Archive for July, 2012

“summer comes and gravity undoes you”

Wilco, “Laminated Cat”


Amazon has a small but devoted group of shooters and firearms enthusiasts and yesterday we hit up West Coast Armory out in Bellevue. Five of us showed up, including one person who hadn’t shot in almost a decade and another who had never fired again before in his life. Three of us being members, we grabbed three of the first few lanes of the Silver (rifle-rated) bays and proceeded to spend two hours shooting a wide variety of nice kit. I got a chance to shoot a Walther PPS, which I liked, as well as a couple of Kimbers which seemed like perfectly serviceable 1911s.

Our new shooter seemed a bit nervous at first, but he took instruction well. I’d explained the Four Rules to him beforehand and, after a brief safety primer, we started him off with a single action 22 revolver. From there, we worked him up through 9mm, .38 special, and 45, and by the end he was shredding paper with .223 rifles with a giant grin on his face. Earlier today he mentioned that he had such a good time that he was planning to get a gun of his own.

I also got a chance to try out my newly kitted up Sig-556. I recently furnished it with new Sig Diopter iron sights, Samson Manufacturing fore end, and PWS FSC556 muzzle brake. I really like the way the rifle’s coming together. I think the only change I have left to make is to swap out the stock for something a little more stable. As it stands now, the rifle is reliable, accurate, and with completely negligible recoil. (When I’m shooting, I honestly don’t notice the recoil at all.)

One other aspect of note was that I got a chance to shoot my buddy Andy’s Glock 19. I’ve often damned Glocks with faint praise by saying that if you can endure their sloppy trigger and stiff magazines, then they’re the best handgun for the money. Hardly a glowing recommendation, I know. But it was reaffirmed for me yesterday. Glocks simply aren’t for me.

All in all, it was a highly successful day at the range. WCA has weekly IDPA matches that I’m going to try and make time for in the next few months, and there’s talk by the Amazon shooters group of making our get together a fortnightly occurrence. So it looks like their might be a lot more range time in store for me in the near future.

I’m quite comfortable with this idea, even if my bank account might not be.

A city in a city in a country in a country

I’ve recently been reading Peter Ackroyd’s London: The Biography. It’s an excellent overview of the history of London, as told through a series of small historical essays. One of the most interesting parts for me personally was how London grew threw accretion as other towns melded into the capital and The City started to become Greater London.

But one of the central theses of the book is that, despite this growth, The City proper has always exerted special influence and been a unique place in the British cultural, political, and economic landscape.

This video provides a brief introduction to the unique status of London as “A City in a City in a Country in a Country”:

“You know there ain’t no rest for the wicked”

I just gained a little bit of respect for every person featured in this video:

Meta-Ethical Question

I was thinking earlier about some conversations I had while I was TAing a class in grad school on the Philosophy of Technology. We were talking about ethics of genetic engineering and whether or not it was ethical to, for instance, predispose your unborn child to heightened athleticism or intelligence. So I’m interested in the spectrum of possible uses for genetic engineering and which ones people feel are permissible under their ethical intuition.

So, assume that you’re an expectant parent and the doctor tells you that he can cheaply, safely, and with a 100% success rate tweak your child’s genetics. He explains the benefits to you and asks you to decide which genetic alterations (if any) you feel comfortable having performed on your child.

1.) The doctor can detect and fix a host of life-threatening or debilitating genetic diseases and disorders, guaranteeing that your child will not suffer from e. g., Coeliac disease or Haemophilia.

2.) The doctor can detect and fix non-debilitating genetic defects, guaranteeing that your child won’t, e.g., be color blind.

3.) The doctor can guarantee that your child will be right-handed or left-handed.

4.) The doctor can give your child some modest, but naturally unusual advantage like ambidexterity or tetrachromacy.

5.) The doctor can give your child enhanced athletic predisposition, guaranteeing that they’ll be at least one standard deviation above today’s mean in athletic potential.

6.) The doctor can give your child enhanced cognitive ability, guaranteeing that they’ll be at least one standard deviation above today’s mean in intellectual abilities.

7.) The doctor can activate some genes that are associated with good looks in their gender, predisposing them to being more attractive.

8.) The doctor can predispose your child to using certain moral foundations, improving the chances that their political and ethical models will be similar to yours.

Which of these (if any) would you be willing to have the doctor perform on your unborn child? Let’s assume perfect safety and efficacy for the sake of this thought experiment.

The Sin of a Good Education

David Thompson points out the staggering response to a Guardian columnist’s choice to enroll her child in private school. I really can’t extract a quote from Thompson’s post, you really should go read the whole thing.

Apparently one of the greatest sins a right-thinking person can commit against their child and society is to send the child to a school run by any body other than the State. Heaven forbid parents should want the best for their kids and heaven forefend they try to act on such sinful thoughts by sending their children to a private school. The act of sending one’s child to a private school is lambasted as being beyond justification and “utterly immoral”.

The ratiocination behind these attacks is entirely opaque to me. I honestly can’t imagine a world view so sick, small, and petty that it would begrudge people their efforts to improve the lives of their children. Providing the best possible life for one’s offspring is one of the most natural and noble of human impulses. Any moral model that would willfully emiserate children and strip them of advantage for some abstract notion of “fairness” is completely alien to me.

And yet there it is on proud display. What’s next, a campaign against advanced placement courses? My parents put me into a series of very good programs for advanced students and I have no doubt that my International Baccalaureate classes in high school helped me get a great start in life, and while they were taught at a public (i.e. state-run) school, they certainly weren’t available to all children. Does that make them inherently immoral?

For my part, good on Janet Murray for working to give her child the best possible start in life. And I hope the jackals who are deriding her some day develop the good sense to be ashamed of themselves.

“I seen, I seen, I seen stranger things, man”

So I found out that the new First Aid Kit album (for which the track I posted yesterday was the lead single) was produced by the amazing Mike Mogis. Mogis is an incredible guitarist (probably known best for his work with Bright Eyes, Rilo Kiley, and M. Ward) as well as a stellar engineer and producer. You can hear all of these talents at work on this track from Bright Eyes’ 2011 album, The People’s Key:

Here he is playing lap steel with First Aid Kit performing the other single off The Lion’s Roar, called “Emmylou”:

“And I’m a goddamned coward / but then again, so are you”

Excellent Shard InfoGraphic

As a followup to my post a couple weeks ago about the Shard, here’s an excellent infographic about the structure. The expected residential sale price is 5,000 GBP per square foot. To put that in perspective, the price of an average house here in Seattle would buy you about 84 square feet of residence in the Shard, roughly the size of a double occupancy prison cell.

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Magic Blue Smoke

House Rules:

1.) Carry out your own dead.
2.) No opium smoking in the elevators.
3.) In Competitions, during gunfire or while bombs are falling, players may take cover without penalty for ceasing play.
4.) A player whose stroke is affected by the simultaneous explosion of a bomb may play another ball from the same place.
4a.) Penalty one stroke.
5.) Pilsner should be in Roman type, and begin with a capital.
6.) Keep Calm and Kill It with Fire.
7.) Spammers will be fed to the Crabipede.