Monday, December 22, 2008

One Advantage of Telecommuting....

I was mentally exhausted from trying to understand a particularly complicated piece of code, so I shut down the VPN connection, took myself off the clock, and voila! I'm back in Horseshoe Bend!

One of my objections to chains and other add on traction devices for snow is that they are a real struggle to put on, especially because you are doing so in the cold, and often, in the dark. While cable devices are easier to put on than chain devices, because they are still a "ladder" design, they are still a nuisance to put on because you have to get your hands behind the wheel to hook the inside connectors together, and you have to roll the car onto the cables to pull them up and over the top of the tire.

So I was very pleased to find out about what are called Z design cables, such as this from Safety Chain Corporation of Clackamas, Oregon, so called because they make a Z across the tire. The Super Z6 design lets you install the cables without having to move the car, and without having to reach around behind the wheel where you can't see to connect everything. And the Super Z6 requires only 1/4" of clearance around the wheel. Watching the video almost makes it look painless to do.

I think I am still going to get some Severe Winter Traction tires for the Jaguar, but having chains this easy to install would make me a lot more willing to install them if needed.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Remember "Yellowcake"?

Remember the concerns about Saddam Hussein's efforts to buy this uranium ore in Africa? The concerns that the left said were entirely manufactured? So what's with this July 5, 2008 Las Vegas Sun story?
The last major remnant of Saddam Hussein's nuclear program _ a huge stockpile of concentrated natural uranium _ reached a Canadian port Saturday to complete a secret U.S. operation that included a two-week airlift from Baghdad and a ship voyage crossing two oceans.

The removal of 550 metric tons of "yellowcake" _ the seed material for higher-grade nuclear enrichment _ was a significant step toward closing the books on Saddam's nuclear legacy. It also brought relief to U.S. and Iraqi authorities who had worried the cache would reach insurgents or smugglers crossing to Iran to aid its nuclear ambitions.

Monday, June 9, 2008

An Astonishing Source For This

The Washington Post is one of the leading liberal newspapers in the U.S. It is also one of the leading newspapers in the U.S., regardless of political orientation. A lot of very ordinary papers around the country rely on the Washington Post and New York Times for wisdom and news. It is therefore astonishing to see this piece by the Editorial Page Editor of the Washington Post, which appeared March 9, 2008:

There's no question that the administration, and particularly Vice President Cheney, spoke with too much certainty at times and failed to anticipate or prepare the American people for the enormous undertaking in Iraq.

But dive into Rockefeller's report, in search of where exactly President Bush lied about what his intelligence agencies were telling him about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, and you may be surprised by what you find.

On Iraq's nuclear weapons program? The president's statements "were generally substantiated by intelligence community estimates."

On biological weapons, production capability and those infamous mobile laboratories? The president's statements "were substantiated by intelligence information."
And so on, with respect to chemical weapons and delivery systems for WMDs: "Generally substantiated by intelligence information."  The editorial points out that the report even agreed that ties between Iraq and terrorist groups was substantially justified by the intelligence reports.

I've linked to a variety of reports, from both Congress and the British Parliament, that come to similar conclusions: a heck of a lot of the world's intelligence services (not just ours) believed that Iraq was developing nuclear weapons, had significant chemical WMD capabilities, and that there was serious risk that Iraq would use WMDs again--and there was no guarantee that they wouldn't be directed against us, perhaps through terrorist proxies. This article goes on to point out why the truth on this matters, not only because the core problem was not "Bush lied" but "tragically, catastrophically wrong" intelligence reports, but that it:
trivializes a double dilemma that President Bill Clinton faced before Bush and that President Obama or McCain may well face after: when to act on a threat in the inevitable absence of perfect intelligence and how to mobilize popular support for such action, if deemed essential for national security, in a democracy that will always, and rightly, be reluctant.

For the next president, it may be Iran's nuclear program, or al-Qaeda sanctuaries in Pakistan, or, more likely, some potential horror that today no one even imagines. When that time comes, there will be plenty of warnings to heed from the Iraq experience, without the need to fictionalize more.
There's plenty that Bush screwed up after we invaded Iraq. He won the war; he very nearly lost the occupation, and more importantly, the costs that we have paid there have very nearly sunk the War on Terror (and the Republican Party) as a legitimate cause. In retrospect, it might have been better to have waited for Iraq to have set off a nuclear weapon in Baltimore, or New York City, Miami, or London. At least the leftists making excuses for terrorism would have shut up long enough to win the war.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Pure Sleep Antisnoring Device

I saw the ad for this on TV. It is an oral appliance that apparently pulls the lower jaw forward to eliminate snoring. It costs $59.90 plus shipping, and has a 30 day money back guarantee. In spite of how well I now sleep (because of the sinus surgery some years ago, and the Breathe Right strips), I still snore--loudly enough that when we traveled with the kids, my wife would usually take refuge in the kid's room.

I am hoping it arrives before we fly back to Washington for the Supreme Court hearings. It would be lovely if my wife wasn't awakened multiple times during the night--which means that I get awakened multiple times during the night. "Roll over!"

The website asks a bunch of questions to screen out people with TMJ and other jaw joint problems.

UPDATE: Short answer: it didn't work for me, so I returned it.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Snowthrowers, Global Cooling, My Driveway, & Chains

Yes, these all fit together. The Corvette has been sitting quietly in its warm little garage, out of fear that it would get stuck on the driveway. Wednesday, we discovered that even the AWD Equinox wouldn't get up the driveway. There was just too much snow on top of too consistent a layer of ice. Most people would just shovel the driveway. Since my driveway is about 600 feet long....

Okay, so Thursday we decided that since there are no snowplow attachments for the Equinox (at least that I could find), the right solution was to buy a snowthrower. Astonishingly enough, Lowe's still had four snowthrowers in stock. We bought a Troy-Bilt 5.5 horsepower Storm 2 stage snowthrower. It has four forward gears and two reverse gears. It clears a path 24" wide. And yes, it breaks up ice.

So the plan was: clear the driveway. Drop ice melt on the ice. And this is where the global cooling comes in. We went to Home Depot, and said, "Where's your big bags of ice melt?"

"We're out. And so is the manufacturer."

We went to Wal-Mart. Completely out. No idea when they will see more. It appears that the remarkable cold snap that the U.S. is experiencing right now has sucked up all available ice melt in this part of the country. (I assume ice melt is shipped everywhere in America to meet demand.)

Anyway, if, like me, you come from a part of America where you have to drive several hours to see snow, much less shovel it, you may not think about snowthrowers, anymore than Idahoans think about car alarms.

A snowthrower looks an awful lot like a rototiller. The one we bought has a four stroke gasoline engine that turns a set of blades that pick up the snow, and feed it to an augur that fires it up and out of what looks like a smokestack, which you can direct either left, right, or, if you are feeling particularly masochistic, straight ahead. The blades reach within an inch or so of the ground.

You start it up much like a lawnmower, and aim it at your snowbank. (Ours has an electric starter that you plug into an extension cord if you don't feel like pulling the rope.) The left control runs the blades and augur.

The right control is a weird mixture of a reverse clutch and accelerator. When you release it, the transmission disengages. When you depress it, it engages the transmission and increases power to the driving wheels. (I'm hoping that these are two separate functions, or the clutch won't last long if you use it at lower speeds.)

It picks up snow and throws it with great enthusiasm. It is less enthusiastic about ice, but it will break up the frozen ice layer, along with whatever dirt and rocks it finds, and create the world's least attractive slushy. (Pretend it's chocolate chocolate chip slushy!) The ice tends to come up in big lumps, like 19th century sugar loaves, while the snow just flies!

Anyway, it turns out that the first try on using the snowthrower to clear the driveway took a couple of hours to make two complete passes. I'm glad that I bought one that was driven, but even with this, both my wife and I have muscles that are sore in places that we didn't even know we had muscles. Even this still left long patches of ice, so we bought chains. (It's an AWD--so it takes two sets of chains.)

Anyway, my wife has never put chains on a car before, so this was a new experience for her. I was dreading this quite a bit, largely because all of my memories of tire chains are unpleasant. The strongest memory was helping my father put chains on a 1967 Pontiac Ventura as we crossed the Siskiyou Summit from Oregon to California in 1971. It was cold. It was dark. We were at the side of I-5, with traffic going by at what, in retrospect, could not have been more than about 35 mph, but talk about a way to get your fingers cold and sore.

Anyway, the chains made it possible for us to drive up the ice-covered driveway with only a little adrenalin rush, but the prospect of having to take them off and put them back on again each time we reached the base of our driveway was a bit much for my wife, so I decided to declare war on ice.

I spent most of this morning and into the afternoon--perhaps three hours total--breaking up the ice, enough so that my wife was able to drive straight up the driveway, without drama. As I neared completion of the task, however, one rock managed to get stuck in the augur, preventing it from turning.

This was an unpleasant task to remove, since it was a piece of granite (very useful for dulling high speed drill bits on, by the way), and eventually I could only get it out the same way that one of my lower wisdom teeth came out some years ago: by breaking it in place with a hammer and chisel. (And yes, the anesthetic was beginning to wear off by that point. I'm glad this snowthrower doesn't scream.)