- Somewhere in the crusty outer layer of small towns surrounding the warm creamy center that is Oklahoma City.
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Wednesday, March 26, 2008
I'm obsessive about these things, so I decided to try a speed test in the early morning, when nobody else is on, and the internet is relatively quiet. Here's what I came up with:
I think that'll do.
Posted by Tom, 3/26/2008 4:27:25 AM (Permalink). 5 Comments. Leave a comment...
Monday, March 24, 2008
When we switched to DSL because the local wireless outfit was so unreliable, I mourned the loss of all that speed. DSL was pokey and pathetic. Over time, it improved stealthily, apparently because AT&T had some extra bandwidth to spread around. But it was still not as fast as I needed it to be for all the voice over IP and other stuff I'm doing for work. So out of curiosity, I checked to see if AT&T was offering something faster nowadays... and they were!
So, a phone call and a short wait later, we went from this:
Speed ratings courtesy of Speakeasy.net.
The maximum on my account is supposed to be 6000 kbps, so I'm hoping that the signal will eventually improve to that level. Still, going about 3x faster is pretty cool. They cap the upload speed at 512 kbps to keep people from serving websites from their home, in case you were wondering why that didn't change.
Posted by Tom, 3/24/2008 5:58:42 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...
|Well, it's been about a month now since I installed Mac OS X Leopard on my iMac here at home. I've been waiting for the time to pass before commenting, because I wanted to make sure that I had given it enough time to get in my way, tick me off, or otherwise be less than stellar. However, none of that has happened. The most interesting thing about upgrading my Mac's operating system was the fact that it was such a non-event.
Before switching to the Mac, I was a rabid Windows fan from version 3.0 through XP. I've upgraded a great many machines and transferred my files from machine to machine, following Microsoft as it went first to Windows 95, then 98, then 2000, then XP (I dodged the Windows ME bullet, thank God). I also retro-graded my laptop for work from Vista to XP, as I mentioned some time ago. In every case, without exception, it was akin to major surgery. I had to identify all my important files, find a place to put them, figure out how to wrangle my email stores into a portable format, hunt up install discs for my various programs, make an inventory of programs that would need to be downloaded after the change, and finally push the switch and hope for the best. It never went well... I always lost something.
Like many Windows users, I also found it necessary to periodically wipe my computer and start over. Windows would get itself worked into a knot to the point where nothing wanted to work correctly, and the best remedy seemed to be just erasing the hard drive and reinstalling the operating system. This of course carried all the usual angst and risk of losing important files. I know I'm not alone, because I've lost count of the number of times others have asked me to wipe and reinstall their systems, or told me that they've had to take it in somewhere to have that done. Some even blame the hardware and buy a new computer, hoping that it will work better than the old one.
By contrast, I have been using the same Mac since 2002. I'm not talking about the same machine or operating system. I'm talking about the "desktop", where all my files and settings are stored. I've switched machines about a half-dozen times, and gone through 4 operating system versions (Jaguar, Panther, Tiger, Leopard). I've never had to manually back up and reinstall my files. I've never had to make an inventory of all my programs. If I'm upgrading operating systems, I just stick the disc in and let it rip. If I'm switching computers, I use the new Mac's setup program that slurps all my files and settings from the old Mac. As a result, my iPhoto library still has the first photos that I started using the program to organize. I have emails going back to 2005, when I finally decided to trust the Mac for managing my email (yes, it took me 3 years). My iTunes library is 100% intact from the first day I started listening to music with it.
And now, I've upgraded my operating system yet another time, gained a host of new features (over 300, according to Apple), and it was barely a blip on my trouble detector. It had all the impact on my life of sticking in a CD to install a game or other application. Indeed, I've had some games that were considerably more difficult to install than Leopard (Half-Life, looking in your direction).
So with the incredible ease of use and ease of transition, it truly boggles my mind why more people aren't using Macs. I guess they just haven't had enough pain with Windows yet, to want something better.
Posted by Tom, 3/24/2008 5:21:57 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...
Friday, March 21, 2008
This week has been a week of new personal bests on a number of lifts. Most significantly, my deadlift is reaching the point where I'm running out of weights to put on the bar. It'll be time to buy an olympic bar soon -- my standard 7' bar can't hold much more than I'm already putting on it. Squats, since they use pretty much the same set of muscles, are not far behind. I'm pushing myself to also hit that level with my bench press before I get an olympic set, but if it starts compromising my leg workout, I might have to bend that rule.
Today was my "hard" day... warm up with squats, followed by deadlifts, followed by leg curls, and then a quick 200-yard dash carrying two 25-pound dumbbells before getting on the elliptical for 40 minutes. It's a whole lot of lower body.
Speaking of the elliptical, we've finally found a cardio machine that I like using. I've tried bikes and treadmills and such, but I hated all of them for various reasons. The elliptical, on the other hand, feels great on the "fat burner" setting, which targets your heart rate at 65% of your calculated maximum, and it's quiet enough that I can watch an episode of Smallville on DVD to keep my mind occupied while I work. I've made another deal with myself that says I can buy all of Smallville on DVD, but I'm only allowed to watch them while using the elliptical. Anyway, I'm sure my doctor will be pleased that I'm doing my cardio now.
Know what? I'm tired.
Posted by Tom, 3/21/2008 10:05:59 PM (Permalink). 2 Comments. Leave a comment...
|Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good; that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil; and I want you to remember this, that love... true love never dies. You remember that, boy. You remember that. Doesn't matter if it's true or not. You see, a man should believe in those things, because those are the things worth believing in.
-- Hub, Secondhand Lions
Posted by Tom, 3/21/2008 6:23:06 AM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...
Thursday, March 20, 2008
It turns out that the widely reported "scheme" to protect British pedestrians from themselves was nothing but a PR stunt. It says something about the quality of news organizations these days when they can't tell the difference.
What's my excuse? I'm just some dude in backwater Oklahoma. And this is a blog about my reactions to the "news" (such as it is), not a journalistic effort at reporting same.
Posted by Tom, 3/20/2008 5:19:35 AM (Permalink). 2 Comments. Leave a comment...
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
I've always loved chains and ropes and things to tie, tow, and hoist with. I don't know why, but I remember even as a kid thinking that chains and ropes were among the coolest things around. I used to spend hours braiding ropes out of baling twine, and I always seem to get stuck in the hardware store near the spools of cable, rope, and chain. I remember Mrs. Curmudgeon thinking I was weird for getting all excited the day I brought home a 20' logging chain for keeping in the truck and using to pull stumps and logs and such. I'm also growing an impressive collection of those nylon strap tie-down things with the hooks on the end. Yes, this is going somewhere.
The H.E. Bailey Spur is a short but lonely stretch of toll road connecting I-44 and I-35 southwest of Newcastle Oklahoma. It's really the only good way to get from Tuttle (where I live) to Norman (where my wife works). Like many divided highways in Oklahoma, it has a deceptively shallow drainage ditch between the opposing lanes of traffic. I say "deceptively shallow" because you wouldn't think a car could get stuck in them, the slopes are so gentle. But they do, especially when we've had rain recently.
I was headed to Norman today to have lunch with the wife-unit, and as I approached the exit for route 76, I saw a big ol' van near the bottom of the ditch on the opposite side, with mud up to the axle. A similar van was across the opposing lanes from them, and about half a dozen women were milling around, looking like they really had no idea what to do next. There also seemed to be what I believe is called a "whole passel" of kids crammed into the non-stuck van.
As I took all this in, and considered my options, I zipped by the route 76 exit. Now if I was going to turn around and help, it would have to be at route 62. I wrestled with it for a bit, seeing plenty of other people in big pickup trucks headed the other way and rationalizing that surely one of them would stop. Finally, I decided to swing around and go back, figuring that if someone had stopped, I could just zip on by and turn around again, and the whole thing would only set me back about 5 minutes.
When I finally got back to the scene, a cop had just arrived to discuss the matter with the ladies. I pulled up behind him, and said I had a chain in the back of the truck and could make an effort at towing them out. Of course, now that I saw the vehicle up close, I was beginning to have my doubts. Richard the Deep Breather is a GMC Sierra 1500 with a V8 engine, but only 2-wheel drive and not a great setup for traction in cases like this. The stuck vehicle was one of those huge old passenger vans from about 1980 with about 4 or 5 rows of total seating. It probably outweighed RtDB. Oh well, in for a penny, in for a pound, as they say.
The officer had me pull to the side and wait while he sorted out what was going on with the driver of the van. I took that opportunity to take my carry gun off and stash it in the console of RtDB, so I wouldn't have to get into THAT conversation. It's not that I was doing anything wrong, it's just that I was about to do a bunch of bending and stretching, and figured somebody would spot the gun and possibly freak out.
During this, I overheard some of the ladies going on and on about how they'd been there for an hour and nobody had stopped. The cop said they'd gotten several calls about the situation, so apparently that was the limit of the good-Samaritaning in Newcastle today. I thought this was a little ridiculous, because I'd seen people driving the huge Dodge pickups with duallies and so forth... why didn't any of them stop? Why buy a $50,000 truck if you're just going to pass up opportunities to use all that power?
Anyway, when the officer gave me the all-clear, I fanagled my way into position, but they were so far down in the ditch I couldn't keep RtDB's back wheels on the pavement with the length of chain I had. Sure enough, all I did was spin my wheels.
It was about the time I was contemplating the use of my "come-along" that a commercial tow truck showed up. He was kind of a jerk, basically making fun of the women for being stuck. When one of them asked what it would cost to have him pull them out, he said it would be a "two-hour" charge. I don't know what that means exactly, but I'm sure it's expensive. I heard the cop mention that a fire truck was on the way (God only knows why), so I disconnected RtDB and pulled off to the side again, just as the aforementioned fire truck showed up. We now had 2 vans, a cop car, RtDB, a tow truck, and a fire truck on the scene. This was turning into a regular party.
The tow truck driver decided to be a little helpful and grabbed a spare chain from his truck and used it to reach the fire truck so they could stay on the pavement. After that, it was about 7 seconds for the van to be pulled out onto the road again. I retrieved my chain and packed up, was roundly thanked by just about every one of the ladies on scene, and got ready to leave. One of the ladies sent a child over to me with a $20 bill and some more thanks. I had already turned down money from one of them, but if they were going to insist, I figured I'd go ahead and let them express their gratitude (even though I didn't do much).
I finally got on my way, went to lunch (paid for by the nice ladies), then made one more stop on my way back home. Much as I drive that section of road, and this being the second time in a year that I've seen a vehicle needing to be pulled out of that ditch (the first being RtDB in the Whirlytruck incident), I figured it might be nice to have another tow chain for that extra length. Besides, one can never have too much chain.
Posted by Tom, 3/19/2008 5:58:20 PM (Permalink). 3 Comments. Leave a comment...
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
The LA Times is reporting that the Supreme Court seems ready to rule on the side of individual gun ownership. How far they go will be a subject of speculation for however long it takes them to actually issue the ruling, supposedly coming in June.
I suppose I might be content with a narrow ruling that at least drop-kicks the DC gun law. It seems to me though, that they won't be able to do this without establishing some sort of "reasonableness" test. Of course, I'd like to see such a test become a lever by which other gun bans can be challenged, and I'd love to see them incorporate the 2nd Amendment under the 14th, as an injunction against the states. The problem is, given the questions they're tasked with answering, it's possible that they may be unable to do anything sweeping.
Oh well, no use dwelling on it. The arguments are in, the rest is out of our hands.
For those needing a backgrounder, Reason.tv has a nicely done summation of what the case is about, who the plaintiff is, what's at stake, and the history surrounding the case.
Posted by Tom, 3/18/2008 6:06:46 PM (Permalink). 3 Comments. Leave a comment...
|I-Mockery has done a hilarious scene-by-scene review of the old trucking/arm-wrestling movie, Over the Top, starring Sylvester Stallone. |
Posted by Tom, 3/18/2008 6:17:55 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...
Monday, March 17, 2008
HB2513 was changed to be a useless piece of crap. It's up at the legislation tracker now.
Posted by Tom, 3/17/2008 8:34:58 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...
Saturday, March 15, 2008
The latest reports in the news about Oklahoma House Bill 2513 have some disturbing elements:
Introduced by Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, the law would authorize active-duty military and National Guard and reserve personnel, honorably discharged veterans and others with firearms training certified by the Council on Law Enforcement Education who hold a state concealed weapons license to carry guns on college and university campuses.
The legislation is more narrow than Murphey's original proposal, which would have allowed anyone at least 21 years old with concealed handgun carrying rights to carry weapons on campus. That version was similar to a Utah law.
Worse yet, the folks over at this forum are saying (without any supporting evidence) that it was the Republicans who watered it down.
However, when I go over to the Oklahoma legislature's bill tracking website and search for HB2513, the only text I can find looks like this:
Any person in possession of a valid concealed handgun license issued pursuant to the provisions of the Oklahoma Self-Defense Act shall be authorized to carry the concealed handgun into or upon any public college or university property...
And then there's the aforementioned weasel clause. But nowhere does it say anything about the restrictions discussed in the article(s), which include reports from the NRA. It would be really disturbing to me if the NRA was just getting its news from the media.
The obvious possibility is that the legislature hasn't updated its website since the House passed the bill. I'll give it a week before I start really demanding some answers.
Posted by Tom, 3/15/2008 5:05:47 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Politicians take people's money with a promise to fulfill desires that supposedly can't be attained any other way. Prostitutes do the same, though by reputation, they are more reliable in delivering.
-- Steve Chapman, Reason
Posted by Tom, 3/13/2008 5:54:46 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...
|Most of the time, Ted Nugent is a bit too much of a jerk to make a good point. In this video however, I think he does a great job.
That's kind of how I approach it too: if a lethal encounter ensues, which person would I rather see standing at the end? Which person would I rather see populating the world around me? My answer informs all of my opinions about guns and gun control.
Posted by Tom, 3/13/2008 8:38:35 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...
|Every area of my life has noobs (aka novices) that need to be taught and mentored. Nowhere is this quite as adrenaline-pumping as in the area of firearms, as Nicki F. demonstrates:
First thing she did when she removed the G19 from its case is grab it (with the finger on the trigger) and proceed to wave it around like it was a sparkler on Independence Day. That's when yours truly, stood up, grabbed the gun from the small female-type and told her she wasn't allowed to hold it until she learned the rules.
...She protested a little when I wrestled the gun away and said, "But it wasn't loaded!!!"
Ugh. There are far too many people close to me who don't seem to know the first thing about safe gun handling. Most of them, it doesn't do any good to protest their actions... they're older, "wiser", and have been handling guns since before I was born. At least I don't have to shoot with them very often, and can generally make excuses not to.
I've had two or three instances of zero-to-ohmygodI'mgonnadie because someone has been mishandling a gun and pointed it right at me, finger on the trigger, completely unaware of what they were doing. These are not experiences I'd like to repeat. Much as I like to assert that gun owners are generally a respectable, responsible lot, there's idiots and ignoramuses in every demographic. Thankfully, they're rather rare at the gun range, because people like me tend to report people like them to the range owner/officer and get them summarily booted.
So when I get the opportunity to teach a noob, I, like Nicki F., spend a whole lot of time on the rules of gun handling. Respect first, fun second. And the first notion I pound out of their heads is the idea that the gun "isn't loaded". As my first firearms instructor told me (and a dozen other kids at 4-H camp), you'd be amazed at how many people are killed or injured every year with "unloaded" guns. That's why the first rule is that every gun is always loaded.
Ted Nugent once told a story about hanging out with fellow musician Sting, who asked to see Ted's carry gun, a revolver of some type (can't remember the details). Ted pulled out the gun, unloaded it, and handed it to Sting with the cylinder open. Sting immediately snapped the cylinder shut, made a funny face, put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger.
To any responsible gun owner (read: most of us), such an incident leaves an icy chill. It also highlights the lack of respect that a lot of non-gun owners have towards guns as potentially dangerous tools. By way of contrast, not only would I never do something so stupid with a real gun, I've had severe misgivings about participating in paintball sports because I don't like the idea of shooting someone "for fun". I'll happily compete in bowling pin matches and have made the occasional bet on my bullseye skills. I've even looked into the price of dueling trees and plate racks. But aiming a gun-like object at another person for purposes of entertainment just bugs me. Maybe I'm over-reacting, but I think it still comes down to respect first, fun second.
Posted by Tom, 3/13/2008 8:08:10 AM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
It's about women being able to take care of themselves:
A dream where instead of reading about a cute college coed left dead and naked out in a vacant lot or bloated and floating in a river, the story reads, "dead jack ass found double-tapped and dead on the curb as his soul wings its way to hell, all because he messed with the wrong mama."
A dream where itís normal for girls to know Jui Jitsu and mixed martial arts. A dream where they can shoot golf ball sized groups with their .38 at 15ft.
I share this dream. It boggles my mind that, in a time when concealed weapons licenses are available to more women than ever before, so many prefer to be defenseless victims. I suppose they think it can't happen to them, or their husband/boyfriend/whatever will always be handy to protect them. That's one of those plans that doesn't survive first contact with the enemy.
I don't generally spend very much time with other guys, teaching them how to use guns, buy guns, maintain guns, or whatever. But I'll go out of my way to spend the day teaching a woman everything she wants or needs to know. It also helps that women are easier to teach. It's a pity that so few want to learn... and that the so-called "men" in their lives are generally unwilling to teach them. For those who know, there's nothing more attractive than a woman who can take care of business.
Posted by Tom, 3/12/2008 6:21:29 AM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...
|It turns out Gary Gygax had the same literary experience I did in terms of fantasy fiction:
He was a fan of the Conan the Barbarian books by Robert E. Howard and wanted to try to capture that sort of swashbuckling action in a war game. (Interestingly, he loathed the major fantasy touchstone of the time, J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series. "It was so dull. I mean, there was no action in it," Gygax says. "I'd like to throttle Frodo.")
It really is too bad that all of Tolkien's fanboys weren't exposed to Conan first. Of course, growing up on Conan kind of ruins a person for more high-minded fantasy of other authors as well. I similarly couldn't stand the Shannara series or David Eddings' books or that godawful Mists of Avalon thing. That's okay though, because there was plenty of good stuff to fill in the gaps, like the Iron Tower trilogy (and its companions by the same author) and Weis & Hickman's Dragonlance collection. This probably makes me an unsophisticated barbarian (pun intended), but if the swords aren't swinging by chapter two, you might as well count me out.
Posted by Tom, 3/12/2008 5:45:36 AM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...
Monday, March 10, 2008
Here's a great interview with Montana governor Brian Schweitzer on the "Real ID" controversy. He brings up the federal government's increasing propensity to issue unfunded mandates in the name of national security, talks about the flaws in the "Real ID" plan, and so forth. The money quote, however, is early in the conversation where he says that when dealing with the federal government, Montana has found that "it's best to just tell them to go to hell."
Bonus: He's a Democrat.
Ever since I crossed the Mississippi River, I've been amazed at the attitude folks out here have toward the federal government. In some cases, it's not as strong as I'd like, but in other cases (like this one), I'm pleasantly surprised by the sentiments expressed and their source.
Posted by Tom, 3/10/2008 6:23:46 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...
|My coworkers and I typically spend 3 days a week working from home. We usually communicate by instant messenger, unless a whole lot of discussion needs to take place, in which case we call each other. We also usually have multiple IM conversations going on, with friends and family, as well as our business-oriented conferences. This can occasionally lead to minor embarrassments when one person gets their various conversations mixed up, as happened this morning when my boss, Nick, posted something unexpected (last names redacted for privacy's sake):
Posted by Tom, 3/10/2008 5:30:34 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...
Friday, March 7, 2008
Ron Paul has ended his presidential campaign. At least he's secured his seat in the House for another term.
His final words to supporters: "Let us all stick together in this great cause of liberty and show the love that we all share for our country and the Constitution. Thank you for joining in."
Time to get back to the greater revolution.
Posted by Tom, 3/7/2008 8:52:40 PM (Permalink). 2 Comments. Leave a comment...
|As can be seen in the recent shooting at an Israeli seminary:
A student at the Jerusalem yeshiva where eight people were killed in a terrorist attack Thursday evening shot the gunman who opened fire inside the religious school's crowded library, neutralizing him before a soldier killed him with an automatic rifle.
Yitzhak Dadon said he climbed onto the roof of a nearby building, armed with a rifle, and waited for the gunman to emerge.
"He came out of the library spraying automatic fire ... the terrorist came to the entrance and I shot him twice in the head," he said.
No, it doesn't stop the bad guys from starting up the furball, but it does allow those on scene to end it much faster.
Posted by Tom, 3/7/2008 6:21:28 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...
Thursday, March 6, 2008
Oklahoma is looking at two changes to our concealed-weapons laws, both of which I support. The first allows licensees to carry on university campuses, and is apparently at the floor of the state House of Representatives for consideration. The second is a bill to lower the minimum age from 21 to 18, under the logic that if you're old enough to carry a gun (in the military), you're old enough to carry a gun (for self defense).
Here's an article from Tulsa World on the subject. There's a little bit of whining on the part of our concealed carry gatekeepers:
Meanwhile, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation says it is having a difficult time keeping up with all the applications for concealed-carry licenses. The OSBI has to run security and background checks on applicants within 90 days.
"We are absolutely inundated," OSBI spokeswoman Jessica Brown said. "We are barely able to process applications in the time frame allowed by law."
More than 60,000 Oklahomans are licensed to carry concealed weapons. Licenses granted in 2006 totaled 9,591. That number jumped to 16,426 in 2007, according to the OSBI.
Sounds like a perfect opportunity to adopt Vermont/Alaska rules to me.
Anyway, I looked into the status of these bills, which can be tracked at the state's legislation tracker website, which is a cumbersome and unwieldy beast of a page that looks like it was put together by some high school kid for a class project. In the course of looking up these two bills, I found about half a dozen more:
|HB1006||S||Stricken from cal||Self-Defense Act-Delete prohibited statement on application for a handgun license||Delete from the application for a license the prohibition for "Any false or misleading statement on the application for a handgun license as provided by paragraph 5 of Section 1290.12 of this title;"|
|HB1742||Approved by Gov||Self-Defense Act-Provide option to handgun license apps and licensees||Allows applicants to request a 10-year license (normal is 5 years) at double the fee.|
|HB2232||H||General Order||Self-Defense Act; age requirement||Lower the minimum age from 21 to 18|
|HB2450||H||Ref to Jud/Sfty||Temporary Emergency Concealed Weapons License||Allows the issuance of temporary emergency licenses for those who are in immediate danger, especially if protected by a restraining order against a stalker/abuser/whatever|
|HB2513||H||General Order||Concealed handguns; colleges and universities||Allow carry on university property, but also allows administrators to prohibit employees from carrying.|
|HB2636||H||Ref to Jud/Sfty||Self-Defense Act; exception to certain prohibited act||Passengers in cars who are licensees do not have to identify themselves to law enforcement in the event of a traffic stop.|
|HB2781||H||Ref to Jud/Sfty||Concealed Weapons Act of 2008||Doesn't seem to say anything|
|SB421||S||Stricken from cal||OK Self-Defense Act-Require applicant to qualify to satisfaction of the instructor||Allows subjective testing on part of instructors in concealed weapons classes|
So it turns out the one for colleges and universities isn't so great after all, given that it added the weasel clause for administrators, no doubt put in place for (or at the request of) giant weasels like David L. Boren, OU's head honcho. Of course, if students gain the ability to carry by virtue of HB2232, I expect to see that clause challenged most vociferously.
On the other bills, it looks like good moves were made on the two that were killed, and the rest look like things I'd like to see implemented. I was really happy to see the 10-year provision... hadn't even heard of that one, but you can bet I'll be requesting it when my license comes back up for renewal in about 3 years. Here's hoping the legislature keeps moving forward on the rest.
Posted by Tom, 3/6/2008 7:25:58 PM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...
|Most gamers already know about Zero Punctuation Reviews, in which a Brit currently living in Australia speed-talks his way through the latest video game that he hates (and he hates them all, it's part of his schtick). But for those who are new to the gaming scene, and especially those trying to decide on a console to buy, here's his hilarious and typically cynical take on the "console wars" currently going on between the Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 3, and XBox 360.
Warning: language may offend some
Zero Punctuation Reviews are a regular feature of Escapist Magazine, and can be found there.
Posted by Tom, 3/6/2008 6:44:21 PM (Permalink). 2 Comments. Leave a comment...
|Padded lampposts are being trialled in a London street to protect inattentive pedestrians.
A pilot scheme has been launched in Brick Lane after it was found to have the highest number of 'walking and texting' injuries in the country.
The charity Living Streets is so concerned that it has teamed up with the directory enquiries service to test a scheme to wrap up the nation's lampposts.
Rest of story here. A longer article is available here.
There's even a picture:
One of these days, I'm going to run down my "theory of everything" on this page, but for now suffice it to say that I believe mankind was meant for a dangerous world. Bumps, bruises, and lamppost-shaped dents in the ol' noggin are part of the environment in which we were designed/evolved to exist. I believe that one of the absolute worst trends of modern society has been the obsession with hyper-safety. It will soften us to the point where we will no longer be able to deal with danger of any kind, which will eventually be a very serious problem for the species.
Posted by Tom, 3/6/2008 7:37:07 AM (Permalink). 4 Comments. Leave a comment...
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
I recently commented to someone that I would consider myself a "conscientious objector" when it comes to military service. However, I said, I carry a gun. That person laughed in my face and asked derisively how that could possibly work. I never got a chance to respond, as there were others present and the conversation moved on.
I really don't understand why this is a difficult concept. I oppose the initiation of force. I don't believe it is morally right to invade another person's space, house, or country and seek to impose my will upon them by threatening or using force.
At the same time, I completely support the defensive use of force. Once someone has started the hostilities, I have no intention of being one of those "unarmed victims" we see in the news. I carry a gun, but I do it with the understanding that, as the saying goes, having a gun doesn't make me armed any more than having a guitar makes me a musician. "Armed" is in attitude and awareness. A gun just makes the confrontation a little more evenly matched.
My interpretation of "defensive" is rather strict, informed as it is by the legalities and moralities surrounding armed self-defense. I don't believe that invading Iraq was in any way a defensive maneuver. The argument has been put forth that one of the reasons for invasion was to defend the Kurds, who were being exterminated by Saddam Hussein. This may be a morally acceptable defensive use of force, but everything I remember from the time had to do with Saddam's supposed possession of weapons of mass destruction. And since I can't morally invade my neighbor's house and shoot him with my handgun just because I believe he has a rifle, I don't believe WMD's were a valid reason to invade Iraq, even if they did exist.
While I don't believe in the typical liberal argument about the war being "all about oil", I will at least agree that to the extent the war is about oil, it's also wrong on those grounds.
As for the Kurds, I don't believe we were really all that concerned about them. Our inaction towards Rwanda and Darfur certainly don't support the idea that America invades countries to save the oppressed. Indeed, our invasion of Iraq happened from the south, geographically about as far from the Kurds as we could get. It seems a funny way to defend them.
On top of this, even defending someone does not confer the right to counter-invade the aggressor's space. If I intervene to prevent a mugging, once the aggression has been neutralized, I do not have the moral right to track down the mugger to his home and pop a couple of slugs in his rear end. Once the aggression has ceased, so too does my moral justification for using force.
It is possible that, were the United States military to be reassigned to solely protecting America's borders as Ron Paul has advocated, my self-description as a "conscientious objector" would be ended. Honestly though, I don't see that happening any time soon.
The difference then, is perhaps not best described as being "anti-war" or "anti-violence", but "anti-aggression". I'm all for violence when it is employed in a moral context -- defensively against those who pose an immediate existential threat to myself and those around me. And I believe I have the right to carry whatever tools I may deem necessary to that end. But this idea of going halfway around the world to kill brown people who sorta look like the guys who crashed planes into buildings, just because we didn't get our satisfying pound of flesh from the charred corpses of the actual perpetrators... that just doesn't seem right to me.
Posted by Tom, 3/5/2008 7:20:51 PM (Permalink). 3 Comments. Leave a comment...
|Fellow blogger Xavier details an encounter that happened a few years back at Wal-Mart. In it, he draws his gun to fend off his attackers, and then spends some time contemplating the situation. There's even a No Country for Old Men moment as he realizes what it's all about.
Through church and over the next few days I was perplexed. Why would a man of my stature, a fit six foot one, be chosen as prey by two criminals? I could not understand it. Those kind of things happened to the elderly, women, the weak. They did not happen to big guys with crew cuts and broken noses. Hell, most of the time, all it took was a cold professional stare to change the direction of young men. Was my world changing? Was I getting older? Did it show? Or were the cretins becoming bolder? I was dumbfounded. I did not know why I was singled out as prey, and it bothered me. I began to grow apprehensive. I could not change it unless I knew why, and I was still going into the worst of neighborhoods to provide nursing service. Were these thugs targeting me specifically? Did they know me? Had I unwittingly crossed into some unknown gangland pissing grounds? God damn it, did they want my child?
...Then, on Wednesday, as I was changing the dressing on Miss Eleanor's abdominal surgical wound, Judge Judy was blaring on the television. Two idiots were arguing over a GameBoy as though it was a bag of diamonds. It was then that everything became clear to me. The two thugs could not steal a GameBoy from the locked case inside the Wal-Mart. I remembered them being present looking at CDs while Little Darling and I waited on the manager to open the locked display case. They had waited for a customer to purchase the object of their lust, and then followed the customer out of the store to score. My little girl's life and my own life had been threatened for a damned toy....
It's a very good example of a defensive gun use, but as someone states in his comment section, the anti-gunners don't count it because no shots were fired. And because they don't count it and the thousands if not millions like it, they reach the wrong conclusions.
It also underscores the point that "situational awareness" is not limited to one's immediate surroundings. It encompasses the socioeconomic forces in play as well. Knowing what's popular among the kids these days will help you know what might make you a target. There's a reason that some have described the color of standard iPod headphones as "Mug-Me White".
And of course, having an effective means of self-defense handy is also highly recommended.
Posted by Tom, 3/5/2008 7:08:30 PM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...
|Fellow blogger Vortmax found some interesting research on Daylight Savings Time, which apparently shows that the "savings" is instead a huge cost. Click the link and head over for a read, it's worth your time. I'd comment more, but he's already said pretty much everything I'd like to say.|
Posted by Tom, 3/5/2008 6:52:10 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...
|Ars Technica has a nice little obituary for Gary Gygax, the man usually credited with creating Dungeons & Dragons. I no longer play D&D (indeed, I can't stand that particular rules system anymore), but its influence is undeniable, from the moral panics of the 1980's to the present popularity of computer MMORPG's like World of WarCraft, which I do play. His influence will be felt in the games industry for many years to come, and while his product was ultimately very primitive, it ignited the imaginations of those making its successors. |
Posted by Tom, 3/5/2008 6:05:35 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...
|Some time ago, a friend of mine remarked about his deciding not to pursue a doctorate in his chosen field. He said "You have to be in love with the process." I relayed this comment to another friend a few years later, one who was just finishing his doctorate, and he agreed that the comment very much reflected the experience.
I've also talked with some who have successfully navigated the seminary system, and it seems true for them as well. In order to become a recognized "expert" on a given subject, whether it's chemistry or political science or religion, the powers-that-be require you to abandon all your wonder and enthusiasm and instead become an expert at navigating and manipulating the punitive system they've constructed and enforced as the gatekeepers against competition for their expert-ness.
My question is, does the system in fact turn you into a better chemist or minister or doctor, or does it merely box up your thinking in such a way as to turn you into a supporter of the system that produced you? I see evidence all the time that the latter is the case for lawyers, which of course doesn't make them any more attractive to me. It just seems to me that anything one does by way of advanced or specialized education should be directly aimed at producing a better "whatever", and not at supporting the educational system. Such support should come voluntarily, after the fact, as a result of successful competition in the marketplace, ie: "this school made me a better welder than any of my competitors, and I have them to thank for my success, so I'm donating to the new building fund and adding my endorsement to their literature."
Granted, I have a very biased view against formal education, especially when it comes to my chosen field. I was in a sophomore-level class back in 1990, learning Pascal, and we were given the task of writing a program that did something (I forget what). I did so. The program worked perfectly. But I was given a "B" on the assignment instead of an "A" because I used functions and techniques that had not yet been covered in class. That experience was so disheartening that it basically destroyed my belief that I was in college to learn anything of value. I dropped out at the end of that academic year, in part because of that teacher. I met her by chance some time later, and she told me that she had added a rule to all of her assignments because of me: materials not already covered in class were prohibited on assignments.
I am now a software engineer. I taught myself how to program, and worked my way up into a programming job over the course of about 4 years. I learned far more from books and practice and the "real world" than Bowling Green State University ever even attempted to teach me. And I'm successful in spite of that institution, so every time the call my wife asking for an alumni donation, I tell them to get bent.
So when I hear people telling me that modern education expects you to be "in love with the process", this is what comes to mind -- a system that expects you to follow the system's rules, not to make you a better person or citizen or craftsman, but just for the sake of following the rules. And it really burns me when I encounter it. It's one of the reasons I have so much disgust towards government, which is above all else a producer of rules for their own sake.
However, I have found that there are times when it actually is a good thing to be in love with the process. I've watched carpenters and other craftsman spend time building things, and talked with them about how they do what they do, and it's obvious that they are in love with their process. My grandfather was a bricklayer from school to retirement, and I've listened to him talk about the different ways he's done things. His eyes kind of light up when he talks about them, and although half the time I have trouble keeping up with it, it's clear that he loves the process of building stuff with his hands.
As I've embarked on the stereotypical thirty-something's self-improvement journey, I've seen the same thing. Physically, spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually, I have to be in love with the process, or the result I'm after never actually comes to be. It's especially true in my efforts at fitness. I just spent three weeks working on a single lift, to add a couple of pounds to the lift. If I didn't thoroughly love the activity itself, I would have given this up many months and several hundred dollars ago. But I am at long last closing in on some of my intermediate goals.
Being in love with the process certainly helps, but how is this different from the processes mentioned above? I think the difference is that the process has to naturally lead to the product. For too long we in this country have equated "education" with sitting in a classroom, learning how to take a test, or worse, how to complete an assignment not just in ways that satisfy the requirements, but also in ways that don't make the teacher work too hard or look like an idiot. Somehow, catering to the teacher's needs (or the institution's, or even the government's a la NCLB) is supposed to produce a better worker -- and let's be honest, a worker of some kind is what every student will ideally become. This is ridiculous. The student should be learning stuff of practical value, and test-taking doesn't qualify.
I look forward to a day when education in general has a more liberated vision. I'd like to see schools or tutors for all sorts of different things, with many different approaches to the same thing. I'd like to see schools where one can become a doctor through apprenticeship -- I happen to know a person or two doing medical missionary work, getting all sorts of practical experience in dealing with disease and injury, who can't qualify for anything more than a job flipping burgers in the USA because they're not "qualified" to practice medicine at any level. But they've assisted with surgeries, dispensed medications, diagnosed illnesses, triaged patients, and so on in other countries, so they're clearly qualified to do the work.
I'd like to see us move away from these artificial obstacle courses we call "education", and redefine what it means to be educated. Having little letters to follow your name might look impressive, but nowadays it doesn't necessarily mean that you know anything. In the "real world", what matters isn't your scores on the standardized tests, or your advisor's recommendation. What matters is your results -- do you build houses, cure patients, write programs, and so forth better than the next guy? I think it's high time our education system was reworked with the real world in mind, catering to the future needs of the students rather than the present needs of the system. Then we'll have a process worth loving.
Posted by Tom, 3/5/2008 7:54:10 AM (Permalink). 5 Comments. Leave a comment...