April 25, 2014

Si vis pacem, para bellum

A couple of months ago I got involved in an email exchange with a gun control fan, who asked me why there was a Second Amendment and why people like me thought it was so important. Here's what I wrote back to him:

Alright, I'll try to explain the theory. You're not going to like this, and it's going to strike you as being tinfoil hat territory, but work with me here.

Let's rewind back to 1789 when the Bill of Rights was written. It was only 6 years since the Revolution ended. And the early battles of the Revolution were fought by men using their own weapons. (That's what the Patriots used in the Battles of Lexington and Concord, for example.) Those who wrote the Bill of Rights were acutely aware that the only reason the Revolution was possible was because of widespread ownership of guns.

The Revolution was fought because the British government was perceived to have become tyrannical, and the Founders were well aware that the new government they were establishing could in turn become tyrannical. They included lots of checks and limits on the government, but knew that in the end the only sure way to prevent that was if the people had the means to rise in revolution, again.

The Second Amendment is the ultimate check. That's why it was included in the Bill of Rights.

This is what you're not going to like: the purpose of the Second Amendment is to make sure that the citizens of the US are sufficiently well armed to fight a revolution, if a new one is needed. That's what the "militia" referred to in it is about: in that time the word "militia" referred to the kind of thing that happened in Boston at the Battles of Lexington and Concord, where all able bodied men grabbed their own guns and fought on behalf of the community.

Which means that issues like hunting or self defense are a distraction. The Second Amendment is about allowing citizens to own weapons which are good enough to permit them to fight against a tyrant's army and win.

In 1789 that meant muzzle-loaded muskets, because that's what the British Army (and the Hessians) were using. In our time it means the AR-15 and similar weapons.

Now to continue this, one of the reasons that a lot of conservatives object to establishment of gun-owner registries is that historically, just about the first thing a tyrant does is to collect all the weapons owned by citizens, so that they no longer are able to rise in revolt. Then there's no check left to stop him. A gun registry would make that a lot easier.

I'm not saying I think that we need a new revolution. What I am saying is that the presence of a huge and powerful arsenal in the hands of private citizens acts as a tremendous deterrent for anyone thinking of trying to establish a tyranny, because the would-be tyrant knows that a revolution is possible.

Arguably so far it's worked.

The Romans said, "Si vis pacem, para bellum". If you seek peace, prepare for war. (That's where the name of the 9x19 Parabellum cartridge comes from.)

The Second Amendment permits the citizens of the United States to prepare for war, in service of seeking peace.

And it is precisely "slaughtering lots of men" which is protected, because in a revolution that's what you have to do.

It isn't a perfect solution, but there aren't any others which have been as successful.

Does that mean I think we need to be able to buy machine guns? No, I'm happy with that ban. Semi-auto rifles are good enough; the fire-rate difference isn't significant enough to be prohibitive. But I do think it means we citizens should be able to buy semi-auto rifles and large magazines, because in the world as it is now you need that much, at least, to be able to fight a revolution come the day.

The Gun Grabbers use "It's for the children" and similar arguments in favor of gun bans, and focus in on school shootings (which are really very rare, in fact) and lone nutcases attacking shopping malls. "Gee, if only no one had any guns, this wouldn't happen."

But that's not really what they fear. It isn't guns in the hands of lone nutcases or jihadis that they fear. It's guns in the hands of law-abiding conservatives. It's because the left wing wants to establish a tyranny, but knows it can't because of all those gun owners. The Second Amendment, even today, is doing what the founders wanted it to, by establishing a huge deterrent.

Arguments about hunting and self defense all (deliberately) miss the point. "Why does anyone need an AR-15"?

Well, two answers to that. First, since when did anyone in this country have to prove they needed something in order to own it?

Second, come the revolution (God forbid) it's going to take weapons like that to win.

We aren't to that point yet, and my argument is that the existence of a huge and powerful arsenal in private hands will prevent us from coming to that point. The fact that the American people have the means to rise in revolution means we won't ever have to.

The people of America are prepared for war, in the service of seeking peace.

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March 25, 2014

Usage note

I've run into this several times in the last week:

"diffuse" means "diluted, spread out".

"defuse" means "to render harmless".

That is all. As you were.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Rants at 09:26 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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July 01, 2012

No good deed goes unpunished

One reason I don't like giving money to various causes is that doing so always, always lands you on a mailing list, where you get mail (or email, if it was all online) telling you how things are going, emphasizing how the need is still great and we'd really love it if you'd give us even more money.

I gave a bunch of money to the Aaron Walker legal defense fund, and they did that. I had to try twice to get them to stop sending the things, and I'm still not sure it worked.

It made me regret making my gift, and makes me that much less likely to do it again the next time something like this happens.

I shudder to think how much crap and annoyance I'd receive if I made a contribution to some politician's election campaign. The idea fills me with dread.

That's one reason why I as an atheist don't mind giving money to the Salvation Army. They don't do that. On several occasions (for instance, those terrible fires in Australia a couple of years ago) I've given donations to the Salvation Army, and I've never received any such begging come-ons afterwards.

They understand that when someone gives you a gift, it's immodest to nag them for further gifts. A gift is a boon, not an entitlement. A donor is a benefactor, not an opportunity. The proper response is gratitude, not hustling.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Rants at 12:15 PM | Comments (9) | Add Comment
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July 13, 2011

Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou -- North American BD

I did a guilt-buy of the Sentai BD about a week ago, and tonight I took at look at it. It's two discs, one about 40 GB and one about 20 GB. The first one has the first eight episodes, and the second one is the other four.

Sentai didn't include the omake. There were six on the Japanese BDs, each between 3:00 and 3:30 in length, but American audiences don't get them.

The only extras were a clean OP, a clean ED, and a bunch of production drawings. Those are always disappointing on DVDs because they're shrunk so much, but in this case they're 1080p. Only they aren't. Looks like they were upscaled, and there are jaggies and JPG artifacts.

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Finally, I myself can't play them. I don't have a player program that will handle BD correctly. I can look at the files using MPC, but they don't play, as such. (I own the most recent version of PowerDVD, but when it's installed it fouls up everything else involved in playing videos.)

So let's look at the chart:

    Torrent     NA BD release
Timeliness within days of
Japanese availability
A year later
Quality high high
Price free $47
Extras 6 omake production
drawings
Dubbed no yes, but I
don't care
Karma poor good

It really isn't any wonder that the North American market for anime discs is imploding. The product is worse in nearly every regard, for someone like me who doesn't care about dubs.

It's only really karma that induces me to buy. And now that I've looked at it, it'll go onto my shelf and never get opened again. The rips I downloaded months ago are better and more convenient.

I hardly ever watch discs anymore. Having rips on my server is so much more convenient that when I find myself wanting to watch some older show, it's easier to go out and find a rip of it to download than it is to go get the disc off my shelf. In fact, I don't remember the last time I did watch one of my older discs.

UPDATE: While we're bitching, I might as well talk about something else. Sentai made the English title "Demon King Daimao".

Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou means "Demon Lord in the back row". "Demon King Daimao" is redundant, and stupid. And they romanized 大魔王 wrong. Either it's "daimaō" (in Hepburn) or it's "daimaou" (in Wapuro).

UPDATE: I was wrong. Zoomplayer handles them fine.

Except that I can't choose the Japanese audio, or turn on the subtitles. In fact, I don't get any audio at all.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Rants at 10:30 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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April 15, 2011

Miracle Whip

The only miracle about Miracle Whip is that anyone buys the stuff. Every couple of years the price of vegetable oil goes up, and Kraft reformulates Miracle Whip to reduce the amount of oil they put in it, so as to keep the price down.

Now they sell a version which doesn't have any oil at all.

Miracle Whip is to mayonnaise what Velveeta is to cheese. Velveeta isn't cheese, and Kraft isn't permitted to call it cheese. It's "pasteurized process cheese food".

And they're not permitted to call Miracle Whip "mayonnaise", because it doesn't satisfy the legal definition of mayonnaise per the FDA. Miracle Whip is "sandwich spread".

If you want mayonnaise, you get Hellman's. (Known as "Best Foods" in the western part of the US.) Or you make your own.

...and that's today's rant.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Rants at 08:23 PM | Comments (8) | Add Comment
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October 08, 2009

Save me from zealots

I tell you, it never fails. In any thread where someone asks for help with their computer, someone will pop in and suggest running Ubuntu. They're worse than Mac freaks.

I tell you, there is nothing that the holy Open Source cannot fix! It can make the blind walk and the lame see! Yea, brothers and sisters, your souls can be saved if only you turn away from the demon Gates and follow the true faith!

And it's cheaper, too.

(Sorry. I can't post this in that thread because it would be a violation of the rules, and I needed to vent.)

UPDATE: By the way, Pete, you have my eternal gratitude for not being like that!

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Rants at 09:16 PM | Comments (12) | Add Comment
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July 12, 2009

Brrr...

There's an old geek joke. A professor asked three students (math, physics, computer science) the same question: Prove or disprove the theorem that all odd numbers are prime.

The math student said, "1 is prime, 3 is prime, 5 is prime, 7 is prime, 9 is not prime so the theorem is false."

The physics student said, "1 is prime, 3 is prime, 5 is prime, 7 is prime, 9 is experimental error, 11 is prime, 13 is prime, and that's enough data for a conclusion. The theorem is true."

The computer science student said, "1 is prime, 3 is prime, 5 is prime, 7 is prime, 9 is prime, 11 is prime, 13 is prime, 15 is prime, 17 is prime, 19 is prime..."

The physics student wasn't the primary butt of the joke, but that attitude towards experimental data keeps coming up. And it seems to me that these days the proponents of the theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming are firmly in that camp.

It's been cold here. We had a few warm days a couple of weeks ago, but for the last week the weather here has been more like what I expect from March than what I expect from July. June was just as bad. Overcast and lots of rain, and really cold.

I didn't go out today, but if I had I'd have had to wear a sweatshirt. That's how chilly it was outside.

Does this, or data like it, disprove AGW? Of course not, its proponents will say. It's just anecdotal. Or it's experimental error. Or Hey Look! The guy who is offering us that information once bought a tank of gasoline for his car, so obviously he's in thrall to the oil companies. You can safely ignore him.

But if this summer were blazingly hot, well, that would be unimpeachable evidence. Any anecdote which is consistent with AGW is pounced on by its proponents.

Inconsistent? Of course. But AGW is about as scientific as Creationism is.

And while in many cases the proponents of the AGW hypothesis (it ain't a "theory") have been more like that physics student, these days they're more like the CS geek, caught in a loop.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Rants at 06:18 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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February 19, 2009

Clannad -- a throbbing headache

After Haruhi came out, a lot of people (whose blogs I read) became big fans of KyoAni, the studio that did it. Lucky Star certainly didn't harm that reputation any. But since then, KyoAni has spent apparently all its time and resources converting sob-sob interactive games from Key into animations.

It began with "Sad Girls in Snow" aka Kanon, which was a remake of an earlier series someone else did. And that was commercially successful, leading to "Sad Girls in Spring" (aka Air) and then "Sad Girls in Summer" aka Clannad.

Clannad was a full season, 24 eps, but evidently there were more sobs to be wrung from the story, so they immediately did another full season of "More Sad Girls in Summer" aka "Clannad After Story". It's running now.

Big eyes, sad faces, lots of crying (among people who have been watching it) and damned near every episode-coverage blog I read has been hooked on this damned series. I'm really very tired of the whole thing.

CAS is nearly over now; another four or five eps and then I'll be free from this plague. Or will I? Just in time, the first half of the US DVD release of Clannad has appeared, and now the other blogs I follow will all spend lots of time talking about it. Will I never be free of this plague?

My problem is that I'm not into bathos. I've never liked stories which were designed to make me cry.

Wonderduck is a friend, and maybe he'll have something to say that isn't fawning adoration expressed through tears and hankies. But it would be nice if KyoAni would work on something else for a while. After a flash of brilliance three years ago, they've settled into being the Harlequin Romance of anime houses. Blech.

UPDATE: I need to use the "Rants" category more often.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Rants at 08:52 PM | Comments (14) | Add Comment
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November 23, 2007

Health food, bleah

I don't miss much about Massachusetts. The climate was beastly for about 9 months of the year, either too cold, or too hot and humid. About 6 weeks each, in spring and autumn, were the only time it was comfortable to be there.

The people were weird, and difficult to get to know. The roads in the Boston area are horrific, and the drivers are insane.

My biggest gripes in Massachusetts was that I couldn't get sour dough bread, Tillamook Cheese, or hashbrown potatoes. The former two, well, just forget it. As to fried potatoes, all the breakfast places wanted to serve me something called "home fries" that just weren't as good.

But there is one product from there I do miss. In Massachusetts you can buy onion dip that's made from sour cream. And the brand name is also an accurate description.

You can't, here. All the onion dip in the store is made from synthetic sour-cream substitute, featuring things like soybean oil, hydrogenated coconut oil, diglycerides, gelatin, skim milk, and xanthan gum. Yummy!

It's OK tasting, but just not the same. I bought two tubs of it on Tuesday, and I ate one of them over the course of two days. Today I felt awful and spent a lot of time sitting on the pot, and it's that damned dip that's done it to me. Real sour cream don't do that!

It also tastes better.

Yeah, I could make my own. Or I could do what we used to do when I was a kid: buy tubs of cottage cheese, run them through the blender until they became smooth, and add onion dip mix to that. If you use cottage cheese made from 3% milk or fattier, it actually tastes pretty good. And I don't recall it messing up my digestion like this stuff has.

Of course, real sour cream is loaded with animal fat (gasp!) which is unhealthy, instead of nice, healthy soybean oil (whew!). I am stuck snacking with a sub-par product because of health food freaks.

(It's the first dip I've bought since last winter. It's not something I do all the time. But once in a while I want something sinful -- and Fred Meyers won't sell it to me!)

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Rants at 09:40 PM | Comments (14) | Add Comment
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November 14, 2007

I hate healthy food!

The grocery store is a mine field these days. If you're not careful, and don't pay attention, you'll end up buying something that tastes like cardboard.

Fat and salt; those are the things that make life worth living. Both of them have a bad rep in certain circles, but health food faddists and public danger hysterics notwithstanding, it's not clear at all that either of them is a major threat to human life or health, as long as you don't overdo either of them.

Still, there are those who think that sodium is akin to cyanide, with lipids being a close second. And American industry is always willing to cater to perceived needs with products, even if those needs are misguided. Money is money even if it's spent by a silly person. (I should know.)

So the shelves are lined with things that are "low-sodium" and you have to look closely when you buy to make sure you aren't getting the good stuff. I made that mistake a while back; I bought three tins of cashews and got home to discover the blasted things were "low sodium". I think it took about a teaspoon of salt and a lot of shaking on each of them before they tasted right. Cashews without sodium don't taste like anything.

I went to the grocery store today, and one of the things I was low on was garlic flavored cream cheese. I get this stuff. Only today I wasn't paying attention, and I got this stuff instead. I haven't opened it yet, and I'm not looking forward to it. I'm sure it will look like cream cheese. I'm sure it will smell like garlic.

But I'm also sure it won't  be right. Eating low fat cream cheese is like eating soap. Especially since they reduced the sodium in it, too.

As soon as I noticed it, I started cursing loudly. In fact, I startled myself; I don't usually do that.

Hey, American Industry. There's a niche here you're not addressing: the person who likes salt and likes fat and wants them in food!

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Rants at 04:45 PM | Comments (8) | Add Comment
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