Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Stone Age Exemption

Federal law largely exempts pre-1898 firearms from regulation, on the grounds that these are antique weapons, and not terribly useful to a criminal.  This is a bit of an overstatement, but you have to draw a line somewhere between modern weapons and antique weapons. 

In the course of my research into knives and the Second Amendment, I found a discussion in David Wong's Knife Laws of the Fifty States of Mich. Comp. Laws sec. 750.222a, which defines a "double-edged, nonfolding stabbing instrument" but does not include "a knife, tool, implement, arrowhead, or artifact manufactured from stone by means of conchoidal fracturing."

Good Thing That Discrimination Is Still Lawful, Isn't It?

The January 31, 2012 Los Angeles Times reports that a Tennessee legislator who has taken a rather active position against homosexuality was refused service in a Knoxville restaurant because of his public stance on this.  I am a firm believer in the right of a business to refuse service to a customer, even if their reasons are stupid, irrational, or bigoted.  The sky won't fall because Sen. Campfield couldn't get a meal at the Bistro at the Bijou.

One Of Those Headlines...

That makes you not want to buy stocks or bonds--just gold bullion.  From the January 30, 2012 Washington Post:
Iran, perceiving threat from West, willing to attack on U.S. soil, U.S. intelligence report finds
No rational nation would plan to attack the United States, unless they could be 100% sure that it could not be tracked back to them.  Even President Obama would likely go to war against Iran under those conditions.

Good News About Parolees

This came from the January 29, 2012 Idaho Falls Post Register:
Statewide, there are about 15,100 offenders under supervision, said Nancy Espeseth, District 7 Probation and Parole manager.
Idaho's rate of parolees who commit new crimes is 38 percent, not including the parole violations that offenders may rack up while under supervision, Espeseth said.
First-time probationers have a lower rate, with a 6 percent chance of reoffending, she said.
Although some offenders struggle with successfully completing probation and parole requirements, "it can, and it is done," Espeseth said.
"The people that come through those doors are broken people," she said. "They have numerous problems - drug addiction, marital problems, employment problems, financial problems - and the chances of them violating probation is a reality and it's there."
What this means is that 62% of offenders on parole do not end up committing a new crime while they are being supervised.  That's an encouraging sign, and the article goes on to talk about the various programs that Idaho uses to try and fix these "broken people."  

And by the way, one of the reasons that I am far less confident that legalizing all drugs is going to be the wonderful solution that many want to believe is this comment from one of the parolees, and which I know reflects the situation for most felons:

Perotto, 37, was placed on probation for eight years following a 2007 kidnapping conviction that also sent him to jail for a year. He said he never would have committed the crime if he hadn't been addicted to methamphetamine.
While Perotto admits his addiction led him to a life of crime, he also fears trying to live his life without drugs.
One of the reasons that just about modern societies have tried to find ways to regulate or prohibit various intoxicants is because many people--usually a minority of users--can't seem to use intoxicants without it turning into a crime against others.  That alcohol is legal while most of the other intoxicants are illegal isn't because alcohol isn't a similar problem, but because alcohol has become so hopelessly intertwined with our culture that it seems impossible to root it out.  The prospect of other intoxicants also become this integral to our culture (as marijuana is rapidly doing) is discouraging.

Compressed Air Car

I don't think I believe this.  Watts Up With That? reports that Tata Motors of India is about to start production of a car that uses compressed air to run the four cylinder engine.
According to the designers, it costs less than 50 rupees per 100 KM, that’s about a tenth the cost of a car running on gas. It’s mileage is about double that of the most advanced electric car, a factor which makes it a perfect choice for city motorists. The car has a top speed of 105 KM per hour or 60 mph and would have a range of around 300 km or 185 miles between refuels. Refilling the car will take place at adapted gas stations with special air compressors. A fill up will only take two to three minutes and costs approximately 100 rupees and the car will be ready to go another 300 kilometers.
Best of all: the "exhaust" is clean, subfreezing air, so that provides your air conditioning system.  (No heater, but I was not aware that an Indian car maker would worry about that.)

Color me skeptical.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Today's Machine Shop Learning Experience

I normally use a stubby .3125" twist drill to create a 3/8"-16 tapped hole in the end of a piece of acetal.  This hole is used to (among other actions) hold it in position so that the chop saw can cut a 30 degree slice off the end.  (It fits into a 60 degree angle tripod leg for the Losmandy G11.)

I could not find the stubby .3125" twist drill, so I went to my drill box, and pulled out the full length drill that is in the .3125" index hole, and assumed that because it fit there, it was the right size.  So I used that to drill the hole, then tapped the hole.

The lesson: the 3/8"-16 bolt that I used to hold these workpieces in place on the lathe would not hold very tightly.  It was not flopping about in there, but it also wasn't tight, either.  It was tight enough to hold the workpiece in place while trimming the outer diameter to size, but it did not feel right. 

The consequence of this was that when I put the workpiece on the jig that holds it in position for the chop saw to make the 30 degree cut, it was a little loose--but it did not feel like it was going to go anywhere.  Oh my, was I wrong!  The blade hit the workpiece, and it proceeded to spin the workpiece off the 3/8"-16 bolt with an impressive velocity.  When it hit the far wall of the garage, it made a rather impressive thunk!  I do not know how fast it was going, but the accuracy with which it hit the target was startling, and for the same reason that rifling in a gun barrel makes the bullet accurate: gyroscopic stabilization!

At this point, I concluded that something was terribly wrong.  Had my son done something wrong when tapping the holes?  Or was that .3125" twist drill not what I thought it was?  My son had done everything right; the twist drill was actually more like .3145".  A .020" difference does not sound like much, but it is the difference between a tight thread and one so loose that workpieces become inverse rifled projectiles.

At this point, I should have stopped, and redrilled and tapped these holes for the next size up, such as 1/2"-13.  Instead, because I was in a hurry (always a mistake in the machine shop), I decided to use a different fixture to hold the workpieces in place while doing the 30 degree slice.  Of course, this fixture is for a different purpose, and was not quite as steady.  But it looked like 30 degrees.

So now I compounded the error by drilling and tapping the bottom of the 30 degree cut, and trying to assemble the final product.  And the holes are in the wrong places!  Instead of analyzing the failure, I move on to a second set of miscut parts, and just move the holes.  Now I can assembly everything--but when I put them into a tripod, I discover that they are more like 35 degree cuts, not 30 degree cuts.  It looks bad, it won't work for the customer, and I have now wasted $22 worth of materials and about three hours of labor.

1. If you change tooling for any reason, verify that the new tooling is dimensionally identical.  Do not trust an index hole in a drill box.

2. If any part of your process produces unexpected results, do not keep moving forward with the output.  It may indicate a serious defect.  Moving forward just wastes time and material.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

U.S. Military Issued Combat and Survival Knives

I am pretty sure that the U.S. military either issues combat knives to all infantry, or at least to some special operations units.  But I would like some sort of official evidence of this.  Can someone find it?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Speaker Moonstate

Remember when Gov. (the first around) Jerry Brown became known as Gov. Moonbeam?  I think Speaker Gingrich is about to become Speaker Moonstate:

Gingrich promised that “By the end of my second term, we will have the first permanent base on the moon and it will be American.”
Gingrich, the former House speaker, told an overflowing crowd gathered on Florida’s space coast Wednesday that he wants to develop a robust commercial space industry in line with the airline boom of the 1930s. He also wants to expand exploration of Mars.
Gingrich is so confident in his vision in a lunar base that he said if the colony had 13,000 permanent American residents it should be considered for statehood.
Space travel is cool.  A permanent Moon base would also be cool.  I remember some years ago seeing a U.S. flag with a spiral galaxy replacing the fifty stars, and I liked it!  (The U.S. Senate chamber is going to need some serious enlarging to seat two senators from each of one hundred billion stars.)  But those are luxury items--things that countries that have a balanced budget can afford.  We have an existential budget deficit crisis.  I know that Gingrich is trying to stir up votes on the Space Coast of Florida, but a bit of reality, please?

A Very Cool Tool

Want to see how often a word is used in books by year?  Books.google.com has something called an Ngram Viewer that lets you see how often a particular word or phrase in used across the centuries.  There are some surprises: rifle appears surprisingly often in the seventeenth century, then falls off, coming up in frequency in the nineteenth century.  Of course, remember the limitations of those OCRed books--there are a lot of words that do not appear because the print was hard to OCR.

The other limitation is that the starting date of many series is used for publication date, even if the issue in question is centuries later (or even wrong).  For example, the Ngram for the word "feminism" had matches in the early seventeenth century but nothing until the twentieth century.  What are those early matches?  One is an error on the Latin word "feminis" in the Malleus maleficarum de Lamiis (and for all I know, it might even mean the same thing, since I think this is a Latin work on witchcraft) and the other is from Chemical Abstracts, vol. 87.  I am sorry, but I do not believe that Chemical Abstracts series really starts in 1620!

Such a Sophisticated Understanding of Economics

Where we're making stuff and selling stuff and moving it around and UPS drivers are dropping things off everywhere.
Why do I keep thinking back to John Brunner's The Jagged Orbit, set in what was then the future, where a semiliterate black man is President of the United States, and journalists throw softballs at him so that they don't make him look bad, while he reads written responses that he clearly does not understand?
President Gaylord: Morning, laze an' gemmun.
Reporters: By God, it is too! Right on the ball so far today, Prexy!
President Gaylord: (chuckles)
Dean of reporters: First off, Prexy, your comments on the decision to admit Morton Lenigo to this country in view of his known participation in the dynamiting of Cardiff Castle, Wales, the expulsion of the Lord Mayor of Manchester, England, and the knee seizure of the city of Birmingham, England, and additionally in view of the insurrection mounted in New York City over by X Patriots and other extremist groups which have reacted to the decision as a confession of weakness in face of threats from Ghana, Nigeria, and other knee-blank powers.
President Gaylord: Ah-yeah, that one was comped for me, I think. just a second. (Shuffles documents on desk.) Here we are. "The decision to admit Morton Lenigo was taken in full cognizance of the allegations made against him by racialist spokesmen in his home country of Britain, and in pursuance of the ideals of the Great Society which is designed to maintain a homo-ah-homo-genius?-ah."
Dean of reporters: "Homogeneous," maybe, Prexy?
President Gaylord: I guess so. "-balance between the justifiably independence-desirous colored citizens of the planet and their fellows who by accident of circumstances have found themselves in a position of greater good fortune."
Reporters: (laughter)
Unidentified reporter: Keep pitchin', darl-that one swerved like a (last word indecipherable, laughter) 
Obama is not at this level, but there are times that I fear that Brunner (who showed remarkable abilities to see the future) was close.

"Never Mind"

Remember when Saturday Night Live had the recurring skit with Gilda Radner as Rosanne Rosanadanna, who would mishear something, rant about it, then get corrected, and then finally, "Never mind."

National Review Online points to one of those moments: a hit piece by Reuters on Florida Senator Marco Rubio that was apparently so flawed that they kept correcting it, and correcting it, and correcting it.  The list of changes at the bottom keeps growing.  At the moment:
(Removes words "and at times has had difficulty paying his mortgage," paragraph 7; removes "he did not make payments on a $100,000-plus student loan" and instead states "he did not pay down the balance of a $100,000-plus student loan," paragraph 10; removes "he was caught up in an Internal Revenue Service Investigation" and instead states "his name surfaced in an Internal Revenue Service investigation," paragraph 12; removes "voted against Sonia Sotomayor, Obama's Supreme Court nominee" and instead states "opposed President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor," paragraph 41; removes "voted against Obama's healthcare overhaul" and instead states "opposed Obama's healthcare overhaul," paragraph 41)
 Shouldn't they just say, "Never mind"?

Why Apple Products Are So Cool!

Because they are made under conditions that would be unlawful for a U.S. maker.  Karl Denninger has a very depressing article at Market-Ticker about the conditions and wages of the workers building your cool Apple toys.  He quotes a former Apple executive to the effect that:
“We’ve known about labor abuses in some factories for four years, and they’re still going on,” said one former Apple executive who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of confidentiality agreements. “Why? Because the system works for us. Suppliers would change everything tomorrow if Apple told them they didn’t have another choice.”
What amazes me is how many trendy sorts gotta have the latest and greatest Apple products--and yet insist on "fair trade" coffee.

More Signs the Government Should Not Be In The Venture Capital Business

They aren't very good at it...unless you define "good" as making investments in companies that go bankrupt.  I first saw this over at Small Dead Animals:

State Of The Union, Jan 24, 2012;
"In three years, our partnership with the private sector has already positioned America to be the world’s leading manufacturer of high-tech batteries."
State Of The Battery, Jan 26, 2012;
Obama-backed electric car battery-maker files for bankruptcy
A bit more detail from CNS News:
 Ener1--a company that manufactures batteries for electric cars, and that received $118.5 million in federal stimulus money, and that Vice President Joe Biden visited last year the day after President Obama’s State of the Union Address—announced today that it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
In last year’s State of the Union Address, delivered Jan. 25, 2011, President Obama set a national goal of having a million electric vehicles on the road in the United States by 2015—a goal that would be achieved, Obama said, by taking money out of the oil industry and “investing” it in new technology.
“With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels and become the first country to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015,” said Obama.
Ener1 Inc., which owns a company that received a $118 million U.S. Energy Department grant to make electric-car batteries, filed for bankruptcy protection after defaulting on bond debt amid Asian competition.
The company listed assets of $73.9 million and debt of $90.5 million as of Dec. 31 in Chapter 11 papers filed today in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan. Ener1 has been affected by competing battery developers in China and South Korea, “which generally have a lower cost manufacturing base” and lower labor and raw material costs, interim Chief Executive Officer Alex Sorokin said in the petition.
 At least if a private investor makes a mistake, the rest of us don't get stuck with the bills.

Issa Is Really Pursuing The Fast & Furious Scandal

If you are at all interested in a scandal that makes Contragate and Watergate seem pretty small potatoes (hundreds of people were murdered because of Fast & Furious), Dave Hardy at Of Arms and the Law just keeps them coming, with links to the letters Rep. Issa (R-CA) keeps sending, pointedly reminding Attorney-General Holder that one of his officials is pleading the Fifth Amendment.  He certainly has that right--but essentially admitting that you may have engaged in criminal conduct when you are in charge of prosecuting criminals?  Is there a problem there?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Guns As The Source Of Peace

An impressive speech by the Netherlands' military chief:

I might disagree about the state having a monopoly on use of force, but it is certainly true that when there is no recognized legitimate state authority, violence often increases. Somalia is a reminder that the absence of a government does not need to a utopia, but the rule by the most brutal.

In essence, the general's speech is a longer version of Orwell's famous statement about us sleeping safely in our beds because rough men protect us.

Redfield's Accu-Range Reticle (2nd Thoughts)

I mentioned a few weeks ago that one slightly irritating aspect of the Redfield Accu-Range reticle was that it was set up with nice round MOA dimensions, unlike the Bushnell that it replaced.  I was looking through the scope again, now that it is mounted on the M1A, and I noticed something rather interesting.

The distance from the cross hair to the bottom of the circle is 2.19 MOA at 12x--not very useful--but the width of the crosshair lines in the circle is 0.19 MOA.  What that means is that from the bottom of the horizontal crosshair to the inside of the circle at the bottom (or from the edge of the vertical crosshair to the circle at the left or right) is 2.00 MOA.  This is actually a very useful number for rangefinding, because it simplifies the math.  At 4x, according to their charge, this distance is 5.08 MOA (suggesting that something is lost in rounding).

"We Know Where You Live"

Yes, part of a threat.  From the National Secular Society:

A talk on sharia and human rights by NSS Council Member Anne Marie Waters' at Queen Mary University of London was cancelled at the last moment because of an Islamist who made serious threats against everyone there.
Ms Waters was due to give a talk on behalf of the One Law for All campaign on 16 January but before it started, a man entered the lecture theatre, stood at the front with a camera and filmed the audience. He then said that he knew who everyone was, where they lived and if he heard anything negative about the Prophet, he would track them down.
The man also filmed students in the foyer and threatened to murder them and their families. On leaving the building, he joined a large group of men, apparently there to support him. Students were told by security to stay in the lecture theatre for their own safety.
Campus security apparently was reluctant to get involved:
The University’s security guard – a real gem –arrived first only to blame the speaker and organisers rather than those issuing death threats. He said: ‘If you will have these discussions, what do you expect?’ Err, to speak without being threatened with death maybe? 
It is unfortunate that the left has become so intent on seeing Islam as a victim that it refuses to take any action in support of free speech.  I don't much agree with groups like those linked above--but they certainly have the right to express their opinions without threats.  It is pretty apparent that Islam and freedom are incompatible.

Thanks to Small Dead Animals for the links to this.

I Do Not Trust Newt

Now he is admitting that his claim that "his team offered several witnesses to ABC News to refute statements made by Gingrich's second wife in a controversial interview aired last week" was false.  Is ABC News scum?  Sure enough.  But Gingrich seems to have not only consistency problems, but serious accuracy problems as well.  R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr., founder and editor of the American Spectator, knows Gingrich well, and indicates that he has as many skeletons in his closet as Clinton.

There are a lot of serious, movement conservatives out there who have very, very serious concerns about Gingrich's morals--and those concerns are very pragmatic.  Obama's campaign is going to smear whoever the Republican nominee is.   It will not help if there is a lot of genuine smear material available.

I wish we had a serious conservative candidate who could win the election and had as much zipper control as Romney seems to have.  Is it is really this difficult?

Very Third World Behavior

This is one of those news stories that desperately needs more attention.  I don't really want to believe that this could happen in America, but the size of the judgment suggests that this was a lot more than just a minor screwup:

A man who spent two years in solitary confinement after getting arrested for DWI was awarded $22 million for suffering inhumane treatment in New Mexico's Dona Ana County Jail.
Stephen Slevin was arrested in August of 2005 for driving while intoxicated, according to NBC station KOB.com. He said he never got a trial and spent the entire time languishing in solitary, even pulling his own tooth when he was denied dental care.
"'[Prison officials were] walking by me every day, watching me deteriorate," he said. "Day after day after day, they did nothing, nothing at all, to get me any help."
By law, you are entitled to a trial on a criminal charge within 90 days of arrest.  A defendant may delay that trial (within reason), but the government may not.  To be held for two years without trial?  I would like to think that the sheriff responsible for this is going to prison.

A bit more here at CNN.  It appears that Slevin has a history of mental illness, and the sheriff's department held him in solitary because of that.  However: there seems to have been no hearing to justify holding him--and worse, he was actually transferred to a state facility for psychiatric evaluation, before being returned to the county jail.  If he was being held for trial, the county broke the law.  If he was being held because they were concerned about his mental health, he did not belong in a jail, but a mental hospital, where he at least would have had a chance at receiving proper medical care--unlike what happened in the jail.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Steady Interest Rates Through 2014

I keep hoping for interest rates to rise, but at least the news that the Fed expects to not raise interest rates until the end of 2014 makes it sensible to buy some long-term bonds and hold them for a year or two, or perhaps buy some reasonably okay dividend paying stocks.  At least I can do better on the interest rates than a money market fund.

Threads vs. Processes

I did a consulting job in Oregon a few years back where the manager was impressed that my solution for a sample piece of code involved multiple threads.  He explained that he generally disliked use of threads, because they share too much information.  This is very true, and it is both a strength and a weakness of threads: you can share information (so each thread can see what the others are doing) but also, you can share information (so each thread can interfere with what the others are doing).

The antisocial software that I am trying to rehabilitate has one of those threading difficulties--and it took a while to figure it out.  The user interface has a Save button; you click it, and it both saves data to the database, and then checks to see if the offender's home address is the same as any other offender in the system.  If there are other matches, it throws up a popup window that displays the other offenders at the same home address.

Of course, that popup window is done through a separate thread--but the abusive software parent responsible for this piece of code did not think about the fact that both threads were sharing the same database connection object.  If the retrieve matching addresses thread finished its SQL operation before the save thread started, everything worked just fine.  But as the number of matching addresses increased much above ten, the odds were excellent that the retrieve thread would still be retrieving data when the save thread closed the connection.

The database connection is now closed: but the retrieve thread is still retrieving data.  The results were highly unpredictable, with at least four different error messages that might appear, depending on timing.  Only occasionally did the SQL Exception come up "Connection already closed" which was the tipoff that something was not right.

Sad to say, there are more than a thousand popup windows in this system, and trying to figure out which of those are this sort of multithreaded monstrosity will keep me busy for decades.  Unlike Sisyphus, at least I get to retire in a few years.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Who Gets Richer From Stopping Keystone XL?

Why, the railroad owned by Warren Buffett, billionaire Democrat:

Warren Buffett’s Burlington Northern Santa Fe LLC is among U.S. and Canadian railroads that stand to benefit from the Obama administration’s decision to reject TransCanada Corp. (TRP)’s Keystone XL oil pipeline permit.
With modest expansion, railroads can handle all new oil produced in western Canada through 2030, according to an analysis of the Keystone proposal by the U.S. State Department.
It costs about $3 per barrel more to ship it by tank car than pipeline, and it produces more greenhouse gases.  You can see why environmentalists are happy that Obama stopped Keystone XL--it enriches Mr. 1% of the 1%, and puts more carbon dioxide in the air.

Fast & Furious: Now Congress Has To Subpoena Government Employees

The Assistant U.S. Attorney who was apparently in charge of Fast & Furious refused to appear voluntarily to testify before the Congressional committee investigating this scandal (and almost certainly criminal acts).  Dave Hardy at Of Arms and the Law pointed me to the letter from Rep. Issa (R-CA) informing Patrick J. Cunningham, "Chief, Criminal Division, United States Attorney's Office for the District of Arizona" that he is going to be subpoenaed since he won't appear voluntarily.

What is really sad is the part of the letter where Issa reminds Cunningham that "your counsel's offer of an attorney proffer, [is] akin to what a defense lawyer would offer for an indicted defendant...."  And perhaps Cunningham realizes that what he and the Obama Administration did is of a nature that this is what he needs to be doing: acting like a criminal.

And surprise, surprise!  The January 20, 2012 Tucson Citizen reports that Cunningham is going to refuse to answer questions, taking the Fifth.  He certainly has that right--but Congressional committees can also provide selective immunity for information obtained in hearings, which prevents you from taking the Fifth (but leaving you open to prosecution for perjury if your statements are false).

The Sky Is Falling, The Sky Is Falling!

Dave Hardy at Of Arms and the Law points out that not only are gun sales rising in the U.S. (as evidenced by the FBI background checks), but even in Australia.  Chicken Little is fretting up a storm down under, according to this article from the January 23, 2012 Sydney Morning Herald:

THE number of gun permits issued in NSW has almost doubled in the past five years, sparking calls for restrictions on how many guns people can acquire.
Figures from the NSW firearms registry show 111,792 permits to acquire a firearm were issued in 2009 and 2010. That was 29,427 more than for the previous two-year period. In 2005 and 2006, there were 65,997 permits issued.
The National Coalition for Gun Control, which obtained the latest figures under freedom-of-information laws, says that the increase is linked to the scrapping of a 28-day waiting period for a second or subsequent firearm.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/permit-rise-triggers-push-for-a-gun-limit-20120122-1qc2o.html#ixzz1kONDh7PE
Well, duh!  If the argument for a waiting period is to do a background check, or to prevent a crime of passion, then once you have a gun license and gun, another waiting period accomplishes nothing at all.  Not surprisingly, the gun control groups are upset, and the Green Party is going to introduce a bill to prohibit people from owning more than three guns.  This makes absolutely no sense: unless you are remarkably adept with your feet, most human beings can only fire two guns simultaneously.  A criminal with ten guns can't really do more damage than a criminal with two guns.

The article also quotes from an MP from the Shooters Party (which in itself is rather sad, that they needed their own political party, presumably because the existing political parties were so tied to gun control) as saying that much of the increase in gun purchases is actually not existing owners buying more guns, but new gun owners.  It is almost like the restrictions that Australia put into effect after the massacre some years ago are having the opposite effect from what the gun control nuts wanted: to make guns socially unacceptable.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Watching The Debate This Evening...

I think this is the first one that I have actually watched, perhaps because I actually have the time.

Romney gave a really effective defense of free market capitalism with respect to the housing bubble and letting Wall Street firms go under in 2008.  Later, however, he argued for smart regulation as opposed to more regulation of financial institutions.  He is not my favorite, by any means, but he comes across well, if a bit vague, and I think he can kick Obama in debates.

Santorum's defense of free markets and pointing out how the Democrats worked hard at keeping the housing bubble going was very impressive.  He is clearly capable of thinking on his feet, and he did a very credible job.  Perhaps he is not quite as effective a speaker as Romney, and I still think he would have a much harder time defeating Obama, but I would love to see him debate that buffoon.

Gingrich did a nice job--but watching his try to deflect questions about his Freddie Mac "consulting" work tells me that he is lying.  He's good at deflecting attention, but I do not trust him.  I think he would do anything to get elected.  Like Romney and Santorum, I really sense a person who fully understands the complexity of the world in which we live. 

One interesting, almost sad part as when Gingrich responded to a question about sugar subsidies with essentially an admission that agricultural interests are too big for the national government to do the right thing: free markets.

Ron Paul spoke well on economic terms, but when he said that we have "blockaded" Iran, I was disappointed that no one questioned on this.  Sanctions are not a blockade.  How do you blockade a country on a continent, without all the surrounding countries participating?  When Ron Paul spoke about the housing bubble, he did a good job, although perhaps not as good as Santorum.  Paul had to turn it back to the Federal Reserve, of course.

I am tempted to support Santorum in the caucuses later this month, not because I think he is going to win the nomination, but because Gingrich is just too sleazy, and it is pretty clear that Romney will be the nominee.  I won't be thrilled, but I do think he is going to walk all over Obama in any debates.

And I Thought 92 Students in My Western Civ Class Was a Bit Large

EDN (a trade publication for electrical engineers) reports:
It seems that Sebastian Thrun, Google Fellow and research professor at Stanford University, has decided to quit Stanford, giving up his tenure, to start a new online university called Udacity. His goal is to enroll 500,000 students for his first course – which will be free — on how to build a search engine.
To be blunt, the old model of university is likely to fade rapidly.  The way that we teach traditional classes is left over from the medieval period--from the graduation gowns (originally clerical robes, because universities started out as cathedral schools) right down to lecturing to a bunch of students in a classroom (because books were too expensive for students--or even professors--to buy).

Online classes are part of the change, but sometimes tells me that Thrun is going to be part of the next wave that completely destroys the old model in a generation or two.  And at least at the high end, it needs destroying, as Thrun points out:
Thrun apparently thinks that, important and revolutionary though the realization of self-driving cars would be, the concept of  freely-available online education, taught by pre-eminent technology leaders, has even more potential to change the world. In the US, over the past generation the concept of a college education has shifted from being an opportunity to learn important ideas that will fit a student to contribute to a dynamic, free society, to getting into an expensive, exclusive club that allow you to rub shoulders with  other future power brokers who will protect and enrich the status quo. Is the education itself at Harvard really that much better than at a fine state university? No. But families and students waste an incredible amount of effort trying to get into Ivy League schools to join this club of elites. (And those elites are the same people who brought us the worldwide financial meltdown of the past ten years.)

Amusing Story About Trade

One of the great flaws in the zero sum model of economics is that it fails to recognize that it is possible to increase the total wealth of a society by trade and improved efficiency of production.  Of course, you can go too far the other way, also, as with this amusing story from Richard Grant White, The Adventures of Sir Lyon Bouse, Bart: in America during the Civil War (New York: American News Company, 1867), 62-63:

I am inclined to doubt the stories told by my predecessors, of two Americans being shut up in a room together, and emerging twenty-four hours after, each with a large fortune made by swapping jack-knives.  This, I am quite sure, is a mere traveller's story, little worthy of credence. It probably is founded on the fact, that the bowie-knife, being the only article in the country of fixed value, is made the basis of all important financial operations. Thus an American offers to swap or dicker (an American never says sell or trade) his bowie-knife with a consignment of cotton, or a number of shares of bank-stock, to boot for his correspondent's or business friend's knife, and certain money, or so much real estate to boot. The stock or the real estate might fluctuate in value, pending the bargain, as, indeed, I have discovered to my cost, in case of my own stock; but the bowie-knife, being in universal and constant demand, has an absolute, permanent value; and it must be admitted, that it lends American trade a certain kind of respectability, by giving it some sort of metallic basis to rest upon.

An Interesting Description of Gold Rush California

From J.D. Borthwick, "Three Years in Calafornia [sic]," Hutchings Illustrated California Magazine, 2:171-2:
There were several very good American theatres, a French theatre, and an Italian opera, besides concerts, masquerades, a circus, and other public amusements. The most curious were certainly the masquerades. They were generally given in one of the large gambling saloons, and in the placards announcing that they were to come off, appeared conspicuously also the intimation of "No weapons admitted;" " A strong police will be in attendance." The company was just such as might be seen in any gambling-room; and, beyond the presence of half-a-dozen masks in female attire, there was nothing to carry out the idea of a ball or a masquerade at all; but it was worth while to go, if only to watch the company arrive, and to see the practical enforcement of the weapon clause in the announcements. Several doorkeepers were in attendance, to whom each man as he entered delivered up his knife or his pistol, receiving a check for it, just as one does for his cane or umbrella at the door of a picture-gallery. Most men draw a pistol from behind their back, and very often a knife along with it; some carried their bowie-knife down the back of their neck, or in their breast; demure, pious looking men, in white neckcloths, lifted up the bottom of their waistcoat, and revealed the butt of a revolver; others, after having already disgorged a pistol, pulled up the leg of their trousers, and abstracted a huge bowie-knife from their boot; and there were men, terrible fellows, no doubt, but who were more likely to frighten themselves than any one else, who produced a revolver from each trouser pocket, and a bowie knife from their belt. If any man declared that he had no weapon, the statement was so incredible that he had to submit to be searched ; an operation which was performed by the doorkeepers, who, I observed, were occasionally rewarded for their diligence by the discovery of a pistol secreted in some unusual part of the dress.

What Do I Do For A Living?

I attempt to rehabilitate antisocial software that was abused when young by negligent or destructive parents.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Watch This One

This might be what brings down All The President's Men.  From the January 20, 2012 Des Moines Register:
A Des Moines man has been arrested after police say he used, or tried to use, the identity of Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz in a scheme to falsely implicate Schultz in perceived unethical behavior in office.

Zachary Edwards was arrested Friday and charged with identity theft.

The Iowa Department of Public Safety issued a news release saying Schultz's office discovered the scheme on June 24, 2011 and notified authorities.
And who is Zachary Edwards?  From the January 21, 2012 Washington Examiner:
Edwards worked for Obama in Nevada and five other states during the 2008 Democratic primary and general election campaigns.

Somebody apparently tried to erase Edwards' bio from the web, but the ever-resourceful Glenn Reynolds, who first alerted me to this story earlier today, located it in the Wayback Machine.
 Click here for Zachary Edwards scrubbed (but not completely enough) biography.  And why would the Democrats have an interest in stealing the identity of a state official?  Because state secretaries of state are responsible for the integrity of the election process, and resolving disputes.  And guess which convicted felon and thief for the Nazis (although Jewish) is interested in that issue?  George Soros.  He started this project:

The Secretary of State Project (SoSP) was established in July 2006 as an independent “527” organization devoted to helping Democrats get elected to the office of secretary-of-state in selected swing, or battleground, states; these were states where the margin of victory in the 2004 presidential election (between George W. Bush and John Kerry) had been 120,000 votes or less.1 One of the principal duties of the secretary of state is to serve as the chief election officer who certifies candidates as well as election results in his or her state.2 The holder of this office, then, can potentially play a key role in determining the winner of a close election.

SoSP's co-founders were Democracy Alliance member Michael Kieschnick (who also founded Working Assets and serves as a board member of the leftist evangelical group Sojourners); Becky Bond (who also has affiliations with Working Assets and the New Organizing Institute); and James Rucker (who co-founded Color of Change and formerly served as director of grassroots mobilization for MoveOn.org Political Action and Moveon.org Civic Action).

The idea for SoSP germinated shortly after the 2004 election,3 when the Project's co-founders blamed then-Ohio secretary of state Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican, for presidential candidate John Kerry’s defeat. To their chagrin, Blackwell had ruled that Ohio (where George W. Bush won by a relatively slim 118,599-vote margin)4 would not count provisional ballots  5―even those submitted by properly registered voters―if they had been submitted at the wrong precincts. Though the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ultimately upheld Blackwell’s decision, SoSP’s founding members nonetheless received Blackwell's ruling with the same bitterness they had felt regarding former Florida (Republican) secretary of state Katherine Harris’s handling of the infamous ballot recount in 2000, when Bush defeated Al Gore in the presidential election. According to political analyst Matthew Vadum, SoSP’s leaders and foot soldiers alike “religiously believe that right-leaning secretaries of state helped the GOP steal the presidential elections in Florida in 2000 ... and in Ohio in 2004.”6
 You don't have to be paranoid to suspect that the goal of a Democratic political operative trying to steal the identity of a Republican Secretary of State had something to do with destroying his reputation.  Especially an operative who worked for a Chicago machine politician like Obama.

The Industry That Is Going Great Guns

If you missed this January 18, 2012 Forbes article about the one industry that is growing by leaps and bounds, it's guns:

According to the FBI, over 1.5 million background checks on customers looking to purchase a firearm were requested by gun dealers to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) last December. That’s a record. In fact, nearly 500,000 of those background checks occurred during the six days before Christmas....
My favorite example of whistling past the graveyard is this:
Indeed, this prolonged surge in gun sales has driven Sarah Brady’s group to some very creative spin; for example, Caroline Brewer, of the Brady Campaign, said, “The research we’ve seen indicates fewer and fewer people are owning more and more guns.”
Oh yeah, that has to be it!  I haven't bought a gun since 1994.  Someone is buying them--and it is pretty obviously not just paranoid sorts who keep having to rent more storage facilities in which to store their thousands of guns.

One Of Those Signs of Cultural Victory

An article about buying one's first handgun--in Elle magazine.  When Marie Claire starts carrying these articles, progun groups can start shutting down, because there's no enemy left.

How Do You Log Messages From a CGI File?

I am writing a rather special purpose CGI in Korn Shell that runs on my webpage.  Unfortunately, I am having a heck of a time figuring out how to debug it!  It has to respond to a series of HTTP GET requests sent by a third party.

I can retrieve the HTTP GET requests from the access_log on my server, and put them into a file.  I can then redirect that file into my CGI script on my local Linux box, and it produces the correct output to stdout.  I can do the same on the Unix box that runs my server, and it produces the correct output to stdout.  In case you are curious, the CGI script looks like this:

# Redirect stdin to get the form parms passed
PARM_PASSED=$(< /dev/stdin)
# Identifies that we are returning HTML (even though what I am sending back is just text).
print "Content-type: text/html\r\n"
# Process the form input
if [[ "$PARM_PASSED" != "" ]]
# Isolate the query type
PARMS=`echo "$PARM_PASSED" | sed "s/^.*cgi?q=//g" | sed "s/&.*$//g"`
# Now loop through the parameters (should only be one per line for this example).
for PARM in $PARMS
# The following if elif provides a case switch for the various parameters that Balihoo is
# sending me.
if [[ $PARM = "Ping" ]]
  print -n "OK"
elif [[ $PARM = "Resume" ]]
  print -n "http://www.claytoncramer.com/balihoo/RESUME.pdf"
elif [[ $PARM = "Name" ]]
  print -n "Clayton E. Cramer"
elif [[ $PARM = "Source" ]]
  print -n "http://www.claytoncramer.com/balihoo/balihoo.cgi"
elif [[ $PARM = "Years" ]]
  print -n "30"
elif [[ $PARM = "Degree" ]]
  print -n "Perhaps not relevant.  BA, History (computer science minor); MA, History."
elif [[ $PARM = "Position" ]]
  print -n "Senior Software Developer"
elif [[ $PARM = "Email+Address" ]]
  print -n "clayton@claytoncramer.com"
elif [[ $PARM = "Expression" ]]
  # Get the expression that they want evaluated.
  EXPRESSION=`echo "$PARM_PASSED" | sed "s/^.*What+is+//g" | sed "s/%3F.*$//g"`
  # Remove the + separators between operators and numbers
  EXPRESSION=`echo "$EXPRESSION" | sed "s/\+//g"`
  # Convert various HTML encodings to the equivalent operators
  EXPRESSION=`echo "$EXPRESSION" | sed "s/%2A/\*/g" | sed "s/%2B/\+/g" | sed "s/%2D/-/g" | sed "s&%2F&/&g"`
  echo -n $RESULT

But the third party HTTP GET requests claim that it is not working correctly:

Expected Ping to return 'OK', but got ''.

If I create a very simple CGI script to return OK, such as this:

print "Content-type: text/html\r\n"
print -n "OK"
The third party HTTP GET requests work fine for the first request, but not surprisingly, goes no further for subsequent requests.

My guess is that the somewhat more elaborate CGI script to respond to the various GET requests has some subtle bug in it.  Is there some way to log messages from that CGI script so that I can see what happens when the requests come in?  Anything going to stdout or stderr appears to go back to the requester, and it does not appear that a CGI script can write to a local file when it is responding to a GET request.  (Probably a security thing, and not a bad idea.)  I do not have the option of reconfiguring the server running on my hosting service (for obvious reasons).  Can anyone suggest a method for tracking what my CGI script is doing?

UPDATE: No, it isn't the path to sed that is blowing it up.  If I put the lines:

print "Content-type: text/html\r\n"
print -n "OK"

before the attempt to isolate the PARM, it works for the first step--responding to the Ping request.

UPDATE 2: At least for Windows, here's a useful tool that lets you send individual GET operations and see what comes back.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

NRA's Loss in Texas

You may be aware that NRA lost a lawsuit in Texas challenging the state law that requires you to be 21 to obtain a concealed handgun licenseShall Not Be Questioned has some decision about it here.  This follows a similar decision by the same federal judge who upheld a federal law that prohibits sales of handguns by dealers to those under 21.  (You can buy a long gun from a gun dealer if you are 18, but not a handgun.)

Keep in mind that Judge Cummings ruled in our favor in USA v. Emerson (N.D.Tex. 1999), so he is not a stick in the mud antigunner.  Indeed, when he ruled in our favor in 1999 (and cited my second book), he was doing something a bit courageous. 

Federal and state laws discriminate against 18-20 year olds concerning handguns.  Keep in mind that historically, 21 was the legal age for adulthood in the U.S.  When I was young, the laws of most states distinguished juveniles (those under 18) from minors (those under 21).  You were not a full adult until you reached 21.

I admit that there are many 18 year olds who are quite responsible and mature, just as there are some 25 year olds who are not.  These age limits are arbitrary, just like those used for sexual consent, driving, and a zillion other areas where our laws make distinctions.  Simply because they are arbitrary, and therefore frequently wrong, does not make them automatically suspect or erroneous.

Religion of Peace (Continued)

In Nigeria.  From the January 21, 2012 Daily Telegraph:

Terror attacks in Kano, Nigeria, kill at least 162

Bomb attacks targeting security forces and gun battles have killed at least 162 people in Nigeria's second-largest city of Kano, sources say. 

The death toll following coordinated bomb attacks and gun battles in the Nigerian city of Kano has risen to at least 162, a source at the city's main morgue has said.
A curfew was imposed on Kano in Nigeria's mainly Muslim north after it exploded into violence on Friday evening, with eight police and immigration offices or residences targeted.
The main newspaper in the north said that a purported spokesman for Islamist group Boko Haram had claimed responsibility for the violence, saying it was in response to authorities' refusal to release its members from custody.
Yes, I know, that most Muslims who do not approve of this sort of thing.  But even among Muslims in America:
1% – say that suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilian targets are often justified to defend Islam from its enemies; an additional 7% say suicide bombings are sometimes justified in these circumstances.
 And the percentages that do not believe the U.S. is sincerely trying to fight terrorism are scary:
Currently, opinion is divided – 43% say U.S. efforts are a sincere attempt to reduce terrorism while 41% do not. Four years ago, during the Bush administration, more than twice as many viewed U.S. anti-terrorism efforts as insincere rather than sincere (55% to 26%).
 What is especially outrageous about this belief is what is the alternative?  The U.S. is spending vast quantities of lives and treasure for what?  It is obvious that no one is sending young men and women off to die because it is fun.  It is also obvious that fighting in Muslim countries does nothing to make us popular among Muslims.  It is obviously not about oil: Afghanistan does not have any oil.  The only real natural resources that Afghanistan has are rare earth metals, and those were discovered by accident after the invasion.  All the garbage that Americans have to go through because of terrorism, including TSA's Security Theater, limitations on mailing, paranoia when traveling by air, are major problems and nuisances.

You have to wonder a bit about the sanity of anyone that thinks that this is not about counterterrorism.  Incompetently done in places?  No question, especially some of the TSA follies.  But there is no upside to any of this stuff for anyone in any positions of power.  Americans have always believed that the business of America is business.  We would much rather be selling movies, or computer systems, or music to people around the world.  That's what we are good at, and we like doing it.  \

Worst of all: who are the major victims of Islamic terrorism?  Other Muslims.  Tens of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans, overwhelmingly Muslims, have been killed by these terrorist attacks since 9/11.  There are times you have to wonder what alternative universe someone has to live in to think that the U.S. has spent this enormous amount of resources for some other purpose, with counterterrorism simply a ruse.

Women and Children First

PJMedia has a really fine article (not by me) about the origins of "Women and children first" to the lifeboats on sinking ships.  It is newer than you might guess, and more specifically British, based a particular incident: the sinking of HMS Birkenhead in 1852.  Well worth reading!

Some Judges Need To Be Removed From the Bench For Fascism

Borepatch points to this incredibly disturbing January 17, 2012 Boston Globe article:

Earlier this month, a Norfolk probate judge declared a pregnant woman with schizophrenia incompetent and ordered her to undergo an abortion, stating she could be “coaxed, bribed, or even enticed’’ into the hospital for the procedure.

Unbidden, the judge further directed that the 32-year-old woman be sterilized “to avoid this painful situation from recurring in the future.’’

Yesterday, the state’s appeals court struck down the decision in unusually harsh terms, saying the woman had clearly expressed her opposition to abortion as a Catholic.
The woman has a long mental illness history, and I confess, there is reason to be concerned about whether she is going to be a fit mother.  Borepatch points out that the same article quotes a professor at Yeshiva University that this sort of compulsory abortion and sterilization goes on "a lot more than we know."  Borepatch sees this as an expression of the progressive point of view, and it certainly seems like it.  As I dug around looking for more evidence of Judge Harms history, I found some interesting items here and there, such as this:
A summary of the individual injustices in the lawsuit claimed:   ...

• In the case of Hunter vs. Hunter, Judge Christina Harms imprisoned a husband for his refusal to commit a fraud at her direction: She wanted him to pay child support from proceeds of a student loan, which would have been a fraudulent misapplication of this loan. 

• In The case of Donald Roines, Hull, where the parties reached a mutually satisfactory separation agreement, Judge Christina Harms on her own advised the wife that she could obtain a better result and need not accept the agreement. 
Here's the suit filed by the Coalition for Fatherhood against Massachusetts, giving more detail on this.

Compulsory abortion: sure.  Compulsory mental health treatment?  That would be violating this woman's rights.  What is fascinating is that the judge's justification for the abortion is that the mother could not take anti-psychotic medications because of the risk to the child--and so:
The judge reasoned that if Moe were competent, she would opt for an abortion to benefit from medication that otherwise could not be given to her because of its effects on the fetus.
The mother, however, was Catholic, and did not want to abort the child.  Pregnancy is short-term; the judge could have directed the mother to start taking anti-psychotics after the birth of the child.  But there are a lot of progressives out there who worship abortion, and simply can't understand any other reasoning.

There's a very poignant comment over at the ABC News coverage:
My mother has Bipolar I (Mania) and Schizophrenia. She gets auditory and visual hallucinations. She talks in different languages and accents. She gets very ill without her medication. HOWEVER my mom was stable enough to raise me despite going to a mental hospital for a several week evaluation. She was there when my biological Dad was not. Sure, it was not an ideal upbringing with glamor and flowers but it still got me to where I needed to be. She never hung me, she never tried to kill me. Now she is in her 60's and I am in my 20's. I have two kids and I trust her being around them fully. Despite what prejudices people have against mental illness not everyone with these disorders hurts other people. My mom even babysits for us. She is good with kids and she teaches my son to read, write, and plays games with him if I am sick or needing a break from it all. She is a good lady.
Judge Harms could not delay treatment of this pregnant woman four months to avoid compulsion and conflict with the woman's religious beliefs?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Boise Residents Who Plan To Ski...

Do it in the next several days.  Snow will stop falling sometime this coming week for the rest of the winter, perhaps for a decade or more.  I went to Bucks 4x4 and had them order up the Agri-Cover SnowSport 180 personal snow plow and the 2" front trailer hitch receiver, which arrive this coming week.  What they charged me for installation of the receiver on the TrailBlazer was so low that it was not worth my aggravation installing it myself.

The guy at Bucks indicated that they install the Agri-Cover snow plows on SUVs and trucks pretty often, and customers are very happy with them.  I hope that will include me.

Why I Can't Take "Green" Businesses Seriously

CBS San Francisco is reporting that Solyndra has a whole bunch of expensive glass tubes that were part of their cutting-edge photovoltatic technology.  They are just destroying them and putting them in dumpsters:

At Solyndra’s sprawling complex in Fremont, workers in white jumpsuits were unwrapping brand new glass tubes used in solar panels last week. They are the latest, most cutting-edge solar technology, and they are being thrown into dumpsters.
Forklifts brought one pallet after another piled high with the carefully packaged glass. Slowly but surely it all ended up shattered.
Worst of all, CBS interviewed someone who wanted to buy them, but Solyndra preferred to spend money destroying them and throwing them away instead.  A keenly sharp comment on the article:
Bankrupt subsidized green company fails to recycle glass. 
 Remember that "green" corporation really means a scheme for redistributing money from the middle class to politically connected rich people.  That's why Democrats support green businesses with these sort of government aid programs.

It Is Really Difficult For Me To Develop Enthusiasm For Any Republican Candidate

Gingrich is smart, but with a terribly weak record on personal morality--and I can't quite forget the commercial with Pelosi and Gingrich promoting the global warming nonsense.

Romney's personal morals seem to be pretty good, but if there is any serious and consistent ideology there, it hides well.  The one thing I am sure of about Romney is that he wants to be president, very badly.  At least if he defeats Obama, that's a good thing.

Santorum I can respect for his courage to confront America's loudest and most powerful whining faction, but that is also the reason that he could probably not win the general election.  Unless you are at least neutral on homosexuality, you are unelectable.

Perry seemed like he had a lot going for him.  I would love to see him suddenly overcome his verbal clumsiness and become an effective debater.

Paul's foreign policy ideas are delusional.  I respect his courage in defending libertarian ideas in an antilibertarian nation, but that is part of why he could never win the general election against Obama.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Event Tonight

Dr. John Lott presenting his case for concealed carry on campus at 6:00 PM on the 6th floor of 322 E. Front Street, at the University of Idaho Law School in Boise.

UPDATE: Dr. Lott gave a very well-done presentation about the ineffectiveness of restrictive gun control laws, not just at the campus level, but at the city and nation level.  He presented a variety of ways of examining what happened to murder rates in Chicago and D.C. when their handgun freeze laws went into effect, and similarly in Jamaica, Republic of Ireland, and Great Britain.  (Hint: murder rates rose, sometimes dramatically, as in Jamaica, but in no case has he found that murder rates fell.)  Even more interestingly, both murder and all violent crime rates fell in Chicago and D.C. after their handgun ban laws were repealed, and often by quite astonishing amounts.

If you have been following Washington Times' reporter Emily Miller's efforts to buy a handgun in D.C., you know that for practical purposes, legally buying a handgun there is still extremely difficult.  One aspect of the Heller decision that Dr. Lott was careful to point out was that while it struck down D.C.'s handgun ban, the part of the decision that probably had more effect was that it also struck down D.C.'s ban on having loaded firearms in one's home.  D.C. had actually charged people with violating this law for shooting criminals forcing entry, because clearly, the victims already had their guns loaded when the criminal attack started.  This change probably had more effect on the decline in violent crime rates--especially the decline in armed robberies with guns, which fell much more dramatically than the decline in armed robberies without guns.

It was not a large crowd that showed up, although I was pleased that two members of the Idaho legislature were present: Rep. Shirley Ringo (D-Moscow) and Senator Monty Pearce (R-New Plymouth) were present. Ringo, who voted against the carry on campus bill last time, was expected to comment on Dr. Lott's presentation, but she left before he finished.  The legislature is in session, and she may well have had some important meeting to attend, so I would not put too much significance to her failing to stick around.

All in all, it was a chance to meet faculty from Boise State who also were lobbying the legislature for a reform of the current overly broad ban, so I guess that was worthwhile.

Miserable Weather To Be Working Outside

Yesterday, someone must have slid off the road, and hit the first mailbox in the line of them at the end of our subdivision's road.  And who has the first mailbox?  Me.  The plastic post on which the mailbox sits was shattered; the mailbox itself was hanging down, with its mouth open, looking for all the world like it had one too many drinks the night before.  The mail that was perhaps inside?  Could not find it last night.

This morning, after many hours of drenching rain, the snow has been turned into a very slippery slush.  At least this morning the Jaguar was able to climb the driveway.  But my wife and I are getting too old to use a snow thrower.  It's time for a blade on the front of the TrailBlazer. 

We went down to repair the mailbox, and at least the rain had melted enough of the snow to find our soaked mail.  (Fortunately, no one mails water color portraits to us.)  The top of the post was destroyed, but the mailbox itself was undamaged, so we built a replacement post from 2x4s and a 1/4" acetal spacer, and then screwed the replacement post into the base of the post (which is quite solidly sunk into the ground).  This required two trips, when we discovered a measurement error had the mailbox 8" too high to line up with the other mailboxes.

This is a cold, windy, wet, miserable day.  I'm taking the whole day off work; maybe it's time for a nap, too.  It is amazing how exhausting being outside working in freezing weather can be.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

That Does It: It's Time For a Snow Plow For The TrailBlazer

Conditions are so bad out there that the snow thrower was having serious problems.  I fell down three times (because the snow is sloppy wet).  I have little confidence that an ATV with snow plow will do the job.

I am thinking of buying one of the plows that mounts on the front of the TrailBlazer.  There are non-motorized ones that mount to a 2" front trailer hitch (which would have to be installed), and cost about $950.  They can be removed and installed (at least in theory) by one person.

I know that these simple plows are not on a par with a professional snow plow, and I have no plans to go into the snow plowing business, but my guess is that if I use it to clear not only my driveway, but the 1/2 mile stretch to the old highway, it should not excessively stress the TrailBlazer's driveline.  I know that generally, automatic transmissions are not the best choice for such use, but it is not like we need to do this on a daily basis, either.

UPDATE: I decided that I did not want to order up the SnowSport 180 plow sight unseen, so I called the maker, Agri-Cover, and asked for a local dealer.  They gave me one in Nampa, about 30 miles away.  I called that dealer.  They had never heard of the SnowSport product line, and were emphatically not a dealer.  The nearest dealer is in Shoshone, the other end of the state from Boise. 

It looks pretty easy to install and remove from the 2" trailer hitch, but it would still be nice to at least see one before coughing up probably $1200 (including having someone local install the front trailer hitch).

Obama Decides To Injure America & Its Closest Ally

From the January 18, 2012 Washington Post:
The Obama administration will announce this afternoon it is rejecting a Canadian firm’s application for a permit to build and operate a massive oil pipeline across the U.S.-Canada border, according to sources who have been briefed on the matter.
It is likely that Canada will instead build a pipeline to the West Coast so that it sell the oil to China.  We could import oil from the Middle East--or we could import it from a country where women are allowed to drive cars, vote, and speak freely.  It is hard to believe that it is cheaper or environmentally safer to bring oil to the U.S. from overseas than via pipeline from our nearest neighbor.  But environmentalists see making petroleum expensive as a useful goal.  The next time you hear some liberal scream, "No blood for oil," you know that this was just partisan politics, because Bush was in the Oval Office.

Any Canadians reading this?  We're your friends.  We would much prefer sending money to Canada instead of sending it to countries where they wrap their turbans too tightly, with resultant disturbing results.  Start building the pipeline south.  We'll remove the idiot in November.  If worst comes to worst, we can set up a tanker truck operation across the border to embarrass the idiot even more.

SOPA/PIPA Blackouts

The English version of Wikipedia is offline, and Google has put a blackout spot over their logo.  In both cases, the goal is to get readers to contact their members of Congress and tell them no on SOPA and PIPA.  Fortunately, my member of the House, Raul Labrador, has indicated opposition already.  It still would not hurt to contact your member.

UPDATE: Just to be sure, I emailed Rep. Labrador and Sen. Crapo about SOPA/PIPA.  I would have contacted Sen. Risch as well, but his server seems to be crashed.  (I wonder why?)

Winter Finally Arrived

It took me an hour and forty minutes to drive to work today--something that ordinarily only takes about forty minutes.  The snow was not particularly deep, but everyone was driving appropriately cautiously because temperatures were just high enough for everything to be slippery.  You should understand that "appropriately cautiously" is not normally a word to describe Boise drivers in snow, who drive like kamikazes once they have had a few snowfalls into the winter.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A New Fashion Statement: Tattoo Removal

From January 16, 2012 San Francisco Chronicle:

Hollywood actor Mark Wahlberg has taken on a painful personal project. He’s having all of his tattoos removed.
“It’s the most excruciating thing I’ve ever experienced,” Wahlberg, who stars in the new film“Contraband,” told David Letterman last week. “It’s like someone flicking hot bacon grease on you over and over and over again.”
He now has kids, and doesn't want them to get tattooed, so he takes the two older ones with him to watch how painful it is to get them removed.

I've always looked on tattoos and body piercings as a pretty negative thing, probably because of the association with circus freak shows, and very, very blue collar way of living.  But I also associate them now with people who clearly have too much money to waste.  When I see people dependent on governmental assistance (for either living or school) with sleeves (tattoos that cover the entire arm), it is rather like seeing welfare recipients with smart phones or cigarettes.  I ask myself, "Why do you need the government's help?  Because you spend money stupidly?"

Strange Dreams (Continued)

I must be getting enough exercise--my dreams are getting more vivid and entertaining (without being nightmares).  Last night's dream involved my wife and I going out for a drive in one of the more remote parts of Idaho, and meeting another couple...but they were a Bigfoot couple.  Really very nice, and we could almost understand what they were saying.  (Perhaps Bigfoots just have a fundamental speech impediment.)  We took a bunch of pictures and video from up close, but then I found myself wondering where I was going to take those pictures and videos where I would be taken seriously.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Bizarre Photo

Like father, like son.

Strange Dreams

I have always found the pre-World War II Browning .380 and .32 pocket pistols very esthetically pleasing.  I have actually fired one of the .380 pocket pistols, many years ago, and it seemed to function quite nicely.  So a couple of nights ago, perhaps from having seen several of these at the NRA's National Firearms Museum in the General Officers section, I had a dream that I had started collecting these.

Barska Scopes?

I saw this ad for the Barska 4-16x50mm sniper scope, and I confess that I was intrigued by the price: $99 delivered for an illuminated reticle mil-dot scope with rings.  I know that bargains like this are usually Chinese made--and often not such bargains after a bit of hard use.  The reviews are very positive "for the price."  Have any of my readers used Barska scopes?

UPDATE: There is a rather tragic conversation about Barska scopes here and another one here.  It does appear that they are worth what you pay for them, but nothing more.  They do not seem to be terribly durable, and quality control is about what you would expect from cheap Chinese optics.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Weaver Lens Caps

I ordered a set of these for the Redfield scope, and I'm pretty pleased.  They use a rubber stretchable material to hold onto the end of the scope, and the ends are clear.  This means that you can take a shot without removing the caps.  It is better to press the little buttons that pop the spring-loaded caps out of the way, but I suppose if you were hiking through the woods, and suddenly found yourself staring at a wolf 30 feet away, you could take immediate action if required.

Not Everyone Is Paying Attention

A college student I know is fairly aware politically, and asked an older couple (well, my age) he knows who they were supporting in the presidential race.  Since they are, by their own admission, straight Republican ticket voters, he was expecting a bit more knowledge than they showed.

"I think there's a transvestite trying to get the nomination... Ru Paul."

"I know one of them has really good hair... I think he's a Mormon."

Ilya Somin at Volokh Conspiracy frequently blogs about voter ignorance can actually be a rational act, because any individual voter has little or no impact on the final election result, and there is a significant investment of time and energy into becoming informed about what is going on. 

A cynic would suggest that it doesn't much matter: the practical difference between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to sailing our nation into a Titanic-nature debt iceberg is becoming increasingly tiny.  Still, I would like people to be paying a bit more attention.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Racism & Weapons Control

I am reading through the first attempt to ban concealed carry in California, in the 1850s.  Even with the prevailing racist sentiment, reporters managed to express their disapproval of the most grossly appalling expressions:
Mr. Ashley, as I write is replying to a remark which was made by the poetical gentleman from Nevada, (Mr. Barton) who expressed himself in favor of disarming "Greasers."
The term "greaser" is commonly used throughout this period to describe Mexicans, and the reporter's reference to State Senator Barton as "poetical" while putting "Greasers" in quotes makes it pretty clear the contempt that he feels for Barton.

Out of Control Department of Homeland Security

This makes absolutely no sense.  From the January 14, 2012 Belfast Telegraph:

A British student can be extradited to the United States to face charges of copyright infringement over a website he ran offering links to pirated films online, a court ruled yesterday.
Richard O'Dwyer, whose site TV Shack made more than £150,000 in advertising revenues, according to US prosecutors, is thought to be the first person extradited to America on such charges. If convicted in New York, he faces jail.
Speaking after the hearing at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court, the 23-year-old said he felt like a "guinea pig" for the US justice system. His lawyer argued that his site hosted no illegal content, but merely directed users to where it was held online, and said that his client would fight the ruling.

Read more: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/uk/tv-shack-website-creator-faces-extradition-to-us-for-movie-links-16103530.html#ixzz1jTCOK49I
 According to other sources, TV Shack provided only links to other sites, some of which apparently carried videos that may have infringed on copyrights.  It carried no videos of its own.  It was only a search engine (in a sense), or directory providing links to other websites.  I do not see how this can be a criminal offense.  I know that YouTube often has videos that violate copyright, and get taken down after demands from the copyright holder.  If I can find those videos using Google, does that mean Google is engaged in copyright infringement?  No.

It appears that the Department of Homeland Security has the terrorism problem so well solved that they now have resources to devote to stuff that isn't even a crime.  I think I see one place where the government could solve its deficit problem, at least a little: tell Hollyweird to pursue these matters in the criminal justice systems of the countries where the alleged crimes take place--and stop focusing on people who are not even infringing their copyrights.