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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I. AM. A. GEEK!!!

I'm a huge fan of the Web site ThinkGeek.com. Big surprise given what a huge geek I actually am.
The transition over the years from geeks being objects of derision when I was a kid, to it now being cool to actually be a geek (as opposed to a nerd, which I'm told still isn't cool) has been somewhat amusing for me to watch. Well, sort of amusing, to some degree annoying, it would have been nice for this transition to happen about 25 years ago when I was in school.
That being said, I get a huge kick out of some of the toys and gadgets (some of them actually useful!) on ThinkGeek.
I mean really, who doesn't need a set of lightsaber chopsicks or a USB-powered rocket launcher that lets you actually shoot at your coworkers?
Like most true geeks I love gadgets and toys, they don't actually have to do anything in particular, they just need to be sort of cool, or weird, weird is also good.
For instance, I was perusing the site the other night and came across a sundial ring you wear around your neck.
"A-ha!" I thought to myself, "A watch which never runs out of batteries!"
True enough, the handy dandy little gadget works with no external power. Geek heaven! It's old, but functional technology. Has all sorts of little numbers on it, made of metal. What more do you need?
Only one problem — I work in an office, no sun.
Curses! Foiled again!
Not to be defeated I went back to the site and went looking for more goodies without which my life would simply not be worth living, (not really but it sounds good right?)
All sorts of lovely toys and useful gadgets popped up. Obviously I need the roll up computer keyboard and the Nerf machinegun (did I mention geeks never really grow up?) the screaming monkey slingshot would be nice as well.
Now if I just actually had money.
To make matters worse, I'm a world champion bibliophile (means I like books a lot) and I wrote a piece for the Web some months back talking about politics in science fiction, which led one of my new favorite authors to ask me to review one of her books.
Free book! Woot! ("Woot" is a geek expression meaning, roughly, "Egad my dear fellow what a wonderful thing this is which has just happened to me!) What self-respecting geek could possibly turn that down? (Granted most of us don't exactly have a lot of self-respect to begin with, but I digress...) Well Sarah A. Hoyt, sent me one her books along with one by Dave Freer and I set to reading. Both Freer's Dragon's Ring and Sarah's Darkship Thieves were just unbelievable and I emailed Sarah back to tell her thanks and how great her book was. Somewhere in there I managed to strike up a friendship with Sarah and continue to correspond.
Turns out she's a pusher who keeps enabling my book addiction. I got five more in the mail from her just the other day and am now on the fourth one she sent me. (If I had any self-respect I'd come up for air and food at some point, but like any other addict I just keep getting my fix.) The problem here, is that gadgets and books are like crack to any geek. We just can't stay away from them. The more goofy the gadget or esoteric the science fiction or fantasy book the better.
One of the great joys of life as a geek is when someone who's more or less normal asks us why we need the laser-guided scissors or the USB stress ball. We then get to give them the patented Blank Look, snort and shake our heads in disbelief at the people who simply Don't Get It.
Given that's the look the rest of humanity gives us the rest of the time, it's simply justice.
All IMHO, of course.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Stupid is as stupid does...

Couple of weeks ago, a state representative from Tyro, Kan., a small town I'd never heard of in between Coffeyville and Caney managed to bring national — aye, international, attention to the great State of Kansas.
Unfortunately it wasn't for our beautiful state attractions or our occasionally pivotal historical events.
No, no, it was for suggesting illegal immigrants should be shot down like animals from the air.
According to the Wichita Eagle, Virgil Peck, (R-Tyro) said:
"Looks like to me, if shooting these immigrating feral hogs works, maybe we have found a (solution) to our illegal immigration problem."
This left me facepalming. That this country, indeed this state, have problems with illegal immigration is self-evident — except perhaps to a few natural-born fools on both sides of the aisle.
However, this sort of stupidity is not helpful.
Granted, from what I've been able to gather about Mr. Peck, in a battle of wits between him and a rutabaga, bet on the rutabaga, but he's managed to put me in a position of having to agree with Democrats — he needs to resign forthwith.
Once again an idiot politician shooting off his mouth has managed to make the state look bad. He even went so far as to say "I'm just talking like a Southeast Kansas person."
Mr. Peck, I'm originally from southwest Kansas where we have a major problem with illegal immigration, and I've lived in southeast Kansas for over 10 years now, we're not racists in this state and we don't condone murder.
Do we need to do something about the border? Yes, absolutely.
Do we need to do something about illegal immigration? Yes, absolutely.
But can we please refrain from stupid rhetoric on both sides?
Mr. Peck's comments not withstanding, Republicans don't really want to kill anyone. Nor are those on the right racist, generally speaking. So we would appreciate it if Democrats would stop calling us such. At the same time can those on the right please stop with the our way or the highway approach to border control.
I don't think so-called "comprehensive immigration reform" is the way to go.
There are several problems with immigration and the border. They really need to be addressed one at a time — and putting aside ideology so they can be addressed with some common sense.
Let's start with getting control of the border. We can't really address the 5 to 20 million (no one really knows) illegals who are already here until we stop letting more over the border.
So let's get control of the border, not just for the immigration problem but for the drug wars going on along our border which are getting American citizens killed. Do that first.
Then, let's have the conversation about what to do about the people who are here.
First the DREAM Act. This, had it passed, would have allowed illegals who came here before the age of 16 and who had completed two years in the military or two years of college to apply for citizenship.
As a conservative, I have zero problem with the first part of that, and quite a bit of problem with the second. Anyone who joins our military, serves with honor and defends this nation should automatically be granted citizenship if they wish it upon honorable discharge. I don't know any conservative who would disagree with that. If I met one I would suggest a rutabaga was smarter than him as well.
The two years of college? Not so much. But I would think the left might be willing to give on that one. Come to that, I'd be willing to give on that one if we could just close the border first.
It comes down to it, I think most conservatives would be willing to negotiate on what we do about the illegals who are here. I certainly think we need to consider guest worker programs and perhaps examine our immigration quotas and regulations as well as the application process. I've known more than a few people over the years trying to come to this country the right way who have had to deal with a nightmare just getting the paperwork done.
"Give us your tired, your poor, your hungry..." Remember that? We've made it very difficult for those tired, poor and hungry to come here. We need to look at why, and if it needs reform.
We also need people like Peck on the right, and groups like the National Council of La Raza on the left to stop with the polarizing rhetoric so we can sit down and have an actual conversation on this.
All IMHO, of course.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Help

Michelle Malkin is looking for her missing cousin. I realize I don't have a ton of readers but anyone who sees this help if you can.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Even odious speech is protected

Last week the Supreme Court rendered what was a rare 8-1 ruling on a controversial case.
Most of us are aware of who and what the Westboro Baptist Church is. These are the people who protest at military funerals, claiming war deaths are God's punishment for the United States' tolerance of homosexuality.
Holding signs saying "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" or "You're going to Hell," or things far worse, these people disrupt what should be solemn occasions.
To say I find Fred Phelps and his clan odious would be an understatement. However I find myself in agreement with the court that — however offensive — this is protected speech under the First Amendment.
There are many forms of speech which the average person finds offensive, from pornography to racial slurs to half the shows on prime time Television.
In a free society we have little choice but to put up with these things — frustrating as that is sometimes. I once read a document called the Bill of No Rights, a list of 10 rights you do not have.
Article II reads: "You do not have the right to never be offended. This country is based on freedom, and that means freedom for everyone — not just you! You may leave the room, turn the channel, express a different opinion, etc., but the world is full of idiots, and probably always will be."
That the Phelps clan and their "church" are idiots is self evident. That they have the right to be idiots and spout their nonsense should also be.
I certainly understand Justice Samuel Alito, writing the lone dissent from the ruling's feelings on the matter. He noted the free speech provision of the First Amendment “is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case. Respondents’ outrageous conduct caused petitioner great injury, and the court now compounds that injury by depriving petitioner of a judgment that acknowledges the wrong he suffered."
Chief Justice John Roberts was correct, however, in the majority opinion when he wrote: "As a nation we have chosen a different course — to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate."
All of that is true, as painful as it may be. There are, of course, other solutions to dealing with Phelps and his ilk. They are cowards who tend not to show up when they know the Freedom Riders, a group of bikers who go to military funerals and ring them to prevent mourners from being disturbed, are going to be there. And as Dennis Miller noted last week on his radio program, a supreme court decision doesn't protect you from a broken nose. I doubt there's a jury in the world who would convict a mourning father on that one.
In the end, I don't think there was a justice on the court who liked having to rule in Phelps favor, but the law is the law. Every time we dilute the First Amendment we make it easier to decide to restrict expression further and further. That way lies Canada and criminal penalties for "hate speech," which seems to mean any sort of speech the government doesn't like.
I would rather have to put up with 100 Fred Phelps' than find myself in prison because some twit on the government payroll decided he didn't like what I have to say.
The essence of freedom is the freedom to express yourself, no matter how offensive that may be to someone else. If we start taking that away, then the rest of the Bill of Rights folds like a house of cards.
All IHMO, of course.