Scott Bradford: Off on a Tangent
Image Celebrating New Years

Welcome to Off on a Tangent, the online repository where I share my creative endeavors with the world. Inside you will find fiction, news, commentary, poetry, music, and more that I have produced over the years and am still producing today. I am always open to feedback, so please don’t hesitate to contact me or leave a comment and share your thoughts!

A Military Pattern of ‘Christian Bias’?

December 29th, 2008

An Atheist U.S. Army soldier, joined by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, has brought a lawsuit against the Army accusing them of a pattern of ‘Christian bias’. The examples of this ‘bias’ include quotes from a chaplain and another soldier about their desire to convert Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan, a suicide prevention manual that encourages ‘connection to the divine’, and a few other laughably inconsequential things.

First, it is worth noting that Spc. Dustin Chalker is completely entitled to his own religious views (and, yes, I define Atheism—a belief that there is no God—as a religion). But it is also worth noting that Spc. Chalker has been unable to present any evidence whatsoever of any criminal discrimination against Atheists or other non-Christians. Statements made by other members of the military do not equate to official military policy, and a single sentence in a single suicide prevention manual is hardly evidence of any endemic ‘bias’ in the Army.

As a matter of principle, I agree completely with the Constitutional protection of free religion. This is a civil liberty. I also generally agree with the revisionist doctrine of a separation of church and state, though that’s not what the Constitution says. But neither equates to a freedom from religion. My right to practice my Christian faith does not mean I have a right to go through life exposed only to Christian practice. An Atheist’s right to practice his religion does not mean he has a right to go through life without running into others practicing their religions either.

The original meaning of the First Amendment would have allowed government support of religion—even a single, particular religion—provided it was not ‘established’ by the government and the government didn’t limit anybody else’s religious practice. We’ve moved to a much more expansive read of the text, and that’s probably okay in this case, but members of the military still have a fundamental civil right to practice their religion. Spc. Chalker doesn’t have to like it, and I’m sure he doesn’t since the majority of our brave soldiers are Christians, but his suit is entirely without merit.

New Toys: Bike Trainer and Airsoft Gun

December 28th, 2008

CycleOps Fluid2 TrainerMelissa and I have just returned home from a wonderful long-weekend celebrating Christmas with our family in Southern Virginia. We received wonderful gifts from my parents, Melissa’s parents, and other members of our family. I want to thank everybody for all the gifts, and I sincerely hope that you all enjoy our gifts to you as well.

I spent part of this evening getting our new CycleOps Fluid2 trainer set up, which was a gift from my parents. This is, basically, a device that connects to a bicycle so you can use any bike as an indoor stationary bike. I apologize for the poor picture, but I set it up in a place where there wasn’t a whole lot of room ;-). I’m not sure exactly how these things work, but the simplistic version is that the bike is held in place by the frame of the trainer, and the wheel rests against a spinny doojob.

The spinny doojob has a flywheel (to provide some inertia) and another gizmo that provides resistance (for friction). All-in-all, it basically feels like you’re riding on a road—at least as far as raw friction. The inertia is a bit light (so the bike wheel stops spinning a bit faster than it does on a real ride), but overall it’s quite realistic. You adjust resistance simply by shifting gears, which is pretty slick and easy. I did a half-hour ride this evening after setting it up, and I was sweating just as much as I do on a real ride (which is how I judge effectiveness ;-)). Read the rest of this entry »

Israel Targets Hamas Leadership in Air Raid

December 27th, 2008

Israel launched an air raid on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip today. At least 225 have been killed, including many high-ranking Hamas leaders. The Israeli raid was carried out in direct response to ongoing Hamas rocket attacks on Israel over the preceding months and years. Hamas is recognized by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization, and they act as the de-facto leadership body in the Gaza Strip having seized control of the territory from the Democratically-elected Palestinian National Authority.

Hamas has threatened retaliation against Israel, though it was Hamas aggression and rocket attacks the precipitated this increase in hostilities. In fact, recent Hamas rocket attacks followed Israel’s humanitarian 10-day border opening allowing medical supplies and food into Gaza from Israel.

As is often the case, the mainstream media has portrayed this as a unilateral Israeli attack and there has been widespread condemnation from governments in the middle-east and elsewhere. Media reports have generally failed to provide any context regarding Hamas rocket attacks that set off these hostilities, the humanitarian border opening, or the general context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Before judging the ‘right and wrong’ of the conflict or of this recent flare-up, it i imperative that you learn the context. This requires effort on your part, since the version presented by the media is generally one-sided and inaccurate.

Merry Christmas!

December 24th, 2008

As you are no-doubt aware, Christians worldwide celebrate Christmas tomorrow (December 25). Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the divine Son of God, who has had more impact on humanity over the last ~2,000 years than all other men, governments, and movements combined. This is not a time for mindless consumerism. Christmas is when we should spend time with our families, spend time in worship, and celebrate the momentous arrival of the Son of God.

It is important that Christians reclaim this holiday from the secularized monstrosity it has become.

Later today, Melissa and I will be traveling to visit our family in southern Virginia for Christmas, and as we celebrate this holiday I will likely be a bit lax in posting on the site but will be back in time to ring in the new year. I wish all of you safe travels, and a Merry Christmas (or, for my Jewish friends, an ongoing Happy Hanukkah). God bless you, and please remember what we’re celebrating!

Heck of a Water Main Break

December 23rd, 2008

So the DC Metro Area woke up this morning to news of a water main break. That’s not big news; they happen all the time, especially when there are big temperature swings (and we dipped into the teens last night). This one, however, was one heck of a water main break. Big enough that it’s making national news.

A 66″ water main under River Road in Bethesda, MD has burst, turning River Road into a literal river itself. Several commuters were trapped in their vehicles. Rescues are underway, with authorities using helicopters to airlift people out of their vehicles.

With this, and yesterday’s rush hour shootings in Dallas, I’m thinking that it’s  not a good week to be trying to drive to work in America.

An Eee Upgrade

December 22nd, 2008

Kitka 3I’ve been mulling for some time an upgrade to my little Asus Eee PC 4G Surf that I bought back in March. That Eee is a wonderful little ‘netbook’, as they are now called, which is a super-small, low-powered, inexpensive laptop mainly designed for portability at the expense of power. The main problem was the screen. It had a tiny 7″ display with a piddly resolution of 800×480. This required a number of minor sacrifices—shrunken font sizes, compressed interfaces, and lots of scrolling around on web sites.

Well, a lot more netbooks are available now than back in March and most have higher screen resolutions (though the computers overall are roughly the same size). I’ve had my eye out for an upgrade, especially since the old Eee still sells on eBay for just under $200. Well, Best Buy is selling the Asus Eee PC 900A for $279, so that seemed like a great deal and I braved the crowds to pick one up yesterday. I figure, after selling my old Eee in the next couple of weeks, my total cost for the upgrade will only be about $100. (And yes, in light of my post about buying American, I did look at the Dell Inpiron Mini 9. It’s a good machine and was in the running, until I found out they moved the apostrophe key [!?!?]. Way to ruin a great machine with one dumb, little move Dell. I don’t care about the missing function keys, but the main letters and punctuation keys must be in their standard locations for me to seriously consider any machine.)

The 900A has a 9″ display with 1024×600 resolution (much better for web surfing), an Intel Atom processor at 1.6ghz, 1gb of RAM (twice as much as the old Eee), and a 4GB on-board solid-state hard drive. It’s physically only very, very slightly larger than my old Eee and the keyboard is, as far as I can tell, identical. It ships with a mediocre Asus-customized version of Xandros Linux, but with some due diligence it can be upgraded to a standard Ubuntu Linux install or (if you really want) Windows XP. There are tons of guides on how to do these things over at It took me a chunk of yesterday afternoon to get Ubuntu installed and get everything configured the way I want, but now I’m good-to-go (and writing this entry on it).

I don’t know what people are going on about with the economy; if you’re in the market to buy things (like gas, Eee PCs, or houses) the economy is going great. Prices are low, and businesses are generally very happy to sell things to you ;-).

Cat ON a Plaid Igloo

December 19th, 2008

Cat ON a Plaid IglooBack in August, I posted a couple photos of our cat Mei Mei sitting in her new plaid igloo. A month later we somehow ended up with a second cat, and both of them trade off ‘ownership’ of the igloo (sometimes through violent coup-d’états).

But something curious happened along the way. They don’t like sitting IN the igloo anymore, they prefer to sit ON the igloo. At first I thought this was a fluke—it had gotten crushed in during one of their battles, and they couldn’t figure out how to open it up again and made-do on top. But no, it wasn’t that logical. I’ve opened it back up for them many times, and inevitably I come back an hour later to find one or the other of them sitting on top again.

Go figure.

Auto Bailout Good News/Bad News

December 19th, 2008

Well, the bad news is that the ‘big three’ U.S. auto makers—Ford, General Motors (GM), and Chrysler—are being offered a $13.4 billion bailout by President George W. Bush (R). These loans would supposedly have to be paid back to the government, however I strongly suspect that will never happen since the companies liable to take this money (Chrysler and probably GM as well) are unlikely to survive until the due date of March 31. Congress never approved an auto bailout, so—in a real head-scratcher—Bush and his lackeys are taking this money out of the previously approved $700B financial bailout money. Apparently, once the Bush administration gets the money, they can do whatever they want with it regardless of what the bill approved by Congress actually said had to be done with it.

Using the $700B for what Congress approved it for would have been unconstitutional, but I’m not sure what Bush unilaterally deciding to use it for something else is. Do two unconstitutional acts make a constitutional one? Either way, I’m sure the founders are rolling in their graves over the last few months.

Regardless, there is a small silver lining. Congress already approved the waste of this money. The recipients might be new and unexpected, but there’s been no additional funds put toward socialist bailouts. In other words, we already knew this money was going to go to waste. I guess I don’t really care if it goes to waste on financial firms or auto firms, since they’re both equally undeserving. I’ve given up on trying to understand the constitutional basis for any of these bailouts, course changes, and outright lies perpetrated by Bush with the sign-off of a Democratic Congress. There isn’t any. They’re not even pretending to be bound by the Constitution’s limitations on government and separation of powers anymore.

I weep for the Republic.

Chrysler Closing All 30 Plants for One Month

December 17th, 2008

Chrysler, the smallest of the three remaining U.S.-headquartered auto makers, has announced that they will be closing all 30 of their manufacturing plants for at least one month. I am particularly saddened by this and the other recent developments in the U.S. auto industry. I’ve owned one Chrysler product—a 1998 Chrysler Cirrus sedan—and it was a fine car. I bought it with about 22,000 miles on it, and drove it up into the mid-60,000 range. It had a few problems, but relatively minor ones given its age in years and miles. It was light-years ahead of my two preceding cars—both Mercury Sables (1988 and 1994) made by the Ford Motor Company. I also drove a 1978 Jeep J-10 ‘Honcho’ pickup, but it was made before Jeep (and its parent company, AMC) were purchased by Chrysler.

When I first started looking to replace our oldest car (an Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera), based on a generally positive Chrysler experience, I looked at other Chrysler products. I looked at the Dodge Charger and the Stratus, and while they were each decent cars they were priced much higher than comparably equipped Honda Accords and Civics. Thus, the Hondas became our finalists and we eventually settled on the 2006 Civic (which Melissa still drives today). When we looked to replace our Chrysler with an SUV, I had been hoping to find a Jeep but their overpriced nature on the ‘used’ market (and questionable reliability) led us to the Ford-manufactured 2002 Mazda Tribute, which wasn’t bad, and then ultimately to our new 2008 Subaru Outback.

But I’ve had a Chrysler soft-spot for a long time. Their style and quality (for some models, anyway) during the late 1990s was great, and I was optimistic that the misrepresented ‘merger of equals’ that made DaimlerChrysler would make them even better. It didn’t. Despite a win with the Chrysler 300 and its brother the Dodge Charger, many of their other recent designs—particularly the horrible Chrysler Sebring—need a lot of work and they’ve diluted the Jeep brand with embarrassments like the Compass and the [salvageable] Patriot.

When Chrysler was brought back under American ownership as the new Chrysler LLC, I was again optimistic. A private owner—not beholden to shareholders or unions or, really, anybody but themselves—seemed like a wonderful opportunity for my favorite automotive underdog. But they missed every opportunity to break the abusive UAW contracts, and made small, incremental product changes but no major improvements. All-in-all, Chrysler LLC is failing (for no obvious reason) just like DaimlerChrysler and the previously-independent Chrysler did.

All that can save them now is Chapter 11, and even that isn’t a sure thing.

The Joys of Marriage: Virus Sharing

December 16th, 2008

So the virus that Melissa caught from work last week has now set its sights on me. Thankfully, so far anyway, it hasn’t hit me too hard. I’m feeling pretty bad—sore throat, congestion, general bad feelings—but I’m still capable of functioning. I stayed home from work today, but mostly as a courtesy to my coworkers (I was, in fact, working from home most of the day). I have noticed no strong improvement or worsening through the day. I feel about the same right now (9pm) as I did when I woke up.

In Melissa’s case, this virus started weak and then hit hard. I’m hoping that an overdose of vitamin C and green tea (with a healthy addition of Nyquil—I need my beauty sleep) will hold it at bay in my case.

Of course, like usual, illness strikes at the most inconvenient time possible. There’s a lot to do as we approach Christmas, and a lot of last-minute things to get out of the way at work before everybody goes on vacation. Go figure.

I can’t really complain too much though. Last time Melissa was sick, I managed to slide through without catching it. I guess I was overdue ;-).

Creative Commons License  Firefox 3  Save the Net
Copyright © 1995-2009, Scott Bradford CE
Licence Terms & More Information – Website 20.1