Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Fail Blog

The Fail Blog

Not quite as funny as ThereIFixedIt.Com, but there are some amusing examples of communication failures on this page at the FAIL Blog. There's a street sign for "Meth Bible Camp." (Not a combination that you normally would imagine.) An amusingly placed manhole. And a most tragic spelling of "School Zone."

There was one that wasn't funny at first, until I spoke out load the name of the joint venture between Russian gas giant Gazprom and Nigeria's state gas company: "Nigaz." Say it with a short "i"!

UPDATE: And make sure you look at the cake decorated with unsupported HTML!

Moral Uprightness

Moral Uprightness

There was a time when certain behaviors were so outside of the realm of acceptable norms that no matter how well you did your job--how calmly and privately you lived your alternative lifestyle--it didn't matter: you were considered morally depraved. Professor Volokh points to a modern equivalent:

1. In 2001, Kevin Allen Ake was living at a YMCA in Illinois, apparently "so that he could assist an elderly member of his church who lived there." Several months after moving in, he was evicted, in his view because of his "efforts to begin a bible study program at the YMCA." As a result, he left a bunch of messages on the voice-mail of the YMCA's executive director, who was a lesbian; he denies that the messages contained explicit threats, but says he "basically shared what the Bible talked about was -- with that kind of unnatural lifestyle -- about lesbians and homosexuality."

Ake was then prosecuted and convicted for telephone harassment, which covers telephone calls made "with intent to abuse, threaten or harass." Two newspaper accounts reported that he was found guilty of leaving threatening messages, but nothing in the Illinois indictment, or in the Pennsylvania opinions that I read, makes it clear -- it seems possible that the finding was simply that he made the calls with the intent to "abuse ... or harass" rather than with the intent to threaten.


Ake is an accountant, and in 2007 he applied to reactivate his Pennsylvania CPA license. He had it reactivated despite his felony conviction, but then the State Board of Accountancy moved to revoke the license because of that conviction. And the Board did revoke the license -- not just because of the conviction itself (which wouldn't automatically disqualify him, especially since the conviction didn't involve the sort of financial misconduct that most directly bears on fitness to be an accountant), but because of his continuing hostility to homosexuals and his perception that he was victimized by homosexuals:
It turns out that the State Board of Accountancy argued that he shouldn't have a license because his homophobia had demonstrated that he lacked "unquestioned moral character." Now, the courts overturned this--but barely.

What just amazes me are the comments arguing that sure, the government should impose "moral uprightness" requirements for licensing, and that anyone who doesn't approve of homosexuality is obviously not morally upright. As recently as 1960--or even 1970--this same argument was used to refuse government jobs to homosexuals. But now that homosexuals are back on top--well, moral uprightness has been turned upside down.

Now, it's true that Ake was convicted of a felony--but it wasn't that many years ago that homosexuals complained that Texas's law prohibiting homosexuality prevented homosexuals from being police officers, because they were intrinsically breaking the law.

Single Payer

Single Payer

PajamasMedia published a piece by me today about the gap between the claims about single payer, and the reality.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Unpleasant Heterogeneous Encounters

Unpleasant Heterogeneous Encounters

Another PajamasMedia reject, because they already have too many articles about this situation:

Unpleasant Heterogeneous Encounters: Racism & Paranoia

There is a very real disconnect between white and black America—-as the recent arrest of Henry Louis Gates in Cambridge demonstrates. I’ve seen an enormous amount of commentary that refers to Gates screaming at a Cambridge police officer as yet another sign that he is a race hustler. But there’s another explanation—-and one that we white people should think about.

Back when I was a freshman at USC (on a full scholarship—-I grew up just under the poverty line), I drove to school every day. One day, my beat up 1964 Chevrolet station wagon overheated on the way to campus. I pulled off the freeway at Fairfax Boulevard, and into a gas station. For those who don’t know Los Angeles in the 1970s, the Fairfax District was heavily Jewish at the time. The two guys running the station were named Sol and Nathan, and were like something out of a movie. Both had very pronounced New York Jewish accents, right down to mannerisms and expressions that might be considered offensive stereotypes today.

Now, where I lived in Santa Monica was also heavily Jewish. Many of my classmates were Jewish. On Jewish holidays, many of my classes were distinctly short of students. But none of my classmates fit any stereotypes. They sounded like me, they dressed like me—there wasn’t anyone with a stereotyped New York Jewish accent (except when being humorous), and I don’t think any of my classmates was Orthodox or Hassidic. In brief, they were Jewish, but it was an extraordinarily subtle difference—one so subtle that if you weren’t told (and there wasn’t much reason to do so), you wouldn’t know it.

Sol and Nathan persuaded me that all I needed was a new radiator cap, and used some gadget to prove that mine was defective. By the time they had done their song and dance, the engine had cooled—-and of course, the car ran fine—-for about 25 minutes, at which point it overheated again.

That evening, it was apparent that the radiator had a pretty substantial leak in it. My father called up the gas station that had sold me a replacement radiator cap. The defensive manner in which Sol responded suggested that this was not an honest mistake—that they took advantage of a college kid who didn’t know any better. I found myself wondering: had they taken advantage of me because I was a Gentile? I really don’t know-—but because they were so obviously different from me, the thought came into my head. Without that obvious difference, I would simply not have even wondered about it.

This is a majority white country. If you are a white person, and someone mistreats you, the odds are very high that it will be another white person. He might be a car mechanic who tells you that your muffler bearings need repacking, or your Johnson rods are bent. He might be a police officer who gets obnoxious when you get argumentative about a traffic ticket. But because you and the other person are engaged in an unpleasant homogeneous encounter, you don’t generally say to yourself, “It’s because I’m white.” You decide, “He’s a crooked mechanic, out to take advantage of me,” or, “This cop is too full of himself and the power that he has been given.”

Now, imagine that you are black-—in a country that is overwhelmingly white. The odds are quite strong that if you have a really unpleasant situation, it will be with a white person: an unpleasant heterogeneous encounter. It is extremely easy to find yourself asking the same question that I asked myself about Sol and Nathan’s radiator cap scam: is it because you hold my group in contempt? (The closest that most white people get to this same situation are those who live in majority black or Hispanic communities.)

It would not take too many of these unpleasant heterogeneous encounters to create the very negative perception of widespread white racism against black people-—when what is really going on is that we tend to notice unpleasant and ugly encounters with people that aren’t like us—-especially when those encounters are scary, or demeaning. Once an individual has developed that perception—-“this is how a black man gets treated in America”—-each new unpleasant heterogeneous encounter is going to reinforce it.

It also doesn’t help that when Professor Gates was growing up, there really was a lot of racial prejudice directed against blacks. Most of it was unthinking but not particularly hate-filled prejudicial assumptions about blacks, but some of it was really ferocious hate-mongering-—of a caliber with the hate-mongering that you have to listen to Rev. Wright to hear today.

I’m not defending Professor Gates’ behavior. But I would suggest that before we assume that his actions were just another sleazy race hustler like Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton, it might be good to think about easy it is for the disparity in numbers to create false perceptions that everything is about race.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

This Is So Cool!

This Is So Cool!

We're in the 21st century now! Need a car part? No need to every auto dismantler in your neighborhood, hoping to find what you want. You can go to, and search auto dismantlers all over the U.S. for a particular part!

CD Changers For The Corvette

CD Changers For The Corvette

I was able to finish getting the CD changer to give me back my discs--but if I had any doubts about the potential of repairing it before, I no longer have that delusion! At least I was able to get my discs and the magazine that holds them (in the event that I buy an identical changer).

Well, there are some currently manufactured CD changers that plug into the GM stereo, such as this ten disc one. At $329, the price is a bit of an "ouch." Here's a company called Neo that builds a ten disc version that plugs into the CD changer cable.

It turns out that with a couple of exceptions, all GM cars used compatible twelve disc CD changers, and they are interchangeable. Here's the list of exceptions. There are some vendors offering used ones at pretty horrendous prices. But I also found them a bit more reasonably priced ones on eBay. Some are cheap enough that I may buy two, to have a backup, and in case one of them doesn't work.

Why Bother Reading The Bills Before Voting For Them?

Why Bother Reading The Bills Before Voting For Them?

Some years back, California State Senator H.L. Richardson wrote a book titled, You Don't Think We Actually Read The Bills, Do You? Now, proving that life imitates art, we have John Conyers (D-MI) admitting that there's no point in reading the health care bill before he votes for it.

If the voters were actually paying any attention, this would be a devastating admission--something that you would have to waterboard a politician to admit. (Waterboarding politicians...hmmm...that's an interesting hypothetical.)

Fortunately, we have leaders who recognize the hazard of rushing bills through without anyone reading them or thinking about them. From July 27, 2009 Newsbusters:

To get the full flavor of the Obama hypocrisy, be sure to listen to the YouTube clip which also includes a video of MSNBC's Chuck Todd discussing why Rahm Emanuel felt the need to Rahm, I mean ram, legislation through congress. Here is the transcript which picks up at the 55 second mark:

BARACK OBAMA: ...When you rush these budgets that are a foot high and nobody has any idea what's in them and nobody has read them.

RANDI RHODES: 14 pounds it was!

BARACK OBAMA: Yeah. And it gets rushed through without any clear deliberation or debate then these kinds of things happen. And I think that this is in some ways what happened to the Patriot Act. I mean you remember that there was no real debate about that. It was so quick after 9/11 that it was introduced that people felt very intimidated by the administration.

Plastic Surgery Tax

Plastic Surgery Tax

I can't really get too upset about the general idea, but imagine what effect it would have on Nancy Pelosi to have Botox injections taxed! From July 27, 2009 Congress Daily:

Face-lifts, tummy tucks and hair transplants could be hit with a new tax to help finance the trillion-dollar healthcare overhaul plan, according to sources familiar with the Senate talks.

The Senate Finance Committee has discussed imposing a 10 percent excise tax on cosmetic surgery deemed unnecessary for medical purposes. The idea was broached in a meeting with OMB Director Orszag in mid-July, after which Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus told reporters he had heard some "interesting," "creative," and "kind of fun" ideas.

The tax, which has not been officially scored, would plug some of the revenue gap senators are seeking to fill to keep on schedule for a markup the week of Aug. 3. It would target procedures prohibited under Section 213 of the tax code, which deals with itemized deductions for medical expenses not covered by health insurance.

The 1990 deficit-reduction law prohibited taxpayers from taking deductions for cosmetic surgery "unless the surgery or procedure is necessary to ameliorate a deformity arising from, or directly related to, a congenital abnormality, a personal injury resulting from an accident or trauma, or a disfiguring disease."

It's a shame we can't apply it retroactively; Michael Jackson's estate alone would solve some of deficit.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Replacing a CD Changer With An MP3 Player

Replacing a CD Changer With An MP3 Player

My 12 disc CD changer in the Corvette seems to be jammed again. I'm going to try and open it up, and see if I can unjam it--but if not, I have been looking at replacements/alternatives. It turns out that you can't just replace it with any old CD changer. The factory stereo ("the head" as stereo techs call it) has to be compatible so that the controls for changing discs, track seek, etc. work. So far, I have found the GM labeled unit (which is made by Pioneer)--for more than $500. There is also a 6 disc changer that apparently is plug compatible, and responds to the factory stereo controls--for about $200.

But there are a lot of people replacing 12 disc CD changers in Corvettes with iPods. There are adapters that let the iPod respond to the stereo CD controls, just like a several hundred disc CD changer. But the adapter is $150, and then you need to spend a couple hundred dollars for the iPod.

What I am not finding is an adapter that lets you put an MP3 player in the trunk in place of the factory CD changer--and I'm a little surprised that this market opportunity has been missed. The factory stereo for the Corvette (and I suspect most other GM cars of the period) needs a pretty limited set of capabilities at the far end of the CD changer cable: select the next CD; play CD; skip to the next track; skip to the previous track; go back a second; go forward a second. And of course, provide electrical power to the MP3 player.

Think about this for a second: here's a chance for some company to make a bit of money with all the CD changers that are starting to fail (like mine) or where someone wants more CDs than they can currently put in the changer. At the same time, MP3 players are quite inexpensive, and far more durable than a CD changer. They also don't have the skip problem on rough roads that even a pretty decent CD changer has. And they take up less space in the rear of the car. So why hasn't this market demand been met? Or have I just not found the product that I need?

UPDATE: I'm disappointed to report that even the iPod adapter doesn't exactly provide the functionality of the CD changer. No surprise: it can't feed the iPod's track number (or whatever its equivalent is) into a device that is limited to only two digits. And the 6 disc CD changer offered that is compatible with the GM stereo is substantially cheaper than the combination of cables and a 4 GB iPod. Yes, I could replace the stereo as well, and have a really cool stereo that hands 8 GB DVDs with a vast number of albums recorded in MP3 format--but this is starting to get more complex than music for a car justifies at this time.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

I Love Stuff Like This!

I Love Stuff Like This!

In New Zealand, an artist tried to take out a loan to buy some income property--and was turned down by the bank. He retaliated in a way that I suspect most artists can't:
Defiant Mapua artist Roger Griffiths today made a stand against Westpac by withdrawing his $190,000 savings in $20 notes.
The bank provided a red-and-black carry bag to take away the cash after meticulously counting it in front of Mr Griffiths at its Nelson branch.
Mr Griffiths, a loyal Westpac customer for 25 years, decided to withdraw his money after the bank rejected his application for an $80,000 mortgage. "It's about time normal people took a stand."
He said the bank turned down his application because he did not have a regular income as an artist. However, he was a successful artist, exhibiting his paintings at the World of Wearable Art complex, in Christchurch and New York, he said.
He wanted to buy a $385,000 property in Mapua, had $200,000 in cash and was going to sell his $110,000 campervan.
That more than met the bank's criteria for a 20 per cent deposit, and the property which included a home and commercial premises would have returned $500 a week, he said.

Night At The Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

Night At The Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

I rather enjoyed Night at the Museum when it came out a couple of years ago: a fun fantasy about what happens in a natural history museum after dark under the influence of an ancient gold tablet. It was escapist, silly, and very funny--and something that you could take your kids to and not find yourself cringing about language, themes, or nudity.

So my wife and I decided to ignore the rule that says that sequels are usually not so good--and we were actually quite pleased. Okay, there are aspects to it that read like something of a rehash of the first film--but there are still lots of great sight gags, and some very clever dialog. It was, if anything, a bit more funny than the first film, which had a very realistic but sad subplot involving divorce and child custody.

The special effects are, if anything, more impressive, especially the sequences in the photo and sculpture galleries. The Jonas Brothers as the voices of the cherubs was an inspired piece of work.

Things That Don't Work

Things That Don't Work

Traditionally, I have used Windex as a glass cleaner--which indeed, produces a streak-free shine on glass, as promised. (Windex is a surprisingly complex solution--not just ammonia in water.) My wife has recently been buying Clorox Green Works all-purpose cleaner, which is touted as "99% natural." (Which probably means, 99% water, 1% stuff that actually does something.) So I was using this Green Works this morning to try and clean the interior windshield of the Corvette--and Windex, it's not. For cleaning counters it does okay, but a transparent surface, it's deficiencies are grossly apparent. So I turn the bottler over to look at the ingredients list--and I see that part of the profit from this stuff goes to the Sierra Club.

I presume that Sierra Club has an official supervising the making of it, rather like how a rabbi supervises the preparation of kosher food. And yes, environmentalism and Judaism are both religions, but one of them is a real religion, and the other is a religion for those who want one that doesn't ask them to change their moral behavior.

Time to buy some Windex, and stop putting money into Sierra Club's pocket.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Remember Bluto's Speech in Animal House?

Remember Bluto's Speech in Animal House?

When he rallies the rest of the fraternity brothers with the speech about, "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?" (And one of them whispers, "Germans? Pearl Harbor?" And another says, "Forget it. He's on a roll.") Well, you recall at the end of the film we find out that historically-challenged Bluto becomes Senator Blutarsky.

And life is imitating fiction. President Obama explains here that the goal in Afghanistan isn't victory:
President Obama has put securing Afghanistan near the top of his foreign policy agenda, but "victory" in the war-torn country isn't necessarily the United States' goal, he said Thursday in a TV interview.

"I'm always worried about using the word 'victory,' because, you know, it invokes this notion of Emperor Hirohito coming down and signing a surrender to MacArthur," Obama told ABC News.

And Gateway Pundit points out that Hirohito didn't sign the surrender to MacArthur. But the great intellectual Obama has never been real strong on subtle historical points, like how many states the U.S. has. (His Vice President isn't any better, with that speech Biden gave about how Roosevelt spoke on television to reassure Americans after the Great Crash.) The bigger issue, of course, is that by utterly defeating the Japanese (after a sneak attack), we were able to fundamentally transform Japanese culture to one that might outproduce us, but seems to have learned the lesson not to start wars. Does anyone seriously think that anything less than an utterly crushing defeat of Japan would have accomplished this end?

If Obama actually knew anything about history (or anything else), he would recognize the obvious parallels to another sneak attack done on a beautiful September morning some years ago, which started the war with Afghanistan. But this guy has been the Affirmative Action President from the very beginning--so ignorant that he thinks that there is an Austrian language. But so what?

Professor Henry Louis Gates & Cambridge Police

Professor Henry Louis Gates & Cambridge Police

As I understand what happened, Professor Gates had some problems with his front door being jammed upon a return from an international trip. He couldn't get the front door open, so he went around to the back door. Neighbors reported a person who seemed to be trying to force entry, and called police.

The police arrive, and ask Gates for ID, to verify that Gates is the owner, and not a burglar. I'm not sure that Gates would have been treated any differently if he was white. Gates shows them ID, and gets loud and screechy about racism. The police arrest Gates.

My concealed weapons instructor in California was a deputy sheriff, and he made a humorous point once to the effect that there are really only two crimes to a cop: bad attitude misdemeanor and bad attitude felony. If you get argumentative with a police officer, there is a very real chance that you are going to end up getting arrested. If you get argumentative with a judge, there is a very real chance of getting a contempt of court fine as well.

People with authority figure problems seem to especially have problems with this concept. My father-in-law was one of those people. On one occasion, he turned a $20 speeding ticket in court into a $100 contempt of court charge. On another occasion, he was double parked in front of my wife's apartment building on a fairly busy street at night, having a conversation with her, and a police officer asked him to move along--and he very nearly managed to escalate this to an arrest.

I really wish that police officers didn't sometimes abuse their authority when someone gets mouthy. But that's human nature. Getting confrontational with police officers is a mistake. Complain after the fact about their behavior, but getting argumentative with someone who, by law, has arrest powers and a bunch of other police available as backup, is really, really stupid.

Assuming that what happened to Gates was a sign of racism is simply not justified by the evidence presented. It is simplest to understand this as "police don't like civilians getting mouthy." Turning this into a racial conflict makes perfect sense for Gates (who has spent his academic career studying race). It makes sense for Obama to do the same, because Obama has used race to get himself elected to an office that he would never have achieved had he been white. (Think of John Edwards as the white equivalent.)

Some Ideas Are So Dangerous....

Some Ideas Are So Dangerous....

That American universities can't tolerate them--even when they are coming from other cultures. From the July 24, 2009 Inside Higher Education:

Thio Li-ann won't be coming to New York University this fall after all.
Thio, a professor at the National University of Singapore and a politician in her home country as well, was to have taught a course on human rights law as part of an NYU program that brings scholars from around the world to teach at the law school. But in recent weeks, as students and others have circulated information about her anti-gay statements, some have questioned whether it was appropriate for NYU to hire someone with limited views of human rights to teach the subject. But NYU has defended the hire on academic freedom grounds, and Thio indicated that she was looking forward to debating the issues while teaching on the campus.
Not anymore. While NYU has not changed its position, its law dean issued a statement in which he announced that Thio has decided not to come to NYU. "She explained that she was disappointed by what she called the atmosphere of hostility by some members of our community towards her views and by the low enrollments in her classes," wrote Dean Richard L. Revesz.
In response to a request for comment on the situation, Thio sent Inside Higher Ed her resignation letter to NYU. "As an Asian woman whose legal training has spanned the finest institutions in both East and West, I believe I would have something of value to offer your students. However, the conditions no longer exist to proceed with the visit, given the animus fueled by irresponsible misrepresentation/distortions and/or concerted invective from certain parties. Friends and colleagues have also expressed serious concerns about my safety and well-being."
As well they should. The anti-Proposition 8 intimidation shows that there are some groups that you cross only at substantial risk.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Virtues of Multiculturalism

The Virtues of Multiculturalism

It is an article of faith in some circles that all cultures are equally valid, because there are no absolutes. For this reason, America should welcome all cultures on an equal basis--and not try to "Americanize" immigrants. Oh no. Here's another reminder--not from Islam--of the fact that there are cultural differences that I don't want to feel "comfortable" in this country. (Liberals probably feel differently.) From the July 23, 2009 Associated Press:

Prosecutors filed sexual assault charges against four boys ages 9 to 14, officials said Thursday, alleging they brutally attacked an 8-year-old girl after luring her to a shed with chewing gum.

Police said the girl's parents criticized her after the violence, blaming her for bringing shame on the family. All five children are refugees from the West African nation of Liberia.

The boys held the girl down while they took turns assaulting her, police said.


Authorities said the victim was in the care of Child Protective Services after her parents blamed her for the rapes and bringing shame to the family.

“The father told the case worker and an officer in her presence that he didn't want her back. He said Take her, I don't want her,'” Hill said.

Hill cited the family's background as the reason the family shunned the girl.

In many parts of Africa, women often are blamed for being raped for “enticing” men or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Girls who are raped often are shunned by their families.

Call me narrow-minded.

Website For Those Who Believe That Everyone Is A Handyman

Website For Those Who Believe That Everyone Is A Handyman

This should fix that belief. The web site is "There, I Fixed It." Some of my favorite examples are the use of Legos as building repair materials; a use of keys to solve an outlet adapter problem; what would seem to be an attempt to see how many building codes a single hot water heater installation can violate; a marvelous substitute for a vehicle lift; the marvelous uses of plastic wrap and duct tape as a substitute for auto body work; and a fine example of how to make a hot tub without electricity.

My worst days at car and home repair seem positively genius by comparison.

Self-Contradictory News Articles

Self-Contradictory News Articles

From July 23, 2009 KATU channel 2 (Portland):
PORTLAND, Ore. - A string of shootings in the Portland area in just seven days has people and police on alert.


"Everybody's very concerned about gang violence right now, obviously,' said Det. Mary Wheat with the Portland Police Bureau. "And we're trying to look at everything and see how they are all connected."

Portland police do not think we are in the midst of a gang war or that these are retaliation shootings.

"This is something different and it's not like what we saw in the 80s, that's not it," said Wheat. "These are isolated events that are happening."

Followed immediately by:

With the hot days ahead for the weekend, detectives are coming up with their strategy now by meeting with gang outreach teams to develop a plan for stepped up patrols in trouble spots. [emphasis added]
Isolated events. Not gang-related. But meet with gang outreach teams. What?

Colonoscopy Humor (A Little Rude)

Colonoscopy Humor (A Little Rude)

There's a discussion of an impending colonoscopy by one of the Volokh Conspiracy bloggers which has this comment, discussing silly things said by patients while doped up:

A physician claimed that the following are actual comments made by his patients (predominately male) while he was performing their colonoscopies:

1. "Take it easy, Doc. You're boldly going where no man has gone before!"
2. "Find Amelia Earhart yet?"
3. "Can you hear me NOW?"
4. "Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"
5. "You know, in Arkansas, we're now legally married."
6. "Any sign of the trapped miners, Chief?"
7. "You put your left hand in, you take your left hand out..."
8. "Hey! Now I know how a Muppet feels!"
9. "If your hand doesn't fit, you must quit!"
10. "Hey Doc, let me know if you find my dignity."
11. "You used to be an executive at Enron, didn't you?"
12. "God, Now I know why I am not gay."

And the best one of them all...
13. "Could you write a note for my wife saying that my head is not up there?"
And here is Dave Barry's hilarious description of his colonoscopy, and why it's important.

New PajamasMedia Article Up

New PajamasMedia Article Up

"Can More Government Lead To Less Government?"
I have truly upset the doctrinaire libertarians with this one.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Carbon Dioxide For Fumigating Insects

Carbon Dioxide For Fumigating Insects

I was reading Cresson H. Kearny's Nuclear War Survival Skills this evening, and there's an interesting discussion of a method for protecting bulk grain and beans from "weevils, other insects, and rodents." Remember that you wouldn't want to use an insecticide on food, and it's really hard to get all the teeny, tiny little critters out of bulk grains or beans. So the method is astonishingly elegant.
Place about 4 ounces of dry ice on top of the grain in a 5-gallon metal container. Put the lid on somewhat loosely, so that air in the grain can be driven out of the can. (This will happen as the dry ice vaporizes and the heavy carbon dioxide gas sinks into the grain and displaces the air around the kernels.) After an hour or two, tighten the lid and seal it with tape. After one month, all insects in this carbon-dioxide atmosphere will have died from lack of oxygen.
We just finished setting off a couple of bug bombs in the crawlspace under the house, because we were getting too many wolf spiders here in our rooms--and I had a couple of nasty bites in my sleep last year from something that decided to crawl into bed with me.

The bug bombs work reasonably well--but setting up the bug bombs is a nuisance, since they almost never stay vertical (as they are supposed to) when I am putting in place through the rather limited access openings. I also prefer not to have more insecticide floating through my environment than necessary, especially because I'm concerned that we could be breeding an insecticide-resistant strain of superbug down there. But what about carbon dioxide?

It turns out that that both carbon dioxide and nitrogen atmospheres are used for fumigating food. It also appears that raising the partial pressure of oxygen to 10 atmospheres (so about 50 times normal air pressure) not only kills a number of bugs because of oxygen poisoning, but the enhanced pressure may increase carbon dioxide poisoning as well. (Interesting, but not practical in our crawlspace.) A 60% carbon dioxide atmosphere is more lethal to some bugs (the ones that are considered a problem in food) than a 100% carbon dioxide atmosphere. It also appears that raising the temperature accelerates the killing effects of all these fumigant approaches. I'm guessing that the increased temperature accelerates biochemical reactions that cause high concentrations of carbon dioxide to kill the insects.

Anyway: my thought is to figure out how many pounds of dry ice it would take to get a 20% carbon dioxide atmosphere in the crawlspace. Because carbon dioxide is much heavier than air (molecular weight is 44, compared to about 29 for air), it will leak out through the crawlspace vents, rather than rising. And with the warm temperatures that we have been having lately, a few pounds will go gaseous during one long day, and likely produce a continuous stream of insect death under the house. (I don't think that there would be hazards in the house above, but we'll have all the windows open, and let the continual winds up here keep the house itself fresh.)

Carbon dioxide's weight is 44 grams per mole (which is 22.4 liters at standard temperature and pressure). There's about 6000 cubic feet in the crawlspace, or about 170,000 liters, or 7589 moles. To completely fill that space would require 334 kg of carbon dioxide; to get a 20% atmosphere (assuming instant sublimation to gas) would require about 150 pounds of dry ice. This might be an interesting experiment, since dry ice isn't hideously expensive, and doesn't leave any nasty toxic residue after it has all drifted out from under the house. Unlike all other gases, your body recognizes a dangerous carbon dioxide concentration immediately, and lets you know about it.

This Isn't A Good Sign

This Isn't A Good Sign

Urban Survival Schools? In July 16, 2009 Slate:
OnPoint, started in 2004 by Kevin Reeve, a 52-year-old professional scout and tracker, is the only school in the country that teaches urban tactical skills. In the past nine months, demand for the course has surged. For the first time, Reeve approximates his annual revenue to top $200,000—a fair sum for a business whose overhead consists largely of renting out space in community centers for classes and buying enough Goody bobby pins to prop up the coifs at a beauty pageant. In years past, Reeve said he barely pulled in enough revenue to make a profit.
Driving the growth, in part, is a fear that resonates from the wealthiest consumers to blue-collar workers: that with the global financial crisis dragging on, life as we know it is undergoing a radical change. Looking forward, pundits say that at best we will no longer be able to subsist on the diet of credit we have so ravenously consumed for the last decade. At worst, our future looks like something out of a Mad Max movie.
What this has to do with breaking out of handcuffs or picking padlocks requires a rather Hobbesian leap. It assumes that if the government can no longer provide for or protect its citizens, there will be a complete upending of the societal order. It assumes that humans will act to the worst of their capacity. It assumes that if, in fact, the financial crisis is just a mile marker on the highway to hell, we could soon be facing a very different, very violent world. So, beyond the novelty element of being able to pull a Jack Bauer-like escape, there is a sense that these skills are a necessity as our society becomes ever more precarious.

Not a positive sign for where Americans think the future is going, if business is booming for this type of training.

A Shockingly Fair Article About Global Warming in the New York Times

A Shockingly Fair Article About Global Warming in the New York Times

This July 20, 2009 article admits that there are real scientists (not just those slaves to Exxon!) who believe that solar cycle changes play at least some part in the global warming that happened at the close of the 20th century (and which is now curiously disappearing):
Among some global warming skeptics, there is speculation that the Sun may be on the verge of falling into an extended slumber similar to the so-called Maunder Minimum, several sunspot-scarce decades during the 17th and 18th centuries that coincided with an extended chilly period.
Most solar physicists do not think anything that odd is going on with the Sun. With the recent burst of sunspots, “I don’t see we’re going into that,” Dr. Hathaway said last week.
Still, something like the Dalton Minimum — two solar cycles in the early 1800s that peaked at about an average of 50 sunspots — lies in the realm of the possible, Dr. Hathaway said. (The minimums are named after scientists who helped identify them: Edward W. Maunder and John Dalton.)
With better telescopes on the ground and a fleet of Sun-watching spacecraft, solar scientists know a lot more about the Sun than ever before. But they do not understand everything. Solar dynamo models, which seek to capture the dynamics of the magnetic field, cannot yet explain many basic questions, not even why the solar cycles average 11 years in length.
And they even interviewed Henrik Svensmark:
But the overlap of the Maunder Minimum with the Little Ice Age, when Europe experienced unusually cold weather, suggests that the solar cycle could have more subtle influences on climate.
One possibility proposed a decade ago by Henrik Svensmark and other scientists at the Danish National Space Center in Copenhagen looks to high-energy interstellar particles known as cosmic rays. When cosmic rays slam into the atmosphere, they break apart air molecules into ions and electrons, which causes water and sulfuric acid in the air to stick together in tiny droplets. These droplets are seeds that can grow into clouds, and clouds reflect sunlight, potentially lowering temperatures.
Of course, they interviewed a cosmic ray expert who disagrees--but even his disagreement admits that there might be some connection:
Terry Sloan, a cosmic ray expert at the University of Lancaster in England, said if the idea were true, one would expect the cloud-generation effect to be greatest in the polar regions where the Earth’s magnetic field tends to funnel cosmic rays.
“You’d expect clouds to be modulated in the same way,” Dr. Sloan said. “We can’t find any such behavior.”
Still, “I would think there could well be some effect,” he said, but he thought the effect was probably small. Dr. Sloan’s findings indicate that the cosmic rays could at most account for 20 percent of the warming of recent years.

Hmmm. Considering how poor the data is on global warming, it makes you wonder what's actually left if even 20% of the difference is solar cycle.

Clever Way to Center A Part In a 3-Jaw Chuck

Clever Way to Center A Part In a 3-Jaw Chuck

Without using a dial indicator (although this guy does it show how well it works).

I'm not sure that it is much faster than what I am doing now with the dial indicator, but if you were stranded on a desert island with a lathe and no dial indicator....

Slow Learner, I Guess

Slow Learner, I Guess

From The Smoking Gun:
FEBRUARY 10--A Fox News producer who covered Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign for the cable network is facing child porn charges after federal agents discovered photos and videos on his computer depicting "children under the age of ten being sexually abused by adult men and women." Aaron Bruns, 29, was apparently nabbed after a Pennsylvania state police investigator conducting "pro-active undercover investigations" on an unnamed peer-to-peer network determined that Bruns's computer contained llicit images. ... This is the second time Bruns has been arrested for possessing vile images. In July 1999, Bruns, then 19, pleaded guilty in Michigan (where he was enrolled in college) to distributing child pornography over the Internet. He was sentenced to three years probation.
Oh, one of those right-wingers, because he works for Fox News? No. As Accuracy in Media pointed out a couple of years ago:
It turns out, according to FEC records, that giving to liberals and Democrats has not just been occurring in the ranks of top executives....

Fox News employee Aaron Bruns, who contributes to the Brit Hume show, gave $362 to America Coming Together, the liberal get-out-the-vote operation, in 2004.
And here's the confirmation of Bruns' contributions.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Why Republican Whoring After Rich People Is A Mistake

Why Republican Whoring After Rich People Is A Mistake

It isn't just because it is bad politics; it is because rich people are the Democratic Party's natural constituency. This July 20, 2009 Wall Street Journal article reminds us which party represents the wealthy:
Friday, two freshmen representatives -- Dina Titus, from suburban Las Vegas, and Colorado's Jared Polis, representing Boulder, Vail and some of the tonier suburbs of Denver -- joined Republicans to vote against Mr. Obama's top-priority health-care overhaul when it faced a vote in their House Education and Labor Committee. One reason was a one-percentage point-surtax on couples earning between $350,000 and $500,000 -- gradually increasing to 5.4 percentage points on earnings more than $1 million -- to pay for it.


Election gains in some of these affluent regions have helped give Democrats big majorities in the House and Senate. Of the 25 richest districts, 14 are represented by Democrats, according to Congressional Quarterly. In 1995, Democrats represented just five of those districts.

Recently elected Democrats from higher-income areas also have been cautious about legislation that would make it easier for labor unions to organize, and about legislation imposing tough new rules on banks.
Republicans would be both financially responsible and engaged in smart politics if they took the position that while increasing marginal tax rates is a bad idea, especially in the current economic crisis, there's really no need to keep focusing on cutting the top marginal tax rates. The absurd maximum marginal tax rates of the 1970s certainly impaired economic growth. It's not clear that telling people who make $500,000 a year that they need a tax cut has that same pragmatic basis today. Cutting spending to cut deficits is the first step towards restoring fiscal sanity in Washington (assuming that can even be done).

Saturday, July 18, 2009

This Problem Is Everywhere

This Problem Is Everywhere

A reader just pointed me to this account by an EMT in Louisiana, about the tragedy of mentally ill people for whom there is nowhere to go:
There is nothing wrong with his body; no illness to treat, no wounds to bind. It's his mind that is broken, and there is nothing that I, or all the psychiatrists in the world, or anyone short of God himself can do to repair it.

And the futility of it makes me resent him terribly, makes me dread seeing his face. And the shame that he might see the resentment on mine burns me like a torch.

And so I say nothing, sitting silently beside him, and I bear witness to his despair.

"Why won't they take me?" he sobs plaintively, clutching desperately at my arm. "Call Zeke," he begs. "Zeke's my friend. He'll make them put me in. I can't survive out here."

How bleak must his life be, that he regards the parish coroner as his savior? People only interact with a coroner when a relative has died, or when someone thinks they're crazy. Neither is a happy occasion.

The truth is that he's not sick enough to be locked away. He doesn't hallucinate, doesn't hear voices urging him to do bad things. He doesn't contemplate killing himself. He calls for the same reason he did last week, and last month, and a dozen times before that. He is simply a man for whom living independently and wrestling his demons are two tasks he will never, ever be able to manage simultaneously.

And he knows it.

He is too honest to game the system, too naive to understand that's what it may take. Should I tell him what to say, how to act so that he'll get at least a few days in a place of comfort, where people may at least pretend to care about his welfare? I certainly know the litany well enough. I could teach him the magic words.

But then, how will I justify it to myself, knowing that he'll be taking up bed space needed by someone who is truly a danger to himself or others? In post-Katrina Louisiana, psych beds are all too precious a commodity. Mentally ill patients here move through a vicious cycle of hospitalization, medication, discharge, decompensation, hospitalization, medication, discharge...

... fragile people stuck in a meaningless revolving door of all too many psychotropic medications and all too little meaningful therapy, and altogether nonexistent followup care. They warehouse them and dope them with Haldol and Thorazine until their reimbursement capitates, and then suddenly declare that they've made significant progress and are ready to be released again into the world, with a prescription for medications everyone knows they can't afford and outpatient appointments with a psychiatrist everyone knows they won't be able to keep.
And it isn't just post-Katrina. It is the situation in most of the United States. And as I have discovered, in trying to find a publisher for my book about this problem--no one seems to care. It just isn't important.

Love That New Treadmill!

Love That New Treadmill!

The old one had a manual slope--meaning you had two choices, flat or a bit of a slope. The new one has it motorized. I decided to live dangerously, and pressed the "Classic Workouts" button. It took me for a half hour up and down slopes at a variety of speeds. When I was done, I was soaked in sweat on every inch of my body, and my sinuses were clearing, presumably from the increased blood flow through them. Wow!

Setting Minimum Standards For Health Insurance

Setting Minimum Standards For Health Insurance

One of the proposals that Congress is considering will not only require employers to insure employees (or pay a fine), but also to set minimum standards for health insurance--because there are, without question, some very minimal health insurance plans out there. And who can argue with that? But Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) in a column at PajamasMedia points out that there's something hiding in that reasonable sounding "minimum standards" idea:

Under the proposed legislation, virtually every individual will be required to have health care that meets the “minimum benefit standards” established by the administration. Without an explicit exclusion, abortion will be determined to be included in these benefit standards.

President Obama himself stated that “reproductive care is essential care, basic care.” And history has demonstrated that unless abortion is explicitly excluded, administrative agencies and the courts will mandate it.

We have seen this time and time again. The federal Medicaid statute was silent on abortion, but the administration and the courts deemed abortion-on-demand to be mandated coverage. Then in 1979, Congressman Henry Hyde asked the Indian Health Service where they found the authority to pay for abortions. They responded, “We would have no basis for refusing to pay for abortions.”

In both of these cases, explicit exclusions had to be added to ensure that taxpayers would not have to continue to pay for abortions. The issue here is clear — if abortion is not explicitly excluded, it is implicitly included. The stakes are high and the implications incredibly far-reaching.

Now, even if you don't have a moral problem with abortion, think about the cost. In 2005, there were 1.21 million abortions in the U.S. In 2001, the average cost of an abortion at 10 weeks was $468. Figure with inflation, this is at least $500 now--or at least $605 million a year--and for something that is, in most cases, a preventable expense, by using birth control. This is going to drive up health insurance premiums for existing employers.

What else will end up having to be covered to meet minimum standards? Sex reassignment surgery? Once you give the government authority to tell private insurers what must be covered, it is rather difficult to say, "Wait a minute, you've gone too far." That's one of the reasons why, as much as I think insurers should have provided mental health treatment, I could not support the mental health parity requirement imposed by Congress several years ago. It's difficult once you get started on something like this to stop with reasonable impositions.

Children With Access To Guns

Children With Access To Guns

I sometimes get asked, "What's wrong with laws requiring guns to be kept locked up when children are home alone?" I agree that it is looking for trouble to leave a gun somewhere that child can get access to it--but there are circumstances like this one below that the situation could have been far worse if this ten year old wasn't able to defend himself and his little sister. From July 17, 2009 WAFB channel 9:

PORT ALLEN, LA (WAFB) - A ten-year-old boy left home alone with his sister used his mother's gun to shoot an intruder in the face, police said.

Late Tuesday, West Baton Rouge Parish sheriff's deputies received a call to a Port Allen apartment complex after several shots rang out from inside one of the apartments. "You are out here trying to work and for someone to come and do that and invade your home is very hard," the children's mother said. She asked to not be identified.

Deputies say Dean Favron and Roderick Porter knocked several times on the apartment door. The two young children, a ten-year-old boy and eight-year-old girl, stood on the other side, terrified. "He told his sister to be quiet and seconds later, they started kicking on the door and finally kicked the door in," said Sheriff Mike Cazes. The two children ran to their mother's bedroom closet.

In a panic, the ten-year-old grabbed his mother's gun for protection. "He did what I told him to do. I never told him to get the gun, but thank God he did," she said. Once the two suspects opened the door, threatening the kids, deputies say the boy fired a bullet into the lip of Roderick Porter. The two men were taken to the hospital by a third suspect, who is a 15-year-old juvenile. Once they got to the hospital, they were later arrested. "It's just hard. I don't understand why they would do that. I know they have little brothers and sisters and they wouldn't want anyone to break into their house," said the mother.

Yes, such incidents are relatively rare--just like accidental shootings by kids are relatively rare. But they are common enough that the Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog has a label for it: minor defender--and we have 17 examples that we have collected.

Dial Calipers & Self-Centering Chucks

Dial Calipers & Self-Centering Chucks

I mentioned a few days ago that because I had bought a 4 jaw chuck (which doesn't self-center workpieces), I had been forced to put together something to hold a dial indicator in position, so that I could more precisely center the workpiece.

I also mentioned some months back
that squaring the ends of a cylinder on the lathe is a bit of challenge if you aren't pretty close to a right angle when the workpiece comes out of the chop saw. But even with the greatest care in setting the angle on the chop saw, it is still a bit of a struggle. You can get a cylinder square by trimming one end, then the other, each time getting a bit closer to truly square. But this is slow, and you end up wasting a lot of material that way, since it may take several times through to get acceptably square.

So I put my dial indicator assembly to work with the self-centering 3 jaw chuck that I normally use for squaring workpieces for ScopeRoller. This made it possible to center the workpiece within about .010" very quickly (with gentle little taps on the end until I reached that goal). After trimming both ends, I had .002" accuracy on squaring, and it greatly simplified centering holes.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Treadmills: The Final Chapter!

Treadmills: The Final Chapter!

Okay, Sears delivered the replacement walking belt. It was a major task, but I replaced it, and I had even reached the point where I had everything adjusted correctly so that the belt wasn't "walking" off to the side. And then the combination flywheel/driving wheel that turns the drive belt that turns the walking belt came off the motor shaft.

Okay, what happened here? My first thought was that it was a press fit on the shaft--but it didn't press back on. So I tapped it gently with a hammer. It didn't go on. Hmmm. Are those threads on the motor shaft? Indeed they were--and backward from the usual threads. So I rotated it back on to the shaft--and now the motor doesn't turn. And the 15 amp circuit breaker on the electronics pops, as though something is shorting out in the motor.

So I call a local repair operation. They tell me that it is possible that the motor failure might be something as simple as a brush having broken. (Yes, I suspect that trying to tap the flywheel/driving wheel back on the shaft might be the culprit.) If so, it would be a $65 service call and perhaps $40 to $50 to repair the motor. Or the armature might be broken--in which case, it's not so cheap.

Gee, this could be getting perilously close to the price of buying a new treadmill, and having a warranty--as opposed to a pretty ratty treadmill that might have something else break in a few weeks.

I've learned my lesson: trying to save money is a wonderful way to burn through time, and end up with junk. The five hours wasted this week on treadmill autopsy and repair I could have been spent writing unit tests that would have paid most of the cost of a new treadmill--with much less aggravation.

I have a theory, based on my childhood, and a few mistakes of my own, that used cars cause poverty (not the other way around). Often, poor people end up with old cars because they don't have the credit history or the down payment to buy a reasonably new car. Some cars are in such poor condition that they can, in a year, eat through as much in repairs as a new car would eat in payments--and without the excitement of being stranded at the side of the road, or doing repairs in a parking lot.

I have some unpleasant memories of helping my father repair a radiator leak in a parking lot in the dark, 30 miles from home. My father was a wonderful guy, and I learned a lot from him, but I would have preferred learning what I know about cars and repair from him in a more congenial environment!

Anyway, I sent the walking belt back to Sears, and went to Wal-Mart last night (in between lecturing about the history of apartheid and discussing nuclear terror in the 1950s in my wife's drama class) to get a new treadmill. The cheapest was a Weslo 250 (what's a Weslo?) that they wanted $286 for--and it had a one year warranty on the motor. The next step up was the Gold's Gym 450, for $386--with a five year warranty on the motor. It has a pulse monitor on the handle bars, up to a 10 degree slope, and whizbang electronics that lets you plug in how many calories to burn, and over what time, and it sets up the rest. (And a fan to blow air across your face. If only it would peel me grapes and pop them in my mouth, and massage my back at the same time--that would be perfect!)

One of my readers suggested something so viciously cynical that I suspect he is only slightly exaggerating. He claimed that the cheap consumer treadmills are designed around the idea that the average consumer will use the treadmill for 3 1/2 weeks, before exercise ceases to be interesting, and the treadmill is banished to the garage. This is the same reason that many gyms in the 1980s and 1990s had you sign a one year contract--knowing full well that a big fraction of those doing so would show up to use the gym for 4-6 weeks--and then come back only occasionally (if at all) thereafter. But they would be making those payments well past the point where they used the gym!

So I look at the warranty periods on the motors and it tells me that the makers have specified a warranty based on their experience with these motors. A one year warranty means that some clever statistician has figured out that the vast majority of these motors will last at least one year--but at two years, or three years, we might be seeing as much as 5-10% of these motors will be dead. The five year warranty probably means that the vast majority of these motors will survive at least five years (or the owner will have sold it, lost the warranty information, or the original receipt showing when he bought the treadmill, when the motor breaks). Spending an extra $100 looks like a good deal--and may also be an indication that the maker expects this treadmill to be used for more than a few weeks.

I could not get the enormous box off the shelf by myself. I went over to the sporting goods section, and asked the clerk there to help me. Now, I don't want to be insulting, but this was the most clean-cut, youngest, most buff Wal-Mart employee that I think I have ever seen. My first thought was, "This kid is fresh out of the Iraqi sandbox, still wearing a very military haircut." When I explained my problem he gave me this very serious look and said, "If you can't lift the treadmill, you aren't qualified to buy it." Then he came over and helped me load it up, and another Wal-Mart employee helped load it in my wife's TrailBlazer.

Unloading it this morning was a major undertaking for my wife and me. We had to walk the box back and forth to the front door, then slide it across the floor. Assembly was theoretically a two person job, but I managed to do all but one step by myself--and it seems like a pretty solid piece of machinery. Not quite at the level of the treadmills you find in gyms, but not terribly cheesy.

Anyway, everything is together. The enormous box it came in will be the "coffin" in which we take the myriad pieces of the old treadmill to the county dump tomorrow.

Not With a Bang But A Whimper (2008)

Not With a Bang But A Whimper (2008)

Theodore Dalrymple, Not With a Bang But a Whimper: The Politics and Culture of Decline (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2008), pp. xi + 252

I've mentioned a previous collection of Dalrymple's essays
that powerfully impressed me with its descriptions of the British underclass. This is the most recent of these collections: powerfully penetrating in explaining the disasters that have become dramatically worse as liberalism has become dominant in Britain, they also reveal a good and decent man doing a hopeless job: psychiatrist in a charity hospital and prison, in a society where intellectuals are intentionally destroying any hope that the poorest Britons will ever have of making something of their lives.

Many of these essays first appeared in City Journal, and I was fortunate to find this one, "A Murderess's Tale" online. I suspect that if you read it, you will be tempted to read more. And perhaps seek antidepressants. Make sure you cut Dalrymple's work with something encouraging and uplifting, or you are going to be miserable.

Anyway, I've mentioned before the statistical evidence that shows that child sexual abuse (CSA) survivors are disproportionately represented among homosexuals--as even some very PC books admit, and throw out implausible explanations rather than admit that messing with a child sexually when they are emotionally immature might cause sexual confusion later in life.

We also have examples of prominent homosexuals who acknowledge being CSA survivors, such as Elaine DeGeneres, and her former partner Anne Heche (now married to a man). And when you see that a prominent lesbian gets arrested for lewd acts of little girls? What's the first thought in your mind? Is she recreating the situation that she was in--but now she's in control?

Anyway, back to "A Murderess's Tale." Dalrymple tells us of a case in which he testified, a murder case:
Every murder raises deep and disturbing questions, philosophical, psychological, and sociological: none more so than one in which I recently gave testimony in court. The accused was a girl aged 18, who had stabbed her 16-year-old lesbian lover to death. There could be no doubt as to who had inflicted the fatal wounds: a tape from a closed-circuit camera in the entrance hall of the accused’s apartment building showed her following her lover out of the building with a long knife in each hand, raised ready to stab, as in a too-melodramatic rendition of Lady Macbeth.
Dalrymple tells us of the barbarism in which the 18 year old was raised (which, by his other writing, is apparently pretty common in Britain today):

One of the characteristics of relationships such as that between her mother and her stepfather is their all-consuming nature, at least for the woman. She can think of, and has time for, nothing else: she is the star, albeit the unhappy one, of her own mental soap opera. In this case, the mother noticed neither the stepfather’s habitual violence toward her children by her former lover nor the fact that her oldest son was having intercourse with her daughter while the boy was between the ages of 13 and 17, and his sister was between the ages of eight and 12.

Eventually, her daughter, now 14, plucked up the courage to tell her what had happened. Her mother said she didn’t believe her, flew into a rage, and threw her out of the house. She went to stay with a friend and then asked her mother whether she could return home. As a condition of doing so, her mother made her apologize to her brother and swear never to say anything like it again.

Her mother also failed to notice that, from the age of 12, her daughter had begun to drink heavily: or if she noticed it, she considered it a matter of no importance. Her daughter skipped school in order to drink; by the evening, she was often very drunk and soon got to the stage when she drank first thing in the morning to steady her shaking hands. She was also smoking marijuana. She said that she drank and smoked to obliterate the reality of her life, which was too awful to bear unaided.

Is there anyone that finds her substance abuse surprising? Is there anyone that finds it at all implausible that her sexual response would be seriously affected by this? When you put this together with the disproportionate problem of substance abuse in the gay community (both among men and women), why isn't anyone making a serious effort to study the connection?

Hey, maybe it is all a big, astonishing coincidence that CSA survivors have many characteristics disproportionately in common with homosexuals (such as substance abuse problems, difficulties in forming long term relationships, high suicide rates) and homosexuals are disproportionately CSA survivors. But I think everyone knows that the reason that this question doesn't get studied is because a lot of people know that there probably is a causal connection (at least for some homosexuals)--and the "I was born this way" argument would be demolished.

UPDATE: One reader takes issue with this because Dalrymple's work is about the underclass, and homosexuals are smarter and more capable than straight people. His evidence for this is a collection of marketing data compiled by someone named Tony Marco:

Any claims that gays as an entire class are seriously "oppressed" seem clearly bogus in light of emerging, highly accurate marketing studies done by gays themselves that show gays to be, to the contrary, enormously advantaged relative to the general population -- and astronomically advantaged when compared to truly disadvantaged minorities. A July 18, 1991, Wall Street Journal article, entitled "Overcoming a Deep-Rooted Reluctance, More Firms Advertise to Gay Community", reported the following findings by the Simmons Market Research Bureau and the U.S. Census Bureau; cf. also The Marketer, "The Gay Nineties," September 1990; Quest magazine, a Denver gay tabloid ("Invisibility = Stagnation"), February, 1992; and Overlooked Opinions studies, cite to follow:

  • Gays have an average annual household income of $55,430, versus a general population income of $32,144. Mean income of disadvantaged African-American households is only $12,166 (Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1990).
  • Factoring in comparative household sizes, gays average annual individual income is reported as $36,800, compared with $12,287 for average Americans and a mere $3,041 for disadvantaged African Americans. This means gay individual income is more than 300% greater than average Americans' -- and an enormous 1,200% greater than disadvantaged African Americans' (The Marketer, op. cit.).
  • More than three times as many gays as average Americans are college graduates (59.6% vs. 18.0%; gays average 15.7 years' education vs. 12.7 for average Americans) -- dwarfing achievements of truly disadvantaged African-Americans and Hispanics. More than three times as many gays as average Americans hold professional or managerial positions (49.0% vs. 15.9%) -- making gays embarrassingly more advantaged than true minorities in the job market.
  • 65.8% of gays are overseas travelers -- more than four times the percentage (14.0%) of average Americans -- and more than 13 times as many gays as average Americans (26.5% vs. 1.9%) are frequent flyers.
I remember when gay marketing companies first started putting out these claims, the "gays are victims of oppression" crowd insisted (and probably with some truth) that these weren't typical homosexuals, and these companies trying to sell their marketing services were engaged in some sort of fraud in portraying homosexuals as America's new overclass. I think that there's some truth to this.

The bigger problem, however, is that there a lot of "men who have sex with men" out there who usually deny that they are homosexual, and who homosexuals (like the gay supremacist who gave me that link) deny are homosexuals. Yes, that's right! Men who have sex with men are really heterosexuals! And yet that same gay supremacist admitted that these heterosexual men who have sex with men are generally poor, poorly educated, and criminal. Hmmm. It's amazing what fun you can have making your definitions fit your desires.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Most Curious Name

A Most Curious Name

This came across my desk, and I found myself wondering: "Why would you give your child a name like this?" He turns out to be the good guy on this, but I shudder to think of the ribbing he got in school:

Suspected burglar shot

It wasn't the Gallic wars. But it was as devastating for a suspected burglar who ran into a real life Julius Caesar at a local motorcycle dealership early this morning and fell with critical injuries from a shotgun blast.

Original reportFrom the LR Police Department:


Officers responded to a burglar alarm at BMW Motorcycles of Little Rock and made contact with an employee, Julius Ceasaer, who advised he was sleeping in the business when he heard a loud noise. He then observed a dark colored Dodge pick up backing into the business. Ceasaer advised that he grabbed his shotgun and approached the front door and observed a black male looking around at some of the motorcycles that were on display. When the suspect observed Ceasaer, he ran out of the business. The suspect vehicle then fled the area. Ceasaer observed the suspect crouching down outside the business at the point of entry. Ceasaer advised that he feared the suspect may have had a weapon so he fired shots at him. Patterson was wounded in the upper body and face and he attempted to flee the area, but was apprehended shortly thereafter. He was transported to UAMS where his injuries are life threatening. No charges at this time and detectives are working to identify the other two suspects.

Suerrier Truss Again

Suerrier Truss Again

I can't find a formula that exactly does the job, but I can use a worst case scenario to solve my problem, I think.

Unlike the current design for Big Bertha 2.0, where the load is about 1/4 of the way up the channel that is the primary support, here the deflection on the tubes that position the upper optical cage is just its weight on the end of the round tubes. For a single round tube, the worst loading will be gravity pulling the upper optical cage when the telescope is horizontal. (This is a position that it isn't in very often.)

There are a total of six tubes in a typical Suerrier truss, but I'll do the math here for a single tube holding the force. The reason is that this is by far the worst case--so whatever I come up with for an answer will be more than adequate.

The deflection for a beam supported at one end with a force at the other end is computed by the formula:


where D = deflection
F = force
L = length
E = Young's modulus for the beam
I = moment of inertia for the beam

The moment of inertia (or second moment of area) for a tube is calculated by the formula:

I = pi/4 * (RO ^4 - RI^ 4)

where RO = outside radius of the tube and RI = inside radius of the tube

For the 1" OD, .050" wall aluminum tubes that Moonlite Telescope Accessories sells, I = 1.12 x 10-7.

For aluminum, E is approximately 70 gigapascals. For my application, I need 62 inch long tubes, so that I can use the existing bolt holes for the square tubes that I am currently using. (If I went a bit shorter, it would reduce deflection very slightly, but put a bunch of unsightly holes in the lower cage.)

I'm assuming that the entire ten pound load of the upper cage (including possibly having a camera in the eyepiece focuser) is carried on one tube. Converting everything to metric, this gives us a length of 1.57 meters, a force of 4.55 kg, and a worst case deflection with the telescope horizontal of .00075 meters, or about .03" inches. In practice, with six tubes carrying the load, and the upper cage providing additional stiffness, I suspect that I will get down into the thousandths of an inch of deflection.

Here's where it gets a little more tricky. While each tube by itself only weighs 0.41 kg (because they are hollow), six of them gets the weight up to 2.46 kg, or a bit under five and a half pounds. My goal was to knock at least ten pounds off the weight of the scope, by removing the square tubes, the turnbuckles, the guy wires, and most of the aluminum channel that provides both the mounting base for the telescope, and the bottom stiffness member. That aluminum channel right now weighs 10.22 pounds; cutting most of it away, so that it only connects the lower cage to the saddle for the mount, knocks off 6.25 pounds. Losing the turnbuckles and guy wires probably gets me another pound. Losing the two square aluminum tubes gets me another 0.44 pounds--so perhaps this would gain me about two pounds--hardly worth the effort.

A couple of possibilities:

1. Skeletonize the aluminum channel to reduce weight, since even it flexes slightly, that doesn't matter much--the upper and lower cages will be rigid relative to each other, and that's what matters.

2. Find some way to reduce the number of tubes, since it looks like one is barely sufficiently.

3. Use carbon fiber composite tubes. These are about three times as stiff, and even at the same size, about 1/2 the weight. There are commercial sources for carbon fiber composite tubes of these dimensions, and instead of five pounds, we're talking 2.5 pounds. Or look for some way to use even smaller carbon fiber composite tubes instead to get the same stiffness as aluminum, and get the weight down to perhaps 1.5 pounds. (And the price of carbon fiber composite tubes is such that going smaller both saves money, and increases the number of suppliers.) Unfortunately, as you shrink the diameter of the tubes, the stiffness declines rapidly, so you can't really go below 0.75" outside diameter--and that takes away much of the weight savings.

The temptation is to look at ways to replace that aluminum channel completely--and this might be a place where using carbon fiber composite could be most cost effective--if I could find an off the shelf carbon fiber composite channel of the right dimensions.

UPDATE: Here's a supplier of carbon fiber composite tubes that are small enough that they would probably give me the right stiffness, and would only weigh .24 pounds for all six. My concern is that the deflection for one tube would .1". If the load was evenly distributed, that would be .016" deflection--just barely acceptable. And they have carbon fiber channel--at a typical hefty price.

UPDATE 2: Yet another possibility is to remove the aluminum channel completely, and replace it with a a cradle that supports the lower cage where it needs to be supported--but is otherwise flat. The reasons for the channel were:

1. Stiffness.

2. To prevent the lower cage from rocking back and forth.

If the Suerrier truss provides all the stiffness, I can start with a flat piece of aluminum, and add some supports where the lower cage will be. (If I had a big vertical mill, I would start with a 1/2" thick piece of aluminum, and mill away everything else!)

I also notice that DragonPlate is quoting 138 gigapascals for the Young's modulus for their carbon fiber. I've had to adjust my calculations accordingly.

UPDATE 3: I took a nap this evening--hence, I'm full of energy late into the evening. If I dispense with the aluminum channel completely, I could use a 4" wide, 1/4" thick, 24" long piece of aluminum to tie the lower cage to the mounting plate. This would give me a half pound where I currently have more than ten pounds, and a maximum deflection of about .02"--in a place where that's a completely acceptable deflection, since it is outside the optical axis of the scope.

In combination with the other proposed changes above, using aluminum tubes, I could get it down by about six pounds. If I can find 1", .050" wall carbon fiber tubes at least 62" long, I can get the weight down by eleven pounds--so the whole telescope assembly would probably weigh about 45-47 pounds--light enough that the current mount should be sufficient. Of course, the price of the 1" carbon fiber tubes is horrifying. Finding them long enough is also a problem, but these splices let you epoxy shorter pieces together, and keeping the stiffness of the individual pieces.

Someone Has Been Watching The Terminator Movies Too Much

Someone Has Been Watching The Terminator Movies Too Much

Like really disturbing science fiction. From July 15, 2009 FoxNews:

A Maryland company under contract to the Pentagon is working on a steam-powered robot that would fuel itself by gobbling up whatever organic material it can find — grass, wood, old furniture, even dead bodies.

Robotic Technology Inc.'s Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot — that's right, "EATR" — "can find, ingest, and extract energy from biomass in the environment (and other organically-based energy sources), as well as use conventional and alternative fuels (such as gasoline, heavy fuel, kerosene, diesel, propane, coal, cooking oil, and solar) when suitable," reads the company's Web site.

That "biomass" and "other organically-based energy sources" wouldn't necessarily be limited to plant material — animal and human corpses contain plenty of energy, and they'd be plentiful in a war zone.

What? This isn't a product of Cyberdyne Industries?

Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder: A Common Cause?

Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder: A Common Cause?

I don't normally take too seriously anything that appears in the Independent (one of the lower quality left-wing newspapers in Britain), but they are quoting from recent scientific research that doesn't surprise me in the least:

Scientists have discovered a remarkable similarity between the genetic faults behind both schizophrenia and manic depression in a breakthrough that is expected to open the way to new treatments for two of the most common mental illnesses, affecting millions of people.

Previously doctors had assumed that the two conditions were quite separate. But new research shows for the first time that both have a common genetic basis that leads people to develop one or other of the two illnesses.

Three different international studies investigated the genetic basis of schizophrenia by pooling their analysis of about 15,000 patients and nearly 50,000 healthy subjects to find that thousands of tiny genetic mutations – known as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) – are operating in raising the risk of developing the illness.

Each mutation on its own increased the risk of developing schizophrenia by about 0.2 per cent but collectively they were found to account for at least a third of the total risk of developing schizophrenia. The condition is known to have a strong inherited component, accounting for about 80 per cent of the total risk, but it is also influenced by upbringing and environment.

However, one of the most surprising findings to emerge from the three studies was that the same array of genetic variations in SNPs was also linked with bipolar disorder, a discovery that is at odds with the orthodoxy in psychiatry stating that the two conditions are clinically distinct, the scientists said. The findings are a milestone in the understanding of both schizophrenia and manic depression – also known as bipolar disorder – which could eventually lead to new ways of either preventing or treating conditions that cause untold human misery and cost the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds each year.

"If some of the same genetic risks underlie schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, perhaps these disorders originate from some common vulnerability in brain development," said Thomas Insel, director of the US National Institute for Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland, which part-funded the studies. "Of course the big question then is how some people develop schizophrenia and others develop bipolar disorder."

I don't find this surprising because both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder run in my family, causing a lot of suffering and grief to those affected and their family members. In addition, some of those suffering from the extreme mania of bipolar disorder experience hallucinations that is called schizoaffective bipolar disorder. Finding a common cause may make it easier to find cures (as opposed to symptom treatment medicines) for both.

Boy, There's a Lot of Smoke

Boy, There's a Lot of Smoke

Where's there's smoke, there's fire, the saying goes. Well, sometimes there is just smoke. So what should I make of this Ghanian newspaper account of President Obama's visit? From the July 9, 2009 Modern Ghana:
For Ghana, Obama's visit will be a celebration of another milestone in African history as it hosts the first-ever African-American President on this presidential visit to the continent of his birth. [emphasis added]
I had no idea that Hawai'i was in Africa!

And the U.S. Army Reserve major who challenged his orders to Afghanistan on the grounds that Obama wasn't born here, and therefore, isn't lawfully president? According to the always somewhat questionable July 14, 2009 WorldNetDaily;

A U.S. Army Reserve major from Florida scheduled to report for deployment to Afghanistan within days has had his military orders revoked after arguing he should not be required to serve under a president who has not proven his eligibility for office.

His attorney, Orly Taitz, confirmed to WND the military has rescinded his impending deployment orders.

It's Such a Good Idea: Congress Should Go First

It's Such a Good Idea: Congress Should Go First

Rep. John Fleming, M.D. (R-LA)
thinks that the proposed government health plan is such a good idea--that Congress should be part of it!
As a physician, I am amazed at the number of bureaucrats in this House who are quick to claim a government-run health care plan is the reform this country needs. In response to this, I have offered a resolution that will offer members of Congress an opportunity to put their money where their mouth is, and urge their colleagues who vote for legislation creating a government-run health care plan to lead by example and enroll themselves in the same public plan.
I remember reading that back in the 1980s, one of the signs of the hypocrisy of British MPs was how many of them paid for private medical care, rather than use the National Health Service. Ditto, with Presidents Clinton and Obama enrolling their kids in private school in the District of Criminals, rather than send their kids into what is certainly the least effective public school system in America (and perhaps in history).

What A Shocker! Environmentalist Looking Out For Green!

What A Shocker! Environmentalist Looking Out For Green!

The color of money, in this case. From the July 15, 2009 Washington Times:

Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Colorado inserted a provision into the recently passed House climate change bill that would drum up business for "green" banks, such as the one he has invested in and his family and a political donor helped found in San Francisco.

The bill calls on bank regulators to promote green banking and says federal dollars should be used to support energy-efficient home improvements at government-funded housing projects.

Mr. Perlmutter, a two-term Democrat, has two investments in the 3-year-old New Resource Bank, which calls itself the nation's first green bank. Among other environmentally conscious banking products, the bank offers home equity loans for consumers to make their homes more energy efficient, in addition to construction loans for green builders.

A Perlmutter spokeswoman stressed that the bill provisions benefit any bank that offers qualifying products.

Of course, being the first bank in that sector wouldn't give it an unfair advantage or new banks set up to take advantage of the Perlmutter provision, wouldn't it?

When the Framers wrote our Constitution, one of the rather impressive innovations was to pay members of Congress a salary--something that Parliament did not have for several decades. This meant that you didn't need to be a wealthy man to be part of the political process. In practice, most members of Congress today have to be rich to get elected. But you would think, being wealthy, they wouldn't feel the need to engage in this sort of questionable behavior.

A Rather Important Difference

A Rather Important Difference

I'm rather surprised to see this July 14, 2009 CNN report so openly discussing this very un-PC issue:
African immigrants to the United States say cartoonish caricatures and a Western media penchant for reporting on Africa's disease, hunger and war -- rather than the continent's successes -- trivialize their cultures. They complain they have trouble dispelling the stereotypes once they arrive in the States.
They concede, though, the myths run both ways and some say they were surprised to find their values more often aligned with those of white Americans than African-Americans.
N'daw emigrated from Dakar, Senegal, in 2001. She works in a hair-braiding salon and has met African-Americans who share her values of hard work and family, but in most cases, "we are raised differently, taught different values and held up to a different moral code."
If the Western media are doing Africans no favors, then the African media are also a disservice to African-Americans because it portrays them as criminals, some immigrants say.
Sandi Litia, 19, a Piney Woods graduate from Limulunga, Zambia, said she was initially scared of African-Americans because the African media show them "wearing clothes like gangsters and killing each other."
Nkosi concurred that African media "made it seem as if they were these aggressive people that did nothing constructive with their lives except occupy prison space."
Of course, much of the American media present American blacks in that same way. Another African student expresses his surprise at the racism he found here:
In Athens, Ezeamuzie found his ideals at odds with those who shared his skin color at Clarke Central High School, his first stint in a public school.
On his first day, he donned khakis, a button-down dress shirt and nice leather shoes. He caught the African-Americans' attention upon stepping into the cafeteria, he said.
"They give me the look," he said. "Why is this guy dressed like the white folks, like the preppy guys?"
Ezeamuzie didn't understand why so few black students were in his advanced-placement classes. He didn't understand the de facto lunchroom segregation or the accusing glances he got for eating with white classmates. One classmate called him a traitor and asked, "Do you not like black people?"
"My whole life I had reaped benefits from being in different circles and bridging them," so he wanted to fit in, he said.
And here's a statement that if a white person said, it would be a sign of racism:
Ezeamuzie and other Africans say they feel African-Americans too often dwell on slavery and the racism that has persisted for more than a century since the Emancipation Proclamation.
"We have all been tortured," said iReporter Vera Ezimora, 24, a Nigerian student living in Baltimore, Maryland. "Now that we are free, holding on to the sins of white men who have long died and gone to meet their maker is more torture than anything we have suffered."