Today was the third day of the NRA Annual Meeting, plus a drive home.

I am very tired.

The Shooter's First Aid class was entertaining. The videos and pictures were quite graphic. (A bleeding pig looks disturbingly like a bleeding person. Apparently, pigs make great demonstration-subjects for first aid on humans.)

More interesting books: The Insanely Practical Guide to Reloading, and Gun Laws by State.

Perhaps I'll finally make use of the reloading press that has been sitting, never-used, for a year.


NRA Annual Meeting and Indianapolis

Today, I was a little late to the opening of the NRA Annual Meeting.

However, once I arrived, I enjoyed the event. Most of my time was spent talking to vendors in the exhibit hall.

I did manage to attend the discussion of firearms used on D-Day, June 6 1944. The presentation discussed M1-Garand rifles, M1903A3 rifles, M3 submachine-guns, M1919 machine guns, M1917 machine guns, Ckm Wz30 machine guns, M1 Carbines, M1A1 Carbines, etc. There was even a mention of the M1903A4 sniper rifle, as well as the G98 and K98 rifles from the German Army. Several personal stories were outlined in the discussion also, including the story of the team who took Pont d'Hoc.

Later in the day, I managed to get an autographed copy of a book by Kathy Jackson of Cornered Cat. It is subtitled A Woman's Guide to Concealed Carry; I wonder whether that means it is a guide written by a woman, or a guide written for women.

During the rest of the day, I got to discuss Appleseed events with members of the organization. I also tried out LaserLyte training system, and chatted with several different hunt organizers.

I'm looking forward to the rest of the Annual Meeting.

As an amusing aside, while filling up my vehicle at a gas station, I looked across the street and noticed a stored with a sign reading "21st Amendment". That store is occasionally mentioned by one of the members of Mancave Movie Review team. (While not overtly gun-nuts, these guys are the kind of guys who would enjoy the NRA Annual Meeting, and would have liked the "Guns used in D-Day" discussion.)

I enjoyed being able to purchase some beer at the shop favored by those gentlemen.


NRA Annual Meeting

This evening, I have to hit the road to Indianapolis.

Tomorrow, I will enter the NRA Annual Meeting. Over the weekend, I'll also attend a First Aid class offered by a friend of the shooting community.

I'm interested in other things at the convention, but I'm mostly interesting in looking at historical items brought from the NRA museum, and shooting-related-gear that is likely to be displayed (and on-sale) at the convention.

Perhaps most importantly, I'll figure out how to connect better with State-level organizations that share goals and mission with the national organization.


Tech Support

Every once in a while, the Tech Support team at the office I work in will send out an announcement.

"Server Such-and-So, providing these CompanyProcess sites, will be laid-down-for-a-nap/moved-to-a-new-host/unavailable during the hours of 10:00 PM to 02:00 AM this Sunday."

That kind of work cannot be done during normal business hours, but still needs to be done. I pity the IT guy who got tasked with those jobs over the weekend.

Then I learned about people who have to do similar things on a radio tower, in the dead of night, because workers can't get too close to the transmitter when it is on at full strength.

That's a hard task. Especially when Murphy's Law overshadows the "quick job" with lots of unpleasant surprises.

I guess every business has tasks that are hard to do, but often relegated to the line-workers at odd hours. Some businesses generate more trouble than others in that category, though.


First Ride

Over the weekend, I put in my first motorcycle ride of spring.

I've been doing repairs and maintenance on the machine. Replacement components for battery cables, a new oil filter, some silicon for the oil-drain-plug...each of these required purchase and installation. At least one spent several days coming in the mail.

(One of the downsides of owning a mid-1980s motorcycle. Parts like oil filters can be hard to find.)

When all was said and done, and I had an weekend morning free, I rolled the machine out of the garage.

Then I grabbed a can of starter-spray.

This stuff, basically diethyl ether with a little oil, ignites more easily than gasoline. This property makes it useful for helping to start an engine that is reluctant to start. Especially if the engine is reluctant to start due to cold weather, but will run fine once ignition is achieved.

It turned out that I needed the starter-spray. After a couple of attempts of starter-spray-plus-cranking, the engine started.

After a test-run around the block, and a first-fuel-fill of the season, I think I am ready to put the motorcycle into normal usage again. Though I may want to check out some sort of heater to use on the engine block. In my experience, I've needed starter fluid whenever the outside air was too cold. I've heard that warming the engine block before attempting to start can fix this...


Passover, part 3

It was morning, on the first day of the week.

Two women went to finish the work of embalming the remains of Jesus. Work that had been left unfinished in the hurried evening before Sabbath.

But they found something they didn't expect. They found the tomb empty.

It was a surprise ending that discomfited almost everyone. The soldiers didn't know how to explain what had happened. The Temple leaders tried to blame the disappearance on theft of the body. The Governor had to figure out whether anyone had to be punished.

Jesus' followers were a mix of confused and overjoyed. At least one doubted the word of the others. After a short time, doubt disappeared.  They told stories of angelic announcements, and an empty tomb. They spoke of encounters with a resurrected Jesus, still bearing the wounds of crucifixion.

Somehow, Jesus could enter locked rooms without using the door. Yet He also shared food with his followers.

And Jesus promised a new manifestation of God's presence in their lives, while giving them a commission to preach about Him to all the world.

The central message was that Jesus had opened a new door of relationship between God and man. And that death itself was not a final end.


Passover, part 2

In part 1, I discussed one Passover night, two millenia ago.

Jesus had taken the Passover meal with his close friends, then went to pray in a garden near the City.

While he was there, praying, Jesus was arrested by men from the Temple guard.

The trial before the Temple leaders took much of the night. Then, they delivered Jesus over to the local Roman governor. Who promptly held a different trial, but one that came to the same conclusion: a death sentence.

The day before Sabbath came, and the punishment of Jesus at the hands of the soldiers began.

Whipping and beating were followed by the path up the hill. He was forced to carry a heavy cross, but tiredness, blood loss, and shock cause him to fall down.

Two others were sentenced to die that day.

The cruelly efficient soldiers began the work of execution. A description of each man's crime was fastened to the top of their cross. Holes were dug to place the crosses in. The soldiers then stripped the condemned men naked, laid each victim on a cross, and drove large spikes through their wrists and feet. They erected the crosses and dropped the vertical shaft into the holes in the ground.

The condemned were expected to die of blood loss and asphyxiation; the posture of the crucified made each breath a painful struggle.

The stories that were told by witnesses conclude that Jesus died suddenly, after crying out with a loud voice.

Close to sunset, the bodies were brought down from the crosses after the soldiers double-checked that the condemned were actually dead. The body of Jesus was hastily interred in a borrowed tomb.

The next day was a day of rest.

The religious leaders thought they had ended Jesus' actions and influences. His followers and family met in secret, wondering what would happen next.



Last night was the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Passover.

The remembrance of an ancient tale takes the form of a feast. In the stories that are remembered, the original eaters of that feast were supposed to eat hurriedly and be dressed as if ready for travel. They were also supposed to mark the doors of the houses with blood, so that the messenger of death would not find their family.

A millennium and a half after that story, yet still ages ago, a rabbi celebrated Passover with his 12 closest followers.

Several unique things happened at that Passover. All the stories about that evening tell of a new ceremony with bread and wine. At least one of his followers left the meal before that ceremony began. One story mentions a strange sequence in which the rabbi washed the feet of the other men at the table.

Later that night, while praying in a garden outside the City of Jerusalem, the rabbi was arrested by soldiers of the Temple guard. The man who had left the Passover table before the meal was done had brought the soldiers.

The background for this arrest, and the animosity between the Temple leadership and this rabbi, were rooted in many things.

The rabbi, whose name is often rendered as Jesus, had strong differences with the Temple authorities. He also generated large crowds wherever he went. He didn't call himself "rabbi", he called himself "the Son of man."

There were stories of miracles; outrageous claims about Jesus and His relationship to the God of their ancient religion. There were also the many references to the Kingdom of Heaven in the teachings. (The people had been under foreign, Imperial power for a century or two. But there were memories of priests who had been kings and the leaders of armies. Those priests had driven out a different Imperial power. Doubtless there were rumors about Jesus and his intentions with respect to the Roman Imperium.)

Most troublesome were the parables and teachings that seemed to insist that the Temple leadership were bad stewards of the ancient faith, and would be uprooted and replaced by their God.

So, the man was arrested. The religious leaders of the Temple apparently desired to have Him executed. They hoped it would be the end of Jesus' influence.

But first, they had to convince the entire Religious Council that execution should happen. Then they had to convince the Roman authority that Jesus was a danger to their power.

It was a long night.


Spring un-Sprung

Not only was there snowfall yesterday, there was a noticeable accumulation.

Noticeable enough to shatter a century-old record.

The list of winter records set this year for Metro Detroit is located here. It's a pretty impressive list.

This morning, the weather outside is colder than yesterday morn. Though it is also much sunnier, oddly. Up until yesterday, I'd been under the impression that the garden could be planted early this year.

I guess I'll wait until the beginning of May to plant the garden.


Speak of the Devil...

Just as I was thinking that Spring had arrived for good, I saw the news.

Possible snow. (And windstorms over the last night which damaged many electrical-power lines; further damage may happen in tonight's storm.)

The motorcycle will stay away for a few more days.

Springtime, cars, and motorcycles

When Spring came on the calendar, I was wondering how long the weather would feel like Winter.

The Springtime weather is now in full force in my area.
(Though some old acquaintances of mine from Michigan's Upper Peninsula still have deep drifts of snow on the ground. And as of late last week, Lake Superior was still 83% covered with ice. The pictures of ice cover from the end of March are astonishing.)

And that means that it is time to warm up the motorcycle.

I've got a small repair to make on the motorcycle. The drain plug on the oil pan was dripping oil last year. I think I will have to either (a) replace the drain plug, or (b) put silicon on it during my oil change this year.

Replacing it should be easy, but the motorcycle itself is 30 years old. Parts are hard to find, and I'm getting the impression that the problem isn't actually the drain plug, The problem may be that the threads the drain plug screws into are stripped, such that I can't tighten the plug all the way.

There's another, minor irritation. The wire-connection which should be fastened to the positive terminal on the battery has fallen apart. I can fix it, and I have the parts. I just haven't taken the time to do so, yet.

Either Monday or Tuesday this week, I think I'll have the motorcycle started. Then I'll see how Spring-like the weather feels.


Weekend Reading: step back for an overview

My reading of the Bible is going much faster than these weekend comments. Though I'm looking forward to resuming the story, I've also gathered a list of notes which might be worth mentioning.

  • I was first introduced to the Bible as child. My parents, and the culture they lived in, favored the literal-history treatment of all Scripture.
    Some parts of that treatment made a lot of sense, and others seemed questionable.

    Many years later, I learned of several very intellectual men who were followers of Christ who didn't insist on that interpretation. One of them lived in the 20th Century, the other lived in the 5th Century.

    I'm mildly-agnostic about the historicity of the Bible. But I'm not agnostic about the nature of God as described therein.
  • The ancient tradition of separating the Bible into "books" is due to the fact that these writings were not drafted as a cohesive whole. Most of the books were written separately, and later gathered into a collection of sacred writings.
  • The tradition of referring to Chapter/Verse numbers is much more recent, dating from approximately 700 years ago.
  • Speaking of subdivisions and names...
    As far back as Saint Jerome, the collection of writings known as the Christian canon was titled Biblia Sacra Vulgata. Literally, The Holy Book in the Common Tongue.
    (I've sometimes tried to convince people that this was the "dirty-words" version, but that usage of Vulgata doesn't correspond well with the current English usage of "vulgar".)

    In the English language, the word Biblia has mutated into Bible.
  • I grew up on the Protestant canon. I've since learned of the Catholic canon, which includes some Jewish writings that are not in the Jewish canon. And I think the Ethiopian Orthodox church has a larger canon than the Roman Catholic church.
  • My parents were readers, and they liked reading books to the children.
    Thus, we read sections of the Bible together in the evenings. Until my parents starting home-education, and they shifted to Bible in the morning as part of the regular schedule, while reading other books in the evening.

    I think this gave me an awareness of the types of storytelling in the various sections of Scripture. There are pieces that feel like myth-expressing-deep-truth, other pieces that feel like old family history that's been told and re-told. Then there are biographies, dynastic histories, prophecies, and letters.
  • I sometimes get the impression that I know Scripture better than many of my fellow believers. This knowledge, by itself, was once simply another kind of geekery. (How many people in Scripture fell out of a window to their death? Three that I can remember. How many times did the family tree that leads to Jesus almost die out? Either two or three times, depending on whether the story of Ruth is reckoned as such an event.)
    But when learning about and engaging in communion with the Creator, I find that this knowledge of Scripture is always bubbling up in my mind. By that process I receive encouragement, wisdom, and rebuke from God.
  • More subdivisions: the Jewish scriptures, as used by Christians, are in five big sections.
    • The five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
      The first books begins with a story of Creation, and progresses from there into a history of the family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jacob is given the name Israel, though Abraham is once referred to as "the Hebrew".
      The rest tell of Moses, the descendants of Jacob leaving Egypt, and Moses laying out religious rituals and civil laws. They also tell of many of the events between leaving Egypt and the preparation for conquest of the Promised Land.
    • The histories: Joshua, Judges, Ruth1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther.
      The first two books tell of the taking of the Promised Land, and the span of time between that conquest and the first king who could unite the entire region.
      The book of Ruth gives a short introduction to the woman Ruth, and her place in the lineage of David.
      The two books of Samuel tell of the prophet Samuel, and his interactions with Kings Saul and David.
      The books of Kings tell of the history of David's dynasty, and the split of his kingdom into two pieces. It ends with a deportation of many to Babylon.
      The books of Chronicles is a re-telling of the story from David to the end of his dynasty, largely ignoring the northern half of the split kingdom. It has a different emphasis than the book of Kings, spending much more time talking about the Temple and worship in Jerusalem.
      The books of Ezra and Nehemiah deal with different elements of the return of the people from Babylon, and the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem.
      The book of Esther tells of a few events in the court of a Persian monarch, and how the people of Israel were almost wiped out under an imperial decree.
    • The poetic writings: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes.
      The tale of Job is a "what-if" study. Chronologically, it is likely as old as the sections of Genesis that deal with the family of Abraham.
      The Psalms are a collection of poetry (or songs), mostly used in worship of God. About half are attributed to David. Many more are attributed to Asaph. However, they range in age from the time of Moses to the time of captivity in Babylon.
      The Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes are attributed to Solomon. One is a book of wisdom, one is a love poem, and one is a metaphysical work questioning of the meaning of life.
    • The writings of the major prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel.
      These are ordered, roughly, by their length. (With Jeremiah's book of Lamentations over Jerusalem being the exception.)
      The two later books, Ezekiel and Daniel, are full of incredible visions. These are sometimes called the apocalyptic prophecies.
      At least one of these vision sequences can be used to sketch the history of Jerusalem from the time of the rebuilding of the the Temple to the time of Roman occupation. I don't know if that was the intended by the author, or was the intention of the inspiration given by God...but I find it very interesting. 
    • The writings of the minor prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.
      These writings are considered a single book in the Jewish canon. They are called "minor" mostly because of their brevity with respect to the major prophets.
      These are ordered roughly-chronologically, but their chronology overlaps with the chronology of the major prophets.
  • Christian writings come in four sections also, though two of these sections contain only one book.
    • Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John.
      The first three are very similar, and draw from a similar pool of stories about Jesus. Matthew emphasizes Jesus as a Jew and descendant of David, Mark presents Jesus in a very concise way, while Luke is detailed and thorough.
      John focuses much more on a different side of Jesus' ministry.
    • Church history: Acts. Though most Bibles place the gospel of John between Luke and Acts, the book of Luke and Acts ought to be read in sequence. Both were written by the same author, and have the appearance of being intended to be read together.
      Acts tells of the growth of the body of believers, focusing mostly on apostle Peter. Then it focuses on Saul of Tarsus, who later takes the name Paul. 
    • Letters by Apostles: Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude
      The letters are grouped by author, and then sorted roughly by size.
      Paul is the author of most of the letters (up to Hebrews), though the sort-by-size method put them in almost reverse order.
      The author of Hebrews didn't sign his letter, and tradition offers several candidates for authorship.
      The remaining apostolic letters weren't addressed to specific churches. Thus, these apostolic letters simply bear the names of the authors.
      The letters are on a mix of subjects. Some are warnings about false teachers, some are advice and encouragement to specific churches, some are advice and encouragement to specific church leaders. One is a plea for kindness for an escaped slave.
    • An apocalyptic prophecy, the book of Revelation.
      Much like the Old Testament apocalyptic prophecies, this is full of mind-blowing visions and prophetic proclamations. 


Vehicle Safety

Normally, when thinking vehicle safety, I'd recommend careful driving, wearing of seatbelts, and other tips.

But sometimes, not even that can help.

While reading local blogs, and related news stories about an intoxicated off-duty police officer (from an area that has seen another very bad case of intoxicated driver who was also a police officer), I saw this photo.

Sometimes, the intersection of car travel and utility pole looks downright frightening. (A copied version of the photo is below the break.)

I have to remind myself that careful driving can increase, but not guarantee, road safety.

Stay safe out there.


Cars on TV

Over the past month or so, I've spent some time watching old seasons of BBC's Top Gear. I'm not very far, but I'm through the second season and part of the third.

I find the show funny, and enjoyed the ways that cars are described and presented. It took me a little while to get the feel for their "Star in a reasonably-priced car" sequences, but they became very enjoyable as the early seasons went on.

Mostly, I enjoyed the ability of the presenters to talk about how much they love their cars.

It's a little funny sometimes, to see a nearly decade-old "new" car or concept car presented. It's also odd to see discussions of good prices for cars.

I do remember that the Top Gear team started doing competitions and road challenges away from their studio in later seasons. I'm looking forward to those, as well as to more car-related humor.


Weekend Reading: Worship and Violence

Continuing my journey through the book of Genesis, I notice several things.

The first section had introduced a Creator, His acts of Creation, and the first humans. They had lived a childlike state in a garden, before a combination of temptations and actions lead to a shocking, and painful introduction to a harsher world.

Most coming-of-age stories end in a satisfying way. This one doesn't seem to.

But as I said before, the point of the story appears to be the relationship between Creator and His Creation. The characters of Adam and Eve are necessary, but aren't the central focus.*

The story continues in a simple way. The couple left the Garden, and took up a life in the wide world. Children are born, named Cain and Abel.

Both children bring offerings to God as part of an act of worship. Each brings an offering from his way of life: the elder is a tiller of soil, the younger is a keeper of flocks. The offering of the younger brother is favored over the other.**

This awareness leads to a warning. The warning is not heeded, and the older brother (who feels slighted) decides to assault his younger brother. The assault is deadly.

The narrative returns to a place of a sinner being questioned by God. Somewhat like his parents, the guilty brother tries to shift discussion away from what he did. But he doesn't have anyone to point fingers at.

He is cursed, and this curse leads to his becoming an outcast. Among the things he laments: he will not be able to commune with God.

It seems yet another coming-of-age story, with a darker ending.

Twice now, the story mentions the relation between Creator and Created. And it mentions actions which separate humans from relationship with their Creator.

From this point, the story changes tone slightly. Several more generations are mentioned. A city is credited to Cain, and his family is mentioned as having several who develop special skills related to music and metal-working. Then there's a tale of a man who becomes famous, because he promises deadly vengeance for slight injury.***

After the special focus on the relations between God and humanity, this seems an afterthought. Maybe it's a way to mention names that were considered famous in the context of the original culture, but aren't considered important to the developing story.

Or maybe it's a commentary on the kind of culture that was built in separation from God. There's development and improvement in many things, but there's loss of connection with the Creator.

Instead of fear that murder will make a man into an outcast, there is evidence of a man bragging about vengeance-by-killing.

This set of stories builds a picture of the world. While the picture is not a pretty one, it is also not hopeless.

* A linguistic oddity: the name Adam is a proper form of the Hebrew word for "man" or "humanity". However, it may have roots in the word for "red", and be related to the words for "clay", or "earth".
Sometimes I wonder if Adam was thus the first redneck...
He names his wife Eve when the narrative first mentions childbirth. This word has connections to the words for "source of life".

** The narrative assumes that bringing an offering is the natural thing to do. It also assumes that the hearer knows something about the process of bringing offerings as an act of worship. There's no description of the process at all.
There's also no reference to where Cain and Abel learned about sacrifice.

*** I'd say this reminds me of rednecks. Or at least, a culture in which vengeance by violence is standard operating procedure.
This also reminds me of the vast cultural gulf between North American and Western European cultures and the Ancient Middle East.


Sports Geekery

A blog that I once followed regularly went through a hiatus and came back.

And one of the bloggers there went from ignores-most-sports to sports-geek. At least in the very narrow category of (American-style) football.

The surprising part of the news was the choice of team to follow closely. The Detroit Lions are local to me. I haven't thought much about whether they are a good team or a bad team.

(Last time I paid attention to the Lions, they were on the way to the worst season ever recorded by an NFL team. But I wasn't a close follower of the team before that, and I can't even tell if "aggressive defense, strong-arm pass-heavy offense" is an accurate description of the team's style. Nor can I tell how those strategies interaction with other strategies they will meet.)

I'm tempted to spend a little time learning more about the sport, just to be able to discuss sports in a geeky way.


Movie Night

Over the weekend, I went to see a movie.

It's been about a year since I set foot in a movie theater.

The film I saw was the re-creation of Robocop.

There were few surprises in the film. The motorcycle riding made my heart pound. So did the fights.

However, it felt a little like the fights were an escalating series of tactical situations that the Detective had to survive. I cared about the fights because I empathized for the character; the fights themselves were not too surprising.

The story didn't contain many surprises. A generic evil company; and a doctor who works for the evil company but is unsettled by the corporate decisions. A detective trying to crack a corruption case. His target decides to plant a bomb, the bomb results in horrible burns and debilitating injuries.

The conclusion makes sense in the setting of the film. And the central character, Detective Murphy, is learning how to adapt to his robotically-augmented body throughout the film. That adaptation has to overcome a deeply-implanted barrier for him to succeed during the final showdown.

There is one part of the film that is frighteningly close to present-day technology. Detective Murphy gets a download of the entire Police Department database. He uses this download, plus access to surveillance feeds, to turn scattered data into an amazing criminal-hunting tool. Old murderers, crimes-in-progress, and the nemesis who tried to murder him all become easy to track down.

This prospect is scary. And it is not unthinkable that Police departments will have that ability in 20 years. (Moderated by the fact that most surveillance networks are private, and Police will need their own public surveillance network over most of their city...or get access to neighboring city surveillance nets...to do this kind of thing.)

I don't work in image processing, databasing, or on facial recognition. But I've chatted with people who do.

This film shows a capability that is not current for most Police Departments. But the combination of facial-recognition and video/image analysis to map social networks is possible.

It's mostly proof-of-concept right now, from what I can make out. There may be several large retail businesses who have rolled out facial-recognition to help identify customers (or thieves). But in a world where the digital marketplace runs on surveillance, this kind of database will likely become standard fare in major Police Departments.

And surveillance cameras are already being used to recognize and track the movements of cars by automatically recording license plates.

That series of thoughts are scary.

More scary than the villain of the Robocop film.


Desktop Backgrounds

My last post, about scripting and desktop background, was inspired by the (provocatively-named) Digital Blasphemy.

Ryan Bliss has been creating images on computers for many years.

I've long enjoyed his work. The images are eye-catching, but not distracting, and make for excellent desktop backgrounds.

The script file that I created yesterday was intended to make it easier for me to figure out which (of nearly 800) images were already in my desktop-background list, and which weren't added yet.