Thursday, December 31, 2009

"I'm Tasting Stars"

So, for years my wife has thought that she didn't like champagne.

This is a shame, because I rather enjoy a nice glass of champagne every once in a while; and champagne mixed with fruit juices makes a wonderful punch.

However, I had a cunning plan.

I was pretty sure the problem wasn't that she didn't like champagne, it's that she hadn't ever had any GOOD champagne.

Over the past few years, we've found that, as with so many other alcoholic beverages Mel thought she didn't like (wine, gin, tequila, beer etc..); she actually DOES like them, if given the chance to drink a decent example thereof.

In fact, she now quite enjoys gin and tonics, tequila and margaritas, and decent beer.

In this case however, I don't blame her. Most people in this country have never really had decent champagne or sparkling wine.

If the closest thing to champagne I'd ever drunk was Asti Spumante, Freixenet, or Korbel... Yeah, I'd think I didn't like champagne either.

Note, I didn't say EXPENSIVE champagne, I said DECENT champagne (or sparkling wine). A bottle doesn't have to be expensive, to be decent.

So, for our wedding anniversary (the day after Christmas) dinner (at one of our favorite places, Fogo de Chao) I ordered us a bottle of Taittinger Brut Reserve.

It's not an expensive champagne (you can get it around $60-70 in discount liquor stores, or about twice that on wine lists), but a decent one, at a REASONABLE price...

...Well, reasonable except at restaurants and bars anyway; but that's just the way buying wines there works... and besides, it was our anniversary.

Much to her surprise (though not to mine), she liked it.

Even better, it seems her taste in Champagne matches mine closely. She particularly liked how dry and acidic it was in comparison to most table wines.

Oh goody, this is going to be fun.

So, you don't have to spend a fortune to get some decent champagne... and it's new years, so what the heck, lets talk about what I like for a reasonably priced bottle... and maybe a couple of more expensive bottles too just for fun.

Oh and sparkling wine as well. We can't leave California out of it (I'll leave Sekt, Prosecco, Cava etc... for another time).

I'm going to stick to the major houses here; only because I want this advice to be useful for more than just this year. Some of the smaller houses make great champagne, but the ones worth buying change from year to year.

Actually, first things first, If you DO want to spend a fortune on a bottle, please... don't buy Cristal or Dom Perignon... There's nothing wrong with them, they're both excellent champagnes; but the hip hop culture references have driven the prices for either far beyond what I think you should pay.

If you want something very nice and special to celebrate with, buy the Perrier Jouet fleur (cuvee de prestige, vintage, current is '99 - about $300 or a little less from discount places), the Taittinger comtes de champagne (cuvee de prestige, vintage, current is '98 - about $250 from discount).

For a little less money... and I think honestly just as good champagne... the Bollinger grand anee vintage (current is '99, for about $125-$150), or Krug Grand Cuvee ($220 list, but as low as $140 from discount places), are both excellent. In fact I'd rather spend my money on either of those, than one of the more expensive cuvee de prestige (CdP is just a champagne makers term for "top of the line").

Krug and Bollinger both produce other vintage cuvee de prestige, but they are harder to find.

Technically, all Bollinger bottlings except the "brut special", and the all Krug bottlings, are considered cuvee de prestige, including the non vintage grand cuvee... they simply don't produce champagnes of a lower grade; but they do produce what might be called prestige cuvee plus ultra

A Bollinger RD, if you can find one, will run anywhere from $150 for a mediocre year, to over $500 for a very good year. Their top line bottling, the Vieille Vignes Françaises, will run over $750 for a bottle.

Krug produce three vintage cuvee de prestige; the Clos du Mesnil, Clos D'Ambonnay, and an occasional reserve or special vintage.

If you can find one (and you can't), they'll be well over $500 for a mediocre year, and well over $1000 for a good year... perhaps as high as $5,000 for the Clos D'Ambonnay in a very good year. It's expected that when the 2002 vintages come out, they will be, literally, the best champagnes ever produced by Krug.

Current vintage Roederer Cristal (cuvee de prestige, vintage, current is '02) runs about $300 a bottle, and I think it's overpriced. Discount places have it as low as $200 a bottle (a few even go down to $180), and I STILL think it's overpriced.

That doesn't mean it isn't excellent champagne, it is; but because of the high demand in the past few years, they're releasing it before it's ready (actually, at the legal minimum age according to french champagne regulations... though specifically, the '02 is an EXCELLENT year), and at a higher price than it should be.

Specific to the 2002 though, it is a really excellent champagne. I've only had it from uncorking, so it was great, but not "oh my god"; but people who've had it on day two or day three have rated it as possibly the best vintage for Cristal at least since '85.

To be honest I'd rather have the Krug. I drink champagne on uncorking, I don't drink it three days after opening.

Current vintage Moet et Chandon Dom Perignon (cuvee de prestige, vintage, current is '00) is running around $120-$150 at discount places, and it's worth that price; just don't pay the outrageous exaggerated retail price, and for gods sake don't buy it at a hotel or restaurant, where they'll charge you $200-300 for it.

Oh... and I'd still rather spend the extra $20 for the Krug.. or maybe the Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame (cuvee de prestige, vintage, current is '98 - list is about $200, but it's running around $120 at discount).

Yes, Krug is my favorite non vintage champagne; and I prefer it to most vintage champagnes in most years. If you can get it for a good price, I think it should always be your first choice in non vintage.

Ok, now back to the land of REASONABLY priced bottles.

So first, we bought two bottles for tonight(it IS new years after all): a Perrier Jouet Grand Brut, and a Veuve Clicquot Brut "Yellow Label".

Both bottles list around $60 but are available for under $40 from discount (we paid $33 and $37 respectively... and the PJ came in a gift box with two flutes). Both are the base bottlings from each house (and both are among the best houses). Both are quite nice to drink, and are representative of the style of the house.

In fact, we're drinking the Veuve Cliquot right now, with a dinner of pizza and hot wings.

Yes, you can drink champagne with pizza. Actually, I think it's better than beer with Pizza, because the acid, and the nature of the carbonation, pair with the cheese very well... as long as the pizza doesn't have too much garlic anyway (garlic ruins your palette for wine).

There are a lot of good bottles available right around that price range.

You can get a slightly lower cost Taittinger than the "Brut Reserve" we had for our anniversary; the "Brut La Francaise", which is quite decent, and can sometimes be had for as low as $35.

Now, just to confuse you, there are three entirely separate and different houses called Heidsieck (different branches of the same extended family): Charles Heidsieck, Piper-Heidsieck, and Heidseck Monopole.

The Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve, and the Heidsieck Monopole Brut Blue, are both very worthy choices; and again, both are available at discount for a little under $40.

The third Heidsieck, Piper-Heidsieck, has two offerings in the range we're talking about; with their non vintage brut running as low as $30 at discount (about $50 list), and their vintage brut ('98 is current) available around $60 at discount ($90 list).

At $60, that P-H vintage is probably the lowest cost you're going to pay for a decent vintage, from a good house; and looking around online I found it for as low as $40 from one place (everywhere else was from just under $60 up to $75).

If you want to spend a little bit more, Roederer, the house that bottles Cristal, makes a non vintage "brut premier", and Bollinger makes a non vintage "brut special cuvee"; both available for $50 to $60, and both definitely worth drinking.

Or, if you want the least expensive French champagne from a major house (the house that produces Dom Perignon in fact), the Moet et Chandon Imperial (a.k.a "white star, as it used to be labeled), has been the "default champagne" for most of the world for the last... Oh, 100 years or so. It lists at around $45, but can be had at discount for as little as $30.

Everyone should have Moet et Chandon Imperial at least once. If you've never had french champagne, and want to see if you'll hate it or not, buy the Imperial. If you're having a big party, and you want "the default champagne", buy the imperial.

Now, let me just say, I am limiting myself here to the major houses, but you shouldn't. There are lots of GREAT small house, or grower champagnes out there; and you should be looking out for them. Its just there are so many, and they are SOOOO vintage dependent, that I didn't want to include them here.

Figure out whats good when you're buying, and what is similar to other wines you like on your palette, and if the price is good, grab it. Don't just buy the major houses.

Now, to California...

I'll be honest with you, there's only one house that is completely American, that I particularly care for; Iron Horse.

Iron Horse makes several lovely sparkling wines in the $20 to $50 range; with the current vintage brut ('04, though the better '02 is still available around the same price) coming in around $30 at discount. It's entirely drinkable, and in fact a much better choice than any French house at the same price point... and most in the $40 or $50 range.

Also, Iron Horse releases several limited bottlings, when they have a particularly good year; in brut, extra brut, and ultra brut (or almost completely sugar free) styles.

Unfortunately, I don't care for the rest of Iron Horses general bottlings, because they are mostly in the "wedding style" or "russian style", and are much sweeter. Of course, if you like a sweet sparkling wine, I would certainly recommend them.

I do have two other recommendations; but neither are American houses, though they are grown, produced, and bottled, in California.

Moet et Chandon, and Louis Roederer (two of the houses I recommend above) both have estates here in California; and produce bottlings from under $20, into the $50 range (at discount).

Domaine Chandon bottlings start at $13 (at discount), and are very good. Not "very good for the money", just plain very good (good as in wine spectator rating them at over 90 every year, and as high as 97 in some bottlings).

Yes, a $13 bottle of sparkling wine can be, and is, very good.

Roederer Estates bottlings start at a bit under $20; and again, are very good, not just very good for the money.

I have a couple bottles of the Domaine Chandon in my fridge right now in fact.

As with Iron Horse, I would say that the Roederer and Chandon bottlings are FAR better than the French bottlings at the same price point, or even at twice the price.

You have to go to at least a $40 bottle of French champagne to match a $13 bottle of California Sparkling wine... and honestly, most $40 bottles wouldn't cut it (though I'd say the ones I list above are in the same quality range).

Oh, and again, as with the French houses; there are PLENTY of small houses, and small growers doing some great sparkling wines, at very reasonable prices. Find what's good when you're buying, find a decent price for it, and grab some.

For a bunch of recommendations for current, decent, bottlings of champagnes and sparking wines at lower prices, check out this post (and the links in it and at the bottom of it) from the New York Times wine blog "The Pour".

Five Rules for Good Behavior

So Jay G had some random woman make a stroppy comment about his parenting choices when he was taking care of a tantrumy child (if that wasn't a word, it is now) on a recent public outing with his family.

Firstly, I applaud Jay for not turning around and unleashing his full intellect, wit, and frustrations on said woman, thereby reducing her to tears... Having grown up among the self righteous Massachusetts liberal asses myself (Jay and I grew up about 40 miles apart, but otherwise nearly identical towns), I doubt I would have had the strength not to do so.

That sort of comment, of course, isn't intended to be any kind of genuine advice, or even criticism. It's called "assumption of moral superiority", and it's ALWAYS about the commenters ego, not about your actions.

Also, as far as I'm concerned, Jay was doing exactly the right thing with his child. You do not indulge tantrums. A tantrum is violent attention seeking, and granting that attention simply provokes more tantrums. If a tantrum continues beyond the first reproach, the proper response is to isolate the child from all interaction until they figure out no-one is listening to them.

That's exactly what he was doing.

Which brings me to what I wanted to talk about: How to raise well behaved kids.

It's not particularly complicated, and there is no secret; it just requires iron will, and absolute commitment... and the younger you start, the better off you will be.

We have, and have had since infancy, a zero tolerance policy for bad behavior of any kind. As a consequence, our kids are the most well behaved I've ever seen; and the many readers here who have visited with my family will confirm it for you.

They have literally NEVER, acted up in public (and only rarely in private), since they were old enough to understand the policy (about 2 years old).

The policy is simple, but VERY strict. There are no exceptions to it without special circumstances or reason, ever.

There's five rules for you to follow...
...but really, there's just the one... the rest are just details of how to do it

Here it is:
  1. Under no circumstances, will bad behavior result in you getting what you want. Ever.

    Until they are old enough to develop an independent moral and ethical sense; kids are selfish, greedy, self interested, self centered little sociopaths.

    The development of this moral sense is different for every child of course. For most it starts around 5 years old and is sufficiently developed sometime between ten and thirteen... but only with proper parental reinforcement. Without proper parenting, the moral sense will be week, will develop late, or may not develop at all.

    Until their moral sense is developed (presuming it ever does), you can expect a child to behave just as they are; selfish, greedy, self interested, self centered little sociopaths.

    If a kid thinks good behavior will get them what they want, they will behave well. If they think bad behavior will get them what they want, they will behave badly.

    If bad behavior is EVER tolerated, or worse, rewarded; they will learn that bad behavior can get them what they want, when other behaviors do not. They will then use that against you.

    Therefore, you must NEVER reward, or tolerate, bad behavior.
  2. Actions have consequences. Always.

    So does inaction; because it's just another action (the choice not to do what you were supposed to).

    You cannot get out of the consequences of your actions (or inaction), no matter how sorry you feel, no matter how you argue, no matter what you do.

    If you didn't want to be punished, you shouldn't have done wrong in the first place. It doesn't matter that you fixed it, or made up for it, you still have to take the consequences of what you did.

    We treat our children with respect, tell them why things are how they are, and what they did wrong, why it's wrong, and why they are being punished; but barring exceptional circumstances, we NEVER let them out of the consequences of their actions.

    Of course, we recognize that kids will be kids. Their balloon pops, and they are going to cry. Kids get upset about stuff like that, and that's fine. What's not fine is a tantrum, and trying to force or manipulate your parents into getting you another balloon.
  3. You can't punish someone if they don't know what they're doing is wrong
    "The Law" in families isn't like common law, where "ignorance of the law is no defense".

    Kids need to have clearly defined, consistent, realistic, and logical rules to live by. You need to thoroughly explain those rules, the reasoning behind them, and the punishment for violating them, before you can expect to hold a kid accountable to them.

    Of course, those rules are going to change over time and as circumstances change; and you'll need to talk about that as well. Rules are not "fire and forget".

    And remember where I said "realistic"? Yeah, that's rather important.

    There's a basic principle of leadership that applies here: Never give an order you KNOW cannot, or absolutely will not, be obeyed.

    You have to be realistic about the standards of behavior you can hold your kids to, and you have to teach them what those standards are before you do.

    You can expect a 10 year old to properly behave in a nice restaurant past 8pm. You can't expect that of a six year old. You can expect a six year old to behave in a movie theater, but not a three year old.

    If you set rules your kids can't follow, it's going to screw them up... and not just a little bit, it's going to screw them up bad. They'll end up having serious problems with rules, and authority, and a worldview that sees things as arbitrary and out of their control.

    If you don't communicate those rules effectively, and the reasoning behind them, that is just as bad. No, you don't need to explain the complexities of life to a three year old, but she needs to know "if you touch this, it might break, and it's very expensive" etc...

    You need to set appropriate standards of behavior, both in public and in private; and in general a sense of the appropriate (and the inappropriate).

    Our kids know that we do not tolerate whining, cheating, lying, stealing, hitting (except in self defense, or defense of others), weaseling, nagging, yelling, screaming (except in emergencies, or while playing outside), tantrums, fits, attention seeking, acting out, interrupting people who are speaking unless it's important, creating a public disturbance, manipulation, blackmail, soliciting bribes or any other sort of dishonest, dishonorable, or inappropriate behavior; under any circumstances, for any reason.

    On the other hand, they also know that they can have as much healthy attention they want, whenever they want it, just by asking, or for that matter just coming up for a hug; whether in public or in private. They also know they can always ask questions or try to make an explanation for their behavior, so long as it's not a manipulation, or in an attempt to evade punishment or break the rules by doing so.

    You need to make sure your kids can fit the rules and standards into their world view, so they can make good decisions using their own logic and moral sense, rather than just by rote memorization of your arbitrary rules.

    The flip side of that of course, is that they can't get out of being punished by saying "you didn't tell me that was against the rules", if what they did was clearly wrong, by all the logic, morals, and ethics you have taught them so far.

    Remember, the goal here is not to create obedient children necessarily (though that can be a helpful and useful thing), but to create healthy, independent, well adjusted, and well behaved children.
  4. When it comes to"crime and punishment" we treat our children like convicts in a prison.

    This is that zero tolerance policy I was talking about.

    No matter what it is, even if you earn it or deserve it, or it's yours and you aren't getting it, or it's yours and someone else took it away from you when they weren't supposed to etc... if you whine, cry, scream, or otherwise behave badly inappropriately, either at home or in public; you don't get it.


    Not just after you end your tantrum, whatever it is you were throwing the tantrum over, you will NEVER, ever, get whatever it is that you wanted.

    In fact, if your behavior was bad enough, you will literally never be allowed to have that thing, or do that thing etc... (whatever it was that you wanted) again; even if it's years later, and you have been well behaved... Unless you can argue your case to us and we officially rescind your punishment.

    For example, our daughters are NEVER allowed to have stickers, or paints (even washables), in our house ever again, even under supervision; because of an incident with a book of stickers, a wooden coffee table, some paints, and our living room.

    We MAY decide to relent when they hit their teen years. Maybe.

    We try to be fair, but we don't try to make punishments infinitely proportional. In fact, we don't try to be proportional at all.

    Proportionality, just results in kids testing to see how much they can get away with, for how little downside.

    Punishment is total.

    You misbehave, it doesn't matter to what degree (beyond the trivial anyway); you don't get what you wanted, plus you get a punishment on top of that, end of story.

    Of course, as I said above, your children need to learn what is appropriate behavior and what isn't. You can't just punish them arbitrarily if they didn't know any better. That hurts and confuses them, and actually undermines everything else you try to do, because they won't understand that punishments are part of the consequences for improper actions.

    Just as in the adult world, the rule of law should prevail (most of the time).

    Your first offense or first warning, I temporarily take something away from you. Do it again, or after I warned you not to, and I take it away permanently. First warning, you go to your room for a few minutes, second and it's the rest of the day with no dinner. If I explicitly tell you not to do something, or that a particular behavior is not allowed (or not allowed at a specific time, or place, or situation) and you do it anyway, full punishment.

    That said, we do try to be fair, and not to dole out punishments that are TOO severe; and we try to make sure that our punishments are consequential and punitive, not vengeful.

    By that I mean that a punishment should be a directly relatable consequence to an action; plus an additional negative incentive on top (the actual "punishment" bit) to reinforce proper behavior, and ensure that the downside to an inappropriate action is never outweighed by the upside.

    It is ABSOLUTELY critical however that punishment should never be emotional vengeance, or motivated out of anger, or hurt, or fear, or frustration. That hurts you, and it hurts your kids.

    Sometimes, when your kids do something that scares the hell out of you... runs out into the street, or sticks their hand into the fire or something... The first response is to lash out emotionally, and punish them harshly and severely... and you can't do that. Oh, they DEFINITELY need to be punished severely, but you can't do it out of the emotion. You need to calm down, and be logical, and deliberative, and explain to your child how wrong what they did was, and why, and THEN give them their severe punishment.

    And you MUST, always, sit with your kids and talk to them about consequences and punishments. They need to understand what they are doing is wrong, why, and what the consequences are; and that its not just you arbitrarily setting conditions on a whim.

    If you do this, then they'll develop a finely tuned sense of right and wrong all on their own; and you won't need to explicitly tell them for every possible situation or behavior what brings punishment and what doesn't. They'll learn what's right and what's wrong, and they'll know better... and they won't be able to get out of punishment by saying they didn't.

    If you don't do this, your kids sense of right and wrong WILL be screwed up. God knows, you don't want them to develop their moral sense from their teachers, or their cultural influences... or just as a way to avoid punishment.

    Also, like convicts, I allow them to argue their case, ONCE. Maybe I was wrong, or being too harsh; or maybe there were mitigating circumstances I didn't know about.

    In fact, whether they want to argue the case or not, for anything nontrivial; I insist on an explanation of their behavior. If they refuse, they are punished more severely.

    If they tell me the truth, and express genuine remorse, I MAY lighten the punishment (or in fact not include any real punitive element at all). If they lie, or their argument isn't any good, or instead of remorse it's clear they are just trying to get out of punishment; their punishment is made worse, for lying to me, and trying to weasel out of it.

    And when I say "lighten", I mean lighten, not eliminate. There are ALWAYS consequences to actions.

    We may go so far as to reduce the actual "punishment" portion to nothing, but we don't ever let them get out of consequences entirely; and we always talk about why they are being punished, why their punishment is what it is etc...

    Also, we are ALWAYS, consistent. Consistency is aboslutely critical to forming a kids world view, and moral and ethical sense. They have to understand that there are rules, and if you follow them one set of outcomes will happen, and if you don't another set will happen, and why.

    That doesn't mean the same offense always gets the same punishment; in fact if you repeat the same bad behavior, you are punished more severely the next time. But the same degree of offense always gets the same degree of punishment (unless we think they're testing limits again, in which case they get SEVERE punishment, and we tell them why).

    For consistency, we always increase the severity of punishments the same way (remember, total, not proportional); and set punishments that are appropriately severe to each child, for each offense.

    Note, that doesn't mean that they necessarily get the same punishment; they just get the same DEGREE of punishment. After all, what is a severe punishment to one kid (say, sending them to their room) might be a minor inconvenience to another (who prefers to read alone anyway).

    And it is VERY important, that you reinforce that what they did was WRONG, and that doing the wrong thing is shameful. If the infraction was private, then their shame should be private; but if their behavior was in public, then it is important not only that they experience shame, but that they do so publicly.

    Kids shouldn't be ashamed of their bodies, or their speech, or being in public, or any other thing that is just part of being a person. They SHOULD be ashamed of bad behavior. They should be afraid of being shamed. They should be afraid of being humiliated for bad behavior in public.

    Never underestimate the power, and the importance, of shame, and of public humiliation; especially once a childs moral sense has developed. Moral wrongs, and bad behavior, should ALWAYS be strongly associated with shame; and if public, with humiliation.

    That doesn't mean YOU should publicly shame or humiliate your child further however. They should feel shameful and humiliated all by themselves, because they should know what they did is wrong and shameful. If you pile on top of that by publicly shaming and humiliating them further, you are being emotionally vengeful; and that hurts both you, and them.
    An aside: Shame is important. Shame is healthy. Shame is what keeps people behaving properly, even when their morals and ethics are weak, or are overwhelmed by their desires.

    Humiliation is equally important, when our shame is public. There is nothing wrong with being humiliated when you do wrong in public; in fact it is crucial to a civil society. The root of humiliation is humility, "the state of being humble". We should all be humbled both by ourselves and by those around us, when we behave badly in public.
    This is in NO WAY saying that you should deliberately shame or humiliate your kids... that's just wrong, and harmful... But you shouldn't try to eliminate shame or humiliation from their lives either. If you've done your job, they SHOULD be ashamed of themselves when they do wrong, and they should feel humiliated when they do it in front of others. That means they have a proper appreciation for moral consequence.  
    Without shame and humiliation... well, you get the rude, crude, and uncivil public world we have today frankly.

    The psychologists and philosophers who have been saying otherwise for the last hundred or so years have done more to damage our world than anyone else; and I mean that with no hyperbole. They have been, and are continuing to, destroy western civilization.
    Finally, we don't let them "game the system". Any game playing or manipulation, it's automatically the most severe punishment for any given offense, PLUS the most severe punishment for lying and playing games with us.
  5. Bad behavior will not get you attention.

    If a kid is throwing a tantrum, they are either trying to get you to give in on something (and therefore be rewarded for bad behavior), trying to test or punish you, or they are just looking for attention.

    All of these are absolutely unacceptable, and consequences must be set appropriately; but for attention seeking that can be quite difficult, because to an attention seeker even punishment is "rewarding bad behavior"; because they didn't really want whatever it was they were theoretically throwing the fit about, what they really wanted was the attention.

    Of course, as we said above, bad behavior NEVER gets you what you want, under any circumstances.

    So, if what they want is attention, be it positive or negative, they can't be allowed to get any.

    So... That's actually pretty simple to deal with; though it can be the biggest pain, frustration, and irritation we face as parents. Simple isn't easy.

    If you throw a tantrum, or engage in attention seeking behavior; you get isolation, not attention.

    If after first reproach, you continue your behavior, you are immediately isolated from everyone around you.

    You cannot interact with anyone, for any reason except emergencies, or biological needs. You cannot continue the activities you were involved in, or wanted to continue.

    If you are attempting to get out of something you are forced to continue against your will. Even if it is just sitting there and sulking, you don't get out of it; but no one will interact with you . You will sit there in shame and humiliation, and isolation.

    You WILL NOT get what you want. No matter what. We WILL NOT GIVE IN.
I'm going to cheat a bit and put in wht I'd call rule five and a half...

5-1/2. Always say "I Love You", and always acknowledge good

On this one point, I will relent from my strict discipline. I NEVER, EVER, under any circumstances, no matter how bad what they did was; deny my children a hug, or fail to respond to "I love you" with "I love you too".

Whether they say something or not, I will ALWAYS tell them "I love you" before they leave my sight.

Yes, it softens the blow; but children are sometimes frightened by their parents anger or by their punishments; and you should ALWAYS reassure your children that you love them, whenever they ask, even if it seems silly or inappropriate at that moment.

However, it's not going to mean I go easy on you, or let you get out of your punishment; and if you abuse that, I WILL notice; and you WILL be punished worse, for abusing my trust and love.

Also, never take it for granted when your kid does the right thing. I'm not saying be one of those idiots who praise their child for every little thing they do; but when your child makes the right choice, does the right thing, does well... Acknowledge it, and praise them, and let them know you appreciate it. And tell them that you love them.

On the flip side of that, when they make the wrong choice, or do the wrong thing, even if it isn't bad behavior or suitable for punishment, it's just the wrong choice... Tell them... and talk with them about why they made that choice and why it's wrong... And tell them you love them.

I firmly believe that you can never say "I love you" too much, when it is meant sincerely every time (and not just some rote phrase).

It takes just a second, but it means the world.
Like I said above, what it all comes down to, really, is that first rule...

Under no circumstances, will bad behavior get you what you want. Ever.

I am a firm believer in the tremendous motivating power of self interest.

You may think kids are unsophisticated, but if there's one thing they understand, it's self interest. They want what they want, when they want it; and they will generally do their damndest to get it.

If a kid thinks that behaving badly will get for them what they want, then they will behave badly. And if you give in, just once, they will remember, and use that against you again. This is why you must NEVER, EVER, under any circumstances, reward, or even tolerate, bad behavior.

If that means making one kid sit in the bathroom stall for two hours, while the other kid gets to eat dinner and watch the movie, so be it

An aside: It really IS a lot easier with two, because you can play that off against each other. Don't believe anyone who tells you you should never do that, it's just psychotwaddle.

No, you shouldn't play favorites, or make comparisons between your kids "Oh he's so much better at that, why aren't you" or that sort of thing; that WILL cause harm, and not do anyone any good. But when it comes to behavior, pointing out that he didn't get the ice cream but his brother did, and it was because of his behavior? Oh yeah, that's not only just fine, it's NECESSARY.

Kids are STRONGLY motivated by self interest, envy, resentment, and a sense of entitlement. If their sibling is getting something and they aren't, they figure out right quick not to do the thing that caused that .
Believe me, if they know that you are serious, and that you won't relent and can't be manipulated out of it, that only happens once.

I am meaner, sneakier, more evil, and FAR more PATIENT than my children are. I can and will wait out my children... and happily laugh at them as they get more and more frustrated. The humiliation is part of the teaching process doncha know.

I bring an ebook reader in the form of my iPhone with me wherever we go. I can wait, and read, and be perfectly fine with it. If I miss a movie, so what. I have a well behaved kid. That's rather a lot more important.

We never reward bad behavior. We never fail to punish it. We never let them out of the consequences of their actions. We always make sure they understand what those consequences are and why. We always follow through.

When the girls refused to clean their room for over a week, we took everything they owned that wasn't cleaned and put away properly, including much of their clothing (except their school clothes) and basically all of their toys; packed them all up into garbage bags, and made the girls go with us while we donated them to goodwill. Then, we didn't replace what was given away. They lived without toys, or their favorite clothes, until such time as we naturally bought replacements.

Again, that only happened once.

A couple years ago, one of the girls opened her big birthday gift early, then tried to put it back and pretend it was unopened.

The goodwill had a good day with all her birthday presents; and it only happened once.

Does all this mean we have meek and repressed children? Not in the slightest. Our kids are headstrong, and curious, and sociable, and a handful both physically and intellectually; and we wouldn't have it any other way.

But they NEVER misbehave in public, and rarely do so in private in more than a trivial way (the biggest issue is STILL, cleaning up their room... and it probably will be until they start dating).

I realize this may be hard for other parents to believe, but it's simply the truth. Our children NEVER misbehave in public. We have daughters who are six and eight years old; and the last time either of them misbehaved in public more than a sniffles worth, was when they were three, and four, respectively.

Sure, they may get a little grumpy, or whiny (what six year old doesn't get a little whiny), but it never gets beyond that... Even when we've really gone beyond what they could be expected to handle, and had them out way past their bed times in restaurants etc... Where they tired and a bit grumpy, and restive? Absolutely, they're six and eight, that's part of life. But they didn't throw fits.

And are they absolutely obedient? Of course not. They're kids.

Good behavior is about making the right decisions, and behaving appropriately; and that's what they do...

Most of the time anyway....

This works, AND it's just the right thing to do, but it isn't perfect, or easy

Ok, this isn't some miracle "cure" for badly behaved children.

Obviously, it's always better if your kids never develop the bad behaviors in the first place. This will turn out best if you start from as young as they understand it (around 2 or so), and keep going through their entire life under your care. The later you start, the harder it's going to be.

If you've believed the bull foisted on most parents for decades, and let your kids run roughshod all over you for years... This will work, but it's going to take a LOOOONG time to modify your kids behavior; and it's going to HURT, both you, and your kids, while you're going through it.

Also, if you EVER relent for even a second, they are going to try and push you off your spot, or wait you out. You have to be absolutely committed.

And believe me, even if you've been rock solid from day one, they are going to test you... that's just part of growing up. They're going to seek out limits and boundaries, and you need to set them appropriately. Then, as they grow, they are going to push and test those boundaries. That's life.

If it gets bad, or if they've already developed the habits of bad behavior, and haven't developed morals or ethics... Well, you're in for trouble (especially if they are teenagers).

They are going to test you, badly. They are going to try to hurt you. They are going to figure out when it's most important for you to do something you want to do, and they are going to throw the worlds biggest fit right at that moment, just to see what you do about it.

...And you have to do it. You have to be consistent and utterly committed. You have to apply the rules, no matter how inconvenient or painful it is for you.

And they know that, and they'll make sure that it WILL be painful for you. They will do it when you have a big meeting, or for your anniversary dinner, or for that play you've been waiting years to see. Because they KNOW that's when you'll be most likely to give in.

You have to do it anyway. Remember what I said about absolute commitment?

Of course, at that point, disrupting you and punishing you will be their goal, and once again, we NEVER allow bad behavior to be rewarded, or go unpunished; and they must NEVER get what they want.

So if they want to disrupt you, don't let them. Find a babysitter who will follow your rules for the kids (which can be damn hard. Usually it ends up having to be family or close friends); and go do whatever it was they were trying to disrupt.

Don't let their bad behavior be rewarded, even if that reward is attention or disruption. Frustrating them in their desires is INFINITELY more effective than any simple punishment. So long as you can show them they will never win, and you will never give in, then it will turn out right.

This sounds more like punishing the parents sometimes...

Well... Yeah. Or rather yes and no.

If you do it right, your kids wont push you that hard, and make it punishing to you.

But if they do, to be honest, punishing your kids should be harder on you than it is on them; you just need to be tougher than they are.

If it isn't hard on you, either your kids are perfect and never need any kind of discipline, consequences, or punishment enforced on them (never happen in this life); or you're probably not doing it right, and your kids are really the ones in charge, taking advantage of you, and manipulating you to think otherwise...

...Well, either that, or you don't really give a damn about your kids. If that's the case, send them to live with someone who does, or to boarding school or something; just get them away from you, so you don't screw them up any more than they already are.

Harsh? Hell yes. Do I mean every damn word? Hell yes.

Being a parent is hard. It hurts. It's a lot of work. It's a lot of sacrifice.

So what.

That's all part of the job. If you weren't ready for it, you shouldn't have done it in the first place.

If your kids behavior is important to you (and in a greater sense, their morals and their ethics), then it has to be more important to you than whatever else it is that you want to do in your life.


Yes, you may have to sacrifice. Yes, you may have to miss out on things. Yes, you may have to be disappointed and frustrated.

Sorry, that's being a parent...

...but establishing, maintaining, communicating, and enforcing standards of behavior works; and if you haven't let the kids get too bad in the first place, it usually works pretty quickly...

...and as a side benefit, once it's working, your kids will let you get back to those things you want to do.

See, virtue has practical rewards too, not just moral ones.

The hard cases...

So I keep saying "this works"... what about when it doesn't?

Well, even if it doesn't work, it's the right thing to do and you should do it anyway. Your kids might not end up more well behaved, but they'll at least know that their behavior is wrong; and you'll be able to sleep better at night.

It SHOULD work, most of the time... it just gets a LOT harder in some cases.

First thing, if you live in a state where severe discipline is treated like child abuse... Well, that's going to make things hard. And I'm not even talking about spanking; in some states any kind of physical restraint can be considered abuse, including just locking your child in their room.

The fact is, if a kid doesn't have a strong moral compass, and a sense of what is appropriate and what isn't, by the time they are about 12 or 13; you're going to have a very hard time instilling that into them.

The sad fact is, in todays America, if a kid simply decides not to listen to you, or obey you, or respect you, or do the right thing when they're a teenager... there is effectively nothing you can do anymore to stop them, except deny them funding or transportation. The best you can do is not help them destroy themselves.

Again, that doesn't mean you shouldn't try... but if they've been allowed to go this far without discipline, morals, or ethic... expect to fail.

Do it anyway because it's the right thing to do... but expect to fail; and maybe later, when they smarten up, they'll remember the lessons and come around right on their own.

Also, this is going to be VERY hard with "problem children": some kids with some types of learning disabilities, kids who have psychological or psychiatric problems, autistic kids, or children who have been abused or neglected for a long time.

Again, you should do it anyway, just because it's the right thing to do (for that matter I think it's how you should treat adults who behave the same way)... but it's going to be hard, and painful.

It WILL work... it just won't work as well, or as fast, or without MUCH more difficulty, and much more pain.

Also, you might have to modify your approach. Every kid is different, and everyones psychology is different; but you only change the implementation. You can't ever compromise on the principles of it.

Never reward bad behavior. Never allow someone to escape the consequences of their actions. Always be just, and consistent, but not proportional. Always let them know you love them.

The real "secret" to all this though...

Is that it's not just how you should deal with children...

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Computer Problems... Again

So I've been dealing with yet more computer issues the last... few weeks really, but specifically in the last 48 hours.

Real PITA.

Anyway, the monster desktop replacement will be going back to HP for the third time, for another warranty repair.

In the meantime, I'll be on my netbook. Kinda hard to write on the netbook. Little screen, little keyboard.

I can't disagree with anything substantive here...

Normally, I'm not that big a fan of Newt Gingrich as a politician.

I think he's briliant as a political writer, and political commentator (which is fitting, because his background is as a history professor), but as a politican, he and I are probably below 50% in agreement on major policy issues.

But we're above 75% on major issues of principle; and that's what this speech is about. Taking principles, and making them into politics.... Something it seems most politicians are too cowardly to do.

I think Newt is right. If the Republicans can do this, then they can crush the Democrats in 2010 and 2012. If not... It'll just be more back and forth.

Not only that though, but I actually believe it's the RIGHT thing to do; not just the best way to win.

Anyway, I consider this a "must watch" speech:

Monday, December 28, 2009

Just because people make bad choices...

...Doesn't mean they shouldn't have any choice at all. The first freedom is the freedom to fail...

And when it comes to choosing our leaders in this country... whoooo boy have we failed big time, for a long time.

So Tam, being an Ovarian American, got a bit tweaked at a comment over at Travis Corcorans site t'other day:
"I think that female suffrage has been an unremitted disaster – all of the socialism that we’ve experienced in the US has happened since, and because women have been allowed to vote."
Excluding snark, Tams comment boiled down to "correlation does not equal causation"; which normally I am one of the first to trumpet... but in this case there is a causative link... Or at least most major studies of voting demographics seem to show one.

The other part of her comment was that she (nor anyone) shouldn't be denied the right to vote (which is not, in fact, a right; but a privilege as a member of society. It can be granted by society, taken away by society, and does not exist in any context without society, therefore is not a right.) because of the choices some might make.

And in that, I'm entirely with her.

But we really do need to look at why women, in the significant majority, vote for the nanny state; and on the larger scale in general, why people who vote for nannyism do so.

The three major events or major societal changes in 20th century that did more to DIRECTLY advance the nanny government than all other events combined were:

1. World War 1
2. Womens suffrage
3. Massive expansion of university education

I note "directly" above, because indirectly the 16th and 17th amendments (income tax, and direct election of senators) may have had an even greater effect; and enabled and encouraged such nannyism... in fact the current nannystate would be impossible without them... but were not direct contributors.

I've talked about point 1 before (along with about a hundred scholarly books, phd. dissertations etc...). By depriving most of Europe of a full generation of its healthiest, most aggressive, and most ambitious men; an environment was created that was dominated by the risk averse, and those who were hurting and suffering... and the entirety of Europe has never really recovered. Basically, the '14-'18 war took the guts out of the continent, and they haven't come back, (bar a minor resurgence for the second great war... and it sadly was a minor resurgence. Just look at England).

Everyone and their uncle has looked at point 3.

Point two though... it's one of those third rail topics. You can't talk about it publicly or you risk being eviscerated by... well by Tam for example, never mind the lefties.

So first things first. Point two is true, by all available statistics. Historically speaking, women vote for more nannyism at about 2/3 to 1/3.

HOWEVER, just because item two is true (and some rather exhaustive demographic studies have been done showing that it is) doesn't mean women shouldn't be allowed to vote.

American blacks and hispanics are more likely to vote for leftists idiocy too (over 80% to 20% for blacks, hispanics are highly variable), that doesn't mean they should be barred from voting either.

The first freedom is the freedom to fail. That includes the freedom to make bad choices; even if those bad choices effect other members of society (this is where the anarchists, Spoonerists, and Rothbardites usually jump up and down and start yelling).

The thing is this: It's not that women, blacks, or hispanics are inherently more socialist than white males; or are less capable of making good political judgments. It's that they perceive (I think, in general, wrongly) that their interest is better served with leftist policies.

In general, over the long term, and free of interference or distortion; people will vote their perceived interests.

The "more vulnerable" of society (which up until recently included the majority of women, blacks, and hispanics) will almost always vote for more "safety" than more freedom; because as I said above, the first freedom is freedom to fail, and they have historically been more likely to suffer under the negative consequences of failure, and therefore perceive the risk/reward metric differently than white males have historically.

Also, both the most wealthy, and most educated members of society (who believe either that the negatives impacts of leftism wont effect them greatly; or that they can benefit more from the "system" if more government control is in place, at the expense of the slightly less educated risk taking capitalists that would otherwise dominate), and the poorest and least educated members of society (who generally believe that they will not be able to succeed to a greater degree than the government would provide largess), generally, vote for more protectionism, socialism, leftism etc...

This is true even in rural "white" "bible belt" America, where protectionism, unions, government works projects and the like are seen as good business economically; even while voting for socially conservative policies and politicians.

Also, this split is by no means stable. As I said, people will tend to vote their perceived interests. Men will vote left and women will vote right, if the positions floated match their perceived interest. Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected by landslide four times. Reagan was elected by landslide twice.

The problem then is not that women, minorities, and the poor vote left, or vote for socialism necessarily.

The problem is that they perceive (generally incorrectly) that their interests, and at least to some extent the interests of society, are better served by leftism.

So the task for us, is making the large majority of the people understand that leftism, even in the soft and limited forms of it like public works projects, job protection policies, tarrifs etc... is not in their interest, or the interest of society as a whole.

That's a rather difficult task; because for someone who is naturally risk averse, capitalism (and specifically libertarian free market based capitalism) seems very risky... Heck, it IS very risky, that's the point. You take risks, you fail, and you have the freedom to get back up and take more risks and succeed (or fail again).

Many people out there would happily vote for a "guaranteed" living, even if it was less than half what they could be making without a "guarantee", and even if you could prove to them the "guarantee" was really false. It's just the way they're wired, and no amount of facts or logical arguments are going to convince them.

Many others are willing to accept a bit of risk, but they want a great big "safety net" underneath them for when they fall.

These people, even if they are shown it isn't really true... they WANT it to be true bad enough, that they are willing to try and force that vision on the rest of us.

Those people (and by conventional estimate they make up about 40% of the population) are ALWAYS going to vote for the "safety and security" lie. They are going to vote for the nanny no matter what.

On the other hand, there are about 40% of the population who are always going to vote for the riskier path, that they can reap more reward from.

Even in Reagans 49 state landslide vs. Mondale, he only got 58.8% of the popular vote.

Nixon crushed Mcgovern 49 to 1 as well, and it was still a 60%/40% split.

Even in Roosevelts "New Deal" landslide against Hoover, he only got 57.4% of the popular vote (in '36 against Alf Landon, 60.8%, the biggest landslide since the civil war. In '40 against Wendell Wilkie, 54.7%. In '44 against Thomas Dewey, 53.4%).

The 40% on either side is a pretty stable number; barring major events in society that temporarily distort it, like wars and disasters.... And even then, in the last 110 years, in every national election, the left has never had less than 35%, and neither has the right... And neither have had more than 60.8% either.

The fact is, some people will believe what they want to believe, or what they're afraid to believe, over the truth; no matter how clear the truth is made to them.

It's the remaining 20% that we need to get to, and teach them that it is ALWAYS a lie.

In a society where the government does not artificially force the private economy into failure, the government cannot possibly do better for you than you can do for yourself. Giving the government more power, and more control, is NEVER in your best interest, or in the interest of society.

Saying that "womens suffrage caused socialism" (which isn't what Travis said exactly, but it's certainly what a lot of people would hear from what he said) isn't exactly helpful in that.

You know you're relaxing into your vacation...

... When you have to be reminded what day it is.

I'm on that day... I woke up this morning thinking... "What day is it... oh yeah, it's Monday.. and no work for another week".

Then I went back to sleep.

Gotta love that feeling.

I have however been lazy about finishing my long posts. I've got a half dozen queued up, just waiting for me to finish off. I might get one out tonight; if not, it'll be tomorrow morning.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Something that actually make Echo , and RSS, worthwhile to me

... and a substitute for my comments view all at the same time...

In addition to the ability to subscribe to individual comment RSS feeds; Echo creates a comment feed, for ALL comments on all posts, automatically; for as far as I can tell, all blogs it runs on.

This comment feed actually gives me back the view I used to have of all my comments, rather than being stuck with the "moderate" interface.

It's so useful to me, I'm finally going to switch to using an RSS reader; rather than my longstanding practice of opening all my blog and news sites, in new tabs in firefox or chrome (I prefer seeing the formatting, sidebars etc... that site owners put on their sites).

I'm going to google reader for now, just because it is accessible wherever I go without any additional software, and without any additional subscriptions or memberships required. Plus it works fine on the iPhone, and Blackberry (and android too, though I don't have an android device... yet).

I've already gone and put the feeds in for all 150+ blogs, comics, and news sites I read on a regular basis. PITA, but with the awesome bar on firefox, less of one than it used to be.

Ergo qui natus, Die hodierna

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Damn... thems some massive nerf bars.

The weather was most co-operative today, so we put the new battery in the car, and the nerf bars went on the truck.

To be honest, it was getting pretty hard for me to get in the damn thing on bad knee days. Now, with the bars bolted on, the step height is about 6" lower, and it's a lot easier to get in.

Plus they look cool, and protect the door sills.

The nerf bars we got are 4" round tube wheel to wheel (so they include a bed step behind the back doors), from Iron Cross, in matte black powder coat. They look kinda evil, and are SERIOUSLY MASSIVE.

They go well with the truck though, since I've got a 4" round tube exhaust; and I plan on a rear bumper in matte black powdercoat that has a 4" round tube as part of the structure (and a front bumper with 2" round tube brush/light bars).

I'd put some pics up, but the truck is completely covered with dusty water spots from the storm yesterday.

The whole process took about an hour, and that's just because it was the first set, and we were shooting the breeze while installing.

If you really hustled, I bet you could do it in 20 minutes. It's just two brackets with five bolts into the body substructure (it bolts into the same areas the body bolts to the frame on, so no worries about strength there); and two bolts to hold the bars onto the brackets.

And they're STRONG. I was moving the whole truck a couple inches, but not flexing the brackets at all.

I DO wish the brackets had some triangulation (they're folded and rolled, but not triangulated. Plenty strong though, at 1/4" or so... I didn't mic it), but I'm guessing they did that because they mount to the body not the frame; and they'd rather the bracket bends before the body does in the event of a big rock hit, or an accident.

So, note to self, these are NOT in any way shape or form, rock sliders (not that I expected they would be).

Next step, bumpers... some time next year... those damn things are EXPENSIVE.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Power of Cuteness Compels You

Isn't it Alannis Morisetteish

I live in southcentral Arizona... Scottsdale to be specific. One of the driest places in the country.

It almost never rains here.

So when the nerf bars (4" wheel to wheel round tubes from Iron Cross in black powdercoat) my wife bought me as a sortachristmaspresentythingy arrived yesterday, in their 15 foot long box; I felt perfectly safe in leaving them out front (not like they'd FIT in the house anyway, at least not without some contortions).

In fact, out front, unpacked, with the hardware laid out, and ready to install this afternoon, after lunch; along with the new battery for our other car (Optima red top), also to be installed after lunch.

Except, as we were sitting down to lunch, the heavens decided to open up; causing us to scurry off to quickly get said bits under cover (and men my size should really never scurry).

I won't make the obvious "it never rains" joke.

Two Million in a little less than five years

A few minutes ago, this blog passed the 2 Million unique visitor mark, with just under 2.7 million page views, in about six weeks under 5 years.

So, here he (at least I'm assuming) is, our two millionth visitor:

The obscured google URL tells me that he was looking for pics of the Kel-Tec P3AT. Oh and if you didn't know (I din't until I just looked it up) Clarks Summit is near Scranton.

So thank you mr. Anonymous Pennsylvanian Kel-Tec searcher, for being our two millionth unique visitor.

Monday, December 21, 2009

After Midnight

We're gonna shake, jump, and shout...

Or something...

Actually, I'm not quite finished with the scope post, so it's going to be popped out after midnight.

As it happens, I'm also about 70 visitors shy of 2 million. So that milestone should tick over some time after midnight as well.

Almost There...

Sometime today or tomorrow, I'm going to hit two million unique visitors (and around 2.7 million page views).

Sunday, December 20, 2009

AdBlockPlus default filter set is blocking Echo Comments

If you suddenly can't see comments on some of your favorite blogs, there's a very irritating reason for that.

It seems that in their most recent update, the AdBlockPlus filterset has started blocking all embedded content from JS-KIT, who serves Echo and Haloscan.

Looking through my logs shows it might have something to do with a specificclick third party cross site reference.

Several other plugins use the same dataset for their filters. If you're using one of these filters, you're going to need to add an exception to your filterset to be able to comment, or view comments, on any of the perhaps 1/4 of all blogs (or at least all active blogs, that are regularly updated. Most less active blogs just use the default wordpress or blogger comments) that use either Haloscan or Echo.

Just a guess, but I'd say this is because of all the antisocial asses out there (mostly linux users, and almost entirely firefox users -I use both, but I'm not one of the aforementioned asses) who report any java, script, or tracking cookie as spam or ads to their filtering services.

Meanwhile, here's a video tutorial on adding exceptions to AdBlock Plus:

UPDATE: Well, that was quick. Either JS-KIT updated or the filterset did, I'm not sure which.

Terms and Conditions

Whenever anyone has asked me, I've given them permission to reprint my original work for this blog under a Creative Commons license; but I never bothered to put up the license notice.

For one thing, I do prefer that people ask; if only so I know where I'm being reprinted, and what the reaction of that sites audience is.

However, I realized that not listing a license explicitly, makes it more difficult for those who want to repost/reprint legitimately to do so. Also, I'd like to further spread the message of the creative commons licenses.

So, as of today, my wife and I am officially licensing all content of this blog, and all other publicly accessible web content to which I retain copyright (including all materials published non-commercially on all other sites, and on all dates since the inception of any of our websites; and other materials we have published non-commercially online, that either of us still retain copyright to, and have not otherwise separately licensed); under the Creative Commons, Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License, unless explicitly noted otherwise.

Yeah, there's a bunch of legalistic stuff in there, because I can't grant you right I don't have to give; and some of my content is used under fair use, or by permission from other sites; and some I've already licensed differently, or published commercially (which is also licensed differently) etc... So I can't just blanket give you all everything.... Too bad as it'd be a lot simpler.

That said, the core if it is pretty simple. Almost everything is licensed CC-BY-NC-ND.

What that means, is that anyone is free to reprint or republish my original work from this site, so long as they credit me and this site, don't alter it (including deleting or adding), and don't use it for commercial purposes.

If you wish to use content from this site for commercial purposes, please contact me at the address listed in my personal profile.

Commentary, parody, criticism, and reasonable excerpting for citation, are of course all acceptable fair use, and need not be covered under license.

I'm putting up a notice in the blogs template, that will show on the sidebar and footer; along with the explanatory link, and Creative Commons button:

Creative Commons License

The AnarchAngel by Christopher J. Byrne IV
is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

This button and link were created using the Creative Commons "License your work" tool, which formats the whole thing for you.

I don't think it's particularly necessary to do this right at this moment to protect myself, and I'm certainly not looking to protect a potential revenue source.

I just think that every blogger should understand copyright, and licenses, and how it effects them and their work; and should explicitly publish under a license (there are many others out there, not just Creative Commons).

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sorry no scope post yet...

A friend of mine had a medical issue last night, and I spent the day with her today.

Long day. Tired. Not much sleep last night. Time to veg.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

How NOT to be a Corporate Shill

A couple days ago I wrote about how I had planned on switching from AT&T to Verizon, but decided against it because their monthly bill was going to be $80 more than from AT&T for the same service features (1200 minute family plan, two lines, 250 text each, unlimited data each).

Now I've got a "regular guy" in comments, trying to talk about how Verizon is really a better deal than AT&T and how I'm an awful, mean, bad person for writing such mean things etc... etc...

Ok... a little bit of astroturf I can live with, but this is getting ridiculous. Three nearly hysterical comments so far...
UPDATE: Alright, I had a private email exchange with Jason, and it turns out, he DOES work for Verizon, but he's not in sales or marketing, and he isn't a paid shill.

He's not astroturfing, he's just really passionate about his job, and his company; and he wants to present their best position and value.

In general, you want to avoid that sort of perceived conflict of interest, by disclosing you are an employee up front. People on the internet, generally, react really badly to that sort of thing, unless you disclose first.

That said, I also understand that sometimes that can be difficult.

I work for a company that gets a lot of unwarranted criticisms and attacks, and I would LOVE to be able to defend us; but I am strictly forbidden to make any kind of public statement as a senior employee.

So a misunderstanding happened, because of a guy who really wants to do the right thing, but is in a constrained circumstance.

There's another issue I get. Big companies develop their own language. When you're in the thick of a company, you start speaking company language. So when they sound unnatural, or are very precise about branding and products etc... It's because of the internal culture of the company that reinforces that language every day (lord knows, my company has its own language too).

So, I apologize to Jason for questioning his integrity, and accusing him of astroturfing; and I'm taking down the part with the office address and phone number.

And hell, I should probably disclose, my stepmother, and my uncle, both work in senior positions at Verizon.

Yaknow, astroturfers really are idiots.

First, you don't talk like normal human beings. You're always careful to mention your proper branding etc... And you're shrill about criticism. And you are defensive about products, pricing etc...

Normal people just don't talk that way (well... some Apple fanatics do... but calling them "normal people' is a stretch).

Even if I couldn't tell from that you were astroturfers though, I would know, because I'm the site admin. I've got logs.

See, I've got your IP address.

Your IP address, that belongs to "Verizon Business"

I'd say "nice try", but really it wasn't. If you're going to be a corporate shill, at least be an intelligent, well spoken corporate shill...

The Thousand Yard Conspiracy - Sidebar: Roadmap for the thousand yard conspiracy posts

Ok, so with "the Thousand Yard Conspiracy" I'm in the middle of a LONG series here, that I started over a year ago.

As of right now, I've got a half dozen more long posts queued up over the next couple weeks.

They've all kinda been percolating for about a year now; but I haven't had the time or focus necessary to finish them.

I took the rest of the year off work as a vacation (to use up my extra vacation days so I wouldn't lose them mostly); and I'm actually going to have time to finish them now.

At any rate, I'm doing a detailed post on value scopes for long range (including direct price and feature comparisons), and another detailed post on high end scopes for long range in the same vein.

I think I'll pop the value scope post out today actually.

Somewhere in there I'm going to include a fair bit (maybe as its own post, maybe in one of the other posts) on the physics of optics and why you buy what you do. That one may only be of interest to me, and some astronomy geeks; but it's nice to know WHY your stuff works (or doesn't work) the way it does.

I'm also doing a post on spotting scopes and rangefinders for long range shooting.

On the other side of things, I've got about 3/4 written, a post comparing the ballistics and long range shooting potential of .30-06, .308, 7mm magnum, .300 win mag, .300 rum, .300 lapua (aka .30-378), .338 lapua, .408 CheyTac, .416 Barrett, and .50bmg.

As I have no direct experience with the .300 Lapua or the .416 Barrett, i'm going to be going off published data only for them; but I've fired all the other chamberings MANY times (and own or have owned rifles in all but .338 lapua, .300 rum, and .408 CheyTac - who I won't deal with because of their anti-civilian ownership rhetoric), and have first hand experience with at least 600 yard shooting with all of them.

That's going to be a HUGE damn post, why bother? Well first, a BUNCH of people have been asking about .300rum and .338 lapua, as compared to my choices of .308 win and .300 win mag. Also, a few have asked "why not .30-06", or "why not .7mm mag"?

Good points all, so I decided to run the numbers.

Then a few people started mentioning how they were goig to go to a .50cal, or one of the big .40s for 1000 yards... and on my "gunnies christmas list" post from a few days ago, I noted that I wanted another .50 (I had one and had to get rid of it), saying":

"A high precision .50bmg bolt gun.

Yes I know the big 40s (.416 barret, .408 CheyTac etc...) are better, I just want a .50.

I had one once, for a while, but had to get rid of it. I want another one."

I started thinking about it, and decided I wanted to write about just exactly how much long range performance you were going to get from each cartridge.

Anyway, I think I'll put that post up on Monday; since no-one bothers to read long posts on Fridays.

Just be warned, I think it's going to go over 10,000 words.

Finally, I'm going to put up a couple posts updating the main thread of the story, the 1000 yard rifle; and also another rifle that I'm building up alongside it.

Not all of those posts will come out in the next 18 days, but maybe five of them will, maybe six...

For one thing, I don't plan on spending my entire vacation writing. For another, my readers can only take so many 5000+ word posts a week (as in one, or maybe two at most).

Also, if there's anything else y'all think I'm missing, let me know. If it fits in somewhere, I'll stick it in there.

Woo Hoo... 18 days off

So, I'm off work from yesterday afternoon, until January 4th.

That's the longest vacation I've taken since... uh... Not including being unemployed for a couple months five or six years ago... 1996 I think?

Even better, we aren't going anywhere. It'll be just me, Mel, the kids, and whatever friends decide to pop by.

I'm going to read, relax, and finally finish writing a whole bunch of long damn posts.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

You MUST Watch This...

The BEST smackdown of the AGW fraud I've ever seen.

The Thousand Yard Conspiracy - Sidebar: Why not .30-06 for long range?

Monday, as part of my 1000 yard conspiracy post on lower cost long range shooting, I went into a little detail on selecting a chambering for your precision rifle.

For that discussion, I suggested .308 win, and .300 winmag; because of accuracy, power, ammo availability, and cost.

There is another option in the .30 caliber family that can fire the same bullets as the .308, but a bit faster: the .30-06.

Since it has a bit more powder capacity, and can push the same weight of bullet to higher velocities (or a heavier bullet to the same velocity); you might think it would make a better choice for long range shooting than .308, but most long range shooters choose some other chambering.

Several people have asked why that is.

Firstly, I just want to say I'm a big fan of the .30-06 cartridge as a whole. I own two .30-06 rifles. It's good for most north American game at under 400 yards (at least with proper load selection). It's low cost (relatively speaking... ammo aint cheap these days).

Plus, the '06 is a great American tradition. There are probably more American bolt action rifles chambered in it than any other centerfire caliber. Carlos Hathcock made almost all his kills with a Winchester model 70 in .30-06.

In fact, the '06 has killed more badguys for us than any other chambering. That title will probably last until we get man portable battlefield nuclear sidearms, given the mass casualties of WW1 and WW2.

...It's just not quite as accurate as other choices.

It's not bad at all, but it's enough of a difference, that most precision shooters will make another choice.

The issue, is one of consistency. For best precision, it is important to minimize the shot to shot deviations in pressure, initial velocity.. well really, every possible variation.

The .308 and .300winmag are slightly more consistent, because of the shape of their cases; and the shape of the powder column inside the case.

Basically, the case of the -30'06 is longer, but the same diameter, as the .308; giving the powder column a higher aspect ratio (or more technically, a low surface area to case volume ratio for the powder charge).

In cases where the powder column has a low surface area to volume ratio, the powder burns less consistently, and the high pressure gasses expand out of the the case less consistently; than from a lower aspect ratio case (a shorter, fatter, or both, case; which produces a higher surface area to volume).

This reduces accuracy to a small, but noticable, degree.

The wider diameter (and therefore more surface area of a powder charge) per volume of a case (to a point anyway), the more consistent the velocities and pressure achieved out of that case.

This improves accuracy to a small, but noticeable, degree.

This is why .308 and .300 winmag are more commonly chosen for long range accuracy than the .30-06. It is also why the .300wsm, and other similar, short, fat, cartridges are becoming so popular

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

There's a map for that... with nothing but toll roads on it

I've been thinking about getting the Droid to replace my iPhone 3g for a while.

Not that I don't love my iPhone; but we're moving next near, and the area we're moving to doesn't have AT&T 3g service yet.

We'd been planning on moving to either Verizon or Sprint, who both have 3g in that area (t-mobile doesn't either); and since Sprint doesn't have any phones we like (and is going out of business rapidly... but they'll be acquired soon... probably by Verizon if the regulators allow it), and Verizon has the Droid, and Droid Eris, they were our default choice.

I've played with a friends droid for a bit, and I like it. I don't like the keyboard or directional pad, or the feel of it in the hand; but I like the OS, and the actual open source apps... overall, I think its a pretty good phone.

It's not as good as my iPhone 3g, but it is pretty good, and it's getting better.

Then yesterday, my iPhone broke.

Oh, it's still functional, but the plastic casing on the back has a couple cracks.

As it happens, I use my iPhone with several docks (one at my desk, one by my bedside, one for my home stereo, and one in each of our cars); and the many times a day the thing came in and out of those docks torqued the plastic around the connector enough to crack it, and to widen another crack that I put in the back when I dropped it one day.

This is no weakness in the phone; this is me beating the hell out of the thing for 18 months (almost to the day actually), and it finally showing it.

The thing is perfectly fine, so long as I just use it with a cable, and don't use my docks.

However, as I said, we were looking to replace our carrier with Verizon anyway; so this looked liked a good time to grab a Droid for me, and a Droid Eris for mel ($199 and $99 respectively if you buy online, and Mel prefers the shape and feel of the Eris).

So I went to the Verizon web site, entered in the phones we wanted, and went on to the voice and data plans...

That's where things started going bad for Verizon.

Our current plan on AT&T is a 1200 minute family plan, with rollover (so unused minutes roll onto the next month), 2 lines of service, free family calling, 200 texts each line, and unlimited data on each line; for which we pay $127 a month including taxes, after our $20 a month discount for my employer.

It's a great deal by the way. Everybody who works for my company gets the discount, if they ask for it. You have to tell them you work for us, then ask, and you'll get it starting the next month. We also get a additional reward points on our cards if we pay our AT&T bills with our employee credit cards.

If you work for a company that has a corporate phone account with a major carrier, you should ask that carrier if they offer a discount to employees of your company. A surprising number of companies get these types of discounts.

With Verizon, I could get a 700 minute plan without text or family calling (and no rollover on any verizon plans), and add unlimited text, mms, video, and family calling for $20 more. Or I could get a 1400 minute plan with family calling but no text for $20 more, and add unlimited text, mms, and video for another $20.

Ok... none of those were particularly good deals, but I chose the 1400 minute plan, with family calling but no text. I have no interest in MMS or video, and I'm not willing to pay $20 a month extra for it.

However, we do use text, and texts are either $0.50 a piece, or $5 each phoneline, for 250 per month... or $20 for unlimited. They REALLY want you to pay the extra @0 upfront to get the voice plan with the unlimited text, mms, and video.

Visual voicemail was $3 a line extra, so I declined it (I want it, I love it on my iPhone, but I'm not paying an extra $6 a month for the feature. Insurance was $9 per month per phone (at&t has a $70 one time charge per phone) so I declined it. Then came the real killer...


The whole point of having a smartphone like the Droid is to have unlimited data, wherever you are, whenever you need it.

Data was $45 per line, per month, for a total of $90.

Or, you could get just unlimited email and web (but no data for applications), for $30 a month per line... Yeah I don't think so.

$90 it is then.

Added together, the whole package, was $189, plus $18 in taxes and fees.

$207... vs. $127 a month for AT&T... Thats frikken $80 a month difference... 66% more expensive.

Oh, we get a Verizon discount too, that same $20 (but without the extra credit card reward points)... so I guess it would only be $60 a month more... Plus the $300 for the new phones of course; and that discount wouldn't apply for 90 days after activating new service.

Now, as it happens, I am eligible for upgrade pricing on the new iPhone 3GS with AT&T; but I still have six months left before I can terminate my contract without penalty (smart move for AT&T, making the upgrades available before you can terminate. Gets more people to roll over since they can get a new device). If I terminate now, I owe an $80 etf.

And I've still got 3 billing cycles left until we move; which would be a $240 savings, plus the $80 etf... $320... on top of the $300 for the new phones...

We just checked the coverage map again today, and there's still no 3g coverage where we want to move to; but AT&T HAS put coverage in along the major road leading by there, and the major towns north and south of there... And they're expanding coverage in the area generally. They may have full 3g coverage up by the time we move.

If not, they have a femtocell available, that lets you extend the 3G coverage to 1/4 mile around your own house, plus the phones have WiFi; so as long as we had our home internet connection, the only place we wouldn't have 3g or better coverage is the 5 miles between where we want to move, and the main road...

And Mel misses her iPhone.

She smashed it up a few months back (well and truly crushed it, dropping it onto the screen, on concrete, while the case was off), and we just grabbed a cheap prepaid phone and swapped sims; expecting we'd be upgrading when we moved anyway, and not wanting to pay the $250 out of warranty repair charge.

But Mel doesn't use those docks like I do... and superglue and a new thin hardcase that keeps the back supported, and my cracked back iPhone 3g is completely good to go...

So we decided to use the upgrade, and I swapped out my iPhone 3g with Mel, and upgraded to an iPhone 3gs.

Basically, it's just like the 3G, except it's a fair bit faster (it's very noticeable), has slightly better battery life, a much better GPS, a much better camera; and the new oleophobic screen coating is AWESOME, and completely gets rid of the smears and smudges of the old iPhone.

All in all, we're very happy with this choice. Even if we can't get 3G when we move, they're still useful as iPod touches; and the cost of the 3GS is actually LESS than we'd have to pay in early termination fees and the extra cost of going to Verizon.

So, Verizon.. Can I hear you now? No... not over the roaring of that extra $80 a month you want to extort out of me thanks.

Seven Value Logic

Let's play a game of 20 questions. You know the rules: Try and guess what it is I'm thinking of by asking me up to 20 yes or no questions.

The questions have to be yes or no, there must be a discrete answer to each question, and if you don't have the answer by 20, you lose and I win.

This is called "decision tree logic" or "tree decisioning", because each question branches off into other questions, hopefully narrowing down to the trunk and root; the object we wish to identify (or the answer we want to reach).

The funny thing about 20 questions is though... As complicated as it may seem (and in fact it IS a very complicated problem from a structured logic standpoint), human beings are really quite good at it.

The reason we're so good at, what is a very complex problem technically, comes down to three unique properties of human thought: Induction (intuitive reasoning), association (relational resasoning), and indiscrete nondeterministic logic.

By unique, I mean that no other animal has exhibited these properties, except in the most basic way; and no computer can duplicate them.

At least, not so far.
Ok... so from this point I'm going to go into a description of how computers "think"... or more accurately how computers solve problems; how that's different from how humans think; and perhaps how computers can perhaps solve problems more like humans do in the future.

If you're a programmer, a computer scientist, or anyone with a passing fair knowledge of either subject, this is going to be grossly oversimplified for you.

If you have little interest in how computers solve problems, this will bore the hell out of you.

I'm trying to strike a balance between being technically correct, and being understandable and interesting for a layman... And I'll be honest, I don't think I did such a great job doing so.

I'm not sure it is POSSIBLE to do so in this particular case. You can either speak in human language, or in the language of structured logic; and they aren't particularly compatible.
Some folks have written recently about how AMAZING our current computing power, and the access to information it provides us, really is.

And it is. There is no question, it has changed the world dramatically, and will continue to do so.

We now have, on our desktops, the power to make tens, or even hundreds of billions of calculations every second (a dual processor quad core nehalem can run 150 billion instructions per second across its 8 cores; and each instruction can have MANY binary logic tests in it) ... Hundreds of million, or even billions, in our phones even.

So much computing power is available, in such portable packages; that computers have almost become extensions of our brains. Our, exobrains, as several folks have referred to them.

These exobrains have seemingly huge memories and infinite computing capacity in comparison to our actual brains.

And yet, we actually have a HUGE memory and computing capacity naturally... we just use it in entirely different ways than computers do.

As for our exobrains, we'll never really be able to use that calculating capacity as well as our real brains use theirs, until and unless we make a huge leap in the physical and logical nature of computing; and develop high value logic in hardware (I'll explain what that means as we go along).

Human brains are made up of neurons; and many people over the years have made the easy analogy between neurons and the transistors in our computers.

That analogy is not particularly accurate however; and in many ways is damagingly misleading.

Unlike computers, humans have the ability to use indiscrete and nondeterministic reasoning, to reach discrete and deterministic conclusions; through relation, deduction, and induction.

Computers as they currently exist can't do this, they can only approximate deduction through many binary cycles, and can't even attempt relation or induction; because they use a discrete two value logic. Binary, boolean, zero or one, yes or no.

Humans use, what can be usefully approximated as, a seven value (technically an infinite value, with 7 cardinal points), indiscrete, and nondeterministic logic.

In normal human language (vs. the language of structured logic), humans have an internal decision making structure, where there are seven discrete values (a discrete value in this context is something definite, with no plus, minus, margin of error, wiggle room etc...), with infinite shadings in between them; and any two sets of outputs from the same set of inputs will not necessarily be identical... (though they MAY be - which is what nondeterministic means in this context).

Those discrete values, expressed in terms of structured logic tests, are:
  1. Yes: Terminate positive

  2. No: Terminate negative

  3. Indeterminate alpha: Both yes and no/Equally balanced between yes and no - Ask another question to discriminate until a deterministic value set is reached.

  4. Indeterminate beta: More yes than no - Ask another question to discriminate until a deterministic value set is reached.

  5. Indeterminate gamma: More no than yes - Ask another question to discriminate until a deterministic value set is reached.

  6. Indeterminate delta: There may be an answer, but it cannot be determined at this time, with this information. Gather more information, wait for states to change, or ask a different question.

  7. Indeterminate Epsilon: NULL, there can be no possible answer under any conditions, terminate or approximate.
You'll note, five of those states are indeterminate. This allows us to build far more complex logical structures, with fewer logical tests (fewer "branches on the tree"), than something that can only use discrete logic (such as computers... or in some cases the severely autistic).

Computers can only use two discrete logical values, yes and no, or rather, on and off (well... even that is inaccurate... it's really "above lower bound" and "below lower bound").

In comparison, this is a great limitation; because all seven of those cardinal values, and all the shadings in between, exist "in the world". In order to interact with the world (and to produce accurate and relevant solution sets to realworld problems) computers need to be able to approximate those values in their logic.

This is of course possible (or computers would be useless as anything other than calculators), through programming; but it takes up computational cycles.

We can approximate indiscrete logic in a discrete logic machine, using huge numbers of discrete logic tests in decision trees; but it's like a chimpanzee playing 20 questions with god.

Each decision tree gets so complex, as to require many orders of magnitude more calculations than the human brain does to produce a solution set.

Just using those 7 discrete values, ignoring the indiscrete shadings, and relational logic humans can do; to approximate a single DEDUCTIVE ONLY human logic test, can require hundreds of binary logic tests.

Simply because we are capable of dealing with indeterminacy.

If a question is suitably complex, but is subject to relational or inductive solving (as so many human questions are); we can do in a single logic test, what a binary computer could require tens of billions, or even hundreds of billions of logic tests to do.

Simply put (yeah, I know, WAAAAY too late for that), human beings have intuition, and experience; and that lets us deal with extremely complicated problems, very quickly.

Computers can't really do that. Oh sure, they can address extremely complicated problems; but they do it by breaking them down into EXTREMELY simple ones. Yes and no, on or off... To solve any problem whatsoever, the computer has to play a giant version of 20 questions.

Of course they do most of this in hardware, at a very low level; or in firmware, or assembler above that; all far below the level of operating systems, and applications... and they do it INCREDIBLY quickly now.

Thankfully, computers have massive, and nearly perfect (sadly, only nearly), memory. In fact, it was the addition of stateful memory, that allowed calculators, to become computers.

Combined with this incredible speed at these simple logical tests; this allows computers to do a half decent job at solving a lot of problems..

But they still can't really deal with indeterminacy, chaos, randomness... If a computer needs to deal with anything nondeterministic, it must approximate it to a discrete value, and operate on that discrete value.

Even if we manage to develop 7 value logic discrete circuits, we still don't know how to approximate relational reasoning, or induction, only deduction; because we can't approximate nondeterministic logic tests, and relation and induction are inherently nondeterministic.

Of course, computers now HAVE the capacity for hundreds of billions of logic tests a second... so even if they can't actually use inductive or relational reasoning; they now have the capacity, at least for relatively simple questions, or for those questions for which discrete datasets and rulesets exist and can be solved for (like math problems); to adequately approximate, and simulate, human reasoning, using discrete deduction in (astronomically large and complex) binary logic decision trees...

If you can ask enough yes or no questions, fast enough, you can actually seem like you're thinking... but you'll never have an original though, or intuit something, or make a connection between two things that isn't derivable from a deterministic and discrete logic chain connecting the two.

Maybe we never will have a way to do so. We certainly have no clue as to how we would even start trying.

I just wonder which will come first: Developing a high value logic circuit, figuring out something like quantum computing at its true potential (meaning infinite indescrete values, and maybe, possibly, nondeterministic logic... but we have no idea how to do that, or if it's even possible) and how to program for it (which may be an even harder problem)... or simply building a binary computer so large and so fast, that we no longer care about the rest of it.

Anyway... I bet it'll play really cool video games.