August 18th, 2010

#2231: NONE of them.

How the hell would being "President for a day" enable anyone to make that happen anywhere? The President is an executive, not a king. He can't just wave his pen and say, "There will be a high-speed rail line put there!"

...but disregarding that stupidity, if I were "President for a day", none of those areas of the country would get a high-speed rail line on the government's dime.

If there was a need for high-speed rail, we would have it already. There would be no need for government to say, "Hey, we need this, so we're going to spend billions of dollars to make it happen." No; the railroads would be clamoring to build high-speed rail lines if there was any economic need for them whatsoever, because the railroads could make all kinds of money on it.

If it were necessary.

Which it's not.

Evidence: there are no high-speed rail lines.

If there is a profit to be made on providing a good or a service, businesses will arise which will provide them. If there is no reasonable expectation of profit from an enterprise, it won't happen unless government does it.

The only reason we still have interstate rail travel is that the government decided it needed to prop it up. Railroads got out of the passenger business because they couldn't make any money at it. We got Amtrack, which has never been in the black for even a single fiscal year, because air travel is cheaper to provide than train travel; if Amtrack priced tickets to make a profit, no one would ride the train.

Understand this: it's not illegal for anyone to provide interstate rail travel. A passenger railroad would have to follow the federal railroad regulations, and would have to have the appropriate licenses and the other bureaucratic garbage, but there is no law which prohibits corporations from selling tickets to people for interstate travel. (Not even a de facto ban, where it's legal but government makes it as difficult as possible for someone to get into the business, in order to protect Amtrack.)

Yet Amtrack is it. There is nothing else. If you want to ride the train from Chicago to California, you're going to be on an Amtrack train. (Or else you're going to be dodging railroad cops and riding in a boxcar.)

Running any kind of railroad is highly capital-intensive. Before you can run a train, you have to have rolling stock (locomotives, cars) and you either need track or you need trackage rights. (The latter, renting someone else's tracks, is cheaper, but you only get to run trains when the owner isn't running his own trains.) And you need to hire people and advertise and.... By the time you're ready to start carrying passengers, you've spent as much money as an airline startup does, for a service which takes much longer and is only the slightest bit more convenient than traveling by air.

It takes a couple hours to fly here from New Orleans. Even figuring getting to the airport early and traveling to and from airports at both ends, it doesn't take more than perhaps six hours at the outside under normal conditions. My sister rode Amtrack up from N.O. this past weekend, and the trip took seventeen hours.

People don't like that. They especially don't like paying for it the same as they would for air travel. Slower should be cheaper, goes the thinking. How much does a bus ticket cost?

* * *

Having heard what my sister had to say about it, though, I am interested in trying it myself. If you get a roomette, you've got a small table and you can sit by yourself, and there's a bed, and there's a power outlet so you can plug in your laptop. I could play Torchlight for as long as suited me!

...or whatever. The other day, while waiting for my too-large ID photos at Walgreen's, I noticed a pay-as-you-go wireless ISP dongle. It's $30-ish, and then you buy blocks of data transfer. I have no idea what the cost-per-megabyte is. do realize that would mean the ability to play World of Warcraft on my laptop anywhere I could get a cellular signal? It almost seems worthwhile, except that I never go anywhere.

Speaking of Torchlight I played it for a couple more hours tonight. I think I'm taking a break from WoW; at least, that's how it's shaping up. Oh well.

* * *

Exchange Street is going away. They're grinding out the concrete subroad now. The entire damn thing, right down to the gravel, is being torn out; no wonder they closed it.

I'm kind of at a loss as to why they're going so far. I mean, is there something wrong with the concrete? Is there something underneath the road they're wanting to attend to? Seems to me that if they had merely ripped off all the asphalt and relaid it, that would have dealt with the frost heaves. Heck, most of the time, towns just do a skin coat: rip off a couple inches of asphalt and lay a new layer atop the old stuff. They did that with Route 1 all the way from the viaduct in Steger to the south edge of the village core.

Maybe they're thinking of the impending intermodal facility that Union Pacific is going to put in. There have been changes to the way I-394 connects with Route 1, south of town, for that very reason; maybe Exchange is also being upgraded to handle truck traffic.

I don't know. I hope not.

What I do know is that without cars on Exchange Street, it is incredibly, marvelously quiet. Shit, it'd be worth the inconvenience to lose that street, permanently, in its entirety just for that reason alone. Turn it into a park with a narrow lane for the people whose driveways connect to Exchange. Forbid through traffic and set the speed limit at 25. Cut it off from access to 394.

Yeah, no one would like that idea except me. Oh well.

* * *

By the way, "Endless Eight" started yesterday. It's August 17-31.

Having deja vu?

In fact, I think the events of "Endless Eight" would have taken place in 2003. You see, in Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Kyon talks about "the new millennium", in a way which makes me think that the events which attracted the attention of the various organizations took place in spring of 2000. (The Integrated Data Thought Entity detected the enormous data explosion; the time travelers discovered the discontinuity which kept them from traveling back further in time; and the espers discovered their abilities, all about the time Haruhi had her little epiphany about not being unique at all.)

Haruhi was just out of elementary school, about to start middle school, and so by the time she was starting high school it would have been 2003.

Now: assuming that the first season episode "Someday In The Rain" is the last story arc before "Disappearance", it looks to me as if the entire Haruhi ouerve covers the events of one year, 2003. (And actually, the story begins on April 1, 2003; April 1 is when the school year starts in Japan, unless it's on a Sunday. Then school stars April 2.)

If Harhi et al were 15 in 2003, then they're all 22 now. (Well, Mikuru would be 23 if she'd stayed in our time plane.)

Well--we assume Yuki Nagato and her fellow Integrated Data Thought Entity Humanoid Interface Terminals were created shortly after the "data explosion", so Yuki would, in fact, only be technically 9 right now. But she remembers the entire run of "Endless Eight", which actually makes her closer to 600 years old.

Of course the anime shows a 2008 calendar for "Endless Eight", when we see a calendar at all, but that's typical of anime series: they always use current calendars unless they're setting a story in a specific period.

I'm handicapped by the fact that I haven't seen Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. I don't know what happens in that story AND DO NOT TELL ME. Once I've seen the movie I'll have a better grasp of what happens to Kyon et al.

* * *

Yeah, that was a pretty sad exposition of umitigated nerdery. Sorry about that.

#2232: Kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. Brilliant.

I don't have a link for it; just a throwaway comment by Neal Boortz: "A group of union auto workers in Indianapolis are going to allow a business to close rather than accept a cut in salary. Typical idiotic union mentality."

Yeah, you sure showed those fat cats, didn't you? Now none of you has a job! Congratulations!

* * *

Now, one of the justifications for "speech codes" on college campuses is that it's perfectly legitimate to be intolerant of "intolerance". This means that it's just fine and dandy to silence people who you don't agree with, because their viewpoints are intolerant. RIght?

Given that, does it mean we get to be intolerant of islam?

* * *

Who the fuck is Dave Mustaine and why the hell should I give a rat's ass about him being at "my local Borders"? Particularly when, in fact, he's probably appearing at one in the city?

Fuck off, Borders. You suck.

* * *

Welcome to the death panels! Everyone on my side of the ObamaCare debate said this was going to happen, and look! It's happening!

Does that drug work for your illness? TOO DAMN BAD! That drug is too expensive for the socialized medical system! They're not going to pay for it! They don't care about you because there are already too many other rednecks out there in flyover country as it is!

...but if you're important or can make a huge donation to Democrats, you can have it!

* * *

The lede for this article annoys me. "Astronomers have discovered a massive star that once dwarfed our sun and is now challenging theories of how stars evolve, die and form black holes." Hey asshole? THAT DESCRIBES MOST OF THE STARS IN THE GODDAMNED UNIVERSE. Okay?

Our sun is a G2 star. The spectral classes, in order of hottest/largest to smallest/coolest, goes O B A F G K (M N R S). (MNRS) are, collectively, a special case; they can be lumped into "sub-K" for the most part. Okay? So our sun falls on the bottom end of the mass and heat scale.

So when you say "a massive star that once dwarfed our sun" it's about like saying "that part of the Pacific Ocean" when you mean Waikiki Beach.

Furthermore, I'd like to know exactly when it was that supernovae formed black holes. When I was growing up, supernovae formed neutron stars. Then suddenly the astronomers changed their minds and said you could get a black hole from a supernova if the original star was over 40 solar masses. Now they're saying, "Wait, that's not entirely so, and we don't know why."


* * *

If the United States needed high-speed rail, we would already have it, and the government would not need to fund it.

* * *

De-elect Democrats in November, folks, because otherwise the government will seize control of your retirement account. Social Security is broke now. Do you want your hard-earned money in your 401k to be replaced with an IOU from the Treasury department in an economic environment guaranteed to cause inflation?

If you want to get your "retirement fund" back as toilet paper, vote Democrat in November.

* * *

Democrat Senator wants tax breaks which will benefit his district. Of course he does! Anyone know what Democrat Senator Bill Nelson thinks about letting the Bush tax cuts expire? I bet he's all for that! I bet he'd vote against an extension of the Bush tax cuts.

How'd he vote on ObamaCare? I bet he voted for it! That'll end up being the largest tax increase ever.

...why should his constituents get a tax cut? Assuming Democrat Senator Bill Nelson is for all those other taxes, why is it so important that a certain constituency of his get a tax cut?

Eh? "Job creation"? Sounds like the Democrat Senator Bill Nelson isn't interested in "job creation" when it comes to anything else; so why should he get a special tax cut for his constituents?

* * *

Connecticut is just about out of money and their solution is to issue bonds.

You do realize that issuing a bond is just deferring a tax increase, right? I mean, the bonds have to be paid back, with interest, and the money used to pay back those bonds is going to come from taxation.

* * *

How's that "recovery summer" going? Obamanomics working for you?

* * *

Iran sez, "Sanctions have had no impact on us, but made us more experienced and self-sufficient."

How's Obama's foreign policy of insulting allies and appeasing enemies working out?

* * *

Loud iPods. You know, when I listen to music on my MP3 player, I have it about 2 or 3 notches above "silent". Any louder than that is painful. Then again, I've got sensitive ears.

No brain, no pain.

* * *

I love Ann Coulter.
Liberals are constantly hectoring Americans to adopt Sweden's generous welfare policies without considering that one reason Sweden's welfare policies haven't bankrupted the country (yet) is that the Swedes don't grant citizenship to the children of any deadbeat who manages the spectacular feat of giving birth on Swedish soil.
An excellent piece on liberal hypocrisy regarding the use of foreign jurisprudence in the interpretation of American law.

* * *

...well, I tried to get through the day without turning on the air conditioning.

My cat had to wake me up this afternoon. I actually woke up at a decent time this morning, but I kept falling asleep: I'd wake up, think, "I've got errands to run," and then I'd fall asleep again. Finally around 2:15 Luna jumped up on the bed and meowed at me. Somehow she knew I needed a little bit of prompting, because when I ignored her she did it again. Then she came over to my head and bumped her head against mine, purring.

She does not normally do that.

So I got up and set out on my errands. And though it was pleasant in my room when I left, by the time everything was done I was so hot and sweaty I didn't care whether it was still "pleasant" or not; I wanted the AC on. So on it went.

It'll go off again about 8 PM, of course. Oh well.

Tomorrow promises to be hot, so I expect to get up early and close all the windows and turn it back on again.


* * *

People wonder why I like anime:

Shamelessly stolen from Steven's top rotation.

* * *

Liberals want George W. Bush to come to the aid of Barak Hussein "It's all Bush's Fault!" Obama.

Yeah, I don't need to add anything to that.

Doug Powers over at Michelle Malkin's place. Doesn't Powers have his own damn blog?

* * *

...all this nonsense has got me thinking about my own fiction. ("What nonsense?" I could explain it to you simply only if we were telepathic. Trust me; it's not worth the effort of listening to--just take it as read there's a lot of nonsense which has got me thinking about my own fiction.) I have a novel which needs a rewrite and an edit to be ready for submission to publishers. Sufficiently motivated I could crank the new version out in about a month, or maybe six weeks.

But you know, I've been seeing things about how the publishing industry is circling the drain. There are only two major bookstore chains left in the United States, and they pretty much determine what gets published. Why? Because they're the publishing houses' biggest customers. If Borders isn't going to buy 20,000 copies, the publisher probably isn't going to be interested in printing your book, even if they like it.

Electronic publication is taking its first wee baby steps across the floor. Assuming the economy doesn't make a huge, smoldering, radioactive, glassy crater out of itself in the next five years, we could conceivably see "e-pub" make serious progress as a distribution method for books in that time frame. Like "iTunes", but for novels and other tomes rather than music.

I might be better off waiting for an "e-pub" house to get going. Wait for all that to shake out. Sure, the book would sell for $5 per copy (in 2010 dollars) and the e-publisher would take a cut, but at least my book(s) would be out there for people to read and I'd get paid for it.

(I have at least five books on tap right now, three of which are in rough draft. One's in rewrite from the rough draft; the fifth was "finished" when I completed it about 10 years ago but it could use a rewrite to update it and clean up some minor issues with the plot and pacing.) (Also to add some more wisecracks and stuff.)

* * *

Speaking of wisecracks, this piece is wonderful:
Okay but at least it’s not like it’s called the Death to the Infidel Victory in Manhattan Mosque. Just the Cordoba Center — a center for outreach, and whatnot. Oh shit, Cordoba? We should probably ask the 8th century Spanish what they think about that, since Muslim invaders conquered the Cordoba region in southern Spain and built a…well…glorious victory mosque. But those 8th century Spanish were probably racists anyways.

So it was originally going to be named the Cordoba House, after a mosque that was built in celebration of conquering the Christians of Spain, and it was originally going to be opened on Sept. 11, 2011. All I can say is: I get it. No, really, message received. Can it be any more clear? I wish we could ask the founding fathers their opinion on “religious freedom” in this particular instance. But I think they would slap me on the head if I asked them that, and tell me to use just a little common sense and a very basic knowledge of Islamic history.

I wonder if there were any contemporary 8th century Spaniards who said “Don’t worry, the mosque they’re building on the rubble of our church isn’t really a mosque, it’s more of an outreach center!”. Yes, it is a ridiculous comparison. Who cares what happened 1200 years ago, can’t we all just get along? Of course! I know for me personally, millenia-old disagreements don’t keep me up at night – but I make the comparison because the people behind this mosque obviously do too.
It's a fact that muslims love to build mosques on or near the sites of their victories. The WTC site is clearly considered a glorious victory against the great satan by muslims.

That's exactly why this mosque should be disallowed.

* * *

This is pretty much why the income tax was unconstitutional. At least, it was until 1913.

And it's taken just 97 years for the income tax to bring us to the brink of ruin. know, come to think of it, I wonder: if one delved into the historical records, could one demonstrate that the Great Depression was caused by the imposition of the income tax? Sure, it took about 16 years for the effects to shake out, but I bet there is a causal link.

* * *

This made me laugh. Democrats are posturing (as usual). Two California Democrats are on a hunger strike to get their Republican opponent to debate them.

The Republican's spokesman said, "My hope is that he holds out and doesn't expire before October because that's when we're going to debate him, and we've told him that several times."

And I laughed.

* * *

"State & Municipal Gun Control Laws: Chicken, or Egg?" Definitely "egg":
I think you could argue that these gun control laws may encourage the sort of behavior that they were supposed to limit. If community standards teach you that gun ownership is a natural precursor to crime and irresponsibility, then it follows that those who value crime and irresponsibility will be drawn to own a gun.
Actually, the main reason is that criminals are cowards.

You see, if Billy G. wants to rob a house, he's going to get himself a gun. He's also going to pick the house which is not well-lit and (if possible) will select a house which has older people living in it, rather than a house with at least one strong young man there. He's going to do his damnedest to pick a time when no one is there.

Now, if Billy G. has a choice, he's going to select a target house in a community which has outlawed guns, because he knows that makes it that much less likely that anyone who might happen to be home will be armed. If it's in a community which allows the personal ownership of firearms, Billy G. knows the person living there can shoot his ass and it'll be called "self-defense".

In a place like, say, Chicago, where personal ownership of firearms was (until recently) illegal, it meant that no law-abiding citizen had a gun. (By definition; if you own a gun, you're not a law-abiding citizen. See?) Which meant you could stride into just about anyone's house, show them your gun, and make them give you what you want--and then decide whether or not you felt like raping or killing anyone.

Billy G. doesn't care about the gun law; he's intent on robbing people anyway, and the lawyers can usually get the gun charges reduced or thrown out. (In fact, in many cases, the gun laws are not enforced on habitual criminals, at least in Illinois. That's right; you can go to jail for having an illegal handgun if you're an otherwise law-abiding citizen, but if you're a criminal with a list of priors longer than your legs, the gun charges are pretty much ignored.) So Billy owns a couple of guns and carries one or two of them wherever he goes.

So Billy G. is hanging out with some friends, and someone comes along and says something he doesn't like, and a fight breaks out. And sooner or later someone finds himself losing and pulls out a gun. Presto, we have a body count! ...and maybe the DA prosecutes the gun charges, and maybe he doesn't, because he's got a murder charge to contend with in a neighborhood where no one dares speak up to police.

Contrast that, then, with a rural area where there are no restrictions on gun ownership. Billy G. can't go up to that house over there and show them his gun, because if he does, he'll probably get shot before he can finish turning around to run at the sight of John Homeowner's gun. And the sheriff will say, "Damn, John, you're going to have the devil's own time gettin' the blood out of that rug," as the county coroner finishes zipping Billy G's corpse up in the body bag.

Billy is not stupid; he knows that if he goes up against a homeowner with a gun, he might lose. Even if he lives, he's not going to get any sympathy from the local police, and the local DA will probably not look the other way on whatever gun charges Billy G has racked up by carrying a loaded firearm in his pocket to someone else's house with clear intent to commit armed robbery.

So Billy will stay in places where he knows people are a lot less likely to own their own firearms. And that's why places with strict gun laws have high crime rates.

* * *

If you date Sawako Kuronuma, what do you expect?
Do never ever watch ‘The Ring’ 1 and 2, late at night, drinking beer with a buddy of yours.
Your cute, little, long-black-haired girlfriend will come in and make both of you scream like the little girls you are deep inside.
Sawako is nicknamed "Sadako" for a reason, dude.