[x]Blackmoor Vituperative

Thursday, 2012-12-27

Gamera 3: The Revenge Of Iris

Filed under: Movies — bblackmoor @ 01:42
Gamera 3: The Revenge Of Iris

Just finished watching Gamera 3: The Revenge Of Iris. This is probably one of the best kaiju movies I have ever seen (and I have seen most of them). A major plot element of Revenge Of Iris concerns a girl who blames Gamera for the death of her parents. It’s true: Gamera smashed her parents’ apartment building into rubble while fighting the Gyaos. Of course, had Gamera not fought the Gyaos (or had Gamera not existed at all), the death toll from the unstoppable Gyaos would have been much higher, but as you might imagine, that’s small consolation to the girl.

I think some of the best villains are those with understandable motivations. In the case of Ayana (the aforementioned orphan girl), you feel sorry for her and sympathize with her, even though she is tragically misguided in blaming Gamera for her parents’ death: she ought to blame the Gyaos. But it’s an all-too-human failing to place blame using emotion rather than reason. That’s an element that’s hard to pull off without being either heavy-handed or simply ridiculous (particularly in a movie about giant monsters), but I think this movie does it successfully.

Sunday, 2012-12-23

My favorite Christmas specials

Filed under: Family,Friends,Movies,Mythology,Television — bblackmoor @ 15:01

I am imposing a unilateral un-grimmening! No more grim tidings for at least one week. Time for Christmas cheer and good will.

As a start, here are my favorite Christmas specials and movies, in no particular order. Some are great. Some are just terrible. Some make me laugh. Some make me cry. I love them all.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas (the real one, not the Jim Carrey abomination)
Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas
Santa Claus Conquers The Martians
(Mexican) Santa Claus
Gremlins
Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town
Silent Night, Deadly Night
Elf
Bad Santa
Scrooged
Star Wars Holiday Special
Hogfather
Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer
Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny

Merry Christmas!

Larry Correia on gun control

Filed under: Firearms,Society — bblackmoor @ 13:58

Baen novelist Larry Correia knows more about every aspect of firearms and firearms-related law than I do. Here he covers a pretty comprehensive list of the arguments for and against gun control. It’s worth reading, if you are interested in that sort of thing.

Friday, 2012-12-21

Penn Jillette on The Wendy Williams Show

Filed under: Firearms,Society — bblackmoor @ 16:48

Penn Jillette clearly has more patience than I do. I feel like I have had this same conversation with these exact same people several times in the week since the Sandy Hook tragedy (and it still upsets my stomach just thinking about that). It’s immensely disheartening when you feel like you are the only reasonable person at the table.

This is what I mean by “dancing in the blood”: these other three people at the table, blaming video games, or people with Asperger syndrome, or “military style” “assault guns” [sic], capitalizing on a tragedy to publicize their ridiculous, irrational prejudices. I don’t think they care one iota about the grieving families or the lives that were lost.


Penn Jillette on The Wendy Williams Show — “Hot Talk: Newtown School Shooting”

Thursday, 2012-12-20

We need to get rid of guns!

Filed under: Firearms,Society — bblackmoor @ 10:47

“We need to get rid of guns!”

Why?

“Because they kill people!”

The murder rate in the USA is much too high, absolutely — but there’s no correlation between our firearms laws and our murder rate. Countries with lower murder rates have stricter laws, but so do countries with higher murder rates.

“But guns make it easy for criminals!”

Crime is easy. But there’s no correlation between availability of firearms and violent crime in general. In fact, in the USA, our rates of both intentional homicide and of violent crime decreased over a twenty year period, while the number of firearms in circulation increased over the same period. That does not mean that one caused the other, but it does mean that the increase in the availability of firearms did not cause a corresponding increase in violent crime.

“Mass murders are more common now because we have too many guns!”

Actually, mass murders in the USA have been pretty constant for about 100 years. We just hear about them more now because we all have cable and the internet.

“But mass shootings only happen in the USA, because we have too many guns!”

Actually, mass shootings happen (rarely) all over the world, even in countries where the laws restricting the private ownership of firearms are much stricter than in the USA. Besides, in the USA, the worst mass murders haven’t even used firearms at all.

“But where people have more guns, there are more deaths by guns!”

And people who drive Toyotas are more likely to be in a Toyota when they are in an automobile accident. It’s true, but meaningless. It doesn’t mean that Toyotas are inherently more dangerous than Fords. For example, people who commit suicide in the USA often use a firearm, but in other countries they may use other means. People don’t choose whether to take a life (even their own) based on the tools at hand.

“The children! We have to protect the children!”

Okay… if you want to protect children, keep them away from automobiles. 24 children in the USA die every day in accidents, most of those in automobiles. In fact, the rate of child injury deaths in the United States is more than twice the rate of the UK, France, and Canada. Another five children die every day of abuse and neglect. Globally, 19,000 children die every day from preventable causes. So if your priority is children, then –

“We need to get rid of guns!”

I see… so you don’t actually care about violent crime, people being murdered, or how many children die needlessly. You simply don’t like guns. Thank you for clarifying your position.

To be clear, if there were data that suggested that stricter regulation of firearms would have a significant impact on the murder rate or on violent crime, that could be a basis for sound decision-making. But so far, I have not seen any data that suggests such a correlation. Murder and violence are not caused by the available selection of weaponry. If we want to reduce murder and violent crime, we need to find and address the causes of those problems.

I do not oppose “gun control”, per se — what I oppose is ignorance and irrational fear.

Wednesday, 2012-12-19

Firearm laws vs murder rates in US states (2011)

Filed under: Firearms,Society — bblackmoor @ 19:39

A claim one hears, from time to time, is that the US states with the strictest laws concerning firearm ownership are the states with the lowest murder rates, or vice versa. Here are twenty-two states, including the eleven states [1] which have the most restrictive laws concerning firearms and the eleven states which have the least restrictive laws concerning firearms [2], and the murder rates per 100,000 people for those twenty-two states [3].

Correlation coefficient for this data set: -0.12 (-12%) [5]

State Brady rating
(higher = more restrictive)
Murder rate
(higher = more murders)
California 81 4.8
New Jersey 72 4.3
Massachusetts 65 2.8
New York 62 4.0
Connecticut 58 3.6
Hawaii 50 1.2
Maryland 45 6.8
Rhode Island 44 1.3
Illinois 35 5.6
Pennsylvania 26 5.0
Michigan 25 6.2
Florida 3 5.2
Wisconsin 3 2.4
Idaho 2 2.3
Kentucky 2 3.5
Louisiana 2 11.2
Montana 2 2.8
North Dakota 2 3.5
Oklahoma 2 5.5
Alaska 0 4.0
Arizona 0 6.2
Utah 0 1.9
  1. Why did I choose 22, rather than 20? Because the Brady Campaign gave 11 states their three highest ratings (4, 3, and 2 stars). Why didn’t I include all 50? Because I am lazy.
  2. “2011 State Rankings”, The Brady Campaign (using data from Legal Community Against Violence).
  3. “Murder Rates Nationally and By State”, Death Penalty Information Center.
  4. This chart completely ignores population density, geography, socioeconomic factors, criminal history of the attackers and victims, and myriad other factors which a reputable criminologist would want to take into account before coming to any sort of conclusion. However, reputable criminologists do not post ill-informed claims online, so this chart should be adequate for its intended purpose, which is to debunk those claims.
  5. The correlation coefficient has boundaries of -1 and +1. A value of +1 indicates perfect positive correlation, while -1 is a perfect negative correlation. A value of zero indicates no correlation. A positive number between zero and 1 suggests that the more restrictive the laws, the greater the murder rate. The higher the number, the greater the level of positive correlation. A negative number would suggest that more restrictive laws on firearm ownership may have a negative effect on murder rate. The lower the number, the greater the level of negative correlation.

P.S. If you are curious if there is a correlation between available of firearms and the suicide rate, you may find this list of countries by suicide rate informative.

Saturday, 2012-12-15

Tragedy and perspective

Filed under: Firearms,Society — bblackmoor @ 21:16
Tears in the rain

“A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.”
– Joseph Stalin

From time to time, terrible things happen. When the terrible thing is something which no amount of human action could have prevented, such as floods and hurricanes, people tend to blame human action or inaction anyway. Some people use the phrase “god’s judgement”. Other people pray. This is all pointless, but understandable. Humans are irrational.

Sometimes the terrible thing is the result of human action. When this happens, the natural response is to place blame. Because we are people, we are reluctant to place the blame on the person who committed the terrible thing. If that person could do something so terrible, then any person could do a terrible thing. That is unthinkable. So we look for other explanations. The presence or lack of superstitious observance by the criminal or among the victims. The failure of society to ingrain certain individuals with a moral compass. The failure of society to protect the poor, the weak, the oppressed, the powerless. We are too lax, or not lax enough. We are too libertine, or not libertine enough. And so on.

The world is not perfect. It will never be perfect. Terrible things happen. Terrible things will always happen. The world is neither fair nor unfair.

But I am as irrational as everyone else. I want answers. I want to believe that I can prevent the next terrible thing. So I think about terrible things, and what causes them.

I think about firearms. More often than not, when a terrible thing is the result of human action, and people die, firearms are involved. Would the terrible thing have been avoided if our society was willing to restrict firearm ownership? It’s easy to place blame on that. We are told, repeatedly, how violent our society is, that we have too many guns in the hands of too many people. And we do have a lot of firearms. Hundreds of millions, at least. We could outlaw them. Australia did (although Australian firearm ownership was already severely restricted before that happened). Would that reduce the violent crime in this country? Comparing our rates of violent crime and intentional homicide with the rest of the world, most of which has much greater restrictions on firearms than the US, doesn’t seem to support that hope.

What would reduce the amount of violent crime in the USA? According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the rates of violent crime have been dropping steadily for decades, up until the past couple of years. Why has it rebounded in the recent couple of years? Could it be the years-long recession which we are still struggling to crawl out of? The double-digit unemployment? It’s said that desperate people do desperate things. Could it be that simple? I don’t know. Even if that were the case, I’m not sure I could do anything about it. I have been consistently outvoted at every presidential election I have ever voted in, at a ratio of at least 99 to 1. The American populace does not share my opinions when it comes to … anything. It’s unlikely any solution I have for our economic problems would be accepted by the hoi polloi.

I think about children. The worst of all terrible things involve children. No one wants bad things to happen to children, aside from the people who do terrible things to them. How can we protect children? Would they be safer if we made schools into armed fortresses? Would children be safer if teachers were armed? That seems to fly in the face of common wisdom. We are ingrained with the story of the careless gun owner who injures himself or others. That’s actually not an accurate picture of the average gun owner, but I confess the idea of children surrounded by armed adults makes me profoundly uncomfortable. Is that rational? I can think of several terrible things that could have been far less terrible had there been armed adults between children and someone who wished them harm. That’s not the picture of the world I want to live in, but unfortunately, the world is not what I would wish it to be.

I think about death. The terrible things that make the most news involve a large number of people being killed at the same time. “Large” is a heavily fraught term. I hear “5″ or “15″ or “30″ and I think that’s a large number. I can picture 30 people being killed, and it’s horrifying. I’m outraged. Other people are outraged. They make their Facebook profile pictures black to express their sorrow. But yesterday, 19,000 children died of preventable illnesses. 19,000 died again today. 19,000 will die again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next day. 19,000 children, every day. And the handful killed in what is, in reality, an isolated and increasingly rare incident seems… I don’t know. Not trivial. Tragic. Of course it’s tragic. But it’s so small compared to what happens every single day. That 19,000? That’s not the exact number. The number could be 19,030. Those 30 children are just as dead, and we leave them out of the “19,000″ because they hardly seem to matter when the number is so unthinkably high. But 30, just 30, makes national news. Vigils are held. Politicians vow action. Activists make accusations, and attack. Other activists declare innocence, and attack right back. Meanwhile, 19,000 other children have died, and no one seems to care.

But that’s world wide. Maybe that’s too big. I can’t do anything to protect children in the Saharan desert. Okay, so what about the USA? Five children die every day in the USA of abuse and neglect. Five yesterday. Five today. Five tomorrow. And honestly, while I don’t think there is anything that will prevent one terrible person from doing one terrible thing (such as the Oklahoma City bombing which killed 168 people, including 19 children under the age of 6), I think we can probably make a difference when it comes to the five children who die every day from abuse and neglect. Better programs for at-risk children. Better training for social workers. More money. (Yes, libertarians do see a role for government when it comes to protecting the life and liberty of nonconsenting others. If you thought otherwise, now you know better.) If that number could be reduced just 20%, from five per day to four per day, that would be 365 children alive at the end of the year who might not have been otherwise. So maybe I could focus on that? Would that be a worthwhile use of my time and outrage?

I think about accidents. More children die in accidents in the USA than from any other cause. Could we make their world safer? It already seems so much safer than the world I grew up with. Fewer adults smoke. Everyone uses seat belts. The dangerous toys I grew up with are no longer available. What is left to endanger children in today’s round-edged, non-toxic, car-seated world? And yet, the rate of accidental deaths among children in the USA is one of the highest in the developed world despite the fact that it’s dropped by a third in the past ten years: roughly 24 a day, every day. 24. Every. Day. Most of those children die in automobile accidents. That’s horrifying, but honestly, I don’t see how I could do anything about that. Maybe that’s why I don’t see people on Facebook calling for the abolition of private vehicle ownership. But people do call for the abolition of privately owned firearms, which do far less damage (and which may in fact do some good).

I really don’t blame people for that. It’s well-intentioned, and I think good intentions are too rare in this world to condemn anyone for it, misguided or not. But we aren’t good at setting priorities. I’m not any better at it than anyone else. I am as heartbroken by a single, senseless act of violence as anyone else is. I’d like to find answers. I’d like to make sense of the senseless. I’d like to know how to keep terrible things from happening. But we aren’t primates screeching at shadows. We know that some things are more terrible than others. We can measure cause and effect. We can measure the relative danger of different things. We can focus on the terrible things with the highest body count. We can focus our efforts where they will have the greatest effect.

Or we can screech at shadows. And with as much disdain as I say that, I know that most of the time, I am right there, screeching along with the other primates.

P.S. These are worth reading:

Tuesday, 2012-12-11

Backing up Google documents

Filed under: Software,The Internet,Work — bblackmoor @ 12:39

I just had a panic moment when I thought that a Google document I’d spent the better part of a week writing had vanished. This is what I plan to do from now on, once a week, until I forget about it and stop doing it.

  1. In Google Docs, go down to the far left bottom menu item, and select “More V” and then “All Items”.
  2. Click the select box at the top of the screen next to “TITLE” to select all items.
  3. Click the “More V” button at the top middle of the screen, next to the eyeball (“Preview”) icon, and select “Download”.
  4. Select “Change all formats to… OpenOffice”, and click the “Download” button.
  5. Wait a couple of minutes and then download the file somewhere.

Wednesday, 2012-12-05

Rango

Filed under: Movies — bblackmoor @ 19:48
Rango

When Rango came out in theatres, I had no interest in seeing it. It just didn’t look interesting. Why would I want to see a movie about a chameleon in a western town? Dull.

I was wrong. Susan and I just finished watching this on Amazon Prime, and not only is it a good animated movie (better than the last three Shrek movies, easily), it’s a damned good western — and there aren’t that many of those made these days.

If you have Amazon Prime, see Rango. It’s free. If you don’t have Amazon Prime… hell, see it anyway.

This is a damned good movie. deluxebookofra.com

Sunday, 2012-12-02

Skyfall… eh

Filed under: Movies — bblackmoor @ 20:42

Just came back from seeing Skyfall with Susan. I confess that I am puzzled by all of the glowing reviews. I can forgive technical absurdities like the biometric pistol (an idea which first got floated around over 20 years ago, and which was discarded because no sane field agent would ever depend on it) and the head of Q branch plugging a known enemy asset into their network (although after the last two movies got so many computer details right, that was kind of disappointing).

The glowing reviews puzzle me because the movie was so slow and dull. Even the theme song is dull. The movie didn’t even have a villain for the first, what, two hours? And when we do meet him, he’s just… creepy. Not scary. Not menacing. Just icky, in the way the grocery store bagger who looks a little too long at your personal hygiene items is icky.

It’s not the worst Bond movie I have ever seen (A View To A Kill and Octopussy are both much worse), but even A View To A Kill had a better villain. Christopher Walken, now, he knows how to play a deranged blonde genius.

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