fighting the lack of good ideas

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.

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.

technology and baseball

I subscribe to a slew of RSS feeds on a couple different sites, from technology to world news, sports to medicine, there’s a bunch of really cool benefits to getting news feeds.

This morning I noticed an item on Wired about technology’s impact on baseball (original story). In it, Tony Long shares his love and frustration of technology in the grand ole game of baseball.

I agree with his premise: technology has done more to harm the game than help it. Beyond improvements in medical procedures to get players back up to game speed in an amazingly short time, the focus on technology in the game has made it a lot less fun. When I was a young kid, watching baseball was fun because you could get mad at the umpire for calling a strike on your favorite batter, or calling the pitch a ball which clearly wasn’t.

Improving players’ abilities through video analysis of their swing/throw/slide/whatever has made for a more equal pairing between players than should exist. Knowing about the guy who’s pitching to you should come from your experience, and maybe watching a few other games he’s pitched, not inspecting every throw he’s ever made ever caught on tape.

Another problem with this focus on technology has been the balooning cost of keeping players and of going to a game in person. The last major league game I went to cost $50 per person. The last minor league game I went to was $7. You don’t see such an intense focus on improving players through analysis in the minors, which makes those games lots of fun. From where I live in NC, I’m within 30 minutes of three minor league teams (Bulls, Grasshoppers, Indians), and I can go to Elon games for free.

College and minor league teams don’t spend lots of money on technology to improve their players because they don’t have to. Their players are out there for fun – not money. Most minor league players have other ‘real’ jobs, and college players have classes – and sometimes work – to attend to. Somewhere along the lines, those few who make it to big leagues get caught up in a very powerful money-making machine. The owners, the league, radio and tv broadcasters – they’re all trying to make money off the game. To make more money, and to justify $10-million-a-year contracts to a guy who’ll only be able to play for 2-8 years, the owners and the league have pushed for technological improvements. They’ve pushed for a unification and standardization of what used to be a ‘game of inches’. Now it’s a game of microns.

I love watching baseball, but have become less and less fond of the majors over the past few years. As much as I love technology in other arenas, I wish it would get out of the way in sports.

Bring back that game I liked as a kid.