Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Zero Tolerance = Zero Brains

At what point do we say enough is enough? Toy soldiers glued on to a hat violates a weapons policy? We are talking about molded pieces of solid plastic that are less than a millimeter thick. I don't think you could hurt let alone kill anyone with a toy soldier.

And the schools response, "Well, if you replace the soldiers with ones that aren't carrying weapons then the hat will be OK." So molded plastic in the shape of a radio that is a millimeter thick is soooooo much more acceptable than a firearm shaped plastic gun. I do have one question, what about a plastic molded holstered pistol? Is that acceptable if the main item the soldier is holding is a radio. How about if the pistol has a full flap so that you don't know whether there is a molded pistol inside? What if the soldier has a couple of plastic grenades clipped onto his plastic uniform.

These soldiers weren't even engaged in the act of pretend shooting at each other. It was just part of a patriotic theme. You know, soldiers, the ones that defend and protect the Constitution. But then again, they probably don't teach much about the Constitution anymore. I would guess that pencils, rulers, and scissors (which are all over the schools) are used as weapons far more often than some of the ridiculous things that "weapons" policies ban.

I'm the Technological Neanderthal??!!!

The newest iPhone came out and guess what? I didn't get one. Not only that, I have no desire to get one, ever. I didn't get an iPad or an iPod. (alright I admit, I am only mentioning them to increase my Google relevance score). Recently, I was accused of being a technological neanderthal because I don't have a cellphone (to set the record straight, I do have a Tracphone, it just hasn't been used in more than a year). I thought this accusation was rather humorous.

I have more computing power in my home than my parents and all siblings combined. I was the first in my family to have a DVD player and a portable DVD player. I had a Palm Pilot for many years. I was the first with a webcam in my family and helped facilitate video conferences with the family.

I use MagicJack to make free calls when I am overseas. I am the one my father would call for technical support (until he got a Mac - sorry, I like my cheap computers that I know there is software for, and I don't think Microsoft is the devil incarnate - besides if you want to look at unfair business practices, you don't have to look any further than Apple, they just weren't the biggest fish on the block until recently so expect a lawsuit against them in the next couple of years - but I digress). I pride myself on being able to read a map and not having to rely on a GPS unit to find my way around different cites or even foreign countries.

I helped my wife make the conversion to digital scrapbooking. I have designed database driven websites (that make money) and taught myself PHP, Perl, and MySQL. I have had high speed internet at my home for almost 10 years.

Yet somehow, I am a technological neanderthal because I don't have a cellphone.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Sometimes Mother's are Wrong

We all love our mothers. And our mothers love us. Sometimes though, mothers are wrong. Joran is no choir boy. He is a liar and all the evidence is pointing to being a murderer as well. Its OK, just because your son turns out to be a rotten human does not mean that you are a rotten human. I won't even say your a bad parent. Part of being human is we each get to make our own choices in spite of how our parents may have tried to mess with our minds (mine limited it to cereal rules).

Roads in Iowa

I spent the last two weekends on the roads of Iowa with different results from a month ago. Last weekend I saw zero deer in eight hours (although there were a couple of mangled racoons or some such small dog sized varmint). This weekend I only saw one deer. So, I can surmise a few things:

1) the Iowa DNR issued a bunch of new hunting permits based on my suggestion
2) the deer got smarter and started avoiding major traffic thruways
3) it was too hot and rainy in the last two weeks and the deer while not smart enough to avoid cars, are smart enough to stay in shelter for the weather.

Hint: Jason Bourne Isn't Real

Just in case you didn't know, Jason Bourne is not real. Even before Matt Damon popularized him in the movies, he was just a figment of an author's imagination on the pages of a book. He wasn't even loosely based on a real person like Indiana Jones was. He was, is, and always will be 100% fake.

Anyway, some criminal has some guns and manages to slip out the fire escape and people compare him to Jason Bourne. This news report is atrocious in its treatment of facts. At one point the binoculars are "trained on the Federal Reserve building", only later to be found beside a tripod by a window that overlooks the Federal Reserve. So which is it?

Then we find out that the investigation was stymied because of the most unusual tactic of ... wait for it ... using TWO fake names. Jason Bourne would be proud. Its not like this tactic is widely used in the criminal world. He has friends in the clothing industry which was substantiated with the designer clothes and European shoes in his apartment. I mean, we all know that you can't get designer clothes and European shoes in any mall in America. Besides, this was Los Angeles, not exactly the most cosmopolitan city in the US.

He had set up a machine shop in one room where he was "manufacturing the parts of assault rifles that ammunition magazines are slotted into ..." To the average person, this may sound ominous. In gunnie terms, he was probably making receivers from blank plate. The receiver is what is legally a firearm (i.e. it has the serial number stamped on it). There isn't anything wrong with making receivers (or making your own complete firearms). Furthermore, it is not that complicated. They do it in caves in Afgahnistan. They even do it in prison. If you own a file and a hammer, you have all of the tools you need to make a fully functional firearm. Everything just makes it easier.

Then there is this gem, "Detectives found a loaded sawed-off shotgun and handgun, an AK-47, ammunition and other weapons parts including a gun barrel. " This is the "cache" of loaded weapons they found. Three. A rifle, a shotgun, and a handgun. Notice that they don't say multiple shotguns, rifles, and handguns. A single rifle, shotgun, and handgun. I guess people who compete in Cowboy Action Shooting and Three Gun Matches don't realize they are carrying around a "cache" with them. And what is with the other parts including a gun barrel? A single gun barrel? So perhaps he could have made one other firearm with the parts he had (last I checked you needed at least one barrel to make a firearm).

Based on his past record, drug possession and theft, I am assuming that he already has at least one felony. Which makes his mere possession of the firearms illegal. Oh yeah, in the state of California. Guess all of those gun control laws kept us safe, because he didn't own, ... er I mean do anything wrong, ... er I mean hurt someone.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Top Shot 3: Bows and Arrows

I guess I better do my review of this one before the next episode comes out. My wife watched it with me and during the middle I tried to make the comment that "at least there wasn't as much whining as other reality shows."

"Are you kidding me? There is just as much whining and these are supposedly grown-ups who play with macho guns all the time." Point conceded. "The only difference is that they aren't running around in bikinis." Shortly after this we had the bedroom scene of Bill whining while getting changed and I pointed out that now they had a half-naked fat guy, so my wife wasn't totally correct.

Anyway, the weapon of choice was bows and arrows. I shot a bow when I was younger for the archery merit badge. They made a big deal how this was an ancient weapon, the long bow. And that it could rain devastation from hundreds of yards. So for the contest today, instead of using a 180 lb yew wood long bow, they were going to use a 40 lb fiberglass long bow at only 100 yards (for a target that is 30 feet across). What? Why build up the great aspects of the weapon if you are not going to test it? I think it would have been much more fun to see the contestants attempt to pull back on a 180 lb long bow. Besides, the long bow wasn't used for accuracy, you had several hundred that all together loosed their arrows at another group of several hundred soldiers a few hundred yards away. There wasn't much aiming, you just needed to get in the general direction and the sheer mass of arrows would ensure that some would get hit.

What do you know from practice, there aren't a lot of bullseyes. Then again, this group was an assemblage of firearms shooters (a few of whom happen to have experience with other weapons). At scout camp, we were shooting 60 lb recurve bows, and at 100 yards after a day of training, I (and pretty much every one else) could hit a three foot target 2 out of five times. Maybe their training wasn't as good as the pimply faced kid that gave me mine. So we get to the contest and Kelly gets an arrow in the yellow. For a while it looks like the red team might actually win. Then JJ gets up and hits in the yellow. While the host makes it sound like the arrows are close, from the first shot I could tell that JJ's was closer. Yep, after official measurement, JJ's is several inches closer.

There is some minor background drama and to make a long story short, Bill and Brad get put in the elimination round. Brad is whining constantly about having to compete with a bow and arrow when he is an IPSC Grand Master. Wah, wah, wah. If anyone is rooting for Brad at this point, it is probably because you are even more whiny than he is. They go to their practice session and find out that they are going to be competing with the crossbow. As with the previous contest, they build it up as the great ancient weapon that it is and then use a modern equivalent, complete with scope. Brad is very sensible and states that he spent a lot of time practicing his loading.

At the contest, they are shooting apples, in a very loose "re-creation" of William Tell shooting an apple off of his son's head. Of course, William tell didn't have optics on his crossbow, and it probably was not made of specialized materials, but I digress. The teasers of the shot showed the instructor (fuzzy in the background) shooting an apple with a bulbous head which naturally caused the apple to explode into fragments when hit. I was hoping that Bill and Brad would be doing the same thing. No such luck. They had bolts with a simple target point that would fly right through the apple, in some cases, it wasn't apparent except when they showed it in slow-mo that the apple was hit. This was a let down from previous competitions when they had reactive and/or exploding targets. Brad won. Mainly because he could load faster. For as much as he whines, that guy does know a thing or two about strategy.

Bill leaves and doesn't bother to say goodbye to Kelly (who he had a tuft with earlier). Good riddance. Right now, Brad has won two elimination challenges. I am beginning to think that he might be the last of the red team. Next week (today) is a shoot/no shoot with AR-15s.

Protecting the Skys, One 6-Year Old at a Time

The TSA is there to protect us. They are working hard to stop terrorists everyday. In fact, there are a whole host of stories where the TSA has prevented bad things from happening. There was that one time that they stopped a terrorist from detonating a bomb in his underwear ... oh wait, that was passengers on the plane. But there was that other time that they stopped someone from passing a note that said there was a bomb onboard ... oh wait that was the stewardess. Well, there have been a couple of unruly passengers that they stopped from boarding the plane ... oh wait, no they didn't airline employees identified them and had them removed.

So what has the TSA done? Well, they have strip searched amputee's traveling with their small children. They steal money from wheelchair bound passengers. They subpeona bloggers who re-post their security directives. They can't keep their hands off of 3 year olds. And they force mom's to drink their own breast milk.

But remember, this is the agency that is sooooo much more professional and better trained than the screeners we had before 9/11 who basically were minimum wage employees that left you alone. You know, the one's who let the 9/11 hijackers onto the plane as opposed to the one's now who let the shoe bomber and the underwear bomber onto the plane.

But we have the restricted fly list of those people who are so dangerous we won't let them fly. They haven't actually been convicted of anything, or even charged with anything, but we will only let them roam around shopping malls and have access to gas stations because large crowds are immune to burning gasoline, but we wouldn't want them to get onto an airplane with 200 other passengers and 3 ounces of hair gel.

So who is on the no fly list? Well to start with, some of the 9/11 hijackers on are the no fly list - yes, those ones who burned up in the plane crashes. We can't be too careful. Afterall, someone else may use that dead person's identity. There are heads of state (Bolivia and Lebanon - but not Iran and Venezuela). Robert Johnson is also on the list - not exactly the most common name, but pretty darn close. Ted Kennedy was on it, but he was allowed to rent a car without further scrutiny. Recently, it was discovered that a 6 year old girl was on the list. I thought it was just Iran that executed 7 year olds as spys. In America, we are much more civilized. We just subject suspected 6 year olds to strip searches and prevent them from traveling with their families.

The change in airport screening has done NOTHING to make air travel safer. The only thing that has made air travel safer is 1) reinforcing the cockpit doors and 2) passenger awareness that terrorists are going to blow up the plane. Surely if all of the Orange Alert Levels, 16 weeks of TSA training, and confiscation of nail clippers actually made an impact, then the TSA would be able to tout at least one example where a terrorist plot was thwarted. Afterall, there are millions of flights a year.

chirp ... chirp ... chirp

Don't hold your breath.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Top Shot Episode 2

Top Shot episode 2 was shown on Sunday and as promised, I DVRed it and watched it later. I was rather liberal in use of the fast forward. Today was going to be a pistol shooting competition using a Berretta 92F (the same one they used for the elimination round voting).

There were a couple of pistol shooting champions and they did their requisite showing off (at least on the blue team Blake did). What I want to know by this time is what in the heck are they doing with all of their off time? Each team had 140 rounds to practice with. Assuming (and this is being generous) that you are spending 1 minute for each shot, then that is less than 2.5 hours per team. What about the other 14 waking hours of the day?

Is there a shooting range that they can just have fun at? Do they have airsoft set up in the basement? And did I hear that right, they are in California? Why go to such a gun unfriendly state for a show about firearms? Lots of questions.

What was good to see was the inexperienced pistol shooters took direction and followed it explicitly and were in many cases shooting better than the experienced shooters. Then there was Brad, the red team's expert. I understand that he shoots Glocks (he only mentioned it about 500 times - which means if we didn't have the video edited he would have mentioned it 10,000 times in real life). But this is a pistol at roughly 7-10 yards. You aren't doing anything fancy. If in your first five rounds you are shooting low and to the right, then adjust your aim for the next five shots. It's not rocket science!

There was enough coverage of him and other teammates comments about him that I was fairly certain he was going to be in the elimination round. The competition the next day was rather creative, shooting a plexiglass cover out the end of a tube. No paper or other target to see your misses. The red team was up first. The "inexperienced" shooters did well hitting on the first shot. Then the misses happened. Including Brad.

When the blue team was up, the old guy started off and missed, then again, from what I gather he hadn't shot a pistol before the practice session the day before. The rest of the team all hit theirs on the first shot, it was back to the old guy. He was taking his time and some of his teammates were whining, but it was good that he took his time and scored on his second shot. Plus he had 30 seconds to spare. The Blue Team won again. I think it was JJ who did his signature legs wrapped around his teammate's body jump. (Its just an immunity challenge, you didn't win Miss America or anything.)

So the red team gets to go to elimination again. Shooting at the targets, Andre again nails the bullseye (this guy seems pretty good, I think there are teammates that are underestimating him), and there is a tie for the second place person. Frank is the first competitor and an ammo box is brought out with the people's names to choose who gets to choose the second contestant. And Brad gets chosen (see I called it earlier).

Their elimination competition involves movement. Practice is relatively boring, but the competition is not. They get to ride a zip line and shoot at targets on either side of them. This looks really difficult. There are about 12 targets total. The first time through, they each hit 5 targets. So they get to go again. One of them mentioned possibly trying to do a little strategy (after the first couple of targets just focus on one side) but then didn't carry through.

The second time through Brad again hit 5 targets and Frank hit 1. Sorry frank. Brad was a real whiner. I hope they don't shoot Glocks at all during this competition (or at least not until Brad is eliminated). I was disappointed that neither tried to hit the bonus exploding targets, but then looking at the field, you probably would only have time for one shot inside of 10 yards while you were moving at 15 miles an hour (a sprint for those who need help with the units conversion). Certainly not an easy shot to make.

Episode 2 was better than 1. The teaser for Episode 3 was for the long bow. Not sure how that will work out for them. With Frank gone there are only a couple that have archery experience form their bios.

Lawnmower Problems

With all of the rain lately, I decided to try and take advantage of a small window of opportunity when it wasn't raining and get the lawn mowed before I lose any kids in the grass. My philosophy on push lawnmowers (and lots of small engine equipment) is that their cost is so little relative to my earnings that I will fill it with gas when it stops and fill it with oil just before it seizes up and then basically do nothing.

I don't drain the fluids before winter. I don't sharpen blades every year. I certainly don't change the oil. I did have a riding lawnmower once when I had a half acre to mow. It came with the house and was about 30 years old. It would run out of oil about once a season and semi-seize up. I would put a quart or two in it and then wait an hour for it to cool down some, and it kept on working.

Small engines are designed to take the abuse of the casual home owner. Last year I didn't mow the lawn at all (my wife did it all), this year I have noticed that the lawnmower wasn't running real smooth. Choppy, changing speeds, although right before it ran out of gas it would rev up to its normal operating speed (and then promptly die).

So, halfway through the yard I ran out of gas. Got the gas can (which has gas that is probably 1-1/2 years old and didn't have the fuel stabilizer put in it last winter), and filled it up. Normally, the lawnmower starts on a single pull. But, this time, I could get it to sputter a bit and then it would poop out again. After several minutes it was time to get some tools out and check the thing out.

First thing I did was check out the air filter. The air filter is nothing more than a sponge with a hole in it. At the intake holes it was cakes with oily grass clippings. Well, that could be a problem. The lack of air would definitely affect the engine causing it to run rich for the amount of air (explaining the sluggishness), and then working fine at the end of the tank when it was just sucking a few fumes (and getting the fuel-air mixture just right).

So, I took it inside and cleaned it with some dish soap (dish soap is good for oil - they use it to clean off animals from oil spills - or at least that is what the Dawn commercials say). While the filter was off, I decided to check to make sure that gas was spraying through the carbeurator. A couple pumps on the primer and a nice stream of gas was spraying. So, I attempted to start the engine with the air filter off. No luck, it was doing the same thing as before.

So, the next thing to do was pull the spark plug. Sure enough, it was caked with carbon deposits. One of the problems with a engine constantly running a rich mixture is some of the fuel is left on the spark plug and chamber walls. This gets hot enough to smolder, but doesn't make a clean burn. Instead, it coats the surfaces with a black carbon deposit. Eventually, this gets thick enough that the spark won't happen, hence the engine won't sustain itself.

Some wiping off with a rag and a file to clean up the sparking surfaces and I was ready to go. Put it all back together and the lawnmower started on the second pull. I let it run for a while to be sure it didn't die. So, the next time I am at Lowe's I'll probably pick up a new air filter and a spark plug. After all, I have had the lawnmower for three years and I haven't done any maintenance on it until today.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Mental State of Candidates

If you haven't heard about the Democratic primary in South Carolina, it is an ongoing bag of jokes that keeps on topping itself. To begin, the primary was won by a candidate who is dirt poor and did no campaigning, in spite of the other candidate being the one supported by the Democratic Party.

Then, we find out that the winner happened to have displayed not so appropriate pictures to someone and is charged with a felony (I am not sure if he was convicted or even if it has gone to trial.

Next, the loser decides to question whether the winner did something fishy to stuff the ballot box. My guess is, since he didn't do any campaigning, there is probably only a 50/50 chance that he even voted himself.

And now, the loser is questioning the mental state of the winner. I am sorry, what does it say about YOUR mental state when you are backed by the party and can't win your own primary against an alleged (or convicted?) felon who didn't even campaign, and then you have the temerity to suggest that this mental midget was able to hatch some brilliant ballot stuffing plan which has so far gone undetected by anyone?

The Democratic Party in South Carolina should just slink into a corner at this point and realize something went horribly wrong, but not make it worse by dragging it out and making the party look like imbeciles.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

48 Hours Or Else!?

British Petroleum has 48 hours to identify containment strategies. 48 hours or else ... what? The point of a deadline is to have some sort of consequence. Does the Coast Guard think that they are going to take over? After all, they have soooooo much experience stopping oil leaks.

Perhaps it is 48 hours or else we will beat them in soccer? Nah, that couldn't be it, we just tied them (besides, my guess is that most of the workers for BP in the Gulf are actually Americans - you know the whole multinational corporation thing).

What's the point of the unmentioned threat anyway? It is not like BP is trying to develop nuclear weapons. Usually, Obama saves his "or else" for crazy dictators bent on the destruction of the US. BP, well, they just want to sell us oil. It's not like they have been sitting on their butts doing nothing. Its not even like BP wanted to have a 100 million barrel oil leak into the Gulf of Mexico to begin with. Unfortunately, that is what we have.

Empty ultimatums (while at the same time trying to smooth things over with the homeland's head of state) won't stop the spill. It took 9 months to put out the oil fires and cap the wells after the first Iraq war, and that was on land. I don't seem to remember any ultimatums being given to speed up the process.

College Football Realignment

With the move of Colorado to the Pac-10 (soon to be renamed Pac-11?) and Nebraska going to the Big Ten (will they finally change their name to something with Twelve in it?), the college football world is set to go through a shuffle of major proportions. Talk right now is about the formation of some super conferences with 16 teams and two BCS bowl births. And the Big 12 (soon to be Big 10) is right in the middle of it.

I see a few good things coming from this, while it does spell the breakup of one of the best BCS conferences (Big 12), I think it will also lead to the inclusion of some of the up and coming mid-majors into a BCS conference. In the end it is all about money.

The Pac-10 is going to want to get a piece of the Texas TV market so more than likely Texas (and probably Texas Tech) will go to the Pac-10. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will also follow. Which then leaves one spot open. Many right now are speculating that will go to Texas A&M. As long time rivals with Texas, this does make some sense, however, it is not a done deal.

The SEC also would like to get a piece of Texas Football and Texas A&M makes a nice pick for them (granted they would prefer Texas, but Texas makes enough money on their own that they don't need the SEC. So, who would the 16th PAC-10 team be. Probably Utah. They have played well against PAC-10 teams in the past and have two BCS bowl wins under their belt (which is more than a lot of schools in the BCS conferences). The thing to get over here is BYU. Utah and BYU have been hand in hand from the beginning. Sometimes you just have to let them go.

Why not pick BYU? Well to their advantage they probably do have a more widespread fan base, but this also works against them. Their fan base outside of Utah is spread so thin that it wouldn't amount to much in the TV viewing ratings. Utah has been much more consistent in the last decade and already does a lot of recruiting out of California.

Back to the SEC, if they pick up Texas A&M then they need another 5 teams to get to 16. Florida St, Miami, Virginia Tech from the ACC are good candidates, as is TCU from the Mountain West if they want to increase the Texas market. West Virginia from the Big East.

This shakeup would then require a realignment of the ACC and Big East. Frankly the ACC would absorb the remaining Big East to reach its 16 teams. So, we are left now with a depleted Big-12. They're chance at survival results in absorbing the Mountain West conference. The new Big-12 would be dominated by Missouri, Kansas State, Boise State, and BYU.

Finally, the Big Ten will have four slots available. By this time Notre Dame should realize that they are going to get cut out, swallow their pride and join the Big Ten. The remaining three teams remain a mystery. Since it appears that the Big Ten (at least in words) is going to wait out the expansion, they may have the tables turned on them and be left with picking from the leftovers. Army, Navy, East Carolina, Bowling Green, SMU, and Houston are all possibilities.

The remaining conferences will probably do some realigning to consolidate into two super conferences as well. But the die will be cast. 64 teams in four super conferences leads nicely to a 16 team playoff.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Teacher's Caught Cheating

Wouldn't you know, when there are incentives for high scores (and punishments for low scores), some people will cheat? It doesn't matter that some of these are the teachers and principals who would (at least used to) fail students for cheating, being a public school teacher doesn't make you immune from greed and self preservation.

Then again, society doesn't look at cheating like it used to.

"Proving" the Bible

Why do some people feel compelled to "prove" their faith? Faith is not something you can "prove" by any universally accepted methods. That is what we call science. Science doesn't (except in the political world) delve into faith issues. Likewise, most people's attempts at "proving" their faith come to laughable attempts. It is called FAITH for a reason.

During my drive on the interstates of Iowa on Sunday afternoon and evening, I listened to about a half hour of a religious program on a radio station. Basically, Sundays bite for listening to the radio, but I needed something to keep me awake for the final bit of the drive. As part of the program a preacher was talking with the host about the Bible and how "we know" that the Bible is the word of God. He started out good by saying we shouldn't use circular reasoning, i.e. the Bible is the word of God because the Bible says it is the word of God. But then it went downhill from there. Below are a couple of the arguments he made and my personal views of how those are a bunch of bunk and don't "prove" anything.

The Bible is unique. After saying this he had to clarify himself, after all, every religious book (or any book) is unique. What he meant is that it was consistent over the period in which it was written of 1500 years and was written on three continents. Well, the three continents part is correct Europe, Africa, and Asia although of the roughly 1500 pages of the Bible, only about 20 are "in Egypt" and another 50 are "in Europe."

Then he tried to make a comparison, "it would be like me writing about God here in America and someone else writing about God in China and both of our accounts were consistent." Uh, no. While I will concede that the Bible is purportedly written on three continents, the comparison of the US to China is ludicrous. The Bible was written on three continents because the major location of the Bible (Israel) happens to be at the crossroads of those three continents. Not only that, but the actual area covered (from Rome, around the Greek cities, over through parts of Iran, down around Iraq and Jordan, and then looping around Cairo and back up to Rome) is an area no larger than the eastern half of the United States. But that doesn't sound as impressive to say that one person in New York and one person in South Carolina wrote about God and were consistent.

The next part of his consistency argument also has problems. The Bible was written over a 1500 year period. Well, if we consider that Moses wrote the first five books and the apostles wrote the last of the epistles, then yeah that is a 1500 year period. Except that we don't have any of Moses' original writings. Nor do we have any of the Apostles' original letters (and if we did we would have no real way of knowing since we don't have any samples of their writing to compare it to). So, what we do have are copies of copies of copies (ad nauseum). The earliest texts of the old testament date to only about the 2nd century BC. Assuming that the Apostles writings were written by 100 AD, the 1500 year timeline could be only a 300 year timeline. I hope that doesn't shake anyone's faith.

The preacher expanded his analogy and said that "it would be like me writing about God here in America today and someone else writing about God in China 1000 years ago and both of our accounts were consistent when read by someone 2000 years from now." Well, you sort of have to have some more qualifiers in there. Besides the geographic discrepancy that I already mentioned, the books of the Bible were not written in isolation. Later authors clearly had access to earlier authors works. Not only that, the authors in most all cases were immersed in the religious and cultural training of the people. All of the writers of the Bible were Hebrews, some of them just migrated to different parts of the three continents.

The last part of his analogy that I don't like is the false implication of a linear advancement in technology. Comparing someone living in the Information Age to someone a thousand years ago living in the Dark Ages is a stark contrast to someone in 100 AD living in the Iron Age to someone in 900 BC also living in the Iron Age. The technological advancement from 900 BC to 100 AD was minimal compared to 1000 AD to 2000 AD. In other words, in spite of the purported 1500 year separation and geographic distances, the authors of the Bible were very similar people. Hence, that they were consistent in their religious teachings (especially given that they had the previous writings to refer to) is not unique. Every major religion can probably make similar claims (and in 1000 years, every major religion will still be able to make those same claims).

The apostles all died for their beliefs and you don't die for something that you know is false. Alright, but again, every major religion can claim this in some way. Humans have shown that they are very good at persecuting others for whatever reason they come up with (skin color, lanuguage, religious beliefs, or just because they want the land). Oh wait a moment, what "proof" is there that the apostles all died for their beliefs?

Turns out, very little. There are historical traditions, but written accounts didn't really occur until the 1500's. The early church father's have some veiled references to a couple of the apostle's martyrdom, but nothing concrete. Besides, how would we know that an apostle killed in India was killed for his belief in Christ as opposed to just being a foreigner and ticking off the local cheiftain?

After this the preacher decided to get on to the topic of creationism and started touting the no transitional fossils, irreducible complexity, and Cambrian explosion arguments. I had had enough at this point. I was left to drive home pondering why if you are accepting the resurrection of Jesus on faith, you have to prove it in some convoluted way. If it was all just laid out with perfect evidence that required no faith, wouldn't that frustrate the whole faith, hope, charity thing and the faith, repentance, baptism thing?

Perhaps believers of all stripes should look at their life and examine why they believe what they believe. If you do it because of "proof" similar to what this preacher was saying, then maybe your faith isn't as rock solid as you think.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ebay: Scrapbook Supplies

Sometimes my eBay sales end up being good blog material (either that or I just like to plagiarize myself to get me traffic). This is an item I posted tonight.


I really like the word extravaganza. In any case, I finally had enough of my wife spending hours and hours scrapbooking and chatting it up with all of her friends, so after sending her to the spa for a day I went into the craft room and gathered up all of the scrapbook supplies that I could find and now I am selling the whole lot on eBay! Click on any of the pictures for a larger image. Hurry and bid now before she gets home and strangles me.***

Here's the merchandise: It begins with this handy dandy tote bag. This black nylon bag was specially designed for scrapbookers, it has large pockets, plenty of pen holders, and a collapsible handle (like airline luggage) that you can use to roll it around where you need too. Wheels are still working. The snap clasps on the top are broken although one partial connects together. Bags like this range from $40-$100 new.

Next, we have not one, not two, not three, but SIX stamp sets. Some of these (perhaps all of them) are Close to My Heart wooden base with rubber stamps. Plus I have thrown in some odds and ends. There is an alphabet set, a short saying set,
a holiday set, a baby/kid/I don't know what else set, a flower set, and a hearts set. What more could you ask for??? All sets look complete (although if there is something out of the ordinary, then my wife switched something around). My wife tells me that sets like these are about $20 new.

Next up is the five hole punches. Not just any hole punches these are the one's that make fancy holes. Squares, curves, and something else. These things feel like they are made of cast iron, and I bet if your fingers were thin enough to slip in there you could punch a fun shape through your hand (not that I would advocate it, although your husband may want to do it if you are addicted to scrapbooking). These go for $5 to $10 at the scrapbooking stores (I think, I could just be making that up).

At this point, most people would be saying, this is enough, how could you provide anything else. Well, this is the deal everyone has been waiting for. Next up are some lovely markers. They are in a variety of colors and have both a fine tip and a broad tip. You'll be able to write and decorate to your hearts content (at least until the ink runs out).

There is also a handy dandy tool set. It is a Making Memories brand and comes with all the tools you need
to attach notions and other goodies to your scrapbook pages. There is a hammer, pliers, punches, and picks. The setting matte has seenlots of use and is still going strong. These tools are not flimsy and the set feels like it weighs 2 pounds. If you get tired of scrapbooking you could probably convert this tool set to leather working. Also, there are some metal book mounts (?). I have no idea what these are and my wife isn't here to tell me, but the package is unopened.

And since you have the tool set, you need an assortment of notions to go with it (isn't notions such a funny word!). I literally have no clue what these things are or how you are suppose to use them, but why not get them here at a discount.

We're not done yet. This prize package also includes a Xyron Sticker Maker. Put anything that is 2.5” wide, turn the handle and out comes a sticker. Try it on movie tickets, try it on a business card, try it on a squashed cockroach (or just put the cockroach through to squash it). With this bad boy you can make a sticker out of most anything!!! My wife says that the cartridge is new so this is good to go right out of the box!!! (I know the picture is sideways, I am just too lazy to rotate it).

Finally, there is the sticker carrying case with 12 x 12 sheet protectors for all of your paper, scraps, and sticker needs. Keep your stickers organized and ready to go. As an added bonus (not really, but just pretend that it is) 17 of the pages are already filled with stickers. There are letters, there is Disney, there is Thomas, there is theme pages, there are borders, there are churchy things, there are random bits of wisdom. In a nutshell, there is a whole smattering of everything. Most of the sheets of stickers have some missing, but there are some complete sets in here. The case zips closed so if the stickers do fall out of the page protectors you can keep the resulting mess contained.

There are also some other odds and ends that I included that really aren't worth mentioning. I have no idea how much all of this would cost if you had to buy it new. $200, $300, $5000, maybe even $100,000 (I'll admit I didn't go through everything so there is a small, although very unlikely, possibility that a stack of $100 bills made its way into the bag when I wasn't looking – there also may be some rare gold coins, but I doubt it – I guarantee there are no small mammals or citrus plants). I don't scrapbook so I don't know. It is about 30 lbs of stuff.

We'll start the bidding at $0.01. Bid on it for you sister, bid on it for your mother, big on it for your crafty brother-in-law. Just start the bidding!

All this can be yours, if the PRICE IS RIGHT (well, actually if you are the highest bidder then you win it all).

***For those of you who didn't get the humorous quip, my wife has actually converted over to digital scrapbooking and so she doesn't need all of these supplies. She culled them out herself and I took the pictures and wrote the ad. So please, no nasty emails, my wife and I love each other.

Engineering Packrats

I changed positions in my company recently and took over for an engineer who had been in his position for a couple of decades and basically was the industry guru for his field. In this respect, I feel rather inadequate as a replacement, but it also is a major challenge then to be successful following in the shoes of a giant.

One thing that I have noticed throughout my career is that engineers are natural packrats. The older generation are paper packrats and it can be evidenced by my current position. There are at least 4 filing cabinets of documents and notes that are for my position, carefully gathered and sorted by my predecessor. Unfortunately, besides being packrats, engineers also are obsessive/compulsive in the way that they organize things. And no two are alike.

This makes taking over an engineering position difficult. Besides being a newbie to this area, I now have to sort through, mentally catalog, and try to assimilate 100,000 pages of information that is in a filing system which a) I don't know, b) has no index to describe it, and c) more than likely is diametrically opposed to my own OC tendencies.

I am a digital packrat though. I like to keep things electronically and throw out as much as I can. In my first job out of college, I was similarly dumped on with boxes of papers. I sorted through what I could, digitized much of it (using my own folder filing system) and then after 4 years boxed up the rest for the next guy to deal with (I still got emails for about 4 years from my successors to ask me to explain something about the documentation).

At my current position, there are two computer folders that I consider mine. The first day on the job, I literally spent 5 hours rearranging the folder and documents in them. I was half expecting some gnashing of teeth the next day as some of the other engineers had lost links to important information. But nothing. My rearrangement went unnoticed.

I cleaned off two shelfs of one of the bookshelfs by getting rid of the empty binders (that should give me enough room to bring the books from home that I may use at some point in my career). Oh yeah, and I have a big schematic on one wall that I spent a couple of hours color coding. Engineers can't get over the childhood urge to color everything.

Don't Throw Rocks at People with Guns

Unfortunately, a Mexican teenager learned this lesson the hard way. Rocks happen to be a deadly weapon when thrown at people. It doesn't matter if the rocks are jagged or smooth, large or small. Rocks can kill people (that is why stoning was a form of capital punishment in the ancient world).

So, whether you agree with the family's story or the INS agents story is irrelevant. Don't throw rocks at people with guns. If your friends decide to do that, get away from your friends as fast as possible. I don't care if the people with guns are good guys or bad guys - don't throw rocks at them unless you are willing to risk being shot.

Oh wait, this choir boy happens to be a known smuggler. I guess the straight A student thing doesn't elicit so much sympathy now.

Don't throw rocks at people with guns, especially if you are a a known criminal.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Sugar Cereals and Other Parental Inanities

We had a rule when it came to breakfast cereals when I was growing up. Only three boxes of cereal were allowed to be open at one time, only one of which could be a sugar cereal. The three boxes of cereal I can understand, its to keep the cereal from going stale. The one sugar cereal I kinda get, you don't want to encourage your kids to always be eating sweets, but then again, we would have donuts for breakfast about once a month, and there is no way you can convince me (except when I am trying to convince my wife) that donuts are healthy.

Another completely irrational cereal rule was that we could put one spoonful of sugar on a non-sugar cereal (to make it more palatable), but none on a sugar cereal. So the other day I decided to test out my parents wisdom. I chose Corn Flakes and Sugar Pops as my two cereals. Corn Flakes has 3 grams of sugar per serving (of course the way my brothers and I pour cereal, there is probably 6 grams of sugar per serving). Sugar Pops has 10 grams (20 grams the way we pour sugar). So how much in a spoonful of sugar? I weighed a spoonful of white granulated sugar and came up with a mass of 14 grams. So even accounting for the extra large bowl of cereal we had, the way we ate it there was just as much sugar in a "non-sugar" cereal as there was in a "sugar" cereal. Why not just let your kids have whatever cereal they want? That is what I do now.

Parents come up with all sorts of crazy rules to try and reign in our kids. Growing up you recognize this and swear that you will never do that when you are a parent, and then you find yourself doing the exact thing you swore to high heaven would never happen. Turns out, kids have a mind of their own and without rules (sometimes even with rules), they would probably get themselves run over or worse. I never wore a bicycle helmet growing up, not even in the Boy Scout Road Rallies I attended. My wife is adamant about our kids wearing their bicycle helmets, I'm OK with that. She feels it makes them safer (and it probably does in a small statistical way), so I don't fight it.

Every now and then I try to purge myself of the crazy rules that my parents ingrained in me. It usually doesn't work. You could almost say that parenting is sort of like brainwashing your kids into doing what you think is right for society. Without the brainwashing, you never know how the kids will turn out. And right now, with the chaos they already cause around the house, I want to hang on to as much control as I can.

Why Libertarians Will Never Be a Major Party

Everyone knows about the Republicans and Democrats. Few know about the Libertarians. And fewer still can distinguish between a libertarian and a Libertarian. For the last 150 years, the Republicans and Democrats have slowly developed a political empire that has virtually shut out all other parties. Sure there was the Bull Moose party with Teddy Roosevelt, but that was more of a temper tantrum. Then there was Ross Perot. And there is the perpetual Green candidate and Libertarian candidate on the presidential ballot that garner's about 1% of the vote.

Our nation's political history wasn't always a two party machine. In the beginning there were a number of political parties and the Congress at times was made up of 4 or 5 political parties. Compromise between them was needed to get anything done. Of course, back then there was very little federal power so Congress didn't have a whole lot to do.

With the rise of the Republicans in the 1850's, the future political course of the US was born. The Civil War helped to consolidate federal power over the states and being an elected official in the US Government started to mean something. Now, you had power. Real power. With the gradual encroachment of the government through taxation and regulation, elected officials amassed more power.

With this increase in power, the two major players, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, needed to protect it for themselves. Neither party was large enough or popular enough to completely dominate the other, but together they were able to pass laws and regulations regarding elections, their funding, and such. These laws were made to ensure that the major players had advantages over any upstart in the political process. Those advantages came with access to money and power.

While there is an opening for any party to "rise up in the ranks", our political system has evolved into a two party political system. In actual practice, the chance of it happening is next to none. Which brings me to the title of this post. Libertarians want to be left alone and consequently, want to leave everyone else alone to live their lives. Which is why they don't win. Promising people the freedom to live their lives as they choose is nothing compared to the promise of a $500 rebate for buying a new refrigerator.

The two major parties want to control people (in spite of the rhetoric one of the parties uses - actions speak louder than words). They have both gotten into the habit of passing laws which cause problems and therefore need more laws to fix those problems. Never realizing that they are the reason for many of the problems in the first place. Libertarians don't lust for power, but would rather be productive members of society. Unfortunately, the federal goverment is a natural magnet for those who lust for power.

Zero Impact Living

Zero impact living is the holy grail of many environmentalists. As with the mythical holy grail, it is an impossible goal. Unless of course you selectively define what zero impact living is. Using linen bags, and non-packaged food is great, and if it makes you feel good, ok. Go ahead and do it. But returning your milk bottles or egg cartons back to the store you bought them from is just passing on the responsibility of creating waste.

I read a book called "Garbageland" which was written by someone who was willing to buy into the whole recycling, no waste concept. After doing some investigation, it was found that somewhere around 40-60% of the stuff that is "recycled," actually goes to the landfill. So taking your egg cartons and milk jugs back to the store you bought them from, probably results in some of them being sent to the landfill. In other words, you didn't create zero waste, you just let someone else throw it away.

Why do we throw away so much stuff? Because it costs more to recycle it than it does to make new stuff from virgin materials. There are exceptions - metals primarily. My guess is every municipal recycling program is operated at a loss. Even with free raw materials, the price for re-used milk jugs doesn't cover the cost of sorting, cleaning and processing. Even with oil at hundreds of dollars a barrel. Copper wire on the other hand is a different story.

So do I make a conscious effort to "Live Green," heck no! I fill my recycling container up every week because otherwise I would have to pay extra to put it in the regular trash. I alternate between bagging my grass clippings and leaving them on the lawn. I have a garden, but haven't been very successful in the last year, except for brocoli. I make sure I always get plastic bags because they are used to line our garbage cans (there's great health benefits to not having bits of trash, rotted food, or poop lying around your house, it smells better too!).

I have been to farmer's markets in three states, only the one in Texas had competitively priced produce compared to the supermarkets. In the end, I would rather buy my produce from a company that ships it in on a truck from California than the farmer who lives 2 hours away that drives it in to the farmers market. Why? Because it is cheaper when shipped 80,000 lbs at a time across the country, rather than 1000 lbs at a time from down the road. (And those mass produced vegetables with all of their chemicals sure do look a lot better. Plus, in blind taste tests, people actually prefer the mass produced chemical laden produce. Go figure, we've progressed.)

When did this war of man/nature begin? Do we fault the Beavers for making dams and messing up the waterways? So why be upset when mankind builds a road to bring cheap produce all over the nation? The world is a much bigger place than we think, and in spite of the large sounding numbers as to the amount of trash we produce, it isn't that much and doesn't take up that much space. So, feel free to throw away that cheeseburger wrapper and not feel guilty. I certainly don't. And if you won't, then the next time I go to McDonald's I'll get two cheeseburgers and throw away a wrapper for you. Heck, I might even be kind enough to throw out the cheeseburger too and let one of Mother Nature's creations see what they are missing!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Rash of New Posts

If you notice a rash of new posts (which is rather uncharacteristic of me) I am making an attempt to clean up all of the draft posts I have made. (Some of them are a year old.) I get lots of ideas and write a title, save it as a draft and come back to it another time.

Unfortunately, some things have piled up and I need to get them out. In many cases, I have updated a past news story with a more recent news story.

So, if you thing the writing stinks. It probably does. That is why I get paid to be an engineer and not a writer.

Change in Media Provider

About two months ago I got a flyer in the mail with a deal that interested me. Cable, phone, and internet for $72 a month (which included all taxes). I'll call this Company A So I decided to look into it since we were paying $96 for phone and internet already. I'll call this Company B. After some searching on the internet, I found a few differences.

Company A's internet service was 20% slower than Company B's, but since I don't do online gaming, downloading of music or videos, this really isn't a big deal. Also, Company A's phone service did not include unlimited long distance, but 7 cents a minute. So for a $24 difference I could talk for 5.5 hours. Oh yeah, except I have the Magic Jack phone that gives me unlimited long distance, so while a slight hassle, not a big problem. Plus, not only would I get cable, I would get digital cable (and we all know digital is better than analog), plus a DVR. Now, this was only a 1 year teaser rate and the rate would be $145 after that year, but there was no contract, I could cancel at any time.

I talked with some friends at work and found no complaints from Company A, except for their HD service. I don't have an HDTV so I didn't care about that. So I was ready for the next phase of the research. I only really care about phone and internet so I was more than willing to stay with Company B if they would lower their $96 rate (it didn't even have to be down to $72, I probably would have settled for $80 or 85). I called them up and talked with a salesman.

"Thank you for calling Company B, how may I help you?"

"I got a flyer from Company A that is offering Cable, Phone, and Internet for $72. I currently am paying $96 for Phone and Internet. I don't care about the Cable, so I wanted to find out if you can give me a better deal on the Phone and Internet than $96."

"Let me see what I can do. Well sir, the only thing I can do is add Cable to your account. It is normally $49, but since you have Phone and Internet it would only be $20."

"I think you misunderstood. I don't care about Cable, I would like a lower price on my Phone and Internet or I am going to switch to Company A."

"I could increase your Internet speed for only $5 more per month..."

"Ma'am, I don't want to pay more money, I would like to get a reduction in rate. If someone is willing to give you cable, phone, and internet for $72 does it make sense to pay $96 for phone and internet alone?"

"Well, no. Let me transfer you to our retention department." I love it how service companies have a retention department. This is where I wanted to go in the first place, because if there is a deal to be made this would be it.

"Thank you for calling Company B, how may I help you?"

"I got a flyer from Company A that is offering Cable, Phone, and Internet for $72. I currently am paying $96 for Phone and Internet. I don't care about the Cable, so I wanted to find out if you can give me a better deal on the Phone and Internet than $96."

"Let me see what I can do. Well sir, the only thing I can do is add Cable to your account. It is normally $49, but since you have Phone and Internet it would only be $20."

"That is the deal the other lady just offered me and I already told her I am not interested in paying MORE money."

"Well, I can't match the deal they are offering."

"I am not even asking you to match the deal, I just want a reduction in the rate I am paying for Phone and Internet."

"I'm sorry there is nothing more I can do."

"OK, then I will be switching. Good bye."

A phone call to the Company A and I was all set. A couple weeks later, they were our and installed our new service. Phone works fine, internet works fine, 200 channels of tv, 80 channels of music work fine, and then there is the DVR.

I didn't know what I was really missing until I got the DVR. Now, I can set up the shows to watch (or the shows my wife wants to watch, or the kids want to watch) and let it record. No more having to pray that Mythbusters is on TV so that I can get a breather from the kids. There's always a few episodes on the DVR. Shows not playing at convenient times, no problem. And the fast forward through commercials is great. Now, if I can just figure out how to transfer shows to the computer through the USB port, I'll be in heaven.

A year from now, my wife and I will have to make a decision. Do we switch back to Company B who will probably be running the same or similar special or just cancel the cable and be paying $80 a month? We'll see. Home phone number portability has sure taken the hassle out of switching phone companies. Why Company B didn't want to just cut $10 off the bill and keep a paying customer, I will never know.

"Uncharacteristic" Anti-Gay?

Rush is getting married, again. The author of this article points out that it is uncharacteristic of the "anti-gay" Limbaugh to invite (and pay) Sir Elton John to sing at his wedding. Unfortunately, this is where society has come. If you say anything derogatory about homosexuals (such as "they're permiscuous lifestyle leads to a higher incidence of HIV than the general population") then you are labeled as anti-gay. So, if you support marriage between one man and one woman, you are anti-gay.

Does this work the other way also? If you support marriage between two men, are you automatically anti-heterosexual? Maybe we should just say that we are anti-polygamous (except when we get our kicks watching "Big Love" on HBO). If I like vanilla, does that mean I am anti-chocolate? What about those who like neopolitan?

Just because someone doesn't support marriage between two men or two women does not make them anti-gay. Government sanctioned marriage in western culture is an outgrowth of the church weilding power over the state during the dark ages and middle ages. You didn't go to the Sheriff of Knottingham to get married, you went to the Friar Tuck. But then I guess, those people must just have been anti-government.

Perhaps, Rush Limbaugh likes Elton John as a singer in spite of his political views. Perhaps Elton John likes Rush Limbaugh as a person, in spite of his political views. Either that or Sir Elton can be bought for $1 million. If Rush were really as "anti-gay" (whatever that means) as the reporter believes, then perhaps Elton wouldn't be willing to sing at his wedding for any amount of money. Can you imagine Rev. King going to a KKK rally to give a motivational speech? Not me either.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Solar Storms are Going to Kill US!!! (Again...maybe)

Watch out for the new scare of solar storms. I seem to remember a scare of solar storms a couple of years ago. And a couple of years before that. In fact, I think it has something to do with El Nino or La Nina. Or maybe just the 12 year, 30 year, 524 year, or 12,113 year solar cycles.

Look, there is not a whole lot we can do to fight off the angry sun god. So far, none of the scares have wiped out civilization as we know it. While I understand that this could be the big one, I am not betting on it (because if you did, the solar storm would wipe out all communications, electronics, and set off nuclear warheads - your buddy is going to have bigger concerns than paying you back). Face it, if there is a solar storm that wipes out civilization as we know it, WE ARE SCREWED. Actually, I think that might be one of the definitions of "screwed."

Of course, you can always buy gold to help protect you in the event of a solar storm. It would probably make a nice protective blanket that would keep your electronics safe! After all, they use it on the visors of the space suit helmets.


Yesterday I spent 8 hours driving on the interstates (only interstates, no side roads) of Iowa. During that time I saw at least 30 dead deer on the sides of the road. Is this a sign that DNR needs to issue more hunting permits? They were all does from what I could tell.

I am not a hunter myself, but 30 deer at around 100 pounds of meat each, that it a 3000 pounds of wasted meat. Make those into deer burgers and you could serve 9000 meals. That's enough to feed ALL of the homeless people in Iowa for a month.

Top Shot Review

Top Shot is a show on the History Channel that is a competition of 16 shooters for the title of "Top Shot." After one episode I am rather disappointed.

Quick Run Down: Survivor without the bug eating, naked fat guys, and 25-30 yr old girls wearing loin clothes and pretending they aren't using their sexuality to try and win. That being said, I am glad that I have the DVR and can pare the show down to about 10 minutes of shooting, thereby getting rid of the rest.

One of the bloggers I read, Caleb, is a competitor on the show. It was nice to see that he made the only competitive shot he was suppose to. Also, they didn't show him talking smack in the house (of course he is on the team that won the challenge). In any case, it sounds like the competition is going to start out as a semi-contest in one's proficiency with firearms and gradually devolve into throwing rocks (maybe it would be better if they ate bugs, had naked fat men, and scantily clad 25-30 yr old girls).

The first team competition was billed as a long range rifle competition with some of the rifles used in the 20th century. During the practice, I couldn't tell how far away the targets were, but they couldn't have been that far. And they had some one spotting for them. All of the rifles used iron sights only, and when the competition happened you found out that this was just a timed event at 50 yards and 100 yards.

50 and 100 yards is only a long distance when you are down by 6 and there are 30 seconds left in the game. But that sport doesn't involve rifles. Back to the competition. The 1903 Springfield rifle was the first one mentioned and the History channel made a big deal of it being the longest rifle in service. Well from its initial service in 1905 to the end of the Vietnam war (which is being generous since only a few were still in use as sniper rifles), is about 70 years. That is a pretty long time. It was billed as a rifle from WWI.

The next rifle was the Russian SVT-40. This was billed as the WWII rifle. It was first built in 1940 and was one of the first semi-automatic rifles. The third rifle was a Mosin Nagant. It was billed as a Korean War era rifle. Huh? This is the History Channel right? The Mosin-Nagant was a Korean War rifle? Technically, yes, but wouldn't it be more appropriate to say a WWII, WWI, Russian Revolution, Russo-Japanese War, and Boxer Rebellion Rifle? This is a rifle that was built in 1891 and saw widespread continuous service in the Russian army (far more than the 1903 in the US army) until 1960 (ohmygosh - that is 70 years like the 1903). It has been issued to a limited extent in Eastern block countries for another couple of decades and was one of the main battle rifles of all sorts of countries, including the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, which are still using it today. So, 2010 - 1891 = 120 years of service in wars throughout the world. Look, I am as proud to be an American as the next guy, we make better rifles than Russians, but come on now. Don't try to pretend that because we make better rifles, then they have been in service longer than any other. The Mosin-Nagant has been in service longer than any other because it is cheap to make and goes BANG every time (I have never had a dud in the hundreds of rounds of 40-60 year old ammo that I have shot).

The last rifle was the M14. The Vietnam era rifle. When the team competition time came, there was some crawling under barbed wire, jumping through mud puddles, etc. Since these were all military rifles, that sort of added to it. And they got to shoot at the targets (50 and 100 yards). They were exploding targets so all you needed to do was nick the edge. This was another disappointment. It turns the competition into a speed competition. Fastest bangs wins, with no regards to accuracy. No MOA groupings.

The blue team won without a hitch when the red team's second shooter couldn't hit the target. Place all of the blame you want on the spotter, but this was from 100 yards! You shouldn't need a spotter from 100 yards. I don't know how big the exploding circle was, but it looked to be at least 4 inches in diameter and possibly as large as 8 inches in diameter. 30 shots and you can't even hit 4 inches. At 100 yards.

So there is a shoot off for elimination. Frankly, I like Andre (the red team shooter who did hit his target). Lots of people were trying to make excuses for Mike (the guy who couldn't hit his target), so Andre was thinking that he would be eliminated. He is the first one to vote for who he thinks should be eliminated and shoots the target dead center. Only one other person hit the bullseye on theirs, that is icing the competition. I would want Andre on my team.

With the shootoff, it was Mike against the long range shooter Kelly, doing guess what? Long range shooting. 200, 400, and 600 yards. OK, that is long range shooting. This was with a Remington 700 (in .308 Winchester I assume), with a scope that was probably a 15X - 50mm. Naturally, Kelly cleaned Mike's clock and Mike was sent home. Kelly didn't really need the help of the spotter and during practice he made a smiley face on his target. My kind of guy.

As I said, next week I'll boil it down to just shooting in 10 minutes.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Taking Kids Out to Dinner

Why do parents take kids out to dinner?

I don't know, but I still do it. For some strange reason. Usually because we have a coupon and the kids eat free. What I don't think I will ever understand is why we put up with our kids ordering Mac and Cheese for $4.49.

You can buy the stuff in bulk for 10 cents a box (25 cents if you go with the expensive brand). Restaurants must make a killing off of this stuff. Having eaten a lot of Mac and Cheese in my life, I know what boxed Mac and Cheese looks like. Only one restaurant I have ever been too makes their own Mac and Cheese.

I guess I make up for it by letting my kids have two to three classes of chocolate milk.

Gun Show Goodness

Having read about Matt Snyder's gun show experience, it was a great weekend to go and see some of his "preconceptions" at the local gun show. I got permission from my wife (yes, she is in charge), called up a friend and we headed on over.

"An unspoken etiquette seems to dictate that vendors don't initiate conversation until a prospective buyer pauses for at least 10 seconds at a given display." Well, actually I think this is more a case of personality. There were some vendors there who barely said a word even when you talked with them. On the other hand, one of my favorite vendors (who I have yet to buy anything from) was his normal gregarious self and was able to spout off facts about any firearm that he saw someone touch or even take a second look at. When I first met him, it was a little nerve racking, I am the type of person who likes to shop without being bothered by salesmen until I have a question. Now it is always fun to spend a few minutes and watch his table while he talks nearly non-stop, carrying on three or four conversations at a time.

"This place is crawling with cops." Well, I saw three cops. One at the door, and two wandering around. Hardly what I would consider crawling. Of course there is something about thinking of committing a crime in a place where the person to gun ration is around 1:100 that just screams insanity.

"Nazi-themed tomes, for whatever reason, seem particularly popular." I'll be perfectly honest, I don't go to gun shows to look at books. I go to look at guns (and ammunition). At this particular gun show, there were probably three tables that had "Nazi-themed" anything. Mainly militaria. Of course, there was also Russian militaria, Japanese militaria, and don't forget those dastardly Yankee militaria at the same tables. Some people happen to like militaria, just because the swastika is a very noticeable symbol doesn't mean everyone who collects it subscribes to those philosophies. I have some South American coins, but you don't see me participating in a revolution every six months now do you?

"This is not the venue for selling machine guns." OK, anyone who has been to a gun show knows this. Only anti-gun groups still believe that the Mexican drug lords are arming themselves at US gun shows. While I was there, I didn't see a single machine gun, no live grenades (some dummies though), and rocket launchers had already sold out. As to why people like to bring up the $200 tax for buying machine guns, I don't know. This is one time when not indexing for inflation has been good (granted it would be better if there was no tax or registration).

"The clich├ęd caricature of the "gun nut" is not only white, but aggressively white." This is something I honestly haven't paid attention to before, so I thought I would look. Well suprisingly there were people of all races there. Now, I must say that the vast majority (95%) were white, but then again, where I live (and coincidentally where Mr. Snyder went to his gun show), the vast majority of people (98%) are white.

"... gun and knife shows are the male equivalent of window-shopping for shoes." Oh yeah, I can agree with this wholeheartedly. Since they have driven guns out of the shopping malls of America, we are forced to get our shopping fix at gun shows. It would be much better to bring firearms sales back into JC Penny and Sears. Put it right between the Jewelry counter and the Cosmetics Counter. Across from the Womens Clothing. That way, we could go in, do our browsing and still have our wife's in somewhat close proximity if we needed the checkbook.

"Six days, three gun shows, and 19 attempts to buy handguns sans permit had yielded zero sales." Yeah, in some states they have a "Permit to Purchase" for handguns (or long guns in the really unfree states). I haven't come across a dealer yet who would sell you a handgun without a purchase permit. So much for gang bangers coming in and buying whatever they want.

Basically, Mr. Snyder is mostly wrong. But I still had a successful day. My friend came out of the bathroom at lunchtime and said to me, "Isn't the gun show great. You can go to the bathroom and there is a guy cleaning a sword in the sink." Sword, as in three foot blade designed to cleave people in half. And nobody minds at all.

I had gone to this show with the goal of getting a youth rifle for my kids. I taught my oldest to shoot at Thanksgiving and needed to get something that was more in her size. In the past, there were usually three or four vendors that had Crickett rifles. During my first stroll around the place, I couldn't find any. During the second stroll I finally found one. It was the black synthetic stock, and was priced a little more (OK, a lot more) than I wanted to pay. As I started walking further down the table the father behind me said to his son, "We should sell our Crickett sometime."

I turned immediately and asked if I heard him right. Yes, they had a Crickett that their son didn't use. So one of the greatest freedom's of all (the private commerce of firearms) commenced. What price? How old? I'm willing to buy. Well, I just live a few minutes away, let me go home and get it. Done.

Thirty minutes later, the gunshow loophole was fully utilized as the father and his son handed over a high powered, bolt action sniper rifle, with a powerful scope, with the minimum length barrel the law allowed for greater concealability, all so that I could indoctrinate my kids in murder and mayhem (Can't you just hear Sarah and Josh crying their eyes out?). I in turn handed him four bills coated with evidence of the drug trade.

OK, so it was just a .22 Crickett with a 4X scope. And 80-90% of American bills have trace amounts of cocaine or other drugs on them. But, no papers were filled out, no drivers licenses shown, just two free people happy to do business. They sold a rifle no longer in use. And I gained something that my kids will use for a decade or more. Both of us were happy with the transaction. That is how America should work.

Oh yeah, I put the rifle in the trunk of my car with enough ammunition to take over a small Central American country. God bless America!