. If your yard should ever be infested with the walking dead, this the tool to use to solve your problem.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Zombie Shoot

This makes me wish I lived in Minnesota. It's a weekend shooting competition with three zombie-based courses of fire using AR-15s for the first two and your gun of choice for the last one. Fun.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Government Card Fraud

I've seen this story about abuse of government cards on QandO and now at Kim's place. I've commented both places, but I'll leave a record here as well.

I'm a government travel card holder. I have to undergo regular travel card fraud/waste/abuse training. The training is mostly bullshit because using travel cards is common sense and abusing them is premeditated.

The reason people are pulling this crap is because they know they can get away with it. Their organizations are lenient or just don't bother to follow up properly and the kiddies using the cards know it. If they didn't know this in advance, they wouldn't be making the charges. Why? Because on a travel card, the card holder (me) is stuck with the bill not the government. I get permission to travel, but I'm personally responsible for everything on the card. The government simply reimburses me for the valid expenses before I get the bill. And that bill is due, payable in full, when it shows up at your door at the end of the month. Nobody is going to pull this crap if they don't know they can get away with it in advance, because nobody wants to get stuck holding the bill.

If you want to see this stuff stop, you just start leaving people with the bill for these abuses. If the auditors let them slip through, you fire them for not doing their jobs. The problem is that you need someone with the stones to implement this as policy. Crack down on this and you'll see it grind to a halt just like it did years ago in the corporate world.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Now That's a Troop Formation

That's 18,000 men at Camp Dodge, Iowa in 1918. Kind of makes the marching bands in the Rose Bowl Parade look lightweight doesn't it?

Nightime Cities From Space

John C. Wright brought this video taken by astronauts on the ISS to my attention:

It's interesting that you can tell what part of the world you're looking at by lighting color and city planning.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Learning from the Net

Huh, Taurus Bulba is reference to the Russian novel Taras Bulba. The novel is about Ukrainian Cossacks, not cows who are criminal masterminds.

I guess I can be excused for not know this. Wikipedia opines that "The reference is quite possibly the most obscure for any character in the Disney canon." It is sad that the cartoon character has a bigger wikipedia article than one of the most seminal works in Russian literature.

UPDATE: In other learning from the net escapades, I'm trying to figure out how to get rid of the ants in my kitchen. All the methods I'm finding are "all natural" and "environmentally safe." Like I care. As long as they're safe for humans and the cat, I'm all for the insect equivalent of WMDs.

The Problem of Fantasy

One of the big problems in modern fantasy novels is that the writers rarely do the necessary research to understand the state of pre-industrial societies. Law Dog gives an example of this with his discussion of grocers.
I offered my opinion that it was for the same reason that many cultures use a base twelve system -- 12 signs in the Zodiac, 12 inches to the foot, two x 12 hours in a day, five x 12 seconds in a minute, same number of minutes in an hour, so on and so forth -- twelve is the highest number that can be counted to using one hand, and 144 is the highest number that can be counted to using both hands.
He goes on to explain how you do this using your thumb and the bones on your fingers. One commenter explains how you can actually count to 16 on one hand using knuckles which might explain the difference between some archaic unit types (like US vs. Imperial measures).

12 also has the advantage that it is easily divisible without complex tools. It can be cut in half or thirds. You can cut those in half again to make fourths or sixths. With 16, you can get subdivisions simply by cutting it in half repeatedly. And people are pretty good at cutting things in half.

Nobody used base ten. Why? Because dividing things by five or ten is hard without using relatively modern tools. Most of the scientific equipment of the Renaissance is all base two. Fahrenheit was supposed to be base two with freezing water at 32 and body temperature at 96. This gave Fahrenheit 64 (2^6) graduations between his calibration points.

Many early units of measure also had very practical values. A foot or hand was based on anatomy. A barleycorn or poppyseed were length units based on the size of a common seed pod. A furlong (660 feet) was the distance plow team could work without taking a break. An acre is an area one furlong by a surveying chain wide, it is approximately how much land could be plowed in a day. A league (3 miles) was how about how far a person could walk in an hour. Very practical, but not very standardized.

Unfortunately most modern fantasy seems to stick with base ten. This is practical in that the readers can understand it, but unrealistic in that nobody with a medieval level of science and technology would actually be able to use such a thing. Similar things happen with sexual relations and religion. Far far too modern for the setting.

Really Classic Coke

Via Lawdog:
Folks, if you can find Coca-Cola that's been made in Mexico that particular bottle of Coke has been made with real sugar instead of corn syrup.

In other words, if you fondly remember the taste of pre-1985 Coca-Cola, go to your local Mexican grocery and find the Coke marked, "Hecho en Mexico".

Also, if you're up north of the Mason-Dixon line where you might be a touch shy of decent mercados, Coke will bottle properly-made sodas for Passover. Look for the yellow capped bottles in April.
Well that's interesting. I may have to look for that this week.

Monday, April 07, 2008

That Fickle Internet

I talked with a coworker about yard work this morning. He revealed that the most common entry link to his blog was from a "scotts patchmaster" search on Google. Especially this time of year when everyone with a patchy yard (like me) is looking for a solution.

I share his pain. The most common links to my blog were for pistol targets or for web searches using odd spelling mistakes. Such is like on the internet I suppose.

Oh and my coworker doesn't recommend PatchMaster. He didn't see any appreciable improvement over normal grass seed.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Military Make-A-Wish

QandO noticed a DefenseLink piece about soldiers helping make a 5 year-old leukemia victims wish. I really amazes me how caring the military can be sometimes. Given current events, these guys have every reason to be emotionally unavailable. They're probably seen guys in their unit get hurt or killed. Many have had to put the hurt on another human being as part of their job. But instead they reach out to kids like Gavin Cox. And this happens all the time and in all branches of the military. I'm not saying there aren't some stupid or callous soldiers out there, but our military services are just one hell of an organization.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

My Last Week

From Chris Byrne:
Ever have one of those days where your back has decided that at some point you did something really nasty to it; but you can't figure out exactly what it is you did or when; you just know that moving is bad?
Yup. For about the last week my lower back has been really sore. Not sharp shooting pains, just constant aching. I don't know what I did, I just know that it hasn't been happy. I doubt moving around TVs for the last two nights has improved my situation either.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Helping the Economy

Amybear and I picked up our first HDTV at BJs yesterday. In addition to blowing over a grand of our tax refund on that, we're looking at blowing additional money upfront and monthly for HD content from DirecTV. I may also pick up a PS3 when GTA4 comes out.

The TV a 42" Philips unit. Getting it home was interesting. My little Mazda was not designed to carry objects of that height and width. After we failed to get it into the trunk, a nice passer-by volunteered to help load it into the back seat. I think getting it out again required Amy and I to warp the fabric of space time. But hey the box is in the living room now.

UPDATE: Well it's set up. Amy and I are watching our normal DirecTV feed on the new TV (nice) and then we watched a DVD (nicer). One minor annoyance is that the automatic aspect ratio utility on the TV seems to be crap. It seems to default to 16:9 which really deforms broadcast TV. So I have to manually switch between 4:3 and 16:9 instead of the set automatically figuring things out for me. This would be fine if widescreen DVDs didn't feature both video formats in different parts of the same disk.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Pockets! Power to the People!

The lovely Helen Smith discusses women's fashion and why she hates the handbag.
I never realized how much I hated carrying a purse until this week when a service person ripped off some money out of my wallet — about 200 bucks. ... The question was, what could I do to prevent it from happening again? The answer? Quit carrying a damn purse around, especially a Coach bag. It might as well have a big label attached to it: Take Me Now.
She goes on to describe what is like trying to live as a free woman and how it is fraught with its own problems. How do those guys do it?

It takes conscious planning and it also helps that mens clothes are designed around having useful pockets. Women’s clothes aren’t, probably because women carry purses. It also lets them make women’s clothes more form fitting and curve hugging than men's because they don’t have to plan for anything actually going in their pockets. Going against the flow must be tough. Many of my wife's pants don't have any pockets.

Here is my usual loadout:
  • Right front pants - keys
  • Left front pants - coin purse
  • Right rear pants - Comb and maybe a few tissues
  • Left rear pants - trifold wallet
  • Breast pocket - business and security IDs
The pants pockets have been set up that way since before college. All the shirts I wear to work have a breast pocket to hold my security ID. All my work khakis are pleated because it gives me more front pocket room (mostly for the keys). All my casual pants are looser fitting cargoes because it gives me more pockets and comfortable pocket room. Cell phone, multitool, pens, pencils, flashlight, etc. went from backpacks in college to the current briefcase and car console system. If I felt like I needed to carry a phone all the time (or if I ever start carrying a gun regularly) I'll probably holster them on a good belt.

And on a different but related note, women's clothes sizing makes no sense. Women's clothes seem to come in 2 body types: petite and regular. The sum total of all variation within those categories is given by a single number. What a stupid system. It's like the designers saw all the possible body variations, created a category for short girls, and then just gave up.

I'm Pregnant

Since everyone seems to be pulling bad April Fools pranks, I thought I'd follow suit.

Oh and I guess I'm worth a lot in bed, just not as much as Glenn Reynolds.