Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Does John Edwards Know the Meaning of "Hypocrite"?

Here's the headline: Edwards: Americans should sacrifice their SUVs

And the first line from the story
Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards told a labor group he would ask Americans to make a big sacrifice: their sport utility vehicles.
I'll think about it when you give up your gigantic mansion. Dang but he makes me angry.Then he goes on to say
Edwards got a standing ovation when he said weapons and equipment used by America's military needs to be made in the United States. He says tanks and ammunition for M16 rifles are being made in other countries.
Er, like, Edwards obviously didn't get the memo: American Ammo makers are working at capacity, and ammo prices are at record highs. I don't even know where he gets his info, but I have a feeling he's full of crap anyway. Anyone have the facts on this?

Whatever, he's a dope. It is time for the Edwards campaign to fold so that one of two things happen: Either we get the sure to be defeated invincible Clinton/Obama team (Kinda reminds me of Bill/Opus: This time, why not the worst - thanks for reminding me of that one, Stickwick), which to watch go down in flames at election time will please almost everyone, except maybe Castro. Or else we get Bill Richardson, and I actually consider voting Democrat for a change. It's win/win. I suppose the alternative of watching Edwards lose a second time, and lose badly, very badly, would be fun too, but not as fun as the Clinton/Obama debacle.

Now if the Republicans could just pick a good candidate. They keep scaring me with nitwits like Giuliani and Romney. Yikes!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Linux, Gentoo, and the Random Reinforcement Schedule

I'm an avid fan, and former hater, of Linux. The only reason I like Linux is Gentoo. I used to be an avid Windows fan, and I still am, but I rarely use Windows any more. There is the odd task that Linux just can't handle without a day or two of fiddling, and so a bail to Windows is the obvious solution.

That given, I just figured out why I like Linux so much, and Gentoo in particular. I tried all the other distros and couldn't stand them, but Gentoo, I fell in love with right away. Partly it was just that Gentoo's configuration file arrangement made sense to me, mostly it was the portage tree and "emerge" being super ass kicking over whatever it was that Fedora offered.

I just now realized what really pulled me in: The random reinforcement schedule. You know, that thing with the cat in the box. No, the other thing, the one where the cat has a button, and if the cat presses the button, then food or some other stimuli is given to the cat. There was the question, of course, since researchers always have to ask lots of questions, of how can they maximize the number of times the cat will press the button in any time period? Do they give the cat food every time? Well, probably not, because a satiated cat won't press the button. How about once a day? Might work, or maybe the cat will find something else to do. Once a minute? Once an hour? Turns out the optimal button pressing to reward ratio occurs when they used the random reinforcement schedule.

They also figured out that people, persons, or whatever, will fall for the random reinforcement schedule as well. The dumb and fat ones who enjoy sitting on their kiesters smoking and drinking do anyway. Then you can get them to pump all their money into slot machines using this phenomenon.

Well, it turns out, with all due respect to Berkeley Breathed, that I'm not so far removed as I'd like from the fat-kiestered atheists pumping their money into slot machines. It seems that any time you need something to work in Gentoo, or Linux in general, that it's a little bit hit-or-miss. But that's not all. There are many things you can do or at least try to do, to make whatever it was you wanted to use in Linux, but that wasn't, work. And there it is, the random reinforcement schedule. You never know how long, nor how many fixes you'll have to try, before your problem is fixed and you're back in open-source heaven. Savvy?

There, that was a good use of my time. :p

The Big Trip: Home + Odds and Ends

I made it back Saturday night, took it easy on Sunday, and then spent the better part of yesterday contending with the household aftermath of a husband living on his own for four weeks. I think the real reason God wants people to marry is that a man living on his own constitutes a major health hazard. (Hubby deserves credit for keeping the cats and plants healthy and alive, though.) And the real reason married men live longer? Because when the wife is home they eat something other than cold Dinty Moore and Domino's Pizza. Heh, poor guy.

Good trip overall. Had some car trouble along the way: a flat tire in Vancouver, which cost me $356 USD to replace at a Mazda Canada dealership (their roadside service tows to the nearest dealership) and three nearly bald tires plus a bent wheel in Laramie (cost: $450 for four tires; I really got ripped by Mazda Canada). Saw friends and family in Santa Cruz, Seattle, Vancouver, and Oregon. Spent a total of four weeks, 5000 miles, and 12 states + 1 province in this

which is covered with bugs from nine different states. I like my little convertible, but all I could think about on the way home was how much I want a Ford F-150.

For some inexplicable reason I decided to start my low-carb diet just before the return trip, and all I can say is that I will never even look at another Slim Jim again.

The semester starts again tomorrow. Instead of teaching my own class, I am assisting my advisor with his mega-astronomy-101 classes. We have 440 students. This is my last year in the Ph.D. program, with graduation slated for the spring. I think I'm becoming institutionalized. Not ready to leave academia and face the real world.

Carnaby and I took my new heretofore never used Springy .45 to the range in Seattle, and since I'm too lazy to post a range report I'll just say it's snazzy. Nicer to shoot than my previous Springfield Commander. Carnaby retooled the trigger for me, so I'll hit the range this week and maybe issue a real report (mit fotos!)

By the way, I missed the opportunity to visit at least three really nice bloggers along the way (Kevin in Tucson, Mr. Completely in northwest Washington, and Russell in Utah) and am really bummed about that. If I ever end up in any of those areas again, I hope we can arrange a visit.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Starry Sky

It's been a long time since I've seen the night sky without the glare of city lights. During my stay in rural Oregon I managed to catch a glimpse of the night sky in all its unadulterated glory. It was awe-inspiring. The starry sky looked so magnificent, so enormous, that I felt infinitesimal. As an astrophysicist, I think about vast scales all the time; but it's one thing to look dispassionately at a number on a computer screen -- some particular star in the sky may be at a humble distance of 10 parsecs, roughly 300 trillion kilometers, from the Earth -- and quite another to cast your eyes upon that star amid a thousand others in the sky and ponder that distance in human terms. For the first time in ages, I truly felt a part of something unfathomably large.

I was suddenly struck by how natural a belief in God (or gods) must have been for people in earlier times, before city lights diminished the view. The night sky offers so much perspective. These people were perhaps faced with the nightly reality that they were ever so tiny, themselves floating on a mere speck of dust in an infinite and awesome cosmos. Such a view makes the universe seem like a miraculous place even to this scientist. It was nevertheless a comforting view, somehow, though Oliver Wendell Jones might disagree. All I can say is, no wonder people look up when they think of Heaven.

The Big Trip: Wyoming

I spent a lovely couple of days in northeastern Oregon visiting my aunt and uncle, and headed out for Wyoming yesterday morning. Made it to Evanston last night, and hoped to make it to Stratton, CO this evening, but in the middle of Wyoming my car started acting funny: I couldn't go above 65 mph without the car shuddering like crazy. Well, it was a good thing. I found a tire shop in Laramie wherein I discovered that the tread on my tires is almost gone (I just don't pay attention to stuff like that) and one of my wheels is bent. I could have had a major blow-out on the freeway. As it is, I'm only mildly inconvenienced instead of God only knows what.

So here I am stuck in Laramie until tomorrow afternoon when my car becomes road-worthy. Except for the UW part of town, Laramie's pretty rough looking. The semester must be starting soon, because I couldn't find a room at the only nice hotel in town. I ended up at a kitschy sort of place on the main drag for a not-bad price. No TV, but I can pass the time watching Simpsons DVDs on the laptop (life is rough).

Wyoming is a Gold Star open carry state, so I've had my trusty Springfield .45 next to my seat in the car. Colorado (minus Denver) is also open carry. Kansas is iffy -- it goes by region, and I don't want to bother looking up where I can carry and where I can't; plus, Oklahoma won't let me carry, so in the trunk goes Mr. Springy at the KS state line. Hopefully I'll be in Salina, KS this time tomorrow night, and back home in Texas by Saturday night.

P.S. I nominate Wyoming for most boring state to drive through. But maybe Kansas will top it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


I've seen this headline, or similar, far too many times in the past few months: Will U.S. voters elect a woman as president?

The other version asks if we're ready to elect a black president. Now, these questions play a small role in the question of whether or not Hillary or Barack will be elected president, but the headlines imply that this is THE question.

It is not. I am ready and willing to vote for a black person, or a woman, for president, provided they are the right person for the job. In a million years I wouldn't vote for Hillary or Barack, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with their gender or race. As an example, I'd vote for Condoleeza Rice, both a woman and a black person, over every one of the current Democratic candidates for president 2008, and over the majority of the current Republican candidates as well.

So, dear MSM, please stop asking stupid questions. Hillary is unelectable, but it's not because she's a woman. It's because she's a twit.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Movies, Eh?

I know I promised to end my relationship with movie theaters, but strictly as an experiment, you see, I went to the theater last night to compare the movie-going experience in the U.S. with that in Canada. Result: it's only 75% as irritating in Canada as it is in the States, with some of that attributable to the fact that cell phone signals are blocked in the theater (yay!!!). I saw Stardust, by the way, which was adorable, and I wouldn't mind seeing it again.

Before the movie there was a preview for the sequel to Elizabeth, called Elizabeth: The Golden Age. Judging from the trailer E2 looks like it was created with the sole purpose of having Cate Blanchett in fabulous costumes, having Cate Blanchett give a powerful performance, and having everyone involved get an Oscar (especially Cate Blanchett). Am I being cynical?

The Big Trip: Vancouver, B.C.

I've been up here for a few days now, just disinclined to post. Vancouver is beautiful, the weather is beautiful, people are being reasonably nice.

I read an op-ed in a local newspaper that claimed the really nasty anti-American stuff coming out of Canada is actually not by Canadians, it's by American ex-pats living in Canada. Americans have been emigrating to Canada for a long time, particularly during Vietnam (my own socialist family moved up to Canada after the war), and then the numbers surged again after the 2000 and 2004 elections. Some of these are hardcore lefty America-hater types who infiltrate Canadian public education and the media and spew their vitriol from across the border, and it turns out Canadians are not too happy about it.

Speaking of emigration/immigration, while I've been gone my almost ex-Finnish husband received his citizenship interview date (September), and is excited. What is kind of strange about this is that the USCIS (née INS) website claims they've got a backlog of citizenship applications and are only just now processing applications from October 2006. We submitted his application in May 2007. Maybe there's a quota by nationality. We checked one year and the total number of Finns who had immigrated to the U.S. was 19, so who knows.

Yesterday I decided to drive down to Tsawwassen, B.C., which is laid back and has pretty beaches (except it was low-tide and kinda smelly). I have a whole day and gorgeous weather, so I think I'll hit the road again today. Been thinking about driving up to Hope, which is where a famous predecessor to a movie that inspired the kooks at VPC was filmed.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Great News!

We'll see how it works out in practice, but on the face of it, this looks like a great idea.
We wanted to give you a heads-up on a new, experimental feature we'll be trying out on the Google News home page. Starting this week, we'll be displaying reader comments on stories in Google News, but with a bit of a twist...

We'll be trying out a mechanism for publishing comments from a special subset of readers: those people or organizations who were actual participants in the story in question.Our long-term vision is that any participant will be able to send in their comments, and we'll show them next to the articles about the story. Comments will be published in full, without any edits, but marked as "comments" so readers know it's the individual's perspective, rather than part of a journalist's report.
So now, if this works as indicated, when a story involving defensive gun use is reported poorly in the media, those involved will be able to clarify the report in public without interference from the potentially biased reporter. Let's hope it works.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Well, Duh

A recent headline states Modern living to blame for cancer epidemic

Well, duh.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Teh Library Funny

Well, I'm sitting in my neighborhood Seattle Public Library, which has excellent free wifi btw, and I am experiencing something funny. I experienced this same phenomenon the last time I was here. Right next to the table I'm sitting at are two "study rooms." The problem with these "study rooms" is that they give the inhabitants the false impression that they are in an enclosed room, when, in fact, they are not. The rooms are enclosed on all sides by walls, but are entirely open above. The walls are mostly glass too, so there is only a very thin veneer of privacy afforded by these rooms. I wonder who designed this layout?

Anyway, this false sense of enclosure leads to private conversations that can be very easily heard and understood throughout the entire library, and therein lies the humor. I'm contemplating going up to the wall, which is almost entirely glass, to hold up a sign that reads "Look Up!" I'm waiting for the young man and woman in the room to converse about something personal and somewhat embarrassing before embarking on my mission.

Either way, it's dern amusing.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

e-Postal for August 2007 - Point Shooting

It's my turn to host the e-Postal, and I've been thinking about the whole "point shooting" concept. That is, if I understand correctly, you just point the gun at the target and shoot, without ever properly acquiring the sights.

Now before everyone goes off in a huff, I'll include two stages, a point fire stage, and a sight fire stage, so we can see what is the difference in results between the two methods. So here's the proceedure:

UPDATE: DATES: Like, I dunno! Probably just the month of August. How about everyone get their scores/targets to me by September 3, for your shooting pleasure. :)


1. Distanc: 7 feet. With pistol in low ready, eyes on the target, bring pistol up to target, always eyes on target, not on sights, and fire in controlled but rapid succession, one shot at each of the three bulls on the target in any order, bang! bang! bang! No more than 1 or 2 seconds between shots.

2. repeat step one with a new target.


1. Distance: 21 feet. Repeat steps 1. and 2. but use your sights.


1. Distance: 21 feet. Repeat steps 1. and 2. of the point fire routine, but go as slow as you like.

Distance for all three stages is to be 21 feet.


1. one class for all centerfire pistols with iron sights. This is a self defense-oriented match, so lets see how the performance looks for the various guns. Enter any gun you own one time per shooter, for as many shooters as you like.

2. one class for rimfire pistols. They're just easier to shoot, so they get their own class. And they aren't particularly viable for self defense etc. so we'll keep them seperate.

3. well also have an open class where you can use anything that doesn't fit 1. or 2. above (optics, rifles, whatever.)

Scoring: Each bullet scores according to the ring it is closest to toward the center of the bullseye it hit. Notice on the target that the 10 is for a shot touching the black center of the bullseye, the 9 is for the second ring, etc. A shot entirely outside of any bullseye scores a zero. Only one bullet can score per bullseye, so if you hit a single bullseye with all three shots, only your best shot scores.

Add up your scores individually for the three stages, and then add up the total. We'll see who wins each stage, and who wins overall.


Oh yeah, go here to download the target.

UPDATE: Whoops, forgot to mention where to send pics of targets and scores: email me at carnaby_fudge AT, with email title "August E-Postal Results"


Seems my understanding of point shooting was more than a little on the bunk side. We will now pull the distance for stage 1 into 7 feet, instead of 21 feet. Please see here for an explanation of point shooting, if you don't already have the info in your noggin.

H/T: Hell in a Handbasket.

The Big Trip: Oregon

Nice, easy drive up I-5 from Santa Cruz to southern Oregon. Things were slowed down because of a big brush fire near Redding, CA, that came all the way to the freeway. There were at least two water bomber airplanes and two helicopters to deal with it, plus a lot of men on the ground. Pretty neat to watch. The drive along I-5 is boring until you get past Redding and start heading up the mountain pass. It's so incredibly dry here right now that the lakes are drained halfway down and there is hardly any snow on Mt. Shasta (not sure if that's because of the lack of precipitation or the heat). But the pass is still gorgeous, and I'd forgotten how pleasant southern Oregon is. But it's dry. Holy moly, is it dry.

Today is the final leg of the journey. Hopefully I make it to Seattle by late evening, and then I spend most of the week there. I'll drop off my .45 with carnaby and head up to Vancouver on Friday.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Big Trip: Santa Cruz

It's amazing how one state can be home to both the ugliest place on earth and one of the prettiest. Driving through the desolate wastes of southeastern California I thought this is probably what it's like to live on the moon -- or Mars. Just dirt and rocks. Then you get to the other side of L.A. and right around Ventura things start looking nice. And right around Santa Barbara you start thinking this is paradise. Santa Cruz is almost as pretty. I've been here before, but I came down from San Jose and didn't get to appreciate the relaxed, unpretentious prettiness of Highway 101 between Ventura and Santa Cruz -- it reminds me a lot of my place of birth, northeastern Oregon, minus the ocean of course. But there's something peculiar about this place, and I noticed it the last time I was here. Few people smile. Few people look you in the eye as you pass them on the sidewalk. This sort of introvertedness is reminiscent of Canada, and I don't miss it. In Texas you can hardly look at someone on the street without getting a big smile and hello. But here, nothing. What is it about paradise that makes people so weird?*

Anyway, I hauled my sick self out of bed and spent part of the day at UCSC. It's the prettiest campus I've ever seen. Huge redwoods, high desert-ish ruralness, and a view of the Pacific as you come down Hagar Drive that is simply breathtaking. I didn't last very long at the symposium today. Got a serious case of hot/cold flashes, which means I've got a fever, and I almost keeled over during one of the lectures this afternoon. Gonna skip the banquet tonight, and watch M*A*S*H reruns and order room service. Blech, I'm so sick of eating out. [Note to Carnaby: please tell Mrs. Fudge that I'm looking forward to some home-cooking in Seattle.]

Haven't decided if I'm going to stay another day and rest or try to push on to Oregon tomorrow afternoon once the symposium is over. I'm tempted to stay. There's probably something very therapeutic about resting on the beach...

[*OK, after a very nice day on campus and around town I have to amend this. Most people I encountered this time were friendly.]

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Big Trip: California

Made it as far as Palm Springs late last night and then had enough. I had really hoped to be on the west side of L.A. by now, but 11 hours of continuous driving was my limit. I've noticed that whatever time frame Google Maps gives me, it consistently takes 1.5 hours longer.

At Quartzsite, AZ, I pulled over at a truck stop and discreetly unloaded my pistol and put it in the trunk and suddenly felt like I went from responsible citizen to peon.

As I approached the California border I started getting achey all over and a funny feeling in my throat. By the time I reached Palm Springs it was pretty clear that I was getting sick. Woke up at six this morning with the whole gamut of symptoms: headache, sore throat, sinus pain, aches and pains, tight chest. Great. Google Maps sez I have 8 hours to Santa Cruz, which means it's more like 9.5 or 10. No choice, gotta suck it up and get on the road. I can see a doc in SC.

Incidentally, I hadn't realized until last night that Palm Springs is Casinoville, USA. I'm staying at the fabulous Fantasy Springs Casino Resort where the staff are wonderful and the hotel is affordable -- $85 for a very nice room -- compared to the outrageous prices in/around L.A. for a so-so el crappo room and surly hotel staff. I guess they lure guests in with the low rates and then figure most of them will spend their $$ on gambling and other things (e.g. the $30 I spent on a room-service sandwich and beverage last night).

Well, gotta hit the road for the last leg. Another update when I hit Santa Cruz (if I make it!)