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

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.

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.

Thursday, August 11, 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.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Peppers a la Scrib

6-7 Large Green Poblano Peppers (technically you only need one per person, but this makes a lot of stuffing. They keep well)
1 Can Sweet Corn
1 Can Black Beans
1 Can Seasoned Tomatoes and Green Chiles
1 Can Salsa Verde
1 Large Onion
1/2 Sweet Potato
1 lb Taco Steak
Queso Quesadilla
Queso Cotija
Meat Seasonings (I recommend Penzey's Arizona Dream)

First, fine chop the onion and sweet potato and begin frying in a large (largest you have) pan. Once the onion is starting to carmelize, and the potato is starting to soften, add in the tomato, drained and rinsed black beans, and drained corn. turn to low heat and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally. In a separate pan, cook the taco meat with seasoning to taste. Add to pan with rest of stuffing, and stir together. Keep on heat until most tomato juice has been absorbed or evaporated.

This sounds more complicated than it is. The peppers must be roasted and peeled. Turn your oven broiler on, and place peppers on a cooking sheet as high as it will go in the oven. Keep turning the peppers. After a short time, the skins will start bubbling and cracking, separating from the flesh of the pepper. Turn them such that the skin is fairly uniformly removed. Remove from sheet and place in a paper bag to cool.

When cool, peel skins off (they will shred easily. it is not necessary to remove it all) and cut a slit into each pepper. Remove the ribs and seeds, and as much of the interior of the stem as possible. Rinse under cool water to remove lingering seeds. Place the peppers alternating directions in a glass baking pan. You will have extra stuffing, which makes a tasty side

Bring it all together:
First lay out a generous layer of your quesadilla cheese in the bottom of each pepper. Then spoon stuffing in, making sure to reach into the corners around the stem. When full, you should be able to close the slit to about 1-2" wide. Coat the entire pan in a thick layer of quesadilla cheese and place in the oven at 325 for about 15 minutes, just to warm the peppers and melt the cheese. Remove pan from oven, drizzle salsa verde over the whole ensemble, and sprinkle with cotija cheese. Serve and enjoy. Pairs well with fruit salads, guacamole and chips, horchata, prickly pear margaritas, and cornbread.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Home again

I am now, regrettably enough, home from Michigan. I'd like to say this will mean more posting, but I leave again for Texas a week from today. I have a bunch of ideas rattling around in my head, but finding time and mental wherewithal to put them into being may prove troublesome.

Reentry has been relatively gentle for me, but less so for the actually employed people. Exiting again is proving more problematic. I am decidedly not looking forward to packing my life into boxes to travel a thousand miles.

Shooting apples with a .38 is fun.

Shooting berries with a .22 is rewarding.

My freshwater tank can't come with me to Dallas, which is disappointing, but I am setting up a Marine picotope down there, which is exciting.

I made dinner tonight. Stuffed poblano peppers. Before any readers get the mistaken impression that this means I can cook, I know how to make this recipe, pasta, toast, bacon, and if i'm lucky a sandwich. I've noticed in the last two times i have made this recipe though, the peppers have been unusually hot. I am wondering whether they are sold riper later in the summer, with corresponding increase in heat. In any case, it's still pretty much my signature recipe.

I can't leave well enough alone and follow a recipe. I take after my dad in that, but the poblano stuffing I invented, and i seem to have accidentally reinvented Oaxacan horchata. While at the Mexican market today for ingredients, I found Prickly Pear Cactus fruit, and decided to try it out. After plucking a few dozen tiny needles from my fingers, i skinned them (with the help of the internet) and found the flesh to be sweet, fruity, yet still green tasting, and altogether quite pleasant, if loaded with seeds. Dad juiced the uneaten bits, and made prickly pear margaritas for the alcohol drinkers, and I added some of the juice to the horchata out of curiosity. I thought I had invented something fantastic until the internet told me that it is one of the more common serving styles for horchata.

I will post recipes for both horchata and peppers tomorrow, hopefully.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Crack... Bonk

As referenced yesterday, today I had the astounding good fortune to be the guest of one of the members of the Turtle Lake Club in Michigan, my grandmother's cousin (who for convenience sake I shall call my uncle). The day started out with a truly spectacular sunrise, with nice low cirrus clouds to give it some real fire. Packed up the Mosins and my fishing gear into my uncle's car, and drove for an hour twenty to get to the lodge.

Toast is one of those weird things that can be bad, but never seems to have the other side of the bell curve. Yet, somehow, the toast at breakfast was far tastier than any other toast I have ever had, and a fair sight better than most french toasts. Despite the absolute jaw-dropping nature of the club, I still noticed the toast.

The club is, in the most literal, true sense of the word, awesome. I had, throughout the entire day, a feeling of awe. The club has between 24000 and 26000 acres, depending on who you ask, and those acres are the most beautiful, healthy forests i may have ever seen. For all that it is a hunting club, the deer and other wildlife are visible, healthy, and plentiful. I was impressed.

Once dad and I managed to pluck our jaws out of our shoes, we took a looong drive out to the thousand yard range. Dad and I started on the Mosins at 100 yards. My uncle decided that iron sight accuracy was simply insufficient, and so brought out his Sako .308 with Nightforce Scope and proceeded to show that it is indeed worth its $7500 price tag. Dad and I took turns with the rifle, ringing plates at 300, 400, 500, 700, and finally, 1000 yards. Both dad and I managed to put shots onto a 2'x2' plate at over half a mile, which I found satisfactory. And exhilarating.

After the shooting finished, I got a chance to see just how far these shots were. I had to go out and paint the plates out to the 700. (The thousand was inaccessible due to a marsh.) Walking out there, I couldn't avoid stepping in deer tracks. I also came across two sets of bear tracks and what looked like bobcat. Passing the 400 mark, the thousand target still seemed rather farther away than was reasonable. By the time I got to the 700, I couldn't understand a word my dad said as he was trying to talk to me.

Having policed the range and gotten everything back together, we drove around the property for a while before coming to the short range, which only goes out to 300 yards. (Only being a very relative thing.) My uncle fetched out his crossbow, which provided an entertaining few minutes, before Dad and I started running a few pistol drills. Turns out we both are relatively good at it.

Having a few minutes before lunch, we headed out on the lake, with the understanding that we would only have about 20 minutes of fishing. Despite the time strangulation, I managed to catch three decent bass. In a typically irritating moment, my first cast resulted in a beautiful birds nest (I'm still getting used to my baitcast,) which was complicated slightly by a bass on the end of the line. Both dad and I caught bass on the first cast. Back in the boathouse I caught a mess of panfish just dipping my lure in the water, as well as a nice rock bass.

Lunch was quite tasty, though I was impatient to get back on the lake.

Heading back out, I caught another four bass, including a 16-17 inch smallmouth. Dad caught the biggest fish of the day, an almost 18 inch largemouth. At the end of the day, we had 4 15"+ fish in the live well for my uncle's upcoming game dinner. We only fished for a grand total of about an hour and a half.

It was actually very useful for me to be able to catch fish like that. I rarely get the chance to fish on good lakes, so I have never been sure what lures, presentations, and styles are most effective. I got the chance there to experiment with different retrieves and lures, and really nail down a better technique. Case in point, this morning (now two days after I started writing this post) I managed to get a fairly vigorous strike on Burt Lake where I am staying, which is highly unusual, as it has been fished too heavily. I also managed to catch two monsters, being probably the two largest crawdads I have ever seen.

I need to find more places I can fish like that. I need to find a good range. I need a nice, accurate rifle.


While I'm at it, can I have a unicorn too?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


1000 yard range, Mosin Nagants and a Sako. Followed by fishing on a stocked sport lake. I am unbelievably psyched. Tomorrow is likely to be good. Pictures and things may come after, but life tends to be full up here. Posting still to be intermittent.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Vacation Hiatus

I am out of town for a couple weeks. Posting will be light if existent.

Friday, July 22, 2011

4th thoughts... Finally.

I knew I'd get around to this eventually. I had a bit of an outbreak of life I had to attend to.
This past 4th of July I had a few thoughts rattling around in my head. In no particular order,

1 Independence day is a Right-Wing holiday now? If the left doesn't want it, fine, but it makes me think we ought to just do away with them. The only problem is that I don't want to secede, I want all of them to.

2 The manner in which we celebrate the 4th seems to fit a victory. Explosions, barbecues, and booze are what you do after the war is over. The 4th is certainly worthy of celebration, but I always see it as something more of a somber holiday, more in line with memorial day. This country hasn't come free. To me, the celebration should include a dose of seriousness commensurate with what the holiday really means

3 Go read the Declaration of Independence. I'll wait.

4 Done? How many of the grievances strike a chord with modern US Government? My first read through, this jumped out at me "He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance." Sound familiar?

5 For all its failings, this country is still good. I have faith, while not in the US Government, but in the American People. The obvious and loud assail that faith with remarkable tenacity, but at its core i think this country can still be great.

6 That greatness will not come from the Federal Government

It is all too easy today to lose faith in this country. I keep doing it accidentally. I keep getting it back somehow.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Busy weeks

I've been meaning to post more about 4th of July stuff, which will come in due course, but real life caught up with me for a while. Today was my Eagle Scout Court of Honor, and there were enough last minute tasks to put a damper on posting. Thoughts on the 4th, AAR for the range time, and thoughts on Scouting will all appear soon.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The 4th

Happy Birthday, USA. 235 years and still ticking. Few thoughts to go up later. For now, I feel like doing something American.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Celebrating the 4th

Tomorrow, (or today rather, is that really the time?) the choice of activities seems to be two freedom loving, capitalistic activities befitting the holiday weekend. On the one hand, we can go to a U-Pick blueberry farm in Michigan and lay in enough blueberries to feed Colp, IL* for a month. Supporting private growers and spending a day outdoors picking tasty things seems appropriate. The chance to see an old friend helps that plan too.

The other is finally getting to a rifle range to complete my laundry list of wants with my rifles. I need to shoot my Mosin, sight in my Savage, and maybe get some pistol time in too. This appeals well to me, but has the downsides of regrettably being an activity for dad and I without the rest of the fam. Oddly enough, this also means leaving the state, as the only range in a reasonable radius that would allow what we need is in Wisconsin.**

At this point, we will most likely be blueberry picking, but should that fall through, the range calls. I'll put up an AAR in either event.

*Colp is probably the smallest town I have ever been in, at least that I was aware of being in, with a population of 512. Quite literally while passing through once I sneezed and missed it.

** Of course, to me, having two options both of which mean leaving the state is entirely satisfactory.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Code Monkey!

I went into this blog's HTML today to add a Google+ button to posts. (Look down and left... it's the +1 button.) Being a good coder, (heh, I made a funny) I copied the original HTML to a separate document first in case I managed to screw it up too badly.

What this then showed me was exactly how much I appreciate Blogger. I can type WYSIWYG and drag and drop, and everything works fine. To do everything I can do with the Blogger interface with pure HTML, I would need hundreds of lines of code I do not know to get my random mumblings out into the world.

Quite simply, the interface makes this worth my while. Coding is frustrating to me. If I had to hand code all of this, I wouldn't bother. I get the feeling a great many other bloggers wouldn't be doing this either if it weren't for things like Blogger, WordPress, Dreamweaver, etc. that make it possible to do these things simply.

It's good to live in the future.

PS If you are of the social media type, Google+ actually seems pretty good. If you can snag an invite, it has my tentative recommendation. I haven't messed with it long enough to really decide if I like it, but first impressions are good.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Pics as promised.

I think I can actually figure out how to upload pictures now. Ok, let's give this a shot.

This is the tank in a full view. I try to go for a natural look where possible, and would have all natural plants if I could afford it. As is, there are several live plants in.

This is Clyde, the male. He stands still for pictures well

This is Bonnie, the female. She stands still well, but only at the back of the tank where I cannot well photograph her. She is significantly prettier than this picture suggests.

On a related note, photographing fish is remarkably difficult. The environment is frequently dim, but the fish frequently move very quickly. As such, it is very difficult to get a non-blurred photo of a fish. For context, this is what my camera can do under the same circumstances with a stable target:
This is Roomba, my albino mystery snail. Being a snail means he isn't constantly twitching about, so a good, stable picture is possible. Fish are just uncooperative.

Everyone still seems to be in decent shape for the move/move-in. Hopefully things will stay good.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Bonnie and Clyde...

are my two new German rams. To be specific, Bonnie is a gold ram, and Clyde is a German blue ram, but they are just color morphs of Mikrogeophagus Ramirezi. Pictures will come soon

As to why I am expanding my fish collection, I now have some extra fishy real estate to use. I upgraded from a ten gallon to a twenty long. My other fish have acclimated fairly well to the change, and both new rams are exploring and getting used to their new lives.

I bought some Cryptocoryne Lutea, banana plants, and, at something of a gamble, Madagascar Lace Plant. Hopefully the new tank works well. Pics to follow.

Naturally, in the crucial early stages of tank settling, what should happen but a series of brownouts. Power is staying put for now, but I could have a few problems if the storms get worse.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Results Please...

I have noticed several times recently that there seems to be a common disconnect among people between expectations and reality. While not evil to be naive, it starts to cross some lines when you attempt to pass judgement or render law based on said naivete. Here are a few cases recently where that became starkly apparent.

A couple is facing charges after their wolf-dog hybrid attacked and killed the woman's five year old disabled child. Wolves are top tier predators, and there is a limit to how much domesticated dogs even can control instinct. When a predator is faced with a juvenile, crippled prey animal, things will not go well for the prey, regardless of how thoroughly 'domesticated' the creature may seem. Placing ideal prey alongside a very dangerous animal is criminally negligent, as is affirmed by the judicial action.

There is a woman on the internet who wants to have a water birth. This in and of itself is not particularly odd, but the fact that she intends to have her koi assist in the process is. Any doctor, in fact anyone who has any biology background or even basic science background can tell you that this is a bad idea. Fish tanks are less than hygienic, shall we say. Add to this that Koi are omnivorous, and you end up with a really dangerous situation.

A woman walked into a pediatricians office wishing to discuss vaccine schedules for her child. Said doctor was fairly firm on the evidentially supported schedules, disregarding assorted alternative medicine ideas. This woman then gave a negative review to this doctor, complaining about a lack of compromise or dialogue. Vaccines are supported by science. They work, we know they work, and they prevent potentially lethal diseases. Yet this woman became upset that the doctor would not take the alternative theories over proven results.

I hope my readers agree that the people described above are not acting logically or reasonably. They have taken an emotional perspective not backed by any data and are attempting to apply it to points of reason and science. Apply that same idea to firearms law. Don't think about what it is supposed to do, don't think about how guns are scary, just think logically. Gun laws will not control criminal possession of firearms, as by definition criminals do not follow laws. Loosening of gun-control is nigh invariably followed by a decrease in violent crime. In the US places with the strictest gun control are frequently the most violent and dangerous. Waiting periods and mandatory classes don't have statistically significant impact on 'gun death.' Why then do people who would scoff at the first three examples do the same thing with guns? Be consistent, be logical, and be willing to think.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Bad Science

Reading the news this morning, I stumbled upon an article at Fox talking about a recent sea level study padding it's data. They claim it is to compensate for changing topography resulting in an increased volume for the oceans to fill. If that is reflected in their publication, all well and good (it seems to be reflected in their site). It means they aren't studying sea level, but I don't mind that, unless people start using that artificial increase to indicate a danger to humanity. What bothered me was a line by Steve Merem, director of the University of Colorado Sea Level Research Group that is publishing these figures.

"For the layperson, this correction is a non-issue and certainly not newsworthy… [The] effect is tiny -- only 1 inch over 100 years, whereas we expect sea level to rise 2-4 feet."

The first thing that comes to mind with this statement is an incongruity. Here they are attempting to compensate in fractional millimeters, which they can say with certainty will result in an increase of about one inch over a century, yet they can't give a more specific prediction than 2-4 feet? That seems like a figure derived from very un-scientific methods.

That then leads me to my second complaint. He uses the word 'expect.' He is supposed to be a scientist, and from what I've been able to find on their website, the group is involved solely in collecting data, not making projections. Where then is he getting his expectations? It does not seem to be from the center's own work. He has preconceived notions of what is going to happen. I find that rather antithetical to good scientific thinking. Sure, everyone has things they are expecting to happen in an experiment, but that should not cloud your judgement and should not be used in support of your data.

A slap on the wrist to Steve Merem. Be a scientist please, not a shill.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Gunnie Goodness

Few potentially interesting things happening in my gun-world. First, foremost and most interesting, I am hopefully going to be helping to teach two new shooters in the immediate future. (No, not at the same time. I'm not that kind of crazy.) One of them already has a firm foundation in rifle and shotgun, but lacks pistol. The other is a Tabula Rasa.

Dad has trained new shooters before, but this is my first time getting involved in it. We don't yet have a range space we can go to for training, but we've started going over the four rules and basic firearms lore and anatomy with the newbie. She is a little nervous about it, but is excited to learn. Once we're sure that she knows the theory of what she's doing, we'll start her off on .22, probably a rifle. I'm looking forward to this.

My personal firearms collection is slowly expanding. I now own two .22 rifles and a Mosin-Nagant that desperately needs firing. For that matter, so do the other two, but those are in the breaking in and dialing in process. The Mosin hasn't been fired since it left the re-arsenaling. Regrettably, in a factor tied to the lack of training facility, we also lack a good rifle range. Hopefully one is opening nearby soon, but it is taking longer than expected.

I am also after a new rifle, to fill the major hole in our home arsenal. We have no AR style rifle. The two major options are an entry level AR like the DPMS and a self-build. I quite frankly am inclined towards the self build. It suits my engineering tendencies, and means I get what I want. It's a bit of a daunting idea though, especially as I am about to go to college, and will want my money liquid. Hmph. Practicality strikes again.

On the political end of things, I am growing increasingly fed up with the Illinois restriction on carry. There was a bill introduced a while back for Open Carry, but that keeps getting held back because the political elite don't want to recognize a 60-40 lead in the polls for carry. It's not dead yet, and seems to be gaining ground slowly, but the fact that this is an issue in the first place makes me glad I'm moving to TX.

I'm moving to Dallas. Anyone know of good ranges in the area?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

History of Sail

It was a point of annoyance recently that I got to talking about the history of sail (a thoroughly fascinating topic, by the by) and absolutely no one cared. So, you , my loyal readers (if indeed you exist outside my twisted imaginations) get to hear about it instead. If you don't care about sails, skip towards the bottom where it may get interesting again.

Sails have existed for pretty much as long as we've had boats. Our earliest evidence of sails came from an archaeological dig in Kuwait, dating back to 55oo BC, which, for context, was roughly coincident with figuring out agriculture, and predating "history" by quite a margin. More substantial historical evidence comes from 4th Millennium BC in Egypt, where small boats would travel up and down the Nile, independent of the current.

Not much really changed after these single, square rigged boats up to the invention of the lateen, or triangular, sail sometime between 2000 and 500 BC by Arab sailors. Lateens were interesting because, as triangular sails, they provided much greater maneuverability and power, at the expense of controllability. This meant that lateens were ideal for calmer locations such as the Mediterranean or Arabian seas.

They fairly clearly evolved directly from square sails. Square sails provide thrust well only when the wind is directly to the rear. As such, when attempting to go at any angle to the wind, the simplest method is to angle the sails such that they remain square to the wind, and use rudders to change the course of the boat to where you want it. Clearly, this does not work well when attempting to travel perpendicularly to the wind. In that circumstance, reduced thrust may be gained by angling the sail partially into the wind. In order to retain tension, however, the boom must be angled down into the wind. This results roughly in a trapezoidal shape, as seen today in the lugsail. Simply extending this principle and removing the luff edge entirely, one is left with a triangular sail acting by vortex driven pressure differential allowing travel well into the wind.

For the next three thousand years, the single sailed ship with sail shape dependent on need (square for downwind travel or rough conditions and lateen for calm, upwind conditions) ruled. Ships were small and generally restricted to local, coastal travel, and tended to be difficult to run. The cog was an English invention that rather shook things up. A ship that could be crewed with an eighth of older styles, and carry twenty times the cargo, it provided the basis for the entire maritime revolution from the 13th to 18th centuries.

The subsequent developments are classic of increased understanding and money. The English wealth founded in the cog allowed for significant upgrades, most significantly in the final fusion of square and lateen sail in the full-rigger. These ships were primarily square riggers, with the addition of lateen derivatives such as jibs, spankers, and staysails. The net result of these developments were large ships that could carry anything and go anywhere.

The thing that made the wide-spread shipping and colonialism that has defined our modern age possible was of course, ships. Ships drove international trade, colonial expansion (both for the purposes of finding new markets and building more ships) and created the possibility of non-sustenance level agriculture. Sailing was primarily a yeoman's field, which increased their powers and wealth, eventually leading to the creation of the House of Commons, and providing some basis for American government. These yeomen were the first examples of a middle class. These ships in short provided the impetus for the creation of the modern world.

I had some fun writing this. It's a condensed and simplified version of a paper I wrote, but there are lots of other tidbits floating around in this brain. Let me know in comments if you liked this. I may keep doing it. I may even go over this again when it's not 12:30 in the morning.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Now what?

So, I went and graduated high school on Saturday. I now have two rooms worth of stuff in one room, trying to unpack, sort, etc. It seems slightly absurd, especially with the need to repack most of it to head down to Texas in a few months.

Already being at home seems a little odd, especially with the nagging feeling that I still need to go back to class in a few days. Also of annoyance is the bit where no one wants to hear about the history of sails anymore. It really is a fascinating topic. On that note, depending on whether I feel like it or not, this may be the site of some assorted ramblings about interesting (to me) topics. Whether or not I follow through remains to be seen.

The new range needs to open. I have a Mosin Nagant that desperately needs firing.

I may head over to the river soon to see whether it actually has fish in it. Here's hoping.

That's all for now. I have more time to post now, so y'all may here from me more often now. Maybe I can actually pull off daily posting for a month.

Monday, May 23, 2011


Time again for a few blogroll updates. First, additions:

Chris Ex Machina - Brother of LawDog, proving that there's something in the family. Often amusing, frequently quotable, and "Bureau of Coal, Petroleum and Citrus Fruit." For context, make with the clicky.

SnarkyBytes - Alan excels at short, pithy posts about interesting topics. He is also responsible for the podcast Vicious Circle, which may or may not be a point in his favor.

The Smallest Minority - Kevin Baker posts some of the best thought out and researched pieces on a wide range of political topics available online. Go read. You will come away having learned something.

Tractor Tracks - Farmgirl posts on an eclectic abundance of topics, and is consistently entertaining. She keeps fish too, which is rather a plus.

VolkStudio Blog - Oleg Volk, photographer extraordinaire and gun rights activist. He consistently has some of the best photos of any kind I have seen, and is unmatched in firearms pictures.

Weer'd World - Weer'd Beard writes by and large about whatever happens to catch his fancy at the time, mostly in entertaining manners. More substantial material consists of fisks of anti-rights statements/interviews, and more importantly the "Gun-Death?"archive, which seeks to highlight the ridiculous nature of the "gun death" statistic by pointing out the murders that seem to not matter to anti-gunners on account of not having been committed with a gun.

I also have to take a blog off the blogroll, as it hasn't been updated in four months, and is unlikely to see its start again. If Xavier Thoughts resumes posting, he will be restored to the blogroll. Until then, the blogroll stands.

In other news, I graduate a week from Saturday. That is really weird. Heading down to the University of Texas at Dallas in the fall, which should be a good time.

That's all for now.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Politics is Irrelevant

At least, as far as the recent events concerning the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) are concerned. They have repeatedly engaged in ad hominem attacks against people of different opinions, threatened them through their children, and exposed personal information about these people. (For those of you who find yourself shocked at the lines from Tango's post, see if they are a little more tolerable quoted properly and in context)

I would link to the original offenses by CSGV, but Twitter has suspended their account on account of violation of the terms and service agreements concerning personal information.

Regardless of what you think about the gun issue as a whole, or are liberal or conservative, don't support, give heed to, or otherwise give legitimacy to CSGV. Their tactics are inherently offensive. Attacking a father through his child, attempting to damage a man by removing his reasonable screen of privacy, and commenting on anything unrelated to the issue at hand is no way to have any form of discourse.

The Brady Campaign supports CSGV, and has engaged in similar behaviors in the past. I would urge you to consider removing them from any position of credibility in your personal life.

This post (unlike others) is not meant to convince anyone to any side of any political issue. This is merely an appeal to the reasoning side of people to not tolerate behaviors like this in any debate or discussion sphere. This extends to any group that engages in these behaviors, on any side of any issue. Let's have discussion, not attacks. This is all the more important in emotionally charged issues.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Words To Live By

I believe in the United States of America as a government of the people, by the people, for the people; whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed, a democracy in a republic, a sovereign Nation of many sovereign States; a perfect union, one and inseparable; established upon those principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes.

I therefore believe it is my duty to my country to love it, to support its Constitution, to obey its laws, to respect its flag, and to defend it against all enemies.

~William Tyler Page, The American's Creed.

Words that seem no longer to reflect the nature of this country, but words I do believe in. This is not what America is, it is what America needs to be again. We have lost much over the last few decades. Every stride we take back towards good is countered by 5 in the wrong direction. We may still be able to resurrect this country though. Remember the American's creed. Live well, and live principled. America can be great again.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Joyous Day

In recent news, it would seem that Osama bin Laden is dead, killed by US special forces. Finally. That son of a bitch has done so much to this country that his death seems to have been too easy. I suppose all we can do at this point is wrap him in pig skins before we chuck him off the fantail of a destroyer for the fish to gnaw on his bones. Let any muslim or any other human who seeks to follow his atrocities with more of the same note that this country has no tolerance for acts of this level of evil. Let him rot in the deepest levels of hell for all eternity.

Thank God and the United States Armed Forces that this particular fight is over.

Let this serve as what balm it may for those who have lost loved ones by his order.

Let this serve as warning to all who would harm this country. No matter how long it takes, we will keep hunting until justice is served.

And President Obama. For all my dislike of you and your policies, tonight you did well.

God Bless America.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


I'm in Texas right now, looking at a school tomorrow. So far so good. Of course, I happen to be here on the day after a nice warm spell. It's 51 and cloudy, but still better than IL. The most obvious non-climate related (well, weather type climate at least) difference between here and home so far has been the prevalence of pawn shops actively advertising guns. My exposure has been limited to what I have seen from the highway though. More to follow....

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hodge Podge

Well, since my last post, things seem to have gone to hell in a serious way. First Japan, then Libya end up in a bad way, and neither seems likely to come to a satisfactory conclusion any time soon. I keep sitting down and trying to write about one or the other, then realize that it just kicks over this well of uneasiness bordering on misery. There's nothing to be said about either event that hasn't been said better by smarter people already. I'll just post in brief I suppose.

My heart goes out to the people in Japan, and I wish the mainstream media was playing the reactor problems in a way that wouldn't cripple the industry further. On Friday, my Boy Scout troop had a guest lecture from a nuclear engineer about the reactor problems. It was a fascinating presentation, really. It's a far more complicated system than most people imagine. At least the plants are coming back under control

Dad and I did a bit of math with the aid of Wolfram Alpha as to the sheer power of this quake. The most powerful explosive device ever detonated was the 'Tsar Bomba,' a 58 megaton hydrogen bomb. The 9.0 quake is the energy equivalent of 552 Tsar Bombas, at 32 gigatons of tnt. That much energy, placed at that particular location, is essentially as deadly a circumstance as I can imagine, apart from perhaps an asteroid strike in eastern Asia.

The magnetic north pole is heading diligently south, much faster than it normally does. I have to wonder where it's going.

The wobble in Earth's orbit is gone. This may be related to both the above and the quake. This is rather an odd thing to have happen.

Libya. Why on earth is the United States starting actions in Libya? It has nothing we want, and any compelling reason to be there, such as human rights violations, has far worse offenders everywhere. This is probably just going to leave us with another destabilized muslim nation just ripe for a takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood. I don't think Gadaffi is a nice guy by any stretch, but he's not even remotely the worst of them. Him going out just opens the field to some really scary people.

The Arab League needs to learn what a no-fly zone means. They are getting precisely what they asked for.

Obama is getting himself into a world of trouble. Congressional Democrats have started screeching for impeachment over the situation in Libya. While it's one of his lesser constitutional breeches, it is nice to see that it has come back to bite him eventually from his own party. He has utterly failed this country.

The most terrifying thought I've had in a long time is that no one in this country wants him to do what he does. The only people who consistently stand to benefit from his behaviors are Al Qaeda and other anti-American muslim fundamentalists. I don't think he has any real ties to them (read: God almighty I hope he doesn't) but I can't deny that they stand to benefit from what he's done most. His ROE in Iraq and Afghanistan cripple our efforts against those who would do us harm. His domestic policy will drive us into bankruptcy and leave us open to attack. His foreign policy has alienated anyone who might be willing to help us. At this point, all I can say is either this man (or whoever may be controlling him) is the most dangerous idiot ever to live, or he wishes to see this country ruined.

I'm not going to be sleeping well over that one for a while.

If those two people who actually read this care to comment, tell me something good happening in the world? I'm having a hard time finding it at the moment.

Hopefully some lighter material will come up soon. I still have kiwis, so the world can't be all bad.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


I just ate a kiwi. It's the berry of a plant native to southern China, and was probably grown in Italy, shipped here, sold to a distributor, brought to my local grocery, before my kitchen. They cost a few dollars. How on earth do we do these things and not find the world amazing, absurd, and amazingly abusrd?

In other news, I have a new gun wishlist. It can be seen here:
People considering gifts for me.... Don't even think about it.

Life amuses me and entertains me. Don't much have things to write about though. Posting may be light.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Welcome back, muse!

My dad sent me a rather interesting little thing today.

Biting the bullet - cutting expenses. I HOPE YOU WILL PARTICIPATE AND DO YOUR PART.

The President ordered the cabinet to cut $100 million from the $3.5 trillion federal budget.

I'm so impressed by this sacrifice that I have decided to do the same thing with my personal budget. I spend about $2000 a month on groceries, household expenses, medicine, utilities, etc, but it's time to get out the budget cutting axe, go through my expenses, and cut back.

I'm going to cut my spending at exactly the same ratio, 1/35,000 of my total budget. After doing the math, it looks like instead of spending $2000 a month; I'm going to have to cut that number by six cents. Yes, I'm going to have to get by with $1999.94, but that's what sacrifice is all about. I'll just have to do without some things, that are, frankly, luxuries.

(Did the president actually think no one would do the math?)

John Q. Taxpayer

On the one hand, we're spending less, which is always good to see. On the other... 1/35,000? Completely insignificant. 2.8x10^-3% is not the sort of cut to be really celebrating.

Far too often, I hear the argument that I couldn't balance the budget if I were in charge, by merit of the sheer difficulty of the problems faced. People have tried to tell me that I can complain all I want about the government spending, but would I really cut social security benefits? Would I really cut education spending? Well, yes, actually.

The New York Times put together the "Budget Puzzle: You Fix the Budget" back in November. It's language and setup seems to be arguing that it simply can't be done well without at least some tax increases. Somehow, I managed to overcome the shortfalls without one single new tax. My method for this was simple. I had my copy of the Constitution open on the desk. For each point, I attempted to find justification in the Constitution. If I could not find it, I cut as much as possible from it. If I could find justification, I looked at effectiveness, cost-benefit relationship, and strength of justification. Only if all three were strong did I keep it. Lo and behold, by the time I reached the taxes section, I had overcome the shortcomings.

I have one complaint about this app beyond the biased language at places. It didn't allow me to cut enough. It allowed me to raise eligible ages for Medicare and Social Security, when I would prefer to remove them both entirely. It offered reduction of the Federal Workforce by 10%. I can't say for certain, but I get the feeling that justified cuts are more along the order of 70%.

Making this government effective again is really pretty simple. 223 years ago, some of the smartest men of the time sat down together for a convention, and figured out how to do all this. Additionally, by their actions, they rendered anything else illegal. This confuses me then. We figured this out already. Why are we still having these kinds of problems?

I don't care about "wouldn't it be nice if..." I don't care about "We just have to do...." I care about what will work, and what is allowed and mandated by the Constitution. We as a nation failed when we tried to ignore the constitution. It was the only thing standing between us and total collapse. We chose this. If we don't see dramatic reform in the next few years, returning us to the Constitution, we will fail. What then are the odds of those changes happening?

I despair for the future of this country. I really do.

Apologies for the unusual style, blogger seems to be petulant today.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A turn for the pleasant

We finally got good weather today. According to my dashboard widget, the daily high today was 45 degrees F, which is not a temperature I would normally be happy with, yet after three weeks of sub freezing and often sub zero temperatures, it is a welcome change.

The funny thing about it is that it simply didn't feel that cold today. As such, I spent a good portion of the day outside. I don't really have anything to say here, but it's blog-a-day, even when I miss one here and there.

OH one thing I do have to say, welcome to the readers from MArooned, where JayG was so kind as to add me to his blogroll. Come on in, pull up a chair and stay a while.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Fishkeeping is exhausting

I must say, I am impressed with ordering fish online. All of them arrived in good health, and all but one made it through the transition just fine. One of the cories got stuck in the bag on transfer and was injured somehow. He died in relatively short order, which makes me think it was probably spinal. The company has done well enough by me now to receive my recommendation. I heartily recommend Drs. Foster and Smith Aquatics for all your fishy needs.

One of my more unusual purchases was a Pygmy Pufferfish. This little fish is the most fascinating hunter I have ever seen, which is odd when one considers that he is less than an inch long. Considering he is a molluskivore, I stocked his tank with snails and let them run for a couple weeks. He has already dramatically thinned the population.

As I write this, I am watching him try to work his way into a particularly obstinate ramshorn. This snail is quite literally the size of his head, and not inclined towards being eaten. It is honestly as fierce a battle as a snail can be engaged in, at least until he gives up and wanders away in search of easier prey. (I actually rather appreciate this, as that snail is one of three breeding size)

I will see if I can get a video of his hunting style at some point. It's really quite fascinating.

The shrimp are most interesting after the light goes out. All three are slowly working their way across the back wall of the tank carefully picking off bits of algae that a scrubber didn't touch. They also seem to be able to stick to anything, in this case, sheet glass.

The danios have an interesting temperament change with the lights out. During the lights on, they all scatter about the tank, generally having a good time and not schooling even remotely. Lights out, and they are all arranged around the biggest one, moving in perfect unison around the tank.

The ram is just fun. Little skittish for the moment, but quickly realizing she's the biggest thing in the tank, and enjoying the associated immunities.

The cories are all three determinedly trying to get underneath one of the fake plants. I must only assume there's some tasty morsel down there. It is odd behavior for cats, and I will be curious to see how it ends.

It's 5 minutes to midnight, but I blogged today. Acclimating fish kinda sucks. Especially with 14 fish across four tanks in two different buildings. Geh. I don't wanna do that again. This week at least.


I need a bigger tank.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The customer isn't always right...

...but then again, neither is the seller. As something of an addendum to yesterday's post, I am expecting a new order tomorrow. FedEx tracking number and everything, rather fancy. Compared to my experiences with the old company, this is a dream of customer service. Most of the questions I had were answered quite well on the company site, and those that weren't were answered in about two minutes with customer service. I found it to be a frankly enjoyable customer service experience.

The difference in service between a dissatisfied customer and a satisfied one can be very small. One email in the right place, or one hold that didn't last very long, can turn an experience around. The service with the first company wasn't bad. It was lacking in a couple small areas, like having everyone on staff able to answer some basic questions, and not requiring lengthy holds between tries at finding someone who could help.

This new company didn't have those troubles. The customer testimonials both on their site and elsewhere speak not only of very healthy fish, but of good customer service. It is such a little thing, but can really turn a company around. I am sure that the product from both these companies is essentially equivalent. The new company ended up being somewhat more expensive. Yet, in future, I'm going to go to this new company first, because that extra money is worth not having to go through that customer service experience again.

In the assorted jobs I have held, three have been customer service. I have been a gem salesman, a receptionist, and I have cleared snowy sidewalks. In each, making sure the customer is happy and satisfied tends to be difficult. There are so many little factors at play. It's a very difficult job. As such, I really appreciate it when a company has good customer service. It's not an easy thing to do, and the effort is appreciated.

In other news, Laser Tag was much fun, though I tend to try to aim with guns without sights across a big room. Note to self, when there is no punishment for spraying lasers everywhere there might be an enemy, just do it.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


So, that bit about fish coming in today? Yeah. Didn't happen. I failed to notice that overnight temperatures were supposed to drop as low as -22 degrees. This is generally a good reason to not ship fish. Fish that spend their lives never below 72 don't tend to take well to temperatures that low.

I honestly appreciate that the company's marine biologists delayed the order. I would have hated to open up a package of fishcicles. The problem comes from the fact that they didn't bother to tell me they had delayed my order. I made extensive arrangements to receive fish today, and wasted no small bit of time making said arrangements. This wasted the time of a few other people as well, as a friend had offered to help with getting the fish settled, the receiving department was expecting them, and started making inquiries when they didn't turn up, and the science office, who were supposed to receive the package, did much the same.

This is a forgivable lapse. The company is high output, and keeping track of that many notices can be difficult, especially as this was the second weather delay. The real problem is that when I called up to reschedule delivery (because of classes, receiving can be rather difficult for me) the livestock representative mentioned that a few of my fish were actually out of stock, and would probably be so for some time. If it was a single danio, or cory, or other fish I could get anywhere, i wouldn't have minded terribly, and removed them from the order. Even if one of the more specialty fish wasn't in, I would probably have the order go through anyway.

As is, all three specialty fish on the order, being the bolivian ram, bristlenose pleco, and dwarf puffer, were out of stock. Everything else on the order was essentially a case of "eh, I'm already paying shipping, I might as well get these while I'm at it." That's all that was left of the order. I canceled the order.

I don't quite understand how this makes sense. Every fish I ordered was listed as in stock when I put the order in. At the moment I submitted the order, I had purchased fish. Yet, the company is telling me that they do not have the fish that I bought. To me, this is either a case of them selling me a fish they did not have, or selling someone else my fish, which is another case of them selling a fish they did not have.

Everything I have heard about this company's fish is excellent. They seem to treat their livestock very well, and ship carefully. Their prices are fantastic. My problem is in the way they are running their business. I will probably not order from them again.

This may be an irrational response, as the recent ill weather has probably put them at a disadvantage, and hurt some of their organization. However, on a visceral level, I am dissatisfied with their service. It may come to be in future that comparatively, their service is acceptable, (there are very few online live fish distributors I have found) but until that time, I will not order again. I placed an order at a rival company, at a 40% cost increase, by merit of bad customer service. That's not a good result by either my or their standards. It is merely better than waiting weeks for fish to come available.

In other news, I am going Laser Tagging with my wing tonight. Should be a fun time.

P.S. I specifically have not included the name of this company. I don't want my dissatisfaction to reflect on the company as a whole. This is just reflections on a bad customer service experience.