Thursday, August 31, 2006

Rockstar Supernova: Week 9 Eliminations - Still Hangin On

So, my thoughts on yesterday proved relatively accurate here, but for the little teeniegirls:
"Okay, Lukas was definitely the weak sister here; but he wasn't bad, and everybody else was pretty good. I'm having trouble handicapping here, but I'm guessing Lukas, Storm and Dilana. I think Dilana doesnt deserve it, and Ryan should be there not her, but I'm guessing the carryover hate from last week will
put her there."
Well, eveyrone spent some time in the bottom except Magni, which is really no surprise, after all there ARE only six of them left; and of course this indicates that Magni got the most votes by far.

Soooo, it turns out to be Ryan, Storm, and Dilana; and as I said, Ryan deserved to be there, INSTEAD of Dilana, and with Lukas; but the little teeniegirls are keeping Lukas out of the bottom.

I have no idea how Lukas manages to stay alive, except as I keep pointing out the mini-baby girls.

The Reviews:

Lukas Rossi - Supernova, "It's On": Why in the hell are they chosing Lukas to do this song? Anyway... Actually I kind of like how he opens it up, but going into the refrain he chokes off again.. s'okay though, he opens it up for the refrain, and it actually sounds pretty good. Actually this is the best I've heard Lukas so far. This is actually the first time I could thing "Ok, this guy could really be the front man for a band". Of course that band isn't supernova, but it he's certainly got a career after this. Really, this is very good. It's Lukases best performance so far, and his stage presence was great. You could hear his voice going in spots though, from where he chokes it off.

Toby Rand - Billy Idol, "Rebel Yell": Toby gets the encore, to no-ones surprise. Not as intense a start, but I lvoe the wardrobem and he was projecting much better tonight. This guy is going to be a great bandmate no matter where he eneds up. He's got great energy, and he's jsut fun and cool. Maybe a bit too much running all over the theater but he really got the crowd into it, which is great; and it didnt hurt his vocals at all, which is a big deal. If anything it amped his energy up. Tough to top last night, but this was pretty damned great.


The Elimination:

Ryan Star - The Who, "Baba O'Reilly": Tough choice, though he has the dynamic range for it. He's really a great singer and performer, but not for Supernova... Only it's awful. He's choke screaming the whole song, with no range, no sweetness, no airiness, nothing. He screwed up the words a bit, and climbing up on the amp stack like that? It was awful. I though maybe he was high or something. Maybe he jsut knows he's dead and feels like screaming, or maybe he thinks he needs to be "harder" or "edgier" to compete with Toby and the like. I dunno, but whatever it is, it isn't working. He's gone.

Storm Large - The Beatles, "Helter Skelter": Awesome choice, and she does this song in her sets with her band so she should rock it. The opening is a bit rocky, but she picks it up into the refrain and her performance is kickin. Her power is there, but she seems a little tight in her vocal, like maybe her voice isn't quite there. Not quite a stage dive, but she jumps into the crowd. GREAT energy, and great scream. She's rocking it like she would at one of her punk shows, which is probably not the best idea for Supernova, but it does show how much she kicks ass.

Dilana Robichaux - The Talking Heads, "Psycho Killer": As I said, the residual hatred from the week before has put Dilana in the bottom three. Interesting choice of tune. I like the talking heads; and Dilana has such a creepy tone. Cool acapella intro, and an interesting rocked up arrangement of it; taking David Byrnes deadpan and turning it into her own chant/talk/sing. I love the little yodel screams, and the singing to the crowd. Great psychotic look on her face. I just don't think the werid song and arrangement choiuce are endearing her to the band.

Let's face it, against Dilana and Storm, Ryan had no shot; but I think he's going to get a solid solo contract out of this deal.

Now, will we FINALLY get rid of Lukas next week? I mean seriously, it NEEDS to be Lukas Theres two shows left, 5 contestants, and Dilana, Magni, and Storm are so much better than Toby and Lukas (though like I said, I really dig Toby) that they have to know they're the lambs for the slaughter.

Honestly, I'm still mostly sure that Magni is going to win this, but I wouldnt be shocked if Dilana did instead.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

by any other name...

Mel:

Next Sunday our younger child, Shaila, will be turning 3. She's a bright child for her age and she's been behaving pretty well lately despite her primary source of entertainment (i.e. her sister) attending school.

Now Shai is my biological daughter, but not Chris's. Shai doesn't remember much about her biological father (which I am grateful for) but she understands that Chris isn't her "real" father. Her sister Rosie used to have massive Daddy guilt, and so made it perfectly clear to Shai that Chris isn't their "Daddy".

Today Shai disagreed.

Wednesday is poker night where Chris, John, Kommander, and a lot of other friends are off playing free poker at a local pub. The guys meet up at the house beforehand since we only live 1/2 a mile away. Since they were leaving before the girls went to bed, I had the girls say goodbye before I gave them their bath. As the two girls made their rounds to the three men, Shai got to Chris last, and called him something he's been wanting to hear for a long time.

Shai called Chris "Daddy".

Two months ago when I told Shai it was all right to call Chris "Daddy", she disagreed with me, saying that "Chris isn't Daddy, he's stepfahder". The kid definitely has a good grasp of her terms.

So this was completely unexpected, and completely welcome. I was afraid that when other kids came on the scene in another couple of years we'd have a naming crisis, with two kids calling Chris "Chris" and the others calling him "Daddy". That no longer seems to be a problem.

Hopefully Rosie follows suit soon. She's given up on her biological father, but she still feels guilty. Maybe when she sees her sister calling Chris "Daddy" she'll understand what a real Daddy is, and that Chris is it. She certainly didn't correct Shai this afternoon.

But in the meantime, I'm certainly happy to have one child who understands who her real parents are. I'll probably never know why Shai decided it's now okay to call Chris "Daddy" but I'm glad she decided to all the same. After all, that is the sweetest name she could have ever given Chris.

Mel

Just call me Mel, everyone else does. Except for my kids of course.

The State of the World Today

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Rockstar Supernova - She Wants Revenge

Which is a WAY better band than the music they're playing here by the way. This week the rockers are all doing songs that were featured earlier; as picked by the fans of the show. This should show some range and variety for the remaining contestants, or it could completley kill them.

On the home front, Dilana just had a total meltdown after her bitchfest last week; let's see how she deals with it this week.

Oh, and of course the Nirvana of death returns this week; and Lukas does it, most likely sealing his fate.

The Reviews:

Lukas Rossi - Nirvana "Lithium": Is it just me, or is Lukas a deadman here? Interesting piano based arrangement to start off, bare and spare. He's lounging it up a bit, but it doesnt sound too bad. Good scream into the refrain, maybe a bit too much drama, but I think he knows he's in trouble if he doesnt kill it. The vibrato monster is in full force here (as is usual with Lukas), and he's hamming it up way too much. A little too much Jagger and Iggy Pop; though to his credit I saw the comparison immediately. Overall, great performance if a bit too over the top, but the vocals were a little weak. I can't say he's safe from the bottom three, because well, there's only six of them, but he didnt suck.

Magni Asgiersson - Live, "I Alone": Magni plays to HIS strengths, doing another Live tune. He pulls the cover straight up, and that works fine for me. Maybe a bit breathy, but he crushes it into the refrain so it works. I want to see more animation and energy in his performance though. I want to see him headbanging the refrain here or something. Good move going into the audience though and GREAT scream. Good intensity I just want to see some INSANITY from him. Vocals, damn near perfect, but a little less for the performance; though I love his attitude.

Ryan Star - Coldplay, "Clocks": Oooh, a little flat and crackly in the falsetto. I think he CAN do it, but he's maybe not warmed up enough. Great exclamation though. Love the jump on the top of the piano; there's the insanity that was missing from Magni's performance. I think he CAN do this song right, but his vocals are jsut a BIT off. Not a huge amount, but it's noticable. He's a little tiny bit out of time, and a little tiny bit out of key. GREAT performance, I just wish his vocal hadn't suffered for it. That said, he showed he really can be rockstar here.

Storm Large - Evanescence, "Bring Me To Life": Another tough tough song. Storm isn't Amy lee, but she's got some pipes, let's see how she does it. She;s also following Jill and Zayra, who are both worse than Storm, but who both have more vocal range. She starts it off a little lower than I'd like; but Toby matches her voice well, and she blows into the refrain pretty well. I'd like to hear a little more confidence and projection here. She's doing pretty well, but she's not dominating it. Her vocal QUALITY is excellent here, it jsut doesnt have the headroom or dynamic expression she's capable of (never mind what Amy lee can do). She finishes it off really well, and overall the performance was pretty good. Tough song, good job, but I'm betting she ends up in the bottom three.


Toby Rand - Billy Idol, "Rebel Yell": Toby continues his punk party with the classic idol tune. I like Toby actually, especially these last few weeks. He's having great fun, with great energy, and intensity. I don't think he's right for Supernova, but he is a very good singer, and a great rock star. Toby decides to do a much truer cover than lukas did, and he hits the low growl reasonably well; though I wish he had more projection. The transition into the refrain is great, and his energy is excellent, but again he's missing some projection. Also he needs to be running around a bit more. Pulling the chicks on stage though, frikkin brilliant, and that finish was awesome. Just perfect, and THERE'S the projection. AWESOME performance, and probably the encore.

Dilana Robichaux - Tracy Bonham, "Mother Mother": The eerie vocal changes, and transitions into the scream this could be great for her voice; but I think after last week she'll be in the bottom three no matter how good she is. Gutsy choice to play the guitar here, and her voice sounds great. Awesome transition into the scream, and HUGE range transitions. Bad move putting the guitar down gently, but overall a good performance. She does seem a bit nervous maybe, a bit stiff, but she's rocking it. AWESOME finish. Really really great performance, perfect vocals, but I still think she's going into the bottom three.

Okay, Lukas was definitely the weak sister here; but he wasn't bad, and everybody else was pretty good. I'm having trouble handicapping here, but I'm guessing Lukas, Storm and Dilana. I think Dilana doesnt deserve it, and Ryan should be there not her, but I'm guessing the carryover hate from last week will put her there.

As to eliminitation, well the only ones left who arent real contenders are Ryan, Toby, and Lukas. This isn't to say that Ryan and Toby aren't great, they are; but they arent Supernova. I'm guessing Lukas goes this week.

Metal Midnight

The Ace of Spades
-Motorhead

If you like to gamble, I tell you I'm your man,
You win some, lose some, all the same to me,
The pleasure is to play, makes no difference what you say,
I don't share your greed, the only card I need is
The Ace Of Spades

Playing for the high one, dancing with the devil,
Going with the flow, it's all the same to me,
Seven or Eleven, snake eyes watching you,
Double up or quit, double stake or split,
The Ace Of Spades

You know I'm born to lose, and gambling's for fools,
But that's the way I like it baby,
I don't wanna live for ever,
And don't forget the joker!

Pushing up the ante, I know you wanna see me,
Read 'em and weep, the dead man's hand again,
I see it in your eyes, take one look and die,
The only thing you see, you know it's gonna be,
The Ace Of Spades

Raining Blood
-Slayer

Trapped in purgatory
A lifeless object, alive
Awaiting reprisal
Death will be their acquisition

The sky is turning red
Return to power draws near
Fall into me, the skys crimson tears
Abolish the rules made of stone

Pierced from below, souls of my treacherous past
Betrayed by many, now ornaments dripping above

Awaiting the hour of reprisal
Your time slips away

Raining blood
From a lacerated sky
Bleeding its horror
Creating my structure
Now I shall reign in blood!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Announcements, ideas, and occupations

Mel:

For all of you that have noticed the rather intermittent nature of our posts lately, this has been due to a lot of things. First off, Chris has actually been doing actual work at his job and has been busy with various projects. The start of school and a week long cold have me pretty well occupied, and I'm playing catch up. And lastly, I am knee deep (and Chris ankle or so deep) into a new project that started last week and is rapidly growing to mammoth proportions.

It all started when I noticed the lack of firearm information for women online. I googled terms like "firearms for women", "guns for women", etc and all I got back was Women and Guns magazine and a long list of articles. There is something extremely wrong with this. Where is all the information for women just starting out, who want to learn about firearms but for whatever reason do not have people around them to turn to?

Now why would I be worried about such a thing? I am surrounded by gun nuts, have a gun nut husband, and have tons of resources at my fingertips. But I remember when I didn't, a time when I wasn't sure how to BE a single mother, how to protect my kids and myself. I remember not having anyone to turn to, and how I was desperate for any information I could get my hands on. I worry about women who don't have someone to turn to, who must turn to the internet for this kind of information. I decided that one way or another, I would make sure the information was easily found, centralized, and easy to understand by women who spent all of their lives being afraid.

At first I just wanted a section of the blog, like the Recipes for Real Men, to put posts pertaining to women just learning about shooting. Then I decided another site might be better suited. And maybe some information about knives and other forms of self defense. And resources. And dealing with the effects of abuse. And independence and emergency preparedness....

This project has gone way beyond the idea of a section of the blog dedicated to women. We've realized at this point that this will be a major undertaking, and what started as 5 posts is going to become a huge website.

At this moment I have a list of at least 40 articles needed for the new site, and we won't post anything there until we have enough content.

Why do I say we? Because Chris has been behind me ever since I asked for just a section of the blog, then some technical help, then some ideas... at this moment he's buying the domain we decided on and setting up my hosting account. He's a part of this as well, and while it's my undertaking he will be helping out in areas I am not so skilled at. This of course doesn't mean that we won't be maintaining the other sites or that he won't be moderating like usual, but we will have yet another distraction. However we will be cross-posting between the two sites, and it is entirely possible that we'll end up with more gun content on this blog by undertaking another site. We hope to have the site up and operational before Christmas and it's going to be close to a full time occupation for me. I will be posting some of the articles on the blog before the site goes up, so when it does I'm not posting 20 articles all at once.

Now everyone we have put this idea past (including some female shooters and a VERY outspoken gun shop owner) have loved the idea of a website dedicated to women and self defense. I know the support is there, and I know it is needed. We'll soon find out if the interest is there, and if the women who need it most can find us.

That is, after all, the point. We need to be there for the women who don't have anyone to turn to. Not everyone is surrounded by a Chris, John, and Kommander, but maybe we can make it so everyone has access to the information, despite their lack of gun nuts for husbands.

Mel

Just call me Mel, everyone else does.

the 11th commandment

speaks for itself

Obsolete? No I don't think so...

So, a few months back, I wrote some posts on the selection of small arms:

The Right Weapon for the Job


Getting Down to Specifics

In comments the original posts, some folks took exception to my support of the Sub-Machine Gun (SMG); instead of the current general issue of the M4 assault carbine (it is definitely not a full assault rifle, with barrels from 10.5" to 14.5"). Recently, these same objections have been raised agian in a different context.

The objection of these folks, is that the assault rifle does everything the SMG does, only better; and therefore the SMG is obsolete.

Respectfully, I disagree.

I believe this premise stems from a mis-understanding of the proper role of the SMG, the assault rifle; and the transitional weapon between them, the assault carbine.

I think there is a very clear transitional element to subguns, that can be seen when the effective combat envelope of various personal arms are broken down by effective range:

Pistol 0-25m - 10m point blank
Shotgun 0-25m - 10m point blank
SMG 0-100m - 50m point blank
Assault rifle - 25-300m - 100m point blank
Battle rifle - 50-800m -300m point blank

Given this breakdown, it is clear that the SMG sits as a step up between pistols, and full rifles. Now the curveball comes when you add in the assault carbine (such as the M4) which has a rifle chambering, but SMG barrel length.

Assault Carbine 0-200m - 50-100m point blank

(please note that I use point blank in the tactical sense here; as the maximum range at which given the worst normal conditions aimed fire will produce a lethal zone hit, without sight adjustment or compensating fexcessively for bullet drop etc...or

The assault carbine is an attempt to compromise between an assault rifle and an SMG. It does long range a bit better than an SMG, short range a bit worse, and it can’t reach out to the full rifles range. The advantage of course is that you do get some extra range, and that the operating system, parts, and ammunition are all interchangeable with the assault rifle.

The assault carbine CAN replace the role of the SMG (which I cover in my posts), but I personally believe the SMG does a better job of it in many circumstances.

I’ve used both, and I believe the Assault Carbine overall, is an inadeqaute compromise. It isn’t well suited for the longer range it has over the SMG, and it isn’t as small, handy, or easily controllable in the shorter ranged environment.

I believe that the vast majority of combat troops would be better served with a full assault rifle; while those that don't need the assault rifle, also don’t need the assault carbine (at least not over and above what the SMG can do).

This is highlighted when you look at dimensions. The SMG is much shorter and usually lighter than even the assault carbine (the m4 with the 14.5” barrel, and collapsed stock is 29.5”, and weighs over 7lbs unloaded with no accessories. The 8.5” barreled mp5 is 27” with the stock EXTENDED, and it weighs 5lbs) vs. the actual assault rifle.

If I had a mission that involved close quarters battle, with ranges expected in the 0-50m realm, and not to exceed 100m, I would unhesitatingly take and MP5-10 (the 10mm version of the MP5) or a UMP in .45 super, over an M4 (the standard 9mm is still good, but I'd rather have the extra power if available). If I had a high probability of ranges over 100m, I would almost certainly pick a full assault rifle rather than an assault carbine. The only real area where the assault carbine fits, is in that 50-100m overlap.

If my primary mission was in a commo center somewhere, or sitting in the back of a van; I would certainly want more than my sidearm; but dealing with a full sized rifle, or even an assault carbine, would be difficult. I’d be much more like to have an MP5K with me at all times, than an M4; and the SMG is going to be far more effective than jsut a pistol.

Also, the SMG is well suited to police work; giving officers more power, range, and precision than their pistols, without the difficulty in handling in and out of a car and in tight urban space of a carbine or shotgun (and with less overpentration risk, though vs 5.56 it's a tossup)

Additionally, and very important to many operational functions (especially special operations), an SMG is very easily suppressed. Subsonic intermediate rifle cartirdges are very much not easy to suppress. THose loads that are subsonic, generally perform so poorly as to be irrelant, and many wont function proplery with a weapon in field conditions. Even if a reliable round can be found, the cans required for effective suppression with these marignally effective loads are large and unwieldy.

All of this of course presumes you have an SMG that is as accurate at 100m as your assault rifle is at 300m; that is controllable in 3shot burst mode; and that you chamber it appropriately. The MP5 is the canonical example of this.

Personally I’m a fan of 10mm and .45 super for SMGs, in both cases because you have a powerful base round, with good subsonic download options; but even with base 9mm, you get a lot more out of the 8.5-12.5 SMG barrels, than you do from a 4-5" pistol; and of course you have the burst option.

All this says to me the SMG is by no means obsolete. Though I concede that the assault carbine can do MUCH of the SMGs work; it is not ideally suited to the task, nor is it adequate as a full assault rifle.

Now, I do understand the current situation with the near wholesale adoption of the M4 assault carbine as a general issue weapon for the U.S. army means that they are training everyone on the same ballistics ergonomics, manual of arms etc... as the full M16 rifle; and these are defintely large advantages in logistics and training.

The thing is, I believe this is a mistake; at least with the current chambering and barrel length of the M4.

As it is, the M4 is still too long to be better than an SMG for room to room; the extreme lightening of the front end of the rifle makes it even more difficult to control in full auto; it makes even more noise and flash; and in barrel lengths under 18", and especially under 16" (the issue M4 today has a 14.5" barrel), the ballistics of the 5.56 round are severely compromised, effectively limiting the maximum effective range under many circumstances to 100m or so.

Within this 100m envelope, a shorter, lighter, faster handling, and easier to control SMG, with a relatively long barrel for a pistol round (10.5" say), good iron sights, a good optical sight, a decent stock; and in a chambering which can use that whole barrel length; can be as or more effective than the 5.56 weapon, and still be better to use house to house (especially suppressed).

Again, I reference the MP5, especially the -10 variant in 10mm, and the UMP in .45 super (though H&K lists it as a .45acp; it is actually rated for .45 super. I have fired them with the super ammo, and they handle it very well) as strong candidates here.

Even the ergonomic and logistic questions can be addressed. The entire HK lineup share similar feel, ergonomics, operating system, and manual of arms; from the USP pistol, all the way up to the G3 rifle, and it's LMG variants. There is even a significant degree of parts interchangeability in some cases.

So, the SMG is definitely not dead, nor is it obsolete, so long as one understands its proper roles; as the personal weapon for those whoi wokr in tight spaces; in clearing buildings and tight spaces; and in special operations.

Oh, and they're just pretty fun to make brass with too.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Glucosamine and Chondroitin

So does this crap actually work?

I picked up a big bulk bottle on sale at Costco a few weeks ago, and I've been taking a couple of these huge, uncoated horsepills every day.

Now, it SEEMS that they are helping a bit with my joint pain. Of course that may be a placebo, or it may jsut be natural variation in pain levels etc...

Studies are inconclusive, some saying it helps those with severe pain, but not much on light to moderate pain (I'm in the moderate to severe category. I really should be on perscriptions, but I don't want to bother with them, or pay ridiculous costs for minimal relief).

Additionally, does it actually help strengthen the damged joints any?

My physical therpaist a few years ago was a huge supporter, and he was the PT for a couple of professional sports temas, but that still doesnt meean it works...

Just one of those days

Actually it started out fine. It was a good, relatively quiet day at work; and then we got to drop the kids off at Grandmas for the first time in a month.

Mel and I have been SERIOUSLY looking forward to this weekend. We desperately need some alone time here.

Anyway, we drove together to grandmas 80-some miles away, dropped the kids off uneventfully, but I started feeling a little twinge in my back.

No particular reason why I can discern, I didn't lift anything heavy, 'cept the girls...

Anyway, we had to a new restaurant on the way home from Grandmas (pretty good food, and decent live music, for a reasonable price), and the twinge is getting worse. By the time we actually finish dinner, I'm getting some genuine pain; but not enough to slow me down too much.

We were going to hit the movies on the way home, but by the time we got into the neighborhood of the theater (about 25 minutes from the restaurant) my back is in full blown spasm mode. It fells like I pulled my right latissimus and trapezius. I have no idea how I might have pulled them, but they are both definitely swollen and stiff.

Now I dunno if you've ever pulled those particular muscles in your back; but every time you move, every time you breathe, everything you do, it involves those two muscles.

Now, I'm pretty good at ignoring ad controlling pain, but in order for that to work, the pain has to be relatively steady. A sharp stabbing in the middle of the back every time you breathe too deep, or move slightly wrong does not qualify.

If it werent for the wonder of Naproxen Sodium (I go through a 220mg 400ct. bulk bottle every two weeks to a month. I take them 1-2 grams at a time. Basically I take 8-10 when I wake up, and that lets me actually get up and walk around without screaming ) I would pretty much be whimpering right now.

The GOOD news, is that it doesnt feel like a bad pull or a sprain, so if I can manage to sleep tonight, and not aggravate my back (something of a feat), then I should be OK for "us time" tomorrow.

Let me jsut say "OOOOOOOWWWWWW"

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Rockster Supernova: Week 8 Eliminations - Turn of the Screw

Damn, Nirvana really is the kiss of death here; and Dilana really lets her bitch out which is fun.

So yesterday I said:
"So far Lukas, Toby, Storm, and Dilana have managed to stay out of the bottom three, but obviously that can't be the case tonight. Based solely on performance, Patrice is a lock for the bottom three, and I'm almost certain she's the one eliminated this week... As to the other though... I just don't know. I thought Lukas was mediocre here, but not too bad, and the chicklets like him. Tobys singing wasn't great, and the arrangement was weird, but his performance was really cool...

If I have to be nailed down, I'd say Patrice, Toby, and Lukas (and the first two are bottom three before the close of the show). Tough one really, but I AM sure that Patrice will be eliminated this week."
Patrice, Storm, and Toby were Bottom three by the end of the show, then Magni get in in the overnight? WTF?

Well now, Patrice and Toby I can see, but.. but... well read the eliminations.

For some reason no encore here, instead they did a "press box" segment, which was... interesting. Again, Dilana gets her bitch on. I don't think that's a bad thing, she's just being competitive, and real. The audience doesn't much care for it though.

The Review
:

Toby Rand - Supernova, "Be Yourself (and five other cliches)": I kinda like Toby here. His performance is cool, and the vocals match the tone of the song really well... though I think a little darker and lower might be better. Cool tune actually, but again it's a little post alternative. This is the first time I think the talk singing has really worked for anyone in this competition. It's got a nice punk edge here. I dunno, I think Toby is doing a good job, but I feel like I could be listening to The Killers or Franz Ferdinand, or Modest Mouse, or... anybody but three former members of Metallica, Guns'n'Roses and Motley Crue. Of course maybe that's what they were going for.

The Eliminations
:

Magni Asgiersson - Jimi Hendrix, "Fire": Anybody thing he should actually be here? Kick ass song choice, takes some BALLS to cover Hendrix, especially with a guitar, though he's probably jsut going to toss it (note, he didnt). Great energy, cool vocals, good performance great way to play the crowd. Great fun. Again, he shouldn't be here. Oh and he DOESN'T let the guitar glue him in place. Kicked ass all thw aay around.

Patrice Pike - The Pretenders, "Middle of the Road": Gee, I'm so shocked, really I am. Alright, I'm sure she knows she's gone here. She picks a song that very well suited for her voice; in fact Chrissy Hyndes singing style works well for her in general. The fact is though, she's gone, she knows it, everyone knows it. So she rocks it up a bit in the arrangement. A little more chunge. The fact is her voice jsut disappears behind the band. Not a bad performance as it goes, decent energy, but maybe a little stiff at first, as usual. Also she's flat a lot here, and theres very little expression, or range. In Mels words "She's never making these songs her own, it's always just a bad cover with her"... yeah pretty much. Of course going against who she's up against, she had no shot anyway.

Toby Rand - Stone Temple Pilots, "Plush": Great tune, much like the other STP performances so far I think it's pitched too low for his voice, but that with the right arrangment he can rock it. So he decides rather than try to re-arrange the song higher, he's gonna take his vocals down to it. Good choice, and though he doesnt quite pull it off, his performance is great. Lots of fun and energy, and he clearly loves the tune.

And Patrice of course, is eliminated. There really was no other choice here.

Much like last week, Magni didn't belong here and everyone knows it; and Patrice has been over her head for weeks. What I'm amazed about though is how Lukas hasn't been in the bottom three yet.

Look he's the worst of who's left by far... the only thing I can think is the little teenie girls are texting for him 10,000 times each because he's soooooo "sensitive". I mean jesus he was almsost crying into his smeared emerald and teal glitter eyeshadow up on stage tonight with Dilana raggin on him.

So there three weeks left, which means two more elimination shows before the final three show, which means either next week, or the week after, they are going to do a double elimination show.

The way I see this, I can't think of anyone in the final three except Magni, Dilana, and Storm.

Ryan has rehabilitated himself in my eyes, but he never had any chance of winning this one.

Lukas... well you all know what I think about Lukas.

Toby is pretty damn good, but he's jsut not as good as Magni, Dilana, or Storm.

All three of the above are experienced pros, all three of them could do the job. Seriously, I think Dilana and Storm both REALLY kick ass, but Magni is just plain better.

Don't Download This Song


FLIPPIN BRILLIANT!
"Don't Download this Song"
Weird Al Yankovic

Once in a while maybe you will feel the urge
To break international copyright law
By downloading mp3s from file-sharing sites
Like Morpheus or Grokster or Limewire or KaZaA
But deep in your heart you know the guilt would drive you mad
And the shame would leave a permanent scar
'Cause you start out stealing songs, and then you're robbing liquor stores
And selling crack and running over school kids with your car

So don't download this song
The record store's where you belong
Go and buy the CD like you know that you should
Oh, don't download this song

Oh, you don't wanna mess with the RIAA
They'll sue you if you burn that CD-R
It doesn't matter if you're a grandma or a 7-year-old girl
They'll treat you like the evil, hard-bitten criminal scum you are

So don't download this song
Don't go pirating music all day long
Go and buy the CD like you know that you should
Oh, don't download this song

Don't take away money from artists just like me
How else can I afford another solid gold Humvee?
And diamond-studded swimming pools, these things don't grow on trees
So all I ask is, everybody, please...

Don't download this song
Even Lars Ulrich knows it's wrong
Go and buy the CD like you know that you should
Oh, don't download this song...
Don't download this song
Or you might wind up in jail like Tommy Chong
Go and buy the CD like you know that you should
Oh, don't download this song...
Don't download this song
Or you'll burn in Hell before too long
Go and buy the CD like you know that you should
Oh, don't download this song

Rockstar Supernova - Original Sins

First things first, they're fighting for two original tunes this time around; and I'm interested in seeing how this works out.

Toby is a bastard, but he's a funny bastard, making Dilana run around naked.

Oh and Nirvana returns. Dear God Why?

The Reviews:

Patrice Pike - Original, "Beautiful Thing": Much better fashion choice this week. The song itself is kinda 80s cool, but I don't much like the sound of her voice in it, which considering she wrote it I'm not so happy with. She's REALLY nervous, and the guitar is gluing her in place. She's also a little flat and lacking in energy and expressiveness in spots. Out of breath almost. Finally near the end of the song she gets comfortable and relaxes into it. She's not bad here, but she's just not that great. I'm thinking bottom three again.

Magni Asgiersson - Nirvana, "Smells Like Teen Spirit": Why, oh why pick this song? Nirvana has been the kiss of death to all these rockers whenever they've tried it. Even when they've survived, their nirvana covers have mostly sucked hard. I dunno, maybe Magni is jsut trying to show he can do things the others can't. He chooses to go for a straightup cover here, I'm not sure that's the smartest move, BUT, he's got the raw balls out rock for it; and he's working the crowd well. Man that boy can scream and shout. Not quite enough breathy whine in the verse, but hey, he aint Kurt (and he aint dead either). Great energy, great intensity, and he's smirking. You can see him just thinking "Yeah, I can do this, and the rest of you can't".

Ryan Star - Original, "Back of Your Car": Make or break here. This is his perfect chance to shine, or to kill himself. He starts it off hard and intense. The song is great for him. Sonuds very much late 90s power college rock. Bush could have done this, or the GooGoo dolls, or matchbox 20; or it could have been updated for Franz Ferdinand or really any other modern alternative band. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, it's professional and polished, and kinda cool. Great energy, great intensity, great emotion. It's a decent song overall, and he really rocked the performance hard. Throwing the guitar off jsut after Tommy told Magni he shoudl have done it.. I dunno kinda off putting really, but it actually FIT with the tune. I'm guessing he gets the encore here.

Storm Large - Aerosmith, "Cryin": Tough song man. Steven Tyler is a rock god, and you can't even hope to do what he does; so you HAVE to make it your own. If she doesnt nail this, I wouldnt be surprised to see her first bottom three here. Okay now, she looks HOT. Great look, great wardrobe choice. She opens the song as much smoother, more soul and less growl than Aerosmith, and she carrys that style into the refrain. All power and smoothness and soul here. Great way to work the cord. Then she grunges it up in the bridge, though maybe a bit too much drama. Just GREAT POWER... oooh a little flat on the reprise, and she kind of loses her breath near the end. Overall though, great performance. The only thing is, I was hoping for a spectacular finish and she jsut kind let it go. I think it was her prior wildness that raise my expectations so high, and it's hurting her now, but hey she still kicks ass.

Dilana Robichaux - The Police, "Every Breath You Take":One of the crepiest songs ever written, but of course people ignore that and play it as a love song. Dilana is both creepy and sexy so it's perfect for her. Actually you could almost say Dilana has the female version of Stings voice, only better. Wild and crazy fashion choises here, I found the fake lashes distracting. Oh and those boots lifted straight from Siouxie Sioux were cool. She goes for a pretty straightforward cover, and she executes it well. She brings some nice power and energy into the refrain then smoothes back into the sweet, and liked it. Repeating her name over and over again was ehh, no; but other than that not bad. Her performance was maybe a bit mild but still very cool.

Toby Rand - Eric Clapton, "Layla": I dunno, taking Layla and making it into an alternative rock song... ballsy, but I dont know... Bad choice on the fashion here, rocking the emo hoodie. Though I suppose since he did the song almsot like the Killers would've done it... Oh and now we see why the hoodie, as he strips down bare chested and punks it up. Very cool. Great energy and a very good intense performance.

Lukas Rossi - The Killers "All These Things That I've Done": Don't care for the song, but the killers are natural territory for Lukas... The pressure is really on him here; he knows that he's been on the edge of the bottom a lot; he knows the band doesn't really dig his style; he's been nervous the last few weeks.. though last week was pretty good. He COULD be more emo here, but it would involve actually crying into his journal of bad poetry onstage (oh comeon you know he's got one). He does a fairly straight cover of the tune, but with his growly gravelly style coming up. Decent energy, but maybe a little quiet. Almost losing his voice in a couple of spots. I'm not impressed by his performance here, staring at the band, and vamping it up to the chicks. I don't think the band is impressed either. I'm guessing he's in the bottom three here for the first time.

So far Lukas, Toby, Storm, and Dilana have managed to stay out of the bottom three, but obviously that can't be the case tonight. Based solely on performance, Patrice is a lock for the bottom three, and I'm almost certain she's the one eliminated this week... As to the other though... I jsut don't know. I thought Lukas was mediocre here, but not too bad, and the chicklets like him. Tobys singing wasn't great, and the arrangement was weird, but his performance was really cool...

If I have to be nailed down, I'd say Patrice, Toby, and Lukas (and the first two are bottom three before the close of the show). Tough one really, but I AM sure that Patrice will be eliminated this week.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A painful object lesson

So after dinner, my oldest daughter comes running in the house crying, because the dog bit her.

Now, our dog is incredibly well behaved, and patient. He is very good around the kids, and he doesnt just snap for no reason. She had caught the edge of a nip, but because of her tender little hand she got a painful bite out of it, with two reasonable punctures.

I bandaged her up, and hugged her til she stopped crying; then I asked her why the dog bit her. Of course she didn't want to tell me, she just said "I don't know, I was trying to brush him and he just bit me".

Of course I know this isn't true, so I keep going. "Did the dog growl at you or try to get away from you before he bit you"... "yeah I guess". So I asked her sister "Yeah the dog growled and snapped at her" (she's three, but a smart little kid). I ask "did the dog snap at you and try to get away" ... "uh huh".

So I go out and see the dog, and he's gnawing on one of his bones; looks like he's been at it for a while. I'd say I know what happened.

See, the dog is very well behaved, but he has one issue: he's very food and mouth agressive. Clearly my daughter tried to force Mac to play with her, and Mac wasn't interested so she kept pushing him.

I asked her "Did you try to take the dogs bone away from him?"... "nuuuhh no"... "Tell the truth honey" ..."I just wanted to brush his hair".

She tried to take the dogs bone away from him, and he snapped at her, she did it again, and he snapped again, but this time her hand got caught.

She knew what she was doing, and she got caught at it, and now she has two little holes in her hand for the next few weeks as a painful object lesson.

In the immortal words of comedians everywhere "Well, she won't do THAT again".

Testing Writely

This is a test of the writely web based word processing system.

This is a system, hosted by google, which allows for the creation, editing, and sharing of word processing documents online, remotely. It can export to html, rtf, pdf, rss, plain text, or word doc formats.

It also includes publishing features, like posting your documents to your blog, or to wen sties etc... and collaborative work within groups.




Unfortunately, the inline images feature doesnt seem to work yet, but wysiwyg text seems to be working out well.

Monday, August 21, 2006

where are all the pretty guns?

Mel:

So the past month or so whenever I've had a spare minute I've been doing some research for two upcoming posts. I've been wanting to get my concealed carry permit for months now, and soon we will be able to afford the permit and all that goes with it. I've been researching what firearms I'd like to try out and how I'd most like to carry those firearms, and those posts will come later. But while I've been researching how best to use my permit, I've noticed something lacking:

Where are all the pretty guns?

I understand 90% of the repeat buyer gun market is male, and the manufacturers must cater to that repeat market. I understand that men favor function over form, and god help them they think stocky black semi-automatics are pretty. They fit perfectly into male fashion; straight, neutral colors, wood accents for those who replace their stock grips. Gorgeous metal, simple, and clean. Even the more rounded revolvers follow this formula.

I definitely appreciate the function of these handguns, and I will admit that they are appealing, just like a man's dress watch can be a gorgeous marriage between form and function.

That doesn't mean I'm going to buy myself one.

Now to be fair, I have a SP101 with custom rosewood grips. I love it, it's gorgeous, but it's so very male. It has gorgeous smooth lines, is a joy to operate, but it's still the equivalent of a very pretty man's watch.

Here's the problem; men see watches as a tool that can also be an attractive accessory. Women see watches as an accessory first, just a more useful accessory.

Firearms work the same way. Men see firearms as a tool that can also be pretty; women don't see many pretty firearms so they also treat them as tools, since they aren't acceptable accessories. Since women, unlike men, don't see much use in buying more than one of the same tool, they often limit themselves to one carry firearm whereas men will keep collecting.

So why aren't firearms acceptable accessories? For one thing, there are so few ways to personalize them. Revolvers aren't as bad; revolvers start out rounded and more feminine to begin with. Unfortunately even the revolvers marketed to women (like LadySmith) come with so few personalization options. Yes, the grips can be replaced with something other than black rubber, but the options are limited nonetheless. LadyDerringer has more options of course, but for a carry gun I'd frankly like to be able to go more than two shots without reloading. The classic Mozambique drill doesn't work well if you don't get past the chest. So the options for personalized firearms for women are akin to walking into a jewelry store and seeing a sea of rings, all solitaires all in different colors. Yes, they're in different colors, but they're still all the same. That may not bother men, but women find these limitations frustrating.

So last night while looking through Collectors Firearms I found this little gem:











It's like a fine piece of antique jewelry, and like a fine piece of antique jewelry it carries a hefty price tag of $3250. But it's everything a woman could want in a firearm: curves, gorgeous grips, and engraving. Yes, this one happens to have EXTREMELY custom engraving, but it is gorgeous nonetheless.

So here's my problem: why can't you find these feminine options today? Yes, I've seen the infamous bright pink grips. But bright pink grips won't make a revolver, or especially a semi-automatic, any more feminine.

I love revolvers, and revolvers aren't nearly as overtly masculine and utilitarian as the semis. But when it comes to a carry gun, I honestly want a semi-automatic, both for the extra rounds and the ease of reloading. I love Mighty Mouse, which in all likelihood will be given to me when Chris acquires Mighty Rat, but it's just so utilitarian. It is a very concealable, very usable firearm and given the right ammo I have natural aim accuracy. But it's so very ugly and unremarkable that it doesn't even qualify as a man's dress watch.

If I had my way, and I unfortunately don't here, there would be a concealable revolver of useful caliber (NOT .22) with a 7+ round capacity that could be reloaded as easily as a semi-automatic and not require such a high amount of pressure for double action. In other words, I'd love to have a semi with the curves of a revolver. Unfortunately due to physics and design issues, such a firearm doesn't exist.

However, I WOULD settle for a compact 1911 or similar that was something other than metal, rubber, and the occasional wood grip panels. If I could find a 1911 with gorgeous engraving and actual personalized grips that fit my rather small hands for under $1500 I would buy that semi without even thinking twice. Unfortunately such options are few and far between and engraving tends more towards game scenes.

So here is my challenge to all firearm manufacturers: design and produce a firearm with:
  • more curves than the 1911
  • more rounds and faster reloads than your average revolver
  • a frame size suitable for small hands
  • a caliber (or many) useful for self defense
  • semi-automatic loading, or less pressure for double action (liability concerns addressed of course)
  • tons of ways to personalize
  • and less than $1500
If you can design such a firearm I can guarantee you that you will find that your repeat buyer market will include much larger numbers of women. Make several styles, and women who think nothing of paying $200 each for 5+ handbags or pairs of shoes will suddenly think nothing of paying $1000 more for another firearm.

In other words, make firearms for women pretty enough to be accessories and women will treat them like accessories, instead of just a tool. Women will buy more, even without the prodding of their husbands, and you as a result will make more money. And, as a bonus, you will be arming the other half of the population. (note from Chris: Said guns would also be less intimidating or off putting to women who thing "guns are scary black evil things").

I personally think there would be nothing more satisfying than ridding the world of another goblin, exept seeing the look on their face when they are taken down with a .45 with pearlized pink grips and rose scrollwork.

Just a thought.

Mel

Just call me Mel, everyone else does.

From Rodger

A Minor Rant on EMail Etiquette

A colleague just wrote me "I notice you always use plain text. Is this for asthetic reasons, or is there a technical reason?"

It's a good question, and one of my pet peeves; especially in a corporate environment.

Actually there is a very good technical reason. If your recipient uses any mail client other than Outlook (or notes if you're composing in Notes, which is actually worse), non-plain text formatting will not look right; and may in fact completely screw up your email.

Lots of people use text coloration or special fonts in email to denote divisions, or add notes etc... But if anyone reads those things on anything other than the program you wrote the email with, they aren't going to know what's going on.

Yes many clients support RTF or HTML email, but they all render it slightl differently; especially on Mac and UNIX systems.

The worst part is when peope cut and paste tables from word docs into emails. If you read them in anything other than outlook it completely hoses the message, and can make it entirely unreadable.

Also, many spam, virus, and active content filters will actually BLOCK emails which contain lots of formatting, html, embedded objects etc... Stationary is one of the biggest offenders here; it gets blocked by a ton of spam filters. The reason for this, is because active content can be embedded in heavily formatted emails which can infect systems with viruses etc... and because hevily formatted emails happen to look a lot like spam, which is often web pages sent as email.

Email is not a multi-media communications format. Email is actually an RFC standard, so it can be read by any program, on any computer, in any country. Email should not use special fonts, or have embedded html, scripts, graphics etc... It is supposed to be plain text, with attachments. If it isn't you're breaking other peoples systems because you want some whizbang, and that's just kinda clueless and rude.

Unfortunately, Microsoft has never cared much about breaking everyone elses systems; and if MS allows people to do it, they will do it. Since the vast majority of people think all email is whatever MS tells them it is, they go about with stationary and funky fonts, not knowing any better.

I have a personal policy. I read all email in plain text, and if the email is unreadable in plain text, I delete it. Oh and don't send me anything important or confidential unencrypted please; but that's another rant for a later time.

God I Love Lileks

"I’m not going to defend McCarthy, because he was a brute and boor and a butter-eating drunk who set back the anti-Communist cause four decades. To say that he was sorta right, in the sense that there were Commies about, is like saying that J. Robert Oppenheimer had a salutory effect on Japanese urban renewal"


Read the whole thing...

to the Democrats

to the media: just let go of it already

Friday, August 18, 2006

Songs that make you cry

Here's a (relatively) new one. Right about that first chorus I start chokin up.

On November 8th 1965, the 173rd airborne brigade on "Operation Hump", war zone "D" in Viet Nam; were ambushed by over 1200 VC. 48 American soldiers lost their lives that day. Severely wounded, and risking his own life; Lawrence Joel, a Medic; was the first living black man since the Spanish American war, to recieve the Medal of Honor; for saving so many lives in the midst of battle that day.

Caught in the action of kill or be killed, greater love hath no man, than to lay down his life for his brothers.
Big and Rich - "The 8th of November"

Said goodbye to his momma, as he left South Dakota
To fight for the red, white and blue

He was 19 and green, with a new M-16
Just doing what he had to do

He was dropped in the jungle, where the choppers would rumble
With the smell of napalm in the air

And the sergeant said...
look up ahead

Like a dark evil cloud, 1,200 came down
On him and 29 more

They fought for their lives, but most of them died
In the 173rd Airborne

On the 8th of November, the angels were crying,
as they carried his brothers away

With the fire raining down, and the hell all around,
there were few men left standing that day

Saw the eagle fly
through a clear blue sky
1965
the 8th of November

Now he's 58, and his pony tail's gray
But the battle still plays in his head

He limps when he walks, but he's strong when he talks
'bout the Shrapnel they left in his leg

He puts on a gray suit, over his Airborne tattoo
And he ties it on one time a year

And remembers the fallen, as he orders a tall one
And swallows it down with his tears

On the 8th of November, the angels were crying,
as they carried his brothers away

With the fire raining down, and the hell all around,
there were few men left standing that day

Saw the eagle fly
through a clear blue sky
1965
the 8th of November

Saw the eagle fly
through a clear blue sky
1965...

On the 8th of November, the angels were crying
As they carried his brothers away

With the fire raining down, and the hell all around
There were few men left standing that day

On the 8th of November, the angels were crying,
as they carried his brothers away

With the fire raining down, and the hell all around,
there were few men left standing that day

Saw the eagle fly, through a clear blue sky

1965

the 8th of November

Said goodbye to his momma as he left South Dakota
TO fight for the red, white and blue
He was nineteen and green with a new M-16
Just doing what he had to do
For the veterans of Operation Hump, Lawrence Joel, and Niles Harris.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Vote "None of the Above"

Ever seen Brewsters Millions?


Rockstar Supernova: Week 7 elimination - First Time, Last Time

This was a total WTF night man. Toby gets the encore, Magni in the bottom three, and Ryan gets the encore?

I did kinda like that they've introduced the original song per week thing. Also, I thought Ryans encore was better than his performance yesterday. He just sounded better, and it "felt" better; more relaxed, more natural, but not missing intesity (I think yesterday WAS more intense, but it was a higher pressure situation as well).

The bottom dwellers included Zayra, Patrice, Toby, Magni, and Storm? I mean seriously? What the hell? The band are just as confused as I am. I mean the only one who I really think belonged there was Patrice. Zayra is flat out a better singer than Patrice, though they both need to go.

The Review:

Dilana Robicheaux - Supernova, "Leave the Lights On": Original tune, pretty damn cool; nice hard rock. Dilana has a good voice for this one, though honestly I'd rather have heard Storm or Magni do it, but Dilana is just as good a choice, and the band made the point of proving that a woman COULD win this thing. Love the wardrobe by the way, though that hair... I dunno. Too Wendy O. Williams for me. The song itself, is straightahead rock, and Dilana delivers it straight up. Classic arena. Maybe a little more energy in the performance but it was pretty good. Dilana sang it really well, though it wasnt a challenging tune. Oh and I personally thought this was the first time Dilana looked sexier than she did creepy.

The Elimination:

Zayra Alvarez - Blue October, "Razorblade": Well, the audience hatred finally did her in. She delivers a good performance, but she ended up in the bottom three anyway. I've never heard of this band, so I have no real preconceptions here; but in this situation, I don't see how she's going to avoid elimination considering her history. I loved her fashion choice here actually. Much more class, but still very sexy and interesting. Her english diction issue is very clear here, and I don't like the talk singing. It really shows her weaknesses rather than playing to her strengths. She was more than a little flat here, though her energy was great, and her performance was definitely good. It was jsut the wrong song choice. Incredible intensity and energy here though. Really a great performance if she could jsut sing the song properly. She's defnitely singing for her life here, but ths song choice isn't helping her. I loved the ending too. Bottom line, I think she's gone here, and she would be even with a spectacular performance.

Patrice Pike - Hole, "Celebrity Skin": And the self destruction of Patrice continues. Why in the hell did she pick the song that engendered so much hatred before? She's off key, and a little off energy. I'm looking at her, and jsut from the look on her face, I think SHE thinks she's gone and she's just having fun with it. Good performance, way to work the crowd. Really really flat though. No dynamics here, jsut talk singing and I don't like it. It's too bad because I've never seen her this comfortable on stage before. She's all over the place and having fun and going for it. Finally in the last reprise she nails it, and she's really really THERE. Almost saying "Fuck it, if this is it, I'm gonna fucking enjoy it". Honestly I thought Zayra was better until that last 30 seconds, and lord knows I hate Zayra, but I don't think Patrice can handle this either...

Magni Asgiersson - Radiohead, "Creep": There is really no reason for him to be here. No yesterday wasn't his best performance, but he wasnt even close to the bottom three, and everybody knows it. He's pissed to be here, but he knows he's got this nailed. He's jsut playing around, starting slow, and building the energy bit by bit. Bringing it up hard in the bridge, and showing his stuff. Playing the crowd, playing the stage, and then back down. Maybe a little breathier would be better here, but it's not his style. What the hell am I doin here I don't belong here indeed. GREAT performance, but I would have liked jsut a bit more energy and intensity, and a bit less irony there.

Flat out, Patrice was the worst up until the end of her performance, and both Patrice and Zayra need to go; but I'm sure it's Zayra.

And it is. Tommy had it half right, Zayra had no chance at ever being the winner here; though I think really neither does Patrice. I loved Zayras attitude on her elimination, the chick has balls, and she is really a good soinger on material that suits her. I'm sure her solo career is going to still be great in Spanish.

Next Week, Patrice. I just don't think she can take the pressure.

7 little indians, all in a row, and every single week, another has to go.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Test Post for Windows Live Writer

So I'm writing this on the new beta blogging tool from MS, LiveWriter, pat of the new "Windows Live" application and service family. It's a WYSIWIG style post editor, and I want to see how good it is at preserving formats, formatting images, and spellchecking etc...

 

I live within a couple miles of this picture. It has an interesting map posting feature.

And of course, you can post and format normal pictures as well;

I kinda like the watermarking, and border features.

Also, I appreciate the ability to cut and paste properly from web pages and word docs;

Byrne, meaning "raven", is derived from the Irish name Ó Broin. It is the seventh most common last name in Ireland today. The clan's motto is Certavi et Vici which means "I have Fought and Conquered". The name is traced back to ancient Celtic chieftain, Bran Mac Maolmòrrdha, the King of Leinster who died in 1052 A.D.

 

 

Unto The Breach—ARC

John Ringo

Advance Reader Copy
Unproofed


This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.
Copyright ©2006 by John Ringo

Overall, I'm impressed. It does what it says it does, nothing more, nothing less.

The safety of air travel

As y'all know, I'm a security consultant. These days I mostly do information security, but not so long ago I was also involved in physical security.

One of the things I did was audit the security of arports; especially the access control and screening side of thing.

I won't get into details, but let me just say that for years I've been saying, you just can't make air travel even 50% safe and secure. It isn't possible. The best you can do is mitigate reasonable risks, in a reasonable way. The first step in this is to post two visibly armed men, trained and ordered to shoot any reasonable threat, at every checkpoint, and in every passenger cabin.

Obviously we as Americans wouldn't accept this, but that is the only reasonable security measure that has any real effect; and that STILL wont have any impact on either a passive threat (pre-positioned explosives), a suicidal deadman threat (a bomber rigged so that he doesnt have to actively detonate the bomb, and so that the bomb goes off automatically if he dies), or various chemical and biological threats.

Now, this whole binary liquid explosives terrorist thing... The explosive the bombers were supposedly going to make on board was TATP, or one of the other Acetone Peroxide compounds. Although there ARE currently extant detectors for the stuff, they aren't deployed anywhere in the U.S. that I know of, nor is the appropriate screening protocol for them in place. They're cheap and trivial to make (though dangerous as all hell), and you can't really control the precursor chemicals (why it is so beloved by terrorists). Hell, you can make it ACCIDENTALLY when you're laying up fiberglass.

I've not want to write about it until the hysteria cooled down; but today I read something that obviated the need for me to write anything, because it's pretty much exactly what I was going to write (though I'm a lot more evil minded, and evilly trained than the author is I s'pose. I came up with a LOT more, nastier, and harder to stop ways to take down an airliner than he did).

I present it in it's entirety here, cross posted from the "interesting people" list:
From: "Perry E. Metzger" 
Date: August 11, 2006 12:25:19 AM EDT
To: David Farber
Subject: On the implausibility of the explosives plot.


[For IP.]

First, a note of introduction. Until recently, I was a computer
security guy, and as with many in my profession, the application of
computer security analysis to non-computer security problems was
increasingly interesting to me. Now, for reasons that don't need
exploring at this juncture, I'm back at school, studying chemistry,
and I'm spending this summer in a lab doing organic synthesis
work. Strangely, today I find my interests colliding.

So, I'm doing a bunch of reading, and I find the claimed method the
"highly sophisticated" attackers came up with for bringing down
airliners kind of implausible. I wonder if it could ever work in
reality.

A disclaimer, I'm working entirely off of news reported by people who
don't know the difference between soft drinks and nail polish remover,
but the information I've seen has the taste of being real. As near as
I can tell, it is claimed that the terrorists planned to make organic
peroxides in situ on board an airplane and use them to destroy the
plane.

This seems, at least given my initial examination of the idea,
implausible.

Based on the claims in the media, it sounds like the idea was to mix
H2O2 (hydrogen peroxide, but not the low test kind you get at the
pharmacy), H2SO4 (sulfuric acid, of necessity very concentrated for it
to work at all), and acetone (known to people worldwide as nail polish
remover), to make acetone peroxides. You first have to mix the H2O2
and H2SO4 to get a powerful oxidizer, and then you use it on acetone
to get the peroxides, which are indeed explosive.

A mix of H2O2 and H2SO4, commonly called "piranha bath", is used in
orgo labs around the world for cleaning the last traces out of organic
material out of glassware when you need it *really* clean -- thus,
many people who work around organic labs are familiar with it. When
you mix it, it heats like mad, which is a common thing when you mix
concentrated sulfuric acid with anything. It is very easy to end up
with a spattering mess. You don't want to be around the stuff in
general. Here, have a look at a typical warning list from a lab about
the stuff:

http://www.mne.umd.edu/LAMP/Sop/Piranha_SOP.htm

Now you may protest "but terrorists who are willing to commit suicide
aren't going to be deterred by being injured while mixing their
precursor chemicals!" -- but of course, determination isn't the issue
here, getting the thing done well enough to make the plane go boom is
the issue. There is also the small matter of explaining to the guy
next to you what you're doing, or doing it in a tiny airplane bathroom
while the plane jitters about.

Now, they could of course mix up their oxidizer in advance, but then
finding a container to keep the stuff in that isn't going to melt is a
bit of an issue. The stuff reacts violently with *everything*. You're
not going to keep piranha bath in a shampoo bottle -- not unless the
shampoo bottle was engineered by James Bond's Q. Glass would be most
appropriate, assuming that you could find a way to seal it that
wouldn't be eaten.

So, lets say you have your oxidizer mixture and now you are going to
mix it with acetone. In a proper lab environment, that's not going to
be *too* awful -- your risk of dying horribly is significant but you
could probably keep the whole thing reasonably under control -- you
can use dry ice to cool a bath to -78C, say, and do the reaction
really slowly by adding the last reactant dropwise with an addition
funnel. If you're mixing the stuff up in someone's bathtub, like the
guys who bombed the London subways a year ago did, you can take some
reasonable precautions to make sure that your reaction doesn't go
wildly out of control, like using a lot of normal ice and being very,
very, very careful and slow. You need to keep the stuff cool, and you
need to be insanely meticulous, or you're going to be in a world of
hurt.

So, we've covered in the lab and in the bathtub. On an airplane? On an
airplane, the whole thing is ridiculous. You have nothing to cool the
mixture with. You have nothing to control your mixing with. You can't
take a day doing the work, either. You are probably locked in the
tiny, shaking bathroom with very limited ventilation, and that isn't
going to bode well for you living long enough to get your explosives
manufactured. In short, it sounds, well, not like a very good idea.

If you choke from fumes, or if your explosives go off before you've
got enough made to take out the airplane -- say if you only have
enough to shatter the mirror in the bathroom and spray yourself with
one of the most evil oxidizers around -- you aren't going to be famous
as the martyr who killed hundreds of westerners. Your determination
and willingness to die doesn't matter -- you still need to get the job
done.

You also need quite a bit of organic peroxides made by this route in
order to be sure of taking down a plane. I doubt that just a few grams
is going to do it -- though of course the first couple of grams you
are likely to go off before you make any more. The possibility of
doing all this in an airplane lav or by some miracle at your seat
seems really unlikely. Perhaps I'm just ignorant here -- it is
possible that a clever person could do it. I can't see an easy way
though.

So far as I can tell, for the pragmatic terrorist, the whole thing
sounds really impractical. Why not just smuggle pre-made explosives on
board? What advantage is this "binary system" idea in the first place?
There are also all sorts of ideas a smart person could come up with in
a few minutes of thinking -- see below.

The news this morning was full of stuff about "ordinary looking
devices being used as detonators". Well, if you're using nasty
unstable peroxides as your explosive material, you don't really need
any -- the stuff goes off if you give it a dirty look. I suspect a
good hard rap with a hard heavy object would be more than
sufficient. No need to worry about those cell phones secretly being
high tech "detonators" if you're going this route.

Anyway, from all of this, I conclude that either

1) The terrorists had a brilliant idea for how to combine oxidizer and
a ketone or ether to make some sort of nasty organic peroxide
explosive in situ that has escaped me so far. Perhaps that's true
-- I'm not omniscient and I have to confess that I've never tried
making the stuff at all, let alone in an airplane bathroom.
2) The terrorists were smuggling on board pre-made organic peroxide
explosives. Clearly, this is not a new threat at all -- organic
peroxide explosives have been used by terrorists for decades
now. Smuggling them in a bottle is not an interesting new threat
either -- clearly if you can smuggle cocaine in a bottle you can
smuggle acetone peroxide. I would hope we had means of looking for
that already, though, see below for a comment on that.
3) The terrorists were phenomenally ill informed, or hadn't actually
tried any of this out yet -- perhaps what we are told was a
"sophisticated plot" was a bunch of not very sophisticated people
who had not gotten very far in testing their ideas out, or perhaps
they were really really dumb and hadn't tried even a small scale
experiment before going forward.

There are other open questions I have here as well. Assuming this is
really what was planned, why are the airport security making people
throw away their shampoo? If you open a shampoo bottle and give it a
sniff, I assure you that you'll notice concentrated sulfuric acid very
fast, not that you would want to have your nose near it for long. No
high tech means needed for detection there. Acetone is also pretty
distinctive -- the average airport security person will recognize the
smell of nail polish remover if told that is what they're sniffing
for. Oh, and even if they used a cousin of acetone, say methyl ethyl
ketone (aka MEK, aka 2-butanone), you'll still pick up on the smell.


And now, on to the fun part of this note. First they came for the nail
clippers, but I did not complain for I do not cut my finger nails. Now
they've come for the shampoo bottles, but I did not complain for I do
not wash my hair. What's next? What will finally stop people in their
tracks and make them realize this is all theater and utterly
ridiculous? Lets cut the morons off at the pass, and discuss all the
other common things you can destroy your favorite aircraft with. Bruce
Schneier makes fun of such exercises as "movie plots", and with good
reason. Hollywood, here I come!

We're stopping people from bringing on board wet things. What about
dry things? Is baby powder safe? Well, perhaps it is if you check
carefully that it is, in fact, baby powder. What if, though, it is
mostly a container of potassium cyanide and a molar equivalent of a
dry carboxylic acid? Just add water in the first class bathroom, and
LOTS of hydrogen cyanide gas will evolve. If you're particularly
crazy, you could do things like impregnating material in your luggage
with the needed components. Clearly, we can't let anyone carry on
containers of talc, and we have to keep them away from all aqueous
liquids.

See the elderly gentleman with the cane? Perhaps it is not really an
ordinary cane. The metal parts could be filled with (possibly
sintered) aluminum and iron oxide. Thermit! Worse still, nothing in a
detector will notice thermit, and trying to make a detector to find
thermit is impractical. Maybe it is in the hollowed portions of your
luggage handles! Maybe it is cleverly mixed into the metal in
someone's wheelchair! Who knows?

Also, we can never allow people to bring on laptop computers. It is
far too easy to fill the interstices of the things with explosives --
there is a lot of space inside them -- or to rig the lithium ion
batteries to start a very hot fire (that's pretty trivial), or if
you're really clever, you can make a new case for the laptop that's
made of 100% explosive material instead of ordinary plastic. Fun!

No liquor on board any more, of course. You can open lots of little
liquor bottles and set the booze on fire, and besides, see the dangers
of letting people have fluids. Even if you let them have fluids, no
cans of coke -- you can make a can of coke into a shiv in a few
minutes. No full sized bottles of course, since you can break 'em and
use them as a sharp weapon, so no more champagne in first class
either, let alone whiskey.

Then, lets consider books and magazines. Sure, they look innocent, but
are they? For 150 years, chemists have known that if you take
something with high cellulose content -- cotton, or paper, or lots of
other things -- and you nitrate it (usually with a mixture of nitric
and sulfuric acids), you get nitrocellulose, which looks vaguely like
the original material you nitrated but which goes BOOM
nicely. Nitrocellulose is the base of lots of explosives and
propellants, including, I believe, modern "smokeless" gunpowder. It
is dangerous stuff to work with, but you're a terrorist, so why
not. Make a bunch of nitrocellulose paper, print books on it, and take
'em on board. The irony of taking out an airplane with a Tom Clancy
novel should make the effort worthwhile.

So, naturally, we have to get rid of books and magazines on
board. That's probably for the best, as people who read are
dangerous.

And now for a small side note. It is, of course, commonly claimed that
we have nitro explosive detectors at airports, but so far as I can
tell they don't work -- students from labs I work in who make nitro
and diazo compounds for perfectly legitimate reasons and have trace
residues on their clothes have told me the machines never pick up a
thing even though this is just what they're supposed to find, possibly
because they're tuned all the way down not to scare all the people who
take nitroglycerine pills for their angina.

Now, books aren't the only things you could nitrate. Pants and shirts?
Sure. It might take a lot of effort to get things just so or they will
look wrong to the eye, but I bet you can do it. Clearly, we can't
allow people on planes wearing clothes. Nudity in the air will
doubtless be welcomed by many as an icebreaker, having been deprived
of their computers and all reading material for entertainment.

Then of course there is the question of people smuggling explosives on
board in their body cavities, so in addition to nudity, you need body
cavity searches. That will, I'm sure, provide additional airport
entertainment. By the way, if you really don't think a terrorist could
smuggle enough explosives on board in their rectum to make a
difference, you haven't been following how people in prison store
their shivs and heroin.

However, it isn't entirely clear that even body cavity searches are
enough. If we're looking for a movie plot, why not just get a
sympathetic surgeon to implant explosives into your abdomen! A small
device that looks just like a pace maker could be the detonator, and
with modern methods, you could do something like setting it off by
rapping "shave and a haircut" on your own chest. You could really do
this -- and I'd like to see them catch that one.

So can someone tell me where the madness is going to end?  My back of
the envelope says about as many people die in the US every month in
highway accidents than have died in all our domestic terrorist
incidents in the last 50 years. Untold numbers of people in the US are
eating themselves to death and dying of heart disease, diabetes,
etc. -- I think that number is something like 750,000 people a year?
Even with all the terrorist bombings of planes over the years, it is
still safer to travel by plane than it is to drive to the airport, and
it is even safer to fly than to walk!

At some point, we're going to have to accept that there is a
difference between real security and Potemkin security (or Security
Theater as Bruce Schneier likes to call it), and a difference between
realistic threats and uninteresting threats. I'm happy that the police
caught these folks even if their plot seems very sketchy, but could we
please have some sense of proportion?

Perry


Want a couple hundred more? We can't screen for all of them, and they'll all be jsut as effective.

the worth of a life

Mel:

So this morning I found the latest Shooting Trail Minute in which Kim makes an excellent point about self defense. How else can you fight against a mindset which has determined that your life is worth less than a tv? You can't exactly explain moral relativism and the intrinsic value of human life in the time it takes the other guy to take you out. So you do the only thing you can, which is protect your own life.

Anybody who knows me well knows I believe in self defense, warfare (as another form of self defense), and the death penalty (yet another form). For me, self defense is not only protecting your own life, but also protecting the lives of the innocents around you, and in the case of a country the protection of all who may be in the country at the time, with the exception of those who are doing the harm. I'd say law-abiding citizens, but in times of war everyone in a country including illegal residents, tourists, and those on death row are equally protected when the nation is protected.

So who is an innocent? An innocent is anyone who has not willingly, either through oath or actions, forfeited their life. A murderer has forfeited their life by not cherishing the life of another. A soldier, upon making an oath, has forfeited their life in order to serve and protect the Constitution, but also is absolved of killings done in this capacity (this forfeiture of course only applies under the agreed upon rules of warfare, as does the absolution). An attempted murderer, a hostage taker, a terrorist planning an attack are no longer innocents, as they have grossly endangered others and those others are in need of protection.

This is a rather broad definition, I know, and one many people don't agree with, including my husband. He would personally add child abusers and rapists to the list of those who forfeit their lives, while others would say the death penalty should never be used, no matter how grave the crime(s). And there are of course those who consider self defense ending in death to be murder, and as grave a crime at the crime it sought to prevent. But here is my stand:

All human life is created equal, unless a person forfeits their equality.

You can't make a human life "worth less" just because you believe it is so. Only the person who holds that life can make their life worth less (or really worthless) by infringing on another person's right to existence. That is their choice, not yours.

So yes, I believe in the death penalty when a person is convicted justly. I WILL kill anyone who attempts to take my life, or the life of someone around me. I do agree with fighting those who would have us killed because we do not bow down to their god. I do agree with doing whatever is necessary to keep atomic warfare out of the hands of Iran. All of these people have one thing in common: they have decided that another person's life is worth less than theirs.

But there is one thing I do not believe in for the same reasons, and that is the "right" to choose.

Everyone who reads this blog regularly knows I am converting to Catholicism, and that Catholics believe abortion is always a sin because it is the termination of an innocent human life. As much as I agree with that, and have always agreed with that, that's not the whole of why I despise abortions, and those who have them.

I despise abortions because they are the result of a morally relativist decision, a value judgment of the worst kind. Someone who has an abortion has decided for themselves that their convenience, career, and/or reputation are worth more than another human's life. And don't feed me any of that bulls*** about a fetus not being "alive". I've been pregnant twice, I know better.

Does this mean that I won't make exceptions for an abortion? Of course not. If the woman's life is in danger (i.e. ectopic pregnancy, cancerous uterus, etc.) and the life-saving procedure ends the pregnancy, that's not morally ambiguous. Two lives are in danger, only one can be saved and it should be saved. Better one death than two. Even the Church makes an exception for this, as it also makes an exception for rape victims to be given contraceptives (as long as given quickly enough).

No, when I talk about abortions being a flawed value judgment, I'm talking about the "oops" variety. When two people have WILLINGLY done something that results in pregnancy, their innocence on the matter goes right out the window. No amount of inconvenience, loss of reputation, or loss of time is worth another human's life. I don't care if you're in school and just making it by. You can take 9 months out of your life to find someone to adopt your baby (and there are thousands of people across the country every day who advertise that they will adopt your baby), take 9 months with (usually) all of your expenses paid to carry that baby, and take the time afterwards to heal before returning to your life. You made the decision to do something that could make a baby, you live with the consequences. If you have an abortion just because it's more convenient, you've put a price on someone else's life that is lower than your convenience. At that point you have lost your right to be offended when someone wants to kill you if your beliefs don't match theirs. They are making a value judgment, just like you did.

So no, as much as a little "f" feminist and equalist I am, I despise abortions and those who have them, just as I despise any other people who infringe on other's rights to exist. All life is created equal, and only the individual can make theirs less than.

Mel

Just call me Mel, everyone else does.

'cept for the last part, that's my plan for BOTH parties