28 December 2008

Made Both of Stainless Steel and Awesome

Folks who know me know I'm a fan of Schlock Mercenary. For Christmas this year, a fan made and gave an awesome gift to the artist/author, Howard Tayler. Check it out here.

Ominous hummmmmmmmmmm...

17 December 2008

First Snowfall


Brilliance of flash on falling snow
(Click for larger version in new window)


First season's snowfall on a hushed world;
Chill wind bites through my sandals' open toes.
The peace of air sift through by glit'ring white
Speaks full of all that God proclaims to us:

"Now cease to strive, and know that I am God1
I send the snow to all, both right and fell2.
But here—sit still, seek me3, my voice4, my call5;
For have I not to you bequeathed my all6?"


1 Psalm 46:10
2 Matt 5:45
3 Luke 11:9-10, Heb 11:6
4 1 Kings 19:11-12, Psalm 29:4
5 1 Cor 1:9, Rom 8:28
6 Rev 21:6-7, 1 Pet 1:3-4



05 December 2008

Tweet Tweet

Giving Twitter a shot... find me here.



25 November 2008

AP/Yahoo and/or Obama: Schizophrenic

This has to be one of the most patently absurd things I've seen in a while... on Yahoo, just now, Obama promotes fiscal restraint, big spending (emphasis mine):

President-elect Barack Obama wants to project fiscal restraint even as his economic team assembles a massive recovery package that could cost several hundred billion dollars.

A day after introducing the captains of his economic team and promoting a giant jobs plan, Obama on Tuesday was to lay out his budget belt-tightening vision. The dual images — big spender and disciplined budget watcher — were designed to give both political and economic assurances to the public, the Congress and the financial markets.


Um, 'scuse me? How can any rational person use 'fiscal restraint' and 'big spending' in the same headline and not have their brain abandon ship in protest? How can Obama both be a big spender, and keep a tight rein on the budget?

Oh, well, right... I suppose if he jacked taxes way up, he could balance the budget and still spend big. Silly me.

Hope all you's folks weren't counting on that 'tax cut' he promised any time soon...

10 November 2008

Perhaps The First Act Of The 111th Congress?

Congress has already nationalized Fannie & Freddie, and bailed out all those banks with your tax money.

Aren't you excited that they're all set to absorb everybody's retirement accounts under the oversight of Social Security?

Democrats in the U.S. House have been conducting hearings on proposals to confiscate workers’ personal retirement accounts — including 401(k)s and IRAs — and convert them to accounts managed by the Social Security Administration.

Triggered by the financial crisis the past two months, the hearings reportedly were meant to stem losses incurred by many workers and retirees whose 401(k) and IRA balances have been shrinking rapidly.


This may be the case... however, it would be far better to just let the market and the 401(k)'s and IRA's recover on their own. Later in the article, it's noted that the accounts that would be formed are 'Guaranteed Retirement Accounts,' with a fixed three-percent annualized rate of return. Sure, that may be appealing now - but if all that retirement money were just left in the market, the market would probably recover more quickly. Then, in a year or three, all those 401(k)'s and IRA's would probably be back to making the ~5-10% that I think they were making before. If this GRA conversion/confiscation happens, I foresee a self-fulling prophecy: all the money being pulled out of the market will cause the market to crash - and then the people that made it happen will crow joyously at how they "saved everyone's retirements from the impending market collapse!"

Ugh.

A question to chew on... do you really want the same institutions that manage Social Security to be managing the bulk of your retirement fund?

05 November 2008

Blast From The Programming Past

Whoa! People are still downloading my old TI-82 programs from... yikes, high school? Almost 8000 downloads?

Cool!

01 November 2008

Fairborn Grad To Pilot Shuttle!

SWEET!

In 2005, [Fairborn High School graduate Colonel Greg] Johnson was appointed as a crew representative supporting the design and testing of NASA'S newest spacecraft, the Crew Exploration Vehicle. Johnson is assigned as pilot on the STS-123 mission that will deliver the Japanese Logistics Module and the Canadian Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator to the International Space Station.


I guess this Skyhawk took the 'sky' part pretty seriously!

31 October 2008

No, No... Obama's Not In Political Limbo, He's Doing The Political Limbo

On Hot Air:

Obama started at $250K, dropped to $200K, Joe Biden adjusted it to $150K earlier this week, and now it’s dropped another 20% since then.


Can't you hear the tune? "How low, can you go? How low, can you go?" So catchy!

Anybody wanna bet me $20 that, if Obama gets elected, by the time he's sworn in next January the upper cutoff for his "tax cuts" will be at or below $85k/year? (i.e., cutoff<=$85k means I win, and disclaimer: Limit one bettor.)

23 October 2008

Obama Donations Page - Security Hole, or Fraud Machine?

On Power Line this morning, Scott reports the outcome of an experiment that a reader performed on Obama's donation webpage. The reader used his own card to make a $15 donation to the Obama campaign, but in the name of 'John Galt' (Ayn Rand fans will appreciate) at a completely fictitious address. (Note in particular that ZIP code '99999', if it even existed, would be in Alaska, not Colorado!) Obama's site accepted the donation with nary a blip. A similar experiment tried on McCain's site failed; the donation didn't go through.

What does this mean? Of course, it's not out of the question that it's accidental... that there's a number field or a checkbox on a form someplace that was set incorrectly, and it's only just now coming to light. But... it seems highly unlikely to me that rigorous name and address matching would be disabled by default in any shopping cart system off the shelf, meaning that it had to either have been disabled, or specifically programmed into the application. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, though, and granting that it was unintentional... for something as important as this, with as much potential for (patently illegal!) misuse as this, why was this not found and fixed a long time ago?

Please read the whole post, and consider. And, either way you decide, please vote on November 4th! (That is, of course, if you are legally eligible to do so.)

15 October 2008

How Do You Get Your Taxes Cut If You Don't Pay Taxes?

Answer: by cleverly redefining the term 'tax cut'!

WSJ.com:

One of Barack Obama's most potent campaign claims is that he'll cut taxes for no less than 95% of "working families." He's even promising to cut taxes enough that the government's tax share of GDP will be no more than 18.2% -- which is lower than it is today.

It's a clever pitch, because it lets him pose as a middle-class tax cutter while disguising that he's also proposing one of the largest tax increases ever on the other 5%. But how does he conjure this miracle, especially since more than a third of all Americans already pay no income taxes at all? There are several sleights of hand, but the most creative is to redefine the meaning of "tax cut."


Basically, Obama will 'cut' taxes on low-income earners by making their tax burden 'negative' -- that is, by essentially handing them extra money. Reminds me sort of the whole "it depends on what the definition of 'is' is," from the Clinton era. Germane bit from the article:

Here's the political catch. All but the clean car credit would be "refundable," which is Washington-speak for the fact that you can receive these checks even if you have no income-tax liability. In other words, they are an income transfer -- a federal check -- from taxpayers to nontaxpayers. Once upon a time we called this "welfare," or in George McGovern's 1972 campaign a "Demogrant." Mr. Obama's genius is to call it a tax cut.


Make sure you read the whole piece, especially the last two paragraphs about how lower-income earners (up to ~$50k/yr) will be taxed at a significantly higher rate on marginal income (income that represents an increase over current income). As such, low-earners have to work that much harder to improve their economic situation... not exactly helping reverse the 'disappearance of the middle class' that the Dems often get so worked up about.

13 October 2008

Real-World Schlock

Been reading Schlock Mercenary for a looong time. As such, this blog post by the writer/artist is, to my mind, made completely of awesome. ;-)

09 October 2008

Tough Times for Fiscal Conservatives

Yahoo/AP:

News that the Bush administration is considering taking ownership stakes in a number of U.S. banks helped restore a relative calm over global financial markets Thursday.

The aim of such a move would be to thaw the lending freeze that threatens to push the world's economy into recession.


All I can say is, they better have a really aggressive sellback plan in mind for when things do start moving again.

02 October 2008

New Russian Nukes

So, we're at the end of history, right? Just a few things to iron out, and then we'll all get to enjoy everlasting world peace, right?

Uh, no:

Russia hopes to deploy a new nuclear missile next year designed to penetrate anti-missile defenses and will build eight submarines to carry it, defense officials said on Thursday.

The latest statements underline Moscow's determination to upgrade its nuclear strike forces on land, sea and air. They are regarded by Russian commanders as the cornerstone of the country's defenses.


Note in the article that these missiles have pretty much been specifically designed to penetrate US-designed anti-missile systems. Interesting, no?


19 September 2008

A Challenge

Most media-aware Americans will know where the quote, "With great power comes great responsibility" comes from. (Interestingly, the actual quote is apparently longer: "With great power there must also come great responsibility.") Those same media-aware Americans may not know that the sentiment behind the quote is hardly original:

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. (Luke 12:48, NIV)


From today's Boundless article:

American culture works overtime to keep us as childish as possible for as long as possible. We're supposed to spend far more than we can afford, and to look to others to make everything work out OK, somehow. We're supposed to seek our personal gratification above everything else, to find much it in possessions and entertainment, and to jettison relationships that don't deliver what we want.


I really can't add much to this. (Note that this won't stop me from trying.) Please, grow up: consider that video games and tech toys and TV shows and movies and ... the list continues... are probably not the best and most mature way to invest all of your free time. Budget. Plan your finances. Don't go into debt to get a bunch of fun stuff you can't really afford, because (if nothing else) that rhinoceros on your back won't be too pleasant a few years from now. Consider that maybe life isn't only about getting your way, about making yourself happy, about people doing what you want them to do. Consider that... maybe every so often not getting your way might actually have more intrinsic value that if you'd gotten your way, despite the unmistakable and undeniable pain, frustration, and annoyance it represents.

Tell yourself, "It's not all about me." Observe your reaction. Mull.

We are given freedom in this country. We are entrusted with it. Freedom is power, the power to choose what we do with our time, our lives. How we interact with and influence the people and the world around us. I won't try to deny that making oneself happy has immediate appeal, and immediate payback. But I challenge you, dear reader(s?), to consider that perhaps there's more to life than that.

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:12-13, NIV)

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' " (Matthew 22:36-39, NIV)


13 September 2008

Just In Case There's Dispute About This In Your Circle Of Friends

The answer is here.

(This is relevant to the cookies I baked today. See? It all makes sense in the end.)

28 August 2008

Recessha-what-now?

John over at Powerline summarizes it way too neatly for me to try to improve on it. Some aspects of the economy may be unpleasant right now, but we are, and to some extent have been, far from recession.

(Arresting) An Inconvenient Reporter

From Powerline, this is extremely disturbing:

Police in Denver arrested an ABC News producer today as he and a camera crew were attempting to take pictures on a public sidewalk of Democratic senators and VIP donors leaving a private meeting at the Brown Palace Hotel.

...

A police official later told lawyers for ABC News that Eslocker is being charged with trespass, interference, and failure to follow a lawful order. He also said the arrest followed a signed complaint from the Brown Palace Hotel.

...

The sheriff's officer is seen telling Eslocker the sidewalk is owned by the hotel. Later, he is seen pushing Eslocker off the sidewalk into oncoming traffic, forcing him to the other side of the street.


(If possible, watch the video linked from the ABC report and note the five police officers that were apparently needed to arrest a single reporter.)

To be fair, if indeed the hotel (and/or the Democrat bigwigs holding their meetings there) had a valid complaint in that the reporter was shooting video from a privately-owned sidewalk, then the police action taken wasn't completely out of line. A bit extreme, perhaps, but not out of line.

But. I took the liberty of looking up the real estate records for the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver. The following is an image (taken directly from the Denver Real Property Records site, here) of the boundaries of the Brown Palace's property lot overlaid with a 2006 aerial photo (click to enlarge to new window):


(Click to enlarge to new window)


For clarity, I also pulled up a satellite image from Google Maps (link here):


(Click to enlarge to new window)


It sure looks to me like the official boundary of the hotel's property does not include the sidewalk. In that case... I don't see that the hotel had any right even to tell the reporter to leave, much less to have him arrested. Possibly if he was harassing the guests, there'd be some charge of, well, harassment or assault or something, but other than that it seems to me a case of suppression of the press.

Or, well, I guess the First Amendment might only apply to people who agree with the Democrats. <shrug> Silly me, thinking it applies to everybody.

Amusing Typo

Yahoo reports this morning about the concerns and/or non-concerns that some Democrats have expressed about the Grecian-style backdrop that's been prepared for Obama's speech at the DNC in Denver tonight. I have my own opinions about all that, but I don't want to go into that here. I'm simply interested in what was, presumably, a humorous error made near the end of the piece:

[Tennessee Gov. Phil] Bredesen also said that while he has concerns, Obama is a virtuoso performer who cannot be underestimated.


Is Obama able to meet the lowest of my low expectations? :-P

20 August 2008

Video Review In Major League Baseball?!?!

In truth, video review will be implemented in a rather restricted capacity, at least initially:

Baseball umpires and management signed an agreement Wednesday that will allow the sport to start using instant replay to help determine calls on the field.

...

Replays will be limited to boundary calls, such as determining whether fly balls were fair or foul, or whether they went over fences.


Since most MLB games are televised somewhere (with attendant replay capability), and the Jumbotron replays reveal actual ball position to the crowd in the stadium, spectators have been able to re-examine these kinds of calls for a long time now. It seems reasonable on one level to allow the umpires access to the same sort of technology to re-evaluate their calls, in case of dispute.

However. Having done some umpiring myself (local Little League games, while I was in high school), one of the basic tenets of the role, roughly stated, is that the umpire is always right, even if he's wrong. The umpire is the boss of the field, and when it comes down to it, as long as none of the technical rules of the game are violated, the umpire's judgment is the final word. I would argue that errors in judgment by the umpires (which will happen, due to their inevitably imperfect humanity) could almost be considered part of the ground rules. To be sure umpires should strive to call games as accurately as possible, but the occasional error cannot be avoided.

Open one type of call to video review, and I have to imagine that others will follow, in time. <shrug> I think I'd prefer video review never be instituted, but perhaps, ultimately, it will end up being a net positive.

15 August 2008

Whence the "Nuke" Card

Allow me to quote you a story, from the always-eloquent Tycho:

Let me tell you a story about Robert. I have often wondered if Business School transformed him into a monster, or if his psychology simply whirls around an inherently bestial core. This tale may deliver a hint.

Negotiation is a course you can take in these institutions, like Usury or Potions. On the first day, they separated into groups of two to play a highly codified version of Nuclear War. It's mostly discussion, but it does have three game "pieces," written on three-by-five cards:

1. A "Nuke" card, which represents your sleeping arsenal.
2. A "Strike" card, used to wake up the aforementioned.
3. A "Peace" card, which probably doesn't see much use.

As the first round commenced, Robert suggested to his partner/opponent that, you know what, listen. Let's just tear up our nukes right now, in plan sight, and move forward in a spirit of shared purpose and reconciliation. Agreement was instantaneous. Cards were torn. Of course, Robert had torn his peace card. As the silos opened and coordinates were entered, the tenor of the negotiations were altered irrevocably.

Robert found it difficult to make friends.


Awesomely devious, no? :-)


* * *

Now, please check out this post to refresh yourself on what Russia has been doing in Georgia of late. Note especially how Russia has reneged on its own cease fire; I believe this is not the first time it's happened.

There are different opinions as to whose fault this whole thing is. I tend to distrust Russia (Putin, specifically), but whatever. It sounds to me like Russia was jabbing at Georgia via support to separatists in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Then, when Georgia tried to move in to reassert control in the region, Moscow took that as sufficient provocation to pounce. It just now occurs to me - Ossetia and Abhkazia were previously part of Georgia... what other reason than aggression or political manipulation would Russia have for interfering in what, formally, was an internal Georgian matter? Gr.

Anyways... the Bear, to my mind, is rousing from slumber, far from dead or defunct.


* * *

Now to tie the first two parts of this post together... found via Power Line, one of the reasons why I won't be voting for Obama come November (embed revised to include full video clip):



How much are you willing to bet that today's Russia (or Iran, or...) would tear up their "Nuke" card while we shred ours...? Disarmament is a noble goal. It is regrettably also, given this imperfect world, a thoroughly foolhardy one.


* * *

Update: Via Hot Air, on Yahoo News this morning:

A top Russian general said Friday that Poland's agreement to accept a U.S. missile defense battery exposes ex-communist nation to attack, possibly by nuclear weapons, the Interfax news agency reported.

...

"Poland, by deploying (the system) is exposing itself to a strike — 100 percent," Nogovitsyn, the deputy chief of staff, was quoted as saying.


30 July 2008

Legislating Common Sense

From Hot Air:

The latest in nanny-state pioneering comes from Illinois — no surprise — as Democratic state legislator Ken Dunkin has introduced a bill that would make texting while crossing the street a misdemeanor. Why? Dunkin explains that government exists to protect citizens from ... themselves.


The host in the video embed in the blog post is a bit... testy for my taste, I think, but seriously... are tickets and fines really necessary for something like this? Does the government really have a compelling interest here?

... Actually, it might. If we had universal health care. If all health care costs are covered by the government, then I figure that would effectively give the government carte blanche to legislate any and all details of people's lives that might affect health care costs. Smoking? Completely illegal. Alcohol? Rationed, maybe restricted, maybe banned. Highway speed limits? Reduced to 55 mph and laser-/radar-enforced every mile or two. Mandated exercise and fitness regimens. Tightly controlled dietary restrictions. Infeasible? Extreme? Well, probably... but taxes could easily be raised on anybody not toeing the line. It brings to mind the Swiss ski resort that's implemented speed limits on its slopes.

The Illinois state legislator in the video in the Hot Air blog post says at one point, "You can't legislate common sense." Be that as it may, I suspect that there are those who would be willing to give it their best shot, given sufficient leverage and leeway.

18 June 2008

Nature's Fury, Indeed

Via one of Scalzi's recent Whateverettes: Clickity-link

Talk about a mind-blowing picture!

(Incidentally, the picture at the NY Times blog is a touched-up version of the original, posted here by the local news agency.)

28 April 2008

Yes, but 'Conservative' in Which Sense?

Just started a subscription to the Atlantic Monthly... enjoying it, getting some perspectives on things I otherwise wouldn't be. Gets me thinking, if nothing else.

In the May '08 issue, Jonathan Rauch writes about John McCain's conservative credentials. In doing so, he falls prey to what, to me, is one of the more annoying tendencies in the media today: failure to distinguish between the multiple possible meanings of a term, in this case 'conservative'.

'Conservative', to my mind, has two main senses: 'social conservative' and 'fiscal conservative'. Rauch's piece seems to focus exclusively on the former sense, whereas from what I recall most of the main "McCain's not a real conservative" criticism has come from those folks more concerned with the latter sense. Further, Rauch invokes another sense of the word, what I'll call 'temperamental conservatism', wherein one believes that policy change should only occur incrementally, and radical shifts in law or policy are to be avoided. Again, I don't disagree with the concept, just the implementation.

(Incidentally, I have this sort of problem with the usage of a lot of other terms... it's not just conservatism. I'm confident that one of the major problems with political discussion today is a failure to establish common terminology and definitions before engaging in debate. This is hard in the sound-bite news culture we're dealing with today, but I think taking steps toward such clarity would be very much worth the effort, if enough people could be convinced to do so. :-P )

In any event, the piece is admittedly a pretty minor example of this sort of conflation/confusion. But, it brought to mind my frustration with this imprecise use of terminology, and so here we are.

14 March 2008

While The Headlines Trumpet "NO LINK!!"

... I invite you to read the actual Pentagon report on the terrorism-related material collected in Iraq after Iraqi Freedom. While the executive summary does state that there was "no 'smoking gun' (i.e., direct connection) between Saddam's Iraq and al Qaeda," its very first sentence is:

The Iraqi Perspectives Project (IPP) review of captured Iraqi documents uncovered strong evidence that links the regime of Saddam Hussein to regional and global terrorism.


I got to this via Powerline, here... Scott there quotes another blog post, on the Weekly Standard, that goes into a bit more analysis of the report. Quoting it:

And what about this revelation from page 34? "Captured documents reveal that the regime was willing to co-opt or support organizations it knew to be part of al Qaeda -- as long as that organization's near-term goals supported Saddam's long-term vision." (The example given in the report is the Army of Muhammad in Bahrain, a group the Iraqi Intelligence Service describes as "under the wings of bin Laden.")

And there is this line from page 42: "Saddam supported groups that either associated directly with al Qaeda (such as the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, led at one time by bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al Zawahiri) or that generally shared al Qaeda's stated goals and objectives."


From what I've read of the report so far, it does seem that some of the administration's claims about a formal, official connection between Saddam and al Qaeda were not well justified. However, as for informal al-Qaeda ties and broader connections to terrorists on the part of Saddam's Iraq, the report leaves basically no doubt in my mind. (Bear in mind, for example, the financial support of Palestinian Arab suicide bombers which is corroborated by the report.)

Ultimately, I agree with Scott at Powerline: "If you have only learned of the report via [mainstream media coverage], take a look at the report with your own eyes before drawing any conclusions about it."

11 March 2008

Windy Weekend -- Or Maybe Not...

Street sign casualty on Mass Ave yesterday:



The last time I walked past this, which was probably less than a week ago, it was standing firmly upright. It was pretty windy this weekend, but after taking a closer look at the picture & noticing how it's bowed... I dunno, do you think that damage might be too low to be a bumper? If it was wind that took this down... yeeugh!

07 March 2008

Does This Count As The Stupid Tax?

For MA Form 1, Schedule X, Line 4, which reads, "Fees and other 5.3% income", in the instructions it states that:

Embezzled or other income from illegal activities is taxable and should be reported on Schedule X, line 4.


... Yes, right. I'm doing something illegal and I'm going to pay taxes on the income. Uh-huh.

<shakes head> I wonder if the irony here is intentional or not, y'know?

05 February 2008

Still Here, Maybe

Want to get back to this. Not sure exactly when I'll have time, but I've got various things I think I want to say & hopefully I'll be able to get them up here.

In the meantime, if you're upset 'cause I've not posted in a long time, here's what I have to say to that:

Cheezburger