Cawnpore and Perseus in Print. Buy a Book, Get the eBook Free from Amazon

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Cawnpore and Perseus are now available in the Createspace eStore and on Amazon.com (and other bookstores.) Buy a physical copy of either from Amazon, get the eBook free.

Coming soon: Hercules, the not-a-sequel to Perseus.

Happy Thanksgiving! Here’s the 3000+ New Regulations From Your Semi-Retired President

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Agency Rule List for Fall 2014

’cause nothing says freedom like a whole bunch more stupid rules from “smart people” that want ordinary folks’ businesses out of competition with the big boys.

Opening Pandora’s Box: Amnesty Order, If Not Opposed By Congress, Sets a Dangerous Precedence

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I’m not the only one to notice this, either — from Sean Trende and Ezra Klein over at Real Clear Politics — if Congress allows the president to take legislative action without so much as a fight, this creates precedence in American jurisprudence…the president will be assumed to have those implied powers from this point on.

Maybe that sounds great to those that are one issue voters, critical race theory morons, and Progressives who haven’t seen a government action they haven’t liked, but know this — when you get the next Republican president you don’t agree with, and it will happen sooner than you’d like, they re going to use this action to push their agendas regardless of the legislature, judiciary, and the wishes of the American people…just like Obama did with his de facto amnesty.

This is the issue with factions (or political parties) that Washington warned us of in his farewell address — that the spirit of revenge drives partisans to use the same dirty tricks their opponent used to force what they want on their enemies — and the poor citizens caught in the middle.

Now a president could use this precedence to, say, push a national reciprocity on concealed carry of firearms. I like the idea (and it has much more constitutional founding than the amnesty move); Progressives would flip their lids. He or she could push abortion funding out of the various government medical programs. All on a whim, and in these two cases, have more support than the tepid 38% that support the amnesty executive actions. What’s to stop him from making war without Congressional approval (not that he’s honored that, either…)?

This is the problem with folks who only look beyond their nose: They are terribly surprised when their myopic actions come back to bite them on the ass.

This move, if it goes unchallenged by the Congress — either through blocking funding for the government operation, or by getting off their asses and removing the president from office — will lead to further misuse of office, and the American public will suffer.

But hey…history’s on your side, right?

Before You Freak Out About the “Scientists Can’t Advise the EPA” Bill, Read It

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The stupid is lose in teh blogosphere and Facefuckbook. Republicans are gutting Science! with their new HR1422: EPA Scince Advisory Board bill!  Except they’re not. Here’s the link for you people who bother to read the stuff before you crap your pants about the end of the world.

The relevant points are in Section 2 (b):

(2) Each member of the Board shall be qualified by education, training, and experience to evaluate scientific and technical information on matters referred to the Board under this section. The Administrator shall ensure that—

(A) the scientific and technical points of view represented on and the functions to be performed by the Board are fairly balanced among the members of the Board;
(B)at least ten percent of the membership of the Board are from State, local, or tribal governments;
(C)persons with substantial and relevant expertise are not excluded from the Board due to affiliation with or representation of entities that may have a potential interest in the Board’s advisory activities, so long as that interest is fully disclosed to the Administrator and the public and appointment to the Board complies with section 208 of title 18, United States Code;
(D) in the case of a Board advisory activity on a particular matter involving a specific party, no Board member having an interest in the specific party shall participate in that activity;
(E) Board members may not participate in advisory activities that directly or indirectly involve review or evaluation of their own work;
(F) Board members shall be designated as special Government employees; and
(G) no federally registered lobbyist is appointed to the Board.
So if you can actually read, you have to have 1) the proper training and education. So, scientists or engineers connected to the industries being regulated. 2) A connection to the industry does not disqualify you from sitting on the board but being a lobbyist or government shill does. And gasp! (3) If you have  a vested interest in that particular issue you are recused from participating.
So please — settle the fuck down.

Four Years On, a Review of the MacBook Air 13 (Late 2010)

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I don’t see a lot of these around the internet, but like cars and appliances, it’s nice to know what the longevity, etc. of an expensive piece of equipment is likely to be.

My then-girlfriend bought me my first MacBook Air in October 2010, four years ago, mostly because I had so loved my first iPad she thought I might appreciate the aesthetics of the device and the small size and weight — important at the time, as I pretty much went everywhere by motorcycle, and it would fit in my tank bag. Here’s the initial impressions of the computer.

So, four years on, how is it? The body is still solid, doesn’t creak, and still looks great — no scratches or blemishes to speak of. The display is still clear and bright, with no pixels burned out. I don’t have quite as much need for the size, as I either work at home, or when the kid’s in daycare, which means I’m in the “cage” (car), but it’s still the most comfortable computer to use that I’ve owned.

Once I got used to the Mac interface, I found it worked quite well, although they really need to work on their help references; when you run into issues, you often have to go online and hit the Apple support boards to find answers. The Air has had four or five friggin’ OS changes since I bought her, and I suspect Yosemite — the latest — is going to see the end of support for the pre-2012 machines. That’s perhaps the one issue with Apple — they don’t do backward compatibility for more than a five or six years, then you are on obsolete OS and tech (the original iPad that found it’s way to my little girl is now in that limbo — none of the app she has are upgradable, and it can handle the new iOS8.) However, I’ve met plenty of folks still pounding along on decade old MacBooks and happy to not have the latest and greatest.

To that end — with Mountain Lion, the Air started having issues with video and running up the fans on the computer. For the first few months I didn’t even know it had them; I never heard them. The video card just can’t handle the new Flash and H.265 streams without get seriously hot. Even web sites with Flash would also run the machine hot and drain the battery. Up until recently, I used Chrome for most of my web work, but recently found the newer version of Safari was faster and did a better job of keeping the various ads from killing battery life.

As they’ve moved out the various OS, I saw negligible improvement or reduction in performance, battery life, etc. I was lucky and had none of the bugs that hit some of the machines for wifi and other problems, so I can’t comment to those that did. Yosemite was a sharp improvement in the user experience: you can make and receive phone call without getting your lazy ass up to find your phone (if you have a newer iPhone on iOS8), do text messaging the same, and their productivity suite has mostly recovered from the gutting it got to make it talk to the iOS version better. All the iCloud stuff is nice, but I don’t use it because I’m too cheap to pay for space, and too security conscious to throw all my data out where people can get at it easily. (I still pull the SD card with my personal stuff when traveling. Screw you, TSA.)

The older CPU is more than ample to handle most of my daily chores — i can have as many as six docs open, a few tabs on Safari, iTunes playing something that is stored on the external drive and have nary a skip in performance, although when it comes, it’s inevitably iTunes that’s the culprit. Battery life at 300 cycles, four years in, is about 6-7 hours doing some writing, some web surfing, and the like. If I turn off the wifi, it jumps about 2 hours. The original 6700 mAh is now 6067mAh (90%)…that’s pretty friggin’ good for a four year old machine. None of my old laptops had a battery survive more than two years before they had to be replaced. With the curve these batteries have, I can anticipate another year to two before battery failure.

So if you are in the market for a MacBook Air and don’t want to pay premium prices for a new one, a used laptop looks to be a good buy; if you want a new one, you can expect to keep it for four to five years before it slides out of the support stream…and even them should be usable. That’s only rivaled by my original Compaq from the late ’90s, and the 10″ Dell Inspiron I knew was still running like a top at six years old when I saw it last. (Sold it.)

Review: Interstellar

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I was going to just do my usual quick review of the movie, but there’s so much going on tied to the success/failure, hype, and other aspects of this movie that have clearly skewed the other reviews of the film I want to address them first.

One of the bit bandied about the interwebz is about the “backlash” against Chris Nolan as a writer/director. His detractors view him as pompous — and certainly his statements about Interstellar have borne some of that out; his claims to have wanted to create something on par with 2001: A Space Odyssey seem to have infuriated that clique of sci-fi fans for whom the Kubrick opus cannot be matched. But that’s not the point. Is Interstellar  a better movie than 2001? No, it’s a different movie, and in some ways excels at storytelling in ways Kubrick often failed; in other ways, well it’s not that good.

Others claim Nolan’s films aren’t particularly clever, or complain about plot holes. Welcome to Hollywood — you’ve got two hours (well, three here) to do what you want or need to, and usually  that’s going to require some fudging figures. Complaints about The Dark Knight usually revolve about the weak last act with Harvey Dent, or the dense amount of social topics addressed rather offhandedly — like ubiquitous surveillance. Batman does it, there’s a bit of hand wringing, then it’s over; Winter Soldier kicked you in the face with the subject…but that was, in many ways, the main thrust of the movie. Inception is seen as overly convoluted to disguise its weaknesses. Fair enough. It was still fun. Insomnia was still great — anyone who can make Pacino act instead of yell for two hours is okay by me.

If there’s a sin Nolan commits as a filmmaker, its the same one we’re seeing with all writer/driectors, from Nolan, to Tarantino to Peter “Fuck, three movies to do what is essentially a novella” Jackson. Interstellar, like King Kong, or Inception, or Django Unchained would have been much more engaging if they were slightly shorter then Wagner’s Ring opera.

Then there’s the issue of hype and audience expectation. This is something I’ve noted, particularly from the know-it-all cinephiles in review circles — they can’t stand when the product doesn’t match the advertisement. It’s that Christmas toy that isn’t so cool once opened. We saw this a-plenty in recent sic-fi movies — particularly ones with the name Damon Lindelof in the writing credits somewhere. People were angst ridden that Ridley Scott’s Prometheus didn’t do deep meaningful questions about the state of reality and man’s existence. Yes, they tried to gussy the movie up with stunning visuals and a few hand waves at philosophy, but in the end — if you were paying attention — you were going to get a monster movie. Go in with that expectation, and it’s not that bad. (But certainly not up to the quality of the original Sphaits script.) Both of the JJ Abams Star Trek movies were awful if you expected a Star Trek movie; but if you realized they were set pieces for crazy fun action sequences with a bit of plot stringing them through — sort of a action porn movie — you probably didn’t feel like your childhood was raped out of you through your eyes.

At heart, though, the question should always, first be, did you have a good time?

So having heard about the overblown questions about the nature of reality, the importance of love as some kind of supernatural bond, and seeing the 2:45 runtime, i took my freebie Fandango ticket and went to see it on a Friday night.

…and I loved it.

It’s not without issues, but what film this year outside of Guardians of the Galaxy (yes, GotG is that fucking good) doesn’t have some issues. Here’s the first one: it’s too damned long. It’s been about 14 year since Lord of the Rings meant any successful writer/director stopped having to hire a damned editor. Chop some of the scenes back a bit – mostly the first 45 minutes on Earth and the black hole/time travel bits — it’s a fantastic movie. (Kinda like cutting the stargate sequence and trimming the intolerably long, dry talking bits from 2001 and concentrating on the events on Discovery would have improved that film.

It’s a bit schmaltzy. The Brand character (Hathaway) has a long diatrabe about the power of love and time and space, but she’s essentially trying to find anyway to convince Cooper — for whom she just destroyed his chance of seeing his kids before they were collecting Social Security — to take her to the planet her lover had surveyed. I didn’t see it as philosophizing; I saw a desperate woman trying to convince the kid she just screwed over to do things her way.

One of the critics’ complaints was the lack of a real emotional through line between Cooper (McConaghey) and his kids. I have a three year old that would fall apart if I left for another galaxy tomorrow; this apparently missing emotion queue kicked me in the balls so hard I started crying after the movie was over. Not during; after. For the whole walk home, I felt guilty about the possibility I might let my kid down in some hazily defined, not-going-to-space way. Bravo, Chris; screw you, critics.

The end is not as pathetically high-brow as 2001, and before your blather, yes, I read The Sentinel and yes, I understood what Kubrick was doing. It still sucked. This is the weakest point of the movie — the “in the black hole” act. It gets better after that.

The science is good enough for the average audience. Kind of like people bitching about satellite altitudes in Gravity, you’re missing the point if you’re busting out your Casio calculator watch and trying to work out the actual time dilation the planet should be experiencing. There’s no sound in space and Nolan uses the sudden silence of a decompression scene to scare you as easily as if he had done the big noise gotcha. The ship is well thought out and looks realistic enough. They worry about fuel, but not in the sort of numbers crunching way Apollo 13 did; that’s not the point of the movie. The “Earth is dying” trope is a bit worn out (sorry, environmentalists!) but it is a serviceable McGuffin for putting the characters in space.

The visuals are absolutely arresting. The sound design is great. Matt Damon plays a cowardly douchebag with abandon.

So past all the hype and hissy fits about Nolan, Interstellar was a solidly entertaining movie, with generally good performances, mind-boggling visuals, decent science, and a nice twist connected to time dilation at the end.

On my full-price, matinee, rent, borrow, avoid scale — it’s a full-price. I might have popped for IMAX, if I wasn’t a cheap bastard. But if it’s between Interstellar and Guardians of the Galaxy…Guardians, my son, Guardians.

90 Year Charity Worker Arrest For Feeding Homeless — Twice (Contact Info For Dirtbag Mayor Added)

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This is another burn the internets-style story, and for good reason. Hell, it was enough to get me to poke my head up after the elections and the predictable gnashing of teeth from Progressives, and hossanahs of conservatives who think the Republicans are going to somehow “save” the nation.

Fort Lauderdale — a lovely beach-side community and the residents want to keep it that way. One problem: homelsessness. Much like any other warm(ish)-weather location in the United States, it draws retirees and others looking to live on the cheap. Some of those folks don’t make it, and they wind up homeless. Homeless people make the retirees and other schwah-schwah folks of the town unhappy. They panhandle, they steal, they destroy the natural beauty of these people’s equity.

Enter 90 year old Arnold Abbott, who with other ministers from the Sanctuary Church,has been feeding the homeless for decades. He prepares hundreds of meals a week, and see the charity as key to keeping the homeless from dumpster diving and illness, or worse, stealing for their meals.

1415236414243_Image_galleryImage_Fort_Lauderdale_police_sa

 

This doesn’t sit well with the usual collection of pukes in the city council and the mayor of the town. A new ordinance to prevent charitable feeding of the homeless was passed, almost certainly as a shot across Abbott’s bow. (This exemplar had already had a legal run-in with the powers-that-be over his actions in the 1990s, and was vindictated by the courts.) Spearheading the effort to push the homeless onto government “assistance” is the classic bad guy — Jack Seiler.

Portrait_Representative_Seiler

Seiler’s background is not one of Abbott’s selfless humanity. Seiler is a career politician, a Progressive tick from the Democrat party that has meandered about the Floridian political scene — as a member of the Florida House for Broward County, mayor of Wilton Manor, and now Fort Lauderdale — sucking off the taxes of the people. To give him credit, he did win reelection is Fort Lauderdale with 57% of the vote…but that also says a lot about the quality of the people of that community, as well.

Abbott now faces two $500 fines and up to four months in jail, but has been winning support from around the world. You might think that having his Snidley Whiplash-like machinations exposed might soften the response from the mayor; you would be disappointed.

Seiler, true to his Progressive roots and the inherent spite held for the poor, sees this as an act of rebellion against “government assistance”, and that the homeless should be cared for by the state. This attitude is a prime example of the feelings of ownership Progressives have for the citizenry. These homeless are Fort Lauderdale’s to do with as they please, and how dare you interfere!?! Additionally, it shows a lack of respect for the taxes of the people of the community, choosing to force people to pay for historically awful servicing for the homeless by the state, and refusing the more effective, cheaper private charity of the community.

For Seiler, this isn’t about the people involved. This is about the power to coerce the people to seek government handouts and accept the sovereignty of the state. It is an attempt to make subjects of the very people who cannot fight the might of the state, and to subjugate any who would stand in the way of that glorious purpose.

Rarely, do you get a story with as set and easy to identify heroes and villains, and Seiler is almost straight from Central Casting. judging from the tone deafness of Democrats in the last six years, I might expect a governor run from Seiler. But there’s another set of villains here…the people of Fort Lauderdale that put these people in power.

Have no doubt — you did this.

[Update: Heres the contact info for Jack Seiler, the villain of the piece: 954.828.5003 or jack.seiler@fortlauderdale.gov — let him have it.]

Tommy, by Rudyard Kipling

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A little something for Veteran’s Day:

I went into a public-’ouse to get a pint o’ beer,
The publican ‘e up an’ sez, “We serve no red-coats here.”
The girls be’ind the bar they laughed an’ giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an’ to myself sez I:
O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, go away”;
But it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play.

I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but ‘adn’t none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-’alls,
But when it comes to fightin’, Lord! they’ll shove me in the stalls!
For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, wait outside”;
But it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide,
The troopship’s on the tide, my boys, the troopship’s on the tide,
O it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide.

Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap;
An’ hustlin’ drunken soldiers when they’re goin’ large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit.
Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, ‘ow’s yer soul?”
But it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll.

We aren’t no thin red ‘eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An’ if sometimes our conduck isn’t all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints;
While it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, fall be’ind”,
But it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind,
There’s trouble in the wind, my boys, there’s trouble in the wind,
O it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind.

You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires, an’ all:
We’ll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace.
For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”
But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot;
An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees!

Trailer: Chappie

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Now for a break from all the political BS…

Looks like Neill Blomkamp may have pulled it out of the fire for his next one. The Hollywood experience gave us the middling but pretty Elysium, with its overly preachy enviro and class-warfare messages. Here he goes after the artificial intelligence in a fearful human world theme, and it looks pretty good. It’s nice to see Hugh Jackman in something over that Wolverine garb, playing the heavy here.

Maybe You Shouldn’t Vote

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’tis the season where we hear nothing but lavish nonsense about your “voice”, and rockin’ the vote, and making a difference. But should more people be voting? And does your “voice” really matter?

Let’s go after the second point first: What is the impact of your vote, really? Say you live in a moderately large city/county in New Mexico (why here? I know the numbers offhand) with half a million people in a state with 2.2 million, and you get an ideal turnout of 50% or so. (Good luck with that, by the way…) Your vote is 0.0004% in the local election, 0.00009% in the state election, and a brick-through-a-window impact of 0.0000006% of the national vote, if we were stupid enough to go to a popular vote election for the president.

Now figure the average voter is a lazy (or, let’s be nice, very busy) piece of work who only votes for their favorite sports team political party. You get between 42-48% of the vote per election with say 6% of the electorate that swings one way or the other based on bullshit news stories and/or single issues like guns or abortion. That’s the “market”, that 6% — about 9.3 million at the national level, really mean anything. If you figure it that way, your vote, if you assume the parties have their core locked up like a Cowboys or 49ers jersey wearing mook, is worth about 0.007% (!!!) [Caveat: I’m a historian for a reason — i suck at math, so everyone thank Mr. Jim Sorenson (of Transformers fan book fame, for the assist on the numbers… SCR]

Do you wonder why no one in Washington is listening to you? Why all they target are the “right now!” low-information voters? Why all the legislation is knee-jerk and idiotic?

Now consider that special interests — non-profits, corporations, interest groups, religious groups, unions, etc. — have enough money pooled that they can capture the attention of the self-serving morons you keep electing, and you start to see other issues in how much your vote is worth. The National Rifle Association has about 5 million actual members but likes to claim the 70-140million gun owners (depending on whose numbers you use…) as their own, and the AFSCME — the largest donor to the Democrats — only represents 1.3 million public sector workers but likes to claim them all as their own, you have to ask why they have that much clout. [I am not a member of either, but I have guns, so I’m kinda glad the NRA does what it does, but it does not effectively represent my personal policy preferences on guns, for the most part…]

So is it really worth voting? I would suggest that pushing more people to vote reduces your inout with the people running the show.

Secondly, should you vote? Sacrilege! I hear people screaming through the vasty electronic sea. Every voice should be heard, every vote counted, duty to vote, responsibility to vote!

WRONG.

You have a duty and responsibility to an informed vote. Just going in and slapping the party lever like a lab rat looking for a food pellet is not the way to do it. Voting for the name you recognize is not the way to do it. (In fact, i could make a lengthy case for why that’s the person you should not vote for….but another time.) So here’s your voter checklist — if any one of these is NO, stay the fuck home.

1. Do you know the salient points — on both sides — of at least three major policy issues?

2. Do you know anything about the candidates beyond what they’re telling you about themselves? Did you bother to look up a few news articles connected to their past service?

3. Are you willing to vote for the other side or a third party candidate, even if your pet issue might not be represented as well as you would like? (Hi, gun and abortion and immigration and social security voters…)

4. Have you ever had to pay taxes?

Stupid and uninformed voters’ voices do not enhance democracy, they weaken the quality of candidates and make for ridiculous policy based on whatever the majority happen to want at that moment. (This is why the Senate is supposed to be appointed by state governments, not elected as they have been since the Progressive politicians messed at up a century ago — they were supposed to be a check on transitory passions of the electorate.)

So, no — don’t Rock the Vote, kids and social-media fueled morons. Leave that to the adults.

Now, get off my lawn.

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