Surly Curmudgeon

   The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.
-- Robert A. Heinlein
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    Sunday, December 30, 2007

    The Year in Review

    If I had to pick one word to describe 2007, it would be "change".

    I got my first passport this year, and went to Australia. I don't know if that qualifies me to be a "world traveller", but it's more than I ever expected to do. My whole attitude towards travel has changed... I can just "hop a plane" now if I need to go back to visit the family. Before, I had let my fear of flying limit me to only those trips where it was absolutely necessary. I still don't like flying (thanks to the TSA), but it's now more of an option.

    The wife-unit and I both got new jobs. I got to transition to mostly working at home, which has always been a dream of mine, and back into the private sector, which I prefer. She got to move into a job that pays much better and is far less stressful. That makes her a lot happier than she's been in over 5 years. I had completely forgotten how nice it is when she's happy.

    I paid off my last credit card this year. It's taken a long time, due to various mistakes I've made along the way, but I can see the end of the tunnel clearly now. I've also given more money away than I ever have before. I think I'm finally starting to get a handle on this money thing.

    I turned into a console gamer, which I had never thought possible. I've always preferred games on the computer, but the addition of the PlayStation 3 to our lives has really changed my attitude towards the consoles. At this point, it'll be a while before I'm ready to buy another one, but the stuff we've gotten with this one is really incredible. I find myself more drawn to it than my computer games.

    Another change is that I've gotten interested in politics again, with the presidential candidacy of Ron Paul. I'm not going to lie to myself about his chances, but I am going to do my best to give him the best chance he can have. I do know that he's the only candidate for me, and I won't vote for anyone else in 2008.

    And of course, this year has been the beginning of something great in my life. I've made several abortive attempts in years past to lose weight and get in shape. I've tried all sorts of diet strategies and a wide variety of "fitness" programs. None of them have ever given me what I needed to keep at them for more than a month or two, because none of them have given me what lifting has. I like having definite, concrete measurements of my progress. 20 minutes on the exercise bike feels pretty much the same as 15 minutes on the exercise bike, but there's a definite difference between 100 and 150 pounds.

    I'm ending the year at a net loss of 30 pounds bodyweight, with a lot of fat converted to muscle, and have another 30 pounds to go, according to my doctor. I never made it to my goal weight, or really to any of my lifting goals. I'm still learning and trying out different programs though, so I'll get there someday soon. The holidays, as one might guess, have seen me slack off on the healthy eating portion of the equation, but Jan 1 seems like a good day to lock it all down again.

    Now, I wonder what 2008 has in store...

    Posted by Tom, 12/30/2007 7:04:40 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, December 27, 2007


    Every once in a while I see a news article that catches my eye and I bookmark it for bloggage, but it sort of languishes until I delete it or find something to relate it to. Here is one such article:

    Call it the donor drain. Raising money for a cause these days has become much like trying to walk up a “down” escalator while it is accelerating. It’s getting tougher just to break even and much easier to fall behind. “The problem is not that [charities are] not getting new money; the problem is that they’re losing an enormous amount of money,” says Bill Levis, the author of a new pilot survey by the Urban Institute that documents the trend.

    Levis’ survey shows that most nonprofits post an average gain of just 10 percent each year: they lose 52 percent of their donations, which is then offset by a 62 percent gain in new or upgraded donations. In short, says Levis, nonprofits are losing almost as much as they’re gaining, pouring a river of money into a nearly open drain.

    Some space is given to the idea that maybe donors are resisting the idea of simply funding more fundraising... they don't want to give a chunk of money just so the organization can hold another telethon to ask for more money. I'll admit there's a certain perception of this, but I actually think it's rather minor in the grand scheme of things. I think there's something else pulling donors away, and today I saw an article illustrating it perfectly:

    THREE years after Australians donated $400 million to rebuild Asian lives devastated by the 2004 tsunami, aid groups are under attack for spending much of the money on social and political engineering.


    The activities - listed as tsunami relief - include a "travelling Oxfam gender justice show" in Indonesia to change rural male attitudes towards women.

    Another Oxfam project, reminiscent of the ACTU's Your Rights at Work campaign, instructs Thai workers in Australian-style industrial activism and encourages them to set up trade unions.

    A World Vision tsunami relief project in the Indonesian province of Aceh includes a lobbying campaign to advance land reform to promote gender equity, as well as educating women in "democratic processes" and encouraging them to enter politics.

    ...and the list goes on.

    I'll agree that some of the things on the agenda are worthwhile -- the status of women in developing nations is absolutely appalling. Somebody probably should be trying to do something about that. I'm not so hip to the unionizing and other leftist issues, but I'll grant that those who believe in such nonsense should be allowed to promote their screwy ideas.

    But all that is MISSING THE POINT.

    The point is, the money was given for a specific purpose: people were dead, injured, sick, homeless, and threatened with starvation. They needed supplies. They needed shelter. They needed help with the basic necessities of life. Those who gave the money were expecting the money to go to that sort of relief. There are plenty of organizations promoting these other causes, and the donors could have given to them at any other time, but when the EMERGENCY came up, and the fundraising was centered on relieving the effects of the EMERGENCY, the donors expected to be able to help with the EMERGENCY at hand. Get it? This money was not given for the purpose of handing out Che Guevara t-shirts to sweatshop workers. It was given to keep a child, a mother, a father, a family from starving to death or dying from exposure. It was given to provide for orphans and widows.

    This is all simply a macrocosm of my earlier point regarding charitable giving. I think a lot of the donors to tsunami relief who read this article will stop giving to these big organizations and start giving to individuals or small organizations instead. People want to know that when they give, it has a particular effect. If you promise to feed, clothe, and shelter the less fortunate with the money you collect, you'd better be doing exactly that. Likewise if you promise to educate those same poor people about treating their women with respect. But when you promise one and do the other, you're at least disingenuous, if not an outright fraud.

    Posted by Tom, 12/27/2007 6:44:58 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Stabba Stabba

    I really don't like needles. However, since I have the good fortune to be allergic to just about every green plant I encounter, I have to get allergy shots once a week. In case you didn't know, allergy shots are a rather Nietzschean treatment, operating on the principle that what doesn't kill you will at least make you miserable for a while.

    Allergy shots start with needles in the "scratch test", a special form of torture that involves exposing the patient to a variety of substances and seeing which causes a reaction. In my case, my first test happened way back when I was a kid. They put a bunch of drops of various substances -- maple tree, oak tree, etc., all the way to hay and ragweed -- on my arm, then pricked the skin under each drop with a needle to let the fluid in. As I sat there, wondering whose job description included "boil plants down to their most concentrated evil form, so that we can stick it under peoples' skin and watch them squirm", my arm developed a newer, clearer definition of "itchy". It also turned a nice scarlet color from shoulder to fingertips. That was exciting.

    So anyway, eventually you get to the "treatment" phase, where they take all the data they've accumulated on you, and use it to brew up your own special poison. Then you dutifully report every week to be stabbed in the arm, or if you're lucky (and I am), both arms, and filled full of this toxic solution in the hopes that you will become "desensitized" to it.

    Well, things were going great until I started working from home, about 45 miles away from the stabby place. This created a nasty disruption in my treatment, to the point where I could actually feel myself becoming detoxified, and that just can't stand. So I inquired, made an appointment, and dragged Mrs. Curmudgeon in to the office to learn how to do the stabbing at home. Supposedly, I could learn to stab myself, but I just don't see that happening.

    On the good side of things, I never have to deal with the "harpoon lady" at the office any more. On the bad side, I have make a bigger effort to be extra nice to Mrs. Curmudgeon, especially on stabbing day.

    Posted by Tom, 12/27/2007 6:26:00 AM (Permalink). 2 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Monday, December 24, 2007

    Quote of the Day

    "Formerly we suffered from crimes; now we suffer from laws."
    - Publius Cornelius Tacitus

    Posted by Tom, 12/24/2007 5:53:36 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Sunday, December 23, 2007

    New York Needs a Castle Doctrine Law

    It's really hard to tell from a news article or two, but it looks to me like this guy just got the shaft:

    A Suffolk County jury late Saturday night convicted John White of manslaughter and criminal possession of a weapon in the 2006 killing of an unarmed teenager.

    John White, who faces a maximum of 12 to 22 years in prison for shooting Daniel Cicciaro Jr. in the face during a tense confrontation with White's son, Aaron, will remain free on bail until he is sentenced Feb. 21.


    "A lot of people are hurt from this verdict," said Frederick Brewington of Hempstead, who the guilty verdict was disappointing for the White family and "also disappointing for African-Americans in Suffolk County."

    "What this just basically has said ... is that you have to survive as an African-American in Suffolk County, where people can roll up on your house at 11:30 at night, threaten you, threaten your family, curse at you, call you a , and you've got to take it."


    [Defense Attorney] Brewington told jurors that Cicciaro and four friends came to White's house that night to "terrorize" him because he is black. He argued that racism had "everything to do" with the case.

    Suffolk prosecutors, on the other hand, told jurors to focus on what they called White's recklessness on the night of the shooting...

    In other words, in New York, it's perfectly acceptable for 5 teenagers to come to your house in the middle of the night, threaten your children and your family, and there's nothing you can do about it but call 911 and hope the cops arrive before someone gets hurt. In any reasonable place, this case would be about the gross disparity of force (5 men in their prime versus 1 in his prime and his middle-aged father), the obvious threats being made, and the danger to the family. In New York, it's about the "scary old man" who "hoards weapons":

    [Prosecutor] Chalifoux told jurors there were "two John Whites." One was the peaceful and meticulous man described by his friends, and the other was the man who admitted keeping a shotgun in his bedroom, a handgun in his garage, and pickax handles in his car and front closet, all for safety.

    I wonder what Chalifoux would think of me when I say that John White seems rather lightly armed. He should have had at least another gun... one for him, one for his son, and one for his wife. Based on this story and a couple others, it looks as though the prosecutors managed to make the entire case revolve around the jury's fear of guns and gun owners rather than the fact that a man and his son were being threatened by greater than 2:1 odds. How utterly disgusting.

    Contrast this incident with the famous Bernie Goetz shooting, in which the situation was incredibly similar but the races reversed. Bernie Goetz still got the shaft, but the worst conviction against him was "criminal gun possession", which is a BS charge if I ever heard one, and they totally railed him on it: six months in jail, one year psychiatric treatment, five years' probation, 200 hours community service, and a fine of $5,000.

    People are constantly trying to convince me that racism is alive and well in America. I'll grant that it's true in New York, though in all honesty that's at least in part because I see New York and California's metro areas as completely uncivilized wastelands where decent people refuse to live. In Oklahoma, both Goetz and White would have been seen for the good guys they are and turned loose. And that's why New York needs a Castle Doctrine -- to protect victims like White from overzealous prosecutors like Chalifoux.

    Posted by Tom, 12/23/2007 2:09:46 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Saturday, December 22, 2007

    Holy crap this is cool

    Some dude made "real 3D" out of a Nintendo Wii.

    Posted by Tom, 12/22/2007 8:20:19 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Friday, December 21, 2007

    File under 'obvious'

    Airport security lines can annoy passengers, but there is no evidence that they make flying any safer, U.S. researchers reported on Thursday.

    That's because, in today's world, what's important to the spineless weenies who make up our population is not actually being safer, but rather feeling safer. They want Big Daddy Government to make sure all the monsters are gone from the closet and under the bed so they can snuggle down in their little blankies. And since government agencies generally hire from the bottom of the barrel rather than the top (with a few notable exceptions), those creating policy have had to wait for the media to tell them what to do:

    The U.S. Transportation Security Administration told research teams requesting information their need for quick new security measures trumped the usefulness of evaluating them, Eleni Linos, Elizabeth Linos, and Graham Colditz reported in the British Medical Journal.

    "We noticed that new airport screening protocols were implemented immediately after news reports of terror threats," they wrote.

    In other words, "TV says we have to have it, so we have to have it, and we have to have it NOW!" The toy companies that advertise during Saturday morning cartoons must clean up on these people.

    Rest of article here.

    Posted by Tom, 12/21/2007 7:31:05 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Another one bites the dust

    Tom Tancredo drops out of presidential race

    Posted by Tom, 12/21/2007 7:29:09 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, December 20, 2007

    Quote of the Day

    "Politics should be limited in scope to war, protection of property, and the occasional precautionary beheading of a member of the ruling class."

    -- P.J. O'Rourke

    Posted by Tom, 12/20/2007 6:24:53 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, December 19, 2007


    This story just fills me with rage.

    Until last week, Big Man was serving a four-year sentence for cocaine possession. A few days ago, he was looking forward to leaving prison and reuniting with his wife, until he got the news: Instead of going home, he'd be living under a bridge, a parole commission officer told him. That's because 23 years ago, when he was 19 years old, Big Man was charged with sexual assault on a minor. (He claims the victim was his girlfriend and that it was consensual.)


    In March, New Times revealed the Florida Department of Corrections was housing sex offenders under an overpass near the county courthouse; the state responded by moving the men here. The reason: A 2005 county ordinance prohibits sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of any school, so nearly the entire county has become off-limits to them.

    The story was picked up by national media outlets, and for a few weeks the bridge was a source of widespread disbelief. Statements were made, resolutions were passed, letters were sent — but nothing changed. Since then, much to the relief of local politicians, no doubt, the situation seems to have quietly faded from public memory.

    But the numbers kept growing. More than 30 men have been sent to live here in the intervening months. A few have since left — the majority of them arrested for minor violations of probation, two or three were able to move out, and two have disappeared. But most — as of press time, at least 20 — remain under the bridge, even though many have families willing to house them. Everyone agrees the situation under the Julia Tuttle has become untenable, but so far neither local politicians, nor the courts, nor the state legislature have been willing to do anything about it.

    It gets worse. When confronted with the situation, local officials respond with indifference:

    Commissioner Sosa refuses to revisit the ordinance. "I feel that I helped create a solution," she insists. Asked if she knows how many men are living under the bridge, she answers, "Yes, many.

    "I guess that at some point, the system will have to address that issue," she concedes with vague cheerfulness. "But I am not ready to address that issue. Maybe another commissioner should address that issue.... Your question is: Am I going to do something? The answer is no."

    Or outright glee:

    Two years ago, Miami Beach Mayor David Dermer successfully pushed an ordinance that prohibited sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of any school in his city — two and a half times farther than the state law's distance, which already prohibited offenders from living within 1,000 feet of schools, daycare centers, and playgrounds.

    The ordinance came at a time when states across the nation were cracking down on sex offenders in the wake of the horrific rape and murder of nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford in Homosassa, Florida, by John Couey, a 47-year-old drifter with a criminal history of child molestation. Mayor Dermer intended his ordinance to set the high water mark, and it did. In a city surrounded by water and barely a mile wide at its thickest, the 2,500-foot ordinance effectively made Miami Beach the first city in America to exile sex offenders — a fact Dermer has acknowledged proudly.

    So basically, these people are homeless by law. Several of them actually have houses they could live in, were it not for the ordnance. They've all essentially paid their debt to society, at least as far as the prison system is concerned. So once again we're at the question: why can't we just treat them like human beings? Why do Mayor Dermer and Commissioner Sosa persist in the belief that abusing people is the way to get them to behave? Why don't they just send a task force of police down their to shoot them all and put them out of their misery? It's clearly what they want, but lack the moral courage to do, because like all petty thugs in positions of power, they lack the spine to act on their wishes.

    Truly, some of the men are seriously creepy, like the old guy who fondles little girls. But I honestly don't see how forcing him to sleep under a bridge is helping the situation in any way. If he's dangerous and you catch him at it, shoot him or lock him up. There's no value in this legalized abuse.

    Posted by Tom, 12/19/2007 6:04:45 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Monday, December 17, 2007

    Message from Ron

    Got this in the mail, can't resist sharing:

    December 17, 2007

    What a day! I am humbled and inspired, grateful and thrilled for this vast outpouring of support.

    On just one day, in honor of the 234th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, the new American revolutionaries brought in $6.04 million, another one-day record. The average donation was $102; we had 58,407 individual contributors, of whom an astounding 24,915 were first-time donors. And it was an entirely voluntary, self-organized, decentralized, independent effort on the internet. Must be the "spammers" I keep hearing about!

    The establishment is baffled and worried, and well they should be. They keep asking me who runs our internet fundraising and controls our volunteers. To these top-down central planners, a spontaneous order like our movement is science-fiction. But you and I know it's real: as real as the American people's yearning for freedom, peace, and prosperity, as real as all the men and women who have sacrificed for our ideals, in the past and today.

    And how neat to see celebrations all across the world, with Tea Parties from France to New Zealand. This is how we can spread the ideals of our country, through voluntary emulation, not bombs and bribes. Of course, there were hundreds in America.

    As I dropped in on a cheering, laughing crowd of about 600 near my home in Freeport, Texas, I noted that they call us "angry." Well, we are the happiest, most optimistic "angry" movement ever, and the most diverse. What unites us is a love of liberty, and a determination to fix what is wrong with our country, from the Fed to the IRS, from warfare to welfare. But otherwise we are a big tent.

    Said the local newspaper: "The elderly sat with teens barely old enough to vote. The faces were black, Hispanic, Asian and white. There was no fear in their voices as they spoke boldly with each other about the way the country should be. Held close like a deeply held secret, Paul has brought them out of the disconnect they feel between what they know to be true and where the country has been led."

    Thanks also to the 500 or so who braved the blizzard in Boston to go to Faneuil Hall. My son Rand told me what a great time he had with you.

    A few mornings ago on, I saw a YouTube of a 14-year-old boy that summed up our whole movement for me. This well-spoken young man, who could have passed in knowledge for a college graduate, told how he heard our ideas being denounced. So he decided to Google. He read some of my speeches, and thought, these make sense. Then he studied US foreign policy of recent years, and came to the conclusion that we are right. So he persuaded his father to drop Rudy Giuliani and join our movement.

    All over America, all over the world, we are inspiring real change. With the wars and the spying, the spending and the taxing, the inflation and the credit crisis, our ideas have never been more needed. Please help me spread them in all 50 states. Victory for liberty! That is our goal, and nothing less.



    (emphasis mine)

    Posted by Tom, 12/17/2007 6:04:28 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Schoolyard Bullies

    This article at Mises shows just how ridiculous our legal system has become. It is designed to bully people into submission from the very moment of contact with law enforcement, and to completely eradicate the notion of "rights" from a defendant's vocabulary. Innocence and guilt don't even enter into the discussion.

    It's a far cry from my dream of a more balanced legal system, where the citizen and the State are on equal footing. I daresay it's also a far cry from what the founders envisioned when they laid the groundwork for it.

    Granted, the article is rather one-sided, but it mirrors my own experiences almost exactly. The author just did a much better job of relaying the information than I've ever had the patience to compose. Most of the time, when one is finally "free" of the entanglement, forgetting the whole thing quickly is top priority. I'm glad he managed to keep it together long enough to put it in words.

    Posted by Tom, 12/17/2007 6:01:19 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Money Bomb!

    The Ron Paul campaign needed $12 million in the 4th quarter to go on to the primaries. After yesterday's money bomb in remembrance of the Boston Tea Party, they've exceeded that goal by 50%. That's right, Ron Paul has an $18 million war chest for the primaries, almost entirely raised by individuals rather than corporations and organizations. The little people are doing all they can do, and it turns out they can do quite a bit.

    Smell the sweet air:

    Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, raised an astounding $6 million and change Sunday, his campaign said, almost certainly guaranteeing he'll outraise his rivals for the Republican nomination in the fourth quarter and likely will be able to fund a presence in many of the states that vote Feb. 5.


    His campaign spokesman Jesse Benton said Sunday's haul put the campaign over $18 million in fundraising since Oct. 1, 50% more than its goal of $12 million.


    ...he said 24,940 new donors contributed during the Dec. 16 haul.

    It was timed for the 234th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, a day meant to resonant with the Libertarian sensibilities of his supporters.

    The man who engineered it — a 37-year-old music promoter named Trevor Lyman — has no official ties to the campaign and had no political experience to speak of before he engineered the innovative model for the Nov. 5 fundraising haul.

    He set up a website that solicited pledges for contributions to be made directly to the Paul campaign on that day — a technique that became known as a "money bomb," which he used again to such great effect Sunday.

    TG Daily has an excellent article about the shape of the Ron Paul campaign, and the crucial differences between it and the stodgy good ole boys' club strategy that the other campaigns are using.

    The significance of this type of movement, one which would not be possible without the Internet, cannot be over-stated. We are witnessing a changing of the guard for presidential elections. The established, tried-and-true, multi-trillion dollar communication system, the so-called "mainstream media", is up against an active group of young, techno-savvy voters. And whereas the mainstream media previously had not given Ron Paul any kind of real chance for winning, try and tell that to a devout Internet crowd that is literally out there walking the streets for their candidate, fueled by one of the nearly 1,400 groups for Ron Paul, with over 80,000 members, the most by far of any presidential candidate, Republican or Democrat. Huckabee is #2 with nearly 6,000 members in 273 Meetup groups.

    Read that last bit again. Ron Paul has 80,000 supporters in the groups. The second-place guy has less than 10% of that. This is what's known as "grass roots" organizing.

    The times, they are a-changin'.

    Posted by Tom, 12/17/2007 5:58:50 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Sunday, December 16, 2007

    PlayStation 3

    So I've been fiddling with this thing, and it's pretty darn cool. It even has an option to participate in the folding@home project when you're not using it to destroy space aliens or watch movies on Blu Ray.

    What's really amazing, though, are the games. This ain't the Super Nintendo or Atari 2600 I remember. When I bought the machine, I also bought Marvel Ultimate Alliance because I'm a big Marvel comics fan (even to the point of being willing to overlook their hardcore promotion of right wing ideology, according to some). That game is fun, but the demos I've downloaded are... wow.

    The first-person shooter games are all pretty much the same. I'm not impressed by any of them, especially with the stupid controllers. Only a 14-year-old boy could think that an FPS with console controls is worthwhile when compared to the same FPS on a computer using keyboard and mouse. There's simply no comparison. Granted, the PlayStation 3 has the ability to use a bluetooth keyboard and mouse, and maybe I'll get to that point some day, but right now it's not very compelling.

    What is compelling, however, are two games for which we got demos, and are going to get added to our collection right away. Those games are Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, and Uncharted: Drake's Fortune.

    Uncharted is basically an adventure movie in game form. Think Raiders of the Lost Ark or Romancing the Stone. Check out this trailer:

    The demo is of course tantalizingly short, but holy cow is it fun. And as a gun-toter in real life, I really appreciate the fact that they've put a huge emphasis on cover. None of this standing in the open, blazing away with both barrels like in most FPS games. In Uncharted, if you don't take cover, you'll be restarting a lot.

    Ratchet & Clank is another cinematic experience, but one that just blows me away. In a nutshell, if you've ever wanted to play a Pixar movie, this is the game you want. It's not terribly difficult (at least judging by the demo), and the visuals from color to character design are exactly what you'd expect in a Pixar movie. In addition, for those parents who want their kids to play less gory games, there's a refreshing lack of blood, with the whole thing being basically limited to cartoon violence. Check it out:

    Anyway, those two are definitely on the menu at the Curmudgeon household. If you've got a PS3, or are thinking about getting one, I highly recommend checking them out.

    Posted by Tom, 12/16/2007 6:36:32 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    I am Legend

    Stop me if you've heard this before...

    That attack only at night
    Because they're afraid of/injured by sunlight
    But one man has the skills, the knowledge, and the ability to stand up to them

    Dracula? No. Pitch Black? No.

    I am Legend -- apparently there needs to be a new sub-genre, called "Be Afraid of the Dark". This has happened way too many times. Oh yeah, there's some elements of a disaster/post-apocalyptic plot in there too.

    However, unlike some (Tom the Impaler), I don't see rehashing a worn-out plot device as automatic disqualification. Some movies do the worn-out plot device better than others. I am Legend is not such a film. No, it is merely a basically competent entry, without much depth, a couple of really good missed opportunities, and one technical gaffe that drove me bananas when I saw it (what exactly is an SR-71 Blackbird doing on an aircraft carrier?)

    The thing that really drove me nuts, however, was the idiot parents in front of me who brought their 4ish-year-old son to a movie where monsters are constantly attacking the hero with loud snarls and other frightening sounds/imagery. The poor kid was screaming and hiding his eyes in mom's blouse while she sat there basically oblivious to it all. And here's the kicker: This is in a movie theater where they have a freakin' daycare!!!

    That's right, folks. Given the choice between buying junior a ticket to see a movie that will have him wetting the bed for the next 6 months and spending the same amount of money to put him in a cozy room with a couple of nice ladies and a metric buttload of toys, these two Mensa members went for option A.




    This has happened before. I went to see The Mummy (great movie, by the way), and some retard next to us brought two young boys to see that one. What is with parents today? I just know that 15 or 20 years from now these same morons will be talking to police, saying "I don't know why my son has emotional problems and shot up his school today... he had a normal childhood..."


    The movie? 4 out of 10. The parents? Boot to the head.

    Posted by Tom, 12/16/2007 6:10:11 PM (Permalink). 5 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Friday, December 14, 2007

    Entertainment Upgrade

    This was the old entertainment setup. The TV is over 10 years old, and starting to show its age with wavies and such. Since one of our most favorite activities is watching movies, we've always wanted a home theater system. Every year for Christmas we try to do something for the house, and this year it looked like it was time to upgrade.

    As previously mentioned, we also wanted to do a little redecorating to minimize the visual impact of all those stinkin' cables. So I pulled out all the components...

    ...and got started on some painting.

    Then I started putting the shelves back together and trying to unsnarl the cables:

    Once that was done, I built a new shelf for the new TV. However, since I didn't have trim to match what was already on the other shelves, I contacted a custom cabinetmaker to see if he could match it.

    Aside: Get to know a custom cabinetmaker in your area. These guys are amazing, and probably have tools you've never even heard of. If there's a woodworking project you need done, chances are they've got a specialized tool that will make it happen in about a tenth the time you could work it out with the random assortment of hand tools in your garage.

    Our cabinetmaker couldn't match it, but he did have something really close, so I had him run off extra pieces for the existing shelves. Then I (somewhat carefully) ripped off the old trim:

    ... and after staining the new trim and putting it in place, I added a little cloth backdrop under the bottom shelf to hide the last of the cables and the wall outlets, giving us the finished product. I'm not a great photographer (or even a good one), so I took a few shots with different settings to give you an idea of what it looks like. First is just a normal exposure:

    Now one with flash. You can really see where all the cables are in this one. Compared to the above, it's obvious what the new paint job did for us.

    Finally, here's a shot with the TV on and the lights low, producing the desired effect of having all the extra crap sort of fade into the background:

    For those who are interested, here's the products involved:

    Samsung 40" LCD (LN-T4065F)
    PlayStation 3 40GB model, with Blu Ray
    Dish Network HD DVR/Receiver
    Sony STR-K750P Dolby/DTS 5.1 Receiver (already had it)
    Harmony 670 Universal Remote

    A few more minor components will be added in the future, but this is the basic layout.

    Posted by Tom, 12/14/2007 6:12:09 PM (Permalink). 4 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, December 13, 2007

    Home Depot Alert!

    I just got this from my brother. BE CAREFUL!

    A 'Heads Up' for those of us men who may be regular Home Depot customers. Over the last month I became a victim of a clever scam while out shopping. Simply going out to get supplies has turned out to be quite traumatic. Don't be naive enough to think it couldn't happen to you or your friends. Here's how the scam works.

    Two seriously good-looking 20-21 year-old girls come over to your car as you are packing your shopping into the trunk. They both start wiping your windshield with a rag and Windex, with their breasts almost falling out of their skimpy T-shirts. It is impossible not to look. When you thank them and offer them a tip, they say 'No' and instead ask you for a ride to another Home Depot or Lowes.

    You agree and they get in the back seat. On the way, they start undressing. Then one of them climbs over into the front seat and starts crawling all over you, while the other one steals your wallet. I had my wallet stolen October 4th, 9th, 10th, twice on the 15th, 17th, 20th & 24th. Also November 1st, 4th, twice on the 6th, three times just yesterday, and very likely this coming weekend. So tell your friends to be careful.

    Got it from here.

    Posted by Tom, 12/13/2007 8:20:08 AM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, December 12, 2007


    Now I think I'm going down to the well tonight
    and I'm going to drink till I get my fill
    And I hope when I get old I don't sit around thinking about it
    but I probably will
    Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture
    a little of the glory of, well time slips away
    and leaves you with nothing mister but
    boring stories of

    Glory days well they'll pass you by
    Glory days in the wink of a young girl's eye
    Glory days, glory days

    --Bruce Springsteen

    And to think there are people out there (Mrs. Curmudgeon, looking in your direction) who don't appreciate "the Boss".

    Posted by Tom, 12/12/2007 6:39:39 PM (Permalink). 2 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, December 11, 2007

    Tom's Practical Dictionary, Part V

    Work: A place you go when the power is out and you want to get warm.

    (Note: The power is back on again as of this writing. Knock on wood.)

    Posted by Tom, 12/11/2007 5:22:40 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Monday, December 10, 2007

    Church shooting ended by CCW

    And AGAIN, we have a mass shooting cut short by a law-abiding citizen, not a member of law enforcement, who employed their personal weapon. From the church shooting yesterday in Colorado:

    "She probably saved over a hundred lives," [Senior Pastor Brady] Boyd said of the guard, whom he said is not a law enforcement officer and used her personal weapon.

    Every other article I've read (about a dozen so far) simply describes her as a member of the church's "armed security force", leaving the impression that she is quasi-law enforcement. She is not. She is an independent volunteer, carrying a concealed weapon with a license. The media's incompetence at reporting firearm stories is utterly reprehensible.

    I for one think it's great that the church decided to embrace and incorporate the willingness of certain citizens/members to be armed and ready to deal with situations like this. More churches should reach out to their gun-owning members that way.

    Posted by Tom, 12/10/2007 7:32:31 AM (Permalink). 3 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Friday, December 7, 2007

    Remember when...

    ...watching TV only involved a single cable -- the one that provided power to the TV?

    Now there's the coax from the satellite dish to the DVR/Receiver, coax from that to the DVD/VCR, coax from that to the TV. Another coax takes digital sound from the DVD/VCR to the surround sound system, which has 6 wires leading to various speakers (3 front, 2 rear, and subwoofer). Another pair of RCA cables hook up the VCR's analog audio to the sound system, as well as the satellite's analog audio. The PlayStation 3, a new addition to the mix, has an HDMI cable to the TV and a network cord for hooking up with other players on the intertubes. Oh yeah, I forgot the phone cord attached to the satellite receiver so they can keep tabs on my viewing habits download guide updates. And when the new HD satellite DVR shows up, it'll have its own network cable, an HDMI cable to the TV, and we'll swap the coax cable from the DVD/VCR combo for a fiber optic cable from the TV's audio hub to the sound system's input. Of course, let's not forget the other HDMI connection that'll come (eventually) with an HD DVD player, which will have its own network cable as well. And all of this is not counting a power cable for each and every device.

    I'm really looking forward to the fruits of all this, but sometimes I can't help shaking my head in bemusement at the absurdity of it all.

    Posted by Tom, 12/7/2007 7:08:39 AM (Permalink). 4 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Quick shot

    Here's a brief little interview with a former anti-nuclear protester who's now agitating for us to switch to nuclear power. It turns out that once she educated herself instead of living in constant fear of the nuclear bogeyman, it made a lot of sense:

    Wired News: You don't argue that nuclear power is entirely safe, but that it's vastly better than coal and fossil fuels. Do we have to choose between them?

    Gwyneth Cravens: I used to think we surely could do better. We could have more wind farms and solar. But I then learned about base-load energy, and that there are three forms of it: fossil fuels, hydro and nuclear. In the United States, we're maxed out on hydro. That leaves fossil fuels and nuclear power, and most of the fossil fuel burned is coal.

    In the U.S., 24,000 people a year die from coal pollution. Hundreds of thousands more people suffer from lung and heart disease directly attributable to coal pollution.

    WN: That's opposed to a minuscule number of people who have been directly harmed by nuclear power?

    Cravens: It's zero in the United States. Of course there is the occasional industrial accident amongst the workers. But over the lifetime cycle of nuclear power, if you go cradle-to-grave with uranium, the total carbon emissions are about those of wind power.

    And yet, every time I bring it up, people react as though I just suggested letting John Wayne Gacy run a daycare.

    Posted by Tom, 12/7/2007 3:40:05 AM (Permalink). 3 Comments. Leave a comment...

    That mall shooting? You guessed it...

    ...another "gun-free zone"!

    Eight more innocent Americans have been sacrificed on the altar of political correctness at Omaha's Westroads Mall this week, and the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms said today that the real outrage of this crime is that it happened in a "gun free zone" where law-abiding private citizens are disarmed by mall rules and state statute.

    "In the wake of this horrible crime," said CCRKBA Chairman Alan Gottlieb, "gun control extremists are already demanding more useless gun control legislation. A prohibition on firearms at Westroads Mall did not stop Robert Hawkins, but it did give him a risk-free environment in which to unleash his rampage."

    Read the rest here.

    A friend and I were wondering about it, since it happened in a shall-issue state for concealed weapon licenses. We surmised that since Nebraska's law had only gone into effect this year, not many had completed the application process. Now we know that most concealed-weapons licensees would not have carried into the mall anyway, for fear of losing their licenses (or worse) by breaking the law.

    Posted by Tom, 12/7/2007 2:26:04 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, December 6, 2007


    That was the sound of my jaw hitting the floor.

    Let me explain.

    The PlayStation 3 comes with a standard AV cable. Hooked up to the big screen using said cable, the picture was not particularly impressive... about what you'd expect on a regular TV.

    Today, I stopped at WalMart and got an HDMI cable, so I could see my game in hi-def.


    All I've got to say is, anyone who says there's no difference (and I've met a few) either hasn't seen both, or needs to get their prescription updated.

    HD is gorgeous, and I'm only talking about a video game at this point. I can't wait to see what movies and such look like.

    Posted by Tom, 12/6/2007 6:55:59 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Monday, December 3, 2007

    Am I ready?

    I just got a call from the Ron Paul campaign... specifically, our local area coordinator. He'd like me to consider helping out, possibly coordinating, maybe even becoming a delegate.

    Last time I did any politicking, it took a lot out of me. I've been deliberately attempting to distance myself from organizational roles ever since. I wonder if I'm ready to try again... just this once, for Ron Paul's campaign. I don't think a better opportunity is going to come along for a good long while.

    We're supposed to have lunch next Friday. I'll have to give it a good think until then.

    Posted by Tom, 12/3/2007 7:06:59 PM (Permalink). 2 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Sunday, December 2, 2007

    So it begins...

    The order has been placed, the items are preparing to ship (and one is already on the way), and now there's nothing but the long test of patience. I'm going to try and avoid it, but I know there'll be lots of obsessive-compulsive refreshing of online shipment trackers. The TV is already in Dallas... that makes me crazy with how close it is. Once it gets here and is confirmed to be working, I can call Dish and order up the HD service.

    We've picked out a color ("chocolate coco", formerly known as "brown") for the walls of the entertainment nook, and I've begun studying the logistics of moving all the components out while maintaining their usability for the next week while I spackle and paint.

    I bought screws today for installing a new shelf for the TV... 3.5" bad boys that ought to be able to hold the weight pretty easily. Yesterday I got Home Depot to custom-cut a nice piece of 3/4" plywood for the main part of the shelf. We shopped for facing trim, but can't find any we like as much as the trim we've got, so I'm going to call local cabinet makers and see if anyone can match the design for the new shelf.

    Look for a photo essay of the entire project at some point in the future.

    Posted by Tom, 12/2/2007 5:59:04 PM (Permalink). 2 Comments. Leave a comment...