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Bill Haworth
William "Bill" Haworth
William "Bill" Haworth

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Oooh, Berke Breathed's Bloom County Comics Bundle over on Humble Bundle, $15 to charity gets you a ton of great material, even the latest strips since his return from retirement. I've made his new stuff part of my daily webcomics routine, but even they throw up the classics every once in a while, especially when they seem pertinent to recent events. Some things never go out of style.

It took me playing every day from the new patch to today to notice it - pulling the loud trigger on a large cannon no longer kicks up dust from the ground. Just double-checked my settings, and they're on ultra because I have a decent computer, not some Russian potato that can't run hardly anything. That was one of the things that set AW apart from WoT was the better graphics engine, but it looks like they're not trying to make it graphically superior anymore.

And has anyone else noticed the physics engine has changed significantly too? I'm suddenly bouncing high caliber shots off the front of very lightly armored vehicles, and getting penetrated from front on in heavily armored, heavily sloped MBTs in return. And yet, when I'm in the lightly armored vehicle firing at the heavily armored/sloped MBT, it's "no pen" after "no pen" while they shoot through me like I'm tissue paper. It's not consistent, it's illogical, and frankly it's frustrating. And why the hate for artillery? I'm not all in love for the arty, but no arty at all in PvP and no AI arty in PvE? What's up with that?

I guess really is just trying to making AW into World of Tanks Modern. I'm sticking with it, for now at least, but I still claim that AW is never going to be as popular as WoT if they make it a clone, just because it came out second. They really should have kept Obsidian around and made a similar, but better, tanks vs tanks game, and beat WoT that way. Arty in all modes of AW was far better than WoT, but yet it's practically gone from AW and still in WoT.

Overall, I'm not as impressed as the folks are with their latest patch, and feel like they pulled the game a step back, even after adding in all the things they have added in. Anyone else really liking this patch or really disliking it?

What is this all about, these things we call society and politics? Why do we put up with all this crap in the first place? Why do we have all these rules, where did they all start, why do we even put up with all this mess?

It all hearkens back to early humanity and the fight as a species for survival. It's hard for a single human, or even a single extended family of humans, to do everything needed - farm the land, protect the community from outsiders and wild animals, build and maintain shelter, make clothing, and make the tools to do all of the above. As such, we humans were pack animals, gathering together in multi-family polities that became villages that grew into towns into cities into counties into states and finally into nations. Along the way, through laws and social mores and even religions, these societies created rules to keep those societies and their peoples alive. Keep drinking water clean. Don't eat food with nasty bacteria in it (otherwise known as "botulism is not a sauce"). Mating pairs should be faithful to each other for the successful raising of the next generation. Pay your taxes to your liege so that they may afford to train and equip themselves and their soldiers for protection of the community. Members of our own community who show, through their actions, no interest in the well being of the rest of the community should be separated from the community, either permanently or temporarily.

Which is where we are now. When you argue politics, either the policies or platforms of the politicians (or potential politicians), or the actual laws (or potential laws), this is what you're arguing over. Well, okay, this is what you should be arguing over - does this particular law guarantee the continuation or termination of our nation? Most of what we seem to be doing, at least in America, is arguing over paltry crap that doesn't matter or niggling details not supported by any logic, only the feelings of the parties involved ("The things people do in the privacy of their own domiciles that have no effect on me offends me very deeply!").

I have to agree with at least part of the libertarian line of arguments and say that, while we do need government (a pure libertarian lack of government is just suicidal), the bare minimum of government is better than even more government for government's sake. What do we need as a city/county/state/country to survive, law-wise? What are our ultimate goals, beyond mere survival, as a city/county/state/country, and how do we go about achieving them?

I don't want to get into details in this post (it would take to long and end this series of rants, er, posts), but I will make one posit, something for you to think on, that one of America's goals should be to establish humanity's presence off the planet. Sure, sure, I'm a sci-fi reading geek who wants to see humanity spread our genetics throughout the Milky Way Galaxy to ensure continuation of the species, but a more realistic, attainable goal in a few generations if not our own, is just to establish enough of a beachhead outside our own atmosphere to deal with any species-ending asteroids that wander into Earth's orbit. And no, we don't have to go to Mars to do it, but more than just the International Space Station is needed - multiple ISS-sized (or larger) stations, possibly even a spaceport or two on the Moon. Why us, why America and not the UN or a us and a bunch of other countries? I think we have the economic and scientific base to have the best chance of making it happen, and by whatever you hold dear, if I look up and gaze upon humanity's awesome works, I want to see the Stars and Stripes painted on the side of it.

Yes, I'm a moderate, but I'm also a bit of a flag-waving, nationalist douchebag. Self-admitted and unrepentant, I embrace it rather than run from it. You have to love something a lot to really inspect it and find all of its flaws to fix it and make it better.

Hope you're watching the new season of MST3K on Netflix, and have gotten to "punt bunnies" in the Invention Exchange. If you haven't, their little screams are the best. If not, get thee to thy Roku (or other preferred Netflix watching device, be it computer, smart phone, tablet, or hack the neighbor's account, I care not) and bathe in the glory that is Kinga Forrester, TV's Son of TV's Frank, Max, and Jonah and the bots.

(is it really that great? eh, MST3K is and has always been for weirdos who like to make comments during movies, so your mileage will vary. me? I'm enjoying the $#!+ out of it, so glad I backed the Kickstarter)

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It's easy to make fun of poor Melis... er, I mean Sean Spicer, he's the mouthpiece for one of the most unloved Presidents this country has ever seen (I'm not judging here, I'm just pointing out Trump's low disapproval rating, which shows even his own party isn't terribly fond of him). And in this case, it was not a well thought out argument to say Hitler never used chemical weapons against his own people. However, I have to point out that the rest of his statement - ever since WW1, the world has been loathe to use chemical weapons against each other, and a leader using said chemicals against their own people is beyond the pale and not to be tolerated by any other country, especially those that uphold the rights of the individual, like ours - is not as wildly idiotic, and the reports of Assad using chemical weapons on the rebels should be investigated by the US, and other nations as well.

Now, should we have gone immediately to trying to hole runways with Tomahawk missiles? We are already in Syria with our air assets, both manned and unmanned, engaging Assad and his forces in support of the rebellious portions of Syria, so I'm not faulting them for that, though involving more UN observers to verify the chemical attacks would have made us look better. I will fault them for using the wrong tool for the job - the French military makes a purpose-designed, airfield destroying bomb (the Matra Durandal), and we even used them in the 1991 Desert Storm offensive, so it's not like we don't know about them and their capabilities. 

Everyone's been up in arms about health care and the repeal of the ACA (called Obamacare) and replacement with the Republican's plan (called "don't you dare be putting my name on that piece of..."), so I thought today I'd rant about gay marriage. What's my issue with gay marriage? None, really, except for everyone else's issues with gay marriage, or any other kind of marriage for that matter.

Setting aside all of the religious considerations for what marriage is (to include Christianity's and Islam's confusing and contradictory scriptures on if women are people or property, multiple marriages are copacetic, if slavery in general is allowable, and whether or not homosexuality is condoned by the Allmighty or not), we need to ask ourselves what does marriage mean to the government.

First off, taxes - married couples, as of the 2016 US tax law, tend to get more tax credits and deductions than folks who are filing separately. This has not always been the case, as I have heard accountants in past years claim that even though they were married they were filing separately because the tax code, at that time, was more favorable to filing separately. All that says to me is that the US government can't decide one way or another if they want to encourage marriage or not. Kids? Child tax credits have been pretty steady for the past 20 years, so having kids, whether married or not, has long been something the US government has encouraged.

Second off, legal rights - I currently live in Missouri, which is not a state that observes "common law" marriages, so if I and the wife had not gotten married and only my name was on the title to the house and our cars and our bank accounts, if something happened to me, then my family (my father and sister) would have every legal right to come and evict my wife with no access to any of the vehicles or the money in the bank accounts. That wouldn't happen (even if all the setup were true, which none of it is - we also have a daughter in her minority which further entangles things), but it is a very real possibility. People who do not make their union known with the government (formally called "marriage") do not have legal rights on the other person - their money, their property, their business rights, none of it. This more than the taxes thing is why homosexuals have been clamoring for the vote. Oh sure, there are ways to get legal rights to another citizen of the US that act just like marriage, but all of them are far more lengthy, expensive, and tedious than merely standing in front of a clergy/captain of a vessel/justice of the peace and saying "I do" (plus some very minor and inexpensive paperwork).

This all means that the US government as a whole is rather undecided on how it feels about marriage, much less homosexuals getting married. It can't figure out if it should encourage marriage by giving out stupendous credits (even the basic deduction filing singly is exactly half for filing joint-married in the 2016 tax year), and since it does allow people to have all the same legal rights that married couples do through other means, the government just further shows it is very wishy-washy on the whole subject.

So why in the name of little green apples is everyone bent out of shape about "teh gayz" getting married? Back to religion. Or at least, back to religions that were all shaped and founded when population density was very low, technology was also low, and the long-term viability of any group of people ("society") was far more impacted by the actions of a few. It is understandable that Islam and early Christianity/Judaism are anti-homosexual, considering those early societies needed heterosexuals to reproduce to get the population up (note: I am not saying that homosexuals cannot raise children, I am merely pointing out that it takes a man and a woman to make a baby, and also that there weren't many turkey basters back when many modern religions were being founded), and they generally needed a stable unit to provide for the raising of the next generation (a "married couple"). But we are in a very technology-rich, high population density world - it's time to get post-religious about this whole mess. America as a nation is not going to disappear from the face of the Earth just because we let people into a possibly advantageous (or not) tax situation and let them have an easy out when it comes to legal rights for another adult - on top of the whole not enforcing our religious beliefs on other people, America is the land to practice whatever religion however we want, as long as it doesn't affect anyone else, yada yada yada.

Bottom line (from this moderate's perspective) - I don't care who you sleep with, or even how many, as long as everyone is consenting adults. Want to get married, as well? Go for it. Does it bother your religious sentiments to even know that consenting adults are doing something that has no effect on you in the privacy of their own homes? Then put something more serious in the laws of this country than wishy-washiness and ambiguity when it comes to marriage.

And yes, I would even back legislation to make multiple marriages legal, as long as everyone is of consenting age, and we deal with the questions of taxes, property rights, children, inheritances, and lineage when all the different kinds of such marriage are made legal. We are the land of the free, after all.

Just got back from watching Ghost in the Shell at the theater, and I have to say that I liked it. I've seen some reviews that claim it's merely a remake of the anime of the same name, but I watched my copy only a couple of months ago and while, yes, they recreated many of the iconic scenes from the anime (specifically the fight in ankle deep water where Major is invisible and her opponent is not, and Major's fight against the spider tank), they changed the overarching plot enough that I felt it wasn't a shot for shot remake but still enjoyed watching it. I think my wife enjoyed it enough not to hate it, as well, though I think it helped that I never forced the anime on her while I sat mere feet away and watched her with puppy dog eyes to see how much she loved it.

A couple of non-spoilery thoughts about the movie before I go.
-We watched it Sunday morning of opening weekend, and that theater was awfully empty, so I'm not sure how well they are going to do on the box office returns.
-If you are going to see it, there is one fight in a very dark corridor that is lit, strobe-like, from a couple of shock sticks, and if you are susceptible to epileptic seizures, I would avoid the movie entirely (or at least close your eyes and turn away when the scene starts). It was an excellent fight scene, and different from the normal "shaky cam" we've seen in the last decade or so, but the light strobes weren't very pleasant for me and I don't suffer epilepsy.
-I do have the first anime, the eponymous and original GitS from 1995, and have watched a few of the follow on animes, but definitely not all of them. I really need to watch through the other animes/OVAs, but I think they set up this movie to make sequels (though if they don't make bank on this one, we probably won't see them get made, or they will, just not with this level of cast and special effects polish).
-In regards to the "white washing" of the crew, I think they at least explained why ScarJo was caucasian pretty well, at least well enough to give her an Asian background while still getting her name and fame behind the movie. I honestly don't think the movie would have done well in the States with an all Asian cast, though probably a lot better in Japan and western Pacific rim nations than it will. Be interesting to see how it turns out in those markets with the cast it has.

When I first joined the military and went through basic training, the first aid (called in the Army "self aid/buddy aid") we were taught was very extensive - burns, bleeding, airway, broken bones, the whole gamut of nastiness that faces soldiers on the modern battlefield. A few years later, in preparation to deploy to Iraq for 11 months, we were taught even more ("combat lifesaver") to include running IV lines of lactated ringers or similar to fight off hypovolemia (low blood volume due to excessive bleeding) and dehydration. In short, the Army believed at one time that every soldier should be a combat medic in all but name (MOS 68W in the Army)... which was a bit much considering we all had our own jobs (I was human resources, 42A), plus we all had to be prepared to fulfill in as infantry (every Army Soldier is infantry first, and something else second, or so we were taught), and were trained on convoy ops (88M vehicle driver) and radio retrans (25R signal), just to name a few.

Yes, one of the Army's many mottoes has long been that no Soldier shall die for want of training, but this was a bit much. Which is why earlier this year when my unit held first aid refresher training, it was refreshing (yes, pun intended) to find that the Army has realized we have plenty of 68W combat medics. So many of them that the average Joe such as myself really only need learn enough to keep the very direly wounded alive to get to the medic so they can get them to medevac/casevac. As such, the Army has narrowed medical training for non-medics down to 3 things - extremity hemorrhaging (tourniquets), sucking chest wounds (tension pneumothorax), and airway maintenance. Everything else is nice to know, but we have plenty of personnel to handle the non-life threatening, so teaching it is just overkill.

What does that have to do with moderate politics in the United States of America? Just this - as moderates (or potential moderates) we need to look at politics (and laws and social mores and all that entails) with an eye towards feasibility, necessity, and unintended consequences. In my example above, one of the unintended consequences of all this training we received was, well, overtraining. We were so well trained we felt like our brains were bursting - you can oversharpen the blade of a knife, to the point where it goes back to dull, and this happened (still happens, to be honest) a lot back in those days. But for moderates when a piece of legislation is proposed look at it with a gimlet eye and leave out your emotional attachment to it - what is it meant to accomplish? will it accomplish that? what else will happen because of that? is this even a problem that needs to be addressed at the federal/state/county/city level?

And above all, be honest with yourself. Are you voting for this (or against it) merely because of the party that introduced the bill? I admit I'm far more friendly to the Democrats than the Republicans, but even they are wearing me thin on some issues. Part of being a moderate is calling your party of choice for their stupidity and admitting the party you don't like has made a good decision when it is a good decision.

America is the worst country on the planet... except when you compare it to all the others. I have often said, the problem with this country is we mistake our politics for religion, and our religions for science. We care more about how sports teams at universities and colleges are doing than how well the expensive educations at said institutions are actually serving our young adults (and non-traditional students). I could go on, but you get the drift. The United States of America is an ongoing experiment in democracy, "in order to form a more perfect union", and I just want to comment on the idiocy I see from all sides of the political spectrum (yes, even the middle). 

Okay, who here has a 401k (or TSP, for you government workers) with over $35,000 in value? If you raised your hand, the next time you need to buy a car, don't go to the bank to get a loan, take a loan from yourself and pay yourself the interest on that loan. Seriously, go look it up, this is completely legal and tax free - you can take a loan (note this is not a withdrawal, this is a loan that will be paid back to the fund, so no taxes are levied against you) against your 401k (or TSP) and earn both the principal back as well as the interest.

The usual caveats apply - this is still a loan, so if you can't afford the monthly payment on a bank loan, no, you're not going to be able to afford this type of loan either, so don't do it. Why $35,000 or more? The average purchase price of a new car in America is $35K, so if you're just looking at a cheap clunker, you don't need the $35K (though you might, as I believe you can only take a loan out on half of your amount in 401ks, but the TSP you can borrow against the full amount), or if you're looking at that brand new Lamborghini, you're going to need more (lots more) than $35K. And that's been your free financial advice for the day. 
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