Wednesday, October 31, 2007

better sell some property, fred.

This just in:

Crazy Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church was found liable in a civil lawsuit brought forth by the family of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, whose funeral was picketed by Phelps' inbred bunch of bigots. The jury in federal court ordered Westboro Baptist to pay 2.9 million dollars in compensatory damages for invasion of privacy and infliction of emotional distress.

Freedom of speech does not shield you from the consequences of that speech, and that's one of the reasons we have civil courts. That judgment will do more damage to Westboro Baptist than all the ass-beatings in the world, and it sets precedent for many more. I have a feeling that Westboro's picketing days are coming to an end.

Update: The jury has awarded an additional eight million dollars in punitive damages, for a grand total of $10.9 million. I'd say that'll make a dent in Fred's fuel budget.

separation of goods.

Here's a photo from a German newspaper. Apparently, this car was spotted curbside in Berlin.

The writing on the door reads, "Here's your share of the car. Your ex."

("Deine" is the female possessive, so it was an ex-girlfriend or -wife who took revenge here.)

Monday, October 29, 2007

give them nothing.

A long time ago, I had a discussion with my former mother-in-law about my desire to carry a gun for protection. She was very much opposed to the concept, to put it mildly. When I asked her what her plans were if she ever got robbed at gun- or knifepoint, she replied that she'd try and talk it out with her attacker, or just give them what they want.

"Everybody wants to be respected," she said. "We're all just human beings."

I told her that she was nurturing a very dangerous misconception, one that could very well get her hurt or killed someday.

There are people in this world to whom you're not a human being. They don't want to be respected by you. They don't care about you--they're not even really aware of you. They only care about the food you represent, the money that's in your pocket. You're not a person to them, but an obstacle. You're just in the way of the reward, like a wrapper around a candy bar, and these people are willing to discard you just like that wrapper in order to get what they want.

If you don't believe that, if you are one of the people who think that "everyone wants to be valued and respected", you are deluding yourself, to put it mildly. There are literally hundreds of surveillance camera videos out on the Internet that show criminals injuring or killing people for the transgression of not handing over the money or opening the safe fast enough. For those of you who think that "if you give them what they want, they'll go away", there are almost as many videos out there of people getting hurt or killed after handing over the goods, simply because they're now witnesses to a crime that allows for a lengthy jail term. Leaving you alive greatly increases the chance of getting caught, you see, and the extra ten years for shooting you don't enter the thug's mind. Besides, few people ever commit a crime expecting to get caught.

Whenever I see the camera footage of some poor convenience store clerk getting shot at point-blank range just because the robber is angry at the lack of cash in the drawer, or the fast food manager being shot as he is lying prone in front of his safe after the robbers have already removed the cash, I get angry. I feel anger at the thought of these low-lifes, people who have never known another way of making a living than to take what they want from others by force. I feel anger at the sight of someone casually taking another's life over a few hundred bucks--taking a husband from his wife, a son from his parents, or a father from his children, just because they're in the way. Can you imagine your life ending tonight, with you taking your last breaths on the dingy linoleum floor of some convenience store, just because you had the bad luck of drawing third shift? Can you imagine what it would be like to have everything taken from you in a few moments--your history, your knowledge, your hopes, your dreams, your consciousness--all over a few pieces of paper? If you can, don't you, too, feel white hot anger when you think of the person who would do such a thing to you without a second thought just so they can get a fix, pay the rent, and get a new game for the Playstation?

It's mind-boggling to me that there are people who perpetuate the dangerous myth that you can rely on the humanity and reason of a person who is already threatening to kill you over the contents of your wallet, an entirely inhumane and unreasonable act in itself.

"Violence begets violence", they say, as if that's somehow a bad thing. In the words of the late Jeff Cooper, I would certainly hope that it does. That's the whole point of self-defense: when reason doesn't work anymore, then naked force is the only thing that's left other than abject surrender. It would be a great and awesome world where the majority of criminals are the ones who end up in the body bag, and not their victims. Appeasement doesn't stop the bully or the thug, and neither does submission. What stops them is the knowledge that they're likely to bite off more than they can chew, which is why they invariably pick their targets among those who are perceived as meek or soft.

Think about it for a second, and pretend you're someone who makes a living by sticking guns in people's faces. Which kind of society would encourage you to keep doing what you're doing--one where you know people are being told to "give them what they want and don't resist", or one where people refuse to go quietly into that good night, and where they will fight back with anything that comes to hand?

No, the appropriate response to violence is not submission. Submission encourages the thugs, and it gives them absolutely no incentive to consider a career change. When you preach submission, you only guarantee more of the behavior that takes advantage of that submission. The only appropriate response to violence is white-hot anger. When someone sticks a gun in your face and threatens to kill you over the contents of your wallet or your register, your response ought to be rage. The very thought of some low-life thug threatening to snuff you out and make your children orphans for no reason other than the money you carry ought to make you furious.

And then you need to put that fury to good use. Yield nothing, not an inch, not a penny, not a hair on your head, without fighting for it tooth and nail. Do your level best to ensure that if someone has to end up in a body bag this hour, it won't be your body in that bag. And even if it should happen to be your turn to take your seat in Valhalla, you might as well put your best effort into making sure that you arrive there with your attacker in a firm headlock.

he must have stumbled.

In Salem, Oregon, a rapist attacked a 22-year-old woman on crutches. A car full of good Samaritans stopped when they saw what was happening, and proceeded to, uhm, intervene.

The article says that the good guys "pulled [the rapist] off the woman and held him until police arrived."

From his booking photo it looks like they did a bit more than just "pull him off" his intended victim.

(Nelson voice) "Ha ha!"

not so fast, charlie brown.

Today: a blog entry about sports. In other news, pigs have been spotted in the pattern at McGhee-Tyson.

Is it just me, or does the new dominance of the Red Sox feel wrong somehow, like Charlie Brown finally being allowed to kick that football?

Don't get me wrong--if I were a baseball fan, I'd be rooting for the Red Sox. Boston was my first port of call in this country, and my first place of residence. The only true baseball cap I own is navy blue and has a red "B" on it. After eighty-odd years of "close, but no cigar", the Red Sox deserve to collect a few World Series rings to make up for the long drought.

However, to me, it has always felt like the role of the underdog was pretty much a part of the psyche in Boston when it came to the Red Sox. In the course of eighty-six years, being the scrappy kid had become almost a matter of pride in Beantown. The Sox were Boston's Charlie Brown, and everyone opened the paper every year to watch Lucy pull that football at the last moment. Now the cheapest tickets at Fenway Park are $20, and they're sold out well in advance, where not too long ago you could show up on game day and pay less for the ticket than you did for parking. Like this editorial points out, it would be a shame if the Red Sox turned into New York Yankees with a New England accent in the next few years, with all the attendant hubris.

Friday, October 26, 2007

watch the skies, jamal.

Yemen releases USS Cole bomber from jail.

The U.S. Department of Justice may be "dismayed", at least officially, but you can bet your ass that the CIA doesn't share those feelings. Starting today, Mr. Jamal al-Badawi is going to have to check the sky for Predator drones and Hellfire missiles when he crosses the street to get a bite of khlav kalash from the vendor.

it boggles the mind, part xvii.

This just in:

A third of Americans believe in ghosts. A fifth of the population believes in the existence of spells and witchcraft, and almost half believes in ESP.

How about leprechauns? Or unicorns, perhaps? Do you believe in those, too?


We routinely split atoms, we've sent men to the moon, and we have increased the human lifespan almost threefold in just two centuries just through the power of reason and logic...and a huge chunk of the population still believes in invisible, unmeasurable, unprovable ghosts and spirits.

what's not a felony these days?

In my admittedly idealistic view, there ought to be only two felonies: laying a hand on someone, and messing with someone's stuff. That's the entirety of the penal code in my perfect society--lots of paper saved, and those two offenses cover everything from murder to rape to thievery of all kinds.

Unfortunately, our society has embarked on a quest to brand as many citizens with the mark of the felon as possible. All manners of things are now felonies, and the list grows longer every day. It's a felony to grow the wrong kind of plant in your yard, to affix the wrong kind of metal bit to the end of your rifle, to buy too many cigarettes in North Carolina if you're a resident of Tennessee, and a myriad of other ridiculous things.

The problem with that, as I've already mentioned on numerous occasions, is that the status of "felon" has some serious negative repercussions for a person. A convicted felon loses, among other things, his or her constitutional right to own a firearm. (I'm not exactly sure why we take away the legal guns from felons, but not their right to worship as they please, or their right not to be placed in double jeopardy, or their right to free speech. Looks like the Brady Bunch is right when they claim that the Second Amendment is somehow more dangerous than the other ones, and deserves to be subject to special restrictions.) Convicted felons also lose their right to vote, and the stigma of a felony record has a way of crippling a person economically, since many employers in all but the most menial career fields will shy away from hiring a felon.

So, once you brand someone with the big "F" on their forehead, you deprive them of the legal right to self-defense, the right to vote, and the unhindered ability to work for a living to the best of their qualifications. That's a pretty severe punishment, and it ought to be reserved for some pretty serious crime. Hell, I'd settle for actual crime, and not the kinds of victimless crimes that are crowding the penal codes at present. A man stealing another's property--that's a crime. A man screwing a metal bit with some holes in it to the muzzle of his rifle, or growing funny tobacco in his garden--that's not a crime, because you can't point out a victim.

Here's the danger inherent in expanding the Big Catalog of Felonies willy-nilly. If I want to disarm folks and then take away their ability to vote against my policies, I don't need to try and take on the Second Amendment head-on. All I have to do is expand the definition of "felon" enough, and I can take the legal right to self-defense--and the right to vote--from anyone. And the great thing about that scheme is that the same law-and-order crowd that would fight me tooth and nail if I did attack the Sacred Second directly will actually assist me with glee.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

why do they do that?, part 1

Interesting bit of retail psychology:

Abercrombie & Fitch's stores play loud dance music, and their stores are underlit. This is done so that parents won't come in, and hand off the credit card to their kids instead. It's an ingenious way to remove parental spending restrictions.


The sprogs have developed a new (and apparently highly amusing) form of communication in the ultrasonic frequency range.

The dogs are on the couch with their paws over their ears.

thirty-six years old today.

And you know how I know that I'm getting old?

For the last two or three hours, these two neighborhood kids have been driving their cars up and down our quiet, residential cul-de-sac. One's a moderately riced-up Honda, the other's a Chevy Cavalier with a busted ("gutsy-sounding") muffler. Every once in a while, they'll goose it and dash to the end of the street at top speed...on a street where lots of kids live and play. If I went to fetch the mail, and Quinn dashed out of the house behind me, he'd get turned into road pizza before those teenage morons would be able to brake their shitboxes, and then I'd be going to jail for a very long time.

Anyhow, I know I'm getting old because I've had an almost irrepressible urge to step out into the street, make them stand on the brakes, and then yell, "Slow the fuck down, sport, this is a neighborhood."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

what the fuck is wrong with people?

Once again, I find it necessary to use this space for a public service announcement:

If anyone--God, the devil, the neighbor's cat, whoever--tells you to kill your children, the only proper and correct response is, "Go fuck yourself."

how un-american.

There's a sort of mass email going around in conservative circles, one of those "send it on" propaganda pieces that pop up every once in a while.

It shows this picture:

On one of the gun boards I frequent, someone posted the above picture, which shows Barack Obama not putting his hand on his heart during recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. The poster also included his own assessment of the situation, which is reproduced here verbatim:

"Barack Hussein Obama's photo (that's his real name)......the article said he REFUSED TO NOT ONLY PUT HIS HAND ON HIS HEART DURING THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE, BUT REFUSED TO SAY THE in the hell can a man like this expect to be our next Commander-in-Chief????"

He titled his post "The future of our beloved freedoms???"

I don't usually wade into this kind of discussion before my first cup of tea in the morning, but I just had to respond to that.

Saying the Pledge and putting your hand on your heart are not indicators for patriotism. Those gestures are easily done, and they cost the person doing them absolutely nothing.

A true measure of one's patriotism is the degree to which one respects the Constitution. While it's likely that Obama is no better than any of the people in that picture who do have their hands on their hearts, it's also pretty damn likely that they're no more patriotic than he is, seeing how at least one of them has voted for stuff that amounts to wiping your butt with the Constitution.

The Devil can cite Scripture for his own purpose, the saying goes. Well, the biggest Statist would-be tyrant can say the Pledge of Allegiance, put a flag pin on their lapel, and wrap themselves in the flag. (Witness the picture as evidence--that's Senator Clinton in the center.)

External gestures have precisely zilch to do with patriotism, especially when they're done at no cost to the person performing them. Just hanging Old Glory out in front of your house doesn't make you a patriot, respecting and defending the Constitution does.

I'm not saying that saying the Pledge of Allegiance or flying Old Glory are un-patriotic actions. I'm merely saying that they're not patriotic actions by themselves. A person who performs them without trying to incorporate the principles for which they stand is no better than a person who buys a Silver Star at the surplus store, pins it on his jacket, and expects the credit and recognition that is owed to the legitimate recipient.

Barack Hussein Obama's photo (that's his real name)
Yes, we get it. Obama sounds almost like Osama, hence they must be the same. And Hussein is a raghead name, ergo he's a Muslim, regardless of what Christian church he professes to attend. Thanks for pointing that out to us unenlightened folk.

Of all the reasons why I won't vote for the guy, his name is probably the least important one.

Good heavens, man. "The future of our beloved freedoms"? Where was your indignation when they nullified the Fourth Amendment in the name of the War on Drugs? Where was it when they nullified the Fifth through Eighth Amendments in the name of the War on Terror?

But one of the Presidential contenders won't put his hand on his heart while saying the Pledge, and you're all over that...and his un-American name!

If you want to know why the future is looking grim for our freedoms, there's your answer right there.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

an explosive flavor sensation.

Via Tam, we learn of the interesting localized varieties of McDonald's franchises in other countries.

In the Middle East, they offer a McArabia. I wonder what their commercial jingle sounds like?

"Two Semtex patties, shrapnel sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun..."

Monday, October 22, 2007

hymn to the fallen.

Two years ago, U.S. Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy made the ultimate sacrifice for his country in the mountains of Afghanistan.

He was the leader of a SEAL team that came under fire from a group of forty Taliban insurgents. Three of the four team members lost their lives in the firefight, including LT Murphy, who exposed himself to enemy fire while calling in support on the radio. He managed to finish his call before he was killed, ending the transmission with "thank you" despite being hit twice in the back during the radio call.

Today, LT Murphy's parents and brother are receiving his Medal of Honor from the President.

The term is greatly overused these days, so I don't use it often, but in this case it's justified:

There goes a hero.

The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR posthumously to


For service as set forth in the following CITATION:


a quiz for you naval experts.

Try and answer this one without looking it up.

Of all the commissioned ships currently afloat in the United States Navy, there are only two that have actually sunk an enemy warship with their shipboard weaponry (not aircraft).

What are their names and hull numbers?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

hot for teacher.

Picture the following scenario:

In the cubicle farm at the office, a group of female coworkers are looking at a web page featuring news of an arrest. A local teacher has been busted for repeatedly having sex with a 14-year-old female student--in his home, in the supply closet at school, and even in his station wagon while the girl's cheerleader friend was driving them all over town.

There's a picture of the offender, too. He's a handsome guy, obviously in shape. The women gathered around the screen in the cubicle guffaw and give each other knowing glances.

"Not too shabby," says one.

"Where were those teachers when I was fourteen?" says another.

"Yeah," says a third. "They're going to fire the poor guy. That's going to cause a lot of broken hearts at that school. Imagine all those girls who didn't get their turn. They're going to beat up the little idiot who turned him in."

There's a link to another story at the bottom of the web page, and somebody follows it. It's one of those "Related News" articles, and this one gives details on another recent arrest. Another teacher arrested for having sex with students--only this one is a woman teacher, and she was caught sleeping with a 15-year-old male student.

Immediately, the mood changes.

"Look at that fuckin' perv," one of the women says.

"Yeah. They oughta just drag her out into the street and hang her from the nearest streetlight."

"Sicko. If that had been my son, I'd make sure she never gets to see her trial date."


Do you think this is far-fetched?

I was reading this article on CNN about the huge number of teachers cited for sex abuse in the last few decades. Ninety percent of the offenders are male.

Now, I've noticed an enormous double standard among male coworkers and acquaintances when it comes to female and male educators having sex with their students. The same crowd that advocates very creative and gruesome punishments for the male variety usually has a completely different attitude towards the female variety, especially when the female teacher in question is attractive.

I've debated the issue with people, both online and in real life, and it never ceases to amaze me how much of a double standard people can embrace without even recognizing it. When the Debra LaFave case was in the news, one guy told me that he'd high-five his son if he made the news for having had sex with her. When I asked him whether he'd also high-five his daughter if she made the news for screwing her English teacher, his expression darkened considerably.

"That's different," he said. "I'd kill the son-of-a-bitch myself."

One thing I didn't ask, because it hadn't entered my mind at that point, was to point out his own hypocrisy in a more daring fashion by asking him if he'd high-five his son for having sex with his attractive male gym teacher...but I believe I already know the answer to that, anyway.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

can i get those back, please?

Random shot of a toddler with size 7T feet wearing adult size 9 shoes. Five minutes later, he completed the stylish outfit with a purple-and-blue pair of swim trunks, worn as headgear. Alas, I was on the phone with the real estate agent, so I wasn't able to grab the camera to document the fashion statement.

Boy, do I have an album together already for the day he brings home his first date.

it's more like a spa visit.

The very same crowd that insists on obeying an "absolute morality" routinely engages in some pretty breathtaking semantic masturbation when it comes to the subject of torture.

Take waterboarding, for example. The logic of the Bush administration and its cheerleaders seems to be as follows:

a.) The CIA uses waterboarding to extract information from enemy combatants.

b.) We don't torture, because we're the good guys (see "absolute morality" above). Therefore, waterboarding is not torture.

Now, I don't know about you, but if you strapped me to a board, tilted me head-down, wrapped my face in cloth or cellophane, and then ran water down my head until my body was convinced that I'm drowning, I'd call that "torture". I bet that the same technique, if used by the jihadists on American captives, would readily be labeled "torture" by most anyone who claims that it isn't torture when the sameself jihadists are the ones strapped to the board. (Yeah, they do far worse to our guys, but that's not the point here.)

I don't have patience for semantic games, and it's a bit insulting for the Bushbots to just stretch the definition of the term "torture". If you use that technique for interrogation, then come flat out and say, "if we catch your jihadist ass trying to cause harm to Americans, you better believe we'll torture you to get you to sing." But don't piss on our collective legs and tell us it's raining, when everyone with half a brain can see that the stream is yellow.

In light of the ongoing efforts of the administration to insist that the sky isn't blue if a blue sky violates the Constitution, I do get a good chuckle out of Conservatives when they accuse Liberals of "twisting language" and practicing "relative morality".

Now, whether torture is proper and necessary under such circumstances is a debate for another time. However, regardless of your position on the use of it to prevent terrorists from harming us and ours, it doesn't do us any good to engage in semantic games.

From the article about the testimony of the new candidate for AG, I'm not getting my hopes up about this guy being any better than Spineless Alberto. I mean, the whole thing reads like a conversation with the Girlfriend With No Opinion Of Her Own.

"I don't know, do you think it is? 'Cause if you do, I totally think it is, too."

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

out with the old, in with the new.

In the most recent issue of S.W.A.T. magazine, Clint Smith reviews Aimpoint's latest offerings in the combat optics sector. He muses that "in a world of changing technology, one area that has seen quantum leaps forward over the last few decades is visual acquisition systems for weapons."

He's absolutely right, of course. Twenty years ago, electronic sights were new-fangled gizmos with some utility, but the old pros preferred (and preached the use of) iron sights for serious applications.

These days, everyone who's anyone in the business of professional violence has some sort of advanced combat optic on their rifle, and iron sights are mostly relegated to backup or emergency use. It's still important to be able to use iron sight, of course, but the latest generation of optical sights has made the rifleman far more effective. As the saying goes, if you can't see it, you can't hit it, and a rifleman these days has many excellent optics from which to choose, tools that make him or her drastically more efficient by several orders of magnitude. An infantry squad with iron sight-equipped rifle would be at a distinct disadvantage against a squad equipped with ACOGs, ELCANs, Aimpoints, or Leupold CQ/Ts on their rifles.

I thought about the article for a while, and then realized that this technological trend extends to other applications as well. Small, inexpensive electronics are now attainable to the regular guy on the street that make any super-expensive industrial-grade stuff from twenty-five years ago look completely ancient by comparison.

Take civil aviation as another example.

This is the cockpit of a Beech Baron 58 equipped with analog "steam" gauges. You have your avionics on the left side, your engine gauges in the center, and the radio/AP stack to the right. It's fairly easy to keep an eye on things once you're used to the layout. With steam gauges, the Baron feels and flies like a nice light twin.

This is the cockpit of the same plane equipped with the Garmin G1000 "glass cockpit" integrated EFIS. All the information of the steam gauges in the previous cockpit shot is consolidated on two 12-inch flat panel TFT displays, with an integrated communications panel between them. The left panel serves as the PFD (primary flight display), and the right panel serves as a MFD (multi-function display). On the left screen, the pilot can view all the information related to aircraft attitude, speed, heading, and vertical speed, without having to scan multiple steam gauges. On the right screen, the pilot has access to all engine- and fuel-related information, along with a moving map. With the G1000 avionics suite, the Baron feels and flies like a miniaturized airliner.

Aircraft equipped with the G1000 system also retain some steam gauges as backup (and primary) instrumentation in the event of a system failure. The whole thing is designed for redundancy--if one display fails, the other automatically switches to PFD mode, and the system is designed to run off a secondary power source in case the aircraft's alternator and primary battery go "kablooie".

Once you're used to flying with a glass cockpit, it's hard to go back to steam gauges. The difference in situational awareness and functionality is quite substantial. With the G1000 and its competing products, civil light aircraft now have flight information and navigation systems that were reserved to modern airliners just a few years ago, and unavailable at any price just two decades ago.

Of course, in both the shooting and flying communities, there are always the grumpy holdouts that pooh-pooh the newfangled gizmos. There are lots of rifle shooters that use (and preach the use of) iron sights as the only "true rifleman's sight", and there are doubtlessly many pilots that eschew the new glass cockpits in favor of the tried-and-true steam gauges. ("If it was good enough for Lindbergh, it's good enough for me!")

Alas, time and technology march on, and the newfangled technology of today is going to be the mainstream of tomorrow, even in fields that have more than their share of traditionalists.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

what a bunch of yahoos.

So there's this Chinese journalist who posted on a site called Democracy Forum about his government cracking down on democracy activists.

The Chinese authorities contacted Yahoo! (apparently, the journalist had used a Yahoo! address), and the guys over at the Yahoo datacenter couldn't drop to their knees fast enough to service the Chinese secret police. They turned over the journalist's "e-mail account, his computer address, his log-on history and the contents of several weeks of his e-mail."

The Chinese journalist, a fellow named Shi, was then arrested by Chinese authorities, and sentenced to ten years in prison.

That in itself is not red hot news (it happened over a year ago), but now it turns out that the Yahoo folks lied to Congress about their prior knowledge of the nature of the investigation.

Makes me feel less than enthusiastic about using any of the services offered by Yahoo, it does.

On a side note: you know what I find absolutely shameful? There are countries like China and Burma where people get jailed for decades, or shot outright, for demanding the right to a fair and proper vote...and our voter turnout hovers at just over 50% if you average every election since 1960. Austria has a 92% voter turnout on average, Germany sits at 86%, and even 76% of the UK's subjects get off the couch on Election Day.

(Makes you laugh about W talking about a "mandate", or the Libtards blabbing about how "Gore won the popular vote"...a little over half of the vote at 50% turnout means that a quarter of the voting-age population voted for you, which doesn't exactly mean you have half the nation in your corner, to put it carefully.)

Now, you can argue that the system is rigged, anyway--it certainly feels like every two years or so we're being presented with two platters full of steaming poop and then asked, "Which one would you like to eat?" However, the only thing that separates a citizen from a non-citizen in the civil rights department is the right to vote, and those who won't vote are no different from those who can't.

Monday, October 15, 2007

i'll have the triple bypass burrito, please.

Now, I'm not a health Nazi, and I think people ought to be able to stuff their faces with whatever they want (as long as I don't have to pay for their HoverRounds and triple bypass operations), but a thousand-calorie burrito for breakfast strikes me as a bit excessive. But, hey, whatever floats your boat.

Ah, Hardees. At least they're honest about their food. Mickey D's and Burger King pretend to have healthy choices on the menu just because you can choose "light" dressing for your fried chicken salad, or get the sprogs a 2% milk with their fat-fried Happy Meal. Hardee's, on the other hand, just said "fuck it", and started cranking out calorie and fat bombs in a refreshingly unapologetic manner. Home of the Monster Thickburger...and now the Country Breakfast Burrito, loaded with almost a thousand calories and sixty grams of fat. The ingredient list: two egg omelets, bacon, sausage, ham, cheddar, hash browns, and a healthy drenching of sausage gravy.

God bless America.

I wonder how many calories and fat grams you'd consume if you had one of those puppies for breakfast along with a large coffee with extra cream and sugar, and then went for the Monster Thickburger with curly fries and a 20-ounce non-diet soda for lunch.

almost halfway to a year.

Little Miss Lyra is five months old today. Time flies when you're juggling an infant and a toddler all day.

(Not literally, mind you.)

Isn't she a most serious baby? I swear, that kid has the most focused and intense gaze of any infant I've seen.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

in the lair of the swine-people.

I had to venture out of the house today to get a birthday present for my niece.

Since I didn't want to drive clear across town to the Toys-R-Us, I had to bite the bullet and head over to the Lair of the Swine-People, which is always a dangerous undertaking on a Sunday afternoon.

Now, those creatures are not only fat, slow, and stupid, but also terribly unaware of their surroundings, grazing the aisles at speeds that can be measured in geological epochs. They usually don't bother anything that's not a.) junk food, b.) rhinestone-studded, or c.) emblazoned with NASCAR or college football symbology, but I did feel safer knowing that my trusty sixgun is always loaded with 158-grainers, which have the necessary sectional density to penetrate to the vitals in the event of being caught between a charging sow and the pork rind display.

I did manage to procure three packs of Barbie "Fashion Fever" outfit ensembles. On the way out, I took the route least likely to contain any concentrations of Swine-People: from the exercise equipment over to the books, and then through the vegetables & fruit aisle of the grocery section.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

engineering trivia.

Those Germans engineer some interesting stuff.

The most exotic use for a Wankel engine (itself an exotic German-invented combustion engine) is the seat belt pre-tensioning system in the New Beetle and some Mercedes-Benz models. When the deceleration sensor in the car detects a potential crash, it triggers small explosive charges. The expanding gas from those charges is piped through tiny Wankel engines, which then rotate to take up the slack in the seatbelts.

This is why Germans keep losing wars--they go overboard with the engineering. The German design philosophy seems to be, "Why use three simple parts for the job, if you can use eighteen complicated ones?"

Friday, October 12, 2007

what would tolkien roll?

I'm currently downloading a free trial version of the Lord of the Rings Online MMORPG.

When I asked Robin (who's a big World of Warcraft fan) whether she'd want to give LOTRO a try, she replied, "not at all." Now, this was a bit surprising, as she loves Tolkien's work. When I asked her why, she replied something along the lines of,

"I'm sure it's gorgeous and exciting, but the first time a Level 2 hobbit or elf walks up to my character and says 'R U A GURL IRL?', or 'how u mine for fish lol", it'll completely destroy the immersion and suspension of disbelief for me."

Maybe some things are better left on paper, after all.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

color me un-surprised.

A few years back, I posted this picture. It shows the ex-Soviet Varyag, ex-Riga, a Kusnetsov-class 65,000 ton multirole aircraft carrier, under tow in the Black Sea on its way to its new Chinese owners.

When the Soviet Union broke up, Varyag was transferred to the ownership of the Ukraine, who lacked the money and desire to finish construction (the hull is structurally complete, but she lacks engines, a rudder, and all her electronics.) The Ukrainians put the hull up for auction, and in 1998, a Chinese company bought the Varyag for $20 million, in order to "turn her into a floating hotel and casino in Macau."

Riiiiight. That's exactly what I thought, back when I read the news article that came with that picture a few years ago.

Turns out the Varyag never made it to Macau, and she's not been turned into a casino, either. She's currently dry-docked in a People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) shipyard in Dalian, where the hull has been sandblasted and painted PLAN gray. The only official statement from China issued on the Varyag is that she's being "maintained for military purposes." She's now the Shi-Lang, PLAN pennant number 83. (Admiral Shi-Lang was the Chinese commander that conquered Taiwan in 1681.)

I'm shocked, I tell you. Shocked.

Now, what exactly they're going to do with that hull is still a mystery. They're certainly taking notes for their own carrier program. They're probably going to use her as a training vessel for carrier air operations. Maybe someday we'll even see her sporting new Chinese-made electronics, weapons systems, and propulsion.

I'm not one of those folks who think we're in danger of being invaded by a billion Chinamen any time soon (we are, after all, their biggest trading partner), but I think that things are going to get pretty interesting in that region a few years hence. Taiwan just developed a domestic line of ship-to-ship missiles, and I doubt that the Japanese Navy would let their shiny new Aegis cruisers gather dust at the dock if and when the Chinese start asserting regional dominance.

i r smart.

How smart are you? - Intelligence Test

Yeah, baby. IQ like a zip code.

Must be from that time I was cat-sitting for Werner Heisenberg. He was a bit annoying, though....called every hour and asked, "Where is my cat, and how fast is it going?"

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

i gots the sniffles.

Is it medically advisable to wash down Sudafed with bourbon-and-coke?

And on a related note, I so don't enjoy having my name logged at the drug store for insisting on the pseudoephedrine goodness of Sudafed, instead of the less effective crap they pass off as antihistamine these days.

But hey, if it only shuts down one meth lab, right?

put some real shoes on those feet.

I stopped by the grocery store tonight to pick up some milk.

Walking around, I usually pay attention to the folks around me, and tonight something struck me as interesting. The majority of people in the store were wearing rudimentary footwear--flip-flops, Crocs, open-backed sandals, and the like.

I realized that I neither own, nor wear in public, any type of footwear that does not enable me to break into a run. Some people might call it "paranoia", but I don't feel good about intentionally handicapping my gait in emergency situations. Sure, life in the suburbs is generally quiet and peaceful, but there may just be an urgent matter that requires you to run towards--or from--something at top speed, a situation where tripping over your flip-flops may be a bad thing.

Then again, half the customers at the grocery store tonight were in such shape as to render the point moot, since they'd not be able to exceed the natural speed limit of their flip-flops anyway.

how stupid can you get?

One of our fellow citizens, undoubtedly a product of our fine public schools, walked into a Pittsburgh grocery store and attempted to pay for his purchases with a one million dollar bill.

Then he had the unmitigated, brazen gall to ask for his change.

When the manager confiscated the fake (duh!) megabucks bill, the guy got irate, broke some store equipment, and got himself arrested and charged with forgery and criminal mischief.

As Law Dog would say: "Kee Riced All My Tea."

UPDATE: Oh, my God, Becky. There are more of them.

hugo, you blew it now.

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez is cranking up his efforts to transform still-prosperous Venezuela into a Latin American version of East Germany. Taking a break from nationalizing the oil industry and scaring off foreign investors, Hugo has now shifted his benevolent gaze towards the average Joe on the street.

In his opinion, Venezuelans drink too much, and they're too desirous of consumer goods. It all doesn't fit in with his vision of the "New Man", a proper socialist who eschews all luxuries and distractions for the benefit of the collective. Venezuela's government announced new heavy taxation of booze and luxury goods, which will really give legs to the black market there. Once the taxation policy fails to curb the boozing (and we know it will), there'll be an outright ban on booze and bling...which will, of course, be just as futile.

Look, Hugo: it's the twenty-first century. You can no longer keep information in your country or out of it, because we now have all sort of instantaneous global communications options. No matter how much you go pimping the "New Man" ideal, human nature is what it is, and part of what makes us what we are is the desire to acquire things. Your countrymen and -women can turn on the TV or go on the Internet, and see how the rest of the civilized world has a good time quaffing Martinis and delicious beer while wearing blue jeans and riding to the liquor store in chrome-bumpered Hummers. People aren't buying the "New Man" thing anymore.

It's amazing how every single crusader for socialism thinks that it hasn't worked yet because the right people (namely, them) haven't been in charge. Since the inception of that insidious ideology, no nation has ever prospered under it. Socialism simply doesn't work, because it contradicts the human desire to own stuff, and because it negates the biggest productive force in any society, which is self-interest.

It'll be interesting to see how quickly Hugo can turn a relatively prosperous nation awash in oil revenue into a communist hellhole. It'll get really interesting once he decides to stop asking people to be "New Men" and starts telling them. At gunpoint.

Because that's the only way socialist systems can prolong their existence long enough for the Dear Leader to live a lifetime of power and privilege--they have to start building fences to keep people from voting with their feet, and then they have to break out the guns to ensure compliance. (Notice that all socialist and communist nations in history share one characteristic--they place more restrictions on people leaving than they do on people coming in.)

Alas, Hugo Chavez will soon find out that the best way to piss off the proles is to try and take away their booze, their car keys, their tasty foods, and their CD collections--in other words, everything that makes a guy get up in the morning and go to work. Sheesh--even the Soviets may have rifled through their citizens' drawers on a daily basis, but at least they left the liquor cabinets alone.

Monday, October 8, 2007

secure in my masculinity.

Our old digital camera, an ancient steam-powered Sony Mavica that was a hand-me-down from Tamara, has finally been retired today. The battery pack is seven years old, and no longer holds a charge. Replacements are available, but they cost half as much as a new low-end digital camera with vastly increased capabilities and far more internal storage (the Mavica uses 1.44MB 3.5" disks.)

So, this morning I loaded up the kids, and headed over to Giant Electronics Conglomerate, Home of the Annoying Service Plan Push. I had a camera in mind, and their website said that they had it in stock. I wanted the Kodak EasyShare C513, which is your basic point-and-drool camera, intended for techno-illiterate soccer moms.

They had one in stock (not on display, of course, 'cause they don't really want you to go for the cheap models when they can fill their display table with the more expensive ones for you to peruse), so I asked the salesdroid to get it out of the restock dungeon and hand it to me.

Turns out they only stock one color of the C513, and it's not the most, uhm, butch color choice. I briefly contemplated getting the more expensive model after all, seeing how that one was more neutrally hued, but in the end I did the fiscally responsible thing.

So, here's our new digital camera, complete with matching protective case:

You know, the more I look at it, the more the color is actually growing on me. At least it's easy to spot on my usually cluttered desk, and most male thieves probably wouldn't touch it.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

flying the virtual skies, again.

So I'm doodling along in my little airplane again, for a quick jaunt over to Martha's Vineyard.

Fifteen miles out, I radio the tower at Vineyard Haven to get landing clearance, and they curtly respond that my "request is denied--airport is presently IFR only", meaning they'll only allow instrument landings via their fancy-schmancy ILS system. I, however, am VFR at present.

Well, I'm too lazy to file an IFR flight plan fifteen miles from the destination airport, and it's only virtual ATC anyway, so I do what no real-life pilot should do if they value their airman certificate: I switch off the radio, fire up the GPS, and ride the sucker in without landing clearance, just for fun. Hey, the weather outside doesn't look that bad, and with the GPS and its approach path display, I can practically get her onto the ground on autopilot, right? Besides, I shelled out three quarters of a c-note for this game, and I'll land my freakin' airplane wherever and whenever I please. (Actually, most of the time I dutifully follow ATC instructions, and I never even request a different runway when they direct me to the least convenient one, where the approach pattern requires three loops around the airfield from my current position.)

I fly with real-world weather, updated every fifteen minutes, and it turns out that Martha's Vineyard is fogged in this evening like you would not believe. I follow the final approach indicator on the GPS screen, and let Robby the Robot take me down the glide slope in 500-foot increments. At 600 feet and a quarter mile out from the runway threshold, I still don't see any runway lights. Guess they weren't kidding when they said "airport is currently IFR." If it wasn't for my steam gauges and the GPS in front of me, I'd have no idea whether I'm even upside down or right side up.

I miss the runway completely, of course. I'm overflying it at 500 feet AGL and 80 knots airspeed, and I don't see so much as a flicker of runway lights until I've already passed the threshold on the far side of the runway, and momentarily catch a glimpse of the runway lighting in the right rear window. The fog is so thick that I never see so much as a bulb of the ALS, even as I pass over it at 500 feet.

Quick 360 to re-acquire the runway....ah, there it is, the lights barely visible even at 300 feet AGL. I drop full flaps, bank fifteen degrees to the left to line up with the runway, and nudge her down. By the time the rubber meets the asphalt, I'm already halfway down the runway, but luckily I am flying a Maule Orion, which can stop on a dollar bill and leave room for fifty cents of change. The taildragger sets down the rear wheel at fifty knots, I hit the brakes, and a hundred feet later, I'm stopped.

Now, I'll grant that the adrenaline factor would have been about a hundred times worse in a real airplane with my real hide at stake, but it was an educational experience nonetheless. Tamara says that she can't understand the appeal of a simulator that lets you fly from A to B without engaging something with machine guns or AA missiles along the way, but flying a little general aviation bird at night and in instrument meteorological conditions can be every bit as exciting as blotting virtual MiGs out of the sky.

Yeah, my hobbies are capital-N nerdy. You take care of two kids all day long, and there's not much energy or money left for dirt bike racing or Cowboy Action Shooting. At least digital avgas is cheap, and engine overhauls on a virtual airframe are totally affordable.

standing up for your imaginary rights.

How can you defend your rights effectively if you have no idea what they are?

Southwest Airlines are in the news again. Apparently, a guy was asked to take off his shirt, or be refused transportation. The flight attendant deemed the words "MASTER BAITER" too offensive for the rest of the paying customers on the plane.

Now, the interesting part is where the t-shirt wearer complained that the airline was infringing on his right to free speech.

I'm not defending the prude coffee-and-peanuts-slinger who dynamically interpreted the dress code for the airline that day, but last I checked, Southwest was a private company, federal subsidies or no. On a private airplane, access to which is granted via private contract, there are no "free speech rights". The airline can refuse transportation to anyone for any reason, as long as they don't violate the contract into which they engaged with Mr. Master Baiter when he purchased his ticket--and I'm willing to bet you dollars to donuts that it doesn't contain a "free speech" clause in favor of the passenger. If they don't want to transport you for any reason at all--as long as it doesn't violate the aforementioned contract, or federal anti-discrimination laws--they can do so. Mr. Master Baiter, in turn, has the freedom and undisputed right to take his current and future transportation business elsewhere.

That's the way the cookie crumbles. On private property, you have exactly the rights afforded to you by the host through contract or good will. Free speech does not apply in someone else's living room...or on someone else's Boeing 757. Don't like it? Buy your own plane, or give your business to someone else.

ask a geek.

Today's free tech support incident goes to visitor #107,645.

Yeah, the Inspiron 8100 will play World of Warcraft okay, as long as you dial back the graphics options some. Set it to 800x600, move back the sliders for details in the in-game video options, and you'll be able to enjoy WoW tolerably well. The 8100 is no speed demon anymore, but they came with decent discrete graphics cards even at the low end (GeForce 2 Go), so as long as you have at least 512MB of RAM in that thing, it'll run WoW surprisingly well. It won't look nearly as pretty as it does on a desktop with oodles of RAM and an up-to-date graphics card, but it'll still beat the crap out of Spider Solitaire for those boring evenings at the hotel when you're on the go.

make it stop.

Contrary to popular belief, just having kids will not cause brain damage in parents.

Being exposed to kiddie songs all day, however, will.

One of the most annoying things of being a stay-at-home parent is the inevitable fact that a.) kiddie tunes are catchy and easy to remember, and b.) your kids will listen to a lot of them. Even with limited TV intake, most of what will be watched is going to be saturated with cutesy little songs, and in the age of cheap and plentiful electronics, many toys for kids have their own catchy tunes.

You can. not. get. them. out. of. your. head.

I have lost count of the days when I had an endless loop of the Doodlebop song, a Baby Signing Time tune, or the ABC song from Quinn's little Alphabet Train Station playing in my head all day long. It's enough to slowly and surely chip away at parental sanity, more so than any number of poopy diapers or wall murals painted with momentarily unattended samples of diaper rash cream.

Sometimes I have to get out the headphones and listen to some Nine Inch Nails or Rage Against the Machine just to try and dislodge the Underpants March from Quinn's "No More Diapers" DVD, a tune that has the ability to attach itself to your brain like one of those face-huggers from Alien. I'm generally a classical music and instrumental soundtracks kind of guy, but such relaxing fare is powerless against the cloying sweetness and easy-to-remember catchiness of such insidious kiddie fare.

All those parenting books at Barnes & Noble? They don't tell you shit about shit. Oh, sure, they teach you how to change diapers or deal with your toddler's temper tantrum without killing him, yourself, or the both of you, but they are absolutely silent on subjects like "getting sticky kiddie music out of your noggin."

Maybe that's a market niche right there.

If you're thinking about joining the Parenting Club (where nervous tics, thousand-yard-stares, and subscriptions to the Bourbon of the Month at the local liquor store are complimentary welcome package gifts with your membership), then you need to prepare yourself for the toddler years. Buy an iPod, and load it up with the loudest, most furious German rage-and-angst stuff you can find. Rammstein is a good start.

Then, when you find yourself humming the Underpants March all morning, you can put on the headphones, and have a cleansing wave of "DU HASST! DU HASST MICH!" shouted by angry Germans at maximum volume flood your brain, hopefully stomping out that insidious little least for a while.

Friday, October 5, 2007

breakfast blogging.

Our toaster oven has a warning on the glass door that says IF CONTENTS IGNITE, LEAVE DOOR CLOSED AND UNPLUG OVEN.

I wonder what kind of incident prompted the manufacturer to cover themselves against that particular lawsuit direction. When I took out my breakfast roll and read that warning for the umpteenth time, I suddenly pictured a Homer Simpson-esque guy trying to fish his flaming breakfast out of the oven with bare hands.

"Oh, no! The Pop-Tarts! Gotta save the Pop-Tarts!"

Thursday, October 4, 2007

on grammar, once more.

To the moron running "Antique's Etc." down the street:

The apostrophe has a very specific range of legitimate functions in written English.

It is used to denote possession (Frank's shoes, the dog's bowl, the cat's meow), or an omission ("it's" standing for "it is").

It is not used to indiscriminately separate all occurrences of the letter "s" at the end of a word from the rest of it. (In the words of a writer whose name escapes me at the moment, the apostrophe is not employed to alert the reader that the letter "s" follows.)

So, please, unless your name is "Antique" (and I know it isn't), please remove the improperly employed apostrophe at the earliest opportunity, so I won't have to do it with the aid of a putty knife and the cover of early morning darkness. That way, I won't have to flinch each and every time I have to take a left turn in front of your store on the way home.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


Old man goes grocery shopping and gets hit by an idiot driver while waiting at the bus stop.

As the old man lies dying, people make off with his groceries.

If you not only fail to render assistance to a dying man, but also have the gall to stoop down and steal his groceries, you're human only by biological designation. If I were witness to such an event, only the prospect of spending a few decades in jail and away from my family would keep me from shooting out a few kneecaps on the spot.

Monday, October 1, 2007

i still have all my fingers.

Well, it looks like I managed to get those .38 Special rounds reloaded properly.

Thorsten is visiting from the old Fatherland, and we went to burn some powder tonight. I ran a hundred rounds of my home-brewed loads through the trusty Model 13, and all of them went "bang" with the same noise and recoil. Thorsten shot a five-round cloverleaf of overlapping holes at seven yards with the M13 in single action, so I guess the load is accurate enough.

Thorsten rented a Glock 21, and I tried my hand with it as well, but my Glock groups were twice as large as the ones out of the S&W. That revolver is a thing of goes bang six times without fail, you open the cylinder, dump your six empties right back into the box, and load up again. No busting thumbs, no chasing brass, no slides locking back with rounds left in the magazine (the repeated weird Glock malfunction of the night, with both shooters), and no failures to feed or extract. Make mine a sixgun...