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Posted February 13, 2016, 5:16 p.m.
Justice Scalia

Justice Scalia

Associate Justice Antonin Scalia of the United States Supreme Court has died while visiting the Cibolo Creek Ranch resort near Marfa, Texas. He was 79. Scalia went to bed last night complaining that he did not feel well, and then did not appear for breakfast this morning. He was later found dead in his room. There is no indication of foul play and it is believed that he died of natural causes in his sleep.

Scalia was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan (R) in 1986. He was considered to be part of the court’s ‘conservative’ wing, and routinely issued firey opinions in favor of an originalist interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.

Scalia was very active during oral arguments before the court, asking more questions (and making more statements) than any of his fellow justices. He also wrote more concurring opinions than any other justice in the history of the court. Only two justices have written more dissenting opinions.

He is survived by his wife, Maureen, and their nine children.

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Posted in Briefly, Reports
Posted February 9, 2016, 2:00 p.m.

The automotive industry continues to move forward, introducing a lot of new, good-looking cars and discontinuing the ugliest ones. On the 2015 version of this list, four of the cars from the previous year’s list had been discontinued. This year, another three models get sent to the great parts-bin in the sky. The Scion xB, Honda Crosstour, and Mini Coupe are—thankfully—no longer available.

I’m starting to have a hard time finding ten truly ugly models to make this list, which is a good problem to have if you care about cars and how they look. The trends are moving in a good direction. But the show must go on.

The criteria for inclusion is the same it has always been. I don’t include models that aren’t sold in the United States. I don’t include models that sell in low volume (and volume is defined completely subjectively based on how many I see on the highways in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area). I don’t include exotic, military, or special-purpose vehicles—so no super-cars, tanks, or postal trucks. I also don’t include vehicles reserved exclusively for the commercial market, such as the persistently horrific Ram Promaster.

This list is entirely my personal opinion. If you own one of the cars on this list, well, don’t take it personally. Read More…

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Posted in Articles, Products
Posted December 8, 2015, 8:18 a.m.
Discovery of the Plot (Henry Perronet Briggs)

Discovery of the Plot (Henry Perronet Briggs)

On November 5, 1604, a group of English Catholic conspirators led by a man named Robert Catesby attempted a terrorist attack on the English parliament. The plan was to detonate a thirty-six barrel cache of gunpowder that had been hidden in an undercroft (basement room) beneath the House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster.

The explosion was to be timed to the State Opening of Parliament, a commencement of parliament sessions featuring a speech from the monarch—then King James I of England (who was also James IV of Scotland). If successful, the plot very likely would have leveled the building, killed the king, and killed or injured the countless members of the House of Lords and House of Commons who were gathered there.

In the chaos that would follow, the conspirators planned to stage a full-fledged revolt centered in the English Midlands and then install Princess Elizabeth—the nine year old daughter of King James—as a puppet queen who would be raised Catholic and then later married to a Catholic husband (apparently whether she liked it or not).

Needless to say, the plot failed. An anonymous letter revealing its details had been sent to authorities, and so they searched the building around midnight the night before the State Opening. There, they found Guy Fawkes—one of the conspirators—guarding the cache of gunpowder. Fawkes was the one who would be responsible for lighting the fuse at the proper time before escaping.

The plot—known as the Gunpowder Plot, Gunpowder Treason Plot, or Jesuit Treason—resulted in a major operation to find and either capture or kill the conspirators. Several were indeed killed during the hunt, including mastermind Catesby. Eight surviving conspirators, including Fawkes, were tried, convicted, and then put to death. The British continue to celebrate the failure of the Gunpowder Plot on November 5 each year, lighting bonfires, burning effigies of Guy Fawkes (and, in earlier years, the pope), and setting off fireworks. They call it Guy Fawkes Day or Bonfire Night, and it’s the rough equivalent of our Independence Day celebrations here in the United States. Read More…

Posted November 21, 2015, 3:52 p.m.

Off on a Tangent has long supported the most recent versions of the major desktop and mobile web browsers. By policy, this support extends to the most recent two versions of desktop browsers, and the most recent one version of tablet and mobile browsers.

With the launch of Microsoft Windows 10 on the desktop in July, I initiated support for Microsoft Edge, the new default browser for Windows. For simplicity’s sake, I am treating Edge as a new version of the now-discontinued Internet Explorer (IE) browser. So, since July, I have officially supported IE 11 and the initial version of Edge as the most recent two Microsoft browsers on the desktop. On mobile, I supported IE Mobile on Windows Phone 8.1 as the single most recent mobile version.

In the last week or so, something momentous happened. Microsoft released a major update of Windows 10 on November 12, paired with an updated version of Edge. Under the ‘last two versions’ rule, I then dropped IE 11 support. And then Microsoft released Windows 10 Mobile on November 20, paired with its new Edge mobile browser. Under the ‘last one version’ rule for mobile devices, I dropped support for Windows Phone 8.1’s IE.

In other words, Off on a Tangent, for the first time in its history, does not officially support any version of Microsoft Internet Explorer. And although IE 9, 10, and 11 weren’t too bad, I still hold enough web-developer hatred for earlier versions—especially 6—that I’ll still say: GOOD RIDDANCE.

This does not mean it will stop working . . . it only means that I won’t actively test the site in IE or spend much time (if any) fixing bugs that only affect IE users. If you’re still using IE, I recommend that you switch to something else.

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Posted in Briefly, Site
Posted November 19, 2015, 11:50 p.m.

Turning Sixteen

My 16th Birthday (by Melinda Bradford)

My 16th Birthday (by Melinda Bradford)

Because of my late-October birthday and the oddities of public school cut-off dates, I was always among the youngest students in my classes. I took driver’s education when I was in tenth grade, as did all of my peers. During the summer between tenth and eleventh I took my behind-the-wheel training, passed the written and behind-the-wheel tests, and received a temporary license . . . that I couldn’t actually use until my birthday several months later. I had all of the requisite training and skills required by the Commonwealth of Virginia to operate a motor vehicle, but I was still fifteen.

Some kids’ parents—especially up here on affluent northern Virginia—buy them brand new BMWs or Lexuses or fast little sports cars when they get their licenses. These cost a fortune to insure, and then the rates skyrocket when those kids immediately crash their fancy new cars into something. Other parents make a somewhat more prudent choice, buying Toyotas and Hyundais for their kids . . . which they also promptly crash. But down in little ol’ Bedford, Virginia, where I lived at the time, most parents made a more prudent choice (whether out of smarts or financial necessity) . . . most of my peers got cheap-ish used cars if they got anything. And it really is best to let new drivers start off with a piece of junk that won’t cost much to insure and won’t be any great loss if it gets in an accident.

In my case, as I approached my sixteenth birthday, my Uncle Scott made us an offer we couldn’t refuse. He was getting a new vehicle for himself, and would no longer need his 1978 Jeep J-10 ‘Honcho’ pickup. The truck was several years older than I was, got twelve miles-per-gallon on a good day, and didn’t have modern amenities like air conditioning or fuel-injection. And on top of that, it had undergone some . . . unusual modifications. It had shag carpeting on the interior of the doors. It had power-windows taken from an Oldsmobile or Buick or something, complete with a four-switch panel (for the truck’s two windows; the other two switches did nothing). And those windows would slam open with force and only inch their way toward closing.

But it ran. It would get me from point-A to point-B. And it resolved the somewhat open-question of whether I would get a car of my own at all. We got the truck, and on the day I turned sixteen I drove it to school while my mom dutifully took photos of me leaving the driveway. Earning the privilege of driving is one of the most important rites of passage for a teen, and I had achieved it . . . in a twenty year old Jeep pickup.
Read More…

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Posted in Articles, Life, Photos

About Scott Bradford

Scott Bradford has been building web sites and using them to say what he thinks since 1995, which tended to get him in trouble with power-tripping assistant principals at the time. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from George Mason University, but has spent most of his career (so far) working on public- and private-sector web sites. He is not a member of any political party, and brands himself an ‘independent constitutional conservative.’ In addition to holding down a day job and blogging about challenging subjects like politics, religion, and technology, Scott is also a devout Catholic, gun-owner, bike rider, and music lover with a wife, two cats, and a dog.