Friday, December 30, 2005

Eww Ick Ack Put-t-t-t-t! (Dallas water again)

Just stopped by the water fountain. Ewww. The algae's turned over on the bottom of the lakes again. Happens every year, long about August, when every fountain in downtown Dallas starts tasting like ass for three weeks. It's supposed to have stopped by now and gone back to (relatively) decent-tasting water. For this to be going on in late December is just another mark of what a tinderbox the region is lately.

Rain rain, come our way....

60-car pileup in Hungary on the M1

It's not just Austria getting pounded in that snowstorm.

The Dallas Rooftop Society

I don't know what else to call it, but in the coming year, I intend to start canvassing the radio and media guys to see what can be done about this:

See that? Isn't that just ass-ugly? It's worse than that, actually. From the 51st floor downtown where I used to work, I could see Ft. Worth on a clear day... but if I looked North-by-Northwest, all I saw was thousands of acres of warehouse roofs. Bare. Soaking up rain and sun damage, and worst of all, turning into a giant heat-collector during the summertime, superheating the air all around it. What happens then? You get a giant high-pressure bubble that doesn't let in an ounce of wind, and seals in the heat and pollution on top of a million-plus people just aching for relief on a 90-plus day that can easily get up to 110 in the parking lot or during one of the harder droughts.

It doesn't have to be like this. Sure, North Texas is hot, but not that hot. We're all a bunch of pansies compared to what the Arizonans go through. But that heat bubble kills us each and every summer, turning what ought to be damned near a paradise into a months-long scurry from AC unit to AC unit, like roaches fleeing from the kitchen light.

And the solution is technically simple, but fiscally and legally complicated: find a way to convince the building-management firms that it's legally safe and financially in their best interest to put plants up on the roofs. They don't have to be big, and it's better if they weren't... bushy crepe myrtles and hybrid native roses (you know, the plants that even God can't kill?) would do just fine. And you wouldn't have to do the whole city to get an effect, either: it's the warehouse district that sits right in the path of the winds that ought to be coming through Dallas... break the edge of the heat bubble, especially in conjunction with the Trinity River Project, and it would break up into smaller, more easily-manageable areas to green up, since much of the rest of town actually has some green to speak of.

And then, summertime would have an actual breeze now and then, and with twice-a-year crepe myrtle and rose blooms, would go from being an overheated eyesore, to something you could actually put on a postcard and write home about.

Awww, Lynndie England got burned in the kitchen...

she'd better watch it, or else she's gonna fall down some stairs a few times, too.
(Schadenfreude: enabled.)

Sometimes even an asshole is right.

Sure, Evo Morales won't allow coca eradication. But let's not count that among his numerous other faults... you try making daily or semi-daily 5,000-foot altitude changes without a cheap antidote to altitude sickness, and see where it gets you.

Do FARC and the cocaine gangs suck? Yes. Are drug dealers high on tons of profit from pushing their poison? Of course they are: nobody would ever set up a glue-sniffing cartel.. w/o money, the stupidity overwhelms the supposed glamor.

Is any of that the fault of some shit-poor shepherd on the mountainside? Not hardly...

Look, you don't mess with the bus driver...

Especially not when the bus crew happens to be an airplane. Getting dropped off on a desert island may or may not be more than he deserves... but it should prove some mighty fine deterrent value... let's hear it for common courtesy and not being thrown out the tail end of the airplane by a harried flight attendant at 30,000 feet...

While everybody laughs at the kid who went to Iraq...

I gotta admit, I admire the bastard. Why am I calling him a bastard if I admire him? Well, because you just don't do that to your folks. And because it helps to bring a phrasebook when you go to another country. With Lebanese family friends, he should have caught that very large clue...

Otherwise, the kid put his money (and potentially his balls, given the threat of kidnapping) where his mouth was, and went to take a look. More power to him.

Sometimes even a libertarian has to love socialist policies

... for example, paying women to have kids. Why not? The government-caused economic and social malaise of Central and Eastern Europe is well-known to have held down the birth rate in the region to soon-to-be-collapse levels. Now, as Technogypsy puts it, "the plural of anecdote is not evidence," but my four years living in Central Europe showed me an entire generation of women who were literally scared off of having kids, because they were certain that they couldn't afford to raise them... which made sense, since most of them were on a none-too-solid financial footing themselves.

It's like that dippy song...do you believe that children are the future? Well, you'd better, unless your vision of the future is grey, arthritic.... and LONELY.

Squirrel Tsar? No, not Foamy.

Apparently Scotland's cute red cows aren't that unique... cute red squirrels are endangered by their mob of grey cousins...

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Gas crisis hits fightin' words in Ukraine

Now claimed to be at "230 or else" levels, Russia has also denied Ukraine any rents on pipeline use, and issued bald threats on the "Ukrainian Counterpunch" earlier discussed.

UPDATE: Over at a Step at a Time, new data clinches the idea that this is a Gazprom/Kremlin attempt to put a powerlock on Ukraine: Gazprom has bought off Turkmenistan's surplus gas, leaving Ukraine with no other potential supplier.

Our press and politicians need to start screaming bloody murder about this... of course, that would take reporting and statesmanship. Whose job is that lately?

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Red v. Blue going away?

Patrick Cox over at TCS Daily has an interesting media take on things. However, he has fundamentally committed an error by cleaving too closely to Brooks' Red-v-Blue hypothesis.

First off, there is some truth to the "density is destiny thesis." But it can be carried too far.

When Brooks first wrote, in order to find a conservative space, he had to leave the DC area and drive out to the sticks. (Fine with me, I like the sticks.) But this skewed his writing, on the assumption that liberal and conservative areas were merely "urban v. retro," as the saying goes, completely missing the fact that there are large urban areas that are quite conservative, Dallas being my home-town example, and, perhaps more importantly, that the number of medium-sized cities that are "red" without having anything at all in common with the countryside, is huge.

Therefore, just because big cities are starting to fester less, doesn't mean that the red-blue divide is in any danger of vanishing.

"Instead of Drilling for Oil, Tap our Minds."

In a USA-Today op-ed that is breathtakingly clueless even by the standards of the US Senate, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) lays out her opposition to drilling in ANWR. And she is aptly named for the task, because her opposition is nothing but disingenous cant for her constituents in Washington State (aka, a place so full of leftist environmental nuts that ELF and ALF are actually taken seriously, rather than derided as the crack-brained terrorists they are).

Thus, we get to enjoy patronizing schlock like this:

....the fight to protect the refuge today is also a fight to
confront our national priorities for tomorrow. Those who limit this discussion
to caricatured arguments about the competing value of oil reserves and protected
lands are irresponsible. We must ask hard questions.
Yes, we must, starting with why on earth you think that actually addressing economic questions in economic terms is irresponsible... why is it irresponsible to limit the discussion to whether ANWR has any value as a wildlife reserve? Perhaps b/c it's not the photogenic Garden of Eden Borealis that folks would like to make it out to be?

Realizing that God gave America less than 3% of the world's
remaining oil, would we rather gamble on the future goodwill of unfriendly
Middle East regimes, or bet instead on American ingenuity and investment?
WTF, over?
1. It's not a binary choice, idiot. That rhetoric went stale with the Soviets.
2. Who cares where the rest of the world gets its oil supply?
3. Personally, I'd prefer to bet on the American ingenuity of ANWR oilmen...

Drilling advocates argue that we ignore the need for an immediate
boost to domestic oil supply. But their arguments ignore the facts: Opening the
refuge would do little to meet our energy needs and nothing to reduce
prices.
Hrm... now, Ms. Cantwell, I know that you're in the Senate, but might I interest you in my two friends from Economics 101, Supply and Demand? Or, would that be irresponsible?


Not one drop would come from the refuge for 10 years. At its peak,
drilling would cut our reliance on imports by only 4 percentage points and the
price of gas by just one penny.

Therefore, Senator, since ANWR isn't a magic wand that will instantly right the world, it shouldn't be done? Personally speaking, I like the idea of being 4% less dependent upon the toad-like House of Saud, not to mention Cubazuela. However, since we're bandying numbers, let's put a number out there: $10,000,000. That's the annual gas savings to America, using the Senator's numbers, assuming that there are only 100 million vehicles in America, that they only need to be fueled once per month, and that they only need to have 10 gallons put in them during fueling. (Nice round numbers so Mme. Senator won't get confused.)

Others claim it can't hurt. They're wrong: It would hurt badly. Oil
companies drilling on the neighboring North Slope have caused, on average, 504
spills annually since 1996. They have released almost 2 million gallons of toxic
substances, most commonly diesel, crude and hydraulic oil. Just one spill can
significantly damage this fragile ecosystem.

Yeah, and just one cigarette in a bar will cause a Dallas Democrat to fall dead on the spot from second-hand-smoke. The Senator has obviously been reading too many letters from her friends in the touchy-feely Eden Borealis club again... either way, the Alaskan oilmens' record is pretty darned good, judging by the absolute explosion of the caribou population.
The plan before Congress could make matters worse.

Could? Could make matters worse? You don't even have the spine to say "no sir, don't like it, here's why?" Come on, Senator, you're supposed to be pretending to be wise so that you can represent six and a half million people in Washington State. Do some pushups or something and grow a pair so you can play with the big boys and girls.
Not only would it hijack defense funding that our troops desperately need, this plan would also
circumvent many federal laws — safeguards with which every American business has
to comply.
Which laws? Put up, or shut up and admit you're conjuring a scare tactic from the ether. Can we pass some rules to get the rest of the American business out from underneath some of these rules, too? Or better yet, get Congress to actually review the effectiveness of the regulations it's already passed? And, you're a Senator, so you know better than to pull that defense-funding b.s.: since 1963, the only thing hijacking defense funding is Democratic Senators.

We have other choices. We should empower our farmers to grow
cost-competitive biofuels, and we should produce cars that let Americans get
more miles to the gallon.

Which won't do dick to drop oil prices, given that the rest of the world is going through a giant surge in oil demand known as "we'd like to take part in modernity, too." And biofuels are nice, so far as they go, but they're NOT cost-competitive per unit of energy in spite of vast Congressional "empowerment." And if you actually attended the briefings on the Energy and National Resources Committee in which you serve, you'd know that.


By tapping our nation's spirit of innovation, we would stabilize
prices, expand supply and reduce the burden on so many hard-working families. By
investing in alternative fuels and new technology, America could cut its oil use
in half and do far more to secure our energy independence than drilling in the
Alaska wildlife refuge ever could.

Again, we already ARE investing in alternative fuels, and alternative means of producing fuels. None of them are ready for prime time, and many of them will never form effective oil substitutes. We've got biofuels, Fischer-Tropf synfuels, tar sands, hydrogen.... all kinds of innovation already going on.

In the mean time, let's tap our nation's much more noble spirit of telling members of the Political Class to stick it in their ear, and let hard-working people who want to get to work get to it, so that everybody profits and Senator Cantwell can engage in disingenuous cant on whatever else fascinates her this week, like scrapbooking in the rain forest.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

God to Ray Nagin: Who's your Daddy now?

The Almighty has re-emphasized his decree regarding the Ruins of BonTemps and the return of business therein...

Kali the Terrible Stamps the dwarf skull of Ignorance...

Intelligent Design, a.k.a., creationism with 35% bullshit added, has been struck down as an evolution alternative in science classes in PA.

Nifty little religious dogma, I guess, but since there are no falsifiable hypotheses, there's no way it has any place in a science class...

Hrm... are we "losing" Thailand?

To bring up the old Cold War phrasing...

Why would Thailand suddenly jump ship arms-wise and sign a huge Sukhoi deal?
There's only one thing that makes any sense to me, and that is that with Thailand recently sitting unreservedly in the pro-China camp of ASEAN, that they want to obtain weapons systems that allow for interoperability with their northern neighbor.

But that's probably a bit of a stretch. Anybody got any good ideas?

Monday, December 19, 2005

To boldly go where no busted-up fuel tank has gone before...

SpaceX launch postponed until next year until they figure out why there's a problem with the tank.

Which is a pity: I was looking forward to seeing a private company throwing stuff into orbit with a rocket that costs about the same as three Tomahawks -- and is re-usable.

Father and Son enjoy Christmas Season

and celebrate their constitutionally-protected right to beat the ever-loving crap out of robbers with a cheese knife and a snow shovel.

Commenting on the condition of the former gun-toting home invader, father says "Oh yeah, I messed him up."

State of the Russ Report, Dec. 2005

(for interested family, etc.)
Generally speaking, 2005 whipped our butts financially (took us from almost debt-free to oh-dear-Lord), but we are otherwise doing great.


  1. We're well, and haven't quite gotten a bun into the oven yet. Working on it.

  2. Christmas is coming up, obviously, and we're stoked about getting to DC for a few days.

  3. Still holding more debt than we'd like, especially after watching our budget get sideswiped by the roof-repair/foundation-repair/cars-got-vandalized madness this summer. It's still at manageable levels and should go off the board entirely by May or so providing we don't let ourselves get casual about it.

  4. About two-thirds of the way finished with the classroom portion of my teachers' certification, which hopefully will result in me jumping ship from Bank of America by summertime.

  5. We need to get a half-dozen windows for the house, and then, (crosses fingers), the big must-be-done house repairs/upgrades will be finished.

  6. Yard/landscaping is almost finished, with the addition of a Red Maple and Pecan, and having transplanted three Crepe Myrtles from various "bad places" to right along the front sidewalk. All told, if "the Creepies" survive our brain-surgery-with-chainsaw, the front yard should have quite a bit of shade all through the morning and the early portion of the afternoon. The soaker hoses will also help the back yard quite a bit. Once the bad part of winter is past (which may mean late January here), all we'll have remaining to put in are:

    • 6 blueberry bushes (for under the back eaves where the AC unit drips)

    • 10 blackberry bushes (for NE side of inside fence corner)

    • 6 new grapevines for back fence (to duke it out with trumpetvines)

    • Bunny's roses

  7. I theoretically am supposed to pass my Silver Glove exam this year (sobs). Barre work has helped loosen up my hips for it, but let's just say that I'm having a sordid affair with Despair...

  8. We continue to create our own little cult by having folks move into houses on the street as they come open, thus creating something very much like actually knowing your neighbors... because we do, unlike the usual "Um, hi..." and even more common "Who the hell are you?"

  9. Unmitigated Geekery Projects in pipeline:

    • Hand armor for the salle (Should protect from injury without diluting pain from getting hit. Spendy, I may have to hit people up for it like we did the boxing gloves, depending on how much leather and artificial felt it takes.)

    • Resew quilted leg armor.

    • Assist Csaba with article publication

    • Make Csaba a suit of lamellar

    • Construct leather-scale armor

    • Conduct destructive testing as described earlier

    • Begin working on semi-definitive medmilhist timeline (including all of Europe, unlike this piece of shit, which claims to represent all of Europe, "Europe" apparently being defined as the 1988 EU member states...)

    • Haft up remaining unhafted weapons

    • General leatherwork (vest, mocs, bags, etcetera)

That's about it for now... The Bunny has her own version, of course, and things will get really interesting once the Lemur and Cupcake show up, but that may still be a while.

EU takes hard look at Hamas' poll numbers, grows a pair.

Amazingly enough, now that Hamas is whipping up on Fatah in the Palestinian elections, the EU has stated that aid to Palestine will be cut if the former wins next month's elections.

Rather amazing.

Ray Nagin told businesses "come back to the Big Easy..."

... and "let the good times roll..."

This was, I think, Thursday, when I saw him on CNN during my lunch hour.

What he should have said was, "although the city is a flooded wasteland with a hundred thousand ruined houses, where even the surviving part of town still hasn't vaguely achieved normalcy, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE come back, even though you won't have any customers, because I really liked being mayor of an actual city, and I'd like to be re-elected with your tax money."

Pathetic.

It's official: Colombian rebels are a bunch of pussies.

Sorry for the language. But when FARC plus the NLA get together five hundred guys, and they still can't take over a village during the course of a six-hour battle... at which the Army shows up and chases their sorry butts into the jungle...

Well, you have to feel sorry for the five officers killed, and for the villagers who were apparently abducted. But it's not like this is China, where "village" is semantically equal to "medium-sized city with a hundred thousand inhabitants."... One would have expected these guys to be much more competent than they were, since they're supposedly, you know, rebels, rather than a bunch of pathetic thugs who are attacking soft spots because anybody competent will rack them and stack them like they come in six-packs.

It's beginning to sound a lot like... communism...

From the "sometimes a banana is just a banana" department... apparently somebody in Szombathely thought a Christmas display star looked just a wee bit too much like the Soviet model... prompting the cops to have to come out and do a "hrm... corners rounded or pointy, number of rays, shade of red, presence or lack of hammers and sickles in shop...."

So, Bush gave a speech...

And he basically said: "we're winning" and "I'm on it."

But seriously, this speech, theoretically one taking responsibility for the war, and attempting to inject hope, etcetera, etcetera, is a cactus-spined poison pill aimed right down the Democrats' throat.

If anybody needed a demonstration that the Bush/Rove mind-control lasers are working well, how's this play by play action?

B/R- Bush will remain strangely silent about Democratic war criticism
Dems- Democrats will paste him with the "quagmire" approach and the false-intel charge
B/R- Bush then comes out and says "The intel was a goof, but don't despair, we're still kicking butt."

Results: The anti-war Dems now look like school-yard pansies -- an image they spent their own money to achieve.

Ouch. Just ouch. This is the kind of rug-pulling rope-a-dope that Clinton used to play while he danced circles around ol' Hapless Hastert.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Boeing whups up on Airbus

Great big sale to Qantas.

The article is almost obsequious to the journalistic principal of "write for balance," but here's the reason I like Boeing:

1. Sure, Airbus has a point, that the hub system is going to stay in place. But that's because the hubs are great big cities where people still want to go, and because politically, the other airports aren't going to change much. DFW to Chicago will always be a big-time route, because lots of Chicagoans like to visit Dallas, and vice versa.

2. Boeing has whupped on so badly on Airbus, because while Airbus, in typical Euro fashion, has focused on airport structure and political planning, aka, the centralised game, Boeing actually paid attention to its customers. Their customers are the airlines, not the government-run/overseen airports. And the airlines know that point-to-point travel is what's going to make them a profit. Why is it going to make them a profit? Because if I have to go from Little Rock to Manhattan, KS, why the HELL would I want to drive there via Dallas or Cincinnati? Price being price, most people want to actually go where they're going.

Kudos to Boeing for figuring that out.

The Ukrainian Counterpunch

Ouch. Just ouch.
Ukraine's response to Moscow deciding to fuck them over in the dead of winter by cutting off gas supplies (the linked article misstates the issue: it's not just a rate hike, it's "eat this rate hike, immediately, or we freeze your poor to death.") by threatening to give the US a radar base in Sevastopol, as well as completely dicking over an important segment of the nuclear arsenal that is Moscow's remaining military clout worth talking about. (And word on the street is that a lot of their domestic nuke arsenal is poorly-maintained to begin with, though that may have changed now that the Kremlin is flush with gas money).

Letting NATO come into Sevastopol has got to be the Russians' worst geopolitical nightmare, as it effectively seals them out of the Black Sea for eternity and would give us a point-blank view on everything happening within Post-Soviet airspace.

No question about it: this week, the gloves have finally come off.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

European Space Agency has new Ion Engine.

Preliminary tests undersay using plasma as an ion accelerators. It makes sense every time I read it, only later do I realize I've once again failed to comprehend.

These new jobs would be the same size as a standard ion engine, but more powerful all around, leading to much more manuverable craft. Death Star Squadrons not available for comment.

In other news, Al-Jazeera steps on its own dick...

Exiled politicial Al-Rubaei is reported to have said "Clerics, especially those in the Shiite seminary, go to your mosques and don't work in politics. Keep politics for politicians and stop conspiring against the resistance."

Yes, Virginia, that did indeed go over like a lead balloon: all hell did break loose, as anti-Al-Jazeera protestors hit the streets by the thousands.

Way to keep your audience, guys! That's how I'd go about appealing to my demographic....

Jonathon Freedland puts his foot in it for all to see.

In this morning's Guardian, Freedland chastises the West for infecting the Islamic world with anti-semitism.

Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot, over?
Jonathon, have you lost your mind, or are you really that ignorant?

Mr. Freedland starts off by saying that he generally tries to ignore what anti-semitic incidents and statements in the Umma in order to allow him to remain blissfully ignorant about the world:

Such has been my standard operating procedure, constantly trying to
see if there's a way to contextualise these incidents, to see them in
proportion. My motivation was not complicated: I prefer my Jewish identity to be
positive, rather than defined by a perennial defence against
anti-semitism.


And, to a point, there are legitimate grounds for such. When some folks complain about "rich Jews" running everything, a legit part of that is because, like every other ethnic bloc and power group, there are Jews who are a) filthy rich and b) making no bones about running as much as they can. George Soros is one of them, for better and for worse. I went to school at his private university, and have overheard him on numerous occasions. He's an okay guy prone to solipsism with a bad case of the '68er disease of seizing upon the simplest and least practical solution to any given problem. His taste in ties sucks, or did when I was around, and he's got enough money and clout to rub me out or turn my life into a living hell if he chose to do so. Admitting any or all of that doesn't make me an anti-Semite.

Saying that I hate every Jew because they're all "apes and pigs" as does Basmallah, Queen of Enlightenment (rtfa), would, though, and it would be just as ridiculous as those who blame the Palestinians for all of Israel's problems, without admitting that there are times when the Israelis do their best to make enemies and piss people off.

But Mr. Freedland was forced to come rushing back to reality, when Ahmedinejad unfurled his new Seven-Point Pogrom speech the other day... well, mostly back to reality.
"Some European countries insist on saying that Hitler killed millions of innocent Jews in furnaces," said Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. "Although we don't accept this claim..."

Suddenly, the usual apologetics won't work. No one can say Iran's president was really complaining about Israel or Zionism, rather than Jews. No one can say he was talking about the west's colonial crimes. He was peddling, instead, one of the defining tropes of the racist hard right: Holocaust denial. It is a stance that seeks to deny Jews their history, their suffering, almost their very being. Like denying that African-Americans were ever slaves, it is a move made by those who wish only harm.
No kidding, Sparky? And what's this about "almost" their very being? Ahmedinejad wants to turn the entire world into dar-al Islam, Extreme Shia Remix, buddy, and he's willing to murder every Jew and Christian, and a whole hell of a lot of Muslims in order to achieve that vision (try being a Sunni in Iran nowadays. G'wan, go for it. Better yet, try being an Iranian Ghuzz or Kurd and Sunni).

Let's read some more:
Well, now I'm done with the charitable explanations. A man who refuses to
believe the historic truth is capable of anything.

Better take a line from your own script, Jonathon buddy, because it applies to you, too, just as plenty of 20th century Jews were more than willing to disbelieve how bad it would be, because that was intellectually more comfortable, than to get their hands on some axes and guns so that they could take the Nazi bastards with them. Yeah, that's right: part of the tragedy of the Warsaw ghetto fight is just how damned rare it was.

But now that Mr. Freedland's bubble of "they can't possibly mean that" has been mostly punctured, how does this man react? By coming up with a way of explaining the whole thing away as just another sickness of the Western world, and partially excusing the whole thing in a fog of solipsism: remember the title... "The sickness bequeathed by the west to the Muslim world?" That's right, bucko... Jonathon's way of making this all make sense is to blame the West, first and foremost, and to demote people in the Umma to the insensate playthings of western ideologies, manipulated and therefore free from the guilt and responsibility of normal human beings who choose to be assholes.
We can deny it no longer: the virus of anti-semitism has infected the Muslim
world. And virus it is, for Jew-hatred on this scale, as Christian Europe can
testify, is a kind of sickness. This is one of the grossest legacies bequeathed
by the west: that Muslims have taken to heart a form of anti-semitism alien to
their own lands, borrowing a language and iconography that was made in
Christendom. Blood libels and the Protocols were dreamed up in Norwich, Mainz or
Moscow - yet now they breathe anew in Cairo, Riyadh and Damascus.

As usual, the smaller point attempts to obscure the huge, flaming one that ought to be obvious to anybody with his forebrain in gear. Blood libels and the Protocols were the inventions of some assholes who happened to be Christians, yes, and the nastier parts of the Muslim world have taken that football, run with it, and are now doing the "AK-47 monkey dance" with it in the endzone. But they're not doing it because the West has suddenly opening up tinfoil-hat brainwashing offices in Cairo and Tehran.

I know this will come as a news flash to Mr. Freedland, but there have been plenty of muslim assholes throughout history. Half the Jewish history of Iberia involves a vociferous and bitter debate between those who say that faking a conversion to Islam under force dooms you into goyim-hood, and those who toe Ibn Maimonides' line and suggest that pretending to convert in order to avoid being beheaded is really one of those kinda-sorta excusable kind of things. Any Jew alive in 12th-century Iberia would alternately laugh and weep (but would definitely kvetch) when presented with this bit of politically-correct bullshit:
This represents a menace to Jews, of course, but also a tragedy for Muslims.
Theirs is a tradition that historically valued learning, and when an ignoramus
like Ahmadinejad denies the overwhelming weight of historical evidence he makes
a mockery of that tradition. In a period Jews still look back on as a golden
age, Muslims were the people of scholarship, of science, of tolerance and
coexistence - a contrast with the Crusader barbarians.

Dude, where'd you learn your history -- from reading Ivanhoe? Mr. Freedland goes on to congratulate some Muslims for being real people who are not assholes (assuming that, unlike CAIR here, their words are worth the paper they're written on... see a previous post, "Merry Christmas, Kaffir" for a splendid example of money being where mouth is), and for saying the obvious bit about holocaust denial needing to go away. No problems, there -- the holocaust denial movement is full of shit (although, as an aside, the German government's habit of coming down on every revisionist like a ton of bricks is rather counterproductive... but that's what happens when you live in a place that thinks "free speech = bad").

But denying and excusing the phenomenon only adds strength to the assholes who are creating the phenomenon. Islam writ large has never been at peace with Christianity or Judaism, and the definition of "tolerance" enforced by the Ottoman Sultans is a very, very different definition than that used by late-20th and early-21st-century postmodern intellectuals.

Mr. Freedland, wake up and smell the baba ganoush. (Mmmm, baba ganoush....is it lunchtime yet?) If you truly want "Never Again" to mean anything, then the way to achieve that is not by rearranging the world to fit your bizarre little politically-correct, postmodern/postcolonial romanticized history, but to look at the world as it actually is, so that you can find out who your friends are, and who they're not. It's likely that you've got a lot of friends in the Umma: but it's equally likely that you've got potential buds in that same West you've been so happily accusing of culture-cide.

And may I recommend a conversation or five with the wonderful people at Jews for the Preservation of Firearm Ownership?

Deer Season...

I love deer season. Don't you? It's that time when you let the gals do their scrapbooking, and head up into the mountains with your howitzer to bag an 8-point buck....

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Game Review: Rome: Total War - Barbarian Invasion

Hrm... I know the Goths are in there somewhere...

Rome: Total War - Barbarian Invasion

Review Criterion:
Good Gameplay
Good Stability
Very Good Graphics
Excellent Research
Excellent Game-vs-Historical Realism Balance

Overall Score: This is a really good game. (8.5 out of a *very* picky 10)

(UPDATE: Welcome, Carnival Readers! Please feel free to poke around and comment!)
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Full Disclosure: So, I was asked if I might like to do a game review. And this very kind man was willing to provide me with a copy of the game in order to review it, even though I had to pony up for RTW out of my own pocket. Fair enough. Rest assured that the guy who likes to smack people around with a "clue by four" won't go soft on the difference between "tell me what you think" and "tell me that you like it."

The nice part of this review is that they're both the same thing. Barbarian Invasion has a lot to like, when held to a very high standard.
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My background is somewhat different from that of most game reviewers, so you're not going to get the typical game-summary review (see Gameplanet's somewhat shallow review) or a slew of pretty pictures (for that, see the TotalWar site -- and they ARE nice). I'm a strategy gamer, not particularly hardcore... just on a very casual level, especially compared to the other thing I do for fun and profit... which is medieval military history and experimental archaeology relating to ancient and medieval military technology.

In other words, as a reader, you may disagree with me wildly regarding some typical game mechanics, graphics, etcetera: gustibus non disputando est. When it comes to the game and what it's supposed to represent, though, I'm more than justified in saying that you should give me the benefit of the doubt, because I know what I'm talking about.

Let's see how it goes:

Gameplay
Even though RTW is miles ahead of Medieval Total War on the combat screen and strategic map (which could be a satisfying game in and of itself, with a flavor very similar to the old Warlords games) I stuck with MTW for a long time, for a very simple reason: the opposing AI was a complete pushover. It was worth it to me to play a (heavily modded) variant of MTW in order to have an opponent who would, if I screwed up, hand me my butt on a platter.

Barbarian Invasion fixes that handily. The AI at medium levels is fairly weak: a human player should feel bad if comes back from a computer battle with less than a "Clear Victory." However, the AI will make workmanlike use of its troops, and will hand you your head if you wind up in an untenable situation (it was all that I could do to simply hang on when my pathetically outnumbered heavy cavalry was engaged by a horde of horse archers. Villehardoin's ghost would have snickered.) The AI uses its troop types correctly, and the level of sophistication directly varies with the difficulty set: it is MUCH easier to engage in the standard (and historically correct) "hammer and anvil" cavalry/infantry tactics on medium level than it is when set harder, because the AI will try to intercept your cavalry as it moves into position.

As well, the background music is very well done, and actually does create a sense of drama: a hard-fought battle will actually obtain sufficient feel that it breaches the suspension-of-disbelief barrier, and immerses you in the action.

On the strategic map, the movement of individual units "in turns" rather than moving "by order" still slows down play, however, and the AI makes very poor use of reinforcements/reserves, tending to commit his forces to the forward zone piecemeal, so that they wind up outnumbered. This problem is endemic to the RTW engine, however, and is a fairly small price to pay in order to be able to actually use the terrain to strategic advantage.

I have one copy of this game, so multiplayer is simply not an option and not reviewed here: frankly, I don't miss it, even though an occasional "I'm going to kick your butt" is fun between friends.

Stability

Good. I experienced "temporary hang" on the strategic map, but no CTD, and no CPU burps on the battlefield. Irritating, but easily tolerable, since you can grab tea or coffee without worrying about suddenly recovering into the middle of a (sorely neglected) clickfest.

Graphics

The graphics are simply beautiful, and only somebody who is a) VERY spoiled, or b) working with graphics themselves would have any quibbles. Sometimes something with the "skins" (the graphics overlaying the figures and giving them distinguishable characteristics) would look odd for a second, but I couldn't pin down what, and it never detracted from gameplay. Let's face facts: the game delivers MUCH better graphics than is needed to enjoy a strategy game. You know that a game has arrived graphically when the cut scenes are significantly less impressive than the in-play graphics.

Research

The game is compellingly researched, and good enough that a junior-high school student could easily use the game as an impromptu lesson plan in for learning some of the basics of late Roman history. Some things are not as well spelled out as they could be -- for instance, the Roxolani are presented as a separate faction from the Sarmatians, whereas they were actually one of the various Sarmatian peoples. Also, the Slavs as a faction should appear nowhere in the game, as they don't really appear on the Balkan scene until they are brought down from the Dnieper region as the (horrifically abused) slaves of the Avar Kaganate. The Gepids would have been a much better choice in that respect.

However, other aspects of the research truly shine: the Christian world is wracked by all the right heresies, and the map represents history that the average gamer won't have a clue about, but is nonetheless accurate. For example, "Campus Iazyges" is called that because the Goths kicked the Iazyges, a Sarmatian people, out of that territory and made it their own. If you study classical history, expect to recognize names... and to shudder in your boots when you step up to Sirmium (a major "hard target" of the Roman Empire). There are lots of little examples on that score, and the care it took to include them shows -- and it especially shows when compared to the hack-job that was done on Europe for MTW. The improvement is dramatic, and deserves sincere praise.

Game-vs-Historical Realism Balance

Sometimes, though, game research and realism is incorrect for lack of a workable option inside a game. "Berber," for example, is a term that doesn't occur in history until the Arab hegira, when they refer to the various North African peoples as "barbarians" -- it's a historically pejorative nickname, like "Welsh" for the Cymri. But, on the other hand, what are you going to do? You can't call them by the Ameziri, because that's too specific a "berber" people for what is actually being represented, and "north African tribes" just sounds stupid. So you have to strike a balance between things that make your college professor happy, and things that sell a game because people are -- gasp!-- enjoying it.

For example: You can't lay waste to the countryside in order to force an engagement by defensive forces -- this should be one of the major goals for any next developments, so long as it doesn't cause one to be in a position where individual terrain hexes then need to be micromanaged by the player. Burning your opponents' crops and raiding his countryside when he refuses to do anything but sit behind his walls is a Good Thing(tm), because it hits him in the pocketbook where he pays his troops. And it's precisely for that reason that the Roman troops starting the game are divided into the types they are: Rome needed border troops to slow down opponents and keep them from simply burning and devastating everything in sight while the heavier legions went a-marching to catch up to them from a more central location.

How you set that up without turning RTW into a really boring game is beyond lil' ol' me.

But those are the only two quibbles, and quibbles they are, compared to factors such as historically-accurate units that behave correctly and an advisor who will irritate the stew out of you while he tries to bring you up to speed on basic generalship. In other words, the advisor will ask you, in so many words, "are you sure you want to leave your warlord's butt hanging out in the breeze while he's being charged by enemy spearmen?" Because the game will teach you to be a decent armchair tactician, they can make sure that units fight how they should, and rout when they should, without creating a game that is impossibly difficult for a newbie to computer wargaming.

Adding to that are a slew of new game issues, such as the "horde" feature, where naturally transhumant peoples (that's "nomad," boys and girls) can pick up and make tracks for a new homeland if the place they're living now becomes inhospitable. This is good. Extra tactical options such as the schiltrom and shield wall are even better. (Schiltrom is a term from late-medieval Scotland... shades of future projects?)

Even better is the feature of this game that is perhaps most universally overlooked: different factions have different victory conditions, which may or may not intersect, or even conflict. Yes, Virginia, we're no longer having to shoehorn all factions into the same game, or even necessarily the same play style. This is a simple, should-be-obvious realization that is long overdue in the gaming world.

Combine the last two paragraphs, and you have the standing potential to take Barbarian Invasion and take it all the way into the high middle ages, two or three hundred years at a time... and to take it further back in time, if desired. If the developers heeded the player community and left the new game additions soft-coded for the modding community, Barbarian Invasion could wind up being the springboard towards a lasting and enthusiastic fan community.

In Other Words:

Rome: Total War - Barbarian Invasion has its rough spots. But they're pretty smooth, as rough spots go, and the game is one of those very few where very young and quite older players can happily co-exist. The gameplay is good, the graphics are great, and the research and historical realism will satisfy the faculty members of your local college.

It's a great game, and I thoroughly recommend it.

Russians threaten Ukrainian genocide, part 2

It's official: Russia has officially declared that unless Ukraine plays ball according to its rules, it will cut off natural gas supplies to the latter on January 1st.

Ukraine is, like everybody else previously pounded into the dirt by the Soviet-Russian Empire, abjectly dependent on Russia for energy resources. It's that way intentionally: the Russians designed the whole sick apparatus so that they could keep the Oil Spigot of Damocles hanging over Europe's head, just like Saddam used to do to the Shiites with potable water. Cutting off natural gas in the middle of a Black Sea winter *will* effectively result in the sickness deaths of thousands of Ukrainians at the bottom of the economic pile. (G'wan, try making it through the equivalent of a Minnesota winter with no way to heat water or cook. That's right: gas stoves. Everybody in those old Soviet block flats will be screwed.)

Everybody in the region, top to bottom, Russian, Ukrainian, Balt, Pole, Finn, German, Hungarian, Romanian, etc., knows this. Well, maybe not the Germans, since their international hypocrisy and ignorance has reached autistic proportions of late. If the Germans even notice something's wrong, I fully expect Der Spiegel, IG Metall, and Stern to come out with pompous editorials on January 3rd describing how this is all America's fault.
"If we don't have a contract (with Ukraine) then all the gas in the pipe goes to
European consumers," Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kuprianov said in comments on Ekho Moskvy radio.

Gee, I wonder who these "European customers" might be. Perhaps those same Germans? Now that Schroeder has officially sold his soul to the Russians in exchange for a job working for the Russian government (remember Gazprom is the Kremlin, which is why Khodorkosvsky was jailed... Yukos represented energy assets not directly under Kremlin control and was therefore unacceptable). The East-Central Europeans and Baltic countries have rightfully been screaming bloody murder, because they know full well that the Bear has not reformed in the slightest, and intends to reassert its imperial ambitions by economic means until it can do so again militarily.

20/120 Hindsight from Kaplan at The New Republic

Over at The New Republic (following link requires registration, easily circumvented by visiting BugMeNot), Kaplan says we've forgotten the lessons of Vietnam by turning our backs upon counter-insurgency, and that this failure comes from the policy level:

Returning to conventional orthodoxy made a certain amount of strategic sense
during the cold war, when the Army's mission was to defend against a Soviet
thrust across the plains of Central Europe. But, thanks in no small measure to
the direction of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell and the
doctrine of overwhelming force named after him, the Army kept training for that
mission, even after the Soviet empire collapsed.

Gee, Larry, perhaps you've forgotten about Iraq I and the Balkans? This is merely hindsight: a dedicated insurgency (who, btw, we've been kicking the shit out of) was merely one of the potential problems we were bound to face, and a significantly more minor threat than the "is China about to pull the trigger over Taiwan" issue that you seem to have conveniently forgotten about. Perhaps total overwhelming force is why China has continued to back off that trigger?Furthermore, facts on the ground would have been starkly different if Turkey hadn't suffered a serious political hiccup on the eve of the invasion: blaming the military for a diplomatic failure is simply silly.

Kaplan furthermore moves the goalposts by making every counterinsurgency into the Vietnam Tet-vs-media approach:
As in Vietnam, an effective counterinsurgency strategy requires time and
patience. But, just as in Vietnam, Americans have run out of both. Had the Army
employed its current approach from the beginning, it might have had a chance at
winning the war in Iraq before losing it at home. But, as the war grinds into
its third year, the clock has nearly run out. Which can only mean one thing:
It's almost time to forget about counterinsurgency again.

Which translates to "I don't like Rumsfeld, and the Democratic leadership continues to try to screw over the military at every opportunity." Gee, tell us something we didn't know. Like the fact that perhaps our political leadership simply has more stones than the guys who pulled out of Vietnam, and then, crucially, failed to fulfill treaty obligations by funding the SVs, who would have been more than capable of holding off the wrecked North Vietnamese military. (Why is Kaplan simply assuming that we're going to cut and run b/c of what some NYT editors and career leftist protestors think?)

It's a nice try, but blaming people for losing while they're winning is simply inane wishful thinking. Blaming the military for supposedly failing to learn the lessons of Vietnam, while demonstrating to the world that one is completely clueless regarding those same lessons, is prima facie proof that Mr. Kaplan would greatly benefit from a reading of Mark Twain:

Far better to remain silent, and allow others to wonder at the extent of one's ignorance, than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt.

Stalker! China vs. Texas edition

The Chinese have let off a guy who broke into this gal's apartment and stole a bra and her MP3 player.

But wait, there's more. This dude's basically a pathetic dweeb stalker, and has been doing her laundry, leaving snacks, and basically turning burglary into "House Elf: the stalker edition" for some time now. She didn't say anything: either she was terrified, fantasizing that he'd be somebody cooler, or simply utilitarian enough in a country with a kick-ass ratio (in her favor) to let the poor dumb schmuck be her willing slave.

I'm thinking of the women I know, and trying to imagine how they'd handle having their laundry mysteriously folded, love notes on the counter, snacks placed out for them in the afternoon...
after the initial "ewwww" and feeling of having their space violated, most of them would ambush the poor sap with a .45 and turn his head into pesto.

The Dallas gold-digger contingent (amongst whom I unfortunately work) would think it was cute, attempt to use hidden cameras to figure out who it was, and then call in some guys to pound him to death once they found out it wasn't that guy whose clothes and wallet they were fantasizing over the previous week.

Zamboni vs. F-22

Joke graphic from StrategyPage (one of the newer links that should have been up there at least a year and a half ago)... not sure about IQ requirements, but otherwise, the truth hurts...

This is why international courts are a joke.

Slobodan Milosevic has been accused of "wasting time." So, no more lengthy adjournments.
You know, I just can't see how Slobo can sleep at night, tossing and turning about how "wasting time" penalties are going to add on to his "attempting to implement genocide," "political mass murder," and "generalized tyrannical mayhem" charges...

Somehow, you'd think that people would recognize right from the bat that obvious bad guys are going to try to game the system in obvious ways... but not our international tribunals... No-o.

There's a lot of things wrong with the way that Ceaucescu's cronies were able to throw him and his wife up against the wall and shoot them as a "please don't hurt me" appeasement to the mob. But, to quote Chris Rock talking about OJ, "I don't approve, but I understand."

British Ambassador in Deep Doo-Doo

(hat tip: A Step at a Time)

For committing the worst possible offense that an ambassador can contemplate: giving his frank opinion. The Poles are reported to be livid.

Well, the Poles in government, anyway. The new Polish government seems to have a leg up on the current political dynasties in East-Central Europe, which are every bit as resented by their people as the ambassador's email suggests.

Typically smug, with the characteristically British complete obliviousness to any context other than that of the Brits? You betcha.

Justifiable in spite of all that? You betcha. No wonder the EU slobs, unelected, unaccountable, a "parliament" only in the worst possible "mocking democracy" sort of way, are a bit miffed...

Monday, December 12, 2005

Southern Fried Tookie!

Oh, wait, that was Ted Bundy. Hrm... this would be a California Crip Roll with Tookie sauce?
Or, hold on, California does lethal injection... Tookie Smack. Oddly appropriate...

Not that it would particularly mess up my day if the Dorkinator had decided to go for clemency. Ahnold blows with the wind so much lately that it really was anybody's guess. BUT...

I heard Tookie speak. I read Tookie's words.
I've known ex-cons. Guys who did really hard time, and have forgotten how to eat with anything but a spoon.

Tookie's words were bullshit.
So... Fry him. Or, dye him. Whatever. Only thing I'm not going to do is cry for him.

Now *that's* a big shotgun.

Strategy Page says that our M1 boys have finally gotten their new shotgun round, with 1100 10-mil shot per shell.

That's just rude. Next thing we know they're going to start duckbilling the things...

This just in: Baby Boomers still full of themselves.

Yahoo News has this in-depth report. In other news, vertebrates continue to be found in possession of odd disk-like structures implanted in their bodies in a unique columnar arrangement.

Weird html quirk

Re-did my links to the right, in order to try to get them a tad more organized, and to add a few folks on.

Any idea why "Longsuffering Wife" appears less bold than "Blog Buddies," etc.? The coding appears to be the same, except insofar as every subthematic heading following a major heading appears in grey-out text, rather than black...

Granted, The Bunny is home ill today, so she probably feels grey, but that's not the intent...

Merry Christmas, Kaffir.

I don't usually post on the weekend, so for some folks this may be stale, but apparently there is an organization in Indonesia, Nahdlatul Ulama, which has pledged to protect Christian Churches during Christmas.

Muslim-Christian-relations is not my specialty, but insofar as I am aware, this is literally unprecedented. In Al-Andalus, the Muslims fought bitterly, oppressing Christian and Jew alike, and incidents of cooperation were generally by and for the nobles, or because a conquering power had a better reason to leave a city generally intact.

In the middle east, any actual defense of the dhimmi was always a direct act of the Caliph/Sultan/ruling power.

In the Turkic world, religious tolerance was the norm, primarily because, well, that's just the way the steppe is. But that tolerance, with the notable exception of Tamerlane, was partially a matter of general lifestyle, and partially due to said tolerance being viciously enforced by the bosses on top, who wanted no disruptions or potential threats to them.

For a muslim ruler to decide to protect a population is no big deal. It's happened before (though definitions of "protect" differ widely, as any Copt can tell you). For such a decision to come from a muslim organization... a.k.a., from the bottom up, indicates profound -- and beneficial -- currents moving through at least part of the Umma. Because classical Islam is simply not a "bottom up" kind of religion, but a typical "priest-king" affair, where the Caliph takes on theological airs by definition not available to Joe Faithful (look at Ahmedinejad's latest posturing for an example).

History is a complicated matter that defies simple storylines... be that as it may, Big Things(tm) are afoot.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Dagon, The Lathe of Heaven

One of the nice things about Netflix is that you can get some stuff that will never, ever, appear at your local Blockbusters, because they're either out of date, or else hopelessly obscure... for instance, this past week we actually got a hold of:

Dagon: B-
Now, don't get me wrong. Dagon is a Lovecraft movie. There's a reason that Lovecraft, creepy as he is, doesn't get put to the screen (it's no surprise, for example, that At the Mountains of Madness, which makes Alien look like a romantic comedy, has vapored). For starters, your typical Lovecraft story has no "resolution" in terms that Hollywood understands. It's simply a case of "what is, is." And "what is," is horrific in the true sense of the word. Lovecraft depends heavily on a creepy sense of helpless foreboding... in other words, 95% of what makes it work is mood, and directly dependent on having a really kick-ass director. A "B-" is a very good grade for what is essentially a B-movie with an author who really, really doesn't translate well to the big screen. Bump it up to an outright "A" if judged purely on the basis of "big dumb fun."

Pros --most tasteful "nekkid lady sacrifice scene" I've ever seen.
--lots of little visual in jokes for Lovecraft fans
--gore and visual effects used precisely when and how needed, w/o overdoing it

Cons --significant liberties taken with the original storyline (Lovecraft purists will be unhappy)
--necessary explication extends further than truly necessary

The Lathe of Heaven: B+
Well, here's another author who doesn't really translate to the big screen, as the recent debacle surrounding A Wizard of Earthsea demonstrates. Ursula K. LeGuin is one of the Holy Trinity of serious 20th-century fantasy writers, along with Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. The Lathe of Heaven is one of her forays into science fiction, and like all really good work of either genre, the basic premise (a guy's dreams shape reality, including the past) is a vehicle by which two starkly opposing worldviews and philosophical systems are put in opposition. Lathe in this sense is an explicit attack upon the shortcomings of Logical Positivism.

Pros --Really well done non-anthropomorphic aliens
--Believable characters, with a tragic figure who escapes being cast as a cardboard villain.

Cons --Effects are muted but dated (well done, but very 70s)
--DFW residents will chortle at the architectural sleight-of-hand

Unmitigated Geekery, Destructive, p2

I now have:

a. a promise on design plans for a dart-drop setup that will allow for direct penetration tests with various varieties of arrowhead/spearhead.

b. cooperation on pricing/building a machine that will allow for shear/slice/shearing slice tests.

All told, it will take a bit to build the stuff getting trashed up, and to get the various cutting and piercing heads made, but by mid of next year, I should be in a position to make some fairly definitive statements. Definitely publishable material.

What is Ahmedinejad playing at?

Okay, the word's out: Iran can have a nuke within months, which means for certain by next Christmas... to what purpose?

Step One: Get Nukes.
Step Two: ????
Step Three: Profit.
  • If Iran tries to glass Israel, it will get pasted, and pasted HARD, in return, because the US interests dictate that it absolutely cannot allow a nuclear first strike to go unanswered (if it does, China gets carte blanche to wipe Taiwan off the map and then simply resettle it as the ultimate unsinkable aircraft carrier). Same thing goes for a container bomb nuke in Haifa... we all know who the suppliers are.
  • If Iran has the bomb, then it's unlikely to be invaded by the US because of its unfortunate habit of flinging legates and janissaries across the globe. But the chance that the US would invade, rather than simply wait for demographics to inevitably crush the regime under the weight of its own self-inflicted resentment, is miniscule at most.
  • Ahmedinejad and the Iranian security forces are known to be big fans of Huntington and his "Clash" thesis.. and what's more, they think they can win. But against whom? They have no close enemies, Iraq forms a serious buffer between Iran and Israel, and the opponent for whom they'd love to dig a grave is half the globe away and could bomb them into the stone age inside of two weeks, with or without Russia's new SAM sales. (And if the Pentagon serious about creating the "rods of God," which would explain its push for a launch capacity within a two-hour window, even faster.)
Either Ahmedinejad is so far gone with his millenarian "hidden Imam" thing that he should be regarded as a loon, or else he's got something long-range up his sleeve. Or does he? Given his known self-inflicted domestic political problems, is it arguable that he's simply not competent, and has fetishized "Step One: Get Nukes" without having them predicated upon "Step Two?"

Iraq and Germany, a comparison

(Hat tip: Gateway Pundit.)

Driftwood USA has a nice little set of graphs showing post-war Iraq and post-war Germany side by side.

The striking thing about them, imho, is this: why do we have so many troops in Germany? It's expensive, and it's not doing us any favors. The Germans don't like us, they don't want us there, and their newspapers, magazines, and political speech all read like something from the December 9, 1971 issue of Pravda. The country is a festering swamp of smug leftism. All you have to do to be unpopular in Germany is to be even vaguely pro-capitalism or pro-US (and no, Merkel doesn't count as a "friendly," except insofar as she won't pick every opportunity to blast the US. She's pro-US the way that Hillary's pro-military: it's just that, compared to the rest of Germany, she may as well be serving apple pie at an Independence Day Parade.)

Our troop presence doesn't even seem to be in Germany's political interests, either, as it falls breathlessly to its knees to blow Russia for its oil supplies.

I guess the short answer to the question is, "because the bases in Romania and Bulgaria aren't ready." ... Is there a longer answer that makes any sense whatsoever?

Felt!

Felt has arrived chez moi. Therefore, since the roads were beat to all hell last night with black ice, I started stitching up gloves for playing double cane, where the hands are explicitly targeted (and are more vulnerable, since you can parry while getting a really GOOD angle on them with the other weapon)...

I have GOT to get better with a sewing awl. For some reason, last night I just couldn't seem to keep track of all the stringy bits, even though my test run worked like a charm. And I'm definitely investing in a felt wheel setup for sharpening these suckers. Sheesh. It took me most of one evening to stitch a QUARTER of a glove, not counting internal furniture for the grip...

UPDATE: I think I have the sewing awl finally figured out. Pictures help. I definitely still have to play with how to loop the material, though, and it's not even vaguely as tight a stitch as a true double-needle job...

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Fish Sausage!

In case nobody's noticed, the Japanese are really twisted. Well, at least their fish sausages are. Strawberry milk flavored fish sausage? Carrot and eggplant vegetable medley fish sausage?

Granted, this comes from Mainichi Daily News, so you know it's gotta be true. It's, like, Batboy's favorite foreign newspaper...

Bird flu is a gas!

I mean, this is better than Y2K... with yet more H5N1 outbreaks, we may all be wheezing our last by Christmas.

Or, not.

Aughh! We're all going to die, coughing up bloody chunks of our lungs into napkins!

Or, not.

The human race will be wiped so far off the map that even Best Buy will close!

Or, not.

The UN will have an emergency meeting, and there'll be, like, six people there!

Or, not.

Hilarious.
Of course, if this thing DOES turn out to be hellacious, I'm now up for execution ala being beaten to death by a random mob... but check my napkin first, H5N1 may have already saved them the trouble.

Or, not!

Longevity increases again

Dot-matrix organs aside (see previous post), AP says that typical longevity has increased to 77.6 years. Of course, there are problems, such as widespread obesity amongs the Baby Boomers, that will seriously affect their qol, in particular blood pressure, which is more and more known to be a severe health danger. (dynamic tension exercises BAD, aka, why don't Goju-ryu practitioners ever live to 70?)

The other side of this, as the article notes, is that longevity keeps increasing. Whoopy-do, old news. However, they give a basic figure, w/o a shred of underlying statistics, that the typical lifespan was 75.4 years in 1990. A 2.5 year improvement over fifteen years equates pretty much exactly to longevity improving at a rate of two months per year (2.5/15=0.16=1/6th*12mos).

That's not too shabby. Not where *I'd* like it to be, with my dreams of immortality, but hey... let's run some numbers. I'm 34. That means that, dropping months, assuming that I'm butt-average and live like it, and not getting hit by a bus, that I *theoretically* have got 43 years left, before medical advances. At our current rate of improvement, though, and not counting improvements in the rate of improvement, I don't get 43, but rather just under 50 years more.

Whee! You know what this means? It means that by the time I'm getting to kick off, we'll only be 20 years away from seeing viable fusion power and a balanced budget!

UPDATE: Here's the source data.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Live long enough to buy replacement parts.

That's the upshot of the current buzz over at Wired, where "organ printing" seems to be turning into near-term science, rather than near-term science fiction...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Unmitigated Geekery, Destructive

What is more protective, a breastplate of boiled leather, or one made from hardened leather with a rawhide center? Cow rawhide, or Horse? A buff coat of sueded leather, or a cloth armor made of equal thickness in linen layers? Does it make a difference in protection if you put four layers of cloth over top of mail, or whether you wear it underneath? How about if the mail is sewn inside two layers of cloth?

And what do we mean by protective?

After having a conversation with my two more science-oriented buddies, I think I have a system (and due to the Bear and WhistlePig, a potential device) that will allow me to test impacts, shearing cuts, cuts with a large and small slicing component, piercing attacks, and resistance to bludgeoning.

Now all I have to do is get the stock, the welds done, and the holes bored into metal...

Friday, December 02, 2005

Taste my squirrelly wrath, Fido.

Apparently a bunch of Russian squirrels, out of pine cones for some bizarre environmental reason that can probably only be explained by "It's Russia," have gutted a dog and scampered off with its flesh.

Which I have to say, if true, is just very cool. Next week we'll be seeing them with tiny javelins and blowguns...