Brandon Starr's blog. Updated daily since March 2003. Welcome. Make yourself comfortable. Have a hot chocolate.

Brandon Starr's blog is not to be taken internally. All humor is intentional, unless indicated otherwise.
Do not read while operating heavy machinery. May cause intracranial short circuiting.
Not for children under four days of age.

If for some reason you wish to contact Brandon Starr, take a moment and reconsider.
No? Ah, well. His email is brandonstarr@yahoo.com.
It's your fault now, and don't blame me when it all goes terribly, terribly wrong.


New fiction story! Click here for "The Voice of Cassandra."

Click here for my ongoing novel: "The History of Magic in the 21st Century."

Click here for the lowdown on "The History of Magic"

Click here for my new investing blog, "Adroit Investor"

Click here for my anti-Bush shirts.

Click here for my favorite design: the 'tourist safety shirt.'

Brandon Starr is available in small, medium, and large. Contents may settle during shipping. Allow four to six weeks for delivery. Open carefully; contents under pressure. Do not incinerate. May be habit-forming--do not take if you are gassy or under the influence of mimosas. Improved; now non-staining. Ships in all colors, except puce. Prompt refund if not satisfied--simply return unused portion. All queries promptly ignored. Complaints resolved with deep, gut-blasting laughter, followed by posting complaints on nearest public wall. Not responsible for sunburns. All your base are belong to us. Act now. Beware cheap imitations. Insist on the original--Brandon Starr.

Update notification by email available below.

Some fun/useful/useless links:

The Internet Movie Database

My cousin back from Iraq, and how it changed me (my current favorite entry on this blog)

Zazzle.com

My Zazzle.com product page

Fun blogs:

infinitus opinio

Siren's Song

the mechanical jive

The Strange World

Thunderstorms in the Imajica

Librarianguish

Elven Sarah

Random Musings (Catcher)

Certifiable Princess (Sarah 2)
   

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Wednesday, April 07, 2004
Using capitalism to clean the sky

Wired:  using capitalism to clean the sky

Now this is the sort of environmental action I can get behind.  Forget using the legislative and judicial branches of government as a bully, or worse, using terrorist Earth Liberation Front tactics.  Instead, give environmental damage an economic face--by commodotizing it.  Then it becomes something which must be bought by polluters.

The twist is that ANYONE can buy the pollution rights.  So if you're an environmentalist with a few hundred dollars, you can bid on the rights to a few tons of sulfur dioxide emissions.  If you then win them, you simply tuck them away so no one can use them.  This drives up the price of useable emissions permits--and if enough of them go off the market, the polluters can't buy enough permits, and either must stop production totally or pay hefty EPA fines.

And if you're a major environmental group with a few million dollars available?

Well, it hasn't happened yet.  But the system is set up so it can.

This is like my other favorite environmental movement--the purchase programs.  Environmental groups buy property, and simply don't do anything with the land.  The purchased land is protected--without the heavy hand of government or other threats--and the cost of other, still-useable land goes up as well.  It's fair, because it uses property rights instead of abusing them.

Anyway, the emissions auction article is interesting.  Check it out.

Posted at 12:08 pm by brandonstarr
Your thoughts?  

Murder suspect plucks out own eye

Murder suspect yanks out own eye with his bare hands

The murder suspect quoted a Bible verse, Mark 9:47:  "And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell."

Great.  Another Christian psycho.

All right.  Let's go through this once more.

1)  First of all, quoting this particular verse after plucking out your own eye while in jail on suspicion of murder is tantamount to a confession.  He's currently being evaluated psychologically, so it may not be an issue.  This is a minor point.

2)  This sort of verse is why the self-psychotics known as Christians do nutty things, like refuse to donate their organs.  They think they're going to need them later.  They're not.

3)  This particularly nutty Bible verse implies that any damage you do to your body remains after death in your "soul."  So, if your body is slowly torn to shreds by some torturer, and you survive a few hours, you'll end up in heaven all cut up, with parts missing?  If you're born blind, you'll also be blind in heaven?  Or does it only count if it's self-inflicted?  Ah, but who can make sense of the senseless?

4)  The true damage done to the human psyche by religion, and particularly by Christianity, is hinted at here:  "if your eye causes you to sin."  This is, of course, a moral cop-out.  Eyes don't cause you to do anything, good or bad.  YOU do.  If you murder someone, it wasn't your trigger-finger or your clutching, choking hands that caused you to do it.  YOU did.  Similarly, you are not born guilty.  "Original sin" is a crime against humanity.  You are responsible for your life, the good and the bad--but only in the things you do yourself.  The thought that babies are born with crime on their hands, whether you call it sin or whatever, is sickening to the rational.  Similarly, no one can "die for your sins."  If you commit a crime against someone else, you're the only one who can possibly make it right.  And it can only be made right by actions which undo the damage.  Anyone who thinks that they can cause damage to others, and it'll be okay once they repent,* because "Jesus died for my sins," is a moral pervert.

Obviously, this blog entry isn't going to convert anyone from Christianity or any other religion to rationality.  I'm being way too confrontational.  But at least I'm being clear.

* Repenting for sins by prayer is a moral perversion in two ways--both because it assumes that someone else, this dead "Jesus," will take care of the sin, and because it is a mere thought, and not an action designed to make things right with the person wronged.  Corollary:  actions which do no harm to others are not morally wrong.  "Thinking bad thoughts" is not morally wrong; only doing actions which do harm to others.  The "thought sin" is another perversion of morality by religion.  This is also why atheists and agnostics tend to gravitate towards civil libertarianism.
 

Posted at 07:00 am by brandonstarr
Your thoughts?  

Tuesday, April 06, 2004
And another reason to go into Iraq bites the dust

al-Qaeda terrorist's link to Iraq not true

...

...

...

That is the sound of a mind.  A mind which, on this very blog, bought into the entire case for invading Iraq.  A mind which then defended the invasion of Iraq--repeatedly and vociferously.  A mind which has seen point after point after point after point of that case be leveled as being inadequately researched, a case of misleading the investigators, just plain wrong, or even old-fashioned lying.

My mind.

I'm not happy.  Not happy at all.

Posted at 06:58 pm by brandonstarr
Comments (2)  

No more hand-drawn animation on Disney's slate

Upcoming Disney films no longer include hand-drawn animation

For those of us with an interest in the history of animation, this definitely is the end of an era.

Disney was, of course, the icon of feature-length animation for the 20th century.  The golden era started with "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" and lasted through "The Jungle Book," the last film Walt Disney worked on personally.

Disney animated features were, to say the least, uneven through the 1970s and 1980s.  But then a renaissance occurred; "The Little Mermaid" kicked it off, quickly followed by "Beauty and the Beast," "Aladdin," and "The Lion King."  True, there have been a few clunkers since, but overall Disney feature animation has been top-notch.

Recently, however, with Pixar's unbroken string of successes, and the cost pressures of the labor-intensive hand-drawn animation process, it has become inevitable that computer animation would replace the hand-drawn type.

For those who collect animation cels, original (not sericel or limited edition) feature film cels from Disney stopped by the time of "The Lion King."  By then, even though much was hand-drawn, the cels were then scanned into computers, added together with often-computerized backgrounds, minor characters, and special effects, and then transferred to final film.  The cels were never released to the public, and would rarely look like the final film version in most cases anyhow.

There will still be room for the traditional-looking 2D animation, but it will be done completely by computer.  And 3D animation, in the Pixar vein, is likely to take over as the most common type.

Other major corporations' studios and smaller animation studios will follow.  In many cases, they already have.  Today, Disney; tomorrow, all.

And after "The Simpsons" goes off the air, you can bet there will be few hand-drawn animated TV series of any quality or importance.

One possible exception: the recently-resurrected "Family Guy."

Call it another cast-off technology.

Posted at 01:55 pm by brandonstarr
Your thoughts?  

Monday, April 05, 2004
Tobacco's road to hell

Philip Morris, EU close to $1 billion settlement over cigarette smuggling charges

The makers of Marlboro aren't being charged with doing the actual smuggling.  But they are about to be charged a load of money over something nearly as scuzzy.  They sent additional cigarettes to neighboring countries, knowing they would then be smuggled.

Having harangued Philip Morris, however, let me say this:  the EU brings the smuggling down on its own head.  The cigarettes are being smuggled from countries with 10% excise taxes to countries with 200%+ excise taxes.  It doesn't take an Adam Smith to figure out that someone's going to try to figure out a way to make a profit off of the difference.

Heck, even in the U.S., with differences between various state excise taxes and Native American reservation excise taxes, smuggling does on.  And the difference isn't usually 200%.

So, the socialist EU governments try to make heavy coin off of tobacco, and end up paying $1 billion per year trying to stop the smuggling, and new criminals, they themselves create.

Remember that taxes are essentially a use of governmental force.  When a government heavily taxes anything, it means they want less of it in their society and are willing to send out their agents, both tax and police, to stop it.  In socialist governments, they want less tobacco.  They also heavily tax gas, which means they want less gasoline used.  Finally, they heavily tax high incomes.  This means they want less success in their society.  That's right.  They'd like to see everyone at home, not smoking, and having roughly the same income as their neighbor, regardless of how hard they work or how good their ideas are.

Be very careful when you cheer high taxes, even if it's of something you despise.  My dad's an asthmatic, and I saw growing up in the '70s what widespread public smoking did to him.  I bear no love of the tobacco industry.  But I'm very leery of the high taxes levied on them.

And, by the way, I see the big multi-state settlement as a way for the tobacco companies to ensure that the states don't allow anyone to drive them out of business.  The lawyers and governments made things so bad, they saw a multi-decade, multi-multi-billion-dollar settlement as the cost of doing business.

It's scary to anyone with a love of the small-government vision this country was founded and prospered on.  Let's be careful out there, people.

Posted at 11:16 am by brandonstarr
Your thoughts?  

Sunday, April 04, 2004
Saudis: OPEC not reason for high U.S. gas prices

Saudis:  OPEC not reason for high U.S. gas prices

They happen to be correct.

The refinery capacity in this country is strained mightily.  It's to the point where if any plant goes down, even for routine maintenance, prices rise.

The refineries are getting enough crude oil from U.S., OPEC, and other sources.  They just can't turn it into gasoline fast enough.  During the winter, the refineries have to also make heating oil.  This winter was very cold and rough on the East Coast, so the switchover back to gasoline was delayed.

Why don't we make more refineries?  Well, the incentives just aren't there.  In addition to winter and summer blends, there are a few dozen local blends mandated by different states.  It's one of the costs of "environmentalism"--even though presumably only a few blends at most would be needed to make environmentally-friendly gas, many localities have forced through their own special legislation.  This makes gasoline hard to make in big quantities, and changes are constantly being forced on the refineries.  Thus, the benefits aren't there for the refiners.

Having said that, there's another reason not mentioned in the article.  Gas prices are high because the dollar is low.  Oil, and in fact all commodities, are denominated in dollars.  Dollar down, commodities up.  Thus, the crude oil that becomes gas is in fact becoming more expensive.  Reason:  when they sell a barrel of oil to us at a certain number of dollars, they get less value for that number of dollars.  To get the value they're used to, they need a higher number of dollars, or they will lose out.  Thus, the tendency is to hold back a bit until they are getting the value they need to keep their oil-based economies going.

So, the reason really isn't OPEC.  It's the weak dollar combined with a lack of refinery capacity.  And neither are likely to change much soon.  Now, if OPEC truly turned off the spigot, or a refinery went down hard, you'd see gas prices really rocket up.

Posted at 01:37 pm by brandonstarr
Your thoughts?  

Saturday, April 03, 2004
"God told me" child-killin' Mom found insane

"God told me" defense works, Mom not guilty by reason of insanity for killing her children

Hard to say what I think of this.  True, she was insane--still is.  She believes in an invisible man in the sky who told her things to do.  Little things, like pray.  Big things, like kill her babies, bashing their heads in until the brains spilled like lumpy gravy.  She listened to the invisible man.  She did as he told her.

So do a lot of other folks.  Happily, the invisible man doesn't tell everyone to kill.

Or more accurately, most folks have a rationality circuit that kicks in, preventing their religion from making them do things irrationally.  Most folks do enough religion to get by in society.  When things get nutty, their circuit breaks, and they get out.  But not everyone.

Not everyone.

Posted at 07:04 pm by brandonstarr
Comments (2)  

Spain reaping the whirlwind

Spain:  suspects, chanting Arabic, blow themselves up, kill policeman
(the 'chanting arabic' portion comes from CNN.)

Also, a bomb of the type used by the same group was found and defused on a railroad track.

So, I guess Spain isn't gaining big rewards from the terrorists for their lack of spine.  Following the elections, the new Socialist government did all but lick boot in saying they'd do whatever it takes to get out of Iraq, not raise Islamic hackles.

Trouble is, terrorists don't respect a lack of resolve.  They take advantage of it.

No spine, Spain?  Spin.  Spun, spans the way back to sanity.

In other words, bullies, especially including terrorists, respect only power.  You must get tough.

Posted at 06:56 pm by brandonstarr
Your thoughts?  

Powell now doubts Iraqi WMD evidence

Better late than never?  Powell now doubts Iraqi trailers were weapons labs

Wonderful.  Another reason we went in goes down.

As far as my own reasons for being fine with the war, the only one still on two legs is "Saddam is a sadist, a tyrant, a torturer, and a thief."  Unfortunately, that same argument goes for about four dozen other leaders of backassward nations around the globe.

Whoopee.

Posted at 08:15 am by brandonstarr
Your thoughts?  

Friday, April 02, 2004
International Comic Arts Association

Comic Pimp:  I love that there will finally be an industry association for comic books and graphic novels

The Comic Pimp, a weekly columnist I have written about before, loves the idea.  It makes sense to me as an outsider to the industry, too.

Comic readership has been stagnant for years.  The same people have been buying graphic novels and comic books for years, with little gain of new readership.  Despite this, people in other creative areas have been hammering at the doors of comicdom for ideas, writing, and looks.

Marvel, famously, has been putting out all of its classic titles into the movie market:  The Hulk, The X Men, Daredevil, Spider-Man, The Punisher.  But also, other comic houses have had films made from their titles:  Spawn, Hellboy, Monkey-Bone, Ghost World, and Men In Black spring to mind, even before you take in the DC titles like Batman and Superman.  In addition, movies and TV shows have been taking ideas, looks, and overall cool from comics:  The Matrix, Alias, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer all bear the clear marks of comicdom in their look-and-feel.

And more are on the way.

Given the cool factor that comes from comics' children, it is only natural that the publishers of comics feel the time is ripe to improve the circulation of the comics themselves.

Anything that helps creative people be more creative or gain more from their creativity without harm to others works for me.

Check it out.
 

Posted at 07:12 pm by brandonstarr
Your thoughts?  

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