End of The Year Round-up

Radley Balko provides a good list of things that went well lately. You should go check it out. Despite what some would have you beleive, the world is not heading for catastrophe at an ever-increasing pace.


Natural Disasters

First off, I'd like to apologize for the slow pace around here the past couple of days. I thought it would be possible to continue blogging over the vacation. This has turned out to be overly optimistic.

Anyhow, I'm sure that unless you live under a rock and don't have a newsfeed you've heard that a large earthquake near Sumatra caused tsunamis to destroy most of the coastal regions of several Asian countries. If you're inclined to help, go here.

I'd like to make a larger point. First off, ignore jackasses like this one who think that government action is the only thing that can help the world. How the Scandos ever got the idea that you can tax yourself into prosperity is beyond me, but the conditioning works.

What is stunning in all of these countries is the complete failure of civil society and the infrastructure. There is literally no way for these countries to cope with a disaster of this magnitude. How do you develop a civil society and infrastructure that works? Well, it helps to have money. How do you get money on a national scale? Last time I checked, it had a lot to do with the rule of law and a free market economy. Not that these ideas are new or exciting, but there's a huge chunk of the world that cannot or will not embrace them. It's an inescapable fact of life that crappy governments kill people in many strange ways. One less obvious way is by preventing people from gaining the resources to cope with the unexpected themselves.

I am going to make a prediction. By the time all is said and done, private individuals and organizations from America will provide more disaster relief than any government. This is one of the benefits of the rule of law, a free market (mostly) economy, and a robust civil society. When somebody else wants to contribute more and do more, then they get to complain about stinginess.



Before I get my nerve up to venture out into the frozen wasteland the world has become, I thought I would take a moment to wish glad tidings upon all of you who are so bored you're reading blogs on Christmas Day. Aren't gatherings with the extended family fun?

Anyhow, this is the one day of the year when I set aside my general loathing of humanity. So in that spirit, Merry Christmas from all of us here at YPS.

By the way, have I mentioned how much I don't like snow? I really do hate the stuff.


Merry Christmas to all...

...and to all a good night...

BTW, despite T's incessant bitching, the snow really is very cool.


This is simply unreal. It's snowing on Christmas Eve. I realize that for some of you this is not an odd occurrence. Y'all don't live in Houston. It is not, repeat NOT, supposed to snow down here. That's why I moved here, dammit. Because it doesn't snow on the Gulf Coast of Texas!

Wrong and sick, sick and wrong.


Confusion About New Drugs

I have been reading up lately on the problems with Medicare and Social Security. A red herring that some people try to throw out as a distractor is some claim that government sponsored/subsidized R&D creates new drugs which the drug companies then "unfairly" use to generate profits. For examples, try this comment:
it funds R&D for billions of dollars worth of life-saving pharmaceuticals each year, then turns them over to the drug companies, who gouge us on them.

I've heard this comment, or similar ones, thrown about lately. This really confuses me, perhaps because the idea that there are labs somewhere funded by the government that spit out drugs ready for market is just ridiculous. The most government funded research does is demonstrate some causal connection between a substance and an effect. The gap between the demonstration of effect and commercially useful drug is pretty broad, and sometimes unbridgable. To imply that drug companies are taking miracle drugs developed at government expense and profiting from all those fat tax dollars is just ludicrous.

Two major hurdles exist between lab and commercial production, and the government does not generally conduct research on either. Hurdle number one is the manufacture of the compound is commercially significant amounts to an acceptable level of quality. This can be a deal breaker for a number of compounds. Generally speaking, any compound that was easy to synthesize was discarded as a possible drug years ago. The newer compounds being tested are, in general, hard to synthesize. This can makes large scale manufacture sometime prohibitively difficult. Things don't scale nicely from bench to production, as anybody whose ever done product R&D can tell you. It may also be that the compound is simply uneconomic for commercial manufacture. As a simple example, if a compound costs more to manufacture than the possible sales price, it won't get made. There are also huge economies of scale with chemical production. If the potential market is very small, the cost per user is generally much greater. The per user cost may be so great as to make the drug commercially nonviable.

The next problem is the safety and efficacy testing demanded by the FDA. The cost of this testing is borne entirely by the company who develops the drug for market. This cost is not trivial. Numerous case studies abound on the amount of money it takes to get a drug through FDA approval. The short answer? More than you can imagine. Again, the government doesn't do this testing. So the expense is borne by industry. As we all know, or should know, for a company to exist in the long term it has to turn a profit. So drug companies have to recoup all the money they spend on those two factors, along with everything else. To insist, against all available evidence, that drug companies gouge the public for government-developed drugs is to display a fundamental misunderstanding of how drugs are developed.

It also doesn't make your pronouncements on anything else more credible when you start spouting nonsense.


Target's Non-Solicitation Policy with respect to the Salvation Army

I've been hearing quite a bit over the past couple of weeks about how Target stores are evil because they're not allowing the Salvation Army bell ringers to stand around out front of the store and do their holiday thing. I have been quite surprised by this particular reaction coming from of all places, conservative circles. While the valuable services that the Salvation Army provides are indisputable, I applaud Target for upholding its policy, and you should too. From a conservative perspective, here's why.

We conservatives are always bitching and screaming about upholding the rule of law. We can point to a million examples of how leftists want to only enforce rules for the rest of us, because they think they're too smart and too special for the same. We, time after time, expose them as hypocrites, because they are always more than willing to carve out that one exception especially for their pet fad worthy cause, or to skirt that one particular rule because of .

So, examining the current situation forces the question, does this all sound familiar? Target has a no solicitation policy, across the board, no exceptions. I don't know about you, but little more annoys me than to be going into a store somewhere only to be accosted by little league candy pushers, or some obese, greasy haired, menopausal lard-ass soliciting her latest craft projects. Allowing the Salvation Army as exception, opens the door to that next church group charity, then some church members little leaguer, which puts Target right back where they started...enter greasy lard-ass.

Target has made itself a rule, to which nobody has been able to produce one instance where an exception was granted. I for one, respect the hell out of their unwillingness to crater. Conservatives should respect that too.

Spelling Inanities

The nice young girl who handed me my lunch yesterday reminded me of a pet peeve of mine. She was very sweet, and I had no problems with her. I do, however, think her parents should be slapped. Why? Her name was Maegan. I have a huge problem with the idiots that think spelling your kid’s name in a unique, creative, unmistakable fashion is something worth doing.

This is distinct from giving your kid a name like Phinneas or Sedgwick or some similarly outré moniker. You want to doom your kid to a lifetime of mockery, be my guest. Some of the points I’m going to raise apply to the bizarro names as well, but they aren’t my main focus.

What you have done by giving your kid an alternative spelling to a common name is to guarantee that none of your child’s documentation as they pass through life will be correct. You have consigned your offspring to a lifetime of trying to get people to correct the spelling of their name on business cards, tax documents, driving licenses, property deeds, military enlistment records and every other scrap of paper that modern society demands. Good job, nitwits. I’m sure your kid will appreciate the lifetime of unceasing arguments with bureaucrats everywhere. God knows I do, and my name isn’t all that unusual.

Do you think that anybody else on the planet cares that it’s “Catherine” spelled with two Xs and an umlaut? Before you spout off some ill-informed nonsense, I’ll answer that for you: no, they don’t. When it’s pronounced, it doesn’t matter how it’s spelled, does it? Once you write it down, people think “Goddamn, but you people can’t spell.” Nobody thinks “How clever!” or “How unusual!” or “How unique!” People think you smoked crack in an alleyway before filling out your child’s birth certificate. I don’t know about you, but that ain’t the impression I like to give the world. I’m sure your kid wants to spend her life answering the question “Were your parents stupid, or what?”

Here comes the hardest point of all for some of you to grasp. What does it mean when you ask people’s opinions on what to name your kid and they make a weird face and say “That’s… nice”? It means they think you have your head so firmly implanted up your ass that it’s going to take a team of spelunkers and a week’s worth of blasting to extract your cranium. The number of people who will give you an honest opinion on what you’re about to name your child is vanishingly small. It approaches zero for most of you, unless you know a lot of insensitive assholes like me. I sincerely doubt that’s the case. So, you’re going to have to do the hard work of figuring out when you’re about to make a tragic mistake all by your damn self. Of course, if you’re considering naming a child “Madysyn” or some such tripe, your judgement and decision making skills are already flawed.

On this note, I present to you Baby's Named a Bad, Bad Thing. The comments are instructive for those of you considering the wide range of awfulness that can be perpetrated on a child. The reactions you get from this site are much more in line with what the reaction of the general public will be.


More Stupid Bookcases

I was browsing MoCoLoco for news and info and came across this post. Once again, I am amazed at the paucity of books these people must have.. How many books does this idiot thing hold? 12? I can't quite figure out how the books stay attached, but it doesn't look like a fabulous way to take care of them. I'm thinking over the long term you're gonna end up with some damaged goods.

In other book news, ReaderWare is working okay. The CDs catalog better than the books, but that's because I have a lot of old books. Anything new is a breeze. Scan the UPC and go. I have been through some of the scifi, but it's problematic in that much of it is old and has no UPC or even ISBN. It does work pretty well, and is much better than trying to add everything manually.

On the CD front, it's been fantastic. Just about all of our CDs have UPCs on them, so it works really well. I haven't yet had a CD with a UPC that didn't get found. I have, however, noticed an annoying habit on the part of used CD stores. They like to put the price tags directly over the UPC code.

Soon we will get to some serious cataloging. But in the meantime, the holidays will intervene.

Number One With Some Vitriol, Baby

So after drinking free Absolut at J's office Christmas party the other night, I was checking my referral logs. I'm always interested in the search terms people use to find us. I don't know why, but I find it fascinating. So I check on the searches sometimes to see what rank we are for the term. When I checked, YPS was number one on Yahoo for the search 'the aarp sucks'. Boo-yah! Do we rock or what? After all, the AARP does suck and we'd like you to remember the fact.

Since everybody is getting in a lather about Social Security, (which has run out on you and me, I'm told), it's time to discuss why the AARP sucks. Simply: they are a bunch of power drunk old codgers who want to steal all your money. Well, that's factually incorrect. The AARP wants to get the gummint to take all your money and give it to old people. I'm sure the AARP would prefer that the checks only go to AARP members, but that's probably politically infeasible, even for them.

Some of you out there might think this is unduly harsh. The first and most important thing is that, ceter paribus, Social Security in its present form is unsustainable. There are a host of reasons for this, and you can (unsuccessfully) argue the point. Why then does the AARP insist on making no changes to Social Security? The AARP is opposed to means testing, raising the benefit age, and a host of other things that might help in alleviating the issue. The AARP wants SS benefits the way they are forever. Don't believe me? Read and weep, people. This is demographically unsustainable without a crushing tax load.

The next issue that makes me convinced the AARP wants your money? Medicare! The old folks want you to pay for their health treatments. Think the Social Security issue is a nightmare? Try looking at some of the estimates for how much money that debacle is going to suck up. You know what's even better? Before the hideously expensive prescription drug benefit that passed this year, Medicare was going to start going broke in 2013. What do you bet that number has moved up a tad since then? What does the AARP want for Medicare? More. More benefits, more coverage, more of your money. Screw anybody who pays taxes, the gerontocracy wants your money, now, in cash.

More to the point, the AARP is prepared to beat up on the Federal government until they get the goods. Old people vote. Hang out at the polls all day and watch the parade of addled senior citizens coming in to vote. The old folks managed to turn the town where I live into a geriatric ghetto this year by freezing property taxes on everyone over 65. Think that could have happened if young people came in to vote? Nope. Think old people will be able to continue screwing the rest of us for a while? Yup.

It ain't gonna get better until it gets much worse. As much as I applaud the President for taking on this fight, I don't think any package that passes will do enough. My advice? Panic.


All About Tattooed Sleeves T-Shirts...

On 17 December, Gethky over at the Sampler (via Marinebiogeek) posted the I guess now famous tattooed sleeves shirts. I was surprised when I got my first one almost a year ago how few people had actually ever heard of them. If you're not familiar, you should definitely take a look.

As a person who thinks the real tattooed sleeve is both attractive and artistic, but has a professional career, these shirts are a fun novelty. I have a couple of these shirts, so if you interested, here's everything you ever wanted to know about them, but probably never thought to ask.

First, don't buy them directly from the manufacturer. Sleeves Clothing lists them for $80 a piece, and for even somebody who has a good job, that's just a lot for a damn T-shirt. The cheapest I've found them is at Funrockn, a neat little shop out of New Orleans. They've got them for $59.99, and a lot of other fun products too. (No, I have no affiliation with them.)

Second, know they run small. Sleeves Clothing lists a size chart, but those dumb measurement charts mean absolutely nothing to me. This is the point at which T replies, "that's because they involve numbers." I don't do numbers. THPPPT! Anyway, a safe rule is order 1 size larger than what you would normally buy your T-shirts, if you are used to wearing T-Shirts snug and/or fitted, as is in fashion nowadays.

As for which shirt to choose...I have both the Japanese and the Dermagraphic, and think in terms of creating the best illusion of tattooed sleeves, the Japanese is the way to go. The Dermagraphic shirt is a little too washed out once on the body, and ends up looking worse than old sun exposed tattoos. This will be especially true on any wearer who is not a milky, pale, white honky cracker like myself. The Japanese is a little bolder so it creates the nicer effect when blended onto the skin. I don't have much personal knowledge the tribals except that if you're darker than the aforementioned white honky cracker, the flesh tone of the shirt might not work for you.

So...if you decide to save yourself the $20 and order from Funrockn, let them know in advance that you're aware that they're pre-shrunk and run small, and that you've accounted for that in your order. I'm guessing they've had a lot of returns based on the sizing, and this little step will just speed up your order process and save a lot of correspondence and/or phone calls back in forth.

Now, your shirt has arrived. Here are some other things to know.

Don't wear jewelry while putting the shirt on or removing it. The sleeves are like tights and will tear if picked.

Wash the shirt like you would wash your delicates, either by hand or on delicate cycle in a mesh laundry bag. I am not brave enough to try the dryer.

Don't wear this shirt if you're planning to do anything particularly active or if you're going clothes shopping which would require you to take it on and off a lot. These things aren't sturdy.

And, as my mother used to say to me when I was a kid: "you have to suffer to be beautiful." These shirts are not particularly comfortable. The T-shirt portion is nice and soft, but the sleeves have the texture of very old style (not very stretchy) tights, so they're a little rough on the arms, especially in the bends of your arms. They'll leave some marks and if you have particulary sensitive skin, you might get some redness or itching.

I think that's about everything I know, but if anybody thinks of any other questions, I'll be glad to take a shot at answering them.

Epiphany On Corruption

Over at Tech Central Station, a very bright guy has looked at the useless organization known as the United Nations and come up with an explanation as to why the UN is the way it is. The core concept is neatly explained:
The United Nations is the pre-eminent trade association for people involved in the business of government power. Actually, it is more focused than that. The United Nations is the trade association for the world's executive branches -- the place where executive branches come together to promote their individual interests to one another, and to promote the expansion of executive authority in general.
The light bulb goes off! Viewed in this context, the UN’s actions are more understandable and predictable. Read the whole thing, it’s worth a few minutes of your time.


I watched part of the SciFi channel’s presentation of Legend of Earthsea and had a fairly poor reaction. The kind men over at SciFi Daily have pointed out that I am not the only one who is unimpressed. Ursula K. LeGuin goes a little farther in her criticism. Try this section of her commentary:
I don't know what the film is about. It's full of scenes from the story,
arranged differently, in an entirely different plot, so that they make no sense.
This is the first paragraph, no less. Go, Ursula! Maybe you’ll think twice about selling the rights next time, huh?

Career Arc = Bottom, Desperation = High

I was watching VH1 Classic the other day, because I’m old and it’s really the only station that plays music videos on a consistent basis. Well, I suppose MTV2 and Fuse do as well, but the crap to worthwhile music ratio is so high I’d rather not bother. Anyhow, it appears Queensryche is recording Operation: Mindcrime II. This is in conjunction with their current tour, where they are performing the entirety of Operation: Mindcrime.

Wow. Touring a 16 year old album and recording a follow-up. Let me guess how this works. The career arc is bottoming out and we’re trying to recapture some of the audience and money we lost when we started to suck. Smells like middle-aged desperation.

Kind of a shame, since Queensryche was a good band. Geoff Tate used to be one of the best vocalists in rock. I say used to be, since the last album I heard all of was Empire, which came out in ’90. He might still be a good singer. I simply quit caring after Promised Land, because every song I heard from that album was complete crap.

I can also guess what O:M II is going to be. More complaining about corporate manipulation of government set to a theme of why Bush is the source of all evil in the world. Spare me. I’ve got O: M on CD, and I doubt you’ll be saying anything new. I also saw the last tour you did when you performed Mindcrime all the way through. That was 1991. (Suicidal Tendencies opened up!) If you don’t have anything new to say after 13 freakin’ years, maybe it’s time to shut up. Of course, by that theory a lot of people should have quit talking.



J also found Robb Walsh's review of a new steak place in town. She even suggested we go and eat there sometime. Woo-hoo! Steak and boobies!

Football Funnies

As pleased as I am that my team is going to the Rose Bowl, there’s an element of truth to the fact that Mack Brown may not be quite the coach UT needs. That’s why I’m so very amused by the first piece here, pointed out to me by my lovely co-blogger. My favorite part is this question and answer:

Q. If a subject thinks a task is too difficult -- like, say, cleaning their room, or maybe having to beat Oklahoma at least once in their coaching career -- is it common for whining to be a strategy?

A. Yeah, sure…There's a straightforward way to do just about anything, and then there's all these other techniques that are manipulative or immature because you don't know what to do.
Well, it’s been proven beyond any reasonable doubt that Mack Brown does not know what to do to beat OU. For the record, Mack Brown’s Longhorns have beat Oklahoma twice. Just not, what’s the word I’m looking for, recently or anything.


Christmas Cards Ahoy!

So as I'm sure you know if you've been reading YPS for a while, J is the Republican precinct chair for our electoral district. I only mention this because we get an array of Christmas cards from local elected officials. I'm not sure why, but apparently it's the thing to do once you're in office. You send cards to your party precinct chairs in the sometimes vain hope that they will help you get re-elected. Many of them include family photos, again for reasons that are inscrutable to my simple brain.

The reason I mention this fact is that our congressman sent us a Christmas card. I'm quite amused by this. Why do I find this amusing? Because he's the target of all the vitriol, innuendo, rumour, and poison that the Texas donks can muster. Yes, the most hated man in Texas politics sent us a Christmas card with a picture of his family and pets. Tom DeLay has two Bichons, incidentally. I realize you probably don't find this quite as hilarious as I do, but that's okay. You might not be half-drunk, either.

Bitter, Knowing Laughter

The Bulwer–Lytton Contest results for 2004 are out. A fine tip o’ the chapeau to Mr. Balko for bringing it to my attention. There’s a lot of horrible prose displayed and I urge you to go read it. I was most struck by the entry of one Mel Hughes of Jacksonville.

"I've never done this before," she said softly, and she was trembling, shaking really--shaking like a Harley-Davidson idling at a stoplight, one of the ones with the old Evo-style engine, where people's dentures vibrated out as they rode--and yet when I touched her skin, it was smooth and inviting like one of the new Harleys, the ones that copy the Japanese engineering and use rubber mounts and counter-balancers . . . not that I would know, because I ride a British bike anyway and haven't been able to get it cranked in nearly six years, which is why I was shaking hands with her, because she owned a bike shop and had never touched a Vincent Black Lighting.

Hah fucking hah. I’d find this funnier if I hadn’t spent my summer trekking back and forth across town to the Triumph dealership trying to get them to figure out why my motorcycle wouldn’t start or consistently run. The highlight of the entire experience was when the yotz that runs the service department called me and told me it was ready. I drive across town bright and early Saturday morning, making this trip number SEVEN to the bike shop at an hour, one way, each trip. I get less than a mile from the shop, right to the interstate, and the bloody thing shuts off and will not start. I am standing by the side of the road while the dippy service manager tries to find a truck to come get the bike that is supposedly “fixed”.

I was somewhat less than pleased.

Time for a little family background, I think. My dad is a guy who’s had some form of small British convertible for most of my life. He’s been through all of them, I think. Austin-Healy, MG, Triumph, whatever. At some point, he’s had one of them all. I have fond childhood memories of going for drives in the little toy cars. I have less vivid memories of sitting around in Mom's Pinto station wagon while he went in to pay mechanics to fix the perpetually breaking things. He finally sold the last one, an old Triumph TR 250, a few years ago when he realized that spending his sixties working on old cars wasn’t what he wanted to do.

When I first bought the motorcycle in ‘99, I called my father to tell him. Anyhow, he listened politely to me blather about my new and exciting purchase. He stopped me when I said it was a Triumph. The conversation as I recall it went something like this:

Dad: Triumph? Is that British?

Me (smart-ass): Well, yes, Dad. Triumphs are made in England just like they’ve always been, so that would make them British.

Dad (deadpan): You bought a British motorcycle.

Me: Yes.

Dad (exasperated): Has all these years of watching me taught you nothing?

At this point I parroted the Triumph nonsense that it’s all new, reborn phoenix-like from the ashes of the past with a completely new manufacturing facility and engineering and blah, blah, blah. He just laughed at me. In retrospect, Dad’s old school cynical pessimism was the correct approach. I can now admit freely that, no, I didn’t really learn anything from watching him. Maybe I should have paid more attention to the times when the cars didn’t work. My motorcycle is classically British. It is a joy to behold and when it is running right is a fabulous piece of machinery. When it’s not running right, it’s the most annoying piece of crap I’ve ever had to deal with.

Anyhow, I’d like you to forget everything I just wrote. Wanna buy a motorcycle? 1999 Triumph Daytona 1200 SE. Runs great. For now.

Cloud Cuckoo Land

I am constantly amazed at the stupid crap people manage to come up with when they get all indignant about some event. There is a tendency to see one event as symptomatic of a larger trend. Whatever the trend may be, people inevitably call for government action. So some jackass agitates for a law, policy, or regulation to solve a “problem” that wasn’t really that big a deal in the first place. This is how we get many of our most pernicious laws. It is always harder to undo government action than it is to NOT do it in the first place.

The news item that raised my ire this morning about the issue is a story about a policy change from the LAPD. Some cop went to town on a citizen with a “heavy metal flashlight”. I read that as “cop laid the smackdown with Maglite™”. So now the LAPD needs a policy on when it is acceptable to use a flashlight as a weapon. Are you people for real? An ACLU representative is quoted with some nonsense about how now they’ll have training on how to use them. Does the ACLU in LA have nothing better to do? The cops need a policy on appropriate flashlight usage? You have to be kidding me.

What really makes this absurd to me is that most cops carry around something like this. 2 feet of inch and a half unbreakable polycarbonate goodness, that's the ticket. Hmm. Let me think about this for a minute. Is there a substantive difference between being hit with a flashlight and being hit with a riot baton? The flashlight is heavier, but the baton has a longer moment arm. Decisions, decisions. I’m gonna call it a draw. Either one will split your skull like an overripe melon if the guy using it is determined enough. Judging from the fact the cop hit the guy 11 freakin’ times, I’d say he was determined enough.

Now I admit, I’m not intimately familiar with the case. However, I’m gonna make a wild guess here. Beating the crap out of the citizen with the flashlight probably wasn’t justified by the circumstances. If that’s the case, you discipline the cop for brutality. The implement is a secondary issue to the actual violence, isn’t it? If the cop was justified in pounding the guy, again, it doesn’t matter what he used. What’s he supposed to do after he catches the suspect? Drop the flashlight and then pull out the baton? Yeah, that’ll happen. Next stupid idea, please.

Of course, the cop could have made this whole discussion moot by shooting the man dead. However, I’m thinking that’s a sub-optimal outcome from everybody’s perspective.


Arizona, we beg you!

Vote him out. End his career. Put him out of all of our collective misery.

The fact that government should not be involved in regulating private industry like this is a universal given that doesn't merit my time for discussion. The idea that this absolute boob would hold up meaningful legislation for his pet dreck is plain malfeasance. What an absolute embarrassment.

Hey Democrats, you want him? He is yours!

My co-workers are nasty...

...and so are yours. This is inspired by my trip back to the kitchen to heat my lunch. Dirty dishes in the sink (we have an automatic dishwasher), spills left in puddles, and half emptied ice trays put back in the fridge are only three of the many observed infractions in the company kitchen area. Coffee drinkers are the absolute worst offenders, leaving behind spilled creamer, rings on the countertops, and strewn stir sticks. They make the smokers look like clean room staff.

I wouldn't want to visit any of these peoples' homes. Using the way they treat company common areas as the benchmark, there must be garbage to the ceilings and feral rats living in their beds. Who in the hell do these inconsiderate twits think clean up behind them? No, not custodial staff. We are lucky here because our receptionist is very mindful of the slobbery and works ultra hard to keep things as tidy as possible. However, nobody's job description should include cleaning up after lazy pieces of crap.

If this behavior describes you, then have some shame, act like an adult, and clean up after yourself...unless you can convice your Mother to visit your job and do it for you.

Stupid Ideas from Talk Radio

I listen to the local conservative talk radio station sometimes. I don’t listen too much in the afternoons, because I find the afternoon host a tad annoying. He’s a nice guy, and generally correct on many political issues. I simply don’t care that much about some of his pet issues. He’s also very upfront about his Christianity and at times it leads him to make asinine statements.

I caught part of yesterday’s topic. This was the rant about how Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ and liberals are taking religion out of the public sphere. This is not groundbreaking information or commentary, so I was half-listening. Then he threw out the bizarre comment that if you’re an atheist, you shouldn’t take Christmas off. Huh?

Let’s get real here. Nobody asked me what dates my company would pick as holidays. I wasn’t consulted in the slightest, so my religious beliefs are pretty much irrelevant to company policy. So if I get a paid vacation day for some holiday that I personally don’t care about, am I supposed to stand up and say “No, I’ll be working that day. I don’t believe in Left Handed Anabaptist Day.”? Is that the idea? Nice try, but no. I’m taking the day off, just like everybody else here. Those of us that don’t have particular observances and rituals for the holiday in question can simply enjoy the day off. It’s not like I’m compromising some deep principle by not showing up to work. The reasons behind the company’s decision are irrelevant to me, both in principle and in practice. The holiday may be meaningless to me, but the time off from work is its own reward.

Now let’s imagine that Super-Atheist runs his own company. He does not discriminate on the basis of religion in hiring, since that’s illegal. He wants to give his employees Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s birthday off as a paid vacation day instead of Christmas. (April 13th, if you were wondering.) What happens? His employees complain. Why? Because they are die-hard evangelical Christians who devoutly want to celebrate the birth of Jesus? No, you dolt. They want Christmas off because everybody else they know has Christmas off. Holidays have a network effect. The perceived importance of a holiday depends in part on how many other people in your immediate social circle have it off. Since damn near everybody in this country gets Christmas off, its perceived value is very high. Once again, religious belief has little to do with the issue.

Let's face facts. At some point in the history of modern America, the holiday season became an end unto itself. We all take Christmas off because that’s what we, as Americans, do. Your particular brand (or lack) of religious faith is irrelevant. Christmas has become a secular holiday to worship consumerism. You may argue that the true meaning of Christmas lies elsewhere. So what? In practical terms, it is what it is.

I could also get all historical on the issue and point out that as near as anyone can tell, Christ wasn’t born in December. The early church co-opted pagan holidays like Yule and the Feast of Sol Invictus to appeal to the locals. However, that’s not necessary. Dumb comments don’t need a research thesis to prove the idiocy.

Feel good video of the year

If you haven't seen this, by all means, take a look. It sure gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling on this cold, crisp, December day. It is almost sad that people truly think like this...almost I say, because thank GOD we're not talking about the American majorty.

Also, I highly recommend that you take a sec and visit this gentleman's blog just to read the hilarity from November 5th; a post called "A Few Thoughts On The Electoral Campaign". I sincerely hope this is representative of the left. I hope they all believe this stuff. I hope they act on it too, because I like winning, and they'll never win thinking like this.

Gay Divorce is not news...to me anyway

Again, I'm feeling a little prophetic in that I wrote about this phenomenon back in July, essentially about why I don't necessarily oppose gay marriage for practical reasons.

I'm telling you...they're not going to be any better at it than we heterosexuals are, except they're probably not going to be so quick to repeat their mistakes.

Birthday Toys

Well, it was my birthday this past weekend. I always enjoy the birthday cheer I get from the women in my life. J will take great pains to remind me, frequently, until March that I am two years older than she is. My sister, who is 3 years older, called yesterday to share the cheery thought that “It’s all downhill from there.” Thank you so much, ladies. That's what I need to hear on my birthday.

However, I got presents. Presents always make things better. J, acceding to my insane requests, has provided with yet more implements to potentially injure myself and others. I got a nail gun and compressor combo pack. Two nail guns and a compressor! Sweeeet! While the project that initially prompted my longing for these devices is completed, they will come in marvelously handy for other projects. Plus, the nail guns are absolutely spiffy at ramming small spikes made of steel into just about anything softer than wood, if you have that need. The compressor will be useful for mundane boring things, like filling up car tires and inflating things until they explode. She also gave me a lovely knife to use in the kitchen. The santokus seem to be all the rage right now, so I’ll try it out and see if I can figure out what the fuss is all about. I also received some lovely books, which I will detail in another post. At this point, my recent purchases pile is stacking up pretty deep. I need to get reading.

My mother-in-law is trying to drive her daughter insane by proxy. She got me a bottle opener that plays “The Eyes of Texas” when used. She also gifted me with UT flip-flops and a quilt. J refuses to buy anything in burnt orange or with a longhorn on it, so I have to rely on others for college paraphernalia gifts.

I also got some money, the gift that is never unappreciated or out of season, and some other random items that escape me at the moment. Really, though. I’m a guy. It’s all about the power tools and gadgets. Nail guns! Bwahahahahaha! I’m already shopping framing nailers and pinners and other air tools. The compressor is a little small to run some things very well, though. I may need a bigger compressor…

Update: I am calendarically challenged. J is two years younger than me, briefly, not 3 as i had thought. Simple math would have proved this to me, had I bothered to do any.


Bonnie Hammer Is A Twit

So I'm watching the replay of last night's first part of the Legend of Earthsea on SciFi. Why is it necessary to completely screw up the storyline of a series of books to make it into a movie? The storyline worked for the books, why do they not work for a movie? Why is it necessary to completely JACK THINGS UP? I understand the streamlining necessary, but the complete reordering of the plot? There's a difference between adapting and rewriting, dolts.

Don't even get me started about the random extraneous bullshit they throw into adaptations. I'm still bitter about Shrek's thalidomide cousin they inserted into Lord of the Rings for no apparent reason. Earthsea is doing a fabulous job of continuing that tradition.

Bonnie Hammer needs a lobotomy or something. She is destroying SciFi as a channel. I'm not linking to anything of theirs because SciFi Channel sucks ass.

As Brian Posehn once said, nothing pisses off a geek more than getting their obsession wrong. That's all SciFi is doing lately.

She's Back!

No substantive posts as yet, but she's back at a new home. Sounds a touch cranky, too.

Not that we didn't already know...

MoveOn.org admits coordination, and even specific contributions to the DNC. So, who will be prosecuted for breaking campaign finance laws and will the money have to be returned? Nobody? But doesn’t that mean then that McCain-Feingold is a worthless turd?

All that aside, they lost and it is time for them to practice what they preach: MOVE ON!



So the jury has decided what Scott Peterson's fate will be. He will be dragged behind a horse to the Tyburn and hung by the neck...

Sorry, I'm channeling the Bloody Assizes again. Don't mind me, it only happens occasionally. So Mr. Peterson is to get the death penalty, which in Cali means lethal injection. I'm actually a little surprised by this verdict, since I don't think California in general does the death penalty thing very well. They've got 650 people on death row and have executed 10 of them since 1978. That's swift and sure punishment, ain't it?

Keep in my mind my slanted viewpoint on the death penalty, however. I live in Harris County, Texas. The county is ground zero for capital punishment in America. Harris County sends more people to death row than the rest of the country. Generally speaking, the residents of the county are fine with that.

This doesn't prevent the usual collection of nutjobs standing around outside of Huntsville when it's time to lower the Texas recidivism rate by a fraction. At this point, I really can't see what the point of the protests are. No one is paying attention, no one cares, and your message is not getting across. But then again, I fail to see the point of most protests. You rarely, if ever, change anyone's mind by standing around with a crudely lettered piece of posterboard stapled to a stick.
Anyhow, now that my incoherence has burned itself out for the afternoon, I'm going home.

My Thoughts Exactly

Lynne Kiesling was on fire a few days ago at Knowledge Problem. The subject of her ire? Interestingly enough, Justice Souter of the Supreme Court. The court was hearing arguments on the wine case, and he really got her going. To quote:

My response to that is this: with all due respect, sir, bite me.
Strange, but I often have that response to the minions of the Federal government. Ms. Kiesling has all the rational free-market reasons why the case is ridiculous. I agree with all of them, but I’m pro-interstate shipment of wine because I like the idea of have my tipple delivered to my front door. If Amazon sold booze, I’d never go to the liquor store again. Hell, it’s difficult enough to get me out of the house as is.


Truly Glorious Is Friday

Well, soon I will flee the corporation for my very life and sanity, for it is Friday. I’m about ready to start banging on my desk with a shoe and screaming at people. I try to maintain a mild level of professionalism here at the office, and I think that would probably startle some folks in a bad way.

In other random news, the incompetent corruption that is the UN keeps spreading throughout the media. Many people have pointed out that it’s time for Kofi to go. A range of names are being bandied about for his successor. I’ll be serious for just a moment and point out one little glitch in a lot of scenarios. The Secretary General cannot be a citizen of one of the permanent members of the Security Council. (So all you people who were pushing Bill Clinton can shut up now, okay?) I’ll also add that the guy in the office will do nothing to change the nature of the UN. It will be corrupt and useless no matter who’s in charge. So who should get the job?

Ontario Emperor suggested Boy George. I like the sentiment, but he’s ineligible. So who? I think I have found a candidate.

Cicciolina. (Link NSFW. At all.) She’s had government experience and she understands perfectly the actual operating principles of the UN. She grasps not the “guiding principles”, which as we all know are only honored in the breach anymore, but the real morals and mores that guide the UN on its daily path. It also has the added effect of possibly making the UN a funny joke instead of the twisted sick one it's managed to become.



Ace has a post up about a Weekly World News article. Apparently, a small tribe is worshiping Selma Hayek’s breasts. Not a bad choice, but not necessarily the one I’d make.

I have a longstanding fondness for the Weekly World News. They have all the journalistic credibility of say, CBS, but at least they admit right up front they’re making things up. CBS doesn’t give you that courtesy. When I was in the required high school government class, we were forced to bring in a news article once a week for current events. I usually picked articles from WWN, just to annoy my teacher. Besides, all the suck-ups were bringing in article about how Reagan was going to destroy the universe or some other political nonsense. After 30 minutes of that, everybody needs a good two-headed cow or space aliens ate my livestock story.

Anyhow, I didn’t learn much from either story except that Ace is a late bloomer (26? What’s up with that?). I was, however, disturbed by one of the lines in the story. At some point, the article (not Ace) refers to “sweater puppets”. I’m okay with many, many synonyms for “breasts”. But sweater puppets? I find this faintly disturbing. I’m reminded of the South Park episode where the ski instructor girl had little mewling heads for breasts. Puppets implies the wrong shape and entirely too much activity. It’s especially disturbing if you start thinking about the kinds of puppets. Sock puppets? Marionettes? String puppets? Muppets? All of them suggest some bizarre and unsettling images to me, but maybe I’m alone in that.


Kennedy? Eh?

This is one of the more ludicrous items I've read lately. I can come up with an oral history of Sponge Ted Drunk Pants in less than 2 square feet and for under $10. Any old fifth of swill sitting around should do.

I will add that I'm amused that this would not be happening had he not:
1. suggested it, and
2. agreed to raise the money to fund it.

What a whore.


I’d love to thank whoever posted this link first, but I am unable to figure it out. The disadvantages of having 8 browser windows and 4 applications open at any one time, I guess. However, someone has posted an approximate answer to an age-old question.

More Books

Barnes & Noble, in a shameless attempt to get me to buy more books, sent me a 10% off coupon in addition to my 10% Reader’s Advantage discount. Amazon is still generally cheaper, but the whole impulse buy factor is not to be overrated. I also find some types of books I like to preview before I buy, and the pathetic selection of pages offered by Amazon doesn’t usually cut it. So I spent too much money in the bookstore last night. What did I get?

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell – I was originally looking for the second volume of Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle, The Confusion. B&N had the first volume and the third. I guess that need to get the center of the story is obsessive of me. I picked this up as a consolation prize, since I hear good things from a variety of sources. I just hope it’s not the opening volume of a trilogy or some such nonsense. I am trying to keep away from starting any more unfinished series of doorstops. I’m already working on the Wheel of Time and the Song of Ice and Fire. Those two should keep me occupied for quite some time. I started reading the Wheel of Time when I was sitting around in the desert during the first Gulf War. How ridiculous is that? I think it’s well past time to quit flogging that poor beast and just put it out of its misery.

Blood Enemy - J wanted it, I was already spending money, what the hell. The movie was fun, why not a book?

Everything You Know Is Wrong - A hardback edition from Barnes & Noble Press. It promises to be something fun to feed the conspiracy junkie in me. I’m interested in some of the articles on education, but the rest of it will be entertaining, I’m sure.

Cakes, Cookies, Pies and Tarts - It was marked down to 7 dollars. Williams-Sonoma cookbooks are always gorgeous to look at, even if the recipes are often way too much work. There’s one or two that looked worth trying, so we’ll see if I get the chance over the holidays.

Watchmen - A classic of the field that needed to be on the bookshelf.

Did I mention that we went in there to buy a completely different book as a gift for someone? It was out of stock, darn the luck.

Welfare, Computers, and Asshats

I was whiling away my drive time listening to NPR this morning. Colorado is apparently having problems with its welfare programs. The new computer system doesn’t work quite as well as it should. So what’s the immediate and obvious solution? Sue the state of Colorado, of course.

There are a couple of different threads running through this that disturb me. The first is the role of the professional activist class in this country. Honestly, what are you accomplishing by suing the state? The relief sought is a judicial order requiring the state to fix the problems in the system. I could be wrong here, but given that some of the problems are causing Colorado to be in non-compliance with the appropriate Federal statutes, don’t you think they’re already trying to fix things? What, a judicial order is going to magically make things happen faster? I could also note that the people who have to actually administer the system are wasting time dealing with a court case. Given that the state has a finite amount of money, people, and time, wouldn’t a better response be to let the state use those resources to fix the problem instead of going to court? Of course, that won’t pay the fees the perennially indignant folks at the Center for Law and Policy will get for doing the “people’s work”.

The next part of this story that blew my mind is the absolute sense of entitlement some of these people have. The state won’t give me my money! Yeah, that’s it. Because you deserve that money for what, exactly? Being too screwed up to provide for your self? One woman interviewed on NPR was embarrassed to be taking food from the Food Bank because she hadn’t gotten her welfare money yet. Umm, one is any more embarrassing than the other is? I’d much rather take charity from people who gave it voluntarily than force someone to pay for my poor life choices through the heavy hand of the government. Either option sucks, and I’d be embarrassed. I’d be a lot more embarrassed to admit that I fucked up my life so badly that I had to rely on the state for subsistence. I also note she wasn’t so embarrassed that she didn’t give her name and appear on the radio.

I’m not against the idea of charity. I also realize that unfortunate events happen, and people sometimes need help. However, the state, as usual, is a crappy mechanism for providing a social safety net. I also think, morally speaking, that coerced charity is worse than no charity at all. I’m not bright enough to offer a universal solution, but the current system is broken. Suing to improve the way the current system works is a failure to address the root cause, which is the government being the provider of services. But what the hell, maybe the judge can take over Colorado's welfare system. After all, that approach worked so freakin' well for the Texas prison system.


Finally, Someone Notices

Have I mentioned here that I loathe the AARP? One of the few ad campaigns guaranteed to get me screaming at the television is the asinine series about how you can’t do it alone, and the AARP is here to help. The AARP is all about getting old people free stuff at the expense of everyone that works for a living. The only coherent ideological position taken by the AARP goes something like this:

a) We’re old.
b) So we deserve free stuff because we lived a long time.
c) And all you people should pay for it.
d) Because we’re old.
e) And we vote a lot.

Is there anything more to it than that? No? Than why does the AARP oppose means testing for benefits? Or social security reform? Why do they support massive drug entitlements? Is there some coherent ideology that thinks all of these things are good? (Besides socialism, I mean) Or is it just naked greed dressed up as concern for the elderly?

Who knows? At least Rich Lowry called the AARP on it.

Big Head Who?

So I’m checking out what’s going on at some local blogs and I found this post. I had no idea something this strange was in Houston. J needs a picture of herself with giant severed Reagan-head.

I’ve never quite understood the giant severed head school of sculpture. I can understand the life-sized bust or the larger-than-life full statue. However, a giant head of a size to frighten small impressionable children always struck me as odd. Why just the head? The whole idea smacks of weird pagan trophy taking and setting heads on pikes.


Sick and Cranky

I'm taking the day off because I managed to give myself food poisoning. Bleagh. This always makes my already stellar personality even more pleasant. So I'll treat you to some of my general free-floating hostility today.

Have I mentioned lately how useless I think most government regulations are? My latest target is some asinine directive about labeling alcoholic beverages. At least that's what the guys at the liquor store told me was preventing me from getting my Belgian beer. The Belgians finally acceded to whatever moronic request our government made, so I can get Lindeman's Framboise Lambic again. But only in the small bottles for now. Bastards! I'm not over the fact that I went months without being able to get it because of some crap about what was or wasn't on the label. I was buying it for years with no problems and all of a sudden, I can't anymore because some jackass in DC decided alcohol content needs to be on the label. Who, exactly, is being helped by this regulation? Was the lack of alcohol content on the label causing great distress to the consumers of this nation? I seriously doubt it.

Speaking of hostility, Jeff Jarvis has a whole great heaping helping for Michael Powell over at the FCC. Given that I tend to be an absolutist on 1st Amendment issues, I agree with Mr. Jarvis a lot more than Mr. Powell. Mr. Powell is trying to apologize for the fact that no one at his organization understands the Constitution. What part of "Congress shall make no law" is difficult? It's apparently beyond the grasp of our elected representatives, however.


Complete and Utter Failure

A big thanks to Pete Guither over at The Agitator for pointing me in the direction of this article. Why, it seems like only yesterday I was discussing why the War on Drugs will always fail. Today, we get to look at some hard numbers.

The retail price of cocaine and heroin both dropped from 1981 to 2003. While I question the methodology in that getting reliable price data on illegal substances seems troublesome at best, the trend is pretty remarkable. Your cocaine dollar goes more than five times farther now! Yay! Five times the coke for the same price! Snort up, bitches! Similarly, heroin prices have fallen by almost five and a half times.

This leads the economically aware among us to conclude one of two things. Either demand has decreased dramatically or supply has increased dramatically. Let me see, let me see. Ahh, yes, the ONDCP fact sheet on coke. Well, if I believe the numbers from ONDCP, the decline in persons admitted for cocaine treatment from 1992 to 2002 was roughly 10%. If we assume that works as a proxy for overall usage, demand dropped about 10%. That shouldn't produce a price drop on the order of 5 times. So, my guess is the supply increased. So the past 25 years of drug war efforts has made more cocaine available. Sweeeet.

I design equipment for a living. If I designed things that worked this well, I'd be holding up a sign underneath a freeway somewhere. Yet we persist in giving failed policies and their authors another chance at screwing up the public life of this country.

As a side note, my problem with the ONDCP numbers is one that P. J. O'Rourke pointed out long ago. "I'm from the government and I'm here to ask you about your illegal behavior! Good data is important, so answer honestly!" Yeah, figure the odds on that happening.

Regimental News

For reasons that are partially obscure to me, I maintain a sentimental attachment to the units I served in during my tenure in the Army. So here's what's been going on with one of the organizations that helped make me the bitter, dysfunctional, cynical drunk fine upstanding citizen I am today.

First off, the Regiment convinced a whole bunch of guys to reenlist. Keep in mind that the soldiers all know there's a deployment scheduled, and they reenlisted. I think that says something pretty important.

So as I just mentioned, the Regiment is deploying back to Iraq next year with a side trip to NTC first. The Army has no plans to accelerate that deployment for the election. Instead, the DRB from the 82d Airborne will be sent. Hmm, both of my old units in one story.

I also note the increasingly common tactic of claiming "national security" to hide things from public scrutiny in this story. I am not fully informed of the facts here, and apparently won't be since the Army is closing the hearings. However, being strangled with an electrical cord while you're tied up in a sleeping bag strikes me as neither accidental nor natural. It definitely strikes me as being outside the pale. If the soldiers did it, throw the book at them.

Finally, the Army is sending this officer to take over one of the troops. I wish him well in his new command, and am gratified to see the Army keeping people that want to stay in.


Talking 'bout Responsibility

It's always good to see my tax dollars being spent wisely. As a result of some regulatory changes implemented after 9/11, the company I work for found it necessary to get a federal explosives license. Due to my exalted position within the company, I am one of the people listed on the license. This led to a stunning display of misguided incompetence from everybody's favorite jackbooted thugs.

First off, we applied for the license 10 or 11 months ago. Good thing we didn't really need to use those explosives, huh? Oh, wait, we did. So we've been subcontracting the necesssary work for almost a year now. While our subcontractor likes the money, it's been a flaming pain in the ass for us.

The ATF finally came through for us, though. As a result, I have on my desk right now a "Responsible Person Letter of Clearance". I may now lawfully direct the management or poilices of my company as they pertain to things that go boom. I may also lawfully transport, ship, receive or possess said loud things. The idea that I am now federally certified as a responsible person I find pretty damn amusing. J finds the idea to be almost totally ludicrous. I do wonder exactly what I was when I was a young cavalry trooper learning the wonders of C-4 and det cord. Besides hungover, I mean. I certainly don't recall any fancy letters declaring me responsible.

That neatly covers the misguided portion of this incident. The incompetence is the actual name on the letter. One of the other engineers here is also listed on the license. The ATF conflated my name and his on my letter. So the letter has my last name, SSN, date of birth and home address. It also has his first and middle names. So the ATF has issued a letter authorizing some imaginary person to use explosives. I'm fairly confident they mean me, but who knows?

I have faxed the ATF and informed them of their error. I was exceedingly polite about it, too. The ATF has proven in the past to be a mean bunch of bastards when roused. I certainly don't want to get them pissed off at me. Some guy up the road a way did that, and look what happened. The general feeling around the office is that I probably shouldn't use the explosives until we get this cleared up. No sense taking chances, right?


Drug War Losses

Being completely behind the curve, I'll blog today about Raich v. Ashcroft and some related issues. A summary of the oral argument can be found here. I think this is an interesting case, although it has little to do with the actual drug aspects. It is a fabulous test case of the interstate commerce clause from what I've read.

However, I'm here to talk about the idiotic failed policy that is the War on (Some) Drugs. There's a lot of reasons why it's bad policy, the collateral damage done to the Constitution being chief among those. Despite all of the reasons why it's a bad idea, I can sum up for you in 5 words why it's doomed to fail.

People want to get high.

Unless you're willing to tolerate a far more draconian system for dealing with drug offenses, you're going to lose for that simple reason. When you can stop people from wanting a buzz, the anti-drug warriors have won. Based on the whole of recorded history, I just don't see it happening. So we'll keep pouring money into a giant waste of time and locking up people for smoking weed.

What irritates me now more than ever is the colossal waste of money the US spends on trying to combat illegal drugs. We have a southern border that is, for all practical purposes, undefended and we're locking up dope smokers. The resources of the federal government, while stupendously large, are not infinite. All the time and effort spent on combating drug trafficking can be more usefully spent on border security and combating terrorism.

That would require politicians to grow a spine and take a stand against a popular position. So I don't see that happening, either.