Wednesday, June 30, 2010

McDonald v. Chicago Wasn't The Only Case Sent Back For Retrial

Snowflakes in Hell noticed that the nunchaku possession case from New York was ordered retried in light of the McDonald decision.  Now, I don't much care about nunchakus, but they are certainly "arms," within the meaning of the Second Amendment.  Yes, I wouldn't want criminals carrying them around--but I don't see any strong case for why banning nunchakus makes any great sense for the law-abiding.  A co-worker in California mentioned to me one that her husband often carried them when out running, to defend himself from dogs--and she was shocked to find out that possessing them (even in your home) there was a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail or prison.  There's an exemption for martial arts studios, but for the average person?  It's more serious than carrying a gun without a permit.

Need GM Mechanic Recommendation in Portland Area

My son's Pontiac has an electrical problem--probably the turn signal stalk shorting out some of the exterior lights.  The Pontiac dealer can do it, I know, but the dealers up there are extremely expensive.  If you can recommend an honest independent car mechanic in the Portland area, please let me know by email or in the comments.

Monday, June 28, 2010

McDonald v. Chicago

I had hoped to comment in more detail on the decision this evening, but I have a Peruvian astronomy store that needs a rush order filled--and it may lead to a lot more orders, if this satisfies the customers for the Stellarvue TSL6. Things that pay have to take precedence over things that are important.

There is a strong chance that I will be on KION AM 1460, Salinas, tomorrow at 9:15 AM to discuss the McDonald decision.

Victory! And Justice Alito Cited One Of My Law Reviews

The Supreme Court has handed down its decision, McDonald v. Chicago (2010).  As expected, the Court ruled that the Second Amendment is incorporated through the "due process" clause of the Fourteenth Amendment against state and local governments, because the Second Amendment is a fundamental human right.  Justice Thomas's concurrence argues that "privileges or immunities" is the more correct approach.

I am glad to see the law review paper by myself, Nicholas Johnson, and George Mocsary, "'This Right is Not Allowed by Governments That Are Afraid of The People': The Public Meaning of the Second Amendment When the Fourteenth Amendment was Ratified" cited by Justice Alito, in several places--and there are primary sources cited elsewhere in Alito's opinion that I am quite sure come out of that same law review.

I was amused to see even Justice Breyer's dissent citing my book Concealed Weapon Laws of the Early Republic.

Those of you who live in California, New York, Massachusetts, and some of the other gun-hostile states owe me one!  You can expect to see the most outrageous of the gun control laws in those states under fierce attack.  Once something is elevated to the status of a fundamental human right, it is not enough for the legislature to say, "We think this law is a good idea," or "We think this law will save lives."  Fundamental human right implies that at least intermediate scrutiny, and more likely, strict scrutiny, will be applied to such laws.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Hint About Open Carry In Cities

Either be dressed like you are going to or from a hunting trip, or be dressed well enough that someone wouldn't mistake you for a ne'er-do-well.  Someone I know was in an Albertson's supermarket in Nampa the other night about 10:45 PM, and a guy walked in dressed rather shabbily--but with a large holstered handgun.   The manager of the store approached him and told him to leave, which he did.

I know that some people really think that everyone else should just "get over it" and not react negatively to openly displayed guns.  Yes, just like people need to just "get over it" when they react poorly to guys French kissing in public, or people urinating in public on the sidewalk.  Think about the consequences of what you do--and ask yourself if you are doing more good or harm.

There are situations where it may make perfect sense to carry openly in a city.  Perhaps you didn't have the foresight to get a concealed handgun permit, and you have good reason to believe that you are at risk.  Perhaps you are between 18 and 21, and can't get a concealed handgun permit.  Perhaps you live in one of those benighted states that (for a few months longer) either don't issue permits, or make it so hard to get a permit that they are effectively not available.  But if so, dress in a manner such that no one is going to wonder if you are a meth freak suffering a paranoia outbreak.  You might still be asked to leave the store--but there is at least a chance that you will leave a more positive impression of gun owners than if you look like you are about to clear out the entire pseudoephedrine HCl section of the store.

What Chicago Fears When McDonald v. Chicago Comes Down (Another Unsellable Article)

Why does Chicago city government continue to defend its handgun freeze law? What are they afraid is going to happen if they allow law-abiding adults in Chicago to own a handgun? They are terrified of headlines like this: “54 shot in latest violence; 1-year-old girl is youngest victim.” Unfortunately, that’s not what might be the headlines if Chicago has to dismantle its handgun ban; that’s what the headlines are now—even with the handgun freeze in effect.

For the last forty years or so, gun control has been at the forefront of efforts by big city politicians to deal with violent crime—even though it is at best, utterly ineffective, and likely contributes to the code of silence in many ghetto neighborhoods. The law-abiding population is reluctant to testify against gang members for fear of retribution. I am sure that a few of these cowed witnesses might, if they could legally buy a handgun and get a concealed weapon permit, have the courage to testify in open court. But let’s not kid ourselves; if gang members are intent on taking revenge, they are going to kill you, or your children, or your grandchildren. Making guns available to the decent people in ghettos is only going to make a marginal difference with this problem.

No, the real problem is the one that urban politicians refuse to confront: the victimology of ghetto subculture. They refuse to confront it because for all the blame that urban politicians want to put on “the Man,” racism, and capitalism, the biggest problem in most ghettos today is the values of the population. For at least a generation, black students who have done well in school have been accused of “acting white.” This problem hasn’t gone away. What are your job prospects if you have done your best to not do well in school?

This victimology shows up in myriad ways. My son is in college at the moment. In his English composition class, the instructor—an African-American woman—told them that AIDS was invented by the U.S. government to kill off black people. (I guess killing off homosexuals, prostitutes, and hemophiliacs was just a fringe benefit.) Steve Cokely, an aide to Chicago’s mayor some years back, claimed that Jewish doctors were injecting AIDS into black babies. Anything, rather than admit that one of the scourges of the black community was the result of poor lifestyle choices in the black community.

A few years back, I watched a documentary about Watts in which various “community activists” claimed that the handguns that are such a large part of Los Angeles’ violence problem were dropped by police helicopters so that blacks would kill each other. These activists were so intent on portraying all black people as victims that they simply refused to consider the most plausible explanation: there were criminals in their midst who were intentionally going out and buying or stealing guns to use for murder.

Once Chicago’s handgun freeze goes away, the city will pass various registration and licensing measures to discourage handgun ownership—much like Washington, D.C. has done in the aftermath of D.C. v. Heller (2008). Eventually, after enough money has been wasted in court, Chicago will allow its law-abiding citizens to own handguns again. I’m not expecting a dramatic change in the level of violence.

Chicago, however, will be forced to admit that guns are only a symptom—and that they need to start confronting the cultural forces that make parts of the city into war zones. Will urban officials have the courage to admit that the biggest problem that the black ghetto faces today isn’t Klansmen, or institutionalized racism, but a subculture that refuses to look itself in the mirror?

What An Astonishing Collection of Readers I Have!

I don't have a lot of readers, but I'm always impressed how smart they are--and how diverse they are in their knowledge. I mentioned a few weeks ago that there was something about listening to the Carpenters that still astonishes me. What makes her voice so amazing? My wife says it was because she was an alto, and there aren't many altos in popular music--and it was an extraordinarily rich alto voice at that. One of my readers sent this more technical explanation to me:

Dear Clayton:

Like you, I've always loved the Carpenters. I'm a professional, classically trained singer, and perhaps I can provide some insight into Karen's voice and their success.

At a time when most popular music was exclusively in the strophic form (verse, chorus, verse, chorus, break, chorus, finis) and consisted of primarily three chords with an occasional minor 6th throw in, the Carpenters were virtually symphonic music by comparison. Their music is longer (rather than 2.5 minute radio play blandness) far more harmonically and melodically complex than most pop music, even today. What was also unusual about them is that they were actual, sight reading, musicians. Most popular musicians, even today, are musically illiterate. While most have good "ears" (they can sing on pitch and/or improvise well), they have little or no formal music training and cannot read and write music. Harmony, in their music, tends to be rudimentary, formulaic and two dimensional. In Karen and Richard, complete musicality was present, not only sharp technical ability, but virtuoso improvisational ability.

The Carpenters were real musicians and they actually rehearsed and demanded perfection at a time when most pop musicians were happy with "good enough." In the studio, they were known as "one hit wonders," for their ability to get a track just right with only one run through. Of course, a large part of this was their own innate talent and ability backed by intensive rehearsal before they ever walked into a studio. They were also known for always striving for excellence in live performance and for demanding the same from their accompanying musicians.

And Karen's voice! What beauty was lost to the world there. She had a resonant, warm and fluid alto combined with perfect pitch. Her vowels were always round and full, and her consonants present and precise, but not overpowering. Because of their musicianship, Richard, and the rest of their band, could transpose any piece to any key necessary to put the music in Karen's tessitura, the heart of her range where her voice was most warm and expressive. Much of pop music, particularly back then, was in sharp keys such as E, A, D or G in deference to the guitar, which sounds most pleasing, and is easiest for musically illiterate guitarists to play, in sharp keys. The guitar is one of the easiest instruments to learn to play (particularly self-taught as most guitarists continue to be), but one of the most difficult to play well. As a result, most guitarists were and are musically illiterate, and knowing a limited number of chords, can play effectively in sharp keys only. The piano, and most other instruments, however, are most comfortable in flat keys. But beyond these technical issues, Karen obviously believed in each song, understood the emotional depth of each piece and of the possibility of infusing beauty into each moment, each note. She was an example of the kind of musicality and beauty that are seldom found in human beings.

Her legacy still provides beauty even now, and I often find myself listening to her and remembering those days of youth, of passion and struggle, and I weep for a world diminished by her absence.


Mike McDaniel

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Square Hole Drill

Yes, there is such a thing--it's not a prank you play on apprentice machinists. "Mike, could you go retrieve the square hole drill?" It turns out that a combination of a triangular cutter turning on an offset will actually cut a square. There's a demonstration here of how this works--apparently a practical application of pure math. This company sells a variant that produces a variety of polygonal shapes using this approach.

I have a request for a new ScopeRoller variant that requires me to cut a rectangular blind hole in acetal--and the more direct approach (using a small diameter end mill to square a round hole) doesn't produce a particularly attractive finish. I'm still mulling over some other way to accomplish the same ends.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Greetings From Horseshoe Bend

It's finally beginning to feel like spring--almost summer!  From the rear deck.

click to enlarge

Rhonda thinks this is a grosbeak pair, dining at the bird feeders we built a few weeks ago.

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Friday, June 18, 2010

They've Got The Eco-Redneck Niche Taken Care Of

The Consumerist reports on a business giving away guns if you buy a solar power system. 

It really isn't as weird as it sounds.  I'm afraid that solar power still only makes sense in most of the country as a method of getting off-grid.  For survivalists, and those who think there is a real danger of complete social collapse, these work together real well.

I confess: the complete social collapse theory is looking more plausible today than it has in a very long time.  Unfortunately, our soil here isn't well suited to growing food, and I'm afraid social collapse would likely turn my wife and I vegetarian.  I'm not sure how long either of us would eat meat if we had to kill and slaughter Bambi's mother on a regular basis.

Finally! Clear Skies!

We had clear skies last night, so I rolled out Big Bertha.  I need to work on rebalancing the telescope and mount.  A German equatorial mount relies on a very nearly perfect balance so that a relatively small motor can make it track across the sky--and if you aren't properly balanced, you either have to clamp down the clutch locks, or it doesn't track well.

Nonetheless, I was able to get the optical system reasonably well collimated.  Still, I think the structure is still not quite stiff enough, and collimated in one position meant that it wasn't so well collimated in another position.  Unfortunately, stiffer would mean heavier, and it is already pushing the upper limits of the CI-700 mount.  This expensive beast is about what it needs to properly support it.

Short (f/4.5) focal ratio mirrors tend to not do so well at high power compared to longer focal length mirrors, and it does show.  There wasn't much point in going up above 160x on the Moon (although some of this was the burbling of the atmosphere).  Still, the resolution is pretty amazing, even at 160x.  (Telescope resolution improves inversely with diameter of the objective, so a 17.5" telescope at the same magnification will show at least twice the detail of an optically comparable 8" telescope.)

Saturn was a bit disappointing--and at least partly because of the collimation issues.  Where Big Bertha really shines is on faint, deep sky objects, where magnification is far less important than the amount of light it gathers.  I could not quite get the telescope pointed at M51, partly because of the odd angle required from my ladder.  The Ring Nebula, however, was quite satisfying.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Jon Stewart on Obama's Resemblance to Frodo

Perhaps it's because I was so nauseated by the hypocrisy of the Democrats pretending to be so much more moral than Bush, but I find this Daily Show segment hilarious.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Respect My Authoritah
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

A lot of the things that Obama is doing--and Jon Stewart is upset about--actually make sense, in a realpolitik sort of way. But I'm sick of the liberal hypocrisy in attacking Bush for actions that have turned out to be necessary--and some of what Bush did is actually pretty mild by comparison, as Stewart points out.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Preparing For Classes Again

State & Local Government class starts Saturday. This is something of an interesting experience, since the last time I taught this class I came in part-way through the term as a replacement. This time I have 23 students signed.

Intrinsically, this isn't an exciting class, and teaching it in a 3 1/2 hour format one day a week aggravates that. But understanding how your government works (and why it sometimes doesn't work) is like knowing how to keep your car running: you darn well better understand it, or the consequences will be at least expensive, and at worst, lethal.

Gone Too Soon

I purchased a collection of The Carpenters greatest hits a couple of nights ago, and I've been listening to it on my way back and forth to work.  For those of you who are under 40, you may not have heard enough of their work to realize what a truly amazing voice Karen Carpenter had, before her death at 32 from complications of anorexia nervosa, the eating disorder.

Now, you may find the style of production a bit too lush for modern tastes. Doubtless, the songs The Carpenters did seem hopelessly romantic and innocent in an age both when seem to be gone forever.  (I confess: I was the sort of guy that could be reduced to tears listening to songs of romance--and I still can be.)  But listen to that voice!  And please, someone explain to me what makes her voice stand out so astonishingly!  There are many really excellent female singers--but there's something about that voice that grabs hold of me in a way that no other voice does.

UPDATE: And this song I had never heard until yesterday--and my, the video is more weird than I thought The Carpenters would ever do.

Storms, Planets, Satellites

We had a pretty impressive storm pass through last night.  While it blew out any hopes of doing any serious astrophotography, it was very atmospheric.  Here's a picture of one of the enormous clouds that was making north Boise County and south Valley County very exciting for a while.

Click to enlarge

During a break in the clouds, we did manage to snap a picture of the Moon and Venus--but you can see from the motion that I didn't have the camera on anything motorized to track it.  This was a six second exposure.

It would not have tolerate any larger of a size.

And here's a picture that I took the night before just as the Moon was hitting the horizon.  You can see some Earthshine on it.

Click to enlarge

Here's a picture I took at prime focus through Big Bertha--but I didn't have my battery charged up to operate the clock drive, so there's no detail on the crescent.

Click to enlarge

I'm hoping to do better if the storms ever stop!

Gee, Do You Think?

A reader sent a tip to The Armed Citizen concerning a news story that did not explicitly call this self-defense--but you read the story, and tell me what you think.  From the June 15, 2010 Virginian-Pilot:

Police are investigating a triple shooting that left two men dead and wounded a teenager.

The shooting occurred late Monday night in the 400 block of Chapel St., according to Cpl. Paula Scheck, a spokeswoman for Hampton police. Investigators have learned that a resident of the home and two acquaintances were sitting inside a detached garage about 10:30 p.m. when three men wearing masks walked up with handguns.

Gunfire erupted and two of the masked men were shot. One of them suffered several gunshot wounds and was pronounced dead inside the garage, police said this morning. The other was pronounced dead about 12:30 a.m. at a hospital.
Three men wearing masks approach me carrying handguns, and my first assumption is not: "Fellas, did you get bum directions to the Lone Ranger Lookalike Competition?  And where's Tonto?"

Monday, June 14, 2010

Not So Clear Skies

I shouldn't have said anything about it.  A storm blew in, producing some lovely rainbows, but rolling out a telescope in between bursts of rain would be pretty silly.  Note the double rainbow.

Click to enlarge

Corvette Check Engine Light

This blog posting is for the benefit of other Corvette owners who may be reading this in the future, and search for the phrase "Check Engine Light."  This dreaded light came on Friday afternoon on my way home--and the engine definitely felt a bit short of breath.  I've noticed this shortness of breath a couple of times in the last few weeks, but it was never very long.

Anyway, when I reached home, I searched for information on this, and several references indicated that the MAF (Mass Air Flow) sensors can cause this problem if the air filter is clogged or otherwise is preventing the engine from getting enough oxygen.  Since we live on a dirt road, I pulled the filter out--and the filter wasn't just dirty--several ounces of dirt fell out when I opened it up.

I bought a replacement filter on Saturday afternoon--but the Check Engine light stayed on.  Monday morning, on my way to All Things Automotive in Meridian, after about a mile and a half of driving--the light went out.  And guess what?  The engine now runs much more smoothly and feels like it wants to go zoom.  I suspect that it takes a while for the sensors to reset all the appropriate inputs.

Clear Skies

We've had about four clear nights since winter began, and yesterday was perfect!  Warm and clear all day, and in the evening, we had a couple day old New Moon on the western horizon, so I dragged Big Bertha 2.0 out of the garage.  The Moon was too low to get a decent picture, but it was still pretty amazing to look at, and Venus was in the gibbous phase--one of the proofs that Galileo's telescope showed that both Earth and Venus circle the Sun.  Tonight the Moon will be a little more illuminated, and a little higher in the sky.  I'm beginning to feel like an amateur astronomer again.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Stock Markets Usually Fall When Wars Start

I expect that we are going to see some real stock buying opportunities, frightfully soon.  From the June 12, 2010 Times of London:

Saudi Arabia has conducted tests to stand down its air defences to enable Israeli jets to make a bombing raid on Iran’s nuclear facilities, The Times can reveal.

In the week that the UN Security Council imposed a new round of sanctions on Tehran, defence sources in the Gulf say that Riyadh has agreed to allow Israel to use a narrow corridor of its airspace in the north of the country to shorten the distance for a bombing run on Iran.

To ensure the Israeli bombers pass unmolested, Riyadh has carried out tests to make certain its own jets are not scrambled and missile defence systems not activated. Once the Israelis are through, the kingdom’s air defences will return to full alert.

Theoretically, Israel and Saudi Arabia are enemies.  But the Saudis know Iran is the real threat, and operate accordingly.

I'm Glad That I Made These Expensive

Generally, the caster assemblies that I make for telescopes are in one of three categories: round ones that go inside the tripod leg, round ones that lock onto the outside of the tripod leg, and square ones that go inside the tripod leg.  One of the weird exceptions are the casters for the Vixen HAL-110 and HAL-130 tripods

These tripods have such oddly shaped legs that none of those strategies seemed to make sense, so I decided to make a replacement for the "foot" that would replace it.  The "feet" on these tripods are held in by four M4 screws, so I machine an insert that replaces the foot and its insert--and the standard screws go into holes that I tap in the insert.  It looks a bit odd once installed, but it works well.

The most annoying part of making this rather complex part has been my continuing learning experience with the vertical mill.  Previous postings have discussed the problem of not using the right type of end mill, and trying to work around insufficient capacity in the standard mill vise that comes with the Sherline vertical mill.

Today was one of those days where I put quite a few hours into getting a set made up for a customer--and I'm glad that I charge a bit of a premium for these, because of it.  Past difficulties have made me very wary of trying to use the Sherline mill vise for this--but today I managed to make everything work.  Today's lessons learned:

1. There is a socket head 10-32 screw that does the clamping on the Sherline mill vise.  As the socket head wears out, it gets harder and harder to really lock down the workpiece.  Fortunately, I keep a spare or two lying around.  It's time to replenish my spare collection.

2. I now use the roughing end mill for all operations on this part.  Yes, this one is only 3/8" diameter, so it takes two passes to cut the 0.50" slot through the insert that I make.  But it does not catch the workpiece and throw it, as happens with some of the two and four flute end mills.

3. I noticed that some people make what are called vise stops for the Sherline mill vise.  A vise stop is something that attaches to the mill vise and provides a place for a workpiece to stop (as you might guess from the name).  The advantage of this is that if you are making a number of pieces that are identical, you can get away with using an edge finder only on the first piece, which is located against the vise stop.  Then, your handwheels are correctly zeroed for all subsequent workpieces that go up against the vise stop. 

I haven't made a vise stop--but because all of these workpieces start out as a rectangular solid, and I machine them within a few thousandths of inch of each other, I can use the edge of the mill vise as a rudimentary mill stop.  I can rub my finger along the transition between the workpiece and the mill vise and feel a discrepancy of .005" pretty effectively.  For these parts, that's quite sufficient accuracy.

4. One of the slowest parts of machining is cutting away excess material.  These workpieces needed to be machined down to blocks that are 3.42" x 2.62" x 0.75".  I asked Interstate Plastics to cut me a piece that was 2 5/8" wide by 3/4" by 11".  The 2 5/8" actually came out about 2.68", so there was only about .060" to remove--and just squaring that dimension was .020" of the cutting.  The sheet they cut this from was actually 0.752", and was close enough that it was a waste of time trying to improve on that.

The first piece that I cut from the 11" long stock was 3.50"--and while .080" doesn't sound like much, trust me, my fly cutter really doesn't like taking off more than .010" at a time--maybe .020" if I move the fly cutter slowly across the end.  The closer to you get to the desired length, the better.  After I had trimmed that first one down to 3.42", I used it on the chop saw to set the length for the next two workpieces.  Both came out at about 3.45".  The act of squaring the ends took off most of the .030" that needed to go away.  In machining, time is money, and material that you throw away in the trash can is time and money wasted.

5. I have been making the 0.5" slot through the middle of this piece by using the bandsaw to make two 1 1/2" long cuts, then using a .4375" drill bill on the drill press to knock out holes between the cuts.  This means that I am only having to clean up the slot--not cut it from scratch, which is very slow.  The bandsaw, unfortunately, doesn't really cut acetal all that well, because it is so much harder than wood.  As a result, unless I go very slowly, the blade starts to bend to the side.  I have concluded that it is simpler and faster to just skip the bandsaw part of the operation.  I can use the .4375" drill bit to make several holes in a row, and the results are just about the same.

It's Becoming Like A Frightening, Implausible Novel

When Prayers for the Assassin came out, I described it as a very enjoyable novel--but a bit of a stretch.  Within a couple of years, the idea of the Islamic States of America was becoming less and less ridiculous.  Now we see this absolutely unbelievable speech by Prince Charles, reported in the June 10, 2010 Daily Mail:

Prince Charles yesterday urged the world to follow Islamic 'spiritual principles' in order to protect the environment.

In an hour-long speech, the heir to the throne argued that man's destruction of the world was contrary to the scriptures of all religions - but particularly those of Islam.

He said the current 'division' between man and nature had been caused not just by industrialisation, but also by our attitude to the environment - which goes against the grain of 'sacred traditions'.
Just think: one of these days, his mother will either die or retire and he will become King Charles III. One of the titles that he will inherit is "Defender of the Faith," a title granted to King Henry VIII for his intellectual defense of Catholicism against Martin Luther's heresies. (Try not to laugh about this, considering what subsequently happened with Henry VIII and the Catholic Church.)

The notion that Islam is somehow better than Christianity concerning "no separation between man and nature" is truly an astonishing claim. Well yes, most Muslims live much closer to nature, largely because Islam's rules about interest and tendency towards fatalism has prevented them from developing much in the way of technology of their own. (And that's really quite bizarre--Islam was ahead of the West in the sciences from the Fall of Rome until the Renaissance.)

Gun Control: A Very Powerful But Tiny Group

Over at Arms and the Law, Dave Hardy points to an interesting discovery by Joe Huffman: The Brady Campaign for Gun Control has apparently been reduced to selling their membership lists.  Significantly, it's tiny:


So, they have about 50K total "donors/members" on their list. If I'm reading the data correctly only about 28K have donated in the last 12 months.
Of course, it's an important 50K members. I am guessing that it is rich in television journalists, tenured faculty, and other members of the self-imagined intellectual elites.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Corvette Tips

There are two Torx fasteners that hold the front latches of the glass top to the frame of the car.  One of them was loose--and I could not see how to get access to it.  There was insufficient clearance for any Torx tool that I could imagine to fit in there.

The trick is to remove the little pad by pressing it out from the top.

Then rotate the handle until the hole that the pad covers is lined up with the Torx that you otherwise can't reach.

Careful as you remove the pad.  There are three little plastic prongs that hold it in place, and I think I broke one when popping it out.  (And I'm sure it's a $50 part from Chevrolet.)  It still stays in place, however.

Onblur, Onclick Event Sequence

This is a highly technical discussion; if you came here for politics, you might want to skip this one.

I've got a JSP where one field (let's call it "agent") calls a Javascript function when the onblur event happens; when you click the Save button in the same JSP, the onclick event calls a different Javascript function. 

The problem is that the function invoked by onblur has to take place before the function invoked by onclick.  If you move the mouse from the agent field to the Save button--and you wait a second or two--the browser correctly identifies that the agent field no longer has focus, the onblur event happens, and then the onclick event happens.  If you TAB or ENTER your way out of the agent field, onblur happens, and hitting the Save button then raises the onclick event.  But if you move the mouse from the agent field to the Save button and click it fairly quickly, onclick event happens before onblur.

Is there some way to prevent onclick from happening until after onblur has taken effect?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Minor Nuisance

In the rear luggage compartment of the C5 Corvette there are a number of storage spaces, some large, some small.  The large one is where the CD changer goes, and the smaller ones provide places to put tools, the owner's manual, etc.

All of these compartments use the same fastener to latch them shut, made by a company called Southco.  The latches consist of a threaded plastic screw with a soft rubber washer that goes through a hole.  Closing the latch compresses the rubber washer, causing it to become too large to fit through the hole.  It's elegantly simple, and has the additional virtue of producing a tight fit--nothing rattles as you drive...energetically.

Unfortunately, they don't last forever.  I have had first one, now the other, fail.  All that has really failed is the little soft rubber washer, which has torn, so when you compress it, it flies out, and gets stuck in the hole.  Chevrolet will sell you a replacement latch--for $39.44.  This is a bit expensive, considering that the only part that is actually bad is the soft rubber washer.  I need to find a local source for these soft rubber washers--but I'm not quite sure what vendor would have something like this.  It's small--about 3/8" diameter with about about a 1/8" diameter home through it, and about 1/4" thick.

I'll probably hunt up a source for these washers--and buy enough to replace all of them, if need be--but as I look at it, I find myself wondering if there isn't something better than I can cobble up.  You see, the latches are held into the various panels only by a friction fit--and after they have popped out a few times, that friction fit gets less and less friction.  I'm tempted to come up with something that actually uses a couple of small screws to hold top and bottom together, with the bottom and top pieces somewhat larger than the hole into which the current latch fits.  The design of the current latch is clever--but I find myself wondering if there might be some other mechanism that when you close the latch, expands outward to fill the hole.

UPDATE: Any suggestions on where I might find what are essentially fat, soft rubber washers (the Dilbert of washers, so to speak) would be more than welcome.

More Uh Oh

From Australian Broadcasting Corporation--a three minute discussion of the current economic crisis.

No, It's Not The World's Smallest Political Organization

National Black Republican Association (NBRA) is on Facebook.  There was a time when "black Republican" was redundant; what other party would a black person be in but the party of Abraham Lincoln?

Raw Language in the Caption Impairs An Otherwise Perfect Poster

There's something worse than being attacked by soldiers on horseback.  And this is it.  It's not only the soldiers that are dangerous--so are their mounts.  And the old saying about the right to arm bears fits, too.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

ScopeRoller: I Can Fantasize About Doing This Full-Time

I received three orders today, and a query about what to order from Australia.  Fortunately, two of the orders that arrived today were for the same model, so I am doing a mass production run (well, as mass production as ScopeRoller gets).

I fantasize sometimes about getting to the point where I get a dozen orders a day, at which point I would buy a CNC mill and lathe, set up the workpiece every few minutes, and let the computer do all the thinking. 

How Do I Hate Struts? Let Me Count The Ways

The more I use Struts, the more I learn to hate it.  Today I was trying to figure out why a particular Java class was throwing a null pointer exception when it executed a particular method.  Had I broken something?  No.  Struts ActionForward scheme is a method for a Java method running on the server to tell the browser what JSP should be loaded next.  In a warped way, it's rather like the evil goto statement--but between two programs running on two computers that don't even have to be on the same planet.  (And yes, I'm serious.  JPL updates software on their space probes via ftp, so if you were really, really warped, you could run a server on a space probe circling Uranus, and have it respond to web requests here on Earth.)

It turns out that the ActionForward scheme looks up where to go next in an XML file--and it is, of course, case sensitive.  And if the code has the wrong case (as was this code written years ago by someone who is no longer present), instead of some sort of useful exception that might give you a clue as to problem, something like UnrecognizedActionNameException, it just throws NullPointerException.

Java, I like. Struts, I detest.

Another Rejection On My Next Book

The publisher that seemed interested decided it was too much of a trade book for them.  (They aren't interested in publishing books that might sell tens of thousands of copies.)  Alas, there seem not be any trade publishers anymore, unless you already have a national television or radio show, or a regularly published newspaper column.

Monday, June 7, 2010

What Next? Satellites?

I'm really impressed with how vigorously law enforcement here pursues underage drinking.  From the June 7, 2010 Idaho Statesman:

Boise police coordinated a multi law enforcement agency “kegger patrol” Saturday night where officers broke up about half a dozen parties in the desert and gave out 67 tickets for consumption of alcohol by minors.

Boise police have been coordinating the multi-agency “kegger patrol” for graduation weekend for the past three years but this was the first time they were able to use the Civil Air Patrol to help out, Officer Jermain Galloway said Monday.

Uh Oh

A prediction from economist Arthur Laffer in the June 7, 2010 Wall Street Journal:

On or about Jan. 1, 2011, federal, state and local tax rates are scheduled to rise quite sharply. President George W. Bush's tax cuts expire on that date, meaning that the highest federal personal income tax rate will go 39.6% from 35%, the highest federal dividend tax rate pops up to 39.6% from 15%, the capital gains tax rate to 20% from 15%, and the estate tax rate to 55% from zero. Lots and lots of other changes will also occur as a result of the sunset provision in the Bush tax cuts.

Tax rates have been and will be raised on income earned from off-shore investments. Payroll taxes are already scheduled to rise in 2013 and the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) will be digging deeper and deeper into middle-income taxpayers. And there's always the celebrated tax increase on Cadillac health care plans. State and local tax rates are also going up in 2011 as they did in 2010. Tax rate increases next year are everywhere.


Also, the prospect of rising prices, higher interest rates and more regulations next year will further entice demand and supply to be shifted from 2011 into 2010. In my view, this shift of income and demand is a major reason that the economy in 2010 has appeared as strong as it has. When we pass the tax boundary of Jan. 1, 2011, my best guess is that the train goes off the tracks and we get our worst nightmare of a severe "double dip" recession.
 I guess this isn't the time to be buying stocks, is it?  Or houses, or anything except maybe canned food, ammo, and guns.  On the plus side, if adults take over Congress in the November elections (Republicans certainly will, but adult Republicans is more uncertain), they will have an unprecedented opportunity to hold Obama's feet to the fire.

The Christian Politician

When I saw that a rather prominent politician decided that “separation of church and state” thing was old-fashioned, well, I’m not surprised. She said that government policy must be in keeping with the values of Jesus Christ. Who? Sarah Palin? No, Speaker of the House Nanci Pelosi (D-CA).

Look, there are aspects of liberal thought that do, potentially, line up with the Bible. I can disagree with Pelosi about the details of the Health Care Reform Bill—but if someone argues that a Christian commonwealth has an obligation to its most needy, I will agree. This isn’t a new idea; it goes back for centuries in English law. The Church from the very beginning played a major role in caring for the sick, the needy, and the hopeless. Jesus commanded Christians as individuals to help the poor, and it is not much of a stretch to see that in governments where Christians are a strong majority that the government might take on that role as well. (Whether it is the most efficient provider is another question, of course. And of course, exactly how far the government’s obligation goes is another complex question where decent people can disagree about the details.)

Liberals who want the government to do Christian service are on very strong ground when they make that argument. But where they are not on strong ground is when they say, as Pelosi has, that the government policy must be keeping with the values of Jesus—and then completely and utterly rejects those values when it is inconvenient. From the very beginning, the Christian church utterly rejected abortion and infanticide, “classifying both as murder.” English common law was more forgiving—but Pelosi claims to be following Jesus, remember? Pelosi has been a consistent vote not just for abortion, but for partial-birth abortion—a procedure so horrifying in its brutality that even many pro-choice sorts get a bit green around the gills when they read court decisions such as Gonzales v. Carhart (2007) that discuss exactly what this procedure entails:

Another doctor, for example, squeezes the skull after it has been pierced .so that enough brain tissue exudes to allow the head to pass through… Still other physicians reach into the cervix with their forceps and crush the fetus’ skull. ... Others continue to pull the fetus out of the woman until it disarticulates at the neck, in effect decapitating it. These doctors then grasp the head with forceps, crush it, and remove it.

Ah yes, those are definitely the values of Jesus Christ that Nancy Pelosi is voting for!

And it isn’t just abortion. It’s gay marriage—where Nancy Pelosi hailed the California Supreme Court’s short-lived legalization of marriage between homosexuals. Even when I was young, homosexuality was so generally abhorrent that the notion of homosexual marriage was incomprehensible; homosexual sex between consenting adults in private was still a criminal offense in every American state as late as 1960—and even in California, until 1975. Why? Because there was no serious dispute that homosexuality (along with adultery, and bestiality) was contrary to the laws of God—and for that reason, unlawful.

If Nancy Pelosi is serious about public policy having to be in line with the values of Jesus Christ, great, let’s go for it. Like her, I support efforts to alleviate suffering of the poor. Like her, I believe that the government has some obligation to provide at least some basic level of assistance to those in need. But I am going to insist that if she wants to play the “following Jesus” card on passing of laws, then she needs to be consistent and serious about this—and that means telling her constituents that abortion, except to prevent death of the mother, is wrong, and should be a crime. Ditto for homosexuality. She’s not going to do that—and she knows full well that this picking and choosing from Jesus’ teachings is exactly that—cherry picking, not following Jesus. It is profoundly dishonest.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Do You Have a Cassette Deck Somewhere?

I need a cassette deck of the sort that plugs into a stereo receiver.  I foolishly let mine (and the rest of the 1970s era stereo system) go a few years back--and I have a bunch of cassettes that I would like to convert to CD.  Some of them are not commercial releases--so I can't go out and just buy a CD version.  If you have one lying around that you haven't disposed of yet, I would be quite happy to pay shipping, as long as it has RCA phono jack connectors, which indicates that it was intended to plug into a stereo receiver.  (I can buy them for $10 - $20 locally--so it doesn't make sense to buy one of the USB versions.)

UPDATE: I found a perfectly functional tape deck for $17.50.  It's still a bit overwhelming to the microphone input.  (No line input on this notebook.)  I'll try the line input on my wife's computer instead.

UPDATE 2: Yes, plugged into the line input port on my wife's PC this works beautifully.  Back when The Eagles Greatest Hits came out on vinyl (yes, I'm dating myself), I recorded the album to a cassette tape.  Yes, each transfer--from vinyl to cassette, and now from cassette to digital--has some data loss and noise added.  Would I consider this acceptable sitting in my living room?  Maybe not.  But if I'm blasting Hotel California in the Corvette with the top off at 60 mph--I won't be able to tell.  And I have some stuff that is of interest to my family that is on cassette that needs to be digitized for posterity.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Good News Is That I Expect My Property Taxes To Drop

The bad news is that the County Assessor just just reassessed my house downward--way downward--to being only worth $174,000.  I'm glad that I don't have to sell this place anytime soon.

Helen Thomas Tells Jews To Go Back To Poland

From the June 5, 2010 New York Daily News:

The grande dame of the Washington press corps put her foot in her mouth with an answer at the White House last week, suggesting Jews should "get the hell out of Palestine" and "go back home to Poland, Germany, America and everywhere else."

The jaw-dropping words from the 89-year-old Hearst Newspapers columnist hit the Internet on YouTube Friday and sparked a firestorm of controversy.
And it worked out so well for Jews in Poland and Germany, didn't it?  Of course, Helen Thomas is a flaming liberal in a profession of flaming liberals--as she has made clear repeatedly for decades.  What amazes me is how Jews in the United States continue to overwhelmingly back an ideology that is just two steps back from actively promoting a second Holocaust.

Kamikaze Mice

I've been wondering why so many field mice keep ending up inside the house where our cat Tater Tot chases them down, kills them--and occasionally dismembers them.  Can't they smell our cat?  Last night, as the rain was pouring down, we opened the front door--and a gray blur went flying over the threshold. 

It took a second or two for the blur to slow down enough to see that it was a field mouse.  We spent the next twenty minutes trying to catch it behind the bookshelf (mostly in the English literature section--good taste), while Tater Tot provided at best, supervisory functions, for what should be his forte--mousing.

I guess a house--even with a cat in it--must look pretty inviting compared to a pouring rainstorm.

International Relations Meets Reality Television

Alan K. Henderson proposes a strategy for solving the Gaza problem:
Volokh conspirator David Bernstien has an idea - let Turkey have it. Unfortunately his plan has two fatal flaws. The first is HAMAS' voluntary abdication. Those guys wouldn't let go of power under any circumstances, not even if Janet Reno were to surround them with tanks. The other is that Turkey is cast as the only alternative for Gaza's new ruler. Why just Turkey?

I say we take a cue from Hollywoodland and have a televised contest - have nations compete for ownership of Gaza. To qualify for entry, nations should meet certain standards for entry, including but not limited to: representative democracy, independent judiciary, trial by jury, a certain degree of speech, press and religious freedoms, strong property rights, government reasonably secure against insurgency, government more solvent than that of Greece, government does not harbor terrorists, government supports Israel's right to exist.

Arizona Immigration Law not Historically Unusual

That's the title of my piece at PajamasMedia yesterday.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Cool Windows Automation Tool

I'm using MyEclipse for Java development, and one thing that I dearly miss about Emacs is keyboard macros.  I'm doing some operations that require some highly repetitive actions--and having to retype the same stuff all the time is driving me crazy.

I found a free tool called AutoHotkeys that while not quite as elegant as the Emacs keyboard macros, works with any Windows application, and lets you do some pretty neat stuff when you have certain keystrokes, mouse actions, etc. that need to be run repeatedly.  You invoke them with the Windows key and other keys that you pick.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Students for Concealed Carry on Campus is Busy

My fellow blogger on the The Armed Citizen has this press release on PR Newswire.

Isn't This What Moms Are For?

At least, for those who don't have fathers around.  From the June 2, 2010 Southeast Missourian:

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (AP) -- A Cape Girardeau mother with a gun is being credited with stopping the attempted rape of her daughter.

The Southeast Missourian reports that 51-year-old Craig Kizer faces a variety of charges, including attempted rape, armed criminal action and burglary. He has no known address and did not have an attorney.

Police say Kizer had been working on the family's home as part of a renovation project, but was not staying there. The teen was in bed around 5:30 a.m. Sunday when Kizer came into her room with a knife and climbed on top of her.

When he set the knife down on the bed, the teen grabbed it and screamed.

The girl's mother came into the room with a gun, pointed it at the suspect and ordered him out of the house.
I don't think I would have been as nice.