Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Redneck Pilgrimage

My brother and I went up to Cabela's in Hamburg, PA on the day after Christmas. I'd never been and we both had the day off. In retrospect, we should have picked a different day we both had off as the store was mobbed. It is an impressive establishment. As seen from afar:

That Cabela's sign on the back of the store is the size of a large house. If you want a better perspective on how big the store is try the view you get when you walk in the door:

If you look down the middle of that picture, you see what I affectionately refer to as Mount Taxidermy. From this distance it looks like rectangular lumps of gray rock with ice and fluffy things on it. It's actually about three stories tall and is covered with life-sized animals like mountain goats, moose, and bears. It's bigger than my townhouse and you wouldn't know it from the front door.

By the way, the whole left side of the building? Gun counters. I've never seen that many guns in my life. You could put the inventory from every gun store in Delaware together and you'd still have counter space left over. And unlike the wussy sporting goods stores in this state, they sell handguns as well as hunting rifles and shotguns. (UPDATE: A coworker asked me if the guns section was like the Gun-Lots-of-Guns scene in the Matrix. Yes, that image captures the volume of firearms quite nicely. Cabelas had a lot more wood-stocked hunting rifles than Neo though.)

I hope they build one in Delaware eventually. I'm sure they could put one downstate somewhere. Every hunter, shooter, camper, and fisherman from the entire Delmarva peninsula would shop there.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Useful Presents

My sister was without power for several days this year when the remains of Hurricane Ike tore through Cincinnati. With that in mind she gave everybody Red Cross Emergency Radios this year.

The radio gets AM, FM, and weather band along with a flash light and ports to charge other small electronics like cell phones. You can put it out in the sun to charge or hand crank it. Reception doesn't seem to be great, but it is still much better than nothing. The unit itself is the perfect size for a small disaster kit and will certainly be included in mine.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Here's a Goodwill Towards Men moment:
Last week, this area — Northern New England — was hit by a serious ice storm and over a million residents lost electricity due to downed power lines. I was lucky — I only lost mine for about 15 hours but many, especially in New Hampshire, were without electricity for many days.

One thing I’ve noticed in the past is that public service utilities all help each other out during these crisis.

Yesterday morning I saw a rather impressive sight. I was driving down Interstate 91, going to work, and in the north-bound lane was a convoy of what must have been over 50 electrical utility trucks belonging to Hydro-Quebec. Hydro-Quebec must have sent all of these crews to help out in hardest hit New Hampshire and after spending many days in this area assisting our local power suppliers, they drove up I-89 and then were heading home on I-91.
I also saw a convoy of cherry pickers returning home from helping out up North. It was Tuesday on I-95 near Newark and there must have been 20 trucks. I was really stunned and couldn't imagine what all those utility trucks had been doing. Turns out they were out helping people. Thanks utility service people.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Making Your Own P90... Sort Of

Take apart an airsoft rifle, insert Ruger 10/22 parts, reassemble.

Gun News from the Old Stomping Grounds

In this case, the Brookhaven PD (in the same school district I grew up in) are refusing to return lawfully possessed firearms to their rightful owner.
In [Thomas] DeOrio’s case, Brookhaven police seized his collection of handguns and rifles in October and turned them over to the sheriff when his girlfriend filed for a temporary protection-from-abuse order. Shields said she perceived something he had said to be threatening. Three days later, after a court hearing, a judge dismissed the order, records show.
Via Snowflakes in Hell and SayUncle.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

My M65

After a trip to H&M made me realize what I really wanted, I looked around for an M-65 vendor. Everything local (essentially just Joe's Army/Navy in the Newcastle Farmers Market) only stocked Rothco merchandise. Rothco's sizing consistency and attention to detail is somewhat lacking. Too the internet!

After asking around, I finally settled on a Alpha Industries Knox Armory brand M-65 from Silbermans Army/Navy at The price was reasonable and they had a good return policy if the sizing didn't work out. I ordered it and they told me they'd ship it in a week. Then they told me it would be another week. Then another three days. Then another day. Then they canceled my order because they couldn't get the product from the manufacturer. If I had known that they have the jackets in stock, I never would have ordered from them in the first place. Even now, the jackets they know they can't get are still listed on their website. Wonderful people those Silbermans.

I order a Tru-Spec M65 from instead. It was at my door in a few days. Nice coat and I really like it. Despite tru-spec's advertising, it is not mil-spec.
  • M65s have a vestigial cuff on the sleeve used to connect the sleeves to gloves in order to make the jacket more weather tight. You can see them in the picture on this page. These are never used and often just get in the way. Tru-spec omitted them entirely. Good for them.
  • Most of the velcro on the jacket seems to have a larger range of adjustment than normal. Fine by me.
  • The jacket liner has additional buttons so you could, in theory, wear it as a jacket all by itself. Why anyone would do this when the liner sleeves are several inches too short is beyond me. I wish the liner had elastic cuffs and extra pockets like the Alpha Industries liners. I suppose if I want those features enough I could just buy an Alpha liner and put it into my Tru-spec jacket.
  • The liner sleeves button into the jacket using cotton straps with button holes sewn in them. Usually it's buttoned in with loops sewn on the liner sleeves. The former works and the latter doesn't so I'm happy.
About my only complaint is with the pockets on the jacket and it isn't Tru-spec's fault. The M65 was designed in that post-war period where officers hates seeing soldiers standing around with their hands in their pockets. Like the CWU-45/P flight jacket and M65 field pants, their solution was to design the pockets so you couldn't do this comfortably. These were the same people who made sure that the MA-1 flight jacket had a sleeve pocket big enough to hold a pack of smokes. Funny how priorities change over time, isn't it?

Tennant and Tate in Comic Relief

Always interesting to see David Tennant nee MacDonald use his real accent. Also nice to be able to fill in the missing tidbits of Doctor Who that show up during the Children in Need specials using Youtube.

Hard News or Partisan BS

It seems that the National Geographic Channel's recent program "Guns in America" is the latter, featuring an entirely one-sided presentation coming straight from the script of the Brady Campaign. Stick to filming cute dogs and cats please.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Bush Pardons Gun Owners

I don't know what to make of this article, it starts off with a blatant untruth:
So, after George W. Bush, a strong defender of the Second Amendment, took office, Mr. Collier wrote to the president seeking a pardon, saying he wanted to go hunting with his kids.
The untruth is that Bush is not a strong Second Amendment defender. Good stuff has happened during the Bush Administration, but Bush and Administration officials have not generally been behind them. The reason the Assault Weapons Ban died is because the Republican congress did not give Bush a renewal, not because Bush vetoed it. Likewise the Justice Department brief in Heller was completely underwhelming. But Bush has successfully given several people their rights back and I guess that's something.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Handy Things for the Trunk of Your Car

Yesterday's really useful item was a spare headlight bulb. I pulled into the parking lot at work and realized my driver's side headlight was out. Not a horrible problem, but since I'd be driving home in the dark I popped in the spare. The last time this happened I had to hit a Walmart on my lunch break.

The nice thing about my car is that you can change the bulbs without tools. The not-nice thing is that you can't do anything of the sort with the taillights. Changing a taillight requires disassembling most of the trunk liner then using at least two different metric wrenches to dismount the tail light assembly. Space is tight enough that you can't get around the two wrench requirement with an adjustable crescent wrench either.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Two Days the Earth Stood Still

Hube says the new one is crap and makes no sense. Yup. Allow me to explain using the premises of the first and second movies:
  1. In the 1950s movie, spaceman Klaatu comes to Earth because, with the advent of nuclear power and modern space travel, mankind is on the cusp of great developments that will lead us to the stars. However if we do go to the stars acting like warmongering monkeys, the stars will repay us by destroying mankind ruthlessly and completely. Klaatu then benignly demonstrates how powerless we are in the face of truly advanced civilizations like his and leaves it up to us to reform.
  2. In the recent film, Klaatu comes to Earth because we're screwing up our planet's ecology (just like his people once screwed up theirs). Habitable worlds are rare and Klaatu will destroy us utterly if we continue to abuse ours. Klaatu doesn't so much demonstrate his power as attack the mankind only to finally relent.
Setting aside the fact that Michael Rennie is a better actor than Keanu Reeves, the first premise works and the second does not.

Among it's many problems is that if you have the ability to use nanites to fundamentally rearrange matter, as Keanu Klaatu does, you can basically do anything. Liveable worlds would not be scarce because you could terraform them. Formerly liveable worlds would not pose a problem either because you could fix that damage in short order.

Klaatu's concept of property and value is similarly broken. Earth is a precious commodity and we're misusing it. In some sort of warped communist morality, Klaatu is justified in killing mankind because others can use Earth better. Because intelligent life isn't a precious commodity I suppose.

Thankfully while the first movie is still held in high regard almost 60 years later, the second movie is being widely panned. There is justice in the world.

UPDATE: John C. Wright throws his well-written prose in the ring and links to reviews at Dirty Harry's Place.

Next Major Internet Trend

Mani-rolling. Barry Manilow was a guest on Graham Norton over the weekend. Actually the guest. Turns out gay Irish men dig Manilow too. I did learn that Manilow made a living writing advertising jingles before making it big. Some are still in use. I was really surprised, just like when I found out that John Tesh wrote that NBA on NBC theme.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

How Honest are Your Cops?

The Atlanta PD is trying to castrate their city's new Citizen Review Board. It seems the board doesn't like it when cops shoot innocent senior citizens and then try to cover it up.

And in other news, cops in Odessa, Texas received a rude awakening when the house they raided looking for a pot grow turned out to be a sting on them. The TV program KopBusters had set up a fake grow using lights and small evergreen trees. After several months, the local PD took notice of the IR source and raided the house. The problem? PDs cannot use passive IR scans as evidence without a warrant and hence they cannot use them to get a warrant. What was used and who lied to get it? We'll see.

No word on whether Miss Anonymous's basement herb garden has gotten undue scrutiny from any of Delaware's finest yet.

Via SayUncle and the Smallest Minority

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Return of Jim Darkmagic

The guys are Penny Arcade are getting together with Scott Kurtz, Wil Wheaton (!?), and someone over at Wizards to create another D&D podcast. The last series was really fun, especially with Kurtz and Gabe drawing the action as it occurred.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Handy AR Info

This site has a broad overview of raised weaver/picatinny rail mounts. It includes cheap and not so cheap. Good stuff and very useful if you plan to ever scope your AR-15 like I do.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Beautiful Scenic Newark

...where two college students are robbed and pistol-whipped in the wee hours of the morning on Haines Street. But, but, it's a gun-free school zone!

As an aside, thanks to the News Journal's PC reporting policy, you have look elsewhere to find out that the two men were white. Even though we get a complete description of their wardrobe, which they can change in seconds, we don't have any idea of their skin color which they cannot.

Fun at the Hardware Store

I think I've already covered making bows and arrows, but this site has a neat piece about recycling hacksaw blades into cheap survival knives that is worth a look. They even have functional sawtooth backs. I've heard that if the hacksaw blade just isn't good enough for you, sawz-all blades work too and they're even sturdier.

Shatner's New Show

Chris Byrne says that Bill Shatner's new talk show on the Biography channel is actually pretty good.
There is no filter to William Shatner. He is showing you everything, with complete honesty. Sure, there's charm and wit and social grace; but there is nothing being concealed there.
I'll have to check it out.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Meta Comics

Schlock Mercenary linked to IsItFunnyToday, a sort of webcomics comedy value aggregator. Unfortunately right now it doesn't contain many comics or have enough people voting. I also suspect that comics that aren't very funny won't bother to draw many people in to vote for or against them. Would you put yourself through rating a ton of Sluggy Freelance just so that you can quantify how long it has been sucking?

Finding a Reason to Hate Something

Markos Kloos gives a list of reasons to hate just about any firearm make and model over at Munchkin Wrangler.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Prevailing Standards of Noncomformity

Quotes of the Day featured this Bill Vaughn quote today:
"If there is anything the nonconformist hates worse than a conformist, it's another nonconformist who doesn't conform to the prevailing standard of nonconformity."
By that definition I was a nonconformist in high school. It was the early nineties, but I still wore pants that fit and shunned flannel. The "non-conformists" who made up the majority of my high school population didn't really notice though. They were too busy being true individuals just like everyone else.

Justice in the Burial

Nine of the ten terrorist suspects in Mumbai were killed by Indian security forces. None of the Muslim cemeteries in Mumbai will accept their bodies. Now none of the Muslim cemeteries in India are permitted to accept them either. That's a sticky wicket for a religion that requires them to be buried before sundown. Perhaps the Pakistanis will ask for their men back?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Pots and Kettles

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg had this to say about Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress shooting himself with an unlicensed firearm:
“And I don’t think that anybody should be exempt from that,” he added. “And I think it would be an outrage if we don’t prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.”
No word on whether Burress wants Bloomberg prosecuted for his well known conspiracy to evade federal firearms laws. I mean I don't think anybody should be exempt from that...

A Concealed Carry Log

Bob Owens reports on six months of carrying concealed around Raleigh, North Carolina. If you're interesting in more local accounts of people carrying in Delaware, open or concealed, several members of Delaware Open Carry maintain them on the DelOC forums.

Via Instapundit.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Illegal Background Checks

Not just for Joe the Plumber in Ohio anymore. It turns out that the Delaware State Police have been doing them regularly. Some concerned citizens have recently started accessing the records via FOIA. It would be nice if we had an attorney general that would actually take the DSP to task for violating state and federal law.

Quantum of Solace

My brother and I took my uncle to see the latest Bond film on Saturday night. I liked and loathed it for reasons very similar to Ryan's. The movie continues to climb into Bond's head and reveal what makes him tick. The plot has a few twists and turns, but Bond takes the same approach to solving it that Alexander used with the Gordian knot. Don't untie the thing, just break it open. This doesn't sit well with his superiors.

I didn't like much of the action editing either. They were often so choppy it was hard to tell what exactly was going on. Some guys got shot, I wonder who they were and who shot them? I suppose this is supposed to replicate the fog of war or something, but I after a while I just found it to be annoying.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Wii is Wonderful

The events of Thanksgiving were greatly soothed because my Wii occupied the time of the under 12 set. They're totally engrossed in Wii Sports especially bowling, boxing, and baseball. As any parents will tell you, anything that keeps the kids quiet and well behaved is a good thing. It had the added benefit of giving me clout over the children which was handy at times.

Of course the side-effect is that I'm now wii-giver to them. I walked in the door yesterday and the first words out of every child's mouth was "where's your wii? Did you bring your wii?" I haven't felt so objectified since we first got the cat. I'd neglect to bring the wii tonight to teach them a lesson, but then I'd get dirty looks for their parents because they'd have to deal with their own children again.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Marriage and the Slippery Slope

I read two posts discussing gay marriage this week, both are from a fairly Libertarian perspective. The first is recent one written by John the Methodist reflecting on a Florida ballot proposition. The other is an archived post by Megan McArdle which Kim du Toit linked to a few days ago. They're both good reads, but I'm afraid Megan McArdle's work largely trumps John's. Sorry John.

For example take this paragraph from Locusts and Honey:
Another argument is that gay marriage harms the marriages of heterosexual couples. I just don't see this works. The health of my marriage is dependent upon the emotional health of my wife and me, and our ability and willingness to commit to each other. If a gay couple next door gets married, I simply don't see how it affects us. If a heterosexual marriage is negatively impacted by the gay marriages of others, then it was pretty weak to begin with.
An almost direct response to this comes from Megan McArdle (although it's actually about divorce.)
That's ridiculous! said the reformers. People stay married because marriage is a bedrock institution of our society, not because of some law! The only people who get divorced will be people who have terrible problems! A few percentage points at most!

Oops. When the law changed, the institution changed. The marginal divorce made the next one easier. Again, the magnitude of the change swamped the dire predictions of the anti-reformist wing; no one could have imagined, in their wildest dreams, a day when half of all marriages ended in divorce.
I assume most of the people reading my blog are in a situation similar to my own. You have a lot of respect for the institution of marriage. If you're in one, you're probably committed to making it healthy and lasting. John is right, gay marriage isn't going to change that for us.

But that's only for us. What if you're the marginal case? Someone on the marriage fence. In that case gay marriage is just one more example of how marriage really doesn't mean anything in this day and age. Which is sad, because heterosexual marriage is the bedrock of civilized societies. Married people live longer, are less likely to live in poverty, have more successful and well-adjusted children, etc. It's a good thing. But to them gay marriage is just one more demonstration

And really that's struck me about Megan McArdle's post. Ignoring the bit about income tax, her piece largely documents the slippery slope that the institution of marriage has been on for almost a century. Gay marriage really isn't the start of a slippery slope, it's proof we're nearing its base.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Bad Days for Pets

The Byrnes lost a cat to sudden onset kidney failure and have another that is unfortunately on its last legs. John the Methodist's rabbit Hyzenthlay died of cancer.

Milo had a miserable weekend, but is otherwise fine. We went to Amy's parents for a well-attended early Thanksgiving. It was fun for us and Amy got to see a lot of relatives for the first time in a while. Not so much for the cat. He likes his grandparents' place and his grandparents, but he was emotionally overwhelmed through sheer numbers. The three of us are back at home now and he's a lot happier.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

F'ing RINOs

While he may be the last great GOP politician in Delaware, where firearms rights are concerned, he is part of the problem. When I first heard of AWB renewals came out, I was inclined to follow the NRA's suggestions and contact my Congressman. After I did and Castle essentially responded with a message saying he though selling out my fundamental constitutional rights was a grand idea, I stopped bothering.

The Fool Speaks the Truth

My favorite line from yesterday's Big Bang Theory was from Sheldon who said, "I am not going to watch the Clone Wars TV series until I've seen the Clone Wars movie. I prefer to let George Lucas disappoint me in the order he intended."

I rewatched the Genndy Tartakovsky short series a while back and while the force powers were over-the-top (especially true in the first volume), they were still awesome and the characterizations were excellent. General Grievous is badass and defeats multiple Jedi at once. Padawan Skywalker impulsively duels Asajj Ventress only to resort to the Dark Side in order to defeat her. It is Samurai Jack in a time Long Long Ago in a Galaxy Far Far Away. I can live with that.

The current CGI Clone Wars is G.I. Joe, which is far less cool. The good guys kill robots, the bad guys kill clone mooks, and Grievous always escapes to menace another day. They do a few things right. The plots tend to take place in episode arcs rather than rushed single shots. More importantly they get the clones right, especially in episodes like Rookies. I haven't seen any Mandalorian chants, but the clones are shown as individuals and have faces. There is a lot of foreshadowing that the major set piece in the CGI series will be the Battle of Kamino (compared to the Battle of Coruscant in the Tartakovsky series). We'll see if they include some of the morally ambiguous actions taken on the Republic side.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Lightning Bolt! Lightning Bolt!

Was someone caught LARPing or was that Google Street View really performance art?

The Magic of the Internet

It has the power to turning one nerd into four:

I was really impressed until I found out he was lip syncing to a Utah-based acapella group called Moosebutter. If you'd like a counterpoint, there's always Hi-Fidelity's Star Trek barbershop:

They do at least one more Trek-based number.

Via Cassie and Miss Anon.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Obama Commentary from Across the Pond

Amy and I watch the Graham Norton show on BBC America Saturday nights. Norton's opening monologue dealt with Obama's win and the election of the first black president, since it was shot shortly after the election. British comedian Frank Skinner was a guest and made this wonderful statement about premature celebration:
You're not really sure what you're getting with Barack Obama... Robert Mugabe is a black president. They're not necessarily good, are they?
Skinner also remarked that Obama's mixed racial heritage is often overlooked, which is a shame for the growing numbers of interracial families out there.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Economy Night Vision

I must admit that the Eyeclops toy night vision optic looks really cool. I wondered if they worked as advertised since I actually saw the advertisement. Judging from the Amazon reviews, they do.

Yes, the optic is somewhat disorienting. Yes, it's a monocular with a narrow field of view and no depth perception. But guess what? All that is still true even with most current gen military systems. Trust me, I've almost fallen down a flight of stairs while stumbling around in the dark using military training units.

Now I'm not saying that the Eyeclops is equivalent to that military unit. It's a toy that is probably too fragile for a $70 item that you're going to give to a 10 year-old. I'm just saying I wish they'd had these when I was that accident prone 10 year-old.

Anti-Piracy Efforts

The Royal Navy has killed three pirates in a brief firefight after responding to an attack on a Danish cargo ship off the coast of Yemen. International sea law will hopefully still allow them to kill the other pirates on the dhow after a proper trial.

We'll see if the US Navy gets into the act anytime soon. The Navy has largely been sitting out the War on Terror (except for supporting the Marines) and anti-piracy efforts would be a great way for the service to become more relevant. Perhaps some of the littoral combat ships could be put to good use. A cheaper (and probably more effective) alternative would be to field some q-ships for anti-piracy operations in hotspots like the Gulf of Aden or the Strait of Malacca. Or maybe just smaller littoral vessels like Sea Fighter.

The High Road

I'm not sure if anyone here frequents The High Road firearms forum except me, but here is an important tidbit of information: it seems the current .org site has been caught up in a crisis of ownership. Or in other words, it has been stolen.

The long time technical administrator has claimed ownership he doesn't actually have and has hijacked the board (complete history). You may not realize this because he's also banned Oleg Volk (the actual owner) and any Oleg-supporting moderators while deleting any posts that mention what is going on. Oleg has set up a .us site as a temporary alternative to the hijacked original using an older version of the database. I suggest you use Oleg's site for the foreseeable future until things can get worked out and both sites are merged after the dust settles. Unfortunately "worked out" in this case means civil and possible criminal charges against Derek Zeanah, the old admin.

Monday, November 10, 2008

New Gun Shop

A few years ago, I spent a weekend visiting (or in some cases just trying to find) all the gun shops in Northern Delaware. It seems there is now a new one, Patriotic Firearms, which just opened in Meadowood Shopping Center on Kirkwood Highway. I'll have to put my day off tomorrow to good use.

UPDATE: Unfortunately the new gunshop isn't open yet. The display counters are in, but there isn't even any signage yet and definitely no actual product.

I hit two Dick's Sporting Goods and Walmart in search of ammo. Ammo sale prices at both are often quite competitive, especially since you don't need to pay for shipping. No dice. Who ever decided on how to price their .223 stock is an idiot. You can buy 20 rounds for $8 (if by the case), or 50 for $25 (no case price), or 200 for $95. This meant the good deal, a case of 20 round boxes, was gone and no one was buying the more expensive ammo. I did manage to pick up the last box of Winchester 147gr 9mm JHPs at Walmart. I've been wanting to run some of these through my hipower to see how it handles them.

Oh and I came real close to buying a "military" jacket at H&M today. It was essentially an all cotton M65-style shell with a button-in polyfill liner. It was a nice jacket, but I just couldn't get myself to buy it. Then I realized for what they wanted (~$80) I could just buy an M65 with a liner and get a better jacket.

Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga

Amy and I picked this up for Wii on Saturday because we heard it has a great cooperative play mode (it does) and we wanted something to play together. It's a compendium of Lego Star Wars: The Video Game and LSW II: The Original Trilogy. Since then we've played through the first few levels in Episode I. It's a fun platformer. Amy seems to be a darn good shooter, while I'm a better light-saber swinging Jedi. Works for me.

The levels themselves have a lot of replay value. You'll find new things each time and you'll gain access to new areas in free-play mode by using different characters. I've heard things only get better as the Original Trilogy levels are superior to the first game. We'll see what happens when we hit Episode IV.

If there is anything bad about this game, it's how hard it is to find a copy. We tried picking it up at Walmart and GameStop with no luck, but our local Best Buy had a ton of them. It has definitely been worth the $20 I spent once we found one.

Legend of the Seeker

I've watched the first three episodes of the new series based on Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth books. It's alright, but it just seems very pared-down compared to the books.

In the books Richard is an impressive character in his own right. He's smart, inquisitive, and driven. His ability to wield the Sword of Truth is supplied by these traits and by his capacity for righteous anger. If he hadn't been an impressive man, the sword would wield him, not the other way around. As the books progress he has to learn to temper that anger with mercy as he discovers who he really is.

In the TV show, he's just this guy. Not only is he short and wiry instead of a big leading man, but he really doesn't show us why we should be impressed. He's a nice guy and perhaps a do-gooder, but we don't see that drive or fury in him. He is given the sword largely because of prophecy, not because he already demonstrates the attributes that will make him a good Seeker for Truth.

The whole series is kind of like that. Many of the character's backstories have been sanitized for TV. The series has a very Hercules the Legendary Journeys feel to it. The characters walk through the woods a lot and deal with whatever problem comes up that week. It's understandable given that the production teams are largely the same. Perhaps the plot will deepen as it develops while the series progresses? I can only hope.

Friday, November 07, 2008

80s Trivia

Well I got an 87 on this 1980s cartoon trivia quiz. I missed the questions on Rainbow Brite and the Care Bears. I consider ignorance of those programs a virtue not a vice.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


Instapundit reports an Autoblog story about the credit crunch ruining GM hybrid sales. Yeah, I'm betting the $1.98 gas I saw on my drive to work today isn't going to help them much either.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Who is the President-Elect?

Obama won and I don't think anybody is really surprised. It was closer than the polling indicated, but his electoral college victory is undeniable. This is a good thing, because I don't think anyone wanted a repeat of 2000. I think we can all be happy that race relations have come far enough in this country that we have elected a Black president other than Bill Clinton (how did that work anyway?). This still leaves us with some significant questions. My big one is "How will President Obama govern?"

Policy wise, he's a deep lefty, but he's also a practical politician. If he has shown himself to be anything, it is a political opportunist. People were amazed that he had never heard Reverend Wright's racially charged bigotry. The man wasn't attending that church for the sermons, although I'm sure he heard them. He was attending it for the votes and power base it gave him. Where he worshiped was a political decision.

So which opportunities will he sieze upon now? Nobody really knows. Is he going to stand up to his own party in congress and govern in a clinton-era center-left manner? Is he going to tilt deeply socialist? The sad thing is we ought to know the answer to these questions. All we've had for two years is good oration, hopey-changey, blank-slate candidate, followed by policy flip-flop whenever he makes a bad call. The only thing he's stood for is that he isn't George Bush. Which I could already tell because I'm neither blind nor stupid. He has no executive experience to examine and the media hasn't challenged him on anything since the primaries. Even then they were in his corner against Hillary. Wonderful.

If this election has shown me anything, it's that I am no longer supporting anything the MSM puts out if I can help it. They were so deeply in the tank this election, that I don't care to consume their product anymore. It's the internet and maybe some Fox News or nothing.

Oh and it's also time to stock up on some guns. I expect Obama's first acts as President to be a crime bill that is heavy on the gun control and an education bill to replace NCLB that is a teachers union's wet dream.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Coming Out of the Closet

Aerosmith Guitarist Joe Perry admits to being a lifelong Republican and endorses McCain. This is a big deal for a guy who hails from Boston and works in the entertainment industry. Just look at the comments on that article for reasons why.

Via Duffy at Pencader Days.

Happy Halloween

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Phillies Win!

I give total credit to Paul Smith and his idolatry before the baseball gods. Also the fans. I suppose some of the Phillies' players and management. Especially that nice Brett Myers. He seems the well-adjusted sort.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Delaware's Latest Shame

Surprise! It has nothing to do with Joe Biden and everything to do with the Delaware State Police violating the law by illegally maintaining government records of firearms purchases. The state requires these records to be destroyed in 60 days. A slip of the tongue revealed that the DSP had maintained a database of records going back over 7 years.

This is not an isolated problem. Adjoining states like Pennsylvania also illegally maintain records databases.

UPDATE: Duffy weighs in on the DSP's computer glitch cover story.

A New Threat from... Paraguay?

It seems that the Paraguaians Paraguese people of Paraguay have held the biggest barbecue ever with 30 thousand people consuming 28,000 tons of meat in 6 hours. That's almost a ton of meat per person! So much meat that perhaps fraud was involved...

Paraguay really should have known better. I believe we all remember what happened to Iraq after they tried to take World Shooting-in-the-Air Supremacy away from Kentucky. You wouldn't think Paraguay would make that sort of mistake.

I still have confidence that good American gluttons from the South, or possibly the Southwest, will put the record back in American hands soon enough.

Chuck Norris Weighs In

You know why the clip ends with him throwing the punch into a freeze frame? Well they tried to start it off this way, but all they got was the force of his chi breaking the camera lens, followed by the pained cries of the injured cameraman. At least this way all that happens off screen. Remember Chuck thought this clip was so important it was worth spilling a cameraman's blood.

More Norris NRA humor over at Tam's place.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Excel Innovations

It's kind of cool that AC/DC has released an ascii art version of Rock N Roll Train via an Excel spreadsheet. But only kind of. There is no way I'm going to run a strange excel file on my computer without disabling macros. I just don't trust them that much, no matter what my virus scanner says. Once I have disabled macros, I've also disabled the video content. At least there's a Youtube version.

Every Weekly Meeting During Grad School

My usual experience in graduate school was that my adviser would tell me to do an experiment I knew wouldn't work. I would go off, do it, report that it didn't work, reiterate why it wouldn't work (but with experimental support this time), and then go off to do it the my way so that it would. Every professor was the same and the key to good relations seemed to be knowing when to stop fighting them.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Phillies Massacre Rays

Amybear is beginning to forsake her DC metro ways. She bought a Phillies cap at Sears yesterday.

I caught most of the game last night. The Phillies just absolutely trounced the Rays. To make my point, Ryan Howard hit two home runs with 5 RBIs but he wasn't the game's most valuable player. That honor went to pitcher Joe Blanton who dashed the Rays' hopes for six innings and also hit a solo home run. What is it with Phillies' pitchers this post-season?

If this trend continues, I may have to see if any of my old Phillies gear still fits.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Seasons Are a Changin'

The weatherproofing on my old Lands End Squall Parka gave up during a February snow this year. My mother gave it to me one Christmas during college because she thought I needed a new winter coat. I was wearing around a ratty trenchcoat a lot and perhaps she thought my fashion sense was going the way of my father's. I never really loved it, but it was functional and lasted forever. The later is a trait that seems common in clothes I don't like.

My current choices for replacement are the Cabela's Canvas Field Coat (in Saddle) and the Cabela's Prairie Field Jacket. I think the former is better looking and would probably be warmer, except it lacks a zipper or a drawstring waist. The latter has the zipper and shotshell loops which are perfect for trips to the range.


UPDATE: I left out the Insulated Chore Coat from Duluth Trading Company. Not sure if it has a drawstring waist, but it does have a zipper which should make it a lot more foul weather resistant.

Rube Goldberg Cat Training

Cat eating the potted plants? Hook your blender up a motion detector to freak him out anytime he tries. Or for the 10 cent solution, just apply double sided scotch tape to the counter top. Cats hate that stuff.

No. Not Without Incident.

The Tetragrammaton Cleric t-shirt, perfect for anyone open carrying a Beretta. Equilibrium, what a wonderfully silly movie. Via Lawdog.

UPDATE: On the topic of clothes and carry, don't wear prominent pro-2nd amendment t-shirts and hats while concealed carrying. If they're smart, people will connect the dots and take a closer look. They will most likely find telltale budges if you are packing.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ace of Cakes

Amy and I love the show on Food Network. Amy discovered turns out that Mary Alice also maintains a Charm City Cakes blog as well. It includes previews of upcoming episodes and pictures of the various crew members that slave away behind the scenes to produce the program.

On a similar food-related note, Kim du Toit (and his wife Connie) both think that Anthony Bourdain's new show At The Table is rubbish. His old show, No Reservations, is excellent. The new one is unfortunately pretentious crap.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Things to Freak Out the Cat

Make gives us the robotic planter box, which seeks to optimize the sun exposure for it's plants by walking to the brightest spots in the room.


The Administrative Pastor at my church recently started riding a motorcycle. It's his first bike in twenty-something years so he started "small." He bought a Sportster. His wife actually wanted to ride on it with him so he bought the 1200 instead of the 883. I found out all of this, not because Pastor Bill and I are buds, but because he had recently broken his leg.

Some of the men at church in his age group are rather annoyed with him over this. How are they to convince their wives to let them buy motorcycles and relive the glory days of their youth, when a prominent clergyman has had a prominent motorcycle accident? I'm sure large parts of the congregation will be looking to hold Pastor Bill accountable for his behavior in short order. I also suggest they point out that the 20 something church organist zips about on a sportbike and he hasn't had a horrible crash yet. Yet. Maybe that will get them some traction, but having had this discussion with my own wife I kind of doubt it.

On this topic, Jeremy Clarkson recently published a column about motorcycles even though he did his research by riding a Vespa. He explains the advantage of his motorcycling choice:
I also liked the idea of a Vespa because most bikes are Japanese. This means they are extremely reliable so you cannot avoid a fatal crash by simply breaking down. This is entirely possible on a Vespa because it is made in Italy.
Perhaps this explain the popularity of Harley-Davidson's as well?

The Gunshow

I did stop off at the Nur Shriners Temple gun show on Saturday. I was more surprised by what I didn't see than what I did. What didn't I see?
  • Young people. There were a hundred or so people mulling around the show floor (which was about the size of a basketball court). Most were older white men between 55-75. A few were younger family men in their forties toting their kids about. A very few were my age or younger. This was not a place for young urban males to buy their gats.
  • Handguns. I'm guess the show broke down to a third were non-weapons. Military surplus in various forms, books, holsters, scopes, grips, etc. Another third was knives. There were easily as many knife dealers as there were gun dealers. The rest were almost all older shotguns and mil-surp bolt action rifles. There were handful of handguns tables. There were probably a few dozen total hanguns. No luck finding a deal on an older .357 revolver. No-one seemed to be selling cowboy action guns either.
  • Modern military arms. One person was prominently displaying an M1A (and wanted $6k for it). Another had a few AR-15s and a weird AR upper that accepted P90 mags and ammo. (Why would you want a gun that is the same size and weight as an AR, but takes more expensive and weaker ammo?) With an Obama administration looking more likely, I expected a lot more of that sort of stuff. I expected someone selling stripped AR lowers in bulk, but I saw 1 stripped lower and it was a novelty item tagged at $250.
  • Ammunition. Slim pickings here. There were a few historical ammunition curiosities, like a really old box of .44-40 hunting ammo. There was one table that had a few hundred rounds of 7.62x39. Another sold .30-06 in en-bloc clips for an M1 garand. That was it.
So that was the show. I hit Millers and X-ring on my way home. Millers didn't have much I was interested in, but X-ring had several stripped lowers for under $150 and a 3" Ruger GP100. No sale, but nice to know that this stuff is out there.

Friday, October 17, 2008

McCain Clips

McCain's speech at the Al Smith dinner was a good one, especially where he was ripping on the Clintons:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Delegate Wars

If you wish the presidency were settled in Risk-style (actually Dice Wars) battle royale, Battleground States might be for you. Fun, but time consuming.

Oh and if you want to watch cats flushing toilets to a goofy song, this one is for you.

Geek Shame

Sadly, I understood everything Gabe said in this comic. The boy is in blue Katarn armor which means he's a null lieutenant, so either Jaing, Mereel, Prudii, or Kom'rk. I'm sure Gabe knows which and has instructed his son to act accordingly.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Doctor's Appointments

I've been having knee pain for around a month now. Both of them. It sucks. I can't do any sort of cardio workout and I'm walking around like an old man. I realized that it wasn't just going to go away with rest, so I went to the family doctorphysician's assistant yesterday. She diagnosed me with patellofemoral pain syndrome. Essentially, my kneecap is rubbing on the rest of my knee join and aggravating things. The treatment is mostly stretching and quad strengthening exercises to teach those errant kneecaps their proper place.

Patellofemoral pain syndrome is just a fancy way of saying that the area around my kneecap hurts, by the way. Most medical language is like that. I feel sorry for the people who use the phrase "well at least they have a name for it" related to medicine and illness. Some old lady gets comfort when she finds out that she is tired all the time because of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Except that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome doesn't have a clearly identified cause. Its just the category they put people into who are tired all the time and don't have Lyme disease, etc.

Once you learn the code, medicine gets a lot less impressive. Once you actually work with doctors on a professional level (as I did while researching biomechanics in college) the gild leaves the lily at an alarming rate. Doctors (and especially surgeons) are much more like skilled auto mechanics than white-coated super-scientists. It's a professional degree program, just a difficult one because the nature of the "machine" they're trying to repair.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Mystery Solved

Ever wonder why you see ads for Sonic on cable/satellite TV even when there isn't Sonic within several hours drive of your house? Some of you may have conjectured that its an artifact of advertising economics and it turns out you're right:
Over the weekend, I ran into one of the writers behind the two-folks-in-a-car Sonic commercials and asked him if he knew.

He said that it's basically a better deal for Sonic to buy ad packages on a national basis on cable TV, which is why all you Sonic-less folks see them anyway. An added benefit, he said, was that this strategy has coincidentally built up hype for the drive-in burger chain whenever it enters a new market.
It works too, every time I travel to an area with a Sonic, I always stop for one of their burgers. What's the point of hitting a McDonalds (unless that region still has the McRib)?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Multivitamin Schadenfreude

Turns out a friend and I both just changed vitamin brands to One-A-Day Mens Multivitamins. We both think they're crap. I had previously used a brand called Nature Made, but switched to One-A-Day because I thought all vitamins were the same. I was wrong.

The big problem is that unlike Nature Made, One-A-Day does not coat their pills with anything. This means you can taste exactly what is in the multivitamins: minerals and organic molecules. Dirt and bark for you non-technical people. Even worse, with out a coating they start dissolving in your mouth so that dirt and bark flavor spreads across your mouth and then lingers. The surface is also porous so it sticks to things making the pill hard to swallow. Nothing like downing a full glass of nasty dirt-and-bark water trying to swallow your morning dose of vegetables.

All this could be avoided with an thin gelatin or wax coating on the pills of course.

If there is any consolation to be had, it's that I only bought a 100 count bottle while my friend has nearly an entire year's supply. Sucks even worse to be him.


I discovered that my old 2D maglite was completely trashed yesterday. One or both of the batteries had leaked and swelled, locking them into the barrel of the light. After attempting to disassemble the unit using instructions from Take-It-Apart, I realize that the light was a hopeless case. The acid had eaten away at the barrel of the light and I was going to have to destroy most of the internals just to get it out. Oh well, time to get another one anyway.

In doing the research on that, I stumbled across It's a great site and has lots of data amidst it's product reviews.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Palin Having Fun

HAVING FUN with Sarah Palin. Yeah, readers keep sending me reports like this, which I'm not getting about John McCain. She looks like she's having fun. He doesn't. That matters.
Why is Palin having fun but McCain, well, not? The answer is simple, this is McCain's last Presidential hurrah. He's already too old and that isn't a problem that will go away with time. So the pressure is on him, because nobody is going to elect McCain's head in a jar.

Palin? Not so much. If McCain loses she goes back to her overwhelmingly successful job as Governor of Alaska. She puts in four more years there and runs for President in 2012 (or perhaps 2016). Unless Bobby Jindal also runs, she's going to win the nomination in a landslide. Palin's personal situation is win-win. Why not be happy?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Well-Deserved Punch in the Face

Amy and I watched a movie called License to Wed over the weekend. It is a bad movie, but one scene got me to to stand up and applaud. It's the one where the groom-to-be punches out the bastard minister. Great scene.

I had a similar experience with this story about Lehman Brothers CEO Richard Fuld:
"From two very senior sources - one incredibly senior source - that he went to the gym after. Lehman was announced as going under. He was on a treadmill with a heart monitor on. Someone was in the corner, pumping iron and he walked over and he knocked him out cold. And frankly after having watched this, I'd have done the same too."

Encroaching Alzheimers

Terry Pratchett discusses the progression of his early onset Alzheimers. It's a tough read if you have family members with dementia like I do.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Homicidal Feline Rage

This is why Milo is not allowed on the counters in the bathroom:

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

A Bad Month for Cats

First Porch Cat passed on the 12, then Mittens died yesterday. September was a bad month for blogger cats.

Reminder to Self

The Legion of Honor Gun Show is in about two weeks on the 18th and 19th at the Shrine Building off of Rt 13 in Newcastle. It's the only gun show I know of that is actually held within Delaware. All the others are across state lines, usually in Pennsylvania.

How Could I Have Missed It?

Truly, Mary Poppins must be a Time Lord.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wishing I Had Machine Tools

I thought of a product I'd love to see on the market, which would probably cheese off a lot of high dollar tacticool accessories makers: the bayonet light. Make a high-power tactical flashlight that can be mounted on an AR-15 or Mossberg 590 using the standard bayonet mounts. Why waste a lot of money on expensive fore-end replacements when you can just use the bayonet lug, the original accessory rail? I wish I had some simple milling equipment so I could try to whip something up.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Windows Misfeatures

I saw this piece on ways to improve the next iteration of Windows, and had to comment on it. You know, because someone is wrong on the internet and all...

One of the big issues with it is that I really don't understand where the writer is coming from. For instance:
Apple took a huge risk in releasing OS X, since doing so meant that it required nearly their entire user base to re-buy software and hardware or face immediate obsolescence.
Perhaps this is a big risk, but it is a big risk that Apple has historically taken all the time. The Mac has never had the legacy system support that PCs users take for granted. Back when I bought my first computer in the 90s, Macs were obsolete in about 3 years. Sometimes less. I don't know if has continued to be the case after they switched to Intel-based hardware and a unix-based OS. I do know that my newest PC is over 5 years old and I just put new hardware on it last week.

His suggestions for improvements are decidedly mixed as well:
  1. Boot into multiple environments, and virtualize between them. To get around legacy kernel support, you should chose which kernel to use at boot up? This is silly. Would you like to perform the equivalent of booting to safe mode in order to use your old software? No. What you want to do is write a good solid new kernel and then support the old code through a virtual machine. This has been done before with other operation systems and can be done seamlessly so the user never knows what is happening. The old code might not right quite as fast as it used to, but it will still work.
  2. Integrate Live service as a package manager and software store for Windows. I have no idea why you would need a package manager for Windows. The Linux distros use them because Unix software typically has tendrils of code dependency that reach deep into the OS through required libraries, etc. In order to make software installation simple, you need the manager to keep track of all this. Windows doesn't have this problem and should avoid introducing it. You run the installer and, the vast majority of the time, things just work.
  3. Sell one extensible version of Windows 7, not twenty "editions". Agreed. Windows needs two versions: desktop and server. That's really it. I suppose you could split desktop into variants like business and home, but you shouldn't really have to do that.
What should MS do to make their next version better? Listen to their customers. We don't want our older hardware to slow down to a crawl. We don't want intrusive and all-pervasive digital rights management. We want stability and we want security.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Dishonesty in Advertising

I've seen a lot of dishonest advertising lately, especially political ads, and this piece just pisses me off whenever I see it. But it isn't a campaign ad, it's for a vacuum:

A short list of the things wrong with it:
  • People vacuum in a back and forth pattern for simple reasons. Rooms are square. Objects in the rooms are square. You don't want to miss spots so you want a regular pattern. You're vacuuming a living room, not driving the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. If you tried to vacuum in grand sweeping curves, you'd just miss all the little corners and wind up with the cord wrapped around the coffee table.

  • Dyson mentions that current designs don't work because they have four wheels on two shared fixed axles. Except that this isn't actually true. Look at your vacuum. You probably have four wheels on the bottom. The smaller set of two are probably rotating on fixed axles independent of each other. The other two (the bigger ones that carry most of the weight) are either also mounted on fixed independent axles or are caster wheels like on a shopping cart. No shared axles.

  • Why are upright vacuums hard to turn? They're big and heavy. If the upright is completely upright, then the handle probably has a very short torque arm and therefore is difficult to turn.
It just amazes me that people have the balls to lie to your face about things you can easy check out with a trip to your hall closet. But they say it with such conviction that they know noone will call them on it.


From RoflRazzi.


Steve Lamp criticizes those who are tithing even while the bank forecloses on their house:
First, there is no explicit New Testament command to tithe. Impossible, right? Look it up. If you can find one I have overlooked, I am open to correction. Tithing is a good idea and a commendable practice, but not a command. Jesus didn't say don't do it. He did say it's not necessarily the most important aspect of our giving (Matthew 23:23).
This is true and one of those things I rarely hear mentioned in most churches. After the return from exile, the Jews moved from the tithe system to the temple tax system. Every Jewish male was expected to pay a half-shekel per year. Jesus's attack on the moneychangers in the temple was for practices surrounding the payment of this temple tax. I'm willing to bet that the current Jewish practice of maintaining synagogue memberships is descended from this practice.

The actual New Testament practice on giving was to give what you could afford. For instance Acts 4:32-37 where Barnabas donates the profit from selling property to the church.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Tyrants Next Door

Amy and I have an HOA meeting tonight. They're bribing us to attend by raffling off one year's dues. I don't expect there to be a quorum even with that incentive though.

Death and...

From a recent Instapundit post on taxation:
Personally, I'd like to see everyone pay at least some income tax, and I'd like to see the amount of tax paid, by everyone, go up or down every year in tandem with federal spending. That would encourage fiscal discipline directly. It would also make it harder for politicians to promise everybody a free lunch, but hey -- why shouldn't they sacrifice something, too?
I don't know that everyone should be paying taxes. But I do think the tax-free break point should be indexed to something significant like the poverty line. I'm not against people barely getting by, getting tax relief and at least then it isn't completely arbitrary.

Unfortunately with what little reading I've done on the derivation of poverty line incomes, they seem to be developed somewhat arbitrarily and tying those values to taxation would almost certainly politicize the system even more. There is pretty good evidence that poverty line incomes have grown faster than inflation for instance.

Monday, September 22, 2008

News of My Demise...

I spent all last week on a testing range in Alabama. No internet. I considered myself lucky to have indoor plumbing. I spent a large part of the time huddled into a shady equipment shed reading paperbacks to avoid the burning gaze of the Daystar. The verdict?

Charles Stross's Atrocity Archives is good read. I didn't buy the whole IT support by day, field operative by night approach to the book. Nobody would organize their organization that way unless they were ridiculously understaffed. The book explicitly states that the Laundry is in fact ridiculously overstaffed because many of the employees are too dangerous to be employed in mundane society. But it made for a fun contrast anyway. It also handled magic in a much better way than the language hacking of, say, Snow Crash.

John Scalzi's Ghost Brigades is as good as Old Man's War. The plot is good, characterization is solid, and things move well. It gets into some of the moral concerns touched on in Old Man's War like the Colonial Union keeping Earth in the interstellar dark ages.

Isaac Asimov's Foundation is a bit dated though and his technology tree and timeline don't work. You're not going to have a non-nuclear star-faring society. What are they going to run their starships on? Coal? He also seems to base a large part of his ideas on the fall of the Roman Empire, but the reason a lot of technologies disappeared with the fall of Rome is not because people forgot the technology (at least not at first). The reason they regressed is because they could no longer afford to pursue or maintain certain technologies with the economic collapse of the empire. You don't discard plate armor for maille because you forgot how to make plate. Making plate is easy if you have the metal. You discard it because metal is hard to come by and the labor is cheap. Actually losing technologies requires generations of economic decline not singular generations.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Joining the Crowd

Amy and I bought his and hers iPods yesterday. Or should I say ordered since we did it online. With the latest announcement from Apple, the price of refurbished 80 gig models has fallen to about $170 each. That's a price we couldn't pass up. Since the 120 gig classic is just the 80 with a larger hard drive, hopefully we won't lose third party support for a while.

UPDATE: Thanks to FedEx, we received our iPods on Saturday instead of Friday. Oh well. They work and we're currently ripping our entire combined CD collection into our iTunes Library.

One wrinkle, my five year-old desktop only has a 60GB hard drive and each of our iPods can pack in 80 GBs. Even with the data I already have on the desktop, I really needed more space. After a trip to Circuit City, my desktop now has a new 160 GB data drive to house all our music files and sundries. It cost me a whopping $80. By the time we max that out we'll probably need to upgrade our entire household PC infrastructure.

UPDATE2: A friend at work asked my what kind of iPod skin I was using. We bought a two pack of Init iPod skins at Best Buy. I like mine a lot.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Palin Interview

Physics Geek is covering part of the Sarah Palin interview with Charlie Gibson that aired on ABC yesterday. I should expect this by now, but the partisanship of the ABC news staff really shocked me. One of the things the Good Morning America anchor desk focused in on was a wishy-washy answer about whether it would acceptable to cross an allied country's border without their permission in order to fight terrorists. Palin's answer was that in some cases (nuance, weasel, prevaricate), yes it would be.

At which point they cut back to the anchor desk who jumped down her throat. Cut to talking heads. The first talking head is a young blond I didn't recognize. She indicates that Palin's definite maybe is effectively the same as every other candidates on either ticket. Anchor desk rants about how that isn't true and Obama would never undermine an allies sovereignty. Cut to the second talking head, who is well known Democrat strategist and Friend-of-Bill James Carville. Carville points out that Obama actually did give that answer before and cited them chapter and verse. He takes the previous head's stance that we haven't seen anything surprising or newsworthy yet.

Now how far the left do you have to drift as a news organization when Democratic analysts are having to defend Republican candidates? It's sad that MSNBC has become the whipping boy for biased journalism, because there is a lot of blame to go around these days.

One other thing bugged me though. The interview format. Instead of airing the whole interview, it was aired in pieces. Gibson and Palin talking for a few minutes, followed by anchor desk coverage and "fact checking" about what she had said. Commercial, plug the section of interview to air in the next half hour, rinse, repeat.

I can understand why they aired the interview this way. They're breaking it up into bite-sized pieces for broadcast as part of a morning news program. They're also spacing it out to maximize ratings. But executed poorly, this format always strikes me as rhetorical ambushes. Palin is with the interviewer and on tape. However, because they're breaking the interview up and running commentary on each piece, the studio staff is essentially injecting itself into the interview as a third party. Palin (or whomever the interviewee is) can't rebut the studio comments and won't even know what they say about her until well after the fact. It can be an incredibly dishonest way to conduct an interview.

I remember a Howard Stern show back when he was still on E! and normal radio. He had a staffer interview Steven Curtis Chapman with a video crew outside of a concert, an awards show, or a charity event. I don't know which, but everyone was standing in a hallway. The interviewer would ask a question, Steven would give an answer, and then Howard would skewer him from the safety of his recording studio. It was incredibly cowardly. Not only couldn't Steven respond to Howard because he was on tape, but Howard had already seen the tape, so he could cook up his "on the spot" cutting remarks in advance.

ABC wasn't that bad. But good Lord they weren't that good either. If you're going to call yourself a news organization, you should have ethical standards that are clearly set apart from Howard Stern.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Operation Welcome Home

My morning radio program has an organizer for Operation Welcome Home Maryland. Because most of returning US soldiers from abroad travel through BWI, these volunteers decorate the international terminal appropriately for returning soldiers and offer them care packages. They assemble welcome groups about twice a week to greet people in person.

It's a group dedicated to making sure the shunning that occurred to Vietname Vets does not happen again to this next generation of soldiers. It's a good thing.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Constitutional Law Professors

Jeffrey Rosen notes that Obama/Biden is the first time two constitutional law professors have shared a presidential ticket. He predicts great things to come for civil liberties.

My question is this: Why is it that with two constitutional law professors on the ticket, neither one can get the 2nd amendment right? Biden's much touted 1994 Crime Bill gave us the ten-year assault weapons ban. Obama was on the board of the Joyce Foundation, the bank account for a range of gun-banning groups. He also promotes various new restrictions if elected.

So much for expansive civil liberties.

Republican Women

Here's an odd fact, Cindy McCain is a drifter. No, not one of those dirty, smelly greaser types from 1950s motorcycle movies. She makes regular trips to Japan to compete in amateur racing competitions that involve breaking traction with rear-wheel drive cars. She's evidently quite the gearhead.

McCain had a stroke in 2004. Her oldest son Jack bought her a four-day course to the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving in Chandler, Arizona as a get well present. The course was their "executive protection" program that involved serious defensive driving like hijackings and ambushes.

She's also received her pilot's license in 1986.

Man, a lot of Heinlein-esque Republican women out there these days.

Primary Results

Well things are shaping up well in the Diamond state. In the governors race Markell pulled out a close win over Carney. Grandma Ruth had this to say:
Markell often criticized the "Minner-Carney" administration for problems facing the state, but Minner said she did not view the defeat of Carney as a negative response to her eight years as governor.
Once again proving that she isn't the sharpest tool in the shed. Were I a registered Democrat, I would have voted Markell for just that reason. The NRA hates Markell and Sarah Brady loves him though. He's been calling for a state assault weapons ban and an end to state-wide preemption. I guess I know who I'm voting for in the general election.

Lee crushed Protack 70/30. Good, but Lee should have won by more. Who keeps voting for Protack anyway? His supporters on the internet always seem to turn out to be, well, Mike Protack.

In my very local results, Weldin edged out Daley in the 10th state senate district. I'm guessing it was based on Weldin's endorsement by outgoing Senator Steve Amick and because of allegations that Daley is a registered Democrat. I wish I'd had more time to check those out. Weldin outspent Daley, but that always makes me suspicious when we're looking at smaller state elections. I always want to know where that money is coming from although I suppose a few big dollar supporters could really effect this sort of election.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Police Militarization

This picture via Kim du Toit and Radley Balko shows it pretty well:

That's a South Carolina sheriffs department. I'm assuming the guy in the shirt and tie is the Sheriff. Those guys breaking multiple firearm safety rules by pointing their rifles at the camera? The deputies. Kim had this to say:
You know, this kind of militaristic bullshit overreach is one day going to call for a law which would require that any such equipment requests should be accompanied by a “clear and present danger” justification from the LEO in charge.
I have a better idea. We should pass a law that states that any equipment the police have access to should be accessible to the public through, at most, a simple licensing system to weed out the criminals and crazies. That means the more you militarize the cops, the more the populace can militarize itself in response to these newly shod jackbooted thugs.

Police officers are not some sort of super citizen. They're civilians just like us. They ought not have more rights than you or I except those ceded to them while on duty enforcing the law and the courts for the public's benefit. As Sir Robert Peel stated when he founded the first modern police force:
Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.
That is the seven of Peel's nine principles.

UPDATE: As I said, I agree with dropping immunity from civil and criminal prosecution for botched raids. More importantly, I think self defense should be a positive defense if police are shot in no-knock raids. If you don't let people know you're cops before you break in, then you should not be able to charge them with shooting a cop after they defend themselves accordingly.

I also think technology has reached the point that we can start recording cops on the job a lot more than we do. Interrogation rooms ought to be video and audio taped at all times with the tape accessible to prosecution and defense. SWAT officers (at least) should be required to wear audio recording equipment, if not compact audio-video recorders. In college a friend put together a wearable audio recording system using binaural mics and a Sony minidisk player. She used it to bootleg Broadway shows 10 years ago, but I'm sure you could put together something similar today (probably even more cheaply with mp3 player parts) to record evidence for or against an officer. You could even build them into the next gen communications gear for beat cops.

Simple and Effective.

When I saw this video on Lawdog's blog, I thought it was yet another mediocre political ad by some Joe Crewcut. Then at about 1:15 you realize the video isn't just about what Joe is saying.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Getting Dirty But Feeling Good

I spent some time Saturday volunteering with my church's singles group at Habitat for Humanity of New Castle County's Millers Row work site in Wilmington. I nailing up fireproofed plywood and oriented-strand board to the lower sections of the townhomes. Hard work, but we accomplished a lot before Hanna forced us to call it quits after our lunch break. When I got home I was drenched, but happy. I need to get out of the house and volunteer more.

One funny thing, my knees have been giving me trouble lately. They're just generally sore and achy right now. But they didn't give me any trouble when I was working on the houses, even with the broken ground on the job site. Maybe it was because I was wearing good supportive boots for once. Maybe it was because I morning on my feet and moving instead of sitting in an office chair. Maybe it was because I had something to do other than complain about my knees hurting. I don't know, but it was certainly a nice change of pace.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

In Local Immigration News

Several Delaware Burger Kings are having trouble running full schedules after Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids netted 30 illegal immigrants from 7 BK locations across Newcastle County late last week.

Unfortunately the 896 Burger King isn't on the list because it has some of the worst service I've ever had in a fast food joint.

In a World... In a City... In a Cliche...

The reason for that cliche is voice over artist Don LaFontaine, who died on Monday after a blood clot in his lungs developed complications. You probably don't know him by name or face, but you've almost certainly heard his work:

LaFontaine had a pretty good sense of humor about himself like in this awards show opener:

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Sarah Palin

McCain done good. Palin is, by all accounts, an excellent governor. She took on a corrupt Alaskan Republican party and won. This is exactly what needs to happen at the national level. Everybody is reacting to it, but Geek seems to sum it up well:
The smart Lefties just shat a brick. (And those who aren't think they've just won.)

I didn't think McCain had the balls to pick her, the closest thing to a libertarian candidate you're going to see in mainstream politics...and he did.

That was a brilliant move, in more dimensions than I have time to enumerate. The Lefties aren't going to know or understand what hit them in November.
Exactly. Palin might woo some identity voters from Hillary's old camp. But that's a side benefit, compared to the shot in the arm she just gave Conservative Republicans. As for her daughter, John the Methodist is addressing it via an extended quote from atheist Steven Den Beste:
Christians know that people make mistakes, and that people sin. From their point of view, the only man who never sinned was Jesus. They don't cast out sinners, because they believe that everyone is a sinner. What they look for is people trying to do right as well as they can, to live as good a life as they can, and to try to make up for their mistakes and sins. And from their point of view both McCain and the Palin family are doing so. And as long as they continue doing so, Christian voters won't turn away from them.
Other than some moralizing Christian malcontents, that right. Neither will I condemn you, go and sin no longer. My church has dealt with several pregnancies in our youth and singles ministries. There is some friction about it within our church, but what Steven describes is what happens.

Just as important to the theology and philosophy is this: look at who is running with the story. The lefties and the media (somewhat redundant) are running with it. The Christian social activists and press are giving it a pass. Given Palin's Christian street cred, this will become an us-vs-them issue. As such, the media is already switching to educating independent voters about Palin's "dangerous" sex education beliefs.

UPDATE: Let it not be said that I can't join the Palin bashing bandwagon. I mean come on Sarah, you call that a cheek weld?

I know, I know, judging from the pictures of Palin moose and elk hunting, she wouldn't even call that AR-15 a rifle (even if it wasn't a shooting simulator).

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Expect Inflation

Instapundit reports that the economy grew faster than was expected in the second quarter:
Not to say things are hunky-dory -- I'm worried about inflation -- but this doesn't look like a recession.
I think inflation is a big concern and I'm expecting to see more of it than we have really considered "normal" for quite a while. Why? Because of the housing market.

Declining home value is bad for just about everybody. Negative equity means property owners are locked into their current holdings or walk away leaving the mortgage companies taking a loss. Not being able to sell is bad for most families. You can't trade up when you have kids. Worse, you can't follow work if you get laid off. Walking away ruins your credit and in large quantities will destroy the financial sector. Either way, bad stuff.

How to fix this? I'm betting home prices are going to hold steady while most other commodities will inflate at rates higher than we'd consider normal. Eventually real estate values come back into something approaching proper perspective. This hurts the real estate investors a lot and everyone else a little, but avoids most of the big negatives of declining home prices.

That's my call for the future.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Nancy Drew

We netflixed the 2007 movie and watched it on Monday. It's not bad. Not amazing, but perfectly ok especially for a rental.

It's a kids movie (or perhaps a tweens movie) and you need to keep that mind when you're watching it. There is action, but nobody really gets hurt. Everything and everyone is clean. The villains are of the frequently bumbling sort. The plot is unfortunately quite predictable. Over all it's cute and fun.

If you're a big Nancy Drew fan, I'd expect to be disappointed. I don't think the film is based on any of the books and I gather that the movie isn't really like them. Nancy is 16 and in high school, not 18 and mostly emancipated as in the books. After the film establishes her in River Heights with her canonical friends and neighbors, she is quickly whisked away to LA. Her boyfriend Ned and her blue convertible show up again, but no one else does. I really didn't care, but I've read IMDB reviews written by girls who grew up on Nancy Drew who were pissed.

Imagine a Disney channel original movie with a bigger budget and better casting (but unfortunately not better writing) and you've basically got this movie. If that sounds like hell to you, then skip it.

UPDATE: One thing, the funniest line for me was Ned telling Nancy to "release the lightning" while she's tailing some goons in her convertible. Nancy drives a Nash Metropolitan. There isn't any lightning to release when the car has 42 horsepower and a 0 to 60 time of over 20 seconds.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Turning a War on It's Head

Michael Totten's piece on the Russian-Georgian war in South Ossetia is a must read. Wow. Read it.

Like a Yakov Smirnoff Joke

Chris Byrne's recent mention of his family's large book collection reminds me of similar traps I've seen in my own family and friends. At first you simply own lots of stuff, but as it piles up the stuff owns you.

I've seen this happen with lots of people. Sometimes it's clothes or shoes. Other times it's books. You got to a store, see something you like and buy it. You do this consistently and soon you have a closet full of shoes you'll never get around to wearing or an ever-growing pile of books you'll never get around to reading. The key is to stop buying. After that you just have to nibble things down bit by bit until everything is manageable. As I'm doing the nibbling, I try to put some sort of organization in place so that I know when things have piled up too high.

Over the weekend I went through a lot of old bills (which I habitually file away) and got rid of everything I didn't need to keep. Then I went through the clothes in my closet, especially my dress pants. Everything I can't or don't wear is now in a bag for Goodwill. I've come to the realization that my books, especially my paperbacks, are going to be next. I have a ton of books that I've picked up one place or another and that I'll probably never read again. Might was well sell them off or donate them to someone who will.