02.14.08

Defenseless

Posted in NIU, Guns & Weapons, News at 6:05 pm by Administrator

My previous comments still stand and doubly so. NIU Campus police arrived at the scene of the shooting within two minutes and it was already over. An armed response by someone in that room could have ended the rampage with significantly less loss of life. As is was, Illinois law and NIU regulations rendered the victims defenseless. The perpetrator was able to casually reload without any fear of a counter attack.  

04.16.07

The blood is on their hands.

Posted in Politics, Guns & Weapons, News, Education at 10:03 pm by Administrator

“Guns don’t belong in classrooms. They never will. Virginia Tech has a very sound policy preventing same.” -Larry Hinker, Associate Vice President for University Relations, Virginia Tech

I wish I could say I’m surprised by today’s events. Unfortunately, what happened in Virginia is simply the inevitable result of policies which make educational institutions literally sitting ducks before this type of attack.

In most states, Virginia included, it’s a relatively straightforward process for a law-abiding adult to acquire a permit to legally carry a concealed firearm on his or her person. Thousands of permits are issued each year in those states and many permit holders carry on a daily basis. This creates an uncomfortable situation for potential criminals since they have no way knowing whether or not their next target is packing.

This also makes random massacres dangerous to conduct since the odds are that almost any crowded public place will have at least several concealed firearms present among the intended victims. 

There are, however, still places where nefarious individuals can still find a ready supply of defenseless targets. Almost all institutions of higher learning have rules in place preventing students, faculty, and visitors from possessing firearms for self-defense on campus. This creates a literal ’safe-zone’ for homicidal maniacs and guarantees them plenty of unarmed targets before the police finally show up.

A death is only a tragedy if it might have been prevented. The real tragedy of today is that if one (sane) Virginia Tech student had been carrying in defiance of the rules (or better still…with their blessing), a lot more people might still be alive. 

It’s not as if this hasn’t been suggested before. Only last year, Virginia’s General Assembly rejected a proposal which would have kept colleges from banning the legal carry of handguns by students and employees. Upon the bill’s defeat, Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hinker stated:

“I’m sure the university community is appreciative of the General Assembly’s actions because this will help parents, students, faculty and visitors feel safe on our campus.”

I wonder if he feels safe now.

02.19.07

No Pun Intended

Posted in World, News, Language at 10:41 am by Administrator

Did you catch Indian Railway Minister’s remarks regarding the recent train bombing in India?

“This is an attempt to derail the improving relationship between India and Pakistan.”

Perhaps an unfortunate choice of words…

 

02.05.07

Seventeen Years

Posted in Movies & TV, History, Sociology at 2:52 pm by Administrator

I’m a definite in believer in the social cycle theory. This is a very old idea which suggests that throughout the course of a civilization’s history, many different aspects of its society follow a recognizable and repeating pattern. Unlike some, I don’t look at it as being trapped in a bleak loop of determinism, but rather being part of an giant upward spiral.

One the most fascinating parts of this idea is that it seems to occur on so many different levels and that seemingly unrelated trends sometimes correlate with each other in surprising ways. A somewhat extreme example would be Heinlein’s suggestion that there is a connection between the length of men’s beards and women’s skirts and the price of gold at any point in history. (Be careful, however, not to assume that correlation implies causation.)

On to my main point. I saw Children of Men recently. As “crappy future” movies go, it was fairly well done and I found no major faults in its internal logic (which kill a movie for me).

The basic premise of the movie is that at some point in the near future, women have mysteriously lost their ability to become pregnant. This, rather understandably, causes the world to descend into chaos. Great Britain, the setting of the movie, manages to retain some semblance of order only by instituting draconian security measures. (Think: a hippie’s nightmare extrapolation of the current War on Terror)

I’ve seen a lot of movies set in a bleak future, but this one called to mind two others in particular:

The first one was The Handmaid’s Tale.  The Handmaid’s Tale portrays a future United States in which, due to nuclear contamination, the majority of women have become infertile. The few women who can conceive are forced by the fundamentalist government to bare children for the rich and powerful. The similarity of this movie with Children of Men is readily apparent.

The second movie I was reminded of was Soylent Green. Soylent Green portrays a future in which the world has become grossly overpopulated and in which starvation and pollution are rampant. This movie was not obviously similar to Children of Men, but it had an overall flavor (har, har) as well as minor details that made it impossible not to make a comparison between the two.

I’m not saying there aren’t other movies that explore similar themes. I’m only saying that I’ve seen most of the dystopian future films and Children of Men specifically reminded me of these two. Therefore, I consider them to be part of a set.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Soylent Green was released in the US in 1973. The Handmaid’s Tale was released in 1990. Children of Men’s U.S. release was in 2007. Each film was released exactly seventeen years after the previous one in the “series”.

Weird.

Obviously three data points are not enough to draw broad conclusions. Still, it raises interesting questions about cycles in the movies industry. Is this particular cycle (if it is one) a response to perceived public fears? Why did someone think the public would be receptive to this type of movie now? What about in 1990 and 1973? It would be interesting to compare world events at those times with what is currently happening.

Or maybe, as Doc Brown said, it could all just be a huge coincidence.

12.14.06

Food Photography

Posted in NIU, Photography, Food at 5:25 pm by Administrator

Steak and Eggs

I took my last grueling final today so the semester is finally over. To celebrate, I decided to fry up a ribeye and experiment with food photography. As it turned out, the experiment was kind of rushed because I didn’t want my meal to get cold.

The results are ok, but not great. The flash really brings out meat’s texture, but it also washes out the egg whites. Still, it’s not bad for a first attempt.

 

11.16.06

R.I.P. Milton Friedman

Posted in Politics, Philosophy, Economics at 9:47 pm by Administrator

Milton Friedman

We lost another good one. Legendary laissez-faire economist Milton Friedman died today at the ripe old age of 94.

Friedman had a tremendous impact on economic policy in this country. He was also responsible for bringing ideas that many of us take for granted now, such as the connection between economic freedom and political freedom, into the mainstream consciousness.

I could stay up all night listing the rest of his accomplishments; but it’s easier to just tell you to read his Wikipedia article and its references yourself. (I’m tired, you see.)

Note that unlike many libertarians, Friedman understood the importance of compromise in pursuing political objectives. One of my favorite quotes from him summarizes it perfectly:

“I am a libertarian with a small l and a Republican with a capital R. And I am a Republican with a capital R on grounds of expediency, not on principle.”

This is probably why he was able to get so much done, unlike many of his capital L contemporaries.

P.S. I’ve added the blog of Milton Friedman’s anarcho-capitalist son, David Friedman, to my blogroll. I don’t agree with anyone David Friedman 100% of the time, but he does have some genuinely interesting insights. 

11.11.06

Saturn in the Balance

Posted in Humor, Politics, Weather, Astronomy at 10:13 am by Administrator

Saturn Storm

Astronomers are puzzling over images of what appears to be a giant hurricane-like storm on Saturn’s south pole. At five thousand miles wide, the storm is much larger than earth hurricanes. It also doesn’t move.

The astrophysicists at NASA may not yet know what caused this storm, but I already have it figured out: Since scientists haven’t seen a storm like this on Saturn before now, it must be something new. Therefore, it must be the result of global warming on Saturn. This proves that there are humans on Saturn, since we know that human activity is the only possible cause of global warming on any planet.

We can’t wait for further scientific study. Action must be taken on this now, before it’s too late. Since humans are obviously causing global warming on Saturn, someone needs to go there to show them the error of their ways. Who could be better than Earth’s foremost expert on global warming? Maybe he could even make a sequel…

Hot Saturn

An Inconvenient Truth II: Saturn in the Balance

11.02.06

Dude…

Posted in Politics at 8:47 pm by Administrator

On November 7th, voters in Nevada will have the opportunity to vote on Question 7, an initiative which would allow the sale and possession of up to one ounce of cannabis by adults 21 and older. The initiative also has provisions for licensing and taxing marijuana growers and sellers. (Those activities would still be illegal under federal law.)

The initiative is sponsored by the cunningly named Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana. That group is (well) funded by the Marijuana Policy Project - sort of the NRA of pot. Apparently the MPP thinks Nevada is a good launching point for other efforts across the country.

Opposing Question 7 is a group called The Committee to Keep Nevada Respectable (I’m not making this up.). Interestingly enough, that group is funded primarily by several casino companies. (I guess being a degenerate gambler is respectable.)

This puzzles me. I would think legalizing cannabis in Nevada would give the state the same sort of competitive edge it had when gambling was illegal almost everywhere else. Doesn’t the “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” campaign emphasize the “Sin City” aspects of the Las Vegas experience? Are they afraid legal pot would be one vice too many? Maybe they’ve seen The Godfather too many times:

“…I believe this drug business — is gonna destroy us in the years to come. I mean, it’s not like gambling or liquor — even women — which is something that most people want nowadays, and is ah forbidden to them…” -Vito Corleone 

Actually, I suspect the casino companies realize that a significant portion of their clientele is composed of people who saw Reefer Madness in its first run and actually believe all the Drug War propaganda they’ve been exposed to throughout their lives. If Nevada became a pot Mecca, the over 70 crowd might decide Atlantic City is a better place to blow their life savings.

Whatever the case, I sincerely hope the measure passes (and they evade the feds somehow). I’m no more a fan of the stoner lifestyle than I am of the alcoholic, gambling-addict, whoremonger, Frank Sinatra lifestyle that the casino companies approve of. However, I don’t believe any of those things should be illegal simply because they are not for me (in excess anyway).

P.S. If the measure passes, remember: “What happens in Vegas can stay in your system for up to two weeks.” Be wary of urine tests.

 UPDATE:

The measure was defeated. (Nevada gets to stay respectable.) However, 44% of the voters were in favor of it. This indicates a definite trend in public opinion toward cannabis legalization. I strongly suspect that something like Question 7 will pass within the next decade if not sooner.

09.26.06

“This was a man!”

Posted in General, Guns & Weapons, Military, Literature & Poetry at 3:35 pm by Administrator

Jeff Cooper 

I am deeply saddened to report the passing yesterday of Col. Jeff Cooper, the “Gunner’s Guru”. Jeff has been one of my heroes since I was thirteen and his writings have inspired me in more ways than I am probably even aware.

Jeff was truly a Renaissance Man. He was a soldier, teacher, author, philosopher, historian, innovator, husband, and father. He is probably most famous for developing the Modern Technique of Shooting, the Scout Rifle concept, the Four Rules of Firearms Safety, as well as the Color Code for combat mind-set.

This was one of Jeff’s favorite poems. It is a perfect summary of his life and values:

IF

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream–and not make dreams your master,
If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings–nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And–which is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!

                            -Rudyard Kipling

Requiescat in pace, Jeff. You will be missed.

09.05.06

Unconfirmed Report (I swear…really…)

Posted in Music at 9:29 pm by Administrator

The Open Door

Informants, er, inform me that Evanescence’s long-awaited new album “The Open Door” has hit the torrent sites. They further state that the download is complete, of good sound quality, and properly labeled.

Having just finished their first listening, my informant’s favorite song from that album continues to be the horrendously named single “Call Me When You’re Sober” (which I also happened to enjoy). They admit, however, that they are biased from having listened to the single and watched the video many times over the past few weeks. They also have an affinity for wolves.

As for myself, I’ll admit I was irrationally hoping for another “Bring Me To Life” or “My Immortal”. Oh well. From what I am told, the album is a perfectly good listen.

My biggest hope for the band is that they do not succumb to what I call “Cranberries Syndrome”. This is when a band achieves mega-hit status with it’s (immaculately marketable) first few albums, then subsequently releases increasingly pompous and artsy albums, alienating their fan base (whom, if they wanted pompous and artsy music, would listen to Radiohead - not that there’s anything wrong with that.).

Anyway, this doesn’t seem to be happening so far with Evanescence. Maybe they realize people still remember which movie propelled them to superstardom.

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