Saturday, April 26, 2014

Some New Vintage Steven Den Beste

Which is pretty well described as a more concise blending of Vintage Steven Den Beste.  He replies to a correspondent who doesn't understand the nature and necessity of the 2nd Amendment to the US constitution:
Let's rewind back to 1789 when the Bill of Rights was written. It was only 6 years since the Revolution ended. And the early battles of the Revolution were fought by men using their own weapons. (That's what the Patriots used in the Battles of Lexington and Concord, for example.) Those who wrote the Bill of Rights were acutely aware that the only reason the Revolution was possible was because of widespread ownership of guns.

The Revolution was fought because the British government was perceived to have become tyrannical, and the Founders were well aware that the new government they were establishing could in turn become tyrannical. They included lots of checks and limits on the government, but knew that in the end the only sure way to prevent that was if the people had the means to rise in revolution, again.

The Second Amendment is the ultimate check. That's why it was included in the Bill of Rights.

This is what you're not going to like: the purpose of the Second Amendment is to make sure that the citizens of the US are sufficiently well armed to fight a revolution, if a new one is needed. That's what the "militia" referred to in it is about: in that time the word "militia" referred to the kind of thing that happened in Boston at the Battles of Lexington and Concord, where all able bodied men grabbed their own guns and fought on behalf of the community.

Which means that issues like hunting or self defense are a distraction. The Second Amendment is about allowing citizens to own weapons which are good enough to permit them to fight against a tyrant's army and win.
Tyrants can be either foreign or domestic in origin (that turn of phrase shows up in the original too), but the essential strength of the USA's fundamental governmental mindset is taken from the largely unspoken understanding that excess oppression can be met with counter excess from almost anyone in the general populace, whenever it appears, whoever the source.

As Steven says, "It isn't a perfect solution, but there aren't any others which have been as successful."  This weekend in particular, it seems appropriate to apply this particular ray of clarity to this specific question.

The Swirl Of Life?

Posted in Friday's New Scientist is an article that describes the recent - and serendipitous - discovery of how life might have formed without the presence of cells in Earth's early oceans.
Ralser's team took early ocean solutions and added substances known to be starting points for modern metabolic pathways, before heating the samples to between 50˚C and 70˚C – the sort of temperatures you might have found near a hydrothermal ventMovie Camera – for 5 hours. Ralser then analysed the solutions to see what molecules were present. 
"In the beginning we had hoped to find one reaction or two maybe, but the results were amazing," says Ralser. "We could reconstruct two metabolic pathways almost entirely." 
The pathways they detected were glycolysis and the pentose phosphate pathway, "reactions that form the core metabolic backbone of every living cell," Ralser adds. Together these pathways produce some of the most important materials in modern cells, including ATP – the molecule cells use to drive their machinery, the sugars that form DNA and RNA, and the molecules needed to make fats and proteins. 
If these metabolic pathways were occurring in the early oceans, then the first cells could have enveloped them as they developed membranes. 
In all, 29 metabolism-like chemical reactions were spotted, seemingly catalysed by iron and other metals that would have been found in early ocean sediments. The metabolic pathways aren't identical to modern ones; some of the chemicals made by intermediate steps weren't detected. However, "if you compare them side by side it is the same structure and many of the same molecules are formed," Ralser says. These pathways could have been refined and improved once enzymes evolved within cells.
And, quite obviously, have provided the mechanism for the evolutionary development of more complex cellular structures.

Those who argue against the Theory of Evolution like to declare that the theory can't be proven.  Absent a working two-way time machine, this is almost certainly true ... and entirely beside the point behind the theory in dispute as well as Rene Descartes's Scientific Method itself.  It is not the intent to prove how something did happen, only how it could.  The demonstration of possibility is sufficient to justify further experimentation.  At some point, the preponderance of the experimental results will (or will not) demonstrate the reproducibility of the theory - and thereby render a measure of likelihood regarding the outcome.

Faith leaps from assertion to certainty instead.

I like reading these sort of discoveries because they make clear how little we know about what we experience in life.  Claiming to already know the answers, but not being able to "show your work", seems boring and dismissive to me.  Pursuing discovery through doubt and uncertainty seems much more life-like to me.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Good News

According to this Robert Zubrin article at National Review Online, this years Pacific Salmon catch has quintupled from previous years average numbers. 

Read that again; this years salmon catch is 5 times as large as the average catch over the last decade or so - and environmentalists are up in arms about it too.  So that would be a two-fer, right?  Plenty of inexpensive, really tasty fish this summer and self-marginalized demi-tyrants to point and laugh at.

Personally, I'm gonna stick to Soylant for the most part, which means I can afford a good cut of steak along with my salmon fillet for the occasional cookout.

h/t to Rand Simberg

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Question Of Carry

Uncle asks Appendix Carry, What Say You? and I chimed in with my recollective viewpoint:
My personal direct experience with firearms only goes back to the mid-1960′s, but my admittedly hazy memory of this type of carry was that it was for DA revolvers, SA revolvers with an empty chamber under the hammer or small semi-auto pistols carried Condition 3. Which was all a part of the concealed carry concept of a century-or-so ago; a concealed weapon was implicitly assumed to be intended as a surreptitious option for personal defense. No “fast draw” capability was expected, or even considered desirable as a safety measure. If the situation warrented a more pro-active weapons stance, you readied your gun for that circumstance beforehand or cussed yourself for not paying closer attention to your surroundings. 
I haven’t made any sort of historical research effort on this, but this is my memory of what the “old timers” (my grandfather and his age cohort) said when I first started getting seriously interested in guns back when. I personally have occasionally worn my S&W 431PD in a belly holster at 11 o’clock for a r/h draw, but I’m a few kilo’s away from that option being what anyone other than the Texas legislature would call “concealed” today.
 As Uncle and several other of his commenters point out, modern holster and firearms designs expand the possibilities of safe carry well beyond those of a more historical standard.  Also, modern personal training opportunities and standards alter what was historically considered acceptable (the 4 Rules are important, but were never really more than a recommendation) (let's see who is humor deficient).

Personally, appendix carry (inside the waistband, immediately to the right of center-torso) never has been all that comfortable for me, especially when sitting down or bending and twisting at the hips (as you do when lifting items into or out of a vehicle, for instance).  I own shoulder holsters, several IWB and OWB holsters, a belly band holster, pistol pocket guard and even a FAG bag (for when I need to legally conceal a gun but want to create a good bit of uncertainty amongst others as to whether or not I'm actually carrying).  Find the option that suits you best and carry your gun in the most situationally suitable condition you hope not to have to use it in.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Second day back at work yesterday and the seat support thingee I bought didn't help me make it to the end of the shift as well as it seemed to Monday.  Paid vacation for a day or two until I can put together a more effective lower spine support for use on a forklift truck.  Already sent the money to Amazon after I got home from work for attempt No. 2.  A couple different designs of L-spine/abs braces and a small seat pad to alter the angle I sit on the seat.  If this doesn't work I spend the hundred bucks for the pro-model seat back cushion, I guess.

There certainly seems to be real science behind all of this technology design, but I'm not doing any of it.  Vitamin I stacked with codeine will get you through the night though.

Sunday, April 6, 2014


Spent much of the day moving out of WinXP.  Well, sort of and mostly - if some casual passerby should happen to point out where/how I can put my established email account (Outlook Express) (don't judge) onto Win7, I could complete my escape and would snivel much less in coming days.  I resorted to the (temporary, damnit!) measure of moving most of my favorites/bookmark list onto the blog, so there's some added content to wade through.  Maybe you'll find something of newish interest.

It was a terrible day to go outside anyway.  Thunderstorm(s), inches of rainfall, the day's high temp was 51F and only got there after the wind dropped.  Can't say I'm actually excited to go back to work Monday, but my banker is looking less nervous and I have to pay for all this new technology I'm likely mis-using. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Went to the 4pm matinee Friday afternoon; the theater was about 80% filled with more adults than kids.  If you are a fan of the Marvel Comics universe of movies, you definitely want to see this one.  The writers deftly weave references to other characters and events into the dialogue, which gives an added sense of substance to the story, and the dramatic events don't interrupt the suspension of disbelief a story of this type absolutely requires.  There are a few moments that won't bear up under the strain of even a casual application of high school science class rigor, but a smooth application of handwavium in the dialogue makes it mostly go down easily enough.  Stan Lee almost slipped his trademark cameo appearance past us too.

One thing I've noticed as the Avengers storyline has developed; with the exception of 7 people (I counted), the audience stayed quietly in their seats through the closing credits.  I expect to see this technique of having an added segment of the movie being tacked onto the end of the credits spread to other production companies than Marvel Studios.  This particular viewing audience reflex/expectation has been well and truly established now.  I wonder how soon the cable film producers will adopt it for their work?

Two thumbs up and several "like" buttons for this one.