So, so tired...

Just finished sending off the last of the young ladies who were here for my eldest daughter's 13th birthday party.


Nine girls total (six friends, three daughters) makes for a remarkably loud evening at times.  They used fabric paint to make their own tee-shirts, had a Mario Cart competition, then went outside to play games like "capture the flag" and "run around like little maniacs until you collapse in a heap, giggling."

Before it got too dark out, a friend of ours - a Marine armorer - came by with a couple of his .22s and a pile of ammo.  We added in our own .22s, and had enough that the girls could take turns plinking at targets we set up. [1]  It turns out that Danny's semi-auto with bipod, scope, and 30 round banana clip was absolutely perfect for demolishing the unusually large (and completely unexpected) harvest of decorative gourds that decided to try and take over our garden this year.  We must have destroyed about two dozen of the lousy things.  There may have been some slight cackling involved.

Dinner was uncle Sean's hamburgers [2] by special request, with cake and ice cream for dessert.  Following that, we retired (well, the girls got to retire) to sit around a camp fire for a while.  S'mores were planned for, but we didn't actually seem to make it that far.

All in all, it was a loud, boisterous, and busy evening.

It was also pretty darn fun.

Happy birthday, kiddo!

[1] Bitter clingers, and all that, y'know.  Got a reputation to uphold.
[2] The IPH is my brother Sean's place.  He's quite a cook, and his hamburgers are delicious.

Police probing Quebec maple syrup heist worth up to $30-million

Police probing Quebec maple syrup heist worth up to $30-million

Quebec police are on the hunt for a sticky-fingered thief after millions of dollars of maple syrup vanished from a Quebec warehouse.

OK, first off? There's a "global strategic maple syrup reserve"? Who knew?

And, second - apparently the Glatun have arrived. Just, y'know, pointing that out.

BATF: The Next Front on the Federal Forfeiture War on Cash

BATF: The Next Front on the Federal Forfeiture War on Cash
AG Holder has granted the BATF authority, for a one-year trial period, to seize and administratively forfeit property allegedly involved in controlled substance offenses...

As one commenter points out:
We can kill you if you are a "suspected terrorist", and we can take all your stuff if it is "allegedly involved". Anything else we haven’t thought of?
Yes.  Rope.

This Is What It Takes...

... To Fire The Biggest Gun On The Destroyer USS Barry.  Robert Johnson from Business Insider goes onboard for a live fire exercise.

"Rope." "What?"

I have an online conversational habit that I picked up from TJIC (who still isn't back to blogging, dagnabbit...)  Occasionally, I'll respond to a news story that's linked on Facebook or another site with a single word comment:
For example: a friend recently posted a story about a student who had two individuals approach him at a party and ask him if he were Jewish.  When he said that he was, they gave the Nazi salute, said they were with the KKK, and the proceeded to beat him, break his jaw, and then - once he was beaten unconscious - they stapled his mouth shut.

An update to the story noted:
East Lansing police said in a statement Tuesday the assault was "not likely a hate crime," and they are not investigating it as one.
Yes... you read that right.  "Not likely a hate crime".

My response?
A friend asked me what I meant by that, which led me to spend a few minutes trying to come up with a concise definition.  For the record, here's what I mean when responding with that singular word:
Rope :  a general declaration of disgust, directed at those whom we should be able to trust, but who have decided to betray that trust. Were this the old west, they'd be strung up for the lying, filthy, miserable weasels that they are. As we live in more enlightened days, instead of actually hanging corrupt officials, the best we can do is string up their careers - vigorously and with great enthusiasm.
Though I have to admit that sometimes, channeling the spirit of H. L. Mencken, I feel an overwhelming desire to leave off that last bit, and just... go buy some rope.

Grand Island Preschooler Forbidden Sign Language for His Own Name

You have got to be kidding me.

Hunter Spanjer says his name with a certain special hand gesture, but at just three and a half years old, he may be forced to change it. "He's deaf, and his name sign, they say, is a violation of their weapons policy," explained Hunter's father, Brian Spanjer.

Supposedly, God looks out for fools, drunks and little children.  In this case, I'm guessing that the fools who made the decision were drunk at the time, which is the only way I can imagine that God would favor them over the children.  I am also sure that, like Pratchett's Auditors, they came to a group decision so that no one of them could be held responsible for such idiocy.

In a just world, public shaming and mockery of these imbeciles should just be the start of their troubles.

In the world as it is... I expect that the teacher's union will scream bloody murder at the thought that some administrators might lose their jobs, say, over something as trivial as bullying a deaf child into changing his name.

Avere founders take on challenge with IPO goal

Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.
– Ecclesiastes 9:10
Though few homegrown companies among Pittsburgh’s growing cadre of information technology and software companies go public, Avere appears on its way to becoming successful because of its unique technology, experienced founders and an ability to attract investor financing, experts said...
Lots of companies make high-performing data storage systems. But Avere manages the storage data among different media to deliver the best performance for least cost. 
“You can save a lot of money this way,” Kazar said. “We use the best technology most efficiently.”
Why, yes. Yes we do.

Something New Under The Sun

At least, according to Google.

Last night, under cicumstances that you'd probably be better off imagining, I said to my wife, "There's a monotreme between us."

Of course, nobody else on teh intarwebs has ever recorded that particular phrase.

So, now I have something to match "I can't believe that monkey is still inflated."

First man on moon Neil Armstrong dead at 82

First man on moon Neil Armstrong dead at 82

(Reuters) - U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong, who took a giant leap for mankind when he became the first person to walk on the moon, has died at the age of 82, his family said on Saturday.

The TOF Spot: If Thomas Kinkade Had Painted SF Art:

I'm more of a fan of his "Mars Invades" series, really. Though the early "Island Zero" paintings are rather good, and his "Elvis Abducted" is a true masterpiece.

The TOF Spot: If Thomas Kinkade Had Painted SF Art:

USDA cites Harvard in deaths of 41 mice

“Harvard continues to be committed to the proper treatment and humane care of mice and other animals being used as research subjects,” Neal said. Right up until, you know, the point where they kill them and dissect them, obviously.

USDA cites Harvard in deaths of 41 mice

The US Department of Agriculture has cited Harvard University for the death of 41 mice in a research laboratory.

How to Make Small Talk

I am fascinated by the idea that one can learn to become more of an extrovert (or, at least act like more of an extrovert). This is something I struggle with - I am not the best person in the world at making small talk, even with people I know well, and the idea that you can have a strategy for a new conversation is interesting.

How to Make Small Talk

It’s easy to dismiss small talk as idle chit-chat, or superficial or pointless, and claim to only be interested in “real” conversation. But how do you get to the point of having a deeper conversation with someone in the first place?

Jon Van Caneghem on Might and Magic

I played the Might & Magic series from M&M I all the way up through MM VIII. Just to give you an idea of how well-done these games are... I still have vivid memories of each and every one (stupid Titans!), and I've gone back and played each one multiple times. I really should fire up a VM and give MM VI another spin...

Jon Van Caneghem on Might and Magic

Today we are happy to present you with a Q&A session with Jon Van Caneghem, the creator of the Might and Magic series and a living legend among CRPG designers.

‘Artists Of Deception’: Fooling The Enemy During WWII

"The Ghost Army soldiers were bright, young creatives — artists, designers, radio engineers. They joined the army and were handpicked to engage in novel kind of psychological warfare. Costumes, camouflage, impersonation, props, fake radio transmissions, visual and sound effects were their weapons, used ingeniously to fool the enemy."

Unconventional warfare operations are fascinating. Hit up Wikipedia for the article on the "Beach Jumpers" for the Navy version.

(Hat tip to Roberta X for the original link.)

‘Artists Of Deception’: Fooling The Enemy During WWII

During WWII, the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, or Ghost Army, used sound effects, disguises and inflatable tanks to trick German troops. Now, a Lexington filmmaker is working to make their story mainstream.

Dutch Group Planning for Mars Settlement by 2023

Grandchildren on Mars someday? OK, I could deal with that.

Dutch Group Planning for Mars Settlement by 2023

A Dutch group has announced plans to set up a colony on Mars by 2023.

Help Create An Innovation Agenda For The Next Administration

An interesting mix of good ideas along with some "Well, yeah, that's a goal, not a proposal" sort of items. With what appears to be a largely civil and non-partisan discussion of the various points, to boot.

Help Create An Innovation Agenda For The Next Administration

Darrell West of the Governance Studies program of the Brookings Institution is seeking to crowdsource ideas, feedback and insights into how the government can promote an innovation economy.

For Want Of A Nail

You've probably come across "For Want of a Nail" at some point in your life:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

In this case, while the Kingdom of Detroit may be lost, at least the poor horseshoer [1]  still has a job, thanks to the union!  Via Overlawyered:

Despite having no horses, the water and sewerage department for the city of Detroit employs a horseshoer.
Yet even with a department so bloated that it has a horseshoer and no horses, the local union president said it is "not possible" to eliminate positions.
Unless they can convince me that the Seven Courts have inexplicably decided to pack their bags and move to Michigan, I'm not quite ready to accept the idea that the DWSD has a standing need for a farrier...

[1] Yes, the proper term is "farrier", as noted in the first common on the article.  However, the use of "horseshoer" is accurate, as that is apparently what the position is actually named.

Now you will feel the firepower of a fully armed and operational Mars rover

Just before firing, Curiosity raised error 0XDEADBEEF, which as everyone knows is roughly translated as "What? Are you looking at me? Are YOU looking at ME?"

Now you will feel the firepower of a fully armed and operational Mars rover

The Mars Curiosity rover unleashed its laser beam eye today, zapping a nearby rock dubbed "Coronation".


IFTTT ("IF This, Then That") is a service that lets you connect various social media services together. For example, you can create an IFTTT recipe that says "If I upload a photo to Instagram, create a link to it on my Facebook page." I've not yet managed to create an infinite loop with it, but really, it's just a matter of time and effort before I bring the entire internet to it's knees.


Put the internet to work for you. What is IFTTT? IFTTT is a service that lets you create powerful connections with one simple statement: "if this, then that."

Hey Ma, Look! I'm Programming Teh Intarwebs!

There's any number of odd little links and articles I come across on my daily wanderings across the net.  Sometimes they end up here, with more or less commentary attached. [1]

Lots of times, though, I end up throwing them up on Facebook. [2] In that case, I generally don't bother to expound upon said linkage, especially if the title and description of the link make it obvious why I found it interesting.

Lately, I've found myself vacillating between the idea of posting a link on Facebook and posting something on the blog.  I've generally gone with a post on Facebook because, well, that's easier to do.

Enter IFTTT.

I've decided to experiment for a bit with using IFTTT to automate posting links from Facebook to ETheo.  It's an interesting little service, and it looks like it will work reasonably well, but of course, only time will tell.

On one hand, there will be more postings showing up here.

On the other hand, there will be a wider range of posts showing up here.

On the gripping hand... eh.  More posts, more variety, that's about it.  I just wanted to say "On the gripping hand", really, because what geek wouldn't?

[1] And usually with a dash of snark, because snark makes everything better, amirite?
[2] Now, there's some unintentional imagery...

"I am shocked — shocked! — to find that there is bias in the media!"

The Wintery Knight has a few citations about the liberal media bias in the MSM that he'd like to share.

Of course, you have to take his references with a large grain of salt, seeing how he's cherry-picked reports to support his points from such well-known conservative institutions as UCLA, Harvard, and that bastion of right-wing extremism, MSNBC.

"Who Is Paul Ryan?"

Reasonable.  Responsible.  Respectable.

From 2009 Journal Sentinel article:

He cautioned listeners more than once that day that Democrats "aren't our enemies, they're our opponents," and, "They ran on doing these things and so they're doing them. They won!" 
Ryan prides himself on his personal relationships with Democrats and his outreach to African-Americans, organized labor and others. 
"A lot of conservatives just think unions are nothing but bad. That's just not true," says Ryan, who grew up in a city with a huge United Auto Workers local and broke with most conservative Republicans by voting for the auto bailout in December, citing the "mounting hardships" in southern Wisconsin, once a car-making hub. 
"They're people who are just trying to make their lives better, people trying to collectively negotiate a better standard of living for themselves. What the heck is wrong with that?" he says of unions. "Granted, I get picketed once a week." 
While socially conservative, Ryan's focus is so overwhelmingly economic that he generally avoids entanglement in the culture wars. 
"He doesn't get caught up with the so-called social issues that separate people," says Steve King, the former state GOP chairman who has chaired Ryan's campaigns.

Your Talk Talks...

There's a saying that I've heard many times from different baptist preachers: "Your talk talks and your walk talks; but your walk talks louder than your talk talks."

While liberals certainly talk a lot about how capable they are...
When it comes to piloting, Barack Obama seems to think he's the political equivalent of Charles Lindbergh, Chuck Yeager and—in a "Fly Me to the Moon" sort of way—Nat King Cole rolled into one. "I think I'm a better speech writer than my speech writers," he reportedly told an aide in 2008. 
... conservatives seem more interested in showing you how capable they are.

Mitt Romney, capping off a five-state bus tour in Ohio Tuesday night, delivered the most aggressive and fiery speech of his bid for the presidency... Though some of the candidate's speeches are written by staff, aides told Fox News that Romney personally wrote this one over the course of two days.

Found this on FB today. On the wall of a friend who is an intelligent, talented lawyer and photographer. I'm baffled and disappointed in her choice to post this, because I know that critical thinking is her livelihood. She must be on vacation or something, surely.

Srsly. Is this the best liberal hand-wringers can do? Now I've got proof positive that the left is nuttier than Grandma's homemade peanut butter cookies. Hello, people- if you were a kid who needed to make it thru college, and you had the horrific misfortune of losing your father at such a young age, what would *you* do with the death benefit payout?

There is no hypocrisy here. Nor any evil money-grubbing or "hey, it was OK for me, but not for you!" foolishness. He was a kid who invested his money wisely, and then as he grew in intellectual prowess, came to understand how social security is a top-heavy, unsustainable, problematic burden for our American society. Of course it needs revamped or done away with! Better yet, let's give people the freedom to choose their own retirement plans, instead of having them forcibly shoved down our throats.   It's called personal responsibility. You're a healthy, capable citizen and you didn't pay into your retirement years? Too bad so sad! It is not Big Brother's job to take care of you. It's yours.

Random Quotes

From the last 72 hours or so.
"I'm responsible for the cyclotron in Greentree."
"I own a Mini and used to drive in Middle Eastern traffic at high speed in an armored car--I got this."
"Lady Elaine looks like she's been hitting the bottle..."
"There's always more history. It's an unfortunate side-effect of time."
"Looks like we're flatlining... must be my terminal."
"... three of them were cowering in a locked office while a fourth person called security, as I left."
Some context missing there, obviously.  I'll let your imagination fill in the details. 


Courtesy of Frank J. Fleming.  Via the Czar, who is sure that Ryan Proves Romney Is Serious:
Holy crap: imagine Ryan debating Biden. A comment by Frank J. Fleming on Twitter last night accurately said that a major debate success for Biden would be not choking on his own necktie. 

Candidate, Inc.

Disgusted that Romney is "Obama lite"?

Fed up because there's not a whit's worth of difference between the Dink and the Gopper?

Then you really need to read "Candidate, Inc." over at Rhymes with Cars & Girls.

If/when you vote for the President, you are not voting for Joe Candidate. You are voting for Joe Candidate, Inc. If Joe Candidate wins then yes, it’s true that one immediate and visible result will be that Joe Candidate will literally take over the role of the President and sit in that particular office. But that’s not all that happens and far from it. 
Simultaneously with Joe Candidate’s swearing-in will be a whole army of people to go fill a bunch of executive roles... all of those people, mostly nameless and faceless to you, will make a lot of decisions that affect your life. Perhaps even more so than any decisions specifically made by Joe Candidate himself per se...
I can certainly buy the idea that there are only minor differences between Obama and Romney. But both-the-samers are on far shakier ground trying to establish that there’s ‘not a dime’s worth of difference’ between Obama, Inc. and what Romney, Inc. would likely be like.
Go.  RTWT.

We Interrupt This Blog for an Important Message

Nope, no politics here.  Instead, we're going to talk about something important.

First contact stories.

I finished Heaven's Shadow last night.  Decent writing, characters that were generally a step above stock, and some interesting ideas tossed into the mix.  While I was hoping for something more like Leviathan Wakes, I realize that's a particular combination of plot, characterization and storytelling thats makes for a pretty high bar to cross.  Shadow was certainly good enough to keep me up and reading long past the "holy cow, I need to get to bed" point, though, so it was definitely feeding my SF jones.


I understand that conflict is what drives stories, and that first contact stories are no different.  Tension among the team.  Pressure from within and without.  Entering a completely unknown, definitely terrifying and potentially life-threatening situation.

Yadda yadda yadda.

That's fine!  Really.  I mean, it's what a first contact story is all about.  There may be elements of clichés in these stories, but that's OK.  Sometimes clichés are clichés because, y'know, they work.  Kind of like using bricks and beams when building a house.  Nobody walks into a new home and says, "Oh, how horrible - they used bricks for the foundation!  And two-by-fours for the walls!"  What's interesting isn't necessarily the building materials, but how they're arranged and presented.

Except that sometimes, those materials can get a little... out-dated.  When we moved into our current home, for example, there were some definite elements of the 60's and 70's in the construction and decor.  Drop ceilings in the living room and dining room, faux wood panelling, formica counters in the kitchen.

Stuff that was serviceable, and at one time was probably fresh, new and unique.  Now, after a few decades?  It was, well... tacky.

There's one particular element of first contact stories that I've noticed recently. It may have been fresh, new and unique half a century ago.  It's still serviceable even today, if you're careful.  You really do have to be careful, though, because most times, it will just end up being, well... tacky.

All you budding SF writers out there?  Are you listening?

Could we please get a few first contact stories where human beings aren't fumble-fingered, ignorant morons who inevitably make an uninformed, hot-headed decision that puts everyone in jeopardy?

Seriously.  That's one trope that has to die.

In a fire.

First contact stories are older than science fiction.  We've been writing them, reading them, and in some cases living them for centuries.  There's enough of a body of actual knowledge and thought experiments out there that ignoring them in the context of your story requires suspending disbelief on the part of the reader.  As time goes on, this has become increasingly more difficult.

Consider.  You're writing a first contact story.

Have your characters ever seen, or heard of, positive first contact stories like ET?  How about Close Encounters of the Third Kind?  The Day The Earth Stood Still?  The Abyss?  Contact?  For the love of Pete - how about Alf? Aside form the positive, how about them there cautionary tales?  The Thing?  Predator?  Aliens?  Independence Day?

That's just touching on popular media.  Start adding in literature like The Mote in God's EyeRendezvous with Rama, Gateway, "A Martian Odyssey", and... well.  There is a pretty large group of human beings that are well-versed in first contact mythology.  Some of them even have a background that has involved studying historical and present-day human cultural differences and interactions.

Culturally speaking, we all know How To Survive a Horror Movie.  (Primary directive numero uno: do not split up!)  In Feed, Mira Grant took zombie novels to the next step by pointing out that um, yeah - we know how to deal with the zombie apocalypse.  Thank you, George Romero!

Similarly, I'd like to think that by now that there are a lot of people who have some idea of how to not obviously screw up a first contact scenario.  Yes, there will be mistakes and misunderstandings - and the possibility of violent conflict stemming from the same.  There will be people whose preconceptions or perceptions are incorrect, leading to all sorts of interesting scenarios.  Run wild with those, by all means!

Just... please.  Don't base your story around a bone-headed mistake that anyone even remotely familiar with popular media or fiction would know to avoid.

"I looked out to see the dawn."

Borepatch on the state of the union.  Read the whole thing.

Something that particularly caught my eye:
This November will see the crushing of what seemed an invincible army of community organizers, ward bosses, and a corrupt media that does not realize that nobody believes them anymore.  It will be a landslide election, the biggest since 1984... 
But it will be only the first part.  The election will be described as a great Republican victory.  That will be mistaken: it will be a Democratic loss.  The day after the election, the Republicans should think on Dave Dewhurst, and Bob Bennett, and Richard Lugar...
I think Borepatch is spot on with this bit of analysis, and particularly in the idea that a Democratic loss does not equal a Republican victory.  It equals a Republican opportunity, nothing more, nothing less.  If Romney and the GOP don't cut to the chase and start doing the job that needs to be done, they are going to have the opportunity to find new employment in 2014 & 2016.

More on this thought later.

Etiquette? What etiquette?

When I was an officer in the Navy, I was taught that there were three topics of conversation that were not appropriate in the wardroom: politics, religion, and sex.

Facebook is the anti-wardroom, apparently.

Ya Know...

I always thought that a chicken sandwich was just a chicken sandwich.

Turns out that chicken marinated in the sweet, salty tears of liberals is absolutely delicious.