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
  • Somewhere in the crusty outer layer of small towns surrounding the warm creamy center that is Oklahoma City.
Site Navigation
  • Current server time:
  • 11/24/2020 6:59:45 PM
  • Categories
    My Nerdly Hobbies
    The Daily Browse
    Reference Material
    Blogs of Note
    Non-blog Friend Pages

    Thursday, May 31, 2007

    Intelligent life? At NASA?

    I know, I was stunned too. But check out these comments:

    "To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of Earth's climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn't change," [NASA administrator Michael] Griffin said.

    "First of all, I don't think it's within the power of human beings to assure that the climate does not change, as millions of years of history have shown," he continued. "And second of all, I guess I would ask which human beings — where and when — are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that's a rather arrogant position for people to take."

    Wow. Not only is it thoughtful and thought-provoking, it's almost... humble? What the hell is this guy doing working for NASA?

    Posted by Tom, 5/31/2007 6:34:34 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Early voting guide

    Reason has posted to its website an article from the last print issue, which is basically a review of the various presumptive candidates for the Presidency in 2008. So far, it looks like the best person to hope for from the left is Gov. Bill Richardson:

    Vitals: A former State Department go-fer and Democratic Party hack, Richardson won a U.S. House seat from New Mexico in 1982. He held it until Bill Clinton nominated him to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; after 18 months he was promoted to secretary of energy. In 2002 he won New Mexico’s governorship, winning re-election in a 2006 landslide.

    Pros: The only governor in the Democratic race is also one of the country’s most fiscally tightfisted executives. Richardson cut New Mexico’s income tax from 8.2 percent to 4.9 percent, halved the capital gains tax, and eliminated the gross receipts tax. He frequently and explicitly draws a link between lower taxes and economic growth, something rare in a national Democratic politician. He not only supports the right to carry a concealed weapon but holds a concealed-carry permit himself. He sometimes skirts close to libertarianism on other issues, endorsing charter schools (but not vouchers) and medical marijuana (but not decriminalization).

    Cons: Richardson has signed a smoking ban and is warming to the idea of a drug offender registry. There’s also the lingering issue of his behavior during the espionage investigation of Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee, when he may have leaked damaging information about Lee, using his power as a cabinet secretary to try an innocent man in the press.

    Bottom Line: Of all the Democratic candidates, Richardson would be most likely to cut taxes. And after Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), he’s the most open to reforming drug laws. If the party really wants to make a play for the “libertarian West,” it’ll nominate Richardson.

    I'd certainly be happier about him than Clinton or Obama. The rest of the article is worth a read, if only for the snarky remarks made about the people hoping to be the Big Cheese.

    Of course, it's far too early to call any horses in this race, but it's never too early to get started despising candidates. I maintain that "wanting the job" should be 90% of the evidence we need to show that a candidate is unqualified.

    Posted by Tom, 5/31/2007 6:16:14 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Classic Steve

    Steve Jobs recently did a sit-down chat at All Things Digital.

    After a lot of talking about Apple's strategies and products, Steve discusses iTunes for Windows, which has been downloaded (it's free) hundreds of millions of times. He says that people send postcards, emails, and so forth telling Apple that iTunes is their favorite program, and follows it up with a classic Steve line:

    "It's like giving a glass of ice water to somebody in Hell."

    (hat tip, TUAW)

    Posted by Tom, 5/31/2007 6:04:00 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Totally need one of these

    A USB drive... inside a LEGO block. It's a marriage made in heaven.


    Posted by Tom, 5/31/2007 5:58:29 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tax exempt status

    I've long been ambivalent about the fact that churches don't have to pay taxes. Sometimes I defend the principle. Sometimes I don't. Thanks to this entry, I'm beginning to think that maybe they should be taxed like the rest of us. It's not that I'm in favor of taxation -- I'd rather see all taxes repealed -- but I'm tired of reading about abuses, and in the interests of treating everyone the same, perhaps it's time we just started leveling all the exceptions and special statuses.

    Posted by Tom, 5/31/2007 5:50:40 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, May 29, 2007

    "New" Wheels

    Well, gas trends have prompted me to consider another car, strictly for the 35-mile commute. The age of the current car, showing today when the water pump went kerblooey, also prompts such a reaction. However, like many Americans, I'm planning to do this the wrong way: add a car.

    After all, I've got two paid-for vehicles (car and truck), both in good condition, water pump notwithstanding. The truck is just downright handy to have around, so it gets to stay. The car is 12 years old, with 220,000 miles on it, and is only now developing problems that show up 100,000 miles earlier on other cars. I expect to get another 200,000 out of it before I'm done.

    I've also got plenty of room to park an extra vehicle, unlike someone I know who recently bought a Honda Fit.

    I've never been a fan of buying new, have never done so, and will not do so this time around. I just can't see myself 1) going back into car payments and 2) losing that over-inflated value (30-40% in the first year!) while simultaneously destroying the vehicle through normal use. This is one of those conclusions I'd come to before Dave Ramsey, and I was very glad to see he agreed with me.

    So, for the next year, I'll be slowly gathering info on fuel-efficient cars from about 2000 through 2005 or so. Maybe I'll find a used hybrid... though I hear their mileage reports aren't quite what they're cracked up to be. This could possibly be my first Japanese car as well; I'm looking at Honda Civics and the like as possibilities. If anyone's got experience, opinions, or hot air on that range of model years, feel free to leave me a comment.

    Posted by Tom, 5/29/2007 6:05:32 PM (Permalink). 9 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Monday, May 28, 2007

    Good Food

    I've written a bit before about my "casual vegan" attitude, though now I'm more "casual vegetarian". Which is not to say I don't eat meat -- sometimes it slips in there, but I almost always regret it, digestively speaking. So it's kind of self-reinforcing. Have a burger, suffer the cramps (the physical ailment, not the punk band, which is a different kind of suffering). It gets old after a while.

    Anyway, my new favorite dish is Chili's Veggie Fajitas. Holy cow they're good. You get the usual flour tortillas, sauteed mushrooms, onions, and peppers, and sideboard of sour cream, guacamole, and pico salsa. You also get rice fried in with it and a bowl of spicy black beans. And broccoli for some reason.

    < SOAPBOX >
    I wish it to be known by all operators of "family restaurant" franchises everywhere in America: I like broccoli, but you people have GOT to find something else. Splurge on some cauliflower, or brussels sprouts, or carrots, or squash, or SOMETHING. I am so frickin' sick of eating broccoli at your establishments. It is not the "universal side dish". It is not even the "universal garnish". Have your purchasers talk to a vegetarian. Hire a vegetarian, if you have to. I'm sure you can find something more exciting than the same old steamed florettes. And a special note to that tool of a chef they hired at Applebee's: shaving parmesan cheese over it doesn't change the fact that it's freaking broccoli!!!

    I go to Applebee's, and the vegetable side is broccoli. Chili's: broccoli. Some other restaurant whose name escapes me: broccoli. If I ask for a vegetarian entree, I get a plate full of damned broccoli. What are you people, stupid, cruel, or both?

    And who the hell thought it was a good idea to put broccoli in a fajita? That person needs to be dragged out back and forced to eat real Mexican food until he turns into a real Mexican. PLEASE put him in charge of something else, like garbage disposal.
    < /SOAPBOX >

    Back to the Chili's Veggie Fajitas. Once you take off the crummy broccoli, what's left is absolutely amazing. It's not listed on their nutrion menu, but I imagine it comes out at about 1000 calories if you eat everything, which I don't (can't, there's too much). And since I also leave the sour cream and cheese alone (mostly), I'm probably coming out around 600 or so, which ain't bad for a big meal.

    Posted by Tom, 5/28/2007 3:06:45 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Saturday, May 26, 2007

    Weight lifting and philosophy

    When Ayn Rand was describing her philosophy of Objectivism, she used two counter-examples to describe "all other philosophy", the Skeptic and the Mystic. Basically, the Mystic says we cannot know the true nature of reality; only God knows that. The Skeptic says we cannot know the true nature of reality, and there is no God. The Objectivist says that it is our duty to know the true nature of reality, and we should apply ourselves fully to acquiring that knowledge.

    Somewhere along the way, I read about or imagined an argument between the three that really kind of sums up the conflict.

    Faced with a rock, the Mystic says, "how can I know it's a rock? Maybe, in the real world, which is the spiritual world, it's actually a fish. Only God knows the truth."

    The Skeptic says, "you cannot know that it's a rock, because senses are faulty and cannot be trusted. Even if I pick up the rock, feel it, touch it, taste it, etc., it's merely a hallucination. Oh, and there is no God."

    The Objectivist says "you guys are morons", then picks up the rock and cracks both of their skulls.

    I really hate getting into epistemological arguments, but when I do, I tend to fall on the Objectivist side of things: Accept reality as a given, and act appropriately. This doesn't mean that I can necessarily call myself a full-fledged Objectivist. For one, I believe in God, for whom the Objectivist sees no evidence and therefore denies. (I suppose that in some ways I might be Objectivist still, because I believe I have seen such evidence, but that's another can of worms.)

    So what does this have to do with weight lifting? At the beginning of the book I'm using is this quote:

    The Iron never lies to you... The Iron will always kick you the real deal. The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver. Always there like a beacon in the pitch black. I have found the Iron to be my greatest friend. It never freaks out on me, never runs. Friends may come and go. But two hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds.

    -- Henry Rollins

    I think the greatest evidence that I may be Objectivist at heart is the fact that I find this comforting.

    Posted by Tom, 5/26/2007 4:25:33 AM (Permalink). 4 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Friday, May 25, 2007

    Funny stuff

    The guy who made this has tons of movies summarized thusly, though the actual duration of the "5 seconds" seems to vary quite a bit. See his YouTube site here.

    Posted by Tom, 5/25/2007 6:53:00 PM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Whaz so civil about war anyway?

    I recently rediscovered "Civil War" by Guns 'n' Roses. With the problems at church, and the spinelessness of the supposed "anti-war" party (now laughably attempting to cast the other side as the loser), I needed some audio narcotics to vent my frustration, and this song fit the bill. What's more, there's a set of lines toward the end that I found unexpectedly moving, because they reflect my own journey:

    My hands are tied
    For all I've seen has changed my mind
    But still the wars go on as the years go by
    With no love of God or human rights
    'Cause all these dreams are swept aside
    By bloody hands of the hypnotized
    Who carry the cross of homicide
    And history bears the scars of our civil wars

    My hands are tied, because I vote libertarian... looking for candidates who value peace, trade, freedom, and rights wholesale rather than picking and choosing amongst them for principles du jour. The temptation to give in and just go with the flow is tremendous at times, but I keep returning to the fact that aggressive force is wrong, and I can't in good conscience support it.

    For all I've seen has changed my mind. I had a phone conversation with my brother on the news that we were going to Afghanistan, right after 9/11. I was whole-heartedly in support of it, he was disgusted and didn't think it would do any good. As I've watched it all unfold, I can't help but conclude he was right. The pro-war side says "no attacks since!" as though it's proof the effort is working, but this just seems like a false correlation to me. Not to mention the fact that there have been attacks since. They're just happening elsewhere, to innocent brown people in desert countries, so we can safely ignore them.

    But still the wars go on as the years go by. The more things change, the more they stay the same. This song was released almost 2 decades ago, and we're still doing the same crap in the same places, and nobody seems materially better off because of it.

    With no love of God or human rights, especially here at home. First there was the infamous "illegal combatant" BS, then came the spying on non-citizens, now the spying on citizens, the curtailing of freedoms hither and yon, and of course the wonderful "welcome to prison, sign here for your anal probe" experience of air travel.

    'Cause all these dreams are swept aside by bloody hands of the hypnotized. And no matter how much I (and many others) write about other ways to address the world's problems, or plead for some semblance of reason and rationality, or protest even the most egregious regulatory abuses, the responses always come back: "It's for your own good", or "if you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about", or my favorite "leave it to the experts, they know what's best". I wish I could find the pocket watch being swung back and forth in front of peoples' eyes, so I can take it from the hypnotist and smash it.

    ...who carry the cross of homicide, and yet somehow do not feel its weight on their souls. No, I'm not talking about soldiers here. I'm talking about those who think it's a great thing that America deals with others through aggressive force rather than using its military might to protect and defend while pursuing a policy of peaceful trade.

    And history bears the scars of our civil wars. I remember in 12th grade history class, I think it was in reference to the period between the War of 1812 and the Civil War, my teacher said "we're going to skip over this part because nothing interesting happened, and get right to the Civil War". And that's the truth -- our history is about war. It's what we choose to remember, document, and by implication, celebrate. I'm grateful to those who have attempted to look deeper at history, showing war for the State-inspired travesty and horror that it is and finding greatness expressed not in aggression, but in peaceful cooperation.

    Posted by Tom, 5/25/2007 6:46:00 PM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...


    Looks like I beat the Mises Institute to the punch on the ill-conceived "gas gouging" bill. Their article covers pretty much what I said, though in more detail.

    They also allude to the biofuel problem as an upward pressure on gas prices, which commenter Catch22 asked about. The answer to how that works can be seen here. Essentially, if government is subsidizing your competitors and trying to drive you out of business, it doesn't make a lot of economic sense for you to invest more heavily in your business model:

    “If the national policy of the country is to push for dramatic increases in the biofuels industry, this is a disincentive for those making investment decisions on expanding capacity in oil products and refining,” said John D. Hofmeister, the president of the Shell Oil Company. “Industrywide, this will have an impact.”

    The concerns were echoed in a recent report by Barclays Capital, which said the uncertainty about the ethanol growth “will do little to accelerate desperately needed investment in complex United States refining units.”

    “Indeed, it is likely to deter and further delay investment, if not rule out many refinery investments completely.”

    This is what happens when government undertakes to tell us what kind of products we should buy, taxes our money away from us, and uses that money to prop up the producers of those products it favors. Disfavored businesses stop investing in themselves, despite the fact that the market has heretofore dictated they are the consumer's solution of choice. Continued investment, research, and innovation help cause real prices to fall.

    There is only one reason that biofuels haven't been more successful: consumers evidently don't want it, at least not while gasoline remains a cheaper, more convenient solution to their transportation energy needs. As the reserves of oil dry up over the next several decades, prices will rise anyway, reflecting the decrease in supply relative to demand. Eventually those prices will reach a point at which biofuels (or some other alternative) make more economic sense to all parties involved. The price hike that we're seeing with the subsidization of biofuels is simply a compressed, accelerated version of what will happen anyway. So of course the question becomes "what's wrong with accelerating the inevitable?"

    The main problem with the subsidization is that the government has "picked a winner". It may be that, if allowed to play out for the next century, the transportation energy of choice is something completely different from biofuel. The extra time to explore all options, the unforseeable improvements in various technologies, the experimentation by all players, are all forestalled by government having picked a winner. By subsidizing the immediately apparent solution, it delays (or prevents altogether) better solutions that may be waiting in the wings. Instead of switching to "portable fusion power" (or something), we'll switch to biofuel, create a vast subsidized infrastructure, and then refuse to change because, in the protest of bureaucracies everywhere, "we've already invested too much to let it go now".

    This is what happened in telecommunications. Government subsidized wired communications, hamhandedly regulated wireless spectrum, and it took decades longer than it could have for us to create a comprehensive wireless network. It's taken significant deregulation to get what we have now, and it'll take significantly more to get to the next stage in the evolution of telecom technology.

    Of course, some will protest that we can't know what we're preventing, so it's best to go ahead and subsidize. That argument cuts both ways: we can't know what we're preventing, so it's best to let the market work it out. As an added benefit, we get to keep our money instead of having it confiscated to line the pockets of what future historians will no doubt refer to as the "biodiesel barons".

    Posted by Tom, 5/25/2007 6:31:00 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, May 23, 2007

    Get ready...

    ...we'll be sitting in line for gas soon enough if Congress gets their way:

    The House today voted, 284-141, to pass a bill that would make gasoline "price gouging" [quotes mine] a federal offense.


    The legislation would give federal authorities the power during presidentially declared energy emergencies to investigate and prosecute anyone selling fuel at a price that is "unconscionably excessive" or "indicates the seller is taking unfair advantage unusual market conditions."

    The White House contends that the definition of gouging is vague and would make the law difficult to enforce.

    It's a price cap without the courtesy of a hard limit. It's nice and vague, so they can make up whatever cap they want. It's a legislative turd, which is about what we can expect for the foreseeable future.

    I wonder if this is a result of the fact that we have a bunch of new blood in Congress, presumably those who don't remember the shortage of the 1970's, and the price caps that caused it. If it is, I wonder if that means we're doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past every 30 - 40 years or so.

    Kudos to the administration for taking a stand I can agree with for a change.

    Posted by Tom, 5/23/2007 9:26:25 PM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Quote of the Day

    Cogito, ergo armatum sum: I think, therefore I am armed.
    -- Lt. Col. David Grossman

    Posted by Tom, 5/23/2007 8:16:04 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    What the...?

    OK, first there's this incredible story, which can't possibly be true, about a school shooting in Canada, of all places. As I read in utter disbelief, I noticed this stuff in the sidebar:

    We've got a school shooting, a random man shot in the head, and a freaking drive-by, all happening in Canada, within a few days of each other. This is impossible. After all, they have gun control there. Guns are registered. People are fingerprinted and checked and double checked. Ownership is heavily regulated. Nobody's allowed to carry weapons. The entire country is a gun free zone. This means that such things are impossible. I know this, because the Brady bunch tells me so.

    Posted by Tom, 5/23/2007 8:11:52 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Market Morality

    Here is a great article from the Mises Institute on the interplay of culture, morality, and the free market. It discusses some cultural artifacts that are incompatible with the market, using historical examples. It proceeds on the basic premise that the market and (libertarian) morality are mutually reinforcing:

    One of the market's virtues, and the reason it enables so much peaceful interaction and cooperation among such a great variety of peoples, is that it demands of its participants only that they observe a relatively few basic principles, among them honesty, the sanctity of contracts, and respect for private property.

    The first conflict with culture obviously arises where private property is specifically denigrated by the culture, though he never really gets into that.

    It takes little imagination to surmise how critics of the market would respond to such a claim. Doesn't the market encourage greed, rivalry, and discord? Does it not urge people to think only of themselves, accumulating wealth with no thought to any other concern?

    These are certainly the responses I get. He then goes on to explore Soviet communism as a counter-example, noting the ultimate impact this system had on the culture with which it interacted:

    Television personality Dmitri Zakharov put it this way: "In the West, if an American sees someone on TV with a shiny new car, he will think, 'Oh, maybe I can get that someday for myself.' But if a Russian sees that, he will think, 'This bastard with his car. I would like to kill him for living better than I do.'" That is what Marxism-Leninism did to these people.

    This is just depressing. It reminds me of a story I once heard about researchers who had a group of monkeys in a room. They placed an upright pole in the middle of the room and hung some fruit from the ceiling directly overhead. The trick was that the pole was too short for any monkey to be able to reach the fruit.

    One monkey tried to climb the pole and get the fruit, but could not succeed. When another monkey tried to get it, the first monkey attacked him and kept him from climbing the pole. Soon all the monkeys would prevent any monkey from attempting to climb the pole, even if the new monkey was a new one introduced to the group.

    The researchers then tried swapping monkeys out one at a time, until none of the original group was in the room. Then they made the pole high enough to reach the fruit. And yet the monkeys' apparent belief in the impossibility of the task prevented them from making the attempt, or allowing any other monkey to make it.

    It seems to me that, like the monkeys, despair has become the ultimate curse of socialism/communism. It's apparent in any conversation I have with an aspiring socialist. "The little guy just can't get ahead" ought to be tattooed on the foreheads of anyone who describes themselves as socialist, so often do they repeat or allude to the sentiment.

    Anyway, our author ultimately addresses one of the most common (and wrong-headed) attacks on free market capitalism. Unfortunately for the average American, understanding why it's pure bunk requires understanding the two types of competition and the essential differences between same:

    In a formulation familiar to libertarians, Franz Oppenheimer described two ways of acquiring wealth: the economic means and the political means. The economic means involves the production of a good or service that is then sold to willing buyers seeking to improve their own well-being. Both parties benefit. The political means, on the other hand, involves the use of force [i.e., government] to enrich one party or group at the expense of another — either to acquire someone else's wealth directly or to give oneself an unfair advantage over his competitors through the use or threat of coercion.

    The attack in question is of course the Enron debacle, and the defense is quite simple: Enron was not an economic competitor. Like Standard Oil (the last big corporate objection), it was not an example of "free market competition".

    Enron, it is said, was the free market in action, and Ken Lay an apostle of laissez faire. In fact, neither claim is true. Time constraints limit me to recommending the Enron chapter in Tim Carney's important book The Big Ripoff: How Big Business and Big Government Steal Your Money (2006). To make a long story short, Enron was on the receiving end of countless waves of government subsidies. It also manipulated the bizarre regulatory thicket that was the California energy market in grotesquely anti-social ways that enriched Enron at the expense, quite literally, of everyone else. The Cato Institute's Jerry Taylor correctly described Enron on balance as "an enemy, not an ally of free markets. Enron was more interested in rigging the marketplace with rules and regulations to advantage itself at the expense of competitors and consumers than in making money the old-fashioned way -- by earning it honestly from their customers through voluntary trade."

    His final thought is one which I seek to somehow sneak past the barriers of my friends and relatives who are staunch defenders of this political party or that:

    ...we don't need Hillary Clinton or John Edwards, Rudy Giuliani or John McCain, to "run the country" (to use an infelicitous if unfortunately common phrase) or to make us prosperous. A free and responsible people can manage its affairs without the platitudes and paternal custodianship of a Great Leader, and exhibits no superstitious reverence toward the occupants of political office. Once a society begins to absorb this revolutionary discovery, it has already embraced the culture of enterprise.

    It is a long hard road, but I think I have my answer for why I should keep engaging people, even at church. Cultural changes don't happen overnight. They require patience and diligence and occasionally the willingness to repeat the same thing over and over, using different analogies or other constructs, until that little light bulb goes on overhead.

    Posted by Tom, 5/23/2007 7:39:43 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Victorian era redux

    So now we've got old, stupid laws about sex toys meeting new, stupid laws about sex offender registries. In Texas, police have raided a lingerie shop and put an employee -- not the owner -- in danger of needing to register as a "sex offender" simply because she was working in a shop that sold... you know... "marital aids".

    Just in case you aren't catching on:

    This. Is. Insane.

    My objections regarding sex offender registries are already well-documented, but the fact that we are not going around nationwide and repealing these idiotic laws against adult toys and basically everything else that falls under the category of "none of your business", just boggles my mind. Add to that the idea that some poor woman making a few bucks working in retail, having done NOTHING that can be construed as a violation of anyone else's rights, now stands to have her own rights violated in one of the most demeaning ways possible. It's simply unconscionable.

    Posted by Tom, 5/23/2007 6:53:43 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    My thoughts exactly

    See article here.

    Posted by Tom, 5/23/2007 6:35:46 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Blizzard grants a wish

    Apparently the folks at Blizzard have granted a World of WarCraft-oriented wish (and then some) to a kid with a brain tumor, in conjunction with the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Super cool.

    Posted by Tom, 5/23/2007 6:20:55 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, May 22, 2007

    Dems back down

    As the saga of legislative war protesting continues, it looks like I may have actually been right, just early. The Democrats are pulling their requirement for a troop withdrawal deadline, no doubt to save their skins in the 2008 elections.

    The confrontation sparked bitter exchanges between liberals and conservatives, yielding no middle ground where party leaders and Bush could compromise. In the end, Republicans had the ticking clock of troop funding and the presidential veto pen on their side, and Democrats were forced to blink.

    War opponents had hoped that Democratic control of Congress would force a swift end to the Iraq conflict. But the package requires Bush to surrender virtually none of his war authority.

    So much for being a party of principled opposition. Apparently that majority edge means more to them than their principles. Personally, I believe they would have gained seats if they'd stuck to their guns. But I could be wrong. It happens.

    Hear that, fellow anti-war people? If you want someone to oppose war, stop voting major parties into power. Look for truly peace-loving candidates. I would suggest libertarianism, but you knew that already.

    Posted by Tom, 5/22/2007 7:15:08 PM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    More on Human/Property Rights

    As a followup to the previous post, here's an article from Murray Rothbard discussing why the "libertarian view" is that human rights must be expressed in terms of property rights:

    In the first place, there are two senses in which property rights are identical with human rights: one, that property can only accrue to humans, so that their rights to property are rights that belong to human beings; and two, that the person's right to his own body, his personal liberty, is a property right in his own person as well as a "human right." But more importantly for our discussion, human rights, when not put in terms of property rights, turn out to be vague and contradictory, causing liberals to weaken those rights on behalf of "public policy" or the "public good."

    He uses "liberal" in an unfortunate concession to the contemporary misuse of the term, when he really means something akin to "leftist". Of course, my objection stems from my own desire to assist libertarian society in reclaiming "liberal" as a term relating to "classical liberalism" as opposed to "statist", so I suppose I shouldn't gripe too much.

    All that aside, the rest of the article is a decent exposition on the construction of human rights on the basis of property rather than some fuzzy-headed, vague concept. It even parallels Christopher Hitchens' statements on the subject of fires and crowded theaters.

    Posted by Tom, 5/22/2007 7:10:58 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    New blog for the roll

    My wife turned me on to this one...

    Confessions of a Pioneer Woman

    Posted by Tom, 5/22/2007 6:25:54 PM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    It's hard to believe...

    ...we live in perpetual fear of people so socially retarded that they think this:

    is "obscene", while this:

    is "glorifying to God".

    What was the hug (and hubbub) about?

    Nilofar Bakhtiar, the Federal Minister for Tourism, was pictured wearing a brightly coloured jumpsuit and hugging her instructor after a tandem jump to raise money for child victims of the earthquake that struck Pakistan in October 2005 [emphasis mine].

    The images provoked the wrath of clerics in Islamabad, who accused Bakhtiar of posing in an obscene manner and violating the Islamic moral norms.

    Islamic moral norms? I'm pretty sure that's a three-dimensional oxymoron. Or something. Let's ignore the fact that someone was doing something for charity, was obviously excited about it, had a good time, and presumably raised some money to help those who couldn't help themselves. Instead, let's focus on a platonic gesture and railroad the woman out of office for nothing more than (at worst) responding to a rush of adrenaline.

    How is it that people this stupid ever masterminded a plot to destroy the World Trade Center?

    And how is it that some nuts in this country look at theocratic idiocy like this and say "we gotta get us some of that"?

    (Then again... it certainly looks as though Christians are beginning to see Islam as a role model...)

    Posted by Tom, 5/22/2007 5:50:36 PM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Monday, May 21, 2007

    More Faith & Politics

    Reason has a review of The Choice Principle, which is a book by some guy named Andy Olree. Apparently, it's a book in the vein of "Christians ought to be libertarians", and thus has captured my interest.

    Reason's review had one statement that could answer something that's been floating around my circles lately: why is the church dying? Why is participation in religion-centered activities on the wane? Why do we have to beg, plead, and cajole just to get people to come to a relatively minor activity?

    ...there is another reason evangelicals might want to depoliticize their faith, one Olree implies but never fully articulates. Rather than “leading America back to God,” the excessive identification of Christianity with politics may be repelling more people than it attracts. Consider Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan, the two bloggers who left John Edwards’ presidential campaign because of their history of posting comments critical of Christians on their own blogs. Perhaps they would have been hostile to Christianity in any event, but it is difficult to avoid the suspicion that much of their hostility stemmed from conflating the faith with the Republican Party.

    It may not be the whole answer, but after my recent experiences, I'm willing to give it credence as a pretty big piece of the answer. It goes without saying that this book is next on my list.

    Posted by Tom, 5/21/2007 6:30:28 PM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Sunday, May 20, 2007

    Answering questions

    I thought these deserved a full post. They were asked in a response to a comment of mine about self-ownership.

    Erm. Self ownership? That would suggest that people should take responsibility for themselves, also suggesting that they are presumed competent to do so.

    Precisely so.

    Taking responsibility is not an instinctive trait, in my opinion.

    I disagree. Taking responsibility is an evolutionary imperative. No one cares quite so much about your continued existence as you do. However, taking responsibility has been a trait that is being acculturated out of us -- we are trained not to take responsibility for ourselves, in the misguided belief that society will somehow be "better" if we are instead saddled with the responsibility for everyone else's existence and happiness. By force, if necessary.

    So, what's the libertarian view on those who have insufficient mental capacity or are incompetent for the purposes of self ownership? Who owns them? Like my 3 month old, I don't think he's competent but I presume he will be at some future date.

    In short, see here. Essentially, your 3-month-old does own himself, but you are proxied his right of self-ownership until he can demonstrate it in nature. His right to his own body necessarily means that you may not aggress against him, but because he cannot defend himself against aggression, you are his defender for the time being. He is his owner, you are his guardian.

    And a demented, developmentally disabled, brain-damaged, or intoxicated fellow? Who owns him?

    He does. His natural rights remain inviolate despite his diminished capacity, even though his diminished capacity may spell his doom. Rights do not guarantee survival; they merely guarantee the prerogative to attempt it. His right to attempt survival is bounded by the rights of others to do the same. He cannot decide to survive by eating other people, because they have a right to deny him access to their bodies. This also underscores the libertarian point that rights are A) reciprocal, and B) negative. A negative right is one which allows someone to say "no". A positive right is one which enables someone to make demands.

    Your son, for example, has no positive right to your resources. He cannot demand that you feed him. Generally speaking, parental feelings and instincts will override this lack of obligation and encourage you to not only feed him basic sustenance, but to take care of him in the best way you are able, given your physical, emotional, and intellectual resources. You may even go so far as to say that he has the right to demand you to feed him, but that is merely a property owner (you) granting license to another (him). You may grant license in his case, but deny it in the case of a homeless beggar walking down your street, which leads to your next question:

    Who gets to decide?

    Whoever is the owner of the property in question. In the case of bodies, there is a consciousness at work. If that consciousness undertakes the task of survival, the body will survive. If it doesn't, the body will not. We may certainly encourage those consciousnesses that are struggling with the survival task, but we cannot force them to survive. The body is their property, and it is their right to destroy it through violence or neglect if they so choose.

    None of this should be construed to mean that we are denied the ability, under libertarian ethics, to offer aid to those who need it. However, it is the libertarian position that any individual is within his rights to decline the offer and let himself die instead. It is a gross abrogation of a person's rights to aggress against him "for his own good".

    Clear as mud?

    Posted by Tom, 5/20/2007 3:01:39 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...


    I've been asked to lead some discussions in Sunday School. My topic has generally been Christianity and politics. My specific question is "How would Jesus vote?" The answer I'm looking for is not a particular party, but a system of thinking about politics... what issues matter, why they matter, how they rank against one another, and so forth.

    It's been a mixed result so far. The loudest voices come from what I'll call the "Republican Jesus" camp. For them, there is nothing the government cannot do, as long as it has good Christians running the show. Anyone who objects is obviously immoral, unChristian, or simply wrong. Government is supposed to be an aggressive promoter of morality and right living. Those who break the law deserve what they get, no matter the nature of the law broken or the inappropriate severity of the punishment. Those who would oppose the law, even through legal channels, are shifty-eyed miscreants out to rape our women and corrupt our children.

    And that seems to be the mild version.

    Another strange belief has cropped up, that being that the law is the ultimate given. One person has gone so far as to say that the purpose of the law is to serve as an indicator of what is moral and what is not. In other words, law equals morality. When clearly immoral laws are brought up, such as the ones criminalizing the feeding of the homeless (or outright attacking them), that person contradicts themselves and says that law is clearly immoral. This obviously indicates that there is another standard for judging morality than the law, but the distinction/contradiction is apparently lost on them.

    There are other voices. Occasionally, someone will calmly interject that perhaps Jesus would want to approach politics with caring and compassion, attempting to understand and love the purported criminal as He did with the woman caught in adultery. Or they will grasp at the central point I keep trying to bring up, which is whether all forms of immorality necessarily need to be dealt with by use of government force, particularly the forms covered by what we call "vice" laws.

    These voices are routinely and repeatedly shouted down by those in the other camp. Interruption is the conversational method of choice, and when an interrupter believes they are about to be interrupted, they talk louder to drown out opposition.

    I have an extremely short fuse when it comes to being interrupted, and the best I can say for my part in this fiasco is that I have not lost my temper (yet). As Christopher Hitchens put it, the right of the speaker to speak is also the right of the listener to hear. The "Republican Jesus" camp does not want to hear an opposing viewpoint, except to identify targets. So they pull the same crap performed on college campuses nationwide by their ideological opposites: deny the right of others to speak and be heard, by shouting them down and drowning them out. Mises was right about the power of ideas, so afraid are some to hear any that are different.

    I can't help but feel nauseated at the continual browbeating and verbal bullying that goes on during these discussions. I wonder if I'm doing anybody any good by leading them. I sincerely doubt anyone is getting anything out of them. The oddest thing to me is that afterward I was congratulated on a fine discussion by two people, one of the louder voices and one of the quiet ones. It just confuses me all the more. I think I'd like to continue the discussion, but at the same time I feel guilty for introducing such contention and strife into the church, despite my desire that the church be less anti-intellectual.

    Posted by Tom, 5/20/2007 2:19:52 PM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Hell, it's about time


    Posted by Tom, 5/20/2007 6:50:34 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Friday, May 18, 2007

    Organleggers charged

    Here's an interesting article about some organleggers being charged with various crimes. I've previously discussed this topic, and I find it interesting that the same company, Biomedical Tissue Services, is involved in this present case that was prominently discussed in the Reason article that got me started.

    I'm all for free enterprise, and it might be argued that the companies and individuals involved are merely homesteading unowned resources. Because the law is not primarily concerned with property rights, the most that can probably be made of the property rights construction is that the State "owns" the remains of the deceased and is thus prosecuting on those grounds, using relatives of the deceased as an emotional prop to legitimize prosecution. As will be seen below, the State has assumed the rights of ownership by abrogating those rights in others, so it owns the remains in effect, if not necessarily in title. However, the State only owns those remains by virtue of denying the property rights of the person whose body it was, and by extension their right to pass on their property to their heirs, who are the proper current owners of the remains.

    It is therefore morally correct that organlegging be prosecuted, but one must keep in mind that the proper owners of the remains are not allowed to dispose of said property as they see fit. That is, if Grandma wants or needs to sell dearly departed Grandpa's kidneys to a willing buyer, she is prevented from doing so, even though she is the proper owner of his remains. A more morally correct system would allow her to exercise her full property rights and profit from whatever Grandpa has left behind, just as she may with the house, the cars, and whatever other material possessions he has bequeathed. Such an arrangement would be especially beneficial to the poor, who often don't have anything but a body to leave their descendants.

    I'm well aware there could be a dark side to such a system, as the cyberpunk genre has pointed out, but there too the morality of property rights provides an answer. Those who killed another to gain possession of their body would obviously be in violation of the moral prohibitions against gaining property by aggressive force. I don't believe the situation would create a utopia, but it would make more organs available to more people who need them, and would eventually alleviate some of the nastiness associated with the funeral industry, as the present round of prosecutions exemplify.

    Posted by Tom, 5/18/2007 7:24:12 PM (Permalink). 4 Comments. Leave a comment...

    I'm officially old

    One of my coworkers was dressed all in black today: black jeans, black shirt, black ball cap. I told him he looked very "Rhythm Nation". He asked if that was a reference to Stomp. I had a sudden craving for some Geritol.

    Posted by Tom, 5/18/2007 6:47:00 PM (Permalink). 2 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Two hits for the FCC

    The Dems are saying that the FCC isn't reporting broadband saturation all that well, and would like them to up the definition of what constitutes "broadband" to 2Mbps (!!!). This would of course instantly redefine me into the no-broadband-having group. I'm pretty happy with my DSL service, having spent 3 long years on dialup at the old house, so I'm not really complaining. The only question I have is, how many people are actually getting 2Mbps, even in the really highly serviced areas?

    Of course, by comparison:

    Saying that the FCC "has not kept pace with the times or the technology," Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) opened a hearing today into the FCC's methods for measuring broadband availability in the US. The US lags in speed, availability, and value, said Markey, compared to a country like Japan, where most residents can pay $30 a month for 50Mbps fiber connections to the Internet...


    Of course, the Dems go on to one of their favorite boondoggles, the "public-private partnership", which to anyone paying attention usually means poor service, high taxes, stifled competition, and ridiculous layers of bureaucracy. I hope they don't get anywhere with that crap.

    In related news, a cable lobbying group is proposing that we pretty much do away with the FCC altogether:

    The head of the powerful National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) yesterday called for a dramatic overhaul of the FCC and the entire regulatory framework that governs his industry. This "dramatically different" reform is quite simple to describe: get rid of most regulations, curtail the FCC's power, and stop any government plans to support a la carte programming, must-carry rules, and network neutrality. The market will work all of that out.

    Lest anyone think this is only the thoughts of an industry hack wanting to slurp up big profits, I am a lone individual who suffers at the hands of telecom companies just like the rest of you, and I've been saying this for years. I just don't believe the FCC's core mission or approach are all that helpful these days, with all the rapid innovation going on in telecommunications.

    We need an open sandbox that anyone can jump into, and the market will determine who's got the best solution. We can get a television signal out to the remotest rural areas, but because that spectrum has been locked up, we haven't been able use it for 2-way communications. This is just stupid. It's time for a radical shift, which will hopefully start with the auctioning off of that spectrum, but I'm not hoping for too much because the auction is just a redistribution of licensing. It's probable that the new licensee will use it for 2-way comms, but it's also probable that they won't put it to the best use possible, as would eventually happen in a sandbox scenario.

    Posted by Tom, 5/18/2007 6:33:20 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    First Zimbabwe, Now Venezuala

    Just as Robert Mugabe seemed determined to destroy the relative wealth of Zimbabwe (see here, here, and here), Hugo Chavez is doing the same to Venezuala:

    URACHICHE, Venezuela -- The squatters arrive before dawn with machetes and rifles, surround the well-ordered rows of sugar cane and threaten to kill anyone who interferes. Then they light a match to the crops and declare the land their own.

    For centuries, much of Venezuela’s rich farmland has been in the hands of a small elite. After coming to power in 1998, and especially after his re-election in December, President Hugo Chavez vowed to end that inequality, and has been keeping his promise in a process that is both brutal and legal.

    This just reinforces the idea that "legal" and "moral" are not the same things. I really hate it when folks get the two mixed up.

    Mr. Chavez is carrying out what may become the largest forced land redistribution in Venezuela’s history, building utopian farming villages for squatters, lavishing money on new cooperatives and sending army commando units to supervise seized estates in six states.

    The violence has gone both ways in the struggle, with more than 160 peasants killed by hired gunmen in Venezuela, including several here in northwestern Yaracuy State, an epicenter of the land reform project, in recent years. Eight landowners have also been killed here.

    Theft, murder, destruction of property... all in a day's work for the government. Once again, I stand by my assertion that the State is not an agent of sanctification. These actions are wrong and evil no matter who's perpetrating them.

    Thanks to Grouchy Old Cripple for the heads-up.

    Posted by Tom, 5/18/2007 6:01:51 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, May 17, 2007

    The end?

    It started last year.

    It continued while we were gone on vacation to Australia this year. No sooner had we gotten that cleaned up and...

    It happened again just last week. And then again.

    Now, we're fighting back. I hope this is the last of it:

    A little fill dirt around the sides, some sod or seed, and we should be good to go. That's the plan, anyway.

    Posted by Tom, 5/17/2007 6:05:23 PM (Permalink). 4 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Worthy of Mention

    I'm not usually a big fan of Michelle Malkin and other right-wing blowhards, but she makes a good point in this video piece. It is amazing that we see all kinds of news about Paris Hilton's pending jail term and the war between Rosie and Trump, but nothing about a case that's got the potential for stirring up all sorts of trouble in the heartland.

    I saw elsewhere on the intertubes (Clayton Cramer's site?) that this has people in the area much more interested in getting their concealed carry licenses, so that's a good thing. The more people willing to protect themselves rather than rely on someone else to do it for them, the better.

    Posted by Tom, 5/17/2007 6:04:39 PM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, May 16, 2007

    Reason talks about Jerry Falwell

    I once saw a film, whose name escapes me, and which I'd really like to see again. One of the lines from the film is something like:

    "Did you ever think that radical ideas that threaten institutions in turn become institutions that are threatened by radical ideas?"

    That's basically the theme of Reason's piece on Falwell:

    To many old-time devotees of the gospel, TV itself was a suspicious export from the secular world, best kept outside the home. As far as they were concerned, the revelation would not be televised.

    Not so for Falwell, who died May 15 at age 73. He and his fellow televangelists overturned those old assumptions, and in the process radically transformed American media, American politics, and American religion. Like so many alleged reactionaries, they actually functioned as fierce modernizers, turning isolated, apolitical, denominationally diverse religious communities into a national and increasingly ecumenical political movement. Like earlier generations of conservative Christians, Falwell's audience was alienated from the modern world, especially the government and the mass media. Unlike those earlier generations, Falwell's audience dealt with this alienation by plunging headfirst into the modern world, including the government and the mass media.


    Falwell fulminated til the end against homosexuality, feminism, and the other alleged evils of modernity. But it's hard to escape the impression that his cohort not only lost the culture war, but perhaps did more than anyone else to usher Hollywood's America into Christian homes. In the early days, Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network refused to air reruns of Bewitched on the grounds that it promoted witchcraft. Today the outlet is owned by ABC, which calls it the ABC Family Channel and happily broadcasts not just The 700 Club but Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, not to mention the frequently ribald humor of Whose Line Is It Anyway? As intensely intolerant as Falwell could be, it's harder than ever to imagine America reembracing his views about gender relations or the sinfulness of homosexuality. The one cultural war he may have won, perhaps without even meaning to wage it, was the battle against Protestant hatred of the Roman Catholic Church. Despite his illiberal platform and rhetoric, Falwell's long-term legacy might be one of tolerance.

    A tad ironic, that.

    Posted by Tom, 5/16/2007 6:23:54 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    New Bruce Campbell Movie!!!

    Coming out in October!

    My Name is Bruce

    B Movie Legend Bruce Campbell is mistaken for his character Ash from the Evil Dead trilogy and forced to fight a real monster in a small town in Oregon.

    Bruce Campbell is the only B-movie guy I can watch without the MST3K filter firmly in place (though Nathan Fillion's last effort, Slither, might put him in the running if he keeps going that way). This ought to be fun.

    Oooohhhh... I just had a thought: Nathan Fillion and Bruce Campbell in the same picture.

    *brain explodes*

    Posted by Tom, 5/16/2007 5:59:33 PM (Permalink). 3 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Free Speech

    Christopher Hitchens is an interesting character, someone that many Christians (and other people of faith) will probably find objectionable. I haven't done a lot of checking into the totality of his belief system other than to note that he's apparently an avowed atheist and not a big fan of the late Jerry Falwell.

    All that said, here is a speech he gave on the topic of free speech, which I found particularly fascinating and a wonderful defense of same. I especially liked the fact that he opens with a broadside at one of the traditional platitudes of those who would defend censorship on principle, be it in the form of basic conservative paternalistic anti-porn hysteria or the current liberal strategy of "hate speech" codes.

    My favorite line is on the topic of needing the agreement of others to validate one's opinion:

    I don't need a seconder. My own opinion is enough for me, and I claim the right to have it defended against any consensus, any majority, anywhere, anyplace, any time. And anyone who disagrees with this can pick a number, get in line, and kiss my ass.

    Or, as Rand put it:

    The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.

    Posted by Tom, 5/16/2007 5:55:52 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, May 15, 2007

    First night...

    ...of the new workout. It felt a little light because I don't know where to start with squats, so I started kinda low. Luckily, I'm expected to keep up a pace of increasing about 15 - 20 pounds every workout on squats, so I think it'll take off pretty quick. Also, I definitely need a proper squat rack. Our little "make-do" thing is not just uncomfortable, but dangerous. That's what I get for buying a $50 bench in a hurry to get started on weight training.

    On the plus side, I've scoped out a wicked bench/squat combo for not much money at Academy Sports. It has the bonus of having bar locks to make changing weights a little safer and more convenient. It'll have to wait until payday, so until then we're doing squats with dumbbells. Not easy, but better than nothing at all. Now all I gotta do is figure out what to do with the other bench when the time comes... it'll probably go to Freecycle; it's not really worth enough to take the time to sell it.

    Also on the plus side, we had a rocky start, but the spouse-unit and I both wound up enjoying working out together. At least I did. I hope we can build on that and keep it going, since the World of Warcraft playing seems to be on the wane.

    Posted by Tom, 5/15/2007 9:20:59 PM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Jerry Falwell: Dead

    Right now, he's finding out if God really is a Republican.

    Posted by Tom, 5/15/2007 6:02:10 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Monday, May 14, 2007

    Quote of the Day

    Some guy in Madison, Wisconsin survives having his head run over by a delivery truck (thanks to his bicycle helmet). He had this to say:

    "It feels really strange to have a truck run over your head."

    Ya think?

    I'm not a fan of bicycle helmets, but then I do all my riding on country roads where there's lots of visibility, relative flatness, and very few cars. If I spent a lot of time riding in town, I think this story would convince me to wear one.

    Posted by Tom, 5/14/2007 6:45:20 PM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Hard to take seriously

    I realize the anti-gunners are earnest in their belief that a gun-free society is possible and preferable. However, when they say stupid crap like this...

    It's bad enough that the civilized world is condemning America's pathetic gun culture in the wake of the massacre of students and professors at Virginia Tech by a crazed gunman who was able to buy a Glock 19 machine pistol...

    ... it really begs the question of whether they've lost touch with reality. A Glock 19 is not a machine pistol. It is a semi-automatic handgun like any other normal semi-automatic handgun. The Glock 18 is a machine pistol, but it's not often seen outside of movies like that latest Matrix installment. That's because, being a fully-automatic firearm, the only ones available to civilians are ones that have been registered with BATFE prior to 1986, when new registrations were locked out.

    Posted by Tom, 5/14/2007 6:39:37 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Death Star Conspiracy Theory

    Saw this one on one of the message boards I frequent. Classic.

    Posted by Tom, 5/14/2007 5:59:48 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Friday, May 11, 2007


    After having trouble with my most recent weightlifting upgrade, I decided to go back into my little book and re-read a few things that got lost along the way. As a result, I'm changing up my program from a mix of power & endurance to a pure power model. This means going from a relatively slow-progressing 12/9/6 work sets to a faster-progressing 5/5/5 model, with heavier weights. Instead of having that long 12-rep set to begin with, I'll be doing more warmup sets at lower weights before getting into the work sets.

    Based on the advice of the book, I'm going to go with 75% of my maximum as a work load, and warm up on a set of 30%, a set of 40%, and a set of 50%, all at 5 reps. They don't have specific recommendations for warmups, instead saying that it will vary with the individual and the exercise. I'm also eliminating a few exercises and moving the isolation exercises to the end of the workout. We'll see where that gets me.

    Posted by Tom, 5/11/2007 7:50:53 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...


    I have previously explored various aspects of how children acquire rights, the nature of their relationship to their parents, and so forth. I've also noted that there seems to be a void of scholarship in this area among libertarians. Recently, the Mises Institute published an article (an excerpt from Murray Rothbard's Ethics of Liberty) that specifically focuses on issues of children, and I believe gives the most detailed exploration of the topic to date.

    Some of it comes across as rather bleak and disturbing, but it must be noted that there are no really easy answers. The standard we use these days, that of an arbitrary age being an instant "switch" from childhood to adulthood, is so arbitrary as to be meaningless. I do like the fact that Rothbard echoes Michael Z. Williamson's position on the "moment of adulthood" (or perhapse vice versa), though not so much with an official declaration as with a deliberate action:

    The clue to the solution of this thorny question lies in the parental property rights in their home. For the child has his full rights of self-ownership when he demonstrates that he has them in nature — in short, when he leaves or "runs away" from home. Regardless of his age, we must grant to every child the absolute right to run away and to find new foster parents who will voluntarily adopt him, or to try to exist on his own. Parents may try to persuade the runaway child to return, but it is totally impermissible enslavement and an aggression upon his right of self-ownership for them to use force to compel him to return.

    This is basically what happened in my case. My parents had to start dealing with me "as an adult" the day I decided I was no longer willing to live under their rules, packed all my stuff, and moved out. It was simultaneously the scariest and most exhilerating thing I had ever done up to that point, and I've never regretted it.

    The article also discusses abortion, and pretty much comes to the same conclusions I have, at least with regard to the interplay of rights. That does not mean that Rothbard nor I necessarily approve of the act, and I think Rothbard could have said something more about removing a fetus without necessarily killing it. He makes too much out of the idea of the fetus as an "unwanted invader" and justifies killing it on a more-or-less self-defense basis, which I think stretches the point a bit too thin. In my mind, removal without killing would be a more morally acceptable outcome, and more in line with "aborting the pregnancy" than "terminating the fetus". Whether or not the technology currently exists to keep the fetus alive outside the womb is a different question altogether.

    Without meaning to, Rothbard also distinguishes between children and animals with regard a parent/owner's responsibilities, in that children are potential owners while animals are not. Since I've also previously explored that topic, I thought it worth mentioning.

    Where Rothbard's arguments really shine, however, is in his indictment of how government currently treats children, as with the adoption issue:

    Now if a parent may own his child (within the framework of non-aggression and runaway freedom), then he may also transfer that ownership to someone else. He may give the child out for adoption, or he may sell the rights to the child in a voluntary contract. In short, we must face the fact that the purely free society will have a flourishing free market in children. Superficially, this sounds monstrous and inhuman. But closer thought will reveal the superior humanism of such a market. For we must realize that there is a market for children now, but that since the government prohibits sale of children at a price, the parents may now only give their children away to a licensed adoption agency free of charge. This means that we now indeed have a child-market, but that the government enforces a maximum price control of zero, and restricts the market to a few privileged and therefore monopolistic agencies. The result has been a typical market where the price of the commodity is held by government far below the free-market price: an enormous "shortage" of the good. The demand for babies and children is usually far greater than the supply, and hence we see daily tragedies of adults denied the joys of adopting children by prying and tyrannical adoption agencies. In fact, we find a large unsatisfied demand by adults and couples for children, along with a large number of surplus and unwanted babies neglected or maltreated by their parents. Allowing a free market in children would eliminate this imbalance, and would allow for an allocation of babies and children away from parents who dislike or do not care for their children, and toward foster parents who deeply desire such children. Everyone involved: the natural parents, the children, and the foster parents purchasing the children, would be better off in this sort of society.

    Today's adoption industry is a cruel joke, with the buying and selling of children being everything in substance but not in name. As some friends of ours (who went over their experiences with the adoption process with us) sardonically put it, "if you're not allowed to buy a child, why does it cost twenty thousand dollars?"

    The rest of the article goes into the various abuses and presumptions of the government's so-called "child protective services", and discusses the egregious violations of the rights of children and parents perpetrated by same. These are well-documented elsewhere, especially at places like Reason, but Rothbard identifies the crucial errors with regard to individual rights that give rise to this sort of behavior.

    All in all, if the issues of how children and libertarianism go together interest you, this is a fascinating read. It may be disquieting in places, but it should be remembered that what we currently have is no bowl of peaches either.

    Posted by Tom, 5/11/2007 7:32:00 PM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    An unfortunate blog entry

    This entry is unfortunate not because it says anything wrong, but because, as one commenter puts it, the general public nowadays is not conversant with the nuances of the English language:

    I can guarantee that knowing I carry concealed in my home state of Virginia will not make my neighbors safer in any way. What it will do is make my home a target for potential burglars, who will assume it's a safe bet I have guns to steal. What it would do, if I were trying to avoid and protect myself against an abusive ex-spouse or significant other, is give him access to my whereabouts. And frankly, it will give robbers a list of homes to avoid when trying to choose their next prey.

    At first blush, the post seems contradictory -- bad guys will be both attracted to and repelled from her house. This is where the sloppiness of Joe Average's reading comprehension skills come into play. In fact, the post makes perfect sense: a "burglar" is someone who breaks into and steals from an empty building, avoiding contact with anyone. A "robber" is someone who steals from another person in a confrontational manner.

    It appears that the author has since changed "robbers" to "criminals", more's the pity. I don't think we do anyone any favors by attempting to talk or write "down to their level". (In this case, I think it's actually confused the issue even more, since "burglar" and "robber" are distinct from one another, but "burglar" is a subset of "criminal".) The only way to get people to stop being so intellectually lazy is to demand more from them.

    Posted by Tom, 5/11/2007 6:35:36 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, May 8, 2007

    Ignore previous post

    It's worse. All the gravel still in the drive in the previous photo is now on the cement pad, in the yard, or pushed up against the truck. The garage flooded, and ruined a bunch of stuff. The water was at least a couple inches deep in the garage with the door shut. It came a little ways into the house, but was stopped by a throw rug.

    I shoveled the gravel into a banana-shaped, elongated mound in an attempt to make future runoff go into the yard instead of straight at the garage door. We've got at least a week before any concrete guys can get to work on the drive.

    More storms are on the way as I write this. I can already hear the thunder...

    Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
    though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
    though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,

    yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

    -- Habakkuk 3:17-18

    Sometimes it's easier to say than to do.

    Posted by Tom, 5/8/2007 7:03:14 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Monday, May 7, 2007

    SO tired of this crap

    Not 2 weeks after I got done shoveling the gravel back into place, this is what I woke up to this morning:

    When it rains, it pours. Right down my freakin' driveway.

    Estimates are coming in. One guy in particular stands out as a great man to work with. He showed up within an hour of being called. He's enthusiastic, has done everything from some lady's front porch to a bank parking lot, and started talking about the drainage issues before I could prompt him. He's also offering references, and can get after it within a couple of days. He's not the cheapest (nor the most expensive), but his people skills are impressive. At the moment, he's our man, as far as I'm concerned. We have one more coming, but they'll have to really wow me to get the job over him.

    This is going to hurt our debt reduction temporarily, but this crap has got to stop. I can't spend all my time shoveling gravel.

    Posted by Tom, 5/7/2007 6:08:10 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    A dog's life

    ...must be so hard...

    Posted by Tom, 5/7/2007 6:05:56 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Sunday, May 6, 2007


    I saw one of these on a TV show over the weekend, being worn by (of all things) an interior designer guy who's absolutely monstrous.

    I'm thinking it'd be really nice to be able to wear one unironically. Of course, if that ever happens, I'll have to get one of these for my O-Dawg:

    Posted by Tom, 5/6/2007 9:38:42 PM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Friday, May 4, 2007

    Pumpin' Iron

    So I've been after it for a few months now. Thanks to my handy handbook, Practical Programming for Strength Training, I've got a program strategy that advises me on technique and timing and whatnot. I also have an uncle who's been doing this for decades, and he has a lot of helpful tips.

    PPST begins with a lengthy description of the body's physiological and biochemical response to "stress" (the effort of lifting weights), including "fast twitch" and "slow twitch" muscle tissues, where the energy comes from, and so forth. I'll have to read that section several times before I understand it all. The authors also get into describing the differences between bodybuilding, strength training, powerlifting, and endurance training. They're clearly focused on the idea of lifting weights as a training regimen for other sports (football comes up a lot, as do the power-oriented track events like shot put) rather than as an end unto itself. They pretty much dismiss bodybuilding as an afterthought and strongly advocate powerlifting as the primary foundation of one's iron-pumping career.

    Powerlifting, as they define it, is a lot like strength training, with heavy weights and low repetitions. The main difference seems to be that in strength training, the movement is slow and steady all around, while in powerlifting it is fast and violent on the "effort" phase but slow on the "relax" phase. Powerlifting also uses groups of muscles rather than isolating particular muscles. Thus, the bench press is preferred to the butterfly for pecs, because it also works the arms in conjunction with the chest.

    Progress is measured in "adaptations", meaning that point at which the weightlifter can add more weight because he is now stronger. A "novice" is a person going from couch potato to "intermediate", and is expected to make adaptations fairly rapidly, as in once a week. When they reach a point where adaptations are no longer happening at that rate, especially if they go a month or more without an adaptation, they have approached within some generous margin of their genetic potential and are now an intermediate.

    My own program, since I'm not really training for a sport and am somewhat limited in my equipment, is a mix of powerlifting and strength training. I mostly do powerlifting-style exercises of large muscle groups (bench press, military press -- which I loathe, lunge, and a sort of shoulder shrug deal that I don't know the name of). I also do a heavy set of bicep curls with attendant tricep extensions because I want bigger biceps (what guy doesn't?).

    Nutritionally, I'm sticking to a largely vegetarian, 1500ish calorie diet, eating several snacks throughout the day and trying to avoid large meals. Before a workout, I make sure to have some carbs and fat for energy, and afterward I immediately make myself a protein shake (1 cup chocolate soy milk, 1 frozen banana, 1 scoop chocolate whey protein). I generally despise chocolate, but after a workout these things hit the spot.

    I am presently amazed by my ability to generate adaptation. As predicted by the book, I am upping my weights about once a week. I wait until I can do a full workout (1 set of 12, 1 of 9, 1 of 6) before increasing the weight on the next go-round. My trip to Australia set me back a bit, and I had to do a couple of light workouts to make sure I didn't rip something, but now I'm back in the game and increasing weight again. I feel great, the spare tire is coming off, and the biceps are gettin' lumpy. PPST says this phase will last about 6 months on average, which thrills me, because if true I'll reach one of my goals (bench pressing my body weight) before I have to get really technical in the intermediate step.

    The only thing missing is a pulling-down kind of exercise, like a chinup bar. Our house really isn't laid out well for something like that (unlike our last house, more's the pity), but I have a couple of ideas for how to make it work. I plan to do some shopping here and there and maybe I'll be able to get something going. I'm also going to need some more weight plates, because I'm already running out. It's a good problem to have.

    Posted by Tom, 5/4/2007 6:20:47 PM (Permalink). 4 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Getting a little revved

    Apple's World Wide Developer's Conference is just around the corner! We get to talk directly to the guys who write Apple's own software, compare notes with fellow developers, visit Apple HQ in Cupertino, experience the Reality Distortion Field firsthand, and tool around San Francisco for a week (just long enough to hit the highlights, not long enough to make you want to slit your wrists). I always leave feeling excited to be a programmer -- as though technology can make our lives better, and I have a role to play in it. That gets beaten out of me from time to time in the daily grind, and it's nice to have a place to get refreshed. If I ever wind up in another job, I'll have to start saving money every year to go.

    Posted by Tom, 5/4/2007 6:12:58 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Quote of the Day

    "If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you; that is the principal difference between a dog and a man."
    -- Mark Twain

    Posted by Tom, 5/4/2007 6:55:07 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Wait, what?

    Giuliani and Romney both want national ID?

    Stomach... turning...

    Posted by Tom, 5/4/2007 4:28:11 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Sex exists. Deal.

    This review, of a book titled The Bunny Book: How To Walk, Talk, Tease, and Please Like a Playboy Bunny, just irritated me. It starts off innocently enough, getting some opinions from various people, but the tone shifts wildly as the author goes from describing her female interviewees to describing the men:

    "It's cheeseball," one lovely young woman said when I showed her the book. She flipped through the chapters on everything from nail care to "nookie," smirking at the line drawings of busty babes in high heels and halter tops. "It's not a New York sensuality," she declared.

    Her friend, also cute and talented, agreed: "I don't feel this applies to New York."


    And New York men?

    They're torn.

    Or, in the words of one man I spoke to: "self-flagellating." He knows he should appreciate all the beautiful, brilliant women around him. "But Bunnies can still cook," he said, miserable at his own failure to evolve into an enlightened male.

    Women are "lovely", "cute", and "talented". Men are miserable at their failure to evolve. What a giant load of crap. The condescending tone continues throughout, acting as though women have higher callings than mere sex, while men are barely able to grunt out intelligible conversation. Emasculated men who buy into this nonsense and deny their own nature are used as further ammunition against their own gender, as with the discussion on the "accidental boob graze".

    ...It's a manipulative move that appeals to a man's basest instincts.

    On the other hand, when I asked one of the young men who sits near me (but not near enough to brush against) if this approach might work on him, he said only, "Men aren't hard to figure out."

    In other words?

    He wouldn't elaborate.

    I will. Any healthy male of reproductive age and heterosexual bent is constantly aware of the apparent fertility level of any female around him, an awareness that grows more acute with physical proximity. It's information that gets filed without any effort whatsoever. To be sure, in many cases it's enhanced by deliberate effort, but even the most upstanding gentleman knows it's there. I recently heard that in a church near me, when possible there's always another man in the building when the pastor is there with a woman of the congregation, to avoid the appearance of impropriety. What's that all about? It's about sex, obviously. One cannot act to protect and preserve virtue without being aware at some level of what it actually represents.

    Overt signals like the "accidental boob graze" and less obvious ones that fall into the category of "body language" all enhance this awareness. In the case of the graze, whether intentional or unintentional, any time it's ever happened to me I felt like I was electrocuted. The hair on the back of my neck stands up, a chill runs down my back, and it suddenly becomes very hard to concentrate on anything else. I was packed into an elevator once with a woman standing directly behind me, and as more people pushed into the car, I took a small shuffle-step back and felt a pair of contacts just below my shoulder blades. I couldn't push forward, having a face full of the back of the guy in front of me, so I murmured an apology over my shoulder and instantly broke into a cold sweat. It was the longest elevator ride of my life.

    This had nothing to do with my own pervishness; it was all involuntary physiological reaction. It also does not mean that, as the cliched saying goes, "men are pigs". It simply means that a part of our brain is dedicated to procreative endeavors, a fact to which the human race owes its continued existence. Without that sex drive, men would just get a dog to be their friend. They're simpler and less demanding, not to mention easier to train. (Don't give me that look. Women were already thinking along those lines.)

    The point is, I'm getting tired of this modern feminist prudishness that wants to pretend sex and sexual attractiveness isn't a factor. Of course it's a factor. Men are just a little more honest about it -- some crudely so, but most if not all at least generally so. This Bunny Book, cheeseball though it may be (and probably is), sounds like it simply acknowledges what most men will readily acknowledge anyway, even if they've been culturally browbeaten into feeling ashamed of it. It's not difficult for any basically attractive female to get the attention of any basically healthy male, especially if she's willing to broadcast on the channel to which most men are at least subconsciously attuned every moment of the day. There's nothing shameful in that fact, it just is. Get over it.

    Posted by Tom, 5/4/2007 2:31:23 AM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, May 3, 2007

    Clearing the air...

    New York mayor Mike Bloomberg has been running his mouth about ATF gun trace data. He's miffed that he can't play with the data himself, doing general scans and such for the purpose of finding gun dealers to go and sue. So he's been casting it as a law enforcement crisis:

    "Our efforts have nothing to do with the Second Amendment or the rights of lawful gun owners," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a press release on Wednesday.

    "This is about enforcing the law and keeping guns out of the hands of criminals. We can only do that if we have the best tools to combat illegal gun trafficking, and the most important of those is the gun trace data that the Tiahrt Amendment restricts."

    Newark Mayor Cory Booker argued that the Tiahrt Amendment insulates illegal gun retailers.

    "We are facing a crisis of illegal guns in our communities where more than 30,000 Americans lose their lives to gun violence every year," Booker said. "We have an obligation to stem the flow of illegal weapons to our cities, and that starts with the ability of law enforcement to trace these illegal weapons to their source.

    It's interesting then, that the head of the ATF weighed in on this very issue and set the record straight:

    Firearms trace data is critically important information developed by ATF to assist state and local law enforcement. This data tracks the transfer of a gun from the manufacturer to its first buyer, and can assist law enforcement in pinpointing the individual who used it to commit a crime.


    Let me be clear: Neither the congressional language nor ATF rules prohibit the sharing of trace data with law enforcement conducting criminal investigations, or place any restrictions on the sharing of trace data with other jurisdictions once it is in the hands of state or local law enforcement. In fact, multi-jurisdictional trace data is also utilized by ATF and shared with fellow law enforcement agencies to identify gun trafficking trends and leads. Additionally, nothing prohibits ATF from releasing our own reports that analyze trace-data trends that could be used by law enforcement.

    In other words, if you have a specific crime being investigated, you get the data you need. If you're just trying to paw through the records so you can harass folks, you don't. If you're law enforcement, you get the data. If you're a politician with an axe to grind, you don't. See how this works? Legitimate... illegitimate. It's not that hard.

    I am still not a fan of the ATF, but I have to tip my hat to Mr. Sullivan because I am a fan of cutting through the bullplop.

    Posted by Tom, 5/3/2007 6:09:25 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...


    A pair of vegans were convicted of murdering their son in Atlanta:

    A Superior Court jury in Atlanta convicted a vegan couple of murder and cruelty to children Wednesday in the death of their six-week old, who was fed a diet largely consisting of soy milk and apple juice.

    The article doesn't say why they weren't breastfeeding. I hope it's not because they thought human milk also counted as a forbidden animal product.

    I would like to say that most of the vegans I know seem rather more clueful about nutrition than these two nitwits. It may be, however, that the vegan community needs to be more intentional about spreading the nutrition message concurrent with their "compassionate living" message, especially where there are children involved. An omnivorous diet tends to provide the essentials "by accident". A vegan diet requires a bit more attention to detail.

    Posted by Tom, 5/3/2007 6:08:19 PM (Permalink). 2 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, May 2, 2007

    Kansas legislature does the right thing

    As I previously hoped, they've overturned the governor's veto on their recent statewide pre-emption bill.

    Following in the footsteps of the Kansas House of Representatives, the Senate overrode Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ veto of House Bill 2528 on Friday with a vote of 30-10. The bill is designed to provide consistency in the way concealed carry laws are applied by deleting the authority of cities and counties to regulate firearms licenses by zoning measures. HB 2528 repeals the ability of public entities from restricting or prohibiting concealed weapons on public premises, something that was in discussion for Leavenworth.

    What's really interesting are the comments made by various personalities:

    "There is always difficulty and dialogue among senators, lobbyists and constituents on an issue like this," [State Senator Mark] Gilstrap said. "I had already made up my mind and followed what my constituents always told me to do."

    Compare that to this:

    "Legislators have also chosen to ignore the strong pleas from the law enforcement community, who urged me to veto this bill," [Gov. Kathleen] Sebelius said.

    In other words, ignore the voting rabble, the human detritus that's supposedly in charge in a democratic system. Instead, obey the wishes of the overlords and their enforcers. They know what's best.

    Maybe she needs someone to edit her statements for her.

    "I continue to support [pay lip-service to] the Second Amendment rights of Kansas citizens, but also respect the advice of [prefer to take orders from] our law enforcement community and [substitute] the authority of local elected officials [for the authority of the citizens of Kansas]."

    Some might argue that the local elected officials are also proxying the authority of the citizenry, but in my experience that's not the case. I've never seen a local race that was predicated on gun control. I'm sure they exist, but every race I've ever seen has had the candidates talking about local issues, like when the potholes are going to get fixed on Dead Skunk Road, or how the operating hours of Joe Bob's Garage and Delicatessen are creating a noise nuisance. I don't think that when people elect a ward representative, they're typically concerned with that person's stance on guns. I think people instinctively understand that gun control is a topic for higher levels of government, especially in this day and age where the average person's mobility makes it likely they'll be traveling through several jurisdictions on a daily basis.

    Later the article notes that the governor has vetoed 61 bills in her career. The only 2 that have ever been overturned were the original concealed carry bill and this one. That should say something.

    Posted by Tom, 5/2/2007 2:06:22 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, May 1, 2007

    Yet another useless gun-free zone

    Dr. Lott confirms that the Kansas City mall was in fact a gun-free zone.

    I have had it confirmed for me that the Kansas City Mall Shooting at the Ward Parkway Center that occurred yesterday was in Gun Free Zone. Security at the mall confirms that guns are banned there.

    Gee, whodathunkit?

    Posted by Tom, 5/1/2007 6:56:39 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...


    This article gives Microsoft a good slamming:

    In recent times, Microsoft has not been able to replicate its early successes on the desktop, where it was able to marginalize its rivals and corner both the desktop operating system and office productivity markets. However, as the software company's two juggernaut desktop software businesses stagnate, efforts to break into and dominate new markets such as technology lifestyle and web services have been largely uninspiring.

    Microsoft's most recent effort, the Zune "iPod killer", has so far been a complete flop. In the web search space, Google is more dominant than ever, while Microsoft continues to languish well behind Yahoo in third place. Even in the games console space, where Microsoft last year stole the march on Sony with Xbox 360, the software company is still struggling to reach break-even point and is in no way the dominant player.

    Silverlight, a name that positively resonates with a "me too" ring, is Microsoft's attempt to curb the dominance of Adobe's Flash in the web space. Microsoft had spent years successfully marginalizing competitors such as Real in the desktop media player market only to watch in dismay as one of the most popular web sites in the world, YouTube, implemented its entire massive library of video content using Flash.

    On the one hand, that's what happens when you don't innovate. On the other hand, providing "almost as good" for the masses is a strategy that's made Microsoft the juggernaut it is today. It's not a technology company so much as a software version of Wal-Mart. The problem is that once people's tastes become refined enough to see the difference between buying quality and buying mass-marketed schlock, as with my recent shoe experience, they tend to be willing to spend the extra bucks for the good stuff.

    Posted by Tom, 5/1/2007 6:38:27 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    A sad story

    Everest climber returns to mountain to bury woman he was forced to abandon 9 years ago

    It's sad to begin with, made even sadder by the nitwits:

    [Ian Woodall] and Cathy O'Dowd tried for more than an hour to keep Fran [Arsentiev] conscious and see if they could move her before deciding it was hopeless. When she slipped into silence they abandoned their climb and descended towards Base Camp, knowing, in reality, that they could not raise help in time to save her. Mr Woodall, a South African with an Army background and a string of climbing achievements behind him, faced a wave of criticism afterwards for effectively leaving Fran to die.

    Mr. Woodall has an appropriate comment not just to the situation, but to society at large:

    "...Unfortunately, in the risk aversion society we live in today, you're not allowed to have accidents. There's always got to be someone to blame."

    Whether it's in the safest neighborhood or the harshest environments known to man, bad things can happen. As Victor Koman pointed out, being afraid of risk is part of why we're stalled in our efforts to colonize Space. We can't always have a scapegoat.

    At the top of Everest, the air is so thin that only the hardiest can drag their own bodies along. Carrying another person is all but impossible. It's likely that attempting to do so would have killed three people instead of just one. But those who make a life of never daring in the first place will always be around to criticize and second-guess with the benefit hindsight.

    Ian Woodall is no saint. Accounts of expedition partners, particularly of his 1996 ascent, paint him as a jerk or worse. However, I think this act is a testament to his humanity, and he should be applauded for it.

    Posted by Tom, 5/1/2007 6:10:29 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Now Texas wants it too...

    At least, Governor Rick Perry does.

    Gov. Rick Perry, mulling ways to stop the kind of murderous rampages that recently left 33 dead on a college campus in Virginia, said Monday there’s one sure-fire solution he likes: allow Texans to take their concealed handguns anywhere.


    Perry said he opposes any concealed gun-toting restrictions at all — whether it’s in a hospital, a public school, a beer joint or even the local courthouse.

    It's odd to see a chief executive being so bold when it comes to issues like this. Here's hoping for both Texas to join Utah and usher in a new age of concealed carry enlightenment. Non-scientific, totally ad-hoc sampling of the intertubes seems to indicate a cultural willingness to at least entertain the idea, as seen here and here.

    Posted by Tom, 5/1/2007 5:57:56 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...