Friday, September 23, 2011

Moving House

Recently I have been becoming progressively more annoyed at the title and URL of this blog, both of which seem rather unwieldy and irritating. As such, I have moved house to the new, redesigned Scribbler's Scrawls at

All my content should have transitioned already, and any new content will turn up there. Apologies for any and all inconvenience.

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.

Friday, August 26, 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