It's For The Children!

Well... my children, anyways.  (It's for the kids.  That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!)
Snap Circuits is a line of electronic kits manufactured by Elenco Electronics and aimed at children eight years and older. The kits come in a variety of sizes, offering a range of building experience for the user, and may include motors, lamps and speakers. The kits consist of a breadboard with prewired interconnections, into which the various components can be snapped to easily create a working circuit.
You can start with the SnapCircuits Junior set for about $35:
Just follow the colorful pictures in our manual and build exciting projects such as a flying saucer; alarms; doorbells and much more! You can even play electronic games with your friends. All parts are mounted on plastic modules and snap together with ease.
Or jump straight to the SnapCircuit Pro set:
Contains over 75 parts including voice recording IC; FM radio module; analog meter; transformer; relay; and 7-segment LED display. Build over 500 projects. 
Let's see, who has a birthday coming up?  Crud, nothing until end of the year?  Sheesh.  No - wait!  Valentine's Day!  What girl wouldn't love a do-it-yourself electronics kit from her Dada on Valentine's Day, eh?  Right?

Come on, folks.  Work with me on this one.  Otherwise I'm going to have to wait until the start of the next school year to be able to justify this!

An Oevure in RPG Game Sessions

Yes, you read that correctly.  Over two thousand individual prohibitions.

Looking them over, I can only say that the man is obviously an increidbly talented artist of some sort, and that I'd love to watch him play a game with an unsuspecting GM.

Some examples:
17. Collateral Damage Man is not an appropriate name for a super hero.
43. No longer allowed to set nazi propaganda music to a snappy disco beat.
195. I cannot use a silent feat enabled power word stun and blame it on the dog.
231. I am not allowed to do anything that would make a Sith Lord cry.
296. I cannot make called shots with a crew served weapon.
325. Even if he was a paragon of humanity in his alternate dimension, Good Hitler is not an appropriate superhero concept.
393. If I can fit my head down the gun's barrel, I can assume it doesn't have the non-lethal option.
443. Zombies are not infectious in D&D. So I should stop shooting PCs in the head if they are bitten.
472. When my cleric is told to "Buff the Elf", I know exactly what it means and may not misconstrue it in any way.
1683. Killing the orc horde by drowning them all at once is heroic. Killing them by drowning them one at a time is an alignment check.
And my personal favorite...
1932. I will stop telling people the elf is openly fey.
That leaves 2214 for you to peruse.  Enjoy!

Just Leave The Patchouli Behind, OK?


Last night, Wendy Davis tweeted: "The other side reached a new low: attacking family, edu & playing politics w/ something deeply personal"

Sarah Palin? Class? Anyone? Anyone?

If it wasn't for double standards, progressives wouldn't have any standards at all.


From Don Surber's Daily Scoreboard:
8. President Obama gave a speech on the National Security Agency today: If you like your privacy, you can keep it. Period. 
We're screwed.

Rube Goldberg Would Have Been Proud

Responding to inquiries about a possible data breach involving customer credit and debit card information, upscale retailer Neiman Marcus acknowledged today that it is working with the U.S. Secret Service to investigate a hacker break-in that has exposed an unknown number of customer cards.
We're at a crisis point now with regard to the security of embedded systems, where computing is embedded into the hardware itself -- as with the Internet of Things. These embedded computers are riddled with vulnerabilities, and there's no good way to patch them.
Thousands of small satellite dish-based computer systems that transmit often-sensitive data from far flung locations worldwide – oil rigs, ships at sea, banks, and even power grid substations – are at high risk of being hacked, including many in the United States, a new cyber-security report has found.
Researchers have found vulnerabilities in industrial control systems that they say grant full control of systems running energy, chemical and transportation systems.
It's obviously a hacking report monday.  Do you use credit/debit cards?  Do you have a satellite dish system or a wireless router?  Do you use electricity?

Then you're vulnerable.

Young'uns... if you're thinking about going into CS/IT, give a thought to specializing in network security.  We're starting to realize that our computing infrastructure is in a horrible, awful, no-good state, and someone is going to end up getting paid the big bucks to fix this mess. (Now, where have I heard that before?)

It might as well be you.

50k and Counting

Last year, more than 30,000 winter deaths were thought to be caused by fuel poverty, up by a third from the previous year, according to the Office for National Statistics. -
Across Europe, low income residents are being sacrificed to the Green Gods of Faux Environmentalism. Increasing numbers die in winter, unable to heat their cold dark homes — while fat green government and EU officials and cronies pat each other on the back in congratulations for pushing the penetration of the intermittent unreliables big wind/solar to more and more destructive heights.
Twenty-two thousand in 2012. Thirty thousand in 2013.

Still, you know - you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.  Amirite?  Besides, these were poor people.  They probably lived miserable lives and had sub-standard health insurance and stuff.  It's not like they had anything to contribute to society, after all.  Just dead wood, really.

If you haven't noticed it already, environmentalists hate poor people.  After all, it's not like they matter... in non-election years, anyways.

Besides, when you get right down to it, fifty thousand dead peons is just a rounding error in the ongoing environmentalist death toll.

Atheists for Christ

Well, at least one atheist...

Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good. 
I used to avoid this truth by applauding - as you can - the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It's a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith. 
But this doesn't fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.
RTWT.  He is not just talking about some nebulous faith, either.  You know what I mean - the kind of objectless "faith" that people often have these days.  They will use terms like "a man of faith" or "strong faith" without telling you what they have faith in.  That is because they do not really have faith in anything - they just have faith.

No, here Mr. Parris is specifically talking about a particular kind of faith, with a particular and well-known object.  The faith is the Christian faith, and the God he is talking about is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Moses:
Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being... offers something to hold on to to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink. That is why and how it liberates.
Honest, open and fascinating.  I can only hope that I am as honest with myself and my observations as Mr. Parris has been.

Off To See The Wizard

The lovely Mrs. Robb has made plans to take me to see The Desolation of Smaug [1] this afternoon.  Since it seems that pretty much everybody in the world except me has seen it at this point (including Eldest Daughter and Middle Daughter), I anticipate having the theater all to ourselves this afternoon.

That is how it works, right?

Friends have related that it is, indeed, a spectacle worth viewing.  I have received assurances from certain sources that the dwarves' beards are particularly finely rendered...

... though it looks like Gandalf may need a little more work.

[1] Being a purist, she refuses to refer to the latest Peter Jackson fantasy movie trilogy as "The Hobbit" and instead prefers to call it "that Middle-Earth movie".  She still enjoys it, mind you - she just doesn't think that it's "The Hobbit".

Nice, Thick Irony

WUWT and WeatherBell help KUSI-TV with a weather forecasting request from ice-trapped ship in Antarctica Akademik Shokalskiy
Today, while shopping at lunchtime for some last minute year end supplies, I got one of the strangest cell-phone calls ever. It was from my friend John Coleman, the founder of the Weather Channel and Chief meteorologist at KUSI-TV in San Diego. He was calling via cell phone from his car, and he was on his way into the TV station early.
He started off by saying, “Anthony, we have a really strange situation here”.
Then to my surprise, he relayed a conversation he had just had; a person on the Akademik Shokalskiy had reached out, because they didn’t have adequate weather data on-board. At first, I thought John was pulling my leg, but then as he gave more details, I realized he was serious.
They were looking for weather information on wind and sea-ice breakup.  Mr. Watts handled it with grace and alacrity.
My first thought was that no matter how much we’ve been criticizing the expedition for its silliness, that if such a request had reached all the way from Antarctica to me, I’d do everything I could to help...
I immediately called Joe D’Aleo at WeatherBell, who was as incredulous as I at the request, and asked him to call John Coleman right away. I explained to him that we had to remember that we were dealing with a Russian ship, not a military ship, but a charter vessel and they likely didn’t have all the tools that American meteorologists had and may not even know where to look for better data. I also pointed out that the Australian scientists on-board were climatologists, and not operational weather forecasters, and finding this sort of weather data probably wasn’t in their skill set.
As one commenter pointed out:
Interesting who folks turn to when truth is required to save their behinds. Not at all the same as when the world is a stage and “winning the conversation” is what passies for “reality”.

Choices Matter

Facebook conversation between two friends:
"When I was a kid, I thought quicksand and cliffs were going to be a much bigger problem than they actually are."
"I had the same experience, but I think we have to acknowledge that this may be because we made the wrong life choices."

A New Term

Grass-eater.  I've not encountered it before, but it seems to be a useful turn of phrase.

An explanation via Blunt Object:
If you’re familiar with George Orwell’s novella Animal Farm, you can think of grass-eaters as the bipedal equivalents of the sheep. The term is intended to remind one of a herbivorous herd mentality, rather than simply munching green things. Grass-eaters are known for their passive-aggressive approach to life, society, and morality...
Grass-eaters are deathly afraid of anything resembling personal responsibility. They are prohibited from assigning blame to any human being — such an act, after all, would imply that they themselves might someday be blamed for some transgression! Therefore, grass-eaters blame just about anything that isn’t animate for society’s ills — weapons, rap music, video games, black trenchcoats, money, red meat, or the hormone testosterone. They’ll put the blame on ephemeral concepts, too — generally liberalism or conservatism, but masculinity, feminism, globalization, religious fundamentalism, and secular humanism are also popular favourites. Under no circumstances may an actual human being be held accountable for his or her actions by a grass-eater. 
That said, grass-eaters fear and despise people who accept — worse, seize — responsibility for their actions, future, and well-being.

"Ye cannae change the laws o' physics!"

Nor can liberals avoid the consequences of Quinn's First Law:
Liberalism always generates the exact opposite of its stated intent.
Just some recent examples:
  • Obamacare will reduce emergency room usage!  Not so much.
  • Well... at least it will let more people get insurance coverage!  Bzzzzt, try again.
  • Anti-bullying programs reduce bullying!  Oh, really?
  • Gun ownership leads to gun violence!  Yeah, right.
  • Avoiding new pipelines will limit environmental damage!  Or not.
I swear, it's like a shooting fish in a barrel.

War! What Is It Good For?

Pessimism, like libertarianism, is my default setting. At times, however, I have to attach an asterisk to both attitudes, and tweak my outlook a bit--not as much as those global climate change modelers do, but, a tweak nevertheless.  On my political beliefs, for example, I am a libertarian except when it comes to foreign policy and national defense. I want the USA and our allies to have the biggest, baddest, most kick ass militaries on the planet so that our mortal enemies--and they do exist--will think twice or thrice before attacking any of us, and if they do, then I want them to find themselves spending the rest of their miserable short lives hiding in caves, sweating through sleepless nights, listening for the drones and the whoosh of death dealing Hellfire missiles, or fearing the arrival of SEAL or SAS shooters with blood in their eyes.
To me, that's an entirely libertarian attitude - more in the spirit of Flint rather than Tolive, perhaps, but still quite libertarian.  It also happens to be in keeping with the enumerated powers of the government laid out in the constitution, which is an additional plus.

The question really is, what do you do with that big, bad military?  The temptation to use it directly (as opposed to indirectly) is a large one.  Keeping such a military machine functioning smoothly for decades in the absence of practical experience is an immense challenge, as well.

Let's Start the New Year With Some Humility

There.  Now we can get on to the snark.