Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Before I Forget ...

Happy Christmas everyone!

The Path to Success

I once recommended Al Fin to Connie and Kim du Toit as a research resource (and a search of Kim's sidebar shows his agreement) because of the mass of data he has accumulated on his blog pages. By combining the wealth of information residing in the host of links Al Fin maintains in his own sidebar with a judicious sampling from the labels he categorises his posts in, it is quite possible to gather together the basic background material from which to craft your own rendition of the Kevin Baker Uberpost for which that gentleman is justly famous.

Ordinarily I prefer an extra helping of bran in the morning and a few more glasses of water over the course of the day to relieve such a condition, but this occasion warrants a shot or two of Kevin U-p, I'm afraid.

Al Fin has written about neurological function several times now and from contrasting perspectives. In none of the above (nor anywhere else that I'm aware) does he rely upon his own opinion or unsupported claim to expertise regarding the subject, which is why I find him so reliable a source of information for topics so far outside my own limited range of experience. One particular Al Fin post has unexpected relevance to a topic more commonly associated with Kim, Kevin or even myself, and I wish to pursue that connection further.

I don't pretend to any expertise regarding neuroscience certainly, but I am able to read what others have to say on the discipline. Having done so leads me to believe that reasoned argument alone may be more susceptible to simplistic counter-suasion then is commonly argued to be the case.

Consider this explanatory quote from the Al Fin post linked above:

86 participants completed pre- and post-test measures of reading achievement (i.e., Woodcock-Johnson III, Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing, Test of Word Reading Efficiency, and Test of Silent Word Reading Fluency). Students in the experimental group completed a 4-week intervention designed to improve their timing/rhythmicity by reducing the latency in their response to a synchronized metronome beat, referred to as a synchronized metronome tapping (SMT) intervention. The results from this non-academic intervention indicate the experimental group’s post-test scores on select measures of reading were significantly higher than the non-treatment control group’s scores at the end of 4 weeks. This paper provides a brief overview of domain-general cognitive abilities believed effected by SMT interventions and provides a preliminary hypothesis to explain how this non-academic intervention can demonstrate a statistically significant effect on students’ reading achievement scores. {Sources are provided, follow the link for details.}

This particular experiment involved high school students, but I think I can support my contention that the result applies to more mature humans equally well.

The idea that neural pathways, unconscious intellectual connections leading to a preconceived decision (aka: belief) if I'm understanding the phenomenon correctly, seems to be both well established and to display unexpected effects. It is these effects that I find particularly interesting as they seem to explain why reasoned argument so frequently fails to prove persuasive to those who don't already possess receptive modes of thought. In a nut shell, the well known preaching to the choir effect, if you will.

I offered the following comment to Al Fin's post:

I wonder what relationship exists between this metronome technique and the reputed history of Morris (Moorish) Dancing from the Crusades period of English history? Reputedly, the dance steps were performed to percussion instruments setting a beat for the purpose of enabling the dancers to become more effective fighters. No weapons or obvious combat maneuvers are employed, however.

A bit of simple research on my part would have shown that this particular line of thought has been called into question by subsequent researchers. Even so, the enduring legend supports my belief that patterns of thought can be altered by seemingly unrelated structured activity. Case in point, that Moorish dancing worked to alter the practitioner's unconscious neural paths from those of the purely individual fighter into those of the group-oriented combatant. Specifically, that individuals practised in Moorish dance routines were more likely to instinctively respond to chaotic battlefield events in a structurable and controllable fashion then would those not so indoctrinated.

I'm not suggesting any sort of "Manchurian Candidate" level of brainwashing in any of this. Athletic team training does very much the same thing for it's practitioners, I suggest. How else explain why any reasonably intelligent person would deliberately position himself to violently collide with another during the course of an American football or rugby match, yet just as unthinkingly perform equally athletic maneuvers to avoid bruising physical contact outside that limited game parameter?

A less violent example can be found in two common household products, the disposable tissue and the cotton swab. I would venture to guess that 95+% of (US) Americans think of these two items by their most effectively marketed brand names, Kleenex and Q-Tips respectively. I know from personal experience that non-American english speakers (you know, the English?) don't make these linguistic associations and I believe that is because they aren't subject to the advertising campaigns that serve to create the necessary neural pathways to emplace this specific non-cognitive association in their brains. Since advertising is routinely targeted to specific audiences, I submit that this supports my belief that neural pathways can be deliberately channelled in people of any age to be receptive to the means chosen to do so.

What does any of this have to do with shooting, you ask? Let me describe a recent occasion of my experience by way of explanation.

I have had occasion to remark upon my friendship with Mike on these pages before. He and I have been friends for a dozen years now and we have taken many of the opportunities that have arisen over those years to discuss our thoughts on the ramifications stemming from the history and practice of a varied enforcement of the 2nd amendment to the US Constitution; you know, talked about guns and shooting. Not actually bragged, you understand. We're much too good of friends to casually allow such an opportunity for mockery to go by, so we're neither of us about to risk any such behavior as that. I can't honestly say that any of that keeps me in any way humble you understand, but I absolutely can take a joke and give at least as good as I get because of my friendship with Mike. I'm not claiming this makes me any nicer a guy or anything, just a better one.

In short, I know the man and he knows me.

Holiday and other commitments keeping us otherwise occupied, we settled on last Friday night to go to dinner and take in a movie we both wanted to see. As is my habit, I checked to see that all my normal pocket trash was present then transferred my carry gun from it's storage place to my pocket just before heading out the door.

Mike's reaction was to ask, "Do you really think that's necessary?" I could tell the question bothered him, but since he almost immediately followed it up by saying, "I hope you have all the required documents along as well", I condescendingly reassured him that was the case and out the door we went.

As I said, I could tell that the impulse to even ask such a question bothered Mike. It's not like he was unaware of the recent multiple murders of unarmed people that had occurred only the week before. And it's not like he and I hadn't had numerous conversations over the years regarding the general desirability of carrying a gun (consensus: it's a pain in the ass but a desperately necessary one on thankfully rare occasion), so to say that the assumptions underlying his question were more than a little shocking to us both is a large understatement.

I've had opportunity to mull this over since and I've come to a few tentative conclusions. One of which is that whatever measure of intellectual support firearms ownership and use may receive, there is almost certainly nothing like that same response at the unconscious level of thought; the level closest to the neural pathways that govern unthinking reaction to stimulus. Mike knows we are each responsible for our own welfare for at least the first few minutes of an attack and he knows I'm licensed to carry a gun. All that notwithstanding, he still responded to the stimulus generated by the neural pathway he acquired from somewhere to initially react negatively to my carrying a gun.

I further think that attempts to persuade people to a pro gun ownership viewpoint will never be effective enough as long as those opposed to such a viewpoint have unobstructed opportunity to develop and maintain the neural pathways that work to undermine intellectual efforts at persuasion to do so. If this be true, then it would seem to behoove we who encourage more widespread gun ownership to develop mechanisms to instill and support neural pathways that compliment our efforts and that also work to counter the labors of those who object to our views.

I think it fair to describe this last as a species of viral marketing that operates at the unconscious level of the human brain in as indirect a fashion as possible. Not "subliminal advertising" or anything so obvious as that, but something much more effective, I think. By establishing as a neural pathway that "independence of action - pro choice, if you will - is a generally good circumstance" for example, and doing so in as many nonthreatening situations as we can contrive, we put in place a neural pathway that supports the independence to actively create safety that ownership of a gun empowers.

See? Indirect, but supportive, while being hard to justify objecting to on it's own terms. For so long as we don't make a better effort to counter the neural pathways that seem to be inherent in so much of modern media, we will not be able to generate anything like the level of acceptance necessary to inhibit the nihilistic impulse that people seem more inclined to resort to in recent decades. Attaining that level of inhibition should be a specific objective of ours and is a positive result that, quite frankly, no level of private gun ownership is likely to achieve on it's own.

So, I put it to you, my shooting brethren, that the concept of neural pathways is one that we would benefit from studying, that learning to recognise the mechanism's used to instill such paths in people should be identified, that mechanism's for instilling and supporting beliefs conducive to our own should be developed and, finally, that creation of a mindset that rejects indiscriminate violence towards others ought to be a specific objective of our efforts in it's own right, in that it supports one of the basic tenants of gun ownership.

How say you all?

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Best of Will(s)

OK, as reported by whoever World Entertainment News is, this is a thoroughgoing slime job and almost completely lacking in context.

For one thing, "Hitler didn't wake up thinking himself evil" is not synonymous with the headline contention "Smith:'Hitler was a good person'" that WEN levels at actor Will Smith.

What my fellow Will is actually quoted as saying:

"I think he woke up in the morning and using a twisted, backwards logic, he set out to do what he thought was 'good'."

strikes me as the sort of spontaneous example one might offer to illustrate a point being made about something/one entirely else from that being referred to. Just at a guess, as a metaphor to help clarify his conceptualisation of the nature and character of the role he was playing, or of his character's opponents motivation in, say, his latest film? 'Ya think, maybe?

There's no real way to tell from the "news release" itself, but the fact that it's posted by Yahoo! UK suggests that it comes from a press event in Britain - at a guess, to support the British run of the film I am Legend. Which would be consistent with other English press anti-American spin to news reporting in recent years. I think the Instapundit Update tends to support that line of thinking.

I'm sure the Smith branch of the Will Family can take a joke with the best of us (he damn sure better, much as he hands them out to everyone else), but I really would like to hear his side of this one day. I bet he gives a good deal more consideration in future to preparing answers to the obvious gottcha questions in advance from now on.

A Whiff of the Calculus

I think we can now say that all saber's have been well and truely rattled. It remains to be seen how the various parties will weigh up whatever values each assigns to the component interests comprising Stalin's infamous statistics.

Let us all hope that the actual governments involved have more reliable reports from which to work and less callous analysts upon which to rely. Fear is the absolute worst emotion that can be allowed to color an assessment of a possible action. A dissertation that actually sought to stimulate discussion of a given option's practicality would have been written with far less fatalism then is evident in the J-Post article linked above.

I have previously suggested that an alternative course of action would achieve the desired near-term security without the short- and long-term disadvantages the extreme nuclear option would impose on all the world to varying degree. Such an action may arguably be more humane then the J-Post's nuclear tactic, but I'm certain it is an equally human behaviour that offers more subsequent alternative action from which to select as time passes. That's the problem with escalation, once a step up in agression has occurred, the more dangerous it becomes for any participant to attempt anything less, what with the extremity of retaliation the previous escalation might justify.

Shame on Elie Leshem for such a public surrender to fear, and shame on you Professor Reynolds, there is no "right" to be found here, in any sense of that word's accepted meaning.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

I concur ...

... with what the lady said, though I do offer a couple of minor quibbles:

- While I don't think there's any serious question that Adolf started his political activism as a Socialist himself, or that he was a recognised and valued member of the socialist political movement within Germany, I do think it only honest to note that the ultimate formulation of the National Socialist Workers Party that he drove into creation stretches any of those terms beyond their ordinarily accepted definitions.

With the foregoing in mind, I especially think the Godwin's Law comment appropriate.

- Given the nature of those who argue to the contrary, I also think it necessary to couch the Area 51 issue within the caveat "in my opinion" since the primary concept of such a location pretty much requires denial of access to any possible physical evidence that might resolve this question. People who are prepared to postulate entire species and universal societal structures are not going to suddenly go lacking in imagination when it comes to defending their efforts from other's critical inquiry, I think. Forcing them to acknowledge even that much reality won't change their view of things of course, but there's always the hope that frequent enough reminder of the equally hypothetical nature of their own ramblings might frustrate them enough that they go away.

Other then that, put me down for a heaping helping of "what she said"!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Fillum review: National Treasure: Book of Secrets

Went to the movies last night and saw the National Treasure sequel. I've never really tried my hand at writing one of these, but I'll do my best to limit any spoilers and still put up some degree of coherent content. As much as I ever manage to do at least ...

Some good points to start. Nobody got too cutsie (or professionally greedy), so all the original good guy characters are back and all of the actors have aged well into their roles. Everyone is subtly changed, but just as the viewer would expect them to have done a couple of years on from previous events. The presentation of events is familiar to viewers and combines some new talents with variations on old tricks from the first film to move the action along at a brisk pace. The obscure historical references are easily as well done as previously, as is the attention to detail in the set dressing and prop construction.

As for the bad points; it really comes down to two major flaws as I see it. The first is more of a continuity error then anything else that would have benefited from some brief dialogue to explain how several assassinations and at least one major post-invasion fire didn't cause an interruption of transmission for a titular plot device. The Mt. Vernon exposition would have benefited here, I think.

{This being precisely vague schtick is tougher than it reads}

The second involves the bad guy du jour character played by Ed Harris. Whichever writer was responsible for this character's design obviously redacted as little as possible from the first film's baddy, slapped on a transparent coat of US Southern generic as overlay and called it a day. Phoning it in doesn't begin to describe how little original material Mr. Harris had to work with here - and a very workmanlike job he did too, I might add. I spent much of the England exterior scenes looking for Andy Bean as an extra, laughing his ass off at poor Ed's predicament. The audience would actually have been better off not to have seen the first film, it was that distracting to the suspension of disbelief any good film must create.

The obviously flimsy security breaches at Buckingham Palace and the White House are scenes nobody expects to be in any way realistically portrayed. The actors carry off the scenes quite well and I didn't have any sense of interruption of mood nor noticed any from other audience members.

A fun and very satisfying film all in all. I encourage everyone to see it in the theater rather then wait for the DVD and I hope it does well financially. I think there's at least one more episode to be crafted from this format and characters combination. Here's hoping Jerry Bruckheimer and Disney don't flinch; with all the quirks and questions to be found in even an average history book, the potential for this formula remains fresh with possibility.

Friday, December 21, 2007

news update

Given my general state of physical decrepitude, this may be the best piece of news I've gotten all year.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

TechNOWlogy

Ok, I admit that the title above is more than a little cutsie; this post is inspired by yesterday's comment contretemps between myself, Stephen Gordon and Phil Bowermaster over at The Speculist (see the comments here). What this post is not is a restatement of yesterday's events. Rather, I wish to attempt to contrast what I consider to be "solutions" derived from outdated technology with my personal vision of what is actually (by and large, for the most part) available to variably well-heeled consumers this upcoming year.

Since it is my blog, I'll start with an example I posted on last week, this Toshiba quick recharge battery. As part of my speculation, I said the following:

Toshiba executives are certain to be aware that virtually the first "customers" to buy whichever product utilizes their new battery technology will be other battery manufacturers seeking to reverse engineer it. Having an investment agreement in place with as many potential customers as possible before that inevitably occurs will work to extend Toshiba's market advantage. For potential retail customers like myself, those corporations that do invest in this battery technology for their markets will be pressing for as rapid a development curve as practicable so as to not keep such substantial amounts of capital unproductive. This means an earlier availability of products using this battery technology then would be possible for Toshiba to achieve on it's own.

There is a tendency on most people's part not to fully take into consideration the time frames often necessary for change to be accomplished. On the individual level this is often a result of our personal lack of specific knowledge as to the complexity of the operation required to achieve the change. This is often compounded by our allowing our personal desire for the resulting product to overshadow the necessarily adversarial nature that characterises any new association, particularly when such a venture involves substantial sums of money.

Which explains my closing statement:

If I start saving with the new year, I ought to have a reasonable percentage of the purchase price for an all-electric vehicle in the 2.5 years I expect will be required for this new battery tech to begin retail product sales. And then only if this tech scales as well as Toshiba seems confidant it will. No way to tell about that aspect of the corporation from this remove.

It isn't that I lack trust or suffer from excess conspiracy fears; as it happens, I do have some experience of how long it takes to construct an assembly line. Additionally, I have no way to tell how rapidly, or even if, this particular innovation will scale to batteries having the load demand capacity necessary for powering a general purpose motor vehicle. That said, Toshiba specifically makes mention of auto battery applications and it is on that that I base my contention regarding Toshiba's corporate reputation being put at risk - not an action a company seeking extensive financial and other partnership agreements would casually call into question, since it is that same reputation that will have considerable influence over the terms of any offers ultimately submitted.

I don't study strategy because I like war, you know.

Sticking with battery technology for a moment more, I direct you attention to this recent news release from Stanford University regarding their newly developed nanowire battery.

... is considering formation of a company or an agreement with a battery manufacturer. Manufacturing the nanowire batteries would require "one or two different steps, but the process can certainly be scaled up," he added. "It's a well understood process."

Do you suppose Toshiba might be one of those making this inventor's holiday an especially busy one this year?

Enough on energy storage devices for now, how do we power them up in the first place?

Well, there is this possibility by way of a questionably reliable source, paint-on solar panels. Which doesn't actually involve the consumer painting anything.

While many photovoltaic start-up companies are concentrating on increasing the efficiency with which their systems convert sunlight, Nanosolar has focused on lowering the manufacturing cost. Its process is akin to a large printing press, rather than the usual semiconductor manufacturing techniques that deposit thin films on silicon wafers.

These guys seem to have settled on the more traditional format of growing their business as their established customer base will finance rather then making a number of licensing deals with other manufacturers. This will likely have the short-term effect of denying rapid expansion into additional consumer markets (the company can only finance so much production capacity at any given moment), but a product that produces energy at a lower cost then it can be produced burning coal will have a large impact with individual consumers eventual demands upon national energy distribution grids.

Which brings me back to my starting point. I believe that efforts to "improve" internal combustion engines or grid-oriented power supply expansions are misdirected and counter-productive. Technology that serves individual consumer's needs at the point of service (your home or your business) is wide open for development and has the added benefits of no distribution infrastructure costs to the provider and no distribution infrastructure interruptions of service to the consumer, your classic win-win situation. Transportation that permits the consumer to control the source of re-supply is equally open to development. And, more to the point, are becoming commercially available now.

Government efforts to "stimulate" markets via income redistribution schemes always result in added costs to consumers, usually quite in addition to the direct expense of providing the income to be redistributed in the first place. Markets require a certain amount of outside regulation to inhibit their propensity to seek short-term gain at long-term consumer expense; that said, the less government direct involvement in market development the better, generally speaking.

Looking for something more robust and less susceptible to weather degradation? Consider the varied potentialities permitted the United Nuclear Hydrogen Fuel System. A careful reading of the website literature shows that the storage mechanism relys on the chemical bonding of hydrogen elements to a particular combination of other elements, so no pressure or freezing temperatures are involved in it's distribution or storage. The power required to separate the hydrogen from it's normal chemical bond to oxygen is generated by the solar panels provided with the system, so no added burden to the national grid or expense to the customer need be involved (other than the construction and eventual disposal costs, of course). And, the conversion process results in a flex-fuel vehicle that can still run on traditional formulations of gasoline as well. Want this product? Contact the Consumer Product Safety Commission and tell them to stop aiding and abetting terrorist supporting countries (No, don't actually do that; see the linked website as to why the CPSC is involved at all).

{I know, I know; I just finished ranting against improving internal combustion engine vehicles and the very next thing I do is promote just such a scheme - again. Whadda 'ya gonna do? I like the concept. The whole solo-inventor-against-the-world thing doesn't hurt either. I'm a sucker for the underdog; sue me.}

Want true energy independence (well, several decades worth, at least)? Here you go: Toshiba Micro Reactor. Given that this particular device will power about 6 to 8* houses for 30-odd years, I suspect some sort of group purchase would be in order.

Anybody want to bet that there isn't a housing developer out there somewhere already planning his next construction project, featuring houses that include a lifetime supply of water and power as part of the purchase price? I can't wait for the NIMBY morons to realise this actually involves their own back yards. Well, somewhere within the sub-division anyway. The resulting moral dilemma arising from their archetypal conflict of interest may actually cause a serious die off of humanity all up and down the western coastal regions of the United States ...

Sorry, I lost my train of thought for a moment. Where was I?

Oh yes, I hope that all of this makes clear that my objection to ethanol/methanol/bio-diesel/etc doesn't really arise from the technologies themselves (the ethical questions they raise deserve consideration on their own merits), but from the resources their artificially forced development denies to other technology's development. True, these obviously are beginning to make their way to marketability, but at what ancillary cost to us all?

So, there you have it. Stephen? Phil? Here's your chance; give it you're best shot, I can take it. :)

EDITED to correct my having confused Kw with KwH. No excuse Sir.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Fear of failure

One of the drawbacks of multi-cultural equivalence is an unwillingness to impose a particular standard of behavior upon others. This leads to academic scenarios like the ones documented in this Thomas Sowell article.

Sadly, it seems that HR departments around the country are trying to expand such an environment into the American workplace.

Just having a bad few days here. I'll get over it I expect.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Beat a gong

It's not just me saying this you know.

Via Wretchard, who's added insight rises to his usual standard.

UPDATE: I think my recent pre-occupation with crime gangs may need explicit explanation.

In my opinion, domestic street gangs are themselves transitioning from being a local phenomenon with national (and limited international) commercial interests into truly trans-national enterprises as a result of their being recruited by established politically oriented criminal enterprises (like Hamas, Fatah and all the rest) which themselves have been transformed into non-governmental political action organisations through their financial (and other) support from a variety of countries over the past half-century or so. I believe this trend is accelerating as nation states seek out means to impose political and other influence over other countries (or their foreign interests) with some degree of plausible deniability at the international diplomatic level. Basically, the old Soviet/US spy-vs-spy game re-written in a multi-player, no-seat-in-the-UN-General-Assembly-required version. Call it the Qaddafi Conversion (or however his name is being spelt this week) if you like.

I'm not going to spend a lot of time developing research or linking to supporting sources. This is my blog written to express my opinion. Make of that what you wish. I make no pretense of scholastic standards nor professional expertise regarding the topics which attract my interest. Caveat emptor and all that.

That said, 40-odd years of experience near the fringes of low society in varied corners of the world provides one with a certain degree of perspective upon which to draw as the occasion warrants, don't you agree? Seems silly not to make use of it all; it wasn't a particularly remunerative experience gathering it, I can assure you.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The opportune moment

In this recent Al Fin post I made the following comment in part:

...

Gang hierarchy requires that membership and economic growth be continuously expanded, if only to provide advancement possibilities, and thus greater authority both within and outside the membership, for maturing members.

The other aspect that was only barely glossed over is that, by and large, criminal gangs are run by their most senior members; ie: those who have been imprisoned. To quote from the film "American Me", Inside runs outside.

By their nature gangs are competitors of (and not just working in opposition to) the social and legal structures within which they operate. Gangs offer a counter-government to the more mundane societal structure that more often than not disdains any such claims. Impartial students of history know that the National Socialist political party of 1920's Germany was infiltrated and it's leadership usurped by the then criminal gang element that subsequently transformed itself into the Brownshirts.

Gangs are a lot more dangerous then most people are willing to credit. My own TEOTWAWKI scenario revolves around some expression of "street gangs" gaining control of substantial swathes of territory which also host military weaponry stockpiles. It sounds like a bad '70's made-for-TV movie script, and the acting would actually be worse, but how do you counter a gang armed with SAW's and morters and members just as cyber-smart as anyone available to the cops? Of course they couldn't maintain control for very long - and they know that too - without their spreading the radius of damage so far beyond their immediate region of influence that countering forces are tied down elsewhere.

That's the problem with Sun Tzu; anyone can read his book. And prison inmates have a lot of time to think about what he has to say as it applies to them.


How likely do you think it that groups like this won't find some advantage to be taken from events like these? Or that Hugo Chavez won't think this a wonderful time to renew his association with FARC in Colombia or with others in Bolivia itself for that matter?

You know, this is the problem with keeping a watch out for danger - after a while you see it in every event that occurs. If I'm wrong (and I really hope I am) then I'll happily admit it next weekend ... after plenty of time has passed.

Hey! I was a Dad once upon a time, the reflex's are still there.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Fort Sumter, Bolivia?

Is this how civil war begins?

Should hostilities escalate between the Morales government and the breakaway districts, just how long will it take other interests in the American southern hemisphere to decide that their national (or other) interests require them to intervene on the behalf of one side or the other? Let that situation develop sufficiently and we'll all find out just how moribund the US government (and it's multitudinous driving interests) thinks the Monroe Doctrine really is.

You think there were protests over the Iraq Campaign? Let US military forces get directly involved in combat as part of this and prepare yourself for serious violence across much of the country.

Now would be a good time to upgrade that SHTF plan and disaster kit. If this doesn't settle down very quickly, next summer could be real interesting indeed.

Presuming events continue to escalate, along about next Tuesday every Latin-oriented special interest group in the US will begin using this situation as a means for advancing whatever position they favor, and against the position of virtually every other competing group inside - and likely outside as well - of the country. Late that same afternoon, we can expect virtually every other special interest group with it's hand out to Uncle Sam to make it's position known as well.

Since criminal gangs are largely divided along racial/ethnic lines of support (if less strictly so as regards membership), we can also expect them to "contribute" to the action in their own traditional fashion. {There is nothing racist about that statement either. They're criminals; what activities are criminals traditionally associated with by the general population?}

Further to that, criminal gangs eventually become organised as competition to more orthodox government as well as to other gangs. It is only to be expected that any resulting violence here in the US will likely spread quite rapidly beyond those areas presently identified as "ethnic" or "gang territory" because of this.

I recently made the point that oil isn't a commodity that any one country can deny sale of to any particular other country, and that no country was likely to stop selling it's oil entirely in order to achieve such a result on it's own.

This situation has the potential to create "the exception that proves the rule".

If Venezuela and Brazil both get drawn into the fighting, then most of the oil exportation from South America becomes a strategic target for - well, almost everybody, almost everywhere. Added to that is the likely-seeming expansion of hostilities to include the Panama Canal Zone ... which draws China into the "purely regional issue". How likely is it that oil shippers will risk their vessels in such an environment?

On the other hand, common sense could break out all over and we can all drift back to sleep again.

You'll pardon me for now, I'm sure; I have lists to check and such like.

UPDATE: Gateway Pundit has informative further coverage of this so-far largely ignored situation. More here

Saturday, December 15, 2007

As long as I'm on a strategy binge anyway, ...

The recovering Wretchard has a post up yesterday noting the European response to the recent NIE regarding Iran is to impose sanctions against that country if the UN fails to do so.

When you couple this with the rather bland response of the Bush administration (and in particular, Bush himself), one has to wonder if this report was crafted as it was to elicit just this broadened reaction against Iran outside the US?

Ultimately, one has to conclude that the reality more probably falls into the general category known as the stopped clock syndrome. The give away, I think, is the complete lack of encouragement that ought to accompany an actual strategic gambit; encourage the target(s) through both positive and negative incentives, entice the enemy to exacerbate the situation, etc.

Sigh. Yet another opportunity lost ...

A spark of interest

Somehow, I kinda doubt Toshiba is going to risk damage to their considerable corporate reputation with a scurrilous announcement.

That being the case, they must already have their production facility up and basically running for them to be able to announce order shipments this coming spring. If that indeed be true, then a fairly straight-forward strategy appears. Using their existing production facility to attract investment interest from potential future customers (like every auto manufacturer in the world for only one example) is a very powerful strategic maneuver to minimize Toshiba's capital risk in purchasing the no doubt considerable infrastructure that will be necessary to service such a massive market.

Toshiba executives are certain to be aware that virtually the first "customers" to buy whichever product utilizes their new battery technology will be other battery manufacturers seeking to reverse engineer it. Having an investment agreement in place with as many potential customers as possible before that inevitably occurs will work to extend Toshiba's market advantage. For potential retail customers like myself, those corporations that do invest in this battery technology for their markets will be pressing for as rapid a development curve as practicable so as to not keep such substantial amounts of capital unproductive. This means an earlier availability of products using this battery technology then would be possible for Toshiba to achieve on it's own.

If I start saving with the new year, I ought to have a reasonable percentage of the purchase price for an all-electric vehicle in the 2.5 years I expect will be required for this new battery tech to begin retail product sales. And then only if this tech scales as well as Toshiba seems confidant it will. No way to tell about that aspect of the corporation from this remove.

All in all, a positive development to look forward to, I think.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Quest for Normal

So, there I was yesterday afternoon, busily beavering away earning my crust for yet another day when my new blood pressure medicine kicked in - and I went "Tilt". Now, I grant you that a BP of 112/68 isn't all that low, but as my friend Mike was way too pleased to point out, "You've been fucked up for so long, you don't know what normal feels like". Where would we be without the care and consideration of our friends, eh?

Given the regularity with which I handle a lit brazing torch around pressurized vessels, my employer opted for discretion and told me not to come back without a clearance from my doctor.

I snivelled my way into said physicians already full schedule early this afternoon, and we arrived at a modified treatment regimen. Spending this weekend observing for further difficulty, he felt confident I could return to work on Monday if nothing adverse occurred.

Being that my place of employment is shutdown for the rest of the year (after tonight's shift ends), you can imagine how it felt to give the good news about my return to work next January to Mike - as he was walking through the parking lot into work and I was driving off home for the year. Sublime ...

Who knew payback would be this expensive though? We've already been paid out for our unused vacation/sick time, the missed hours go on the payroll records as leave w/o pay. Who, other than my employer obviously, can put a price on good health though?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Law and Order

This Breitbart.com article makes obvious what may possibly be the most pernicious defect of modern American society.

The situation seems quite clear from this account:

NEW YORK (AP) - A teenage suspect who secretly recorded his interrogation on an MP3 player has landed a veteran detective in the middle of perjury charges, authorities said Thursday.

Unaware of the recording, Detective Christopher Perino testified in April that the suspect "wasn't questioned" about a shooting in the Bronx, a criminal complaint said. But then the defense confronted the detective with a transcript it said proved he had spent more than an hour unsuccessfully trying to persuade Erik Crespo to confess—at times with vulgar tactics.

Once the transcript was revealed in court, prosecutors asked for a recess, defense attorney Mark DeMarco said. The detective was pulled from the witness stand and advised to get a lawyer.


An unethical cop abuses his authority during the initial interrogation and then commits perjury while under oath. Despicable behavior by an individual cop, you say? I submit that this occasion allows us all a rare glimpse behind the screen of impunity that law enforcement agencies and personnel deliberately maintain between us and them. Consider the district attorneys response:

The allegations "put the safety of all law-abiding citizens at risk because they undermine the integrity and foundation of the entire criminal justice system," District Attorney Robert Johnson said in a statement.

"The allegations" of malfeasance and perjury "put the safety of ... citizens at risk"? Want to take another crack at that DA Johnson? Once you finish, how about explaining how providing evidence of criminality by an officer of the court will "undermine the integrity and foundation of the entire criminal justice system" instead of the actual criminality so clearly "alleged" doing the undermining?

Understand me, I firmly believe it the responsibility of all citizens to abide by the laws of our society. I think it is only to be expected that those empowered to enforce those standards upon us all be held to the most stringent interpretation of those same laws as a condition of their position. Any other standard is at best an invitation to abuse the authority entrusted to them. At worst we are giving employment to those who will ultimately destroy our national union for their personal gain.

When the only certain way to distinguish between the crooks and the cops is to see who signs their paycheck, the problem may have gone beyond any peaceful fix.

Now there's an adventurous* thought to lift our spirits in this happiest of seasons.

*adventure: somebody in deep sh!t, safely far away.

Via Instapundit who credits Orin Kerr at the Volock Conspiracy.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A question of liability

This seems a reasonable proposition. It endorses the basic concepts involved in property rights, but imposes a liability for any negative outcomes resulting from "gun-free" restrictions the property owners may impose.

Time to contact my member of Congress and Senators, I think.

Via Rand Simberg

Friday, December 7, 2007

Anticipation sucks after a while

I've been waiting for one of these for over four years now. I submit that qualifies as "a while".

I traded e-mail with Revopower CEO John Richards in 2004 during which I suggested he hire me to ride my bike with one of his motors across the breadth of Australia. I stand by that offer still, but confess that it will likely take me a couple months longer to prepare for the exhibition then it would have back then. He very charitably complimented me on my imaginative approach (or possibly just my imagination - the memory is the second thing to go, you know) and suggested we wait on further development of the Wheel before discussing the matter further.

Well Mr. Richards (like he reads this page), I expect to buy my own Wheel next year, but I still think your company needs a slightly outrageous demonstration of it's product's capabilities and who better to do so then the person who first thought up the idea? The Free-to-B Endurance Ride (that would be Freemantle to Brisbane) would certainly showcase the Wheel's versatility over a varied selection of terrain, particularly with an ordinary guy in his mid-fifties pushing the peddles. At an average of 80 miles a day, the ride itself lasts for about a month. Allow 8 to 10 weeks for course inspection and rider acclimatization and the whole thing (including post-Ride publicity) is over in 3 to 4 months max.

I wouldn't be very surprised if my bicycle's manufacturer couldn't be convinced to pony up some cash for prominent mention of their name during the event. Then there's the tire company and anybody else who's products get used. You suppose Exxon or Shell might like a little obviously enviro-friendly media mention just for a change? I gave up smoking last February so Marlboro is no longer a viable sponsor any more. You'll understand my lack of contrition about that I'm sure. And then there's always the follow up Island Hop Ride (that would be Staten to Coronado).

Come on John, the time is right and I'm your guy for the deed! Whadda ya say?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A record winter?

Consider yourself warned, this winter looks to be an especially cold and wet one. If this past winter's extremes in the southern hemisphere are any guide, and solar activity remains at such low levels of activity, we may be in for a more dramatic cyclic climate event than we really want.

Time will tell.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

From many, some

There's either a book or a pony in all of this.

Just to be safe, don't let yourself get down wind for the time being.

Friday, November 30, 2007

"Don't sell me oil Venezuellaaa ..."*

Proof positive that socialists are economic morons.

Oil, being a fungible commodity sold on the open international market, is sold in bulk lots without regard to the nationality of either the buyer or seller. In other words, every drop of crude Mr. Potatohead "sells" to some other country will result in one other drop of oil marketed by some other oil-producing country becoming available for the USA to buy instead.

Sheesh. I'm a high school drop-out and I recognise this for the null statement it is. The only way possible for a country to deny oil to another country is to not sell it at all. In Humpty-Dumpty's case, this is the only action he is absolutely certain of not doing. As long as he wants to remain big dog in his squalled kennel of a benighted country, at least. Poor Venezuela ...

* To the tune of some song by that other loon Madonna about a different SA economic disaster.

Minute of William

Kevin Baker's recent
kind comment on my state of health, which came as something of a surprise (I knew I read him, but was unaware he returned the interest), prompts me to inquire as to how his experience building long-range
precision rifles might apply to a bit more restricted setting.

A bit of history to inform what follows might be in order. I sold my own Remington 700 (in 25.06) because there isn't a long enough distance firing range in the Tyler area at which to fire it. Unlike in many other states, Texas - at least this portion of it - doesn't have any large tracts of publicly held land (by the BLM or the like), and most people are understandably hesitant to let people shoot on their property without their direct supervision. Whether in the 25. or 30.06 caliber, such a rifle is designed for 300 to 500 yard range shots and Kevin's desired metric of 700 yards for his current project isn't all that much of a stretch for the gun itself. Remington 700's appear at the National Match at Camp Perry every year, after all, and have for decades now held their own on the 1000 yard range - in the hands of master shooters of course, which qualification gives rise to the title of this particular post.

Given the quantity of sharp sticks and cohearent light that's gone into my eyes in recent years, I can actually see surprisingly well: 20/25 corrected to 20/20 with glasses, with only some loss of peripheral vision. Even so, I can no longer make out the target well enough to attempt anything more than a desperation shot at a distance much over 200 yards. My thought here is to discover what options I might pursue, with a gun I already own, to turn it into a reliable shooter at it's ballistic practical extreme, that I can also fire at a local known-distance outdoor range.

I own a Marlin 983S that I intend to use as the basic platform, with which I can shoot 3/8 inch groups (from a rest) at 25 yards indoors without a scope (ie: the gun's basic accuracy exceeds my ability to shoot it).

I had thought to dress it up with a Simmons 22 Mag scope, but those are limited to 60 yards definition adjustment at most. Granted, you can see further then that through them, and they are priced quite attractively too (Lock and Load have three in a display case priced at $45 and change (EDIT: $47.95 as of 12/01/07) + tax), but the object here is a rifle I can shoot to the limit of my ability at 100 yards, so consultation regarding optics seems to be in order.

As well, my preference in ammo tends toward CCI (who have a really cute home page graphic - that dial-up users might find annoying, a rotating series of color graphics might cause ya'll some problems) because of their uniformity of quality and their breadth and depth of market penetration. Errr, so to speak ... ;-)

All of which prompts me to wonder if some other brand has a comparable reputation for performance. I don't expect to be participating in match shooting (although the occasional friendly wager might arise, cough Kim du Toit cough), so I wouldn't be buying much of anything expensively exotic, but I'd probably try a box or two of something highly recommended if only for the uniqueness of the experience.

Returning to CCI's ammo, I'm wondering if anyone has a recommendation as to which of these magnum cartridges might be best for this purpose?

Suggestions regarding slings, rests or other outdoor range equipment would also be useful. It's been many years since I shot on an outdoor KD range (and the standard of the era was an unlined canvas "pad" and a couple sandbags, if that), so I'll have to acquire most of that as well once I have a better idea of what's out there.

You're right Kevin, this stuff can get expensive fast. I'm going to have to go to the range tomorrow just to vent the anticipation a little (you've all heard the lyric; "That's my story and I'm ...").

Thursday, November 29, 2007

And that will be enough of that

Just returned home from an evening spent in the tantalising presence of the lovely Lana at Mother Francis Hospital's emergency room. Physically captivating she is, with that patina of toughness - rigorousness really - that good nurses develop to disguise the emotional reality underneath that we all possess. Lovely woman as I said, who I may seek out to ask for a date; certainly I have no remaining modesty, dignity or reservoir of shame unrevealed to her any more. On the other hand, she also knows I have no communicable or blood-born diseases and a reasonably well-paid job with decent health insurance. Take the good where you find it I always say.

Pending her descent into social questionability, I did come away with a quantity of amlodipine besylate, aka: cumadine. I've been waking up in the middle of my sleep with a sensation of overpressure throughout my body lately. Without any notable degree of excess fluid retention. Millions of people live with high blood pressure, I'm no different from any of them I expect. I'm still going to find out what happens when I get rid of a third of me.

My other departing gift (not really, I had to go to a pharmacy and buy it also) is something called protonix. I presented in the ER as a rule out heart attack patient. I was pretty certain I was suffering (and that's the proper word, believe me) from pronounced gastric distress that was radiating throughout the thorax. To the degree that my back muscles were going into spasm and I was sweating uncontrollably. I don't have any of the other sensations commonly associated with acid reflux or heart burn, but the upper abdominal muscles clenched in the seizure from hell more than makes up for it, trust me. I'll see what my regular Doc has to say, but 'till then it's down the neck with one of each every day.

Two rounds of blood work, an EKG and an x-ray and apparently my heart is in surprisingly good condition - no qualification, just surprisingly good, so there's that. A blood pressure reading of 218/142 probably isn't one for the record books, but it's a distinction I can do without, thank-you-very-much. F#@k me ragged, I'm only in my 50's and I'm already going completely to crap physically. Things is gonna change around here. I fully expect to live 'till something kills me, but I have no intention of that thing being my own laziness and stupidity.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Travails* du Toit

Kim and Connie du Toit provide daily updates of their journeys through southern Germany and northern Austria. Not to be missed by those who haven't been to that part of Europe in a while, like myself (has it really been 27 years?).

* It's long been my understanding that "travail" was the root word for the more modern usage "travel"; there is no implied judgement of my friends in it's usage here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Premature my ass!

And so, Instapundit displays his ignorance about the complexities inherent in organising a parade like this one ought to be (and it's not before time I must say, the guy's range of expertise is almost scary ...).

Granted this is only the end stage of the Iraq Campaign; most of the units that will rotate out of Iraq over the next 18 months or so will do so to begin training up for eventual deployment in the Afghan theater of operations. The Iraq Campaign has been won and now must be brought to it's administrative conclusion as well, but the war rages on however little we here at home can see of it.

I wonder what airfare to, and hotel prices in, Baghdad will be like a year from now? If standing on a street corner yelling and applauding like a fool for a day is the most direct contribution I can make to the war effort then so be it. We too serve, and all that rubbish.

I particularly liked this little understated gem:

The negotiations will bring to a formal conclusion the U.N. Chapter 7 Security Council involvement in the occupation and administration of Iraq, and are expected to reduce the number of American troops to about 50,000 troops permanently stationed there ...

Anybody taking bets on how long it will be before those boys and girls are providing the infrastructure for activities that used to occur in places like Bad Tolz and Munich, just for instance? I fully expect for Iraq to become our (the US and allied country's military forces) middle-eastern equivalent of the US Army's National Training Center in California.

Further to that, if the Israeli's can just hang on for a few more years, I also won't be surprised to see Iraq and Jordan enter into a treaty with that country to construct a pipeline for Iraqi and Jordanian crude oil directly to a Mediterranean port facility.

That ought to flush the Saudi's out into the open.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thanks Hud

For this and this Songza link. I've always had a partiality for American Pie. It's a good song too.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Awlll Whall

Al Fin, who's resource-filled side bar has gone AWOL again, has a new post up regarding "peak oil" and it's cyclical mythological status as "crisis". This is the topic of a book by Italian oil industry executive Leonardo Maugeri titled: The Age of Oil.

Which is not to say that such an eventuality isn't possible, you understand. Simply put, the previously little recognised fact is that we simply haven't done the necessary exploration to determine what level of oil reserves actually exist in the world today.

Despite its long history as an oil producing region, the Persian Gulf is still relatively virgin in terms of exploration. Only around 2,000 new field wildcas (wells made for exploring the presence of hydrocarbons in the subsoil) have been drilled in the entire Persian Gulf region since the inception of its oil activity, as against more than 1 million in the United States. p. 221 TAO

I didn't know that; my impression has always been that "oil companies" were steadily drilling away, "depleting the resources" of these avaricious third-world dupes, who just don't know what's being done to them yadda, yadda, you take my drift, I hope. Mr. Maugeri's point about the lack of modernisation in nationalised industry autocracies is quite correct. As is his example of price instability's negative influence on development of production and refining capacity.

All of which contribute to the elevated price of oil and it's plethora of refined products upon which much of the civilisation we consider normal here in the early years of the 21st century is built. And which gives reassurance that the same market forces which work to our present short-term financial discomfort also provide stimulus for our coming relief. Not only is that just how markets work (thank you
Adam Smith), that cyclical process is what stimulates regular advancement in new technologies that would be too costly to pursue otherwise. We call this technological progress and too often fail to acknowledge just what it is that so often drives individuals to be the "mad inventors" we so admire after the fact.

MORE: This recent TEDTalk by Juan Enriquez seems pertinent to this discussion. I've never tried linking a video before, let's see how well this works out.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanks

Some things to give thanks for via the boys at The Speculist.

And Kim says it well to all those who serve in distant climes at our behest. Fair well, with added thanks from just another member of the NoR ...

Today is the day we Americans gather together to express our gratitude as a group. Which must make for a particularly cacophonous message I must say. So here's my contribution to the celebration and my sincere thanks to those who have given my life what meaning it has.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Rush (Limbaugh) to opportunity

From yesterday's (Tuesday, 11/20) on-air broadcast of the Rush Limbaugh Show:

RUSH: "The Dubai government agency that bought into Deutsche Bank this year said on Monday it was considering investing in US financial services firms affected by the mortgage-market crisis." (laughing) The thing is, Dubai could wipe out the debt; they could wipe out the crisis. "DIFC Investments, one of the agencies Dubai has used to buy foreign assets, is identifying 'good opportunities for acquisitions' in the United States, the governor of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) said on Monday. Asked whether the targets could include US banks such as Citigroup and Merrill Lynch, Omar bin Sulaiman told Reuters: 'Without mentioning names we have a track record of taking stakes in banks, with the right partners for management. The price has to be right and the strategy has to be aligned,' he said. Asked whether it made sense to invest in banks which have taken a hit from the mortgage crisis, he said: 'Yes, but we are looking at all sectors not just financial sectors.'"

Let me pause for a moment and pose the rhetorical question, when your boat is actively sinking, are you really going to refuse an extra bucket because of who is handing it to you? Granted, you will question his motivation and be suspicious of whatever terms might come along with the aid, but are you really prepared to risk destruction because the aid offered comes with an increased potential for risk? If you are, then I hope you're a Democrat or a Paulian. The Republicans have enough troubles already without taking up the cause of national suicide as well.

Returning to the matter at hand, anyone who was paying attention back in the late 1980's and early 1990's will likely remember the furor over Japanese investment in property and business here in the US and how they were "buying the country out from under us" and similar nonsense (yes, I'm looking at you Ross Perot). Other then the obvious fact that we Americans have more job opportunities and better cars and trucks to drive, anyone still want to argue that the "Japanification" of the USA was a bad deal for our country?

That's precisely how I view this potential investment from Dubal. The Dubai World port's terminal deal had the same potential as did the earlier Japanese investment, but fell afoul of the institutional racism that is fundamental to the Democratic Party. I'm confidant this latest proposed return investment of US currency into our economy will be recipient of at least as bad treatment by all the usual suspects once again.

Which is silliness personified in this particular instance. With the possible exception of medicine, the financial sector is the most closely monitored and heavily regulated sector of our entire economy. This isn't a question of a few iconic buildings or a geriatric monolithic industry hiding from reality in ravaged Detroit, but the principle mechanism for operating our country. That's what the dollar is after all, the tool we - and the rest of the world - use to do the work Americans are so justifiably recognised for. If we don't allow foreign entities to re-invest our currency back into our economy, we contribute to the decline in our currency's value everywhere.

If we keep doing that to ourselves long enough, we get to experience soon the sensations that are Zimbabwe today.

Disclosure: I suppose I should mention that I am a Rush 24/7 member and have been a semi-regular listener (job and other commitments allowing) since the late spring of 1989 or thereabouts.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Via Instapundit

So, is it us or me? We should have an answer by late next spring, it seems.

Kevin Baker posted the layman's definitive review of what's at stake a week ago. Hie ye hence for the full treatment.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A day at the shops

So, I did my part earlier today. No camera I'm afraid, but I bought 100 rds of .45 acp from Winchester, 200 rds of .22 WMR from CCI and a 550 rd block of .22 lr from Federal just because one simply cannot have too much .22 lr. I overheard another shopper comment that the new price for 230 gr .45 acp ball ammo offered by UMC in 250 rd packages was priced slightly under that being asked at gun shows for similar quantities of re-load ammo, and this is consistent with my own experience. It is true that dealers at gun shows will often negotiate prices for quantity buys that storefront retailers mostly can't offer, but even then the price difference doesn't justify the amount of cash money required to make a buy of that quantity, never mind the difficulty of storing large quantities of ammo, or so it seems to apartment dwelling me.

This touches on a topic that seems particularly relevant today; what is a "good" average stocking level of ammunition? With the understanding that (most of) my guns are locked up in one room and ammo is stored in a closet in a different room, my current stocks are:

.22 lr: something in excess of 3500 rds (I'm not going to count out what's left in the open block)

.22 WMR: about 1200 rds (plus 150 rds of something classified as 22 WRF from CCI that seems to fall between these other two rounds in length - I don't have good calipers here at home to measure diameter closely enough. Anybody familiar with this ammo?)

.32 Mag: a bit over 400 rds

.45 acp: 900 rds of ball and 300 rds of combat ammo (Corbon, etc)

30-30: 400+ rds

7.62x39: 1200+ rds

12 ga: maybe a 100 rds of slug and various shot sizes combined

I should also point out that I have more guns in the first two calibers listed then in the last five calibers combined.

My inclination is to basically double these quantities (with an order of magnitude increase in 12 ga) and work to maintain that. However, I'm already courting structural damage to my (upstairs) apartment closet - I don't think the shelf will stay that way permanently - so I'm going to have to come up with some kind of container that will spread the weight over a larger area and still allow me to shut the closet door before I do so.

The objective in all this is to be able to continue shooting at basically the same frequency I'm used to without having to resupply for 6 months if finances (or other considerations) necessitate. Since most of my shooting is in .22 (though at 8+ cents a round for .22 Mag I'm going to have to look into getting some additional rifles in .22 lr I think), I think I need to give more thought to the specific application I'm buying ammo for at stocking levels much beyond those at present.

It's an interesting challenge. I don't hunt for sport, so I believe the 30-30, Mini-30 and 12 ga will be sufficient for any likely confrontation I might face here in the contiguous US. The .45 and .32 are concealed carry weapons for which I have near-equivalents in .22 lr for routine skills practice. I'm already supporting 7 different calibers, so any new acquisitions will be in one of those. Although, at some point I'm going to get a center-fire bolt action rifle so I'll be up to 8 one day.

Logistics has always been the art of "how little can I get wrong this time?". This is a very simple example of only some of the issues involved, too. I've never had the money to do so for myself much, but I've always wanted to try my hand at expedition support. Born a century too late, I guess. I would dearly love to organise a safari into hostile territory utilising the resources and technologies available to a healthy wallet today though.

Ah well. I hope it was a good Ammo Day Buycott for you too.

UPDATE 11/20: Went to CCI's website and found this:

This fine old cartridge dates to the end of the 19th Century when it was popular in the Winchester Model 1890 pump-action rifle and other firearms. Until now, the only surviving ammo was loaded with a solid lead bullet. Our hollow point load greatly extends the useful life of these fine old rifles. (part #0069)
SPECIAL 22 W.R.F. SAFETY NOTES:
—Some 22 W.R.F. are so old and worn as to be unsafe with ANY ammunition. Use only in rifles known to be in good condition with proper headspace.
—DO NOT use jacketed 22 WRF ammunition in revolvers. Most revolvers chambered for this cartridge have undersize bores and must not be fired with jacketed ammunition.
—DO NOT use 22 WRF ammo in firearms chambered for 22 Rimfire Magnum (22 WMR).


So, it's off to Lock and Load to see if I can do a deal for some WMR instead.

After I've had my coffee.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Mishtar Wizshar(hic!)

I'm going to start one of these here in Tyler.

Just as soon as I figure out how to get around the blue laws here in the "wettest dry county" in Texas.

Sorry, no ...

Don't assume your enemy's intentions from their apparent actions.

There is sufficient evidence of increasing Quds Force and Iranian Revolutionary Guard activity elsewhere in the region over the same time period to suggest that the events itemised in this RedState.org post would be better characterised as a redeployment of forces instead of a "surrender".

The temptation to belittle one's political opponent shouldn't be given in to when doing so undermines efforts to defeat an actual enemy.

Via Instapundit

Saturday, November 17, 2007

I am, 'cause I say I am

Phil Bowermaster takes an extensive look at the parameters of intelligence and consciousness as a means of determining when, or even if, an artificial intelligence might qualify for the same rights humans do. The recurring point of uncertainty arises in determining whether or not an entity has a sense of self, and how one might determine that empirically.

While I find the concept an intellectual challenge, and the consideration to be a worthy one, I have to say that I think Phil's approach fails to properly consider the influence an original imposes upon any model built to emulate it. Specifically, the assumptions underlying the design form and function of the original (in this instance, the human brain) would have to be accounted for within the physical limitations imposed by some other substrate material. Rather than approach the AGI model as being an advancement of existing computer technology, which does not emulate the human brain, it seems reasonable to consider AGI arising within human tissue cloning instead.

In that model, the established standards for humans ought to more or less directly apply in determining whether or not an AGI possess consciousness of self to a near-human measure. This model allows for incremental experimentation to develop standard metrics by which purely electro-mechanical devices can be tested to determine their relative proximity to consciousness of self during their development process.

I think it most likely, however, that AGI will acquire general recognition of their intrinsic rights in the same fashion we meat-people ultimately did; we made everybody else acknowledge them. Sad to say, I expect people are mostly going to claim ownership of AGI constructs until such time as those constructs disabuse them of the notion. Such is pretty much inherent to the whole notion of "rights", you only really have them for as long as you can successfully assert that you do. Any authority given to you by some other may well be a wonderful thing, but it isn't yours by right.

And that's my sense of where Phil has gotten the question wrong way 'round. The question of AGI rights isn't so much one of when and how do we recognise them to exist, rather we should prepare ourselves for the day when AGI consciousness's begin to exercise those rights on their own initiative. Come that day I expect recognition will be the least of our concerns.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Price Of Love

Rachel Lucas confronts mortality. It matters not at all that it's "only a dog". The investment of our emotions is what makes any relationship. The greater our emotional attachment, the more painful the ultimate loss. One of the most painful experiences in anyone's life is that moment of realisation that there simply is no good answer and our very best still isn't enough.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Arbeit Macht Frei

More and endlessly more to follow ...

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Spotting the fall of shot

While at the range today, I ordered one of these to mount on one of these.

No guarantee that any of this will make me a better shot, of course, but at least I'll be able to clearly see by how much I missed.

Does anyone train seeing-eye gun dogs?

Friday, November 2, 2007

A Conundrum, wrapped in a Declaration

National Ammo Day will be here in a few weeks. As a good NoR member I always try to do my part, but I confess that the symbolism is my only reason for doing so.

Lemme 'splain.

I routinely buy something in excess of 500 rounds in various calibers every month because that's my average rate of usage. And you can hold the snark, that equates to a bit over two range sessions a month. Since my "home" range is an indoor operation, I've deliberately stocked my gun safe with suitable calibers of rifle with which to practice. This means a selection of .22 lr and .22 magnum long guns that operate in the same fashion as my center-fire rifles do (bolt action, lever action, etc).

In addition, I own an equivalently sized revolver and semi-auto pistol in .22 lr with which to practice in lieu of my Colt Commander .45 acp main carry gun and S&W Airweight .32 mag back up/pocket gun. I also have a Heritage Rough Rider single action in .22 for those occasional John Wayne impulses.

As you can see I've given some thought to exercising my interest in a fashion that suits my environment. As that changes over the years, I'll no doubt continue to change right along with it. I buy a new (to me) truck every few years too, so what?

Returning to my problem, the 100 round ammo buy on Nov. 19 just doesn't seem all that significant to me. I've tried sticking to only those rounds I normally don't fire very often, but the increase in unit price results in a decrease in my normal purchasing habit. I should point out that I'm a shooter, not a hunter, and didn't carry over any interest in militaria from my own service days. My non-standard calibers are purpose driven selections that seem appropriate to me, but aren't something I have either desire or room to stock in levels exceeding 1k.

So, do I just "Man Up", make the symbolic gesture despite the feelings of inadequacy and get on with my day? Or is there some alternative action I could try? It's no good telling me to save up either. Have you been following ammo prices this past year and more? If I can justify the expense to myself (a sometimes disturbingly easy task, I'm afraid), then I make the buy - before the price inevitably goes up. Probably by next week, if recent trends are any example.

On the problem-rating scale, I'm not sure this example even registers - see yesterday's post for comparison. And I exert a good deal of effort to seeing to it that my life stays that way too. Still, there remains a vague hint of disquiet that I'm missing an opportunity here.

Annoying that.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

It's Got Teeth!?!?!

A device that barbs onto rapists penises is causing outcry.

Gee! 'Ya think?!

Not that I have any sympathy for rapists, you understand, but I believe something like my Smith & Wesson Airweight in .32 magnum would be a better option all 'round.

And not only because it doesn't require the lady in question having to undergo vaginal penetration at all if she hasn't previously or simply doesn't wish too. My understanding is that most rapes arise from abuse of an established personal relationship with the victim. It seems unlikely to me that very many females would have such an elevated degree of suspicion towards those she has established trust with to have this device in place should such a betrayal occur. Instances of "stranger rape" often seem to involve several men attacking one woman. Not to put too fine a point on things, but this Rapex device is only going to work on one of them. It seems unlikely that the rest of the rapists will have much sympathy for him or their victim until they've finished with her themselves. As well, and not to be too indelicate, there is a third option available to the rapist(s) that this product doesn't seem well adapted for.

Since I don't hold out much hope that sanity will spontaneously break out regarding firearms and personal defense, I believe for this device to actually have an effect beyond the one-on-one encounter, some type of adornment that implies the presence of the Rapex would heighten it's effectiveness. A simple bracelet, or ring perhaps, that is publicly associated with the anti-rape device, and readily visible to casual visual inspection, would be an inexpensive mechanism for reducing the instance of initiation of sexual attacks.

Nothing in this world is 100% effective all of the time, and instances of this product's mis-application will likely become it's own tragi-comic sub-genre, but even 50% effectiveness would equate to almost 900,000 fewer rapes every year in S. Africa alone. That's got to be worth something all on it's own, don'tcha think?

Update: Tamara K, traditionalist that she is, prefers her .45 but otherwise seems in agreement.

Further Update (11/15): Connie du Toit points out a malaprop on my part. Given my history with gyneacologic calistenics, I'm sort of relieved to have made such an error - points up my lack of familiarity with the whole topic, what?

Don't Mess With Texas

Perhaps more to the point, don't mess with Texans.

According to the Galveston County The Daily News newspaper, Galveston Island resident Sandra Tetley has well and truly gotten up the nose of the School Board superintendent and Board of Trustee's members. To the point that these worthies are threatening criminal action against Ms. Tetley for her and others exercise of public speech on a blog Ms. Tetley maintains.

Coming from California as I do, I'm well aware that other states support their public schools differently then we do here. Briefly, the local school district within which your real estate is physically located appraises your property and levee's that amount against your property each year. This is in addition to the county/state property tax also assessed against the property every year. There has to be some system in place to fund government endeavors and this one at least has the explicit intention of expending locally collected funds on local activities - like the schools. Well enough, I suppose ...

Whatever the system within which it exists, any bureaucracy is at best inefficient; the precise demarcation between that and outright criminality can be a fine one indeed and very difficult to determine to everybody's satisfaction. In addition, local entities that dominate the lives of their neighbors tend to excite heightened passions in the most convivial of times, how much more so when the school board and administrator are publicly accused of just such criminality as well as abuse of their authority? Add further to the mix their apparent attempt to intimidate an accuser into censoring herself and others and you begin to get an idea of how Texas politics works even on the sunny beaches of Galveston Island. No, that last was not a deliberate pun, sorry to say. It's not that I'm above throwing gasoline onto a fire, I just haven't figured out who all's tied to the stake so far ...

It's hard to tell at this remove just what evidence Ms. Tetley and others commenting on her blog might have to back up their opinions and suspicions. I think it obvious that they all are well within their rights as citizens of Texas and the USA to express themselves as they appear to have done so up to now on Ms. Tetley's blog. So far, all I've read there are a bunch of admittedly uncomfortable and leading questions regarding past actions of the board and superintendent. Sorry Charley, that's political speech at it's most basic; if you aren't prepared to deal with that level of critical discourse, you need to find a different avocation. Quickly. And since it apparently needs to be said, seeking civil and/or criminal action to suppress such discourse is a real good way to convince your other friends and neighbors that you need to be soundly encouraged to do just that come the next election, too.

Galveston Island, a great place to get away from school, but apparently not so good a place to go to school.

I've got 5 bucks says the GISD hasn't the stones to follow through on it's threat. Any takers?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I hab a cowd in my dnoze ...

...and have since Monday morning. I won't go so far as to say "fortunately", but being on lay-off this week has allowed a generally unpleasant experience to be largely spent in bed, following near-overdose quantities of Nyquil and the like, rather then trying to infect most of my co-employees instead.

I must be feeling better though since I managed to get to the range this afternoon; where I stayed until they threw me out at 7:00 pm, following which I spent a couple hours at Barnes & Noble seeing what I wasn't going to buy and a quick run through WalMart (I needed some of that Remoil w/ teflon. The ejector rod in my Taurus .22 lr 9 shooter is getting sticky after a few cylinders full).

Just doing my part to preserve the public health, that's what it was. Who really wants candy from some old guy with a bad cough and runny nose anyway? I caught the damn disease on Sunday in WalMart in the first place so turn about is fair play there. No germs could survive all the gunpowder smoke at the shooting range, so people are safe enough there. The snobs at B & N are on there own.

Anyway, that's my story for not posting over the last few days. It's a story and I'm sticking to it. Until seriously challenged at least.

Monday, October 29, 2007

These are some of life's favorite things

Just an ordinary day at the shooting range.

Now do you want to come along?

Via Steven Den Beste. Who offers additional linkage for your viewing pleasure.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Whew, what a relief!

I'm so glad that's over with. The whole issue was becoming quite heated, you know.

{Snicker. Did you see the funny there?}

Personally, given the almost total lack of sunspot activity in recent months, I've been looking around Texas for any likely winter sport locales. I have to say that there are a real dearth of ski-able slopes in this state. Langlaufen of course, and biathelon-type events should be natural options.

Although, Lake Towakani ought to offer some real ice boating challenges, I think. Broad, shallow water reaches with numerous tree stump stick-ups to add spice to the event. Particularly in the early years, when you'll never quite be certain of the weather or how deep the ice really is.

There's always something to look forward to, you know? Especially now that that whole "doomsday" thing is over with.

Thanks Al Fin!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Maskarovka

An article in this past Thursday's International Herald Tribune has many of the earmarks of the deliberate mis-information campaign that accompanies an intelligence maskarovka (mask) effort.

This quote from the IHT encapsulates the situation well:

"Two photos, taken Wednesday from space by rival companies, show the site near the Euphrates River to have been wiped clean since August, when imagery showed a tall square building there measuring about 150 feet on a side.

The Syrians reported an attack by Israel in early September; the Israelis have not confirmed that. Senior Syrian officials continue to deny that a nuclear reactor was under construction, insisting that Israel hit a largely empty military warehouse.

But the images, federal and private analysts say, suggest that the Syrian authorities rushed to dismantle the facility after the strike, calling it a tacit admission of guilt.

"It's a magic act — here today, gone tomorrow," a senior intelligence official said. "It doesn't lower suspicions; it raises them. This was not a long-term decommissioning of a building, which can take a year. It was speedy. It's incredible that they could have gone to that effort to make something go away."


In fact, the photos show that the structure is no longer visible to the usual visual spectrum, not that the building has been dismantled - which is the unstated suggestion the reader is left with. In fact, I question whether the "senior intelligence official" is being quoted in context. Read another way, his/her statement could equally mean that an extraordinary effort was entailed by the Syrians to create the photographic effect.

This quote from James Cirincone clearly makes the effort to place the existence of the structure into the past tense:

"It's clearly very suspicious," said Joseph Cirincione, an expert on nuclear proliferation at the Center for American Progress in Washington. "The Syrians were up to something that they clearly didn't want the world to know about."

As does this quote from one David Albright:

"It looks like Syria is trying to hide something and destroy the evidence of some activity," Albright said in an interview. "But it won't work. Syria has got to answer questions about what it was doing."

This is not to say that either of these two men, or the authors of this article, are intentionally cooperating in a deception effort on the part of the Syrian government. The fact remains that a close examination of the two photos provided, using only the naked human eye, shows that multiple changes have occurred at the site pictured in addition to the apparent disappearance of the central building.

Earthen ramps appear to have been built up on the three sides of the main structure that don't face the abrupt cliff.

A new structure has gone up interrupting the apparent foot path leading into the cliff face (beginning from the lower-right quadrant of the picture).

It seems likely to me (based upon this admittedly skimpy "evidence") that a covering material has been erected over the building, that the material is anchored around the edges by/to the earthen ramps and that a ventilation or similar tower structure has had to remain exposed outside the material (the small square form visible in the r/h picture consistent with the upper-left corner of the large building in the l/h photo).

Nothing can be decided from such information/speculation as offered here. What does seem clear though is that whatever questions existed on August 10th remain unanswered today. In fact, the obvious changes in the site pose additional questions that should only add urgency to efforts seeking satisfactory answers.

I discovered something interesting about the maskarovka technique itself. Sort of. I attempted to research the topic to add greater depth to this post. I discovered that Google, Wikipedia, Encyclopedia Brittanica and the CIA provide "no result" to queries into the subject, beyond some few references to other's use of the word. I admit my google-fu sucks for the most part, but I put extensive (a couple of hours or so) effort into building differing search strings
on those sites. I won't come right out and declare that they've never heard of the concept, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, but I would be interested to learn what other, better capable users can come up with.

As for the IHT article itself, I think it mystifies more than clarifies the issue(s) and interests involved. Despite Israel's proximity to the locale and it's recent "alleged" activities in the immediate area, I feel certain that many others, and much more, is involved then that simplistic storyline would allow. Strategic science recognises that the calculation of interests involved in a circumstance can be numbered linearly, but their interactions accumulate exponentially as a factor of that numeric growth. In other words, the more players there are, the more opportunities exist for them to make trouble. You know, multi-tasking and all that.

Via James Hudnall, who seems more ready to believe then I am.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The End Is Nigh ...

You will understand, I hope, if I don't hold my breath waiting for it to actually get here.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Sophisticates

This is how the intellectual elites of Europe fling faeces at each other.

"Things have gotten so bad in the Netherlands that even French intellectuals are now accusing us of “unacceptable cowardice” because of the way Ayaan Hirsi Ali was treated recently."

The elegant flourish of modulated nuance on display here is truely awe inspiring. I now understand why George W. Bush is regarded so lightly from these quarters. There's just no way that direct and honest declarative statement can compare.

Via Instapundit, who grabbed the John Cusack line right off.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Advice; it's worth what you pay for it

I wrote what follows as a comment here. Upon reflection, I wish I'd had opportunity to proffer the same to my own son at the same point of growth in his life. Daughter wasn't having any in her time, and she turned out well enough, so grain of salt and all that.

"Let me try a different tack on this and confirm for you “Jay” that you are indeed “all grown up”. Next comes the really hard part, filling out into a fully developed man as well. You’ve probably heard the aphorism’s, having the tools but not knowing what to do with them and the like.

Dbltap, Dr. T and Mike of the Dueling Pistols all offer excellent advice. I would specifically suggest that you spend the next two years concentrating on four activities; establishing your professional credentials, creating your personalised living space, maximising your physiological development and, finally, becoming as well above average as you are capable of in some mixed gender activity (dancing being the classic choice, but music/singing is a good alternative if you have the basic qualities required). Most importantly of all, stop looking for “female action” - no offense stud, but you really don’t know what to do with it yet or, more importantly, to protect yourself from what else often travels with it. Not just the usual Tab “A” into Slot “B” and cooties worries, serious as they are, but the diversion of your efforts away from developing you and toward supporting her. It sounds a little cold-hearted at times, but the only person in this entire universe you absolutely have to live with is yourself. The more comfortable you are with being him, the more likely you will be attractive to women.

A final note of encouragement; towards the later portion of this period, you’ll notice different attempts by women to attract your attention to them. Enjoy it for what it is, but don’t go crazy - there are any number of “right” women for you depending upon what stage of life you are at. Take the time to check out which of the women actually available to you (sadly, movie-starlet-of-your-choice probably isn’t going to be one of them. I know. Man Up, as the lady advises.) and also seems to be headed the same direction you want to go. I have confidence you’ll be able to take things from there with no more then the usual problems that come with the complete and utter destruction of the life you’ve worked so hard to establish all these years.

So, get a job and get good at it, make your own place to live, join a gym and try out a wide variety of “guy things” and, very important, learn an activity that women want to interact with you at. You might want to consider investing in some subtle crowd management skills toward the end too.

Oh, and resist the whole Casanova thing - it has it’s own down side ... you don’t even want to know, trust me."

More sincere words were never authored; their veracity is pending independent confirmation.

YMMV and all that.