Kilted To Kick Cancer 2014

Since we’re half way through September and this is the first I’ve mentioned it, it’s probably clear and obvious that I didn’t get into hard participation this year. Suffice it to say that I have been wearing my kilt, and telling curious bystanders about the campaign, but I didn’t sign up for a donation team this year. Please don’t think for one minute that I’m not supporting this cause. On the contrary, my son has family history of prostate cancer on both sides, and I want this thing fixed before he’s old enough to worry about it. Take a minute and watch this video that he and I made, discussing KTKC:

Those wooden roller coasters are bumpy! Yes, we are on a roller coaster in that video, and yes, I was wearing my 5.11 Tactical Duty Kilt. Some of the teams this year are pretty special friends of mine. I was going to post recommendations on whose team to donate through, but it’s ultimately all going to the same great cause, and all of these guys are working hard toward it. So, get kilted, get checked, and make your donations here.

Ice Bucket Challenge

Others will have more meaningful things to say on the subject, but I did get called out yesterday, and I will stand in solidarity. The battery died on one of the cameras, so I actually got a double dose of icy water in the taking of this video.

There was ice. In my jeans. After the fact. Yeah.

As I said, others will have more meaningful things to share. I’m looking forward to Scribbler‘s video.

Enjoy the Silence Redux

My lovely wife posted a song that we ran across while we were on a YouTube wander together last week. But, she didn’t post the version of the video that we saw. It’s quite a bit more chilling with the WWII imagery, as seen below. I recommend viewing in full-screen mode.

I was never much of a Depeche Mode fan, but it is truly beautiful when musicians rework a well-known piece into something so fresh and relevant. Jennifer’s Granddad, who was in the infantry in WWII, told me on his death bed with earnest tears in his eyes, “war is hell.” With current global tensions at a level that have not occurred within my lifetime (including the U.S. and Soviet Russia with doomsday missiles pointed at each other), I can’t deny the feelings of dread that we may be heading inevitably into another world war.

God help us all.

Eggcited!

Here in the Evyl Robot Empyre, we eat a lot of eggs. They’re a cheap source of good protein and fats, they can be prepared in many different ways, and they just taste good. There’s not a whole lot of food that is more enjoyable than eggs collected from home-kept birds. Unfortunately, city code won’t allow the keeping of laying birds on a postage stamp property such as the one on which we live. Yesterday, Jennifer saw a message on MyFace from one of our mutual friends who we met years ago at Appleseed. She posted the question of whether anyone would want some free eggs as her chickens and quail have been more prolific than her family could consume and that they were “swimming” in eggs. Um. Yes please. Jennifer told our friend that we’d take as many eggs as she felt like pitching our direction; that they surely would not go to waste.

I was afraid that (but fully prepared to) I’d have to drive out to the boondocks to collect on the offer, but she specified that she wanted to meet for delivery at a school that is almost two miles from my home. SCORE! This morning I drove Grandpa’s truck to the school and met up with the Eggspress. There were a couple other people who met up with her to take egg donations as well. She had mentioned that she was also taking donations on used egg cartons as her family reuses them and never buys eggs at the store. Jennifer and I had quite a few of them saved up that we were going to try to start seeds in, but we’d given up on that idea so I bagged them up for her.

She rather hesitantly said, “Jennifer said you’d take as many as I’d give you so…” and she proceeded to pull out multiple egg cartons. She explained that the dozen chicken eggs were unwashed so I’d need to rinse them prior to consumption. She also explained that the other chicken egg cartons had two dozen quail eggs each, in addition to handfuls of 10-egg quail cartons. She asked if I could save the smaller cartons for her as she reuses them. I offered to let her take those with her and transfer the contained eggs to some of the chicken egg cartons. She thought that was a good idea so we stood there, transferring eggs between cartons on the cooler in the bed of the pickup; chatting about raising birds, Appleseed, and shooting in general. Of course, I thanked her profusely and headed home. Upon my return, I decided that I had better inventory my haul.

Eggs

That’s 183 quail eggs. That’s 183 dark and sultry, buttery, tasty bite size morsels. I accidentally dropped one on the floor while counting. The membrane under the shell is tough enough that it didn’t leak though. So I ate that one. Including the chicken eggs she gave us and the grocery eggs that we already had in the refrigerator, that makes a total of 212 eggs in the refrigerator. Guess what’s for dinner tonight? When we eat eggs, I usually have three jumbos. It takes about three quail eggs to equal one jumbo. It usually takes about four home raised chicken eggs to equal three jumbos. So, if I was eating these alone, and ate them every day, it would take me about a month to consume what we have in there. That might make me tired of eggs, and I don’t want to get tired of eggs. Then again, we do have a teenage boy here. Somehow, I suspect that we’re still going to come up with some pickled quail eggs before all is said and done.

our friend said that once we’re ready to start keeping our own quail, we can get live eggs from her for hatching. Apparently, start up is far more successful with local eggs than ordered ones. I suppose that makes sense. When we move, I’m pretty sure we’ll be working this into the plan. In the meantime, I’m glad when someone else can’t eat all the eggs their birds produce and we get the overflow.

I’ve Been Biting My Tongue On This Whole “Privilege” Thing…

I’m not providing the links here for the sole reason that it seems that anywhere I click on the internet people are going on and on about “privilege.” It’s apparently the new, hip point of contention to talk about lately. The context in which I’ve seen it used insinuates that being a pale-faced male puts me at an inherent social advantage over all non-pale-faced, and/or non-male individuals. This stance automatically assumes that there is universal sexism and racism ruling our society that overwhelms all other forms of discrimination, in every meaning of the term.

When I was young, we lived in a not-so-nice part of town. My friend, Reefer, would bicycle to my house with his Crown Royal bag full of marbles and we’d play in the driveway. My dad ran off a hooker getting high on spray paint on the sidewalk in front of our house more than once. Sirens were ubiquitous and the rowdy bar down the street provided the white noise to my sleep. One time, some guy driving a school bus stole the push mower out of our back yard. It wasn’t even a nice lawn mower. At my school, either the Latinos or the black kids had the whites outnumbered at least three to one. The term ‘minority’ didn’t make any sense to me until we moved the summer before I attended second grade. I’m not about to claim that I didn’t get special treatment back then. I was a good kid, but my teachers kind of babied me. Whether that was because I was sweet-natured and well behaved, or whether it was because I was shorter than the other students and looked like Opie Taylor, I have no way to say at this point.

Jennifer and I once ran a youth hot-rodding/performance tuning group at church. We modified and tuned cars for performance with the kids, and talked to them about personal character and God. It was a pretty special time. While we were working on an engine swap in a Civic, one of the boys called from under the car, “turn it to the left to loosen it, right?” One of the kid’s fathers tried to donate a Porche 944 Turbo to the group, but complications kept that from being finalized. Since this was a decently affluent part of town none of these kids were from extremely bad backgrounds, but we had a pretty good spread of upbringing. A couple of them lived in trailers and would not be seeing the halls of higher education without hard work and scholarships on their part, and others had dads with spare Porches that they wanted to donate to the cause. I can think of two particular guys in the group that became pretty good friends that could not have been from much more different upbringings in life, but on Saturday morning, with wrenches in hand, they were equals, and they were buddies. Both of these young men were white. It should be of no great surprise that one of them is a Representative in the Oklahoma House, and is running for the U.S. Senate. He was set up for success from the day he was born. I’m not saying that the other one has no chance as such accomplishments in life, nor am I saying that Mike hasn’t worked hard for what he’s done. I might not agree on every point in Mike’s political stance, but I’m proud of both of those guys.

It is a true, unmitigated fact that some individuals start in a better position to succeed than other people. I know that I had a better start in life than my young friend Reefer. To that end, I’ve known a lot of people that were born with a silver spoon in their mouth that caused me the ache of jealousy. To claim that race is the sole contributing factor to an inherent life advantage is unadulterated, petty racism. Anyone who claims that boys are set up for greater success than girls have evidently never been in, nor even heard of a classroom; and that’s only one example to illustrate the fallacy of their sexist stance. If you believe that being a white male grants privilege over anything else in life, tell that to Sasha and Malia Obama. Those girls will get whatever education and career they ever want, and they’ll have an armed detail for the rest of their life. Now, that’s privilege. Indeed, “check your privilege” is a loser’s excuse. What the assertion boils down to is, “the only reason you’re successful is that you were born into it and I’m not good enough to seize the American Dream and make a better life for myself now.” I would be personally horrified to make such a statement. First of all, never compare yourself against anyone else. They didn’t steal the success that should have rightfully been yours. Secondly, if you’re jealous of a guy like Herman Cain because he’s such a successful businessman, instead of tearing the other guy down, tell yourself, “I haven’t made my first million yet.” Incidentally, I’m still personally in the process of making my first million.

Yesterday, after getting soaked in the rain and eating hamburgers with Jennifer’s parents, we settled down with Teen Bot and were enjoying some video games. The doorbell rang and I saw my neighbor from down the street in the monitor that feeds from the camera on the front door. He took a drag from his cigarette and immediately rushed toward the gate into my back yard. When I got to the door, I opened it to find multiple neighbors from all down the block walking in my front yard. Needless to say, I was a little confused. As I stepped through the door, the smell of wood smoke filled my nose. The man who lives across the street from me, let’s call him Joe, asked me, “is your house on fire?”

“No,” I said, “I didn’t smell it until I came out just now.”

“Well it’s coming from somewhere,” Joe said as I came out into the yard.

Just then, the other neighbor came back into my front yard with his cigarette, laughing, “it’s somebody’s grill. They’re across the fence trying to get some grilling in between the rain.”

In my confusion, I probably looked aggressive. In the rush, I failed to pull on a cover garment, and my M&P45 was in full view. Joe raised his hands toward me, and with big eyes he said, “I am SO sorry. I didn’t mean to disturb you.”

“No,” I smiled and shook my head, “I appreciate you Joe. Thank you for looking out for me. That’s what neighbors are supposed to do.” I’d like to think that I’d do the same thing if the roles were reversed. I don’t know if he saw my gun or what, but he did seem alarmed there for just a moment.

Because of the topic on hand, I should mention that Joe is black. His recent bride is also black. Their kids are the best on the block, well-behaved, respectful, and confident. I’ve caught Joe when he didn’t know I was watching, gently giving them words of reproach or advice. They’re good people and a great family. His next door neighbors are another black family. She is the daughter of my next door neighbor. They were also in my yard, investigating the source of the mysterious smoke. On the other side, our neighbor is Native American. Frankly, I like my black and indian neighbors more than many of my white neighbors (but the one with the cigarette is a good guy too). :) I would hate to think that any of them resented me because I’m a white male, with “privilege,” in the same way that it would be quite bigoted of me to look down on them for their ethnicity. I like them for who they are and feel like they deserve no less opportunity than is granted by the privilege and benefit of living in this, the very Land of Opportunity.

The phrase “check your privilege” is insulting to all of us, all races and gender, and it should be an affront to any who ever hear it spoken. It’s a tool the talking heads and race-baiters use to fan the coals of the race war they want so badly. I don’t have time for people who give up on themselves so easily because they think their pigmentation has them locked into some kind of caste. That may be the way other societies work, but not this one. It’s an excuse to hate white males. It’s a way to give up and claim that everyone else is racist, although it is incredibly racist in and of itself. It claims that it’s impossible for me to have four out of eight adjacent neighbors that are very much not white. It’s a lie, and an ugly one at that. It’s a suggestion that when I do finally make my first million, I’ll have done it on the backs of minorities and not by my own talents, skills, and hard work; and that demeans us all, male and female, of all races. Check my privilege? No, check your attitude, friend.

*edited for grammatical and spelling errors 5/28
**and then again for the President’s daughter’s name.

Monday’s To-Do List

Things I wanted to do today:

Catch up on feed reader.
Catch up on email.
Work on holsters.

Things I didn’t want to do today:

Emergency plumbing repair.

I’ll give you one guess what’s going to happen.

AFTERNOON UPDATE:

When Teen Bot turned on the hose, water sprayed out the bathroom wall. It appears that we have a busted B&K Frost Proof Sillcock. After some work on Google, it seems that these things are supposed to be drained before any hard freezes. Since I have a brass gang manifold mounted to that faucet, and since the valves on the manifold were more than likely closed all winter, it was probably not properly drained before this winter. Oops. It’s safe to assume that the thing has been broken for months and we just didn’t know it. Whoever first said “ignorance is bliss” ought to get a good nut kicking. My ignorance means that I now get to cut a hole in the wall to determine what needs to happen next for the repair. Not so blissful.

Thoughts on the weekend

There’s a vicious rumor that we have bones to support our structure and bind our muscles.nbsp; We actually have bones so your pocket knife won’t go clear through your finger when you slip and stab it. The bone in my index finger performed this task quite well on Saturday. I wish my quarry would ever leave a blood trail like I did through the house. This would make life simpler. Surprisingly, the wound is now closed. There’s some bruising, but it looks pretty good.

Accidental Discharge Repost

WizardPC pointed out to me in email that the pictures that once accompanied this post have since vanished. At some point in time, I quit using webshots, and started uploading my pics directly to the blog. When the account lapsed, I lost a lot of pics that were previously posted on this page. Many of those old entries elicited a ‘meh’ from me, but this one is important enough that I’ve decided to repost it with minor textual editing and with freshly cropped and resized copies of the original photos. It all started with a conversation I had with my brother. With his permission, I published the story he wrote up for me so we could all learn something from it.

Let me introduce myself. Call me Microcosm Overlord. I am the non blogging brother of the Evyl Robot. Very similar in many ways we share a fondness for self sufficiency self protection and firearms. This is my story about my accidental discharge*, what a 12 gauge with 00 buckshot can do, why everybody came out unscathed, why the home has relatively little damage and why a 12 gauge with 00 buckshot is the preferred gun for home defense.

I have a Remington 870 Wingmaster as my home defense gun and as my social breakdown, attack of the zombies worst case scenario gun. I have Cut the barrel down to 20 inches, put the 3 round magazine extension on it, had it refinished in flat black Dura-Coat, made myself a nifty little sling out of some webbing I had lying around, put a Hi-viz fiber optic front sight on it and generally love on it like any good gunny should.

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I had been manipulating it earlier in the day and had put it away next to the bed where it generally stays. Later I was demonstrating a feature/function of operation to my wife and that’s when instead of “chuck chuck” *click* happened, it went “chuck-chuck” BOOM. I had neglected to clear the magazine.

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Let me digress. I have what used to be a completely fresh target hung on a door at the end of my hallway that leads to the garage. This target is for dry fire practice. It is in its specific location for two reasons. First the hall is a good 15 yards at its longest and secondly, I know that there is nothing of any real consequence behind that door.

My wife shrieked and realized what happened before I did. I didn’t even feel the recoil having no expectation of it. The gun had been pointed to the target on the door that is instinctual to me now. If I draw a bead in the house, the front sight lands on the target. After we had inspected the damage and found that nothing major was broken and that both of us were OK, save our eardrums and nerves, I had a good embrace with my wife and asked her forgiveness. For at least five minutes afterward all I could say is “I just did that…”

This is a slightly embarrassing confession for me. This was a beginner mistake and I know better. But I hope that it can also be a learning experience for those who may read it.

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So today I took measurements and photos and here’s all the data: the shot traveled 21 feet from the end of the barrel,

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through a 1 3/8” uninsulated wooden door (note that the wadding made it through the first layer of the door),

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through 9 ½ feet of empty space in my garage where two of the nine pellets came to rest in a stereo receiver and one came to rest inside a rearview mirror that I was saving for spare parts.

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You can see a fourth one made a dent in the sheetrock but was stopped. The remaining five pellets passed through a piece of ¼” cedar particle board,

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through the 7 & ¾” of drywall, insulation and siding, where one lodged.

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The remaining four pellets traveled another 20 feet

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before finding their rest on the exterior wall of one of the outbuildings.

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Total distance: 51’ 3.5”. Total thickness of penetration of the last four pellets: about 2” of wood all in total.

Comments:

As to safety and The Four Rules, I can only fault my brother on number one: He did not treat the gun as if it was loaded, and it was indeed loaded. He obviously kept it pointed in a safe direction. He pulled the trigger when he intended to drop the hammer. He knew his target and what was beyond it. Like many other things in life, it’s all too easy to get sloppy and have a negligent discharge. But, this will only make him that much more diligent to make certain to be aware and increasingly more safe with his gun handling. It was because of his already thoughtful and conscious gun handling that this was a minor incident and not a tragic accident. If everyone was so conscious about safety, the incidents of accidental shootings would diminish to virtually nothing. He also took full responsibility for his actions and owned the situation. He even tracked down the wadding and all nine pellets. When I talked to him about it, he said that he was so rattled that all the guns were in the safe that night. He was pretty shaken up to say the least. Thank God everyone was safe! Although, he may have had to peel his cats off the ceiling…

The penetrating power of 00 buckshot out of a 12-gauge shotgun is staggering. Note how little spread the shot pattern had in the 21 feet between the muzzle and the garage door. I get tired of hearing people say, “You don’t even have to aim a shotgun.” Well, yes you do actually. But in house distances, I suspect that any form of lead coming out of a 12-gauge will be lethal with a well-placed shot. I know that I’m tempting the debate of birdshot versus buckshot versus slugs with that comment, but I just don’t see how any loading could be less than effective in the ranges available inside a typical home.

My brother is fortunate that he had this learning experience with no more excitement to show for it than rattled nerves, and a couple damaged possessions. By the time he took the pictures, he had filled the holes in the siding with spand-o-foam. The loss of an old stereo receiver, spare car mirror, and a little wood and sheetrock are far preferable to someone getting hurt. I encouraged him to share this story so that other people could learn from it. Always be very careful whenever you handle a firearm. Remember and practice The Four Rules. Also make it your business to know what your gun is capable of. Guns can be a lot of fun, and I’d encourage anyone who is able to go out and enjoy recreational shooting, but only ever with the highest degree of safety.

*negligent discharge. I offer this as a footnote, as the original text is a direct quote.

A Confession

My fascination with robots began when I was a child. In the fourth grade gifted classroom, I watched with envy as the fifth graders got to play with the robot kits. These were simple machines that the students assembled as per the included instructions that performed simple tasks. There was one that would follow a black line on a white sheet of paper. Others would seek out light sources and waddle on spindly legs. They were only robots by the most rudimentary of definitions. I also took a great interest in the software conversational programs in the computer lab at school. I fully knew that all of the responses were pre-programmed, and that there were key words that they were coded to pick from user input that would prompt their selected responses. I also suspected that these could be written far more elegantly, although I didn’t have the know how to do any better at the time. Things quickly changed though.

I voraciously learned everything I could about robotics and programming. By the time I was in the robot unit in fifth grade, the kits in the gifted class were too simple for my tastes. I earned extra credit in that unit for building a robot from scratch that could measure out precise volumes of materials and mix them together in predetermined ways. I intended it to be a chemistry aid, but my parents found that it was a great automated bartender for their parties. That old thing is still in the back of a closet at their house, as far as I know. I kept building machines of various sorts, each one more complex, and yet more streamlined than the last. I sought to code a program that would not simply spit out a sentence from a list like the ones mentioned above, but one that would give genuine, intelligent responses to user input. Could a machine be programmed with philosophy?

I had a grand vision of one unifying machine that would bring together my interests in AI, programming, robotics, and sculpture. The kind of exotic hardware with the raw processing power that I was after was difficult and expensive to get my hands on. I was able to scrape together the funds I needed by delivering papers every morning, mowing every lawn I could, and selling my plasma and semen using a fake ID. Many sleepless nights were spent soldering chips to boards, programming, and silicone casting. I felt like Dr. Frankenstein, obsessed with my work. I was out to make a beautiful, living, breathing creature from the underpinnings of synthetic materials. I wanted the AI framework to have wit and learning ability and to exhibit genuine care for others. There were many failed attempts, but in the end I was successful. The Jennifer unit was my crowning achievement.

I have to admit that my internet handle is only guilty projection. When Jennifer first powered up, she was so perfect that I simply couldn’t hide her and keep her all to myself. I had to share her with the world, and so registered InJennifersHead.com so everyone could have a chance to appreciate the fruits of my labor. I’ve had very little to do with her website since then, and her interactions have been genuinely hers. She’s programmed to write very well and I took special care in writing her snark module. Those of you who have had the opportunity to meet her can attest to the fact that she looks as natural as you or I. In fact, the only ones who may have ever suspected that she wasn’t a human are those that were at that party back in 2001 when she glitched out and I had to reboot her. To the host, I’m still sorry about the curtains. At the time, I was terrified that I’d hit upon yet another failure, but with a couple of hardware and coding tweaks, Jennifer has been running smoothly ever since.

As I said, there were failed attempts. My Jennifer, the one that you all know and love, is actually Jennifer 2.0. Jennifer 1.0 was admittedly a mess. She was the very face of the uncanny valley, looking not quite like a genuine biological. She had a buggy system too. One night in a drunken rage, she burned a barn down, throwing herself into the flames. I nearly gave up then, but pressing onward, I was able to learn from my mistakes. There were a couple of fatal flaws in the first Jennifer’s positronic net, and I missed some small but distracting details in her case. I took my time with Jennifer 2.0, determined to get every detail perfect. She can drive a car, shoot a gun, work a job, sing, and do pretty much anything a natural born human can. She can even swim, although I’m always paranoid that she may get a leak and damage her circuits. Indeed, if I could do anything differently in her build, it would be to improve her coordination, if that’s even possible.

It seems that I completely broke the mold on her build. Soon after, I built Wee Bot 1.0. The Wee Bot series has since been replaced with the Teen Bot series, but both have been fraught with bugs. I still can’t get him to work right, even on the current revision, Teen Bot 15.0. He’s completely unpredictable. Sometimes, he does exactly what he’s programmed to, but other times he’s defiant and rebellious, and fails to perform even the most simple of tasks. I haven’t given up on him yet, but he’s certainly not a finished work. Especially with the relative ease of interaction with Jennifer, Teen Bot has been quite the frustration from time to time. It was admittedly a pretty scary decision to identify him as a ‘Bot’ to the rest of the world so early on. To my surprise, people have accepted him despite his surly attitude and questionable judgment algorithms.

You must be wondering why I did it. The answer is simple. I was lonely. You don’t think that a guy like me could actually attract a woman like Jennifer do you? Not a chance, building one from scratch was the only viable option for me. And would I do it all over again? Yes I would, in a heartbeat. I do regret that I haven’t been truthful to my loyal readers though. Now that I’ve put all this out in the open, I hope you can find it in your hearts to forgive me. And, please don’t judge Jennifer for my actions. Please do keep reading and commenting on her blog. She didn’t ask for any of this. Well, except for that party where she glitched out and burned the curtains. Hopefully all those bugs are now behind us.