fighting the lack of good ideas

God bless the racists

At least they’re honest. They don’t care if they offend anyone. Political correctness has no place in their minds – beyond ridicule. They’re not African-American or black, they’re niggers. They’re not Caucasian or white, they’re crackers. Racists will talk about slant-eyes, towel-heads, white trash, blackanese, honkies, red necks, wops, guineas, polacks, red men, 8 balls, Africoons, porch monkeys, gator bait, spics, beefshacks, bird turds, blanketass, branch managers, brews, frogs, bubbas, camel jockeys, etc.

And I barely touched on terms from countries other than the US – and missed a lot of terms used in the US.

I would be inclined to think, based on what is shown in the main-stream media, that most of America is racist. Hopefully that just comes from the fact that most ‘news-worthy’ discussions and events are all bad.

I despise politically-correct terminology because it is a softening and beguiling of language. I despise using hyphenated American terms when discussing people. If you’re a citizen of the United States, you’re an American. You may be black, white, yellow, red, brown, chartreuse, or purple, but you’re an American. You may have Italian, Polish, Chinese, Kenyan, Egyptian, Scots, Brazilian, or Cherokee ancestors, but you’re an American. In America, you might even have all of the above.

The United States claims to be a ‘melting pot’ of other cultures, races, beliefs, and ideals that have stewed about and congealed into the culture we have today. But in today’s politically- and media-driven environment, we’re actually encouraged to maintain racist, elitist views of anyone who isn’t exactly like us. By using terms like ‘African-American’ or ‘Italian-American’, we are encouraged to keep thinking about someone’s ancestry (and maybe something bad that happened in their ancestry’s past) instead of their current status.

I do not consider myself racist. I have friends who are black, white, hispanic, italian, and asian. But I do not refer to my black friends as African-American because they’re not. They didn’t immigrate. Their parents didn’t immigrate. Their families have been in this country for a long time, and no longer have the right to call themselves ‘African’. I do not have a problem with first-generation citizens (ie naturalized, or the children of law-abiding, greencard-carrying immigrants) hyphenating their ethnicity – they can still legitimately claim that other culture. But by the time they’re having kids, those American citizens have no business continuing to refer to their family’s former national/ethnic ties when referring to themselves as [identity]-Americans.

Go ahead and celebrate your family’s heritage – I’m all for it. But continuing to call yourself a hyphenated American will only encourage people to not accept you as an American.

What we need in America is not ‘racial understanding’. We are a nation of immigrants – with very few exceptions, we all came here from other countries. Some of us have families who can trace their American-ness to the Mayflower, while others were naturalized last week. Some of America was brought here under force and against their will, but when given the option to leave, chose to stay. We don’t need understanding, we need to stop calling ourselves anything other than what we are.

We are Americans, plain and simple.

here and now – monopoly updated

From CNN: “Monopoly rolls dice, changes look. The legendary game, out since 1935, will have a new, contemporary version this fall.” [original story | related site]

Apparently, Hasbro has gotten tired of all the special editions, the collector’s sets, agreements with Franklin Mint, and just making a bundle of money on a popular, fun, and addicting game. The costs of property, taxes, fines, and rents in the game happen to be very delicately balanced. Knock-off ‘opoly’ games (and there are at least dozens), all use different prices around the board, different placements of hazards, and different ‘boardly’ incomes so they don’t infringe too heavily upon the original. But all those knock-off games have capital balance issues that don’t tend to manifest themselves in the original.

For over 70 years, Monopoly has been a stand-by in game collections, family rooms, dorms, and even some business lounges. It’s fun because it works. With a fortuitous roll of the dice, the first person in the game can be half-way (or more) around the board with 3 properties before the next guy has a chance to roll. Or they could have landed on Chance and been sent straight to jail to start the game.

Property values, salaries, fines, and bank errors are all tightly arranged to make sure the game starts off balanced. And you’re better off owning the dark purple, orange, and red streets (with the railroads and a couple other random properties) than almost any other combination of streets (beyond the obvious end-game scenario of ‘Monopoly’ :)).

Statistical analysis done by computer models has shown that the Chance deck’s ‘Go back 3 spaces’ (anecdotal evidence joins this chorus) is most likely to be incurred at the chance square right after Free Parking. (Don’t know why, but with thousands of runs, it keeps popping out there.) In combination with 3 (or more) houses on New York Avenue, the owner of the orange street can bankrupt his opponents very fast.

Ok, so maybe Atlantic City’s streets don’t resonate with people the way they once did – but they do because of the game. Hasbro has already churned-out National Parks, Spongebob Squarepants, Coke, NASCAR, Looney Tunes, Simpsons, Millenium, Football, and myriad other special editions. I don’t see why they need to update the game to ‘Here and Now’. The formula that has worked for 70 years doesn’t need fixing.

Will I buy a copy of the new edition? Yeah. I like Monopoly, and know several collectors. Will it take over for the original in my gameplay? I seriously doubt it. I don’t like people messing with things that work – and especially not with things that work really well.

standing room only?

From CNN: “Airbus offers standing room ‘seats’ Report: Airbus in discussion with Asian airlines to offer padded backboards to have flyers stand, increasing capacity of largest jet to 853 passengers.” [original story]

Here’s an interesting idea from our European friends: take a plane that will hold 500+ people seated, and install them all in a standing orientation instead. This would increase capacity to about 850 passengers. Fantastic. The only problem? Such standing arrangements could only be done on “short-haul flights like an island-hopping route in Japan”. The Airbus A380 is a super jumbo jet designed for carrying lots of stuff a long ways – not for short-haul routes.

Like Boeing’s 747 series, Airbus plans to use its newest jet to handle large passenger and cargo loads on inter-continental routes. You don’t see many 747s flying from Atlanta to Tallahassee – it’s overkill, and inefficient. Large planes take a lot more energy (ie fuel) to get into the air than small planes, so using them on short-haul routes is not efficient. An airline would be better-off flying a pair of 757s than one 747 generally for short distances (besides the fact that using more smaller planes allows greater schedule flexibility).

On those London-Tokyo routes, sure using a big plane makes sense – they have the range, and can carry a lot. But I wouldn’t want to have to ‘stand’ for 14 hours.

I think Airbus is grasping at straws in trying to find uses for the new jet.

nuclear proliferation

First of all, I don’t think the ability to manufacture nuclear weapons is a bad thing. Nuclear power is nearly fool-proof, runs a long time on very little fuel, and is cheap to maintain. There are potential issues with disposing of the waste from the plants, and if a catastrophe does occur, it could be very messy (like Chernobyl in ’86).

However, just because a country is benefiting from the realtively cheap and clean form of energy generation that nuclear fuels provide does not mean that it should engage in weapons production. Especially if that country is known to be allied with terrorists. The only reason I like the United States having nuclear weapons is to use them as a deterrent to other nations from using any such weapons they may acquire. I’m not especially thrilled that such destructive power can be unleashed by any nation – or in the current international arena, by anyone with enough money to buy one.

There is a line in the movie The Peacemaker where Nicole Kidman’s character says, “it’s not the man who has 9 warheads that scares me – it’s the man who only has one”. Nations like the US, Russia, the UK, Israel, France, Germany, India, and even China aren’t likely threats to use their nuclear arsenal. The very fact they have relatively large reserves of such weapons indicates their retisence to use them.

On the other hand, a terrorist organization, like Al Qaida, or a terror-sponsoring nation such as Iran could very well intend to use whatever meager arsenal they accumulate. Similar to the Secret Service’s inability to stop a truly dedicated single assassin, stopping nations who have publicly said they don’t like their neighbors, or even the west in general, and claim they will use such devices to impact those other countries, is very difficult, and can only be done before such tools have been built.

I personally think the United States made a mistake when we attacked Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein from power and give the people of Iraq the opportunity to be free: we left his neighbors alone. While we were in the area, and especially if we had massed more troops in preparation, we could’ve easily wiped out Iran’s and Syria’s homicidal leaders. In recent weeks, Iran’s president has openly said their goal is to develop nuclear weapons to use against Israel and their allies. Sitting around and waiting for this to happen is not in our – or the world’s – best interest.

The United States has been a bastion of freedom and liberty for over 200 years, never leaping into war early, or without provocation. However, in a post-Cold War era, there has been increasingly a need to keep tabs on so-called rogue nations and their leaders. In the 80’s we supported Saddam in his war againt Iran. In hindsight, it was a bad idea, since we had to go in and clean him out from his maniacal dictatorship to be responsible citizens in a ‘global economy’. Homicidal leaders, supporters of terrorism, and otherwise ‘evil’ men and women need to be removed from places of power.

I am sure there are such people in the United States and other western countries, but so far our populaces have been able to keep them out of blatantly destructive positions of power as a general rule. Unfortunately, we have turned a blind eye to the rise of oppressive regimes in other parts of the world in the name of keeping our economy running smoothly, or maintaining the ‘peace’. Men like Pol Pot, Kim Jong Il, Mohamar Qadaffi, Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro, and many others have been allowed to continue their oppressive dictatorhips because it is ‘too much effort’ to stop them.

During the years of economic sanctions on Iraq, Saddam still made out like a bandit. In a totalitarian environment, those in power will do anything they can to stay in power – from taking bribes to starving their people to killing any dissidents. Such leaders are dangerous not just to their people and nations, but to others as well. How much economic and personal hardship has the dictatorship of Fidel Castro caused in Cuba? Or the senseless violence and repression under Afghanistan’s Taliban leaders? Pol Pot was responsible for the deaths of millions of his citizens.

As a Christian, I acknowledge that all forms of authority have been ordained by God for some purpose. However, evil rulers are not exempt from responsibility for what they do. In Exodus we are shown the example of Pharoah who was given many opportunities to repent – or at least capitulate – but who hardened himself against God and His people. God used many wicked nations to bring judgement on His chosen race of Israel for their disobedience to His laws. In the New Testament, King Herod was consumed by worms on his throne for not giving glory to God for what He had allowed him to accomplish.

I disagree with those who consider the United States to be God’s new chosen land. Under the New Covenant all who have been truly saved are members of God’s Kingdom – regardless of where they reside in this life. However, I also hold that those with power and influence should use that power to accomplish good whenever they can. I believe we have accomplished a great deal of good in Iraq by removing Saddam from power. I belive we did a great deal of good in Afghanistan by removing the Taliban from power. And I belive we can do a great deal more good in convincing other distasteful leaders to renounce their current ways of doing business.

With God’s help, I hope those leaders can be removed from power peacefully, or have their hearts changed by a work of Christ in their lives. However, if such cannot be accomplished, I think that peace-loving countries like the United States and like-minded allies have a responsibility to act on the behalf of those cannot – or will not – act for themselves.

Whether that always needs to be done with military action is up for debate, but something should, can, and must be done about these maniacal individuals. With their current political climates and leaders, countries like Iran, North Korea, Syria, and the Sudan should not be entrusted with the capacity to use nuclear weapons. Programs to build those – or, indeed any type of weapon of mass destruction – need to be opposed by the international community. But if the community is too afraid to do it, they must be opposed by those who aren’t afraid to do what is right.

I pray that God will convert men like Kim Jong Il, Fidel Castro, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But if He won’t, I pray He will give the community of freedom- and peace-loving nations in the world the guts to stand up to him.

handgun experiences

In my recent northward foray over Easter weekend, I had an opportunity to go handgun shooting with friends, and I discovered a couple things.

First, I don’t like the Smith & Wesson Sigma model. It has a two-stage trigger, so the trigger is the safety (like Glock uses), and I don’t like it. It also sat in my hand funny, which didn’t help my impression of it. I did enjoy firing the Ruger .22 – it was almsot perfectly balanced and stable in my hand, though I can’t shoot it left-handed since it has a pronounced thumb rest on the left side of the handle for right-handed shooting.

The .357 Magnum revolver was a blast – literally. I hadn’t ever fired a revolver before, and the huge flash of light with every trigger pull was a little disconcerting at first, but the piece was very comfortable to shoot, and shot very tight groups. I also had the chance to fire a .380 Auto, which had surprisingly little kick. Though I didn’t like the sights on the piece, it was still fun to shoot, and it was very shortly after I started that I realized I had put 50 rounds through it.

This was the first time I had been out shooting any kind of handgun since I first went with a friend in Raleigh a year and a half ago. He owns a Glock subcompact in .40S&W, and I didn’t really like his gun much, though it shot well – it was way too small for my hand.

These varied experiences lead me into my real topic for this post. This summer I am planning to purchase a model 1911, probably from Kimber. I’m also looking at a secondary piece to purchase, but I haven’t decided whether to go with Springfield’s XD, something like the Ruger I shot on my trip, a Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum (Dirty Harry’s gun), a Golden Eagle, or a Smith & Wesson .500 Magnum.

If you have had any experience with any of these handguns, I would appreciate hearing from you.

new york international auto show

This past weekend I was visiting friends in New Jersey, and we went to Manhattan for the New York International Auto Show on Saturday. If you have never been to the NYIAS, it’s huge (held in the Javits Center), and has a ridiculous number of people in attendance each day.

Food is expensive at the event ($3.25 for a 20oz Coke), but with such a captive audience, free-market capitalism gets to shine and charge what people will pay for a drink. Needless to say, we didn’t buy much at the show, but waited till we left to grab something from a street vendor (all of whom were a lot cheaper). It’s also a total rip-off to park anywhere close to the convention center when an event is under way. Parking lots and garages double their fees just to nail people who don’t want to walk a long way. Had we known this ahead of time, we would’ve parked a mile away where the rate was <$12 including taxes. All in all the show was a lot of fun, though I wish it hadn't been as crammed. I got to climb in a bunch of vehicles, both ones that I was interested in, and not. I also found out that a couple cars I like the looks of I won't fit in, so they're off my list of possibles. For some reason most manufacturers don't get it when it comes to big folks. I fit fine in Mazda's Miata, the Mini Cooper, BMW's Z4, and even the short cab edition of the Ranger. However, the Chrysler Crossfire, one of the few non-Ford-family vehicles I like the looks of, is too small to fit even close to comfortably. When sitting in the driver's seat, I had less than 3 inches of clearance between my shins and the dashboard. In my Protege I have over 5. I also decided that while I like the looks of Cooper, and fit in it quite well, it's not on my graduation list. Mercedes' Smart brand is on the list, though only as a commuter vehicle. Right now the short list for cars is the Mazdaspeed6, Mazda MX5 Miata, Lotus Elise, Mazda RX8, and Volvo S60R. For non-cars, the short list is the Ford Escape, Landrover LR3, Volvo XC90, and Ford Ranger Supercab. All I need now is to graduate and get a job 🙂

dating sites

I’ve noticed (for a while now) that most dating and matching sites are all pay based. What I want to know is why? Yahoo! Personals, for example, requires a monthly subscription fee to use it for more than browsing. eHarmony is famous for allowing free scanning, but they charge a (seemingly high) monthly rate. also uses a subscription system. There are myriad others out there that all use the same basic concept – allow people to create a profile free, but as soon as they want to really use the service, it’s going to cost them.

It would seem to me that such a service should be able to be built and run based only on non-subscription revenue. Many people make a stable income from such services as Google’s AdSense. On high-traffic sites, that income has been reported to be as high as $100k/month or more. Even if it took some time to get the service noticed and utilized, I think such a service could be constructed and run entirely off ad revenues. A quick survey of available hosting packages from just one company shows dedicated servers with 4TB/month or transfer and 30GB of space for $99/month.

With such space and bandwidth available, and especially with the bonus of total administrative freedom of a dedicated box, I don’t see why someone doesn’t launch a free dating site. Basic requirements would include a demographics survey, space for an ‘about me’ narrative, a search feature, place to store a small collection of pictures, and some way to contact other members (email via scripted page?). I think it should also have a way of verifying members when they register for the site – a combination of captcha and email /text message exchange – to ensure that scripts aren’t registering bogus people.

A simple policy of “we won’t share your information with anyone without your permission, and we do not guarantee the accuracy of any profile on our site – please report suspicious activity to us at…” should absolve the administrators of any legal repurcussions if something doesn’t work out between members. Obviously, a lawyer should be consulted to get precise wording, but I think this has great potential.

Another feature that could be offered would be private or internal messages – like eBay uses. Members could intentionally change their message delivery preferences to have them delivered to their personal e-mail address, but would default to storing them on the server so that you have to login to communicate. Users should be able to block people they do not want to hear from in the future, too.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, and would be interested in building something like this with some help. If anyone reading this is interested in such an endeavour, please contact me.