How George Got His Groove Back

Zimmerman, 30, whose arsenal was confiscated in November following a domestic dispute with his girlfriend, picked up his four firearms, including a shotgun and an assault rifle from the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office in Sanford, Fla., this week.
An arsenal?
Returned to Zimmerman were an Interarms .380-caliber handgun, a Glock 19 handgun, a Kel-Tec 12-gauge shotgun and an AR-15 assault rifle.
I repeat - an arsenal?

Maybe it's a Western PA thing, but that sounds like barely enough kit for a good day out in the woods during buck season...


Kirk's Got Nothing On Them

Juxtaposition

Matter is a science fiction novel from Iain M. Banks set in his Culture universe.

The main character in Matter is a woman who is essentially abducted by aliens (even if she does come to appreciate it) and disappears, only to return years later.

Jim Sullivan wrote one amazing – and as it turns out oddly predictive – record, and then disappeared while traveling from CA to TN.


He reportedly walked into the desert, and was never seen again.

Jim Sullivan's one record?  U.F.O.

He seems to have managed the abduction part.  Perhaps he will manage the return, as well.

The Inmates Are Running the Asylum

The Army has been researching a more environment-friendly bullet at the Picatinny Arsenal, in New Jersey, since 2010. A lead-free version of the 7.62-mm rounds fired from M-14 rifles will be issued to troops in 2014. That will follow a prior switch to a greener 5.56 mm "Enhanced Performance Round" the Army switched to in 2010. 
“The EPR replaces the lead slug with a copper slug,” Lt. Col. Phil Clark, product manager for small-caliber ammunition at Picatinny, told the Daily Caller. “This makes the projectile environmentally friendly, while still giving soldiers the performance capabilities they need on the battlefield.”
Last I checked, waging war also included the use of things like grenades. Claymores. Hellfire missiles. TOWs. Tanks. Bunker-buster bombs. Tomahawks. Drones. Napalm B. Naval gunfire support.

None of which are really known for being "environmentally friendly".

By the patron saint's name of Frick... do these idiots not understand what the word "battlefield" means?

Remember: Immolate, Don't Reanimate!

Darths and Droids is a movie comic strip along the lines of Shamus Young's most excellent DM of the Rings.  Both follow a series of movies (LoTR, Star Wars) and use screen caps to relate the stories as if they were being played out by a bunch of table-top RPG gamers.

Yeah, I know.  Geeky as all get out.  And absolutely freaking hilarious.

D&D includes a transcript with each comic, along with additional commentary on RPG tropes related to the strips.  Today's commentary struck me as particularly amusing:
Never abandon your buddies on the battlefield.
This goes triple in situations where they may rise as zombies and attack you later in the adventure.
Because if the GM is on the ball, they will.
Oh, yes.  Yes indeed.

Rage

A Texas teenager killed four people while driving drunk in June. Prosecutors pushed for a 20-year sentence, but a judge sentenced the teen to 10 years probation and no jail time.
He must have had a real sob-story to get that much sympathy, right?
A psychologist testified for the defense that the teen was a product of something he called "affluenza." He meant Couch doesn't link bad behavior with consequences because his parents taught him that wealth buys privilege.
... privileges like, say, getting a slap on the wrist for stealing beer, driving drunk, and killing four people?

Yeah, thanks, judge Judy or whoever you are.  You're really showing him that actions have consequences!  Man, once he gets out of that $500K California rehab vacation visit his folks are springing for, I am totes sure he will have finally learned his lesson!

Well, a lesson, at least.  Probably the exact opposite of the lesson that he needs to learn, but, eh.  It's not like he killed anyone!

Anyone important, I mean.

Rope.

Testing Ignorance, or Misinformation?

In the 1990s, a professor at a medical university in Stockholm decided to test his students' knowledge about the progress of global development. He was staggered to discover the class, some of the brightest people in Sweden, scored fewer than two out of five on average.
Chimpanzees randomly choosing answers would likely have done better, scoring half right....
Rosling has been on a mission to inform since the realization that his students -- and his fellow professors -- were somewhat woefully informed about the state of the world. Today CNN publishes Rosling's latest survey of the United States which shows Americans, like most of the world, are far behind the reality in their understanding of world development but ahead of some -- for example, Swedes.
This ten-question test is - reportedly - harder than most.  I did not think it was particularly difficult.  I knew the answers to a couple of questions, which helped.  When I had to guess, I based my answer on two assumptions:
  1. Reality does not have a "liberal bias", and
  2. The mainstream media absolutely does have a liberal bias.
Go ahead - read the article, then click on the image at the top of the page to take the test yourself.  Keep the above two bits of information in mind, and I think you will quite easily end up in the coveted "top 1%" spot.

"There are facts..."

"... and then there are PolitiFacts."


It's OK, though.  You see, they were for the ACA before they were... well, no, they are still shilling for the current administration and doing their best to make it look like the ACA isn't a complete and utter disaster.  They were just hoping that we peons somehow wouldn't notice the immense train wreck that was taking place in front of our eyes.

Failure Was The Only Option

Oregon, once touted as a model for President Obama's health care law, signed up just 44 people for insurance through November, despite spending more than $300 million on its state-based exchange.
The state’s exchange had the fewest sign-ups in the nation, according to a new report today by the Department of Health and Human Services.
... Oregon is a Democratic state that embraced Obamacare early and enthusiastically. Its outreach effort, which included a folk-style music video featuring a singer playing an acoustic guitar against a colorful and scenic backdrop, had been praised among the law's supporters.
We had to pass the law to know what was in the law.

And turns out that what is in the law is pure, unadulterated failure.
"You know, in certain older civilized cultures, when men failed as entirely as you have, they would throw themselves on their swords."
Unfortunately, I doubt that any of the folks who campaigned, promoted, wheedled, cajoled, and outright lied to get the ACA passed happen to have a sword handy.

Oh, hey - you know what?  Neither did Dr. Mathias.


Everyone Else Does It, So...

In the spirit of Time magazine, inspired by the writings of Douglas Adams, and prompted by the recent verbal droolings of Chicago police superintendent Garry McCarthy, I hereby announce that nominations for the 2013 "Mindless Jerk of the Year" award are open.


Rules are simple.

You can nominate an individual that you believe deserves to be recognized as the Mindless Jerk of the year by placing their name in a comment on this public Facebook post, along with a very brief description or link that describes why they are deserving of such (dis)honor.

You can vote for any nominated individual by "liking" the comment of whoever nominated them.

If you are not a Facebook user, feel free to make nominations in the comments below - I will do my best to copy them over to the Facebook post page, and give them a "like" on your behalf.

Nominations and voting are open until Midnight, December 31st.

At that point, I will tally the results, the the nominee who gathered the most votes will be crowned the Mindless Jerk of 2013. I will personally go out to the back of the barn, dig up an old brick, and have a plaque bearing an appropriate saying from the writings of Douglas Adams affixed to said brick. I will then deliver the brick, along with a tasteful certificate suitable for framing, to the winner either in person (if convenient) or by mail sometime in January.

I Like the Cut of His Jib


Update From The Field

It's December, which means that life has gotten incredibly busy.  Fun, but busy.  In addition to the normal spate of holiday events (parties, kid-related activities, Christmas tree cutting, tasty four-legged vermin elimination [1], etc.), I am also neck-deep in work as we are preparing for a major release [2].  The upshot of all that: greatly reduced posting.

I take some comfort in the fact that my blogging history shows this isn't anything unusual.  Unless there is a major shift in... something... in the next few weeks, I will be back from the holiday season well fed, pasty white from lack of sun, and full up with about enough pent-up snark to carry me through the next eleven months.

So: expect light posting for a bit.  Though I do have some ideas that are percolating around in what passes for my brain.  So I may be able to sneak in a substantial post or two in between the Intarweb Mandated Funny Cat Pictures.

[1] Also known as "deer hunting season" here in Western PA.
[2] Cloudy With A Chance of NAS."

C25K : The Penultimate Post

In my last running update, I noted that I had managed to make it into week four of the Couch To 5K program.  Despite setbacks, with a new pair of decent running shoes, I had pushed myself to the limit, and was jogging for up to five minutes at a time!  Since then, though... silence.

There is a reason for that.

I have been very, very busy... and one of the things that I have been busy with is running.

No, I did not abandon the program.  I kept with it, and I have to tell you, it worked for me.

By the end of September, I was up to running a mile at a time, which took be around 15 minutes.  At that point, colder weather rolled in, and running outside became too much of a chore.  I despise running in the cold [1], so I was kind of annoyed that I waited so long to start the program that my last few weeks would be miserable.  I could easily see myself letting my running schedule slide when faced with the prospect of having to run in the cold, rain and sleet.

Fortunately, at that point, my place of employment moved into some nice new digs.  Nice new digs that happened to be just two blocks away from the Sarah Heinz House.  While the SHH is primarily a youth center, geared towards offering kids after-school programs, those all happen after 2PM... so for the first half of the day, they (and their rather nice little gym) are open to adult members.

Even better, because of those limitations, their adult membership prices are dirt cheap.  And by "dirt cheap", I mean about a quarter of what you might pay for a membership at a "real" gym.

Two blocks away.  Cheap.  Treadmills in the workout room.  A very noticeable lack of wind, rain, sleet, and cold.

How could I pass all that up?  I plunked down the cash for a month's pass to try it out.

So I started running on a treadmill, and loved it.  By the middle of November, I was banging out two and a third miles in about 30 minutes.  That's around a 13 minute mile.  So, yeah - I am not a speed demon by any definition.  Keep in mind, though, that three months ago, I was deliriously happy that I managed to shuffle along for 60 seconds without puking up a lung.

I repeat: the whole Couch To 5K thing?  It worked for me.

So there I am.  Middle of November.  Almost at the end of the program.  All that is left, really, is for me to buckle down and actually, you know, do the last little bit.

Run a 5K.

Which brings us to... the Turkey Trot.

[1] This is what is known as "foreshadowing".


QOTD

You know what I'd like to see in the Democratic Party? Some liberals. That would be great.

A Righteous Weapon

And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
Designed by John Browning, the M1911 is the best-known of his designs to use the short recoil principle in its basic design. The pistol was widely copied, and this operating system rose to become the preeminent type of the 20th century and of nearly all modern centerfire pistols.
Just sayin'.



As Instructed by the Dear Leader...

... we discussed the Affordable Care Act around the dinner table today.  Out starting point was "The ACA: does it stink like a two-week old dead chipmunk, or a three-week old dead skunk?" and the conversation pretty much ended there.  As the saying goes, it is important to be able to recognize when you have come to violent agreement, and then move on.

At which point we did the most hateful, harmful thing you can do to any government or politician, and ignored them completely.  We enjoyed garlic mashed potatoes, asparagus casserole, showpeg corn, sweet potato casserole, stuffing, and cheesy biscuits [1].  So all in all the day turned out pretty well, even without the government sticking its dang-blasted nose into our giving of thanks.

Funny how that worked out, innit?

[1] Oh, and there may have been some turkey somewhere in there, too.

Separated At Birth?

Uncanny, isn't it?

Kathleen Sebelius as Director of HHS

Glenn Close as Cruella de Vil

Of course, superficial appearance aside, there is absolutely no comparison between the two.  One is a fundamentally dishonest, egotistical elitist hell bent on the destruction of innocents.  The other is a fictional character.

Budding Artist

Eldest Daughter's most recent art project: Sasuke Uchiha from Naruto, done as a collage pieced together out of scraps cut from magazines.  She worked hard on this, and I think it turned out rather well.


Holiday PSA

The holidays are approaching, and that means time together with family.  If you are of a certain age, there is a good chance that you may end up spending time with younger family members - nieces, nephews, or younger cousins - who will be returning to share tales of the first few years of their life in college.  It will be your sad duty, in many cases, to disabuse these poor, misguided souls of the idea that they actually have a clue as to how the world really works.

With that in mind, here's a public service announcement from Lawrence Person that you may want to keep in mind and keep handy, just in case.
Dear Undergraduates: Communism Doesn’t Work In the Real World
Because our great nation is constantly producing new crops of naive undergraduates, it occurs to me that it might be time to explicate what is painfully obvious to even the most casual observers outside the self-delusional circles of college bull sessions, academic Marxists and Occupy Wall Street. Namely:
  • Communism does not work.
  • Communism has never worked at any point in the past.
  • Communism will never work at any point in the future as long as human beings are involved.
  • Attempts to implement communism in the real world inevitably lead to failure, misery, and death. (Indeed, some 100 million deaths.)
When capitalism falls short of the platonic libertarian ideal, the result is Switzerland. 
When communism falls short of the wondrous utopia existing in true believers’ heads, the result is Pol Pot’s Cambodia. 
These two failure modes are not identical.
Linked, bookmarked, and noted for my own personal use, Just In Case™.  I consider my family (both sides) to be more or less sane, but there always seems to be that one relative... You know, the one who doesn't just march to the beat of a different drummer, but insists on doing a Czek-fusion performance art version of a traditional Aegean folk dance accompanied by atonal nose flute music.  Every family seems to have at least one, for some reason.

Depending on your family, you might maybe think about having glossy pamphlets printed up... Just In Case™.

Renaissance Age Super Heroes


Worth1000 hosts a variety of photo-editing and illustrative contests. One of their contest series, Superhero ModRen, challenges users to incorporate superheroes into fine art pieces. 

The gallery includes quite a few images - some well done, some not quite so, but all inspired.  Some of my favorites:

"Wonder Woman" by FlashDaz

"Rembrandt vs Joker" by Valgio

Justice League? by Briman222

I particularly like the Escher image.  However... if I had the skill and ability to do something like this, I would have had Elijah Snow holding the globe, with Jakita Wagner and Ambrose Chase in the background.

Sigh.  I would love to see a Planetary movie.  Unfortunately, though, it's a D.C. property, so it's probably best left off the big screen until such time (if ever) they learn how to produce a decent movie.

The Joliet Jake Presidency

It's tough to write the words "responsibility" and "Obama" in the same sentence.  We have as President a man who never took to heart Mitt Romney's wise observation that "leadership is about taking responsibility, not making excuses." 
Obama is a case study of what in Spanish is known as the "se me cayo" phenomenon. In Spanish, when you drop something, you didn't. It dropped itself from you. For Obama anything that turns out crooked, wrong, or manifestly stoooopid is somebody else's fault. He just read about it in the papers this morning, and, by golly, "there's nobody madder than me about it." We have seen this stunt over and over these past five-plus years.
Hurm.  Where were Jake and Elwood from, again?  Ah, that's right.  Chicago.

Coincidence?  I think not.

"Very dangerous. You go first."

The tomb of Mongolian emperor Genghis Khan -- who created the world’s most powerful empire by raiding and invading across Eurasia -- is a lost treasure archaeologists have sought for years. And one man thinks he knows where it is. 
“Ghengis Khan’s tomb is my obsession,” Nichols, a noted authority on the emperor, exclusively told FoxNews.com. “I couldn’t stop thinking about it. But I’m not happy just reading about it, or knowing about it. I need to have my feet on it.”
Be very careful, Mr. Nichols.  You may find exactly what you are looking for...


To seek the sacred river Alph,
To walk the caves of ice;
To break my fast on honey dew,
And drink the milk of paradise...

I had heard the whispered tales 
Of immortality –
The deepest mystery –
From an ancient book, I took a clue

I scaled the frozen mountain tops 
Of eastern lands unknown,
Time and Man alone,
Searching for the lost – Xanadu.

Xanadu...

To stand within the Pleasure Dome
Decreed by Kubla Khan!
To taste anew the fruits of life
The last immortal man!

To find the sacred river Alph!
To walk the caves of ice!
Oh, I will dine on honeydew
And drink the milk of Paradise!

A thousand years have come and gone,
But time has passed me by;
Stars stopped in the sky.
Frozen in an everlasting view

Waiting for the world to end,
Weary of the night;
Praying for the light.
Prison of the lost – Xanadu.

Xanadu...

Held within the Pleasure Dome
Decreed by Kubla Khan...
To taste my bitter triumph,
As a mad immortal man.

Nevermore shall I return,
Escape these caves of ice;
For I have dined on honeydew,
And drunk the milk of Paradise...

74% Republican, 71% Libertarian

The quiz, and my results.  Honestly, I think that the weighting may be a little off.  For the issues that I felt most strongly about, I was aligned with the Libertarians.  For the larger number of issues that I was more "meh" over, I tended to side with the Republicans.

As usual with polls of this sort, I suspect that there are some significant simplifications made in how answers to certain questions are evaluated.  Seeing as I know pro-life Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians and independents, for example, I wonder how they score the "Yes, I am pro-life" questions without getting into a whole lot more subtleties than the existing crop of answers allows for.

Still... yeah, I think the results are pretty good.  A total of 179%, though?  The only explanation for that I can imagine is that there is more than a bit of of overlap these days between the Republicans and the Libertarians...


When Life Imitates Dilbert


The lead contractor on the dysfunctional Web site for the Affordable Care Act is filled with executives from a company that mishandled at least 20 other government IT projects, including a flawed effort to automate retirement benefits for millions of federal workers, documents and interviews show.
How in the world could this festering ball of failure that calls itself a company manage to get a second government IT project, let alone another score, you might ask?  Wally explains:


"People will forget my failure and remember that I'm experienced."

I suspect that Hillary repeats that to herself in the mirror every morning as her motivational mantra.

Still A Better Love Story Than Twilight

Last week, someone in the office lost a sock near my cube.  A hue and cry was raised via email ("Hey!  Is this your sock?"), but the poor little sock went unclaimed.  As a result, it was moved to the window close to the stairs, with the hopes that some passerby would see it, and say "Hey!  That's my sock!"


The next day, we were surprised to see that the sock had... acquired a bit of personality.  Peering out into the office, Ms. Sock was obviously looking for something, or someone.  Her long-lost owner, perhaps?


No!  Coming in to work the next day, it became clear... what we had here was not a lost sock, but an office romance!  The handsome and dashing Mr. Sock was quite obviously smitten by Ms. Sock's charms.


Love - true love - blossomed, with the inevitable results...


Quite a happy little family, aren't they?

QOTD

From Jeff M. on Facebook, commenting on the increasing evidence that what we are looking at in the coming decades is global cooling, not global warming:
The Paul Ehrlich types moved seamlessly from global cooling to global warming. I'm sure they can move back again, as long as the solution is massive suffering and poverty. Cause history begins this morning.

Some Comments on Thor: The Dark World

Potential spoilers ahead.  I will try to keep it general, but, y'know.  Schpoilers!

Then again, if the fact that there are fight scenes in the movies are going to spoil Thor : The Dark World for you, there is a good chance you wandered into the wrong theater.

In any case, yinz guys have been warned, n'at.  Onward!

Thor: The Dark World is a touching tale of two men who were caught in a storm which encompassed the whole world.

Hmm.  I pulled that off of a random imdb.com comment, trying to be ironic. Turns out it's a pretty good description of the movie.  The two men in question are, of course, Thor and his brother Loki.  Chris Hemsworth does a great job as Thor, which is to be expected.  As for Tom Hiddleston as Loki... look, can I be honest with you?  Truly, truly honest with you?

By the end of the movie, I was rooting for Loki.

Hiddleston did a great job in the original Thor and again in The Avengers.  In T:TDW, though, he really stepped things up.  It would have been so very easy for him to let Loki come across as just another comic book villain.  Instead, he managed to paint a picture of a very complex character who has his own loyalties, motivations, and desires.  Loyalties that can sometimes make him an ally; motivations that are not always clear; and desires that are more tragic flaws than "evil for evil's sake".

The rest of the cast did an adequate job.  Natalie Portman is a bit meh, particularly when compared to her portrayal of the character of Jane in the first movie.  The other folks in the movie turned in decent, solid performances, though they seemed... more flat.  Not bad, mind you, just not as real as they were in first movie.

A notable exception to that is Stellan Skarsgård.  I have seen some people complain that his depiction of Erik Selvig as an addled nutjob fell flat, the assumption being that his character was intended as comic relief.  Halfway through the movie, I would have agreed... just up until the point where he turns to another character, and says, deadpan, "I've had a god in my head.  I wouldn't recommend it."

Ye-owch.  For me, those two sentences put Erik under a whole new light.  Thor and the Avengers might shake off a fistfight with Loki, but when mere mortals tangle with those same forces, damage will be done, and will take longer to heal... if it ever does.  (Which makes me wonder how well Hawkeye is dealing with his particular instance of having Loki scramble his skull, eh?)  As the Marvel universe movies develop, I sincerely hope we see less of the loony madman from T:TDW, and more of the original Erik Selvig as his character recovers from the events in The Avengers.

Oh, the plot?  Bad guy shows up.  Tries to get his hands on a superweapon that can destroy the Nine Worlds.  Hijinks ensue, things get blown up, redshirts die in interesting ways.  In the end, the good guys stop him, after a really cool fight scene that literally rages across multiple worlds.

I mean, come on.  It's THOR.  What did you expect?

So.  Summary?

Two thumbs up.  Good flick.  Grab some popcorn, come for the fight scenes, stay to root for Loki.

OK, now for some general comments...

I really liked the fact that they took the opportunity in this movie to cement the fact that the Asgardians are not gods.  They have incredible technology, true... but it is technology that is at least understandable, if not yet reproducible by us mere Earthlings.  Along these lines, the scene with Jane in the Soul Forge was particularly good for a chuckle.

After this movie, I find myself wishing we could see Sif, Fandral, Hogun and Volstagg in their own feature film.  I want to see more of Fandral, in particular.  There were more than a couple of scenes in the movie that made me think, "Would I pay money to watch these four fight alien space pirates?  Why, yes.  Yes I would."

The traditional Marvel "sneak peak" in the end credits was... interesting.  There was a definite Star Trek:TOS look and feel going on there.  I don't know if that was accidental or intentional.  Does it imply something about the part that the Collector will play upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy movie?  When we saw Thanos at the end of The Avengers, his role was pretty darn clear: Big Bad.  In contrast, the Collector is a Loki-like character, in that he has his own plans and motivations.  While he is a sometimes opponent of the Avengers, he also has his own history with Thanos, so... yeah.  Somewhere there's a Facebook entry that says, "It's complicated".

Finally... someone in Asgard really needs to talk to Nick Fury and get a loan of some SHIELD advisors to beat some sense into the common Asgardian foot soldier.  Seriously, guys?  Enemy space ship crashes into the freaking palace, slides to a halt within spitting distance of Odin's throne, and... you advance on it with shields and swords?  You're chasing someone back to that same ship, trying to keep them from taking off, and you deal with a single opponent in your way by piling on him in hand to hand combat instead of, say, splitting your forces so you at least have a chance of accomplishing your mission?

I know, I know.  You Asgardians have this whole "Nordic Warrior" motif thing going.  That seems to be working for you, I guess.  Mostly.  Kind of.  I'm just saying that maybe you should look into the concept of things like ranged energy weapons and cover fire.  Oh, and could you at least pretend that you're interested in learning some small squad tactics?  That would be swell.

Post Referencing Opinion Piece

No doubt you will have noticed that Issue has been in the news lately, due to the scandalous behaviour of Public Figure, and the controversial comments of Publicity-Hungry Commentator. The editor of this site and I were discussing the Issue just the other day, and we agreed that making a glib reference to that discussion at the start of this piece would add a sense of authority to my authorial voice, as well as suggesting that the site upon which this piece is being published shares my opinionated stance on this Issue.
I was inspired to write this piece by Currently Fashionable Polemicist, who summarised the Issue better than I could when they said “oversimplification that makes me feel smart”. I have a strong opinion on this Issue, and my sharing it with you at this time is in no way attributable to opportunism on my part, due to the Issue’s sudden prominence in the news cycle. I haven’t exaggerated my position in the interests of raising my public profile, and here I am casually dropping in a reference to a long-ago instance that proves I have cared about the Issue for longer than you.
Generic urging of readers to go RTWT because the aticle is too full of fail/win for your humble correspondent to summarize it accurately.

Snarky comment that either mocks and/or endorses the opinion specified above.

Pass That Torch, Will Ya?

Via The Crank:
The government is clumsy, incompetent, greedy, corrupt, and prone to suddenly decide that behavior that has always been legal is now criminal. Not our government now; all governments, ever. For these reasons it is nearly always in the citizens’ interest to keep the State blind, deaf, and crippled.
Harsh?  Consider...
That's just from today.

I won't even include the latest news reports on the ongoing IRS scandals, the Benghazi hearings, the Obamacare debacle, and the latest and greatest "Oops, yeah, we totally forgot to mention we were also violating those other laws, our bad" NSA Revelation of the Day ™.

Blind, deaf, and crippled.  I like the sound of that.

Sanity

TORONTO - Greenpeace is committing “crimes against humanity” by attempting to block the distribution of genetically-modified Golden Rice which could prevent the deaths of millions of children, said a founder of the environmental organization.
“I left Greenpeace in 1986 when they abandoned logical science,” Moore said at a downtown Toronto protest outside Greenpeace’s headquarters. “Greenpeace is back in the dark ages (opposing modified food). They are targeting Golden Rice even though it targets a human need.”
As I have said before, this is a hot button topic for me.

Seeing Mr. Moore and others with his background in environmentalism confronting the irrationality of the modern environmental movement is a cause for hope.

I Need Me One of Them There Space Thing-a-ma-bahbs

Wait, no.  Eldest Daughter, Middle Daughter, Youngest Daughter... sheesh.  I will really need a whole array of orbital death options for when these girls start dating.  It will cost a pretty penny, I'm sure, but you know what?  I am quite all right with that.

A kiss on the hand may be quite continental, but orbital nuclear death rays are a Dad's best friend.



"No job, no home, no peace, no rest, no rest."




Man walks along the railroad track
He's goin' some place, there's no turnin' back 
The Highway Patrol chopper comin' up over the ridge
Man sleeps by a campfire under the bridge
The shelter line stretchin' around the corner
Welcome to the New World Order
Families sleepin' in their cars out in the Southwest
No job, no home, no peace, no rest, no rest.

And the highway is alive tonight
Nobody's foolin' nobody is to where it goes
I'm sitting down here in the campfire light
Searchin' for the Ghost of Tom Joad

Let's Put It Into Context, Shall We?

"Read my lips: If you like your plan, you can keep your plan."

Since We're Talking About Democrats Today...


Here is an interesting bit from House of Eratosthenes on "Failure to Internalize":
It seems to start, generally, with a feeling of revulsion against what is perceived to be an unfair “distribution of wealth.” There are many mistakes in just this first step, most prominent of which is fabricating the event by which these assets were somehow “distributed.” Much further down the line in this menagerie of grave mistakes, where all the tragedy really starts, is this thought: I’m supporting this plan that is intended to help people, and this must therefore mean that anybody who opposes me must want to hurt those same people.
It is as wrong-headed as it is commonplace. And for those who do not know, oh my goodness, it is commonplace. It’s hard to put it into words.
I daresay there is no class of thinking being on the globe that has less of a grasp of something, than strident modern American liberals grasping the motives of their opposition. It is truly a whole new threshold of ignorance. Someone should circulate a questionnaire sometime just for laughs. “Conservatives want more little kids to get gunned down at schools.” “They want more poison in the drinking water.” “They don’t want to pay their fair share.” 
The biggest lie in the world about liberals is that they want to think globally and act locally. If they thought globally, the health care website would work as well as Amazon.com, and would’ve cost about as much to get online. That’s not how they think at all. They want to win arguments. That’s it. 
Go take a look at The Daily Kos and tell me this isn't an accurate assessment.

QOTD

From Bruce Poindexter, on Facebook:
You can't tell Democrats, "You lied to me," and expect a reaction. You have to extend yourself and explain to them why lying is a problem.
Explains a lot, doesn't it?

Just a Reminder

CBS News has learned more than two million Americans have been told they cannot renew their current insurance policies -- more than triple the number of people said to be buying insurance under the new Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.
Think about that.  One month in to the ACA implementation, and 2 million people are now uninsured. Keep in mind that this is not an "unintended consequence".  Evidence that NBC News unearthed is that the administration expected somewhere between 40% and 67% - or more - of individual policy holders to have their current policies cancelled this year. 
Four sources deeply involved in the Affordable Care Act tell NBC NEWS that 50 to 75 percent of the 14 million consumers who buy their insurance individually can expect to receive a “cancellation” letter or the equivalent over the next year because their existing policies don’t meet the standards mandated by the new health care law. 
So 7 to 10 million people will be uninsured this year, thanks to Obamacare.  How... unfortunate.

Or not.  As the Washington Post points out,
If you dig into the regulations (go to page 34560), you will see that HHS wrote them extremely tight. One provision says that if co-payment increases by more than $5, plus medical cost of inflation, then the plan can no longer be grandfathered. (With last year’s inflation rate of 4 percent, that means the co-pay could not increase by more than $5.20.) Another provision says the co-insurance rate could not be increased at all above the level it was on March 23, 2010.
So, yeah. Has there been any significant change in your co-pay or overall policy cost in the past 3 years? Keep your eye out for your cancellation notice.  Oh, and if your current policy doesn't include maternity coverage, even if you're a single male who will never, ever, ever need that coverage?  The Magic Eight Ball says there's a notice in your future, too!  Thinking about getting married?  Significant change, dude.  Lose your insurance policy.  Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

Now, I want to remind you that the employer mandate was delayed for a year.  There are an estimated 170 million people in the US who are covered by employer-sponsored health insurance.

That means that starting in late 2014, when the employer mandate kicks in, we can expect somewhere between 85 and 120 million more people to get those cancellation notices.

That is not a blip.  That is not a glitch.

That is an order of magnitude change.

That is close to half the freaking country... and it is completely intentional.
"If you like your health-care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health-care plan, period."
... until we decide you can't, peon.

Update: Well, isn't that interesting.  Minutes after I post my simple analysis, I see that Reason has unearthed very similar figures from that bastion of right-wing Teabaggery, the Department of Health and Human Services.

Ten Days?

Ten days without a post.  I feel like I owe someone an apology.

In my defense, it has been an exceptionally busy time.  My wife and I were fighting off the creeping crud for a bit.  This just happened to coincide with our preparation for our annual bonfire.  Meanwhile, I've been trying to keep up with my running, which has been more difficult as the days get shorter.

At work, we have deadlines to meet, as usual... on top of which, we moved our entire office into a new building, with all the stress that entails.  On the minus side, my commute is a little longer (at least until I find the back ways I can take to the new place); on the plus side, the new office is in a great location, much bigger than the place we formerly inhabited, and with lots of room for expansion.

Amidst all the running, planning, scrambling and hosting, the lovely Mrs. Robb and I did get to sneak off and go see the Piano Guys in concert.  Was it good?  Why, yes.  Yes it was.  It was a very small venue (about 300 people) and we were in the third row about 10 feet from Steven Sharp Nelson.  While their whole set was good (I particularly liked Jon Schmidt singing "The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow" to the tune of The Imperial March), what blew me away was that they finished it off by performing, live, their cover of "What Makes You Beautiful":


Yes, there were four guys bouncing around and making music with one piano.  It was great fun, and we got to meet everyone after the show, and after a couple of weeks worth of running to and fro, it was a very relaxing afternoon.

Anyways.  Sorry for running silent for so long.  I have a bunch of links saved up for yinz guys, and hope to get back to a semi-regular posting schedule Real Soon Now (TM).

Sloppy Is As Sloppy Does

The Weekly Standard reports:
Healthcare.gov, the federal government's Obamacare website, has been under heavy criticism from friend and foe alike during its first two weeks of open enrollment.  Repeated errors and delays have prevented many users from even establishing an account, and outside web designers have roundly panned the structure and coding of the site as amateurish and sloppy.  The latest indication of the haphazard way in which Healthcare.gov was developed is the uncredited use of a copyrighted web script for a data function used by the site, a violation of the licensing agreement for the software.
Frankly, I'm not surprised.  This sort of thing can happen vera, vera easily, especially if you aren't explicitly paying attention to licensing requirements... and even if you are.  All it takes is for one person to check in a file (they are using source control, right?  Right?!?) with the copyright attribution stripped out, and you have a copyright violation.

Now, this is a relatively minor and easily corrected license violation: add the copyright headers back in. I suspect that the copyright holders would be happy with that and an apology.  It does raise the question, though: if someone "sanitized" the code they were using in this instance by removing the copyright attribution, are there any other places where contractors may have cut corners and violated open source or commercial software licenses?

Cool it, old man!

An old-ish (three years!) parody from Jim Treacher.

I am given to understand that this only touches on his vast prophetic powers.  Mr. Treacher is reportedly also able to predict - with 100% reliability, mind you - whether a rock tossed into the air will fall to the earth, and whether or not a person will become wet after immersing themselves in water!

It's just plan eerie, I tell you.


ITINIDKWI

If you liked the way I was doing posts for the year I was using IFTTT - lots of links, a little commentary, with the occasional meat and potatoes post - then you may find ITINIDKWI worth some attention.  It is the creation of an internet friend, a fairly prolific Facebook poster of interesting tidbits who tired of the social media format:
Trying to have a coherent, thought-through discussion (something that actually used to happen on blogs all the time, young folks… I know you won’t believe it) is mighty hard on social media, especially when you’re trying to do it in Facebook-sized bites (or Twitter-sized 140 character bursts.) 
Didn’t like some of the discussions I was reading, didn’t like some of the discussions I was having or trying to host, and wasn’t proud of how I myself was acting and reacting in some cases.  I’ve greatly curtailed my direct engagement with social media as a result. 
This blog is one way to capture (and share) the stories that catch my eye during the day.
Check it out.  More interesting than I am, for sure.

Oh, the name?
And now I want to tell you about my late Uncle Alex. He was my father’s kid brother, a childless graduate of Harvard who was an honest life insurance salesman in Indianapolis. He was well-read and wise. And his principal complaint about other human beings was that they so seldom noticed it when they were happy. So when we were drinking lemonade under an apple tree in the summer, say, and talking lazily about this and that, almost buzzing like honeybees, Uncle Alex would suddenly interrupt the agreeable blather to exclaim, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.

Ballad of Accounting

"So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God."
– Romans 14:12 
There is always an accounting.

Some come... sooner than others.



In the morning we built the city
In the afternoon walked through its streets
Evening saw us leaving
We wandered through our days as if they would never end
All of us imagined we had endless time to spend
We hardly saw the crossroads and small attention gave
To the landmarks on the journey from the cradle to the grave
Cradle to the grave, cradle to the grave

Did you learn to dream in the morning?
Abandon dreams in the afternoon?
Wait without a hope in the evening?
Did you stand there in the traces and let them feed you lies?
Did you trail along behind them wearing blinkers on your eyes?
Did you kiss the foot that kicked you? Did you thank them for their scorn?
Did you ask for their forgiveness for the act of being born?
Act of being born, act of being born

Did you alter the face of the city?
Make any change in the world you found?
Or did you observe all the warning?
Did you read the trespass notice? Did you keep off the grass?
Did you shuffle off the pavement just to let your betters pass?
Did you learn to keep your mouth shut? Were you seen and never heard?
Did you learn to be obedient and jump to at a word?
Jump to at a word, jump to at a word

And did you ever demand any answer?
The who and the what and the reason why
And did you ever question the setup?
And did you stand aside and let them choose while you took second best?
Did you let them skin the cream off and then give to you the rest?
Did you settle for the shoddy? And did you think it right
To let them rob you right and left and never make a fight?
And never make a fight, never make a fight

What did you learn in the morning?
How much did you know in the afternoon?
Were you content in the evening?
And did they teach you how to question when you were at the school?
Did the factory help you grow? Were you the maker or the tool?
Did the place where you were living enrich your life and then?
Did you mix among the standing of all your fellow men?
All your fellow men, all your fellow men, all your fellow men

Two Clicks, One Meal

I received an email from a gentleman at a local Pittsburgh Company called Oxford Solutions earlier today, asking me to "Like" their Facebook page.  I get this sort of thing from time to time, but this one caught my attention for two reasons...
  1. It was a real email, from someone I've had contact with before - not a mass-mailing.
  2. They were willing to give me something for the click.
Or, rather, they were willing to give someone something...
Oxford Solutions will donate the cost of 1 meal ($2.34) to Light of Life Rescue Mission for every new "like" we receive on Facebook through December 15, 2013 up to $10,000!
I've checked this out from multiple sources, and as far as I can tell, this is a legitimate campaign. Just two clicks (one to get to the Oxford Solutions Facebook page, and one to "Like" that page) and you can provide a meal for the Light of Life through Oxford Solutions.

Folks, that is less effort than it takes to even look at the latest gegaw being offered up on Indiegogo or Kickstarter, let alone fund it.  Two clicks, one meal.  That's it.

For those outside of Pittsburgh, The Light of Life Rescue Mission is a local homeless shelter and recovery program. A good friend of mine leads our church outreach ministry there. I have had the opportunity to preach to and minister to the men at the shelter many times, and Eldest Daughter has been part of the ministry for years.  So I have multiple points of reference when I tell you: they are good folks, doing good work on the North Side of Pittsburgh, and their efforts mean more than you can imagine for a lot of men who have nowhere else to go and nobody else to turn to.

Please, help 'em get hold of as much money as Oxford is willing to sling their way.

An Unexpected Consequence of the Government Shutdown

I appears that someone turned off the electric fence surrounding the Onion writer's pen, and some have escaped into the wild...

Before service in Afghanistan Lauren Kay Johnson, a lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, said she was a fun-loving woman who would organize potluck and karaoke nights for friends.
But when she returned from her nine month-deployment in March 2010, the Seattle native struggled to get to grips with civilian life as the memories of war haunted her.
In the November issue of Glamour magazine, she details how 'long hours', 'drab meals of dry meat and soggy vegetables' and constant 'paranoia' that something could happen at any moment, gradually took a toll on her mental state during deployment.
She is (or was) a public affairs officer for the USAF.  Based on the existence of this article, and the inevitable and very predictable reactions it has caused, I can only assume that she absolutely sucked at her job.

You really are a bit of a whiner, aren't you, dear?




"I am a far-right moderate social libertarian"

Via Borepatch.

According to the poll, I am far more right than libertarian... which just seems off, to me.  I'm pretty sure that I am nowhere near as authoritarian as this makes me out to be. I will cop to being that far right, though I think I get there via the civilization/barbarism axis, as opposed to the common American political views of left vs. right.

My Political Views
I am a far-right moderate social libertarian
Right: 8.21, Libertarian: 1.74


  My Foreign Policy Views
Score: 0.71


My Culture War Stance
Score: 2.91

C25K: Finishing Week Four

Well, we had a bit of a delay in our running schedule.  Being on vacation took a toll, in a good way - it was hard to muster up the energy to run when we were exhausted from swimming all day.  We returned home rested and ready for week three, when I did something incredibly stupid (at least, in hindsight).

I bought some new inserts for my shoes.  Nice, cushy inserts with a wonderfully padded heel.

They felt wonderful when I was running.  The following day?  Not so much.  Both my knees were effectively immobile, and I felt like I had hot needles sitting just under inner portion of my knees.  A discussion with my boss at work (who's a marathon runner) about shoes gave me an inkling of an idea that the inserts might be a problem.  So when I got home, I took them out, and the pain in my knees diminished almost immediately.

Sigh.  OK, trash one set of inserts.

Even with that, the pain in my knees persisted - I treated them with Aleve and ice for several days before I felt like I would be able to run again.  At that point, I decided that while my current shoes were comfortable, they were pretty much too trashed to continue running in.  So my next step would be to find a pair of running shoes to that would let me run without further destroying my knees.

After soliciting recommendations from various runners, I found a store that would do a gait analysis, and tell me what kind of shoes I should be wearing.  Which is exactly what I wanted, since I was completely ignorant and unable to answer the questions that experienced runners asked me about my arch, roll, and what-have-you.  They managed to set me up with a nice pair of Nikes, which felt great.

At which point, halfway through week three, we all got sick.  Bleah.  This seems to be an inevitable consequence of the start of the school year.  There's a reason why the Lovely Mrs. Robb and I refer to kids as "cute little petri dishes".

Anyways - that knocked us back, yet again.  So doing Week 3 of the program actually ended taking up... um.  Two and a half weeks?  Closer to three weeks?  Something like that.  Eldest Daughter and I ended up repeating a day of the Week 3 program, just because it felt like we should.

We kept up with it as best we could, though, through bum knees, bad shoes and a bad cold.  The end result being that this was Week 4, and we're now running (well, jogging) for 5 minutes at a time.  I measured it - that's a whole half of a mile that I'm managing to blast through; not once, but twice during a session.

Woot!

We still have one more day of Week 4 to complete, then we get into Week 5... where we will be hitting what is (for me) a major milestone at the end of the week: ramping up each day until we are running for 20 minutes straight.  I will be very honest, and say that if I can manage that by the end of next week, I will be freaking amazed.  I suspect that it will take a couple of tried before I am able to reach that goal.

I am incredibly happy with the progress we've made, though.  To top it all off, I've also managed to loose about 10 pounds in the process - though I think that is more an result of making the effort to eat more salads and fewer french fries.  At 220 right now, I am hardly svelte, but frankly, this is the best shape that I have probably been in for two decades.

Which makes me quite happy!





Life and Lemons

You know, lots of folks seem to be focusing on the 800k "unnecessary" employees furloughed.  On how amazing it is that the government has this many non-essential employees, what good they are, what they actually do, etc., etc.

I've got a few thoughts about the situation.

First, keep in mind that "non-essential" does not neccesarily mean "useless".  Just because Sally or Bob got furloughed, that does not mean that the job they were doing had zero value.  What it does mean (at least, ideally) is that the job they were doing was something that could be postponed for a while.

Think about it this way - there are many different kinds of inspections, reviews, audits, and the like that various agencies are responsible for.  If the shutdown only lasts for a week or two, their work schedule gets pushed out a couple of weeks.  Yearly inspections that should have been done this month get done Job next month.  If your job involved you being part of a multi-year or even decade-long process that can be put on hold for a bit without any serious consequences... well, welcome to an unpaid vacation of indeterminate length.

So a lot of these folks are not useless employees; they're employees who's work can be easily suspended for a while.  Yes, I am sure that there are some functionally useless federal employees that got furloughed.  Just as I am sure that there are some functionally useless useless federal employees that are still managing to collect a paycheck. Despite that, a lot of them are simply people who were doing useful, but not urgent, work.  Work that the federal government just can't pay for at the moment.

Now that you have that thought in mind - that "furloughed" does not mean "useless" - try looking at it this way.  As of Tuesday, there are nearly a million people who are at least temporarily out of work.  A lot of these folks are highly-educated, well-trained and experienced individuals who also happen to have a lot of experience with how the federal government does business.

And right now, they are getting seriously screwed over by their current employer.

How many of them do you think might - just might - be interested to hear about opportunities in the private sector?

This sort of thin happens all the time in the private sector, doesn't it?  Just a year or so ago, there was a major tech company in Pittsburgh that folded up its local office and laid of umpteen-hundred people.  When they organized a job fair for the departing employees, other companies jumped at the chance to attend.  "A few hundred well-educated, talented, experienced folks who are looking for a new job?  Heck yeah, we'll be there!"

Here's a chance to reduce the size of the federal government, at least temporarily.  Not by forcing them to cut jobs, which seems to be all but impossible; but just by hiring away the people that they've laid off.

QOTD

You've got to read it in context, I think, but...
Normally I would observe that giving political power to giant, evil, intelligent rats hell-bent on the destruction of civilization may not be the healthiest course for a society to take, but we’re the country that elected Barack Obama so I don’t really have the high ground here.
That's pure gold, right there.

QOTD

On a FB comment thread about the shutdown, one David Burkhead provides a succinct answer to the accusation that the efforts of the Republican House to avoid funding the ACA are "unconstitutional":

Let me be perfectly clear. When the House of Representative says "this is what we will fund and this is what we won't" they are not engaging in dirty tricks. They are not trying to do an end-run around the Constitution. They are _using_ the authority given to them _by_ the Constitution to do. their. job. 
Their ability to say "no, we won't fund that" is a feature, not a bug. It's one of the "checks and balances" built into the Constitution.

Diary of a Shutdown Survivor, Day 3

Spent the night in the wilderness.  Cold.  Alone.  Forsaken.

Itchy.

I think that I bedded down in a clump of poison ivy, no doubt growing rampant due to lack of federal government funding.  That's what the mushrooms told me.  It was kind of odd that they didn't start talking to me until after I ate them, but it all makes sense now.  Now I know.  And knowing is half the battle!

Thankfully, my cell phone battery is holding out, so I am able to spread my message... flee, flee, ye fools, from the wrath that is to come!

It is only a matter of time before cell phone towers start falling, killing everyone in their wake.  Bridges and roads and monuments and buildings and all that start decaying immediately if they're not kept in the presence of a soothing flow of federal government money.  Soon rabid squirrels will run rampant through the streets, infecting everyone with the zombie plague, just like the NIH warned before they went dark.

Went dark.  Dark.  Dark.  Cold.  Itchy.

You would think that everyone would know all that, wouldn't you?  I am pretty sure they covered that in high school civics class.  Or maybe it was in health class.  Whatever.  It's common knowledge.  Lack of federal government spending equals climate change, rampant erosion, acid rain, plagues of locusts and ravening hordes of post-apocolyptic barbarians fleeing from mutant rabid squirrels.  Ipso Facto, E Plurbus Unum. Cruscio Reductio! Fuego!  Fuego!  Iä! Iä! Cthulhu Fhtagn!

The mushrooms are telling me I should probably not eat any more of them.  Just in case.

I itch.

Diary of a Shutdown Survivor, Day 2

Slept poorly last night.  It was cold and dark.  Raging hunger gnawed at me like a live rat in my belly.  My need for sustenance drove me to acts of desperation so depraved that I pray for oblivion.  As the evening wore on, I eventually curled into the fetal position next to my ruined and burning car, eking out whatever parcel of warmth I could while wrapped in scraps of tattered cloth.

My wife is hysterical, in denial.  She is putting on a brave front, trying to pretend that we can still have a normal life, but she can't see that she is just going through the motions.  She acts as if we still have a home to live in, food in the pantry, kids to get off to school in the morning.  I know that these are just illusions.  The Shutdown has come, and all that we once had is naught but a memory.

Later in the evening, she began pelting me with a litany of nonsense questions over and over.  Things like "Why are you half-naked?  It's freezing out here!  Come inside!" and "Why did you set our car on fire?  How are you supposed to get to work tomorrow, you idiot?" and "What do you mean, 'We have to flee into the woods to escape the wrath that is to come'?" and "Honey, would you please tell the nice man why you're sitting outside naked, next to our burning car, and OH SWEET HEAVEN ARE YOU EATING THE DOG?!?"

She doesn't understand.  It is the shutdown.  The Shutdown.  The SHUTDOWN.