Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Expert Opinion

Mitt Romney has said that Newt Gingrich is an "extremely unreliable leader in the conservative world".

I think we have to take his word on that. No one knows more about being an extremely unreliable conservative leader than Mitt Romney.

Sometimes it's best to defer to the experts.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Star Wars: The Old Republic

For my one reader who cares about gaming stuff, I've been playing in the public beta of SW:TOR. It's very pretty. I have a few player related problems (I've been playing solo games lately so keep trying to 'pause' with the space bar). For the rest of it, SWTOR plays much like every other MMORPG.

My major complaint has nothing to do with server unavailability (never an issue for an early bird such as myself). It's that the buttons don't work/are greyed out. I have a life. Sometimes I have to quit the wonderful game. A fair amount of in game functionality isn't working because I can not mash the buttons. It may seem picky, but this is something that should work and doesn't at this stage of the game.

My minor complaint is the lack of customization. Both City of Heroes and Champions got that right. As a result I'm a spoiled MMORPG player. It may be that more options will be added in later, so it's a minor complaint.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Student Loans

I have 'em. So do very many people. The problem I have with OWS is the idea of 'debt forgiveness'. We are all adults and we contracted for this debt. That we owe the money totally sucks, but we did get the fun of spending the money.

What does need to happen is to allow student loans be written off in bankruptcy. That isn't the same as debt forgiveness. Bankruptcy wrecks your credit rating. The value of your property gets applied to your debts. There are other consequences as well.

Bankruptcy makes sense. Forgiveness does not.

Saturday, November 05, 2011


Instapundit has a small blurb about parents mailing each other items infected with the chicken pox virus so they can time their child's illness. All of which is in lieu of having the child vaccinated and places the public at risk because of course the items in question are not packaged as biohazardous material.

What they haven't realized is that you can get a follow up disease later on in life if you had chicken pox as child. Little Mary or Johnny will sure be happy that they got that nasty dose of shingles. Of course Mumsy and Popsicle are probably dead by the time their grown up tots start experiencing some of the worst pain known to medicine.

I really, really hope this turns out to be an Internet hoax.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Modern Hymnology

Schori loves me! This I know,
for the canons tells me so.
Christian ones to her abhor;
she is rich, but they are poor.
Yes, Schori loves me! Yes, Schori loves me!
Yes, Schori loves me! The canons tells me so.

Dorsey loves me! This I know,
as he throws out all his foes,
chucking Lawrence on his knees,
saying, "No diocese for he."
Yes, Dorsey loves me! Yes, Dorsey loves me!
Yes, Dorsey loves me! The canons tells me so

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Given the foofooraw that has erupted with the Episcopal Church's Discipline Board and the Bishop of South Carolina and the revelation that the board's attorney is a Sewanee alum, I thought I'd do a little digging.

Jospehine Hicks is the church attorney. She's also on the board of the Evangelical Education Society.

See who else you recognize. Then feel free to Google the names. You'll be astonished at how often the same names reoccur on different boards.

It's democracy in action!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

How To Travel And Keep Your Stuff

I've heard it from several people. Travel with firearms. Apparently that's the single best way to make sure your stuff arrives with you. FWIW, firearms includes flare guns.

NSFW talk follows on the subject:

Deviant Ollam - Packing & The Friendly Skies from Deviant Ollam on Vimeo.

I am the 99%

From here.

Saturday, October 08, 2011


I want to have that much fun when I'm 90.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Hidden Meaning

The National Cathedral needs gobs of money to even undertake restoration. Thatere's a hidden metaphor in there somewhere.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Good Government Project

Here are some neat photographs from the Depression about the Irwinville Farms project. I used to live and work not fifteen miles from there.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Business Mystery

My laser printer is nearly end of life for its belt and drum. Replacing both would cost slightly less than $200. Currently Office Depot is selling a very nice duplexing wireless laser printer for $100. The belt for the printer on sale is $120.

I'm used to this sort of pricing for inkjet printers. When did the manufacturers start doing this for laser printers?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Eye Trouble

What the headline really said: Town Using Sensors Embedded In Streets To Detect Illegally Parked Vehicles.

What I thought it said: Town Using Senators Embedded In Streets To Detect Illegally Parked Vehicles.

My initial thought was finally someone has discovered a use for them. Which was followed shortly by a sense of crushing disappointment that the headline couldn't be true. Truly heartbreaking and probably a sign I need more sleep and possibly an eye exam.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Slaughter On Tenth Avenue

Starting out the work week with violence...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

What's The Problem?

Amazon is pursuing offering a backlist subscription service for ebooks to their Prime customers. Some people find this upsetting. I'm not really sure why.

I suppose it's probably because I'm not a David Foster Wallace fan, or something.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

NPR Top 100 SF Books

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 (First three only)
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 (First two books only)
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 (The first three)
100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fait and Balanced

The New York Times shows how not to do it.

I don't have a dog in the Dutch immigration fight. Has the Times lost all interest in presenting a fair portrait of political opinions? If this is the way they are presenting the news these days, it's not wonder they're losing readership and influence.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Pushing the Analogy

John McCain has doubled down. And he shouldn't have.

He really shouldn't have fired back. Because if we are hobbits, I think that means he thinks he is an Istari (wizard). I agree with him in that. In terms of American contemporary politics he is in fact a wizard.

He is Saruman.

You're welcome, by the way.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Reflections on E-Publishing

I've been downloading a lot of free e-published books. Project Gutenberg, for those few who are not familiar with it, is a god send to the frugal reader. At this point they have an amazing assortment of out of copyright texts, ranging from text books to novels to poetry and any sort of non-fiction imaginable.

I've also bought a few e-books. I'm not averse to paying authors for their content. Quite the opposite. I'm just frugal and impoverished right now.

What I've noticed are the price points for e-books. Some very savvy people give books away for free. This makes perfect sense when you realize that the very first book of a very popular science fiction series (Honor Harrington) is part of the give away. I'm told drug dealers use a very similar marketing ploy quite successfully. An enormous number of works at Amazon have the firts chapter free for the same reason.

Amazon has a great many short stories for sale at $.99. That price point also covers out of copyright books that someone has taken the trouble of tweaking into a modern format, with linkable tables of content and such. This is perfect for those who can not tolerate typos as well as those who wish to sample the more modern authors.

The next price points are $1.99 and $2.99. I'm inclined to think that the latter represents savvy self published authors. Kristine Kathryn Rusch has a fair number of works at $2.99. She has some bundled works at $4.99 as well.

I think the pricing here is brilliant. $2.99 is low enough for impulse purchasing. You read the first chapter, like what you've read and plunk down the dough for the rest of the story. Once you've finished enjoying it, you track down her other works and buy them as well. The dollar amounts are small enough that you can spend without thinking too hard, classic impulse buys.

Ms Rusch's big publishing house stories are priced at $9.99 and up. She set the prices on the other stuff. Her publisher set that price. I think the publishers are missing the point here. We all know the cost of an ebook is nominal compared to a hard cover or a trade paperback. The price is such that few people will buy on a whim. The market for such books is limited to people who are already interested in that story and have no other option to read it.

At that price point, people will look for it at the library or used rather than pay full retail. There are some pretty clever people in publishing, but I think they are missing the point here. E-publishing offers the opportunity to turn the long tail of the back list into a profit centre. Only one publisher, Baen, has really embraced the change. It's no accident that Baen is small house that is largely independent. Most of the big publishers are subsidiaries of much larger firms and as such are extremely conservative.

That might hurt them.

As for what prompted the above, several people have recommended John Donnelly's Gold by Brian Noggle. It looks interesting. It's also priced at $9.99 at Amazon, so I'm not going to be reading it for a while.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Quote of the Day

Better (a thousand times better) an atheist who believes in objective truth than a “religious” person who does not. - Paul Marks

From Samizdata

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Happy Happy Joy Joy

An indoor range has opened very near to us. If I can somehow start getting income again, life would be lovely.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

We Have Found The Solution

Businesses are leaving California at a record rate, mostly due to its unfriendly regulatory and tax regimes. California has a multiplicity of boards and commissions that make navigating the governmental maze to get permission to do something extraordinarily difficult.

The good news is that the elected officials are aware of the problem.

So they're forming an agency to study it and come up with a solution.

"Later this year, California will set up a new agency that will serve as a focal point for economic development and job creation, he said. Among its goals will be to reverse the perception that California is business-unfriendly."

California, where the jokes write themselves.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Whistling Past The Graveyard

I don't think David Plouffe is fooling anyone. He's throwing it out there because he is a deniable source and on the off chance a useful idiot will bite.

And for the record, one of the things that keeps biting the President in the behind is a little trick they've been playing with the unemployment statistics. Every month they announce the statistics, which typically show some slight improvement in unemployment. They also announce that they are revising the prior two months statistics downwards. That helps the current figures until the next month.

What makes me curious is whether they are relying on Mr Obama's acknowledged strengths as a campaigner to pull them through. I'm not seeing any good economic news on the horizon (jobs are stagnant, inflation recognized or not, is up, up up). My inner conspiracy theorist wonders if they will suddenly gin up some sort of political crisis near the election. The problem with that scenario is that the Iran hostage crisis really didn't help Mr Carter. By now no one thinks President Obama shines with foreign affairs.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

I Don't Quite Follow, Would You Please Repeat It?

Ed Milliband, UK Labour Party Leader answers hardball questions from the ever hard hitting BBC.

Note how the professional journalist presses the Labour leader until he cracks.


{From here}

If You're Going To Read Just One Webcomic

Make it Schlock Mercenary.

I read several. I love 'Day by Day', Oglaf (massively NSFW), Erfworld, Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic and Order of the Stick.

They're all great. But Schlock has a proven track record of always appearing every day for years. It's quality has been amazingly consistent as well.

Howard Tayler, the creator, currently has a buffer of forty days worth of comics.

Just amazing.

Friday, July 01, 2011

How To Maintain Your Linux Computer

Awesome article on the subject here.

Please excuse me while I feel smug. Linux is insanely easy sometimes.

Lifehacker is a great site. Poke around there a bit while you're there.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Uncharitable Semi Rant

Like half of America, I have a Facebook account. Also like most of those on Facebook, I use it to keep track of extended family and old college chums. It's a nice way to mark milestones in acquaintances' lives. I don't anything of real significance there and it doesn't link to any vital or financial information. Hack my Facebook account and you can see the exact same pictures you could see before you hacked my account.

Today I received something from Facebook that surprised me no end. A group I joined back in the dawn of time was spamming my email account with banal Facebook messages. I thought I joined them as a mailing list, although it is possible that I joined them on Facebook when I first signed up.

Here's the rant. Why on earth would someone resurrect a group that had been dead and buried for over two years? We all lost interest more than two years ago (one of the glories of most social media is you can look at the dates on messages). Until Monday, the last message on the group was from early 2009. Most of the messages were from early 2008.

The same people who spammed the group into banal oblivion and howled down any real meaningful discussion back in 2007-2008 were spamming each other again. It's very much like those zombies movies where you think the good guys have killed all the zombies, they've buried them for good and a skeletal hand reaches up from the ground and grabs a foot.

Let the dead stay dead, I say. If you miss the old crowd so much, why not start a new group? Then you can spam each other as much as you like.

Me, I quit the group, again. And set Gmail to mark all the messages received as spam. I'm also exploring ways to set my Facebook settings to 'dull', 'bland' or 'unexciting'.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Good Gaming News

In the midst of my despair of the state of real estate and contemplating a bleak future, I stumbled across this: It seems Star Wars: The Old Republic, the MMORPG Bioware has been working on since forever doesn't suck. It's actually pretty good. And that's from a guy in the very early "friends 'n family" beta.
It's not much, but I'll take what I can get.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

RIP Peter Falk

He was a wonderful actor. Most people remember him for Colombo, a role which made real. But my favourite role of his was when he played a grandfather:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Best Selling Idea

My cursory market research reveals that if you really want to write a best seller, it must have angst ridden vampire teenagers in a winner takes all dance contest.

Now you know.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Actually, I'd go there

Apparently at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin Texas, you can eat, drink and enjoy a movie, but you may not text.

The following is the voicemail that was left for them by one disgruntled ejectee (NSFW for language).

Wednesday, June 01, 2011


Reporters are complaining that Sarah Palin is making their lives difficult. It's as though she were paying them back for being mean about her all those years.

I'm still not convinced she's make a good President, but I do love how she handles the press.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Briar Patch, Don't Throw Me Dep't.

"If the Victorians turned up off our shores and threatened me with a gold standard, 7% taxes, property rights, free trade, the right to bear arms, the restitution of double jeopardy, free association, and the right to remain silent, while at the same time guaranteeing the repeal of civil forfeiture and detention without trial, etc., etc., etc., I would welcome them with open arms."

From here.

Too Much Fun For Words

Click to make some music

From here

Monday, March 28, 2011

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Grass is Always Greener

Right now, I'm wishing I lived in South Carolina. It's been at least a decade since I enjoyed CLE.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

It's Got a Great Beat and I Can Dance To It

Surprise hit out of Israel that's sweeping the Mideast.

Hometown Thuggery

The State Capitol is the first building you see. Apparently the police officer you barely see at the end didn't see the attack.

Nice to see a return to civility.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Thought Exercise

Let's suppose that you think there needs to be a new law. You want to stop bad people, help the unfortunate, whatever you want. You think a new law will help in that regard.

Try phrasing your new rule. "People should stop being mean" will fail as a law as there are no criteria for defining who mean people are. "No one should dump sulphur into rivers" will likely work. We know what sulphur is and we know what rivers are. The only vague term is 'dumping' and that is defined in several places under existing law.

Which raises another issue. Is your rule already adequately covered by an existing law? If so, then there really isn't any need for a new one.

You then need to attach a penalty to your law. If there are no consequences for breaking your law, then it will be broken. Generally pollution statutes have multiple levels of offense, depending upon the quantity of substance used. A teaspoon of sulphur is quite a different matter from a ton. Usually minor breaches are punished by a fine, while major breaches may be punishable by prison.

The next issue is who enforces the law. The EPA is the obvious enforcement agency, but since you want to protect rivers, the Coast Guard might also be a good candidate.

Finally, what unintended consequences could there be? With sulphur dumping, probably little to none. The law already covers similar issues without any real difficulty. However, imagine that the law is to be enforced by the person you trust the least in American politics. If you think of yourself as a progressive, how might Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee enforce your rule? If you are a conservative, Dennis Kucinich might be your bete noir.

Anyone can always enforce a law arbitrarily, so think of ways that your villain might enforce the law fairly, as written, but not within its spirit.

How might Pat Robertson see hate crime legislation, for example?

Next time you push for a law, ask yourself if you are potentially creating a new weapon to be used against you. Because if there is one certainty in politics, it's that the wheel turns and the outsiders eventually become insiders.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Hide and Seek

There are fourteen Wisconsin state senators in hiding in Illinois right now. They are living life on the lam, roughing it in a variety of cheap motels, changing hideouts when they are discovered.

My question is why are they changing motels? I seriously doubt Illinois will extradite the fugitives, if it that were even possible. The tea party has never struck me as the kidnapping sort. The Governor of Wisconsin likewise is no Jimmy Cagney.

Why then do they flee?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Internet- News Traveling At The Speed of Light

An Australian newspaper has apparently discovered the secret formula for Coca Cola.

Which was published in the Atlanta Constitution back in 1979. And has been reprinted since in other media, including the book Big Secrets by William Poundstone (published 1985).

Not to mention every soft drink manufacturer has a cola flavour, some of which are indistinguishable from 'The Real Thing'.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


I'm a man, I want one of these very badly indeed.

No, I have no illusion that I'll ever thwart a train robbery. Yes, I would be more likely to injure myself.

None of that matters in the least. Want.