Thursday, April 30, 2009

New telecoms in place.

Busy day today. In addition to all the work fun, and the fact that we're in the middle of a spring cleaning/whole house reorganization, today was the day we switched ISP and telcos.

In particular we've gone with the bundled cable, land line phone, and internet from our local cable company Cox. We were just using Cox for cable TV; and paying Qwest for our phone and internet; and Vonage for VOIP,and our 800 number and call forwarding service (for the business).

All told, it was three separate bills, and three different tech support calls etc... and was just a pain, in addition to being rather expensive.

Now we're down to Cox for cable, phone, and net; saving about $70 in the process.

We've also moved our 800 number, voice mailbox, and call forwarding service to a virtual PBX service called "GotVMail" (for now anyway. They're changing their name next week) for just $10 a month, and our VOIP to Skype for $3 a month; all told about $12 less a month than Vonage (and better service by far).

Importantly, I can get Skype on every computing device I use regularly; including the iPhone, and a version coming next month for the Blackberry.

I may even grab a WiFi phone if I find one at a reasonable price (they're about $100 right now, and I don't consider that reasonable). I'm almost certainly going to get a phone/skype switch for the cordless system (they let you switch from your regular phone line to a VOIP provider by dialing a code before the number; usually two asterisks, or two pound signs).

Anyway, the install itself went very smooth and quick. We have our own cablemodem left over from two years ago, and I already run all the phones in the house off a multi-line cordless system in the office.

Of course we had to spend a couple hours cleaning the crap out of my office just so I could get access to the wiring; and then a couple more hours fixing my phone, fax, and network cabling, and my power cable runs... but I would've had to do that anyway, this was just the kick in the pants I needed to get around to it.

The actual internet cutover was instantaneous. My total internet outage was thirty seconds while I rebooted my router. The phone cutover was a little more complicated however.

The phone gear install went just fine (it's a Motorola MTA, with a built in cablemodem; but for some reason they make you use a separate cablemodem for your actual internet). Unfortunately there was something wrong with the signal quality. The strength was just fine, but the signal to noise ratio kept spiking, and the MTA wouldn't sync up.

They ended up having to re-wire something in the neighborhood node, turn the amplifier gain up in the node itself (which would make noise worse actually), and reground the distribution splitter on the outside of the house. That resolved the noise issue, and boosted the signal strength to boot.

I'm actually hoping this change will also resolve some of the issues my cable card has been having. It seems that periodically, the cable card will freeze up, or lose lock on a signal; and I need to retune to another channel, then tune back to reacquire it. This causes programmed recordings to fail, which is an everloving pain in the arse.

Anyway, I haven't tried calling in to a conference line yet; but I have co-workers with the same service who have no problems, so it should be fine.

I must say I AM very happy with the internet speed. Instead of a theoretical 3Mbit down, 1Mbit up (I never saw more than 2/3 that) I'm seeing an actual 15Mbit down, and 3Mbit up; and that's not even to the head end, that's to a server in tempe on another provider.

Here's hoping there's no trouble... and that Qwest isn't a pain with the cancellation. I've cancelled Qwest services before, and three months later still had them trying to send me a bill for the next months service. I'm willing to bet that even though they are supposed to be cancelled, and the numbers ported out, they try and bill us for next month.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cookbook Updates 2

At this point we have 40 preorders for the hard copies and we're still hoping to make 160 orders so we can start our print run.

Orders can still be placed using PayPal (melody.byrne AT gmail.com) or by email (same address). Prices are still $25 for the hard copy (including media mail within the U.S.) and $10 for the DRM-free PDF.

Thanks to all who have pre-ordered, and as for the rest of you, would you mind telling me why?































Thanks for the input, and we'll keep everyone updated as to how things are progressing.

Mel

Monday, April 27, 2009

Come and Take Them

Happy birthday to me.

I'd been planning a Molon Labe tat for a while, and it was my birthday, so what the hell.

This one wraps about 1/3 the way around the bottom of my left bicep (centered with the other two tats on that arm). I've cropped it tight here because the pic itself was kind of cluttered. Oh and the distortion is from using a non macro lens at minimum distance, not in the tattoo itself.

I took the lettering from this distinctive marble cut in the monument to the Spartans at Thermopylae:


I'm definitely happier with the Cadmian, pre-Romaniszation style Greek lettering, than the modern Romanized greek you usually see.

Four Day Birthday Weekend

Some of you might have noticed I took a long weekend. Well, actually I took a very long weekend, including taking Friday and Monday off work (at least theoretically. No meetings, but I've been reading email as a defensive measure, just so it doesn't stack up too bad).

Why?

Well one, I needed a little relaxation time, to read and write and sleep etc... and four days off work does that nicely.

I'm kind of an odd duck. A weekend is just barely enough time to reset and start the week over again without coworker homicide seeming a viable option. Three days is enough to kinda relax, but just leaves me wanting another day or tow. Four days is just about right, and any more than five days and I start getting antsy for work again.

Anyway, the other reason is, because today is my birthday, and its the first birthday I've had in years where I could actually take paid time off.

So, as I have been doing all weekend, I intend to use today to read, write, and generally relax.

Oh and I'll have a surprise later for you. Something of a birthday present for myself that I think y'all might appreciate.

In the mean time, I think I'm going to go back to sleep for an hour or two.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Cookbook Updates

Well crap.

The printing press we'd originally chosen (and whose estimate we based our costs on) has changed (doubled) their estimate. In response to this, we've gone shopping for other estimates.

I've learned something about the printing business in the process. For example, I've found that:
  • The phrase "I'd like to self-publish and I'm looking for quotes" apparently means "I have tons of money, no sense, and would like to be shafted."
  • "I'd like a quote on printing my own cookbook" means "I'm too stupid to find a publisher and too stupid to shop around."
  • When a printer says, "No money upfront" that really means "kiss your book rights goodbye."
I'm a little disillusioned at this moment.

However, there are still good options out there and we've come up with a viable solution.

So we've recalculated all of our costs (printing, shipping, etc.) and we've come up with some numbers.

In order to start a print run, we need 200 preorders. In order to make profit on the print run, we need to sell 500 copies. To pay off our legal bills we need to sell 1500 copies altogether, hard copy and e-book combined.

We're currently at 23 copies sold.

Keep those orders coming.

Dial tones

Somehow, today became telecommunications maintenance and update day.

A couple years ago, I was getting my internet services and cable from Cox, and both my house phone, and portable VOIP from Vonage.

Unfortunately Cox kept raising prices, and Vonage kept screwing up with customer service. Then Cox started offering their own digital telephone service, and they started throttling the QOS of third party VOIP providers on their network.

Basically, it made Vonage unusuable.

This is strictly ethical, legal, and probably good business for Cox (because most customer won't know why their VOIP started working like crap, and they'll blame the VOIP provider... and most of the time they'd be right).

Personally however I think it's bad practice, and not right; and it pissed me off.

At the same time, my work switched to a new conference calling service; and whatever kind of compression they're using interacts with the compression Vonageuses; and the Vonagelines became completely unusable for calling in to work coference lines.

My entire job is conducted over conference calls. Clearly, the situation was unacceptable.

At the time (well, they offer it today too actually), Qwest was offering a bundled service package with phone, internet, and digital TV with FTTH (fiber to the home) at a greatly reduced rate. It was supposed to give me 20Mbps internet, 170 channels of full HD, an HD DVR, and two phone lines, for far less than the cost of my other services.

So, I cancelled Cox for cable and internet, and ordered Qwest. Knowing their might be trouble, I kept my Vonage subscription active, just in case.

What they failed to mention when they sold me this, was that actually they couldnt give it to me.

That in fact my area had only been provisioned for FTTN (fiber to the neighborhood); and that they could only give me 3Mbps internet, 90 channels none of them in HD, no DVR, and only analog POTS with the standard telco charges for extra features.

The installer let me know when he got to my house; but not before he had already tranferred my internet, house jacks, and interior cable wiring over to Qwest. He wasn't even told that I had been sold the higher level package; only that he was doing a bundle install. I noticed something was wrong when he came out with the wrong type of video gateway box.

Ooooh man I was pissed. I called Qwest up and cancelled the TV service on the spot; however, because Cox was still doing their stupid filtering thing, I decided to keep them for phone and internet.

That left me without a cable TV provider. I talked with Direct TV and Dish and I didn't like the options, so I called Cox back and asked them to permanently reduce my cable ate to get me to switch back, and they did.

I also cut my Vonage service down to the most basic plan, only because I wanted to keep my voicemail system, call distribution, and my 800 number. I also switched to using Skype for my VOIP.

Fast forward to today.

My qwest bill has gone up several times over the past two years, to the point where it's now $140 a month (all taxes etc... included) It's still only 3Mbps service and most of the time I don't even get that. Also, at least once a week, for several hours, all their DNS and DHCP within the region fails, effectively knocking me off the net.

Once again, It's really unacceptable.

I'm also really unhappy that they're charging me $78 plus taxes and fees for two lines with caller ID and voicemail, only one of which has long distance.

I'm already paying Cox $85 a month for cable (inc. taxes and fees), plus the $140 a month from Qwest, and the $22 a month from Vonage... Just under $250, for service I'm not happy with?

Well, since the switchover two years ago, Cox has DRAMATICALLY upgraded their cablemodem services; with a 12Mbps and 20Mbps plan. Not only that, but they've remioved the filtering on VOIP, and the silly 5GB per month download cap they were testing out for a while.

Right now, they're offering a bundle package, full digital HD cable, with one preimum channel package, the 12Mbps internet, and one phoneline with 3 features, for $119 a month.

Not bad, but not exactly what I need.

To add the second premium channel (we get HBO and showtime because we like their original programming) is $7, the second phone line is $12, and it's $20 to add unlimited long distance on the primary line. Oh and $6 each to add caller id and voicemail on the second line (which for some reason they wont let you order one of the feature bundles on, or it would be cheaper).

That's still $170 vs $230, and for what should be considerably better service; so I ordered it. They'll be here next Wednesday to move the phones over; and I'll install my cablemodem and hook it to my home network myself.

Also, I'm finally getting rid of Vonage; who, I swear before all that is holy, have the WORST reliability and customer service of any company I've ever seen.

They have overcharged me EVERY SINGLE MONTH since November of 2007. I have had to call up every single month and get it fixed AGAIN AND AGAIN.

The only reason I hadn't cancelled them completely up to this point was because of repeatedly rolling refunds and credits; so I wouldnt end up having to pay twice for something.

I found a provider that will give me 7 vmail moxes, a virtual PBX, and port my 800 number all for $10 a month, instead of the $22 Vonage is currently charging me.

Admitedly, they don't give me voip; but I don't WANT voip from them. I haven't used Vonages VOIP in two years. I use Skype for VOIP, and it's free to other Skype users, and ridiculously cheap for out network called ($2.50 a month)

So, I'm now getting everything I was getting before and more; at what should be better quality and with better customer service, for $177 instead of $252.

Alright.. good deal.

Too bad I can't roll in our mobile phone and data family plans. That'd be one less company to deal with, and another $130 ($30 of which is taxes and fees) a month I'd love to shrink a bit.

UPDATED AGAIN: Announcing: Recipes for Real Men - the Cookbook (STICKY UNTIL SUNDAY, scroll down for new content)

For all of you arriving via Ambulance Driver who have requested more info:

I (Melody) have been fighting the same custody battle since December 4th, 2004, the day my ex-husband decided to stop cooperating with me and take the children. Long story short, the end of that day left me without my children in a foreign country with death threats on my head. And, oh yeah, a court case in Canada to fight.

Since then I've been to British Columbia Provincial Court (shared custody agreement), Federal District Court (charged with violating an international treaty after HE did not come pick up the children), the Ninth Circuit (he appealed when the Fed court decided in my favor), and Arizona Superior Court (where after almost 4 years of drama and delays I receive my divorce decree). I won in every case EXCEPT the last, where I DID receive my divorce decree but the judge refused to take jurisdiction over the custody issue even though the FEDERAL DISTRICT COURT and the NINTH CIRCUIT said he could.

We've spent $150K ($25K of it outstanding at the moment) and we're still appealing the last decision.

If Chris and I do not appeal this decision, the children (who have been with us exclusively for the past 3 1/2 years) will be left in legal limbo.

Legal limbo is fine, except for the fact that if something happens to me in the next 12 years, my abusive ex-husband and his psychotic mother will have custody. Given past history, I already fear for my life.

We need to keep fighting so the kids are safe.

That's it in a nutshell.

Thank you for your help.
-------------------------------------

We've calculated all of our costs (printing, shipping, etc.) and we've come up with some numbers.

In order to start a print run, we need 200 preorders. In order to make profit on the print run, we need to sell 500 copies. To pay off our legal bills we need to sell 1500 copies altogether, hard copy and e-book combined.

We're currently at 85 copies sold.

Tell your family and friends and keep those orders comin'.



Yes, we've finally decided to do our own cookbook.

Included in the cookbook:
At least 200 full-color pages with preparation pictures
All previously published recipes
More recipes, including:
  • Death by Chocolate Cake
  • Stuffed Pork Chops (better title pending)
  • Mel's Infamous Cheater Chicken Soup
Full instructions and pictures
Pantry list and mise en place list
The usual share of wit and anecdote

We are also planning on doing a series of HD video podcasts of the recipes to follow in the near future.


The Offer:

  • DRM-free e-book (PDF) - $10
  • Hard copy, lay flat plastic comb bound (including media mail within U.S.) - $25
    --All hard copy purchases will include the ebook
    --All hard copies will be signed.
  • DVD with the e-book, and videos of many of the recipes being prepared, may be offered (if there is enough interest) for $15 (inc. media mail within U.S.), or for $10 with purchase of the hard copy.
Date of Release: No later than May 21st, 2009, hard copy within a month afterwards (hopefully earlier depending on demand and printing press's capabilities)

We already have most of the work done for the book, and May 21st is the absolute latest we'll be releasing the e-book version.

Due to outstanding legal fees, and the economics of price breaks on number of copies printed, pre-orders are HIGHLY APPRECIATED. We can't guarantee enough books will be printed if you wait until the books get back from the press, and we can't do Print-On-Demand due to the OMG price of full color POD (seriously, it would raise the price by $10 or more).

To order either email Mel at melody.byrne AT gmail.com or use the same address at PayPal.

Thank you!

The Gift for the (LARGE) Man Who has Everything

Among the many and varied vicissitudes of life common to large men, especially those of us who are both big, and tall; is the common household toilet.

Simply put, up until very recent "jumbo" designs, most toilets are simply not made for us big guys. They are too low for tall folks, and the bowl is too short for big guys...

...especially if you happen to be, shall we say, large in other ways... One's ...equipment... ends up uncomfortably close to things, one might prefer it not be close to.

This problem is even worse if you happen to have bad knees, as I do; because the too low seat height, combined with the torqueing you tend to apply to the seat as you sit down, adjust yourself, and get up...

Well, let's just say I've broken my share of toilet seat hinges.

They are generally just flimsy plastic after all. Seriously, I'm not THAT fat. Besides, I did it when I was much thinner too.

There is a solution to all of this however; and it doesn't rely on buying some fancy japanese, heated, automated, superjumbo handicaped toilet.

Gentleman, I give you, the BIG JOHN:



Perhaps that doesn't tell the story well enough... I think you need some scale (click to embiggenificate):


Or perhaps the dimensions might be more illuminating:


Seriously, this bugger is HUGE. I cannot begin to describe how LARGE this toilet seat is.
Monkeys should be worshiping it, as the sun rises to the strains of Also Sprecht Zarathustra".

Oh and I'll never have to worry about a broken hinge again:


Truly, the seat of best repose, is made a throne by the Big John.

Today, my wonderful wife decided to ease my suffering; and grace our home with one of these glorious gluteal supporting water closet appurtenances.

So gents, how does it sit?

I can honestly say, it is the most comfortable toilet seat I have ever had the pleasure of using.

The seat provides a 2" lift, which greatly relieves the pressure on my knees during.. mount and dismount, as it were.

It also has an unexpected, but much appreciated benefit. As I mentioned above... let's just say, mine do indeed hang quite low. While seated on my old toilet seat, when flushing, "the boys" would frequently receive a "cold shower" so to speak.

Not the most desirable effect; though I must say, it would quiet effectively wake one into full alertness of an early morning. Bracing.

The open front, which I prefer, not only gives more room for the tackle; but it prevents the rather shockingly unpleasant effect (which thankfully only happened rarely), that I less than fondly refer to as the "junk pinch"; which would sometimes occur when I would adjust my position on the throne.

I must say, I wholeheartedly recommend the Big John for anyone of large stature, large girth, large endowment; and especially those who possess those attributes in combination.

It may not be a Ferguson, but I think Al Bundy would approve.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Constitution really DOES mean what it says

This morning, the 9th circuit court of appeals confirmed that the 2nd amendment is indeed incorporated against the states under the selective incorporation doctrine, in the case Nordyke Vs. King.

This means that the 2nd amendment has a lawful status equivalent to that of the first, fourth, fifth, and other amendments which explicitly protect our fundamental rights.

Of course, that is only lawfully binding within the 9th circuit; but it is expected that other circuits will take judicial notice of the 9ths ruling.

If you aren't familiar with the Nordyke Vs. King; this is the case where a gunshow operator was denied access to use country fairgrounds for their gunshows, because a county ordnance prevented the posession of firearms on county property by anyone other than law enforcement.

The facts of the case as presented to the court are as follows (emphasis in bold and red are mine):

Russell and Sallie Nordyke operate a business that promotes gun shows throughout California. A typical gun show involves the display and sale of thousands of firearms, generally ranging from pistols to rifles. Since 1991, they have publicized numerous shows across the state, including at the public fairgrounds in Alameda County.

Before the County passed the law at issue in this appeal, the Alameda gun shows
routinely drew about 4,000 people. The parties agree that nothing violent or illegal happened at those events.

In the summer of 1999, the County Board of Supervisors, a legislative body, passed Ordinance No. 0-2000-22 (“the Ordinance”), codified at Alameda County General Ordinance Code (“Alameda Code”) section 9.12.120.

The Ordinance makes it a misdemeanor to bring onto or to possess a firearm
or ammunition on County property. Alameda Code § 9.12.120(b).

It does not mention gun shows.

According to the County, the Board passed the Ordinance in response to a shooting that occurred the previous summer at the fairgrounds during the annual County Fair.

The Ordinance begins with findings that “gunshot fatalities are of epidemic
proportions in Alameda County.”

At a press conference, the author of the Ordinance, Supervisor Mary King, cited a “rash of gun-related violence” in the same year as the fairground shooting. She was referring to a series of school shootings that attracted national attention in the late
1990s, the most notorious of which occurred at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.

But the Nordykes insist that something more sinister was afoot. They point to some of King’s other statements as evidence that she actually intended to drive the gun shows out of Alameda County.

Shortly before proposing the Ordinance, King sent a memorandum to the County Counsel asking him to research “the most appropriate way” she might “prohibit the gun shows” on County property.

King declared she had “been trying to get rid of gun shows on Country property” for “about three years,” but she had “gotten the run around from spineless people hiding behind the constitution, and been attacked by aggressive gun toting mobs on right wing talk radio.”

At her press conference, King also said that the County should not “provide a place for people to display guns for worship as deities for the collectors who treat them as
icons of patriotism.”

Without expressing any opinion about King’s remarks, the Board of Supervisors adopted the Ordinance. County officials then exchanged several letters with the
Nordykes.

The General Manager of the fairgrounds asked the Nordykes to submit a written plan to explain how their next gun show would comply with the Ordinance.

As the County Counsel had told the General Manager, the Ordinance did not
expressly prohibit gun shows or the sale of firearms.

An aside from the the blog author: This is in fact a false statement. California statute in conjunction with federal law (i.e. the sum total of requierments imposed by boths sets of statutes combined; not each set individually), requires that firearms transfers occur face to face, through an FFL; that the FFL conduct a background check and in person identity verification of the person they are delivering the weapon to at the time of sale, AND at the time of delivery if those times are separate; and that the sale be conducted at the FFLs place of business, an organized gun show, or a licensed auction.


Effectively, the only way they could conduct a gun show, would be to have pictures of guns available, at which time prospective gun purchasers could arrange to meet the FFL later at their place of business to purchase a firearm. It would not even be lawful to explicitly arrange for a sale at the show and then complete the transaction later.

The county council knew, or should have known, that this was the case.


The Nordykes insisted then and maintain now that they cannot hold a gun show without guns; perhaps because they thought it futile, they never submitted a plan.

During the same period, representatives of the Scottish Caledonian Games (“the Scottish Games”) inquired about the effect of the new law on the activities they traditionally held on the fairgrounds. Those activities include reenactments, using period firearms loaded with blank ammunition, of historic battles.

After the inquiries, the County amended the Ordinance to add several exceptions. Importantly, the Ordinance no longer applies to [t]he possession of a firearm by an authorized participant in a motion picture, television, video, dance, or theatrical production or event, when the participant lawfully uses the firearm as part of that production or event, provided that when such firearm is not in the actual possession of the authorized participant, it is secured to prevent unauthorized use.

This exception allows members of the Scottish Games to reenact historic battles if they secure their weapons, but it is unclear whether the County
created the exception just for them.

By the time the County had written this exception into the Ordinance, the Nordykes and several patrons of and exhibitors at the gun shows (collectively, “the Nordykes”) had already sued the County and its Supervisors under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for various constitutional violations. The amendment did not mollify them, and their lawsuit has wended through various procedural twists and turns for nearly a decade.
I just want to highlight again one particular passage:
King declared she had “been trying to get rid of gun shows on Country property” for “about three years,” but she had “gotten the run around from spineless people hiding behind the constitution, and been attacked by aggressive gun toting mobs on right wing talk radio.”

At her press conference, King also said that the County should not “provide a place for people to display guns for worship as deities for the collectors who treat them as icons of patriotism.”
Disgusting.

Unfortunately the result here is mixed. The circuit has ruled that the 2nd is incorporated against the states; but that it did not overturn the statute in question... I'm not really sure I agree with or follow their reasoning on this one.

The ruling provides that the second amendment is explicitly incorporated against the states, in plain language:
We therefore conclude that the right to keep and bear arms is “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.”

Colonial revolutionaries, the Founders, and a host of commentators and lawmakers living during the first one hundred years of the Republic all insisted on the fundamental nature of the right.

It has long been regarded as the “true palladium of liberty.” Colonists relied on it to assert and to win their independence, and the victorious Union sought to prevent a
recalcitrant South from abridging it less than a century later.

The crucial role this deeply rooted right has played in our birth and history compels us to recognize that it is indeed fundamental, that it is necessary to the Anglo-American conception of ordered liberty that we have inherited.

We are therefore persuaded that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the Second Amendment and applies it against the states and local governments.
There could not be a better, and more unambiguous, declaration of right than this.

What is puzzling to me is how they decided that the county ordnance did not then violate the second amendment.

Yes, they make clear that laws which make exercising fundamental rights more difficult do not automatically infringe upon them (from a legal standpoint); but it seems to me this is a clear cut case of a local government, promulgating a complete ban on the possession of firearms on land controlled by that local government.

Such a ban should be clearly unconstitutional under this analysis.

It would be like saying free speech did not apply on county property, which IS clearly prohibited. Yes, there can be reasonable restrictions, but total prohibition should be right out.

Given the relative weakness of argument supporting the ordnance, and complete lack of precedential support, I can only conclude they were desperately hunting for a reason not to invalidate ALL gun control legislation in one stroke.

Now, the real question, is whether either party is going to continue appealing, and file a petition for certiorari before the supreme court.

Both parties have grounds, and standing to file; and both parties have both incentive and disincentive to do so.

If they do, and the court decides to take it, it would be the second most significant second amendment case ever, after Heller (Heller clearly supersedes Miller, and is therefore more significant)

By the by, if you read the whole ruling (and I recommend you do) there is some extensive discussion of Cruikshank, Presser, and Slaughterhouse. I believe that Heller provided an explicit foundation for all three to be overturned (at least partially).

Actually I believe that proper jurisprudence suggests they should be overturned as having had no facial validity in their initial rulings, being clearly against the principals engendered in the constitution; but Heller gives a precedential foundation for this).

Although I'm generally not a big fan of Hugo Black; I think he had the right concept on the 14th amendment. In fact, I believe it should have been clear without the fourteenth amendment, and merely through the supremacy clause that ALL elements of the constitution as directly related to the people and the protection of our rights (as opposed to the structural components of the constitution) applied to the states.

Also contained therein, is an analysis of the right to keep and bear arms as a fundamental individual right, and commonlaw right from before the founding of this nation through the passage of the 14th amendment and beyond; including a discussion of the racist nature of gun control.

The footnotes and citations too contain a wealth of information, this lovely nugget being my favorite:
we do not measure the protection the Constitution affords a right by the values of our own times. If contemporary desuetude sufficed to read rights out of the Constitution, then there would be little benefit to a written statement of them. Some may disagree with the decision of the Founders to enshrine a given right in the Constitution. If so, then the people can amend the document. But such amendments are not for the courts to ordain.
In all, the incorporation portion of the ruling and opinion are so well researched, and reasoned, in such depth; that I cannot see how a credible argument could successfully be made against it, given an honest arbiter.

Conversely, the section (only a few paragraphs of a 40 page ruling) arguing that the ordinance did not violate the second amendment was so poorly argued that I can't see how a successful arguement COULD NOT be made against it, given an honest arbiter.

So I say, Alameda County, PLEASE appeal this to the supreme court on incorporation grounds; and to the Nordykes, please appeal the decision to uphold the law.

Thanks ever so much.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Legal Updates

Well, the 9th Circuit (no, I will not refer to it as the 9th Circus, particularly in this circumstance) has finally issued a FINAL ruling concerning the custody/jurisdiction/breaking of international treaty case. Based on the briefs, they have once again ruled in my favor.

Yay!

Also, it does not look likely that we'll be going before the Supreme Court with this issue so I may very well be done with federal courts as a whole.

Double Yay!

However, we have one legal irritation left.

My appeal to the Arizona Appeals Court.

Once again, I was informed the timeline was something between immediate and "2 years from now".

Our brief is due the Tuesday after Memorial Day.

Gah.

On top of that, the death of the truck and the necessity of buying a new vehicle took essentially all of our savings. Plus, I'm going to be out of work for a couple of weeks until I get re-upped for the next phase.

So we have currently outstanding legal bills (ugh) plus more forthcoming (double ugh). Plus, my lawyer's finances have taken a turn for the worst, as most of his clients are businesses, many of which are in trouble. He can't put off payment anymore.

From Chris: The "funny" part of that? Instead of my bonus going to pay down debt as had been planned, what was left after the taxmans bite went straight into buying the truck. That put us in an unhappy spot on the credit cards, as I was planning on paying a bunch of them off either completely, or at least 60% with the bonus money.

So we cut our spending to the bone, sold some stuff, took on some side work, and put off everything we could except the new carry gun; to clear up some cash from the day we bought the truck until this Friday.

In one month, we managed to pull $4,000 together to pay off about half the remaining outstanding credit card debt (we also owe about $4k on furniture. Thankfully it's on zero percent through the middle of next year).

A few minutes after the payments to the credit card companies went through, the lawyer called.

Ironically, it was the legal bills that caused us to run up the cards that high in the first place. We ended up short on cash at the same time as he needed $7,000, so we put everything but the rent on the cards for six weeks, and paid him.

I wouldn't normally have done something like that; but I did it because I had a zero percent balance transfer for life on my higher limit card, so I just transferred all the balances over onto that card. That way at least I wasn't paying interest on it. That's where most of that $4000 went.

Yes I know, that's a bad idea. Unfortunately, when the laywer needs money, he needs money right then.


Now we've been pondering a solution for this problem, and working on said solution, for about 4 months now. We're not going to do what we did last time, which was ask for ideas and end up with a bunch of donations instead (thank you though, because that really did save our collective asses).

This time we have something else in mind entirely, a side business whose proceeds will be going straight to the legal bills as well.

Stay tuned.

Mel

Friday, April 17, 2009

A Pit Bull In My Pocket

No, not the big ass dog currently attempting to lick my face off (he's a bit affectionate); the brand new carry gun sitting there.

As I mentioned in my BAG day post, my wife has snaffled my Kel-Tec P3AT for her daily carry gun; because it's the only gun we own... one of the very few available actually... that she can carry on body without a cover garment.

So, that found me looking for a new pocket carry gun.

S'okay with me, I've been planning on buying one of these since they came out:

That would be a Smith and Wesson, hammerless, 5 shot, J frame, scandium airweight, black non-reflective finish, in .357 magnum; a.k.a. the 340pd.

I've been a j-frame owner before, shot the scandiums (many of them, from .22 up to .44 magnum) many times; and owned a scandium L frame (a 386). I have not however been a scandium J frame owner as of yet.

...Well, until now.


That little cell phone holster there isn't actually a cell phone holder. It holds three 5 shot speedloaders quite nicely; while still allowing easy access, and of course while being very discrete. I actually prefer the Safariland speedloaders for this thing, but I happened to already have four of the HKS units around.

From the factory the gun comes with the UncleMikes/S&W licensed soft kraton version of Craig Spegels boot grips...

... which is great, if you have small hands. I uh... don't.

As you can see, I can barely get a three finger grip on there, never mind a four finger grip. Also, with the bare backstrap, the gun just isn't pleasant to shoot with anything approaching full house loads. .38+p+ is the maximum here.

The factory sights are... rudimentary would probably be a good way of putting it. Trying to site down that little black trough, in the dark, without my glasses on...

Yeah, no.

So, to kill two birds with one stone, I decided to put on a set of Crimson Trace lg-305 overmolded lasergrips. This version of the laser grip lets me establish a full (and comfortable) four finger grip on the gun, as well as giving me the laser.

I'm also considering swapping out the front sight for an XS BigDot, for lowlight redundancy.

The much larger grip lets me fire full house .357 magnum without discomfort (to my hand anyway. my eyes and ears are another question entirely), even though it's so light weight (just 15.5oz loaded).

Initially I had a concern that the size difference in the grip would hurt concealability; but I'll say, I have no problem with it.

Yeah, it's bigger, by quite a bit. Here's the two of them to compare:




It's about a half inch wider, and about a half inch taller, but not as wide through the palm swell. Also, it's sticky (with the soft and grippy Hogue overmolded rubber compound), but not as sticky as the stock grips.

I'll be honest with you, I think it's easier to carry with the laser grips on. It's CERTAINLY a hell of a lot easier to draw and establish a good grip; and with the smooth organic shape, it's very comfortable to carry in my front right jeans pocket, even sitting in the car.

So, how does the 340 compare to my previous carry gun, the P3AT?

It's bigger. Much bigger:


The numbers tell the story, at least somewhat.
Smith and Wesson 340 Personal Defense (PD):

Chambering: .357 magnum (120-158gr loads only. Short barrel loadings better)
Barrel Length: 1.875
Capacity: 5
Thickness: 1.3"
Height: with factory grips 4.3", with CT laser grips (305) 4.8"
Length: with factory grips: 6.375", with CT laser grips (305): 6.775"
Weight: 12.0 oz unloaded, 14.9oz loaded, with CT laser grips (305) 15.5oz loaded

Kel-Tec P3AT:

Chambering: .380 (browning lock type gun, +p are OK unlike blowback guns)
Barrel Length: 2.75"
Capacity: 6+1
Thickness: .8"
Height: 3.6"
Length: 5.2"
Weight: 7.2 oz unloaded (no mag), 10.2oz loaded

The reason I say the numbers reflect the tale somewhat, is that strictly by dimensions the 340 seems to come off quite badly; but the shape of the thing is very good, so the dimensions don't seem to matter as much.

Although the maximum thickness of the 340 is 1.3"; that is of course at the widest part, the round cylinder, which is actually a quite small portion of the gun; and the measurement makes the gun seem far chunkier than it really is.

Most of the 340 is only about a half inch thick, and is organically shaped; as opposed to the Kel-Tec, which is a nearly flat .77" thick, and is very linear. This makes the 340 actually FEEL thinner than the Kel-Tec, and in my experience it is more comfortable to carry in the pocket, and it prints less in most clothing.

Here's a pic showing both of them in their respective pocket holsters (a slightly modified Desantis nemesis for the 340, that is completely and exactly covered by the GuruDave holster for the P3AT):


The holsters are lined up foot and spine above; and the P3AT holster is almost exactly the same size as the 340s holster. The difference is the fair bit of the grip left out on the 340.

Again though, the shape of the thing is what really matters; because in your pocket, it doesn't look like a gun at all. My thigh is rounded, the P3AT is not, so the P3AT shows angles where angles shouldn't be, even with the holster; whereas inside the the holster, the 340 is all smooth curves.

That isn't to say the P3AT is hard to conceal (I've never had someone spot it yet, even trained and aware individuals); but the 340 just looks smoother in the pocket.

And, as I said above, it's a HELL of a lot easier to draw. Even in the holster, the P3AT has a tendency to want to rotate; at least in my pockets (which admittedly, are quite large).

The chambering is of course a major factor here. The 340 is a .357, even though it's only a 1.85" barrel. That means you're only going to get about 1100fps from 124gr at best; along with a HUGE fireball and muzzle blast.

Still, .357 is .357.

Take a look up at the factory grip above again, and you'll notice there is a deep undercut behind the trigger guard, a bare backstrap, and a very sudden and narrow transition into the web of the thumb.

On my hand at least, that means the trigger guard raps my knuckles, the frame hump tries to embed itself into the web of my thumb; and the narrow grip and bare backstrap puts the cylinder latch right against the meaty bit of the side of my thumb just waiting to tear a bit of flesh out if I'm not very careful to keep a thumbs down grip.

All of that says "DON'T SHOOT .357 THROUGH ME" very loudly.

Look again at the LG-305 though. Full 4 finger grip, broader and more hand filling through the palm, nice big rubber bit in the web of the thumb...

Really, with the big grip on it, .357 is not bad at all. I'm not saying it's like shooting a stainless L frame; but it can be accomplished without major drama in the hand... again though, and it may seem like I'm getting repetitious here, but it really must be emphasized; the muzzle flash and muzzle blast are staggering.

The cor-bon super hot .380 that I carry in the P3AT is supposed to be 1100fps, but that's from a 2.5" test barrel. Also that's effectively +p+ and only suitable for locked breech guns.

A P3AT is NOT a 2.5" test barrel, and what you've got is 90gr at around 1000fps from it's dinky barrel (and with a pretty large standard deviation by the way. It's hard to get a consistent burn in such a small barrel).

Buffalo bore has a 90gr load that claims 1100fps and Doubletap a 95gr load that claims 1000, but instead of a test barrel, both say that's their velocity from the P3AT. Both are above Saami +p like the cor-bon; and I'd expect the same kind of results, at 50fps lower than claimed, with a large deviation.
A note about barrel length: The stated length of the P3AT barrel is 2.75" vs. the 340s 1.88", but remember revolver barrels are measured from the forcing cone and don't include the chamber. Automatic barrels are measured from the breech face, so about an inch (.95" actually) of that length is the chamber, and the effective length of the barrel is in fact slightly shorter than the 340.
That's a worthwhile difference in mass, momentum, and energy (about 200ftlbs, vs about 400ftlbs). That means, even with full expansion, generally speaking the .357 is going to give you at least 2" more penetration; which is a big deal.

Now, as I have said repeatedly, any full .357 magnum load is going to give you a MASSIVE fireball and muzzle blast from that short barrel; and it's going to be unpleasant to shoot. For most people, most of the time, I recommend a .38spl +p (or +p+).

If you can get it (it's rarer than a liberal with a clue these days), I cannot recommend Speers gold dot short barrel personal defense ammunition strongly enough.

In either .357 magnum or .38+p it uses the same specially designed 135gr. bullet; made to penetrate, and give good, controlled expansion at the lower velocities of the sub 2" barrel. The loads also use a flash suppressed powder; and a powder charge whose burn rate, and volume is optimized to produce as little fireball, muzzle blast, and extra recoil as possible.

It IS a lower velocity round, at just about 1000fps from the 340, and 340ftlbs of energy; but it is specifically designed to BE a lower velocity round, so you still get good penetration and full expansion. Importantly, you get that nearly non existent muzzle flash, and greatly reduced muzzle blast (still substantial, but greatly reduced).

I plan on carrying the Speer, Doubletap, or Buffalo Bore .357 short barrel loads, if I can ever get 5 boxes together to qualify the gun with it. I'm on waiting lists at Midway, Midsouth, Cheaper than Dirt, and my local stores, and direct from BB and DT.

As it is, the ONLY defensive .357 I've been able to get my hands on is Federal premium self defense 158gr hydrashoks; which is excellent ammo, but not particularly well suited to such a lightweight gun (never go under 120gr or over 158gr on these guns. You'll get pull or setback, which can jam up, or blow up a gaun; and with loads above 158gr, you can possibly get forcing cone cracking and frame stretching).

So, all that said, I'm not particularly recoil sensitive; and with the laser grip, I get a full four finger grip that fills the hand nicely, and helps me control recoil well. That is clearly not the case with the P3AT:

By the by, that's not even an attempt at a shooting grip; it's just that when I have the P3AT in a proper shooting grip the only part of the gun you can see is the slide. I wanted you to see how much of my hand is hanging off in the breeze when I shoot that little gun.

Now honestly, most of the time it doesn't bother me. I can shoot the sucker very well, emptying a mag as fast as I can shoot into a 4" circle at 7 yards; which as far as I'm concerned is EXCELLENT pocket gun accuracy. I've put at least 15,000 rounds through the thing, including about 5000 super hot +p and better loads; and I find it reasonably easy to control and comfortable to shoot.

Well... 'Cept for one thing: with the hot loads, the front of the trigger guard beats the hell out of my trigger finger, and the bottom of it beats up my middle finger (the humped bit recoils right into my knuckle). I can get the best grip in the world on it, after 50 rounds I've still got two hurting fingers. It doesn't stop me from shooting the gun well, but it IS a pain.

Thankfully, Mels fingers are small enough that she doesn't have that problem; though she prefers milder loads to the ones I choose to carry; because she gets a lot more muzzle flip, and with he much smaller and not as strong hands, it's harder for her to control it.

So, which one would I rather shoot with full house loads?

The 340 with the laser grips; no question. Wih the factory grip it would be entirely the other way; but with the laser grip, the gun is quite comfortable and controllable.

... and of course I like having that .357 capability there in case I need it.

All in all, I'm very happy with my new carry gun.

I mean, wouldn't this view just ruin your whole day?:

(don't start snarking in comments about the four rules. The only thing at risk there was a remotely operated camera).

A Three Fer for Buy A Gun Day

Or sort of a Three-Fer anyway.

Yesterday was of course Buy A Gun (BAG) Day here in the good old U.S.A; coterminous with, not coincidentally, tax day.

In celebration and protest of this, we bought two guns, sold one to someone as their BAG day gun, and gave one away.

First, Mel appropriated my P3AT, because it's the only thing we have that she can carry without a cover garment or purse, so I needed a new pocket carry gun.

My next post will cover my new carry gun, along with some nice pics.

The other two guns are sort of a special case.

Our friend and my co-worker, a single woman and inexperienced shooter (she is an army vet, but shes 20 years out, and has only shot a few times in the last few years) recently bought a house.

Well, we sold her one of our guns (the custom HK USP compact .45 with night sights. She prefers autos to revolvers), a couple of different holsters and four spare mags, as her personal defense gun, and BAG day gun.

We also suggested she needed to get a shotgun for her house, with which she wholeheartedly agreed.

As it happens, her birthday is Saturday.

So, JohnOC, Mel and I got together and bought her a Mossberg 500a persuader for her home defense shotgun, second BAG day gun, and birthday present.

Is there any better gift than the tools of self defense, and self reliance?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Refresher on Philosophy

In comments on The Liberty Papers, I have been asked to explain further my philosophies of liberty, government etc…

I’ve written extensively on the subject before, both here, and there (and when I say extensively I’m talking tens of thousands of words) so I thought I just post some of the more comprehensive and important links here:

My Philosophy:

  1. What the Heck is a Muscular Minarchist?
  2. The Politics of Liberty
  3. Rights Penumbras and Emanation
  4. Citizen or Subject?
  5. No Philosophy?
  6. The Fundamental Problem with Involuntary Collectivists
  7. Authoritarian, Libertarian, Anarchist?
  8. -isms Part One
  9. A Couple of Sad Truths
  10. To Amy, and Others who Believe that Government can do Good
  11. I Can’t Bleieve I haven’t Explicitly Stated this Here Before
  12. Differing First Principles

Read them all and you’ll get a pretty solid idea of the philosophical, moral, and practical underpinnings for the ideas I present here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Somebody call Robert Rankin

Looks like the HCBOTA have met their match:

The Fundamental Problem with Involuntary Collectivists...

... and in fact leftists of any stripe (and some on the far right for that matter), is that everything they believe is wrong.

Yes, I mean that directly, literally, and completely. Everything they believe is wrong. Incorrect. False.

Everything they believe in is wrong, because it all flows from absolutely wrong first principles, which can best be summarized as:
  1. If it makes me feel good, it must be alright
  2. If it makes me feel bad it must be wrong
  3. If I can get enough people to go along with me, we can do whatever we want, because we say so
  4. If someone is very intelligent, and gets a lot of people to agree with him, I should agree with him too or there's something wrong with me
  5. If we want something to be true bad enough, no matter what, it is true, because we say so
  6. Anyone who disagrees with any of this is wrong and bad
  7. Everything we do is right because we say so, and anyone who disagrees with is wrong and bad; therefore anyone who wants to stop us is stupid or evil
  8. Anything goes so long as we get what we want
These are not principles at all of course; merely an attempt to rationalize doing what they want to do.

This, fundamentally, is evil, because it abnegates human liberty and the human spirit; and because it recognizes neither morality, nor ethics (one cannot call such notions ethics). Not only does it allow for the tyranny of the majority, it requires it. The will of the collective outweighs all.

Oh and never mind the inherent contradictions there. They are obvious and irreconcilable to a non-collectivist; but somehow not to a collectivist (though at least some distinction has to be made here between involuntary collectivists, and voluntary. The voluntary are still incorrect, but they aren't forcing anyone else into it, so that's OK)

Simply put, the coercive restraint of human liberty is inherently evil. Control of ones person, property, and behavior should be the exclusive province of the sovereign man. The only legitimate limitation of liberty is that which prevents transgression on the liberty of others, or which compensates those transgressed upon.

Collectivism purports to advocate for human liberty; but it does so through restraining it for the good of the collective? Only by giving up your freedom to all can you be free?

Doublespeak, and nothing more.

All they are really saying is, "Give up all your freedom and liberty to us, and we'll LET you do, what WE think you ought to do, when WE think you should do it".

It is entirely about command and control; just as is fascism, or any other kind of totalitarianism. They believe that if you give the "right" people, total control, then all the "right" decisions will be made, and everyone will be better off and happier.

This, frankly, is evil.

Intelligent leftists then spend all their intellectual energy creating increasingly convoluted, twisted, circular, and inductive arguments... no, to call them arguments gives them too much credit, they are in the main, mere tautologies; to justify what they believe in, and why they believe in it; even though reality shows again and again that their ideas are incorrect.

Amazingly, they often reach the same point as non-leftists do, by twisting their reasoning enough to reconcile their false first principles with the way the world really works. After all, at some point you have to say that an orange is an orange, don't you?

And that really is the proof of the thing. Leftists ideas simply do not work. They are not true. They are false. Reality disagrees with them.

When your theory does not match the facts, you must change the theory. Reality doesn't give a damn about your feelings.

The collectivist theory fails utterly. It doesn't match the facts at all. Twisting both the theory and the facts out of all semblance to reality to "prove" your pet theory, does not make it true.

Individualism in a relatively loose collective (a society, no matter the size), is the natural state of man. We are social individuals, but we are individuals.

We may band tighter together at time, when it is to our advantage to survive; but we do so out of enlightened self interest, not of a collective nature.

We may sacrifice, so that others might live, or live better lives; but we do this for the benefit of other individuals, and for that which we believe in; not for the collective.

In all things, we are individuals.

Capitalism is what naturally happens when people get together freely to exchange goods and services.

Private property and competition are what naturally happens when people seek to improve their lives, and their situations.

Unless people are artificially restrained from doing so, their natural condition is one of competition, and markets.

Yes, there are those who will seek to gain advantage by restraining competition, gaining monopolies, imposing laws and regulations... but those are not failures of liberty, failures of markets, failures of capitalism; they are the failures of command and control.

Command and control will always fail. It cannot succeed, because in order to work the commander and controller must have perfect information and perfect reason. Such a thing does not exist. There is no perfect man, nor any perfect collective of men, and there cannot be.

Not only that, but humans by nature are both rebellious beasts, and greedy beasts.

Yes, many are content to be... even crave to be... controlled. Many crave to control others (even if it si only as part of a collective). This is proven to us more and more every day. It was proven quite convincingly just a few months ago; when the great masses voted for a "perfect man", "the one"; the man on a horse, coming to simply sweep in and "heal us all".

There are always enough however who are willing to take advantage, or gain a little extra comfort, or just get a bit ahead, a bit more power, a bit more advantage... On the other side of things, there are always enough who chafe at the yoke, who jump the fence... There are always enough who refuse to be controlled, that the "perfect" system will be taken down from within.

Collectivists, your very foundational ideas are evil and wrong. They don't work. They are proven false every moment by the reality we live in. imposing them on us inevitably fails, and causes incredible misery, death, and destruction along the way.

Of course, this only makes them all the more dangerous. A man who is proven wrong at every turn, but who simply WILL NOT give up... well that is man who will do ANYTHING.

In case anyone needed any further proof...

... that Wil Wheaton really is one of us I present the following:

@WilW (twitter):

"Stupid goddamn plastic package on my new SD card: HAHA YOU CAN'T OPEN ME! Me: Oh. Really? My Leatherman gives me +10 to open, fucker."

Monday, April 13, 2009

You are "The Rich", and you didn't even know it.

Video From Reason.TV:




A lot of folks hear numbers like "the top 5%" of income earners, and they think that means Bill Gates, and fortune 500 CEOs etc...

No, although that's exactly what the government, and the media, would love for you to believe.

It's how they pit us against one another. It is a very deliberate divide and conquer strategy for class warfare; and the fact that 52 million people voted for it shows just how well it's working.

It works, because "The Rich" is always the other guy. You aren't "The Rich" after all, you're "working class" or "middle class" whatever those mean (and who exactly says the "middle class" don't work?).

Nobody wants to pay more taxes (well, except some of the extreme left), and very few people would vote to increase their own taxes; so they employ this class warfare rhetoric to get you to support tax increases on "The Rich", which will supposedly favor you, and "the less fortunate".

The only problem is, according to the government, there's a pretty good chance that You (yes You, with a capital "Y") ARE "The Rich".

How can that be? They're always talking about the "top 1%" or the "top 5%", and again people start thinking about Bill Gates, and bank CEOs, and Wall Street traders...

Actually, the top 5% likely includes a lot of folks you know. Theres a fair chance it includes you. It almost certainly includes people you interact with every day.

When we get down to as low as say, the top 15%, most folks would think that got to be people making like $250,000 a year right?

No, actually people who make $250,000 a year are the top 1% (in fact, anyone over about $180,000 a year is in the top 1%. $250,000 puts you into the top .8% or so).

Wait a sec... the top 1% is just $180,000 a year?

Yes, yes it is.

The estimated individual income numbers for 2008 (actuals wont be available for another two years. Also don't confuse these with household numbers, which account for multiple incomes) look like this:

The "top 1%" of earners in this country, is everyone who makes over about $180,000 a year.

The top 5% is everyone who makes over about $152,000 a year

In case you were interested, $100,000 is the top 5.63%

The top 10% is everyone who makes over $76,000 per year.

The top 15% is everyone who makes over about $64,000 a year.

The top 25% is everyone who makes over about $46,000 a year.

The top 50% is everyone who makes over about $32,000 a year.

So when somebody says "we're going to tax the richest 15% to pay for the other 85%" what they're really saying is anyone who makes more than $32 an hour.

Ayup, if you make more than $32 an hour, guess what, YOU are "The Rich".

If they say "we're going to tax the richest 25%" that means anyone who makes more than $23 an hour.

So, let me ask you, are you rich?

The top 15% pay more than 85% of all income taxes.

The top 50% pay more than 96% of all income taxes.

The bottom 50%, pay less than 4%.

The bottom 40% pay nothing at all.

The bottom 30% are actually PAID BY THE GOVERNMENT (and I don't mean civil servants).

Plumbers, carpenters, electricians, mechanics, pretty much anyone with more than 10 years experience in any mid-level or higher job, in any professional career field or trade; that most likely puts you into the top 15% or so. Are you rich?

If you own your own business, the government ALMOST CERTAINLY classifies you as earning in the top 10% or higher... of course how much of that you actually KEEP is another story. Are you rich?

If you're reading this right now, demographically speaking, it's very likely you are in the top 15%. Are you rich?

If you have a college degree, live in or near a major city, and have more than 10 years experience in your career field, you are very likely to be in the top 5%, and almost certainly in the top 15%. Are you rich?

I'll tell you right now, I'm in the top 5% of income earners, and with my wifes income we're in the top 5% of household earners (in fact, the top 3%); and we are very definitely not rich.

We don't live an extravagant lifestyle. We have a 1600 square foot house in an old neighborhood in Scottsdale (not one of the McMansion areas), two used cars that were both under $30,000 each when we bought them, and we send our two kids to Catholic school that's subsidized by the parish, or else we couldn't afford it. We don't have a vacation home; no RV, no boat, no vacations to Switzerland every six months...

We're not rich.

As far as the government is concerned though, we are "The Rich".

In fact, it's very likely that you are "The Rich" too.

What they're really saying when they talk about "taxing the rich", is taxing you. Because as far as the government is concerned, unless you're taking money from them, hey, YOU'RE RICH.

Wife unit shaving the shaggy dog..

Amusing pics to follow.

Here's a before just for some perspective (these are 2 years old. He was even shaggier this morning):


Our Tax Day Protest, and Celebration

We’re not going to a tea party; mostly because we have jobs, and also because I think they’re both great, and ineffective.

Great, because it’s amazing that so many people are making it known publicly that they don’t want to have their freedoms abridged, and more of their money stolen from them.

Ineffective because basically all protesting is ineffective; unless the media is actively on your side, and making the protests seem huge, and significant etc….

Let’s face it folks, we could have 5 million people out there on tax day; the media would still report it as “a few right wing whackos, who are racist because they don’t support Obama, and hate poor people because they don’t want to have the government steal all their money”.

The only media reporting on the Tea Parties in any meaningful way (including the supposedly conservative Fox news; who are reporting in their typical populist and shallow manner) are the alternative conservative and libertarian media; like our blogs and other websites, and talk radio.

In effect we are playing to the home crowd with the Tea Parties. It’s a great pep rally and all; and I’m glad they are happening, but I don’t want to participate.

Besides which, there’s a lot of standing around at these things, and I’ve got bad knees.

I prefer more direct action. Lawsuits are a good start. Refusing to pay unlawful and unconstitutional taxes are also good; and generally result in lawsuits or even criminal prosecutions which can be taken to the supreme court etc…

Also, direct contact with your congresscritters tends to have at least some effect… sometimes… Make them understand that their constituents won’t vote for them if they don’t vote for tax cuts, spending cuts, etc…

So instead of standing around and getting all shouty, our tax day celebration and protest will involve pork.

Not the kind that Washington generates; the kind that you eat with sauce, beer, and cornbread. We’re going to be smoking pounds and pounds of pork, and then consuming it; along with other delicious comestibles.

We’re also going to be playing with firearms, and consuming large quantities of alcohol (obviously not simultaneously). We’d throw tobacco in for the full ATF trio, but none of us actually use the stuff.

I wish this was jsut a joke...

Where's the Outrage?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Off to the HamFest, in the rain

Which in most other places wouldn't be that unusual, but this IS Phoenix after all.

Of course being a hamfest, I doubt the rain will bother folks much... If you don't know hams, it can be hard to explain; but basically they're like the post office. Neither rain nor snow, nor gloom of night can deter them from their Elmerish pursuits.

Anyway, I need a new antenna for my HT (a Yaesu VX-5R, 6m/2m/70cm TX broadband RX). The factory stock rubber ducky has a hard time hitting a repeater just 5 miles away with 5 watts, and that's just sad.

For the uninitiated, "my HT" refers to my hand held portable radio transceiver; a compact model manufactured by Yaesu (A.K.A. Vertex Standard) electronics in 2004 (they've come out with a couple newer models since and discontinued mine), capable of transmitting on the 6 meter (50mhz), 2 meter (144mhz) and 70cm (440 mhz) ham bands, and receiving signals on many more bands, above, below, and between the ham bands (like AM and FM radio, public safety bands, aviation bands etc...).

My particular VX-5R is also modified to act as an aviation transceiver; however as transmitting on those bands is unlawful for non-aviation purposes, I don't transmit on that band ever. I did the modification so that I could signal aircraft in an emergency.

Oh and why do they call them HTs? Handie-Talkie is what Motorola called the first one in 1941, and hams are... let's just be polite and say a conservative and traditional bunch. They were called HT's 68 years ago, they're called HTs today.

People have backronymed it to "Handheld Transciever" but that's just so they don't have to admit to being old fuddie duddies (even the young ones).

Seriously, I'm not sure who is more conservative, hams, or gun owners... of course there IS a pretty significant overlap....

UPDATE: Well, that was a bust. Apparently, it was quite busy... from 6am to 8am; but by the time we got there, most folks had already buggered off.

Thankfully it seems they buggered off all of 300 yards away, to the local Ham Radio outlet; and I was able to get a new antenna for the HT. Actually I picked up two: One zero attenuation mini stubby (a Comet SMA-501), and one Diamond high gain 1/4 wave whip).

Zero attenuation in this instance refers to the fact that the stubby little antennae has no attenuation (loss of signal strength) compared to an equivalent end feed 1/4 wave vertical antenna, on both 2m and 70cm (which means it is electrically the same as a simple wire antennae 19" long for 2m operation, or 7" long for 70cm). Not bad for an antennae less than 2" long.

High gain, in this instance, refers to the fact that the Diamond whip antenna exhibits increased signal strength as compared a plain wire 1/4 wave end feed. Theoretically this particular antenna has 2.15 dbi gain (slightly less than doubling of signal strength. Every 3db is an approximate doubling of strength) on 70cm, and 6dbi gain on 2m (approximately 4 times the effective signal strength).

Unfortunately, because of the inverse square law, an increase in effective strength only actually increases the range you can transmit or receive by the square root of the increase (and that's in a vacuum, not accounting for terrain, interference, or atmospheric attenuation). So a +3dbi gain, or doubling of signal strength, gives you about a 40% improvement in range; and a quadrupling of signal strength only gives you a 100% increase in range.

And of course, that's only the theoretical physics of it. The real world DOES include terrain, and atmosphere, and other such inconveniences, which dramatically effect your range. In the real world, a +3dbi or even +6dbi increase only gives you maringally more usable range; because although you get a lot more theoretical maximum range, the signal at that extended range is still too weak to be useful (it's called being below the noise floor).

The Diamond is one of the antenna models I was interested in and specifically looking for; and HRO had it (Actually both of them) for well off list. It seems like a significant improvement over the factory rubber ducky. I'm having no problem hitting several repeaters I couldn't hit before. 'Course, it is twice the length of the factory whip (more flexible though).

The stubby is very useful for local short range operations, like car to car in convoy; and it is only very slightly less effective than the factory rubber duck. Plus, it's TINY (1-3/4"), fits into small spaces and isn't likely to snag on anything or break off.

While JohnOC and I were driving over there, I discovered the PTT on my headset was dead, so I also picked up a new speaker mike (about half the price of a new PTT headset, and more comfortable to use most of the time anyway).

I also snagged the 2009/2010 repeater director, the Gordon West tech, general, and extra manuals for Mel and I to study (Mel is now thinking she at least wants to get her general), and the 9th edition operating manual (I only have the 8th edition). I figure 'tween all those, we should be good to go.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

General and Extra Irritation

So as part of my efforts towards better preparedness and "getting to where we want to be" I'm upgrading my amateur radio operators license from Technician Class, to Amateur Extra within the next month or so (basically whenever I can find an exam session I can make it to).

I'm going to write a much bigger post about amateur radio communications in general, it's usefulness as a communications service especially in emergency situations, and it's practical applications and usage. That's one of the really big posts that I haven't had time to finish yet in fact.

Right now though, I'm just a little irritated, because theres a TON of this stuff that I SHOULD remember, that I don't. I have TWO frikken engineering degrees, and have been working with electronics since I built my first crystal set at age 6; but I've forgotten about 1/2 of the basic circuit diagrams, symbols, practices, and general electronic principles and rules, that I KNOW... they just aren't coming to me.

Stupid stuff like that. It bugs me. 'Course we all know, it is true, if you don't use it you lose it.

Anyway, I've been running the General class practice tests for about an hour now, and I'm up to getting consistently between 30 and 35 out of 35 (you need 25 out of 35 to pass); I just keep missing the silly stuff.

Oh and I need to work on remembering my operating privileges and bands better; and the weird and obscure regulations better. At least I tend to remember those after the first time I see them.

My other amateur friends have been bugging me a while (like since 2007 when they dropped the code requirements) when I was going to do the extra upgrade. Well, you've got your answer. Now I need to get JohnOC to upgrade with me.

Oh and Mel is going to get at least her tech as well.

Anybody know a good, free, CW tutorial available online? I'm horrible with code and I really should practice.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

More Good Stuff from Camille Paglias' Mailbag

Remember a few months ago I mentioned I have a great deal of respect for Camille Paglia? Well here she goes again:

Something very ugly has surfaced in contemporary American liberalism, as evidenced by the irrational and sometimes infantile abuse directed toward anyone who strays from a strict party line. Liberalism, like second-wave feminism, seems to have become a new religion for those who profess contempt for religion. It has been reduced to an elitist set of rhetorical formulas, which posit the working class as passive, mindless victims in desperate need of salvation by the state. Individual rights and free expression, which used to be liberal values, are being gradually subsumed to worship of government power.

The problems on the American left were already manifest by the late 1960s, as college-educated liberals began to lose contact with the working class for whom they claimed to speak. (A superb 1990 documentary, "Berkeley in the Sixties," chronicles the arguments and misjudgments about tactics that alienated the national electorate and led to the election of Richard Nixon.) For the past 25 years, liberalism has gradually sunk into a soft, soggy, white upper-middle-class style that I often find preposterous and repellent. The nut cases on the right are on the uneducated fringe, but on the left they sport Ivy League degrees. I'm not kidding -- there are some real fruitcakes out there, and some of them are writing for major magazines. It's a comfortable, urban, messianic liberalism befogged by psychiatric pharmaceuticals. Conservatives these days are more geared to facts than emotions, and as individuals they seem to have a more ethical, perhaps sports-based sense of fair play.

Probably the main reason for my unorthodox view of politics (as in my instant approval of Sarah Palin) is that I had much more childhood contact with working-class life than appears to be the norm among current American columnists. One of my grandfathers was a barber, and the other was a leather worker at the Endicott-Johnson shoe factory in upstate New York. Thanks to the G.I. Bill, my father was able to attend college, the only one in his large family to do so. I was born while he was still in college and mopping floors in the cafeteria. Years later, he became a high-school teacher and then a professor at a Jesuit college, but we never left our immigrant family roots in industrial Endicott. To this day, I have more rapport with campus infrastructure staffers (maintenance, security) than I do with other professors or, for that matter, writers. Don't get me started on the hermetic bourgeois arrogance of American literati!


Read the whole thing; it's definitely worth a few minutes of your time.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

For the two thirds of my readers...

Who stop reading blogs sometime Thursday afternoon, don't start again until Monday morning; and don't bother reading what they missed over the weekend; here's a list of the posts I wrote during my unusually productive weekend.


I started a new series of posts called "Getting to where we want to be":

Introduction


Part 1 - Goals

Part 2 - Broke Down


Patellar straps (a followup on broke down)

Here's where I bitch about getting a new CrackBerry

Finally, here's a post I wrote about the nature of Boston liberalism, and the failure of the Boston Globe.

For the rest of my readers who DO read over the weekend: Sorry, it was a ridiculously busy day at work today and the content I'm working on is long, and requires a lot of intellectual time energy I don't have right now.

I'll be back later with fun and interesting stuff.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Trouble with Boston

The parent company of the Boston Globe newspaper, the New York Times; has threatened to shut the Globe down if they cannot get at least $20 million in savings out of the paper for next year.

[The story] quoted an unnamed person saying that in the meeting, management said that without the concessions, The Globe would lose $85 million in 2009.

The Times Company chairman, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., and Catherine J. Mathis, chief spokeswoman for the company, each declined to comment or confirm the article.

The company paid $1.1 billion for The Globe in 1993, the highest price ever paid for a single American newspaper, and it was highly profitable through that decade. But in recent years, the erosion of advertising and newspaper circulation has been more severe in the Boston area than in most of the country.

Advertising revenue for the industry fell 16.6 percent in 2008, according to the Newspaper Association of America.

The Times Company also wants to end a provision in The Globe’s contracts that gives certain employees lifetime job guarantees.

Well, first of all, seeking $20 million in cuts, in a paper that is losing $85 million a year seems... Absurdly inadequate I think is the phrase I'm looking for?

Also the fact that there are still lifetime job guarantees in today's economy ought to be a pretty strong indicator of a company that isn't exactly caught up to the realities of business today.

Though it's not mentioned in the story, I happen to know those lifetime guarantees are printers union jobs. I've known a few people who had them. They also had (and have) RIDICULOUS pensions as well. People retiring at 55 (30 years as a master printer plus 7 years as an apprentice and journeyman, hired on right out of highschool) with 120% inflation indexed pensions and full gold plated medical for life.

Any concession they wrung on those lifetime guarantees would almost certainly NOT include losing those pensions and medical benefits of course.

Aside from the structural problems however, the article credits the decline in advertising revenues; saying only that the Boston market was harder hit than New York.

Really? Because other papers in the market aren't seeing nearly the decline that the Globe is...

In fact, the Globe has been in decline faster and steeper than the other papers in the region, for about 16 years now. In 2008 the Globe's average weekday circulation fell to 350,605, down from 382,503, or 8.3 percent. Sunday circulation fell 6.5 percent to 525,959.

The competing newspapers for the Boston Area, the Boston Herald, and the Patriot Ledger (and to a lesser extent, a smaller local paper, "The Enterprise"), are doing alright... as much as any newspaper is anyway. Both are down about 4%, HALF the decline of the Globe; and counter to the general trend in the newspaper business (actually in most any business) of the second and third papers in a market (which they are) losing more circulation in a downturn than the market leader.

The important thing there is, the Herald and Ledger are both TRULY local; and more conservative than the Globe, especially on social issues. Though they are now owned by the same publisher (as of 2006, The Enterprise), they maintain their respective moderate center right, and moderate center left stances.

In addition to the general downturn in newspapers over the past 20 years, the Globe has lost more and more circulation, as it has moved further and further left; and especially as it has been controlled more and more by the editorial voice and opinions of the NY Times corporation.

The Globe is very clearly a left newspaper. They spent most of their 137 year history as a center left paper, drifting gradually more to the left since the depression; until they turned SHARPLY left, with the takeover by the NY Times (though they are in fact still not as far left as the Times).

Ok, Boston's something like the tenth most liberal major city in America, in the second most liberal state* right?

Well... Not really.

Massachusetts has a reputation as a very liberal state, and Boston a very liberal city; and to an extent that's true. Certainly it is reflected in the states voting record, and much of it's congressional contingent.

However, regarding Massachusetts as a liberal stronghold, fails to take into account the true nature of the states liberalism.

The vast majority of the Boston area is blue collar, and low level white collar, union, catholic, old line northeast democrats; with a significant minority of what we used to call Boston Brahmin democrats (rich, socially and politically conservative on a personal basis; but they support liberal politicians to seem "progressive", to make sure "the right people" run things, and because democrats are easier to buy off).

Outside of the immediate Boston area, Massachusetts is basically politically identical to western Pennsylvania. It's union Democrats, and center right Republicans; pro gun, pro hunting, pro business, and anti-leftist. Hell, still today, Western Massachusetts, and the adjoining parts of Connecticut and New York, are the firearms manufacturing capital of the western world.

I was born and raised in Boston, and just south of it. I know it. I lived it for more than 20 years (combined. I left, and then moved back during the .bomb). I was born in Southie, and have lived in Southie, Roslindale, West Roxubry, Dorchester, Mattapan, Milton, Quincy, Canton, Randolph, Newton, Dover, and Marlborough (not in that order).

I'm Boston Irish; with an Irish immigrant father, and a second generation mother. We're walking stereotypes. My family are all either cops, criminals, lawyers, politicians, teachers, nurses, firemen, civil servants, or tradesmen (or sometimes more than one of the above). Blue collar and low level white collar, social and political conservative, Democrats (well... I've got an aunt and an uncle who are ridiculous lefties, and a pair of uncles who are to the right of Pat Buchannan... but they're outliers).

Let me tell you, people from the area may vote Democrat; but they aren't anything like the Democrats in San Francisco or LA (except Cambridge and Brookline anyway).

What Boston area Democrats are, is machine voters. Democrats bring back more pork, more jobs, grant more favors etc...

If you want to be a part of the machine, you become a democrat, that's how it is.

If you want a building permit, you go to your cousin, the selectman, and he talks to the zoning commissioner for you. Of course, all the selectmen for your area are democrats. If you want a construction contract, you go to the public works commissioner, your brother in laws old friend; also a Democrat. In fact all the public commissioners are Democrats too.

That's how it is.

These folks aren't leftists by any stretch, and in fact aren't particularly socially liberal.

Just ask a gay man from Boston how easy it was to come out; or BE out, outside of downtown, Newton, Cambridge, and Brookline. Ask him if he would walk in Southie alone at night; or EVER, hand in hand with his boyfriend.

So when the Globe is run by clearly anti-American, anti-religious, anti-catholic, anti-israel, pro-islam, New Yorkers (even though it has local editorial and reporting staff)... Well, people just don't like it.

The Herald on the other hand does just fine with a center right viewpoint, a great sports page, a strong focus on being local issues, and criticism of Washington, no matter who is in power.

Funny enough, that suits Bostonians just about right.

* An aside for those of you counting more liberal cities and states: San Francisco, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Seattle, Portland, New York and Newark (not necessarily in order); and for states, California.

HT: Doug Mataconis