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Friday, October 31, 2014

I Like It!

An alert reader sent this story in, (rightfully) thinking I'd dig it...

What This Company Did With Legos In Their Office Is Amazing. Can I Work There?
How cool would it be to work in an office made entirely out of Lego bricks? While we're not quite there yet, Hamburg, Germany-based creative studio NPIRE is a lot closer than most offices.

For the last year, employees at NPIRE slowly built a colorful wall of Legos to divide their kitchen space from the hallway. The finished product is the coolest piece of office furniture you've ever seen.
They've got the full progression at the link, but here's the end product:

Wall 'o' Lego!

Naturally, that got me to thinking... With the wall sufficiently deep, it should be more than adequate as a partition (obviously not load-bearing...). The question, of course, becomes one of cost: How much did this cost just in materials? One of the pictures shows the starting materials; assuming that's all the bricks needed, there's 30 large buckets and about 50 of the smaller boxes. The large blue buckets are over $100 each; the boxes are $30 each. There's close to $5,000 in Legos there...

Yeah, I think at that price I'd stick with 2X4s and sheetrock...

That is all.

Top. Men. Part II

We are in the very best of hands. And by that I mean WTF...

Shades of 'Fast and Furious': ATF Let Smuggler Take Grenade Parts to Mexico
In a case comparable to the botched “Fast and Furious” gun-running investigation, ATF agents and federal prosecutors in Arizona endangered public safety by allowing a suspect to smuggle grenade parts into Mexico for possible use by drug cartels, the U.S. Department of Justice’s inspector general reported Thursday.

The report said the Office of the Inspector General first learned of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) grenade parts sting during its investigation of Operation “Fast and Furious,” in which agents purposely allowed licensed firearms dealers to sell weapons to illegal straw buyers, hoping to track the guns to Mexican drug cartel leaders and arrest them.
Now, in all fairness, this happened around the same time as Fast & Furious, so I think that these are related incidents. It doesn't make it any less stupid, mind you. What rocket scientist gave the green light to this idea? "Hey, I've got an idea! Why don't we let smugglers bring hand grenade components into Mexico so we can track them?" "Well, make sure you track them. Remember what happened to the rifles?" "Uh, gee Fred, I lost the grenades."

I honestly don't know which is scarier, that this was either some evil genius plan to generate public support for more gun control that went horribly wrong, or that the people in charge of the ATF really are this incredibly stupid. Both frighten me equally. Neither is terribly appealing, either. While the old saw is that we should never attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity, this is pretty flippin' stupid.

It's frightening that I'd rather this be some diabolical plot poorly executed than just people dumber than a bag of hammers coming up with these ideas...

That is all.

Friday Car Pr0n #54

I'm going with a particular era for today, because, really, they're all good.

Early 1970s Cadillac El Dorados. Anything from '71 through '76 (last year of the convertibles). Maybe it was the ginormous 500 cubic inch motor. Maybe it was the front wheel drive - so, basically, the entire rear 3/4 of the car was dead weight to the giant engine and front wheels.

No matter how you look at it, the early '70s El Dorado was a definitive piece of American motor.

I will admit to a bit of prejudice here. In my youth, a friend's brother was selling a '74 El Dorado convertible that I was itchin' to buy. Oh, sure, the roof was more duct tape than canvas, and the frame had some rot, and the motor was losing compression, but it was a '74 Cadillac El Dorado, man. Same kind like Boss Hogg had!

When the engine threw a thick cloud of blue smoke, shuddered, and then died before we could even do the test drive, I had to pass on it - and I thought long and hard...

That is all.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

I Love My Job...

...because, among numerous other reasons, I get to check out some mighty cool stuff.

Like the Mesa Tactical LEO Telescoping Stock Conversion kit. It's a kit that attaches to your Remington 870 (or, in my case, a Mossberg 590) and coverts the standard grip into a recoil-reducing, adjustable-stocked unit with QD sling swivel mounts.

Even cooler, the conversion piece will take standard AR-15 grips and buttstocks. Now, the grip is slightly limited, in that aftermarket grips with extended backstraps won't work, but the buttstock is wide open. It came with a mil-spec stock; I put a Magpul MOE stock on for the moment, although I won't rule out the Mission First Tactical Battlelink.

Did I mention recoil-reducing? Because it is - it's got a built-in hydraulic piston that absorbs some of the recoil to make the 12 gauge kick a little less. That's nice and handy, especially if you're putting on a lightweight stock. Between the overmolded Hogue pistol grip and the recoil-reducing stock, I suspect that shooting the 590 with even 3" Magnums will be a lot more pleasant.

And installation? Fahgedaboudit. It took longer to remove the Butler Creek folding stock than it did to install the Mesa Tactical unit. And it didn't take long to remove the folder. Basically, you attach the central converter to the shotgun, add the pistol grip, then screw the stock extension into the converter. Done. Easy peasy.

Going to run a few shells through it this weekend and see how well it works...

That is all.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

They All Look Alike, Anyways...

Libertyman sends in installment # 4,178 in the "Imagine if a Republican had said this" files.

Video: Warren mixes up Vermont and New Hampshire on The View
“Talk about American history,” Senator Elizabeth Warren says, but then fails at American geography — and presidential politics. Earlier today, Warren tried singing the praises of Jeanne Shaheen, currently in a fight to retain her seat in the Senate against former Senator Scott Brown — whom Warren beat in 2012 in Massachusetts. One might think that a Commonwealth official could tell the difference between Vermont and New Hampshire, especially one who might need support in the latter for a future presidential run, as the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake notes:
Yeah, you read that right. Elizabeth Warren, newly elected Senator in Massachusetts, which borders both states, doesn't even know who Jeanne Shaheen represents. Nice. I've been out of MA for a year and out of NH for nearly 20 years and I know who the senators and governors are. And I'm just a dumb gun writer, not a highly educated college professor.

No, seriously. Imagine if Chris Christie had come to New Hampshire to stump for Scott Brown and said something similar. Imagine if he had placed Brown in VT rather than NH. Remember, again, the same media that crucified Christie over "Bridgeghazi" - harping on it for months at a time - used the "-ghazi" from Benghazi, even though they completely and utterly failed to investigate the events of Benghazi itself.

From Clinton lying about the cause to the State Department allowing American citizens to die at the hands of muslim extremists rather than admit that terrorism was still real and a threat, there was more than enough meat in that story to interest an actual journalist. Sadly, none are left. Instead, they droned on and on about how horrible it was that Chris Christie's staff *might* have closed lanes on a bridge, resulting in bad traffic delays, as some sort of political payback for not getting political support.

Yes, in the eyes of the media, a Republican playing politics is more of a story than a Democrat allowing American citizens to die needlessly.

Just like in this case, Elizabeth Warren, the lightweight di tutti lightweights (and a strong contender for our next President if Hillary! opts not to run), can't even be bothered to check on the state Shaheen represents, even though it's a bordering state and she's been stumping for Shaheen. Had the political parties been reversed this would have been a front page story, with news talking heads shaking their heads over this idiot Republican. Saturday Night Live would have fallen over themselves writing 9,000 jokes about the gaffe. Jon Stewart would be sure to mock the pol mercilessly.

But if it's a Democrat, well, the crickets are just deafening...

That is all.

So, There Was An Earth-Shattering Kaboom...

By now, I'm sure everyone has heard that the private space launch by Orbital Science exploded six seconds into takeoff (side note: They called it a "vehicle anomaly." I'll have to remember that the next time I have to call my insurance company...)

Naturally, this led to a round of navel-gazing and finger-pointing and NASA swearing up and down that this means we CANNOT RELY ON PRIVATE MEANS for launching satellites and such.

Because, you know, NASA's never lost an unmanned rocket, right?

This time, they got lucky. It was an unmanned rocket and no one was hurt on the ground. A shame about the equipment that was lost, of course; I suspect that Orbital Science is going to be seeing an uptick in their insurance policy. Even Flo at Progressive couldn't overlook this one...

It's funny how we seem to have this ingrained need to divide ourselves into camps. Republican vs. Democrat. Left vs. Right. 1911 vs. Glock. OC vs. CC. No matter what the issue, you'll find folks with passionate beliefs as to why their way is the ONE TRUE WAY and that other guy is an idiot/evil/stupid/etc. In this particular case, you've got the battle lines being drawn over whether private space exploration should be allowed/encouraged/banned/etc.

Some feel that an undertaking this large should be the purview of the government, that it is so large and encompasses so much that it's better left to the folks that build the roads and man the armies. Also, since there's much in space that is either directly or indirectly related to the military or to vital communication, the government has a clear need for access to the means to launch satellites, repair crews, etc.

Others feel that private exploration and launches are the only way that space will be conquered, that the same entrepreneurial spirit that gives us lightning fast broadband internet, near-universal wi-fi, and computers so inexpensive that most Americans own at least one will be the wave of space exploration. A generation raised on Star Trek (ironically a government-funded, quasi-military organization) and Robert Heinlein (pretty much the polar opposite) believes that allowing man to reach for the stars on his own will yield great dividends.

It's hard to pick a camp, really. The government has shown a shocking tendency to screw up pretty much everything it comes in contact with, leaving horror stories of graft, corruption, and breathtaking incompetence behind. Need proof? I'll give you two words' worth: Big Dig. We were sold this tremendous bill of goods there, with promises of alleviating traffic in Boston and keeping the cost low. Cut to the end of the project, and it's billions of dollars over budget, traffic is as bad as ever, and large swaths of the ceiling are falling down and killing people.

The only other large-scale work that private industry can point to is the railroad system, and history tells us how that worked out. Robber barons and monopolies led to dynasties like the Vanderbilts and Goulds, people that made (for the time) obscene amounts of money and essentially held the nation hostage to the allure of rapid, easy transit. Compared to horseback, traveling by rail was light-years ahead. In a fairly rapid turn of events, though, rail was superseded by air travel and the interstate highway system.

There's a balance: with the government in charge, we're unlikely to see advances like we do in the private sector. Government wheels move slowly -- the old saw about the heaviest element being Administratium. True innovation is driven by private industry and the chance to have the next big thing -- the next Google, Apple, MicroSoft, or IBM. Clamp down on space travel, leave it solely in the government domain, and we see things like the space shuttle, a vehicle designed by committee that was innovative for a short period, then collapsed under its own weight.

Losing millions of dollars of equipment isn't going to help the private sector argument, though...

That is all.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Doing The Jobs Americans Won't Do...

You know, like ambushing police officers for no reason whatsoever...

Suspect in killing of deputies was twice deported
A man suspected of killing two deputies during a shooting rampage in Northern California was deported twice to Mexico and had a drug conviction, federal authorities said Saturday.

The suspected shooter told Sacramento County Sheriff's investigators that he was 34-year-old Marcelo Marquez of Salt Lake City. However, his fingerprints match the biometric records of a Luis Enrique Monroy-Bracamonte in a federal database, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Virginia Kice said.
Yep. Remember, "it's not illegal to be illegal". Except when you're a twice-convicted drug dealer, petty criminal, traffic scofflaw, and all around piece of sh*t. Then we just do some sort of perverted "catch and release" because we're sure as hell not serious about border security. Twice we caught this bastard breaking our laws (not counting coming into the country illegally, which the bleeding hearts tell us isn't a crime anyways, but don't you DARE own a semi-automatic rifle, hater), twice he was kicked out, twice he just waltzed right back in.

And now two cops are dead because we have no security at our border. You know, the ONE DAMN THING the Federal government SHOULD be doing? Keeping us safe from enemies foreign (like this guy) not just domestic (in the form of Tea Party, as shown who the President unleashes the IRS upon...) Rather than throw this SOB in jail when he was caught on US soil the second time (like, you know, the Mexicans did with one of our Marines), we just sent him on his way, dum dee dum, nothing to see here.

I wonder if he'll see any jail time for this?

That is all.

Another dispatch from...
(image courtesy of Robb Allen)

In Which I Quote John P. Blutarsky...

Ho-lee SH*T!

Peter Max Corvette collection: The ultimate "barn find"?
The long and twisted tale of the so-called VH1 MAX Corvette collection, after sitting for nearly twenty-five years in a series of New York parking garages, has finally come to a close. According to a report in the New York Times, the thirty-six-car collection, which began as a grand prize in a television contest before finding its way into the hands of psychedelic graphic designer Peter Max, was recently purchased by a group of investors with the intent of returning the cars to their pre-infamy status.
Dear sweet merciful Vishnu. One of every model year Corvette from 1953 to 1989.

(picture from link)

There are so many awesome cars in that group... The '53 that started it all. The '63 Split window. The '69 Stingray. The '82 (my favorite body style). The '84 C4. Considering that the '89, as the newest, is worth easily $25K in mint (unrestored) condition, that's easily a multi-million dollar haul. I would imagine the '53 and '63 alone - assuming they're in original, unrestored condition - are worth a couple hundred thousand each.

Read the story at the link. This was apparently part of a promotion VH1 ran in the late 1980s (I vaguely remember it, actually) where the winner got one 'Vette from 1953 through 1989. 36 Corvettes. THREE DAMN DOZEN. That's like getting a 'Vette from 1978 through current, now. While the past 15 or so years are only awesome because Corvette, the older ones are starting to achieve icon status in their own right.

Now, can anyone show me where I left that winning lottery ticket?

That is all.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Best News I've Seen Today...

Brad_in_MA sent this in. He rightfully assumed I'd get a chuckle out of this news...

Poll: Charlie Baker leads Martha Coakley in Massachusetts
For the first time in the Boston Globe’s weekly tracking poll, Republican Charlie Baker holds a significant lead over Democrat Martha Coakley in the Massachusetts gubernatorial race, 45 percent to 36 percent.

The poll, first posted Thursday night, is the first showing the race as anything but a near tie in recent weeks. Last week’s Globe poll showed the candidates neck-and-neck, as did a separate tracking survey this week from WBUR-FM, conducted by the MassINC Polling Group.
Now, I don't believe that Baker's lead is anywhere near that high, but this really sealed the deal for me:

Charlie Baker for governor

The Boston FREAKIN' Globe just endorsed Charlie Baker - the Republican - over Martha Coakley for Governor. The Globe endorsed Coakley over Scott Brown in 2010. They used this subhead:
To move Mass. forward, state government must work better
Massachusetts is 90% controlled by the Democrats. The state reps and senators are overwhelmingly Democrat, MA's Senators and Congresscritters are all Democrats, most of the mayors are Democrats, etc. If the state isn't working properly, it's pretty clear which party is involved in the not working department. For the Globe to admit this is pretty shocking.

We'll see what happens next Tuesday, of course, but just getting the Globe's endorsement is amazing...

That is all.

Equal Footing

So, I've been watching "Game of Thrones" lately. I started watching the series when the fourth season started up earlier this year, and was surprised at how much I enjoyed the series. Good writing, good acting, swords and axes and armor, all the makings of a good time. I started watching the show from the beginning to fill in what I was missing the past couple of weeks, and one thing struck me:

Civilization is a paper-thin veneer.

While I understand that the TV show is hardly historically accurate (especially considering it takes place in some sort of alternate universe where winters last years), there's plenty taken from our own history as well as history that might have been (but uninteresting enough for anyone to record for posterity). There's certainly enough of our own history to trace back the phrase "might makes right" and instances. Thucydides uses the concept in the History of the Peloponnesian War, about the war between Sparta and Athens.

The character Gregor Clegane, better known as "The Mountain" in Game of Thrones, is portrayed as a large, powerful man prone to fits of extreme violence who, owing to his size and strength, pretty much does whatever he wants to whoever he wants without consequence. His prowess with a blade, combined with extreme strength and complete lack of anything resembling morals, allows him to violate the rules at will - although "ignore" is a better term. Rules simply don't apply to him.

Take what you want, because no one can stop you. That's what happens when the stronger have no morals, and the weaker have no effective means of defense. Martial arts are meaningless if the other guy is three times stronger and twice as fast, no matter how good you happen to be. You might be the smartest human on the planet, but if your house/jacket/mate garners the attention of someone larger, you're going to be hard-pressed to effectively fight to keep what you have.

There's one difference now, though: firearms put us all on equal footing. Being the biggest, strongest SOB on the planet is meaningless when the person you're trying to intimidate can launch 230 grains of equalizing goodness in response to your aggression. While they may have been powerless against you in bare-knuckle brawling, they do not need to descend to that level for their own defense.

The firearm puts us on equal footing, whereas edged or impact weapons do not...

That is all.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Compare and Contrast...

This has been bugging the heck out of me all week.

On the one hand, run "Palin brawl" through Google: 231,000 results.

Contrast that to "Biden cocaine" through Google: 21,100 results.

The story of someone who ran for vice president eight years ago getting into a shouting match at a barbeque has more than an order of magnitude more results than the son of the current vice president getting kicked out of the Navy for illegal drug use.

Oh, but there's no media bias, nossirree. Well, there is, it's just that evil right wing Fox News, you see. MSNBCBSCNN are nothing but paragons of equality and fairness, right? But yeah, the non-story to end all non-stories, about the Palin family being involved in an altercation, has been front-page news for weeks (the brawl happened September 6th).

Yet the son of the Vice President of the United States is discharged from the Navy - after receiving special waivers to get in - for illegal drug use, and it's no big deal. Oh, and speaking of waivers, Hunter also received a second waiver to join the Navy, for a drug related charge he accrued in the late 1980s.

Repeated drug use, special favors, and the media can't be bothered. A dust up at a backyard barbecue and it is front page news for weeks. Nope. No bias here. The media is absolutely dead-on fair. The daughter of a woman who ran for vice president is involved in a shouting match at a party, and that warrants non-stop coverage for six weeks (and counting), whereas the son of the sitting vice president commits an actual crime and the crickets are deafening.

Here's another metric:

CNN's main page, search for Palin: 7 out of the top 10 are about the "brawl" that happened 6 weeks ago.

CNN's main page, search for Biden: 5 out of the top 10 are about Hunter's discharge.

So, the all-news network has more stories about the Palin family getting in an altercation up in Alaska than the son of the Vice President getting kicked out of the Navy for doing coke.

Right. No bias here.

That is all.

Friday Car Pr0n #53

There was absolutely no question as to what today's car pic was going to be.

1953 Chevrolet Corvette.

#53 had to be the '53 'Vette, the one that started it all. Whatever your thoughts are on the current state of General Motors, the 1953 Corvette was a bold statement from the company. After suspending production during WWII (can you *imagine* any car company doing that today), American car manufacturers roared back with a vengeance. It took a few years to get back into the swing, but by the early 1950s American cars were three things: ornate, showy and large.

The Corvette was none of these things. It sat two people, the driver and a single passenger, in a time when most cars could seat six. For dinner. It had chrome, sure; no car at the time didn't, but it wasn't dripping in it. And it was small, with a powerful (for the time) engine, a 253 cubic inch six cylinder putting out 150 horsepower. It was designed to be America's answer to the Jaguars, Austin Healeys, Alfa Romeos, and other small, light two-seaters from across the pond.

Because, if WWII showed us anything, it was that if the Europeans could do something, we could do it better.

That is all.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Top. Men.

I feel so much better now that the grownups are back in charge.

Former U.S. president candidate Hart to be representative for Northern Ireland
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday named former Senator Gary Hart as his representative on Northern Ireland, nearly 30 years after the Democratic politician's bid for the U.S. presidency was cut short by a sex scandal.

Kerry said in a statement that Hart, 77, who in recent years gained a name as a national security expert and author, would play a "direct, on-the-ground diplomatic role."
Gary Hart. The man who dared the media to follow him around to ensure he wasn't cheating on his wife and then had his girlfriend sit on his lap on the boat named -- I kid you not -- Monkey Business. Top. Men. The man was a Senator nearly 30 years ago, lost the Democratic nomination in 1988 to Michael Dukakis, and became famous for an affair in which he got caught. Easily.

Now, how Hart, a former Senator from Colorado, became a national security expert is anyone's guess. He's been on several boards through the Obama administration, and stumped for Lurch in 2004 (yes, bringing *all* the star power of Gary Hart), but somehow this makes him a security expert. The man who had an affair after telling the media to follow him to prove he was innocent of having an affair.

Then again, our "Ebola Czar" is a lawyer whose main claim to fame is having been Joe Biden's chief-of-staff, so why the hell not?

That is all.

Another dispatch from...
(image courtesy of Robb Allen)

Fairwell and Fair Seas...

As of Sunday, for the first time in nearly 20 years we will no longer own a camper. Our home-away-from-home, the traveling sanctuary that has served us so well in the White Mountains, at the beach, on Cape Cod, and elsewhere will be picked up by her new owners and given a new set of adventures.

Farewell, old friend.

We bought the camper in March, 2007. That's seven and a half years, with an average of two or three trips a year. Some years we took it out more, a couple we didn't even get it out once. Even if the move to VA hadn't forced our hand, I think we'd have been looking to sell it in a year or two, anyways. The Dodge has another couple years in her (at least); I think we'd have sold the camper before trading it in and avoided another pickup.

But that's neither here nor there.

The biggest reason is that the kids are growing up. The last time we took the camper out - when TheBoy was 12 and BabyGirl G. was 10 - TheBoy complained about the bunk bed being too small. He had a much better time sleeping on a cot in a small tent with me than on the family trip - sure, part of that was the one-on-one attention, but I think the bigger part is the independence. He's asserting more and more every day, testing limits and boundaries, etc. and I think the last place he wants to spend a week is a small metal box with mom & dad...

Besides, we have a lot of exploring to do here in Virginia without bringing a camper along...

It's going to a friend-of-a-friend, through a family who lived on our street that also owns a travel trailer. They're going to be able to camp together, that sort of thing, and will get many years of fun out of the trailer; certainly more than we would have gotten. Their kids are younger, the folks buying the trailer are younger, I think she's going to a good home.

It got me to thinking, though. Some of my favorite memories growing up involved the small class C camper my folks owned. They bought it when I was 5 - I remember one of our first trips in it was a road trip out to visit family in Minnesota, and my sister was just a baby - and sold it when I was either 10 or 11. My folks had that little van-front camper for less time than we had our travel trailer, yet I still, some 30+ years later, have vivid memories of it. I remember nights spent listening to the foghorns of the ships passing through the canal as I "slept" on the bunk over the cab. I remember walking on the beach at dusk, collecting seashells.

I hope my kids have the same types of happy memories from our camper, and I hope the folks who bought it make some memories of their own...

That is all.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Reason 216,692 I'm Glad Left... this lovely little bit of socialist agit-prop from Moscow-on-the-Fort-River, courtesy of #1 blogdaughter.

Mass. district’s new curriculum shifts balance ‘away from the individual and towards the social whole’
While many school districts slyly implement far-left social justice reforms behind closed doors, others are flying the red flag proudly.

The Amherst-Pelham Regional School District, which recently subjected middle school students to a social justice assembly that left children sobbing and traumatized, penned a 63 page document in 2008 detailing their intent to socially transform America, via your children.
Can't you just envision the teachers, sitting around in the teacher's lounge, congratulating each other over their Che T-shirts, thinking they're the most multi-culti district in the Commonwealth? I'm sure they all went to a lumberyard and cried about trees later, then retired to a trendy coffee shop, where they complained bitterly about the baristas making "a living wage", yet left no tip.

I'm sure they try their level-best to ensure that all sorts of diversity is taught in their classrooms - except diversity of thought, no doubt. I'll bet if you asked them, each one thinks - no, is certain - they are doing a Great Social Good. I wonder if anyone ever asks them how the children do compared to the national average.

Then again, who cares about education when there's social indoctrination to be had?

That is all.