Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wow! Newspaper Articles From a Parallel Universe!

The August 31, 2011 Idaho Statesman talks about how high demand is here for software engineers:

The tech job market nationwide hasn’t been this overheated since the dot-com bubble in the late 1990s. In the Treasure Valley, startups such as Clearwater, Balihoo and Cradlepoint are competing with the giants — Micron and Hewlett-Packard — for increasingly rare talent: senior software engineers, data analysts, Web designers and application developers.
“There’s a feeding frenzy for those guys,” said Dave Boren, founder of Clearwater Analytics.
“Many software engineers and developers can have two to three offers on the table, especially in Boise,” said Steven Guadagno, area director of Adecco Engineering and Technical, which has placed about 500 high-tech workers in Valley companies. “It’s similar to bigger-city markets, just on a smaller scale.”

Sure fooled me.

The Green Jobs Of The Future

They keep evaporating, the more the left spends public money on them. From the August 15, 2011 Boston Herald:

Evergreen Solar Inc., the Massachusetts clean-energy company that received millions in state subsidies from the Patrick administration for an ill-fated Bay State factory, has filed for bankruptcy, listing $485.6 million in debt.
Evergreen, which closed its taxpayer-supported Devens factory in March and cut 800 jobs, has been trying to rework its debt for months. The cash-strapped company announced today has sought a reorganization in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware and reached a deal with certain note holders to restructure its debt and auction off assets.
From the August 31, 2011 NBC channel 4 in San Francisco:
Solyndra, a major manufacturer of solar technology in Fremont, has shut its doors, according to employees at the campus.
"I was told by a security guard to get my [stuff] and leave," one employee said. The company employs a little more than 1,000 employees worldwide, according to its website.
Solyndra was touted by the Obama administration as a prime example of how green technology could deliver jobs. The President visited the facility in May of last year and said  "it is just a testament to American ingenuity and dynamism and the fact that we continue to have the best universities in the world, the best technology in the world, and most importantly the best workers in the world. And you guys all represent that. "
The federal government offered $535 million in low cost loan guarantees from the Department of Energy.

 I've said it before, but it bears restating.  Government subsidies to basic research sometimes pays off in spectacular ways.  Government subsidies to operating businesses produce hothouse roses that can't stand the marketplace.  When those subsidies are driven by a mixture of corruption and religious worship, the result is a disaster for the taxpayers.
The loan guarantee, the administration's first for a clean energy project, benefited a company whose prime financial backers include Oklahoma oil billionaire George Kaiser, a "bundler" of campaign donations. Kaiser raised at least $50,000 for the president's 2008 election effort.
Several political allies of the president have ties to companies receiving Energy Department loans, grants or loan guarantees. For instance, the venture firm of another top Obama bundler, Steve Westly, has financially supported companies that won more than half a billion dollars in energy grants and loans during President Obama's time in office, iWatch News and ABC News reported in March. Relatively few applicants succeed in winning such benefits. The Energy Department said every one of those awards was won on merit.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Gruesome News Story

A reminder that you don't need a gun to commit suicide. From August 30, 2011 WTKR in Virginia:
A man is dead after decapitating himself following a domestic dispute in Yorktown. ...
A Fire Dept. officer noticed a cable attached to a nearby tree and wrapped around the neck of the driver. When deputies tried to get the man to leave the Explorer, he rapidly accelerated the SUV and was pulled from the vehicle and decapitated.  
I never in a million years would have thought of ending it all in such a gruesome way.

Obscure JDBC Behavior

I am approaching the final stage of a truly majorly ugly project, and suddenly, for no apparent reason, it was failing, with very strange, apparently quite random errors, including such bloodcurdling SQL Exceptions as "System or internal error: NullPointerException" when trying to process rows coming back from Informix.  Worse, there seemed no rhyme or reason--and the errors appeared scattered across half a dozen classes under one very exceptional set of circumstances.

It turned out that this steaming pile of Java was forking--and this was the problem.  The process that refreshed the screen display was sharing its database session with the forked process that was producing a report in a popup window.   The report process apparently, at its completion, was closing the shared session.  Depending on how much data was in the report, how heavily loaded the database server was, moon phase, etc., it would inexplicably start throwing these weird exceptions, apparently because that shared session was no longer valid--and the other process, of course, did not know about this.

The solution was relatively simple: synchronize the processes by keeping track of when the report process started and completed, and preventing the screen refresh from moving forward until that report process was done.  Yes, this is the result of gerbils writing Java, and I get to clean up the mess.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

I Ordered Dragon Naturally Speaking Home 11.5

My hands aren't going to get better unless I stop using them so much.  It's a shame that there is nothing that works with the software that I use at work.

How Bad Is Irene?

See this description of conditions in the Philly area from Snowflakes in Hell.  Really bad weather!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Temperature Sensitive?

Since I was successful at turning this 8-port wired Linksys router into a bridge, I thought that I would see if perhaps I could beat the Belkin that failed on me a couple of days ago back into submission.  Sure enough, it is currently working.  It claims that the firmware dated 2002 is the latest version for this router!  I have it configured identically to the current year Belkin router I borrowed from my daughter, since I expect whatever caused it to fail two days to cause it to fail again.  But I confess that it is better to have a backup, maybe even an unreliable backup, than to not have anything at all sitting around.

The Only Good News Out Of Visiting The Doctor About Carpal Tunnel...

Blood pressure 124/82; pulse, 64.  The time spent on the treadmill is paying off.

I spent the morning continuing a stone retaining wall on the bank west of the house.  In spite of lifting and moving some pretty heavy stones and pieces of broken concrete, the hands were not any the worse off at the end, perhaps it was working different muscles than I use for typing and mousing.

I Wish That I Could Embed This Video...

Everyone needs one of these for work...or for their cat!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Why Are Routers So Short-Lived?

I am struggling a bit with internal IT problems.  The new high speed Internet service is splendid--but the Belkin wireless router I bought a couple of years ago started going out, with the time between failures getting shorter and shorter--and now it is completely dead.  I pulled out a wired only Linksys router, since most PCs in the house now have Ethernet running through various walls and crawl spaces--and discovered that it lived for a few minutes before it died, also.

I reset both of them with the magic button on the back to return them to default configuration--and both died.  It would appear that the WAN-LAN interface is what failed, because the Belkin was still working fine on the LAN side--it just couldn't talk to the WAN side anymore.

Pretty obviously, I have a network connection.  The end of the cable from the radio plugs into the back of one notebook.  (My primary notebook, unfortunately, seems to have lost its wired Ethernet interface--at least, it does not work, and I have no wireless router in the house until tomorrow.)

I am a bit mystified why routers don't seem to last more than a couple of years.  Is it the lightning strikes generating surges through the WAN cable, frying something?  What should I be doing to protect it?  I presume that there are isolators for RJ45 connectors.  It isn't like there any moving parts in these things!

UPDATE: It turns out the Ethernet port isn't bad on the primary laptop; I have been using a bunch of Ethernet cables that were scrapped at HP when I first started there because they were only 10BaseT cables.  Theoretically this should work, although at a relatively slow rate--not enough to matter when my Internet connection is less than 10 Mbps anyway--but it may be that this cable was marginal in some other way as well.  I need to splurge and buy some proper 100BaseT Ethernet cables.

I also notice that one of the bridges that I use to cobble together the "too many Ethernet devices for a home office" is only a 10BaseT bridge--also something scrapped by HP when I started work there.  Since the printers and scanners are the primary devices on that bridge, it does not make a huge difference in their performance, but perhaps I should look at replacing that bridge as well with a 100BaseT Ethernet hub or bridge.

UPDATE 2: Instructions for configuring a router to work as a bridge are here.  I have removed the 10BaseT hub (which belongs in a museum of ancient HP technology), and replaced it with the Linksys router, which has eight LAN ports on it.  It turns out that some of the cables that I thought were antiques are labeled as 100BaseT--only a couple are 10BaseT cables that need replacing.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Part Of Why the Endangered Species Act Needs Revision

The August 24, 2011 Coeur d'Alene Press reports on an incident in Boundary County, where three grizzly bears came into a man's yard, and he had reason to believe (based on their going after one of their pigs) that his children were at risk.  So he shot the mother grizzly bear, which caused the yearling cubs to leave.  Rather than just bury the bear and keep his mouth shut, he reported what he had done...and now he is being prosecuted:

Jeremy M. Hill, 33, pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court to killing the animal with a rifle on his 20-acre property near Porthill, Idaho, at the Canadian border. He lives five miles from the closest grizzly bear recovery zone.
The grizzly bear is classified as a threatened species in the lower 48 states, according to the Endangered Species Act, and protected by federal law. Hill's charge is a misdemeanor.
This means that he is having to raise money to defend himself in court for defending his children and property from what is properly understood as a serious threat. Fortunately, the community is helping.

An amusing comment:
Since the victim is the grizzly bear, I suggest the trial be moved to it's jurisdiction.
Yes, judge, jury, bailiff, the entire court room of people, should be locate in the outdoors,
smack dab in the middle of mother grizzly bear country.
And the trial should be made to last days and days.
Because sooner or later, the noise and smells will attract a grizzly bear.
And I am curious to see if the judge would allow the bailiff to shoot the bear to protect the people,
or if not harming the endangered bear is the more important thing.
This is actually an important part of a trial, it is called "the re-enactment of the crime."
In fact, this could actually be a televised program, you know, like that "Jersey Shore" show.
The environmentalists, of course, are out in force in the comments section:
If anything it supports me, do you know which species kills the most 'precious' humans.....HUMANS, with your argument we should 'kill all humans', but no your deity told you not to, hmm conundrum, If population were to be reduced (through humane abortions, and other birth control) guess what....less CRIME, but no your religion, which is very out dated, forbids that. Well as I say, there is a gene pool of 6 BILLION (6,000,000,000,000) humans and only a thousand or so grizzly bears in the lower 48 states (10,000) any non math nerd should be able to understand this. There are TOO MANY HUMANS. I will continue to value what is RARE=endangered species' , over the common=HUMANS.

A New Opportunity to Encourage Students to Lie

A private college in the Chicago area is going to be offering scholarships:

Elmhurst College put a question on its admissions application that won’t appear on any other school's application.
"Would you consider yourself to be a member of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered) community?”
A “yes” answer could put students in line to qualify for a scholarship worth one-third of tuition at the private, liberal arts school affiliated with the United Church of Christ, said Rold.
The rationale for offering this scholarship is to increase the "diversity" of the college.  Perhaps the could promote diversity on the faculty with an affirmative action program for conservatives?

Did Anyone Watch Sarah Palin's Alaska?

I have heard some ferocious criticisms of it as being an exploitive "reality" TV show, and the claim that she quit the show after just a few episodes.  But the Wikipedia article indicates that the show was simply not renewed--and the description sounds more like a travelogue than a "reality" TV show.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Unlicensed Practice of Law

Todd Kincannon has been doing a great job of making life difficult for Righthaven, and for the second time, federal judge Hunt is raising the question of whether Righthaven is engaged in the unlicensed practice of law.  From the always on the case Steve Green at Vegas Inc.:
"The court notes that it considered certifying the question of whether Righthaven is engaged in the unauthorized practice of law to the Nevada Supreme Court. Ultimately, the court chose not to solely because that issue is not dispositive of this application because Stephens Media will adequately represent Righthaven’s theoretical interests and the application is untimely. However, the court may yet certify the question in a separate case," Hunt’s order said.
Kincannon's filings on this subject have demonstrated that state after state have found what Righthaven is doing is unlawful: a non-law firm operating as a law firm.  It will be fun watching this go down.  I understand that along with losing much of their staff, Righthaven has recently moved from its fancy offices to a strip mall.  I have read that they recently started using a post office box for their official address--perhaps they aren't sure if they will be doing business out of Steve Gibson's car next.

There Are Days I'm Ashamed To Be On The Same Side As These People

There was a tragedy in Moscow, Idaho recently.  An assistant professor of psychology killed a female grad student (no word yet on whether they had been romantically involved, or if he was just obsessed with her).  He murdered her, and then killed himself when police showed up to arrest him.  This crime took place entirely off campus, and as near as I can tell, the University of Idaho's ban on guns on campus therefore played no part in it.

Yet state Rep. Marv Hagedorn, who sponsored the bill to preempt public colleges from banning guns on campus, issued a press release trying to make hay out of this:
Teaching gun safety "could have possibly served as a deterrent to the shooter had he really understood what the mis-use of his gun really meant to her and her family as well as his," Hagedorn wrote.
Read more:

What? This was not a gun accident. Bustamante intentionally, and apparently with some planning, murdered this grad student. He knew exactly what he was doing.

While I do generally agree that allowing law-abiding adults to be armed for self-defense is a good idea, I am hard pressed to see the connection to this case. This guy committed suicide afterwards; he could not be deterred by the prospect that his victim would return fire.  At most, if she had been armed, she might have been able to defend herself, but to put out a press release like this suggesting some connection between the University of Idaho's policy and this tragedy is opportunistic at best and ignorant at worst.

I had some objections to the bill as drafted--changes that I think would have made it an easier bill to get passed, but no one listens to me in this state, especially in an area where I have considerable expertise.

UPDATE: The University of Idaho's no-gun rule wasn't the problem, but an unwillingness to take violence seriously might have been.  From the August 24, 2011 Idaho Statesman:

Ernesto Bustamante threatened Katy Benoit with a handgun several times after the former University of Idaho professor and his student broke off a sexual relationship in March, according to court documents filed in Latah County reported by the Lewiston Tribune.
Read more:
It gets worse:
The UI characterized the separation as a “resignation” that was finalized last Friday. Moscow police have said that the university’s separation with Bustamante was handled as a confidential personnel matter, and that they were never asked to get involved.
Read more:
They let this guy resign after complaints of a sexual relationship with a student, and complaints that Bustamante was threatening her with a gun after she broke off the relationship.

And this not too surprising statement about a psychology professor:

Court documents also include witness statements, including one from Bustamante’s “close friend” and UI graduate student Rowdy J. Hope.
“He confirmed that Bustamante had multiple handguns and multiple personality disorders to include one Bustamante calls a ‘psychopathic killer’ and another Bustamante calls ‘the beast,’” Fager wrote in the affidavit.
Read more:


We were looking at getting some paving work done.  The back driveway was something of a fire hazard; we don't use it very much, and the weeds were taking over.  We've used weed killers there that we were led to believe by the warning labels were one step below Agent Orange and two steps below using a small neutron bomb, but the weeds just laughed, and continued growing.  Paving this would solve the problem.

In front, we had an 8 1/2 foot wide strip leading to the garage apron, but there was still a lot of area that needed paving.  In winter, it was impractical to clear it because it was uneven and the rocks would jam the snowthrower.

So we called the people who did the driveway--and unfortunately, they seem to be out of business.  The people that ended up doing the job know them; the principal was buried in a gravel load for several minutes, and suffered serious brain damage.  He is still alive, but apparently the damage was quite serious.

We sought some estimates for about 3600 square feet of asphalt, but on the way home, I saw some trucks from Boswell Paving at work a mile away, so I gave them a call, and did the, "Hey, you already have your equipment up here and you are doing a big job, maybe we can get a discount since you already have equipment and materials here?" approach.  And it worked.  We were not the only people with a small job interested in piggybacking our project.

Boswell Paving suggested that to get the cost down below $6000 (which was my target spending level), instead of traditional asphalt, they could do a chip and seal (or as it sometimes called, tar and chip paving) instead.  This involves grading, dropping road mix, then applying asphalt cement (the black stuff that makes asphalt what it is), and another layer of road mix.  It looks like a gravel road at first glance, but after a few hot days of driving on it, the asphalt cement works its way up, and the excess gravel gets removed by driving on it, and you get something that looks much like a conventional asphalt road.  I did a little reading about this approach, and what I found confirmed what Boswell told me: it will be about 2/3 the lifetime of a conventional asphalt surface, and at a much more reasonable cost.  It might not be the best choice if you regularly have very heavy equipment coming through (semis, motorhomes), but for our needs, it seems like it will be sufficient.

Anyway, all done, and I am very pleased at how careful they were in laying it down--right to the edge of the brickwork that delineates the garden area.

Of Course, I'm Sure Nothing Was Done About It

From the August 24, 2011 New York Daily News:

A naked madman went on a stabbing spree in a Manhattan apartment building Tuesday, wounding four people and killing one, cops and neighbors said.
Christian Falero, 23, rampaged in the buff through the building where he lives on Riverside Drive in Washington Heights, greeting his victims with knocks on their doors, police sources said.
When Ignacio Collazo, 81, and his wife, Margarita, 75 answered their door about 4 p.m., Falero plunged his blade into their bodies, the sources said.

Read more:
It would appear that the earthquake drove him over the top, but the article also reports that neighbors said Falero had a history of mental illness.  This August 24, 2011 New York Post article quotes an aunt that Falero suffered from depression--but this is hardly the behavior of someone who is depressed.  I would be surprised indeed if this was the first time Falero has shown signs of severe mental illness.

One of the most depressing aspects of the whole deinstitutionalization debacle is that there is some evidence that the earlier schizophrenia is treated, the more likely it is for the patient to either recover, or at least be less severely impaired by it.

Old Green

This just arrived by email.  You could argue that this is attacking a strawman argument, but it does make a good point about how recently some of the practices that Greens consider wasteful became part of our culture.  (I am old enough to remember collecting soda pop bottles that had been discarded to trade them in at the market for money: two cents for the small bottles, and three cents for the big ones.)

 The Green Thing
 In the line at the store, the cashier told the older woman that she should bring her own grocery bag because plastic bags weren't good for the environment.
 The woman apologized to him and explained, "We didn't have the green thing back in my day."
The clerk responded, "That's our problem today.  The former generation did not care enough to save our environment."
 He was right; that generation didn't have the "green thing" in its day.  Back then, they returned their milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store.  The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled,so it could use the same bottles over and over.  So they really were recycled.
But they didn't have the "green thing" back in that customer's day.
In her day, they walked up stairs, because they didn't have an escalator in every store and office building.   They walked to the grocery store and  didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time they had to go two blocks.

But she was right. They didn't have the "green thing" in her day.
Back then, they washed the baby's diapers because they didn't have the throw-away kind.  They dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts -  wind and solar power really did dry the clothes.   Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

 But that old lady is right, they didn't have the "green thing" back in her day.
 Back then, they had one TV, or radio, in the house - not a TV in every room.  And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief, not a screen the size of the state of Montana.  In the kitchen, they blended and stirred by hand because they didn't have electric machines to do everything for you.  When they packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, they used a wadded up old newspaper to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.  Back then, they didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. They used a push mower that ran on human power.  They exercised by working so they didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.
But she's right, they didn't have the "green thing" back then.
They drank from a fountain when they were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time they had a drink of water.  They refilled their writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and they replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.
But they didn't have the "green thing" back then.
Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. 
They had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances.  And they didn't need a computerized gadget  to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.
But isn't it sad the current generation laments how wasteful the old folks were just because they didn't have the "green thing" back then?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Wow! High Speed Internet Again!

Ever since we moved to Horseshoe Bend, I have been saying, "I love it here, but I sure miss having high speed Internet."  The nice folks at BitSmart provided a decent wireless service, but because of limitations of their feed, they could not get us much above 1.2 Mbps download and, most recently that I checked, about 260 Kbps upload.  (They actually think that they should be able to do better than that, but that's what I measured just before having their antenna removed.)

We now have switched over to High Valley Internet, which is using a higher frequency wireless solution from on top of Bogus Basin.  I now have 5.12 Mbps download, and 2.27 Mbps upload.  Okay, those of you with 10 Mbps services down in flatland can scoff, but realistically, for most of what I do, this is pretty darn good!  It is $59.95 per month.

Books I Am Reading (3)

Winston S. Churchill, The River War: An Account of the Reconquest of the Sudan.  I have only read Churchill's six volume history of the Second World War--this was written when he was much younger, and I think that his writing was even a bit more lyrical.  His description of the northern Sudan, where the war was fought against the Mahdi and his successor:

This great tract, which may conveniently be called 'The Military Soudan,' stretches with apparent indefiniteness over the face of the continent. Level plains of smooth sand--a little rosier than buff, a little paler than salmon--are interrupted only by occasional peaks of rock--black, stark, and shapeless. Rainless storms dance tirelessly over the hot, crisp surface of the ground. The fine sand, driven by the wind, gathers into deep drifts, and silts among the dark rocks of the hills, exactly as snow hangs about an Alpine summit; only it is a fiery snow, such as might fall in hell. The earth burns with the quenchless thirst of ages, and in the steel-blue sky scarcely a cloud obstructs the unrelenting triumph of the sun.
Through the desert flows the river--a thread of blue silk drawn across an enormous brown drugget; and even this thread is brown for half the year. Where the water laps the sand and soaks into the banks there grows an avenue of vegetation which seems very beautiful and luxuriant by contrast with what lies beyond. The Nile, through all the three thousand miles of its course vital to everything that lives beside it, is never so precious as here. The traveller clings to the strong river as to an old friend, staunch in the hour of need. All the world blazes, but here is shade. The deserts are hot, but the Nile is cool. The land is parched, but here is abundant water. The picture painted in burnt sienna is relieved by a grateful flash of green.
Churchill, Winston (2004-01-01). The River War An Account of the Reconquest of the Sudan (Kindle Locations 23-33). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition. 
It was free.  Parts of it are a bit too detailed about the order of battle in various engagements, but most of the time, he does a fine job of explaining the complex politics that leads to a British-led Egyptian expedition to reconquer the Sudan.  I find it that it is filling in many gaps in my knowledge of British-Egyptian relations--and it is a reminder that the battle between the West and Islam is not new, and not because of Israel.

Those Of You Buying Stuff From Amazon Through the Search Engine On The Right...

Thank you!  If you were going to buy it anyway, it doesn't cost you anymore than if you went directly to, and it puts a little money in my pocket.  (In some cases, a lot more than I was expecting.)

Books I Am Reading (2)

Patrick H. Adkins, The Third Beast.  Someone gave me this book; it is ordinarily $0.99 on Kindle.  This is one of about five books in my entire life that I started reading--and I could not go to sleep until I reached the end, which meant that I was still reading it at 2:00 AM.  (And I had to go to work the next day.)

This was originally published on paper in 1995, and alas, some of its subtle social commentary is even more painfully accurate today than it was then.  It won't spoil anything for me to tell you that in the first chapter or two, the protagonist is clearly disturbed by the general degradation of the society, and its return to a form of primitivism, such as the increasing focus on tattoos and body modifications, and he recounts a discussion with another faculty member about whether there might be an argument for censorship at the extremes of the media.

I remembered, too, a conversation I had once had with a colleague about the increasingly lurid nature of our popular culture. I defended such material on the basis that clearly many people wanted such entertainment and that the alternative—censorship—was unacceptable. Besides, I told him, you can always change the channel if you find something objectionable. His answer took me by surprise. “Very well,” he said, “but remember that you’re going to have to live the rest of your life surrounded by people who grew up watching and reading that stuff, and thinking it’s normal.”

The novel itself is, I would say, an attempt to do for zombie novels what Richard Matheson's I Am Legend did for vampire novels: take what is fundamentally a supernatural idea and recast it as science fiction, with a plausible, rationalistic explanation for what would otherwise be horror.  And it does that extraordinarily well!  The novel is first person, and the protagonist is a paleoanthropologist who finds the book he is writing about Homo erectus disturbingly similar to trends that he is beginning to see happening in his neighborhood near New Orleans--but he knows that this can't be happening!

This is a horror novel; there are parts that may be a bit too intense for sensitive readers.

After my experience with Republic, I was a bit sensitive about typos and such, but I found two typos in the whole book: one spelling error, and one homonym error.  That's pretty decent!

Books I Am Reading

Since I am a cheapskate, I look for free books for the Kindle--or at least, very cheap.  

One that was free as a Kindle edition is now $4.95: Charles Sheehan-Miles, Republic: A Novel of America's Future.  The first several chapters did not impress me as particularly strong writing--a bit clumsy in trying to tell us about the characters, instead of showing us about them.  It did improve pretty impressively by the time I reached the 1/3 point, and it was very easy to start to care about these characters and their lives.

In some respects, Republic would appeal to many conservatives concerned about a government gone mad with power, but there is also a subplot that suggests that the author is very sympathetic to the welfare state model, and regards the Iraq and Afghanistan wars with considerable contempt.  Still, it was not so overpoweringly strident as to be a problem.

In other respects, Republic is something of a warning, of the sort that I have sometimes written about: the delusion that if a Second Amendment correction to the problems of our government comes about, that it will all be grand and glorious.  It will not be.  It will be at best incredibly ugly, and this novel does a good job of delivering a sobering reminder of this.  I will say, however, that it may be too dark: if the scenario depicted were to come about, it would not be one state taking these actions alone, which renders the dark ending actually a little unrealistic.

It is awash in detail that suggests that the author has substantial knowledge of armored combat--or at least, it does a fine job of giving that impressive.  (Versimilitude is usually sufficient when writing a novel; actual accuracy is usually above 95% of the readers.)

One disappointment with Republic was the astonishing number of typos: capitalization errors; homonym errors; even spelling errors.  I expect a few to appear in any book, but considering that this was originally a dead trees publisher, it was far more than should have been there.  It gave a somewhat amateurish feel to what was otherwise a pretty decently written book (once past the first several chapters).

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

I have been whacking it hard with ibuprofen (anti-inflammatory to reduce swelling), massage with MaxFreeze, and the somewhat unpleasant exercises the doctor gave me--and it is working.  The left hand does not hurt, and the right hand is definitely getting better.

5.8 Earthquake Evacuates Pentagon, Capitol

Or so USA Today reports.  Did the stack of debt instruments fall over?

When CBS Covers This...

It means the establishment left (the crony capitalists) have had the scales drop from their eyes:
The latest posting by the Treasury Department shows the national debt has now increased $4 trillion on President Obama's watch.The debt was $10.626 trillion on the day Mr. Obama took office. The latest calculation from Treasury shows the debt has now hit $14.639 trillion.
It's the most rapid increase in the debt under any U.S. president.
The national debt increased $4.9 trillion during the eight-year presidency of George W. Bush. The debt now is rising at a pace to surpass that amount during Mr. Obama's four-year term.
And Obama did most of this while his party had strong majorities in both houses of Congress.

More Amazing Examples of Stimulus Spending

This August 22, 2011 Fox News report tells about a $490,000 federal grant that created 1.72 jobs.  (Yes, the decimal point is in the right place.)
According to, the U.S. government's official website related to Recovery Act spending, the project created 1.72 permanent jobs.  In addition, the Nevada state Division of Forestry reported the federal grant generated one full-time temporary job and 11 short-term project-oriented jobs.
Read more:
A project summary provided by Conrad showed an even lower amount of full-time jobs, with 1.37 full-time employees at the Las Vegas Nursery.
Conrad explained that the number of full-time jobs is low because most of the tasks, such as planting trees or driving plants from the nursery to participating schools or parks, are given to individuals on a short-term basis via a temp agency. For example, 11 people were hired temporarily for different aspects of the project, such as planters, trainers, drivers, and individuals to develop programs.

Read more:
Obama for a while promoted the idea that he was a modern FDR.  At least programs like CCC and WPA, no matter how wasteful they might have been, put vast swarms of unemployed people to work, and the nation ended up with substantial public works projects that are still in use today: schools, post offices, national park facilities. Obama's crowd does not seem to even be that competent.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Symptoms You Should Not Ignore

Pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness, especially in the thumb and adjacent two fingers.  The pain in my right hand is substantial.  Because I started trying to do all my work left-handed, within a few days, that hand was hurting.

I have been icing both wrists, and having my wife massage MaxFreeze in both arms, and the left hand has recovered.  The right has not.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Working Well

The Epson 85HD MovieMate works very well for putting up lyrics, and the more I use OpenLP, the more impressed I get.  For free software, it is pretty darn impressive.  I can see why some people are skipping large screen TVs and using the Epson instead.

UPDATE: One nuisance: the notebook is an older Compaq NC6000, and the drivers that came with it would not do two separate displays--it would only clone the screen to the external SVGA port.  Fortunately, even though this is now a several year old notebook, HP had a driver update that supports dual displays.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Eighty hour weeks since the start of summer working two jobs to avoid running a deficit.  It is taking its toll.  Not much unnecessary typing for a while.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Lyrics Display

The very small church my wife and I attend is making the transition to digital, instead of printing lyric sheets for the songs we sing.  I ordered up an Epson 85HD MovieMate to satisfy several requirements:

1. Display song lyrics on a screen, instead having to print lyrics on paper.  Organizing these every week is a bit of a nuisance.

2. Useful for showing videos that are useful for Bible studies (such as The Truth Project).

3. The pastor can use it for maps and such.

I picked the Epson because our pastor is older, and not exactly computer friendly.  He wanted something that he could literally put a DVD in the unit, and have it appear on the wall--and this does that very well.  The images are sharp and bright.  (I really would have preferred one of the LED units, but I could not find one that was going to be bright enough to handle the transition to the stage where we might actually have dozens of people attending church.)

In any case, the display works great--I just plug it into the SVGA port on my notebook, and it works great.  (There were some problems with getting Ubuntu Linux to not treat the Epson as an extension of the main display, but I rebooted under Windows and everything was wonderful.)  What I am hoping for is a program that has the smarts to let me load in the stack of lyric sheets that we have in a Microsoft Word file, and then select which songs will go in this week's stack, allowing us to step through stanza by stanza with the click of a mouse.  There are ways to do this (clumsily) with Word and PowerPoint, but I suspect that someone out there is familiar with something more specific to this application.

Free is good, but if it isn't too expensive, and especially if there is some way to try before we buy, all the better.

UPDATE: This looks very promising indeed!  Open source, too.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Righthaven's Chutzpah

Ars Technica reports on the latest signs of Righthaven's arrogance.  They sued someone for copyright infringement.  The federal judge hearing the case ruled that Righthaven lacked the right to sue, because they were not the copyright owner--and awarded more than $34,000 in damages to the defendant for his legal fees.  Righthaven's response to this was:
To avoid paying the opposing lawyers, Righthaven recently argued that fees could not be awarded; since Righthaven had no standing to sue in the first place, it argued, the court had no jurisdiction over the case at all,not even to assign legal fees.
Amazing, isn't it?  Claiming that because they had no right to sue, they could not be held liable for the costs that their baseless lawsuit imposed on someone else.  Wow.

Why Obama's Stimulus Program Failed

I mentioned last month that even by the White House's own probably optimistic definition of the number of jobs created by the stimulus bill, these jobs ended up costing the government (that is to say, the taxpayers now and for generations to come) at least $218,000 per job.  Want to know why they were so expensive?  My guess is that a lot of these projects were like this one described in this August 16, 2011 KOMO report:
Last year, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn announced the city had won a coveted $20 million federal grant to invest in weatherization. The unglamorous work of insulating crawl spaces and attics had emerged as a silver bullet in a bleak economy – able to create jobs and shrink carbon footprint – and the announcement came with great fanfare.
McGinn had joined Vice President Joe Biden in the White House to make it. It came on the eve of Earth Day. It had heady goals: creating 2,000 living-wage jobs in Seattle and retrofitting 2,000 homes in poorer neighborhoods.
But more than a year later, Seattle's numbers are lackluster. As of last week, only three homes had been retrofitted and just 14 new jobs have emerged from the program. Many of the jobs are administrative, and not the entry-level pathways once dreamed of for low-income workers. Some people wonder if the original goals are now achievable.
Of course, it has not been all bad.  The major beneficiaries of the loan program appear to be hospitals and the Washington Athletic Club.   Make sure you read the membership application page for the WAC: it's clear that these are the sort of desperately poor people that needed government assistance!

Crony capitalism describes what the Obama Administration (and the Democratic Party) stand for.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Another Article I Couldn't Sell

Michelle Bachmann, History, and Slavery
You can always tell who the mainstream regards as the greatest threat to the Zero: it is who they are going after most vigorously today.  For a few days, it was Michelle Bachmann’s mistakes about American history.

I teach U.S. History up to 1877.  I have written a number of books about American history.  I do cringe a little when I hear some of Rep. Bachmann’s mistakes.  In spite of her best efforts to portray John Quincy Adams as a Founding Father, a more accurate description is that he was a Founding Son.  His first position in public office was the U.S. diplomat to the Netherlands, starting in 1794.

Some of her other mistakes, however, while they annoy me, are actually not as far off as the mistakes being made by the mainstream media sorts who are “correcting” her.  Bachmann has described the Founding Fathers as having worked tirelessly to end slavery.  This is wrong, but not as far as wrong as George Stephanopoulos’s response:

For example earlier this year you said that the Founding Fathers who wrote the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence worked tirelessly to end slavery. Now with respect Congresswoman, that’s just not true. Many of them including Jefferson and Washington were actually slave holders and slavery didn’t end until the Civil War.

Unfortunately, this just shows that Stephanopoulos knows a lot less than he thinks he knows.  The bad news here is that while Bachmann has exaggerated and scrambled a few facts—she is still closer to the truth than Stephanopoulos!  

First of all, many of the Founders were active in the abolition movement.  John Jay, for example, one of the three authors of the Federalist Papers, along with a number of New York slave owners, founded the New York Society for Promoting the Manumission of Slaves in 1785—an organization that existed for the purpose of encouraging slave owners to free their slaves—as many did.  While governor, Jay signed the 1799 law that provided for the gradual abolition of slavery in New York State.

Thomas Jefferson was a slave owner—but also someone who worked (although not “tirelessly”) for the abolition of slavery.  Like many slave owners, Jefferson regarded the institution as an evil that needed to be eliminated, but like other slave owners, he was so deeply in debt that he was unable to do much about it.  Freeing slaves was not a solution; creditors would, sometimes years later, have the courts drag freedmen back into slavery to cover old debts of their masters.

What is even more amazing is that Stephanopoulos thinks that slavery did not end until the Civil War!  Slavery existed throughout the United States before the American Revolution.  During and immediately after the American Revolution, the states north of the Mason-Dixon Line started abolishing slavery, some immediately, some through various gradual emancipation strategies.  If Stephanopoulos is going to berate Bachmann for her historical errors, it would help if he knew something about American history.
Similarly, ABC News’ The Note points out:

Many of the founders, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, were, in fact, slave owners. And as every middle school history teacher will tell you, the founding fathers virtually ignored the issue of slavery. It was not until the mid 1800s that slavery became a contentious issue in American politics.

Again, I am disappointed but not surprised by the ignorance of these journalists that look down their noses on Bachmann.  Ignored the issue of slavery?  Why then did the Constitution have a specific provision that allowed Congress to abolish the importation of slaves after 1808?  And Congress did pass such a ban: with only five votes against, Congress shut off importation of slaves as of January 1, 1808.  In 1820, Congress made it a capital crime for American citizens to be involved in the international slave trade.

Slavery was not a contentious issue in American politics until the mid 1800s?  The Missouri Compromise (1820) was the first big fight in Congress over slavery.  The Gag Rule, in effect from 1836-1844, prohibited the U.S. House of Representatives from considering any petitions relative to abolishing slavery—and it was precisely because such petitions had been presented to Congress from their first session in 1789.

Would I like Bachmann, Palin, Perry, and the other conservative Republicans running for office to tack sharp on American history?  Yes.  But I will not take seriously the mainstream media criticizing them for mistakes that are less serious than the ones the journalists doing the criticizing are making.
Clayton E. Cramer is a software engineer in Idaho; he also teaches history at a community college, and writes history books.  His web page is 

Now, If He Had Taken Off His Shoes, What Could He Have Done?

From August 15, 2011 BBC comes this account of a man who was convicted of driving on a highway, holding one cell phone to his ear, and according to the prosecutor, apparently texting on a second cell phone with his other hand, and steering with his knees.

He really should have taken off his shoes and socks, and perhaps used those to control his iPad and MP3 player.

My Wife's First Book

I mentioned last week that we had put it up on Kindle.  Perhaps my expectations were too high, but at least it has sold one copy!  That gives it a sales rank of 140,634!

Mental Illness? Or Art Critic?

There was a time that such behavior would have been recognized as mental illness on the first try.  From August 15, 2011 WTOP:

WASHINGTON (AP) - A woman who attacked a painting at Washington's National Gallery of Art earlier this year has struck again, police say, this time lashing out against a Henri Matisse painting at the museum.
Susan Burns of Alexandria, Va., was arrested Aug. 5 after police said she walked over to Matisse's 1919 painting "The Plumed Hat," and slammed the painting repeatedly against a wall, damaging its frame but not the $2.5 million painting.
She was apparently told not to go to museums after the first incident.  Now she is hospitalized--although I suspect not for long.  

Look, I share her opinion of Gauguin's "Two Tahitian Women," (her first artwork victim), but I am content to merely dislike his technique.

UPDATE: Ordinarily, making such a claim might be a sign that you are trying to set up an insanity defense in court--but the rest of the details suggest that he may indeed have a mental problem.  From the August 15, 2011 Galveston Daily News:
GALVESTON — A man claiming to be a vampire faces felony burglary charges stemming from an incident early Saturday morning.
According to the report, a woman was in bed when a man broke into her apartment. He then began to make hissing and growling noises while biting and striking the woman.
The woman called police and described the suspect as a white male with multiple tattoos, wearing only boxer shorts.