Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Lowers in place

Lowers are in place. Countertop folks are supposed to do a final measurement tomorow.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Kitchen Cabenetry

Yesterday my father showed up with a trailer full of kitchen cabinets. We unloaded the trailer, but didn't actually get to installing anything untill today. Hurray for Thanksgiving leftovers.

Today we spent 8 hrs or so installing new uppers in the kitchen. The old ones were ugly, poorly made, and will make excellent shed cabinets.

California Ranch architecture and "southwesty" cabinet doors just do not go together. Note, not Southwest, "southwesty".

Here is the before pic. The microwave was already taken down since it failed spectacularly a couple weeks ago. (click to embiggen)



Photobucket





The new ones are just a wee bit sturdier, have 1/2" backs, and go all the way to the ceiling to get rid of the annoying gap one gets as a result of builders simply slapping cheap cabinets up. Oh, and I dropped in a new microwave.

Photobucket



I'll do the crown molding tomorow. Then we have to do the doors on the pantry cabinet, the doors and drawers in the bathroom vanities, and possibly add some shelves to the pantry.

Lowers will go in after Christmas, and countertops hopefully very quickly thereafter.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Quantitative Easing Explained

Just in case you need a better explanation of the QE2.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Randslide

Looks like Rand Paul won 55% to 45%.

Randslide.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Predictions

My prediction for tomorrow:

R's take 64 house seats and 8 Senate seats. I'm not going to bother with an over/under on how long it takes them to go back to their old ways.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Quote of the Week

From Seanan, re the Rocky Horror Picture Show:

If you've never been a Rocky fan, it was sort of like being a Browncoat, only sluttier and with more sing-alongs.

Yeah, that says it all.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Pegaus Winners 2010

Copied from the announcement by the Pegasus committee -

The Pegasus committee is very pleased to announce this year's Pegasus
Award winners:

Best Filk Song
A Thousand Ships - Juliane Honisch and Kerstin Droege-Macdonald

Best Classic Filk Song
Fire in the Sky - Jordin Kare

Best Writer/Composer
Heather Dale

Best Performer
S.J. Tucker

Best Magic Song
Where the Magic is Real - Paul Kwinn

Best Mad Science Song
What a Woman's For - Seanan McGuire

Congratulations to all the winners and thank you to all who voted!

I'm reasonably happy with the selection. I voted for Seanan and Paul, and Fire in the Sky was my second choice in that category. For the record, I have absolutely no clue who S.J. Tucker is nor Juliane Honisch and Kerstin Droege-Macdonald.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Party like it's 1773

So...

Apparently the other day Sarah Palin told some Tea Party folks that they needed to buckle down and work hard until the election is over and that it was not yet time to "Party like it was 1773".

Predictably the far left media went nuts and immediately started making fun of her (again) because after all nothing important happened in 1773.

Um... Yeah.

How shall I put this? I expect the far left media to look like complete idiots every once in a while, but when you guys make yourselves look stupid compared to Sarah Palin, well I really don't know what to say.

Oh, for those who slept through or were busy smoking pot during history class (and apparently also can't figure out how Google works), Palin was addressing a TEA PARTY group. Want to hazzard a guess what year the Boston Tea Party was. Yeah, didn't think so. Put down the roach clip and pay attention. 1773.

As for the rest of us, We can see November from our house.

On the ethics of voting

Jen up at A Call to Wings has a huge rant about the government education system and the ethical implications of living in a republic. A small taste:

... Because I live in a republic, and I hold the franchise thereof. That means what my country does, so long as I vote, the moral weight of those decisions, their enactment, and their outcomes is on my head to. When the time comes to answer to account, I don't get to tell the Good Lord don't look at me - the King did that.

No, I have to say "yes.... I voted for that decision, because I thought it was least bad of a host of a bunch of bad options. I know that people were killed because of that choice, but I still put my name to it. ...

I don't think I get to say "well... a hundred million other Americans voted for X, so if X wasn't right, it's only one hundred millionth my fault." Because my ethical decision was my ethical decision.

LINK

I have been thinking about doing so for a while, but as of now A Call to Wings has been added to the blogroll over on the right.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mark's Guide to the Arizona propositions

Generally speaking, "If in doubt vote No, it maintains the status quo". However, this year I am actually voting yes on most of these.

My thoughts:

106 - YES ...Heath care - Individual choice over .gov bureaucrats every day. Gives you a constitutional right to opt out of govenment mandates and a right to pay for your own medical procedures if you want.

107 - YES ...Civil Rights - Makes affirmative action unconstitutional. Affirmative action is wrong, people should be judged by their competence, not race or gender.

109 - YES .-Constitutional right to Hunt and Fish. In truth it actually does not make any real changes, but it pisses off the bunny hugers, so yes.

110 - YES .- Alows municipalites to buy state land to protect military bases (and thus jobs).. I don't think I see any downsides here. Certainly willing to be convinced otherwise.

111 - NO - Claims to rename the Secretary of State the Lt. Governor, but in reality it does a lor more than that. It makes elections worse, since it would force the parties to run a ticket rather than pick the best person for Sec. State.

112 - NO - Initiative deadline. The legislature supports it, so I'm against it. Earlier deadline for initiatives tips the balance away from grass roots to paid petition gatherers. I think that's a bad shift.

113 - YES - Card Check/Secret Ballot. I've worked in a Union Shop before. I HATE unions. Union bosses should not be allowed to know how you voted on unionizing.

203 - YES - Medical Marijuana. I'd rather see us end the war on (some) drugs entirely, but medical MJ will piss of the feds, so yes. The opponents claim it is a slippery slope to full legalization. Um, ok, not winning your argument here. I don't like drugs, I think they are stupid and bad for you. On the other hand Government bans on recreational substances are even more stupid, and worse for you.

301 - YES - Redirects Growing Smarter funds to the general fund. I opposed "Growing Smarter" back in 1998. State trust land is supposed to be used to fund education, not buy playgrounds for rich hikers/yuppies.

302 - YES - Redirects Cigarette taxes to the general fund. Cigarette taxes should go into the general fund, not pay for some leftist wish list.

Re 301 and 302. I'm pretty much always opposed to voter mandated funds for stuff. It's always left wing "feet firmly in the clouds" type stuff, and that money is used at the expense of things that the state is constitutionally obligated to do like, oh you know, actually balancing the budget.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

And Shuffle off this Mortal Coil

Mood = indescribable

A friend of mine was shot dead last night. He was shot dead by his own son, who then turned the gun on himself.

News Article Here

Jeff was one of the first people I met at the Air Force Laboratory when I started there. He and another fellow had a telescope set up in the back parking lot and were watching mercury transit the sun. Jeff loved astronomy, and wrote all of the ephemeris software for the NVTS program.

He worked for a satellite company for a while before coming back to the lab and he was one of the folks who came to my going-away lunch. He shall be missed, and it still does not feel real.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Commuting

The drive could have been worse. Could have been better too. Getting out of work was actually a bigger hassle than getting there. Time to study the satellite maps.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Last day at AFRL

Today was my last day working for the US Air Force Research Lab. Monday I start with L-3 Electro-Optics in Tempe.

I am NOT looking forward to the drive. On the other hand, the lab is moving to Ohio, and driving to Tempe is a lot shorter than driving to Dayton.

Since it was my last day, I decided to do it right and bought beer for anyone who showed up at the conference center. My team bought me lunch at Joe's Farm Grill and gave me a nice plaque to put up at the new place.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mourning in America

Someone over on the Republican side just earned his November bonus.

A bit of a history lesson, back in 1984 the Reagan campaign ran an add entitled "Morning in America". Actually it was titled "Prouder, Stronger, Better", but nobody remembers that. This advert, along with the "Bear in the Woods" add cemented the largest landslide victory since Nixon beat McGovern.



Well some folks still remember that add, and they don't much like the current President, or his policies.



Powerful stuff.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Lookin' like a nail

While I am not a big C&W fan, this guy has that sort of Charlie Daniels Band vibe I rather like.

heh

About that new Republican "Pledge"

Picking between the R’s and D’s on fiscal responsibility is like picking between two drunks to drive the car.

One guy sideswipes a bridge abutment so you take the keys away and give it to the other guy who promptly drives into an oak tree. Then the first guy says "hey I’ve sobered up and found religion and am attending AA" so you give him the keys, even though we all know he’s got a flask in his hip pocket.

Seriously. That's the choice.

Let me make this as clear as I can:

The problem is the spending. It’s not earmarks, it’s spending.

the R’s missed a golden opportunity to be really bold and capture the attention of the American people. They could have proposed an actual Constitutional Amendment requiring a balanced budget. Regardless of whether they could have gotten it through the Senate (never happen) just bringing it to a vote would be a big bold statement that said “We are fiscally responsible and mean it this time”.

Or how about we eliminate the Dept. of Education which has never educated a single child.

Slash the Dept. of Agriculture which has more government employees than the US of A has Farmers.

Eliminate HUD.

Combine the DOE with the NRC and eliminate half the positions.

Cut every other .gov agency by 20 %.

Hey, I'm a libertarian, I'm just getting started. But no, let's give the keys back to the guy with the flask.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

On the O'Donnell Primary Victory

The Tea Party folks are acing more libertarian all the time. It appears they nominated a candidate who appears utterly unable to win over a shoe in for the Delaware Senate slot.

Why would they do that?

Because frankly, they are tired of voting for The Lesser of Two Democrats.

This is a clear case of the primary voters saying “No more Olympia Snows”. General election voters would have easily elected Castle. Primary voters on the other hand recognized Castle as someone who would stab them in the back on important issues.

Even if O'Donnell looses, the fiscal conservatives win, because that means that Castle did not get the seat, and the republican establishment is on notice that they need to nominate fiscal conservatives if they want to party folks to actually vote for them.

I predict that this time around thee Republicans will easily retake the House of Representatives, but will fall 2-3 seats short of taking the Senate. After that, I fully expect them to be back to their spendthrift ways, and the pendulum to swing back the other way in 2012.

If and only if they can actually get a handle on Federal spending will the voters reward them in 2012. This is why some of the folks winning primaries (e.g. O'Donnell) are somewhat “kooky”, right now the primary voters are acting like “single issue” voters.

Government spending is that issue, and it does not matter if someone has rather odd Christian viewpoints or dances skyclad in the woods about a copy of Great Expectations. Single issue: Stop the damn spending.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Amazing Grass

No not that kind of grass you damn hippie.

This kind of grass, as in Bermuda grass. I do this every once in a while for the kids. Jen helped make part of this as well.


It's kind of like a hedge maze, only, well...
shorter.

Picture only shows about 1/2 of the maze actually.

Monday, September 6, 2010

I call this one Foldey

Harvey Leach, California Luthier kindly allowed me to borrow a VAOM-04 Voyage-Air guitar for the long weekend.

Harv (or as I like to call him Inlay Dancing God) invented the Voyage-Air folding neck guitar 10 years or so ago, and I remember reading about it on R.M.M.G.A back in the day when people hung out on Usenet instead of on internet Forums.

The Voyage-Air is a very cool concept. It involves a stout internal hinge that allows you to fold the neck of the guitar, thus allowing you to fit a full-size guitar into a backpack sized instrument.
Lots more info here:

http://www.voyageairguitar.com/

The -04 series instruments have a solid spruce top and laminate back and sides, which IMHO is a pretty good combination for a travel instrument, as it adds a level of durability over an all solid box.

Initial thoughts upon inspection.

Folding guitars are cool. The hinge mechanism is ingenious. Neck angle, playability, and action are very good. When you realize that the neck join is the most important part of all of these things it's simply outstanding.

I like the neck feel. Feels like a slightly chunkier Tacoma neck, or maybe a satin finished Larrivee. The neck has a very thin, matte finish on it which is a good thing for moving up and down the neck.

Intonation is frankly outstanding, and was spot on to the 14th fret for most strings, and a couple of cents off for the A string. (odd since normally the B and high E go sharp if any)

Part of the way the guitar achieves this is via the use of a zero fret and captive nut. A zero fret allows for a nice low action without having to tweak the nut. It's also a good thing for playing lead guitar as your open strings technically are no longer "open" as they are actually fretted.

Since I was going to CopperCon I took the Voyage-Air with me. After all who better than a bunch of Sci-Fi fans to appreciate a folding guitar.

I showed the instrument to a lot of folks, introducing it either as Foldey (my wife's nickname), or The Origami Guitar (mine), and everyone thought it was the neatest thing since sliced bread and nuclear weapons. I handed out several cards for Harvey Leach which is sort of the point of this exercise.

The real question though is: how does it sound?

It sounds good, but not great. It sounds much better than my cheap plywood sacrificial instrument I bought to tempt the United Airline Gods, but can't hold a candle to my Larrivee OM-03R. Now in fairness, it really shouldn't be expected to, after all it's a solid top, not all solid.

Pros:
Lightweight. Even in the case people were shocked at how little it weighed.
Folds!!!
Counts as a carry-on for most airliners. You will have to gate check on the little commuter birds.
High playability marks.
Great padding on the backpack-carrier. Extremely comfortable.

Cons:
My other guitars sound a bit better for the type of music I play.
Constant retuning. You are supposed to slack the strings before folding (I went down about a full step). That means every time you take it out of the case you have to re-tune. At one point I carried the guitar to a different building in my hand (and the case in another) so I wouldn't have to re-tune.
Lots of padding on the backpack carrier straps makes it hard to sling a book bag over your shoulder.

One very cool thing is that the Voyage-Air is available in multiple configurations, from all laminate to all solid, to a fully custom Harvey Leach creation.

Would I buy one?

At this point in my life, no. It's an awesome instrument for a college student or someone who travels a lot by aircraft and wants/needs to take a full sized instrument with them. At this point I'd rather take a traditional guitar and not deal with the tuning hassles. The solid top/lam sides is the sweet point on the pricing scale, once you get up to the all solid guitars you are talking some real money (around a grand and a half). Since you can buy some outstanding all solid guitars these days for under a grand from Larrivee, Breedlove, and even Martin the all solid Voyage-Air would be a hard sell to me.

What would convince me to buy one?

I think a 00 size rather than the 000/OM size would be pretty compelling (especially a deep-body (4 -4.5") 00. Even folded and stowed the 000/Om size is a reasonably large package. I'd also like to see a cedar top to get the most out of a solid top/ laminate sides combo.

Later this week I shall send Foldey off to the next person on the great 2010 Voyage-Air travel/trial list. I expect that person shall enjoy it as well. Though at this point I personally wouldn't buy one, it was nonetheless a neat experience.

EDIT:
I have been told that the instruction to "detune before folding" in the instructions was added at the behest of the lawyers, and is not actually required for the happiness and well being of the guitar. That makes the Voyage-Air quite a bit more attractive. It's also the sort of thing that makes one sympathetic to Dick the Butcher.

More CopperCon Thoughts

This is a seriously small convention. There are only 5 meeting rooms, and one of them is a bit off the beaten path. They are making good use of the convention space that they have, so that's good.

Pretty small attendance too. I think only about a dozen folks showed up to my concert, and I have yet to see more than 20 folks at a panel, and that was the best attended one.

On the other hand, this is a pretty great hotel from my perspective. Good blackout curtains so the room gets nice and dark. It's a bit spread out, but it's been here long enough that there are plenty of mature shade trees so it's not too bad. Lots of parking.

Parking is FREE (hint for the folks in LA and SD this is important)

Place definately has that " we were a nice place in the 60's and 70's but then the freeway passed us by". The location is on Main/Apache so this did used to be Us-60 until the freeway bypass in the 80's. Free breakfast if utterly uninspiring. Best thing from the kid's perspective is that the swimming pool is open 24 hrs. I appreciate that. The pool is sufficiently far from the rooms that the noise won't bother folsk so why not keep it open 24/7?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

And the 2010 Campbell ...

Hail Seanan, Queen of the Poison Frogs. Hail

I'm very pleased to note that my friend Seanan has won the 2010 Campbell Award for best new Writer

2010 Hugo Award Winners (and Campbell here)

Hail Seanan, oh great and powerful Queen of the Poison Frogs.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

CopperCon - Saturday

First real day of the Con. I had a panel scheduled for 0900. As expected not too many folks showed up.

Small convention in general. Small dealers' room, although there is one vendor of really nifty blown glass items. Definitely has "small con" vibe, although they are using their convention space pretty effectively.

Not even certain there is a separate art show. There is some art in the corner of the dealers' room, but currently no bid sheets.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Of Fish and Beacons

Today, I'm going to speak from the heart.
You, turn of the teleprompter.
No seriously, turn it off, I'm not going to use it today.

(I'm writing this free-form, no editing, other than fixing the spelling)
(no I'm not certain why today's rant turned into a political speech)

Let's get back to basics.

If you had to pick one single principle upon which this nation was founded, it would be the principle of self determination. A nation, born in blood and fire, fought a revolutionary war for this singular principle. The inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of property is fundamentally about the right of people to determine their own destiny. Sure, Jefferson wrote pursuit of happiness, but Locke and others from whom Jefferson cribbed spoke of property.

And not just a right of self determination, but an inalienable one. Whether one believes as the Christian Madison did that this right is a result of God's creation of man, or one believes as the Deist Jefferson did that it is simply a natural part of man's existence, or you conduct a rational basis as does the Militant Atheist who has perhaps read one too many treatises by Ayn Rand, the result is the same. A fundamental, inalienable right of self determination.

This singular principle is the one that has led this nation to greatness. It is this principle that caused Ronald Reagan to refer to these United States as a "shining beacon upon the hill". A beacon because it is a shining example to others, not an invitation to take the shininess part it out and redistribute it to the less-shiny.

Importantly, it is a path, not a destination. You have the right to try, but you also have the right to fail along the way. And just as importantly, if you do fail, the right to get up, dust yourself off, and try again.

Aye, we have stumbled along the way. That principle conveniently didn't apply to darker skinned folk in half the country at the founding. We solved that with another bloody war (the bloodiest in our history). But here is the important part, so important that the government education system goes to great lengths to hide it. While it is true that many in the North saw that war as a principled war to bring self determination to the slaves, almost everyone fighting on the other side saw it as defending their own right of self determination and self government.
After all, hardly anybody down there actually owned any slaves; that was a rich land-owner's pastime. Then as now, the rich could be a convenient excuse.

We stumbled again in WWII when we rounded up Americans and placed them in camps due to their ethnicity and descent. And though we didn't learn directly from that experience, Eichman and his buddies showed the entire world where that path leads.

But perhaps our greatest stumble along the path towards greatness was the implementation of the "Great Society" after the assassination of J.F.K.

Where the liberal sees giving people who are down and out a helping hand, the Libertarian sees people enslaved by a culture of dependency.

Consider the well trod parable of teaching a man to fish:

Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day.
Teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.

-What happens though, when you give a man a fish, and tell him that if he goes fishing you are going to take the fish away from him?

-What happens when you incentivize him to not provide for himself and his family?

-What happens when you use government policy to make it materially harder for him to even buy the tools to go fishing?

Because that is what we have done with the entitlements and entitlement mentality of Johnson's great society.

What you have done, is robbed him of his self determination, and of his pride and of his honor.

It is a fundamental law of nature that you cannot keep people from falling through the cracks using the force of government because every time you do that you make the cracks bigger and trap more people. That means that government is not the solution. The government is never the solution. The solution is to pave over the cracks. If someone needs a hand, you give them a hand up, not a handout, and under no circumstances whatsoever should you let the government ever be involved.

That means that the liberals in congress and holding the presidency must be fought tooth and nail and inch by inch. Not just no, but Hell NO! Because every single item on their agenda is the antithesis of self determination. It's not about leading by example and inspiring others to follow, but about spreading the shiny, and making the whole world a dimmer place as a result.

At some point you have to draw a line in the sand and say, no more, not a mile, not a yard, not an inch. Ask any Army infantryman and they will tell you that when you are pressed you win by taking up a defensive position and letting the enemy throw themselves against your
fortifications until they are weakened to the point where you attack their heart with maneuver and determination. Ask a Marine rifleman and they will tell you the same thing. Heck, ask any Marine, as we all know that every Marine is a riflemen first.

When pressed you fall back, regroup, then attack. And now is our time to attack. Now is the time to say: No more government programs that only enslave the people in a culture of dependency. No more government programs that only serve the interests of fat-cat bureaucrats. No more
government bailouts of failed policies. No more unconstitutional government mandates. No more.

It is time to once again elevate that principle that Jefferson so proudly elevated above all others as the most righteous reason to fight oppression in his time. It is time to once again say that
self-determination is the fundamental right, and that allowing people to pursue their own destiny, and succeed or fail on their own merits, is not only the right thing to do, but the only way out of the economic malaise we have found ourselves in.

It is time. Time to make this nation great again, not only as a shining beacon to others, but as a true land of opportunity for those already here.

Thank you, and good night.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Dove season

Today is the opening day of dove season when millions of people take out their shotgun they have not fired in over a year and attempt to engage small feathered targets with built in air-to-ground radar and ballistic armor under their feathers.

Sunrise was at 0600, I had my limit by 0645.

I'd call that a good hunt.

Got my first white-wing ever this morning as well.

Happy dove season everyone.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Arizona CD 7 Endorsement

At Rocket Song we are going to do something we seldom do, explicitly endorse a congressional candidate.

Always one to enjoy a catchy campaign slogan we are proud to endorse Physicist Ruth McClung for Arizona's District 7, after all how can one not love her slogan:

"Maybe it does take a rocket scientist?"

Yeah. She's a Physicist who designs missile guidance systems.

Here is a sample of her writing on what happens when you allow Politics to trump Physics:
http://www.ruth4az.com/Issues/EnergyIndependence.html

Now CD 7 is normally a very safe Democrat seat with very heavy Democratic registration majorities. On the other hand, Raul Grijalva is weak this year since he was publicly calling for a boycott of his own constituents. Seriously, way to go there Raul.

Thus we are officially jumping on the Ruth McClung bandwagon, even though we are in a completely different Congressional district. Or as Ruth's new campaign slogan says:

Boycott Grijalva, not Arizona.

Besides, can you really have too many physicists in congress?

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Ground Zero Mosque

A lot of digital ink has been spilled over this issue.

However, some things should be pretty obvious to everybody.

1. The location was picked intentionally to be as offensive as possible to the majority of Americans. Seriously, more people are opposed to this thing percentage wise than voted against Walter Mondale.

2. They (the Cordoba folks)have every (1st Amendment protected) right to build it at that location once they have legal title to the property. That's how the 1st amendment works: The more offensive the speech the more protected it is. And do not make the mistake of thinking this is about freedom of religion. It's clearly a big "screw you" message, and thus protected speech.

3. The folks who are opposed to this thing have every (1st Amendment protected) right to protest it, short of actual violence. Oh and for you folks on the "moral relativist, all cultures and religions are equal" side of the isle, remember: The more offensive the speech the more protected it is. Works both ways.

These are not contradictory statements.

Primary Voting

Tomorrow is the Arizona primary.

A Primary is where we go to the voting place where we vote for the least bad person with an R after their name. Or if a Democrat, the least bad person with a D. Libertarians don't necessarily bother since none of the races are generally contested.

Contrast with the general election where we go to the voting place and vote against anyone with a D after their name. (Or R if you are a Democrat) Again, unless you are a Libertarian in which case you actually vote FOR the guy with an L after his name, and then have to decide whether you hate D's or R's more.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Capitalism 101

For the benefit of those who are a product of public (i.e. government) education (or Harvard Law school), today's lesson will use small words.

Today let's talk about Capitalism.

First lets talk about what capitalism is NOT. Capitalism is not free-trade. It is not lack of government interference. It is not mutual trade for mutual benefit.

Capitalism is about CAPITAL.

Yeah, I know kind of an A is A statement there. (you, the Randian in the corner, stop snickering)

Capitalism is about capital. Capital, again using small words for the Harvard Law set, is a bunch of money piled together. Once it's gathered up, it can be used to DO stuff. All that other stuff is just decoration on the cake. Market Capitalism, Free-Market Capitalism, Anarcho-Capitalism, laissez-faire capitalism, are simply methods of implementation.

Capital is a pile of money that can DO stuff.

The next time one of your liberal friends complains that the rich are getting richer, look them straight in the eye and say to them, "Are you on crack?"

The rich getting richer is a good thing; it's a feature, not a bug. Quick, when was the last time a poor person gave you a job? Oh, oh, I know the answer...pick me pick me

How about never.

Show me 1001 people with a hundred bucks and what do you have? Nothing. Show me 1000 people with $10 and one guy with $90,000 and what do I have? I have two decent jobs, or I have a milling machine, or delivery truck, or ...

Redistribution of wealth makes the entire society poorer in aggregate. (that means mixed in all-together for the Harvard Law types).
Redistribution of wealth kills jobs.
Redistribution of wealth kills innovation.
Redistribution of wealth kills investment.
Etc. Etc.

Capitalism is about capital. It's about gathering money together and putting it to work. It is about how you create the means of production. Contrast to Marxism which is about who owns the means of production.

I don't care if one guy has a million bucks or if a million people all throw a buck into a pot. (i.e. form one of those evil corporations). When you convert money into capital you now have the means of creating new means of production, delivery, or distribution.

New means of production, delivery, or distribution means new jobs, and general growth of the economy as a whole. And growth, as my friend Aretae like to point out, is dominant.

Not only that, but the feedback loop is resonant, not dampening. Again, for the Harvard Law set, that means small changes in output, put back into the system, get amplified (made bigger) yielding large changes in overall output for very small inputs.

Or put simply, when you pile a bunch of money together, put it to work, hire new people, and create new jobs those people in turn pile their money together, put it to work, hire new people, create new jobs, and then those people...

...and it keeps going until you run out of people to hire, with is usually an unemployment rate of around 3-4% because a certain percentage of people are simply unemployable no matter how much you try.

That other stuff above, free markets, laissez-faire, etc are simply ways of tuning the efficiency of the feedback loop. A free market, or removing the shackles of regulation, simply means that you get more feedback. Again in simple words, the more free the market, the more jobs and growth you create for every dollar of capital.

And that my friends, is why you want the rich to get richer, and why "spreading the wealth" is bad.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Kid's Karate

Daughter the Eldest was awarded her Black belt after testing this evening, along with another girl in the class.

Actually a little surprised she stuck with it this long, but also proud of her for sticking it through.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

CopperCon - T minus Four Weeks and Counting

CopperCon is in 4 weeks.

It's looking to be a pretty good convention overall. Despite the fact that the Author GoH is a very well known fantasy author (Stephen R. Donaldson) this year's theme is "Science".

While ostensibly Arizona's "literary" leaning Science Fiction convention, CopperCon has always been a very filk-friendly con. We tend to have multiple concerts, open filking on Friday and Saturday nights as well as a dead-dog/filk jam on Sundays.

For those who will be attending, I have used my influence to place an "AZ filk con brainstorming" panel onto the con schedule. Unfortunately my influence does not extend to getting a good time for said panel, and I think we have 0900 on Saturday morning as the only open slot on the schedule.

(note, The schedule being full this far in advance is a good sign for this year's con to be a well run event)

Anyway, if you are planning on attending CopperCon, try to make it to the filk-con planning panel. The goal is to determine if there is enough interest to try to kick off a bi-annual (every other year) filk convention down here.

Also, rumor has it I have been assigned an "empty" panel where I am allowed to talk about whatever I like. I could talk about science, or recording, or music theory, or turn it into a workshop if folks wanted. Ideas?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

QoTD

From Fill, on arizonashooting.com

Regulation - Is there no problem it can't make more expensive?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Black Day, White Sands

Jerry Pournelle points us towards an article at Air & Space on the DC-X/DC-XA aka the "Delta Clipper"

LINK

I remember watching a video of the DC-X at ConFransico, where Jerry spoke the immortal lines:

That my friends is a SPACESHIP! And she lands like God and Robert A. Heinlein intended, on her jets!

I'm not really sure what he said next, since at that point there were several thousand people cheering at the top of their lungs.

Of course, that was before they transferred the program to NASA
...

Alaska = something out of Joss Whedon's Head

From Jenny, at A Call to Wings, living in Alaska is like living in Firefly.
Possibly without the swearing in Chinese, waiting on more data.

Hulu, DSL, and old Sci Fi

One of the things I did when we moved to Queen Creek was to upgrade the DSL speed from bottom tier to second from the bottom.

Yeah, living on a dirt road means no cable, no cable means no cable modem...

Anyway the second from the bottom tier of DSL is just fast enough to enable streaming, which means I can watch Hulu.

Hulu has lots of neat stuff like old canceled Sci Fi shows.

So I've been watching this show that I used to watch. It was a Fox property. Fox being Fox, they ran the episodes out of order, and kept interfeering in the writing because they thought the show was too cerebral, and needed more action.

I am of course talking about Firefly Sliders.

What's that you say, yeah, Fox has been screwing over their properties for a long time.

Fox, the Network called Fox...
When X-files was canceled, they found a new show
The story quite brilliant, to make lots of dough.
It had thugs and heroes, a girl in a box.
they aired it on Fridays, the network called Fox.


Oops, wrong show again.

Anyway, the first two seasons of Sliders were the best. Both were partial seasons of 10-12 episodes each. After that, for the 3rd season the network moved production to LA (too keep a firmer hand on the production crew) and the writing got worse and worse. The first half of season three is still pretty good, but it's pretty obvious that by halfway through the entire production staff had simply given up all hope.

Link to the Hulu Page.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

90 days Sine Die

As of 53 minutes ago, most laws passed by the AZ legislature became law.

We now have Alaska style constitutional carry. Welcome to the United States. Please ignore the sound of freedom and go back to your daily lives.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

That Neo-Kipling thing I wrote

Regarding that "I am now channeling the spirit of Rudyard Kipling thing I wrote last week:

I tweaked the scansion a little bit. It now scans to Leslie Fish's tune for Bridge-Guard in the Karoo. (one of my favorite Kipling poems actually)

I also varied up the chorus a bit. (as Kipling was wont to do)

Want to play a game? How many poems do I explicitly or implicitly reference?


WWRW

(What Would Rudyard Write?)
Words copyright Mark E. Horning


I read in the paper this morning,
I've seen it again and again,
As the oil spreads to the beaches,
Where the sea-walls fail to retain,

That the sons of Mary still dither,
While Martha's Sons still toil,
Ignore the bureaucrat mandates,
And strive to recover the oil.

...And hist'ry repeats before us,
...As we struggle (with) the past in vain.
...The lesson still stands before us,
...And Kipling he saw it plain.

The Treasury's printing out paper,
Our gold and silver replaced.
But it cannot appease the builders,
Nor the Gods of the Marketplace.

The Gods of the Copybook Headings
Have told us down throughout time,
(That) You first have to slaughter the meat-beast,
Before you intend to dine.

...And hist'ry's bearing down on us,
...Like a relentless fate-bound train.
...The lesson still stands before us,
...And Kipling he saw it plain.

Our troops are set forth to conquer,
In Iraq and Afghanistan,
While our leaders refuse them (their) honor,
Or even a vic'try plan.

And invaders trouble our borders,
Seeking our wealth for to pay.
The rich lazy nation's yielding.
That danger shall not go away.

...And hist'ry repeats before us,
...Amazing, uncaring, arcane.
...The lesson still stands before us,
...And Kipling he saw it plain.

The chattering classes bicker,
And struggle for power's reins.
The recession widens and deepens,
While men succumb to the strain.

The Old Issue stands before us,
Dwarfing our hearts and our brains.
Hear the reeds of Runnymede weeping,
(As we) bow down to take up our chains.

...And hist'ry's repeating before us,
...The same struggle day after day.
...The lesson still standing before us;
...What would old Rudyard Say?

Mark E. Horning

Friday, July 23, 2010

CDNN Hi-power Grips

CDNN has Herret Cocobolo Hi-power grips in stock for $27.

They look like this:


Photobucket


A bit sharper than I like, but that's common for Herrets. Fit isn't perfect, but fitting Hi-power grips is a lot harder than simple 1911 slabs. For under thirty bucks I'm not going to complain too much.

The example wearing the new grips is one of the Arginting P90 Hi-powers that J&G sales in Prescott is currently selling for $299. If you need a 9mm for any reason go pick one up.

This will be a range toy and possibly woods or camping gun. I prefer the .45 for a normal carry gun.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

State of Nature

I'm sure you all ave read this already, but if not, go forth and read Coyotes in the State of Nature:

Not one, not two, but three money quotes right here:

To use lethal force in self-defense is the ultimate declaration of independence, a kind of momentary secession from the authority of the government whose laws and prisons and police officers have, in that moment, failed the citizen. To acknowledge the right to self-defense — and the concomitant right to be forearmed against aggressors — is to acknowledge that some things are outside the state and its authority...

The horror that progressives feel for gun owners is in many ways like the horror they feel for homeschoolers, whom they recognize, correctly, as one of the few truly radical movements in America...

Just as state schooling is not about education, but about the state, gun control is not about guns: It’s about control. A citizen who can fend for himself when the predators come or the schools fail is less inclined to look to the state for sustenance and oversight in other areas of life. To progressives, that’s an invitation to anarchy. To the men who wrote the Second Amendment, it was a condition of citizenship in a free republic. It’s what free men did, and do.

WOW.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Wal-Mart civic Champion?

Oh this is just rich.

Walmart is suing OSHA.
They are suing over a $7000 fine.
In fact, they are spending millions of dollars just to screw with OSHA to prove a point.

Details HERE.

Monday, July 19, 2010

What would Rudyard Write

Not a song. A poem maybe? Neo-Kipling?




Oh I read in the paper this morning, and I've seen it again and again,
As the oil spreads to the beaches, where the sea-walls fail to retain.
And the sons of Mary still dither, while Martha's sons still toil,
And ignore the bureaucrat mandates, and strive to recover the oil.

And hist'ry repeats before us, as we struggle with the past in vain,
The lesson still stands before us, and Kipling he saw it plain.


The Treasury's printing out paper, our gold and silver replaced
But it cannot appease the builders, nor the Gods of the Marketplace.
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, have told us down throughout time,
That you first have to slaughter the meat-beast, before you intend to
dine.

And hist'ry repeats before us, as we struggle with the past in vain,
The lesson still stands before us, and Kipling he saw it plain.


Our troops are set forth to conquer, in Iraq and Afghanistan
While our leaders refuse them their honor, or even a vic'try plan
And invaders trouble our borders, seeking our wealth for to pay,
The rich lazy nation's yielding, and that danger will not go away.

And hist'ry repeats before us, as we struggle with the past in vain,
The lesson still stands before us, and Kipling he saw it plain.


The chattering classes bicker, and struggle for power's reigns
The recession widens and deepens, while more succumb to the strain.
And the Old Issue stands before us, dwarfing our hearts and our brains,
Hear the reeds of Runnymede weeping, as we bow down to take up our chains.

And hist'ry repeating before us, as we struggle again and again,
The lesson still stands before us; Kipling he saw it plain.

Neither Mary nor Martha

We are neither Mary nor Martha,
Neither fish nor stone,
With no regard to our station
We toil and ponder alone.
--Mark E. Horning


Kipling has been on my mind lately. In particular The Sons of Martha.

The administration, the Democrats, and especially that portion of the left referred to as the academy, are the sons of Mary. Seriously.

And the Sons of Mary smile and are blessèd -
they know the Angels are on their side.
They know in them is the Grace confessèd,
and for them are the Mercies multiplied.

They think deep thoughts, about admittedly very important subjects, but do not create. The very definition of the ivory tower academic, or the anti-pro-cause-of-the-day-week-hour protester. Sons of Mary indeed.

The Republicans are the sons of Martha. They are the ones who make the trains run on time, see to it that the roads get built, and that the bridges stay bridges rather than piles of stone. They are the ones who make it possible for the Sons of Mary to think their deep thoughts.

It is their care in all the ages
to take the buffet and cushion the shock.
It is their care that the gear engages;
it is their care that the switches lock.
It is their care that the wheels run truly;
it is their care to embark and entrain,
Tally, transport, and deliver duly
the Sons of Mary by land and main.


Talk to the folks who make things run, they are overwhelmingly republican. Even in a union shop, which is defined as working to keep from doing work, the actual workers are generally conservatives while it is the union bosses that are the liberals.

Libertarians are both, and neither. Libertarians are libertarians because they took the time to really think things all of the way through. We have a philosophy of liberty. (pure Sons of Mary right there), yet at the same time we have jobs. Standard joke, why do libertarians never show up at protest meetings, because they are working.

So who would you rather be, the Son of Mary or of Martha? The scientist or the engineer? The thinker or the doer?

Maybe a little of both.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Vocations vs. Avocation

I swear if I'm ever in that part of the country I;ll have to buy TJIC a Beer.

In talking about a whining leftie who is complaining that she can't get a paying job in international human rights and welfare, he writes:

I might as well bitch and moan that I’ve never held a paying job in my field – reading cranky libertarian science fiction novels at coffee shops while checking out the racks of every red-head and brunette that crosses my path.

As a matter of fact, even though that may be my avocation, I realized long ago that there’s not much money in it, so I decided to pick up a vocation as well.

Read the rest HERE...


Monday, July 12, 2010

Random Thought on the President

The administration continues to show it's utter and complete incompetence on just about every issue, it's not that they don;t know the answers, it's that they know the answer is more regulation, they just don't know how to force the question to fit.

Or as is increasingly obvious, Jimmy Carter is no longer our worse president.

Rational, thoughtful, deliberate and scientific responses to a crisis will always take a back seat to the teleprompter sound bite. I have come up with a simple phrase to describe the president.

"This is a man who does not cross his sevens."

Mark

Clarence Thomas on McDonald

Let's play a game, you get to have lunch with a Supreme Court Justice. Who do you pick?

For me it's always been Clarence Thomas.

Thomas is clearly the brightest guy up there. He's not always right mind you, but he's clearly the brightest and has the keenest understanding of the historical context.

Note in this context: Right = Agrees with Mark.

Consider Thomas's concurrence in McDonald.

Thomas's reasoning is exceedingly clear. The "rights of the people" listed in various places in the Bill of Rights are not granted rights, they are enumerated rights. I.e. they are innate rights not "procedural" rights.

This should be pretty clear to anyone who has actually read the Federalist, AND Anti-Federalist papers.

Thus invoking the due process clause of the 14th Amendment is stupid. It simply does not apply, and the proper way to apply the 1st through 8th amendments to the states is via the Privileges and Immunities clause.

So wile Roberts and Alito are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to honor stare decisis in order to get the proper result Thomas is more than happy to say the hell with precedent, the Constitution clearly says what it says, and if the court said otherwise in the past they were wrong then as well.

Note, there is an interesting side effect. The privileges and immunities clause specifically references "citizens" not "the people" and thus the end up-shot of McDonald is that strictly speaking, the court has only enjoined the states from violating the 2nd amendment rights of citizens, and not of legal resident aliens.

This raises the interesting question of whether Thomas would have invoked BOTH clauses had McDonald not been a citizen.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

On Eccomomics

All right, let's get one thing clear from the get go:

Keynesian Economics is not just simply wrong, it's the most positively debunked theory since Galileo irrefutably disproved Copernican Heliocentrism. On the scale of rational theories it is somewhere behind the Luminiferous Aether and Lamarckian Evolution.

It's so glaringly wrong that you have to wonder if folks have actually, you know, been paying attention to the past 100 years of history.

Velocity of money is simply wrong. If I give you 5 bucks and you give me 5 bucks, Keynes counts that as $10 of economic activity. Despite the fact that no product was produced and each of us has the same amount of currency as before. (actually we have less, since the exchange took some amount of time greater than zero and so some of our buying power was reduced by inflation).

Arthur Laffer (yes the Arther Laffer of the famous Laffer Curve) has an article in the WSJ on why unemployment benefits are not stimulus.

Laffer WSJ

Here's a teaser:
On the face of it, the idea that higher unemployment benefits won't lead to more unemployment doesn't make much sense. Imagine what the unemployment rate would look like if unemployment benefits were universally $150,000 per year. My guess is we'd have a heck of a lot more unemployment. Common sense and personal experience indicate higher unemployment benefits will make unemployment less unattractive and thereby increase unemployment even in the Great Recession.

Read it. It's a powerful rebuke to the Keynesian ideal. Which, again, shouldn't be necessary to anyone who has been paying attention at all to economic matters since, oh, 1928 or so.

We all know what is required to stimulate the economy. The Laffer curve tells us that above a certain point, tax revenues go down as the tax rate increases.

Simple proof:
At 0% tax rate the government gets $0
At 100% tax rate same thing 0% (think about it)
At some rate betewwn the two, the government does take in income.

It's been obvious for decades that we are somewhere above the apex of the curve. Every single time tax rates have been lowered, government revenues have increase. Every time. Thus lowering tax rates not only increases total taxes, but increased real economic growth as well.

In time of war, I think it makes perfect sense to try to optimize said revenue. Otherwise, we should be well below the Laffer peak. Growth, as my friend Aretae is fond of saying, trumps everything else in the end.

Thus one might wonder, if it's clear through evidence that we are above (well above) the Laffer curve peak, why is the tax rate so high. Hint, it's not about government services, it's about control.

Lowering the tax rates would mean more money for both guns and butter, as well as increasing employment rates. The only reason for high taxes is control. The one thing a Statest (of either Conservative or so-called progressive bent) cannot stand is the thought that an individual might be better off making his own choices, even if he has to suffer the consequences of bad ones.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Lodi Trip

Other than the ill fated air conditioning compressor and it's attendant repair bill (ouch) the Lodi trip went pretty well. Long, very Long though.

Since the trip was for my dad's 70'th birthday, how about a pic of the two of us.

Horse-Dog

Ezra, the Irish Racehorse is a goofball sometimes.

See pic of horse rolling on grass like big giant dog. Oddly, I believe the Gaelic word for horse actually translates as "Big dog".

Sunday, July 4, 2010

CopperCon

CopperCon is the annual Fall Arizona science fiction convention. Of our two conventions, Coppercon is usually a bit bigger, and is geared towards a literary slant.

http://www.casfs.org/cucon/

CopperCon 2010 will be held over the weekend of September 4-6


Guests for this years CopperCon:

Writer GoH - Stephan R. Donaldson

Writer Guests - Yvonne Navarro, Weston Ochse, and David Lee Summers

Music Guest - Mark Horning

That is all

Consent - Barbie Edition

So I have NOT seen Toy Story 3 yet, but a quote from Barbie is already making it's ways across the interwebs,

"Authority should derive from the consent of the governed, not from the threat of force!"
-- Barbie Toy Story 3

You tell 'em.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Air-Conditioning

The air-conditioning in my car died horribly this weekend somewhere
around Needles. There are worse places to loose ones a/c, but not very many.

The air-conditioning at the house also decided to take this weekend
to go Tango Uniform. The a/c guy should be here this afternoon.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Spock Quote

"He is intelligent, but not experienced. His pattern indicates two-dimensional thinking"
Spock -Wrath of Khan

I was thinking about this quote earlier. It's the perfect embodiment of President Obama. He's smart, but he has no clue what he's doing. He knows that more Government is the solution, even when it's painfully obvious that more government simply makes things worse.

If Jimmy Carter proved anything, it's that smart people can be really bad presidents. Carter's problem is he couldn't delegate, so couldn't actually get anything done. Obama's problem is he's surrounded himself with the echo chamber. even if he had any advisers that actually knew anything, he wouldn't listen.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

P. J. O’Rourke on Education

Hat tip to Kevin over at The Smallest Minority for the link.

An excerpt:
"Here’s my proposal: Close all the public schools. Send the kids home. Fire the teachers. Sell the buildings. Raze the U.S. Department of Education, leaving not one brick standing upon another and plow the land where it stood with salt."

Read the whole article HERE.

I suspect my homeschooling friends would approve...

Friday, June 11, 2010

Mortgage deduction

Several folks are already talking about this, including Aretae and dispatches from TJICistan, but apparently the Obama folks are working to end the Mortgage Tax deduction.

EDIT: looks like it has hit Volokh as well.

A Libertarian is naturally conflicted: any way to get out of taxes is good, but any government enforced distortion of the marketplace is bad.

My first instinct is to say anything to get out of taxes = good. My second instinct is to say we need to completely reform the system and remove any and all social engineering from the taxation system.

So going on the Blind Pigs and Acorns theory, I'm going to go along with the administration on this one. (for naturally completely different reasons)

The reason is it is horribly distortive. It forms an incentive to stay in debt, rather than pay off ones property, and was a contributing factor to the housing bubble.

The Mortgage Deduction originally started out as a deduction on all interest. At some point (under Reagan?) it became a deduction only for mortgage interest.

The reason I say that it's horribly distortive and encourages people to stay in debt is that in order to take advantage of the deduction, you have to have a lot of mortgage debt. Consider, for the past 10 years rates have been consistently under 7%, currently they are under 5%. (a 15 year was 4.2% this morning)

You can only take the deduction if you itemize. It's only worth itemizing if your itemized deductions exceed your standard deduction. The standard deduction is around $14K. Thus the only people for whom it is even worth it to itemize are those who have borrowed a quarter million plus, or those who have another reason to itemize such as huge medical bills.

Say you are in the 30% bracket with a note at 6%. Borrowing $233,000 gives you zero additional deduction. Borrowing $350,000 would give you a savings of $2100 over your standard deduction.

Nevertheless, I constantly run into people who think it's a good idea to send the bank $21,000 to save $2100. As far as I am concerned that means that you have failed math forever.

I think I took the deduction once, and only in the first year of my mortgage, when you can also deduct the fees. After that, my standard deduction was higher, so it wasn't worth it.


As for tax schemes in general, the huge problem with any sort of consumption or "fair" tax is that it is tremendously inflationary. Anyone who has any sort of savings or investments is going to get taxed a second time. My cynical side says that this means it's inevitable as it is a great way for the government to double tax all those investment accounts out there.

Ideally I'd like to see a flat income tax, no withholding. No goofy "rebates". No withholding. withholding makes it too easy to ignore. I want everyone to feel the pain of writing that check every year. And if it's too painful...

If that is undoable politically (the flat say 15% on all income) I'd be willing to compromise. The compromise would be flat tax on everything above $XX, where XX is the federal poverty level.

Besides, There's small profit, in robbing the poor...

Tucson Folk Shop

I was down in Tucson this morning on business. Since I got done early I hit the standard shops before heading back to Phoenix metro.

While down at The Folk Shop, they guys told me to take a look at the Gibson they just got in. Ok I'm game, but not normally a fan of the "Gibson Sound".

Takes me a little while to figure out how to open the case. Guitar is in pretty good shape, some soundboard wear, but not bad. It's an L-00.

Start fingerpicking...

WOW... Easy to play, lots of sustain and overtones, none of the typical Gibson "thunk". Really , really pretty sounding guitar.

Oh it was made in 1937.

Also way outside my price range, but whoever buys it will be getting a really nice instrument.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Tucson

Heading to Tucson tomorow morning (early) on business. Hopefully I can get to Lucky Wishbone.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Why abortion is hard plus bonus Democide

There are several disparate groups of folks who are what we call "single issue voters".

The folks steeped in RKBA (Right to Keep and Bear Arms) folks are often single issue voters. If the guy is for gun control, of any type, I'm against him, no matter how many other fine redeeming qualities or stances he may have. L. Neil Smith calls a politicians stance on Gun Control, the Vulcan Mind Meld, because it tells you exactly what he thinks about you.

If you have not read the article it's HERE.

So gun control is easy. Anyone who is for gun control is by definition a Statist, and thus is a priori someone who hates and distrusts individuals. And of course that way lies genocide, because, history has proven that it always ends in genocide.

Sorry, make that Democide


The other big single issue is abortion.

When people get into heated arguments about abortion they think that they are arguing about a medical procedure, in actuality they are arguing a question of epistemology. It's a matter of what do we know, and how.

The question is, when does a human being become a human being. That is THE question. If it's a human, than killing it (other than in self defense) is wrong. If it's not a human then killing it is no different that having a wart removed.

Most folks are going to say that it's a human sometime before birth. Go ask a noticeably pregnant woman "so how's the fetus doing today?" Actually, you better not, probably not healthy for you.

On the other end of the scale, a 10 minute old blastocyst can't be considered human by any rational means. Religious yes, which is why I said it's an epistemological question. A blastocyst hasn't even implanted itself yet, and if it fails to do so (which many do naturally) it's never going to even have an opportunity to be a person.

After implantation it becomes an embryo. Those of certain religious persuasions will say it's a human; those of us who are more secular in outlook will say that at most it is a "potential human".

Now here is the question for the "pro-choice" folks. When does it cease to be a "potential" person and become a person? Yeah. I don't know either.

And that is why abortion is hard. If you can not even agree on definitions you can't have a meaningful conversation. You can talk around the edges perhaps, but at some point it comes down to arguing over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

Ok, that one is 42. (duh)

Libertarians vs. Liberals

Thought of the day:

Liberals only see the "good" that can result from proposed legislation, and discount bad or unintended consequences.

Libertarians see only the "bad" results, and discount the good or intended consequences.

Thoughts?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Post Oil Haiku

The Scalzi is running a Contest.

To wit, write a haiku about life in a post-oil world to win a copy of METAtropolis.

My entry:

Oil has run dry
Engines of commerce abide
Powered by atoms

Mark

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Martin has Landed

The BBToH (Big Brown Truck of Happiness) showed up while I was at work today. Let's see what it left me

What's this? Some sort of Dreadnaught?

Photobucket

That's good. My Larrivees (save the 12) are all OM and smaller, I could use a good strummer.


Maybe we better look closer:

Photobucket

Ohh, my first Martin.


Wonder what it is? Let's look at the back.

Photobucket

Oooh, I know what that is...


Two thoroughbreds:

Photobucket

I still need to swap in some fresh strings, but I got some pictures first. Hazy overcast this afternoon, so the colors are a bit washed out.

My first Martin, and a D-35 too boot. The D-35 was created in 1965 when Martin was trying to figure out a method of using smaller pieces of Brazilian rosewood. Brazil had just passed a "semi-embargo" on the wood. One could buy the wood, but it had to be cut/milled in Brazil. This was not really easy for Martin to do, and they switched over to Indian RW in 1970, but the 3-piece back of the D-35 remains to this day.

Also, Martin got clever. They added some additional binding, thus moving the design "upscale", so that they could charge more for a guitar made from 3 small pieces of wood than for one made from two larger ones. Clever them capitalists.

The D-35 has since it's inception been the Singer-Songwriter Guitar. It's got slightly thinner top braces than the D-28, Martin's Flagship "Country Western" guitar. Jim Croce played a D-35, so did Elvis and Johny Cash.

I better get tuning.

Monday, May 24, 2010

WoTD - Randslide

I have to love neologisms. After Rand Pauls overwhelming (30+ percentage points) victory in the KY primary they have coined a new phrase:

The Randslide

Hah.

Now Rand is pretty Libertarian in outlook, which is why he answers questions with typical Libertarian nuanced philosophical analysis. (I.e. yeah X law might have been a good thing but if you look at the implications for private property rights... etc.)

Now, the lame-stree-media is trying to convince everyone that the Tea Party folks (who got Paul his victory) are a bunch of Libertarian wackjobs. Well...

It is not strictly correct to say that the Tea Party is Libertarian. Mostly they are pure Fiscal Conservatives. Of course, Fiscal Responsibility is a strong Libertarian position.

Remember the GOP is comprised of three folks who really, really, really hate each other, the Christian Conservatives, the Fiscal Conservatives, and the Defense Hawks. Working together is what got Regan elected. They threw the Fiscal conservatives to the curb during the Bush years and currently the Christian groups are being sidelined by the Fiscal folks.

The tea partiers' positions on Social Conservative, or Defense/War Hawk type of Conservatism are generally all over the map. THey in general don't give a flying hoot who is diddling whom in the back room, their number one (#1) item on their "Contract for America" is a balanced budget.

They do not generally identify as "Republican" either. They hate Bush too, just for different reasons than everyone else.

Ezra

The spousal unit's new horse is, ah, interesting.

We were letting it graze in the front pasture, and it was fine until Pete (the uber-goofy German Shorthair mix) decided to start running back and forth along the fence line.

Horse started acting like it was distressed, kicking and running about. Thing is, I think the horse was having fun. I.e. I think the horse was pretending to be upset at the stupid dog-beast. When I put the dog in the house the horse kept looking over the fence as if to say "hey, where'd my friend go?"

Honestly if I had a good sturdily fenced yard (that wasn't full of chickens) I'd let the dog and horse into the same yard and let them play their goofy horsey-dogie games. And if the dog got a hoof in the midriff then maybe it would learn a lesson about messing with creatures that outweigh you 12 to 1.

I'm also thinking that the horse is going to be a bit too spirited for the kids to ride until they (and he) are older. He's not exactly well behaved on a lead line. He does what he is told but often has to be reminded that "I am the Human and I am IN CHARGE".

It's not exactly a bad thing that the critter wants to play. It's just that when a 1/2 ton critter wants to be playful things can get a bit dicey for us much smaller critters.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

May 20 is Everybody Draw Muhammad Day

That's right folks, May 20 is Everybody Draw Muhammad Day.

Never let it be said that I was not willing to help out on such an important day celebrating freedom of speech. Notwithstanding any actual talent mind you.

So here is my effort, I'm afraid it got a bit wet before I could photograph it:


Some may consider this 1/2 hour early. But it is May 20 on the East Coast already.
Happy Everybody Draw Muhammad Day everyone.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Two Major Victories Tonight

We all have cause to celebrate tonight.

1) Dr. Rand Paul, son of Congressman Ron Paul, won the KT Republican primary. Rand is the founder of Kentucky Taxpayers United, which as you can imagine is not exactly pro taxation.

Oh and Paul did not just WIN, he slaughtered the hand picked guy the Washington insiders were backing. 65% to 32% . Ouch.

2) In other news the backstabbing weasel from Pennsylvania (aka Arlen Specter) will be jobless come January. Among Specter's crimes includes voting for the so called "stimulus" package, the Wall Street bailout, and of course the unforgivable sin of voting to confirm Eric Holder to the position of Attorney General.

Yeah, it's a nice night tonight.

Monday, May 17, 2010

And the Rainbow Fades to Dark

Legendary Rocker Ronnie James Dio is no longer with us.

LA Times story HERE

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Not Kansas

So the 4-year old son comes in telling me there is another peacock in the yard, only this time it's on the roof.

Yup. Peacock on the roof.

The German Shorthair pointer is, ah, very intent on said bird.

Yeah, welcome to the country. Arizona style.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Hung Parliament

So the UK has a hung parliament. It the US because of our strong 2-party system this basically can not happen. The actual closest we can come is to have one house in the hands of one party and the other house in the hands of the other.

Note: this is generally the absolute best governement you can get, because it keeps them from "dooing something simply because they can."

Mark's prediction for the UK:

It's going to be a Conservative/LibDem coalition.

It's Win/Win for both parties. The Torries get to gvern, and the LibDems will get a couple of cabinet seats and be in a position to tell their constituents "see voting for the minor third party can advance our addenda" which gives them a pretty good opportunity to expand their base.


And anything to thumb their noses at Labor is going to play well right now.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Seanan's Big Idea

Seanan McGuire has a "Big Idea" piece up at John Scalzi's place.

GO

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Musings on Immigration

Arizona has been in the news lately. Apparently we are all a bunch of horrible racists because 70% of surveyed respondents support the new law Gov. Brewer signed (SB 1070) making it illegal to, well, be here illegally.

Or as I call it the "illegal to be illegal" bill.

First lets talk about what the bill actually says, rather than the hysteria behind it. The bill says that if you are a non-citizen you have to carry your alien registration papers on you. It also says that if you are here illegally (by Federal definition) that that is a crime punishable by up to 6 months in jail.

The language is copied verbatim from the existing federal statute. It's already the law everywhere in each and every one of these united States (and districts and territories). All Arizona has done is to say, ok, it's illegal under AZ statute as well.

This is what is known in constitutional law circles as the principle of concurrence. That is to say, the state concurs with the federal statute. The courts have repeatedly ruled that concurrence is allowable, even in matters that would otherwise be the sole preview of the Federal government.

For example, it is pretty clear that counterfeiting of US Federal Reserve Notes (the stuff we whimsically refer to as money) is purely a federal matter. Nevertheless Arizona (or any of the other 49 states) can pass laws making it illegal to manufacture your own $100 bills.

As long as the AZ statute does not exceed the federal statute (i.e. it concurs) that's legitimate. So if caught, you could be charged by the state of AZ. There is still a double jeopardy argument to be made, but it's really no different legally from taking an accused murderer and deciding whether to try him in state or federal court.

Thus SB 1070 passes constitutional muster on grounds of concurrence.

The other thing that SB 1070 does is to make it illegal to block or delay traffic while soliciting or hiring day labor. This is unrelated to the immigration part of the bill, other than the fairly obvious observation that most day laborers are not here under legal auspices.

Given the way traffic works around here, I think obstructing or delaying traffic for ANY reason out to be peanalised by a good horse whipping.

Polls show that 66% of the people support the bill, and 14% simply Don't Care. Think about that, that means only 20% at most are opposed to this thing. Mostly it's the bleeding heart left, though there are a few philisophical libertarians in the mix.

That brings us to the main point of this little missive:

The Libertarian view on Immigration

Libertarians are generally open boarders sort of folk, if only because they believe that individual rights always, always, trump any perceived rights of groups or states. The standard Libertarian argument back in the 90's was always: We do not have an immigration problem; we have a welfare problem.

Well, in many ways they are right. Lets look at things from an economic standpoint.

People come to this country because of opportunity.

Opportunity is a pretty big brush though.

1 - They come here for the opportunity to work and make a better life for themselves and their families.

2 - They come here for the opportunity to feed at the public trough and abuse our generous welfare system.

3 - They come here for the opportunity to rape, pillage, steal, and murder.

And in fairness, some come here to take advantage of 2 or more of the above.

The Libertarian solution to the second item is to dismantle the welfare state in it's entirety, solving item number two. They are also pretty keen on applying the death penalty to rapists and murderers, preferably at the hand of the intended victim, at the time of the intended crime. And frankly, a lot of us would be happy to extend that, Texas Style, to property crime as well.

That pretty much leaves only the folks in group number one, and frankly most Americans are pretty happy to let hard working folks come here to work and be productive members of the society. Yeah, we'd kind of like you to go through the proper channels and do it legally like everyone else has to, but that's mostly based on this nebusous American idea of fairness than anything else.

Let me explain this in simple terms to my Libertarian friends. Dismantling the welfare state, Ain't going to happen.

And while I'd like to see a lot more criminals dead in the streets, mostly that's not going to happen either.

So how does on pragmatically deal with the issue. I know I used the p-word. We hate being pragmatic, it makes us feel all dirty, as if accomplishing things was more important than the ideas and ideals behind it all.

All right, here is my pragmatic solution:

1) Secure the border.

That means building a real border security fence. If it means calling up the Israelis and asking them nicely for the blueprints to their security "fence", then do it. While you are at it, lets relocate some of our military bombing ranges to the border region as well, nothing there but sand and wasteland anyway. (but put up a fence first, don't want folks wandering in accidentally)


2) increase the number of permanent legal admittees from South America.

Once the border is secured, we can afford to let in a much larger number of legal immigrants from south of the border. Go ahead and raise the quota to a couple hundred thousand a year. That's a drop in the bucket compared to the millions a secure border will stop. Same rules as anyone else who comes here you have to have a sponsor, pass a physical, etc...

3) A large guest worker program similar to the old Bracero program.

See Bracero. 6-9 month unskilled labor visa. They want to pick lettuce for $2 an hour nobody is going to object. Numbers admitted to be adjusted by the current national unemployment rate. If the rate is 5% we let a lot more in, if it's 12 % a lot fewer. Braceros are not eligible for resident benefits.

4) Criminal aliens get deported.

Criminal guest workers are not allowed to renew their guest worker visa for 5 years or more depending on the severity of the crime. Criminal permanent residence get their green cards revoked. Illegal aliens caught as a byproduct of other other criminal activity - deported.

After you did that, there might be a way to talk about normalization of existing illegals, but any solution acceptable by the American people is going to be heavily predicated on number 1.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Housfilk

Small filk, only a couple folks showed up. Still got to hear some good songs I haven't heard in a while.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

QoTD - El Neil Version

It's old, but worth repeating:

If you're not a little bit uncomfortable with your position, it isn't radical enough. How can you be too principled? Take the most extreme position you can -- you're claiming territory you won't have to fight for later, mostly against your "allies". - L. Neil Smith

Content as a Public Good

Milenia Popova has an outstanding poist up on Charlie Stross's site about the difference between Private, Common, Club, and Public goods.

Go read it HERE.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Happy dance - Dancing the Jig

Brewer has signed our constitutional carry bill.
http://www.kold.com/Global/story.asp?S=12326733

That sound you here? it's called FREEDOM.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Let's play guess the nominee

It's not going to be Napolitano.
It's not going to be Hillary.

Both are fairly center-left. yes they are definitely far to the left of the country as a whole, but compared to Obama and his Chicago associates they are far to mainstream.

Obama is going to pick a far-left ideologue. Then he will say with a completely straight face that his pick is mainstream.

I predict it is going to be Wood.

Far left. From Chicago. Currently on the 7th district.

You heard it here first.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Happy dance

One giant step closer to Constitutional Carry:

LINK to AP

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Statism

More freedom is better, regardless of the situation.

You're either a supporter of rights or not. If you believe people really should be required to garner a permission slip to utilize their rights, then you're a Statist.

Period. Dot. End of story.

Statists believe in things like collectivism, government health care, government education, and that people are generally wards of the state - not owning their own lives and choices but "on loan" to the state for the benefit of the universal good.

Statism is EVIL.

Statists don't see people, they see human resources. They don't see individuals, they see members of groups. They don't see human beings, they see interchangeable cogs that can fit into their glorious plans for a Brave new World.

"Quick, we are running low on production, get me 4 tones of steel, 1 ton of copper and 214 laborers. Make certain at least 82 of them are black, our quota's running low. Why do you mean, they want to be treated as people, they're resources."

Monday, April 5, 2010

A shiny new Australia

Scalzi has posted the nominees for this years Hugo ballot, which will be voted on by the membership of AussieCon4. More on that later.

For now, check out the Campbell nominees. WTG Seanan.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Irrigation Day

We got to irrigate for the first time today. I ordered 1 hr, and it was just about perfect.
The dogs had a blast.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Patent law sanity

On Monday a Federal judge threw out a patent on human genes. Yes that's right the US patent office has been allowing folks to actually patent bits of the human genome.

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/03/judge-nullifies-gene-patents/

The law is pretty clear. One can not patent a law of nature, or otherwise patent something you discover in nature.

The patent office should never have granted such a patent in the first place.

A patent for a method of isolating the gene, YES.
For a gene itself, NO.

More discussion over at Volokh.


Now obviously this ruling will be appealed, but I think it will stand, as the SCOTUS has been (at least lately) somewhat skeptical of patenting everything and anything under the sun.

furthermore the patent office should not be granting software patents, because one can not patent a mathematical algorithm either. One may of course copyright the exact code.

Note that this was a narrow ruling, and only applies to genes already found in nature. This does not apply to Monsanto's use of patented organisms like it's "Roundup Ready" crops. Now that is also an abuse of the patent system, but of a different kind. Congress specifically designated a type of patent called a "plant patent" to grant intellectual property rights over plants. That's fine, the problem is that Monsanto was granted a "mechanical patent".

Under a plant patent, one may buy the plant, but may not propagate it via cuttings. (i.e. no cloning). Under Monsanto's mechanical patent, they are claiming that any plant with their gene in it (even if the gene got there via natural fertilization) is their IP. That's a case for a different day.

Monday, March 29, 2010

For the Randian in your life

Gifts for the Ayn Rand lover,

http://www.johngaltgifts.com/index.php

Come on, you know you want a Taggart Transcontinental T-shirt...


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Water Heaters

The Water heater is the new house has issues. I think it's the thermostat, but it's hard to say. It keeps overheating and tripping the reset.

Since it's 10 years old I have decided to simply swap out the whole thing. Our hard water here is death on appliances.

Got a new GE water heater at Home Depot, installed it yesterday. And...

It doesn't work. Top heating element appears to be cracked.

I'm taking it back. *sigh*

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Global what?

It raining. Again. In Phoenix. Rain.

Clearly the Global Warming fanatics are way off base.
Also the Global Cooling advocates are dead wrong.

It's not Global Warming
It's not Global Cooling
It's Global Wettening.

I'm telling you, if humanity does not get it's act together really soon and do something about this, the future is going to look awfully damp.

Please people... Stop Global Wettening before it's too late!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Home repair

My son: Daddy, I hate the invisible fire.
Me: So do I son, so do I.

For the record, I really suck at sweating copper pipes and brass fittings. But the join appears to be holding.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Disingenuous Value

My friend Kyle and I have coined a new phrase: Disingenuous Value.

Disingenuous value occurs when one, intentionally or otherwise, confuses cost with value.

Cost does not equal value.

Cost is what an item, well "costs". Value is what you receive in return.

Cost does not equal value. This is not only implicit in free market theory, it's required. It's the very basis that establishes the definition of a free market, which has nothing whatsoever to do with Capitalism (that's a different subject). Free markets do not require capitalism, any more than they require democracy, republicanism, or even currency.

A free market exchange is one in which two individuals exchange goods such that for each the value received is greater than the cost. The general rule is that it's an uncoerced exchange, but I'm going to state that that is not really a specific requirement, because as long as the value exceeds the cost one would voluntarily make the exchange. Coercion is only required if the cost exceeds the value. If I value your bushel of corn more than my chicken and you value my chicken more than your corn we make a trade, and each has received value greater than the cost.

I use the chicken/corn example because it shows that free markets function independently of the overall political, economic, or even monetary system being used.

Cost does not equal value.

Where things get complicated is when there is a third party involved. Specifically we were discussing this in the context of healthcare, but fundamentally it happens whenever there is a third party exchange going on.

For example, let's say one has employer provided health care. It's easy to say that it costs the company $X. It is disingenuous to say that the company is providing $X value, or providing $x worth of additional compensation. This is Disingenuous Value.

Tell 10 people that it costs the company X to provide their health insurance and give them the option to take X home instead, and 9 out of 10 will take the cash (the other 1 of 10 probably has a chronic condition and is being subsidized by the other 9). In this case, for 9 or the 10 the value is less than the cost.

Cost does not equal value.

The same thing is true of a retirement account. Say your company matches your 401(k) contribution at 100% up to $4000 per year. The cost to the company is again easy to calculate, it's $4000 plus the amortized cost of running the program. Let us call it $4250 a year in cost.

What is the value to the employee? It's certainly not the $4250 the program cost. And we are talking about funds that are in a retirement account with penalties for accessing it, and future money is always worth less than current money (the time value of money) so the actual
value to the average worker is probably closer to $3000. (i.e. $4k minus taxes and penalties).

Note that for someone in a higher tax bracket and close to retirement, the value is actually greater than for the average worker.

When the employer states that it is providing $4000 worth (i.e. value) of compensation in the form of a 401(k) match, that is a disingenuous value.

Value is what it's worth to the buyer. Cost does not equal value.

When a custom homebuilder offers to include a kitchen cabinet upgrade "a 30,000 value" to close the deal, ask him to keep the cabinets and take $30 grand off the price instead. It's not going to happen. That 30k is a disingenuous value. Actually in this case it's simply made up BS on his line card. Switching out oak cabinets for Walnut or Maple probably only cost the builder 8-10K (remember he's saving the cost of the oak, and he does not have to tear out an old kitchen either). On the other hand, when you go to sell your property, the nicer cabinets are only going to add a couple thousand to the resale value, and only if someone actually likes walnut or maple better than oak.

Value is what it's worth to the buyer. Market value is what you can sell it for. Cost does not equal either one.

As for health care...

The reason health care is so expensive is multifold. Much of it is simply because technology costs. In the 1970's I you had cancer it was basically "go home and die." Modern chemo and radiation therapy is so precise that in most cases you won't even lose your hair anymore, although it's still physically exhausting. That kind of technology costs, though we can all agree that it delivers quite a bit of value.

Another big driver is defensive medicine. Lawyers cost money, and they make the entire system more expensive. They do this for everything though, and Tort Reform is a subject for another day.

The third big driver of cost is 3rd party payers.

Simply put, when a 3rd party pays for XYZ, the cost to the 3rd party exceeds the value to the person receiving the good.

Cost does not equal value.

How much are you (yes you personally) willing to pay for that blood test? Your co-pay is $20. So the cost to the receiver is $20 (plus the opportunity cost of going to the doctor instead of doing something more productive, but let's ignore that for now). The cost to the HMO is probably on the order of $250. What is the value? That's hard to quantify, because value is the perceptible return received. It's obviously greater than $20, or you wouldn't have paid the co-pay. It's also obviously less than $250 because other people's money is always worth less than yours.

Further, there is no way to establish a market value either, since to establish a market value thing need to, well, be traded on the open market.

This is why Libertarians and Fiscal conservatives are really keen on Medical Savings accounts coupled with high deductable insurance for catastrophic events. For 95% of one's health care, the payee and the receiver of the good are the same person. A two party exchange.

This drives down costs, and drives up value. And if it has the side effect of making individuals more responsible for themselves, well, that's what we call a bonus.


Next up, is Social Security an example of a) Disingenuous Value, b) a Ponzi Scheme, c) simply evil, or d) some combination of the above?

[You did pick d) right?]