Saturday, April 26, 2003

A recent editorial in the Japanese Times shows that the Japanese just don't get it. The op-ed says that the spate of rhetoric from the Axis of Weasels over the liberation of Iraq is far more damaging than any benefits we might gain from the recent war. The author also drags out the tired old "Arab street" bogeyman, stating that increased tensions over our victory might lead to a "clash of civilizations" between the US and the Islamic world.

Somebody should clue this guy in. For one thing, it's "increased tensions" from the 9/11 attacks that led to the American decision to seek out and put an end to support that terrorist organizations receive. Since the majority of Arab states either actively support terrorism or ignore it by refusing to actively pursue and arrest wanted terrorists, it looks to me like this "clash of civilizations" has already started. But it wasn't the US who fired the first shot.

So far as the Weasels are concerned, they tried very hard to stop the US from pursueing an action that's seen as being vital to our self defense and security. Sure, they can disagree, but doing anything in their power to prevent actions that America perceives as essential to saving lives? It's fair to say that it isn't the US who's destroying international relations.

The author ends by stating that the Japanese government has been a supporter of the US invasion, mainly due to fears about North Korea. He voices the wish that the US and Japan can defuse the situation "wisely" by using diplomacy.

What are they feeding people in the Land of the Rising Sun, anyway? Stupid pills? Hello! Diplomacy has already failed! North Korea admitted last year that they continued with their nuclear development program in direct violation of an agreement they had with the US. We held up our end, they decided to "unilaterally" ignore the deal and just go ahead with it anyway.

I figure that all that seaweed they eat must be screwing with their brains.

I was over at StrategyPage and I came across this item (no permalinks at SP, so look for the post from April 25, 2003). The post talks about how the 25mm automatic cannon (or "Bushmaster") that's mounted on the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle was able to chew through the thin side armor on the turret of the Iraqi T-72 Main Battle Tank.

This is extraordinary! The T-72 is one of the most copied and exported of all Soviet weapons systems (besides the AK-47, of course). Plenty of countries use them. And they're vulnerable to the armored truck we use to ferry infantry around!

The Bradley also has a missile launcher mounted on it. It fires TOW anti-tank missiles, and it was incredibly controversial when this modification was first introduced. The critics said that having two anti-tank missiles will encourage the crews to try and stand up to MBT's, something that the Bradley is most definately NOT designed to do. Predictions of slaughtered infantry platoons and burning Bradleys were thick and heavy.

The first Gulf War proved the critics wrong, and now the secondary armament has proven to be effective. Going up against American equipment is turning out to be a good way to meet your maker right quick.

Anyone want to buy some Soviet Main Battle Tanks? I bet you could pick them up cheap after this.

When looking for links to the post below, I found out that the actor that plays Wolverine in the X-Men movies, Hugh Jackman, is working on a film where he plays van Helsing, famed slayer of Dracula.

Mr. Jackman isn't the one being typecast. Instead it's Kate Beckinsale, an actress who also stars in the vampire flick UnderWorld.

I suppose it's not so bad. Some people work in the business for decades before finding the role for which you were born. Looks like Ms. Beckinsale lucked out and found it before she got too old.

I mentioned in the post below that I don't much like thriller type movies. Having some homicidal maniac come for me with a knife ...well, considering some of the stuff I have in the gun safe it would make for a really short movie. If I was away from home it still wouldn't be that long a show, since I'm smart enough to improvise an effective hand-to-hand weapon from practically anything.

Monster movies are different. Guns usually aren't all that effective against the monsters you see in the movies, but I'm sure that I'd still find a use for them.

I came across two new monster flicks that are soon to be released, both of which have plenty of undead creatures wandering around and plenty of guns used against them. They could be fun or they could be a bore.

The first one is a slick, big-budget vampire film called UnderWorld. It's about a war between vampires and werewolves, and some of the special effects that are shown in the trailer could mean that there might be something worth seeing. It stars ultra-thin Endlish actress Kate Beckinsale as one of the vampires. She's best known to American audiences as the nurse that the two pilots had the hots for in the indescribably dreadful Pearl Harbor, but I'm not going to hold that against her.

The other movie is an Australian direct-to-video made with no budget entitled Undead. Yet another zombie movie, but this one might be fun in a guilty-pleasures kind of way. Watch the trailer and make note of the farmer with the floppy hat and all of the guns tucked away in his bib overalls. I have to admit that there's a resemblance, but I'm more overweight than he is and my beard is more neatly trimmed.

I don't much like thriller movies. The movies that attract the good reviews usually reveal the critic's own prejudices. The plot has some homicidal rednecks threaten beautiful yuppie families with violence. Every so often they have violent rednecks attack each other. None of the yuppies own a gun, or bother to get one when they know that the rednecks are after them. It's pitiful.

Even though it has gotten good reviews from the usual suspects, tonight I went to see the new John Cusack movie, Identity. I was very pleasantly surprised!

Mr. Cusack plays a character who's competent, concerned for others and able to think on his feet. You don't often see that in this type of movie.

The plot also was....different. It pulled the rug out from under you about 2/3 of the way through ("Aha! It's not what you thought at all!") This will probably strike some as being too contrived, or too cutesy. But it does have the virtue of being entertaining.

Go see it. Highly recommended.

The Pork Chop Express is one year old!

Drop on by and wish Jack a happy birthday!

I mean "pissed" in the American definition of the term, not the English or Australian one.

Computer expert Jack Burton has a post up on his blog, discussing this item. He's upset by it. So am I.

The article discusses a new way that software companies can force you to pay for their products. They'll simply imbed a utility in your operating system that will make it impossible for you to copy software.

Okay, no problem with that. I think that people who sell software should be paid for it. Intellectual property might be non-physical, but it's still property. Copying it for resale without paying the guy who has the copyright is just plain wrong.

But it simply doesn't stop there. The utility in question, Palladium, will also make it more difficult (or even impossible) for you to copy software or shareware that you're entitled to use.

Well, that's still just an inconvenience. What alarms me is that, to make sure that things go as planned, they'll have to actually monitor your computer, and all of the files on it.

"It provides a computing platform on which you can't tamper with the applications, and where these applications can communicate securely with the vendor.

Pirate software can be detected and deleted remotely."

Excuse me? Remotely monitor my files? What, are these guys on drugs?

Thursday, April 24, 2003

I received an Email from a reader, suggesting that I look into some sort of device to help me gauge distance. There are a few choices available.

Laser Range Finders
These devices have become famous recently due to the targeting system on the M1 Abrams. They were originally developed with gunnery in mind, but they certainly have some civilians useas as well.

This is a pretty good example of one of the more useful models. It doubles as a binocular set, and it's marketed for the hunter/outdoorsman demographic.

Finding the range to target is crucial if the first shot from an artillery piece, and a few of them can lob a shell so far that the rotation of the Earth have to be included in the calculations. This means that not only do the cannon-cockers have to figure out where the target is on the surface of the planet, but they also have to figure out where the gun is (and what direction they're shooting).

A few of the civilian laser range finders have a GPS system incorporated into the unit. It certainly is a good idea to have some sort of land navigation device with you when you're out in the wilderness, but I'm not certain that most hunters would need to calculate the rotation of the planet when they're shooting at a deer.

Bottom line is that I really don't need a set of binoculars to be attached to the range finder, but it's tough to find one that doesn't have some sort of optics built in. Another consideration is the price. I really don't want to spend $150.00 USD minimum just to hone my ability to tell how far away stuff is.

Optical Range Finders
Back in WWI, they had optical devices to find range. Extremely accurate, they enabled the artillery of the day to provide pin-point fire support, sometimes striking enemy trenches just yards away from friendly troops. But they're sort of oversized for my purposes.

There are smaller examples available, but most of these high end models cost even more than the laser devices.

Golf to the rescue! Tiny, lightweight optical range finders are available through mail order. And they're very reasonably priced.

Something like that might be what I'm looking for.

I wrote about buying back Iraqi antiquities previously (just scroll down to the post AN IDEAL WORLD OR A REALISTIC ONE?. Blogger is being a butthead about links again).

The best post I found about the subject is right here. Go read it. You'll be glad that you did.

I wouldn't bother to read the Comments section, though. Most of those guys don't have a clue.

(Link courtesy of The Chicago Boyz)

I just found the following Email in my free Yahoo account.

"Dear Sir

I am writing in order to establish long-term and mutually profitable
cooperation with you and your organization.

Our company represents interests of a large wood industry manufacturer
located in Latvia. We are ready to produce euro pallets and deliver
them to the desired location according to all international commercial
terms. Since we are a direct producer, the desired condition for us is an
annual contract starting from 20.000 pallets.

Please let us know the amount of pallets you may require and we
will respond with an attractive business offer.

Best regards,

Marketing Department
ESH Group

Wood from Latvia. Heh heh.

What puzzles me about this is this whole "Euro pallets" thing. Can't figure that one out. I suppose that the pallets groan, creak and complain if there's any weight put on them, and then fall apart if someone tries to put a load on them that American pallets can handle just fine.

Other than that, I wonder why I keep getting Email from European firms trying to sell me industrial products. I must have an Email address similar to someone who runs a shipping company.

Either that or they come across this blog when they do a Google search. If they do it must puzzle those guys terribly.

A few days ago, Erica posted this post on her blog. She was wondering about the story that 20/20 had run concerning a chemical weapons dump in Russia.

I left a comment on her blog, pointing out that the Russians that 20/20 had interviewed were grossly exaggerating the lethality of the weapons. Sure, no one wants to be on the receiving end of a poison gas attack. But these guys made it seem that one of their artillery shells would kill tens of thousands.

The problem with that is that you'd have to tackle each of the 50,000 victims, hold them down, and spoon a tiny grain of the nerve agent into their nostril. Maybe then you'd be able to stretch the shell's payload far enough to actually kill that many people. No, instead you need TONS of the stuff to saturate an area, and it's extremely unlikely that an outlaw terrorist organization will be able to set up an attack with that much ordnance.

So they're blowing smoke, saying that the problem is much greater than it really is. Why would they do that? Mainly because the US was going to pay for the destruction of the nerve agents, but we've decided to hold up the payments. I'm sure that there were plenty of hands dipping into the cookie jar but now there's not going to be any more refills. The Russians are inviting American media outlets to come and view the deplorable security measures, something that's profoundly stupid if things are as they say they are. After all, they have an ongoing problem with Chechnya terrorists. How credible is it that a terrorist organization would sneak into Russia just to steal weapons to use against the US? Isn't it more likely that home grown terrorists would use it in Russia?

Okay, so they're trying to scare the American voters into untying the purse strings. I doubt it will work.

So now the Russians are trying another tack. For decades the American street has been berated with tales from anti-war types about the dangers of nuclear....well, nuclear anything. It's gotten so bad that people will accept as a fact that the two cities in Japan that were nuked in WWII were poisoned by radiation, even though you can stay at luxury hotels built on ground zero at both cities.

Knowing this extreme and irrational fear, the Russians are now trying to extort money with fears of the nuclear boogy man. Notice that the article mentions that "International donors have pledged hundreds of millions of dollars ..." to the Russians.

Hey, isn't the reactor in the Ukraine? So why talk to us about it? Sure, it's nice to help but we have other projects in the works right now.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Midtem week at college. 600 pages of dead Greek guys bloviating to read before Friday.

I'll get back to generating stuff that'll bore you to tears in a few days. Until then it will be sparse, but there should be something new every day.

My vision has always been lousy. Severly nearsighted, that was me. If my feet were bare and I didn't have my glasses on I could see this big ol' blob on the end of my leg. I could tell it was a foot because of the shape, but those little blobs sticking off the end of it? I couldn't see clearly enough to say for certain that they were toes.

For years I had heard about eye surgery that would correct vision problems. Eighteen months ago I decided to take the plunge, and I had laser eye surgery. Now my dominant eye is 20/20, and my off eye is 20/30. No more glasses.

Surprisingly, this has had very little effect so fas as my shooting ability is concerned. I wondered about this for some time, but the answer why came to me when I went frisbee golfing with some friends of mine. I found that I was overestimating the ranges to the targets every time. The length of each hole was from 150 feet to 320 feet, but I could've sworn that it was the same range in yards!

The reason was that I could see more clearly, and I was used to 38 years of judging distances by how blurry stuff looked. It didn't bother me when I was at the shooting range because I was so used to it. The target is right there, so it has to be 50 yards away. Or whatever.

This has gotten me to thinking. Since my old methods of judging distance isn't going to work anymore, what can I do to estimate range?

The easiest way is the oldest. I found a busy intersection with plenty of foot traffic and I paced off 100 yards. Then I sat there with my fist held out at arm's length, closed one eye and stared at my thumb sticking up in the air, measuring people's height against the digit. This works for just about everyone, but there's differences due to the size of people's hands. Bigger thumbs mean that only the nail should be used, smaller hands (like mine) mean that the entire thumb is the yardstick.

This takes some time to get used to. I'm going to do it every day for a few months until I get the hang of it. I'll let you know if anyone thinks that I'm hitching and offers me a ride.

Monday, April 21, 2003

So some looters swarmed into the Baghdad museum and carried off everything they could. (Some profoundly ignorant people are claiming that this makes the US a bunch of war criminals, but we'll discuss that another time.)

The official policy of most archaelogical organizations is to never ever pay for artifacts. The idea is that no one would ever actually steal any treasures from our past if they didn't profit from it.

This is sheer idiocy. I've known this for decades, ever since my first trip to Gettysburg, PA. Many of the veterans of the battle, years later, bought monuments that they placed in the park. These monuments usually featured a bronze statue in a realistic combat pose, almost always with a soild brass musket as part of the display. Most of these statues have lost their hands.

Vandals broke off their hands at the wrist so they could take the bronze musket home with them. This happened long before there was any fascination with the Civil War or the Battle of Gettysburg. These morons just wanted a souvenir.

Last week Hershel Shank, editor of the Biblical Archeaological Review, suggested that this policy was less than realistic. If you want to actually preserve stolen antiquities then you're going to have to pay the people that have them. If museums don't want to do it then private individuals will certainly cough up the bucks in order to fill out their own collections. If that happens then these cultural and historical treasures will be lost.

I don't have a problem with that. Sometimes you just have to recognize the fact that reality trumps idealism.

This op-ed in the OpinionJournal discusses the simularities between the long struggle against Communism and the present War on Terror.

It's a pretty good read, but the thing that caught my attention was the following remark.

"Americans love to believe an odd notion that history keeps disproving: that once we have fixed the outside world, it ought to have the good grace to stay fixed."

All too true. We do like to beleive that. And it's an endless source of frustration to us that it never seems to work out that way.

Take our recent victory in Iraq. While the situation has hardly deterioated, and good work is being done to lay the foundation for a democratic government, we also have people who're trying to cash in.

But the author, R. James Woolsey, argues that we win almost all of the time. He points to the increasing number of democracies as proof.

"The victory has been remarkable. In the 89 years since August 1914, the world has gone from having about a dozen democracies (and in those only men voting) to, by Freedom House's count, 121 today--89 free, 32 partly free. This is literally an order-of-magnitude increase, to over 60% of the world's governments--an extraordinary development within a single human lifetime. Many of these countries became democracies during and at the end of the Cold War, and relatively few did so by force of American arms (although our military capabilities, including nuclear deterrence, protected the democracies while we undermined the communist system)."

Well, he has a point.