Drones Over Berks

This story is amusing me greatly: Activists Drone Shot out of Sky for Fourth Time Their argument is that “canned hunts” are somehow unethical and unlawful. I think the obvious counter argument is that there’s nothing wrong with canned hunts anymore than a farmer walking up to a canned cow and shooting it in the head with his captive bolt gun. It’s just how farms work. If farmers actually gave the animals the same chance as the birds, they’d cut the cow loose in a field and have to chase it down. The birds are actually doing better than the livestock. Why don’t the cops seem to care? The reason is because the SHARK idiots are in violation of the PA state law. Chapter 34 Statute 2302 concerns Interfering With the Lawful Taking of Wildlife. The answer is – “You’re doing it”. One drone landed on the property, almost all the other drones enter the airspace of the club. If the club is wingshooting, there’s no difference between this and driving an ATV into a deer herd. More on the point the drone obviously comes down near the operators, but if there actually is someone in the woods, then the drone is out of control by their own admission and nearly hitting people. If it was a car, it would be reckless endangerment. Here’s the video they posted:

What’s conspicuously missing? The cloud of shot and the wadding. I would expect to see one (or both) on the videos. It’s more damning to them than the gun club to post this, so I took the liberty of mirroring it locally so I can repost it if the link goes down.

But the real comedy gold comes at the 2:42 minute mark (video quality is poor because they only uploaded at 480p)…

Does that look like a wire that’s been shot? Nope, you can clearly see the copper stranding, which is much thinner than the insulation, which means it wasn’t covered in insulation to begin with if the stranding is all exposed in different directions. My guess is they bought the drone at a yard sale for losers and just twisted the wires together (hence the stripped insulation) and when it fell out of the sky they decided it had to have been shot down. Then they spend three minutes yelling at nothing in the woods, and post it to youtube. Hur dur.

 

Regurgitating the Apple

This is absolutely worth a read. It’s a heritage.org aritcle about how liberals think.

The only thing that rubs me wrong is the invocation of Brokeback Mountain. Really it falls prey to itself here because Brokeback isn’t something used in line with the argument. In fact, the way it’s used is counter to the argument. The argument being made here is for self-determination and discrimination (or judgement). Brokeback is a movie about two cowboys who want to be gay on their ranch. Fine, great, it’s not my thing. If they had wanted to make the correct point, they should have pointed out towns where they have pride parades, etc. There’s no pride in being “straight” and they make the point with Desperate Housewives saying the message isn’t “you’ll make a great family” but that “your life will suck if you’re a housewife”. It’s the tyranny of standards argument being put forward. That being said, towns with pride parades do represent a form of tyranny. With no pride parade celebrating wanting to be straight, or (my favorite) the white heritage day, celebrating any other holiday is flat out wrong. While this argument itself plays into the problem raised in the article that we’re treating everything as mediocre, I believe this is the point. If there’s no discernible mediocrity, if there’s nothing which is obviously evil then we can coexist. But this requires judgement and this is the crux of the article. The Brokeback reference is used wrongly.

On the other hand I am sympathetic to the idea that we have no moral compass as a society. If one group is off murdering your group, then you probably should go over there and kill them before they get you. As pointed out in the article and that godawful song Imagine (which is another pet peeve of mine I happened to lol at when I saw it come up), Hitler started in a beer hall. He didn’t have his own nation. Germany didn’t wake up one day and say “well lets give this nazi thing a go and hand out microwaves! we’ll tell those jews that they’re hats!”. There is evil in the hearts of men and we should seek to stamp it out and lament the fact that doing so requires armed conflict. Another opportunity is missed here, but brought up under the guise of Abu Graib. Treating people badly to prevent or persuade them from evil should be preferable to killing them outright. This is what separates the west from the middle east. We don’t go around bombing their civilian centers. We do give them a trial. We treat them badly, but we don’t actually hurt them. Again, the point is lost in the articles writing but the point he wants to make is restraint is a virtue. You should own a gun. You should know how to use it, be comfortable with it, and pop off rounds every weekend. This doesn’t mean when there is conflict you immediately smoke the guy, but it means that you understand the zen of gun ownership. You’re willing to treat people badly (pointing a gun at them) to prevent further evil (shooting them). Of course when their potential for evil outweighs the actual cost in terms of real evil of keeping them alive, our heros should be perfectly willing to shoot them with confidence and sleep like babies at night.

Try putting that on TV. It will be made an action movie, rather than a movie about self doubt, moral exploration and finally confidence and sorrow at conflict.

Minor quibbles about framing aside, it’s a decent read. I said to my brother the other day that we had, as a society, fallen prey to the spiritual danger of not owning a farm. The topic was the LL Bean catalog. The version they sent us, supposedly the full catalog, didn’t include any of the hunting section. Well it turns out they do have a hunting section and it seems to have some nice stuff. But the point was that a lot of these places make up crap so we can play dress up. We own boots which don’t keep our feet warm, we buy camo jackets which only serve to make our corpses harder to find when we freeze to death, etc. When we do make value judgements on things, we don’t make them because they’re rational or just, we make them because we want to play dress up and this camo is more military than that camo, etc. I realize this flies in the face of the plea above saying that barring egregious offenses to the general morality of society (murder), we simply shouldn’t care.

As above, so below, or what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. If we say that something is crap we should ensure that we ourselves can pass our own judgement. This is why I’m not huge on EMS or Cabelas either. There might be good stuff there, it might work as advertised, but it’s overpriced and therefor it is vanity. My favorite hunting jacket is still an M65 Field Jacket. It’s warm, it’s built correctly (who in gods name thought velcro was smart to put on tactical stuff?), it’s camo, it’s got pockets in the right places and the best part is that they’re $20 when they’re on sale. Can’t be beat. But this is a good example of the middle road. Traps are on each side of the line. It’s possible to be too permissive as it is to be too iron fisted. How do we maintain the middle ground? We examine ourselves and we judge.

Game Review – Army of Two: 40th Day

I got this from Gamestop for $25.

Gamestop now has a new promo where if you get cold feet about a game within 7 days you can return it for a full refund. Suddenly I’m a lot more interested in those singleplayer titles I can breeze through or like Army of Two, it’s coop singleplayer. Return it for store credit and now for the price of Gamefly but without the monthly subscription, you too can rent games you don’t really care about!

That being said, if I had paid $60 for it new, I would have felt let down. $25 is pushing it, but it’s the right price given that Extraction Mode is included now.

The game is gross fun. You can be a sadistic jerk and it gives you weapons, or you can be a nice guy and… Oh there’s no incentive to be a nice guy. No seriously you get $30k cash for saving this kid and maybe one crate unlock but otherwise shooting everyone down gets you more guns and more money by far. Also sometimes the correct choice is still a messy choice. Saving the “trainer” guy in the first scene merely gets him killed anyway on a beach, and you lose $30k. Saving the kid later in the game gets you $30k, but he goes on to hate mercs and kill a bunch of people. If you let that kid live you also pass up on unlocking the most powerful sniper rifle in the game. You can play the game making the “nice” choice the entire time but it’s a lot harder since you’ll spend most of it starved for cash and ammo.

The bromance in the game isn’t as overt, but you can still express camaraderie and otherwise gay it up when you feel like it. Put in oftentimes weird camera angles and it’s not uncommon for Salem to look like he’s blowing Rios (air guitar). There’s apparently a points system here for expressing how awesome you are as buddies but otherwise it adds little to the game except for the downtimes between shooting. There’s also a paper-rock-scissors minigame which lets you win $100 from your buddies when you win. It’s fun to play during inappropriate cut scenes. Bored with that doctor reaming you out for warcrimes? Play some paper rock scissors for folding money! Bored with that guy talking about the majestic white tiger at the zoo you just had a firefight in? Hit camaraderie until Salem is blowing Rios over the video phone.

The aggro model works better in this game then it did in the previous game, but the AI doesn’t use it. More on the point when you’re customizing weapons, it’s not clear why the AI needs “money” at all. It would be nice if his money were given to you. Since you can get an achievement for making a “hate machine” (mine is a gold plated AK47 with a bayonet and an “enhancer” which is the opposite of a silencer) aggro plays a huge role just on accomplishments alone and it’s easy to rack up. With an AI which is ignorant of aggro, there’s no real reason to draw attention to yourself. I’ve never once seen the AI get killed. Also the game changes the AI’s attributes to cover up for occasionally shoddy AI work. In the hostage situations, the AI will always succeed in taking a hostage. The AI will always remain undetected. The AI will always pass a quickdraw. When you eat a rocket, the AI will simply take a knee for a second. And for parts where you split up suchas the first area with the fences or the area with the building cut in half, send the AI in on the hot side because the game won’t let the AI get cut down before accomplishing the “button push” sequence to let you regroup. (This may not be true on contractor difficulty but for the default difficulty, this is true – I’ve basically hidden behind the AI in the harder shootouts full well knowing he won’t go down).

The enemy AI is vastly improved over the first one. In the first one you couldn’t wound the AI. Now the AI has a DBNO status where wounding them (and leg shots will wound) cause them to go down and call to their buddies like you do. DBNO badguys can still hit you with the pistol, for the automatic pistol in the game this is particularly annoying. You can execute them, but there’s no option to force them to surrender. Grenades have a gears-of-war style arc preview which extends to the grenade launcher also. Bad guys will intelligently run from grenades or point their shields at them. Bad guys also try to fan out, which is also refreshing since the airport level of the first game was largely an excercise in reloading it until you ended up with a favorable spawn of bad guys and then hit the group with the RPG. This time around still suffers from a bit of luck, but it’s mostly lucky shots. More than a few times we’ve been hit by heavies and I’ll get lucky with a blindfire on a shotgun that saves us (or not).

Level design is worth a hat-tip here, it feels a lot like gears of war. GoW comparisons are inevitable in any game which also uses cover-and-concealment. Each level feels distinctive. Even in the hospital basement which could have looked like the skyscraper, it feels unique and you’re like “oh I’m in a different area”. The zoo feels like a zoo, each slum feels suitably slummy, the highrises feel like office spaces (although shot to pieces). More importantly each level clearly has an eye for “player space” where the players are likely to spend all their time, so these areas are highly polished. The hit model works well too – rebar sticking out of rubble will even block shots – and the game rarely suffers from rendering issues even with wide open spaces. Everything looks good. More importantly like GoW MP levels, everything flows nicely. There’s no one good spot to dig in, but it’s not like Modern Warfare where its absolute luck and each level is either “bowl” or “doughnut”.

The problem with multiplayer is twofold – strangers don’t wear headsets, which forces you to play in a game where people are required to communicate with people who don’t want to and it’s so late for this game that no-ones playing. Extraction might have been really cool with 12 players, but after checking the public servers for about an hour late my time, there were only three people playing on average. Multiplayer is a wash. It’s like Gears 2 now where the only people left are uberhardcore and they turned the bots up to 11. If you didn’t learn it before, you’re not going to learn it now. It’s actually still sort of fun since your buddies get a lot of cash for getting you up, but it’s not fun having to have someone babysit you because you’re not a headshot machine from playing the game since release. More on the point in straight up deathmatch, don’t even bother. There’s two kinds of players – headshot machines with the sniper rifles (unlike gears, the maps are big enough to make some decent use of the sniper rifles) and headshot machines with the shotguns. The maps are varied enough that you can get away with an assault rifle, but people who specialize in one of those two weapons classes will routinely score big.

Was it worth it? Probably not for $60, but at $25 and the ability to return it for a refund for 7 days, yeah. There’s enough content there to justify two sick days worth of time. For $60, I’d feel like it was short on content. There’s not enough going on with the assault rifles to make them distinctive, the same for the sniper rifles. Shotguns are interesting because they’re automatic or not, but basically there’s only four guns here. Levels are short and unfortunately divided up into bite sized chunks with “heavy troopers” in between. Once again the campaign just feels like training for multiplayer. The problem is, of course, that multiplayer is dead with a slew of new shooters out and it was never popular to begin with since the first Army of Two wasn’t really fun. So, for $25, it’s worth it to buy just for the experience, but trade it in quick.

Herding Groundhogs

Why no updates? The woodstove project is on hold until the storm passes. I don’t want to have the wall on jacks with a water load on the roof. Also with the transition from Linux to Windows there’s really nothing interesting on the technical side aside of throwing money at problems to try to make a difference. I am entertaining positions for Linux sysadmin work if anyone is offering. In the mean time…

Groundhog #7 died yesterday. He wasn’t the luckiest groundhog but he was a fat, fat freaking groundhog. He was also smart. Two of the holes he dug were just beyond the fence where I couldn’t legally keep a trap line. He had four vias under the fence. Since I didn’t want to blow $60 on traps, I had considered putting out the snare. That didn’t work so well and this guy was very good at going “that doesn’t look right” and picking a new via under the fence. He had also figured out my wifes garden plots and would move along under my porch, digging all along the way.

The conibears were good at what they did, which was to catch only things which they were supposed to catch (groundhogs). It’s a fantastic design and by that I mean the simplest design is the best design and it relies wholly on the side of the trap to exclude animals. There’s been a few times I’ve found it snapped and found some fur, but it’s pretty obvious that the trap was being tripped by something else. The mystery was always “what”? Finally one day I realized the stupid neighbors cat was hunting the groundhogs too. She would sniff around the dig under the fence, then the might piss all over it, then she found the trap and touched it with her paw. The trap would either get knocked over and go off or it went off and gave her a snap, which is where the fur was from, but never enough to cause any injury. Since she seemed to know that the trap killed groundhogs, but she wanted to kill the groundhogs, this pissed me off to no end. (And yes I realize my readership is going to go “Why not just shoot the cat?” I’m trying to get along with my neighbors this week). Anyway, point being the cat may have a hunting accident much later, because now my trap reeked of cat piss.

I went out to my porch and saw the groundhog by the gate to the park. He’s gladly chomping down on my archery target. I could see this being an illustration in a children’s book. “What animals can you name which can eat equal parts styrofoam and hay?” Another one of my wifes space-flowers was down. The crepe myrtle was chewed on. The apricot tree was once again missing foliage. The groundhog knew something was up and I automatically froze. About five minutes passed and he went back to business so I slowly sank down behind the taller bushes and crawled back into my house. I grabbed my bow and knowing it wasn’t sighted in (f’ing cheap ass plastic mount – why does no-one make decent sights for lefties?) I grabbed a few field tips. Frankly with all the destruction they cause I don’t really care that the field tips make them bleed out longer. I glanced out the kitchen window and saw he was still happily munching down plastic.

I mounted an arrow.

I slowly opened the mud room door.

I slowly opened the storm door.

I slowly drew back the bow.

I put the bead on the top of the groundhog knowing the arrows tend to fly low at this range.

One of my cats bolted between my legs because I failed to close the mudroom door. She got out onto the deck, jumped in the railing, then hissed at the groundhog. He said screw this, jumped back himself, and took off on a run down the fence. The cat didn’t give chase. Just long enough for me to move my sight pin to my cat I hear SNAP. SCUFFLE SCUFFLE SCUFFLE. I let the draw down on the bow and look over to the brush pile and see there’s little feet scurrying in the air, gradually slowing down… and stopping. Sure enough, I got really lucky and he got really unlucky and chose the dig that I set the trap over. (Why he didn’t go under the gate, I’m not sure – animals tend to be creatures of habit).

Of course, being scared by the cat, yet another animal pisses all over my trap.

Pennsylvania Hunting and Trapping Digest

The new presentation of the 2010/2011 PA Hunting and Trapping digest is tops.

It includes some new illustrations, the maps are now broken out in a much easier to read format and it has a grid of orange requirements per season per device per activity. The “handsome deer tine” illustration is still there. They still don’t explain what the difference is between a rabbit and a hare.

What’s lacking is the wording can still be goofy in places due to legalese and the hunting licenses are now 7 little thermal squares. The antlerless application still is printed on it but the paper is the glossy stuff that came out of old fax machines and thus it’s impossible to write on. To their credit, they broke out the seasons now so you have the standard “short season” listing, but later the season is in a color coded box and the box corresponds to the appropriately colored page of the digest. This makes it much easier to flip through in a hurry.

The big news for the state was that hogs are being regulated. Previously it was just hush hush over the whole thing and if you shot one you got a wink-wink-nudge-nudge pat on the back. While it’s been regulated to the back page right next to the elk permit, the green box says “yes we have a hog problem and it’s open season except where they’re being trapped”. Where are they being trapped? No-one knows! Since it didn’t make the digest I’m going to simply say shoot’em if you see ’em.

Child Molester Shot

Aaron Vargas has a point – but he’s also got nine years.

Normally this would be commendable except for one problem I have with the case – their relationship extended into Vargas’s adult years. Not only that but their relationship was broken off four years ago. Vargas is 32. This means he was 28 when he started saying no, and in North Carolina, the age of consent is 16. This means Vargas has maintained a sexual relationship with Darrell McNeill for over 12 years. The papers don’t say at what age the abuse allegedly started, but 12 years is a long, long time for not only McNeill to keep the relationship a secret from his wife but this also gave Vargas over a decade to say no. More on the point Vargas could have gathered evidence and basically ruined this guys life if he really did have a sexual relationship with him for over 12 years.

Just to comment on the firearms, or why it’s significant he’s using black powder – Vargas apparently has an unspecified criminal record. Any weapon he possessed was probably illegal. Probably being the operative word here, without knowing if it was a jaywalking record or what I don’t know. Black powder arms can be bought freely mail order. He was simply looking for something which would likely work once. This lends some sincerity to his story that he felt he had been wronged and he’s not murderous towards the general population, but I strongly disagree with the judges assessment that he wanted the other man to suffer. At the end of the day a firearm is a firearm and they kill really quickly on the grand scheme of ways to die. Were there an actual intent to cause harm before death, where’s the knives? The waterboarding? The gasolene and road flares?

While I think his case is more complicated than a 12 year old boy bringing a rifle around and smoking his molester, I also disagree with the judges assessment than anything more than simple murder took place.