Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Wonders of the Internet Again

I try to buy metal and plastic supplies locally, partly because it is good to have places you can go to and get something immediately, and partly because I like see local jobs, so Boise doesn't turn into a ghost town.  (There are parts of Boise along State Street that are beginning to get a bit scary in this regard.)  Another advantage of buying locally is that unless you are ordering a lot of stuff, the shipping costs for a foot or two of aluminum tubing will quickly add up to a lot more than the material itself.  I buy acetal from Interstate Plastics, and I buy aluminum from Gem State Metals.  But that assumes that they have what I need.

I needed some 2.75" OD, .125" wall round aluminum tubing, and some square tubing of various dimensions for the fixtures to let me clamp round stock into the chop saw.  But Gem State Metals did not have any of the sizes that I needed.  Speedy Metals, however, did--at such a reasonable price that it probably came out with shipping close to what I would paid someone locally.  And I am getting all the parts cut to size--one less of cutting operations to perform on the chop saw, which scares the wits out of my wife when my son is using it, and provokes a healthy respect in me when I am using it.


I carry a Motorola Razr cellphone.  (Don't laugh--it works, and the contract that I had to sign when Verizon "gave" it to me is long expired.)  I also bought a Bluetooth headset for it when I started driving back and forth to Bend, Oregon.  Partly this was because Oregon law prohibits using a cell phone while driving, except if you have a hands-free headset.  Partly it was because it is a pretty good idea, especially if you are driving in heavy traffic or dangerous conditions (such as was often the case when driving that road in winter).

I have never been entirely happy with this Motorola H500 headset.  The sound quality is definitely inferior to using the phone by itself.  "You sound like you are in the bottom of a well," I have been told.  Worse, if I am driving with the top off the Corvette, the rushing wind makes the headset unusable at almost any speed--and certainly not at freeway speed.  Even without the headset, I can't hear and all the other end hears is a hurricane.

A few weeks ago, the earhook that latches the headset to your ear broke.  After seeing today's news story that the World Health Organization now believes that there is at least a plausible connection between a type of brain cancer and prolonged cell phone use I decided that it was time to get that headset fixed.

I went to the local Wireless Toyz store (yes, that's the name) on Orchard, mostly because it is a nice walk from my job, and partly because the last time I was in there to buy a phone charger, they seemed like nice enough people.  I explained what I needed: a replacement earhook, which I knew could be purchased separately.  They did not have them, but the salesman explained that if I called up Motorola (and he gave me their phone number), that there was a good chance that Motorola would just mail me a replacement earhook, to encourage brand loyalty.

But while I was there, he proceeded to make a case for buying a new Bluetooth headset, because the newer ones have better sound quality than the H500, they stay on your ear better, and (here was the selling point), he had one for $30 that had a sound-cancelling feature that limits noise to a very small bubble immediately around it.

So, I bought it.  On the way up the street, I called Motorola, who was quite prepared to sell me a replacement (so much for buying brand loyalty) but they did not have any in stock.  They told me to contact Amazon.com, and sure enough, when I searched for "H500 earhook replacement" I found this: a collection of four of them (two black, two gray) for $2.38.  Of course, shipping more than doubled the price, but still, I can now get this H500 operational again, and get my wife (who spends, as near as I can tell from reading the phone bills, 130% of her commute on the phone) to start using it.  (She doesn't drive a car without a top.)

The noise-cancelling does indeed work very well.  I spent several minutes talking to my wife on it before explaining that I was using a Bluetooth headset--she could not tell--and normally she can.  I also called her while driving with both windows open at 50 mph--she could only hear a slight sound like a waterfall in the background.  I could have bought it from Amazon for $17.65, but with shipping it would have been only a tiny saving--and I have it today.

The only real irritation about it is that it does use the same connector as the Razr.  (It does seem to be the same connector as my wife's LG cell phone--which is a bit wider and flatter.)  On the plus side, it comes with a USB adapter, so I can recharge it from my desktop at work, or a laptop.  I don't know whether the promised eight hours of continual use promise is valid (the Razr's battery will give out before that), but I do notice that it went from out of the packaging (and presumably not charged) to fully charged in about ten minutes.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Centering a Square Workpiece in a 4-Jaw Chuck

I should have looked this up before spending a lot of time trying to do it.  The answer is here: center a round piece of stock the same size as the edge of the square piece (which is pretty easy), then replace the round piece with the square workpiece.

I am working on the square tubing to hold round stock securely in position to the fence on a chop saw.  I am glad that I went ahead and built a sample using 1.5" x 1.5" tube first.  I planned to use a 6" long square tube to hold the round workpiece in position.  Because the interior dimensions of a 1.5" x 1.5" x .125" wall square tube are actually slightly smaller than the nominal 1.25", I knew that I was going to have to bore the interior of the square tube slightly so that the round workpiece would slide through.  But I completely forgot that to use the lathe to bore the entire 6" length of the square tube is not possible: my boring bar isn't long enough.  (Does that sound like the subject line on a piece of spam?)  Instead, I have cut the 6" piece into two 3" pieces, and bored the interior from each end of each piece. 

Now I will use a long piece of material in conjunction with the workpiece clamp on the chop saw to hold the round workpiece in position on the left side of the blade, and the same approach on the right side.  (Although on the right side, I will only bore the square tube 1" deep.  This gives me a consistent stop so that I don't have to remeasure each time I cut and advance the workpiece.)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

What Were These Set Screws Made Of?

I had to replace the handwheel on the tailstock of my lathe recently--the head of set screw that holds the wheel to the shaft was no longer hexagonal, and I could not lock it down.  I ordered up a replacement handwheel from Sherline, and scavenged an equivalent set screw from the handwheel from Z-axis of the old vertical mill assembly. 

I hate to throw anything away, so I decided that I was going to remove the set screw from the old handwheel and replace it.  So I tried to use a screw extractor--but I could not drill a hole into the set screw.  I tried a .125" drill bill--no luck.  Sometimes it helps to use a small drill bit to get at least a small hole, then then larger drill bit can get some purchase.  No luck--and the 5/64" drill bit broke.  Then the .125" drill bit broke, even though I was flooding the area with oil to make sure that I was not overheating it.

What in the heck is this set screw made of?  Anyway, I gave up.  It was $18 to replace it, and there comes a point where you can't let the desire to save $18 waste hours of time.  It makes more sense to be writing articles.

The Wonders of Opiates

My wife's shoulder surgery went well, but it was still a pretty invasive procedure--including scraping away not just the bone spur, but some excess bone that may have played a part in the creation of the bone spur.  Not surprisingly, she is in a lot of pain.  But hydrocodone, a "semi-synthetic opioid" according to Wikipedia, is making the pain bearable, and allowing her to sleep.  Anytime I see people blathering on about the importance of living "naturally" or those obnoxious "Visual Industrial Collapse" bumper stickers (on cars!) all I can think is, "You are one profoundly sheltered fool."

Buying Something From Amazon.com Anyway?

Use the Amazon.com search widget on the right side of the blog to order whatever you need, and it puts a few pennies in my pocket.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Stainless Steel Thermos

I bring Limeade to work with me every day, mostly because I like to drink a hot beverage during the day, and coffee on a regular basis is a bit hard on my stomach.  I have bought and broken two conventional thermos bottles in a row because they are usually a glass inner bottle.  These are fragile, especially when they are filled with liquid.  There is nothing quite as disheartening as dropping a bottle in the parking lot, and when you pick it up, you hear a sound like rocks rolling around.

Unfortunately, I was not having much luck finding a stainless steel thermos bottle in local stores.  I am sure that it was there--but not at any store that I could find.  So I ordered this one online: the Thermos Stainless King.  It is indeed stainless steel inside and out.  It is probably less effective at keeping beverages hot or cold than the kind with the glass bottle (because metal conducts heat more effectively than glass), but so what?  Short of running over with a car, it is not going to break.  It was $23.37, and I suspect that one of my grandkids will use it some day.

UPDATE: For those that are curious, one of the comments explains in detail why stainless steel isn't a dramatic loss in insulation relative to glass because of the way that Thermos bottles work: essentially, they rely on a vacuum between the inner and outer layers, and only where the inner and outer layers meet is there much thermal conductivity.  Just a reminder, anytime you buy something from Amazon.com using one of my links to a product, it puts a few cents in my pocket.

When You Can't Tell Satire From Reality

Italian government officials have accused the country's top seismologist of manslaughter, after failing to predict a natural disaster that struck Italy in 2009, a massive devastating earthquake that killed 308 people.

A shocked spokesman for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) likened the accusations to a witch hunt.
Yup.  This is an inexact science still.  What next?  Are they going to prosecute an economist for failing to predict the collapse of world markets?

I've Always Wanted One Of These...

A digital inspection camera--essentially, a camera with a flexible fiber optics bundle.  It is cheap enough to buy without too much thought.  I suppose it could be used for low-cost, do-it-yourself colonoscopies, but my intention is for looking under the seat of the Corvette to try and understand the looseness that has developed in the seat adjuster.

What Do You Call This?

I need to clamp a round piece of tubing into a chop saw--and I need to clamp it on both sides of the chop saw blade.  (Clamping something round doesn't work very well, of course.)  My plan is to make two squares with a hole cut through each of the correct diameter.  There will be a threaded hole at the top of each square into which a bolt will go that will lock onto the tube to prevent it from rotating.  I will machine these rather precisely.

But before I make these to fit 2" and 2.75" tube diameters--is there anything like this whose name I do not know, and that is why I can't find it?  I would think the need to hold a round piece in position on a chop saw would be pretty common.

UPDATE: I was thinking about this, and I see a way to make something like very easily.  Buy square aluminum tube where the inside dimensions are the same nominal diameter as the tubing, and the wall is perhaps 1/4" thick.  The inside dimensions of square tubing are typically slightly smaller than the nominal outside diameter of the round tubing, so I can mount the square tube in my 4-jaw chuck, and use a boring bit to enlarge a few thousandths of an inch so that the round tube goes into the square tube.  Then cut the square tube into the two sections, and drill and tap a hole for the bolt that locks the round tubing in place.  Now I have something that locks the round tubing in place, and that will allow me to use the work clamp on the chop saw to hold everything in place.

Direct Costs Per Prison Inmate

“The average annual operating cost per State inmate in 2001 was $22,650.” [James J. Stephan, State Prison Expenditures,2001 (Washington: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2004), NCJ 202949, 1]  This actually quite a bit cheaper than I would have guessed.

I still have not found the equivalent direct cost per mental hospital patient.  This report is supposed to have the data, but at page 32 it says, "See Attached Sheets for Tables" which would include table 11.  But there are no attached sheets.  I have asked the webmaster where that might be.

Someone With Access To Nexis

I need the author's name and article title on an article that appeared in the May 2, 2007 Kansas City Star that includes this:

A concerned Reed called Cagg, who contacted police. Officers took Logsdon to a mental-health facility, where he was evaluated and released within a few hours, his sister said. The facility sent him home with a cab voucher and a list of resources.

“We just seriously need to look at our system and how we deal with people as seriously deranged as my brother,” Cagg said.
Unfortunately,  the link is broken, and multiple attempts to find the article through the Kansas City Star website or elsewhere have been unsuccessful.  I have the entire article; I just need the author's name and article title.

UPDATE: Never mind, I purchased the articles online from the Star.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Need Some Help Finding Some Numbers

Somewhere deep in the bowels of the NIH, I'm sure, there are statistics showing the average cost of public mental hospitals in the U.S.--but I am not having any luck finding those numbers.

Similarly, somewhere deep in the bowels of the National Institute of Justice there are statistics showing the average operating cost of prisons and of jails in the United States.  If you know where to find those numbers, please, tell me.

Sitting in a Surgery Waiting Room

My wife is having shoulder bone spur surgery this morning at St. Luke's in downtown Boise.  An interesting aspect of this is that there are monitors around the waiting room much like an airport that show each patient's status: time in Pre-Op; time in the operating room, time in the recovery room.  The names are abbreviated enough that you can figure out who they are--if you know who they are--but are sufficiently shortened to not injure anyone's privacy.  As an example, my wife's name has been turned into Cr..r,R.

I Hope Someone Can Find This

Sometime in the period 2003 through 2009, there was a mass murder incident in Missouri and thereabouts that involved a guy who had sought mental health assistance after a suicide attempt.  My vague recollection is that he was in and out of the hospital in a matter of hours, partly because the state simply lacked the space to help him.  I cannot find the details of this incident.  Can anyone give me some pointers to it?

UPDATE: David W. Logsdon was the killer at the Ward Parkway Mall in 2007.  Thanks to a reader who found it.  While not in this article, other references that I saw at the time indicated that he checked himself in for help before this incident, and because of a bed shortage, was discharged six hours later.  Now that I have a name, I have a better chance of finding the article discussing the bed shortage.

Monday, May 23, 2011

That Decision To Uphold Release of Prisoners in California

I am trying hard not to agree with the decision.  The fact is that California's prisons are severely overcrowded, and there are consequences that arguably rise to the standard of cruel and unusual punishment.  California's legislature isn't prepared to enforce laws against illegal aliens (who are part of the reason the prisons are at 200% of capacity); isn't going to execute enough criminals to make any real dent in the population; and isn't prepared to engage in the sort of cultural imperialism that would be necessary to stop creating more criminals.

If you live in California, and you do not already have a gun, get one now.  I am sure that many of those who are about to be released are perfectly fine young men who made little tiny mistakes that they will never repeat again.  They will be easy to identify: they are the short ones wearing shamrocks and speaking with an Irish brogue, also known as leprechauns.

I am no bleeding heart liberal.  Prison is not summer camp.  But there are circumstances that are really inexcusable:
Mentally ill prisoners are housed in administrative segregation while awaiting transfer to scarce mental health treatment bedsfor appropriate care. One correctional officer indicated that he had kept mentally ill prisoners in segregation for “‘6 months or more.’” App. 594. Other prisoners awaiting care are held in tiny, phone-booth sized cages. The record documents instances of prisoners committing suicide while awaiting treatment.
Administrative segregation: that's solitary, for those of you who don't speak prison.  There are medical facilities that are so overcrowded and overbusy that they are not cleaning examining tables after prisoners with infectious diseases have been on them.  Make sure you look at the pictures in Appendix A.

And California had years to fix this.  But why should they?  The legislature is too busy passing gun control laws, arguing about whether the schools should be teaching about the contributions of gay and transgendered people to history, and similar nonsense.

Justices Alito and Scalia both wrote very sensible dissents, and there is some merit to their concerns.  But it does seem as though the only way to get the California legislature to behave like adults is to scare the wits out of the electorate.  Who knows?  Maybe they can provide some adult supervision to the morons on Sacramento.

New Monitor

I mentioned a few days ago that my 20" flat panel monitor had given up the ghost--and the only guy in Boise who advertises that he repairs them at a price that makes sense seems to have disappeared.  At least, his website, boiselcd.com had been suspended, and his cell phone went straight to voice mail.  Now it indicates that the cell phone account is suspended.

So I ordered up a replacement--and wow!  I order an LG EV2350V 23" from Tiger Direct.  With shipping and sales tax, it came to $179.01.  It is as light as a feather.  It is huge.  It is very bright--much brighter than the 20" ViewSonic it replaces--and it goes up to 1920x1080 resolution, which even my five year old HP Pavilion DV5126 notebook can use.  (The older Compaq that I use for Linux, unfortunately, is limited to 1024x768 resolution, but at least everything is big and bright on it.)

The only area where this is in anyway inferior to the old (and dead) monitor is that the old monitor had a mount that swiveled and raised; this tilts, but is a fixed height.  Still, I have an old phone book that lifts the monitor up to where it needs to be, and that was free.

I keep hoping that I can find someone who knows how to do the repair to get the power supply on the old monitor working again.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Denying Human Nature Is A Terrible Thing

This AP news story reports on a Dutch priest who turns out to be a board member of "Martijn," a Dutch pedophilia advocacy group.  No surprise: a Catholic priest later in trouble for sexually abusing boys was one of the founders of the North American Man-Boy Love Association. 

I understand the reasoning behind why the Catholic Church imposed the celibacy requirement back in the late eleventh century, but even if it made sense then, it certainly makes no sense now.  Here's a very harsh but true statement: very, very few men can go their entire adult lives celibate without either severe temptations or giving in to those temptations.  There are more women who can do so, but even this seems a bit unnatural.  And what happens when you tell people to do something unnatural for decades on end?  Does it surprise anyone that the net effect is to warp a person's sexuality in really ugly ways?

Still Here

Zombie has a very interesting photoessay of the media circus outside FamilyRadio.org when the appointed Rapture time came...and went.  She has kind words for Calvary Bible Church in Milpitas, who showed up with the apparent intent of providing Biblical counsel for any of FamilyRadio.org's members who were startled to find themselves Left Behind.  She has less kind words for the clowns that showed up to inflate sex dolls with helium to be released at 6:00 PM.

Merit Pay For Teachers

I would like to open this up for discussion: what do you think of the idea of merit pay for teachers?  Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna persuaded our legislature to pass three bills recently that absolutely infuriated the Idaho teachers' union.  (Not that this much matters: this must be one of the only places in the country where a teachers' union is as undangerous as the phrase "teachers' union" sounds).

I was not happy with one of the proposals, which involved issuing laptops (or something--the terminology kept changing) to 9th graders and requiring them to take online courses.  I think there is merit to online courses, but only for relatively mature students--and that does not describe most or, I fear, even many 9th graders. I also fear that most 9th graders will be less careful with their state-issued laptops than they are with the intimate parts of their body, resulting in raging computer infections, costly repairs, and more than a few exchanges of laptops for meth. 

Another proposal involving doing away with tenure.  I understand the concerns about this, but there are not too many other jobs that have tenure.  Even state employees do not have tenure.  The system is definitely biased against firing someone once they have completed their probationary period, but tenure is a bit more than that.  As you might expect, the Idaho teachers' union is riproaring upset about this.

The third part was a merit pay plan.  Here is Luna's defense of his plan.  I generally like the idea of merit pay plans, tied to standardized test performance.  One legitimate objection to tying merit pay to standardized tests is that if you are a teacher in certain school districts, you are almost certainly going to end up with a bunch of students who, because of the cultural values of the families, are going to do very badly on standardized tests--and short of taking the kids away from their parents, there is essentially nothing you can do to fix this problem.  (And many of these subcultures here in Idaho that consider education worthless are white, not black or Hispanic.)  On the other hand, teachers working in districts filled with high-achieving parents are going to have a much easier time meeting performance targets.

Even within a district, there are teachers who are teaching gifted classes--and far more that are not.  Using standardized test scores to award merit pay means that tThe teachers with the gifted kids are going to have an unfair advantage over the teachers with average students and especially over those teachers with the remedial students.

The solution is to compare teachers with comparable classes within a district, and make merit pay dependent not on how well the students do, but how much those scores improved relative to the end of the previous year or semester.  A teacher whose students are two grade levels above where they were at the end of last year deserves a hefty bonus; one whose students are not even a grade level above last year does not. 

Classes vary substantially from year to year.  Last year's 9th graders may be a lot smarter or ambitious than this year's 9th graders.  In any given year, a teacher may be stuck with students who do not want to learn, and will be unable to get merit pay because of it.  But if year after year, Mr. Jones has students who do not advance much over the previous year, while Mrs. Johnson's students more often than not do gain a grade level or more in skills and knowledge, it is a good guess that Mrs. Johnson is a better teacher than Mr. Jones--and deserves to be rewarded for it.

There are certainly problems with the matter of standardized tests, and teaching to the test.  However: if what you are testing is a fair measure of what is important, teaching to the test is actually what a teacher should be doing.  If it matters that students can correctly identify that in the sentence, "The cat ran after the mouse," which parts are subject, verb, object, article, noun, preposition (and I would argue that it does matter), and the teacher manages to teach her students the ability to figure this out, then she is teaching the right skills.  If her students have mastered the ability to answer these sort of questions well above grade level, throw her a $3000 bonus at the end of the year: she deserves it.


Linux Webcam

I was trying to get a webcam pointed at my driveway working under Ubuntu Linux, mostly because we have been having snowfalls as recently as last weekend, so it is useful when I leave work to know what to expect.  The program webcam works, but like most things Linux, and most things free, it is slightly harder to set up than the equivalent for Windows.

Anyway, the webcam is here (although I do not have the page set up to automatically reload).  To run the webcam program, you need to set up the .webcamrc file, and then nohup webcam .webcamrc, which starts it running.  The .webcamrc file was actually a bit more obscure than I expected it to be.  Here I have gone thorough and marked up the lines from the default settings that needed changing.

device = /dev/video0
text = "webcam %Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S"
#infofile = filename
Apparently, the infofile parameter is used for local storage; having it set just made error messages.
fg_red = 255
fg_green = 255
fg_blue = 255
width = 640
height = 480
delay = 600
wait = 0
input = Camera 1
 cameratype is found by executing v4lctl show input at the command line.  Note that there are no quotes around the cameratype, even though it includes a blank in the name.
#norm = pal
My first assumption was that I needed to set this to NTSC, the television standard in North America.  But no, it turned out that this line needed to be commented out, instead.
rotate = 0
top = 0
left = 0
bottom = -1
right = -1
quality = 75
trigger = 0
once = 0

host = claytoncramer.com
I could not get ftp working to upload the picture to my web page, so I decided to use ssh instead.  In this case, you only specify the domain name--not ftp.claytoncramer.com, which is what you would need to use ftp instead.
user = USERID
Obviously, you fill in your user ID and password here.  I could not get the ssh key stuff working (which would have eliminated the need for the password parameter), but this does not worry me.
dir  = public_html/
file = webcam.jpg
#tmp  = uploading.jpg
Not quite sure what the tmp parameter does, but commenting it out made this work.
passive = 1
Probably only needed for ftp, but I was not sure.  At least, it does no harm with ssh.
debug = 3
Sets the level of debugging information displayed; I should probably set this back to 0.
auto = 1
Causes automatic updating of the picture through either ftp or ssh.
local = 0
Only set to a non-zero value if this is running on the server for the webcam page, so that you do not need to transfer the image to another computer.
ssh = 1
Tells webcam to use ssh instead of ftp.

Run it in background with nohup webcam .webcamrc&

I should probably make it run automatically at startup, but it is late, and I want to get back reading this book about the Tudors.

The obscure fields are "input = cameratype" where cameratype http://www.claytoncramer.com/webcam.html is found by executing v4lctl show input at the command line.

Also obscure was the norm = pal field--just comment it out with a # at the start of the line.

In the

Saturday, May 21, 2011

I Knew I Would Find Something To Keep Me Busy

I am making another pass through the book that I am preparing for Kindle--and it is astonishing how letting a manuscript go cold for a few months does to help you realize how clumsy some sentences are, and how unclear a piece of writing even someone as wonderful as myself can produce.

I mentioned that I had upgraded my dual boot Linux/Windows box with a 160 GB hard disk.  Of course, because I did a disk to disk copy, the partition information did not change--so I had a 20 GB Linux partition, and a 140 GB Windows partition.  The Linux partition was getting very crowded as a result of installing Eclipse and a few other development packages, so I needed to rearrange the partition sizes.

This should be easy.  There are a number of ways that are supposed to be easy to resize partitions in either Windows or Linux--but neither turned out to be all that easy to do.  Instead, it turned out to be simpler to reinstall Linux 10.04.  During installation, it gives you the option of adjusting the Windows partition size, so now I have about 90 GB in the Windows partition (more than enough for a portable to bring with me when I need something light) and about 70 GB in the Linux partition (more than enough for development).

Return To Previous Borders

This just in:
Israeli PM calls for “just solution” to end the conflict.
Aboard Air Force Aleph (Reuters) – Speaking to reporters accompanying Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his long flight to the United States tonight, Netanyahu spoke of the injustice and hardship Mexicans have endured since American forces annexed Texas in 1845. “Tens of thousands of ordinary Mexicans were driven out of their homes – the only homes they had known for centuries - and forced to live in poverty and squalor south of the border imposed by American aggression,” Netanyahu said. “The Israeli and Mexican people agree on this: This festering wound will never heal until America takes bold steps to return to the internationally accepted lines of 1845. Clearly the settlement activity that’s taken place occupied Mexico since then is illegal. When I meet the President tomorrow I will tell him to halt all building activity in Texas immediately. Two lands for two peoples, yes, but not on land taken by force from Mexico,” the Prime Minister said.
Asked if his hard-line stance could hurt the U.S.-Israel relationship, Netanyahu reiterated Israel’s commitment to America’s security and the unshakeable friendship shared by the two countries, then added, “But who was it who said, part of friendship is being able to tell your friend the truth. The ball is now in Obama’s court.”

Dan Friedman

I'm pretty sure that this is satire.

Bandsaw Blade Question

My first guess is that the wider the bandsaw blade, the less that it will flex (and thus produce an uneven cut) when trying to cut at an angle.  But my experience has been almost the opposite--that narrower bandsaw blades seem to have less flex.  Is this my imagination, or am I failing to get the same tension on these different width of blades, and that is confusing me?

I have broken all my bandsaw blades, so it is time to buy some more.  Any recommendations on what tooth size and width would be appropriate for cutting 1/8" wall aluminum?

UPDATE: A reader who can't win the battle with the comment procedure writes:

The "rule of thumb" on bandsaw/hacksaw blades is that you want at least 3 teeth in the cut. If your blade has a coarser pitch than, say 24TPI, it won't do real well when cutting 1/8" material. IE: 1/8" is equivilant to 8 teeth per inch, times 3 equals 24 TPI. You might get away with a bit coarser blade than that if you control the feed very carefully.

If You Need To Understand Why People Need To Carry Guns...

It is because there are too many people like this out there:
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB Fox 41) -- Police say a woman involved in an argument at a Louisville Pizza Hut raised the stakes considerably when she tried to pull a sword.
When was the last time you saw someone carrying a sword?  Louisville must be a lot more...interesting of a place than I would have guessed.

Those Sophisticated Europeans

At the Cannes Film Festival, Pedro Almodovar's new film was so disturbing that even sophisticates were running away in horror.  The plot summary here is really, really disturbing.  I cannot imagine how horrifying the film must be to watch.

The difference between "sophisticated" and "decadent" is a lot fuzzier than many intellectuals like to imagine.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Iran and 9/11

You have probably seen the news coverage of the allegations made by defectors from Iran's intelligence service that Iran's government not only had advance knowledge of the 9/11 attacks, but actively assisted al-Qaeda in that effort.  The May 20, 2011 New York Times reports on a $100 billion civil suit against Iran, asserting this based on sworn testimony from former employees of Iran's intelligence service.

My first reaction is that this would not be a surprise.  The 9/11 Commission report made it clear that there were serious unanswered questions about Iran's involvement in assisting al-Qaeda both before and after 9/11.  Iran hates us (in case you haven't noticed).

My second reaction is that there are people in Iran who have a strong interest in seeing us knock these thugs out of power--and are probably not adverse to telling us a plausible (although perhaps inaccurate or incomplete) story to get us to take action to that end.  Remember that at least part of the problem with the WMD story in Iraq was not that "Bush lied," but that Iraqi defectors with a strong interest in seeing us overthrow Saddam Hussein told us plausible (and who knows, perhaps even accurate) stories of WMD development.

I would like to know more.  I think it is likely that if this story is a pack of lies, the Obama Administration would not be interested in keeping it alive.

How Tragic (For Righthaven)

A federal judge in Colorado has put all the Righthaven suits there on hold.  From Ars Technica:

A federal judge has put every Righthaven copyright infringement lawsuit in the state of Colorado on hold.

Righthaven, the Las Vegas company that brings infringement lawsuits on behalf of newspapers like the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Denver Post, has sued 57 people (including an Ars Technica writer) in Colorado over a Post photo of an airport security patdown. Its tactics have been hugely controversial, since it sends no warning before filing suit, demands that it be given control over the infringing site's domain name, and threatens people with massive statutory damages unless they settle for a few thousand dollars. And Righthaven might not even control the copyrights over which it is suing.
Shocking.  A federal judge who is actually asking questions--not just letting the Righthaven gorilla get what is wants by intimidation.

And over at Vegas Inc., my hero Steven Green reports on the continuing scrap involving an autistic blogger that Righthaven sued:

Hill’s attorneys fired back Thursday, accusing Righthaven of extensive wrongdoing in its dealings with Hill.

In seeking their demand for fees, an amount they have not specified, the attorneys charged Righthaven "provided false or misleading statements under oath to mitigate accrued liability for its actions" as it tried to profit by using "the courts as a mechanism to file retail-scale infringement actions, threatening hundreds of overwhelmed and ill-equipped defendants, such as Mr. Hill, with lengthy and expensive litigation" involving "serial nuisance copyright suits."
And that describes Righthaven's exactly--relying on intimidation and the enormous power that attorneys with deep pockets have to overwhelm people who cannot afford to spend tens of thousands of dollars over disputes that should have been handled with a cease and desist letter first--and maybe a polite request for a few hundred dollars.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Photovoltaic Panels Almost Cost Effective

I have mentioned in the past that I would dearly love to go photovoltaic--it just is not cost effective here until the purchase price gets down to $2 per watt.  I see Wholesale Solar offering Trina 225 watt panels at a price that comes to $2.00 per watt.

A few gotchas:

1. The 225 watt rating is an optimal output.  They admit elsewhere on their website that a more realistic output is 200 watts.  (What a gratifying concept: honesty from alternative energy vendors.)

2. That of course is the price of the panels alone.  You still need inverters and a grid-tie, or a battery backup system.

Still, this is beginning to get attractive--and the tax credits make it more attractive.  There is still a big chunk of capital involved here.  As an example, our last electric bill was for 677 kWh, at about 6.5 cents per kWh.  A pallet quantity of the Trina 225 watt panels would produce about 4 kW, and cost $9000.  I expect that a fixed panel array (not the rotating scheme that I was experimenting with before I found out that there is no real interest in alternative energy systems) would give me at least 32 kWh per day (or 960 kWh per month) for most of the summer, and maybe 12 kWh per day (or about 360 kWh per month) on average in the depths of winter.  That means that for most of spring and fall, we would produce enough power to be self-sufficient, and in summer, we would run the meter backward net--and actually quite impressively backward.  In winter, we would still be consuming power from the grid--and often for many days on end, we would be producing no electricity at all.  I am quite sure that a grid-tie system of this size would probably mean no net electricity bill each year.  Since we spend about $700-$800 a year on electricity, even $12,000 invested in panels, inverters, and grid-tie, would be equivalent to about a 6% return on investment.  (Of course, 30 years from now, those panels are likely to be producing quite a bit less power than they do when new.)

A battery system would be attractive from the standpoint of self-sufficiency--although battery systems are expensive and require frequent maintenance.  If you are expecting the end of civilization (I mean, other than the one scheduled for May 21st that I keep seeing on billboards), this would be worth it.  It would take a lot of batteries, however, to carry over the summer or even fall surplus into winter.

Wholesale Solar does offer a "starter kit" using one Trina panel and an inverter for $729, which they advertise as $556 after rebates and federal tax credit.  This is cheap enough that it might be tempting to give it a try to see how effective it was.  At a minimum, 200 watts continuous at the height of summer would go a long ways towards covering the demands of air conditioning, which is mostly needed, shockingly enough, when solar power is at a maximum.

I'm too Busy

I missed another sign of how educated Obama is:
"Internationally, we've gone through a Teutonic shift in the Middle East that could have enormous ramifications for years to come," he said.
What with the "Austrian" language remark a few years ago, I am seeing some amusing signs of an unhealthy but ignorant obsession by the Zero.

Beautiful Birds

The bird feeders are bringing a glorious selection of beautiful birds, and my wife is going a bit crazy taking pictures!

Remember the rule of great photography: take lots of pictures, planning to throw most of them away.

Unfortunate Juxtaposition of Signs in Horseshoe Bend

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Righthaven Gets Class Action Counterclaim

The ever on top of it Steve Green at Vegas Inc. reports:
One of the website operators accused of copyright infringement by Righthaven LLC has retaliated, hitting the Las Vegas company with a class-action counterclaim seeking to represent defendants in all 57 Righthaven cases in Colorado.
Alas, this is merely the Colorado defendants, but I am hoping to see Righthaven gets its clock cleaned in court, opening the door for a class action lawsuit on behalf of everyone else who was intimidated into settling.  At a minimum, Righthaven is getting a little taste of what happens when you are on the receiving end of lawsuits--and we can only hope that bankruptcy is the result.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Rich Are Different From You and I...

They usually have enough money to buy their way out of trouble.  Like the head of the International Monetary Fund, being held without bail on charges of rape and forced sodomy on a chambermaid in a New York hotel.  Pulled off an Air France jet as it was getting ready to leave New York City, this is going to make a really sleazy "ripped from today's headlines" episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.  And Arnold Schwarzenegger--whose separation from Maria Shriver apparently was because she found out that he fathered a child by one of their household staff.

Sexuality is one of the most commonly abused human behaviors, because it is the one that is easiest for people to rationalize or justify.  Even the charges against Strauss-Kahn were, I suspect, in his mind just aggressive seduction.  A previous victim, described Strauss-Kahn as like a "rutting chimpanzee" when he attacked her during an interview in 2002.  (That's sounds worse than Al Gore the "crazed sex poodle," doesn't it?)  From what I have read, she was talked into dropping charges at the time because Strauss-Kahn is a prominent socialist (staying in $3000 a night hotel rooms, and buying $35,000 suits).  Not surprisingly, French Socialists are outraged at how poor little Strauss-Kahn is being treated.  Of course, France is the country that refused to extradite Roman Polanski for drugging, raping, and sodomizing a 13 year old.

One of the strongest arguments against excessive wealth is how many people demonstrate that they lack the character to handle wealth well.  One of the strongest arguments against socialism is that its advocates usually end up with a big pile of taxpayer money, one way or the other, demonstrating what hypocrites they are.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

That's It! It Is Time For Immigration Restrictions From California!

The May 12, 2011 Idaho Statesman reports on a man arrested walking down the street naked in the North End (the rich hippie neighborhood of Boise):

The man, 20-year-old Jonathan Palmer, was charged with a misdemeanor for violating a city ordinance that bars public nudity, said Lt. Kent Lipple with Boise police.
"He told the officers he was trying to conquer his fear of being naked in public," Lipple said. "And he wanted the public to get over their fear of naked men in public."

Read more: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2011/05/12/1647084/police-arrest-naked-man-from-street.html#storylink=omni_popular#ixzz1MGwuXsDA
The problem is that you can't easily distinguish some forms of antisocial eccentricity from California political movements.

My Flat Screen Monitor Also Seems To Have Given Up The Ghost

It looks like a bad power supply.  It powers up--then as soon as the notebook tries to display anything there, it flashes briefly and goes black.  There are places in Boise that promise to repair these for $45.  If it is much more than that to get a power supply replaced, it makes more sense to buy a new one (and probably a bigger one).

Right now, I am using an antique HP monitor that is pretty dim, but at least shared between my Windows and Linux notebooks.  My wife is driven a bit crazy by my reluctance to throw away working but obsolete equipment--but this is one of those times that I am glad that I did not discard it.

Need A Zip Program? Do Not Download JZIP

In spite of being downloadable from sites such as cnet.com that claim to have checked for this, JZIP is actually a mixture of spyware and Trojans.  It seems to have slipped past AVG Free.  It is looking like a major struggle to get rid of it.

UPDATE: It took several passes with Spybot S&D (including several reboots) as well as removing the executable from somewhere deep in the bowels of C:\Program Files\Windows to finally get rid of this beast.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Too Specialized

I used to make fun of the fact that my daughter and son-in-law had an appliance which was specifically a quesadilla maker.  I would just use a frying pan.  What next?  A left-handed screwdriver?  Imagine my surprise at this item in the Craig's List under free:

ferret shampoo (Nampa)
If you have a ferret, you now how expensive it is. Cucumber melon scented. Only used 4 times before we lost our ferret.
I am curious.  Is there a version for ferrets with oily fur, and another for those with dandruff?

Good News on The Kindle Front!

It turns out that:

1. The Preview popup on the Kindle page does not work correctly (like Kindle) with footnotes.  You have to download the Kindle Previewer to actually make that work.

2. The reason that the Mobipocket Creator PRC output was not working with Kindle for PC is that I was setting the DRM encryption option (as you would use for something that you were going to send to the Kindle store).  This meant that Kindle for PC could not read the local PRC file, because it was encrypted.  (A better message for why it could not read it would have helped on this.)

I am now going to start working on another set of minor revisions to the book--updating the list of insane mass murderers, putting more recommendations for public policy changes in the last chapter, and generally looking over the text that I have not looked at for many months.  This will probably take a few weeks.

I need to contact my agent and see if there is anything on the horizon with a conventional book publisher, but my guess is that there is not.  I also need to locate some people with impressive affiliations to read the book and give me blurb material--a necessary item when marketing a book.

I also need to figure out the appropriate price point.  Some authors are finding that popular fiction at $0.99 sells extremely well in Kindle format--like hundreds of thousands of sales.  I do not expect this book to be anywhere that successful, so perhaps $1.99 might be a better choice.  I also need to figure out what other e-publishing formats are worth doing.

The goal was never to get rich off this book (although that isn't a bad thing, if it happens, of course), but to restart public debate about deinstitutionalization.  If I sell a thousand copies, and make a few hundred dollars--well, I would be very disappointed.  But I would rather have people read it and be influenced by it.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Let's Hope This Started Out As A Fraternity Hazing

The alternative requires a period of observation, I think:
A Michigan man dressed in a Batman costume was arrested early this morning after cops found him hanging off the ledge of a building.

Petoskey Department of Public Safety officers pulled the wannabe superhero back onto the building’s roof around 1 AM. A search of the man’s utility belt turned up a collapsible baton and a container of pepper spray. As a result, the 31-year-old suspect--who cops did not identify in advance of his arraignment--was charged with possession of dangerous weapons in addition to trespassing
Or perhaps an unfortunate application of too much Jack Daniels?

Another Billionaire Democrat in Trouble

In this case, Raj Rajartnam -- a billionaire who was convicted of fourteen counts of insider trading because he stupidly discussed what he was doing, and acknowledged that he knew he was doing something illegal.  This May 11, 2011 New York Times article has the juicy details (as juicy as insider trading gets).

I generally agree with those who argue that insider trading should not be illegal, because it hurts no one.  I also agree that it is a bit unseemly to being taking advantage of knowledge that others do not have.  If Rajartnam was some desperate little guy who was trying to make enough money to get ahead in life (as some of those who get caught are), I might be a bit more sympathetic.  But Rajartnam is a billionaire.  His illegal activities made him about $60 million, from what I have read.  To you or me, that's big money, but not to a billionaire.

Why would you risk going to prison for less than 6% of your net worth--especially when you have so much money that you could live extravagantly on the annual interest on the annual interest of your net worth?  (I'm serious: a billion dollars invested in corporate bonds gives about $50-$60 million a year; the interest on $50 million a year is $500,000 to $600,000 a year.)  This is crazy.

UPDATE: The theory of why insider trading hurts no one is this:

1. Mr. R knows that company X is about to go up, and he buys stock in X because he knows that.  Mr. Q sells his stock in X, unaware of the information that the stock is about to go up.  He has already decided to sell his stock at a certain price, and thus he is out nothing by making that sale.

2. Mr. R knows that company X is about to go down, and sells stock in X because he knows that.  Mr. Q buys his stock in X, unaware that the stock is headed down.  Mr. Q has already decided to buy that stock at whatever price he pays for it.  He is out nothing by making that purchase.

I agree that there is something unethical of Mr. R using that insider information.  It certainly creates a real lack of trust in the transparency of our institutions.  (Although if you have much trust in this you are a fool.)  As I understand it, the U.S. is the only developed nation with an insider trading ban.

I have read that the very first person actually convicted of insider trading was not a Gordon Gecko, He-Man Master of the Universe Wall Street type, but a guy working in a print shop in the 1950s who noticed the prospectus he was printing--and went out and bought shares in the stock that would be affected.

Sitting In A Lecture Hall, Administering a Final Exam

These are the times that I have some hope for the future of America.  My U.S. History class is full of polite, respectful, nice people, some of them traditional age college students, some of them returning adults.  There isn't a one of them that I would not be happy to have in my home.  The class discussions have often resulted in the little light bulb turning over many heads--and that is always a good thing.

It Is Finally Spring!

I actually needed to turn the air conditioning on during my trip to teach today.  Yesterday was clear, and the evening might have been a chance to roll out the telescope, if I was not busily responding to last minute questions from students.

A few more days and the semester will be over!  Then I can focus on a couple of book projects that I plan to Kindle (unless my agent has suddenly found a publisher for the book on deinstitutionalization), and writing a series of state-by-state articles about the history of gun control.  To my surprise, there is gobs of information available in places that you might not expect--for example, about Hawai'i.

And perhaps I will learn how to write Android apps as well.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Poor Little Righthaven

Joe Mullin in the May 5, 2011 PaidContent.org reports that Righthaven has hired a $1000 per hour law firm out of New York City to defend them on the countersuits:
The hiring of Cendali suggests that Stephens Media may be afraid of getting hit with a ruling for attorneys’ fees and actually losing money out of the Righthaven litigation expedition. In any case, it’s hard to imagine how hiring such a high-priced lawyer could be a moneymaker for Righthaven. Eric Goldman, a law professor and blogger who has been critical of Righthaven, told the Las Vegas Sun: “I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Ms. Cendali’s fees in this case end up being many multiples of the maximum damages that Righthaven could possibly hope to get from Pahrump Life. That’s hardly a path to riches for Righthaven,” Goldman said.
Ordinarily, my sympathies are 100% with someone who finds out they are having to paid absurd hourly rates to lawyers to defend themselves from a suit--but Righthaven brought this on themselves.  They relied on the fact that many of the people that they sued could not afford to spend tens of thousands of dollars to defend themselves against lawsuits that, had they gone to trial, would likely have resulted in damages of $200 (the unintentional copyright infringement penalty) or $750 (the bottom end of the copyright infringement penalty for relatively worthless stuff such as old news.  Now Righthaven is having to defend itself from exactly the sort of garbage that they relied upon to force quick settlements. 

I would dearly love to see Steve Gibson, Righthaven's ambulance chaser in chief, forced into personal bankruptcy--but I am sure that he has everything set up properly to protect himself from anything that unpleasant happening.  At least, we can hope that the fantasy that he was starting a "technology company" will be squashed so flat that he has to find some new job somewhere else.  I understand from talking to Las Vegas attorneys that he has managed to burn all his bridges there.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Any Of My Readers Experienced Formatting For Kindle Publication?

If so, please email me.  I have a few questions to ask you about adjusting the HTML that Kindle uses.

UPDATE: I am using Mobipocket, which does a nice job of converting Microsoft Word into a format that Kindle loves.  Unfortunately, footnotes do not seem to be active; you can't click a footnote reference in the final document to jump to the footnote, nor jump back to the reference.  It seems a bit odd that there would be no capacity for this, unless Kindle is strictly for fiction.

UPDATE 2: Even more frustrating: I discovered that it works best to read a Word document into OpenOffice, and export it as an HTML.  The footnotes work perfectly in a browser--but when I either use Mobipocket to convert the HTML to a PRC file, or do the conversion from HTML on the Amazon Kindle page, the footnotes do not work in the preview window.  I do not know if this is a problem of the preview window, or a problem that these endnotes are not working.  There does not seem to be a way to take the PRC file and load it into Kindle for PC, or to put the output of the Kindle page conversion somewhere that I can load it into Kindle for PC.

The Redacted Investigation of the Contractors Is Complete

Theoretically, contractors can be a cost effective strategy for governments to get essential services done--but you do need competent management supervising day to day operations. To see what happened where I work (mostly before I arrived), see this article in the May 6, 2011 Idaho Statesman.  You can read the redacted report here.  Those of you who know me well will probably be able to figure out which statements taken by the investigator were from me.

Friday, May 6, 2011

More Curious Than Anything Else

Before class started the other day, one of my students wanted to show me President Obama's long form birth certificate when she loaded it in Adobe Illustrator, to show the "layers" that it seems to be made of.  I explained how OCR software often does that--it tries to identify areas of a scan that are potentially convertible to text,
and while it looks bad, it is not a sign that the document is a forgery.  But while I was explaining this to her, I saw something that she did not see.

Diagonal lines, when scanned, produce a jagged set of pixels.  This is an artifact of how sharply drawn the line is, and the scan resolution (dots per inch). All things being equal, two lines drawn at the same angle should produce similar levels of jagged pixels.  Yet when I looked at the mother's maiden name, "Dunham" at 800% in Adobe Acrobat, I noticed that the diagonals on the "D" are very, very noticeably different in their pixelation than the diagonal lines of the letters in the rest of the name.

click to enlarge

The attendant's name (the doctor who delivered the child with the halo over his head) has the same jagged, low-resolution characteristics as the "D" in Dunham--but not the "unham."  (This was 600%.)

click to enlarge

I am not saying that the certificate is a fake.  I am assuming that it is real--because the alternative explanation is it took Obama more than two years to have an incompetent fake put together.  That makes far less sense than the Kenya birth theory.  I am mostly curious why it looks so different.  I look forward to an explanation. I guarantee that if freshmen in my classes are asking these questions today, there better be an explanation or this birth certificate matter will never end.

UPDATE: An interesting comparison is Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal's birth certificate, which is here. One of the commenters who thinks that we are picking on Obama's birth certificate points to several things that he thinks are suspicious:

1. that Jindal's mother's address is listed as "Physics Dept. LSU";
2. that the city is identified as "BAton Rouge";
3. that the hospital is "Woman's Hospital."

None of these seem all that odd to me. I suppose if there had been questions about Jindal's place of birth--and Jindal had spent years and lots of money fighting to prevent its release--well, I might be a bit more curious. What I do find interesting is that when I blow up the image of Jindal's birth certificate, I do not see the oddities that are in Obama's birth certificate--such as signatures that seem to have been scanned at a different resolution than other parts. Why did Jindal's birth certificate come out looking like it was just a scan of a document--and Obama's looks like it is a composite?

Percussive Car Repair Again

I tried to roll down the passenger window on the Corvette a few days ago--and it did not work.  I could hear a "click" when I pressed the down or up side of the switch--but the window did not move.  Nor did it even try.

Groan.  I started looking around for information on the failure mode.  The click tells me that there is power getting to the door--but is it the motor, a relay, the regulator, or a gear that is jammed?  If the dealer fixes it, $400 - $600 was the consensus.

Then I found some "percussive car repair" instructions here.  Generally, I do not trust the "bang it until it works" approach, but the instructions are quite detailed, and are based on the claim that this failure--which rarely happens on the driver window and rarely on the convertibles (where drivers roll down the windows frequently) was caused by lack of use and corrosion building up in the contacts.  There are similar theories to explain the expensive failure of the EBTCM--that you need to really use the Corvette's brakes hard to keep everything working.

I did not go so far as to take out the panel, slip in the screwdriver, and bang it.  But I did slap the door with my fist in exactly that spot--and what do you know?  Now it works!  Reading the comments by the poster of the technique--and how well it works for others--has made me a believer.

And yes, I will roll the passenger window down every day now.

So Glad The Semester Is Almost Over

I love teaching.  It is important.  I am not independently wealthy yet, so I can't really do it for the fun (and no sane person teaches with the expectation of living on what colleges pay).  I am so glad that the semester is almost over, so that I can try and remember what I used to do for fun.


The treadmill is working.  This morning I was in for blood tests associated with the Lipitor: blood pressure, 120/82; pulse, 60.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Poor Osama Bin Laden...

Another victim of American imperialism.  The May 5, 2011 Daily Telegraph reports that Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams (who has been making a fool of himself for many years now), is not happy about what happened:

Killing bin Laden when he was not carrying a weapon meant that justice could not be “seen to be done”, the Archbishop suggested.
But lawyers and senior figures from politics and the military said Dr Williams was not living in “the real world” while relatives of 9/11 victims expressed outrage at his remarks.
A senior Government source described the Archbishop's comments as “very unwise”, adding: “One has to give some thought for all the unarmed people that bin Laden killed. This was a very silly thing to say.”
This is the same fool that has argued that Britain will need to incorporate shari'a law into their legal system, and that gay relationships are "comparable to marriage."  Look, if you want to make those arguments as director of the ACLU, I expect it.  But the Archbishop of Canterbury?  No wonder the Anglican Church worldwide is in serious danger of fragmentation--Rowan Williams is the fragmentation grenade.

Taxing By The Mile

May 5, 2011 The Hill reports that the Obama Administration is apparently floating a trial balloon about taxing people by the mile that they drive--and with a method of doing so that is really very 1984:
Among other things, CBO suggested that a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax could be tracked by installing electronic equipment on each car to determine how many miles were driven; payment could take place electronically at filling stations. 
I really am not keen on the government putting a tracking device on my car.  I understand why the traditional method of accomplishing this goal--a gasoline tax--is getting more complicated now that a lot of people are buying electric and hybrid vehicles.  But there is already a method available that is plenty cheap, and does not have the civil liberties threat of adding more equipment to our cars: assess the tax every year by seeing how many miles are on the odometer.  Perhaps have this be part of getting your registration renewed.

It would still be a nuisance, and really gives us another clue that the whole "green" delusion is a mistake, but it makes more sense than giving Washington one more way to keep track of who is going where.


I have to brush up my Java threads for a phone interview tomorrow.  I have not written anything threaded in a long time.  I wrote a cute little multithreaded applet back in the 1990s for a class.  I also wrote a rather large Java application for regression testing a DSL access multiplexer through the SNMP interface in the late 1990s as well.  That had at least two threads in it, one to do the SNMP transactions, while the GUI was running.  But it has been so long, I needed to spend some time figuring out how this stuff works again!

Anyway, I went into Eclipse on my Linux box (from which I am posting this), and in no time at all, I was able to write a trivial little Java application to refresh my memory of how this stuff works.

public class MultipleThreads {

* @param args
public static void main(String[] args) {
// TODO Auto-generated method stub
TestThread count1 = new TestThread(1, 10, 500);
while (count1.getCalcCount() < 5)
TestThread count2 = new TestThread(1000, 1010, 250);


public class TestThread extends Thread {
private int start;
private int last;
private int delayInterval;
private int calcCount;
public int getCalcCount() {
return calcCount;

public void setCalcCount(int calcCount) {
this.calcCount = calcCount;

TestThread(int begin, int end, int delay)
this.start = begin;
this.last = end;
this.delayInterval = delay;
calcCount = 0;
public void run() {
for (int i = start; i < last; i++)
System.out.println("sqrt(" + i + ")=" + Math.sqrt((double)i));
try {
} catch (InterruptedException e) {
// TODO Auto-generated catch block

It does not anything terribly significant; I was just verifying that I knew how to create an application with two threads that could interact with the main application thread.  The cool thing is that Eclipse (which is open source) is so easy to use that I could throw this together in just a couple of minutes and get it working.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Just Not Shaking This

Whatever this horrible crud is, I am not shaking it.  Neither is my wife.  I am still coughing, still exhausted.  Or is it the workload of all these papers on top of my day job?  I need some rest.  At least the papers are all done.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Obama Apparently Announced That Osama Bin Laden Is Dead

So I am told, this evening.

Finally, Decent Weather

I snowed on Thursday, but this weekend has been mostly sunny and clear, although not yet warm.  From the top of the property:

Click to enlarge

Note: this is about an 8 MB picture, so if you are on a slow connection, it might take a while.

Now I Understand Why My Life Is So Hard...I Don't Work For CIA

From something called the Seattle Examiner, which sounds like a newspaper, but probably (make that certainly) isn't comes this astonishing article about how Obama's birth certificate is a forgery including this "I did not know this" fact:

Is Barack Obama's birth certificate a distraction from his quantum access time travel pre-identification secret?

There appears to be another hidden factor beyond the location of Mr. Obama’s birth that is at play here – quantum access time travel pre-identification of recent U.S. Presidents, including Barack Obama.  The CIA has been pre-identifying future U.S. Presidents such as Barack Obama for 40 years and has, by the evidence, co-opted each of them into CIA.  

This secret quantum access program controls the U.S. presidency and makes the United States a functional CIA dictatorship.
Something called Project Pegasus using:
Tesla technology-based "quantum access" to past and future events, indicates that it is likely that by 1982 Mr. Obama had been personally informed by CIA that he was destined to be the U.S. President inaugurated on January 20, 2009.
Presumably, the people at CIA who run this extremely black ops program now own everything.  I mean, with that kind of foreknowledge, who wouldn't make a fortune in the stock market?