Surly Curmudgeon

   The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.
-- Robert A. Heinlein
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    Friday, September 29, 2006


    Why I hate environmental politics

    Check out these two articles from the same freakin' newspaper (the Australian):

    September 26: Koalas face extinction, organisation warns

    September 27: Koalas sterilised to avoid cull [due to overpopulation]

    I'm basically speechless here. Apparently the critically endangered critters rebounded overnight. Literally.

    Posted by Tom, 9/29/2006 6:29:27 PM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, September 27, 2006


    A little more on Jeff Cooper

    Ohioans For Concealed Carry has a nice little memoriam for Colonel Cooper on their web page.

    And this looks to be an official obituary for the dearly departed. It discusses his life in a little more detail, some of his accomplishments, and mentions the books he's written. I own The Art of the Rifle, and it is packed with good information. Anyone interested in shooting rifles should have a copy.

    Posted by Tom, 9/27/2006 6:39:26 AM (Permalink). 3 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, September 26, 2006


    Look ladies...

    ... you either want equality or you don't. None of this crap about having it both ways. As in this story about the Manitoba High School's recent decision to allow girls to try out for the boys' hockey team:

    Morris Glimcher, executive director of the Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association, said Tuesday that several requests from boys wanting to play on girls' teams started coming shortly after the ruling was handed down on Friday.

    "We've had five requests already from boys saying: 'In the past, we haven't been eligible. But my school doesn't have a boys' team and we have a girls' team and we'd like to play,' " Glimcher said Tuesday.

    "Now that the rule has come down, I guess what they're saying [is] if it's gender equity, then let's make it gender equity. And that's the general theme of the calls that I've been getting."


    So far, so good, right? Read on:

    "If we get four guys or five guys going out for the [girls'] basketball team, there's four or five females that won't make the team — and I dare say a bunch of other ones aren't going to compete — and we could end up with some female teams being made up of mostly men.

    "We worked very, very hard to promote and build up female participation in sports," Glimcher added.

    "Everything that our organization has done … is based gender-equal. And if we all of a sudden get an influx of males participating, it could affect female participation and that would be a travesty."


    Back the hell up, jerky. Either the teams are gender-neutral, or they're not. Either women compete on equal footing with men, or they don't. This crap about letting them compete against men in one arena but reserving a "girls-only" alternative is BS. It's stuff like this that makes feminism look like nothing more than a really bad joke.

    My opinion: re-segregate the teams. Otherwise you're going to wind up with one of two results. Either you'll have to face the fact that women can't compete equally with men where physical strength and endurance are involved -- which we know won't happen, leaving option 2 -- sports will go into the crapper as "affirmative action"-style policies start making politics more important than ability. Neither of which is a good result from any sane person's point of view.

    Posted by Tom, 9/26/2006 6:06:34 PM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Flags at half-mast, folks

    Col Jeff Cooper, USMC (Ret.), the father of modern pistolcraft, my favorite Guns & Ammo columnist, has died. It had been my dream to take a rifle course at Gunsite from him, but apparently I was too slow in saving up the money.

    Go rest high on that mountain
    son your work on Earth is done
    go to Heaven a-shoutin'
    love for the Father and the Son

    -- Vince Gill


    Rest in Peace, sir.

    Posted by Tom, 9/26/2006 6:52:56 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Other programmers

    I spent the weekend downloading and trying out various programs for a specific task that I'd like to accomplish. The more I downloaded and tested, the more despondent I became. I am almost completely convinced that nobody should ever write a program in an interpreted language. If you can't figure out how to bring your vision to life without using Java, Python, or some other almost-language for the programmer-lite crowd, perhaps you should find a new line of work. (The one possible exception I have found to my anti-Java rule is DbVisualizer, but even it is not as good as it could be.)

    It was downright depressing to see all these clunky interfaces, slow-moving graphics, and dialog boxes that felt like they were mired in molasses. The machines I use are both perfectly capable of running World of WarCraft at highest resolution (for the video card) while getting 30 fps or better. Therefore there is no reason whatsoever that my clicking on a dialog box control should take anything like a noticeable amount of time before the control visually reacts, to say nothing of a second or two as some of them did. Either you suck as a programmer or your tools suck. If it's the first one, find a new hobby. If it's the second, get better tools. Learn a compiled language. Run some stinkin' performance tests every once in a while.

    And for God's sake, do some reading on interface design. Drag and drop is a pain to program, but it's totally worth it, especially when your audience is expecting it because everything else on their computer works that way. If I want to move a chess piece on a game board, I should not have to type in the standard chess nomenclature, or even click the piece and then click the spot I want to move it to. I should be able to grab the piece with my mouse and have its movement options displayed on the board, while the program limits the places I can put it to those places which are legal moves. Is it more work for you? Hell yes! But at least then your program won't SUCK!

    The first purpose of a computer program is to make some task easier, faster, more efficient, or somehow "better". The second purpose is to make performing that task as hassle-free for the user as possible. It's hard to say whether the programmers whose electronic creations have been giving me such fits have succeeded in the first purpose, because the second purpose appears to be completely ignored. With so many bad programmers/programs out there, is it any wonder that the average user hates his computer with a passion?

    Posted by Tom, 9/26/2006 6:02:17 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Monday, September 25, 2006


    My favorite part

    Every year about this time, I get a strange urge to go see the Rocky Horror Picture Show. It's like my one nod to Halloween. Of course, this is Oklahoma, and I doubt anyone's even playing it. But now, thanks to YouTube, I can see my absolute favorite part anytime I want: the opening credits. I think I'm in love with Lips.

    Posted by Tom, 9/25/2006 5:49:00 PM (Permalink). 4 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Travesty, somewhat mitigated

    I previously made reference to a story in the print edition of Reason, which has now made it to their website. It's the story of a grossly obvious miscarriage of justice, and the web update has a small ray of hope in it:

    Editor's note: Since the publication of this article, a judge of the Pearl River County Circuit Court has ruled that Cory Maye received incompetent legal representation during his sentencing phase, and has ordered a new sentencing hearing. As of September 21, 2006, Cory Maye has been removed from death row.

    If you care at all about justice, you owe it to yourself to read this story and ask yourself if government courts actually have anything to do with the dispensing of justice.

    Posted by Tom, 9/25/2006 6:20:22 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Market vs. Government, yet again

    The Mises Institute has posted a great article about the "robber baron" era of American history, often cited by opponents of the market as an example of why capitalism is bad and government can be good by controlling its ill effects. The article (an excerpt from How Capitalism Saved America) makes an important distinction right from the outset:

    As common as it is to speak of "robber barons," most who use that term are confused about the role of capitalism in the American economy and fail to make an important distinction — the distinction between what might be called a market entrepreneur and a political entrepreneur. A pure market entrepreneur, or capitalist, succeeds financially by selling a newer, better, or less expensive product on the free market without any government subsidies, direct or indirect. The key to his success as a capitalist is his ability to please the consumer, for in a capitalist society the consumer ultimately calls the economic shots. By contrast, a political entrepreneur succeeds primarily by influencing government to subsidize his business or industry, or to enact legislation or regulation that harms his competitors.

    ...

    In some cases, of course, the entrepreneurs commonly labeled "robber barons" did indeed profit by exploiting American customers, but these were not market entrepreneurs. For example, Leland Stanford, a former governor and US senator from California, used his political connections to have the state pass laws prohibiting competition for his Central Pacific railroad,[1] and he and his business partners profited from this monopoly scheme. Unfortunately, the resentment that this naturally generated among the public was unfairly directed at other entrepreneurs who succeeded in the railroad industry without political interference that tilted the playing field in their direction. Thanks to historians who fail to (or refuse to) make this crucial distinction, many Americans [and non-Americans -- Tom] have an inaccurate view of American capitalism.


    The fact that I seem to be unable to get others to understand this distinction (and others like it) largely explains why I've essentially given up discussing economics anywhere except here at this site. I spend so much time trying to get others to understand some basic concepts and definitions that my point is lost in the crossfire. I'm tired of having conversations where the parties spend all their time talking past one another, and as a result am having fewer conversations. Apparently, the price of sanity is loneliness.

    Posted by Tom, 9/25/2006 6:18:55 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Friday, September 22, 2006


    I resemble that

    Weird Al's "White and Nerdy" video. Great stuff.

    Posted by Tom, 9/22/2006 6:29:11 AM (Permalink). 3 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, September 21, 2006


    This is cool

    I'm always encouraged when the fruits of capitalism and technological progress are applied to the helping of people, as with the previous post about new wheelchair alternatives. Today, Engadget highlights a new monitor specifically designed to be easier for colorblind folks to use, apparently without the need to modify any software on the attached computer. Spiffy!

    Posted by Tom, 9/21/2006 6:52:01 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, September 20, 2006


    *sigh*

    California sues auto manufacturers for causing global warming

    I'm almost speechless. I note that ironically, they have said nothing about the government's perpetual overproduction of roads, which removes disincentives to purchase and use vehicles. Presumably the government is just going to get a free pass on that one.

    Posted by Tom, 9/20/2006 5:44:35 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Canada might be waking up?

    I'm not holding my breath, but Canada's Prime Minister seems to be looking to end the national gun registry. That would be some good news indeed.

    Posted by Tom, 9/20/2006 6:28:03 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, September 19, 2006


    Disgusting

    Check out this bit of tripe from the local college newspaper:

    Ben Franklin once said, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

    As noble as that sounds, I think Mr. Franklin got it wrong. The man did a lot of great things, but, he didn’t have to deal with terrorism or the threat of terrorism as we know it — he just had to deal with some pesky redcoats.


    Our naive little columnist apparently doesn't recognize that we're actually threatened by two forms of terrorist: the suicide-bombing Muslim kind, and our own government. In the latest print issue of Reason, there is a great article about a man in Mississippi who's on death row for shooting a cop. Who didn't identify himself. And invaded his home on a questionable warrant. Which was issued based on the testimony of an unknown, unverifiable informant. All to keep the community "safe" from a miniscule amount of marijuana.

    In any reasonable jurisdiction that respected the "rights" and "liberties" our columnist finds so easy to discard, this would be a clear-cut case of self-defense. But the shooter was black, and the cop was white. And this was Mississippi. Noting our columnist's picture, I wonder how safe and secure she'd feel in that situation.

    Posted by Tom, 9/19/2006 6:39:39 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Monday, September 18, 2006


    Which Heinlein book do I belong in?







    Which Heinlein Book Should You Have Been A Character In?




    You belong in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. You value freedom above all else. You would fight and die for your family and your home.
    Take this quiz!








    Quizilla |
    Join

    | Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code



    I can live with that. What bugs me is that the person I got this quiz from also got this result but only belongs in the book as a member of the statist opposition.

    *sigh*

    Don't mind me, I'm just bitter.

    Posted by Tom, 9/18/2006 4:14:49 PM (Permalink). 3 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Sunday, September 17, 2006


    Aw, crap

    Just had a frog-strangler go through. Flooded the road, flooded the garage, and did this to my driveway:











    And here I thought I was done working on things for a while...

    Posted by Tom, 9/17/2006 9:43:04 AM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, September 14, 2006


    Honor Harrington Spinoffs

    OK, I've officially read (I think) everything currently in print.

    Crown of Slaves: The wife thinks it's the best in the bunch (she hasn't read Shadow of Saganami or At All Costs yet). I certainly believe it's a good one, and possibly the best of the ones that highlight personal combat as opposed to naval combat. Though the ones with Honor's two major duels, Field of Dishonor and Flag in Exile, are pretty strong contenders.

    Anyway, Crown of Slaves picks up the story of Anton Zilwicki and adopted daughter Berry (short story "From the Highlands"), and fills in some of the background on Erewhon's split from the Manticoran Alliance. There is a bewildering array of characters, including Victor Cachat and new character Thandi Palane, who is sure to be a crowd favorite. Honor is a genetically enhanced human. Scrags are probably one step beyond Honor. Thandi Palane is probably 2 steps past the Scrags. This chick kicks butt.

    Anyway, this book is the first major blow in what is becoming a buildup to a war between Manticore (and possibly Haven) and the Mesa/Manpower genetic slavery cartel. There is plenty of "wet work" going on, and the freed genetic slaves of the Audubon Ballroom figure heavily into it.

    Shadow of Saganami picks up with Zilwicki's natural daughter Helen as she leaves the naval academy at Saganami Island and takes her middy cruise in the newly discovered Talbott Cluster (see War of Honor). It has the overall feel of On Basilisk Station in terms of plot development, with a conspiracy operating against Manticoran interests waiting to be discovered by the protagonists, and a slow buildup to an explosive resolution. It is chronologically after Crown of Slaves, and several references are made to the events of that book.

    Both books are excellent, and set the stage for some of the subplots of At All Costs, to a degree that it's a mistake not to read both of these before that one. In terms of how to read the end of the series, one should probably follow this order:

    Ashes of Victory
    "From the Highlands" short story from Changer of Worlds
    "Fanatic" short story from The Service of the Sword
    "Service of the Sword" short story from The Service of the Sword
    War of Honor
    Crown of Slaves
    Shadow of Saganami
    At All Costs

    I'd like to note that these last 4 books tell us that Weber has a ton more storytelling to do, if he ever gets around to doing it. The Mesa/Manpower problem is far from resolved, and it's looking as though the Sollies will probably begin figuring heavily into future plots as well.

    Posted by Tom, 9/14/2006 6:46:04 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, September 7, 2006


    More on Children as Property

    I've previously explored the idea that parents "own" their children. The Mises Institute today posted an article that discusses this in a little further detail, and makes mention of how we can determine, through the property rights mechanism, that child abuse is a violation of a child's rights while still maintaining a non-abusive parent's "property rights" over their children.

    the libertarian could argue that the parent has various positive obligations to his or her children, such as the obligation to feed, shelter, educate, etc. The idea here is that libertarianism does not oppose "positive rights"; it simply insists that they be voluntarily incurred. One way to do this is by contract; another is by trespassing against someone's property. Now, if you pass by a drowning man in a lake you have no enforceable (legal) obligation to try to rescue him; but if you push someone in a lake you have a positive obligation to try to rescue him. If you don't you could be liable for homicide. Likewise, if your voluntary actions bring into being an infant with natural needs for shelter, food, care, it is akin to throwing someone into a lake. In both cases you create a situation where another human is in dire need of help and without which he will die. By creating this situation of need you incur an obligation to provide for those needs. And surely this set of positive obligations would encompass the obligation to manumit the child at a certain point. This last argument is, to my mind, the most attractive, but it is also probably the least likely to be accepted by most libertarians, who generally seem opposed to positive obligations, even if they are incurred as the result of one's actions.

    Our author is one such opposed libertarian, and explores the nature of homesteading as a special case vis-a-vis our bodies. He then quotes Hans-Hermann Hoppe, from Hoppe's book A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism:

    It is worth mentioning that the ownership right stemming from production finds its natural limitation only when, as in the case of children, the thing produced is itself another actor-producer. According to the natural theory of property, a child, once born, is just as much the owner of his own body as anyone else. Hence, not only can a child expect not to be physically aggressed against but as the owner of his body a child has the right, in particular, to abandon his parents once he is physically able to run away from them and say "no" to their possible attempts to recapture him. Parents only have special rights regarding their child — stemming from their unique status as the child's producers — insofar as they (and no one else) can rightfully claim to be the child's trustee as long as the child is physically unable to run away and say "no."

    If a child can expect, by virtue of a right, not to be physically aggressed against, then anyone else intervening on the child's behalf during an instance of physical attack, is merely acting to defend the rights of another. Of course, this begs the question of whether spanking and other forms of corporal punishment could or would be tolerated in a libertarian society, but I'll leave that topic alone for the moment.

    The author of the article seems at a loss to explain how the "age of majority" is reached in a libertarian society, and how one transitions from "child" to "adult". For that, I turn to Michael Z. Williamson, and his explanation in the science fiction novel Freehold. Essentially, anyone wishing to be treated as an adult states the following in front of witnesses:

    I, *NAME*, before witness, declare myself an adult, responsible for my actions, and able to enter contract. I accept my debts and duties as a Resident of *WHEREVER*.

    Seems simple enough to me.

    Posted by Tom, 9/7/2006 6:29:14 PM (Permalink). 2 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, September 6, 2006


    Woot!

    Apple has spec-bumped the iMac line, chopping about $300 off the price of the 20" model, which we have had our eyes on for a while. And with the addition of the Core 2 Duo CPU (over the older Core Duo), it's faster too. While I would love to get my hands on one o' them sweet new 24" models, the extra $500 just doesn't feel worth it. So we're targeted firmly on Mr. 20" Model, and here's hoping we can get the cash together sometime this decade.

    Posted by Tom, 9/6/2006 4:36:51 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, September 5, 2006


    Jesus Camp

    Watch the trailer here.

    I feel sick to my stomach for some reason.

    Posted by Tom, 9/5/2006 7:10:44 AM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    The difference a capital letter makes

    Libertarians have a small, quiet struggle going on in their midst. It is the struggle between Libertarian and libertarian. The first denotes an affiliation with a political party. The second is a philosophical position. I have argued with many who claim that "libertarians hate the poor", or some other charge, based on their interactions with Libertarians. Here is an article at Mises.org that elucidates some of the differences:

    For those who haven't heard, the large, pedagogically useful, principled, and detailed Libertarian Platform — the best thing about the party — has been relegated to the wayback machine and is now replaced with a new one that is tiny, vague, rhetorically slippery, accommodating, friendlier to the state, and non-threatening to mainstream opinion.

    Why? The small band that orchestrated this coup confesses: they want the LP to gain power. They've admired the way the Republicans and Democrats have done it, and now they want to do it too. Gone is the posture of opposition, the radicalism, the edge, the braininess.

    The debate has been framed as one between dogmatists and pragmatists. What's remarkable here is how the pragmatists are willing to concede just about every criticism made by the principled LPers of old. They admit that they have watered down the entire program. They admit to being pure pragmatists. They admit that they like certain aspects of the state, and were unhappy with the consistency and comprehensive radicalism of the old platform.


    Any long-time reader of this blog knows which side I'm on, so this is for you new people: I'm a libertarian, not a Libertarian. I will occasionally vote for Libertarians, but only if the ideals they express in their platforms are libertarian. Get it?

    Posted by Tom, 9/5/2006 7:08:43 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Monday, September 4, 2006


    Steve Irwin: Dead

    Steve Irwin, the TV presenter known as the "Crocodile Hunter," has died after being stung by a stingray in a marine accident off Australia's north coast.

    Media reports say Irwin was snorkeling at Batt Reef, a part of the Great Barrier Reef about 9 miles (about 15 kilometers) from the town of Port Douglas, when the incident happened on Monday morning.


    Gory details here.

    Posted by Tom, 9/4/2006 7:56:37 AM (Permalink). 2 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Saturday, September 2, 2006


    Not news?

    Gas prices fell an average of 30 cents per gallon virtually overnight. Just a few days ago, I was paying $2.79. This morning the highest I saw was $2.49, and on doing some looking around found it for $2.39, $2.41, and what I eventually paid (being too far from the cheaper places by then to go back), $2.42. I've heard that Wal-Mart led the charge in this area, slashing its price to $2.36. They've probably sold their pumps dry by now.

    Surely there are massive news stories going over the wire about this. After all, everyone's quick to start griping when prices go up, right? All the "peak oil" proponents love to use any spike in prices to fire up the doomsday propaganda machine, somberly warning that the end has come. So where's the news stories trumpeting the praises of capitalism now that prices are falling?

    Hello?

    * crickets chirping *

    Bueller?

    Posted by Tom, 9/2/2006 7:52:16 AM (Permalink). 3 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Friday, September 1, 2006


    Crimes against nature

    You just have to see it: A poodle costume for dobermans.

    Posted by Tom, 9/1/2006 5:52:41 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Cool project

    I love Backwoods Home magazine. Their latest article on the website is by/about a woman who built a concrete water tank to store up her well water. Makes me want to move way out in the boonies and build one of my own.

    Posted by Tom, 9/1/2006 6:48:05 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...