Surly Curmudgeon

   The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.
-- Robert A. Heinlein
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    Thursday, July 29, 2010


    Not Helping

    Some church in Gainesville, FL is planning to hold a Quran/Koran-burning on September 11:

    Members of a church in Gainesville, Florida are planning to commemorate the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 by burning Korans. The "International Burn A Quran Day," is just the latest in anti-Islamic protests that the Dove World Outreach Center holds each year on 9/11.

    I fail to see how this accomplishes anything useful, praiseworthy, or Christian. These folks belong in the same category of "Christian" as Fred Phelps and his crew.

    By way of rebuttal:

    If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
    -- Romans 12:18


    Posted by Tom, 7/29/2010 6:34:31 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Saturday, July 24, 2010


    Nightmare

    I had a dream last night that I was struggling to write a paper. Every time I'd show it to the teacher, she'd just give me a sad, disappointed look and say that's not what she was looking for. I tried and tried, with increasing levels of frustration, and at one point had a fit, almost yelling at her that I didn't understand the assignment and that I had no idea what she was talking about. She would say something vague, and I'd go back to trying to write.

    Finally she told me that what I'd written was halfway acceptable, but that she wanted me to tackle it from a different perspective. She described it to me, but it was completely alien to my thinking. The aggravating part was that she wouldn't answer any questions, and left me on my own to try to work out the meaning of what she had to say. I woke up as I was desperately trying to wrap my mind around it, with the deadline for the paper looming closer and closer.

    Upon reflection, I think this dream is about my relationship with God.

    Posted by Tom, 7/24/2010 5:20:51 AM (Permalink). 3 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Friday, July 23, 2010


    You want a piece of me, boy?

    For the last few releases, Amazon.com has done fans of Blizzard's games a solid by offering "release day shipping". This means you don't have to go wait in line at Best Buy for one of the five copies they ordered because their purchasing managers are all functionally retarded. Release Day Shipping is also relatively cheap, costing only around $5, which is completely worthwhile when one considers the headaches of dealing with retailers, and the game is "guaranteed" to arrive at your home the day it's released in stores. I've used it successfully several times in the past, and have been fairly happy with it, so I ordered StarCraft II the same way.

    I was browsing Blizzard's website this last Wednesday, hoping to find some more information about the game, when I saw the following notice:

    StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty warps into stores on July 27, but if there are no vendors within your psionic matrix, you will also be able to purchase StarCraft II via digital download on July 27. Players planning to purchase the game digitally can cut down their waiting time by downloading the game client in advance, so all you'll need to do on July 27 is install, activate, and play.

    I immediately clicked through to the download page and started the client downloading. After some fits and starts due to my unstable DSL connection, I finally got it to download completely, and immediately went to Amazon and canceled my order.

    Doing so made me pause for a moment... I wonder how many people did the same thing? How many sales did Amazon just lose because Blizzard decided to offer release-day downloading instead of their normal pattern of only doing digital sales a couple of weeks or months after release? It's not that I blame Blizzard... the $60 price tag of the game can either go to them, or be split with the retailer. Digital sales also remove the overhead of printing and packaging, so Blizzard's highest profit margin will be on digital copies of the game. At my end, the price is the same, I don't have a box and manuals to store/throw away, and I don't have to pay $5 for shipping or go to retail hell at Best Buy.

    I certainly don't feel bad for Amazon... almost everything I buy online, I buy from Amazon if it's at all possible. So they can afford to lose my business over the $5 shipping. I just wonder if this is a portent of things to come... if it heralds the coming end of Amazon's playing nice with gamers and trying to help us out with the release day shipping. It'd be sad if it did, but hey...

    Five bucks is five bucks. Know what I'm saying?

    Posted by Tom, 7/23/2010 7:24:41 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Monday, July 19, 2010


    Blizzard giveth, Blizzard taketh away

    I've signed up to be a beta tester for every game that Blizzard has made and offered open beta signups. I've never gotten in.

    This last Saturday, I checked my email and found an email from Blizzard, issuing me a beta key for StarCraft II, their new title coming out next week. I was thoroughly excited, and as soon as I had the time, I started the client downloading.

    And downloading.

    And downloading.

    Apparently nobody else was serving the file up on Blizzard's peer-to-peer network, so I got it, it seemed, from a 12-year-old in backwoods Idaho with a 28k dial-up connection. It took all night.

    Sunday morning I leaped out of bed, got the client configured, and jumped into a game with another random player.

    About 10 minutes later, with all of my armies and buildings laid to waste, I realized I needed some practice.

    I found the way I could do that with the beta client, playing against computer opponents, and proceeded to gain some experience with the game. The next couple of times I went after a human opponent, I won handily.

    Tonight I came home, excited to play a little bit more, only to find out Blizzard shut down the beta program in preparation for release.

    One day.

    For one whole day, I was a beta tester. Me, the guy who bought the original WarCraft, then WarCraft II, then Diablo, and then decided that no matter what games Blizzard makes, I would buy them all without even waiting for the reviews, because I love everything they do.

    And I have.

    And my enthusiastic promotion of their products has no doubt secured several sales in my circle of friends.

    So I got one day to be in the "cool kids" club before they nailed the door shut and told me to get back in line.

    I guess it's true what they say... we always hurt the ones who love us.

    Someone will suggest that I just not buy this game, because I shouldn't have to put up with crap like that.

    But I've played the beta -- for a day -- and this game is frickin' AWESOME.

    Posted by Tom, 7/19/2010 7:10:00 PM (Permalink). 5 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010


    Christian politicians should start acting Christian

    From a blog I ran across, thanks to fellow traveler PastorFreud:

    Let me be frank from the outset: A great cultural divide is ripping the heart from this nation and Christians are partly responsible.

    I say that because 83% of the American people claim to be Christians. If those Christians lived as they are taught to live by the teacher they claim to follow, the American public square would be a very different kind of place.

    If one reads the New Testament -- the charter for the Christian religion -- one can discover rather quickly what that tradition is all about.

    Jesus tells his followers to tell the truth.

    Jesus tells his followers to make peace.

    Jesus tells his followers to turn the other cheek.

    Jesus tells his followers to bless those who persecute them and pray for those who misuse them.

    Jesus tells his followers to extend justice, especially to the poor and the dispossessed.

    Jesus tells his followers to serve as bridge-builders and agents of reconciliation.

    And Jesus tells his followers to love one another, even their enemies.

    But based on their words and behavior, we may safely conclude that many of the Christians who dominate America’s public square routinely reject the teachings of Jesus, in spite of their claims to the contrary.

    ...


    More at the source.

    I would add that Christian voters need to do the same. I disagree with the author's later statement that Republicans are "especially" guilty at this time; I see it as a manifestation of a possible pro-Obama bias. I believe there's enough anti-Christian Christians running around in all circles for everyone to need a kick in the pants, and that no one group is "more guilty" than another.

    I will claim guilt for myself right off the bat. I try my darnedest, but I know I fall short in countless ways. In every interaction I have, there are ways I could have been more loving, more forgiving, more merciful. Sometimes all I can do is just try to learn from my failings and do the internal Tony Horton pep talk, "do your best, forget the rest!", which of course has a bunch of similar one-liner slogans in Christian pop culture (e.g., "let go, let God", etc.).

    Civil discourse among those who disagree politically is all but dead in this country. It's almost impossible to engage another's capacity to reason when all advertising and politicking inflames their passions and emotions instead. Again, I recognize that I am no better than any other in this area, but how many of us are actually trying?


    Posted by Tom, 7/13/2010 7:13:57 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Sunday, July 11, 2010


    At the movies

    3D is the new shaky-cam. What I mean by this is that it's an endlessly annoying trick overused by everybody as a gimmick to hide the flaws in a movie. Shaky-cam hides crappy stuntwork and special effects. I've already hated on shaky-cam at length here, but would like to point out that the "hand-held" effect CAN in fact be obtained without screwing the audience out of any ability to understand what's going on in the scene. Firefly is an excellent example of "hand-held" done right. Paul Greengrass can still eat my shorts.

    3D is the new shaky-cam in that it's a gimmick to hide the fact that you don't have a good script. Or characters. Or dialogue. Or all of the above. It's true that there are some great movies coming out in 3D, but it's still a gimmick and not a very well-done one at that. The last good 3D effects I saw were in Beowulf, three freakin' years ago. Cameron's Avatar finally convinced me that I hate 3D with a passion and refuse to watch any more movies with it. All it does is make the movie blurry and harder to follow, and create an excuse for the theater to screw you out of another two bucks. We see all 3D movies in their 2D versions now.

    Such was the case with Toy Story 3, which we saw today. Good movie, by the way. I'd say the Toy Story franchise has done well for itself, and I've enjoyed every one of them. That said, I think they're done. There's nowhere to go from here.

    *SPOILER ALERT*

    One of the unwritten rules of sequels is that everything has to get bigger. The stakes have to be ratcheted up. We're playing for real money here, folks! In the first Toy Story, the stakes were the loss of interest that a boy would have in his old toys when he got new ones. In the second, they jacked it up a notch, with the crisis of the family moving house, and the toys not wanting to be left behind. In this one, they eventually face death by garbage incinerator.

    Now, as an adult, I can see that this is what had to happen. Anything less than going up another notch into a fight for their very existence, and the story probably would have fallen flat. But holy cow people... there were kids in the theater bawling their eyes out when it looked like Buzz, Woody, and the gang were going to "die". The script even had the toys join hands to face oblivion together, and accept their fiery end. This is great for an adult movie, questioning how we would all face our final destination, but there were freakin' 4-year-olds in the theater, and they were utterly traumatized. Heck, I'm pushing 40, and the scene was so emotionally intense that even I felt a little traumatized.

    *END SPOILER*

    It's still a good movie, and I'd rate it somewhere in the 7 or 8 range, but it seemed pretty inappropriate for its putative audience.

    Another 3D/2D movie we saw was The Last Airbender. I love M. Night Shyamalan, and would ordinarily defend him vociferously, but skip it. Yes, it's got some awesome special effects, but otherwise it's got about as much life as a stale cracker, and the dialogue... *shudder* Don't even ask.

    Posted by Tom, 7/11/2010 5:45:28 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, July 8, 2010


    The Law Fought the Law and the Law Won

    In Iowa, carry permits are issued with discretionary powers on the part of local sheriffs. This guy didn't like what was being said about him, so he retaliated with his discretionary power and is now being smacked down by the court.

    PRIMGHAR, Iowa -- U.S. District Court Judge Mark W. Bennett has ordered Osceola County Sheriff Douglas L. Weber to issue a gun permit to a resident and to complete a college-level course involving the First Amendment.

    Bennett's written decision on Wednesday involves the case of Paul Dorr, of Ocheyedan, who was denied a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

    ...

    And, Bennett said, "In denying Paul a concealed weapons permit, Sheriff Weber single-handedly hijacked the First Amendment and nullified its freedoms and protections. Ironically, Sheriff Weber, sworn to uphold the Constitution, in fact retaliated against a citizen of his county who used this important freedom of speech and association precisely in the manner envisioned by the founding members of our nation ...


    "In doing so, this popularly elected Sheriff, who appears to be a fine man and an excellent law enforcement officer, in all other regards, blatantly caved in to public pressure and opinion and, in doing so, severely trampled the Constitution and Paul's First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and association. This is a great reminder that the First Amendment protects the sole individual who may be a gadfly, kook, weirdo, nut job, whacko, and spook, with the same force of protection as folks with more majoritarian and popular views."


    Rest at source.

    There are some things I just think should disqualify a person from further "public service". Abuses of power, whether physical, political or administrative, should not be tolerated in a supposedly free society. I am normally sympathetic to the idea that everyone should get a second chance, but when it comes to people who hold very real power over the rest of us, I think that second chance should be in another line of work.

    Posted by Tom, 7/8/2010 6:07:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Monday, July 5, 2010


    Hiking with Jack

    My Uncle Jack and I went to the Wichita Mountains last Friday, to poke around and exercise Zoe the Adventure Dog.

    This is a riverbed I scouted while we were there. I'm hoping to do a hike that follows the riverbed some time, including a couple of mild climbing spots where it goes up a stairstep waterfall:



    Here's Little Miss Crazy Eyes, waiting for the next challenge.



    She climbs like a cougar... straight up boulders and shelves like they're not even there.

    And here we are toward the end of the hike, when the park started to fill up with other folks.




    Posted by Tom, 7/5/2010 9:13:43 AM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Home on the Range

    It's been a long time since I went shooting. I think I went once in 2009, and then only to function-check my carry gun and rotate the ammo through it. The stress of moving and making the new house what it needs to be for our comfort took a lot of my energy. That, coupled with the ammunition shortage that is only now showing signs of easing up, conspired to keep me from getting very much trigger time. This was especially irritating given the his-and-hers AR15's that had been sitting around for a year and a half, waiting to be taken out on their maiden voyages.

    So when my Uncle Jack came to visit, we decided to hit the range with the AR15's and see what they could do. Shooting buddy Tom the Impaler had loaned me a Trijicon Tri-Power a year ago for the wife's gun, so I was a little excited to give it a try. Unfortunately, its batteries were dead, so I put maybe three rounds through her gun before giving up in frustration.

    My gun got about 117 rounds through it, since it has old-fashioned iron sights, and we had a blast just trying it out. Everything functioned flawlessly, and while we weren't shooting at that great a distance for most of it, it seemed like we had the basics down well enough that future practice should get us dialed in all right.

    Tom the Impaler had wanted to sell me the Trijicon, and while it's a neat toy (now that we've gotten some new batteries in it, you can definitely see the targeting dot, but we haven't shot with it yet), Mrs. Curmudgeon has indicated that she'd be just as happy with a cheap 3x9 scope on her rifle. We both hate dealing with batteries, and given that we're not training to be mall ninjas, it's probably just as well.

    I also cycled some ammo through my carry gun(s) and noted that my Glock skills are still relatively competent despite having had no practice of late. My shots with my S&W 9mm on the other hand were all over the place. All the guns checked out fine, which made me happy.

    A couple of days later, we went to the range again, this time with the shotguns, and shot some informal trap. We weren't really doing the whole 9 (or whatever) position thing, just tossing the birds up and giving it a whirl. I managed to hit a couple of doubles and 20 out of 25 singles, so I was again fairly happy that my skills haven't completely deteriorated.

    The best part of all this is that Mrs. Curmudgeon has decided she'd like to start shooting again on a semi-regular basis, so I need to put some numbers together in the way of a monthly ammo budget. The new house is only about 4 miles from the gun club, which makes it a reasonable proposition to come home from work, feed the dogs, toss some gear in the car/truck, and head to the range for an hour or so.

    So, with spousal interest re-aroused, ammo supplies at the local Wal-Mart starting to shape up (with the exception of .45 ACP, it seems), and living quarters conveniently situated with reference to the range, maybe at long last the dry spell has come to an end.

    Posted by Tom, 7/5/2010 8:15:12 AM (Permalink). 2 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Why Liberals Should Embrace the Second Amendment

    As one might imagine, I don't read the Daily Kos much, but this article is definitely a good read. Some of the comments from the Kos groupies are (probably unintentionally) hilarious, but most are actually fairly reasonable.

    Posted by Tom, 7/5/2010 8:12:33 AM (Permalink). 7 Comments. Leave a comment...