Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Roads? Where this LEGO model is going we don't need... roads.

Here's the latest entry in the "Things we don't really need but are lusting for badly" files...

LEGO, Back To The Future, DeLorean
1-Point-21 jigawatts of LEGO awesome!
Going on sale worldwide tomorrow at LEGO Stores, toy and other retailers as well as LEGO's online store is this: The DeLorean Time Machine.  The fourth model to be designed, supported and approved for official production via LEGO CUUSOO, this minifig-scale replica of Doctor Emmett "Doc" Brown's famous heavy-customized DeLorean from Back to the Future comes complete with options for builders to trick it out for whatever form it appeared throughout the film trilogy (it even includes Mr. Fusion and the OUTATIME and barcode license plates).  Unique decal-ed bricks have the Flux Capacitor and the Destination/Present Time LED display.  The doors swing up gull-wing style and the wheels swivel into air mode!

LEGO, Back To The Future, Marty McFly, Doc Brown, minifigsAnd yes, it even has minifigs of Marty McFly (with skateboard) and Doc Brown!  Incidentally, CUUSOO designers who see their ideas on the store shelves get 1% of the profit, and the two guys who collaborated on this model are donating their cut to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.

LEGO's Back to the Future DeLorean Time Machine has a retail price of $34.99/€34,99 and streets on August 1st, both at brick-and-mortar stores and online at the LEGO Shop.  Go get it.  You know you want to.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

It's the shifty-eyed Tammy Tuesday!

Zoinks!!  This week's Tammy Tuesday feature went down to the wire!  It's 11:56 p.m. when I'm finally able to getting to post it.

Well, don't let it be said that I'm not the Hardest Working Man in the Blogosphere(tm)!  Here's a low-angle shot of Tammy, leering at the camera over the top of her doggie bed...

Tammy, dachshunds, dogs

Monday, July 29, 2013

A startling message on a church sign

While driving through Virginia over the weekend there was a church sign that caught my eye.  It was much like any other found outside places of worship throughout the Bible Belt of America: usually the name of the church, some other info (website address, etc.) and then lots of space for some timely text or witty remark.  I think one of my all-time favorites has to be "SOMEONE CALL 911, THIS CHURCH IS ON FIRE!"  And I'd be horribly negligent as a blogger if I didn't note one nearby congregation's humorous reaction to all the precipitation we've had lately: "WHOEVER IS PRAYING FOR RAIN: PLEASE STOP".

When you think about it, church signs were Twitter before we ever had the Internet.  And even today they convey their messages much better... and with far fewer than 140 characters.

But here's what was emblazoned on this particular church's outdoor sign:

A COUNTRY OF SHEEP BREEDS A GOVERNMENT OF WOLVES

Living in this region, it's not unheard of for a church sign to read something about current events or a quick comment on the culture.  Last year a number of signs depicted support for Amendment 1 (which defined marriage as being between one man and one woman) here in North Carolina.  I can't say that I've personally seen any overtly partisan messages on a church sign in this area, and I like to think that most people prefer it that way. 

This message was not at all partisan.  It didn't seem directed at any burning cultural issue or controversy, either.  But it was something that to the very best of my knowledge I have never seen before on a church sign: implication... or accusation... that government has become a feral and ravenous beast loosed upon the land.  The fault of which is an indifferent and ignorant people.

That's the meaning I took away from it.  Most readers of this blog will understand how I could be sympathetic toward it.  This church is located on U.S. 220 between Martinsville and Roanoke: a fairly significant roadway.  And maybe, just perhaps, many other motorists will spot the sign and feel led to sincerely consider its message.

That being said: I haven't been able to shake how startled I was to read that message.  The most surprising church sign that I've seen until now was probably "GOD HAVE MERCY ON AMERICA", when many signs around the Fourth of July were reading "GOD BLESS AMERICA".

Nothing nebulous about this church sign though.  "A government of wolves".  Brought about by "a country of sheep".

A succinct paraphrase could very well be: "Think for yourself and don't trust the government".  Because if you don't think for yourself, there are plenty of others more than willing to think for you.

I like that.  It jibes with the notion that government in this country derives from the people, and the people have responsibilities toward ensuring that government does not become an animal unto itself.  But I digress...

Here's what's been going through my thoughts since the weekend:

This was a message from one church, out of... how many thousands upon thousands of churches across America?

If that might be the sentiment of one church (and this sort of thing tends to have input from the laity as well as the parson in charge), there may be others... many others even... likewise beginning to question temporal force with a brazen boldness.  Churches whose congregants are challenging the faith we've placed in politics.  A people at last daring to reassert the minds entrusted them by God.

Like I said: startling.  And refreshing.  And rife with a measure hope.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Confirmed: John Williams is scoring STAR WARS EPISODE VII

News breaking now out of Star Wars Celebration Europe that John Williams will be returning to the galaxy far, far away and composing the score for Star Wars Episode VII.

John Williams.  Because when you get the band back together,
you positively can NOT do it without this guy.
In a pre-recorded video for the folks attending Celebration Europe, Williams said that he was "looking forward to drawing on some of his original themes and adding new material", according to IGN's report.

New Star Wars music composed by the master himself.  "This will be a day long remembered..."

Thanks to good friend of this blog Drew McOmber for the heads-up!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Senator Burr calls defunding ObamaCare "dumbest idea" ever (this is leadership?)

Longtime readers of this blog know that I don't play the partisan game.  And I haven't bought into the "conservative/liberal" mentality for a very long time.  Regardless of affiliation, we should expect all of our elected officials to put the Constitution and liberty of the American people ahead of their political agendas.

Richard Burr, North Carolina, Senate, Senator, ObamaCare
Senator Richard Burr
(North Carolina): Part
of the problem in D.C.
That being said, North Carolina's Senator Richard Burr is now shown be a bitter disappointment.  Burr is choosing capitulation over leadership, and what is easy over what is right.

From the article at The Hill...
Blocking a government funding bill over ObamaCare is "the dumbest idea I've ever heard," Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said Thursday.

Burr argued stopping ObamaCare's funding is not going to be achievable as long as President Obama is in the White House, and that Republicans risked taking the blame if they forced the government to shut down over the issue.

"I think it's the dumbest idea I've ever heard," Burr told journalist Todd Zwilich on Thursday. "Listen, as long as Barack Obama is president the Affordable Care Act is gonna be law.

"I think some of these guys need to understand that you shut down the federal government, you better have a specific reason to do it that's achievable," Burr continued. "Defunding the Affordable Care Act is not achievable through shutting down the federal government."
Senator Burr, there are far more important things being threatened by ObamaCare than the federal government.  Implementation of the Affordable Care Act is going to cause a lot of private businesses - both large and small - to close up shop because they can't meet the requirements of this legislation.  You are also forgetting that ObamaCare is already compelling many companies and other organizations to choose between compromising their beliefs or paying exorbitant and unconscionable penalties to the government.

It would be better to have a shutdown of the federal government than to witness a shutdown of hundreds, even thousands of businesses which employ honest and hard-working Americans.  Employment is scarce already.  It will only plummet further if ObamaCare goes into full effect.

The Affordable Care Act should be fought, and fought, and fought again without yielding.  And a person who has sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution will fight ObamaCare, no matter the political cost or what the United States Supreme Court has ruled about it.  It wasn't the first time that the Supreme Court has erred terribly, and it won't be the last.  The ramifications of ObamaCare will haunt America for generations to come if it is not halted now.  A person of foresight and wisdom will do whatever he or she can to keep that from happening.  Surrendering to an evil thing... and ObamaCare is an evil thing... is not an act of leadership or wisdom.  It is, however, an act of cowardice.

Senator Burr is practically confessing that his loyalty is not to the citizens of North Carolina and all Americans, but to the federal government.  By his statements, Burr demonstrates that he gives a higher priority to the status quo of Washington politics than he does to the liberties, the opportunities and the posterity of we the people.

Burr is not an example of true leadership.  A true leader does what is right, regardless of popularity or politics.  A true leader is a person of conscience, not of convenience or "conventional wisdom".

And Burr is a very poor example of what Republicans profess to stand for.  If the GOP is the alleged party of smaller government, it cannot reconcile that claim with capitulating to the largest takeover of a private industry in American history.  One that will impede on our freedoms, will drive many into bankruptcy and will diminish the quality of health care in this country.  Between this and all the other kowtowing going on in Washington, it's little wonder that an increasing number of Americans see no significant difference between the Democrats and Republicans.  For all intents and purposes it is one-party rule pretending to be two.  And rolling over on ObamaCare - among many other concerns - is proving it.

If it comes down to choosing either the strength of the federal government or the freedom of the American people, I'll choose the American people every time.  So should the members of Congress, and each of their personal political consequence be damned.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Hackers use wi-fi laptop to control EVERYTHING on a modern car

Remember that stunt Jeff Gordon pulled on an unsuspecting car salesman a few months ago?  The one where Gordon was disguised as any off-the-street Joe Shmoe and took a car for a test drive and terrified the crap out of that poor guy?

This is scarier...


Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek - two top-rate hackers out of Indiana -went into the guts of a Toyota Prius, jimmied-around with thirty-something on-board computer units and were able to take charge of dang nearly every function of the car.  Using a wireless laptop they can steer, put on the brakes, honk the horn, fake the speedometer reading, switch on the headlights and even tighten and loosen the seatbelts.

My dad has long proclaimed that "Cars only need gas, air and electricity to work: they don't need a computer!"  After watching this video, it's hard to argue with that.

Crash here to read more about this amazing hack, which was funded by the U.S. Defense Advance Research Projects Agency (the kind folks who brought us the Internet).

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Two amazing fan films: sequel to STAR TREK's "Who Mourns for Adonais?" and ARKHAM RISING

An awful lot of the homegrown cinema lately seems to have more heart and soul than most of the big studio productions.  These two fan-created films are some of the best that I've seen lately.

First up, it's a sequel to the original Star Trek episode "Who Mourns for Adonais?""Pilgrim of Eternity" has Michael Forest reprising his role as Apollo from the 1967 episode.  The script was written by Jack TreviƱo (who wrote the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episodes "Little Green Men" and "Indiscretion").  Christopher Doohan - son of James Doohan - plays Scotty and Marina Sirtis herself is the voice of the Enterprise computer.  And not being content with just one Apollo, "Pilgrim of Eternity" also has Jamie Bamber (Battlestar Galactica's Lee Adama) as a redshirt security officer!


And then we have this: Arkham Rising.  Set during the events of The Dark Knight Rises, Arkham Rising takes us into Arkham Asylum just after Bane breaks open Blackgate Prison.  This very well could have been a deleted scene from The Dark Knight Rises.  In fact, I kinda wish it was.  Especially in how it attempts to answer the most tantalizing question left from that movie: "Where was the Joker?!"


The thing I like most about Arkham Rising is how it plausibly demonstrates that Batman really could have battled more of his rogues gallery than were depicted on-screen in the Nolan continuity.  If you ever wanted to see what a Nolan-esque take on the Riddler, the Mad Hatter and the Calendar Man could have been, Arkham Rising serves it up.  And if you go to the Arkham Files on the film's official website you can find stuff about the Penguin, Poison Ivy and Clayface.  I bet these guys could have even pulled off a Nolan-ish Mister Freeze, they did such a great job!

The three kinds of people in the world

As I have grown older and wiser to the ways of this world, I have come to understand that there are three kinds of people:

Those who want to control.

Those who want to be controlled.

Those who want neither control or to be controlled.

The people in the third group are almost universally despised by those in the first and second.  So much so that their lives are made much less comfortable.  Because they have chosen to be in the power of no man.  From those who control there is crushing hatred.  From those controlled, there is boundless jealousy.

However, their lives are significantly more fulfilling.  To say nothing of being more interesting.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

This week's Tammy Tuesday is all wrapped up

Several months ago I came across a long piece of scrap fabric from my Children of Eden costume.  It seemed like something Tammy would enjoy playing with.  Ever since, there hasn't been a day that goes by when we haven't had a tug-of-war with it (and you would not believe how such a little dog can yank something soooo hard).

Here's Tammy in one of her quieter moments with it, as she chews happily on a piece of deer antler...

Tammy, miniature dachshund, dog

Friday, July 19, 2013

"Honest as the day is long!"

It's Friday night and I'm feeling extra goofy.  Also feeling pretty good about some more personal concerns too, and praying they'll soon... well, I'm just praying.

Anyhoo, it seems that lately too many people are awful tense and bummed-out about stuff.  So here's something that will make anybody laugh: a collection of Junior Samples' famous "BR-549" sketches from the classic country-comedy variety show Hee Haw!


Yup, that's George Lindsey (aka Goober from The Andy Griffith Show) as the robber in the first skit. And longtime Hee Haw fans of the masculine persuasion will no doubt remember Barbi Benton with much fondness!

Junior Samples is perhaps the all-time king of country rube humor.  He got his showbiz start at age 40 with a comedy recording about catching a big bass (he also nearly got in trouble with the fish and wildlife agents).  From there he was invited to join the cast of Hee Haw and became as much-beloved for his stumbles and bloopers as he was for his down-home demeanor.  Sadly, he passed away in 1983 at the age of 57.

And the phone number is "BR-549" for a reason.  Samples was from Cumming, Georgia and loved to go fishing on Lake Lanier.  And when it wasn't in the water his boat was kept at "Boat Ramp 549".

Danny de Gracia: more laws do not equal greater morality

Danny de Gracia
Friend, fellow writer and fighter-in-the-good-fight Danny de Gracia has published some well-recommended thoughts this week about the correlation between the quantity of legislation and the resulting amount of public morality.  It has been the conventional wisdom throughout history that more laws equals a more perfect society.

But does it really?  De Gracia doesn't think so.  In fact, as he writes in separate pieces for The Washington Times as well as his own blog, the ever-growing volumes of law being produced have made things worse.  They are, in truth, a symptom of a far worse problem: the spiritual condition of the human heart, which no act of government can change.

From de Gracia's essay in The Washington Times:
When first-time candidates run for office, most pitch a platform promising “change” in the form of new laws. Incumbent legislators are often attacked by challengers not for the number of bad bills canned in committee, but for the number of introduced measures that actually made it into law.

At the Hawaii State Legislature, a newly-hired Senate analyst was once given the assignment of reading the 2011 Session Laws of Hawaii (SLH) and complained when her boss was away that she faced reading thousands of pages packed with dense legalese. A veteran House staffer simply smiled and replied, “The SLH covers a couple of months of lawmaking and is more than a foot thick. Yet the Bible contains thousands of years of God’s commands to man and is only three inches thick on average. What does that say about how many laws they’re making here?”

As that incident perfectly illustrates, legislators are lawmaking mass-producers. (Prior to going paperless, in years past whenever the Hawaii State Legislature was in session, the cost of printer paper in Honolulu would rise by a few cents.) It also underlines the more important fact that even God, who is infinitely powerful and wise, could not by the means of law alone make humans righteous or the Earth more verdant.

Laws do not make good citizens nor do they prosper the environment. As is evident by thousands of years of human civilization, the only thing laws really accomplish is condemnation for those who engage in banned behaviors.
 And from his blog piece:
Our 21st century America has become an extremely legalistic society. Chances are if you can think of something, there's a public law that taxes, regulates or bans it. Most legislators who introduce laws do so based on a belief that law somehow makes for a better society or more responsible citizenry. Yet as we have seen in recent years, the increase of laws has only meant more incarceration, more law enforcement (and tougher police tactics) and more surveillance. People need to consult a lawyer for almost everything these days because the slightest screw up could result in government fines, imprisonment or civil action.

In my article I discuss how law at its very core is flawed with respect to humanity because laws do not change the human heart, they only punish. A law can forbid perjury or fraud, but it can never make a liar honest. Another law can prohibit littering, but it cannot make a messy person neat. The human heart -whether it inclines towards evil or good - is the true driving force. A society without morals can have laws forbidding everything but without citizens who have the soul (and by this I mean heart, mind and spirit) to live right, will be marked by chaos, violence and mayhem.

(snip)

You cannot legislate righteousness. It didn't work for God (nor was it His intent to justify by the law) and it certainly won't work for humans either. This is where so-called "social conservatives" miss the mark: they think that by banning behaviors they will somehow "instruct" souls in the way of righteousness or "preserve" the character of the nation. Jesus - speaking of a man's internal heart condition - said that a good tree does not bear bad fruit, neither does a bad tree bear good fruit. Bad deeds do not spontaneously generate, they are the fruit of a bad heart. "Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit" (Matthew 12:33).
It reminds me of something that Cicero observed: the more the laws there were, the more numerous the lawbreakers.

Metaphorically, it's the political equivalent of grasping at straws: our leaders, we ourselves even, have been convinced that if we pass just one, more, law, that somehow it will magically make everything better.  And that kind of thinking is in defiance of the reality that Man, on his own, is a fallen and corrupt creature.  Nothing he can do according to his own wisdom is going to succeed... or at least survive the test of time.

Why has our country become so corrupted politically and socially?  Because her people have placed their trust and confidence in government, in political parties, in cheapened religion which makes them "feel good" but does nothing to convict and bring personal accountability.  Unfortunately, I look around and see too many people, preachers and politicians who still insist that "things will be right", if only they were in power.

Anyway, de Gracia has some eloquent elucidation in these two essays and they're well worth passing along.

How to fix bankrupt Detroit

History was made yesterday as Detroit became the largest American municipality ever to file for bankruptcy.

What was once the wealthiest city in the United States is now $18 billion dollars underwater.  It can't pay its bills.  It can't pay out pensions to employees.  And there is practically no income.

But hey!  All is not lost!  Detroit can simply have a "Save Detroit Telethon"!


How does a city as ruined as Detroit make a comeback? Getting rid of every vestige of its failed leadership would be a good start. But that alone isn't going to make up for all the damage that kowtowing to the unions (representing both government employees and private industry) has done.

Actually, to be honest: I don't know how a city like Detroit could recover.  I believe it's possible, but it would take a very long time.

Expect all kinds of hell if the United States federal government gives Detroit a bailout.  I have even heard some suggest that it was the bailout of GM which helped precipitate this bankruptcy.  Now imagine that on a larger scale.

Gotta wonder how many other cities across this country are poised to go broke.  Or even how many states...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

American Inquisition: Holder's Justice Department demanding "tips" on George Zimmerman

This has been news for a couple of days now, but the reason I held off posting about it is that I wanted to do some historical investigation first.  And you know what I found out?

To the very best of my understanding, there has not been a single instance before this week of the United States federal government setting up a hotline or e-mail address asking the public and organizations for information against an individual citizen.  Not one.  And if anybody reading this does know of one, feel free to write me at theknightshift@gmail.com and better my education on the matter.

George Zimmerman was acquitted this past
Eric Holder:
Roland Freisler would have been proud of him.
Saturday night of all charges against him in the death of Trayvon Martin.  Zimmerman had been charged with second-degree murder.

And now, not being content with a jury of his peers finding the man not guilty, Attorney General Eric Holder has directed the United States Department of Justice to solicit "tips" about George Zimmerman from "civil rights groups" and the general public.  Holder's people are searching for "evidence" which would put Zimmerman up on federal "civil rights charges".

In other words: the Obama Administration has officially designated George Zimmerman to be an enemy of the state.

Holder's Justice Department is declaring war against a single American who was found not guilty and who the Federal Bureau of Investigation stated that they had "no evidence" he was a racist.

The Obama White House is engaging in activity which makes those of Nixon's in the Watergate scandal positively pale in comparison.

Among everything else that is so wrong with this (including what could strongly be considered violation of ex post facto) I must wonder aloud: could this be a case of using the weight of the federal government to perpetrate an act of racial injustice?  All of this seems motivated primarily by the ethnicity of the respective parties in the case: Martin being black and Zimmerman, a Hispanic.

"Justice is blind", it has been said.  Yet Holder's Justice Department is behaving, to any rational observer, with racial prejudice against an American citizen and to an unprecedented degree of official action.

And if the government can do this to George Zimmerman, it can very well choose to do this to anyone else.  Including me.  Or you.

This is why we can't have nice things...

In case you missed it the first time, tonight at 7 p.m. EST the SyFy channel will be re-broadcasting its natural disaster epic Sharknado.  Last week's premiere of the movie - about a freak hurricane spawning off the coast of California and hitting Los Angeles, dropping shark-spewing tornadoes all over the place - became one of the biggest television hits of the summer.

(No, I did not watch this movie thing last week.  But the "#sharknado" hashtag on Twitter was sure a hella fun to behold!)

And then there's this, which is certainly destined to become the centerpiece of every home entertainment library it finds itself ensconced upon: The Power Rangers Legacy: The First 20 Years DVD collection.  Just in time for the twentieth anniversary of the Mighty Moron... errrr, I mean Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers show which first unleashed this plague upon the land, Saban and Shout! Media are unleashing "this limited edition home entertainment collection comes packed with every Power Rangers episode, from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers to Power Rangers Megaforce, boasting over 270 hours of action-packed entertainment across 98 DVDs".

(I can't believe this franchise lasted 27 episodes, much less more than 270 hours...)

Tip o' the hat to good friend of this blog Drew Robert McOmber for alerting us to this... whatever.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tammy Tuesday this week is brew-ing up trouble

So Tammy decided she wanted to try some beer...


She ultimately decided that she didn't like it.  After one whiff of the bottle, she ran away from it as hard as she could!  Wish I could have gotten that on camera.

A friend made an observation: what kind of a German dog wouldn't enjoy beer?  I think the photo speaks for itself: it's light beer that Tammy recoiled from, not a dark hearty pint of true ale.

Incidentally, with all of the interest in home-brewing lately, I'm considering making some beer myself.  The thing is, I've never been able to develop a taste for the stuff.  So I figured that'll be one hobby which if I'm bad at, I'll never have to know...

Photographs of American Revolution veterans, and 3D images from World War I

Old historical photos hold a special fascination for me.  So I find this next couple of items positively amazing...

Peter Mackintosh
Photo Credit: Joseph Bauman
On the right is a picture of Peter Mackintosh, taken sometime after the early 1840s.  Mackintosh was 16 years old and an apprentice blacksmith in Boston when he watched as a gang of young men barged into his shop, smeared ashes from the hearth all over their faces, and then just as quickly stormed out of the place.  Mackintosh later discovered that they were part of a mob on their way to Griffin's Wharf to throw boxes and barrels of British-taxed tea into Boston Harbor.

That was on December 16th, 1773.  And the teenaged Peter Mackintosh had witnessed the first moments of the Boston Tea Party.

Later on Mackintosh served in the Continental Army, shoeing horses and repairing cannons.

Mackintosh lived long enough for his photograph to be taken at the dawn of the art.  And his is but one of a collection of photos of Revolutionary War heroes who survived long after America's war for independence.   Some of these men served personally under George Washington.  A few witnessed Cornwallis' surrender after the Battle of Yorktown.

Think about that: we are looking into the eyes of men, whose own eyes looked into those of Washington, Hamilton, Greene, and perhaps Cornwallis himself.  These aren't painted depictions, but captured moments of these people in the twilight of their lives.

1776 wasn't all that long ago, when you consider it.

Much closer to our own epoch, a World War I-era stereoscopic camera discovered two years ago has yielded some incredible 3D photographs of the Great War.  It will be a hundred years next August that World War I broke out in Europe but if you don't mind the absence of color, images such as this one are practically as fresh as those taken in any modern conflict...

Two French soldiers help another who has been shot,
as another lies dead in the background.
io9.com has several more photos of World War I in 3D at the link above.

When animals attack: cows and snakes

A man in Brazil has died after a cow on top of his roof crashed through the ceiling of his house and crushed him in his bed.

From the story at The Telegraph...
The cow is believed to have escaped from a nearby farm and climbed onto the roof of the couple's house, which backs onto a steep hill on Wednesday night.

The corrugated roof immediately gave way and the one-and-a-half-ton animal fell eight feet onto Mr de Souza's side of the bed.

His wife, and the cow, both reportedly escaped unharmed.

Rescuers took Mr de Souza to hospital with a fractured left leg but no other obvious injuries, reporting that he was conscious and talking normally.

Hours later however he died from internal bleeding while still waiting to be seen by doctors, according to his family.

Mr de Souza's brother-in-law Carlos Correa told Brazil's Hoje em Dia newspaper: "Being crushed by a cow in your bed is the last way you expect to leave this earth.
"But in my view it wasn't the cow that killed our Joao, it was the unacceptable time he spent waiting to be examined."
His grieving mother, Maria de Souza, told Brazil's SuperCanal TV channel: "I didn't bring my son up to be killed by a falling cow."
 Meanwhile over in Israel, another man is recovering after he went to a restroom to "drain the main vein" and a snake leaped out of the toilet and bit him on his penis.

Fortunately it was small (the snake, not the... nevermind).  And it was also determined at the hospital to be non-poisonous (again, the snake).

Saturday, July 13, 2013

George Zimmerman: NOT GUILTY

Breaking news on, I think every TV station in the land right now.

George Zimmerman: found Not Guilty
Justice was served.  And I'm going to tell you why...

George Zimmerman has been found not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin because the prosecution in this case either had NO real evidence whatsoever, or they were the most incompetent team of prosecutors in the history of anything.  Too many times it seemed as if the prosecutors were scoring points for the defense!

Either way, justice was done in this matter.  The burden is on the prosecution to prove guilt, not on the defendant to prove innocence.  And the prosecution came nowhere close to meeting that burden.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Review of PACIFIC RIM: this summer's most fun movie yet!

Pacific Rim, movie, poster, Guillermo del Toro, kaiju, jaeger
Pacific Rim is the most thoughtful and personal film of the kaiju genre since the original Gojira in 1954.  It is also one of the remarkably few that give the kaiju themselves their proper respect.

Consequently, it's an insanely fun movie which more than deserves your hard-earned entertainment coin!

Those movies about giant monsters?  Well, the creatures themselves are "kaiju" (Japanese for "giant beast") and few things have been sillier for me to watch in a movie than for those critters to develop "cute" personalities or to clash one-on-one a'la "good guy fights bad guy".  To me, that's not true kaiju.  A real kaiju film is about massive beasts being not characters at all... but instead, being unstoppable forces of nature.  Something above mortal concepts of good and evil.  A good kaiju film should be at its heart a disaster movie, not a monster movie.  Something that focuses on people and how they face the direness of the situation: sometimes in the right way, sometimes wrong.

That's what Gojira (what us Yanks know better as Godzilla) was.  Indeed, that movie upped the ante by being serious political commentary by the Japanese about nuclear weapons, less than a decade after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Practically no movie since has presented the kaiju as a thing which cannot be reasoned or negotiated with, or portrayed the human desperation which comes with that.  Indeed, to the best of my knowledge only J.J. Abrams' Cloverfield (2008) has really hit the kaiju sweet spot.

But now comes Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth) with Pacific Rim.  And finally we have again the kaiju genre at its very best.  I won't be surprise if wind up catching it again twice - at least - during its theatrical run.  Pacific Rim is everything a summer blockbuster movie could be... nay, should be.  Of all the movies I've seen this summer so far, Pacific Rim easily tops my list of most enjoyable thus far.

It's the near future.  A rupture in the tectonic plates deep in the Pacific Ocean has caused a portal to open between Earth's universe and somewhere else.  Unfortunately things are coming through that portal.  Big things.  The first Kaiju (as they come to be called, and you pronounce it "kI-joo") arises off the California shore and beats the slats out of San Francisco, destroys the Golden Gate Bridge (for the second time this summer: does this movie and Star Trek Into Darkness have a beef with that town or something?) and kills untold thousands before finally being stopped with a tactical nuke.  Unfortunately that Kaiju is just the first of a wave of ungodly monsters striking throughout the Pacific Ocean and bordering countries: Manila, Sydney, Tokyo and more all fall to the Kaiju.

In response humanity pools its technology and develops the Jaegers (pronouced "Yay-gurs", German for "hunters"): gigantic robots dwarfing the size of most skyskrapers.  Highly articulate, heavily armored and loaded with the latest mega-ordnance, the Jaegers are meant to be mankind's best defense against the Kaiju.  Two pilots are needed to control the Jaegers: each neural-linked to each other in a process called "Drifting".  When joined, the two pilots share their thoughts and memories and act as a coordinated team as the "brain" of the Jaegers.  And pretty soon the pilots come to be treated not just as worldwide heroes, but as global celebrities like athletes and rock stars.

Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) and his brother Yancey (Diego Klattenhoff) are two Jaeger pilots, driving an American Jaeger named Gipsy Danger.  They are two of the very best, and nobody "Drifts" as well as the Brothers Becket.  But after Yancey is killed during a battle in Alaska, Raleigh leaves the program: thrown into trauma and shock from still being connected to Yancey as he dies.

Five years later, Raleigh Becket has thrown himself among the crews laboring to build an enormous sea wall along the American coast.  He is approached by Stacker Pentecost: the commanding officer of the Jaeger program (and intensely played by Idris Elba).  Seems that with Kaiju attacks getting harder to counter, the sponsoring governments are coming to see the Jaegers as a waste of precious resources (including food, worldwide supplies of which have become horrendously strained by Kaiju attacks) and want to pull the plug.  Pentecost starts to pool the remaining Jaegers and all available pilots to a base near Hong Kong.  Meanwhile the Kaiju are starting to come through the portal with increasing frequency.  They are also getting bigger, stronger, and smarter.

I lost count of the number and kinds of Kaiju rampaging through Pacific Rim.  They are each given code-names, but they are mostly known as being "Category 3" and "Category 4" much like hurricanes are in the real world.  What was far more memorable and entertaining were the Jaegers and their pilots: Raleigh Becket, the father/son Australian team of Herc and Chuck Hansen (Max Martini and Robert Kazinsky) driving Striker Eureka, the Chinese Crimson Typhoon and Cherno Alpha hailing from Russia.  Rinko Kikuchi plays Mako Mori: a young woman who desires to co-pilot a Jaeger but who Pentecost is reluctant to put in the cockpit.  These characters and others were what gave Pacific Rim the much-enjoyable heart and soul beneath its monstrous metal and flesh: watching the camaraderie and even rivalry between the Jaeger pilots.  Seeing how some have turned dead Kaiju organs into highly lucrative items for black market sale, notably underground merchant Hannibal Chou (Ron Perlman, always a pleasure to behold especially as someone starting to show serious chops as villains lately).  And especially the moments of humor perfectly delivered by a "mad scientist" duo of Kaiju researchers played by Charlie Day and Burn Gorman.

But hey, chances are strong that you're going into Pacific Rim wanting to look at giant monsters and robots beating the crap out of each other.  We get that in spades with Pacific Rim.  The battles between the Kaiju and the Jaegers are easily the most devastating and realistic ever portrayed on film: think of what we saw in The Avengers last year and then in Star Trek Into Darkness and Man of Steel this summer, combined, multiplied by twelve (did Farmers, Progressive and Nationwide miss out on some marketing tie-in opportunities or what?).  The action spans the width and breadth... and depth... of the Pacific basin.  This ain't your granddaddy's "man in rubber suit" monster movie, but it's not seemingly random acts of destruction from too many CGI-rendered blockbusters we've seen lately, either.  This is mass carnage with attitude and intellect behind it.  And it is positivalutely gorgeous to behold on a big screen!

I loved Ramin Djawadi's score: it sets and maintains the perfect tempo for Pacific Rim's high-caliber action as well as its quieter, more human moments.  Djawadi has made quite a name for himself in the past few years, between projects like Iron Man and his current work on HBO's Game of Thrones.  I haven't gone looking for the soundtrack yet but rest assured, I shall be soon.

Pacific Rim didn't just reach my expectations.  It raised its claws up, grabbed them and pummeled them into the ground while blowing my eyedrums and earballs with mind-blowing spectacle and shock.  Guillermo del Toro and his team have produced an amazing piece of work with Pacific Rim.  It may not have pioneered the kaiju genre, but it certainly is the first modern movie to tackle it with honor, with dignity, and with heart.  It wouldn't surprise me if this winds up the highest-grossing film of 2013's summer season.

Pacific Rim gets the craziest biggest recommendation that I can think of giving a movie!  Go see it and go see it big!  And don't be afraid to let loose and cheer on the Jaegers, whichever one you find yourself liking the most.  There sure was a bunch of applause for them from the audience I was sitting in last night!

Oh yeah: do NOT get up to leave after the final scene of the movie.  Let those neat 3D depictions of the Jaegers and the Kaiju roll while Djawadi's theme plays, waiting for the "Pacific Rim" title to show.  Then see what happens next.  Trust me: it's worth sticking around for.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Quite possibly the most hardcore bad-a$$ dude EVER

Adrian Carton de Wiart
Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart
having a jolly good time!
Twitter user Matthew Barrett found what must be "the best opening paragraph of any Wikipedia biography ever".  It's the entry for Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart, an officer in the British Army who served in three wars.

From the Wikipedia entry...
Lieutenant-General Sir Adrian Paul Ghislain Carton de Wiart VC, KBE, CB, CMG, DSO (5 May 1880 – 5 June 1963), was a British Army officer of Belgian and Irish descent. He fought in the Boer War, World War I, and World War II, was shot in the face, head, stomach, ankle, leg, hip and ear, survived a plane crash, tunneled out of a POW camp, and bit off his own fingers when a doctor wouldn't amputate them. He later said "frankly I had enjoyed the war."
This guy was in the Boer War, World War I and World War II, lost an eye, chewed the fingers off his own hand, lost his left arm, received multiple gunshots all over his body, survived a plane disaster, escapes an Italian prison during World War II, witnessed action in the Pacific Theater, and then said he "enjoyed the war".  He also served as envoy to China on behalf of Winston Churchill, and then Clement Attlee.

Also according to the article, he "enjoyed sports, especially shooting and pig sticking" (AKA, hunting wild boars).

Can't say he didn't live an interesting life, aye?

In case you're wondering, Sir Carton de Wiart passed away peacefully in 1963, at the age of 83.

Chewbacca needs double amputee

Lord only knows how legit this is. Whether it is or not, it's both uproariously funny and downright creepy.  From Craigslist...


I don't think that's how they did it for The Empire Strikes Back.  Can't this guy find a geek to set him up with some circuit boards and servos instead?

Anyway, thanks to Erik Yaple for another twisted find!

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Government-supplied consumers now outnumber private producers in America

Jobs are evaporating.  Manufacturing is disappearing from our shores.  Millions upon millions of undocumented immigrants are flooding across our borders.

And now, at long last, the population of Americans on government food assistance outnumbers that of private sector employees.

This is not sustainable.

From the story at CNS News...
The number of Americans receiving subsidized food assistance from the federal government has risen to 101 million, representing roughly a third of the U.S. population.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that a total of 101,000,000 people currently participate in at least one of the 15 food programs offered by the agency, at a cost of $114 billion in fiscal year 2012.
That means the number of Americans receiving food assistance has surpassed the number of full-time private sector workers in the U.S.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 97,180,000 full-time private sector workers in 2012.
The population of the U.S. is 316.2 million people, meaning nearly a third of Americans receive food aid from the government.
  And where is a lot of that taxpayer-funded "food aid" going to?

Hairstyling and cosmetics
Booze and smokes

Lottery tickets, money orders,
cell phones, more booze, more
cigarettes

Lots of lobster and premium steak

Maybe it's finally time for the producers, the people who strive for personal achievement, the men and women of the mind, to declare a general strike.  To stop giving the products of our labors to those who take and give nothing in return.

It might be the only peaceful way to avert this:

The Course of Empire: Destruction, by Thomas Cole, 1836

Not the first time I've posted that image.  But with each passing day, it seems increasingly appropriate.

This week's Tammy Tuesday proved elusive

I tried, really tried, to snap a photo of Tammy wearing my new sunglasses.  But she adamantly refused to cooperate.

So here she is running around the house, sneaking under the dining room table, no doubt looking for trouble...


I know: pretty disappointing as a photo.  Maybe she'll give us a better show next week.

Look! Real Third Amendment case! A story that will boil your blood...

'Fess up: how many of us laughed about the Third Amendment when we learned about it (or were supposed to have learned about it) in ninth grade?
Quartering Act, French and Indian War, George III, Revolutionary War, Colonial America
The Quartering Act, 1763.

(Chris raises his hand)

The Third Amendment - part of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution - reads thusly: "No soldier shall in time of peace be quartered in any house without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war but in a manner to be prescribed by law."

But an incident two years ago which is just now coming to light in court demonstrates how much we should appreciate our rights, whether or not we actively employ them  Anthony Mitchell and his parents, Michael and Linda Mitchell, were asked by the police department of Henderson, Nevada for the use of their homes in a "domestic violence" investigation.  All three members of the Mitchell family declined, saying they did not wish to become involved.

The Henderson Police Department took their homes anyway.

From Reason.com:
At 10:45 a.m. defendant Officer Christopher Worley (HPD) contacted plaintiff Anthony Mitchell via his telephone. Worley told plaintiff that police needed to occupy his home in order to gain a "tactical advantage" against the occupant of the neighboring house. Anthony Mitchell told the officer that he did not want to become involved and that he did not want police to enter his residence. Although Worley continued to insist that plaintiff should leave his residence, plaintiff clearly explained that he did not intend to leave his home or to allow police to occupy his home. Worley then ended the phone call
[Henderson police officers] banged forcefully on the door and loudly commanded Anthony Mitchell to open the door to his residence. Surprised and perturbed, plaintiff Anthony Mitchell immediately called his mother (plaintiff Linda Mitchell) on the phone, exclaiming to her that the police were beating on his front door.
Seconds later, officers, including Officer Rockwell, smashed open plaintiff Anthony Mitchell's front door with a metal ram as plaintiff stood in his living room. As plaintiff Anthony Mitchell stood in shock, the officers aimed their weapons at Anthony Mitchell and shouted obscenities at him and ordered him to lie down on the floor. Fearing for his life, plaintiff Anthony Mitchell dropped his phone and prostrated himself onto the floor of his living room, covering his face and hands.
Addressing plaintiff as "asshole," officers, including Officer Snyder, shouted conflicting orders at Anthony Mitchell, commanding him to both shut off his phone, which was on the floor in front of his head, and simultaneously commanding him to 'crawl' toward the officers. Confused and terrified, plaintiff Anthony Mitchell remained curled on the floor of his living room, with his hands over his face, and made no movement.
Although plaintiff Anthony Mitchell was lying motionless on the ground and posed no threat, officers, including Officer David Cawthorn, then fired multiple "pepperball" rounds at plaintiff as he lay defenseless on the floor of his living room. Anthony Mitchell was struck at least three times by shots fired from close range, injuring him and causing him severe pain.
Anthony Mitchell was charged with "obstructing an officer".  His father Michael was arrested while trying to leave a police command center which the cops lured him under false pretense so they could seize his house, too.

The Mitchells are suing the Henderson Police Department for violations of their Third and Fourth Amendment rights as well as "assault and battery, conspiracy, defamation, abuse of process, malicious prosecution, negligence, and infliction of emotional distress".

If the allegations are true, here's hoping that the Mitchells will bankrupt the Town of Henderson for allowing this to happen.  As for the cops themselves: in a sane world they would be taken to the village square and horsewhipped forty times as a dire warning to any who would wear and then abuse the badge of peace officer.

(That's a huge part of the problem right there: that we no longer have "peace officers" but "law enforcement officers".  There are many in this country who have come to believe that cops are becoming a government sanctioned gang of thugs not much different from the Bloods 'n the Crips.  Stories like this make it hard not to see some merit to that notion.)

Name these two dogs!

These two sweet little chihuahuas need help.  Your help!

They have a home.  They have love.  They just need names.
My girlfriend brought them home this past weekend from an animal adoption agency.  Right now their names are Lou and Blue.  Lou is toward the top of the photo and Blue is in the bottom half.  They are a mother-and-son pair and Kristen took both of them into her heart and home.  And they are absolutely cute and sweet and loaded with personality.

But Kristen is thinking that they need some real names.  I mean, "Lou" and "Blue" are what they came up with at the agency, after these two were rescued from a really horrible situation.  They each deserve a proper christening.

So I'm putting it to this blog's readers: what would y'all suggest we name them?  Remember, they're a mother-and-son pair, and Kristen would like that to be borne in mind.  Name ideas don't have to be of fictional or nonfictional mothers and sons, but please nothing intimating errr... "improper" relationships!  Blue is a good son and is very protective of his mommy.

(No, I don't want to hear him being called "Norman" either...)

And if you are thinking about bringing a new pet into your life, I really can't ask enough that you consider getting one from an animal adoption outfit.  These are dogs and cats that deserve a good loving home and will definitely show their appreciation for it (Lou and Blue already have to Kristen).  For just a small fee you can start providing a good life for a pet which otherwise would never have one.  Lou and Blue came from Planned Pethood Clinic & Adoption Center in Rocky Mount, Virginia.  But if you don't live in the area around Franklin County or Roanoke, there are many reputable agencies throughout the country which you can contact.

So, you think you can help these little guys with some shiny new monickers?  Let's hear 'em!

Thursday, July 04, 2013

A pledge against allegiance to man

I can no longer, in good conscience and in keeping to my faith in God, recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America.

This is a choice which I have abided for nearly a year.  At various times I have felt led to articulate my reasons for doing so.  Indeed, this past fall a friend helped me to record a video about my decision to never again say the Pledge of Allegiance (we filmed it at Guilford Courthouse Battleground, in front of the statue of General Nathaniel Greene, for what it’s worth).

Recent events have brought me to a place where at last I am compelled to write about why I’m not only refraining from the Pledge of Allegiance, but have come to see it as representing too much of what is wrong with America, and even in dire opposition to the vision of the Founders.

I first learned the Pledge of Allegiance in elementary school.  At that age, one absorbs and trusts everything the teachers expects one to learn.  For years, decades even, I spoke the words without really knowing what they meant, much less where they came from.  In fact, how many Americans do know where the Pledge came from?

I didn’t know until about ten years ago, and that was the beginning of my questioning the Pledge and whether, as a follower of Christ and a citizen of this country, it was something I should invoke.

The Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy: a socialist, and arguably a racist and anti-Catholic.  But none of those are germane to my individual illumination about the Pledge.  Neither is it that Bellamy wrote the Pledge of Allegiance as part of a marketing scheme for Youth’s Companion magazine to sell thousands of American flags to schools throughout the country.

No, what aroused my conscience most was that Bellamy – a Baptist minister by trade, incidentally – wanted the Pledge to convey and instill the concept that obedience to country and government is a “virtue”.

I do not believe that.  I do not believe that at all.  Because that runs fully against the meaning of the Constitution of the United States: a contract which establishes a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

Bellamy – as too many Christians do today – interpreted Jesus’ instruction to “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:15-22, Mark 12:13-17, Luke 20:20-26) to mean that Christians must be completely subservient to temporal government.  I have heard many insist that to disobey government in any way is to disobey, disparage and disrespect God.  So ingrained and unquestioned is this position that I have even heard of a minister who said he must allow his wife to be raped within his own house by federal agents, if they were to so intrude upon his home.

What is neglected or forgotten or ignored is what Jesus was teaching about responsibility to God.  Jesus wasn’t telling His followers to obey man’s government without question.  That would have put Him falling into the trap set by the Pharisees.  His reply was something that hurt far more.  He reminded the Pharisees and those of the law that because they had not rendered unto God first, they had to render unto Rome.  The people of Israel were under the yoke of a foreign power when they could have instead been a free nation under the God of their forefathers.

Some Christians in this nation don’t want to understand that.  But it’s true: there is no “Caesar” in America.  If there was, We the People murdered him and took his place, with the blessings of Providence

How is it that we have resurrected Caesar?  Are we now like the children of Israel, who cried at Moses to lead them back into the “safety” of bondage to Pharaoh?  Trusting not in God but in a government wrought with corruption?

I don’t mean “imperfection”.  No government under this sun is going to be perfect, and it would be the height of arrogance to think otherwise.  I’m talking corruption.  Power without restraint.   Power for sake of power, eager and willing to waste and devour and murder to maintain that power.  To remain in control.

Read the words of the Pledge of Allegiance:

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

I can’t speak those words anymore, because those are the words of a colossal lie.

The United States is not a republic.  It hasn’t been for a very long time.  The citizens of America haven’t been in control of their own destinies for decades.   It is now a government grown too big, too powerful, too corrupt.  And corruption looks after itself.  The professional politicians.  The “journalists” lusting to be within the spheres of influence more than the pursuit of truth.   The “academics” who sacrifice education to indoctrination.  The unethical among corporations and banks who exploit the system entrusted them to steal billions of dollars... and when found out, use their pull to create new exploits, still.

This is a country whose laws now protect the corrupt from the innocent, and not the innocent from the corrupt.

It is insanity that a free people could ever give such as these, and far too many more, their absolute trust and loyalty.  And yet, we have. We have witnessed it and witness it anew every day.   And it matters not in the slightest which “party” is in control of this or that branch of government. The American people have suffered at least... at least... twenty years and counting of the most incompetent, the most selfish, the most freedom-loathing, and the most destructive executive leadership in United States history.  From the Oval Office on down, we have come to be “represented” by the self-serving, the narcissistic, the soulless and the mad.

Don’t believe me?  Read the headlines of the past few months.  The Internal Revenue Service is revealed to be a weapon against those who would challenge the status quo.  Our private communications, our finances and even our medical records are now being monitored by people we will never know and will never see.  Searches now happen on a “hunch”, not with a warrant.  We are now forced to have our DNA testify against ourselves in court of law.  Pointing a finger and making “bang-bang” sounds has become grounds to arrest a kindergartner.  Our borders are allowed to be overrun by the very officials who swore to defend and maintain them.  And now, judges and justices have taken it upon themselves to redefine an institution held sacred throughout six thousand years and more of human history and tradition.

For all of these things and more, there will be consequences.  If not in our own lifetime then in that of our children, and their children’s children.  “Liberty and justice for all” doesn’t exist anymore.  And if not for us now, then how can we look our offspring in the eye and still promise them these things?

That is what our government across this land has become: a force unto itself, bereft of restraint from its people.  And that is something that I will not now and will never again pledge allegiance to.  My allegiance must ever be to God, and to then serve others as He would lead me to do.   If that requires violating the rulings and legislations of mere men, then I will do so and suffer the consequences.

I can respect and appreciate what the Flag of the United States is supposed to represent.  But I will not yield my morals and my conscience to those who would wield that same flag against myself, my family and my posterity.

If I am to have a pledge, it will be a pledge which I make according to the dictates of my conscience, of what was intended by those who came before, and of the necessity of a law higher than that of man.

If I am to pledge to something, it will be toward that which was once part of what made America good, and could make it good again.

And this is now my pledge...

Constitution, United States, America, We the People Pledge of Adherence

"I pledge adherence to the Constitution of the United States of America, to steward authority (God) entrusted the people from whom the Republic derives its consent, and to uphold the blessings of liberty for all."


Whether one chooses to use the word "God", I left as a matter of personal preference.  In my own case, I believe that God did give the authority of this nation to its people, and not to its government, and so I do include "God" when I have said this pledge.  But regardless of preference, the Constitution has made clear in no uncertain terms that it is the people from whom authority stems in the United States.

There it is.  I don't care what anybody else thinks of it, or thinks of me for composing it or what led me to write it to begin with.  Neither could I think any less of any person who choose to still use the Pledge of Allegiance, if that is how his or her own conscience leads them.

All I ask is that each of you reading this not take what this world presents you at face value.  That, and to never cease in applying your mind, your spirit, and your body toward the vigilance that our freedom... which too many fought and died for us to enjoy... is due.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Douglas Engelbart, inventor of the computer mouse, has passed away

Unless you're reading this on a mobile device (and even that owes a lot to him) you're enjoying this blog and practically everything else on the Internet because of this man: Douglas Engelbart.

Douglas Engelbart, computers, mouse, technology, Internet

While working at SRI in the 1960s, Engelbart was struck with the idea of humans interacting with computers by manipulating on the screen with an intuitive interface.  He called his invention the "x-y position indicator".  The first model was carved from a block of wood with wheels, a push-button and a connecting cord.

Douglas Engelbart had created the mouse.  And he didn't stop there.  By the time he left SRI in 1977, he had helped develop such now-common technologies as "display editing, online processing, linking and in-file object addressing, use of multiple windows, hypermedia, and context-sensitive help".

The sad word is coming out of Atherton, California tonight that Douglas Engelbart - pioneering engineer and visionary whose invention let the rest of us discover the power of computers - has passed away at the age of 88.

In his memory, here is the now-legendary "Mother of All Demos", which Engelbart presented on December 9th, 1968.  So much of what we use today, which Engelbart was showing us almost five full decades ago...

The world's ugliest church buildings

Church of Santa-Monica, Madrid, Spain, world's ugliest churchesRealClearReligion has scoured the globe to come up with this set of 35 pages depicting the ugliest churches in the world.  Be they Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, non-denominational or whatever, these edifices may not be an affront to God... but they are an affront to human eyeballs!  Some of them can't really help it: they were obviously a convenience store or movie theater before being converted into places of worship.  But most of them - like the Church of Santa-Monica in Madrid, Spain - will have you scratching your head and wondering: "what the heck am I looking at?"  Others, such as Kappal Matha Church in Uvari, India, simply defy all attempts at rationality.  One can't doubt the faith being expressed in these sanctuaries... but there is no loss of bewilderment about what their architects were intending when they designed them!

The titular dilemma of new Star Wars movies (and what can be done about it)

Right now, somewhere as you read this, pre-production is well underway for Star Wars Episode VII.  The script is being written and re-written, conceptual artists are creating new visions of a galaxy far far away, and there is already a casting call for major roles in the next movie.  Barely eight months ago we could have never imagined a new Star Wars trilogy would be happening (in fact, I still find myself hardly believing it).  And now under Disney's management, we are being promised not just a new trilogy (perhaps even two) but a Star Wars movie every year from 2015 until the end of time.

And therein rests a problem which hopefully is being discussed somewhere at the Mouse House and at Lucasfilm:

With all of these new Star Wars movies... how are they going to be titled?  And what does it mean for the Star Wars films we have already?

Until now it's been easy enough: "Episode I: The Phantom Menace", "Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back" and so forth.  Those were individual chapters of one story in an epic fantasy setting.  And it suffices for that one multi-generational epic on film.

Except now, there is the intent to produce several stories in that same setting.  And they aren't necessarily going to pertain to the tale of the Skywalker family from Anakin to Luke to whoever it will be in the next trilogy.

There are already plans for Star Wars "one-shot" films, focusing on individual characters like Yoda and Boba Fett.  Once that big beautiful Star Wars logo blares loud on the screen and the scroll unspools, it's easy to envision it saying "Yoda: Making of a Master" or somesuch.

But those will be self-contained stories.  What of the story that started it all, when it is now to be but one piece of an entire tapestry of tales?  How is the epic at the heart-meat of the entire franchise going to be set apart from what is yet to come?

And there exists the possibility of future Star Wars trilogies: multi-film stories which aren't focused on the Skywalkers or any of the classic characters at all.  Perhaps not even the familiar era of the rise and fall of the Galactic Empire.  The nomenclature of those potential future trilogies must be taken into account.  The sooner the better.

There is a very simple solution: amend the style of the opening crawls of the Star Wars films we already know and love.

There is precedent for it.  When the very first movie came out it was simply "Star Wars".  Only when The Empire Strikes Back was released three years later did the original get retroactively subtitled "Episode IV: A New Hope".  That's been the titling protocol since.

There hasn't been a need to revise that protocol.  There will be soon.  And if accommodation was made before, it can be again.

Here is the proposal: retroactively amend the titles of the existing Star Wars movies so that they will stand apart from the films which will be produced in the years to come.  Let there be no confusing that Episodes I through IX are a singular epic, standing apart as George Lucas' vision of one movie.  Have the core story of the Skywalker family be branded as something unto itself, yet a major component of the larger Star Wars universe which Disney is now creating.

Call it "The Skywalker Saga", or "The Skywalker Cycle" (a Wagner-ish notion in keeping with the operatic motifs at work through the trilogies).  So for example, the scroll for Episode IV could look like this:

Star Wars, Episode IV, Episode VII, Episode VIII, Episode IX, Episode I, Episode II, Episode III, Disney, scroll, title

That's all that needs to happen.  Just expand the titling format.  It's an elegant and non-invasive alteration that will set the classic films and their sequels apart, and can accommodate any movies still to come.  Including full-bore trilogies set in new times and with characters all their own.

From a literary perspective, it makes a lot of sense.  From a corporate viewpoint, it also might prove to be quite lucrative.  It certainly lends itself well to marketing and merchandising possibilities.

And wouldn't it be grand to someday have a set of Blu-rays on the shelf: "Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga", alongside such classics as A Tale of Two Cities, Moby-Dick and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  A truly timeless work of literature, standing on its own merit.

That is what the story of Anakin Skywalker, his son Luke and the next generation of their family deserves.  It's what every story in the Star Wars galaxy deserves in its own right.  And hopefully the good folks at Disney and Lucasfilm will take that into consideration.

(Speaking of Star Wars, hearty congratulations are in order to George Lucas on his recent marriage to the very lovely Mellody Hobson.  May they have a long and happy life together!)

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

ObamaCare employer mandate delayed until AFTER next election

The employer mandate component of Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act health-care scheme has been delayed from implementation until 2015.  That's after the 2014 elections, mind you.  Not well before.

Can Obama do that?  I mean, I thought the Affordable Care Act was codified law.  Seems kinda illegal to invalidate the most sweeping legislation in living memory like that, even if it's only part of it.

I have an idea: let ObamaCare go into full-blown effect now.  Let Obama and those who pushed for the Affordable Care Act see what happens.  They wanted us to have this, we should give them what they want.

(Don't think for a moment that this isn't about politics.  Gotta wonder if the ACA will keep getting punted down the field for the next several elections to come.)

'Course, Obama himself, members of Congress and other government officials have exempted themselves from the Affordable Care Act.

I'll say this: if that's the way it is, then we the people should exempt ourselves as well.  If it's not good enough for them, it's obviously not good enough for us either.

The latest from the wonderful world of 3D printing

This is easily the technology that I'm keenly following more than any other right now.  And for plenty of good reasons...

3D printing is now capable of producing replacement bones using living cells.

Desktop-produced firearms continues to be developed and refined, beyond the control of any government.

Laser-guided 3D printing can now produce metal objects with high precision.  You will soon be taking your car into a garage and have a new custom part created in-house.

High-capacity lithium-ion batteries smaller than the size of a grain of sand have been created in the laboratory and it's thought that they could eventually be used to power ridiculously tiny gadgets, including next-generation medical devices like pacemakers.

And then there's this: 4D printing!  Objects which are manufactured in 3D "folded-up", then are allowed to self-assemble themselves.  One possible use mentioned is being able to buy furniture packed-flat from a store, bring it home and then take it out of the box and watch it put itself together.  More serious applications could be for building construction in hazardous situations.

No doubt parents across the country will be happy to know about 4D printing.  It will potentially bring an end to those most dreaded of words found on just about every toy or game box: "some assembly required"!

Tammy Tuesday this week is too snug and cozy to care

I snapped this picture of Tammy at about 4:30 in the morning.  On most nights she jumps onto the recliner and pulls this blanket over herself and goes to sleep.  On this particular morning she woke up, looked around, didn't see anything to get interested in for the moment, and then pulled her head back under the covers and went back to dozing...

dachshund, dog, Tammy

Monday, July 01, 2013

"Weird Al" Yankovic played with my Yoda puppet (and signed it too!)

This past Friday evening saw musical parody genius, pop culture icon and now bestselling author "Weird Al" Yankovic come to Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh, North Carolina as part of his seven-city book-signing tour promoting his just-released children's tome My New Teacher and Me!...

"Weird Al" Yankovic, Al Yankovic, My New Teacher and Me!, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, North Carolina, signing

My New Teacher and Me! is the follow-up to Weird Al's acclaimed 2011 children's book When I Grow Up (available as a standard book and as a newfangled iOS app for your iPad!).

I arrived at the store about three hours before the signing (incidentally, Quail Ridge Books is a really nice independent bookstore: I'm gonna make it a habit of swinging by there any time I'm in the Raleigh area) and bought a few copies to get signed.  I wound up reading My New Teacher and Me! in the interim and found it to be a delightful and well-crafted (and funny) sequel to the first book.  I hope Al continues with young Billy's story and gives him at least a trilogy!

Well anyhoo, 7 p.m. arrived and Al Yankovic (that's how he's billed in literary circles, not as "Weird Al", so I'm gonna try to respect that for the rest of this post) came out and began signing and posing for photos.  I don't know how many came to Quail Ridge Books on Friday night but there had been over 800 at his previous stop in Cincinnati the day before.  If I had to guess, I would estimate at least 400 people and maybe even 500.

It was a little after 8 when my turn came to approach the table where Al was situated.  And along with the two copies of My New Teacher and Me! I had something else that I was hoping he could sign: my vintage Yoda vinyl hand puppet, bought all the way back in 1981.  I figured that since his big finishing song at the end of every concert is "Yoda" - and since he had the same kind of puppet as a prop in his very first MTV special - that it might have been worth a shot.

Well, as soon as I walked to the table Al saw my puppet standing atop my books and he said "Hey, I used to have one of those!"  I gave it to him and he put it on his hand and started playing with it... yes, "Weird Al" Yankovic himself (I know, I slipped from established protocol there but I couldn't help it) started playing with my Yoda puppet!!  He put it on his right hand and began talking like Yoda and then he said "Or you could play with him like *this*" and started punching Yoda like a boxer.

This has to be among the top five most kewlest moments of my life...

"Weird Al" Yankovic, Star Wars, Yoda, puppet, Chris Knight, Quail Ridge Books, My New Teacher and Me!, Raleigh, North Carolina
"Weird Al" Yankovic, Star Wars, Yoda, puppet, Chris Knight, Quail Ridge Books, My New Teacher and Me!, Raleigh, North Carolina

And yes, he signed it...

"Weird Al" Yankovic, Yoda, puppet, Star Wars, autographed

Don't even think of asking to buy this from me!  You will never, ever, EVER find this listed on eBay.  Not as long as I'm alive... and I'm planning on being alive for a heap long time.  That lil' Yoda puppet had sentimental value before, and it's got even more now.

Thanks to Al for coming to Raleigh, and thanks to Quail Ridge Books for hosting him!  And I heartily recommend My New Teacher and Me!: a fun lil' book for children ages 6 to 600.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Roads? Where this LEGO model is going we don't need... roads.

Here's the latest entry in the "Things we don't really need but are lusting for badly" files...

LEGO, Back To The Future, DeLorean
1-Point-21 jigawatts of LEGO awesome!
Going on sale worldwide tomorrow at LEGO Stores, toy and other retailers as well as LEGO's online store is this: The DeLorean Time Machine.  The fourth model to be designed, supported and approved for official production via LEGO CUUSOO, this minifig-scale replica of Doctor Emmett "Doc" Brown's famous heavy-customized DeLorean from Back to the Future comes complete with options for builders to trick it out for whatever form it appeared throughout the film trilogy (it even includes Mr. Fusion and the OUTATIME and barcode license plates).  Unique decal-ed bricks have the Flux Capacitor and the Destination/Present Time LED display.  The doors swing up gull-wing style and the wheels swivel into air mode!

LEGO, Back To The Future, Marty McFly, Doc Brown, minifigsAnd yes, it even has minifigs of Marty McFly (with skateboard) and Doc Brown!  Incidentally, CUUSOO designers who see their ideas on the store shelves get 1% of the profit, and the two guys who collaborated on this model are donating their cut to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.

LEGO's Back to the Future DeLorean Time Machine has a retail price of $34.99/€34,99 and streets on August 1st, both at brick-and-mortar stores and online at the LEGO Shop.  Go get it.  You know you want to.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

It's the shifty-eyed Tammy Tuesday!

Zoinks!!  This week's Tammy Tuesday feature went down to the wire!  It's 11:56 p.m. when I'm finally able to getting to post it.

Well, don't let it be said that I'm not the Hardest Working Man in the Blogosphere(tm)!  Here's a low-angle shot of Tammy, leering at the camera over the top of her doggie bed...

Tammy, dachshunds, dogs

Monday, July 29, 2013

A startling message on a church sign

While driving through Virginia over the weekend there was a church sign that caught my eye.  It was much like any other found outside places of worship throughout the Bible Belt of America: usually the name of the church, some other info (website address, etc.) and then lots of space for some timely text or witty remark.  I think one of my all-time favorites has to be "SOMEONE CALL 911, THIS CHURCH IS ON FIRE!"  And I'd be horribly negligent as a blogger if I didn't note one nearby congregation's humorous reaction to all the precipitation we've had lately: "WHOEVER IS PRAYING FOR RAIN: PLEASE STOP".

When you think about it, church signs were Twitter before we ever had the Internet.  And even today they convey their messages much better... and with far fewer than 140 characters.

But here's what was emblazoned on this particular church's outdoor sign:

A COUNTRY OF SHEEP BREEDS A GOVERNMENT OF WOLVES

Living in this region, it's not unheard of for a church sign to read something about current events or a quick comment on the culture.  Last year a number of signs depicted support for Amendment 1 (which defined marriage as being between one man and one woman) here in North Carolina.  I can't say that I've personally seen any overtly partisan messages on a church sign in this area, and I like to think that most people prefer it that way. 

This message was not at all partisan.  It didn't seem directed at any burning cultural issue or controversy, either.  But it was something that to the very best of my knowledge I have never seen before on a church sign: implication... or accusation... that government has become a feral and ravenous beast loosed upon the land.  The fault of which is an indifferent and ignorant people.

That's the meaning I took away from it.  Most readers of this blog will understand how I could be sympathetic toward it.  This church is located on U.S. 220 between Martinsville and Roanoke: a fairly significant roadway.  And maybe, just perhaps, many other motorists will spot the sign and feel led to sincerely consider its message.

That being said: I haven't been able to shake how startled I was to read that message.  The most surprising church sign that I've seen until now was probably "GOD HAVE MERCY ON AMERICA", when many signs around the Fourth of July were reading "GOD BLESS AMERICA".

Nothing nebulous about this church sign though.  "A government of wolves".  Brought about by "a country of sheep".

A succinct paraphrase could very well be: "Think for yourself and don't trust the government".  Because if you don't think for yourself, there are plenty of others more than willing to think for you.

I like that.  It jibes with the notion that government in this country derives from the people, and the people have responsibilities toward ensuring that government does not become an animal unto itself.  But I digress...

Here's what's been going through my thoughts since the weekend:

This was a message from one church, out of... how many thousands upon thousands of churches across America?

If that might be the sentiment of one church (and this sort of thing tends to have input from the laity as well as the parson in charge), there may be others... many others even... likewise beginning to question temporal force with a brazen boldness.  Churches whose congregants are challenging the faith we've placed in politics.  A people at last daring to reassert the minds entrusted them by God.

Like I said: startling.  And refreshing.  And rife with a measure hope.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Confirmed: John Williams is scoring STAR WARS EPISODE VII

News breaking now out of Star Wars Celebration Europe that John Williams will be returning to the galaxy far, far away and composing the score for Star Wars Episode VII.

John Williams.  Because when you get the band back together,
you positively can NOT do it without this guy.
In a pre-recorded video for the folks attending Celebration Europe, Williams said that he was "looking forward to drawing on some of his original themes and adding new material", according to IGN's report.

New Star Wars music composed by the master himself.  "This will be a day long remembered..."

Thanks to good friend of this blog Drew McOmber for the heads-up!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Senator Burr calls defunding ObamaCare "dumbest idea" ever (this is leadership?)

Longtime readers of this blog know that I don't play the partisan game.  And I haven't bought into the "conservative/liberal" mentality for a very long time.  Regardless of affiliation, we should expect all of our elected officials to put the Constitution and liberty of the American people ahead of their political agendas.

Richard Burr, North Carolina, Senate, Senator, ObamaCare
Senator Richard Burr
(North Carolina): Part
of the problem in D.C.
That being said, North Carolina's Senator Richard Burr is now shown be a bitter disappointment.  Burr is choosing capitulation over leadership, and what is easy over what is right.

From the article at The Hill...
Blocking a government funding bill over ObamaCare is "the dumbest idea I've ever heard," Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said Thursday.

Burr argued stopping ObamaCare's funding is not going to be achievable as long as President Obama is in the White House, and that Republicans risked taking the blame if they forced the government to shut down over the issue.

"I think it's the dumbest idea I've ever heard," Burr told journalist Todd Zwilich on Thursday. "Listen, as long as Barack Obama is president the Affordable Care Act is gonna be law.

"I think some of these guys need to understand that you shut down the federal government, you better have a specific reason to do it that's achievable," Burr continued. "Defunding the Affordable Care Act is not achievable through shutting down the federal government."
Senator Burr, there are far more important things being threatened by ObamaCare than the federal government.  Implementation of the Affordable Care Act is going to cause a lot of private businesses - both large and small - to close up shop because they can't meet the requirements of this legislation.  You are also forgetting that ObamaCare is already compelling many companies and other organizations to choose between compromising their beliefs or paying exorbitant and unconscionable penalties to the government.

It would be better to have a shutdown of the federal government than to witness a shutdown of hundreds, even thousands of businesses which employ honest and hard-working Americans.  Employment is scarce already.  It will only plummet further if ObamaCare goes into full effect.

The Affordable Care Act should be fought, and fought, and fought again without yielding.  And a person who has sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution will fight ObamaCare, no matter the political cost or what the United States Supreme Court has ruled about it.  It wasn't the first time that the Supreme Court has erred terribly, and it won't be the last.  The ramifications of ObamaCare will haunt America for generations to come if it is not halted now.  A person of foresight and wisdom will do whatever he or she can to keep that from happening.  Surrendering to an evil thing... and ObamaCare is an evil thing... is not an act of leadership or wisdom.  It is, however, an act of cowardice.

Senator Burr is practically confessing that his loyalty is not to the citizens of North Carolina and all Americans, but to the federal government.  By his statements, Burr demonstrates that he gives a higher priority to the status quo of Washington politics than he does to the liberties, the opportunities and the posterity of we the people.

Burr is not an example of true leadership.  A true leader does what is right, regardless of popularity or politics.  A true leader is a person of conscience, not of convenience or "conventional wisdom".

And Burr is a very poor example of what Republicans profess to stand for.  If the GOP is the alleged party of smaller government, it cannot reconcile that claim with capitulating to the largest takeover of a private industry in American history.  One that will impede on our freedoms, will drive many into bankruptcy and will diminish the quality of health care in this country.  Between this and all the other kowtowing going on in Washington, it's little wonder that an increasing number of Americans see no significant difference between the Democrats and Republicans.  For all intents and purposes it is one-party rule pretending to be two.  And rolling over on ObamaCare - among many other concerns - is proving it.

If it comes down to choosing either the strength of the federal government or the freedom of the American people, I'll choose the American people every time.  So should the members of Congress, and each of their personal political consequence be damned.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Hackers use wi-fi laptop to control EVERYTHING on a modern car

Remember that stunt Jeff Gordon pulled on an unsuspecting car salesman a few months ago?  The one where Gordon was disguised as any off-the-street Joe Shmoe and took a car for a test drive and terrified the crap out of that poor guy?

This is scarier...


Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek - two top-rate hackers out of Indiana -went into the guts of a Toyota Prius, jimmied-around with thirty-something on-board computer units and were able to take charge of dang nearly every function of the car.  Using a wireless laptop they can steer, put on the brakes, honk the horn, fake the speedometer reading, switch on the headlights and even tighten and loosen the seatbelts.

My dad has long proclaimed that "Cars only need gas, air and electricity to work: they don't need a computer!"  After watching this video, it's hard to argue with that.

Crash here to read more about this amazing hack, which was funded by the U.S. Defense Advance Research Projects Agency (the kind folks who brought us the Internet).

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Two amazing fan films: sequel to STAR TREK's "Who Mourns for Adonais?" and ARKHAM RISING

An awful lot of the homegrown cinema lately seems to have more heart and soul than most of the big studio productions.  These two fan-created films are some of the best that I've seen lately.

First up, it's a sequel to the original Star Trek episode "Who Mourns for Adonais?""Pilgrim of Eternity" has Michael Forest reprising his role as Apollo from the 1967 episode.  The script was written by Jack TreviƱo (who wrote the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episodes "Little Green Men" and "Indiscretion").  Christopher Doohan - son of James Doohan - plays Scotty and Marina Sirtis herself is the voice of the Enterprise computer.  And not being content with just one Apollo, "Pilgrim of Eternity" also has Jamie Bamber (Battlestar Galactica's Lee Adama) as a redshirt security officer!


And then we have this: Arkham Rising.  Set during the events of The Dark Knight Rises, Arkham Rising takes us into Arkham Asylum just after Bane breaks open Blackgate Prison.  This very well could have been a deleted scene from The Dark Knight Rises.  In fact, I kinda wish it was.  Especially in how it attempts to answer the most tantalizing question left from that movie: "Where was the Joker?!"


The thing I like most about Arkham Rising is how it plausibly demonstrates that Batman really could have battled more of his rogues gallery than were depicted on-screen in the Nolan continuity.  If you ever wanted to see what a Nolan-esque take on the Riddler, the Mad Hatter and the Calendar Man could have been, Arkham Rising serves it up.  And if you go to the Arkham Files on the film's official website you can find stuff about the Penguin, Poison Ivy and Clayface.  I bet these guys could have even pulled off a Nolan-ish Mister Freeze, they did such a great job!

The three kinds of people in the world

As I have grown older and wiser to the ways of this world, I have come to understand that there are three kinds of people:

Those who want to control.

Those who want to be controlled.

Those who want neither control or to be controlled.

The people in the third group are almost universally despised by those in the first and second.  So much so that their lives are made much less comfortable.  Because they have chosen to be in the power of no man.  From those who control there is crushing hatred.  From those controlled, there is boundless jealousy.

However, their lives are significantly more fulfilling.  To say nothing of being more interesting.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

This week's Tammy Tuesday is all wrapped up

Several months ago I came across a long piece of scrap fabric from my Children of Eden costume.  It seemed like something Tammy would enjoy playing with.  Ever since, there hasn't been a day that goes by when we haven't had a tug-of-war with it (and you would not believe how such a little dog can yank something soooo hard).

Here's Tammy in one of her quieter moments with it, as she chews happily on a piece of deer antler...

Tammy, miniature dachshund, dog

Friday, July 19, 2013

"Honest as the day is long!"

It's Friday night and I'm feeling extra goofy.  Also feeling pretty good about some more personal concerns too, and praying they'll soon... well, I'm just praying.

Anyhoo, it seems that lately too many people are awful tense and bummed-out about stuff.  So here's something that will make anybody laugh: a collection of Junior Samples' famous "BR-549" sketches from the classic country-comedy variety show Hee Haw!


Yup, that's George Lindsey (aka Goober from The Andy Griffith Show) as the robber in the first skit. And longtime Hee Haw fans of the masculine persuasion will no doubt remember Barbi Benton with much fondness!

Junior Samples is perhaps the all-time king of country rube humor.  He got his showbiz start at age 40 with a comedy recording about catching a big bass (he also nearly got in trouble with the fish and wildlife agents).  From there he was invited to join the cast of Hee Haw and became as much-beloved for his stumbles and bloopers as he was for his down-home demeanor.  Sadly, he passed away in 1983 at the age of 57.

And the phone number is "BR-549" for a reason.  Samples was from Cumming, Georgia and loved to go fishing on Lake Lanier.  And when it wasn't in the water his boat was kept at "Boat Ramp 549".

Danny de Gracia: more laws do not equal greater morality

Danny de Gracia
Friend, fellow writer and fighter-in-the-good-fight Danny de Gracia has published some well-recommended thoughts this week about the correlation between the quantity of legislation and the resulting amount of public morality.  It has been the conventional wisdom throughout history that more laws equals a more perfect society.

But does it really?  De Gracia doesn't think so.  In fact, as he writes in separate pieces for The Washington Times as well as his own blog, the ever-growing volumes of law being produced have made things worse.  They are, in truth, a symptom of a far worse problem: the spiritual condition of the human heart, which no act of government can change.

From de Gracia's essay in The Washington Times:
When first-time candidates run for office, most pitch a platform promising “change” in the form of new laws. Incumbent legislators are often attacked by challengers not for the number of bad bills canned in committee, but for the number of introduced measures that actually made it into law.

At the Hawaii State Legislature, a newly-hired Senate analyst was once given the assignment of reading the 2011 Session Laws of Hawaii (SLH) and complained when her boss was away that she faced reading thousands of pages packed with dense legalese. A veteran House staffer simply smiled and replied, “The SLH covers a couple of months of lawmaking and is more than a foot thick. Yet the Bible contains thousands of years of God’s commands to man and is only three inches thick on average. What does that say about how many laws they’re making here?”

As that incident perfectly illustrates, legislators are lawmaking mass-producers. (Prior to going paperless, in years past whenever the Hawaii State Legislature was in session, the cost of printer paper in Honolulu would rise by a few cents.) It also underlines the more important fact that even God, who is infinitely powerful and wise, could not by the means of law alone make humans righteous or the Earth more verdant.

Laws do not make good citizens nor do they prosper the environment. As is evident by thousands of years of human civilization, the only thing laws really accomplish is condemnation for those who engage in banned behaviors.
 And from his blog piece:
Our 21st century America has become an extremely legalistic society. Chances are if you can think of something, there's a public law that taxes, regulates or bans it. Most legislators who introduce laws do so based on a belief that law somehow makes for a better society or more responsible citizenry. Yet as we have seen in recent years, the increase of laws has only meant more incarceration, more law enforcement (and tougher police tactics) and more surveillance. People need to consult a lawyer for almost everything these days because the slightest screw up could result in government fines, imprisonment or civil action.

In my article I discuss how law at its very core is flawed with respect to humanity because laws do not change the human heart, they only punish. A law can forbid perjury or fraud, but it can never make a liar honest. Another law can prohibit littering, but it cannot make a messy person neat. The human heart -whether it inclines towards evil or good - is the true driving force. A society without morals can have laws forbidding everything but without citizens who have the soul (and by this I mean heart, mind and spirit) to live right, will be marked by chaos, violence and mayhem.

(snip)

You cannot legislate righteousness. It didn't work for God (nor was it His intent to justify by the law) and it certainly won't work for humans either. This is where so-called "social conservatives" miss the mark: they think that by banning behaviors they will somehow "instruct" souls in the way of righteousness or "preserve" the character of the nation. Jesus - speaking of a man's internal heart condition - said that a good tree does not bear bad fruit, neither does a bad tree bear good fruit. Bad deeds do not spontaneously generate, they are the fruit of a bad heart. "Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit" (Matthew 12:33).
It reminds me of something that Cicero observed: the more the laws there were, the more numerous the lawbreakers.

Metaphorically, it's the political equivalent of grasping at straws: our leaders, we ourselves even, have been convinced that if we pass just one, more, law, that somehow it will magically make everything better.  And that kind of thinking is in defiance of the reality that Man, on his own, is a fallen and corrupt creature.  Nothing he can do according to his own wisdom is going to succeed... or at least survive the test of time.

Why has our country become so corrupted politically and socially?  Because her people have placed their trust and confidence in government, in political parties, in cheapened religion which makes them "feel good" but does nothing to convict and bring personal accountability.  Unfortunately, I look around and see too many people, preachers and politicians who still insist that "things will be right", if only they were in power.

Anyway, de Gracia has some eloquent elucidation in these two essays and they're well worth passing along.

How to fix bankrupt Detroit

History was made yesterday as Detroit became the largest American municipality ever to file for bankruptcy.

What was once the wealthiest city in the United States is now $18 billion dollars underwater.  It can't pay its bills.  It can't pay out pensions to employees.  And there is practically no income.

But hey!  All is not lost!  Detroit can simply have a "Save Detroit Telethon"!


How does a city as ruined as Detroit make a comeback? Getting rid of every vestige of its failed leadership would be a good start. But that alone isn't going to make up for all the damage that kowtowing to the unions (representing both government employees and private industry) has done.

Actually, to be honest: I don't know how a city like Detroit could recover.  I believe it's possible, but it would take a very long time.

Expect all kinds of hell if the United States federal government gives Detroit a bailout.  I have even heard some suggest that it was the bailout of GM which helped precipitate this bankruptcy.  Now imagine that on a larger scale.

Gotta wonder how many other cities across this country are poised to go broke.  Or even how many states...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

American Inquisition: Holder's Justice Department demanding "tips" on George Zimmerman

This has been news for a couple of days now, but the reason I held off posting about it is that I wanted to do some historical investigation first.  And you know what I found out?

To the very best of my understanding, there has not been a single instance before this week of the United States federal government setting up a hotline or e-mail address asking the public and organizations for information against an individual citizen.  Not one.  And if anybody reading this does know of one, feel free to write me at theknightshift@gmail.com and better my education on the matter.

George Zimmerman was acquitted this past
Eric Holder:
Roland Freisler would have been proud of him.
Saturday night of all charges against him in the death of Trayvon Martin.  Zimmerman had been charged with second-degree murder.

And now, not being content with a jury of his peers finding the man not guilty, Attorney General Eric Holder has directed the United States Department of Justice to solicit "tips" about George Zimmerman from "civil rights groups" and the general public.  Holder's people are searching for "evidence" which would put Zimmerman up on federal "civil rights charges".

In other words: the Obama Administration has officially designated George Zimmerman to be an enemy of the state.

Holder's Justice Department is declaring war against a single American who was found not guilty and who the Federal Bureau of Investigation stated that they had "no evidence" he was a racist.

The Obama White House is engaging in activity which makes those of Nixon's in the Watergate scandal positively pale in comparison.

Among everything else that is so wrong with this (including what could strongly be considered violation of ex post facto) I must wonder aloud: could this be a case of using the weight of the federal government to perpetrate an act of racial injustice?  All of this seems motivated primarily by the ethnicity of the respective parties in the case: Martin being black and Zimmerman, a Hispanic.

"Justice is blind", it has been said.  Yet Holder's Justice Department is behaving, to any rational observer, with racial prejudice against an American citizen and to an unprecedented degree of official action.

And if the government can do this to George Zimmerman, it can very well choose to do this to anyone else.  Including me.  Or you.

This is why we can't have nice things...

In case you missed it the first time, tonight at 7 p.m. EST the SyFy channel will be re-broadcasting its natural disaster epic Sharknado.  Last week's premiere of the movie - about a freak hurricane spawning off the coast of California and hitting Los Angeles, dropping shark-spewing tornadoes all over the place - became one of the biggest television hits of the summer.

(No, I did not watch this movie thing last week.  But the "#sharknado" hashtag on Twitter was sure a hella fun to behold!)

And then there's this, which is certainly destined to become the centerpiece of every home entertainment library it finds itself ensconced upon: The Power Rangers Legacy: The First 20 Years DVD collection.  Just in time for the twentieth anniversary of the Mighty Moron... errrr, I mean Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers show which first unleashed this plague upon the land, Saban and Shout! Media are unleashing "this limited edition home entertainment collection comes packed with every Power Rangers episode, from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers to Power Rangers Megaforce, boasting over 270 hours of action-packed entertainment across 98 DVDs".

(I can't believe this franchise lasted 27 episodes, much less more than 270 hours...)

Tip o' the hat to good friend of this blog Drew Robert McOmber for alerting us to this... whatever.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tammy Tuesday this week is brew-ing up trouble

So Tammy decided she wanted to try some beer...


She ultimately decided that she didn't like it.  After one whiff of the bottle, she ran away from it as hard as she could!  Wish I could have gotten that on camera.

A friend made an observation: what kind of a German dog wouldn't enjoy beer?  I think the photo speaks for itself: it's light beer that Tammy recoiled from, not a dark hearty pint of true ale.

Incidentally, with all of the interest in home-brewing lately, I'm considering making some beer myself.  The thing is, I've never been able to develop a taste for the stuff.  So I figured that'll be one hobby which if I'm bad at, I'll never have to know...

Photographs of American Revolution veterans, and 3D images from World War I

Old historical photos hold a special fascination for me.  So I find this next couple of items positively amazing...

Peter Mackintosh
Photo Credit: Joseph Bauman
On the right is a picture of Peter Mackintosh, taken sometime after the early 1840s.  Mackintosh was 16 years old and an apprentice blacksmith in Boston when he watched as a gang of young men barged into his shop, smeared ashes from the hearth all over their faces, and then just as quickly stormed out of the place.  Mackintosh later discovered that they were part of a mob on their way to Griffin's Wharf to throw boxes and barrels of British-taxed tea into Boston Harbor.

That was on December 16th, 1773.  And the teenaged Peter Mackintosh had witnessed the first moments of the Boston Tea Party.

Later on Mackintosh served in the Continental Army, shoeing horses and repairing cannons.

Mackintosh lived long enough for his photograph to be taken at the dawn of the art.  And his is but one of a collection of photos of Revolutionary War heroes who survived long after America's war for independence.   Some of these men served personally under George Washington.  A few witnessed Cornwallis' surrender after the Battle of Yorktown.

Think about that: we are looking into the eyes of men, whose own eyes looked into those of Washington, Hamilton, Greene, and perhaps Cornwallis himself.  These aren't painted depictions, but captured moments of these people in the twilight of their lives.

1776 wasn't all that long ago, when you consider it.

Much closer to our own epoch, a World War I-era stereoscopic camera discovered two years ago has yielded some incredible 3D photographs of the Great War.  It will be a hundred years next August that World War I broke out in Europe but if you don't mind the absence of color, images such as this one are practically as fresh as those taken in any modern conflict...

Two French soldiers help another who has been shot,
as another lies dead in the background.
io9.com has several more photos of World War I in 3D at the link above.

When animals attack: cows and snakes

A man in Brazil has died after a cow on top of his roof crashed through the ceiling of his house and crushed him in his bed.

From the story at The Telegraph...
The cow is believed to have escaped from a nearby farm and climbed onto the roof of the couple's house, which backs onto a steep hill on Wednesday night.

The corrugated roof immediately gave way and the one-and-a-half-ton animal fell eight feet onto Mr de Souza's side of the bed.

His wife, and the cow, both reportedly escaped unharmed.

Rescuers took Mr de Souza to hospital with a fractured left leg but no other obvious injuries, reporting that he was conscious and talking normally.

Hours later however he died from internal bleeding while still waiting to be seen by doctors, according to his family.

Mr de Souza's brother-in-law Carlos Correa told Brazil's Hoje em Dia newspaper: "Being crushed by a cow in your bed is the last way you expect to leave this earth.
"But in my view it wasn't the cow that killed our Joao, it was the unacceptable time he spent waiting to be examined."
His grieving mother, Maria de Souza, told Brazil's SuperCanal TV channel: "I didn't bring my son up to be killed by a falling cow."
 Meanwhile over in Israel, another man is recovering after he went to a restroom to "drain the main vein" and a snake leaped out of the toilet and bit him on his penis.

Fortunately it was small (the snake, not the... nevermind).  And it was also determined at the hospital to be non-poisonous (again, the snake).

Saturday, July 13, 2013

George Zimmerman: NOT GUILTY

Breaking news on, I think every TV station in the land right now.

George Zimmerman: found Not Guilty
Justice was served.  And I'm going to tell you why...

George Zimmerman has been found not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin because the prosecution in this case either had NO real evidence whatsoever, or they were the most incompetent team of prosecutors in the history of anything.  Too many times it seemed as if the prosecutors were scoring points for the defense!

Either way, justice was done in this matter.  The burden is on the prosecution to prove guilt, not on the defendant to prove innocence.  And the prosecution came nowhere close to meeting that burden.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Review of PACIFIC RIM: this summer's most fun movie yet!

Pacific Rim, movie, poster, Guillermo del Toro, kaiju, jaeger
Pacific Rim is the most thoughtful and personal film of the kaiju genre since the original Gojira in 1954.  It is also one of the remarkably few that give the kaiju themselves their proper respect.

Consequently, it's an insanely fun movie which more than deserves your hard-earned entertainment coin!

Those movies about giant monsters?  Well, the creatures themselves are "kaiju" (Japanese for "giant beast") and few things have been sillier for me to watch in a movie than for those critters to develop "cute" personalities or to clash one-on-one a'la "good guy fights bad guy".  To me, that's not true kaiju.  A real kaiju film is about massive beasts being not characters at all... but instead, being unstoppable forces of nature.  Something above mortal concepts of good and evil.  A good kaiju film should be at its heart a disaster movie, not a monster movie.  Something that focuses on people and how they face the direness of the situation: sometimes in the right way, sometimes wrong.

That's what Gojira (what us Yanks know better as Godzilla) was.  Indeed, that movie upped the ante by being serious political commentary by the Japanese about nuclear weapons, less than a decade after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Practically no movie since has presented the kaiju as a thing which cannot be reasoned or negotiated with, or portrayed the human desperation which comes with that.  Indeed, to the best of my knowledge only J.J. Abrams' Cloverfield (2008) has really hit the kaiju sweet spot.

But now comes Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth) with Pacific Rim.  And finally we have again the kaiju genre at its very best.  I won't be surprise if wind up catching it again twice - at least - during its theatrical run.  Pacific Rim is everything a summer blockbuster movie could be... nay, should be.  Of all the movies I've seen this summer so far, Pacific Rim easily tops my list of most enjoyable thus far.

It's the near future.  A rupture in the tectonic plates deep in the Pacific Ocean has caused a portal to open between Earth's universe and somewhere else.  Unfortunately things are coming through that portal.  Big things.  The first Kaiju (as they come to be called, and you pronounce it "kI-joo") arises off the California shore and beats the slats out of San Francisco, destroys the Golden Gate Bridge (for the second time this summer: does this movie and Star Trek Into Darkness have a beef with that town or something?) and kills untold thousands before finally being stopped with a tactical nuke.  Unfortunately that Kaiju is just the first of a wave of ungodly monsters striking throughout the Pacific Ocean and bordering countries: Manila, Sydney, Tokyo and more all fall to the Kaiju.

In response humanity pools its technology and develops the Jaegers (pronouced "Yay-gurs", German for "hunters"): gigantic robots dwarfing the size of most skyskrapers.  Highly articulate, heavily armored and loaded with the latest mega-ordnance, the Jaegers are meant to be mankind's best defense against the Kaiju.  Two pilots are needed to control the Jaegers: each neural-linked to each other in a process called "Drifting".  When joined, the two pilots share their thoughts and memories and act as a coordinated team as the "brain" of the Jaegers.  And pretty soon the pilots come to be treated not just as worldwide heroes, but as global celebrities like athletes and rock stars.

Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) and his brother Yancey (Diego Klattenhoff) are two Jaeger pilots, driving an American Jaeger named Gipsy Danger.  They are two of the very best, and nobody "Drifts" as well as the Brothers Becket.  But after Yancey is killed during a battle in Alaska, Raleigh leaves the program: thrown into trauma and shock from still being connected to Yancey as he dies.

Five years later, Raleigh Becket has thrown himself among the crews laboring to build an enormous sea wall along the American coast.  He is approached by Stacker Pentecost: the commanding officer of the Jaeger program (and intensely played by Idris Elba).  Seems that with Kaiju attacks getting harder to counter, the sponsoring governments are coming to see the Jaegers as a waste of precious resources (including food, worldwide supplies of which have become horrendously strained by Kaiju attacks) and want to pull the plug.  Pentecost starts to pool the remaining Jaegers and all available pilots to a base near Hong Kong.  Meanwhile the Kaiju are starting to come through the portal with increasing frequency.  They are also getting bigger, stronger, and smarter.

I lost count of the number and kinds of Kaiju rampaging through Pacific Rim.  They are each given code-names, but they are mostly known as being "Category 3" and "Category 4" much like hurricanes are in the real world.  What was far more memorable and entertaining were the Jaegers and their pilots: Raleigh Becket, the father/son Australian team of Herc and Chuck Hansen (Max Martini and Robert Kazinsky) driving Striker Eureka, the Chinese Crimson Typhoon and Cherno Alpha hailing from Russia.  Rinko Kikuchi plays Mako Mori: a young woman who desires to co-pilot a Jaeger but who Pentecost is reluctant to put in the cockpit.  These characters and others were what gave Pacific Rim the much-enjoyable heart and soul beneath its monstrous metal and flesh: watching the camaraderie and even rivalry between the Jaeger pilots.  Seeing how some have turned dead Kaiju organs into highly lucrative items for black market sale, notably underground merchant Hannibal Chou (Ron Perlman, always a pleasure to behold especially as someone starting to show serious chops as villains lately).  And especially the moments of humor perfectly delivered by a "mad scientist" duo of Kaiju researchers played by Charlie Day and Burn Gorman.

But hey, chances are strong that you're going into Pacific Rim wanting to look at giant monsters and robots beating the crap out of each other.  We get that in spades with Pacific Rim.  The battles between the Kaiju and the Jaegers are easily the most devastating and realistic ever portrayed on film: think of what we saw in The Avengers last year and then in Star Trek Into Darkness and Man of Steel this summer, combined, multiplied by twelve (did Farmers, Progressive and Nationwide miss out on some marketing tie-in opportunities or what?).  The action spans the width and breadth... and depth... of the Pacific basin.  This ain't your granddaddy's "man in rubber suit" monster movie, but it's not seemingly random acts of destruction from too many CGI-rendered blockbusters we've seen lately, either.  This is mass carnage with attitude and intellect behind it.  And it is positivalutely gorgeous to behold on a big screen!

I loved Ramin Djawadi's score: it sets and maintains the perfect tempo for Pacific Rim's high-caliber action as well as its quieter, more human moments.  Djawadi has made quite a name for himself in the past few years, between projects like Iron Man and his current work on HBO's Game of Thrones.  I haven't gone looking for the soundtrack yet but rest assured, I shall be soon.

Pacific Rim didn't just reach my expectations.  It raised its claws up, grabbed them and pummeled them into the ground while blowing my eyedrums and earballs with mind-blowing spectacle and shock.  Guillermo del Toro and his team have produced an amazing piece of work with Pacific Rim.  It may not have pioneered the kaiju genre, but it certainly is the first modern movie to tackle it with honor, with dignity, and with heart.  It wouldn't surprise me if this winds up the highest-grossing film of 2013's summer season.

Pacific Rim gets the craziest biggest recommendation that I can think of giving a movie!  Go see it and go see it big!  And don't be afraid to let loose and cheer on the Jaegers, whichever one you find yourself liking the most.  There sure was a bunch of applause for them from the audience I was sitting in last night!

Oh yeah: do NOT get up to leave after the final scene of the movie.  Let those neat 3D depictions of the Jaegers and the Kaiju roll while Djawadi's theme plays, waiting for the "Pacific Rim" title to show.  Then see what happens next.  Trust me: it's worth sticking around for.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Quite possibly the most hardcore bad-a$$ dude EVER

Adrian Carton de Wiart
Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart
having a jolly good time!
Twitter user Matthew Barrett found what must be "the best opening paragraph of any Wikipedia biography ever".  It's the entry for Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart, an officer in the British Army who served in three wars.

From the Wikipedia entry...
Lieutenant-General Sir Adrian Paul Ghislain Carton de Wiart VC, KBE, CB, CMG, DSO (5 May 1880 – 5 June 1963), was a British Army officer of Belgian and Irish descent. He fought in the Boer War, World War I, and World War II, was shot in the face, head, stomach, ankle, leg, hip and ear, survived a plane crash, tunneled out of a POW camp, and bit off his own fingers when a doctor wouldn't amputate them. He later said "frankly I had enjoyed the war."
This guy was in the Boer War, World War I and World War II, lost an eye, chewed the fingers off his own hand, lost his left arm, received multiple gunshots all over his body, survived a plane disaster, escapes an Italian prison during World War II, witnessed action in the Pacific Theater, and then said he "enjoyed the war".  He also served as envoy to China on behalf of Winston Churchill, and then Clement Attlee.

Also according to the article, he "enjoyed sports, especially shooting and pig sticking" (AKA, hunting wild boars).

Can't say he didn't live an interesting life, aye?

In case you're wondering, Sir Carton de Wiart passed away peacefully in 1963, at the age of 83.

Chewbacca needs double amputee

Lord only knows how legit this is. Whether it is or not, it's both uproariously funny and downright creepy.  From Craigslist...


I don't think that's how they did it for The Empire Strikes Back.  Can't this guy find a geek to set him up with some circuit boards and servos instead?

Anyway, thanks to Erik Yaple for another twisted find!

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Government-supplied consumers now outnumber private producers in America

Jobs are evaporating.  Manufacturing is disappearing from our shores.  Millions upon millions of undocumented immigrants are flooding across our borders.

And now, at long last, the population of Americans on government food assistance outnumbers that of private sector employees.

This is not sustainable.

From the story at CNS News...
The number of Americans receiving subsidized food assistance from the federal government has risen to 101 million, representing roughly a third of the U.S. population.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that a total of 101,000,000 people currently participate in at least one of the 15 food programs offered by the agency, at a cost of $114 billion in fiscal year 2012.
That means the number of Americans receiving food assistance has surpassed the number of full-time private sector workers in the U.S.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 97,180,000 full-time private sector workers in 2012.
The population of the U.S. is 316.2 million people, meaning nearly a third of Americans receive food aid from the government.
  And where is a lot of that taxpayer-funded "food aid" going to?

Hairstyling and cosmetics
Booze and smokes

Lottery tickets, money orders,
cell phones, more booze, more
cigarettes

Lots of lobster and premium steak

Maybe it's finally time for the producers, the people who strive for personal achievement, the men and women of the mind, to declare a general strike.  To stop giving the products of our labors to those who take and give nothing in return.

It might be the only peaceful way to avert this:

The Course of Empire: Destruction, by Thomas Cole, 1836

Not the first time I've posted that image.  But with each passing day, it seems increasingly appropriate.

This week's Tammy Tuesday proved elusive

I tried, really tried, to snap a photo of Tammy wearing my new sunglasses.  But she adamantly refused to cooperate.

So here she is running around the house, sneaking under the dining room table, no doubt looking for trouble...


I know: pretty disappointing as a photo.  Maybe she'll give us a better show next week.

Look! Real Third Amendment case! A story that will boil your blood...

'Fess up: how many of us laughed about the Third Amendment when we learned about it (or were supposed to have learned about it) in ninth grade?
Quartering Act, French and Indian War, George III, Revolutionary War, Colonial America
The Quartering Act, 1763.

(Chris raises his hand)

The Third Amendment - part of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution - reads thusly: "No soldier shall in time of peace be quartered in any house without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war but in a manner to be prescribed by law."

But an incident two years ago which is just now coming to light in court demonstrates how much we should appreciate our rights, whether or not we actively employ them  Anthony Mitchell and his parents, Michael and Linda Mitchell, were asked by the police department of Henderson, Nevada for the use of their homes in a "domestic violence" investigation.  All three members of the Mitchell family declined, saying they did not wish to become involved.

The Henderson Police Department took their homes anyway.

From Reason.com:
At 10:45 a.m. defendant Officer Christopher Worley (HPD) contacted plaintiff Anthony Mitchell via his telephone. Worley told plaintiff that police needed to occupy his home in order to gain a "tactical advantage" against the occupant of the neighboring house. Anthony Mitchell told the officer that he did not want to become involved and that he did not want police to enter his residence. Although Worley continued to insist that plaintiff should leave his residence, plaintiff clearly explained that he did not intend to leave his home or to allow police to occupy his home. Worley then ended the phone call
[Henderson police officers] banged forcefully on the door and loudly commanded Anthony Mitchell to open the door to his residence. Surprised and perturbed, plaintiff Anthony Mitchell immediately called his mother (plaintiff Linda Mitchell) on the phone, exclaiming to her that the police were beating on his front door.
Seconds later, officers, including Officer Rockwell, smashed open plaintiff Anthony Mitchell's front door with a metal ram as plaintiff stood in his living room. As plaintiff Anthony Mitchell stood in shock, the officers aimed their weapons at Anthony Mitchell and shouted obscenities at him and ordered him to lie down on the floor. Fearing for his life, plaintiff Anthony Mitchell dropped his phone and prostrated himself onto the floor of his living room, covering his face and hands.
Addressing plaintiff as "asshole," officers, including Officer Snyder, shouted conflicting orders at Anthony Mitchell, commanding him to both shut off his phone, which was on the floor in front of his head, and simultaneously commanding him to 'crawl' toward the officers. Confused and terrified, plaintiff Anthony Mitchell remained curled on the floor of his living room, with his hands over his face, and made no movement.
Although plaintiff Anthony Mitchell was lying motionless on the ground and posed no threat, officers, including Officer David Cawthorn, then fired multiple "pepperball" rounds at plaintiff as he lay defenseless on the floor of his living room. Anthony Mitchell was struck at least three times by shots fired from close range, injuring him and causing him severe pain.
Anthony Mitchell was charged with "obstructing an officer".  His father Michael was arrested while trying to leave a police command center which the cops lured him under false pretense so they could seize his house, too.

The Mitchells are suing the Henderson Police Department for violations of their Third and Fourth Amendment rights as well as "assault and battery, conspiracy, defamation, abuse of process, malicious prosecution, negligence, and infliction of emotional distress".

If the allegations are true, here's hoping that the Mitchells will bankrupt the Town of Henderson for allowing this to happen.  As for the cops themselves: in a sane world they would be taken to the village square and horsewhipped forty times as a dire warning to any who would wear and then abuse the badge of peace officer.

(That's a huge part of the problem right there: that we no longer have "peace officers" but "law enforcement officers".  There are many in this country who have come to believe that cops are becoming a government sanctioned gang of thugs not much different from the Bloods 'n the Crips.  Stories like this make it hard not to see some merit to that notion.)

Name these two dogs!

These two sweet little chihuahuas need help.  Your help!

They have a home.  They have love.  They just need names.
My girlfriend brought them home this past weekend from an animal adoption agency.  Right now their names are Lou and Blue.  Lou is toward the top of the photo and Blue is in the bottom half.  They are a mother-and-son pair and Kristen took both of them into her heart and home.  And they are absolutely cute and sweet and loaded with personality.

But Kristen is thinking that they need some real names.  I mean, "Lou" and "Blue" are what they came up with at the agency, after these two were rescued from a really horrible situation.  They each deserve a proper christening.

So I'm putting it to this blog's readers: what would y'all suggest we name them?  Remember, they're a mother-and-son pair, and Kristen would like that to be borne in mind.  Name ideas don't have to be of fictional or nonfictional mothers and sons, but please nothing intimating errr... "improper" relationships!  Blue is a good son and is very protective of his mommy.

(No, I don't want to hear him being called "Norman" either...)

And if you are thinking about bringing a new pet into your life, I really can't ask enough that you consider getting one from an animal adoption outfit.  These are dogs and cats that deserve a good loving home and will definitely show their appreciation for it (Lou and Blue already have to Kristen).  For just a small fee you can start providing a good life for a pet which otherwise would never have one.  Lou and Blue came from Planned Pethood Clinic & Adoption Center in Rocky Mount, Virginia.  But if you don't live in the area around Franklin County or Roanoke, there are many reputable agencies throughout the country which you can contact.

So, you think you can help these little guys with some shiny new monickers?  Let's hear 'em!

Thursday, July 04, 2013

A pledge against allegiance to man

I can no longer, in good conscience and in keeping to my faith in God, recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America.

This is a choice which I have abided for nearly a year.  At various times I have felt led to articulate my reasons for doing so.  Indeed, this past fall a friend helped me to record a video about my decision to never again say the Pledge of Allegiance (we filmed it at Guilford Courthouse Battleground, in front of the statue of General Nathaniel Greene, for what it’s worth).

Recent events have brought me to a place where at last I am compelled to write about why I’m not only refraining from the Pledge of Allegiance, but have come to see it as representing too much of what is wrong with America, and even in dire opposition to the vision of the Founders.

I first learned the Pledge of Allegiance in elementary school.  At that age, one absorbs and trusts everything the teachers expects one to learn.  For years, decades even, I spoke the words without really knowing what they meant, much less where they came from.  In fact, how many Americans do know where the Pledge came from?

I didn’t know until about ten years ago, and that was the beginning of my questioning the Pledge and whether, as a follower of Christ and a citizen of this country, it was something I should invoke.

The Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy: a socialist, and arguably a racist and anti-Catholic.  But none of those are germane to my individual illumination about the Pledge.  Neither is it that Bellamy wrote the Pledge of Allegiance as part of a marketing scheme for Youth’s Companion magazine to sell thousands of American flags to schools throughout the country.

No, what aroused my conscience most was that Bellamy – a Baptist minister by trade, incidentally – wanted the Pledge to convey and instill the concept that obedience to country and government is a “virtue”.

I do not believe that.  I do not believe that at all.  Because that runs fully against the meaning of the Constitution of the United States: a contract which establishes a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

Bellamy – as too many Christians do today – interpreted Jesus’ instruction to “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:15-22, Mark 12:13-17, Luke 20:20-26) to mean that Christians must be completely subservient to temporal government.  I have heard many insist that to disobey government in any way is to disobey, disparage and disrespect God.  So ingrained and unquestioned is this position that I have even heard of a minister who said he must allow his wife to be raped within his own house by federal agents, if they were to so intrude upon his home.

What is neglected or forgotten or ignored is what Jesus was teaching about responsibility to God.  Jesus wasn’t telling His followers to obey man’s government without question.  That would have put Him falling into the trap set by the Pharisees.  His reply was something that hurt far more.  He reminded the Pharisees and those of the law that because they had not rendered unto God first, they had to render unto Rome.  The people of Israel were under the yoke of a foreign power when they could have instead been a free nation under the God of their forefathers.

Some Christians in this nation don’t want to understand that.  But it’s true: there is no “Caesar” in America.  If there was, We the People murdered him and took his place, with the blessings of Providence

How is it that we have resurrected Caesar?  Are we now like the children of Israel, who cried at Moses to lead them back into the “safety” of bondage to Pharaoh?  Trusting not in God but in a government wrought with corruption?

I don’t mean “imperfection”.  No government under this sun is going to be perfect, and it would be the height of arrogance to think otherwise.  I’m talking corruption.  Power without restraint.   Power for sake of power, eager and willing to waste and devour and murder to maintain that power.  To remain in control.

Read the words of the Pledge of Allegiance:

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

I can’t speak those words anymore, because those are the words of a colossal lie.

The United States is not a republic.  It hasn’t been for a very long time.  The citizens of America haven’t been in control of their own destinies for decades.   It is now a government grown too big, too powerful, too corrupt.  And corruption looks after itself.  The professional politicians.  The “journalists” lusting to be within the spheres of influence more than the pursuit of truth.   The “academics” who sacrifice education to indoctrination.  The unethical among corporations and banks who exploit the system entrusted them to steal billions of dollars... and when found out, use their pull to create new exploits, still.

This is a country whose laws now protect the corrupt from the innocent, and not the innocent from the corrupt.

It is insanity that a free people could ever give such as these, and far too many more, their absolute trust and loyalty.  And yet, we have. We have witnessed it and witness it anew every day.   And it matters not in the slightest which “party” is in control of this or that branch of government. The American people have suffered at least... at least... twenty years and counting of the most incompetent, the most selfish, the most freedom-loathing, and the most destructive executive leadership in United States history.  From the Oval Office on down, we have come to be “represented” by the self-serving, the narcissistic, the soulless and the mad.

Don’t believe me?  Read the headlines of the past few months.  The Internal Revenue Service is revealed to be a weapon against those who would challenge the status quo.  Our private communications, our finances and even our medical records are now being monitored by people we will never know and will never see.  Searches now happen on a “hunch”, not with a warrant.  We are now forced to have our DNA testify against ourselves in court of law.  Pointing a finger and making “bang-bang” sounds has become grounds to arrest a kindergartner.  Our borders are allowed to be overrun by the very officials who swore to defend and maintain them.  And now, judges and justices have taken it upon themselves to redefine an institution held sacred throughout six thousand years and more of human history and tradition.

For all of these things and more, there will be consequences.  If not in our own lifetime then in that of our children, and their children’s children.  “Liberty and justice for all” doesn’t exist anymore.  And if not for us now, then how can we look our offspring in the eye and still promise them these things?

That is what our government across this land has become: a force unto itself, bereft of restraint from its people.  And that is something that I will not now and will never again pledge allegiance to.  My allegiance must ever be to God, and to then serve others as He would lead me to do.   If that requires violating the rulings and legislations of mere men, then I will do so and suffer the consequences.

I can respect and appreciate what the Flag of the United States is supposed to represent.  But I will not yield my morals and my conscience to those who would wield that same flag against myself, my family and my posterity.

If I am to have a pledge, it will be a pledge which I make according to the dictates of my conscience, of what was intended by those who came before, and of the necessity of a law higher than that of man.

If I am to pledge to something, it will be toward that which was once part of what made America good, and could make it good again.

And this is now my pledge...

Constitution, United States, America, We the People Pledge of Adherence

"I pledge adherence to the Constitution of the United States of America, to steward authority (God) entrusted the people from whom the Republic derives its consent, and to uphold the blessings of liberty for all."


Whether one chooses to use the word "God", I left as a matter of personal preference.  In my own case, I believe that God did give the authority of this nation to its people, and not to its government, and so I do include "God" when I have said this pledge.  But regardless of preference, the Constitution has made clear in no uncertain terms that it is the people from whom authority stems in the United States.

There it is.  I don't care what anybody else thinks of it, or thinks of me for composing it or what led me to write it to begin with.  Neither could I think any less of any person who choose to still use the Pledge of Allegiance, if that is how his or her own conscience leads them.

All I ask is that each of you reading this not take what this world presents you at face value.  That, and to never cease in applying your mind, your spirit, and your body toward the vigilance that our freedom... which too many fought and died for us to enjoy... is due.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Douglas Engelbart, inventor of the computer mouse, has passed away

Unless you're reading this on a mobile device (and even that owes a lot to him) you're enjoying this blog and practically everything else on the Internet because of this man: Douglas Engelbart.

Douglas Engelbart, computers, mouse, technology, Internet

While working at SRI in the 1960s, Engelbart was struck with the idea of humans interacting with computers by manipulating on the screen with an intuitive interface.  He called his invention the "x-y position indicator".  The first model was carved from a block of wood with wheels, a push-button and a connecting cord.

Douglas Engelbart had created the mouse.  And he didn't stop there.  By the time he left SRI in 1977, he had helped develop such now-common technologies as "display editing, online processing, linking and in-file object addressing, use of multiple windows, hypermedia, and context-sensitive help".

The sad word is coming out of Atherton, California tonight that Douglas Engelbart - pioneering engineer and visionary whose invention let the rest of us discover the power of computers - has passed away at the age of 88.

In his memory, here is the now-legendary "Mother of All Demos", which Engelbart presented on December 9th, 1968.  So much of what we use today, which Engelbart was showing us almost five full decades ago...

The world's ugliest church buildings

Church of Santa-Monica, Madrid, Spain, world's ugliest churchesRealClearReligion has scoured the globe to come up with this set of 35 pages depicting the ugliest churches in the world.  Be they Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, non-denominational or whatever, these edifices may not be an affront to God... but they are an affront to human eyeballs!  Some of them can't really help it: they were obviously a convenience store or movie theater before being converted into places of worship.  But most of them - like the Church of Santa-Monica in Madrid, Spain - will have you scratching your head and wondering: "what the heck am I looking at?"  Others, such as Kappal Matha Church in Uvari, India, simply defy all attempts at rationality.  One can't doubt the faith being expressed in these sanctuaries... but there is no loss of bewilderment about what their architects were intending when they designed them!

The titular dilemma of new Star Wars movies (and what can be done about it)

Right now, somewhere as you read this, pre-production is well underway for Star Wars Episode VII.  The script is being written and re-written, conceptual artists are creating new visions of a galaxy far far away, and there is already a casting call for major roles in the next movie.  Barely eight months ago we could have never imagined a new Star Wars trilogy would be happening (in fact, I still find myself hardly believing it).  And now under Disney's management, we are being promised not just a new trilogy (perhaps even two) but a Star Wars movie every year from 2015 until the end of time.

And therein rests a problem which hopefully is being discussed somewhere at the Mouse House and at Lucasfilm:

With all of these new Star Wars movies... how are they going to be titled?  And what does it mean for the Star Wars films we have already?

Until now it's been easy enough: "Episode I: The Phantom Menace", "Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back" and so forth.  Those were individual chapters of one story in an epic fantasy setting.  And it suffices for that one multi-generational epic on film.

Except now, there is the intent to produce several stories in that same setting.  And they aren't necessarily going to pertain to the tale of the Skywalker family from Anakin to Luke to whoever it will be in the next trilogy.

There are already plans for Star Wars "one-shot" films, focusing on individual characters like Yoda and Boba Fett.  Once that big beautiful Star Wars logo blares loud on the screen and the scroll unspools, it's easy to envision it saying "Yoda: Making of a Master" or somesuch.

But those will be self-contained stories.  What of the story that started it all, when it is now to be but one piece of an entire tapestry of tales?  How is the epic at the heart-meat of the entire franchise going to be set apart from what is yet to come?

And there exists the possibility of future Star Wars trilogies: multi-film stories which aren't focused on the Skywalkers or any of the classic characters at all.  Perhaps not even the familiar era of the rise and fall of the Galactic Empire.  The nomenclature of those potential future trilogies must be taken into account.  The sooner the better.

There is a very simple solution: amend the style of the opening crawls of the Star Wars films we already know and love.

There is precedent for it.  When the very first movie came out it was simply "Star Wars".  Only when The Empire Strikes Back was released three years later did the original get retroactively subtitled "Episode IV: A New Hope".  That's been the titling protocol since.

There hasn't been a need to revise that protocol.  There will be soon.  And if accommodation was made before, it can be again.

Here is the proposal: retroactively amend the titles of the existing Star Wars movies so that they will stand apart from the films which will be produced in the years to come.  Let there be no confusing that Episodes I through IX are a singular epic, standing apart as George Lucas' vision of one movie.  Have the core story of the Skywalker family be branded as something unto itself, yet a major component of the larger Star Wars universe which Disney is now creating.

Call it "The Skywalker Saga", or "The Skywalker Cycle" (a Wagner-ish notion in keeping with the operatic motifs at work through the trilogies).  So for example, the scroll for Episode IV could look like this:

Star Wars, Episode IV, Episode VII, Episode VIII, Episode IX, Episode I, Episode II, Episode III, Disney, scroll, title

That's all that needs to happen.  Just expand the titling format.  It's an elegant and non-invasive alteration that will set the classic films and their sequels apart, and can accommodate any movies still to come.  Including full-bore trilogies set in new times and with characters all their own.

From a literary perspective, it makes a lot of sense.  From a corporate viewpoint, it also might prove to be quite lucrative.  It certainly lends itself well to marketing and merchandising possibilities.

And wouldn't it be grand to someday have a set of Blu-rays on the shelf: "Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga", alongside such classics as A Tale of Two Cities, Moby-Dick and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  A truly timeless work of literature, standing on its own merit.

That is what the story of Anakin Skywalker, his son Luke and the next generation of their family deserves.  It's what every story in the Star Wars galaxy deserves in its own right.  And hopefully the good folks at Disney and Lucasfilm will take that into consideration.

(Speaking of Star Wars, hearty congratulations are in order to George Lucas on his recent marriage to the very lovely Mellody Hobson.  May they have a long and happy life together!)

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

ObamaCare employer mandate delayed until AFTER next election

The employer mandate component of Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act health-care scheme has been delayed from implementation until 2015.  That's after the 2014 elections, mind you.  Not well before.

Can Obama do that?  I mean, I thought the Affordable Care Act was codified law.  Seems kinda illegal to invalidate the most sweeping legislation in living memory like that, even if it's only part of it.

I have an idea: let ObamaCare go into full-blown effect now.  Let Obama and those who pushed for the Affordable Care Act see what happens.  They wanted us to have this, we should give them what they want.

(Don't think for a moment that this isn't about politics.  Gotta wonder if the ACA will keep getting punted down the field for the next several elections to come.)

'Course, Obama himself, members of Congress and other government officials have exempted themselves from the Affordable Care Act.

I'll say this: if that's the way it is, then we the people should exempt ourselves as well.  If it's not good enough for them, it's obviously not good enough for us either.

The latest from the wonderful world of 3D printing

This is easily the technology that I'm keenly following more than any other right now.  And for plenty of good reasons...

3D printing is now capable of producing replacement bones using living cells.

Desktop-produced firearms continues to be developed and refined, beyond the control of any government.

Laser-guided 3D printing can now produce metal objects with high precision.  You will soon be taking your car into a garage and have a new custom part created in-house.

High-capacity lithium-ion batteries smaller than the size of a grain of sand have been created in the laboratory and it's thought that they could eventually be used to power ridiculously tiny gadgets, including next-generation medical devices like pacemakers.

And then there's this: 4D printing!  Objects which are manufactured in 3D "folded-up", then are allowed to self-assemble themselves.  One possible use mentioned is being able to buy furniture packed-flat from a store, bring it home and then take it out of the box and watch it put itself together.  More serious applications could be for building construction in hazardous situations.

No doubt parents across the country will be happy to know about 4D printing.  It will potentially bring an end to those most dreaded of words found on just about every toy or game box: "some assembly required"!

Tammy Tuesday this week is too snug and cozy to care

I snapped this picture of Tammy at about 4:30 in the morning.  On most nights she jumps onto the recliner and pulls this blanket over herself and goes to sleep.  On this particular morning she woke up, looked around, didn't see anything to get interested in for the moment, and then pulled her head back under the covers and went back to dozing...

dachshund, dog, Tammy

Monday, July 01, 2013

"Weird Al" Yankovic played with my Yoda puppet (and signed it too!)

This past Friday evening saw musical parody genius, pop culture icon and now bestselling author "Weird Al" Yankovic come to Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh, North Carolina as part of his seven-city book-signing tour promoting his just-released children's tome My New Teacher and Me!...

"Weird Al" Yankovic, Al Yankovic, My New Teacher and Me!, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, North Carolina, signing

My New Teacher and Me! is the follow-up to Weird Al's acclaimed 2011 children's book When I Grow Up (available as a standard book and as a newfangled iOS app for your iPad!).

I arrived at the store about three hours before the signing (incidentally, Quail Ridge Books is a really nice independent bookstore: I'm gonna make it a habit of swinging by there any time I'm in the Raleigh area) and bought a few copies to get signed.  I wound up reading My New Teacher and Me! in the interim and found it to be a delightful and well-crafted (and funny) sequel to the first book.  I hope Al continues with young Billy's story and gives him at least a trilogy!

Well anyhoo, 7 p.m. arrived and Al Yankovic (that's how he's billed in literary circles, not as "Weird Al", so I'm gonna try to respect that for the rest of this post) came out and began signing and posing for photos.  I don't know how many came to Quail Ridge Books on Friday night but there had been over 800 at his previous stop in Cincinnati the day before.  If I had to guess, I would estimate at least 400 people and maybe even 500.

It was a little after 8 when my turn came to approach the table where Al was situated.  And along with the two copies of My New Teacher and Me! I had something else that I was hoping he could sign: my vintage Yoda vinyl hand puppet, bought all the way back in 1981.  I figured that since his big finishing song at the end of every concert is "Yoda" - and since he had the same kind of puppet as a prop in his very first MTV special - that it might have been worth a shot.

Well, as soon as I walked to the table Al saw my puppet standing atop my books and he said "Hey, I used to have one of those!"  I gave it to him and he put it on his hand and started playing with it... yes, "Weird Al" Yankovic himself (I know, I slipped from established protocol there but I couldn't help it) started playing with my Yoda puppet!!  He put it on his right hand and began talking like Yoda and then he said "Or you could play with him like *this*" and started punching Yoda like a boxer.

This has to be among the top five most kewlest moments of my life...

"Weird Al" Yankovic, Star Wars, Yoda, puppet, Chris Knight, Quail Ridge Books, My New Teacher and Me!, Raleigh, North Carolina
"Weird Al" Yankovic, Star Wars, Yoda, puppet, Chris Knight, Quail Ridge Books, My New Teacher and Me!, Raleigh, North Carolina

And yes, he signed it...

"Weird Al" Yankovic, Yoda, puppet, Star Wars, autographed

Don't even think of asking to buy this from me!  You will never, ever, EVER find this listed on eBay.  Not as long as I'm alive... and I'm planning on being alive for a heap long time.  That lil' Yoda puppet had sentimental value before, and it's got even more now.

Thanks to Al for coming to Raleigh, and thanks to Quail Ridge Books for hosting him!  And I heartily recommend My New Teacher and Me!: a fun lil' book for children ages 6 to 600.