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Paging SG-1—Colonel O'Neil, we need to you kill Apophis again!

An 690-1080 foot wide asteroid named 99942 Apophis will narrowly miss the Earth in 2029 but could collide with our planet in 2036, according to this science article I found on Fox News. We won't know the chance of Apophis hitting us in 2036 until we fully understand the orbital effects of the near miss in 2029. With how little we know about Apophis and exact measurements of its size and mass, let alone the margin of error in understanding the size, mass, and velocity of Earth and the other planets, we'll have a hard time of judging anything but probabilities for many years to come.

Why the Stargate SG-1 reference? Because Apophis is also the name of the Goa'uld the SG-1 team fought (off and on) from the pilot episode to the first episode of Season 5.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Science Fiction, Technology” Wednesday, Nov 28 2007 04:47 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Academics for the Second Amendment (A2A)

Academics for the Second Amendment (A2A) now has a blog and they are asking for donations to file an amicus brief in District of Columbia v. Heller. Based on their brief for the U.S. v. Emerson case, I think that's good enough to get into my blogroll.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Guns” Thursday, Nov 22 2007 09:59 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Milton Friedman Choir on School Choice

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Nov 21 2007 12:16 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

What Happens When The Supreme Court Rules on District of Columbia v. Heller

“Ride Fast” at Ride Fast & Shoot Straight asks “So what might happen if we win?

Let's look at the individual laws in question, because we're looking at three rulings here, if not quite a few more.

First there's D.C. Code sec. 7-2502.02(a)(4):

§ 7-2502.02. Registration of certain firearms prohibited.
(a) A registration certificate shall not be issued for a:
  (4) Pistol not validly registered to the current registrant in the District prior to September 24, 1976, except that the provisions of this section shall not apply to any organization that employs at least 1 commissioned special police officer or other employee licensed to carry a firearm and that arms the employee with a firearm during the employee's duty hours or to a police officer who has retired from the Metropolitan Police Department.

This does not allow the registration of handguns after 1976. If this tiny but evil piece of code is found unconstitutional I believe it implies that banning guns by not allowing registration is illegal. The first policy item that comes to mind similar to this is the outright refusal of BATFE to register fully-automatic firearms made since 1986. Overturning this tiny piece of code does not make registration unconstitutional, however, it just makes it inappropriate to say “all x must be registered and by the way you can't register it.”

There's history here that can be leveraged, for example the egregious requirements like poll taxes used to deter people from voting. If we lose this one the tactic of registration leading to de facto bans would be affirmed.

What's not being looked at here is the separate numbers in this piece of code which banned other types of firearms than pistols. We don't get to look at sawed-off shotguns or assault rifles this time, sorry.

It's possible we can look at the registration question here, but I doubt it. Getting a consensus amongst five justices often requires very narrow looks at the questions at hand.

Next is D.C. Code sec. 22-4504(a):

§ 22-4504. Carrying concealed weapons; possession of weapons during commission of crime of violence; penalty.
(a) No person shall carry within the District of Columbia either openly or concealed on or about their person, a pistol, without a license issued pursuant to District of Columbia law, or any deadly or dangerous weapon capable of being so concealed. Whoever violates this section shall be punished as provided in § 22-4515, except that:
  (1) A person who violates this section by carrying a pistol, without a license issued pursuant to District of Columbia law, or any deadly or dangerous weapon, in a place other than the person's dwelling place, place of business, or on other land possessed by the person, shall be fined not more than $5,000 or imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or both; or
  (2) If the violation of this section occurs after a person has been convicted in the District of Columbia of a violation of this section or of a felony, either in the District of Columbia or another jurisdiction, the person shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned for not more than 10 years, or both.

This prohibits carry, open or concealed, of a firearm in any place other than their home, property, or place of business. It also prohibits the carry, open or concealed, of an unlicensed pistol on even those sanctuaries. This piece of code could get partititioned and we'd be looking at the possibility of having a constitutional right to bear arms on our own property, but not elsewhere. We could also look at the question of licensure in this one. The vast swathes of concealed carry legislation are not being considered here so I'd again expect a fairly limited look. A constitutional protection for carrying on gun on your own property without a license is what I would expect.

Finally there is D.C. Code sec. 7-2507.02:

§ 7-2507.02. Firearms required to be unloaded and disassembled or locked.
Except for law enforcement personnel described in § 7-2502.01(b)(1), each registrant shall keep any firearm in his possession unloaded and disassembled or bound by a trigger lock or similar device unless such firearm is kept at his place of business, or while being used for lawful recreational purposes within the District of Columbia.

This essentially penalizes people that don't disable their firearms so they cannot be readily used. Winning this one would imply a constitutional protection for unfettered access to one's firearms. Such a ruling might stop one particular “slippery slope”-style incursion on firearms ownership, although I believe that one should secure ones firearms away from misuse by others anyway. Losing this one allows for the slippery slope to continue.

That's essentially it. As one would expect the slices of gun laws being examined are quite limited and the implications of protection from a Supreme Court ruling are similarly limited. Some folks are hoping for rubber-stamping the removal of all gun laws, or the outright ban of guns, but neither is likely from this case. I doubt any case would make it to the Supreme Court with such far-reaching potential.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Guns” Wednesday, Nov 21 2007 06:39 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Supreme Court To Hear District of Columbia v. Heller

Finally the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (RKBA) will be considered by the Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller after 68 years of messed up gun laws under the botched United States v. Miller.

Apparently it took some effort to frame the question, but this is what they ended up with

Whether the following provisions—D.C. Code secs. 7-2502.02(a)(4), 22-4504(a), and 7-2507.02—violate the Second Amendment rights of individuals who are not affiliated with any state-regulated militia, but who wish to keep handguns and other firearms for private use in their homes?

(via SCOTUS Blog.)

Update: There's a lot of background information at the SCOTUS Wiki.

The Brady Center to Prevent Handgun Violence has sent out a letter begging for $50,000 by November 30 so they can file an amicus brief.

The Washington Post has written a longer article on this case, as has the Associated Press, which you can read here at Fox News.

Finally, there's some lively discussion on the case at Hot Air.

Update: The grant of certiorari is here amongst the other orders.

Update: Plenty of good background at The Volokh Conspiracy, too. Here, here, and here. Also some discussion about Justice Kennedy's vote.

Update: The Federalist Society has published an email debate on this case. Notice Glenn Reynolds (the InstaPundit) predicting that the Supreme Court would not grant certiorari. Thanks, Dad, for the link!

Update: The Wall Street Journal has weighed in with an article and a Law Blog Q&A posting. The Law Blog swings against the individual right interpretation, which seems contrary to a lot of other thinking.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Guns” Tuesday, Nov 20 2007 10:15 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Greater IBM Connection

I ran across the Greater IBM Connection today, and its blog. This organization is for former and current IBM employees and features a LinkedIn Group as well as a Xing network. Sigh. Time to join another social networking site.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “General” Thursday, Nov 15 2007 04:34 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

The Long and Short of It (Jakob Nielsen on Article Length)

Jakob Nielsen has done some interesting research and modeling on how users read websites in his latest article, “Long vs. Short Articles as Content Strategy.” The hypothesis is that a mix of long and short content on a website is more interesting to a reader than articles of all the same size, long or short.

But the very best content strategy is one that mirrors the users' mixed diet. There's no reason to limit yourself to only one content type. It's possible to have short overviews for the majority of users and to supplement them with in-depth coverage and white papers for those few users who need to know more.

I wonder how this may relate to the latest trend of microblogging such as the twitter feed I have put in my profile box on the right. Now all the items I might consider that were one-liners I put there and I save longer issues for blog entries. Upshot is that I send out updates a little more often but full blog posts are likely to come more slowly.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Blogging” Thursday, Nov 15 2007 06:36 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Found free-reading.net For Our Homeschoolers

Via Slashdot we have found free-reading.net, a resource for early literacy teaching. We'll have to try the materials on Ryan (Alana is a pretty strong reader already).

We already have a variety of phonics-type materials, and I'm notorious for my collection of books. I'm hoping that Alana and Ryan will love reading as much as I do.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “School” Saturday, Nov 10 2007 08:20 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.1

Via Slashdot, it's official that Red Hat has released RHEL 5.1. They are touting improved virtualization capabilities but just as important is the broad hardware support from the smallest server to the big IBM System Z mainframes as well as Amazon.com's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). Congratulations Red Hat!

(In the interest of full disclosure, I work for IBM in the Linux Technology Center and as a project manager helped shepherd features into the base RHEL 5, and the RHEL 5.1 update.)

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Linux” Thursday, Nov 8 2007 03:12 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Reading Level

I ran my blog through the program over at Critics Rant, and this is what I got:

Post Graduate Reading Level

Just like the folks at Outside the Beltway (hat tip!), I'm not sure what to make of that.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Blogging” Thursday, Nov 8 2007 02:58 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Touching the iPod Touch

This past weekend Misty gave me an iPod Touch for our anniversary and my birthday and it has easily replaced my aged iPod mini. I quickly dropped TV shows, podcasts, audiobooks, and music on it from my collection. I haven't had a chance to watch many videos on it other than the occasional GeekBrief.TV episode, a few episodes of Star Trek Remastered, and two videos from the Manager Tools Podcast, but what I saw was beautiful on the large touchscreen that fits in my pocket.

I've been getting heaviest use out of podcasts. I listen to a few now that I'm driving into work three or four days a week (which means two or three hours trapped in the car). I like the Wall Street Journal daily podcast, which is about 40-50 minutes long and is arranged into chapters so I can skip articles I don't like. I get it free with my Audible.com subscription. Most podcasts aren't arranged like that, which is a pity, but I suspect they pick audio formats that work with the widest variety of devices.

Music quality is as good as always but the real surprise is how good the web browsing has been over my home's WiFi connection. I've even found a few applications specifically made for the iPhone and iPod Touch that work pretty well, like Gmail and Shredder Chess. I haven't had a chance to try it in a Starbucks yet, or try an iTunes download there.

I've already ordered a sleeve for it, and I have heard recommendations that eyeglass cleaning solutions work well for the touch screen. So far I really like it, it was a great gift!

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Technology” Thursday, Nov 8 2007 01:02 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

I-960 Passes!

Here in the state of Washington, Initiative 960, which requires a 2/3 majority for tax increases, legislative approval for fee increases, and a slew of notification requirements, appears to be winning approval 52 to 47.

Some organizations are worried I-960 would paralyze the state government, but I welcome that idea at the moment. I'm sure there will be constitutional battles waged on this one in the state courts. Still, this initiative, and other tax issues have all fallen on the right side this time around.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Nov 7 2007 08:41 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Not Everyone Likes Cruises, But We Do

A year ago around this time, Misty, the kids, and I recreated our wedding and honeymoon by cruising the Caribbean again on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas. One of the pictures from that journey, shown in the “We're Home!” entry, was sought by the Wall Street Journal this week for an article on cruising. I saw that article posted today. I'm a subscriber so I can read pretty much anything on the site, so I'm not sure if that article is visible to the general public.

I'm a little surprised that Stan Stesser didn't like cruising on Freedom as much as I did. For example,

But to me, the reality of a cruise is quite different. I'm turned off by the emphasis on casinos, liquor, vapid entertainment and the formal dinners where bathing suits in the hallways are suddenly replaced by tuxedos—literally all dressed up with nowhere to go.

I don't know about Stan, but we traveled with family. When you have kids with you, we don't focus on the emphasis on casinos, liquor, and vapid entertainment. The kids loved the ice shows, magic acts, and cruise activities. Heck, how much fun is it to do a Halloween Parade through the largest cruise ship in the world? As for being all dressed up with nowhere to go, I recall that I went to the midnight dessert buffet wearing a bathrobe still wet from the hot tubs under the stars on the upper deck. While they like you to dress up in the dining room it's not some oppressive disaster, it's a chance to get good pictures to remember the cruise by.

Stan did learn some things about cruise life on his tour though.

Can a curmudgeon like me survive a week cruising the Caribbean? The short answer is yes—by making some effort. It turned out the real fun came outside the ship, mostly because I took shore excursions that were more rewarding than shopping for T-shirts on the main street of a tourist-trap town. Thanks to some advance planning on my part, these four days of liberation, combined with some unexpected amenities on board, ended up saving the day.

While it's entirely true that you can get a lot of of excursions, I don't see why he didn't see the tremendous variety of things to do that I did with my family. In his article he complains about not being able to go into Haiti when he visited Labadee (where we sat on the shore, played in the water, and jet-skiied our hearts out), but he did go to the same Tulum Ruins we did and seemed to enjoy it. Still, calling the excursions “liberation” makes the ship seem oppressive, which is outside of my experience.

Another surprise was that Stan didn't like the food! In the main dining hall I never had anything I didn't like. Sure, the Windjammer buffet was a buffet, but in general cruising is a delightful experience leading to significant weight gain.

Still, I can understand how Stan's experience was different than ours. It seemed he traveled alone, in an inside cabin, whereas we traveled with family and friends and made sure we had a balcony.

Beyond our cabin we also had a chance to use Adventure Ocean (a floating classroom for the kids), the Wave Rider, and hundreds of other things we generally enjoyed. If you find something you don't like there's a lot of other things you can try. Stan found something I didn't in the deck chairs with reading lights, so I guess I didn't explore enough!

Stan's article is a good read, and covers his excursions far more than his ship. Go ahead and read his perspective, but keep in mind that Freedom was a heck of a lot bigger and more interesting for my family than it was for him.

Update: I didn't realize it before, but this entry was my 1000th blog posting.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Cruising, Pictures” Saturday, Nov 3 2007 09:33 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks


Four years ago today, Misty and I were married. However, I still sometimes think she wasn't sure what she was getting into back then:

She got used to the idea eventually:

it's been a wild and wacky 4 years and we're going for 400 more.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Misty, Pictures” Thursday, Nov 1 2007 09:45 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks


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