Thursday, December 29, 2011

"Item 2: After it's on, don't touch it."

[h/t to DooT.]

Gun fires from girl's purse in Cheyenne Starbucks

Police in Wyoming say nobody was hurt when a small [derringer] that was inside a girl's purse fired while she was in a Cheyenne Starbucks.
The bullet went through a chair and into a wall and narrowly missed several customers.
The Wyoming Tribune Eagle reported that the girl's father had given her the gun and encouraged her to carry it for her protection. According to police records, she hasn't had any formal firearms training.

Anybody who's read my blog knows I think it's a great idea for young women to carry guns for protection. And while I think "formal firearms training" is great, it's really not the necessity many people assume it is. There's only a tiny bit of knowledge involved, and the controlling factor in using guns safely is overwhelmingly individual temperament, something unlikely to be changed by a classroom course. You could fit everything a person needs to know to carry safely on a three by five card, in large print, with room for a flashy logo up top.

This woman and her dad obviously needed such a card. The first bullet point would be "use a damned holster," and somewhere down the list would be "never carry a traditional derringer."

I know folks who love derringers, and obviously "I want one" is the only reason a body needs to own one. But they're terribly inferior to the alternatives for self defense, and the common Remington style dealies aren't drop safe. Leave the derringer at home, and carry a proper, safe handgun with more than two rounds.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Calibrating expectations

Philmo shares an article by Justin Alexander from 2007 that shows me I've been thinking about D&D all wrong for a very long time:

D&D: Calibrating Your Expectations

There’s a common fallacy when it comes to D&D, and it goes something like: Einstein was a 20th level physicist. So, in D&D, Einstein – that little old man – has something like a bajillion hit points and you’d need to stab him dozens of times if you wanted to kill him. That’s ridiculous!

The problem with this argument is that Einstein wasn’t a 20th level physicist. A 20th level physicist is one step removed from being the God of Physicists. Einstein was probably something more like a 4th or 5th level expert. [Emphasis mine]

This can be a little bit difficult for some people to accept, so let’s run the math. At 5th level an exceptional specialist like Einstein will have:

+8 skill ranks
+4 ability score bonus
+3 Skill Focus

In the case of our 5th level Einstein, that gives him a +15 bonus to Knowledge (physics) checks. He can casually answer physics-related questions (by taking 10) with a DC of 25. Such questions, according to the PHB description of the Knowledge skill, are among the hardest physics questions known to man. He’ll know the answers to the very hardest questions (DC 30) about 75% of the time.

And when he’s doing research he’ll be able to add the benefits of being able to reference scientific journals (+2 circumstance bonus), gain insight from fellow colleagues (+2 bonus from aid another), use top-of-the-line equipment (+2 circumstance bonus), and similar resources to gain understanding of a problem so intractable that no one has ever understood it before (DC 40+).

(This 5th level Einstein can also be modeled with as few as 5 hit points – 1 per hit die...)

Alexander goes on to run numbers on a variety of performance benchmarks that back up his thesis:

5th level is right at the dividing line between legendary real world performances and the impossible realms of the superhuman.
Almost everyone you have ever met is a 1st level character. The few exceptional people you’ve met are probably 2nd or 3rd level – they’re canny and experienced and can accomplish things that others find difficult or impossible.

If you know someone who’s 4th level, then you’re privileged to know one of the most talented people around: They’re a professional sports player. Or a brain surgeon. Or a rocket scientist.

If you know someone who’s 5th level, then you have the honor of knowing someone that will probably be written about in history books. Walter Payton. Michael Jordan. Albert Einstein. Isaac Newton. Miyamoto Musashi. William Shakespeare.

So when your D&D character hits 6th level, it means they’re literally superhuman: They are capable of achieving things that no human being has ever been capable of achieving. They have transcended the mortal plane and become a mythic hero.

I've been guilty of level inflation myself, and this is a serious gear shift for me. I'm going to have to reassess how my players fit into Alexandrian society.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas shopping, 18th century style

Thanks to Le Loup for posting a fascinating link to the Hudson's Bay Company's 1733 price list for its operation in Fort Albany in Ontario.

One beaver pelt could buy a handkerchief, a hat, a file, a blanket, a pair of shoes, two pounds of tobacco, two hatchets, a gallon of brandy, a pound and a half of gunpowder, five pounds of shot, eight knives, twelve dozen buttons, or three quarters of a pound of colored beads. Four pelts bought a pistol, and ten to twelve bought a musket.

Merry Christmas, everyone, and may all your traps be full.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


[h/t to Jay G]

In some circles, the Northeast US is synonymous with intrusive nanny-state politics--or with caring governments that shepherd individuals unable or unwilling to look out for their own best interests, if that's the way your political compass swings.

Either way, the generalization is grossly unfair. Do-as-we-say politics exist in the Northeast, but only in certain parts. Much of the rest is hardcore butt-the-hell-out territory. And in such a small space (relatively speaking), this can lead to some very interesting borders.

New Hampshire, for example, is very comfortable treating its citizens like adults, free to make their own decisions and their own mistakes. Massachusetts, not so much. On the NH side of the borders, you're in a shall-issue concealed carry state that recently overturned all of its knife laws, acknowledging that the legal distinction between a pocket knife and a "switchblade" is absurd. You can open-carry firearms with no permit at all. There's no mandatory seatbelt law, and a motorcyclist can decide for himself whether his head is worth protecting. You can use a cellphone while you drive. Fireworks are unrestricted. Try driving into Massachusetts without a seatbelt while talking on your phone, openly carrying a pistol, and towing a trailer full of fireworks, and you'll get a warn welcome from the Massachusetts prison system. I don't approve of MA's laws, but then they never asked my permission to pass them. With the exception of the weapons laws it's the prerogative of her people to accept a nanny state if that's what they choose.

The problem is that it's quite easy to cross that border without meaning to, and without even knowing you've done it. Little back roads between towns may cross several times with no signs. The state line cuts through communities and even individual plots of private property. You can be walking through town minding-your-own-business at one step, and committing-a-felony at the next.

To address this problem (and, let's be honest, to needle Massachusetts) some state GOP politicians have proposed a law that would allow local businesses to put up signs saying "Warning: Massachusetts Border 500 Feet".

I hope it goes through. What a photo op.


Farhad Manjoo at Slate brings an unbelievably angsty editorial about Nerf guns:

Over the past few weeks I’ve been playing with some of the new Nerf guns, and I’ve tied myself in knots thinking about whether ultrarealistic weapons are just harmless fun or whether they reveal something terribly wrong with modern American boyhood.

Holy hell, dude--unclench before you sprain something.

Given that previous generations of American boys were running around with BB guns and learning respect for and proficiency with real .22 rifles, I agree: the proliferation of "ultrarealistic weapons" made of bulby, primary-colored plastic that shoot bits of foam in a short arc does indeed reveal something terribly wrong with modern American boyhood.

On the American election

Last time 'round, I voted for John McCain. This was not because I thought he was a good candidate; he was a terrible candidate. It was primarily because these days my choice between Giant Douche and Turd Sandwich comes down overwhelmingly to the candidate's position on Supreme Court appointees.

The American system of government is built to limit the power of the federal government, leaving a great deal of sovereign power to the states, where the people can more easily influence the policies that most affect their lives. In a country this large and diverse, it doesn't make sense to allow an omnipotent federal government to mandate one-size-fits-all policies on everybody. So the Constitution grants the feds a very narrow set of powers, leaving all other powers to the states or to the people themselves. Creating a nationwide UHC scheme is clearly outside any honest reading of federal power, for example, but Massachusetts' medical insurance mandate is absolutely legal.

On top of this, passing laws at the federal level was designed to be difficult: the two Houses within the Legislative Branch need to agree on a proposed law; the President, representing the Executive Branch, must agree to sign it into law; and if a controversy arises over its Constitutionality, the Judicial Branch determines whether the other two branches have overstepped their bounds, and can strike down overreaching laws. Everything about this system is intended to make federal laws difficult to pass, placing liberty ahead of legal efficiency.

Our chiefest problem (among very, very many) has been that since the early 20th century, the Judicial Branch has flatly refused to do its duty, routinely making excuses for clear federal overreaches, allowing the other two branches to brazenly and habitually ignore the restrictions on their power, and winking and nodding at an unprecedented expansion of federal power that's badly undermined our civil rights and the very foundation of the American system of government. It's not as though the Court never strikes down unconstitutional laws, but its respect for Constitutional limits on federal power is mostly limited to those restrictions found in the Bill of Rights, and it's far too deferential to precedent. If a federal abuse has been around for a while, and has grown three or four bureaus dedicated to expanding and deepening the abuse, then the Court is loath to question it.

So in short, I weigh a Presidential candidate's philosophy for appointing Supreme Court justices higher than any other factor.* Our system is so badly broken that just about the the only way we can possibly fix it (and certainly the only way to do so in under a century) is by appointing Constitutional-originalist Presidents to rule during terms when SCOTUS justices retire or die. And given the ages of our current Court, this next election looks likely to decide who presides over one of those periods.


President Obama has followed through on at least one campaign promise: he put politics ahead of law in his Supreme Court appointments. Even if that was his only failing, I'd be desperate to vote against him. This should be a sure vote for the GOP, even if I have serious reservations about their candidate. Punishing a bad incumbent has value, even if the alternative isn't much better.

But I can promise you one thing: If those stupid bastards make Newt Gingrich their candidate, I'll be protest-voting for a writein, or refusing to vote for my first time ever.

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich came out swinging Saturday against the nation's legal system, pledging if elected to defy Supreme Court rulings with which he disagrees and declaring that a 200-year-old principle of American government, judicial review to ensure that the political branches obey the Constitution, had been "grossly overstated."

Courts "are forcing us into a constitutional crisis because of their arrogant overreach," Mr. Gingrich told reporters in a Saturday conference call. He repeatedly blasted federal judges for imposing "elitist opinion" on the rest of the country.
...Mr. Gingrich said Saturday he proposes "a floating, three-way constitutional system" in which any two of the three branches of federal power—the executive, legislative and judicial—could effectively overrule the other.

I can always hope one of the parties will put the good of the Republic ahead of political bureaucratic jockeying, and field a candidate with a lower profile who-- ... Heh. Sorry: failed experiment. Wanted to see if I could type that out with a straight face.

[* - A person's position on gun control is an excellent quick indicator of how he sees the relationship between government and the individual, and it's an issue that affects my life more directly and regularly than most other specific issues, but it's not the deciding factor. Give me a candidate whose mental gymnastics allow him to both wish he could ban guns and understand the crucial importance of appointing justices who will strictly enforce the Constitution as written, and I'll vote for him.]

Paging Dr. Godwin...

Attorney General Eric Holder, who's been doing everything in his power to derail an investigation into a Justice Department scheme that coerced US gun dealers into selling rifles to Mexican narco-terrorists, and then tried to use the resulting carnage as a pretext to undermine Americans' Constitutional civil rights...

...Says his critics are attacking him because he's black.

Want to know why outraged rhetoric about race and sex doesn't get the traction it once did?

[This whole thing was a bit of a shock to me--not because it's strange for a liberal politician to cry racism when caught breaking the law, but because, getting almost all my news from print sources, I had no idea Holder was black.]

Friday, December 16, 2011

Poly drama in ancient Greece

A further example of civic amphimetric strife can be seen in the dispute between the two wives that Socrates held concurrently under the concession of c. 410, which allowed Athenians to marry two wives to compensate for the oliganthropy caused by the Peloponnesian War (Xanthippe, mother of Lamprokles, and Myrto, mother of Sophroniskos and Menexenos): These women joined battle with each other, and only stopped to attack Socrates for not stopping them from fighting.

--Anton Powell, The Greek World

The story is disputed--even in ancient times, there was disagreement over whether Socrates was technically married to Myrto, or merely lived with her, supported her economically, and had children with her, which is obviously different.

The excerpt is most noteworthy for the gorgeously obscure phrase "amphimetric strife," which even the mighty American Heritage 4th edition couldn't help decode. I'll let Mr. Powell explain:

'Amphimetores' are groups of siblings born of the same father but different mothers. Such groups could never be at peace with each other in the Greek world (whereas full siblings almost always co-operate), and the different mothers and their respective sons' interests were closely identified as they struggled for precedence and attempted to bastardize competing lines. 'I will never approve of men who keep two beds, nor amphimetric children...strifes and grievous pains for houses..."(Euripides, Andromache 465-7)
In practice, different wives and their children must always be kept separately in different houses; the idea of bringing two women together under one roof is in poor taste; worse, the principle that one set of half-siblings may help and support another is a contradiction of the principle of amphimetric strife so prevalent in Greek culture...

Not for nothin', founders of western civilization, but it sounds to me like your women might not actually be the problem.

Dita Von Teese at the Sleep No More NYE soiree

They've had Alan Cumming, En-Pee-Aitch, and now Dita Von Teese.

My understanding is that Harris and Cumming didn't perform in the primary show, but hid away in locked rooms and had one-on-one scenes with audience members who were brought to them by the actors. This may be how they use Von Teese, too, but everybody's tight lipped about it. Maybe she's playing a main role--maybe a unique role--maybe she's performing at the party and not in the show. We'll find out in 2012.

I'm not a hundred percent sold on the celebrity casting, but so far all the guest stars have been outspoken fans of the show, so it doesn't feel to me like stunt casting.

Our coinage system is completely bonkers

I've bitched about the US coinage system on this blog before, but in case I wasn't clear, it's completely bonkers. Michael Zielinski at Coin Update sums up, in a gently-worded article about the "unusual" state of our circulating coinage:

The cent and nickel each cost more than their face value to produce and distribute. The quarter dollar is in the midst of a lengthy circulating commemorative program, although unfortunately the coins are nowhere to be found within circulation. The half dollar continues to be minted [for collectors] but is not issued for circulation. The $1 coins are issued in five different designs, while at the same time paper $1 bills are issued for the same denomination. After recent developments at least four of the $1 coin designs will no longer be issued for circulation.

Most of the problem coins, of course, don't even need to be struck, due primarily to the fact that we as a people have more resistance to changing our coinage than to letting our government inflate away the value of our currency.* Pennies and nickels are struck in huge numbers** at great cost, transported all over the country at great cost, used by merchants to make change, and lost, discarded, or saved up by consumers to eventually be redeemed for a small amount of paper money. All to facilitate splitting transactions down to absurdly fine fractions, so that nobody feels like he's been cheated out of three cents by a rounding system.

The system is absurd. Kill the penny. Kill the nickel. Kill the dollar bill and the five, and strike a five-buck coin (which would have about the same buying power as a mid-20th century 50 cent piece, so no bitching about how hard it is to "lug around" a few coins). Such a system will hold its usefulness in the face of inflation at least long enough to make the whole argument academic when physical money goes out of fashion entirely.

And as long as I'm dreaming, let's get the dead Presidents off our coins, too. Our traditional Liberty motifs would be best, but even a wholesale switch to silly looking cartoon Indians would be preferable to the current crop of Emperors. All this apotheosis of Presidents is unseemly in a constitutional republic.***

[* - This may not be entirely fair. More specifically, the public-opposition/government-incentive ratios are way off. Even if Americans were twice as opposed to inflation, it's less visible and there's an enormous incentive for government to keep doing it. Keeping the coinage system in its current broken form represents a very small cost for government.]
[** - The Mint has already passed four and a half billion 2011 pennies, and the machines are still running.]
[*** - It's also, incidentally, another source of resistance to fixing the system. Worshipers at the Church of Lincoln are for some reason incensed at the idea of their culture-hero losing his place of honor on the world's lowest-value coin.]

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mayor Bloomberg's new gun "loophole"

While most of the US gun control groups are going down in a death spiral, reduced to shouting insults on Twitter, the only serious public threat to our Second Amendment civil rights is New York City's Mayor Bloomberg and his Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which opposes illegal guns and supports making as many guns illegal as possible. Bloomberg may be many things, but stupid he is not. The man isn't currently getting any more traction than the aforementioned hysterical Twitter busybodies, but if anybody can do it, it's him.

Which is why I'd like to take just a moment of your time to discuss his new push: trying to stir up fear of "online gun sales."

The sound bite version is that Bloomberg hired private investigators to pose as prohibited persons and buy guns online, a task at which they succeeded in 62% of cases.

NYPD Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly tries to paint this as dangerous, unexplored new ground:

. "When the world learned that Lee Harvey Oswald purchased his weapon through the mail, there was a huge outcry and the Gun Control Act of 1968 regulated the sale of guns through the mail. We shouldn’t have to wait for the assassination of a president or the killing of a police officer to dismantle a conduit bringing illicit guns into the city."

It's obvious we should extend the existing regulations on snail-mail sales to the world of online sales, right?

Ah, but we already do. The 1968 GCA locks all commercial sales into a highly restrictive (and expensive, and choice-limiting) brick-and-mortar only model. Ordering a gun online today is subject to exactly the same restrictions as ordering one from a catalog in 1969. My very first handgun, I "bought online" at a popular site called Gunbroker. Because of GCA '68, I had to pay the dealer for the gun and have it shipped to a gun shop in Jersey so that I could make a brick-and-mortar transaction there, complete with background checks (with fees), state permits (with fees), four-month waiting period, paperwork, state registration, and extra transfer fees charged by the NJ shop.

What GCA '68 doesn't do is pile all that BS on private citizens who are not gun dealers who want to sell or give their own guns to other private citizens who are not gun dealers (both must be residents of the same state). This is not a "loophole"--it's a decision made consciously at the time the law was passed. What Bloomberg is complaining about is not sites that sell guns Amazon-style (which would be dealers, forced to do business as I described above), but that some sites give private sellers a place to tell potential buyers what they're trying to sell. You may as well demand Congressional regulation of Internet forums. For safety.

Which brings us to the crux of the matter. Bloomberg's press release writer tells us what the Princeps wants:

Federal law should require a background check for every gun sale.

The "gun show loophole" in new clothes. Because those private sellers who "failed the integrity test" by illegally selling to prohibited persons surely wouldn't violate another law requiring them to run a background check.

If we're being honest, background checks are pointless security theater--the TSA of gun control. Everybody knows at least one person with a clean record who can act as a straw buyer. As long as guns are legal, any halfway motivated criminal will be able to get a gun. But background checks are popular policy, and make the general populace more comfortable. Why oppose them? Because our current background check system is badly broken, to the point that universal background checks would create a nationwide gun registry, which is illegal and off the table. Agree or not, American gun owners will not stand for gun registration, full stop.

If Mayor Bloomberg really wanted universal background checks, there are compromises (like a free check system that asks only for the identity of the buyer without demanding the gun's serial number, or a simple "allowed firearms purchaser" endorsement on driver's licences) that could make it happen while addressing gun rights activists' concerns, and even get a lot of them on board with the proposal. But those compromises would reduce the burden on lawful gun ownership, not increase it. That Bloomberg ignores the surer, easier path to universal background checks should tell you a lot about what he's actually after.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

God, guns, and e-cigarettes

The left, at the moment, is fairly agog at Senator Buttfroth's comment that science should get out of politics.

My response to this is nuanced--I actually do think we'd be better off with a hell of a lot less science-based policy for complicated reasons, but Santorum is still clearly wrong here. He doesn't want less science-based policy; he wants to replace it with religious policy, which is far wronger. Government force should never, ever be used to enforce taboos.

Just don't dislocate your shoulders patting yourselves on the back, leftward blogoshpere. Banning e-cigarettes because they look like real ones, or filling an international news article with hysterical comments because a nation is considering a very slight decrease in the burdens of buying hunting rifles by subjects who already own shotguns is just as much an exercise in taboo enforcement as shutting down bars on Sundays.

Peoples is peoples, and people are tribal. Think your tribe has transcended magical thinking and signalling? You're almost certainly wrong.

Influenza and jury nullification

Sorry I've been incommunicado; life has been unrelenting for the last few days. Apologies to the folks who've been Occupying the Inbox.

Big holiday road show (mit Krampus burlesque!), then Genevieve came down hard with the flu, then jury duty all day yesterday.

With regard to that last one, it was a bit surprising how much of the juror orientation was an apology for having summoned jurors, or alternately scolding jurors for complaining about having been summoned. It can be an expensive pain in the ass, sure, but as duties to a free state go, it's one of the least expensive and burdensome.

There were also two conspicuous moments during the orientation in which we were led to believe or told outright that we were required to render a verdict according to the law, whether or not we approved of the law, which is flatly untrue in the United States.

The courts may not like jury nullification, and I understand that many people value consistency too highly to be comfortable acquitting a person who did in fact violate an unjust law. Me, I'd prefer to live in a United States where prosecutors knew they could never get convictions in cases of decent people charged with simple possession of drugs, possession of defensive firearms, or punching out a TSA groper.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Sleep No More New Year's Soiree

I remain, evidently, America's clearing house for info on the Sleep No More NYE celebration.

The "Thane of Cawdor's assistant" sent out an update last night, and as of this morning these are my top ten search terms:

sleep no more new years
sleep no more soiree
elsie pea
sleep no more royal performance
sleep no more royal performance and soiree
"sleep no more" new year soiree
+45 caliber sawed off rifle
elephant gun
food new years eve sleep no more soiree

Fiddling with Google, I suspect it's because I'm one of the only people on the Internet to use the production's own language. Search for sleep no more new years party, and I'm on page 4. It's sleep no more new years soiree that I doth powne.

If you're here looking for content about the Soiree Performance Food at Sleep No More's New Year's Royal Soiree Performance in Chelsea New York, well... Tickets are sold out. They were really expensive. There will be a banquet, a cocktail party, and a performance of the show. "In recognition of the King, guests are to be attired in gold and silver". Doors open at 11:00. And if you're going, I'm happy* for you.

For info on the Ruger LCP, I direct you to my review from last January, which still reliably rakes in hits.

If you're here looking for content about a 45 caliber sawed off rifle, you have a few options. You're probably looking at either a lever-action in .45 Colt or a semiauto in .45 ACP. If you're set on a short barrel, it'll require a load of aggravating and pointless paperwork and a $200 "tax" stamp,** and since it fires a low-velocity round, it still won't be great for longer ranges. Where pistol-caliber carbines are concerned, I lean towards high-velocity rounds like the .357 magnum, which gains quite a bit of velocity from the extra inches of barrel in a carbine versus a handgun.

[* - "Unspeakably jealous."]
[** - Unless you get a short-barreled black powder revolving rifle, which isn't a gun under federal and most state laws. And would be awesome. A BP revolver with a removable stock also fits the bill, and my even be more awesome. Guns like these that don't use self-contained cartridges aren't subject to gun control laws in most parts of the US, and can be bought over the counter or mail ordered.]

I literally lolled at how they labeled the Red Bank area

[Click to embiggen]
From General interwebs

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

That's not funny.

Deconstructing Baby It's Cold Outside into a date-rape song.

Living with that much angst must be suffocating.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Loeb Classical Library in World War II

From Harvard's brief history of the Loeb Classical Library:

In 1939 World War II broke out in Europe. Although the ambitious Loeb Classical Library publishing schedule continued, the war hindered efforts to import books from England, making new editions difficult to obtain in America. While 38 new volumes were published from 1939 to 1945, they were not always available in the United States, particularly as the war dragged on. Only 10 of these 38 new volumes were published in the last three years of the war, an average of about three a year (considerably fewer than the approximately 10 per year average in the early and mid-1930s). In 1944 there were no new volumes added to the Loeb Classical Library, making it the first year without a new edition since the Library’s founding.

The war also had a direct impact on Loeb Classical Library stock. In the late spring of 1940, approximately 200,000 volumes sat in the London warehouse of J. Burn & Company. Until this time, shipments to the United States had been made in small batches of several thousand at a time, but as prospects for England looked increasingly grim, William Smith (then Business Manager at Harvard University Press) placed a substantial order of 122,675 volumes to be shipped to the United States. On the treacherous trip across the Atlantic, one ship with over 9,000 volumes on board was sunk by a German U-boat. The rest arrived safely, adding 113,032 volumes to Harvard University Press’s stock.

This Loeb Classical Library shipment arrived just in time. On July 10, 1940, the Germans began a protracted air attack on Britain and in the autumn of 1940, a bomb hit the J. Burn & Company warehouse, destroying nearly half the Loeb volumes housed there. In 1941 another German bomb hit the same spot, destroying the remaining volumes and leaving Heinemann’s stock nearly depleted. Meanwhile, in the United States, Harvard University Press continued to sell the volumes that William Smith had rescued and sales actually increased during the war. By the war’s end, however, Harvard had also run out of stock on 158 of the 369 volumes that had been published to date, with no way to reprint or restock from England.

That's a hell of a vivid image, isn't it? Imagine working to translate, publish, manufacture, and ship our inheritance from ancient western civilization while the barbarians' bombs fall around you, and the future of western civilization doesn't look anywhere near certain.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Might stop a hole to keep the wind away

NYC mayor Mike Bloomberg, who recently had the City's term limit laws changed so that he could run a third time, on his position in the world:

"I have my own army in the NYPD, which is the seventh biggest army in the world. I have my own State Department, much to Foggy Bottom’s annoyance. We have the United Nations in New York, and so we have an entree into the diplomatic world that Washington does not have.

Whoa there!

Good lord, aren't we already deep enough in the Roman metaphor already? I did not wake up this morning thinking I needed images of NYPD battalions alea-iacta-esting their way across the Potomac.


We now have pet rats. They're the cutest things ever, et cetera. Seriously, domesticated rats are like tiny dogs. They're the anti-hamsters. Their names are Duncan, Malcolm, and Banquo.

On an unrelated note, I still use a small, keyboardless folding phone, and rely on T9 text prediction for text messaging.

T9 does not know the word "Banquo." This isn't surprising; it's not exactly a standard dictionary word. What is surprising is that its suggested alternative is "Aborto." Which I'm pretty sure is Jhonen Vasquez's new superhero comic.

Kids and guns

In Idaho, Toys For Tots (a Marine Corps Reserve program that collects Christmas gifts for needy children) holds a fundraising turkey shoot (which doesn't actually involve shooting turkeys).

A prominent* anti-gun blogger links to the story at Democratic Underground, trying to play the kids-and-guns card...

And is overwhelmingly (it looks like unanimously) dismissed by the lefty commenters, who soon switch tracks into comparing the guns they were given for Christmas as kids.


There are times I'm very pessimistic about the future of my country; there's a hell of a lot to be pessimistic about. It can get a bit overwhelming now and then. But every once in a while I see something like this, mentally compare it with the usual responses to anti-gun rhetoric in European forums, and get the tiniest glimmer of hope.

More Like This Please.

[* - Relatively speaking, of course. He probably gets the most traffic of any anti-gun blog, which means he's less widely read than any mid-tier gun blogger. And by the looks of things, most of his traffic comes from gun rights advocates who want to argue with him.]

[h/t to Bob S.]

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Is love. Is not safe.

Over at Facebook, Erin Pallette muses:

I have a strange desire to write a fanfic involving an ill-fated romance between Lyudmila Pavlichenko and Simo Häyhä. Perhaps call it "Love in the Crosshairs."

This is awesome and terrifying. It's terrifawesome.

...And you know I think that's adorable...

And over at Kotaku, some interesting set-fail.

The topic is on feminism and stereotypes and patriarchy and oppression, et cetera, so I won't be discussing the rightness or wrongness of any of the underlying viewpoints involved. That way lies the void. The comment thread on that article is exactly what you'd expect: an unreadable pissing match between the offended, the offended that others are offended, and the offended that others are offended that others are offended.

In the specific, there's just one little tangential detail that struck me as interesting:

Critic Tom Bissell:
"If you have no idea what the Elder Scrolls franchise is, you are probably either (a) an adult woman, or (b) the sort of person who once beat up the sort of person who likes the Elder Scrolls franchise...

Aggrieved Facebook commenter Jessica Price:
Between this and the NYT "Game of Thrones is for boys" article, I'm curious as to what, as an adult woman, I *am* allowed to like.

Facetious conflation of trends with permission aside, there's an odd bit of misinterpretation here: the critic didn't say the set of "adult women" doesn't know what Skyrim is. He said the set of "people who don't know what Skyrim is" is made up mostly of adult women and let's-call-them-jocks. His "joke" didn't carry any particular claim about what Ms. Price or any woman thinks about the game; it's consistent with a hypothetical world in which four people haven't heard of it--two adult women and two jocks.

I wouldn't bet that's what the critic meant to say; given the quality of the joke, I doubt much thought went into it at all. I just similarly doubt much thought goes into the majority of righteous identity-indignation.

[Full disclosure: I am an adult man who's seen about 90% of the episodes of all Star Trek series and plays tabletop RPGs now and then, and until last week I had only the vaguest idea what the Elder Scrolls series was. I probably would have guessed it was an MMO. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.]

Today is a good day...

io9 speculates on Star trek 2 casting:

As for the other big rumored addition to the cast, Benicio del Toro is reportedly still in serious talks for the role, and it seems likely that he will be end up being cast, but his deal is still pending. He's thought to be in line for a villainous character that will be familiar to Trek fans, which many are interpreting as meaning either Khan or a Klingon of some sort, and the majority of recent reports suggest Klingons will be involved. Since sources seem to be saying it's the character, not the character's race, that will be familiar, this might mean we'll see del Toro playing a particular Klingon, the leading candidates for which would probably be the "Blood Oath" trio: Kang, Kor, and Koloth.

A familiar Klingon character of the Kirk era?

Colonel Worf, obviously.