Friday, February 11, 2005

About that announcement from North Korea...

Varifrank has some outlook on it.

I fear I hadn't thought too much on this matter, taking it for granted that they had them. However, the effect of the announcement on the Peoples Republic of China hadn't occurred to me. Complications, indeed.

Found over at Smallest Minority

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Old .22 rifles

I love old .22s. Many are very basic rifles meant to puncture tin cans and put squirrels and rabbits on the table, some were finely-finished works for those who could afford the best. Part of the attraction is the possible history behind one; the worn bluing, the scratches and dings on the stock, a bit of filework on the sights tell you things about it, how it was used and cared for- sometimes how it was abused through bad luck or carelessness. And even the abused ones can be worth the work to clean and fix them up.

A few years ago I was at a flea market with my daughter and stopped at a table to look at one of these. It was a Remington Model 33, the NRA Junior version. It was intended as a beginners target rifle, and came with a Patridge front sight(a square post instead of a thin body with a bead on top), a Lyman aperture rear sight(also called a peep sight), and sling swivels. The swivels were missing; the toe of the stock was broken off; and the finish was pretty much gone, all the metal worn to that faded color called 'gun-metal'. The bore was a bit dirty, but I couldn't spot any obvious pits. I talked a bit, asked the price, and wandered on. The price he wanted would have been fine for one in considerably better condition, but not this one.

It was a hot day, and a lot of people were packing up early, and we made a last pass by the table, just to take one last look. They were loading up, and already had the .22 packed. I asked about it and the man pulled it out of a case. I talked a bit about price, but he was still higher than I was willing to pay- more than I had for that matter. He asked how much did I have, and I told him $65. He thought about five seconds, then said, "I haven't sold a thing all day. It's yours." Money changed hands, and we took it home.

First thing for it was take the barrel & action out of the stock and run an oily patch through the bore, leaving it to soak. Wipe the outside down with a heavy coat and set it aside. The bolt took a bit of figuring, but finally got it apart and cleaned & oiled it. Wiped the bore out, and amazingly, it was in fine shape. No pitting or sign of rust, sharp rifling. The bolt went back together, the action & outside was cleaned off and the trigger mechanism lubed, then all put back together. Yes, I do love working on things like this.

It was about two weeks before I could shoot it, and I took along six different brands & types of ammo since some can be downright picky about what they shoot well. And to say I was pleased would be an understatement. This rifle was made in 1933, and had seen hard use. After almost 70 years, the trigger pull was crisp and light(as good as some quite expensive target rifles I've handled), and with one brand of ammo it would shoot 1/2" groups at 50 yards. The worst ammo went into about 1.5", most of it around 1": fine performance for most new rifles.

As I had time the stock was scraped to remove the old finish and crud, and I fitted a piece of walnut to repair the broken toe, then finished the whole thing with Tru-Oil stock finish. Someday I may reblue it, but for now I like the way it looks about as much as the way it shoots. One of these days I'll find the proper type of sling swivels and put them on, to finish the job.

Please do not misunderstand me, I like new and old guns; it's just that there's something about some old ones, especially when you can restore them a bit. You get a fine firearm and the pleasure of working on it, and that can be a very good thing.

By the way, I'm quite proud of the stock repair. After it was rasped and sanded to match the shape and curves and finished, you can't spot the line: the grain matched up beautifully. And in case you wonder, I did find out what the rifle is worth in current condition, matter of fact the rear sight is worth about what I paid for the rifle. And I don't care. It stays in the safe, and someday it'll go to either one of my kids or a grandkid.

Ideally, that's the way it should be.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

I'm Anti-Science, he says!

I had a comment on the earlier post that I thought I'd respond to here instead of in the comments.
Anonymous says:
"Guess who I don't trust?

That would be head-in-the-sand types, who find some oily reason to reject anything that might worry them.

The problem really is that this head-sticking might be growing. Consider this bit from a reacent Neal Stephenson interview:

"For much of the 20th century it was about science and technology. The heyday was the Second World War, when we had not just the Manhattan Project but also the Radiation Lab at MIT and a large cryptology industry all cooking along at the same time. The war led into the nuclear arms race and the space race, which led in turn to the revolution in electronics, computers, the Internet, etc. If the emblematic figures of earlier eras were the pioneer with his Kentucky rifle, or the Gilded Age plutocrat, then for the era from, say, 1940 to 2000 it was the engineer, the geek, the scientist. It’s no coincidence that this era is also when science fiction has flourished, and in which the whole idea of the Future became current. After all, if you’re living in a technocratic society, it seems perfectly reasonable to try to predict the future by extrapolating trends in science and engineering.

It is quite obvious to me that the U.S. is turning away from all of this. It has been the case for quite a while that the cultural left distrusted geeks and their works; the depiction of technical sorts in popular culture has been overwhelmingly negative for at least a generation now. More recently, the cultural right has apparently decided that it doesn’t care for some of what scientists have to say. So the technical class is caught in a pincer between these two wings of the so-called culture war. Of course the broad mass of people don’t belong to one wing or the other. But science is all about diligence, hard sustained work over long stretches of time, sweating the details, and abstract thinking, none of which is really being fostered by mainstream culture."

I don't know if you are doing it on purpose, but you are part of that. You are part of the anti-science.

Good day to you sir!"

Ok, Fez, here's my response.
I don't have my head in the sand, and I don't have an 'oily' reason to reject things that might be of concern. One of the questions, possibly 'the' question, is deciding if something is indeed something to worry about and/or a threat. And I don't think global warming is, for reasons mentioned before. Also, a while back there was an article at dealing with the famous 'hockey stick' graph showing warming as starting up roughly the same time as the Industrial Revolution started up. Problem: they found a 'fundamental mathematical flaw' in the program used to product the graph, "This improper normalization procedure tends to emphasize any data that do have the hockey stick shape, and to suppress all data that do not." Read the article, it's quite interesting. And it also points out something other than the problem with the graph; namely, the problems they had trying to get their findings published. Which leads to:

"science is all about diligence, hard sustained work over long stretches of time, sweating the details, and abstract thinking, none of which is really being fostered by mainstream culture." Science is supposed to be about that: it is also supposed to be about the willingness to ruthlessly discard a theory, or parts of it, when data shows it to be inaccurate or flat wrong. Unfortunately, it's not. Scientific fraud, altering data to fit theory instead of the other way around, is an old problem that's not gone away. It's seen in, among other things, the almost hysterical denunciations of people who disagree with a pet theory- for instance, the screaming and threats directed to Bjorn Lomborg for daring to point out that data shows things have improved, and that a lot of the hard-pushed 'solutions' such as Kyoto are not necessarily a good idea. The same thing appears to be happening in HIV/AIDS research(check over at Dean Esmay for some interesting stuff on this) and BSE('Mad Cow' disease). Tech Central Station has had some reports on BSE that pointed out that it's very difficult to get funding to search for things other than prions in reference to BSE because the Powers That Be have decided that prions are it.
These things make it hard for a lot of mainstream culture to give the kind of support that once was pretty much taken for granted; when people find out about the broken hockey stick, when they hear the threats at scientists who dare to go against the PC ideals, when they find out that medical research is/has been sidetracked and the Powers That Be don't want to let it head toward another line, it causes doubts about the integrity of the process itself, and why should I be willing to put more millions into a broken process? That a lot of the guardians don't seem to want to fix?

Questioning a theory, arguing with a set of ideas, does not make you anti-science. That's kind of like the argument you hear a lot that red-state people are 'anti-intellectual and anti-education'. Generally, they're not either; they are anti-being told how to live their lives by people who think that having a set of letters after their name or the 'correct' viewpoint means they're qualified to tell all the peasants how to live. Anti-dipshit is not the same as anti-education, and those who think it is are doing a disservice. I don't think the U.S. overall is turning against education or the use of the sciences. I think there is a lot more criticism of a lot of avenues of research, and one of the effects of that is some researchers think that questioning them and/or their work means you dislike science and research.

Our lives are incredibly more free and more comfortable and more safe in many ways because of work in the sciences, and I'm glad of it. That doesn't mean I won't call bullshit when I think a line of reasoning is wrong, or that a suggested fix is a bad idea. It means I will question, and demand facts, and demand that researchers live up to the standards they are supposed to uphold.

I think that about covers it.

Additional: this article found through Dean Esmay on problems with a lot of research

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

On Indians, and assorted other crap

Over at Hog on Ice, Steve has been laying his own personal smackdown on that academic nitwit Churchill, in his own inimitable style. Inspired by his work, I shall therefore put down in words my own opinion on some related things.

I don't say Native American, I say Indian. 'Native American' covers anyone every born here, not simply the PC-approved tribal types. When I really want to be annoying, I refer to the earlier arrivals on these shores as the First Immigrants.

No I don't think there's anything particularly holy about the tribes that were here before the first Europeans set foot on these shores. They were human, and suffered from all the usual flaws and good points. As far as the 'worshipped their mother Earth' crap goes, it's exactly that. There was an amount of spirituality in their beliefs, no question: and like some people who go to church on Sunday and cheat someone selling used cars the next day, it was, to a certain extent, nonsense. Ever read about Lewis and Clark's travels? They spent timein places where they couldn't trade for food, because the local tribes had eaten everything that didn't run away fast enough, and they were starving, too. They moved through areas where there was no deer or elk or whatever to be seen, or a few at a distance, because they had been hunted out.

The horse was a native animal here. The Indians killed them off for food before the idea of using them for beasts of burden came up, so they didn't see them again, or think of riding them, until the Spanish came. Most of the big animals here after the last ice age were hunted to extinction by them. They've found bison kills, usually where they ran a herd off a cliff or riverbank, where they killed far more than they could do anything with before they rotted.

Respect for others? Slavery, murder, unlimited warfare, cannabilism, and torture- often just for the fun of it- were staples. There's one tribe/can't recall the name offhand/ that was known by the Pawnee word for 'slave'; so many of them had been taken for slaves over time that that's what the Pawnee called the whole tribe, and over time so did all the other tribes around.
I once did some reading on the Cheyenne, some of the fearsome warriors of the plains. Except they didn't go there voluntarily; their early tales say they lived in the woodlands to the east. Then a bigger tribe decided it wanted their hunting grounds and ran them off into the plains to live or die. Along the same lines, when the Sioux decided to move west, they simply killed, enslaved or ran off anyone who got in their way. And so forth.
In the book 'Our Oldest Enemy', it lists records of the various eastern tribes who fought with the French against British settlers; their big reasons for showing up were to kill and to give the younger warriors a taste of man-meat(sound like a bunch of orcs, don't they?)

There are some fine things that have come down to us from many of the tribes, and we would be the poorer without them. But I got sick of the worship a long time ago. It's kind of like the Beatles; you can't just say they made some good music, oh no, you've got to idolize them. Yeah, I'm sick of that crap, too.

True enough, most of the tribes were treated badly over time, some downright horribly. Which puts them in the same category as the Europeans and Asians and Africans who treated everyone outside their tribes as a resource to be mined, sometimes by converting them to fertilizer or barbeque.

I once read a story that touched on the idea of what would have happened if the eastern Indians had had the Norse or the Scots who touched down around long enough to learn the working of metal. There were- still are- huge deposits of iron and copper in the northeast. If some of the tribes there had learned to refine and work it, you'd have wound up with a bunch of barons and counts and kings just as nasty on their bad days as any in Europe or Asia or Africa. Even if they hadn't gotten to that level, the big trade goods the Europeans brought was iron and copper and steel implements, from knives to needles to cooking pots; if some tribes had learned to make those, so the early white settlers didn't have a monopoly on those items... That would make an interesting book.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Two things, both a pain

First, many Dutch schools have banned the display of the Dutch flag by students; they fear it may "provoke other students, mainly Moroccan students". This is not being 'sensitive', this is surrender. When you do not allow students to display the national flag because it might 'provoke' immigrants... get that fork ready, 'cause you're just about done.

Check the wording from one school: "They deny access to students who have flags on their bags or cloth. The school says they need to do this because of the new social climate. But they say prohibition is a big word, they do it in consent with the pupils..." Hey, butthead, if you 'deny access to student who have the flag', that's not in 'consent' with the pupils, that's a command from on high. You just don't have the balls to admit it.

Second thing, the noise about the Marine general who said it's fun to shoot terrorists. Here's what he said at a news conference:
"Actually it's quite fun to fight 'em, you know. It's a hell of a hoot. It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right up front with you, I like brawling," Mattis said.

"You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil," Mattis said during a panel discussion. "You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."

And the predictable sources have been pissing and moaning about it ever since. "It's a bad example, We have to have a Higher Standard", etc. Shut the hell up! This is a man who has been leading troops in combat, providing leadership in & out of combat for years. And you know what? Have fun, General Mattis. Your targets are murdering terrorists who are wasting oxygen that could be breathed by more deserving organisms; like the women they murdered, for instance. So shoot them with a smile on your face. And if you're ever in Oklahoma City, I'll buy you a drink. Hell, I'll buy you dinner. You're doing a nasty job that has to be done, and doing it well, and I thank you.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Further on weather

Yesterday the prediction was for rain last night, ending by about noon, clearing in the afternoon.

It's now 4p.m., it's still cloudy and spitting rain occasionally. Yeah, they can predict what'll happen in the next hundred years or so.

By the way, remember the last couple of years during hurricane season? There would be monstrous storms and more of them, the destruction would be awful! All caused by global warming!