"Now witness the firepower..."

...  of this fully armed and operational battlemage! [1]

Yeah, I am a grown man - married, with children, as the saying goes - and I spent this morning playing dress-up with my imaginary friends.

Meet Aetherna, my main character in WoW.  She's an arcane mage.  Has been since the very beginning mumble years ago, and aside from a (very brief) switch to fire once for a particularly nasty boss, arcane she's stayed.

Now, normally in WoW, mages are limited to cloth armor.  However... with the latest Warlords of Draenor expansion came the ability to buy cosmetic armor sets using captured Iron Horde scrap. These are armor pieces that you can use to make whatever you are currently wearing look like something else entirely.  As it turns out, one of those sets is a replica of the armor worn by guards in Stormwind, the human city in WoW.

So a few weeks worth of collecting various pieces of scrap, and now Aeth can finally look less like a soft, squishy Orcish chew toy and more like someone ready to wade into the middle of a fight!

I mean, she always did that anyways... but now she at least looks the part.

[1] Though, as Richard pointed out, "Battlemage?  That's not a profession.  It barely qualifies as a hobby."  So, yeah, ok.  Her hobby is battlemage.  Her profession is using arcane power ripped from the twisting nether to make people's heads explode, usually in return for inadequate footwear.

The Battle of Five Armies

Just returned from taking da goils to see the third installment of the extended film that that the lovely Mrs. Robb refers to as "That Middle-Earth Movie".

Overall, I thought it was the second best in the series - not nearly as good as the first installment, but much better than the second.  I have a new love for Dain of the Iron Hills, and a newfound respect for Galadriel, who shows that she can indeed be as "beautiful and terrible as the Morn!".  The scenes of the dwarven infantry also warmed my heart.  Dwarven shield walls?  Yes, please!

I will also admit to blubbering like a kid when Thorin died. [1] 

What can I say?  I love me some dwarves.

There were a number of ways that the movie could have been improved.  Cutting out the extended "amazing action" sequences, for example.  A couple of quick scenes of awesomeness would have worked much better, IMHO.  John C. Wright will be happy to know that there was at least one point where I was thinking "SHOOT HIM WITH AN ELF ARROW!" - and, wouldn't you know it, he did.  Ah, some common sense at last!

More exposition about how Beorn and the Eagles show up to save the day would have been nice as well.  As, maybe, a mention of why it was the "battle of five armies"?  Just sayin'.  I am eagerly anticipating the director's cut (or, more likely, the fan cut) that turns this movie trilogy into the the two movies that it should have been from the beginning.

Finally, I was surprised to find myself thinking that the love interest between Kili and Tauriel actually worked fairly well, in the context of the movie.  No, it's not canonical... but it was a side plot, not a major part of the film; and it provided some context for character development that was otherwise quite logically lacking in a movie about Guys Hitting Other Guys With Pointy Bits of Metal.

If you've seen the first two, you will definitely want to see the third, if just to come to a sense of closure.  If you're like the lovely Mrs. Robb, though, and think that Elves showing up at Helm's Deep was a grave error, then you'll probably be happiest either catching it as a matinee showing, or waiting to see it on DVD.

[1] Spoilers?  For one of the modern classics of Western literature?  Are you serious?


What follows is an account from a French ISAF soldier that was stationed with American Warfighters in Afghanistan sometime in the past 4 years.  This was copied and translated from an editorial French newspaper.
We have shared our daily life with two US units for quite a while - they are the first and fourth companies of a prestigious infantry battalion whose name I will withhold for the sake of military secrecy. To the common man it is a unit just like any other. But we live with them and got to know them, and we henceforth know that we have the honor to live with one of the most renowned units of the US Army - one that the movies brought to the public as series showing "ordinary soldiers thrust into extraordinary events"...
On the one square meter wooden tower above the perimeter wall they stand the five consecutive hours in full battle rattle and night vision goggles on top, their sight unmoving in the directions of likely danger. No distractions, no pauses, they are like statues nights and days. At night, all movements are performed in the dark - only a handful of subdued red lights indicate the occasional presence of a soldier on the move. Same with the vehicles whose lights are covered - everything happens in pitch dark even filling the fuel tanks with the Japy pump. Here we discover America as it is often depicted: their values are taken to their paroxysm, often amplified by promiscuity and the loneliness of this outpost in the middle of that Afghan valley.
To get the full impact, you will definitely need to RTWT.

Feeling exceptionally proud of our men & women in uniform right about now.

And Now I Feel Old

When did J-Pop and Metal get hitched?  And why wasn't I invited to the wedding?

Hold on.  I have some kids on my lawn that I need to go yell at now.

"No. There is another."

From a friend of a friend on the Book of Faces: "Non-European Country"
I'm afraid that one of the reasons there are problems of communication and diplomacy right now across the Atlantic is the incorrect European assumption that "the US is essentially a European country". It's true that America is more like Europe than anywhere else on the planet, but it would perhaps be more accurate to say that the US is less unlike Europe than anywhere else on the planet. 
Someone pointed out a critical difference: European "nations" are based on ethnicity, language or geography. The American nation is based on an idea, and those who voluntarily came here to join the American experiment were dedicated to that idea...
Indeed, it seems to bind us much more strongly than most nations...
You're French if you're born in France, of French parents. You're English if you're born to English parents (and Welsh if your parents were Welsh). But you're American if you think you're American, and are willing to give up what you used to be in order to be one of us. That's all it takes. But that's a lot, because "thinking you're American" requires you to comprehend that idea we all share. 
Not really a new idea, but an articulate expression nonetheless.

He does mention one country whose people "are not confused by us".  Go, read the whole thing - but I think you can guess who he's talking about without too much effort.

Look To Detroit

Sarah Hoyt wrote last year about Going Down Easy:
The slide goes like this – it begins with mail distribution twice a day six days a week, and the mail fairly reliable in the sense that yes, you do get human error and things delayed a bit.  Then it goes to once daily...
Then slowly the mail becomes more unreliable.  Then one day is cut out.  Then delivery is every other day...
But along that slide comes the time when the mail is COMPLETELY unreliable. Anything you entrust to them has a fifty/fifty chance of arriving, and anything even vaguely useful/valuable WILL get stolen, unless you’re very, very crafty.
Federal authorities say a Detroit-area postal employee accused of stealing as  between 1600-2,000 pieces of mail said she did so out of boredom. 
Sharon Berrien is accused of pocketing any cash from the mail and dumping the leftovers along Interstate 94. Most of the items were greeting cards.

Just an isolated incident.  Nothing to see here, citizen.  Move along.

Life Imitates Star Trek

Engineers at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) have used nanotechnology to increase the toughness of the transparent spinel armor it currently uses on optics, sensors, and windows on ships and other vehicles. The new nanocrystalline spinel is made of the same materials, magnesium aluminate (MgAl2O4), but the grain size has been reduced to 28 nm.
So... yeah. Transparent aluminum!

Well, aluminate.  Close enough!

Now get crackin' on that warp drive, sonny boys.  The clock's a tickin'... we've got less than 50 years to meet the Vulcans.

Rough Language, For A Reason

Professor Mondo (who is, indeed, mondo) relates a story from Daniel Knauf about meeting Nichelle Nichols in a TSA line...
So I’m standing in the b***s*** “security theater” line at LAX (does anybody else think the dumbest, most dangerous place an a****** terrorist would try anything is a commercial flight full of people like me who are just itching to legally kick anyone to death who tries anything?) behind the incredibly beautiful Nichelle Nichols, who played Ulhura on the original Star Trek. 
At 81, she’s still as gracious, classy and lovely as ever. 
Unfortunately, as is the case for many people her age, she has some mobility problems and was seated in a wheelchair as we approached the metal detector. 
I am sure you can imagine how this might have gone... know that, thanks to Mr. Knauf, it did not.  There is a bit of (IMHO, deservedly) rough language, but go ahead, RTWT

Filthy Capitalists

They're at it again:
Did you know you can fit a whole cellphone network in a box the size of a small carry-on suitcase? That’s what a tiny startup called Endaga is doing, to bring mobile phone services to remote villages in Indonesia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Philippines. It may not be legal, but it’s working.
Endaga, based out of Oakland, Calif., sells its boxes for $6,000. Local operators use them to connect to backhaul, or underlying wired or wireless networks — in Indonesia, it’s satellite Internet; in Pakistan, long-distance Wi-Fi — then install the boxes on trees, set their pricing and hand out SIM cards. Customers bring their own regular phones. They don’t need to invest in expensive satellite phones.
In a 1,500-person town in Papua, where the very first box was installed in February 2013, the school with the box is bringing in $2,000 in revenue per month, with 400 subscribers.
The school is now having an easier time retaining teachers, in part because they’re able to communicate with friends and family back home without driving four hours to get cellphone reception. Two-thirds of texts and calls are outbound.
Disgusting, is what it is.  How dare they work hard to produce something that improves the lives of people?  Especially without making the appropriate obeisances to the UN and various NGOs who have had so many "working conferences" in Switzerland to discuss how hard the problem is!  You know, the conferences about how much they need more funding so that they can have more conferences to establish the need for more funding...

Starting My Christmas List

Saw this on Cheezburger, but I can't seem to find them on sale anywhere!

Guess I will just have to console myself with a Tetris Stackable LED Desk Lamp:

Meanwhile, I would love to get da goils their own Tardis, but I would prefer to find one in wood, rather than cardboard...

Dusty In Here

Well done, gentlemen.  Well done.

They provide some background on the event, as well:
This year our Christmas ad has been produced in partnership with The Royal British Legion. It’s called ‘Christmas is for sharing’ and it commemorates an extraordinary event which took place during the First World War, one hundred years ago: the Christmas Truce.


Why, yes, Ello is Yet Another Social Network.  Let's give 'er a spin and see how she pans out. 

If you're at all interested at looking for me over there, let me know. I still have a handful of beta invitations I can hand out.

The War Was In Color

There are a lot of different presentations of this song out there. I happen to think this one is the best. Others may have slightly better editing, or better audio; but this version, I think, captures the real heart of the song.


I see you've found a box of my things -
Infantries, tanks and smoldering airplane wings.
These old pictures are cool. Tell me some stories
Was it like the old war movies?
Sit down son. Let me fill you in

Where to begin? Let's start with the end
This black and white photo don't capture the skin
From the flash of a gun to a soldier who's done
Trust me grandson
The war was in color

From shipyard to sea, From factory to sky
From rivet to rifle, from boot camp to battle cry
I wore the mask up high on a daylight run
That held my face in its clammy hand
Crawled over coconut logs and corpses in the coral sand

Where to begin? Let's start with the end
This black and white photo don't capture the skin
From the shock of a shell or the memory of smell
If red is for Hell
The war was in color

I held the canvas bag over the railing
The dead released, with the ship still sailing,
Out of our hands and into the swallowing sea
I felt the crossfire stitching up soldiers
Into a blanket of dead, and as the night grows colder
In a window back home, a Blue Star is traded for Gold.

Where to begin? Let's start with the end
This black and white photo don't capture the skin
When metal is churned. And bodies are burned
Victory earned
The War was in color

Now I lay in my grave at age 21
Long before you were born
Before I bore a son
What good did it do?
Well hopefully for you
A world without war
A life full of color

Where to begin? Let's start with the end
This black and white photo never captured my skin
Once it was torn from an enemy thorn
Straight through the core
The war was in color

A Few Remarks

On peace through strength. from President Ronald Reagan on November 11th, 1985:
Perhaps we can start by remembering this: that all of those who died for us and our country were, in one way or another, victims of a peace process that failed; victims of a decision to forget certain things; to forget, for instance, that the surest way to keep a peace going is to stay strong. Weakness, after all, is a temptation -- it tempts the pugnacious to assert themselves -- but strength is a declaration that cannot be misunderstood. Strength is a condition that declares actions have consequences. Strength is a prudent warning to the belligerent that aggression need not go unanswered.
Peace fails when we forget what we stand for. It fails when we forget that our Republic is based on firm principles, principles that have real meaning, that with them, we are the last, best hope of man on Earth; without them, we're little more than the crust of a continent. Peace also fails when we forget to bring to the bargaining table God’s first intellectual gift to man: common sense. Common sense gives us a realistic knowledge of human beings and how they think, how they live in the world, what motivates them. Common sense tells us that man has magic in him, but also clay. Common sense can tell the difference between right and wrong. Common sense forgives error, but it always recognizes it to be error first. 
We endanger the peace and confuse all issues when we obscure the truth; when we refuse to name an act for what it is; when we refuse to see the obvious and seek safety in Almighty. Peace is only maintained and won by those who have clear eyes and brave minds. Peace is imperiled when we forget to try for agreements and settlements and treaties; when we forget to hold out our hands and strive; when we forget that God gave us talents to use in securing the ends He desires. Peace fails when we forget that agreements, once made, cannot be broken without a price. 

This is the funniest thing on teh intarwebs today.

Larry Correia talks about the current SJW Cannibal Feeding Frenzy, which is, of course, amusing. By all means, RTWT!  The penultimate paragraph is what really made me laugh out loud, though (emphasis mine):
This is one reason I’ve been enjoying the hell out of GamerGate. First, it has been awesome having a great big group of people witness the same bullshit that my industry has been dealing with for years. Second, SF/F people tend to be squishy and polite, with a handful of outspoken outliers like me and the rest of the Evil League of Evil, so SJWs have run roughshod over my industry… But gamers? Holy shit. You really think you can pick a fight with people whose brains are programmed to win? Gamers will outlast, outthink, and outfight the SJWs. Tell a Gamer that there is loot or XP in it, and he’ll grind SJWs to the grave.
Kind of puts it into perspective, I think.

The Last Seven Months, In Pictures And A Few Words

First, we were like:

Then... stuff happened, and we were like:

Everyone was OK - even the pets were fine - but... our home?

Not so much.

Which gave us teh sads.

On top of that, we had to do this...

... which left us with this...

... which gave us eben moar sads.

But we have a really good insurance company!

So while we still had teh sads, we started thinking about:

We were very excited to talk to builders about our Glorious Farmhouse! Unfortunately, they told us that we would need:

... and while our insurance company is really good, we still had to pay off our old mortgage and stuff.  So after all was said and done, what we actually had was more like:

Well... maybe a little more than that.  Certainly not what we needed, though.

So we did some of this:

... and some of that:

... and a lot of:

Which made us think that something simpler would be just fine.  Which is great, because the lovely Mrs. Robb and I both agreed that we were kind of tired of sending a honking big chunk of our paycheck off to a mortgage company every month.

So the past couple of months we have spent a lot of time doing some of this:

And even more of that:

All so we could take this:

... and start to turn it into something like this:

The first real step of which was, of course, making a big ol' mess!

Part of which was putting in a new driveway!

So work is finally in progress.  We are hoping and praying that we will be done, and into the new house, by mid-April.

I have the feeling that it is going to be a busy few months.


From Larry Correia on Facebook, on the differences between Republicans and Democrats:
I love how the day after the election the Libertarian Unicorn Calvary rides in to explain how the two parties are EXACTLY THE SAME and NOTHING HAS CHANGED.
Yeah, I can totally see your point, except for the Republicans being better on economics, business, foreign policy, taxes, entitlements, welfare (both individual and corporate), national defense, healthcare, guns, framing any policy disagreement as racism, reading your mail, tapping your phones, using the IRS to attack opponents, running illegal guns to Mexico to frame American gun owners, and basic !@#$%^& math, they're totally the same. Yes, you want an ice cream cone RIGHT NOW and the republicans didn't give it to you, so they're totally the same.
Yes, the republicans suck. But they are a far more manageable form of suck.

Pajama Boy Expands His Wardrobe

No.  Just... no.  Please, no.

'80s Awareness PSA with Kevin Bacon

"You think Russia's a threat now? Let me tell you about a little thing called the COLD WAR. They had nukes pointed at us for 20 years. You couldn't even skateboard to a blockbuster without getting nuked.

My friend Tommy went out to rent a copy of Gremlins and never came back. You know why? 


At least, that's what my parents told me."

Halloween Horror

Interrogative whiskey tango foxtrot?

An intoxicated man with a heavily bleeding head wound told Seattle Police Department officers a man dressed as a clown hit him with a wrench at a house party Saturday night in Maple Leaf.
Two men dressed as clowns and armed with purple sex toys allegedly accosted an Illinois woman and her teenage daughter as they attempted to buy tickets to a haunted house, according to a lawsuit.
Residents in the California towns of Bakersfield and Wasco have recently been plagued by stalking, scary clowns. 
The clowns have appeared over the past few weeks, often at night. Sometimes people saw the clowns, staring at them silently from a street corner or darkened parking lot. Often, however, the clowns were photographed in front of various city landmarks, the images shared on social media. While most of the clowns held nothing more sinister than a creepy scowl and a handful of balloons, some have been seen photographed wielding large weapons such as machetes or baseball bats.
And the pièce de résistance, there are evil clowns terrorizing people in France:
A 14-year-old dressed as a clown was arrested on Monday near Paris for attempting to attack a woman, as a strange phenomenon of fake, evil clowns terrorising passers-by spreads in France. 
Complaints have poured in recently over "armed clowns" wreaking havoc in various parts of the country, and police have detained several people dressed as the pranksters - some carrying pistols, knives and baseball bats.
And, of course, the biggest clown of all:

Suddenly, all those other clowns don't seem nearly as scary.

I Now Understand Annie Wilkes

I just finished reading "I Work For Bigfoot", three Dresden short stories available as part of the Urban Fantasy Story Bundle.

The bundle includes ebooks by David Farland, Elizabeth Bear, Carole Nelson Douglas, Rhiannon Palle and Kevin J. Anderson.  You can pay what you want, but if you cough up $14 or more, you also get bonus ebooks from Vicki Pettersson, P. N. Elrod, Peter J. Wacks, Michael A, Stackpole and - of course - Jim Butcher.

So... yeah. I basically paid $20 to get three new Dresden short stories, and a bunch of other stuff that looks interesting.

Totally worth it.

Community? NOT.


There was one line in the story that kind of torqued me off, though.
Jessica Abels, who lives near the spot on Cronk Avenue near Illinois Avenue where the woman was found walking bloodied and naked, said she looked out the window when she heard a woman screaming for help around 2 p.m. Sept. 26.
She saw the woman jump out the window of a nearby vacant home, she said. 
"Her eyes were all swollen and she had blood all over her and in her mouth," Abels said. "She was pretty messed up." 
That's when the community jumped into action. 
Several area residents offered the 21-year-old woman clothing and comfort while a man who holds a valid concealed pistols license ordered the suspect out of the house at gunpoint, according to Flint police.
Emphasis mine.

Now, gather 'round and listen closely, ye who would claim to be reporters.  I know that you have almost certainly been taught that "social justice" and "journalism" are effectively synonyms. However, now that you are actually out in the real world, and doing real reporting, please do us all a favor, put that attitude away on the shelf next to your diploma, and keep that SJW nonsense out of the freaking facts of the matter, will you?

The "community", whatever the heck you think that is, did not "jump into action".

Individual people saw what was happening.  Each individual then made a personal decision to step up and do something.

I am pretty sure that things happened quickly enough in this case that the "community" was not involved at any point.

I sincerely doubt that a "community" meeting was called in order to reach consensus and collectively decide the proper course of action vis-a-vis this situation.

I will admit that I cannot be absolutely positive this was the case.  However, I do believe the circumstantial evidence is on my side.

Note the complete lack of a hashtag campaign, for example.  The absence of a slipshod protest against the dirty Koch Brothers and the notable absence of any "organizers" on the scene is a pretty good indication that the "community" was not involved.

Finally and most importantly, there is the simple fact that something was actually accomplished, which in my experience is a near-certain indication that the wonderfully ambiguous and amorphous "community" was not involved in any way, shape, or form.

"Community", my shiny metal... er.

Sorry.  Channeled a bit to much of my  inner Tam there.

Epic Drumming

A friendly drum line competition between the III Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF) Band and the Republic of Korea (ROK) Army Band.

I wish there was a better angle on the second half of the clip!

So, You Think You Understand History?

I need to write this down, because I forget things sometimes, and I think what I heard today was important. Not to me, the time for me or almost anyone else alive on Earth today to make a difference has passed, but someone, somewhere might be able to make something of this, or at least find it helpful, or something. Once I'm done, I'm going to seal it up in a pipe, coat it in wax, and chuck it into the ravine. Maybe someday someone will read this, and try to put things together. If they're allowed to. 
I'd love to start at the beginning, but I'm honestly not sure when the world started to end. 

Technically True


From Adroit Films comes "Regcession: How The EPA Is Destroying America":
The documentary makes clear that the Green Movement is a "big business" not a "big cause".  
It is not only a big business for those directly involved in the Green Movement like solar and wind companies but it is also big business for the media;  the politicians, their friends and their families;  foreign countries;  multi-national corporations (many of which brand themselves as American companies); and even American colleges and universities.  
The use of the word regcession in this essay and in the documentary is not a mistake or a misspelling.  It is a word we have created in an attempt to brand the economic decline in America as what it really is.  America's economic decline is not a cyclical recession as the government would have us believe, but rather a 24 year reduction in American manufacturing jobs caused by excessive regulations.   We know we are not experiencing a recession because recessions do not last for 24 years and they do not put countries 17 trillion dollars in debt.  Ironically, not only are excessive nonsensical Environmental Protection Agency regulations bankrupting America and American citizens, they are also increasing worldwide pollution.  All of this is occurring as the politicians hide the truth by producing flawed and misleading unemployment statistics, and by moving millions of Americans on to government assistance and out of the workforce.

Stay Cold!

My younger brother's company.  Proud of you, Mike!

Stay Cold™ discs fit underneath any size aluminum can to help keep your drink ice cold from the first sip to the last. Just pop your Stay Cold™ discs in the freezer and in minutes they're frozen solid.

What MOS Would That Be?

The New York Times reports that the Iraq Army is attempting to draw deserters back to the war on ISIS:
QUSH TAPA, Iraq — The Iraqi military command has begun a campaign to re-enlist soldiers and officers who abandoned their units, a crucial step in its effort to rebuild an army that has been routed in battle after battle by Islamic State jihadists. 
Even as the government has continued to equip volunteers, the de facto amnesty for deserters is an acknowledgment that the army desperately needs experienced soldiers — even ones who ran — for a force that is sustaining heavy losses despite the American-led airstrike campaign against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.
In my imagination, the recruiting conversations go something like this...
"You country is thankful for your dedication, Private Said. You must understand, though, even with the amnesty, you will most likely be assigned to different duties than the ones you were originally trained for. Let us see... ah, yes. Your new post will be, mmm, as 'anti-tank round ablative armor'."
"Fortunately, no real retraining necessary there, eh? Take him away and strap him to something with an engine, will you, Sergeant?"
Why, yes, I have been reading Tom Kratman's Carrera series.  Why do you ask?

Tesla's Problem

A while back, I did a quick, back of the envelope calculation comparing a Tesla Model S to a Toyota Corolla, and figured that the Model S would have to come down in price - a lot - in order to compete purely on cost over a five year period. [1]  The price of a Tesla really only makes sense if it costs about $12,000 more than a Corolla.  (Interestingly enough, that is the reported cost of a Model S battery pack.)  That works out to about $30,000.

In other words, once I can buy a Tesla for 30 grand, it will become a worth looking at as a possible worthwhile investment for me.  Depending on the expected life of the car, and the price of gasoline, it might even be worth it at a higher price point.

So I've been keeping an eye on the Tesla Model 3, which was supposed to approach this price range.  Current opinion, however, seem to be that the price will end up in the $50,000 range.

I am sure you can see the problem.  I might, someday, be interested in buying an electric car.  I doubt that there will ever be a day when I would be particularly interested in buying a luxury car that happens to be electric.

A shame, really, since they seem like such interesting cars.  Unless something changes, though, it looks like there is no Tesla in the near future for me.  Well... no new Tesla.  I will have to wait and see how well they hold their value.  It may be that a used Model 3 with a good usable lifespan might fall into the "worth considering" range.

[1] Rough figures: $62k for a Tesla Model S, $18k for a Toyota Corolla that gets 27 MPG.  If you take the difference in price ($44k) and put gasoline at $4/gallon, the Corolla can go 297k miles on $44k worth of gas.  At 15k miles/year, that is almost 20 years worth of gasoline for your Corolla.  With that price differential, you can by a new Corolla, drive it for five years, then buy another Corolla, drive it for another five years, and still spend less than you would on the Model S.  Keep in mind that is without considering the charging costs for the Model S at all.

Notes on SCIP (Small Child Interaction Protocol)

Since getting to/from the Outer Banks for vacation involved a 10+ hour car trip in each direction, I found myself in an excellent position to study and take notes on the Small Child Interaction Protocol (SCIP).  Up close and personal.  In the wild, as it were.

Here, I present my findings to date.

The Small Child Interaction Protocol (SCIP)

SCIP begins with one of two interrogatives ("Mama?" or "Dada?"), originating from the Child and directed at a Parent.  In theory, the particular interrogative is chosen to establish the communication channel with a particular Parent.  In practice, however, the opening interrogatives are issued in broadcast mode, and the Child is generally happy to connect with whichever Parent happens to answer up first.

If neither Parent is able to answer a connection request immediately, the Child will pause momentarily, and then begin issuing a repeated stream of interrogatives ("Mama?  Mama?  Mama?").  As far as I can determine, there is no rate limiting mechanism employed by the Child when entering into this state.  There is in fact some evidence that the Child will typically employ a negative exponential backoff if there is no ACK to any of the first half-dozen connection requests.

Upon receiving the interrogative, a parent is required to ACK the interrogative.  The actual form of the ACK is apparently very flexible.  "Yes", "Uh-huh", "Hold on", "Wait a second", and even "Who are you?" are all acceptable responses from the Parent.  The actual text of the response may be interpreted by a more advanced Child implementation and used to set communication protocol parameters; however, this is not required, and for most Children, the actual presence of the ACK is enough to finalize the establishment of the communication channel.

A conforming Child implementation will acknowledge the ACK from the Parent by issuing another interrogative.  This may seem redundant, but experience has shown that many Parent implementations will ACK an initial query without bringing any actual processing resources online to deal with the communication stream.  This actually makes sense, as any given Child instance may close down communications when a priority interrupt (ex., remembering a cookie, a sibling Child instance moving, a particularly interesting dust particle, etc.) occurs within 0.0001 ultra-micro-picoseconds of the initial ACK.  Thus, the Parent avoids a potentially unnecessary context switch by waiting for the second interrogative.

A Child will indicate to the Parent that it has avoided a priority interrupt and is fully ready to communicate by issuing a second interrogative.  The format of this interrogative will indicate if the data to follow is a simple statement (and not requiring a reply from the Parent) or a query for information from the Parent.  At this point, the Parent will context switch, bring processing resources online, and prepare to receive data from the Child.


C: "Mama?"
P: "Yes, dear."
C: "Can I tell you something?"
P: "Go ahead..."
C: "I liked swimming on vacation!"
P: "That's nice, honey."

C: "Mama?"
C: "Mama?  Mama?  Mama?"
P: "Yes, yes.  What?"
C: "Can I ask you a question?"
P: "What is it?"
C: "Um... I forgot."

C: "Dada?"
P: "Yes'm?"
C: "Can I ask you a question?"
P: "Sure."
C: "Do dogs have dreams?"
P: "..."

C: "Mama?"
P: "Um-hm?"
C: "Can I tell you something?"
P: "Go ahead..."

Related Protocols

Unfortunately, as Eldest Daughter spent the majority of the trip both ways drawing while listening to her new iPod, the chances to study the Young Teenager Interaction Protocol (YTIP) were minimal.  Keep in mind, though, that YTIP is simply a subset of The Surly Teenager Interaction Protocol (STIP).  If you are familiar with the main-channel and back-channel communication mediums for STIP (i.e., random vocalizations coupled with arbitrary eye rolls and an almost palpable disdain for anyone over the age of 25 or younger than they are), then you're pretty much set as far as understanding YTIP goes.

I May Never Ride With The Calvary

But Mothax did.
Riding with the 1st Virginia Cavalry at the Battle of Gettysburg
Over 10,000 reenactors showed up for the Battle of Gettysburg last week in Pennsylvania, and I was lucky enough to be one of them.   My buddy from service in Bosnia, and also the best man at my wedding, Mike Schramm has been doing reenacting for about 6 years, and has asked me innumerable times to join him.  The 150th Anniversary of Gettysburg seemed a good opportunity to get my first experience doing it.  And my Editor for The American Legion Magazine said he thought it would make an excellent magazine piece, so my wife (as photographer and camp cook's assistant to Mike's wife Jo) and I camped out with men, women and horses for a week.
Sounds amazing.  I've always enjoyed talking to reenactors.  I'm sorry to have missed the events around the 150th anniversary of Gettysburg. 

Advise Them Right In The Face

As usual with the Duffel Blog, it's a swing, and a hit...

FORT STEWART, Ga. — A force of approximately 25,000 advisers from the U.S. Army’s 3rd Adviser Division is heading to Iraq to not participate in direct ground combat of any kind, the Pentagon announced Thursday. 
“Make no mistake, we are in full-on advisement against ISIL in the same way we continue to advise countries against al Qaeda and its affiliates,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said at a press conference...
Although the Pentagon officially declined to give much detail as to what types of advice would be used, sources told Duffel Blog the troops will be authorized to engage with 5.56mm and 7.62mm advice whenever necessary. In some instances and with higher authority, the division could use 105mm and 155mm advice, along with 500lb Joint Direct Advice Munitions. 

Who Ya Gonna Call?

Huh.  Apparently this is A Thing.
Professional Paranormal Investigations is a group of paranormal investigators who try to assist in the unexplained activity taking place in homes or businesses.
Really.  I guess if Seattle can have real-life super heroes, a bunch of guys in Indiana making a living as real-life Ghostbusters makes some sort of sense.

Beam Me Up, Opie

A member over at TAGSRWC (The Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club) posts a couple of pages of photos from Star Trek episodes that made use of the set for good ol' Mayberry:

On this web page I will be showing some of the buildings of Mayberry that were used in 2 episodes of Star Trek, the original series. The Episodes are "Miri" and "The City on the Edge of Forever". Both have some great glimpses of Mayberry that we normally never see in a TAGS episode.

I would have loved to see Mr. Spock encounter Barney Fife.  "You only carry one bullet?  How illogical."

One Charger to Rule Them All

Now that we have phones, tablets, and a cluster of iPods in the house, perhaps this would be useful...
If you're anything like me, your nightstand is full of electronic devices that need to be charged regularly. Enter the Anker 40W, five-port USB charger.


Gevlon, quoting a discussion he heard:
"No means no. Always. The choice of the woman must be respected."
[few seconds silence + angelic smile]
"except if she says no to Feminism, when she is an uneducated, brainwashed victim who doesn't know what's good for her."
Lacking context, I have no idea if the speaker was being serious, or sarcastic.

Sadly, it works either way.

Pinky Pie, Delirium, and Nick Fury

A brief discussion of "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" and how it relates to Neil Gaiman's "Sandman" comics. [1]

Last night, watching with the girls, I commented to Shari, "Pinky Pie kind of walks along the ragged edge of sanity, doesn't she?"

And then it hit me.

Pinky Pie is Delirium (she of the Endless who used to be Delight).

There are six main ponies... and six of the Endless.

"Oh, no," you might say. "There are seven of the Endless!"

Except that Destruction abandoned his duties. Ha!  So, six ponies... and six Endless.
  • Pinky Pie is obviously Delirium.
  • Twilight Sparkle? Always doubting... so she's Despair.
  • Rainbow Dash? Big plans, big visions. She's Dream.
  • Applejack? Hard working, dedicated. She's Destiny.
  • Rarity? Duh. Desire, of course.
  • Fluttershy? Death.
I can now watch MLP:FIM with my little ladies, and pretend that I am not watching animated ponies learn over-the-top, blatantly obvious lessons about personal interactions, but instead perceive a subtle drama about the interactions of the fundaments of the human psyche. [2]

Which should help to keep me on the ragged edge of sanity. Maybe I'll see Pinky Pie there.

[1] So I know about MLP:FIM. I have three girls. I am not only allowed, I am required. Don't judge me.
[2] Another interpretation sees Pinky Pie as Nick Fury, and maps the remaining ponies onto members of the Avengers. That works, too.

Yeah, She Had Way Too Much Fun With This

So, took a while, but I got tagged by someone for the ‪‎ALS‬ ice bucket challenge.

Now, the whole purpose of this is to help raise $$$ for ALS research. If you think otherwise, or think that "raising awareness" is like, so totally awesome... eh. Try hiring a research scientist with all that awareness, see how far that gets you.

So, yeah. It's all about the fund raising, if you're honest, and more importantly, if you're serious. Which is why I've made a contribution to the ALS Association.

As for dumping a bucket of ice water on myself?  Yeah, that happened.  Sure, it's a stunt, but it's an effective stunt, and it would be churlish of me not to play along.   I got two of da goils to help me out with it.  Eldest Daughter (AKA "Alldaughter") handled the video, while Youngest Daughter (AKA "Snugglepuppy") did the dumping.

For the record, Snugglepuppy was a little tentative about helping out, until I reassured her that she would be the dumper, and I would be the dumpee.  After that, she took an inordinate amount of pleasure in soaking her poor Dada with ice water.  At least someone enjoyed the experience!


Over at The Blaze, user Hi_Don answers those who criticize the President for partying while Ferguson burns:
Listen you people! Knock this bashing off right now. The man is very tired. He has been fundraising all month, flying back and forth across the country, stuck on an airplane eating airplane food and he is tired. He needs a vacation and time to relax a bit so cut the man some slack. Don’t you realize this short couple week long vacation will be over soon and he will have to go right back out there and fundraise some more. As he put it himself, “he is working harder than he ever has in his life”. Now can we just quit with the criticism about doing his other job?
Yeah.  Working two jobs is hard.  You have got to prioritize in that situation, you know.

Can't Talk. Must Click.

Yes, I have a spreadsheet.  And two labs running.

Don't judge me.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go hire a summer student and a couple of research fellows to investigate the Higgs boson.

My Doom Is Upon Me

Got a Kindle today.  Specifically, a good friend sent me a Kindle Paperwhite as a gift.

Time from opening the box to purchase of first book ("To Sail a Darkling Sea" by John Ringo): about 10 minutes. Evaluation so far: easy to set up, very easy to buy books, great for reading. Also, TSaDS once again shows that Mr. Ringo has a solid position on my "shut up and take my money" list of authors.

Oh, and Baen has a bunch of free Kindle books, too.  This is both a good thing (Yay!  Free!) and a bad thing (for the lovely Mrs. Robb, who commented, "A football widow only has to put up with loneliness for a season, likewise a hunting widow. But a bookworm widow is pretty much out of luck...")

So, essentially, yeah, this is like pure crack cocaine to me. I give it an 11/10, A++++, would buy again, now leave me alone because BOOKS!

Oh, and apparently you can jailbreak these suckers.  I may end up doing that, if I can be sure that I can restore it to factory condition and not void any warranties or anything.  I would very much like to see what they are running under the hood...

In Honor of Dave Barry...

... I present to you The Band Name File.  Set up by a friend of mine.  As he notes, "The Universe keeps providing wonderful names for musical groups, and we capture them here."

Personally, I would love to have me a "Cosseted and Feral" t-shirt.  Just sayin'.

Jude 22

"And of some have compassion, making a difference..."
Jude 22
From the Humans of New York Facebook page:

"Are you lonely?"
"It's been a lifetime of loneliness. I decided early on that I better get used to it.
I go to movies by myself. If the movie theater is completely empty, I'm even happier.
I learned early on that if I wanted to go to restaurants, I better learn to go by myself.
One benefit to being big is that people don't bother you. I'm shocked that you came
up to me. Nobody's ever done that. When I started to go to therapy, it took me several
sessions before I even spoke a word. I'd just sit there and cry. And honestly, you
caught me on a tough day. I was sitting here feeling really bad about myself.
Because I went to the doctor today, and I was sure that I'd lost weight.
But I'd gained some."
I am feeling a mixture of shame, anger and empathy, here. I want to remember this as a reminder for myself, and hopefully, it will be a reminder for you, as well.

The next time you see someone that looks a little out of place, a little lonely, a little different, a little odd... remember this. And remember that you have the ability to potentially keep someone from that pain. All it takes is a kind word, a few moments, and a little bit of a conversation to plant the seeds of friendship.

Will it grow? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe they are happy where they are and how they are.

But... what if they are not?

Do not walk on by. Stop. Turn back. Remember a man so powerfully and painfully lonely that he went to a therapist and could not do anything but cry.

Do not count on someone else to make the difference.  He lives in a city of over eight million people, and it seems as if each and every one of them made the same choice: to pass him by, and let someone else reach out. Decide now that you will be different, and that you will make yourself the difference in someone else's life.

Set Fire To Your Hair...

Remember, kids!  Fracking - injecting water into the earth to help release natural gas - is a horrific abuse of nature!  It can cause all sorts of bad things to happen!

On the other hand, tossing explosives into an active volcano is SCIENCE! [1]
In one of the biggest-ever seismology deployments at an active volcano, researchers are peppering Mount St Helens in Washington state with equipment to study the intricate system of chambers and pipes that fed the most devastating eruption in US history. This month, they will even set off explosions to generate their own seismic waves. The work could inform research into how volcanoes work throughout the Pacific Northwest and in similar geological settings around the world.
Next up, I understand that they are planning to poke a grizzly bear with a sharp stick to see what happens.

[1] Well, actually, yeah, it is.  This is pretty cool stuff.  I am wondering where the environmentalists are on this, though.  It seems like the sort of thing they claim to get upset about.

Truthiness In Law Enforcement

Indy Week reports that several Durham police officers lied about non-existent 911 calls to persuade residents to allow them to search their homes.
According to a department memo, the officers used fabricated 911 calls for the purpose of obtaining consent to enter residences where they believed wanted individuals with outstanding warrants might be living. However, officers were willing to use the ploy to cast a broader net in at least one case — the hearing where the tactic surfaced involved a defendant charged with marijuana possession after the officer discovered marijuana in her home.
Honest mistake, really. I mean, did anybody specifically tell them, as part of their training, that lying was wrong? What we have here is a failure of the system. We are all to blame, really, for letting these poor officers down.

Of course, if you violate a section of the penal code so obscure that the DA has to dig through 100 year-old documents to find mention of it, that's different, scumbag. Ignorance of the law is no excuse.

Unexpected Competition

I imagine that The Onion never expected competition from mainstream news sources.

[1] If there were any justice in the world, this headline would end "... you idiots."

Boundaries, Fences and Teh Intarwebs

When I got my first cellphone in 2004, I immediately noticed something. “These things are designed to help people cheat,” I pointed out to my then-husband. They really were: you could delete sent texts one by one or erase a whole thread, you could save someone’s number as something totally innocuous (“Chimney Guy”), you could even change the date or time on outgoing and incoming messages. You could send pictures. This was before smartphones, so the cameras were terrible, but it didn’t take a rocket scientist to see the inherent potential for someone who likes sneaking around. 
Now that technology has basically infested every aspect of our social interactions—do you even remember anybody’s phone number anymore? Because I sure don’t—we spend a lot of time communicating with people we may not exactly know very well, using tiny powerful computers that we carry in our pockets. And, just as in 2004, the possibilities for cheating seem endless. From flirting through repeated “likes” of someone’s posted Facebook photos or commenting on their every status update, to setting up surreptitious OKCupid or Ashley Madison accounts, cheating looks very different in 2014 than it did ten years ago.
Three personal commitments of mine:

  1. In any private online conversations with a member of the opposite sex outside of work, I try to ensure that they're always between "wife & I" and the other person.  If that's not possible, I do my best to keep the Lovely Mrs. Robb updated on the conversation.
  2. In offline conversations between myself and a member of the opposite sex, I make sure to mention my wife & kids.  Fortunately, I rarely have to make an effort at this - I enjoy talking about my family.
  3. I have a PIN on my iPhone so I can leave it on my desk at work without tempting my fun-loving colleagues.  The Lovely Mrs. Robb knows the PIN, as do the kids.  I have no problem handing my phone off to any & all of them for whatever reason, and I will keep it that way.
There are other personal boundaries I have set for myself in this area.  Not because I imagine that I am an irresistible stud-muffin who has to carry a stick to drive off the hordes of slavering women after my hotness, but because I know that I am a sinful man living in a sinful world, and it is far, far, far easier to bear a burden if you never pick it up in the first place.