I don't mean to offend. It's probably going to happen anyway.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


When my mom suggested a Kindle as a possible Christmas gift, I was somewhat uncertain. Paper books have certain disadvantages which the Kindle quite neatly solves, and there are almost no concrete, rational drawbacks to eReaders. They have batteries, so yes, your book may run out at the good bit, but otherwise, they are lighter, smaller, don't require holding open* and have such a huge capacity for both books and battery to make the complaints seem insignificant in comparison.

For all that though, I had reservations. There's just something undefinable about a bound book. Paper is the right medium for words. It fades, it is easily damaged, it is bulky and fairly dense, and feels entirely right. Turning pages is one of the simplest joys of reading. This romanticized love affair with bound books ended up losing to the rational in me, and I have a kindle sitting next to me.

Christmas morning, I went through the Amazon top 100 free and loaded up on stuff. At the moment, I have loaded 21 assorted Shakespeare plays, Mark Twain novels, and a couple other random works. Even in a leather case, it is small enough to slip into a pocket and forget about, and about half the weight of the Discworld** book it's resting on. In full printed form, 21 books takes up about 2/3 of one of my shelves. I haven't come close to filling this thing.

Reading is easy on the eyes and mind. 12 pages into The Three Musketeers, I realized that I barely noticed that I wasn't reading a paper book anymore. In short, I could get used to this. I haven't messed around much with the bookmarking or highlighting functions, but the scroll over dictionary has the potential to spoil me very quickly.

Overall, I am pleased with the thing. I don't think it can ever replace paper entirely, if only for the reason that I am cheap and like libraries. For on the go reading, I will say it is likely unmatched, and it's a fine piece for normal daily reading as well. Which method of reading will win out over time, I can't say. I can say I am not going to be buying anywhere near as many dead tree books. It's plain not worth it, as the kindle store is usually cheaper, and I can read from anywhere. Libraries though... they will be hard to displace.

Final verdict, worthy addition, not a replacement.

*This has been a major irritant for me with paper books for my entire life. I read a lot, and having to constantly have one hand holding the pages open was a drag. Also, I am referring in all this to the newest, little kindle without touch, keyboard, or Fire.

**If you haven't read any of Terry Pratchett's Discworld, shame on you.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

Posting has not been particularly important in finals and the holidays, but posting will pick up after the holidays. For now, a Merry Christmas to all. May your celebration of choice be good.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

December 7th, 1941

If you ask most college students today what happened on December 7, 1941, I have a feeling they wouldn't know what you were talking about. Despite FDR's proclamation of it being "A date that will live on in infamy," most people don't think about it, despite its lasting significance.

It's been 70 years to the day since the United States was brought into World War Two, where 405,399 Americans died, 2402 of them at Pearl Harbor. Those who escaped with their lives often didn't escape intact, with over 670,800 wounded service members.

It's easy to forget how awful this war was. The numbers become just numbers, not reflective of people. It was 70 years ago, and the youngest of those who fought are now among the oldest people in society. It's not something that most people have to face or deal with.

This isn't ancient history. Remember what today 70 years ago did. Take some time to think about it, and thank a service member. They are what prevent this from happening again.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

UC Davis

My initial reaction to the footage of the UC Davis police pepper-spraying students was precisely the one that main-stream reporting wanted. I saw what appeared to be a small group of students surrounded by officers being sprayed for non-compliance. I thought it a case of police excess, and a classic case of what Lawdog discusses here. It reminded me just how much both sides have acted like goobs in the entire #OccupyGeography affair.

Then I saw the full video, with commentary, here.*

Instead of a small group of students surrounded by police, we have a small(ish) group of police surrounded by a mob of students. Instead of students sprayed for non-compliance, we have officers for all intents and purposes taken hostage for non-compliance. If you think that the protesters were remaining nonviolent, I would like to direct you here, and to this, as follow up to this.

Were there better ways of moving the protesters? Possibly. People in my discussions on this topic seemed largely unaware of just how noxious and damaging pepper spray is, and viewed it as a better alternative to physically laying on hands. To me, it seems like it would have been better had they grabbed a couple heads of hair and moved those heads, on the assumption that the rest of the body would come with. That is more likely to result in claims of police brutality though, despite it probably being safer for the protester.**

What it boils down to after the new information is that the police were defending against the violent act of restraint with plenty of warning as to the consequences. It was not a case of gaining compliance through brutality, but ending a violent, hostile situation through the judicious use of force. I can't fault the officers for this one.

This does seem to show that the protesters need to learn what constitutes violence. Wikipedia claims it as "the use of physical force to apply a state to others contrary to their wishes." Seems to me that fits their actions perfectly.

*Someday I will learn to embed youtube videos. Anyone who knows, drop me a comment and let me know. EDIT Thanks commenter Rifleslinger. There is now an embedded video.

**Also of note is that this tactic is far more dangerous for the officers, as they are more exposed to whatever the miscreants decide to do.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The end times

Want to make a brief reply to this post at the Smallest Minority, as well as comment broadly on the concept of freedom.

The one bit on reading that provoked a brief bit of cognitive dissonance was not Kevin speaking, but rather him quoting one Donald Sensing. "I am left with nauseating near-conviction that I am a member of the last generation in the history of the world that is minimally truly free." I have depressingly little doubt that what we see now is indeed the last of the free generations in my lifetime, all the more regrettable concerning my youth.

I used the modifier "in my lifetime" for a reason though. I do not think that individual freedoms will disappear forever. I think they will at least be curtailed practically to the point of nonexistence for quite some time, but there will be a point in the future where the pendulum swing of philosophies of the individual will make its turnaround and come back to a time for people to be free.

I do not think it will happen in the United States. Removing the factors of governance dampening freedoms in todays US is nigh impossible while retaining the fundamental values of the country. Their removal would lead too thoroughly to national collapse for the same nation to come out the other side.

This is not to say that this swing back is by any sense bad. The nations that emerge from the ashes of the modern authoritarian world will be stronger, freer, and totally independent of modern states. The notions that lead to the rise of the individual in the west are still fairly new. Renaissance humanism and the American revolution broke the authoritarian grips of the divine kings, putting in place modern notions of individualism. The technological boom and associated increase in standard of living since their inception is, in my opinion, unparalleled in the entire history of the world thus-far.

It looks like we passed the point of no return for the present a while back. That does not mean that individual vitality, esteem and power will not be able to restore what once was. History will look back on the modern rise of socialism as we today look on the European Dark Ages, a period of folly and strife now thankfully passed.

It is a shame that swing probably won't happen in any of our lifetimes. I hope I can be proven wrong.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Article II Gun World Range

Being from around Chicago, good outdoor ranges are hard to come by in a reasonable radius. My dad and I have found one, the Conservation Club of Kenosha County, that we quite like, but it's a bit of a hike, and not the sort of trip we can arrange spur of the moment. This means that we are essentially restricted to indoor ranges around Chicago. We have a couple we have used many times, but never been particularly satisfied with, as they are short, dirty, not particularly well run, and of occasionally dubious clientele. The complaints were never enough to make us stop going, but it wasn't the experience it could have been.

Considering our dissatisfaction, we looked with great interest on the announcement of a new range opening up in Lombard, the Article II Gun World Range. With initial opening set for the first couple months of 2011, we got email updates with pleasure, until the updates contained more delays than good news. Seems the city of Lombard wasn't keen on a new range opening, and put up every inch of red tape possible, and there were several problems with contractors doing bad work. The net result of all this is that the range finally opened last Wednesday.

Seeing as I was home for Thanksgiving break, Dad and I decided to check it out on Friday, as we are not crazy enough to even consider black Friday shopping. When we got there, the staff was friendly and helpful, and I spent a while wandering around the cases trying not to drool too openly. They have some very interesting, beautiful, and rare pieces on display, though I am not knowledgeable enough to know what exactly I was looking at most of the time.

The range was entirely filled when we got there, so we were put on a waiting list. While we waited, we wandered around the shop in front for a while before being called to the firing line. I gotta say, this is the nicest, cleanest range I have ever been on. Whether or not it will stay that way remains to be seen, but considering the industrial air filters they have going, I'd guess it will stay cleaner than most. They have I believe three 75-foot typical ranges, and one club range, also 75 feet. They tested the ranges with a .50 BMG, so everything currently in the armory is fine for shooting there, including the Mosin Nagants.

The biggest difference between this range and the others around Chicago has to be how it's run. The other ranges, there may be one or two people behind the counter, and there they stay. The ranges themselves are inhabited solely by the shooters. At Article II, there are quite a few people behind the counter, a range officer outside the three ranges, and a range officer walking through the ranges making sure everything is functioning well. For people in more gun-friendly areas, this may seem like no big deal, but by Chicago standards, this was quite a nice feature.

There are still a few minor bugs to be worked out it seems, such as the line for the target carrier in the next booth popping out of its track a couple times, but the range officer fixed that quite quickly. Other than that though, the entire experience was excellent.

I was somewhat surprised as I ended up shooting at my best, with about a 5" group at 75 feet with a Ruger Single Six, despite not shooting for several months. It's an interesting type of shooting, when the front blade obscures most of the target. I also shot <2" groups at 30 feet with a Ruger mkII 22/45, and nice tight groups with a pt1911 in 9mm and Kel Tec P3AT. Perhaps the improvement has something to do with rock climbing improving my grip strength, or perhaps a more pleasant shooting environment had more to do with it.

I was thoroughly pleased with the entire experience, and can recommend without any qualms Article II Gun World range to anyone in the Chicago area. Considering we now have a good place to shoot, we may need to expand the armory some.... the one major arsenal hole at the moment is an EBR, (Evil Black Rifle) so perhaps that should be the next acquisition.

Called It

Remember comments about slippery slopes here?

I hate being right.

More content later. Thanksgiving and general life took precedence the past two weeks.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Political Ethics 2

Considering political ethics to be the means by which governing figures balance and carry out the responsibilities they have, the next logical point of study is what exactly those responsibilities are.

In terms of the social contract, the governed give up something in return for something, almost universally protection, and its subset of societal structure and welfare. The specific terms are highly variable, and will not be identical between neighboring households, let alone between Oregon and Florida. The specific ramifications of this will be discussed later.

One of the best places to look for this agreement is the US Constitution. The first sentence demonstrates it perfectly.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessing of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Here we have a self-identified group, the People of the United States, agreeing to sacrifice some freedoms in return for a list of responsibilities that another group, the government as defined in the Constitution, has. To the people of the US, Justice, being here protection against other people (including the government) and redress of grievance, domestic Tranquility, being again protections from other people and from assorted other causes of societal disturbance, defense, in this case being against foreign powers both militarily and diplomatically, general Welfare, being a very general summation of the assorted duties of government in aiding societal function, and the Blessings of Liberty, being governmental guarantees of personal freedoms, are what the people of the United States thought government should be involved in in 1787.

What all this boils down to is that the government's responsibility is to uphold the terms of the social contract that it was created under. The particular nature of the protections vary from place to place, but government exists at the behest of the people, for the good of the people. As said here,
"The social contract exists so that everyone doesn't have to squat in the dust holding a spear to protect his woman and his meat all day every day. It does not exist so that the government can take your spear, your meat, and your woman because it knows better what to do with them."
Next week, how is all this broken, and how did it happen?

Apologies for missing a week, things got busy. Also, mondays are generally a better posting day, so that will probably be the schedule for a while.

Friday, November 11, 2011

College WIN

I go to the coolest school. This happened quite literally across the street from me right now.

This shows quite nicely one of the best things about engineering and pure research both. Both have a tendency to give you results wildly different than anticipated, but still useful and or interesting. In this case, try to make one awesome thing, an invisible speaker, and make another, an invisible anything.

The technology may still be in very much an infantile stage (it acts like a mirror that you can turn on and off more than invisibility persay) it's quite neat to see what happens when you take smart people who see something that makes them say 'Huh. That's weird.'

EDIT: Sorry for the incorrect link; should be fixed now

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Veterans Day

"We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm." -- Winston Churchill

It may be misquoted, warped, and misunderstood to the point of having difficult if not impossible attribution, but that doesn't make it any less right. Freedom isn't free.

By all means give the veterans a day. My one complaint with Veteran's Day is that it is only one day. Those men and women are deserving of our thanks and admiration. Let them know you appreciate it, today and every day.

And for those of you who can, join them. This country needs its protectors.

If this turns up twice, it's because Blogger hates pre-scheduling posts.

Friday, November 4, 2011


I hear the word revolution from the OWS folks quite frequently, as well as a few other sources. They, especially the OWS people, claim it as heroic or noble.

Not exactly.

Revolution is, by definition, failure. If you are in the course of revolution, it means that you are either incapable or disinclined to go about effecting change through non-violent means. Be this through personal incompetence or governmental tyranny is not entirely relevant. It means that the mechanisms of control by the people in government are stagnated or no longer wanted.

This is not to say that revolution is never the correct answer. It merely means that it can only be the lesser of two evils.

If you have to take up arms for something, it means that society and you have failed. And, to reference Robb Allen, avoiding failure takes more than rooting for the right team at the ballot box.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

1001 values

Hat tip to MattG for the link to this. The 1001 rules for my Unborn Son remind me of a Led Zeppelin opener. "In the days of my youth I was taught what it means to be a man. And now I've reached that age I try to do all those things the best I can."

I read them all over the course of the afternoon, and by and large it's good, solid advice of the sort that I was raised under. Thanks Dad.

It got me thinking earlier though how to many it would seem 'Old-Fashioned.' This led into some broader thinking along the lines of nostalgia, and how everyone frets about the end of the 'good old days.' Quite contrary to Candide, it seems most people believe we live in the worse of two worlds. This notion goes back to Socrates, the Mahabharata, the Shahnameh and many others. Societies look back and say that what has passed was a greater time (with notable exception in rising empire, but that's another topic)

The retrospective is the ultimate rose colored glass though. Those people that we remember are indeed frequently good examples of the paradigms we hold in such high regard. On the other hand, we remember them for a reason. We remember the best of people, and the average and the bad slip into obscurity in history. The good old boys are worthy of your respect, but because they are good, not because they are old. Society today is not necessarily any more or less moral than any other time. People are just and have always been dissatisfied with the present.

On the other hand. To todays youth, and their parents: Read that list. The values in it are by and large still applicable and good. Live by them and teach them. We may not be in the worst of all possible worlds, but it can always be better. I know I will be saving that list.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Blogroll Additions

Few additions to the blogroll today.

RobbAllen at Sharp as a Marble is frequently witty, often informative, and has an excellent handle on much of what is happening in the world today. Definitely worth your time and attention.

AEPilotJim at Confessions of a Gun-Toting Seagull brings the snark frequently and with great gusto. Highly entertaining as well as interesting views on the world around us.

MattG at Better and Better is a beautiful writer who frequently takes the more philosophical stance than many. I only started reading him recently, and already he's given me a great deal to think about.

As always, I run a reciprocal blogroll, so if you link me and don't see your blog on the right, leave a comment and I will rectify that.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

If You Didn't Bring Enough to Share.....

Then you shouldn't have it at all. This is a fairly familiar line to most people having gone through public schooling, at least within the last 19 years (which is all I can speak to.) While talking to a friend today, she mentioned that someone unfamiliar with the term had commented on its communist nature.

This got me thinking. These teachers are apparently of the impression that imposing this sort of rule will be a successful deterrent for whatever practice they take offense to, most frequently gum chewing. By and large, it is. Most student choose either to not chew gum, or to do so in a manner they think they can get away with.

Why is it then that these same teachers and students are frequently among the most vocal supporters of communist or socialist programs? The same people using socialism as a threat or dodging the requirements are supporting it. This seems to be something of a logical disconnect. It's not just this particular analogy either. Many if not most school rules are, as a product of an authoritarian system, not dissimilar to other authoritarian rules. Students are quite gifted at dodging rules, finding loopholes, and not getting caught. Yet they attempt to impose the same sorts of rules that they find offensive on the entire country.

This just plain doesn't make sense. It's internally inconsistent. Yes, I know that people are frequently inconsistent, but the sheer level of incompatibility makes me wonder how people don't think about it. It's the same thing as a treasury head who cheats on his taxes (but that would never happen of course /sarcasm.) Those imposing rules are unwilling to follow them. Why should they expect anyone else to do so?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Political Ethics 1

Sorry for the lateness of this, I was sleep deprived enough yesterday that the word 'number' was far too entertaining.

Every time some new governmental scandal appears, there is an immediate outcry from somewhere. Most of the time, at least part of that outcry is calling for ethical action among our political class.

The question then becomes, what ethics?

The ethical codes that we as individuals follow on a daily basis are different than those of our political rulers. Theoretically, politicians should maintain some degree of personal ethical behavior, for the same reasons that any of us follow ethical guidelines. There is an added layer of ethics in government though.

Governments have responsibilities. People place their trust, lives, and money in the hands of a group of people in exchange for certain protections and guarantees. This is the most basic level of the social contract.

Any governmental system functions on some form of social contract. Quite simply, it is the agreement of the people to be ruled in exchange for the protections of government. Every leadership role from the worst authoritarian despot to the most lenient small-town mayor follows this. When it gets to the point where the social contract is not upheld properly, people will rebel, either by vote or by arms. No matter how despotic, the people living under the system believe it is better as it is than it would be should they attempt to remove it.

Ideally, everyone would agree on the terms of the social contract. Government would abide by it, and no one would be discontented, as the understandings of why what is happening is happening are there. The will of the people, including those in government, is unified, and governmental action is simple.

The trouble in the social contract is difference of opinion. In a single constituency, people will have radically different views on even the most simple of issues. Those in government have their own agendas and views. Reconciling all of these views into a single comprehensive and clear-cut guideline is quite simply impossible. Therefore, political leadership requires choices on how best to serve people, and how to balance responsibilities with personal desires or agendas. This is the field of political ethics, in providing that framework for decisions.

Next weeks discussion is planned as a look at what exactly those responsibilities of governments are.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Political Ethics series

I realized while talking about political ethics on GBC that the reason I couldn't make the post work is that there's simply too much of it. Each sub point that I wanted to cover is deserving of it's own full post. As such, I'm planning starting a series of posts that will hopefully be recurrent every Sunday on the various aspects of political ethics.

Topics will likely include but are not limited to the necessity of ethics in government, the social contract, ethical traditions, moral relativism, constitutional rights, ethical enforcement, group vs individual rights, and the individual's interactions with government on ethical issues. The first post will go up next week.

I make no claim in this to being right. This will primarily be my personal reflections on the issues, and what I think is right. Leave any topic suggestions in the comments.

I may choose instead to do this as a podcast. Let me know in comments if that would be preferable.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Occupy Dallas

So I've been trying to make a post on political ethics come together all week, and it's still not working. In the mean time, this was worth commenting on.

Occupy Wall Street has spread to Dallas.

While walking back to the train station from the aquarium (which was thoroughly awesome) we passed a group of about 60 people walking down the street chanting. I wasn't entirely sure what they were on about, so I watched for a minute or two.

After two 99% signs and one Occupy Dallas sign, it was pretty clear.

I still find the movement baffling, though Robb Allen brings up an excellent point here. I must say though, it was entertaining that in Texas, the support seems even more anemic than in other places. There can't have been more than a hundred people there, escorted by three cop cars no less.

Oh, and guy with the "It's the middle class' fault for dressing so sexy" sign? Go die in a fire.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


I apologize for the delays in fulfilling this request, but I just got access to a camera today. Therefore, reef pictures!
This is my reef, in a 6 gallon JBJ Nano Cube. Lots of corals, a green clown goby, a firefish, a couple shrimp, and some hermit crabs and snails for cleanup duty.
This is Vincent, the green clown goby. In front of him is an astraea cone snail, and in the lower righthand corner is a frogspawn coral, the centerpiece coral of the tank. Despite this lofty status, I couldn't snag a decent picture of it.

This is Zippo the firefish. The green thing in the lower right that looks like a bottle cap is a bottle cap. It is part of a bristleworm trap and not a permanent part of the tank.
These are a brief selection of pictures of the corals. The top is a tree coral, the middle is a candy cane coral, and the bottom has a zoanthis and clove polyp frag center down, the frogspawn in the back, and a pair of mushrooms between them. Also visible is my pair of sexy anemone shrimp, thor amboinensis. Yes that is their real name. That's all the pictures for now, if you want a closer look at anything, I may be able to arrange that.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Pt. 2

I may have found an answer to some of my earlier questions about Occupy Wall Street. I thought I would share the immediate brain short circuit that this list has spawned in everyone I have sent it to.

Demand one: Restoration of the living wage. This demand can only be met by ending "Freetrade" by re-imposing trade tariffs on all imported goods entering the American market to level the playing field for domestic family farming and domestic manufacturing as most nations that are dumping cheap products onto the American market have radical wage and environmental regulation advantages. Another policy that must be instituted is raise the minimum wage to twenty dollars an hr.

Demand two: Institute a universal single payer healthcare system. To do this all private insurers must be banned from the healthcare market as their only effect on the health of patients is to take money away from doctors, nurses and hospitals preventing them from doing their jobs and hand that money to wall st. investors.

Demand three: Guaranteed living wage income regardless of employment.

Demand four: Free college education.

Demand five: Begin a fast track process to bring the fossil fuel economy to an end while at the same bringing the alternative energy economy up to energy demand.

Demand six: One trillion dollars in infrastructure (Water, Sewer, Rail, Roads and Bridges and Electrical Grid) spending now.

Demand seven: One trillion dollars in ecological restoration planting forests, reestablishing wetlands and the natural flow of river systems and decommissioning of all of America's nuclear power plants.

Demand eight: Racial and gender equal rights amendment.

Demand nine: Open borders migration. anyone can travel anywhere to work and live.

Demand ten: Bring American elections up to international standards of a paper ballot precinct counted and recounted in front of an independent and party observers system.

Demand eleven: Immediate across the board debt forgiveness for all. Debt forgiveness of sovereign debt, commercial loans, home mortgages, home equity loans, credit card debt, student loans and personal loans now! All debt must be stricken from the "Books." World Bank Loans to all Nations, Bank to Bank Debt and all Bonds and Margin Call Debt in the stock market including all Derivatives or Credit Default Swaps, all 65 trillion dollars of them must also be stricken from the "Books." And I don't mean debt that is in default, I mean all debt on the entire planet period.

Demand twelve: Outlaw all credit reporting agencies.

Demand thirteen: Allow all workers to sign a ballot at any time during a union organizing campaign or at any time that represents their yeah or nay to having a union represent them in collective bargaining or to form a union.

These demands will create so many jobs it will be completely impossible to fill them without an open borders policy.

Quick note, the admin of Occupy Wall Street have distanced themselves from this list, saying there is no official list, but it's disturbing in any case that at least one person things that this is what the movement is about. Also interesting, said admin have refused to make any list of their own, so their official goals are still nebulous.

So, let's see about this list.

Demand 1: Reinstate tariffs. I have no philosophical problem with this other than the fact that those tariffs are not going to be paid by the other nations or corporations out of pocket. The added costs will be met by increasing costs for the consumer. And second... 20$/hr minimum wage? What are you smoking? Remember the "radical wage and environmental advantages" bit? That's because they don't have 20$/hr wages. Also, inflation would quite quickly make that sum of money worthless, as well as shutting down hiring. No company is going to pay that.

Demand 2: Single Payer Insurance... nonononononono. This probably warrants a full post at some point, but in short, the problems with this are that the government is absolutely incompetent, the economics just don't work, the government is incompetent, abuses quickly run rampant in any situation of mandated health care, it all but enslaves doctors, and the government is incompetent.

Demand 3: Paying people to exist. If there's a living wage regardless of employment, why bother with employment? Also, who is paying for this? Are you telling me that I am going to pay taxes on my income such that you can sit around the house smoking pot and listening to radiohead? Why then would I work? Lazing about doing nothing and getting paid for it sounds pretty easy.

Demand 4: If all college education is free, then the degree is worth precisely what you paid for it.

Demand 5: How do you intend to fast track alternative energy? We are working on it. The only reason it isn't up now is because alternatives just plain aren't as good as conventional, with the exception of nuclear, which some consider conventional anyway.

Demand 6: Spending more money. Who is paying for it? Do you have ANY idea how much money a trillion dollars is? Going back to an earlier point that I believe I mentioned briefly, government is incompetent. They can't do anything reasonably. A trillion dollars at this point might be a new manhole cover.

Demand 7: Greenspeak and... oh. Decomming Nuke plants. There goes #5.

Demand 8: This one is interesting. Last time I checked, people of all races and genders are allowed to be citizens, yes? Correct me if I'm wrong there. There's a handy little section of the constitution that says "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States, nor shall any State deprice any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." Now, it seems to me that that means there is already equality regardless of Race or Gender in the constitution. It is true that there are times where it isn't always enforced right, see affirmative action, but that's not the fault of there not being constitutional provision, that's just unconstitutional law.

Demand 9: Open borders? Not particularly problematic until the 'live' bit. In order to really function well living in society, you need to abide by the social contract of government. When it comes to non-citizens though, they will get the benefits of without the responsibilities. They become parasitic. It's frequently not malicious, but there are costs that they don't pay. Before they can live here, they must buy into the social contract.

Demand 10: This is more amusing than stupid. This may just be representative of my lack of election knowledge, but whose standard is this? It seems woefully inefficient, and still subject to the same problems as everything else. Considering also how the democratic party is the one famous for vote fraud, and this one may not work out to their liking.

Demand 11: And here we have the big one. Immediate global debt forgiveness, also known as immediate global economic and societal collapse. 65 trillion dollars is a mindboggling sum of money, and deleting it from the record is easily enough to collapse the world. Add to that a truce with China predicated on their owning US debt, and two superpowers could be at each other's throats again soon. Every dollar in a bank is also technically debt on the part of the banks, so everything but the cash you have on you is gone.

See, most of the circulation of funds in our economy is not actually liquidity but debt. We have a fiat currency even, which can be seen as a form of debt. When you pay by card, you become indebted to the creditor, who in turn is indebted to the payee. The payee then doesn't get paid cash, the creditor shuffles some of their monetary holders debt to that of the payee's account, and everyone is satisfied. Unless you pay cash, there is debt, and even when you do, the nature of the currency makes it somewhat hazy.

Taking away debt takes away the entire basis of the economy. So all you crazy people out there at Occupy Wall Street are just gonna have to live with the fact that you are in debt. No it's not fun, but that's no excuse to wreck the world.

Demand 12: Credit reporting agencies report your bad decisions, yes. No, people should not give you a loan you won't pay back. Yes, you are expected to be held accountable for your actions. Where else is the problem?

Demand 13: I'm not entirely sure what this is meant to do. I read it as an escape clause from the creepiness that is the modern union, but that seems contrary to the rest of their goals. As is, you can join a union and get the collective bargaining benefits. Whether you can hold certain jobs without joining a union is occasionally dubious. So, sure. Allow people to turn down union membership at no penalty. (If I've missed the point of this one, let me know)

All this seems so juvenile. For whatever reason, these people are dissatisfied with their lot in life, and are looking to the rest of the world to care for them. So, you who call yourselves the 99%? Shut up and stop your whining. You don't stand for the majority against the silent exploiters. You stand for the few who never cared to grow up and accept responsibility for yourselves. Stop pretending to represent me.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

Could someone tell me what exactly the goal of these people is? I quite honestly can't tell. It seems to be a bunch of people whining that "life is hard, and other people are better at it than I am." If I've got it wrong, let me know. I can't find anything about what exactly their goals are.

What I do see is that these people think they are owed a great deal. Healthcare, employment, housing, etc. What I also see is that in the end, all of it is money.

What exactly entitles them to other people's money?

Who's gonna make the stuff they want if the corporations are killed?

Who's gonna build their houses for free? If the answer is governments, I can only reply with 'Cabrini Green'

Who's gonna take care of their health because they feel entitled to their services?

Any Occupy Wall Street folks who find this, I legitimately want to know what's going through y'alls minds. I just don't get you.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Citizen's Shields

The MSM has been crowing about the death of Anwar al-Awlaki since yesterday. At first glance, it's a case of 'Oh, hey, cool. Enemy militant killed from 10,000ft. I like these drones.'

Then I heard he was a US citizen.

My particularly apoplectic reaction to this is making writing hard. Where does this administration get off on depriving citizens of life, liberty, or property, emphasis on the LIFE bit, without due process of law?

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Where does that leave room for the targeted killing of a US citizen in a non-battlefield or defensive role? Sure, he was a treasonous pig worthy of death, but there are ways of doing that. On th
at note, let's take a closer look at that word "treason"

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

The Congress shall have power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

Seems pretty clear cut that this man was in fact guilty of treason. However, he was never convicted as such, so from a legal perspective, an innocent citizen was murdered by the US. If this doesn't scare you, there's something very wrong with you. The full rights enumerated in the Constitution still applied to al-Awlaki, and were blatantly, openly, and terminally ignored.

To riff on my theme this week, he was Vanished, as in 1984. No trial, no arrest, just wiped from the face of the earth. It almost serves to make me question my previous post about the feasibility of a 1984esque scenario.

To add another layer of creepy to the entire situation, former Bush Administration Homeland Security advisor Frances Townsend told CNN "No one should be able to use their citizenship as a shield," as seen here.* Lady, I don't know what you think citizenship is about, but let me tell you, it's entirely about BEING a shield. Citizenship trades a set of responsibilities and adherences for the rights and privileges associated with the position. Al-Awlaki violated the responsibilities and adherences, but is still entitled to the rights and privileges until such time as a court has seen fit to remove them through proper trial.

Citizenship exists to stop tyranny. The assurances nested in it need to be inviolate without due process. A government that can take away those rights at will is out of control, dangerous, and an immediate, vitally important threat to those it claims to represent.

Right now, it seems to be restricted to people the state calls enemies. Looking at past DHS definitions and profiles, however, it's entirely probable that I could end up in the same way. I am a young, right wing reactionary activist who shoots and associates with people who are of like mind. How different am I from al-Awlaki in their eyes? It doesn't take looking far to see real world examples. Look at TJIC for example. 2nd Amendment rights stripped without due process because he exercised his 1st Amendment rights.

The media is largely ignoring the implications of this attack. Therefore, I urge you readers, get angry. Talk about this, spread news around, share this post, and don't tolerate this. Al-Awlaki needed to be tried in court, convicted of treason, and made to do the midair jig. Skipping to the end is counter to everything the Bill of Rights tried to guarantee.

*Non MSM source because CNN has no mention of it in print. I only found out about it because I happened to be near a TV when the quotation aired.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

1984 Pt 2

I was preparing to make a reply to a commenter this morning, and figured that it merited its own post. Ferdinand Freud posted:

Everything takes longer. 1984 has come and gone, but I still think we are on the slippery slope to something resembling the book. Think of what a Founding Father would make of gun laws, the dept. of education, Obamacare, etc. How big a jump is it from demanding nutrition labels on food (check) to outlawing food (trans fats, check) to prescribed exercise & diet? Yes, some people will always struggle against such, but the Soviets and Pol Pot had a solution for those folks.

Overall I agree. The nation we live in today is not that of our founding fathers, nor is it one they would be pleased with. The societal frameworks seem already to be in place for many of the programs and situations of the book, as I commented on in my earlier post. Yes, totalitarian regimes have methods of maintaining power.

The point at which I start to disagree in the nitty-gritty of the situation is in the jump. It is far easier for a government to remove something, or require a corporate action, as in the case of the banned foods and nutrition labels, than it is to force action on the part of the citizenry. Philosophically, the jump is small, and I wouldn't put it past our government to try it. Practically however, it becomes more difficult. For the average American, banned trans-fats and nutrition labels aren't particularly important. They require no effort on their part, and while perhaps inconvenient, it's not a deal-changing situation. Mandating active participation in uncomfortable actions forces the populace to exit their state of entropy, which is understandably difficult. The jump from passivity to activity therefore is a large one, and the society of 1984 requires activity.

On a similar note of altering entropy, our current governmental structure is not able to effectively create the described world. Being non-totalitarian and partisan, things get bogged down easily, and no one viewpoint can override. It is wonderfully inefficient and powerless. Changing power structures to a totalitarian system generally requires one cataclysmic event or other prompting factor. In 1984, it was atomic war followed by revolution. In Pol Pot and the USSR's case, it was revolution due to increased class consciousness as a result of technological communication advances (this may end up being it's own post later). I can't see any factor today that would serve as sufficient catalyst for a radicalist revolution. It might have happened after the financial collapse, it might have happened after 9/11, but as it didn't, I have to wonder what could serve as sufficient motivator.

Another problem with revolution is simple. Those most dissatisfied and fed up are conservatives. Additionally, liberals tend to be somewhat less familiar and comfortable with the tools of revolution than conservatives. Looking around today, the group gaining the most ground is the Tea Party, on a platform that is far more conservative than anything existing in today's government. If we are swinging any direction, it's away from totalitarian socialism.

One last set of troubles that are likely to at least delay any attempt at totalitarianism is the lack of personality for it. In order to have concentrated totalitarian power, there must be a wielder, whether fictional or real is unimportant. The first problem with this is that modern political philosophy is generally dependent on the 'moral high ground' unabashedly absent from 1984. O'Brien openly states that they are about maintaining power, which is an untenable motivator in today's society.

The other main problem is that I can do what I'm doing now. The sheer wealth of individual opinions on any topic in the net makes it very difficult for any one personality to emerge dominant. Even in the gunbloggosphere, Tam may be one of the most read and respected bloggers, but she cannot be said to be representative of the culture as a whole. There are so many voices criticizing and commending the assorted views of everyone, and information exchange is so easy, that there is no perceived need for a single representative. This is truly the time of self-representation.

Do I think there are no lessons to be learned from 1984? Not even remotely. All I say is that the situation as described is unlikely in our modern world. Things aren't as bad as the associations would say.

As an aside, a brief note on commenting. I very much want to engage with my readers, so commenting is strongly encouraged. Occasionally I will make a full post over a point, but this should be seen more as calling attention to the dialogue than attempting to put an end to it. In other words, I hope you will continue the conversation Freud.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Despite it being a major dint in my conservative credibility, I had not read 1984 until the last couple weeks. (It took me that long because class and assorted vagaries of life got in the way of reading)

Having read it now, just a few comments I wanted to make.

First and foremost, I don't think that the world predicted in the book is possible. Not because of any particular morality on the part of our governing bodies, but because the American people are unlikely to tolerate such measures. As problematic as modern public education is, and as slanted as the media is, enough people maintain enough awareness of the principles of proper governance to prevent a total hijacking of our thought. Add to that the presence of enough new-age philosophers and pseudo-intellectualists among the young left, and the notion of invalidating memory and the truth of the past is unlikely even among liberals.

That being said, there are lots of disturbing parallels. To the telescreen monitoring of everyday life, we have the recent OnStar outrage. To the daily regimen of exercise and health, we have the assorted mandates of restaurant service concerning salt and the like, as well as Obamacare. To the Ministry of Love, we have people interrogated so long that they confess to crimes they did not commit, as well as Guantanamo. To the Ministry of Plenty, we have a redefinition of unemployment to match promised rates under Obama. To the Ministry of Peace, we have two apparently unending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the newer conflicts in Libya and company. To the Ministry of Truth we have a liberal media entirely willing to prevaricate, disseminate and obfuscate until finding the truth becomes nigh impossible. Even the thought police can be seen in glimmers from recent DHS publications about right wing extremism.

Societally, the parallels are less cut and dried, but there nonetheless. Looking at 'Great' Britain especially, we see a culture that has given up on the notion of personal freedom and responsibility. In the US too, many people are choosing to be dependent on the beneficence of the government. For all the apparent malfeasances of the federal government, the outrage of the general populace stays low, and the problems run relatively uncontested. People are encouraged to turn in their fellows without evidences, even within their own families. The broken minded sheep that comprise Oceanic society don't exist persay in our world, but doublethink is not a particularly foreign concept.

Despite the year 1984 having come and gone without any such drastic changes, the fundamental messages and concerns of the book stay valid. Nothing in modern society or government matches the particular horror of the situation described, but the parallels are there, enough so to be concerning. We are still at the point where idealogical shifts are possible on a compressed timeline, and avoiding these issues is quite possible. It will require some degree of active work.

In lighter topics, I should hopefully be able to borrow a camera tomorrow and get some photos of the reef for your enjoyment. Considering also that the next book on my 'must read' list is Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia, my next book post should be somewhat lighter.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Vicious Circle 109

Many of you if not all of you at this point know about the insanity that is Vicious Circle, run by Alan at snarkybytes. Last night's show had a first time appearance by a blogger.


Go take a listen here: http://snarkybytes.com/ViciousCircle/?p=668 and be warned that brain cells may not escape intact.

Friday, September 23, 2011

New Digs

So, here's the new place. What do you think?

In other news, I am making the blogroll reciprocal, so if you link me, let me know in a comment or email.

Changing Perspectives

Despite expecting this to some degree, I am still occasionally taken aback by the differences between Dallas and Chicago. Most are minor and of little interest, like people complaining about 70 degrees as being too cold, but a few have caught my attention.

I can be a conservative and not get ostracized, or even remembered as 'that conservative guy.' In Government this morning, when the professor asked the perspective of the lefty progressives in the room, three people made noncommittal statements. When he polled the conservatives, far more people spoke up and entered the conversation. In Chicago, it would have been quite the opposite. All I can assume then is either the balance is legitimately shifted that far, or the campus conservatives just have louder voices.

The other area near and dear to me that I've noticed a change in is firearms. Yesterday I had someone say to me "yeah, both my parents have ccw, it's just part of being in Texas," which I found heartening. Due to a mix of being on a college campus and not knowing what to look for, I haven't been able to definitively say I've seen someone carry, but I'm pretty sure on a couple cases, especially involving Hawaiian shirts.

Every pawn shop around here has at least a few guns, and the Walmart is loaded for bear.

In the same conversation as the one quoted above, a fellow Illinoisian tried to make the claim that assault weapons were ridiculous, and you wouldn't shoot a deer with an assault weapon, to which someone replied that they had. Hunting is part of the fabric of existing down here, even in the more urban areas of Dallas, and the associated weaponry is just taken as is.

The one strange aspect to that last is that most of my friends actually know very little about guns. They have grown up with them, shot them, and been around them, but couldn't tell you what the difference between a bolt-action and semi-auto rifle is. When I asked the same friend I keep mentioning what rifle she has, she didn't know, not even the caliber.

I suppose it's just a side effect of living around them. People start to take them for granted. Growing up in Chicago, firearms were something of a taboo, and something entirely outside the culture. As such, much of my interest ended up being academic. I found them interesting because they were partially foreign, and there was so much to know about them. The perspective here says 'eh, it's a gun. I've got a couple.' and doesn't care beyond that. I can't quite decide which I like more.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Marine tanks....

Not of the Abrams variety, but the salty kind. My graduation present from my parents is a work in progress at this point, a nano-reef aquarium. I ordered the tank and other components two weeks ago, and to my surprise, found that earlier this week I was set to add corals to the tank.

Under normal reef setup, you have to wait upwards of a month for the live rock to 'cure.' Live rock is old pieces of dead coral and rock that have been coated with a layer of microorganisms and dirt, providing biological filtration for the tank. When purchasing live rock, most of the time it has been shipped dry, and much of the needed material has died. As such, one must put the live rock in water for a while to rebuild the filtration.

I purchased mine locally, which had the twin benefits of being able to pick and choose, and being thoroughly pre-cured. It is beautiful stuff, with hard coraline plaque algaes of assorted colors coating it. I can't get a picture that adequately shows the colors, especially since my camera died, but once I can, I will share.

After I saw the tiniest of cycles lasting all of two days, the rock was ready to take corals and other critters. After a couple more days monitoring, I started with a peppermint shrimp, a couple hermit crabs, and three snails. All of them have been doing quite well, wandering around and eating loose material from the rocks. The peppermint shrimp has the added benefit of eating Aiptasia, or nuisance anemones, of which I had a couple in with the live rock.

A couple days ago now, I took the first major jump and added corals. The manager at Aquatic Design Aquariums, which I heartily recommend by the by, helped me select a few hardy, attractive corals, gave me a very fair price, then knocked off ten dollars for a first tank. Right now I have two mushroom corals, a blue and a purple, a kenya tree coral, two different types of Zoanthus polyp, and the prize of the tank, a single head of frogspawn coral.

There are also a few patches on the live rock that look like they might be corals, and two that I know are. One is a fairly beat up cabbage leather coral that is making a nice recovery. The other is some variety of Acropora that I bought apparently dead, but woke up this morning. I'm not sure if I can keep that one alive, as they are fairly high maintenance and generally too difficult for a small tank, but I hope it lives. I may have lost one mushroom that kept getting blown around by the current from the filter, but I've got it secured now, so I'm hoping it'll come back.

All that's left to go into the tank are a couple more corals, another shrimp, and a fish. Hopefully I'll have those ordered within the week.

Overall, things are going very well. I am pleased.

This has been a remarkably painless introduction to marine tanks. Whether it will stay as such remains to be seen.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Remember. Not in the pansy way the media takes nowadays, 'how did YOU feel that day, what were YOU doing?' but proper. Remember the people who don't have a today because of 19 sick godforsaken pigs. Remember what they tried to do to our country. Remember that for as long as we live in fear and allow our government to whittle away our liberties out of fear, they won.

I don't like losing.

It's an easy thing to win. Remember, and grow up.

I will not forgive and I will not forget.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


This is likely to not be particularly PC. If you offend easily, go away now.

In a few days, it will be one decade since a small group of God-forsaken bastards tried to run my country into the ground. I was eight years old, and remember sitting under a blanket watching the footage repeating. It didn't really make sense at the time. I thought they were just trying to kill people.

Ten years later it does. In many senses, those lowest pieces of shit I can imagine succeeded. For years, people would turn and stare at a hijab or turban passing on the street. We entered into two apparently unending wars. We have had encroachment after encroachment on our civil liberties in the name of our protection.

We forgot.

We forgot what it was they were trying to destroy. They wanted a weak America, a crippled America. They wanted a people living so thoroughly in fear that they would roll over and disappear. More than killing Americans, they wanted to kill America.

Tell me, how many foundational American principles have been violated in the last ten years?

Tell me, how many of your enumerated rights can you really count on?

Tell me, are you safer in your home because of all these things?

Tell me, if they hit us again, could we take it?

Buildings don't matter. People Matter. Ideas matter. Freedom matters.

only matters so long as we don't succumb, and we don't forget. So long as we don't allow our America to die by the wayside, victim to its own timidity. Do not let them destroy us. Buildings don't matter. America does.

Remember, or they won.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Pawn Shop Thoughts

I enjoy wandering into pawn shops. Any number of interesting things can be found in them, including the occasional deal.

Today when one of my friends was getting a haircut, I wandered next door into the pawn shop. Their prices were, to put it bluntly, ridiculous, (as new prices for decidedly not new items) but it was entertaining nonetheless.

I get the sense that over time, pawn shops get a flavor to them. This particular one had two rooms, one of which was devoted entirely to old tools. The main room had one half devoted to assorted audio equipment and guitars. The back corner had the firearms, with a decent collection of shotguns, a fair few hunting rifles, one AR, and a paltry selection of handguns, including what I think may be a pawn shop necessity: a Llama.

They had a couple firearms that were either very antique or very fake, but the thing that caught my eye most was a walnut stock Browning A-bolt in 30.06. It had a relatively high end scope of make I do not recall right now. The most interesting thing to me though was that it had the air of a rifle someone didn't want to have to give up. The finish in places had been carefully redone, such that it was difficult to notice but for a slight change in the reflections.

It has some sort of story behind it. If I wasn't a poor college student from out of state living on a gun-free campus, I would have bought it. As is, I left it on the shelf.

I think I will make a habit of stopping into pawn shops when the opportunity arises. Dallas may be a fairly metropolitan, urban area, but there are still interesting shops in it, which I cannot say for Chicago. I'll post whenever I find something interesting. I'll take pictures when I can as well.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

We Saw This Coming

I was assigned recently to read two of the Federalist Papers for my Government class, specifically #10 and #51. Both concern Constitutional Principles in different aspects. I'll cover #51 later, but for now I have a few comments to make relative to #10.

The essay can best be summed up as 'the madness of crowds and a Republic's means of dealing with it.' Faction, as it is referred to in the essay, is a highly dangerous force in straight democracy. Mob mentality makes people accept things that on reflection they might find abhorrent, but due to the illusions of acceptability conferred by consensus, said reflection very often simply never occurs.

I know it is generally considered taboo to use this example for anything, but Nazi Germany is a fine example of these sorts of issues. Before a charismatic sociopath came to power, Germans by and large tolerated, if not particularly liked, the assorted peoples persecuted through Hitler's reign. There was resentment for the international treatment post WWI, but they had neither the will nor the power necessary to seek recompense. Forward came a man capable of wielding absolute power in Germany, who played on the fears and resentments of the populace and gave them an outlet for their frustrations, and the vast majority of Germans either participated or accepted this.

I have heard the argument that the actions of the Fuhrer were not reflective of the people. This is absurd. Considering real power to be the ability to enforce your will on your own, he was powerless. The power he wielded came from the consent of the governed, and the might of the military.

Most modern opinion clearly finds Hitler abhorrent, and I would say rightly so. Most every modern German is in agreement.* If a run of the mill German citizen in 1939 were transported to the present, odds are they would not call for the same things they supported in their own time. Mobs are a frighteningly pervasive and persuasive element of society.

The interesting thing that crops up later is the application of faction and mob mentality to the governing body. The proposed solution is simple. The US is big enough that, in theory, there will be enough factions competing that none of them are rendered effective.
The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source. A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project,** will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it; in the same proportion as such a malady is more likely to taint a particular county or district, than an entire State
Here enters our modern problem. How many true factions exist within congress? While they may subdivide into RINO, Blue Dog, Tea Party, Libertarian, Green, etc, the two broad categories are of course Democrat and Republican. In an increasing percentage of votes, especially on financial matters, the vote distribution is entirely partisan.

The nature of a two party system is dangerous. Both parties now are relatively indistinguishable, and neither serves as an adequate check against the other. Neither has achieved their end goals because the balance of power see-saws back and forth so frequently. When in agreement on an issue, the American people have little option in redress. Take the following.
The apportionment of taxes on the various descriptions of property is an act which seems to require the most exact impartiality; yet there is, perhaps, no legislative act in which greater opportunity and temptation are given to a predominant party to trample on the rules of justice.

Taxes are indeed by international standard fairly low. This does not change the fact that they are ridiculously high. Increasingly we see a government bleeding it's constituency dry and offering nothing substantive in return. Both parties are guilty.

The Tea Party seems then the best thing to happen in a long while. While other parties have attempted to break the two party system, none have received the backing and numbers of the Tea Party. The upcoming elections will likely increase the foothold already established. Even if you don't agree with their politics, adding another layer of difficulty and obfuscation to passing a law, not through bureaucratic but diplomatic means, can only be a good thing.

Our government no longer has the benefit of the entire nation at heart. Their methods of social engineering are failing, and taking the country down with them. This should come as no surprise to anyone. The institutions of the constitution so freely ignored today are specifically designed to prevent this.

Of additional gripe, there is an entire faction of huge import no longer represented in congress. The 17th Amendment took the election of Senators from the state governments and handed it to the people. This rendered the two houses largely identical, and increased the potential for popular mob rule to carry law significantly.

One closing point. Kevin Baker points out that this is it. The US is the hill to die on. I don't believe we are quite to the point of open revolt, though it seems not inconceivable within the next 3-5 years. I think we can still make a recovery through the mechanisms in place through the US Constitution. Repeal the 17th Amendment. Elect constitutionalists who will restore the workings of this country to their proper form. Remove the propaganda and indoctrination of public education.*** Do not stand by and watch the country crumble. If revolution comes it means we as an American people have failed as thoroughly as our government has failed us.

*Note that the Most I am referring to in both cases excludes mostly crazy people, neo-nazis, and white supremacists. These factions are not, for the moment, representative of any meaningful group.

**Note how many of these things are being actively supported if not already firmly in place, eg paper money.

***For those who think this makes me crazy, go read Kevin Baker on modern educational failings

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Meme on

I give in to peer pressure.

The NPR's Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy novels with the ones I have read in bold:

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien

2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

3. Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card

4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert (I have read Dune, but none of the others)

5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin

6. 1984, by George Orwell

7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov

9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman

12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan

13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell

14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson

15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore

16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov

17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein

18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss

19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut

20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick

22. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood

23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King

24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke

25. The Stand, by Stephen King

26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson

27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury

28. Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut

29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman

30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess

31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein

32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams

33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey

34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein

35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller

36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells

37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne

38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys

39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells

40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny

41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings

42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley

43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson

44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven

45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin

46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien

47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White

48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman

49. Childhood’s End, by Arthur C. Clarke

50. Contact, by Carl Sagan

51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons

52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman

53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson

54. World War Z, by Max Brooks

55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle

56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman

57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett

58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson

59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold

60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett

61. The Mote In God’s Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind

63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke

65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson

66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist

67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks

68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard

69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb

70. The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson

72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne

73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore

74. Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi

75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson

76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke

77. The Kushiel’s Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey

78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin

79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury

80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire

81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson

82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde

83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks

84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart

85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson

86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher

87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe

88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn

89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan

90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock

91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury

92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley

93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge

94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov

95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson

96. Lucifer’s Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis

98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville

99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony

100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis

23 out of 100 - That's just plain embarrassing. I may have to use this as a required reading list now.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Black Listed

I've been black-listed and I'm proud.

I've read bits and pieces of a great many of those blogs, and most seem at least worth a look. Go see. It's been added to the blogroll.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Scouting Spirit

Some of you may know that I made Eagle Scout recently. If not, now you do. After 11 years of scouting, I am now officially graduated and moved on.

Scouting has, on the whole, been good to me. I've learned any number of valuable skills, and I think I am a better person for the messages and lessons of the Scout Law and Oath.

I got into both fishing and firearms through scouting, one through the riflery merit badge, the other through getting a fishing pole in reward for selling popcorn. I do both competitively now, though I haven't been able to shoot such for quite some time. I write this blog, started because of my interest in firearms. Even my major, Mechanical Engineering, has some factors from scouting. It's everywhere in my life.

Scouting teaches young boys how to be men. Done right, it teaches the assorted skills necessary to be self sufficient in life, from finances to cooking to communicating. It also teaches the proper uses of those skills. Communication skills can just as easily be turned to deception and ill as honest purposes. Scouting seems a near perfect learning tool, far better than modern public education.

Why then do only one in four boys across the nation ever join the scouts? Those numbers are down far from their former highs. I can't pick out any single cause for this shift. Contributing factors probably include the plethora of other activities available to people, the increase in schoolwork, and the modern style of parenting. Shorter version, Scouting is not the cool thing to do.

The other baffling thing to me is why so many scouts never finish the road and become Eagles. 99 scouts out of a hundred will not make Eagle. I think that this is probably also multifaceted, maybe even moreso than enrollment. On the one hand, all the assorted reasons to not join in the first place still apply. Adding to that the true difficulty of the rank, and some institutional problems, and I can understand a high rate of attrition. 1% completion is not a good sign though. (Yes, this assumes that Eagle is 'completion' but really, it is. It's the last stage in the natural course of scouting)

Scouting is worthwhile. Scouting looks good on resumes because it legitimately means that the applicant has marketable skills. The army automatically promotes Eagle Scouts to Private First Class on enlistment. Over 75% of men at the Military Academies are Eagle Scouts. Scouting helps people.

If you have kids, or are yourself of scouting age, I recommend scouting.

That being said, I have some bones to pick.

First, to just get this out of the way, the BSA stance on homosexual leaders is just silly. Homosexuality does not equate with pedophilia. Gay leaders are no more a threat than woman leaders, which are widely accepted. It also rings a little disingenuous with the spirit of scouting, which leaves no room for unjust discrimination.

Second, certain sectors of the scouting administration seem to have lost sight of what said spirit is. My troop has been criticized and examined because we have had an extraordinarily high retention and Eagle rate. More boys in our troop make Eagle than not by a healthy margin, due to truly exemplary leadership. Instead of greeting this record with praise, appreciation, or good will, it is treated with suspicion, because perhaps we are cutting corners and doing things the easy way out. We're not.

Also, I have seen firsthand and heard countless other counts of Eagle Projects hijacked. National requires an adult coach, and my council required a mentor. In many cases, the coach and mentor overstep their role as advisors and helpers into planners and doers. The project becomes more theirs than the scout's. That is screwed up. If Eagle is supposed to be a sign of true leadership potential, then why are these leaders taking away that role? Also, the projects that the scouts put forward may not be professional quality work, but that's proper. The scouts aren't professionals. It should be a good project, well done and useful, but it doesn't need to be professional grade. Similarly, contracting out the building or design to professionals seems counterproductive.

Scouting is hurting right now. There are things that can be fixed, on a national, council, troop and individual level to help. The councils and national both seem to be getting bureaucratic to an unhealthy level, and unconcerned with the ideals and spirit of scouting. I hope the 100th anniversary can serve as a rejuvenation period, and stop some of the problems that are cropping up. I have my doubts

All that being said, the balance is still towards scouting by a huge margin. The problems are small. Society would be well served with more scouts, and scouting itself would be likely to benefit, with some of the problems adjusting for the new impressions, scouts, expectations, and pressures. If you're involved in scouting at all, I commend you.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I'm All Growed Up!

Today I got my first semester course registration completed, and consequently my full status as a student at the University of Texas at Dallas. So far, so good. It also means I get to change the top banner to reflect my new status. The relative freedoms in reslife here compared to high school are remarkable. It's going to take some getting used to that I can be out and about after 10:00.

A quick proof that this college is awesome. This afternoon we had a snowball fight. In Texas. In August. In triple digit temperatures. Snow cones are useful for more than staining mouths.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Moved in

I've managed to move in fairly well, and I don't think I forgot anything major. My dorm is quite nice, better than any other I have heard of in fact. So far so good. That's all for now.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


I am slowly managing to get the last pieces of my life in order for the move to Texas in the morning. I'm not sure I want to see another box for at least a week, but no luck there.

I'm simultaneously excited about the move, dreading it, and a touch nervous.

The excitement comes from moving out of Illinois, starting a new chapter, and all that good stuff.

Dread comes because I am not what many would call an organized person. Moving to and from my high school every year was hassle enough, and when I inevitably forgot something important, I could pop back the next weekend and bring it then. Now, if I intend to use it in the next three months, it needs to come now, or be shipped. Add to that a pathological desire to avoid packing and unpacking, and avoid chaos, the next half-week isn't likely to be particularly fun.

The unknowns make me nervous. That's pretty much to be expected.

Posting is likely to be light for a little while as I get acclimated and over the move. I've got a few things lined up that might make an appearance in the next week or so.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Breda has up a post concerning the participants of SlutWalks, and their apparent take on women's self defense. Since reading it, I've had a few nagging thoughts about it I thought I'd share. I can't figure out how to embed the video, so y'all will have to wander over to Breda's to see it.


Ok. First and foremost, these techniques are physically ineffective. As Weer'd points out, no full contact martial arts allow men and women to fight, and all are heavily divided into weight classes. All the martial training in the world can be overcome by being bigger and stronger than your opponent. Put simply, these palm-strikes and eye-pecks are going to do just about diddly.

The main thing that has been bothering me isn't the ineffective nature of the defense. In the instruction, the woman makes special note that you must shout "No" during the attack. I find this bizarre on several levels.

These techniques are supposed to be used on rapists, yes? Is this rapist supposed to hear the woman say 'no', and say, 'oh, oops, I guess she doesn't want to be raped. I'll just leave now.' What then is this shout supposed to accomplish? It's doing squat to change the attacker's mind. Yes, indicating the lack of consent is wise, but don't rely on that changing anything. Rapists don't care about the wishes of their victims. If they did they wouldn't be rapists.

It also violates the separation of the talking stage and the laying on of hands stage. For an excellent discussion of that separation, head to Lawdog, specifically the line
"This doesn't happen with all arrests -- but, during the "laying on of hands" the talking part is over and done. There is no negotiation, making deals, or asking for co-operation once the talking has failed."
The same applies to personal defense. If you find yourself having to use force, you use force until the threat is gone. Be that by the perp running away, curling into a ball and whimpering, knocked cold, or well ventilated doesn't matter right here and now. Why ventilated is better is a later post. Mixing the talking and fighting bits just ends up unpleasant.

When I brought this point up to a friend, she said she had always thought it was more to get attention than anything else. This surprised me too, because the English language has a much more appropriate word for getting help in that circumstance, being, well, 'help'. Shouting 'no' may get the attention you want, but may also be disregarded. Shouting help is actively requesting that attention, not just hoping to get it en passant.

It seems to me that in attempting to put the blame where it belongs, with the goblins, SlutWalks has accidentally ignored some of their own social responsibilities and proper self-preservation. Saying it's not your fault if you get raped is not an excuse to be unprepared to defend yourself. Counting on anyone else to save you is foolhardy and unfair to the people you are begging. Your safety is your own responsibility.

To sum up, talk when time to talk. Make sure the goblin knows this is not consensual, especially important in date-rape and other similar circumstances. When talking fails though, all vocalization should be attempts to get help, not negotiating. And, to quote Weer'd, "Carry your damn guns!"

To clarify, I do not even remotely blame the women for finding themselves victimized. The only party at blame in a rape case is the rapist. I support that part of SlutWalks. I do think the women will be best able to get through the encounter by being sensible.