Friday, July 29, 2011

This is my rifle...

In a review at Survivalblog, "Zorro" weighs the relative merits of the WWI-era M1 Garand and the Vietnam-era M14. He opines thus:

The Garand is restricted to a 8 round en bloc clip and, the clips are inexpensive. Many clips can be purchased for a hundred dollars and, they can be stored loaded without weakening anything. Conversely, the M1A/M14 has a detachable 20 round magazine which is expensive (around $25 to $40 each). Besides, the magazines need to be rocked into place and, this can be fussy for the unpracticed.

The M14's magazines won't seat if you don't load them correctly. And this is a point in favor of the Garand. Which will injure your thumb if you don't load it correctly.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


On Monday, Danielle and I saw Captain America, which is a movie about women in World War II uniforms. It also has 1940s retrufuturism, old guns, and people beating up Nazis (more or less).

If you enjoy things that are sexy or awesome, you'll enjoy Captain America.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The red thing's connected to my wristwatch....

Go Green With The Sprout Biodegradable Watch:

Watches are one accessory that's crying out for some green love. They're worn daily, changed often and killed frequently with an accidental bump. Sprout understands and has developed a line of fashionable timepieces that can be tossed away without remorse.

Oh, thank everloving Baal! I can't tell you the remorse I've felt over bloating the landfills with the constant stream of broken and unfashionable watches I'm always throwing away! You know how it is; always accidentally microwaving them, or driving over them, or realizing they're just too last week to wear with any kind of self respect! Finally, we can throw away our wristwatches in a earth friendly way.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

In which Pliny the Younger describes a mushroom cloud

A cloud likeness and form resembling a pine tree; for it was elevated to a good height, with a long trunk, and distributed in several branches. The reason, I suppose, was that it was raised aloft by a sudden wind, and then relinquished by it, as it decayed, or else overpowered by its own weight, it spread it self into a large breadth; appearing sometimes white, sometimes shadowy, and variously coloured, as it was loaded with ashes or with earth. It struck him with surprise, and seemed to merit a nearer examination.

He's describing the eruption of Vesuvius, but if you're writing an alternative history about aliens nuking the Eternal City, it'd work there too.

[The same letter contains the most simultaneously silly and foreboding image I've seen in ancient literature: "They debated all together, whether they should stay in the house, or walk in the open field: For the buildings were shocked by violent and repeated earthquakes [but] the fall of the pumice stones, though light and eaten through, alarmed them. A comparison of the two dangers fixed their choice on the field...and to guard against the fall of the stones, they tied each of them a pillow about their heads with handkerchiefs or napkins. It was now day in other places, but there it was still night, more black and dismal than ever was known..."]

He's no good to me dead.

First, the possibility: There's a ghost of a chance of a Boba Fett spinoff film.

But might director Joe Johnston have the key to another film? Johnston, who is doing the press rounds for Captain America at the moment, told Screen Rant, "I'm trying to get George [Lucas] to make a feature based on Boba Fett." When then asked if it's a film he'd like to direct himself, he said, "I would like to. It would be a lot of fun."

Then, the point of divergence: Obviously, this could be the best or worst thing to happen to Star Wars since 1991.

In one universe, George Lucas is willing to relax his creative stranglehold on Star Wars films, and hands the director's reins and a decent amount of creative control over to other people, and allows them to set a reasonably adult tone for it. In this universe, the film has a decent chance of being great, and the the creative team has a relatively easy job to at least make it fun and awesome.

In the other universe, George Lucas writes and directs it himself. All the sets and ninety-eight percent of the characters--including half the action shots of Fett himself--are done in CGI that's conspicuously less convincing than the current state of the art. The film is about a sympathetic Boba who's come to understand the error of his ways, and works for the law-enforcement bureau of the New Republic, hunting down rogue bankers and Rodians who miss child support payments. With the help of his wacky Gungan navigator and spunky, wisecracking Ewok sidekick, he travels the galaxy in search of his lost father, learning the true meaning of friendship along the way. The last half hour of the movie is about improperly filed extradition paperwork.

No points for guessing which is more likely.

[On first composition, this post suggested Fett would only go after "legitimate" targets like fugitive Imperial war criminals hiding on space-Argentina. Then I realized that would be awesome. Joe Johnston, if you read my blog (and I know you do), this would be a great way to pitch the idea to Lucas. It'll trip his Greedo-shoots-first instinct to legitimize protagonist violence, but without being lame.]


The Blunt Object, in a post about what libertarians can learn from liberals:

I’m going to leave the “welfare” question alone, since we seem to be turning and turning in a widening sovereign debt crisis that’ll solve it for us...

Good turn of phrase. Good, terrifying turn of phrase.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What makes a man; is it the power in his hands?

Laura Ingraham of the National Review complains about the feminization of the American man. In particular, the man-purse:

In their mission to erase all vestiges of masculinity once and for all, the fashion mavens have done away with the backpack, the briefcase, and the gym bag. The only accessory acceptable to the chic man about town is the murse. This purse-like man-pouch is all the rage in most metropolitan areas.

LabRat unpacks the stupid with her usual thoroughness. But fortunately, Ms. Ingraham sums up the incomprehensibility of her own thesis in two short sentences.

Why does a man even need a purse? A man should carry around exactly two items: a wallet and a phone.

The remedy for effete metrosexuality. Is for men to not carry tools.

A real man's man doesn't need a pocket knife, or a pen, or a watch, or a lighter, or a gun, or a comb, or keys. Being able to do things in the physical world is a mark of the unmanned! A real paragon of masculinity, should he encounter a problem he can't solve with his phone, will post whining Tweets until a woman shows up with her slung toolkit to make it all better.

Monday, July 18, 2011

When all you have is a hammer...

You know how Republicans don't want to raise the debt ceiling?

It's because they're racist, obviously.

I'll go all the way and say that this kind of self-interested or monomonocular racebaiting isn't just stupid and offensive; it's evil. It took the blood and sweat of generations of activists fighting severe oppression and violent retribution to get to the point where racism is a strong taboo in our culture, and these assholes have taken about four years to turn it into as meaningless a slur as "poopyhead" or "socialist". If that isn't evil, I dunno what is.

Friday, July 15, 2011

God help me, I nearly commented on a post about "rape culture".

Bad Michael! That way lies certain doom, no matter how carefully you make your point.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The first trailer is up for John Carter of Mars, which will be released next year, a century after its first serialization.

It looks awesome, but isn't true enough to the book for my taste:

...just as we neared the throng of Martians I caught a glimpse of the prisoner from the battle craft who was being roughly dragged into a nearby building by a couple of green Martian females.

And the sight which met my eyes was that of a slender, girlish figure, similar in every detail to the earthly women of my past life. She did not see me at first, but just as she was disappearing through the portal of the building which was to be her prison she turned, and her eyes met mine. Her face was oval and beautiful in the extreme, her every feature was finely chiseled and exquisite, her eyes large and lustrous and her head surmounted by a mass of coal black, waving hair, caught loosely into a strange yet becoming coiffure. Her skin was of a light reddish copper color, against which the crimson glow of her cheeks and the ruby of her beautifully molded lips shone with a strangely enhancing effect.

She was as destitute of clothes as the green Martians who accompanied her; indeed, save for her highly wrought ornaments she was entirely naked, nor could any apparel have enhanced the beauty of her perfect and symmetrical figure.

If you ain't gonna do Dejah Thoris right, why do Dejah Thoris?


Gizmodo reports on the Monarch speaker system:

From General interwebs

Do you see it? Of course you do! The wooden wings and slim black body of the Monarch Loudspeaker makes the whole get up look like a butterfly.

Like hell it does. That monstrosity looks like nothing more than an Elder Thing. You buy what you want. But when your dogs start yelping and thrashing psychotically in a mad attempt to dismember your speakers, and you come home to find all your electronics and roommates carefully dismantled on the floor--their parts painstakingly inventoried in an arcane, precise hand--and a peculiar, heavy odor hanging hatefully in the air, don't say I didn't warn you.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The horror.

That Althouse article on anti-polygamy laws, by the way, has generated a heck of a lot of comments in a short time, the majority hostile to the plaintiffs. Allow me, if I may, to summarize the primary objections:

1 - "Marriage was exactly the same from the beginning of the universe to the time all these hommo-sexurrals and other preverts started redefining it."

2 - "This is exactly the same as bestiality, incest, and marrying a clock."

3 - "See? I told you if we stopped discriminating against one kind of minority family, other kinds would start demanding equality too!"

What are one and one and one and one...

Long-time readers know that I'm married to two women.

Of course, marrying two people at the same time is illegal in all 50 states and most western nations, so what I really mean by that is that Genevieve, Danielle, and I have publicly affirmed our commitment to each other before family and friends, live as a family, take care of each other, and generally live as married people without asking the state for any official recognition; we're working with an attorney to get most of the important protections though paperwork. It's an imperfect system, but since we're nowhere near having enough social support to agitate for truly equal protection under the law, it does the job for us well enough. We don't ask for state recognition, and the state leaves us alone to live as we see fit, so long as we don't get too uppity.

Not everybody is so lucky. In states with long histories of persecuting Mormons, there are often laws on the books specifically intended to allow civil authorities to prosecute people for doing what we're doing. Not for committing bigamy; not for forcing underage girls into sexual relationships with old men; but for making family arrangements between consenting adults that the mainstream doesn't recognize as normal.


Remember Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 Supreme Court case that struck down state sodomy laws on the theory that (to wildly simplify) consensual intimate relationships are protected from government interference? Well, that decision is being used as the basis of a suit challenging Utah's anti-polygamy law. This suit is clean and glorious. The plaintiffs aren't demanding a right to marry; just a right to be free from persecution for their private relationships. They're backing it with the protections of religious expression and free association recognized by the First Amendment. They're explicitly disclaiming any attack on the incest or child abuse laws that are usually conflated with the marriage issue by the calculating busybodies on the other side of the issue. And maybe best of all, a fundamentalist religious group is pursuing its own interests by implicitly accepting the validity of a ruling in favor of gay sex, while enabling libertarian atheist polyamorists like me.

It's too early for me to begin hoping for any real reform of our current serial-monogamy-only marriage system, but damn, this would be a good start. Between this case and Canada's pending decision on plural marriage bans and their compatibility with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, is North America on the road to leading the western world in finally leaving anti-plural bigotry in the past?

More Like This Please.

Yes, we can compromise

A conversation at Snowflakes in Hell:

Joe Huffman said:

If ID were required to purchase a firearms and all government issued ID had a “firearms endorsement” check box just like “corrective lens required” then NICS as we know it would fade away.

To which Sebastian replied:

I agree with you. I’ve also heard the suggesting that plastering “Firearms Prohibited Person” on the state IDs of those convicted of disabling offenses, which I think I like better, since you can force a license re-issue with that stamp as soon as someone earns the conviction.

In a constitutional framework where you could have a simple licensing regime, as you describe, or as I’ve described previously, you could actually effectively get universal background checks, as our opponents claim to want badly, without NICS. You would also eliminate the need for a lot of burdensome regulations, like restrictions on buying in-state vs. out of state, etc...

But licensing has been a taboo subject because there was always a completely justifiable fear that it would be used to discourage gun ownership, and to track gun owners. But I can think of ways of handling licensing that would be completely non-burdensome. Certainly less burdensome and problematic than now.

I'm completely on board with this. Background checks are one of those common-sense ideas that turns out not to work in real life, like assuming a heavy rock will fall faster than a light one. It makes sense that checking every purchaser will stop criminals from getting guns, but then you try it and see no change whatsoever in crime trends, because it turns out that everybody knows somebody with a clean record who'll make the purchase for him. They don't work, and the way they're administered at present puts some serious burdens on the Constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

The true benefit of background checks is the damage they do to other gun control arguments in the court of public opinion. When average Americans--who generally believe in the right to arms for self defense--learn that every dealer sale involves a check on the purchaser, they tend to rightly assume that we're doing all we reasonably can to keep guns away from criminals while respecting the individual's right to self defense, and mentally dismiss most of gun controllers' panicmongering. That's why the panicmongers fixate so much on private sales at gun shows, which have almost no relation to crime: it's the only place they can play the CRIMINALS FREELY BUYING GUNS game. So if it's possible to get the equivalent of a universal background check system while doing away with all or most of the pointless burdens of the current system, I'm all for it.

We're typically against the idea of "gun permits" because the states that have them (like New Jersey) make them difficult, expensive, and time consuming to obtain, to discourage the law-abiding from owning guns. But if it was a simple and automatic status-based note on your driver's license, then we could give anti-gun advocates exactly what they say they want while simultaneously addressing almost all of our concerns. If licensing and background checks are really about nothing more than stopping sales to prohibited persons, and aren't about eroding lawful gun ownership, then I eagerly await anti-gun groups' endorsement of this plan. They want to "close the gun show loophole"? Here's an easy path to getting exactly that.

Incidentally, I prefer a prominent "Firearms Prohibited Person" warning on disqualified IDs to a firearms endorsement check box for purely social reasons: imagine the sociological implication of looking at a person's firearms-purchaser status as a quick-and-dirty measure of his character. When, for example, waitresses checking ID on booze orders start thinking "this guy isn't allowed to buy guns; I'd better make sure he doesn't skip out on the check", that could go a long way in dissolving the remaining effects of the media demonization of gun owners from the 80s and 90s.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Extree! Extree! Read all abaaaht it!

US Army bans Five Fingers!

There are a variety of minimalist running shoes available for purchase and wear. Effective immediately, only those shoes that accommodate all five toes in one compartment are authorized for wear. Those shoes that feature five separate, individual compartments for the toes detract from a professional military image and are prohibited for wear with the IPFU or when conducting physical training in military formation.

I'd say we surrendered the war for "professional military image" when our soldiers' uniforms started looking more like pajamas, but what do I know?

The future-ture-ture!

Flying car, etc.

As an emblem of the future, I think the internet--or the smart phone, if you want something tangible--is a far better than the flying car. It solves more problems, frees us more from restrictions, and more fundamentally changes what it means to be human. Flying cars are neat and Jetsonsey and all, but they have serious practical drawbacks balancing their advantages.

But I still love them. Because (much like smart phones) they help erode one of the classic arguments for intrusive government: the natural monopoly.

"Of course you need government regulating private economic relationships. Look at roads! What are you gonna do, have five competing private roads for every route?"

"Who needs roads?"

Okay, libertarian scientist-activists! Now let's get to work on a practical system of energy distribution that doesn't rely on physical networks! A fundamental improvement on small-scale solar, a superefficient and compact transportable storage medium, or some kind of remote transmission will do. Bonus points if it can be used as a death ray.

There's so much you can learn, when you're on a pachyderm...

Lightning struck Lucy the Elephant for the second time in five years.

I don't know how well known she is outside the Garden State, but Lucy is a 130-year-old novelty building in Margate, near Atlantic City. She's a bit of a symbol for New Jersey weirdness, as you can probably imagine. The last lightning strike started a fire that destroyed her howdah; fortunately, the owners installed a lightning rod since then. This strike only damaged internal electrical and computer systems.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Bader? I hardly knew her!

The Associated Press covers the political pressure on Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to step down from the Supreme Court:

Democrats and liberals have a nightmare vision of the Supreme Court's future: President Barack Obama is defeated for re-election next year and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, at 78 the oldest justice, soon finds her health will not allow her to continue on the bench.

The new Republican president appoints Ginsburg's successor, cementing conservative domination of the court, and soon the justices roll back decisions in favor of abortion rights and affirmative action.

But Ginsburg could retire now and allow Obama to name a like-minded successor whose confirmation would be in the hands of a Democratic-controlled Senate.

Ann Althouse rephrases the request:

Get out, you selfish oldies — say some on the left — Obama needs to appoint some liberal ideologues before its too late!

And it's a fair criticism. Most of the current "progressive" agenda, however well intentioned, is based on a blatantly illegal expansion of federal power beyond its Constitutional limits. I like the effects of antidiscrimination laws and relatively unfettered access to abortion, too, but the Constitution clearly leaves those matters to the states. The liberal strategy of ignoring the law and bringing all its fights straight to daddy in the White House relies on having justices in the Supreme Court who will collaborate in ignoring the Constitution they're charged with enforcing.

But of course, that's only half the story, isn't it? American politics, unfortunately, can't be fairly discussed without acknowledging that in practice it's a fight between Democrats and Republicans, who can also be relied on to ignore the Constitution where it doesn't suit their agenda (and to appoint SCOTUS justices who'll collaborate in same). The whole mainstream political system is complicit in turning the Supreme Court from a body dedicated to enforcing the law to a bunch of squabbling ideologues who are often more concerned with protecting their own policy preferences. With the stakes this high, expect a continuation of the trend of appointing inexperienced young believers, locking in the Court's bias for a generation.

Unless Americans spontaneously decide to stop voting for Presidents based on political agendas that have nothing to do with the President--which, let's be honest, is slightly less likely than getting a left-handed atheist lesbian of color in the Commander in Chief's seat--this russian-roulette game will continue indefinitely. The trends in America's increasingly intrusive laws for the foreseeable future will be dependent entirely on whether an Obama or a Huckabee holds the White House when the next two or three SCOTUS justices buy the farm.

Is that prospect really less terrifying than having Roe overturned and having to do the job right, state-by-state?

Anti-zombie tech

A reliable 50-round drum magazine for a .22 rifle.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo, buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

Recent coverage of the billion one-dollar coins stacking up in Federal Reserve vaults (whose continued production is mandated by the law that created the series) has gotten people to talking about our currency system, how it should be changed, and why it just isn't going to be.

One common thread is pointing out that the dollar bill still exists primarily due to lobbying by the paper and cotton industries, and that any attempt to make our coins' sizes more appropriate to their values will be blocked by vending machine companies. This is absolutely true. The mistake is thinking this is something new. US currency has been subject to political pressure for as long as there's been such a thing. Sometimes the pressure has been significant--like the continued production of unpopular silver dollars by the hundreds of millions, which acted as a subsidy for the silver mining industry--to the utterly trivial.

In 1912, when the US Mint announced the upcoming switch from the uninspired Barber nickel to the much-more-attractive-but-poorly-thought-out buffalo nickel*, the vending machine industry was concerned. A detailed response from the Secretary of the Treasury put their minds at ease; the diameter, thickness, composition, and weight of the new coins would all be identical to the old, so there was nothing to worry about. But Clarence W. Hobbs of the Hobbs Manufacturing Company was not satisfied. His company, you see, manufactured a counterfeit-detecting device for nickel vending machines. The device worked poorly, and was used in only a very small number of machines, but he was convinced the new design would make it work even worse and was not pleased. His complaints--including a direct appeal to the President--tied the Mint up for the better part of a year before the Treasury Secretary felt confident telling him to take a flying leap.

The Sacagawea and Presidential dollars are too big and heavy for their value, and they're like that because when they were released, five percent of the country's vending machines took Susan B. Anthony dollars, and the companies didn't want to retool them. The new coins tarnish rapidly and unattractively, because when the Mint tested potential alloys, only the poor ones were compatible with devices intended to catch fake SBAs.

If even minuscule vending machine company interests trump currency design, then our chances of getting an overhaul to a sane system are nil. Just wait it out until we're all buying cheeseburgers with RFID implants.

[* - Which describes a few of the early 20th century coin designs. That's what you get when you hire fine art sculptors instead of coin engravers: innovative and bold designs, with inadequate attention to little workaday details like whether the inscriptions will stay legible as they wear, or whether the Mint's presses are physically able to strike the design.]