Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Beautiful Psuedo-Holiday

And yea, the signage did proclaim:

Earth Day 2011
Over 580,000 Sheets were printed in the library from September 2010 through April 2011.
= 16.67 Reams of Paper
*All signage and displays for Earth Day have been printed with previously used copy paper. All of which was left over from student printing. See the front desk for such scratch paper if you need it.

The irony is thick. In a library, the hallowed scion of learning and reading which has rows upon rows of the nifty devices known as books, a protest echoes forth regarding paper. As is well documented, books are composed of little else then paper, ink, and the mind of the author. Even today, in a world full of kindles and iPads, books at the library are on paper. 
Books bought by the library are paper.
Newspapers and periodicals bought by the library are paper.
The college paper, given away for free, is on paper. 

I'm also not sure as to the math used on this, as I can't figure how a ream of paper approximates to 34,793 sheets of paper. 
Regardless of this math, each and every sheet of paper is paid for in a hidden manner. The cost is not directly evident to the student printing, as up to 20 pages can be printed by each user. If the school was serious was about limiting printing, pass the cost of each print directly onto the user, rather then distributing it to every individual on campus. As it is, I have paid money for the printing of someone else's work, without having printed a single sheet from a printer. Kindly do not lecture me about paper use when I have been compelled to pay for the printing of other students by the college I attend. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Taliban's Great Escape

Now, for a human interest story:
"During the long Afghan winter, Taliban insurgents were apparently busy underground.
The militants say they spent more than five months building a 1,050-foot tunnel to the main prison in southern Afghanistan, bypassing government checkpoints, watch towers and concrete barriers topped with razor wire.
The diggers finally poked through Sunday and spent 4 1/2 hours ferrying away more than 480 inmates without a shot being fired, according to the Taliban and Afghan officials. Most of the prisoners were Taliban militants.
Accounts of the extraordinary prison break, carried out in the dead of night, suggest collusion with prison guards, officials or both."

I understand now what it means when we say the Taliban is digging into the mountains. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Review: Atlas Shrugged Part 1

When I first caught wind of a movie production of the novel Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (rhymes with 'mine'), I was skeptical it would ever be completed. For a host of reasons, this best selling novel has never had an on screen portrayal until now. 
What a portrayal it is.

Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 should be considered for what it is, a low-budget, independently produced labor of love that faithfully replicates its source material. The strengths and weaknesses of Rand's work are brought forth fully on the screen, albeit in an abridged and refreshed form. The refreshes include cell phones and the various integral facets of life in the world of fallen USA 2016. Those who read or adored the book will appreciate the manner in which it was done. The attention to the details of the story and the flourishes on the sets are representative and work well on screen, for those who are looking for them.

But  Atlas Shrugged shines, both as a book and as a movie, when the characters, their motivations, and the ideals that drive them onward are center stage. The steel magnate Hank Rearden, the railroad savior Dagney Taggart, the oil tycoon of Colorado Ellis Wyatt, the varied and sundry line up of villains, and the elusive John Galt are the pistons that drive this engine. Taylor Schilling and Paul Johansson nail the characterizations of Taggard and Rearden, the two heroes of a crumbling world. They are thinly veiled automatons of a conflicted idealogy, but its nice to have faces attached to warring mindsets. This is most blatantly obvious, even painful to watch, for the middle 40 minutes of the movie. More the fault of the book then the movie. However, this movie would have been unmitigated awfulness if Schilling had a poor performance, and for an easy 90% of her screen time she nailed Taggarts character.  

The most powerful component of the tale lies in the quietly menacing accuracy of its villains. Each and everyone looks to the government to solve their problems, and the problems of the world around them, and seek to pillage or restrict the efforts of the productive individuals (apparently this is limited exclusively to Taggart and Rearden). Most frightening is the realization that much of what is preached by the 'looters and moochers' is what is said all to frequently from Washington today, and would probably receive agreement from a large part of the audience. The film hinges on a scene in Rearden's office. When asked to sell the rights to his new invention (Rearden metal) to the state nation or to cease production, Rearden replies by asking directly if his metal is good.  The state lackey can muster no answer, having no basis or morality to take a position on. 
This is the foundation of Rand's work, that the only morality to make judgement on is what she deems objectivism, and that all else is rubbish. (Side note, it really is impossible to review this without wandering off into philosophical discussion)

For what this movie tries to do, it does well. An uncompromising adaptation of Atlas Shrugged, reveling in the glories and the pitfalls of its source material. By far the most faithful adaptation I've seen, rife with all the little subplots that make the book so fascinating as well. 

Recommendation 1, read the book.
Recommendation 2, the movie is pretty good too. You'll watch it and then not want to read the book because you will think you have it all down, which is sad. Because you won't have understood it yet. But its a good try.

Movie Trailer
Audiobook (Get it for Free)
Paperback Book

Monday, April 18, 2011

'I Didn't Know Men Could Build Such Things'

From the Cato Institute.
The past decade it particularly appalling, as there is no respite to be found in the 'conservative' administrations of Bush, Bush or Regan. 

Michigan: Medicate Your Child or She's Gone Forever

For the heated, tendentious article that is how you will feel:

For the MSM account:
Detroit News

To summarize:

  • Child had an amputation, mother home schooled her.
  • Child wants to go to public school after a few years.
  • State decides she is now required to take her meds.
  • Mom says no, takes her off Resiperdal
  • State brings in SWAT Team, breaks in the house after 10 hours
  • Mom goes to jail, faces multiple Felony charges and $500,000 Bail
  • State decides Girl does not need Resiperdal.
  • Mom, Daughter both in separate prisons run by the state for being family. 
The root of this lies in the ability of the CPS to acquire a warrant for the kidnapping of the girl, piled on by the presence of a para-military policy unit to escalate the situation. That they are both still locked up is an abject blight upon the face of any pretense of freedom in the state of Michigan. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Fahrenheit 451

Internationally acclaimed with more than 5 million copies in print, Fahrenheit 451 is Ray Bradbury's classic novel of censorship and defiance, as resonant today as it was when it was first published nearly 50 years ago.
This is a novel deceptive in length and saturated with thought. Because of Ray Bradbury's pellmell writing style, what could have been a monotonous slog through a dystopian world blasted by the tyranny is in fact one of the most enjoyable fictional books I've come across.

Bradbury reaches across all levels of a person, loitering not only in the mind of the reader but also in the heart as well. The passion of Montag to know, to be, to feel something real and authentic and free is riveting. The story follows his progression from a fireman who's responsibility to burn all published works to a person freed from the shackles of an oppressive society that is frighteningly similar to what ours can grow into.

Here's what it is: A Classic. One everyone needs to read, and I would even suggest a re-read. You will not regret it.

If you liked 1984, Brave New World, The Illustrated Man or Atlas Shrugged you will like this book.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

TSA Policy: Molest Children Leaving Airports

ABC News: "The girl's father said that while his daughter was polite and respectful during the screening, she broke down into tears afterwards.

"Initially she was just confused," Todd Drexel said. "She really didn't understand what she had done wrong." He said he and his wife struggled with how to explain to their child what had happened after teaching her previously it was not ok to be touched in certain places. "Now she's been pat down in a public setting, in an airport."
The family was leaving New Orleans Armstrong International Airport when the incident happened on April 5. The Drexels have two other children, a 9-year-old and a 2-year-old."
Blogger Bob (intentionally reminiscent of Baghdad Bob?) of our Transportation Security Administration chips in with a gem:
"A video taken of one of our officers patting down a six year-old has attracted quite a bit of attention. Some folks are asking if the proper procedures were followed. Yes. TSA has reviewed the incident and the security officer in the video followed the current standard operating procedures."

At what point did it become necessary to do the following:
1. Sponsor child molestation
2. Require the Parents to watch.
3. Molest children leaving airports
4. Engage in random screenings without probably cause? Hello, 4th amendment?

In no way is this an isolated incident, as the TSA has done the same to disembarking train passengers (Bonus, Minors included!), stolen from those who are 'protected', indexed naked pictures of airline passengers, ripped off the taxpayer, and pilfered receipts" 

This particular Rubicon was passed in the wake of 9/11. In the media fueled, GOP encouraged rush to trade the liberties of the individual in for the sake of the security of society, the ground work for this nightmare was crafted. The Department of Homeland Security, created under George W. Bush under the steadying hand of a militia of neocon advisers created yet another federal monster. 
When did we start calling it homeland? When did the Department of Defense become insufficient for military threats, and the National Security Agency become insufficient for domestic intelligence, and the FBI become insufficient for enforcing laws that clearly forbade terrorism? When did it become acceptable to require Americans to remove their shoes for the sole purpose of proving innocence for a crime that has not been committed? 
Its a burgeoning state of fear that is being sold to us, a state based neither on rational reason nor emergency. This state we are growing into seeks to propagate its own power for the sake of greater power, for the profit of those involved on the inside track. In regards to the TSA, see Michael Chertoff and Rapiscan.

Sadly, there is no change en route from the champions of so called social justice. National Democrats are a party devoid of ideas without interest in giving up the power of government in any form. In that manner, they sail under the same flag as the National Republicans.  May God help us, for we seem unable to help ourselves. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

TSA To Children: Molestation is Ok

In the event that america has yet to realize that its government is groping and drug testing 6 year olds looking to peacefully board a flight with their mothers, this should serve as a reminder.

Caption for the video:
"Watch out, she may look like a 6 year old child but shes actually high on crack with a bomb in her pocket"

Monday, April 11, 2011

Chicago Schools Ban Lunches

The Lookout: "
Students who attend Chicago's Little Village Academy public school get nothing but nutritional tough love during their lunch period each day. The students can either eat the cafeteria food--or go hungry. Only students with allergies are allowed to bring a homemade lunch to school, the Chicago Tribune reports.
"Nutrition wise, it is better for the children to eat at the school," principal Elsa CarmonaƂ told the paper. "It's about ... the excellent quality food that they are able to serve (in the lunchroom). It's milk versus a Coke."
But students said they would rather bring their own lunch to school in the time-honored tradition of the brown paper bag. "They're afraid that we'll all bring in greasy food instead of healthy food and it won't be as good as what they give us at school," student Yesenia Gutierrez told the paper. "It's really lame."" (H/t Aaron)
 It is nice to see at least one school joining the TSA in its policy in regards to Bring Your Own Fluids, consistency is to be prized.
The idea that a school lunch is nutritious, pleasant and good for kids is a ribald tale of excess and ignorance. Its been getting worse for a while, here is a good blog on it, 'The Massive Disgusting School Lunch Issue', which if the title is insufficient to be a clue, the post is eye opening. 
To put it simply, the incentives are misaligned. The food production (Not cooking, production) for a school cafeteria happens regardless of the nutrition or satisfaction to its consumers. The kids don't pay for it, so there is little reason to make it well. The funding will continue to pass through, and the workers will continue to be employed in their mediocrity, regardless of the outcome at the table. There is probably a rational thought behind this food ban, and it lies with the funding for the school. The more students on the lunch, weather they eat it or throw it away, the more funding to the district. How do you approach 100% free lunch consumption? Mandate it. 
Contrary to this are parents, who have a very keen interest in the health and feeding of their children. If the kid is unhappy with the meal, the parents will hear it. If the child is receiving lopsided nutrition as a result of meals, the parents are going to be the first to notice and to rectify it. As adults have different nutritional needs, so do children. There is not a One-Size-Fits-All lunch option that can work for everyone, there is simply to much aggregation to meet the needs of individuals.
The caretakers of the children do not have the interest of the children in mind.
For those that have missed it, see how Coke stacks up with Milk in regards to lunch.  

EDIT: Best comment so far:
"What if they stopped making video games...or teaching kids to sit all day at their desks in preparation for their cubicle-bound jobs that are seriously bad for their health."

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Don Boudreaux: What a Joke

So good, I'm reposting it.  Don Boudreaux of George Mason University and Cafe Hayek
"Suppose that in a mere three years your family’s spending – spending, mind you, not income – jumps from $80,000 to $101,600.  You’re now understandably worried about the debt you’re piling up as a result of this 27 percent hike in spending.
So mom and dad, with much drama and angst and finger-pointing about each other’s irresponsibility and insensitivity, stage marathon sessions of dinner-table talks to solve the problem.  They finally agree to reduce the family’s annual spending from $101,600 to $100,584.
For this 1 percent cut in their spending, mom and dad congratulate each other.  And to emphasize that this spending cut shows that they are responsible stewards of the family’s assets, they approvingly quote Sen. Harry Reid, who was party to similar negotiations that concluded last night on Capitol Hill – negotiations in which Congress agreed to cut 1 percent from a budget that rose 27 percent in just the past three years.  Said Sen. Reid: “Both sides have had to make tough choices.  But tough choices is what this job’s all about.”"

Friday, April 08, 2011

Please Do

I really hope the government is shut down tonight. 

This may be a pleasant awakening to the public that we really don't need this government to do what this government has been doing.

See 6 Pages of Obamacare equals 486 pages of Health and Human Services regulations. (Why do we have a HHS, to force people to be healthy?)

Thursday, April 07, 2011

The Rational Optimist

The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity EvolvesAfter hearing Matt Ridley's interview with Russ Roberts on the podcast Econtalk, I knew that I needed to read this book. The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves is a cursory analysis of human development, the growth of civilizations and its subsequent prosperity. Ridley develops the first half focusing on how trade affected the individual and through the individual, the world. The second half takes off, demonstrating how dire predictions of failing civilizations have been wrong before, and are likely to continue being only falsehoods.

Unique among authors dealing with the economics of the future, Ridley is by training an Evolutionary Biologist. As the world is created by God, I was hesitant about this initially, believing this to be a bad foundation for a work about human development. My suspicions were allayed as the book spends very little time dealing with the origins of man, and rather with how we moseyed along once we had existence.

I recommend this book. My personal experience was as an Audiobook, and the narration was well done, although I spent much of the time at +20% speed.
From the written side, Matt Ridley's blog is also stimulating, and I have quoted this book before.

Audiobook (Remember the Free Book)


If you liked Freakonomics, Blink, or A Splendid Exchange you will like this.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

New Sponsor

Starting this week, this blog has received a new sponsor in the form of I am really excited about this for a couple of reasons.

1. Audiobooks are a unique medium. One wants to say 'I read these books', but it really is something else having them read to you by a skilled narrator. The reading soaks in, but its not as if you turn pages. 
If you're an auditory learner, this is a marvelous method of reading books. Audible is not your daddy's cassette tapes, it is crystal clear narration in digital form. Playback is for iPods(I use a nano), iPhones, Android phones, Blackberries, Zunes, and a plethora of other music players. It's also easy to burn to a CD, for playback in any car system.

2. I have personally been an customer since August of 2009, and have read/listened to exactly 22 audiobooks from there since then. Every interaction with the company has been resolved to my satisfaction, from changing payment methods to refunds for a crummy book to tech questions regarding product functionality.

3. The utility of this product is astounding, and something you likely will not fully appreciate until you try it with a good book. Great for filling in all that vacant time for your mind.
As an example, this has been my usages within the past week. Working out, driving, mowing, dishes, taking out the garbage, time between classes, and washing the car. All told, over 8 hours of reading I would have not had without an audiobook on my iPod.
(Simple trick, whatever the amount of time it takes to listen to an audiobook, divide by 2 for the amount of time to read it on paper. Ergo, I would have spent 4 hours reading on paper to match it)

Good news for you, the reader. As part of the sponsorship from Audible, there is are two open offers to try audible.

There are not any gimmicks on this, you can pick any book from the 60,000+ in the Audible catalog and keep it forever.  

You select the Audible Gold option, and the first month is free with no charge attached. This sounds fishy, but I did it myself a few years back. You can keep the book, even if you don't pay a dime in subscription, just get the book and cancel the subscription within 14 days if you so desire. But you will love it so much, you won't cancel.

This option is for 1 book a month for 3 months, at 50% off. If you know you already like audiobooks, this option is for you. Ridiculously cheap for an audiobook of your choice.

Reviews on more books will be forthcoming, these two included.

March Sadness Comes to a Close

The McCafferty Family has been granted permission by the Overlords of Delaware (of the I don't Want to arrest your wifeWe're not out in search of hoops to cut down fame) to pick up the basketball goal that was rightfully stolen and return it home. Well, almost.

Delaware Online: ""I'm glad it's back," Nuttall said. "Hopefully, they'll change the law, and I can put it back in."
Short said state law won't allow the residents to put the poles back where they were. They must be set back from the road to avoid a traffic hazard, which McCafferty said he'll do.
"The law says 7 feet 6 inches, so I'll put it at 7 feet 7 inches," McCafferty said, vowing to create a concrete pad between the curb and the hoop.
"If I have to break up my sidewalk, I'll do that," he said."

The actions of the McCafferty family are admirable and something we all need to imitate. That which governs over them does a disservice to its citizens. 

Monday, April 04, 2011

Transocean Passing Out Saftey Bonuses

Aljazeera: "Transocean Ltd., the owner of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that exploded off the Gulf of Mexico last year, has given its top executives bonuses for achieving the "best year in safety performance in our company's history'',
despite the blast that killed 11 people and spilled 200 million gallons of oil into the ocean.

Transocean noted "the tragic loss of life'' in the Gulf when the rig operated by BP PLC exploded last April. But it said the company still had an "exemplary'' safety record because it met or exceeded certain internal safety targets concerning the frequency and severity of its accidents, according to the filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday.

Safety accounts for a quarter of the executives' total cash bonuses. The total bonus for CEO Steve Newman last year was $374,062."

If this is their best, what is a bad year for these guys??