Saturday, March 31, 2007

Consult the book of armaments

Tonight, we shall begin with the ritual cleansing of armaments; then proceed to the sacred stocking of the feeding devices.

..for tomorrow, we ride out to do war upon the evil Clay Bird, and his foul allies the cardboard box, the patterned paper, and the obsolete computer.

Let us pray brothers:

Praise the lord, and pass the ammunition.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Thursday, March 29, 2007

I used to be, but I'm not anymore

Not fr the last couple years; but most of the questions were about the past, not the present:


Cupid - Free Online Dating and Match

HT: Gadfly

Overheard in my household

Mel: Ooooooohhhh you're warmmmmm {commences with snuggling}

Chris: Yes, yes I am

Mel: {mumbles} You're warm, I'm confused... this works

Chris:...
Chris:...
Chris:... Ooooooo K... love you honey.

Back to Poker

So, tonight I went and played poker for the first time since December. The company I used to play with has had porblmes, and now my local bar has a different company running things.

This one, instead of having redeemable points redeemable for stuff that they only give to first place ( that they STILL haven't sent me since I ordered them in October); gives you a $20 gift certificate (to the bar/restaurant that we were sitting in) for first, or a $10 for second.

That part is cool. Unfortunately they also only start you off with a 2000 stack (I'm used to a 4000 or 5000 stack); which means changing your betting patterns and habits quite a lot.

Oh, and as a bonus, the restaurant has GREATLY improved the quality of their food since I last played. The menu is the same, but they've improved the way they prepare the food.

Anyway, the 7 o'clock session ended up with 4 full tables of 8; though it started a few minutes late (when we started we had two tables of 6 and two of 7).

I started off going up a bit on conservative play, then doubled up to 4000 off a donkey maybe 15 hands in (right at the first blind raise).

I went back and fourth around 4000 for a while, then doubled up again on a double take out when I flopped the straight and slow played two guys with trips to the river.

Then back and forth again getting up to about 12000 just before final table; but I called off 4000 on two pair when the other guy had the boat, a few hands into final table.

Then I pulled one out of my ass, and rivered a flush on a double all in, and tripled up to 24,000. At that point there were just three of us, and I had half the chips on the table.

JohnOC was one of the other guys, and the thrid was a guy I'd never played before. John took half the guys remaining chips, I got the rest on a straight when he had trips; and we were heads up.

Again.

We've been in that position a lot; and Johns normal supertight play style tends to put him at a disadvantage in heads up; so he decides to play hard, and starts making all-in-or-fold plays.

I had a solid play, and he outkicked me, to end up even; and then two hands later we both get queens, but he ends up with two pair, and I don't; for the whole thing.

All in all a good night for a rusty man. It mostly paid for my dinner anyway, which is great.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Random Evil Thoughts - Thermite Slugs

So last year I wrote about the Mercury bullets myth...

Wwell, I'm watching the discovery show Weaponology, and I just had an evil thought; what about a sintered or bonded metallic shotgun slug, made of thermite?

You'd have to have a core of magnesium and barium (or some other easily ignited priming or tracer compound), with thermite sintered around it, with the aid of an easily ignited propagating binder (I can think of half a dozen right now), and probably sintered INTO a thick jacket so the thermite wouldn't break up on impact... Or maybe just have a cast shell of magnesium...

...but I think it'd be doable... and I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be a destructive device. I'm just not sure how well it would work.

Thermite is actually REALLY hard to ignite. Once it gets going, pretty much nothing can put it out, but I'm not sure the priming/tracer compound igniter concept would work. Also, 40mm thermite grenades work great, but they're a LOT bigger than a 12ga slug. Thermite is actually quite bulky, and it takes a fair bit to do the job; I'm not sure if the 2oz or so you could put into a 12ga shell would even be worth trying.

...but it makes me want to experiment... thermite is easy and cheap to make (united nuclear is your friend, if you don't have a local supplier). 'course I don't have the tooling necessary to sinter or cast slugs, but still....

Shooter Hits Close to the Mark...

So, the wife and I saw Shooter last night. Given the press on it, what I'd seen in the trailer etc... I was prepared to be irritated, or even pissed off.

I was pleasantly surprised. No, it wasn't a GREAT movie, but it was a GOOD one; and given the general run of movies over the last couple years, I'll take good.

let's break it down...

The Good:

Well first, the "not bad", or in particular the stuff that isn't as bad as I thought.

First, this movie wasn't represented by the trailer. The things in the trailer which I thought were going to be irritating (like the prominent hot young love interest), weren't all that big a deal. I thought it was going to bug me seeing Bob Lee Swagger as a 30 something Gulf War vet, instead of a late 40s Viet Nam vet, but honestly, it wasn't a problem.

I have to say, I really like Mark Wahlberg as an actor; and "Shooter" just keeps adding to that opinion. His performance here was really quite good. He got the mindset down a lot better than most have (it's not "right", but it's close), the jargon, almost has the walk (he's not still enough, and he doesn't roll his shoulders the right way. The emotional control was there, as was the anger (Bob Lee Swagger is a VERY angry man). He had respect for the character, which is important.

The shooting, overall, was excellent. They really got the details down pretty well (Stephen Hunter has said in interviews that the details were his most important concern). The tactical framing was good, and generally realistic; except in one particular scene, which was setup that way deliberately to make the action more dramatic.

There were a couple of niggles; but honestly, that's all they were. I was actually irritated that they didn't include MORE detail, not that they got details wrong, which is unusual for me with a heavy gun movie.

The action also, was excellent. It was well shot, generally well edited, and the pacing was excellent. The movie was pretty much "non-stop", but it never really lost me. I was thoroughly involved in the movie from beginning to end, and very few movies today can say that.

The supporting cast also, generally did a very good job. Kata Mara and Rhona Mitra are both great looking women, but they weren't huge parts of the story, and the movie didn't try and force them into it more.

Quite frankly, this is a story about men, for men; and while women are part of it, they are secondary to it.


The Bad:

Nick Memphis. In the book, Memphis is a far deeper, more complex, and more interesting character. He is an experienced sniper who knows shooting; but who has lost his nerve. Also much of the book is told from Memphis's point of view, and with his emotional perspective.

Although the movie does include some of Memphis's perspective, and some of his story; the treatment of him overall is I think poor. He is made out as a rookie, and a much less impressive person as a whole. He's really a bit of a wimp.

This isn't to take away from the performance of Michael Pena (of "The Shield"), who I though did the material excellent service. I just didn't like the direction they took.

The biggest problem I have with the movie, is the "motivation".

The book had a whiff of conspiracy theory; after all the whole setup was just that, a conspiracy. The film maker however, decided to include a somewhat heavy handed anti U.S. government slash conspiracy theory message. He changed the whole thing to a blood for oil screed, which irritated me.

Honestly though, other than a few jarring moments ("Yeah, they told me that there were WMDs in Iraq, and Kennedy was shot by Oswald too!" etc...) the politics of it didnt distract from the film (unlike a movie like V for vendetta), and if they'd just toned it down a little bit, it would have been perfect. They just went over the edge between atmospheric paranoia, and political slapping across the face.

The Ugly:

Mark Wahlberg is from Boston, and he sound like it. No matter what he tries to do, he can't suppress that Boston accent. Listening him try to do an Arkansas twang is almost painful. Thankfully most of the time he just tries to go for the Mr. Clean Marine voice, and so it works out OK.

The scenes between Wahlberg and Mara don't work at all. They have no chemistry, and the moments that are supposed to be sexually tense just seem awkward.

Oh, and I kinda have a problem seeing Danny Glover without getting angry, but he plays a total scumbag who deserves to be raped to death with barbed wire, so that's OK.


The Verdict:

If you like to read this site, you're going to like this movie; it's pretty much that simple. I'm going to buy the DVD (I hope it's a special edition with about 20 more minutes of story and more shooting detail).

You don't need to have read the book to appreciate the movie; which is generally a good thing. As to how faithful the movie is to the book "Point of Impact"...

Well, if you don't mind the "update", moving Bob the Nailer 20 years into the future; and if you understand that you cant take a 400 page book and move it directly into a 2 hour movie; you'll be happy.

If you're one of those people who won't watch "Hunt for Red October" because it oversimplified the story and got the sub details wrong... well... have you EVER liked an adapted screenplay?

Go see it, you're gonna like it.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Laptop Update

So in SSDD, I declaimed at length upon the subject of inefficiencies surrounding the maintenance of my work issued laptop (a Thinkpad t-43):
"Monday was March 19th, 2007; and that's when the repair for the laptop screen was finally authorized, processed, and paid for.

I recieved the mailer on Tuesday, sent the machine out Wednesday, and it arrived at the repair depot at 5am this morning. There was no status reported on the repair as of 5pm today, so at the earliest I will receive the repaired laptop tomorrow; but it is more likely that I won't receive it 'til Monday the 26th, or Tuesday the 27th."


That was Thursday. On Friday, I called up IBM again, for an update on status, when I received some most unwelcome news. The reason there had been no status update, was because the system had been in billing hold since it was received on Wednesday morning.

Despite the fact I spent 4 hours (literally) on the phone with IBM, and their finance department specifically; and faxed the PO to the finance person, WHILE SHE WAS ON THE PHONE WITH ME, confirming it was received and all was well.

Somehow, some way, this PO was never filed with the finance department, and thus the ticket was never released for processing. I suspect this was because Tameeqa (yes, that was her name, I had to put it in the cover sheet) in Atlanta, was a smartassed pissy bitch, at the end of her shift, and she wanted to screw me over.

At any rate, I called early on Friday, and Sparkle (also in Atlanta) was unable to find the PO. Thankfully, I faxed it again, and I emailed it as well; and Sparkle was able to get the service call released.

She wasn't sure if they'd be able to get it done on Friday, but I called back at the end of the day, and they had a tracking number for me.

So, thanks to the fast work of IBM field service in Tennessee (actually a subcontractor), I have my laptop back one business day after they actually received it... it was just the petty idiocy of IBM financial services in Atlanta which caused service to recieve it three days late that prevented me from having it back on Wednesday or Thursday.

So, thank you IBM EZ-SERV, and Screw you IBM Financial Responsibility department (except for Sparkle).

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Housing Bubble, and the Freedom to Fail

In the post "Ron Paul — Federal Reserve To Blame For Housing Bubble", Warbs noted that Ron Paul was blaming the fed for creating, and perpetuating the housing bubble, which is about to burst and deliver a big smackdown to the economy.
"When the bubble finally bursts completely, millions of Americans will be looking for someone to blame. Look for Congress to hold hearings into subprime lending practices and “predatory” mortgages. We’ll hear a lot of grandstanding about how unscrupulous lenders took advantage of poor people [ed: Chris Dodd is already doing it], and how rampant speculation caused real estate markets around the country to overheat. It will be reminiscent of the Enron hearings, and the message will be explicitly or implicitly the same: free-market capitalism, left unchecked, leads to greed, fraud, and unethical if not illegal business practices.

But capitalism is not to blame for the housing bubble, the Federal Reserve is. Specifically, Fed intervention in the economy– through the manipulation of interest rates and the creation of money– caused the artificial boom in mortgage lending.

The Fed has roughly tripled the amount of dollars and credit in circulation just since 1990. Housing prices have risen dramatically not because of simple supply and demand, but because the Fed literally created demand by making the cost of borrowing money artificially cheap. When credit is cheap, individuals tend to borrow too much and spend recklessly.



Unless and until we get the Federal Reserve out of the business of creating money at will and setting interest rates, we will remain vulnerable to market bubbles and painful corrections. If housing prices plummet and millions of Americans find themselves owing more than their homes are worth, the blame lies squarely with Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke." -- Ron Paul
Though Brad doesn't quite agree with the entirety of Pauls comments, he goes on to note:
"Paul also points out the use of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to offload risk (which many investors consider to be implicitly guaranteed by the US Government). He doesn’t mention the use of derivatives to slice-and-dice the risk and further offload it onto the market, but his point still stands. The Federal Reserve has flooded the market with money, and that money has been chasing returns. Housing has been the “hot” asset class, creating an unsustainable bubble. When that bursts, it will be a lot worse than the tech stock bubble, because it actually hits people right at home."

...

You flood the market with money, and you see what happens. The rich, who have the ability to move money around chasing these asset classes, get richer. They buy second homes or investment properties to ride the appreciation wave, increasing demand. The poor and middle class, who are just trying to get ahead, struggle to keep their incomes constant or rising relative to the cost of goods. And when housing becomes the asset class bubble, they get priced out of homes and lenders must resort to “creative” financing to allow them to buy. Then, when the returns on investment start drying up, the demand of speculators and investors dries up, and home prices collapse.

The bubble is bursting. The particular nature of the housing market, as a relatively illiquid asset, is making this occur more slowly than a stock bubble would occur. But it’s occurring nonetheless. Blame can be spread around, of course, especially to some of those subprime borrowers who purchased homes they cannot afford. But Ron Paul is right, it is clear that the Fed’s loose money policy created this bubble, and they deserve a great deal of blame when it bursts."
I'm sorry, but the most basic market principle of libertarianism is that rational actors, will act with informed self interest, to produce optimal results in a market.

This isn't anyones FAULT, but the people who bought houses they couldn't afford; and the people who lent them the money to do so.

No-one was deceived by the fed, or the lenders. There's no such thing as a predatory mortgage on a new house you can't afford. Lenders aren't trying to put people into loans they cant pay back, they LOSE money on foreclosures.

No-one was deceived by the fed keeping relatively loose money. The fed could have done whatever they wanted with interest rates; people were too caught up in the "gold rush" mentality to care. In fact, during this "boom" (which people seem to forget began before the end of the stock bubble) we've seen the fed put the biggest peacetime interest rate increases in place, month after month, (in 2000, 2001, and then again at the end of 2002 and 2003), and all it did was slow things down slightly.

There was no deception involved here, except self deception. Everyone thought they could keep surfing the wave; and they pretended that it would never reach the the shore.

As far as I'm concerned, none of this is a problem from a market standpoint. There is no point in this cycle where we could have legitimately said, "OK, now it's time for the government to step in and do something". This is just a natural economic cycle..

Or did people forget that markets have boom and bust cycles naturally; based on the psychology of the market?

Oh wait, yes, that's right, they did.

So a bunch of sub-prime lenders are going to fail.

Oopsie...

That's going to put pressure on a lot of major banks who invested, or underwrote those subprimes.

Oopsie...

A bunch of builders and contractors are going to go under now, because they were only in existence to take advantage of the bubble.

Oopsie...

A whole bunch of people are going to lose those houses they couldn't afford; or the second or third houses they bought on spec, to try and sell for far more than they were worth in a rational market.

Oopsie...

None of these are BAD THINGS. Markets make mistakes, and this is the corrective mechanism. If you over invest in something shaky, you get what you deserve.

If you bought a house you couldn't afford, because someone was stupid enough to give you a loan you couldn't pay back, whose fault is that?

YOURS, that's who.

If the lender who loaned you the money goes under, because you and all your neighbors default on his loans, whose fault is that?

HIS, that's who.

You both made decisions, knowing what the consequences of those decisions could be, and willfully choosing to ignore them.

The most basic freedom of the market, is freedom to fail; because failure makes markets strong.

What we're seeing right now, and will see over the next.. oh I'd say two years... is the principle of freedom to fail in action. People made risky gambles, and they lost; that's what happens sometimes.

When the dust clears; you can bet that those involved won't do that again... or at least the ones with any brains will anyway. The other idiots will be off looking for another boom to bust.

Now, what WOULD be a problem, is if, as Paul suggests (and I think it's entirely likely); the government decides it "must do something", to protect those fools from the consequences of their actions.

THAT, would be a BIG problem.

Friday, March 23, 2007

SSDD



The BEST thing about working at home is... you don't have to go into the office to work.

The WORST thing about working at home is... you don't have to go into the office to work.

I've had lots of things to write the last couple days, but I haven't been able to commit it all to the screen, for a coupla reasons.

First, the sinus infection I've been working on the last two weeks, decided a couple days ago to descend into my chest and become bronchitis (sort of... the sinus infection weakens the immune system and drains into the upper respiratory tract which then gets mucused up etc... etc...).

Anyway, it sucks, and it's debilitating and irritating (literally); but due to the joys of working at home, I've had a couple of irritating work days.

Now, working at home definitely has its advantages. I haven't missed a single day of work in the almost year since I started my current gig. I haven't taken a day off either (though a couple half days). We are going to take a couple days this summer to go to the NOR event though.

Of course it also means you end up working when your sick, feel like crap etc... and that you can work when you really should be relaxing.

Part two, is that I've had 27 one hour meetings this week.

Yes, 27.

Thus is the corporate culture I work in.

Of those, 12 were actually useful, important, productive etc... most of the rest have just been crap for project managers to justify their own existence.

Now, with 27 hours of meetings, you can see I don't actually get a lot of time to... oh, I dunno... get any damn thing done?

Which is OK though, because nobody else gets anything done either. In fact, I'm one of the most productive and hard working people I work with; and I'm constantly (as in several times a week) being commended for how much work I get done, how efficient, and fast, and customer focused I am etc...

Everybody is busy, overbooked even (my team lead had 46 meetings this week; he's double and triple booked several times a day... as am I on tuesday, wednesday, and thursday); but because everyone is doing nothing but meetings, nothing actually gets done.

For example, today was our kickoff meeting for the certification process for Redhat Enterprise Linux version 4. The process of certification is expected to take approximately six months.

There's only one problem.

RHEL 4 was released a little over two years ago; and 5 was released two weeks ago.

You would think that we would be starting certification for 5 right? Nope, that won't even START for another ... ohhh 18 months or so. It will go to our "innovation council" for about six months, and then our "Enterprise Architecture Committee" for about six months after that; and then finally through our "technology adoption process", and our "Standard Build Development" etc... etc...

Basically, we tend to adopt software just before the next version comes out; and so we end up spending literally millions of dollars a year in extended support fees.

Hardware isn't much better. We began certification on the SUN T2000 server, a couple months after it was released. We got our hands on one last February, before they made it out to the main distro channel; and we actually started our process right away.

We've finally installed the first production T2000 servers in the datacenter a few weeks ago.

Anyway, I think I've made my point.

So what does that have to do about me not writing new content in the last two days?

Well, that's part three.

Remember this:

Aaaaaaargh!!!

Friday, October 27, 2006

So, there I was, minding my own business, when WHAM!!!

Actually what happened was, I closed the lid of my laptop normally. I didnt feel anything wrong, I didnt drop it or hit it; there are no marks on either the outside or the surface of the screen itself, but when I opened it it I had this:





AAAAARHG!!!!!

To make it worse, I have a rondelet going in my head of Gilbert O'Sullivans "Alone Again, Naturally", Julie Andrews singing "My Favorite Things", Charlenes "I've never been to me", and "We Don't Have to take our clothes off" by Jermaine Stewart.

Truly, the gods are punishing me today.

Ok, so that was October 27th, 2006.

Unfortunately, the repair was out of warranty; because as with most laptop warranties, physical damage to the LCD isn't covered.

I don't know if you've ever had an out of warranty repair to a laptop, but they are RIDICULOUSLY expensive. A refurbished Thinkpad T-43 is just about $750 (or about $2500 new as built with 2 gigs of ram, depending on who you buy it from). An out of warranty LCD replacement for that same T-43 is... $750.

I could buy a new LCD panel for the thing, for about $180, and fit it myself in about an hour (I've done LCD replacements on a couple dozen thinkpads at this point); but of course that isn't allowed, it has to go through factory service. Of course with items over $500 there has to be a funding approval, which takes a few weeks...

Usually...

We closed our budget books for the year on November 8th. The repair wasn't approved until November 18th. Of course then, because the budget was closed, we had to get an exception approved, which also takes a couple weeks.

Usually...

There were so many BIG exceptions that had to be approved, and processed, that this little exception wasn't approved 'til December 22nd.

A approved budget exception must be spent in the month it is approved. If a service request is open without funding for more than 30 days, it is closed. It takes two to seven business days to get a new SR opened, processed, approved again and sent out. During that 7 day period was both Christmas, and New Years.

Yeah, they didn't even bother returning my calls until mid January.

Of course we were now on a new budget year; and I had to get new approvals, and exceptions etc...

Only now, all of the exceptions that have been delayed since November 8th, when we closed the books, are ahead of mine.

In January, I asked that it be put in the queue for the budget for the quarter, and the month. I was put in the quarters budget approvals, and then put in line to get a purchase order. It wasn't processed in January, or February. BY mid-march I had to step it up or I would go into the next quarters budget, which would require a new series of approvals etc...

Monday was March 19th, 2007; and that's when the repair for the laptop screen was finally authorized, processed, and paid for.

I recieved the mailer on Tuesday, sent the machine out Wednesday, and it arrived at the repair depot at 5am this morning. There was no status reported on the repair as of 5pm today, so at the earliest I will receive the repaired laptop tomorrow; but it is more likely that I won't receive it 'til Monday the 26th, or Tuesday the 27th.

5 full months, during which time my laptop, has been a dekstp; tetherd to a dicking station and external display.

At any rate, the machines hard drive ('pon which I have all the files and drafts relating to what I would otherwise be writing about) is sitting on my desk, waiting for the return of the laptop. THe last two days, I've been working on my wifes linux laptop, or on the desktop, neither of which are conducive to me writing at the moment, nor have the files I need for the posts I'm writing.

Normal posting will resume when I get my laptop back; or when something irritates me enough to write something other than this bitch, on the linux box or the desktop; whichever happens first.

SSDD

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

It's gods perfect food!



Or damn near it anyway.

It's a deep fried bacon cheese and beer dog.

"BACON, CHEESE AND BEER DOG

Ingredients:

1 hot dog
1 slice of thick-cut bacon
1 can of spray cheese
1 can beer (It doesn't matter what kind, but we recommend something dark. Corona probably isn't a good idea)
1 cup flour
Oil for frying

Instructions:

This one is a little work-intensive, so be ready to buckle down.

First take the center out of the hot dog with an apple corer, if you have access to one. If not, just cut out the middle with a knife. Fill the cavity with the spray cheese and use the hot dog you removed from the middle as a cap to keep the cheese in. Wrap the bacon around the hot dog and deep-fry for two to four minutes or until bacon is cooked.

Dab them dry with a paper towel (so the batter will stick). Mix the beer with the flour until it reaches a thick, but lump-free consistency. Dip the dogs in the batter, coating the dog completely, and deep-fry on high heat for two to three minutes or until brown and deadly.

NOTE: Don't fry them too long or all of the cheese will explode out into the oil. That's very bad."

Well... Sure, it involves bacon cheese and beer, but to be truly gods perfect food, it needs something more...

It needs...

STEAK

Yep, if I was doing it, I'd replace the dog with a wrapped tube of delicious delicious steak; sliced thin, and marinated overnight in a hotsauce marinade.

That, and I'd make the bear batter into CORNDOG beer batter.

With extra parmigiana cheese thrown into it.

Oh and take out the cheez whiz... I've got a better idea.

Wrap the bacon, around the steak, steak around slices of extra sharp cheddar, around a DEEP FRIED SAUSAGE that's been stuffed with FRIED EGGS.

Then batter dip it in parmagiana beer CORNDOG batter, and deep fry it in BACON GREASE.

For dessert we'll have oreo cookie cheescake, deep fried in waffle batter, dipped in melted butter, and covered in strawberry sauce and whipped cream.

Yeah.. now THAT would be Gods perfect food.

There's an old saying...

...Actually two. The first is "if it's stupid and it works; it isn't stupid", the second is "if it seems too good to be true, it probably is".

What's amazing, is that sometimes, the first, can contradict the second in some pretty fun and interesting ways... but most of the time, it doesn't. Let's talk about one of those times.

So, the first saying...

One of the first examples given to illustrate the operating principles of small engines, is usually that of an air compressor. An internal combustion engine sucks in low pressure air, mixes it with fuel and a spark at something approaching a 14:1 ratio (with the fuel, not the spark), blows it up; and high pressure air comes out the other end... along with water vapor, carbon, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, partially burned and unburned fuel, and other nasty bi-products of the combustion of hydrocarbons.

Like almost all other reductions of complex machines into simple models, it's a stupid comparison; but it works (therefore, according to the maxim, it isn't stupid).

Now, what would happen if you took the fuel out? Well nothing because there would be no release of energy to make the pistons turn... so lets not simplify things that much. What if we take the fuel out AND we reversed the flow of high pressure air?

Well, hopefully something like this:




Actually, I was hoping for something a little less ugly and stupid looking but... as the saying says...

So the basic concept is this: Instead of high pressure exhaust coming out, we pump VERY high pressure air IN, which pushes the pistons (or turbines if you're so inclined, but I'm pretty sure they're using pistons in this application), turns the crank (and thus the transmission, and the wheels) and then exhausts as low pressure air (and a little water vapor and lubricating oil); basically an air compressor in reverse.

Here's the company line:

"Many respected engineers have been trying for years to bring a compressed air car to market, believing strongly that compressed air can power a viable "zero pollution" car. Now the first commercial compressed air car is on the verge of production and beginning to attract a lot of attention, and with a recently signed partnership with Tata, India’s largest automotive manufacturer, the prospects of very cost-effective mass production are now a distinct possibility. The MiniC.A.T is a simple, light urban car, with a tubular chassis that is glued not welded and a body of fibreglass."

...snip...

"Most importantly, it is incredibly cost-efficient to run – according to the designers, it costs less than one Euro per 100Km (about a tenth that of a petrol car). Its mileage is about double that of the most advanced electric car (200 to 300 km or 10 hours of driving), a factor which makes a perfect choice in cities where the 80% of motorists drive at less than 60Km. The car has a top speed of 68 mph.

Refilling the car will, once the market develops, take place at adapted petrol stations to administer compressed air. In two or three minutes, and at a cost of approximately 1.5 Euros, the car will be ready to go another 200-300 kilometres.

As a viable alternative, the car carries a small compressor which can be connected to the mains (220V or 380V) and refill the tank in 3-4 hours.

The temperature of the clean air expelled by the exhaust pipe is between 0 - 15 degrees below zero, which makes it suitable for use by the internal air conditioning system with no need for gases or loss of power.
"

How does it work?

"90m3 of compressed air is stored in fibre tanks. The expansion of this air pushes the pistons and creates movement. The atmospheric temperature is used to re-heat the engine and increase the road coverage. The air conditioning system makes use of the expelled cold air. Due to the absence of combustion and the fact there is no pollution, the oil change is only necessary every 31.000 miles.

At the moment, four models have been made: a car, a taxi (5 passengers), a Pick-Up truck and a van. The final selling price will be approximately 5.500 pounds."


Okay...

The geek in me is saying "oh cool", the engineer in me is saying "OK, how the hell are they gonna make THIS work?"

Not that a compressed air car can't work, obviously it can. The principle is very simple; the problem, as usual, is in the details. Specifically that little detail of efficiency.

Let's assume they pressurize the tanks to about 6000psi (about 400 bar, the highest conventional cascade compressor sets can go, the highest a reasonable pressure tank can store, and about twice a scuba tanks pressure).

If I'm reading correctly, they are taking 90 cubic meters of compressed air, and pushing a 1400lb or so vehicle, up to 68mph (110kph), with a 300km range.

I say 1400lb because thats about the minimum possible for the smallest model to hold two passengers, carry the essential propulsion gear, and electronics, and still have enough strength and structure not to collapse, even with advanced composites.

That car is going to need something like 20hp minimum, maybe 30hp (about 20kw); just to be able to get up to that speed (and more importantly, to be able to pull away from a stop sign on a hill).

Looking at a similarly specced vehicle, the French 2cv (or technically the 3cv model, which had 33hp -24kw-, and a 68mph top speed - that it took three minutes to accelerate to ) weighed about the same, and had about the same horsepower, and was dimensionally quite a bit smaller, so I think it's a reasonable estimate given newer more efficient materials end technology.

You really just can't move that much weight without pretty close to that much horsepower, and you really can't have a car that size with much less weight. Laws of physics being what they are and all.

So, to the second saying...

The rest of this will be in metric because those are the units easiest to work with here.

Given the range they've specified of 300km, and the power needed; we're looking at about 72KW/Hours of power; or 2,600,000,000 joules of total energy. Either 24watts for three hours, or 7 watts for 10 hours, the total energy is going to be about the same.

That has to come out of 90 cubic meters of high pressure air. At 400 bar, 90 cubic meters of compressed air, has about one and a half times that amount of potential energy.

Now remember, you can't get out more kinetic energy, than you have in potential energy. In fact, you can't even get as much out (that's called unity); because all systems are inefficient at converting potential energy to kinetic energy, to some degree.

So, it's good that there's 1.5 times as much potential energy as the engine needs right?

Here's the problem though, there is no way in hell that the thing is even 50% energy efficient. In fact, it would be an engineering miracle if they got out much more than 25% of what they put in.

Not only that; but you've actually only got about 2/3 of that energy as usable, because even at 100% efficiency you're going to need to flow about 200bar of pressure to get that 24kw (and given the volume of air available and 3 hour range).

Ok, so once again, 90 cubic meters; only presuming a minimum 200bar operating pressure, and 25% efficiency: You'd need to pressurize the tank to at least 1200 bar, or almost 20,000 psi. That's 4 times the highest pressure scuba tank (some HPBA systems are at 300 bar) or six times a standard tank.

Now these are all just really rough numbers, and who knows, maybe there IS an engineering miracle here. Also, its entirely possible they ARE pressurizing the thing to 1200bar; there are plenty of industrial applications that use pressures that high. In fact, there are common industrial applications (and equipment) for low density fluids (very few substances remain a gas at such high pressures, and nitrogen which air is mostly made up of, isn't one of them) at up to 150,000 PSI. It's just that such high pressures are not easy (and not cheap) to deal with, to store, to distribute, and to create in the first place.

Speaking thereof, the energy required to pump the high pressure air is going to be tremendous; because typical air compressor systems are terrifically inefficient; never mind the transportation and distribution infrastructure, which at least double that energy cost for production.

So yeah, your three minute fill up may have no direct emissions; but you're using probably 1440 KWh of energy total (inc. manufacture and distribution of the high pressure gas). At bout 8 cents per KWh (American national average. In India, where the car will be made, the national average is about 6 cents per Kwh) that would be $115.

$115 ??? but the article says about $2.80 (1.50 euro, at about $1.87 per euro at the moment). At $0.05 per Kwh in India, they're saying that they are using 56kwh of power total.

Honestly, I don't see how that's possible. For one thing, there's no way you could get 700kg to 110kph on 18.5kw; even assuming 100% efficiency (which is impossible).

But wait, theres more: they say that the car will come with a compressor that will reach a full charge in 3 to 4 hours, off a 240v Indian standard socket (240v at 15amp, for 3.6Kwh per hour, 4 hours, total energy about 15Kwh). Once again, assuming 100% efficiency, thats only 5Kw of power to move that 700kg, 110Kph.

That is absolutely impossible. Even at 500kg, thats not possible... hell it's maybe just barely possible at 250kg, and thats lighter than any but the lightest motorcycles and riders.

Hell, it's not even possible for a small compressor operating off standard mains current to achieve anything close to the operating pressures required.

The best portable commercial systems can flow about 15cfm at 6000psi (about 4 hours to fill the cars tank to 6000psi), and require either a 40amp 240v circuit; or a 25hp diesel motor. They are also about the size of a desk, weigh several hundred pounds, and start at about $30,000.

Let's just go over this one more time.

1. It is impossible to get more energy out, than you put in (you can't reach over unity).

2. In fact, its impossible to get even as much energy out, as you put in (you can't reach unity).

3. The best possible energy efficiency for systems of this type might be 25%, or assuming a technological miracle let's say 50%.

4. Even at 100% efficiency (which is impossible), 20-24kw (28-33hp) would be required for the vehicle to reach 110kph.

5. Even at 100% efficiency (which is impossible) 20-24kw for three hours (the specified range) would require 60-72Kwh (or 5-7kw for 10 hours, requiring pretty much the s

6. Even at 100% efficiency for both the engine, and the compressor system, the MOST possible energy that could be stored by the compressor system specified (230v at 15amp) in 4 hours would be 15Kwh; or 5Kw per hour for the three hour range specified.

7. It is impossible that such a vehicle would weigh less than 500kg. In fact it is nearly impossible it would weigh less than 700kg.

9. 5Kw will not move even 500kg to 110kph, never mind 700kg. In fact, that power would only move such a weight to about 20kph.

So, what they are describing is flat out impossible. Either the company promoting this wonder care are outright lying (possible, but seems unlikely), shading the truth to a ridiculous degree (highly likely, but still not enough), the reporter is a credulous idiot (almost certain, but also not enough in and of itself), or all three.

Personally, I'm thinking all three.

UPDATE:

Reader Smitty gives us a link to the actual designer of the vehicles in question.

Thank you very much sir, I appreciate that. I must have been stupid and not seen that among all the clutter on the article page.; and believe me I was looking.

At any rate, the first thing to note is, the vehicle is not in fact exclusively powered by compressed air. Apparently the motor is a hybrid diesel electric, with a low speed circuit powered by compressed air. This low speed circuit can be boosted by the electric portion of the drivetrain.

The low speed circuit operates at up to about 36kph generally. Above that speed the diesel circuit kicks in, up to about 60kph, when the compressed air circuit kicks out and the diesel goes it on it's own until top speed of 110kph. In addition to primary power, the diesel circuit is used to recharge the compressed air tanks when the pressure gets too low, or there is extra capacity the engine doesn't need for propulsion.

The waste heat from the diesel circuit is also used to maintain operating temperature of the engine, and reheat the super cooled exhaust air (very high pressure fluid, being released into very low pressure, means vapor phase change refrigeration whether you want it to or not). It is unclear what the range is when traveling exclusively on the air circuit.

Honestly, that's great. It's a good idea for using the waste energy of a vehicle to do something useful. Of course, the marketing page for the vehicles, and the article, make no mention of any of this. They refer to the car exclusively as a zero emissions vehicle, say it produces zero pollution, and explicitly say it doesn't burn any fuel, therefore never requires an oil change.

Lesse, shading the truth just a bit hard, a little bit of outright lying, and a credulous reporter?

Yeah I think so.

Now, as to my engineering assumptions; I haven't been able to find specific details as to how much HP the engine produces while on compressed air circuit vs diesel circuit, but this page does give some basic tech specs (in spanish):

Empty Weight: 550kg
Horsepower: 25bhp
Range without refueling in city driving: 150km

Stick in two small people and you get, 700kg or so, which is right in line with what I was saying, and with 25hp they are getting their top speed of 110kph... but their range is half what the article said, and that's at their projected "city speeds" of 36kph.

That's OK, seriously it's a significant engineering achievement. That's a VERY light, comparatively roomy city car that's incredibly efficient. It uses every possible means of increasing that efficiency, and apparently does a damn good job of it.

...just don't advertise it as an absolute zero emissions, pollution free wonder car that runs on compressed air, because it isn't.

What it is, is a more efficient and better conceived hybrid... and for once a hybrid that isn't a net environmental detriment (look it up, the electrical systems in hybrids cost more energy to produce than they save, and they are terribly harsh on the environment to dispose of).

That's great; more power to them, and I hope the car is a huge success.

Just one thing though: please stop trying to convince us you can do the impossible. We engineer types really don't like it when you do that; it makes us all twitchy.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Patrick Day, 2007

It's St. Patricks day once again, and I have nothing new to say this year... or rather, the same things I've said the last two years I'm just going to repeat here.

Oh, and todays meal? Guiness pork stew, and fresh homemade soda bread. Guiness may be shite to drink over here, but it still makes a good stew.

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Thursday, March 17, 2005

St. Patricks Day

Nations
I love my country and my country
my states and my counties
of purple mountains and four green fields
of pigskin and patriot games
of Stars and stripes and green and white
of micks and taigs
of my mother and my father
One world, and another.

I am a genuine Irish American. Not some guy who's grandmother on my mothers fathers side stopped in limerick on the way over from france.

I’m born to an Irish father and American mother, lived in Ireland for years, and moved there permanently after I got out of the AF. I only came back to the U.S. a couple years ago because my mom was sick (still is, but she's stable).

While in theory Ireland’s most important holiday is St. Patricks day, other than the UNGODLY HORDES OF AMERICAN TOURISTS, it’s not really that big a partying day to the general public...

...Unless of course you’re uber catholic; in which case, the day sucks for you anyway, especially if you have bad knees.

Everybody gets off of work and school, and it's a big family day for a lot of folks, maybe the best comparison would be to American Thanksgiving, but that's not really right either... maybe like thanksgiving combined with memorial day and independence day.

A couple of things about the Irish though:

1.We don't punch people for not wearing green, but wearing orange today IS profoundly offensive to about 5 million people (and only half of them live in Ireland); though most of them don't make a big deal about it... Unless you live in Boston, or in the Shankill road and Falls Road (Belfast), in which case you deserve the beating you are going to receive for being such a muppet.

2. Between a quarter and half of those people don't drink anything but sacramental wine.

3. Potatoes ARE still a big part of the Irish diet, a part of most every meal, but most of the potatoes arent actually grown in Ireland

4. We don't eat corned beef and cabbage. Thats a welsh thing that became associated with the Irish in America, because corned beef lasted longer before going off, and was cheaper than high quality beef. The Irish in America (and in Ireland) were historically pretty poor, they ate whatever they could.

5. We do eat boiled bacon or boiled pork shoulder and cabbage; also potatoes and parsnips or turnips. Or at least the Irish as a whole do, I hate cabbage, and I hate turnips.

6. Yes, in general Irish food sucks. The Irish have this amazing ability to take wonderful fresh meat, cheese, and produce bland, mushy, greasy, flavorless crap. Irish breads and baked good on the other hand, are fucking incredible.

7. Ireland is a VERY small country. It's about the same size as Indiana, and of the 4 million or so people living there, more than half live within 30 miles of Dublin. Guess what though; Half of all Irish born live outside of Ireland. We are as much a diaspora as jews.

8. Yes, just about everyone in Ireland say "fuck" just about all the time. Little grannies say fuck, 9 year olds say fuck, priests say fuck (hell it was the central joke of "Father Ted"). Fuck is like fucking punctuation. Also fucking popular are shite and arse.

9. Guinness sucks everywhere but Ireland. The further away you get from Dublin, the worse it is. Guinness doesn't travel well. Everywhere else in the world Guinness is pasteurized, has preservatives added, and is nitrogen boosted. It's just not on.

10. Brilliant!

My basic thought on Paddys day goes something like this…

St Patricks day: When everyones an Irishman, and EVERY Irishman gets pissed.

Oh, and speaking thereof, Ireland is great for the various euphemisms for drunkenness. My favorites? Arsed, Knackered, and Langered.

Now in honor of all the phony Irish assholes, and real Irish scumbags singing "The Men Behind the Wire" and "The boys of the old Brigade" in bars all over Ireland, Boston, New York, and Chicago...

FUCK YOU!!!!

The Patriot Game

Written by Dominic Behan following the death of 16-year-old Fergan O'Hanlon
during an IRA attack on Dungannon barracks in 1957

Come all you young rebels, and list while I sing,
For the love of one's country is a terrible thing.
It banishes fear with the speed of a flame,
And it makes us all part of the patriot game.

My name is O'Hanlon, and I'm just gone sixteen.
My home is in Monaghan, where I was weaned.,
I learned all my life cruel England to blame,
And so I'm a part of the patriot game.

It's barely two years since I wandered away
With the local battalion of the bold IRA,
I'd read of our heroes, and I wanted the same
To play out my part in the patriot game.

This island of ours has for long been half free.
Six counties are under John Bull's tyranny.
So I gave up my Bible, to drill and to train
To play my own part in the patriot game.

And now as I lie here, my body all holes
I think of those traitors who bargained and sold.
I wish that my rifle had given the same
To those quislings who sold out the patriot game.

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Friday, March 17, 2006

Patrick Day

In Ireland, the only people "celebrating" Patrick day (it's usually not called St. Patricks day) with wild partying, are the tourists (well... and the college students, but they'll celebrate a Simpsons episode they haven't seen with wild partying so...). Everyone else is home relaxing for the day off; or if they're still pious, off in church.

To Americans, it's a drunkards day, but to the Irish.. or at least to those who still give a damn about Ireland, and what it means to be Irish, it's significance is something like independence day, memorial day, and thanksgiving combined. It's a religious holiday AND a national holiday, and one of the strongest worldwide symbols of Ireland there is.

For a long time it was illegal to celebrate Patrick day; and the conspicuous display of green on this day could see one arrested. It was considered raising rebellion against the crown... something my family has a long history of really (look it up, fascinating stuff).

The celebration of this day is a very strong reminder to those who care about being Irish, what that means today, and what it has meant for the past 600 years.

Lest anyone think by these statements that I'm a supporter of the IRA, let me just say ohh ah FUCK THE RAH. It isn't 1921 anymore, and those bastards have done more damage in the last 30 years than I can describe.

What most don't realize, or even even hear of is that the IRA, and Sinn Fein (the peaceful political component) are a Marxist organization. Yes they want a united Ireland; but they want it to be a socialist workers paradise like Cuba.

Yeah I think you all know how I feel about that.

Of course the other thing most don't know is, that since the late '80s most of the violence has been initiated on the protestant side.

The so called loyalists, and "protective associations" and other pathetic excuses for extortion gangs look at sectarianism as an ideal cover for their real goal; the control of the criminal underground of Northern Ireland.

If you want to know what someones opinion of it is, you don't need ask; just listen to what they call it.

If its "The Cause", then they'll be singing "Boys of the Old Brigade" tonight. "The Struggle" is for those who march in orange down the Shankill road. The rest of us just call it "the troubles", and wish the lot of them to hell where they belong.

The worst part? At this point, The Irish don't want the north, and neither do the British. It's a gigantic welfare drag, with 20% or more unemployment, and massive dole roles, plus infrastructure costs that can't reasonably be borne... overall just a giant mess.

If you held a vote in all of Ireland today whether to unify the country, maybe half of the northerners would say yes, and probably three quarters of those in the republic would say HELL NO WE DON'T WANT YA.

Which is a damn shame; because the Irish SHOULD be one nation, and one people; even the English seem to accept that now; they just can't figure out how to extricate themselves from the situation while still doing right by her majesties subjects in the north counties AND saving face for the last 87 years of cockups.

So I think you can see why on this day, I find the singing of "rebel" songs to be a bit angering. My standard response is The Patriot Game (as above).

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Being Irish (in America)

These are generally true for me, though I'm 6'2", I DO sing very well, my sisters are 10 years younger than me (two step sisters, Patricia and Kirsten), and I don't play golf, good OR bad (but the rest of my family does).

I've highlighted those especially relevant ones in red
Being Irish means...
  • you will never play professional basketball
  • you swear very well
  • at least one of your cousins holds political office
  • you think you sing very well
  • you have no idea how to make a long story short
  • you are very good at playing a lot of very bad golf
  • there isn't a huge difference between losing your temper and killing someone
  • much of your food was boiled
  • you have never hit your head on the ceiling
  • you spent a good portion of your childhood kneeling
  • you're strangely poetic after a few beers
  • you're poetic a lot
  • you will be punched for no good reason...a lot
  • some punches directed at you are legacies from past generations
  • your sister will punch you because your brother punched her
  • many of your sisters are Catherine, Elizabeth or Mary...and one is Mary Catherine Elizabeth (no but all of those are my cousins)
  • someone in your family is incredibly cheap
  • it is more than likely you
  • you don't know the words but that doesn't stop you from singing
  • you can't wait for the other guy to stop talking so you can start talking
  • "Irish Stew" is the euphemism for "boiled leftovers from the fridge"
  • you're not nearly as funny as you think you are, but what you lack in talent, you make up for in frequency
  • there wasn't a huge difference between your last wake and your last kegger party
  • you are, or know someone, named "Murph"
  • if you don't know Murph, then you know "Mac" (both)
  • if you don't know Murph or Mac, then you know "Sully" (all three)
  • you'll probably also know Sully McMurphy (yup)
  • you are genetically incapable of keeping a secret
  • your parents were on a first name basis with everyone at the local emergency room
The town I grew up in is according to the census bureau the most Irish and most catholic town in America. I just went to my high school reunion, and yeah Rory, Sully, Murph, Mick, Maureen, Maeve... Connoly, Flannagan, Flaherty, Doherty, Murphy, Sullivan, Colleary, Hannigan, Gallagher...

My family? Forget about it. Hell I have aunts Mary, Catherine, Alice, Maureen, Susan, Allison, and Helen, and uncles Robert, Patrick, John, Brian, Thomas and David.

Yes, every last one of them is named after a saint (including myself, and my father who I am named after, and his father who we are both named after), if you count the ones only the Irish count.

Hell, I have more than 10 cousins and an uncle named Patrick (and lord knows how many great uncles).

Friday, March 16, 2007

A Statement of Position on the Right to Keep and Bear Arms

The recent Parker decision, has as usual brought out the opponents of the second amendment; those who would repeal it, or make it's repeal effective through the disingenuous twisting of language.

These people must be opposed, refuted, educated, and actively resisted at all turns, by all free men; as must all attempts to abrogate our essential rights and freedoms.

The second amendment has a very clear, and very important purpose:

All men by their essential nature have the right to defend themselves and their property from harm or oppression, be it by other individuals, or by the state; through whatever means necessary up to and including lethal force.

That right is fundamental to our nature as sentient persons. No law or amendment granted that right. No repeal or passage of any amendment may abrogate that right. No repeal or passage of any law may take away that right. No government or society may say that right is invalid, unnecessary, or “uncivilized”. That right is absolute.

The second amendment recognizes that right, and specifically limits the governments ability to attempt to infringe upon it.

Some may say that such a right is unnecessary, or outdated, or that the constitution and second amendment did not recognize and should not be construed as protecting that right.

They are wrong; by ignorance, by denial, or by design.

If you want proof you need not look far...

Sudan, Rwanda, Liberia, Yugoslavia, Cambodia, Congo, Germany, Armenia, Russia... The only thing that ensures against genocide, is an armed, and educated populace. The Warsaw ghetto should be all the example you ever need.

It is our duty as free men, and as citizens, to ensure that our populace remains both educated, and armed.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Battle of the Bulge, Progress Report

When we started this run, exactly six months ago Sunday, I was 425lbs. In fact, my peak was somewhat higher(I think 440), but my scale wasn't accurate enough to measure at the time (I've since acquired one that can measure up to 480).

Before my weight gain began, I was 265-285lbs, and under 15% bodyfat. I worked out regularly, ran, lifted weights, cycled, played football, and hiked.

I looked and felt great.

Two bad knee injuries later, I did none of those things; but I kept eating like I was. In six months I'd gained 60lbs, and then I stabilized. Then over a few years I went up and down, once back down to 295, once all the way up to 385, but generally somewhere around 365. Then I hurt my knees again, and started gaining again, until finally I looked at myself and said "what the hell is wrong with you".

Then, I didn't look so great, and I didn't feel so great.

On Septermber 11th 2006 I made a comitment. I would reduce my caloric intake to between 2600-2800 calories per day, and gradually increase my excercise; to reach my goal of being back down to 285lbs and under 15% bodyfat by my birthday after this one, April 27th 2008.

As of Sunday, I've gone from 425lbs, to 350lbs. Six months into my 18 month timeline, and I'm more than halfway to my goal. I've lost 75lbs from the start of my diet, and 90lbs from my peak weight.

Here's a couple pics of me from the last six years just to show you the difference (I dont have any of the pics before 2001 scanned, and I didn't have a digicam then).

This is me in Ireland, in 2001 or early 2002 (I don't remember); where I weighed somewhere between 325 and 345:




This one is November 2003. In early 2003 I managed to get down to 295, but here I was back up to about 325:




Here's one of me in New Hampshire, in 2004, at about 345:




You might note my appearance hasn't changed that much with varying weight... except for this one, where I'm probably at 440, and you can REALLY see the weight:




And this one, about a month into my diet, where I'd lost about 25lbs:



vs this one, about 25lbs heavier than today, at 375:



The funny thing is, I'm not much smaller today; or rather, I'm quite a bit smaller all over, except in the gut. I'm fitting into my shirts better, and the extra fat is gone off my thighs, arms, most of it off my chest, and some off my neck and face.

The problem is the gut. Oh I've still got a ways to go off the inner thighs, the chest, and under the arms etc... but it's mostly the gut.

As the weight has come off, my gut has gotten... loose, I guess would be the word, and descended, which has made my pants fit WORSE actually. I can get itno smaller waist sizes, but they're LESS comfortable than before.

This isn't a case for situps, I do tons of crunches already. The fat is over the muscle not under. Ask anyone who knows me personally, I've got ridiculously strong abs. Even at my weight I have no problem with 50 crunches, and a grown man can punch me in the stomach without having the muscle give... it's just that damn fat.

This is the problem with men and weightloss in general. The gut is the fat storage mechanism for famine; and it's the last place it hides, the last place it comes off. Worse, the more fit the rest of me gets, the more that gut will get slack, and droopy, and stick out. Sucks don't it. Actually, I got so big, I may need skin reduction. I don't think it's that bad, but it may be.

Ah well, it is what it is.

The other problem I've had, is that it's been a real sickly winter for me. Not sure why (other than having a 3 and a 5 year old), but I've meneaged to get every bug that's come around at least twice,; ADN I managed to fall down in the bathroom and hurt myself rather badly... comgin down to it, I have barely worked out at all since november. Every time I try and get started back again, I either get hurt, or get sick again. I've had two bloody sinus infections in two months fer chrissakes.

Anyway, when THIS damn sinus infection clears up, it's back on the bike and the machine again, and keep the pace goin. I want to do a lot more muscle toning and calorie burning. I don't exactly need a lot more muscle mass, but I'd like to get back some of what I lost over the past few years as well. Not all of it (I was a pretty beefy boy at 285 before), but enough that I feel strong again.

'course what I think of as strong, and what other people think of as strong seem to be two different things, since it seems that whenever somebody around here wants something heavy lifted, or bent, or busted, or opened, I'm the guy they think of ;-)

Anyway, thats where it's at. 75lbs in six months, and still not enough excercise; but I'm doing pretty good otherwise.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Dishonesty, and Dishonor



Top US General Calls Homosexuality Immoral

By Al Pessin
Pentagon
13 March 2007


The top U.S. military officer has said homosexuality is immoral, sparking renewed controversy about the status of homosexuals in the U.S. military. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, told the Chicago Tribune newspaper the military ban on homosexuals should continue, because homosexuality is immoral. The newspaper posted audio from the interview on its Web site.

PACE: "I believe that homosexual acts between individuals are immoral, and that we should not condone immoral acts."

General Pace told the Tribune that to officially allow homosexuals to serve in the military would be an endorsement of immoral activity. He said the military should not endorse any immoral acts, mentioning specifically homosexuality and extra-marital affairs, which are also against military regulations. General Pace endorsed the current policy, under which homosexuals serve by keeping their sexual orientation a secret.
Okay now, first off, I'm saying this as a man who is both Catholic, and a veteran; Don't Ask Don't Tell is offensive, insulting to all men and women who wear the uniform, gay or straight, and it should be ended one way or another.

The military is no place for mealy mouthing and careful parsing of statements for political correctness... or rather it shouldn't be, but all too often it is.

Whatever you think of homosexuality, you can't deny that DADT is a moral, social, and disciplinary disgrace of epic proportions.

Now, again as both a Catholic and a veteran, the idea that someone should be banned from serving their country because a general believes their private sexual behavior is immoral, is ludicrous. If his morality is coming from his Christianity he should know he is in no position to judge, that's Gods job.

We ban adultery in the military, not because it is immoral, but because it is dishonorable. It is the betrayal of a sacred oath, and if a man will betray his marriage vows, might he not betray his service oath as well?

There is nothing inherently dishonorable about homosexuality; but we force gay men and women into being dishonorable, ever day that they serve in silence.

Hell, I'm willing to bet MY private sexual behavior would GREATLY disturb Gen. Pace as well; and I'm a happily married man with two kids, who honorably served my country.

The fact of the matter is, there are thousands upon thousands of gay men and women serving honorably in the armed forces today; there always have been and there always will be. To tacitly accept their honorable service, and then insist that they dishonor themselves by being closeted is a shameful stain on OUR honor, as service members, as veterans, and as a nation.

Freedom of conscience is among our highest freedoms, and forced denial of self is an abuse of that freedom.

Hell, I knew for a fact that I was serving with gay service members; and was friends with several serving gays and lesbians who were quite candid about their sexual orientation, with friends only. It didn't effect their job, and it didn't make them poor service members; but it very definitely effected their souls.

It made me ashamed to have to accept this policy. IT IS WRONG.

Now, as to whether gays SHOULD be allowed to openly serve, I am of mixed mind on that.

The priary official concern, and logic behind the offical ban, is that gays serving with straights will result in inapprorpiate sexual behavior.

To my mind, so long as we set and enforce appropriate standards of behavior and discipline, and severely punish anyone who does not abide by those standards, be they gay or straight, I don't care who my buddy wants to have sex with (even if it's me).

Implicit in the banning of gays, while we allow men and women to serve together; is the assumption that gay men, and lesbian women will be less able to control themselves around other service members they are attracted to than straight service members. I find this implied assertion to be quite offensive; and disrespectful to ALL service members not just gays and lesbians.

The fact of the matter is, the rules say keep it in your pants (or if you don’t for gods sakes don't let it screw up the job). If we can expect straight folks to do it, we can expect gay folks to do it.

I'm not saying there aren't issues here. There will always be elements of anti-gay sentiment in the military; especially in the hypermasculine culture that pervades most of the military (and I don't necessarily think that culture is inappropriate much of the time); but so what, there are idiots currently serving who also hate women, Muslims, Jews, Hispanics, Blacks, Arabs, and every other identity group out there (note the caps).

Then there's the people who say "What about AIDS and other STDs that homosexuals are at higher risk for? In the barracks environment, in training, and in combat, there is a lot of close contact, potentially with with bodily fluids, as well as transfusions and the like".

Well, yes that's true, but the fact is that every service member can be required to have an AIDS test every six months, and probably SHOULD be, straight or gay. As I was getting out I beleive they were instituting regular screening for many STDs, and they have been testing for Gonorrhea, Syphillis, and Hpeatitis with every physical, for as long as such test have existed.

Hell, you can’t even say that gay men are at a much greater risk here, because soldiers, sailors, and airmen as a class, are about the most promiscuous people on the planet (I know, I was one of them), as well as frequent patrons of prostitutes, who are the highest risk group for sexually transmitted diseases by far.

After over a decade of exclusion, we now allow gay men with clear AIDs tests to give blood in the civvy world (presuming they don't have other risk factors like a high number of partners etc...); and we require a standard of behavior in or service members higher than society requires for gay men as a whole, so I reject this argument as speciaous.

All that said, I think this whole thing is one gigantic social mess. Hell, we’ve screwed up the military trying to integrate women, and still haven't managed to do so successfully for over 60 years of trying (since the inception of the Womens Army Corps nurses serving near the front in WW2).

And I'm not saying women shouldn't be allowed to serve either. I’m of the opinion that anyone who can meet the standards of a combat soldier should be allowed to serve in combat. That those standards be the same for all genders, sexual preferences, races, creeds or any other thing. Everybody has to pass the same test no matter what, and that test is predicated on what makes a good soldier, not what the average of the lowest performing group can pass (which is how womens PFT standards were developed by the by).

My point is however, that even given the position of women in our society, as the now dominant cultural force (and if you don’t think that’s true, you haven't watched much network TV or been on a universtiy campus recently - lucky you); we STILL can’t get integrating them into our military forces right. Integrating open homosexuality is a lot more controversial and difficult socially than women.

Then there's the fact that the service environment engenders a lot of very unguarded and intimate social contact, with communal quarters, showers etc... Some raise the entirely valid point that you wouldn't force a woman to shower with a man, nor should you force straight men to shower with gay men who might have sexual interest in them

I don't agree with that point in it's entirety, but I do see the issue; and I don't think the solution is separate accommodation for gay and straight (That would be just ridiculous, and nearly impossible to do in a combat zone anyway). Hell, I don't even think we should have separate accommodation for men and women out in the field. If women want to play with the boys they should shower with the boys... but that's neither here nor their.

The armed forces are not the place for social experimentation, and forcing such a change in the middle of a war is beyond stupidity.

My thought is that “don't ask don't tell” is insulting and shameful to all concerned; that anyone currently serving who is gay should be allowed to come out of the closet should they choose to do so, but we should avoid at all costs treating gays as a protected class etc… etc…

I just don't know how to do it.

Honestly, I don’t think we can do it right now. I don’t think it’s far off, but I don’t think it’s this year, or next year.

UPDATE:

WASHINGTON — Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed mild regret Tuesday for voicing his belief that homosexual acts are “immoral,” but he stopped short of an apology as gay rights groups and a powerful Republican senator rebuked the general for the comments he made to the Chicago Tribune.

As critics fired rhetorical volleys, Pace issued a statement expressing regret that he had put so much stress on the morality issue when he defended the Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on gays serving openly in the military during a Monday interview with the Tribune’s editorial board.

“In expressing my support for the current policy, I also offered some personal opinions about moral conduct,” Pace said in his statement. “I should have focused more on my support of the policy and less on my personal moral views.”


Well, although I disagree with him, Ill say I respect the man all the more for saying this, in this way. He didn’t cave to pressure to apologize for his personal views; but he acknowledged that it was entirely inappropriate for him to have expressed his personal views in the context of military policy.

Just a Little Biased...


At least they're honest about it


At least they're honest about it


So Cruel, So True







Is there anything better...

Than being freshly showered, lying with your woman by your side; in a nice firm soft bed, with fresh, new, clean, soft sheets?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Go Tell The Spartans

That 300 is two hours of pure, unadulterated, awesome (in ever sense), violence, poetry, ballet, style, and comic book superheroism...

This movie was absolutely incredible, at least for me. I understood the historical context, as well as where the history was pushed aside for the drama, and why, and that just made it all the better. There were a half dozen moments that literally sent shivers up my back.

This movie is Sin City, Combined with Ben Hur, and Braveheart; but done Frank Miller style.

In the main, the use of efects, dramatic framing, lighting etc... simply added to the storytelling. There were a few moments when it felt a bit overstylized; but mostly those were referential to the graphic novel, so they were understandable. Other than that, I have no reservations in saying this is one of the best combat moveis I've ever seen.

If you expect anything more than a story of herosim, perseverence, honor, toughness, glory, and mortal combat... what the hell are you doing reading this review, never mind considering watching this movie. If that's your sort of thing however, this is one of the best movies of it's type, ever.

Also in the realm of best evers; I have never seen a better depiction of melee combat on film. Yes, it is HIGHLY stylized, but they actually got things like phalanxes, shield walls, shield and spear tactics etrc... correct; and they never shrank back from the viciousness of it (though the sound and stylization were deliberately used to blunt the impact of what would otherwise be very horrific violenece).

Oh, and ther performances here, were jsut amazing. This is for all intents and purposes an ensemble cast of not very big stars, but they are near perfect (though I found David Wenhams accent a bit grating.

The man they chose for Leonidas, Gerard Butlar, had an amazing intensity, passion, and personal power that radiated from the screen. I absolutely believed this man as a warrior king. He also had a moderately thick Scottish accent, which to be honest I thought added greatly to the characterization, and injected some moments of humor as well. This movie has just made Gerard Butler a major star.

For the historical purists, there are a lot of points of contention and even irritation; but remember, this isn't a documentary, or even a history; this is a graphic novel brought to film. Take that as it is... and it's nearly a perfect example of it... and you'll love the film. Look at is as a purity for mythological storytelling that can't be shown without the drama and style, don't consider it for its historical flaws.

Flat out, I love this movie; and I can't wait for the special edition DVD. I hope they add another hour to the movie, and it still wouldn't be enough (admitedly, I'd appreciate it if that hour had more story, dialogue, exposition etc...). Seriously, I expect this movie will be the second or third highest grossing film this year (Pirates of the Caribbean 3, and Spiderman 3 are it's major competition).

Now, the one point I will hold against the film, if you don't know the story, or the graphic novel, there are a lot of questions you might have. The movie does address some of the culture of Sparta, but then it plunges full throat into the action leaving little of the story of the rest of the world for context.

Also a couple of parental notes: this movie contains graphic nudity, short scenes of explicit sex and rape, and some of the most brutal violence ever shown on screen, including realistic depictions of decapitation. No-one under the age of about 13 should be watching this movie, even with a parent; and I'm very surprised they were able to get that much on screen without an NC-17 rating to be honest. It's a VERY hard R. If you had trouble with Sin City, Kill Bill, or Saving Private Ryan, don't go see this movie, because other than Ryan, I think this is the most violent movie I've ever seen, and that violence is unrelenting (as is appropriate to a movie about Sparta).

Now, let's just talk for a minute about the history that shouldn't be neglected, if you are going to understand this movie properly:

The Sparta presented here in the movie is an idealized society. Yes, they glance at the harshness that was Sparta, but they depict them as free and equal men fighting for liberty against the evil hordes of the east coming to enslave them.

In reality, it was a matter of two tyrannies fighting each other; the one a tyranny of military stoic absolutism (the handicapped were killed because they were a burden on society. Women were expected to commit suicide after they could no longer bear children), the other a tyranny of slavery, debauchery, corruption, and terror.

That said, it was the Spartans that kept Greece from becoming slaves to the Persian empire, and for some short time at least, kept the ideals of a free society of laws, and liberties alive.

The Spartans viewed themselves as the perfect soldiers, not suitable for the weaknesses of such things, but they protected those who celebrated such liberties. Yes, they did it for a price, and at times they were the bullies in the picture, but sometimes rough men are necessary.

Whatever the political issues of Sparta, they did something truly legendary.

300 Spartans, along with a few thousand Thespians, Arcadians, Thebans (who later deserted to the Persians), Phocians, Mantineans, Corinthians, and Tegeans (somewhere between 4200 and 7000 total), held the pass at Thermopylae against somewhere between 200,000 and 4 million men (Herodutus said a total of 2.6 million), for four days.

Before the main assault began, Xerxes sent out an emmissary, to treat with the Spartans. He said to them, that if they laid down their arms and submitted to Xerxes, they would not only be spared, but would be allowed to remain a city state. In response to the request to lay down their arms, Leonidas shouted, "Molon Labe", which means "Come and get them!".

After unsucessfully assaulting the pass for four days, the Persians enticed a local into betraying the Spartans, and found a way to circle around and assault the pass from both side. The majority of the assembled Greeks chose, before being surrounded, to flee. Leonidas and his 300, along with 700 thespians, chose to stay and fight; to allow the remainder of the armies to retreat and regroup.

Why so few? The rest of the greek armies were either bribed by Xerxes into staying at home; or had decided to celebrate the olympic games and the feast of Carnea; and were forbidden from battle.

The 300 Spartans, and their king held the hot gates for two more days against the Persians, and died to the last man but two (who were both ordered away from the battle by Leonidas to pass messages. Both later commited suicide by charging into masses of enemies).

They died, so that Greece might remain free.

This sacrifice allowed the Greek armies to consolidate, and they tied the Persians up for over a year, eventually gathering an army 120,000 strong at Plataea, to face the Persians remainder of only 400,000 (after Xerxes was personally defeated at Salamis, and retreated to what is now Turkey with the majority of his forces).

At Plataea, facing three to one odds, the Greeks lost less than 10,000 men (some reports put it at less than 2,000); of the Persians, only 40,000 survived.

The Greeks at Plataea were led by 5000 Spartan soldiers (along with 40,000 Spartan Periocii and Helots, kinda like peasants and serfs, who acted as basic light infantry), of whom only 159 died. That was the largest fighting force of Spartans ever assembled, and it is believed that those 5,000 men accounted for at least 40,000 and perhaps as many as 120,000 Persians killed.

So, whatever the Spartans may have been, whatever faults they had; never doubt their honor, their courage, their valor, and their absolute dedication to duty.

Go tell the Spartans, passers by; that here obedient to their laws, we lie.

Friday, March 09, 2007

"But it's such PRETTY violence"

So Mel and Emily went and saw an early showing of "300", so that emily could see the movie and still babysit the kids later so the rest of us could go (Mel is going again by the by).

Anyway, we're sitting there talking about the movie and the following exchange occurs

Mel: So the audience was about 5 males to every female, which I guess proves Kommanders point, that there are a lot of woman who couldn't or wouldn't want to handle the movie

Chris: Well, it is a VERY violent movie

Mel: Yes, but it's such PRETTY violence

Chris: {choking through the laughter}I am soooo blogging this

DC Circuit Court gets it Absolutely Right

I couldn't imagine a better statement about the right to keep and bear arms coming from any court in this land (emphasis mine):
To summarize, we conclude that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms.

That right existed prior to the formation of the new government under the Constitution and was premised on the private use of arms for activities such as hunting and self-defense, the latter being understood as resistance to either private lawlessness or the depredations of a tyrannical government (or a threat from abroad).

In addition, the right to keep and bear arms had the important and salutary civic purpose of helping to preserve the citizen militia. The civic purpose was also a political expedient for the Federalists in the First Congress as it served, in part, to placate their Antifederalist opponents. The individual right facilitated militia service by ensuring that citizens would not be barred from keeping the arms they would need when called forth for militia duty.

Despite the importance of the Second Amendment's civic purpose, however, the activities it protects are not limited to militia service, nor is an individual's enjoyment of the right contingent upon his or her continued or intermittent enrollment in the militia.
More, including links to other sites at How Appealing

Thursday, March 08, 2007

My Signature

On the last post, Quinn Inuit left this comment:

Um...may I call you Mel? I know your posts all conclude with this:
"Just call me Mel, everyone else does."

However, that doesn't say anything about what _you_ want to be called. How would you like me to address you?

Yes, you can call me Mel, and thank you for asking. I encourage everyone who 1. I don't despise and 2. doesn't despise me to call me Mel. There are a couple of reasons for this.

First off, my given name (Melody) doesn't particularly suit me. I'm waaaayy too much of a tomboy for such a girly name, plus I'm not gifted musically. Since "Mel" is the logical nickname, ever since the age of 16 or so everyone outside of my immediate family has called me Mel. This started with friends and boyfriends then transferred to acquaintances, boyfriends' families, employers, etc... essentially everyone on the planet. I'm a fairly formal person; once the parents of my friends started using it I started to get uncomfortable. Most people (like Quinn) asked if they could use it, but some people didn't which leads me to point number 2...

Some people don't ask, they assume, but most of the time if I confront them and ask them to stop, they stop. However, in one particular case asking hasn't worked. On top of that, this particular family has used my nickname to persuade, manipulate, degrade, and curse me. This family is the same family opposing me in court and fighting me over the custody of the children.

They currently have MANY reasons to curse my name, and since they never really got the hang of using my given name I have no reason to doubt that they are using my nickname as a substitute.

I'm not really comfortable with that, for obvious reasons. I have generally engendered very little ill will in the world (particularly in comparison to good will) and having my name cursed is rather irritating.

So I ask everyone I meet who doesn't despise me to use my nickname as a kind of counter balance to those who use my name against my will. Since the intarweb is a big big place full of (mostly) nice people, I turned it into my signature. And it has worked; almost everyone I've met forgoes the given name for the one that I am "known" by. Hell, even my lawyer refers to me as Mel.

So yes, please

Just call me Mel, everyone else does.