Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Perfect Paper

So far, I have given 100/100 to a couple of papers that had only the most trivial of mistakes on them and which showed more than simple competence in writing.  I just finished grading a paper that was so polished that I searched everywhere for some of the phrases to make sure it was not plagiarized.  This paper about the Golden Mean in Greek architecture was not simply competently written, but written with great polish and beauty.  Wow.  It was a breath of fresh air in a swamp of sentence fragments, misused punctuation, crazy capitalization, and missing citations.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Startling Computer Illiteracy In The Younger Generation

I am impressed how many of the papers that I am grading have a hard return at the end of every line--rather like they think they are using a typewriter. 

The Next Time Some Leftist Compares Social Conservatives to the Taliban...

Point them to this March 29, 2011 CNN article about a 14 year old girl named Hena Ahter:
Hena was walking from her room to an outdoor toilet when Mahbub Khan gagged her with cloth, forced her behind nearby shrubbery and beat and raped her.
And what was the response of the village when her parents sought justice for their daughter?
Her fellow villagers in Bangladesh's Shariatpur district had already passed harsh judgment on her. Guilty, they said, of having an affair with a married man. The imam from the local mosque ordered the fatwa, or religious ruling, and the punishment: 101 lashes delivered swiftly, deliberately in public.

Hena dropped after 70.

Bloodied and bruised, she was taken to hospital, where she died a week later.
The first autopsy report described this as a suicide.

Not all cultures are equal.  Some are just different.  But some are inferior: monstrously savage and barbaric.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Machine Translation Gets Better And Better

You probably know the stories about the early days of computer translation from one human language to another.  One version goes that the National Security Agency's first attempts to translate Chinese to English and Russian to English had some amusing results.  They took various common, although idiomatic phrases, had a computer program do the translation from English to the target language, then back again.

"Out of sight, out of mind" to Chinese and back came out as "The invisible idiot" and "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" became "The vodka was excellent, but the meat was rotten."

I'm not sure that I actually believe either of those, but it's a great story. What is really impressive to me is that I visited a news article in Spanish about Khaddafi's blonde bombshell Ukrainian nurse who is apparently carrying his child, and at least in Chrome, I suddenly had an offer to translate the article into English.  There were a few mistakes (singular vs. plural, overly literal translation of sequence), but really, quite astonishingly literate, and nothing that made me laugh or scratch my head.

UPDATE: Translating front page articles from Der Spiegel was not quite so beautiful.  If you have read Mark Twain's hilarious discussion of German grammar, you know why!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Advertising That Doesn't Seem To Work

I set up Google AdWords to try and sell ScopeRoller products.  After a week, there have been 147,254 impressions (meaning that something in a search or a webpage caused a ScopeRoller ad to appear).  From that, there were 171 click throughs--meaning that someone found the ad sufficiently intriguing to visit the ScopeRoller website.  The average cost per click was $0.16--which is not at all expensive--but it generated not a single order--or even a single question.

Maybe I will try again in summer.

Nostradamus of the Hard Disk

The older Compaq NC6000 that I have set up as a dual boot Linux/Windows has started to warn of impending hard disk drive failure.  My first reaction was, "What?  There's a Nostradamus chip in here somewhere?  Not to worry, it's more science than supernatural, more math than magic. 

The Linux Disk Utility shows the SMART data which reports when sectors are remapped to a new location because of read errors.  The Disk Utility says that there are a "few bad sectors."  In more detail, I see that there are 3,047,927 bad sectors--which sounds like a bit more than a "few."

I was planning to replace this 20 GB hard disk anyway with something larger, so that Linux and Windows wouldn't be cramped in there, but this gives me an incentive to do so.  I was hoping someone would give me an EIDE notebook drive that they had outgrown, but it never happened, so I ordered up a 160 GB replacement for $64.  That should be more than enough.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Machining Fixtures

One of the required tasks to move manufacturing from handcraft to mass production is the right fixtures.  Part of my manufacturing process involves drilling three holes 3/8" from one end of a nominal 2" O.D. aluminum tube, 120 degrees apart, then threading them--and making sure that they are exactly square--which is not trivial when you are going into a round surface.  Doing this isn't hard.  Doing it consistently is very slow--unless you build the right fixture.

What I did was buy a nominal 2" I.D. steel tube.  Then I squared the ends on the lathe, and bored the interior to be 2.02" I.D. and 1.00" deep so that it would slide onto the tube that needs the threaded holes.  (Then I polished it up with #50, #150, #1500, then #2500 sandpaper so it is all shiny and pretty.)

Next, I used the vertical mill to very precisely place the first hole .375" from the end of the steel tube. 

Then I used the protractor that I made a few days ago to mark and drill the next two holes.

Now, I needed to make sure that the tap went in exactly square.  The instructions for doing this with a drill press and a conventional tap wrench are here.  The only difference is that I did not have a spring center, but I found that a dead center from the lathe in the drill press chuck worked just fine.  You put slight pressure on the drill press, and the dead center going into the hole in the back of the tap wrench keeps everyone lined up as you turn the tap wrench by hand.  After the first few threads, you can let go of the drill press, and complete the process by hand.

Last step: drill and tap a fourth hole in the tube to accept a 1/4"-20 bolt.

Now I can slip the 2" O.D. aluminum tube into the sleeve, and tighten down the 1/4"-20 bolt.  I put the entire assembly in the drill press vise, and position the drill bit precisely in the center of each of the three holes, and drill down.  Now I put the tap wrench with the tap into the three threaded holes, and tap through the aluminum inside. 

Because the threaded holes in the sleeve are square, I don't have to worry too much about whether I am starting the tap square or not--because the first threads the tap touches are square.  By the time the tap reaches the aluminum, it is square as well.  I can now hand this task to my minions, and they can make perfectly square threaded holes at exactly the right angle and distance in very little time.

Grading Western Civ Papers

There are some pretty good papers, and some not so good papers.  There is even one paper that I learned something from--the Euclid proved that there was an infinite number of prime numbers, and that Archimedes apparently was the first to determine the formulae for area and volume of cylinders and spheres.  (The student had not paraphrased these two particular sentences terribly clearly, so I had to do some digging to see what she meant--and I learned these facts as I researched what Euclid and Archimedes did in these areas.)

Also, I had an "Aha!" moment.  I was explaining on another paper that "things" is an awfully general word: "things were very different from city to city" does not tell us much, and a more descriptive noun might be appropriate.  It suddenly occurred to me that "things" in English is rather like the Class Object in Java--it is the base class of all objects and ideas.  Using "things" in English is rather like writing a method that accepts parameters of type Object, and hoping that no one asks you for any specifics!

Friday, March 25, 2011

No Wonder Obama Wanted To Help The Libyan Rebels

It seemed odd that for once he was prepared to take action--while ignoring the Iranian dissidents a couple of years ago.  The March 25, 2011 Telegraph reports:

Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi, the Libyan rebel leader, has said jihadists who fought against allied troops in Iraq are on the front lines of the battle against Muammar Gaddafi's regime.


Even though the LIFG is not part of the al-Qaeda organisation, the United States military's West Point academy has said the two share an "increasingly co-operative relationship". In 2007, documents captured by allied forces from the town of Sinjar, showed LIFG members made up the second-largest cohort of foreign fighters in Iraq, after Saudi Arabia.
I know that you have to often make strange and ugly alliances in time of war, but it seems a bit much to be helping a group that describes al-Qaeada as "good Muslims."  Perhaps the Iranian dissidents did not have al-Qaeda endorsement.  That may have been the problem.

Guns on Campus Bill Dies In State Senate Committee

The article is at the March 25, 2011 Idaho Statesman.
As I have said repeatedly, this is not really the right solution to the psychotic mass murder problem. Also, I was not entirely happy with the bill because of the open carry aspect of it.  The article mentions that State Senator Davis discussed the murder of his son by a guy named Olsen, another student who, in spite of a recent DUI conviction, had a concealed weapon permit, back in 2003.
The murder of Sen. Davis' son highlights a weakness in Idaho current concealed weapon permit law that I tried to get my legislators to pursue when I lived in Boise, but got nowhere. Many states make a DUI conviction a five year disqualifier for a concealed weapon permit, on the rather logical basis that if you aren't responsible with alcohol and cars, you probably aren't responsible for alcohol and other dangerous devices. Five years is enough time that if you are a chronic irresponsible sort, you are always going to have a fresh DUI conviction on your record.
Making this change would have prevented Olsen from getting a permit, since he had a recent DUI conviction. It also would expand the number of other states that would recognize an Idaho concealed handgun license, since our lack of DUI disqualifier makes us something of an outlier.

Those Of You Who Voted For Obama To Protect Civil Liberties

From the March 24, 2011 Wall Street Journal:
New rules allow investigators to hold domestic-terror suspects longer than others without giving them a Miranda warning, significantly expanding exceptions to the instructions that have governed the handling of criminal suspects for more than four decades.
The move is one of the Obama administration's most significant revisions to rules governing the investigation of terror suspects in the U.S. And it potentially opens a new political tussle over national security policy, as the administration marks another step back from pre-election criticism of unorthodox counterterror methods.
Now, there might be some legitimate public policy questions about whether there should be a terrorism exception to the Miranda warning--the 24 type of scenarios involving ticking nuclear bombs and such.  There is even a legitimate argument about whether the Supreme Court's Miranda decision was wrong or not.  However, if you voted for Obama because you were worried about the PATRIOT Act's abuse of civil liberties, what are you going to say now?  Over at Volokh Conspiracy, Paul Cassell points to the problems with this, but I love the comment on Cassell's posting:
If only Barack Obama had been elected President we would not have Sarah Palin’s Rethuglican Thugs trampling our civil rights and bringing on the dark night of fascism. 
And you thought Obama won the 2008 election?  I guess not!

What Is The Meaning of Photocopier?

Not quite up there with Bill Clinton asking during a deposition, "What is the meaning of 'is'?" but still pretty good!    It is ten pages of a court transcript trying to get an Ohio county official to answer if the office has a photocopier or not:

Marburger: During your tenure in the computer department at the Recorder's office, has the Recorder's office had photocopying machines?

Cavanagh: Objection.

Marburger: Any photocopying machine?

Patterson: When you say "photocopying machine," what do you mean?

Marburger: Let me be -- let me make sure I understand your question. You don't have an understanding of what a photocopying machine is?

Patterson: No. I want to make sure that I answer your question correctly.

Cavanagh: Dave, I'll object to the tone of the question. You make it sound like it's unbelievable to you that he wouldn't know what the definition of a photocopy machine is.

Marburger: I didn't ask him to define it. I asked him if he had any.

Patterson: When you say "photocopying machine," what do you mean?

Marburger: Let me be clear. The term "photocopying machine" is so ambiguous that you can't picture in your mind what a photocopying machine is in an office setting?

Patterson: I just want to make sure I answer your question correctly.

And it keeps going from there!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

No Wonder Hugo Chavez Is So Popular In Hollywood

He apparently has a new theory to explain why Mars has no life:

CARACAS (Reuters) – Capitalism may be to blame for the lack of life on the planet Mars, Venezuela's socialist President Hugo Chavez said on Tuesday.

"I have always said, heard, that it would not be strange that there had been civilization on Mars, but maybe capitalism arrived there, imperialism arrived and finished off the planet," Chavez said in speech to mark World Water Day.
Well, at least he isn't blaming the Jews again.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Who Is John Galt?

The preview of Atlas Shrugged is here.  Opening April 15, 2011.  (How appropriate?)  The preview looks good!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

April America's First Freedom Published My Article About The Sullivan Law

That's the 1911 New York State law that required a license to have a gun in your home.  The article is about the gangster who wrote the law--and how it has been subsequently used to benefit organized crime, at the expense of law-abiding citizens of New York.

Domain Expiration

Network Solutions failed to email me that my domain was expiring (or at least, I never received notification).  This is causing considerable frustration right now.

UPDATE: They were supposed to send me an email for getting access to my account at Network Solutions--no such luck.  I was able to figure out how to renew without getting into my account--but I am going to definitely look at moving my domain registrar when this comes up for renewal next year.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

There's Something Worse Than Getting Smut Spam...

And that's getting gay smut spam.

Nuclear Misinformation

All sorts of nonsense shows up in my inbox; the latest is the claim that there is a disaster underway for Americans because of fallout from Japan:
""Miniscule" amounts of radiation from the [] Nuclear Reactors have been detected in California.  Whatever that means, a "miniscule" amount of radiation can sicken or kill you.  One teaspoon of plutonium can poison every person in the world!
Most estimates are that the lethal dose of plutonium is 1/2 gram.  However, 26 men who worked on the Manhattan Project ended up with a much higher dose of plutonium--and have far exceeded normal lifespans.  The actual lethal dose is probably much higher than 1/2 gram.  Even using 1/2 gram as the lethal dose, for all six billion people, that would require three billion grams, or three million kilograms, or 30,000 metric tonnes.  I am quite sure that there is not 30,000 metric tonnes of plutonium on this planet.  It is certainly way more than a teaspoon of plutonium!

Plutonium is not the primary risk from these reactors, but I can say with great confidence that my survey meter gives me no reason to worry.  It continues to show a value just barely above zero--which is background radiation level.

New Article on PajamasMedia

Disturbing Similarities Between the Fall of Rome and Today’s America

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Right To Bear Pitchforks

Pitchforks and torches are the traditional angry peasants weapons in the Old World.  (We're a bit better off than that here.)  Nonetheless, it is amusing to see an Arizona court recognize that the Second Amendment protects the right to bear pitchforks in a courthouse--where you can carry a gun.  The part of the decision that refers to "holstered pitchforks" still has me a bit confused.  Does Galco or DeSantis make pitchfork holsters yet?  (I would not mind this Galco holster for my Colt Mustang.)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Idaho H0222 Passed The House Today

I really think the open carry aspect of this is going to provoke a backlash.  Yes, very, very few students are going to be so incredibly stupid as to open carry to class.  Do you suppose that might influence how some professors might grade you essays?  It should not, of course, but for a fair number of faculty, seeing anyone carrying openly on campus will be an underwear changing experience.

I really hope that some sort of reasonable compromise gets worked out--something that lets Idaho academics pretend that, in spite of the law, there are no guns on campus.  "Don't frighten the horses and servants" is the operative idea on this.

Panic About Radiation

A lot of people do not realize that the risk of fallout is generally from events within a few hundred miles.  If someone had set of a nuclear weapon or two over Japan, I would not be freaking out about the radiation exposure from it.  And venting from these nuclear reactor failures?  Noise.  Worry more about the bananas, or being around a smoker.

My CD-710 radiation survey meter (calibrated last year) says that my exposure inside the house is 0.04 R/hr, or 40 mR/hr.  Here's a graph of someone's radiation exposure on a Texas vacation.  Because of my elevation (3820 feet), I'm not surprised that 40 mR/hr is at the high end of this.  (Elevation means less air protecting you from radiation.)  For all you nervous nellies out there--feel free to pull out your survey meters, and post what exposures you are getting.

UPDATE: A reader says that this should 40 microroentgens/hour--and from reading various sources, that sounds right.  Yet the dial on this survey meter clearly shows R/Hr.  I suppose that I better find a manual for this Jordan CD-710.

UPDATE 2: Here's the manual.  I'm reading this correctly.  Maybe I'm dead?  I have had this reading for many months.

UPDATE 3: Looking at the manual, it says to let the unit warm up for a minute or two before zeroing.  That may be the problem.  I'll try this again this evening, after letting it warm up.

UPDATE 4: I accidentally left it on all day--and when I rezeroed it, it now shows just barely above zero--something that is way down in the "not to worry" range.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Shaking My Head In Disbelief

The Shekel posted here about how an effort to prohibit welfare recipients from using the government issued ATM cards at strip clubs.  (Liquor stores, casinos, and gun clubs are already prohibited places to use your welfare ATM card.)  I found The Shekel's description of why the legislators decided to not put strip clubs on the banned list so absurd that I had to go read the Denver Post article he links.  (I do not link to it myself because the Denver Post is part of the Righthaven racket.)  And indeed, one of the activists on behalf of "working women" insists that such a ban "stereotyped how money would be spent."  (Oooh!  I've quoted eight words from the article!  Is Righthaven going to file suit?)  Do we really believe that there are welfare recipients for whom a strip club is the only place to get cash?

Worried About Fallout From Japan?

Stop eating bananas for a while.  Bananas are naturally radioactive (a potassium concentrator, and therefore a potassium-40 concentrator).  This article at Watts Up With That? points out that bananas are sufficiently radioactive to set off the nuclear weapons detectors at ports of entry--and likely more of a radiation risk to you than whatever drifts over from Japan.

"Stupidity. There's An App For That!"

The March 14, 2011 Idaho Statesman reports on a guy who used an iPhone app for a not recommended purpose:
Alexander A. Welch is being held in the Ada County Jail on a felony charge of unlawful exercise of the function of peace officers after Boise police say he used a cell phone app that flashes blue and red to try to pull over another car Saturday night.
I wish that I claim the title of this blog posting was mine, but it actually came from a comment on the article!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Omar Khayyam

I grew up loving The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam--at least, FitzGerald's translation and selection of Khayyam's 1000+ quatrains.  (I now understand that it reflects as much Victorian sensibilities as the original material.)  What I did not know that is Omar Khayyam was a mathematician as well as a poet, and did original work on solving both quadratic and cubic equations.

The State of My Workshop & State of My Nerddom

I needed to measure 120 degree angles for a jig that I am building--but I could not find a protractor in my workshop or office.  But I guess it shows what a nerd that I am that it was faster to write something in PostScript to produce 10 degree angles of exactly the size of circle that I needed.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Idaho H0222

Students for Concealed Carry on Campus have been pushing ever since the Virginia Tech Massacre for states to repeal the bans that prohibit concealed weapon permit holders from carrying on campus.  I support that change--although I would be the first to say that the motivation--so that students are not sitting ducks for the next mentally ill mass murderer--is not the optimal solution.

The correct solution is to fix the broken mental health system in the United States.  The fact is that in most states, about 3-5% of the population has a carry permit, and on a college campus, it is going to be far lower.  The combination of a population that is generally too young to get a permit (under 21), and raging Political Correctness among both students and faculty, means that very, very few members of the college community are going to be armed.  If they are, and another tragedy like Virginia Tech happens, good--at least there is a small possibility that someone is going to be able stop this before the body count gets too high.  But fixing the core problem of the mentally ill being ignored until they kill someone is a more effective solution.  Of course, that would solve too many other serious problems, so we can't do that.

Still, for the very tiny number of students, faculty, and staff who might take advantage of the opportunity to carry concealed, this is an improvement.  There are students, faculty, and staff who have security problems, often with stalkers, spouses, ex-spouses, or soon-to-be ex-spouses, where being armed is a darn good idea.  Idaho is a remarkably safe place to go to college.  It is so safe that I can't imagine carrying a gun on campus for any reason except the scary but really, very rare mentally ill mass murder scenario.  There are women instructors who are understandably nervous about being the last person out of the building after a night class--and I cannot say that they are being particularly unreasonable.

If the bill H0222 now before the Idaho House only extended statewide pre-emption concerning concealed carry to public colleges and universities, I would be completely happy with it.  But it doesn't.  It pre-empts any policies or rules concerning both concealed carry by permit holders, and open carry.

Remember that Idaho is an open carry state.  If you can legally possess a firearm, you can carry it openly just about anywhere you go.  Primary and secondary schools are prohibited (except if you leave the gun in the car when you go to the parking lot for pickup or dropoff); courthouses are prohibited; jails and prisons (of course).  You will get some serious discomfort if you insist on open carry in cities.  If you have a really good reason, of course, but I still think it is bad taste to do it "just because."  Get a concealed carry permit, and don't frighten the nervous nellies, of which we have many.

Oh yes: don't frighten the college professors, or the students.  From reading the comments on this March 10, 2011 Idaho Statesman article, it appears that if H0222 passes, and anyone starts carrying openly, it is going to cause faculty to look for new jobs, shortly after looking for a change of underwear.  (What Snowflakes in Hell calls PSH.  And no, I will not tell you what that crude by accurate acronym means.)  And you know what?  I really don't see any particularly good reason for you to show up on campus carrying openly.  If a madman on a mass murder spree shows up on campus, guess who he is going to shoot first?  The only person who is obviously an obstacle to setting a new world record for innocents slaughtered in a single session is going to be the first target.  I prefer taking all the unfair advantage that I can under such circumstances.

Even here in Idaho, college instructors tend to be a pretty liberal, and come up with all sorts of reasons to freak out about this.  I hope HB 222 is amended to leave a prohibition on open carry on campus in place.  "Out of sight, out of mind" applies to guns, too.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Call The Wahmbulance!

The headline from the March 10, 2011 Las Vegas Sun tells the whole story right there:

Righthaven accuses defendant of running up legal fees in copyright case
What next?  Righthaven's entire business strategy was built around using absurd legal fees to terrify Mom and Pop bloggers into coughing up thousands of dollars out of fear that Righthaven's legal fees would bankrupt the defendants.  Now Righthaven is getting a taste of their own medicine, and not liking it.

If there is any justice in our courts (and I doubt that there is), Righthaven will be driven into bankruptcy and Steve Gibson will have to get a real job.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Protecting Civil Liberties

A great opening from the March 8, 2011 Richmond Times-Dispatch:

America needs a Republican president again.

Not because having a Republican president is intrinsically better than having a Democratic one, mind you. It's just that when a Republican is running the show, liberals — the traditional defenders of civil liberties — stand ready to growl and snap at the slightest infringement. With a Democrat in office, they tend to roll onto their backs and wait for someone to rub their bellies.
He goes on to point out that Obama has utterly failed to keep his promises--such as closing Gitmo--and actively embraced many of the Bush policies that were supposedly signs that the dark night of fascism was descending on America.  Why, you might almost get the impression that all the huffing and puffing back a few years ago was not about civil liberties at all!

Need To Take Concealed Weapons Class In Boise?

A friend of mine has three seats open for Saturday. 

NRA Personal Protection Handgun Course
IDAHO Concealed Weapon License Class
March 12th, 2011 8am-8pm 12Hours

A 12 hour course designed to teach the basic knowledge, skills and attitude necessary for the safe and proper use of a handgun and provides information on the citizens Right of Self-Defense.

This course exceeds the Idaho State education requirements for obtaining an Idaho Concealed Weapon License (valid in 26 states), is recognized as firearms training in all 50 states, and may be accepted by some Nevada Sheriffs for that states CCW license.

The $150 course registration fee includes class handouts, related Idaho State laws, NRA pamphlets on Safety, Gun Laws , etc. NRA Basics of Personal Protection handbook and an NRA Course Completion certificate (suitable for framing) which is valid in most states for education requirements for concealed weapon licensing.

Multimedia approach involves the use of displays, demonstrations, NRA & other independently-produced videos, hands-on instruction, firing time on the range, gun cleaning, avoiding and controlling a violent situation discussion, Idaho State Law and firearms self-defense issues section will be taught by a licensed Idaho attorney at law. Classes are deliberately kept small (no greater than 7 at most). PAID advance registration is required to reserve your seat. Payment by mailed check or charge card over the phone is necessary.

MAIL deposits to T. Allen Hoover P.O. Box 6232 Boise, Idaho 83707 Payment must be received at least 1 week before day of class.

This class is for the beginner, average or experienced shooter alike.

This class is open to all citizens of good reputation who have no criminal record (felonies or violence/domestic abuse misdemeanors) or other legal disabler (mental or drug problems) and who are lawfully eligible to own a firearm, and who want to learn how to handle a handgun safely and to defend themselves lawfully. Those under age 18 may attend if a parent is also attending the class. Liability Release form signature required.

BRING: A desire to learn, appropriate season clothing & hat (uncovered shooting range may be windy, wet, hot or cold) bring suntan lotion if summertime, eye and ear protection (I have just a few loaners), a good quality handgun (I have a loaner available) and at least 1 box of 50 rounds of target ammunition ( NO magnum ammo allowed during this class), Instructor may forbid any firearm he deems unsafe or inappropriate for this class. Be sure to bring a lunch and drinks and snacks as the course is necessarily long and you get hungry and thirsty. Bring a notepad and pen.

Class will be conducted in the Boise area and a map will be provided. Regular breaks are scheduled between each section. We will beat the local Shooting Range for 2-3 hours. We will conduct the required NRA shooting skill exercises, then I will work with each student to improve skills. The process for obtaining a CCW will be explained during the class. There will be a written test at the end of the class, it is possible to fail this course.

T. Allen Hoover
NRA Certified Handgun Instructor,
NRA Training Counselor


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

National Palestinian Radio

More investigative journalism--in this case, giving NPR's executives in charging of raising money a chance to expose themselves:

It is pretty devastating. I do think we need to take them up on their "better in the long-run" without federal funding. I listen to NPR on my way to and from work as part of my commitment to hearing multiple points of view. I think of them as smart left-wing journalism (as distinguished by ABC, NBC, CBS, which qualify as stupid left-wing journalism). I will miss them a bit--but not much. Watching this video pretty well shows me the sort of elitist hatemongers that I expect NPR to employ.

Monday, March 7, 2011

How To Make A Custom Length Machine Screw

I needed an 8-32 x 0.760" long stainless steel machine screw recently.  A 1" long one would not work, and I could not find a 7/8" long one anywhere that I tried.  (And I'm not sure that 7/8" would have worked, anyway.)  So how to cut down such a small screw?  You can't really hold safely under a chop saw, or a band saw and even if you could, you would need to run it through a die to get the threads at the end clean.  I discovered that my lathe chuck would not hold it solidly enough centered--it is just too small. 

What I did was to drill and tap an 8-32 hole through a piece of acetal so that the screw would stick up through the top of the acetal block.  Now I could clamp the block down solidly in the vertical mill, and take repeated .010" passed across the top of a 1" long 8-32 screw until I had reduced it to the correct size.  Best of all, the process was so precise that I did not need to clean up the threads.

ScopeRoller, Moving Forward

One of the reasons that businesses that start or expand during recessions--even bad ones--often do well, is that they can take advantage of temporarily inexpensive capital, both equipment, and human capital.  I am now training two people (very, very part-time) to do manufacturing for me, and building up a bit of inventory of the most products as I fill orders.

The advantage is that I can pay both of these people better than they get anywhere else at the moment, and it is still a bargain compared to my own, now very unavailable labor.  I am also seeing some opportunities to improve my COGS (cost of good sold) and improve the product lines at the same time.  This is quite exciting.  Increasingly, I am working on training, and building jigs to speed up the accuracy of the components, and reduce manufacturing time. 

For example, cutting some 3.430" long blocks means that I have something to more precisely rough cut material on the chop saw.  The final production size of the part is 3.360" +- .003".  The chop saw necessarily produces a part that needs to be squared first, then cut down to size.  By having a gauge that lets me produce parts that are .070" too long, it substantially reduces the time required to get these to size.  (There is enough inconsistency with the chop saw that I probably cannot go much shorter.)

I am going to have to start doing some advertising again, in the hopes of turning these into consistent part-time employees.

Things You Don't Want Hear

An acquaintance of someone I know was clearing out a house in preparation for a move--and found Remington 20 gauge pump shotgun--probably an 870.  It was apparently hard to tell from new.  They were in a hurry, so they sold it for $30 to a pawn shop.  Groan.

Another PajamasMedia Article

No BC and AD? That Spells Culture War

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Your Tax Dollars At Work, Rebuilding Houses of Worship

That many of them are mosques is a bit annoying.  From March 6, 2011 WSB-TV in Atlanta.  Imagine if the U.S. government were spending this money rebuilding churches in the U.S.  I suspect the ACLU would be upset. 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

This Must Be The Greatest Disappointment to Hollywood That I Can Imagine

A report of a survey of young people suggests that the evil A-word is having an effect:

ATLANTA – Fewer teens and young adults are having sex, a government survey shows, and theories abound for why they're doing it less. Experts say this generation may be more cautious than their predecessors, more aware of sexually spread diseases. Or perhaps emphasis on abstinence in the past decade has had some influence.

Or maybe they're just too busy.
Too busyToo busy?  Excuse me while spit chocolate milk all over the screen.  I am pleased--and I almost don't quite believe it.  With the enormous energy that the entertainment industry has put into promoting early, frequent, kinky, and unmeaningful sex, I can only conclude that young people must be engaging in an act of rebellion against their virtual parents in Hollywood.

Some of the other explanations are more unbelievable.

"Some guys, at the end of the day, they'd rather channel their energy into music, playing their guitar or playing computer games," Fulbright said. "That's immediate gratification. People forget it takes work to woo somebody and keep her happy."

Grading Papers: Sometimes Real Gems Appear

A paper I assigned asking students to compare the ideals of the American Revolution, as expressed in the Declaration of Independence, compared to modern ideals, included this one rather entertaining sentence:

Modern Americans view their ruling bodies as “the powerful institution that annoys us but ought to do what we say.”

Wyoming Abolished Concealed Carry Permit Requirement

From the March 2, 2011 Columbus, Indiana Republic:

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Wyoming on Wednesday became the fourth state to allow citizens to carry concealed guns without a permit, with Gov. Matt Mead signing a bill into law as several other states considered similar action.

The law allows state citizens legally entitled to own guns to carry them concealed starting in July. The guns still wouldn't be allowed in schools, bars and government buildings.
I have long felt that "constitutional carry" is not the highest priority for the gun rights movement--but Wyoming now joins Alaska, Vermont, and Arizona in abolishing the requirement.  If you are not allowed to possess a gun, you still can't carry concealed.  Like Alaska and Arizona, Wyoming will continue to issue concealed carry permits so its citizens can carry concealed in states that recognize Wyoming licenses.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Ah Yes, This Is What Academic Freedom Is All About!

From the March 3, 2011 Chicago Tribune;
Northwestern University, fielding a torrent of criticism after a professor allowed students to view a live sex demonstration after his Human Sexuality class, is now grappling over the long cherished tenets of academic freedom and its boundaries.

The university initially supported the actions of psychology professor J. Michael Bailey, saying in a statement released Wednesday that, "the university supports the efforts of its faculty to further the advancement of knowledge." But by Thursday morning, Northwestern President Morton Schapiro announced that the school would investigate amid an unfolding scandal.
I'm not going to quote exactly what happened--you can click over for all the prurient details. 

I'm a firm believer in academic freedom, because there is an enormous level of disparity in what constitutes offensive, and reality is sometimes offensive.  I will be teaching about the rise of Islam this coming week, and I am not going to shy away from some of the less pleasant aspects of shariah.  I do not shy away from the Inquisition's use of torture, either. 

I have had college students cover their eyes to avoid seeing Botticelli's Birth of Venus when we reached the Renaissance.  (Okay, not many.)  There does come a moment where you find yourself saying, "What made you think something like this was appropriate in a classroom?"

UPDATE: By the way, as a commenter points out, Bailey is not going to win any awards from the sexually correct crowd.  He has published quite a bit of research, it appears, that attempts to understand homosexuality and bisexuality based on evidence, rather than starting from the Articles of the True Faith that dominate so much of the academic community on this subject.  I notice that some of those intent on seeing the 21st century equivalent of an auto da fe for Bailey have published extensively with titles suggesting their alternative sexual orientation.

This doesn't excuse his actions.  It does mean that along with legitimate upset about this inappropriate action, there may well be some other motivations for going after him.

A Really Specialized Job Requirement

Basque Speaking - Localization Tester (Boise, ID)

I Wish Them Luck

I would love to see some lawyers at Righthaven sitting in a prison cell for fraud.  The March 4, 2011 Las Vegas Sun reports:
New evidence surfaced Friday in the Righthaven LLC lawsuits that attorneys say could undermine Righthaven’s entire copyright infringement lawsuit campaign over Las Vegas Review-Journal stories.


But in the counterclaim, EFF/Democratic Underground attorneys charged Righthaven and Stephens Media have been abusing copyright law and that “Righthaven does not rightfully own the copyright in question, in that the assignment was a sham designed solely to pursue litigation with rights being retained by Stephens Media.”

In Friday’s court filing, EFF attorneys suggested documents recently turned over to the EFF by Stephens Media back up their claim about the “sham” copyright assignment.
There was so much clearly improper about the Righthaven suits--clearly in violation of champerty doctrine (which is alive and kicking in Nevada, even in federal courts)--that I do not find it unlikely that Righthaven's little pack of lawyers will eventually end up in a heap of trouble.  But as with anything involving lawyers, it will cost a pile of money and heartache to their victims.

There are clearly days when the social costs of lawyers so exceed the social benefits that it seems clear that it is a profession that needs to be outlawed.  Require everyone to sue or defend themselves on their behalf.  If corporations had to send their CEO out to fight every legal battle, it could only be good.  I think you would be amazed how many sensible solutions would happen if the lawyers were simply removed from the mix.  Credit card companies would not be so willing to extend credit to people with bad credit histories, for example.

Making SQL Tolerable

I am still not particularly wild about SQL (or at least the Informix dialect of it), but at my suggestion, my employer recently upgraded our licenses for Server Studio 8.0 to the Suite edition, which includes an SPL debugger.  (SPL is Stored Programming Language, a series of extensions to SQL intended to make it easier to do complex database operations from a real programming language.)

And my, what a difference!  Debugging SPLs until now has required using the TRACE facility, which produces a pile of log messages--and no way to control it.  Now I can step through, line by line and inspect variables.  That does not sound particularly impressive, and it isn't.  But compared to what I have been having to do to debug this crud?  It's heaven!

There are so many aspects to SQL that are just so 20th century--and not even late 20th century.  For example, I was writing some SPL that was supposed gather up information out of a number of rows of a table, and concatenate these strings (Idaho Code sections) into a single row for output.  For no reason that I could see, it just was not working.  I would get the first row, and nothing more.

It turned out that the problem was that the variable was declared as CHAR(60), and I forgot (or perhaps never knew) that when you set a variable in SQL to a particular string, it pads that string on the right with blanks.  When I tried to concatenate the next string onto this, it said, "Oh, I already have this CHAR(60) full--I cannot add anything more to it."  But it only talks to itself under those conditions--no warnings, no messages.  At least with this SPL debugger, I eventually figured out that I needed to run TRIM on the variable before concatenating another string.

What I am working on at the moment involves quite a bit of processing of what is called the Pre-Sentence Investigation--the enormous pile of paperwork that the courts and Corrections do between the time a person is convicted of a felony, and the time that they go to prison.  We have a rather complicated but not particularly sensible strategy for mapping PSI's internal offense code system to the actual statutes that the offender violated.  (And it is not a one-to-one mapping, which is part of the complexity.)

Anyway, I sat in a meeting a couple of days ago with people from various departments outside of IT, and we went over the list of criminal statutes that appear in our database.  I've mentioned before my amusement at the Burglary With Explosives statute.  The other day I saw one that I hope never requires prosecution here: 18-5003, Cannibalism.

Ubuntu Linux 10.04 LTS

I installed it dual boot on the older Compaq NC6000 that I have--and unlike the painful experience of trying to run it on the really old HP Pavilion desktop, this actually works pretty darn well!  Performance is pretty snappy, and so far, stuff works about the way that I expect.  I installed Eclipse, which is the open source version of the integrated development environment that I use at work (My Eclipse), and I was able to quickly write a trivial Java application using it.

Overall performance is roughly comparable to running Windows XP Pro on the same box.  I can run multiple applications at once with quite acceptable performance, and of course, with the multiple screen switching capability of Gnome.  (I think it is Gnome.)

All in all, there is much to be said for this version of Ubuntu Linux.  I have not tried getting Samba working yet, but most everything else, while it works differently from Windows, generally works as seamlessly and with as little computer geek knowledge required as Windows.

The only unpleasant surprise turned out not to be Linux related at all.  To reduce the number of keyboards, monitors, mice, etc. on my desk, I use a KVM switch box to share the peripherals.  I was using a very old HP keyboard--old enough that it would not work through the KVM switch to the Compaq NC6000--although it worked fine through the even older HP Pavilion.  On the good side, I was able to find a perfectly nice Kensington Keyboard for Life (which I gather has a lifetime warranty on it) from for about $20.  It also has a smaller footprint on my desk, which is always a good thing, especially if you saw the state of my desk.

One more virtue of having a Linux box available--it reminds me that yes, I am a software engineer!  Doing stuff in c-shell may be primitive compared to an IDE like My Eclipse or Visual Studio--but there are some things that are just so much easier to do with csh, perl, sed, grep--something that a younger generation of developers do not fully appreciate, I think.  Sometimes when I talk to my co-workers who have never developed under any flavor of Unix, it gives me an appreciation for what the Microsoft view of the universe has taken away. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Boise County Bankruptcy

It is not very often (ever?) that Boise County makes Drudge Report--but our county is filing bankruptcy under Chapter 9.  Wall Street Journal gave the sad details today.  Regular readers may recall that I vigorously supported building of the Alamar Ranch project.  Boise County's refusal to allow the project to go forward is what led to the lawsuit that provoked the bankruptcy.  I warned them.  But no one listens to me in this county.

On the plus side, it did provide an especially good example for my U.S. History class of the dangers of runaway democracy, and how it led to the calling of the Philadelphia Convention.

Gun Smuggling Into Mexico

I guess that this is now too big a story for the leftist news media to ignore.  March 3, 2011 CBS News is reporting about the guns being smuggled into Mexico--and ATF was ordered to let them go to the drug cartels.  At least one of these guns was used to murder a Border Patrol agent.