Today's decision from the United States Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller is rightly being called significant, and even a landmark decision. However, contrary to some of the comments I've been hearing from friends in various forums, it is not the death knell for gun control. At best, it is the beginning of the end-game; more likely, it is a significant tactical victory, but the battle remains joined, and is far from over.

First, let's look at what the Court held in its opinion. This can be summed up in three statements:

  1. The Second Article Amending the Constitution of the United States guarantees the protection of an individual right to own firearms.
  2. The DC law banning the possession of handguns in the home is overturned as unConstitutional.
  3. The DC law requiring any firearm not kept in a place of business to be non-functional (unloaded, and either disassembled or with trigger lock) is overturned as unConstituional.

These are indeed significant, as the Court has now established limits on gun laws in the District of Columbia. However, there are other statements about the decision that can be made:

  1. The Court specifically stated that, based on the facts of Heller's complaint, the prayer for relief could be satisfied through the issuance of a license by the District of Columbia to Heller permitting him to keep a handgun in his home. Thus, permit laws are not prima facie an unConstitutional infringement on the right to keep and bear arms.
  2. The Court also indicated that they are not overturning restrictions on possession in 'sensitive' locations such as schools or government buildings. Thus, such restrictions - which are being expanded as fast as legislatures can justify doing so - are also not prima facie unConstitutional.
  3. The Court made no comment as to whether the Fourteenth Article Amending the Constitution of the United States incorporates the Second and extends its provisions to the several states. Thus, even laws similar to DC's in other US jurisdictions may not be prima facie unConstitutional under Federalism doctrine.
  4. The Court does not set a standard for examining future cases - although it is stated in the decision that the home handgun ban in DC does not pass muster under any reasonable standard of scrutiny.
  5. The decision was 5-4, along expected ideological lines (Justices Stevens, Breyer, Souter, and Ginsberg in dissent). This is troubling, as it implies the definite possibility that, should the decision be revisited after a Justice in the current majority leaves the Court, the holding of an individual right could well be overturned. The Court's doctrine of stare decisis weighs in against casually overturning the precedent established, but it is not an ironclad guarantee - otherwise such decisions as Plessy v. Fergusen would never have been overturned by later decisions such as Brown v. Topeka, KS, Board of Education.
  6. Really, the only thing we can be sure of at this point is that lawyers who argue gun cases are gong to be making a lot of money in coming years, as various state and local laws are individually challenged and work their way through the system via appeal, cross-appeal, and reappeal. The precedent established by today's decision is important, but not broad enough to short-circuit such litigation. It is a blow to the gun-control advocacy groups, but it is far from fatal.

    Edited 6/27/08 09:10 to add: Other analyses I'm seeing suggest that some of the ambiguities and non-addressed issues in the decision were to get the fifth vote, said to be from Justice Kennedy (who has been the swing vote in other cases). If this is in fact the case, it makes the closeness of the decision even more troubling.

    Some further possible ramifications:

    1. There is the distinct possibility that "Shall Issue" may become the law of the land - that is, if a permit-issuing authority wishes to deny a permit, they may have to show objective cause, such as felony conviction or mental illness, for the denial, and otherwise issue.
    2. Similarly, laws requiring transport or storage unloaded or otherwise unusable may fail to pass Constitutional muster. In the Opinion, Justice Scalia characterized a gun that was not in usable condition as "a club".
    3. The discussion of United States v. Miller in the Opinion, and the relevance of "common use in militia or military service" to the question of what weapons would be covered by the Second Article Amending the Constitution of the United States, points to the possibility that the National Firearms Act of 1934, the Gun Control Act of 1968, and subsequent legislation banning semi- and fully-automatic firearms and so-called "assault weapons" may not withstand Constitutional scrutiny.

    In short, although the Court attempted to rule narrowly, as per longstanding practice, the ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller may well turn out to have broader and farther-reaching effects than may have been anticipated - but this will only be determined in future litigation.

    Edited 6./28/08 18:20 to correct references to the case to the correct name of District of Columbia v. Heller.

freetrav: (car)

This time, it got all the way down to where the one box on the fuel indicator was blinking at me, and only about 345 miles. I figure it was the much colder weather that we had. Oddly enough, the pump kicked off at only 7.89 gallons, less than the eight-point that I got last time, with the fuel indicator at one box not blinky. Final figures, this tank 43.4 mpg; overall 46.2 mpg, a bit down from the 49 I got last tank. Still quite respectable. This time, I filled with regular (87 octane, (R+M)/2 method); we'll see what happens over the next four hundred miles.

First fill

Jan. 6th, 2008 06:11 pm
freetrav: (car)

At 504 miles (407 since acquisition back in November), I decided that the gas indicator was showing low enough to make it wise to fill the tank. So I did. This fill was for eight-and-a-third gallons, yielding an experienced MPG of 49 in mixed city/highway driving. Pretty good, given that the EPA figures were 45 highway and 48 city.

The book wasn't clear on what I should fill with - it said "Unleaded premium 87 octane (91 Research Octane Number)". Unfortunately, that 87 is not clear as to whether it should be interpreted as Motor Octane Number or US/Canada Pump Octane Number - and when I filled up, I had no idea what "R+M/2" method meant - so I played it safe and filled with Premium, labelled at the pump as 92. When I got home, I did some checking, and assuming that the Wikipedia article on Octane Rating is accurate, the 87 cited in the book is most likely the Pump Octane Number, and I can probably fill with regular. If it turns out to be the Motor Octane Number, I can still use Plus, instead of premium, so I'll be cutting my gas costs even more (as the Camry was tuned for a lean mixture, and was always filled with Premium).

As you probably know, Livejournal allows you to append ?style=mine or &style=mine to a LJ URL. Doing so causes the LJ page to be displayed in the style of the viewer's LJ (if the page admits of having user styles applied). This may (probably will) be different from the style that the page's author (i.e., the owner of the LJ) chose to present his/her journal in.

Question the first

: How do you feel about using this when you are viewing someone else's LJ? Why do you chose to do it?

Question the second

: How do you feel about others using this when they view your LJ? Why?

This is deliberately not a poll, just an open question; comment and discussion is invited.

freetrav: (tux)

Note: This entry was updated to reflect changes subsequent to an on-line upgrade to the Ubuntu 8.04 ("hardy heron") release. Changes are shown with old material struck out and new material in italics.

The laptop computer used for this is a Toshibe Portégé 4010. The specifications can be found here, This particular unit has 512MB of RAM and a 60GB HDD installed. The specifications do not mention the following:

  • The unit supports IrDA.
  • There is an option for either BlueTooth or WiFi; this particular unit has the WiFi option.
  • There is a SlimSelectBay in the unit, which may take any of several different modules; this particular unit has a DVD-ROM/CD-RW unit
  • The unit has a slot for SD cards

I attempted to install three different distros on this unit; only one succeeded. I do not rule out the possibility of personal deficiency and poor-quality media preventing the first two distros from installing; in fact, I consider those to be quite highly probable. The first attempt to install was off a Knoppix LiveCD; if I recall correctly, this was version 4 of Knoppix, and dates back to a previous attempt to experiment with Linux that ultimately went nowhere. While the LiveCD worked fine, I was unable to determine how to install the distro onto the hard disk. The second attempt to install was Fedora 8; while downloads of the ISO appeared good, and appeared to burn successfully to CD, the resulting LiveCDs failed to boot, or, if booted, failed the Fedora pre-installation verification.

The third distro attempted was Ubuntu 7.10 ("gutsy gibbon"); this attempt succeeded on the third try: The first try, selecting the option to install from the main menu, hung with a scrambled screen; the second, selecting the option to use 'safe' graphics, failed similarly (although the appearance of the scrambled screen was different). When I used the function keys to tell the LiveCD what the actual screen resolution is, and then selected the normal install, the install went through with no problems.


  • General functionality. The system appears to operate in a reasonable manner. Other reports (from TuxMobil) indicate that certain features in the keyboard need to be disabled; I found that this was either automatically detected and done by the Ubuntu installation, or is not necessary.
  • Hibernation. Based on other reports, I installed the Toshiba utilities for Linux, as it appeared that the suspend/hibernation mode would fail abjectly without them. With them, the system does appear to go into hibernation properly; however, restoring system state from hibernation is not without problems - most notably, the network interfaces do NOT get reinitialized, and the system acts like there are no functional network interfaces until rebooted and appears to function normally after coming out of hibernation.
  • USB. The system successfully mounted (automatically) USB mass storage devices with Windows-compatible filesystems on them, and files could be read from and written to the devices. A Phaser 4500 printer was detected, and drivers (for the 6100) installed. Printing to this printer from OpenOffice Word Processor resulted in garbage being printed out; the same from the Printer Configuration tool, thus indicating that the selected drivers were not valid for the printer. Changing to the Generic PostScript driver resulted in valid printouts from both the printer test and OpenOffice.
  • WiFi. This was tested on a secured network; upon provision of authentication information, the computer successfully acquired an address from DHCP and participated in the network with no problem. This included accessing the internet and shared files on other computers on the LAN.
  • Wired LAN. The computer successfully acquired an address from DHCP, and participated in the network, including accessing the internet and shared files on other computers on the LAN, with no problems.
  • IrDA. This appears not to be supported at all under Linux, though it works fine with Windows.
  • Toshiba Fn Keys. These are the keys marked in blue on the keycaps, requiring a special function key to be pressed to activate the function. This allows keyboard control of muting the speaker, controlling the display brightness, switching between internal LCD display and external monitor, and so on. What I was equipped to test, worked.
  • PCCard/PCMCIA/CardBus slots. The built-in USB ports on the base unit are USB 1.1. I acquired a Belkin USB 2.0 Cardbus interface for a different computer, and decided to try it on this one. On plugging it in, I saw some disk activity, but no messages indicating success or failure at device installation. However, plugging a USB 2.0 thumbdrive into the USB ports on the card caused the thumbdrive to be recognized and mounted immediately.

Not Tested

  • 56K Modem. This will be tested in the near future, and this report updated at that time The conditions that I intended to test it under have become unavailable to me; I have no current expectations of being able to test this.
  • SD slot. I have no media for this slot, and no other devices that use this media, so it is unlikely that this will be tested.
  • PCCard/PCMCIA/CardBus slots. I have no peripherals using this interface that are useful with this computer, and do not anticipate obtaining any in the forseeable future. See Tested section.
freetrav: (car)

...and it's far better than even I can believe.

I was walking home from the train, and for some reason, a little white car draws my attention. It doesn't look familiar, so I start to wonder why it caught my attention.

This little white car, a four-door sedan that looked smaller than my old Camry, is on the other side of a major intersection, coming toward me, but not yet close enough to see the logo on it. It is being driven like it is either severely underpowered, or the driver is the stereotypical little old lady with blue hair who is looking through the steering wheel to see out the front window.

The car turns down the cross street, in the direction I will be going. When I make the turn, I see it backing into a parking spot.

I get closer, and can see that the logo on the trunk is Toyota's, but I can't read the text that says what model it is.

I get still closer, and see that the model of this tiny four-door sedan is... Huh? Prius?

Understand that until I saw this car, I had never seen a Prius that didn't look like the userpic for this entry (modulo color). Not even in pictures. And yet my PriusDAR seems to have pinged right on this oddity.

Relating this episode to another Prius owner in IRC revealed the information that what I was seeing was the "classic" Prius, with inferior-to-present batteries, from the first year or so that the Prius was available in the US. It does NOT have the HSD (Hybrid Synergy Drive) that the current Toyota hybrids do. The 'dashboard' was centered, like in the Yaris, not directly in front of the driver, as in most cars (including the present Prius). It also did not appear to have the SmartKey system that I do, and the "gearshift" was a large handle, not a small knob-sized one, but still on the dashboard, not the steering column.

Quite frankly, if this had been my image of a Prius before buying, I'd probably have ended up with the Civic hybrid, or gotten another gas-engine car. But it's still astonishing that I picked this car out.


Dec. 4th, 2007 07:01 pm

Totally impractical. So bleeping what?! I want one anyway!
...can be found here. Thanks for the pointer, [ profile] shalmestere!

(edited: corrected the missing URI; not sure how it managed to be blank!)

It's Here!

Nov. 9th, 2007 09:45 pm
freetrav: (books)

A while back, I'd posted about a forthcoming e-Book reader from NAEB LLC, done in loose association with Baen Books. Well, that reader is here and can be ordered from NAEB - the deluxe version is $375, and includes the reader and battery, a USB cable, a USB A/C charger, the cover, a 1GB SD card and earphones. This is the deluxe version of the Bookeen reader; NAEB can get it to you for the reduced price - almost down to the $350 originally expected to be the price without the accessories - because they're able to take advantage of quantity discounts. There's only 1000 in the first order, so if you haven't signed up to be notified of when you can send money to get yours, do so now at NAEB's website.

It's an odd-numbered year this year - 2007. That means that there are no Congressional elections, no Senate elections, no Presidential election. Turnout for elections like this one are usually low, because people figure that these elections don't matter. I have one word for such people:


These way-off-year elections are at least as important as the ones that get the heavy press; they may even be more important - because these are the elections that are most likely to have the biggest effect on your day-to-day life - where are the bus lines going to go? how often are they going to run? what's the fare going to be? how much road construction will there be to disrupt your commute? what's the sales tax going to be? what's the property tax rate going to be? are they going to let BigBox build a store where the ballfields are? what are the zoning laws going to allow - or prevent - in the way of new stores, new homes, new churches, new schools? how big will classes in the schools be? how much will the teachers be paid? will there be adequate textbooks and supplies? will there be vending machines in the school? what will they contain?

Voting now tells your elected officials and your community how you want these questions to be considered - the actual decisions will be made in their own time, but now, you need to decide who is making them. Certainly, the "important" elections set the tone for everything else - but tone isn't everything, and what happens at the state and local levels modifies the overall tone set by the last national elections - or acts as a signal of the mood for the next national elections.

How often have you heard that your vote doesn't matter? How often have you said it? This year, there's no question that that's wrong - this is the year that you can make a difference, to yourself and to your neighbors. Don't waste the opportunity. Go to the polls and cast your ballot.

freetrav: (books)

Dear Ms Bujold,

You've continued to do it.

I've recently completed The Sharing Knife: Legacy and I continue to be impressed, and I continue to enjoy the story. I must, however, emphasize two words that encapsulate my feelings:


You have given me a story as carefully crafted as a symphony, and like a symphony, you have contrieved to make each movement stand by itself, on its own merits, while still setting the stage for the next, and resolving the previous. You continue to present a world that 'feels' real, with characters who are three-dimensional, and clearly part of their world, rather than being the raison d'être for a 'flat' world, acting as a stage for actors.

Please, please continue this story, that I may continue to enjoy it!

Thank you, again.

freetrav: (books)

Dear Ms Bujold:

Thank you.

For most of my life, I've avoided reading fantasy, except for either Epic Fantasy (like Tolkien, or Turtledove's World of Darkness) or Silly Fantasy (like Asprin's MythAdventures, or Piers Anthony's Xanth) because, well, it's fantasy, and fantasy is boring, because it usually depends too much on magic, and the worlds just don't feel like more than canvas backdrops for The Hero to beat up The Villain in front of. I've also avoided reading romances, because, well, they're romances, and I'm a guy, and I'm just not into all that touchy-feely mushy stuff. My reading tends toward science fiction, with some side forays into military fiction, spy fiction, or adventure fiction - and not just any science fiction; I tend to prefer the subgenres of science fiction that focus on people, rather than gadgets - I'm not about ray guns and space ships; I'm about first contacts with aliens, and ordinary people thrown into extraordinary situations, where the technology, while part of the environment that shaped the people, is not the Magic Bullet.

You, Ms Bujold, have shaken my preconceptions of both fantasy and romance, and you've done it with a single book: The Sharing Knife: Beguilement. I purchased this book (actually, a combined volume of The Sharing Knife: Beguilement and The Sharing Knife: Legacy - but I haven't started reading The Sharing Knife: Legacy yet) from the Science Fiction Book Club via a friend's membership, on the strength of the comments in your corner of Baen's Bar, and having never read any of your work previously, though I had heard your writing - mostly the Miles Vorkosigan universe - repeatedly praised, highly.

I can say without reservation that your writing in this book exceeded my expectations - I was prepared for a mildly entertaining read, given my generally low opinion of fantasy and even lower opinion of romance; what I found was a story that sucked me in and wouldn't let me go - and I'm looking forward to reading The Sharing Knife: Legacy, and any subsequent books in the series (I get the impression from your corner of the Bar that there are to be a total of four in the series). You have given me a world that feels like a real world, even if I don't see it as mine, and people who are more than Archetypes to play off each other - people who I can and do care about what happens to them.

Again I say: Thank you.

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first human being to set foot on a world other than the one that gave him birth. As he did so, he uttered a phrase which has become familiar to anyone who has ever had any interest in space flight: "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for Mankind."

May we someday soon regain the Dream of Stars, so that we may take the next step toward them.

In catching up with some forums that I'm a regular reader of, I found someone posting a story of an incident that happened to them while in the military. In reading the post, I learned something about the national anthem of the United States that I didn't know.

Herewith the complete text of the lyrics to The Star-Spangled Banner:

O say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;

O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen thro’ the mist of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream

’Tis the star-spangled banner. Oh! long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave,

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth waveO’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation,
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our Trust"

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Special pings to [ profile] otherbill and [ profile] j3nny3lf, since I know that you both have children in exceptional educational contexts...

The Icehouse game Zendo was written as a game that relies on inductive logic rather than deductive logic. The basic theme can be adapted to other structures. It's a fascinating game, aside for any considerations it might have in education.

Then, I was pointed to this article on Zendo as a tool for teaching, which explains how Zendo is a good tool for showing how the scientific method works. I think this is definitely worth thinking on...

"Mesmerised as if confronting a nasty incident in traffic, we gaze at the Olympic logo. It is a puerile mess, an artistic flop and a commercial scandal."

From #Callahans:

<Snack> Those shapes spell out LOLZ

There are no words. Really. I could do better, with my complete and utter lack of design sense.

Because I died...

... at Bunker Hill. Grapeshot tore through my body at New Orleans. Crushing hooves with riders as swirls of blue and grey ... and red ... crashed down on me in strange sounding places like Chickamauga, Antietam, and Shiloh.

The heat and swamp sucked at my last moments in the wilds of Cuba. A green fog of poisonous gas slithered over the side and into my trench, where water stood mixed with slime and blood.

I lay face down in fetid pools clogged with jungle vines, felt the hot sands of Africa burning through my back, lay with cold cheek against wet beach sand, and fell from gingerbread doorways into cobblestone streets. I gaped for air and breathed fire and oily water.

Snow clung to my lashes and ice formed at the corners of my mouth as a tiny wisp of seam wafted from the crimson flow of life out of my ears and stomach.

As I fell forward, I felt the jagged pain of bamboo beneath the water tearing at my flesh.

I fought and died when I didn’t know why. I was killed before I was old enough to vote. I never knew the pleasure of savoring the memories that come with old age. I left mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, children, and sweethearts to weep after me. I lay where names and landscapes and faces were all foreign to me. To this day, no one knows where the earth swallowed me.

I was called wop, nigger, dago, spic, kike, honky, and mick. I was tall and short and thin and heavy and young and old and cheerful and sad. I was a shop steward, an insurance agent, a writer, an orange picker, and the head of a grocery chain stretching from Baltimore to St. Louis.

I lived around the corner, up the street, next door, over the garage, across the tracks, on the hill and out of a suitcase. I came from a family farm, a college campus, a factory, a new-car agency, and from Broadway.

I died that we would remain free, that liberty would not perish, that women and children would be safe from terror, that my home would be protected, that an idea would be proven right, that my friend might live, that people back home could make overtime in the plants, and that a sagging economy might be helped.

Sometimes I served my country, sometimes my ideals and sometimes my own ego.

But I served.

On Memorial Day, I hope you pause for a few moments to think on these things. You are still free to think ... and speak ... and publish whatever you wish because I gave the most I had ... my all.

Some of you have known some of my pain, my tears, and the sickness of soul for the waste of human life.

Yet, the giving of my life was not wasted. For perhaps somehow, in some way, people will do something to end my dying.

My death has extended the time given you to do that something.

After the next war, there may be no one left to honor the dead.

— Author Anonymous

  • A book can't be spoiled by lousy casting, acting, or directing. Admittedly, they can still suffer from lousy writing or editing.
  • A book accommodates itself to your schedule.
  • 25% of the length of a book isn't advertising.
  • There aren't any arguments about what book to read. If three people want to read three different books in the family room at the same time, what's the problem?
  • Books can be rented for nothing (got a library card?), have a rental period two to three times - or more - as long as for a video, and much smaller penalties for late returns.
  • A book's batteries don't go dead at inconvenient times. Mostly because books don't NEED batteries.
  • An ongoing series of books doesn't have to fit its stories into multiples of twenty-three minutes.
  • Books don't require a high-tech information infrastructure to produce or read, and almost everyone has the equipment necessary to make one to his or her own taste. Skill and motivation might well be a different story, but...
freetrav: (books)

$350-ish. NO DRM! Linux-based. Supports eBooks in HTML, PDF, RTF, and MobiPocket PRC formats. Takes SD cards for storing your library, above and beyond the memory that comes in the system. Want one?

N.A.E.B. (Not Another E-Book), LLC, has put together a deal with Bookeen to make it possible. If they get sufficient interest for the minimum bulk order (300 people, I think), the price is as stated. If they can get 1,000 sales, the price goes down. Specifications are at and you can sign up - which is an expression of interest, not a commitment to buy - at Go, sign up, spread the word!

IMO, something like this is not as convenient as my PDA - there's no backlight on this reader, and it's about the size of a paperback book, rather than a large cellphone or a Palm or Pocket PC, but in good light, the display quality is expected to be superior, and easier on the eyes than most PDA fonts. If quality is more important than size, this is the way to go - I know that my father has switched from reading on a PDA to reading on the Sony ebook reader, and I'm pretty certain it's because the Sony is easier to read for aging eyes.

(The people that are doing this haven't actually taken up the idea, but I think of the reader as NAEBR (Not Another E-Book Reader), pronounced "neighbor", and anyplace that you can get ebooks that can be read on the NAEBR is obviously part of the NAEBR-hood. Compatible formats, and the people who make their ebooks available in them, are NAEBR-ly.)

Seen elseforum, posted by an eighteen-year-old signing himself 'Cambreath'...

long, but worth reading )

... is President George Washington's 'Farewell Address'. It can be found in the original at and in a modern translation at It's definitely worth reading and thinking about.

Selchow and Righter/Hasbro has released another game in the Scrabble® series of word games: Super Scrabble. Unlike their previous efforts to 'gimmick' the brand, this game is actually a reasonable enhancement idea, preserving the simplicity of the original game while renewing it.

Super Scrabble's premise is simply: "Take Scrabble, and double it.". That is, there are approximately twice as many squares on the board (it's now 21x21), and there are twice as many tiles to play with (they've taken the distribution from the original set, and simply doubled the number of tiles of each letter (including blanks)). Obviously, the new, larger board means more premium squares, and they've extended out to Quad-letter and -word scores. Any ten-letter words with a Q and two Zs out there?

The California Literary Review has an article that analyzes why Presidential politics in the US is biased - probably permanently so - toward the Republican party. Mann goes into quite a bit of detail as to the why of the current arrangement; in an unposted draft of a LJ entry from some time after the 2000 election, I'd started to go into the detailed mechanics of the arrangement - the how of the Republican advantage - and was waiting for an opportunity to massage census data to finish up the entry.  I'm still "waiting".Someday, you'll see my analysis here - if I'm lucky, it'll be in the run-up to the 2008 election.

Edit: corrected the URL

... I wrote this (will open in new window).

As I indicated in this entry, I'm looking for honest and constructive comment/criticism.

In sketching out the scene following this, I discovered that I'd left too many questions unanswered, and that as a result, there was a disconnect between this scene and the next. This is an attempt to clean up the scene to smooth the transition.

Gaamila Corribant stood and stretched as the final chords of the symphony died into silence. It was clear to him that Eneri Managudeli really didn't understand Terran musical forms, no matter how much he was praised for his mastery of them - all he was doing was mechanically working his way through the textbook changes to the basic theme, with no real emotional coherence, and little more imagination in the accompaniment. "Even after six of the forsaken things, he still can't get it right," Corribant thought. Nevertheless, the composer would be the guest of honor at the club next Sixday, and since Corribant was to be the senior officer of club present, some familiarity with Managudeli's Terran Symphonies was advisable.

He touched a control on the console, selecting office mode instead of library mode. The room lights brightened, and the console displays changed, showing the locations of his ships and an index of current contracts. There was also an indicator that the majordomo wished to speak to him, but that the matter did not appear to be of sufficient importance to disturb him while he had the library set for 'do not disturb'. He acknowledged the majordomo's request, and stepped out into the hall to meet the majordomo coming toward the office, a puzzled expression on his face.

"Sir, a messenger brought this card and message, and indicated that he was not instructed to wait for a response." The majordomo handed Corribant what looked like a calling card, and a message crystal. "I do not recognize the name on this card, and the name does not appear in any of my usual research sources."

Corribant took both items, looked at the card, and spoke to his majordomo, "Don't worry; I recognize the name, and already know the usual information you bring me." He slipped the card into the inside pocket of his vest. "Am I correct in recalling that there are no appointments for the next hour?"

The majordomo nodded. "You are, sir; but Sir Kaarin Douglas-Tukera is expected in ninety minutes, and he is known to arrive early for his appointments."

"Indeed. I don't expect that he'll need to be kept waiting; thank you." He stepped back into his office and closed the door, removing the card from his pocket as he did so. There was no question but that he would recognize the name; it was his own, although the name on the card was not "Gaamila Corribant," nor anything even vaguely close. More important was the date and symbol written in one corner of the back; it told him when he had given someone that card, and to whom. Still more important would be the accompanying message; Corribant inserted the crystal into the reader and watched as the message played.

An image of a tall, young woman appeared. Her Daryen heritage was immediately visible in her white hair, bronze skin, and the distinctly pointed pinnae of her ears. Corribant immediately recognized her as Malem ye-Pazet, the woman to whom he had given the card. She spoke: "Please see the Starport Commandant of Security as soon as possible; identify yourself only as my representative. He will explain how this has reached you, and if you do as he asks, I will accept it as honoring the promise of your card." The display went dark.

Corribant leaned back in his chair, thinking. The message posed several problems, the most important of which was the fact that it had reached him at all - while he was not one to run out on debts, especially not debts of honor, it had been necessary to abandon the identity that had incurred that particular debt, and he knew that his tracks had been well-covered - it should have been impossible for anyone to connect him with ... himself ... except for the people who had set him up as Gaamila Corribant. ye-Pazet may not have been what she had seemed those many years ago, or...

The message had said that the Commandant would explain. She was asking him to honor his debt by allowing her to transfer it to the Commandant. Therefore, he would see the Commandant. He contacted the Starport. "Security, please... I would like to make an appointment to see the Commandant, as the representative of Malem ye-Pazet... Is there anything sooner than that? She has asked me to see him as soon as possible... I see. That will be satisfactory, then; thank you."

He disconnected from the Starport, and signalled the majordomo. "Show Sir Kaarin into the office as soon as he arrives, and clear my calendar for tomorrow. I have unexpected business at the Starport; please book me onto the first shuttle up, and have a car and driver ready first thing to take me to the shuttleport."

As I indicated in my previous entry, I'm looking for honest and constructive comment/criticism.

Gaamila Corribant stood and stretched as the final chords of the symphony died into silence. It was clear to him that Eneri Managudeli really didn't understand Terran musical forms, no matter how much he was praised for his mastery of them - all he was doing was mechanically working his way through the textbook changes to the basic theme, with no real emotional coherence, and little more imagination in the accompaniment. "Even after six of the forsaken things, he still can't get it right," Corribant thought. Nevertheless, the composer would be the guest of honor at the club next Sixday, and since Corribant was to be the senior club officer present, some familiarity with Managudeli's Terran Symphonies was advisable.

He touched a control on the console, selecting office mode instead of library mode. The room lights brightened, and the console displays changed, showing the locations of his ships and an index of current contracts. There was also an indicator that the majordomo wished to speak to him, but that the matter did not appear to be of sufficient importance to disturb him while he had the library set for 'do not disturb'. He acknowledged the majordomo's request, and stepped out into the hall to meet the majordomo coming toward the office, a puzzled expression on his face.

"Sir, a messenger brought this card and a verbal message, and indicated that he was not instructed to wait for a response." The majordomo handed Corribant what looked like a calling card. "The verbal message is, exactly, 'There is importance, but no urgency as yet.' I do not recognize the name on this card, and the name does not appear in any of my usual research sources."

Corribant looked at the card, and spoke to his majordomo, "Don't worry; I recognize the name, and already know the usual information you bring me." He slipped the card into the inside pocket of his vest. "I'm afraid I need to call on someone unexpectedly. Please have the electric readied immediately; don't call for a driver, I'll handle it myself. I'll be in the office; just alert my console when it's ready."

He stepped back into his office and closed the door, removing the card from his pocket as he did so. There was no question but that he would recognize the name; it was his own, although the name on the card was not "Gaamila Corribant," nor anything even vaguely close. More important was the date and symbol written in one corner of the back; it told him when he had given someone that card, and to whom.

Every once in a while, I decide to try to write a story.  Usually, one of two things happens - either I pick up a book and it turns out that I'm rewriting that book's story, such that anyone would see mine as plagiarism, or my writing is so poor that even I wouldn't read it. In either case, the attempt is immediately disposed of, and I give up for a while (usually five to ten years).

It's time to try again.  This time, I'm going to do it slightly differently, though - I'm going to post chapters/‌scenes/‌whateveryouwannacallthem to this LJ, with the tag 'writing' (as is used for this entry), and ask that willing readers post honest, constructive criticism of the writing, from both 'technical' and 'storytelling' points of view.

For those of you who aren't interested, I won't do nasty things to your friends pages; it'll all be behind a cut.

... is what happened on 4 March 1789. On that day, the document below went into effect.

Constitution for the United States of America

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility,  provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do place large amounts of text behind cut tags to prevent the abuse of our friends' Friends pages )

From a toast I gave in #Callahans (Undernet)

[10:08] Yesterday, June 28, 2006, an era ended.
[10:09] Jim Baen, who gave his name to a publishing house, revolutionized the industry, by showing that electronic books were viable - and that giving them away would generate sales.
[10:10] Two weeks ago, this industry trailblazer suffered a stroke.
[10:11] Since then, his friends, his family, and his readers have been pulling for him, as Callahooligans do in their CEPTs.
[10:11] Yesterday, at 5PM, his battle ended, sadly.
[10:12] Rest in Peace, Jim, and know that you will not be forgotten. And thank you, for what you have done, and for the differences you have made.

[ profile] rolanni has reprinted David Drake's obituary here

Edit: The original obit is also here at David Drake's website.

This isn't really about your opinion on game design, but on games themselves, although I will be using the answers I get as input data for a potential game-design project.

What games do you think aren't as good AS A GAME as their commercial popularity would indicate, and, conversely, what games do you think are better AS GAMES than their commercial popularity would indicate? Since it's hard to define criteria (other than commercial popularity, i.e., copies of the game (or its equipment) sold) for how good a game is, please explain how you made your evaluation(s). I'd like more emphasis on board games (e.g., chess, checkers, pachisi, snakes-and-ladders, goose, Monopoly, Scrabble, etc.) than on other styles (cards, dice, etc.), but comments on those other styles will be welcome as well, as such comments may provide additional insight into what people think makes a game "good" or "bad".

Assume that there is a card game that requires six suits in the deck. Obviously, as long as one does not need more than thirteen unique values per suit, four of the suits can be taken from any standard deck of cards.  The other two suits, however, will need new symbols, and possibly a new color as well. Ideally, these new symbols/colors should fit in, stylistcally, with a standard deck of cards. So, the question: What should the symbols be, and what color(s)?


Feb. 21st, 2006 05:58 pm

Just over a week ago, I went to a local plastics shop and commissioned an Icebox. I'd worked out a nice design, and they built it to specifications, and it came out nice - I'd hoped it would be ready yesterday, but things didn't work out that way (explanation of why in the description following the first picture below), so they called me today and I picked it up this afternoon. Pictures behind the cuts; their natural sizes are all 1280x960.

Piccies! )


Jan. 7th, 2006 12:02 pm

Dunno how I manage it, but I still have a right knee. This in spite of having injured myself three times while working for the PD, and all three times, I've managed to bloody my right knee.  Last night was the third time. Given my job, it's perhaps not difficult to understand why I've been able to walk to a police facility to request aid each time, but that has in fact been the case.  Last night, I was walking to the bus stop to catch a crosstown bus to where I could get my suburb-bound train, and as I was crossing the street to the bus stop, I managed to trip over the sidewalk.  The local precinct (not where I was working) was about a block away, so I walked over there, leaving a red stain on the knee of my pants, and got first aid over there. No big deal, except that it's the third time I've managed to do this - and it's always the right knee.  Gotta wonder about my reflexes; I know how to take a fall and roll to avoid serious injury - but somehow, I can't manage to avoid bloodying that knee...

City subways, busy subways, dressed in holiday style
Underground there's a feeling of Christmas
Riders laughing, workers smiling, trav'ling mile after mile
and in every train station you hear...

Silver trains... ... ... Silver trains... ... ...
Illegal strike is now over
Rumbleum... ... ... Hear them thrum... ... ...
Just in time for Christmas Day!

Oh, mine eyes have seen the story of the coming of the strike!
I've seen people using roller skates and people using bikes.
Oh, I've seen commuters struggling with taxis and the like.
The strike is going on!


Transit workers out to screw ya's!
They don't care about commu-tas!
Don't let anybody fool ya's!
The strike is going on!


Dec. 20th, 2005 04:01 am

At 03:02:28, Transport Workers' Union Local 100 initiated a strike against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority bus and subway operations in New York City. This action is in violation of Article 14 of New York State Civil Service Law, which provides for the following:

  • grants public employees the right to organize and to be represented by employee organizations of their own choice;
  • requires public employers to negotiate and enter into agreements with public employee organizations regarding their employees' terms and conditions of employment;
  • establishes impasse procedures for the resolution of collective bargaining disputes;
  • defines and prohibits improper practices by public employers and public employee organizations;
  • prohibits strikes by public employees; and
  • establishes a state agency to administer the Law- The Public Employment Relations Board (PERB)

The Transport Workers' Union has not followed the impasse procedure, and in fact has resisted even the first step of mediation.

14 NYSCSL 210(2)(f) specifies that each striking employee shall lose two days' pay for each day on strike. 14 NYSCSL 210(3)(a) specifies that "dues checkoff" privileges for an organization engaging in a strike will be revoked.

As injunctions against this strike were granted to the MTA, it is to be hoped that all possible legal action will be taken to end this strike, including contempt-of-court procedings and the fining and imprisonment of the union officials who called and encouraged this illegal action.

Earlier this week, the international Red Cross organization accepted, by vote rather than the more usual consensus, a fourth symbol to be designated as protected/protective: the Red Crystal, described in heraldese as "A lozenge gules voided". This, and the recognition/acceptance by Israel of the Palestinian Red Crescent as the official representative of the ICRC in the West Bank and Gaza, have removed the last ostensible obstacles to Israel's admission to the Federation. The area in the center of the new symbol may be used to display national symbols, but need not be so used; it is the Crystal itself that is protected.

While Israel has noted that this is an acceptable compromise, I believe that a better decision would have been to withdraw recognition of the other symbols at the same time, thus requiring that the Red Cross, the Red Crescent, and the Red Lion-and-Sun all be placed within the Red Crystal to properly mark protected entities. As it is, there is a strong likelihood that the only use of the Red Crystal will ultimately end up being by Israel, and will probably be little more widely recognized than the Red Lion-and-Sun is today.

This came (back around Christmas, 1998) off an old-style bulletin board that I was a member of. Just like the poster there thought it was worth passing on, so do I. For the record, I'm Jewish, and don't celebrate Christmas - but this, to me, is what the season should be about.

A friend of mine sent this to me -- thought it worth to pass along.

It's just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past 10 years or so.

It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas---oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it... overspending... the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma---the gifts given in desperation because you couldn't think of anything else. Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.

Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended; and shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church, mostly black. These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes. As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler's ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford.

Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn't acknowledge defeat. Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, "I wish just one of them could have won," he said. "They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them." Mike loved kids - all kids - and he knew them, having coached little league football, baseball and lacrosse.

That's when the idea for his present came. That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years.

For each Christmas, I followed the tradition - one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on.

The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents. As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure.

The story doesn't end there.

You see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning, it was joined by three more. Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing around the tree with wide-eyed anticipation watching as their fathers take down the envelope. Mike's spirit, like the Christmas spirit, will always be with us.

May we all remember Christ, who is the reason for the season, and the true Christmas spirit this year and always.

God bless---pass this along to your friends and loved ones.

Original author unknown - and does it really matter?

First, the annual reminder about voting.

Next, a repeat of last year's bitch about the ballot.This year was same shit, different slate. The only two contests on the ballot this year were Proposition One, an attempted power-grab by the state legislature under the rubric of 'budget process reform', and Proposition Two, a bond act for roughly three-and-a-half-billion dollars, only half of which would go to improving the transportation system that is used by well over half the commuters in the state.  No on One, Yes on Two - but that's just my opinion. All of the races for offices were 'uncontested' (same definition as last year) or no-votes.

Interesting observation: All of the anti-abortion ranting that makes the media seems to come from people who tend to take positions on other issues that are considered characteristic positions of the extreme wing of the Republican party.  Yet the Right-to-Life party in New York State seems to universally and consistently endorse ... Democrats? Wazzupwiddat?

The BBC food meme is making the rounds again. I did it here. But here's the update...

Bold what you've eaten, italicize what you'd like to try, strike out what you intend to avoid...

The original list (from the BBC)

  1. Fresh fish
  2. Lobster
  3. Steak
  4. Thai food
  5. Chinese food
  6. Ice cream
  7. Pizza
  8. Crab
  9. Curry
  10. Prawns
  11. Moreton Bay Bugs
  12. Clam chowder
  13. Barbecues
  14. Pancakes
  15. Pasta
  16. Mussels
  17. Cheesecake
  18. Lamb
  19. Cream tea
  20. Alligator
  21. Oysters
  22. Kangaroo
  23. Chocolate
  24. Sandwiches
  25. Greek food
  26. Burgers
  27. Mexican food
  28. Squid
  29. American diner breakfast
  30. Salmon
  31. Venison
  32. Guinea pig
  33. Shark
  34. Sushi
  35. Paella
  36. Barramundi (?)
  37. Reindeer
  38. Kebab
  39. Scallops
  40. Australian meat pie
  41. Mango
  42. Durian fruit
  43. Octopus
  44. Ribs
  45. Roast beef
  46. Tapas
  47. Jerk chicken/pork
  48. Haggis
  49. Caviar
  50. Cornish pasty
And a few more that weren't on the previous list...
  1. Indian food (other than curry)
  2. Kiwi (the fruit, also called "Chinese Gooseberry")
  3. Rabbit
  4. Japanese food (other than sushi)
  5. Rijstafel
  6. Hot Dogs/Frankfurters
  7. Goat
  8. Mongolian "Barbeque"
  9. Viet-Namese food
  10. French food
  11. Jambalaya

And a few more, from [ profile] pauamma...

  1. Hare
  2. Horse
  3. Boa
  4. Beaver
  5. Squirrel
  6. Bee larvae
  7. Indonesian food (other than rijstafel)
  8. Korean food
  9. Flounder
  10. Eel

And more from [ profile] catwyche...

  1. Blood Pudding
  2. Gumbo
  3. Rattlesnake
  4. Squab
  5. Turducken
  6. Fleur de sel
  7. Swan
  8. Plantains
  9. Starfruit
  10. Cat
I am...

I am the guy who came out to the entire school in his senior speech and got a standing ovation for his courage.

I am the girl who kisses her girlfriend on the sidewalk and laughs at those who glare.

We are the couple who planned and studied and got a damn good lawyer and BEAT the state that wanted to take our child away.

We are the ones who took martial arts classes and carry pepper spray and are just too dangerous to gay bash.

I am the transgender person who uses the bathroom that suits me, and demands that any complaining staff explain their complaint to my face in front of the entire restaurant--and shares with my other trans friends which restaurants don't raise a stink.

I am the mother who told her lesbian daughter to invite her girlfriend over for dinner.

I am the father who punished his son for calling you a fag.

I am the preacher who told my congregation that love, not hate, is the definition of a true follower of God.

I am the girl who did not learn the meaning of "homosexual" until high school but never thought to question why two men might be kissing.

I am the woman who argues (quite loudly and vehemently) with the bigots who insist that you do not have the right to marry or raise children.

We are the high school class who agrees, unanimously, along with our teacher, that love should be all that matters.

added by [ profile] freetrav: I am the legislator who, in spite of letters running 10:1 against it, voted in favor of a measure that would legalize same-sex marriage, because it was the right thing to do.

If you agree, repost this. Do it. You don't have to be afraid. You can handle it. You're stronger than you think.

I am making a difference. Hate will not win.

[ profile] jackwalker had something to say, and said it well. It doesn't apply just to sexuality, either - try putting "Jew" or "Moslem" or some other religion in place of "homosexual" and "religious belief" in place of "sexual orientation", and so on, and it's just as true.

In this entry in [ profile] usa_cricket, I very deliberately omitted some of my thoughts, which would have belonged in the last paragraph of that entry.  Those thoughts can be summed up as follows:

Major League Cricket has more of an interest in a successful outcome than USACA possibly could, because MLC is expecting a (long term) return on its investment - it is a profit-making corporation, rather than a non-profit organization, and thus its principals' personal financial success will depend on the organization's. This is a model that has - time and again - worked well in the United States, especially for sports (try telling me that any of our professional sports networks would have been as successful if the overall organization weren't in it for the money!) - and there is no reason why cricket should be any different. The only thing that any of USACA's principals can expect to get out of their organization is (a) power, and/or (b) a sense of satisfaction in a job well-done - but if they don't care about (b), there's no incentive to do the job any better than the minimum necessary - which seems to be pretty low.



January 2017



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