Monday, December 31, 2012

Subway Killer

Doubtless you saw the news story about the second person shoved under a subway car (which was of course fatal) in a week in New York City.  To Old To Work, To Young To Retire points to this December 30, 2012 Wall Street Journal report concerning the woman currently being held for the second of these murders:
Long before she was accused of pushing a Queens man to his death on the subway tracks, Erika Menendez was arrested at least twice on misdemeanor charges related to violence and had a history of family members calling police to report erratic behavior related to her mental health, a law-enforcement official said.

Over the past 12 years, police have records of 14 encounters with Ms. Menendez, 31 years old, who has been charged with murder as a hate crime in last Thursday’s subway death. In at least four of those instances, the official said, Ms. Menendez’s mother, Maricela Mera, told police that Ms. Menendez had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, an illness marked by extreme shifts in mood, and was acting violently.

Ms. Menendez, of the Rego Park section of Queens, has nine prior arrests on charges that include cocaine and marijuana possession, harassment and assault, the official said. Two of the arrests in 2003 resulted in charges of assault for allegedly punching men, the official said. In five of the nine cases, Ms. Menendez received a conditional discharge without jail time. Four of the cases have been sealed, and no details were available Sunday.
Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised. 

Stinking Hypocrites

The Hollyweird leftists are running an ad that says, "Enough" and demands that Congress come up with a gun control plan.  This video below (which is violent and bloody) intercuts the Hollyweird leftists' demand video with clips from their movies that glorify gun violence.

Why Are Gun Sales Skyrocketing?

Because of progressives writing columns like this -- and newspapers like the Des Moines Register thinking that this is appropriate to publish:

• Declare the NRA a terrorist organization and make membership illegal. Hey! We did it to the Communist Party, and the NRA has led to the deaths of more of us than American Commies ever did. (I would also raze the organization’s headquarters, clear the rubble and salt the earth, but that’s optional.) Make ownership of unlicensed assault rifles a felony. If some people refused to give up their guns, that “prying the guns from their cold, dead hands” thing works for me.
• Then I would tie Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, our esteemed Republican leaders, to the back of a Chevy pickup truck and drag them around a parking lot until they saw the light on gun control.
There is a strong fascist aspect to modern progressive thinking.  There is a reason why so many Americans are heavily armed -- they know how strong the totalitarian murderous thug component is among the media elite.

Things That Drive Me Crazy: HDTV

I have been thinking about buying a HDTV.  (Okay, that makes me the last person in America to do this, I know.  Many welfare recipients have had HDTV for ten years now.)  Right now, the audio out on my TV feeds a 1970s stereo receiver, which feeds either some pretty spectacular speakers or alternatively, a wireless headphone set.  I would like to take the audio out of whatever HDTV I buy and feed it into the RCA jacks on the back of the stereo receiver.  Some TVs apparently have a coax out for headphones and surround sound systems; there are boxes that convert coax out into two RCA jacks (and they aren't hideously expensive).

When I go to various web sites trying to pick out a TV, the question that I can't find on Amazon or Wal-Mart's web site is: what sort of audio out connection does it have?  When I went into Wal-Mart the other day to look at HDTVs (and to be honest they were all so close in image quality that I couldn't see any argument for picking one over the other), I asked the guy in electronics which of them had RCA jack output.  He indicated that some of them did, but he did not know which ones, told me to look at Wal-Mart's website to find out, and made no effort to find out.  The reason that I am prepared to pay more at a brick and mortar store is that someone can answer questions.  If you can't answer questions, why bother with a brick and mortar store?

Second question: HDTVs have digital tuners in them, so the RCA box that converts digital broadcast to analog signal won't be needed.  Am I correct that HDTVs with digital tuners use coax input from an antenna?

UPDATE: It appears that HDTVs do use coax input for broadcast TV.  The RCA 42LB45RQ (a 42" LCD screen) looks like my best choice on this right now.  It has a variety of RCA jack inputs and outputs, including audio, which means that I would not need a converter to switch from digital coax to RCA jacks. Now I just need to make sure that the Blu-Ray player/NetFlix interface box has an HDMI connector.  I can't imagine that it wouldn't, but it was a refurb when I bought it several years ago so you never know until you look.

UPDATE 2: All questions answered.  I ordered the Sanyo 42" LCD 1080p and the HDMI cable from Wal-Mart's "ship to store" option, primarily because this model was in the store already.  Yes, on Amazon it would have been $20 cheaper, but shipping would have made it more expensive, and I would not have seen it for a week or more.  In four weeks, my wife and I will be back teaching, and our evenings will no longer be free.

UPDATE 3: So much for Wal-Mart inventory.  They were out at the store that they said had it.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Need Video Production?

My son recently graduated with a degree in Communications (Video Production emphasis), and he is looking for work. Here are two videos he shot and edited:
Here's one where he was the cameraman:

Friday, December 28, 2012

Unsubscribing From Junk Mailers

I am frustrated at the amount of spam that shows up -- even if it goes to the Spam folder.  There is one service that works with and Yahoo mail accounts called that gives you some control over your subscriptions, and makes it pretty painless to unsubscribe from subscriptions that you no longer want, or sometimes never wanted.

Still looking for something to use for my primary email address.  This should be easy to do -- my law, every bulk email must have an unsubscribe message, and it would seem easy to write something that searches for these, and gives you a list.

Might Be Of Interest To Some Of My Readers

Media Index Publishing Group is seeking a full time, in house (Seattle) executive editor for Western Shooting Journal, a monthly consumer magazine & website. Applicants must be willing to relocate WSJ provides readers with information, education and entertaining stories relative to all types of firearms, competitive and range shooting events, law enforcement, blackpowder, archery, and much more (See all at a grassroots level.
This position requires passion for and a knowledge of shooting, writing, editing and ability to solicit and develop regular associate editors & contributors on a monthly basis. You should also be familar/comfortable with blogging. 
Media Index Publishing produces highly successful outdoor consumer titles including NW Sportsman, CA Sportsman, Alaska, Sporting Journal, & Western Shooting Journal. Salary,benefits, vacation, commensurate with experience. Visit
Please send resume and cover letter to 
  • Location: Seattle, WA
  • Compensation: Salary, benefits, vacation, commensurate with experience
  • Principals only. Recruiters, please don't contact this job poster.

Arizona Attorney-General's Proposal

From December 27, 2012 Fox News:

Arizona's Attorney General has proposed a program to train one person at each school in the state to use a firearm in an effort to minimize the risk of a repetition of the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.
Tom Horne introduced a proposal Wednesday that would allow a school principal or designated staff member to have access to a secured firearm on school grounds and receive training in the use of firearms and emergency management.
The attorney general said in a press release that at least three Arizona sheriffs have endorsed the proposal and other sheriffs are considering participating in the program.
Horne said the state's budget constraints resulted in the legislature reducing funding for school resource officers assigned to schools throughout the state. The ideal situation, he said, would be to have an armed officer in each school.
"The next best solution is to have one person in the school trained to handle firearms, to handle emergency situations, and possessing a firearm in a secure location. This proposal is analogous to arming pilots on planes,” Horne said in a statement.

Read more:
As I said on a Canadian radio station last night, this is not the best solution, but it is better than no solution.

UPDATE: From December 28, 2012 KSAZ:

Sheriff Arpaio says he's ready to provide armed assistance at schools in the valley. The sheriff says he's ready to start this program within a week.
He said he wants to put posse members near schools, not inside them. He's focusing on roughly 50 schools in cities that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office has jurisdiction over.
Schools in places like Cave Creek, Fountain Hills, and Litchfield Park may soon see some of the Sheriff Arpaio's posse members patrolling nearby.
"No cost to taxpayers, they furnish their own equipment, they do not receive any salary," says Sheriff Arpaio.

Read more:
And for those worried about training:
"The posse has the same training regarding guns as our regular deputy sheriffs, over 100 hours of training, plus refresher courses… We should never have a defeatist attitude. Look to the future and take whatever precautions we can do. I don't just want to talk, I like action."
Read more: 
 This certainly makes sense, and for those Americans who get freaked out about allowing law-abiding civilians to defend schools, this should be acceptable.

A Very Impressive Collection of Facts About Gun Control


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Yes, Canada Has Fewer Mass Murders

For some reason, reading this account of this amazing (and not in a good way) crime, does not make me feel any more comfortable.

While I was preparing to do an interview with a Canadian radio station in Manitoba, I did little research and confirmed what I had previously read: there are Canadians concerned about the increase in homelessness and murder since Canada went down the same mistaken path as the United States concerning deinstitutionalization. I vaguely recalled this incident several years ago, but the full horror of it just astonishes me:
According to witnesses, McLean was sleeping with his headphones on when the man sitting next to him suddenly produced a large knife and began stabbing McLean in the neck and chest. The attacker then decapitated McLean and displayed his severed head to other passengers outside who had fled the bus in horror. The driver and two other men attempted to rescue McLean but were chased away by Li, who slashed wildly at them from behind the locked bus doors. Li then went back to the body and began severing other body parts and consuming some of McLean's flesh.
This May 23, 2012 Telegraph news story gives the diagnosis and the hallucinations and delusions that caused Li to do what he did:
In an interview with Chris Summerville, head of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada, Li spoke for the first time saying that he began hearing "the voice of God" in 2004.

"The voice told me that I was the third story of the Bible, that I was like the second coming of Jesus (and that) I was to save people from a space alien attack," he said, according to a transcript published by Canadian media.

Li said he had purchased the knife used in the attack for protection "from the aliens" and claimed that he was unaware at that time that he suffered from schizophrenia.
The rest of it is far too gruesome for me a quote.

The good news is that Li is doing much better now, and is now eligible for escorted visits to town.

Awesome Astrophotos

One of my customers, although these pictures were taken before the new Scoperollers were installed, took these awesome astrophotos.

Really Sounds Like a Scam

Need photographer for personal shoot in underwear and possibly nude. These are for personal use and was just wanting some more professional looking photos done. 
I'm not a professional. Just want some taken at my home. I can edit them myself, just can't hold the camera. Since these are just amateur photos, I want someone who will take pictures of an attractive 18 year old for little or no pay. 
I shudder to think of the creeps that are likely to respond to this.  And that immediately makes me wonder if this is what it claims to be.

$50,000 A Year? Or College?

The December 25, 2012 New York Times has an article apparently upset that some recent high school grads are taking high paying jobs rather than go to college:
For most high school seniors, a college degree is the surest path to a decent job and a stable future. But here in oil country, some teenagers are choosing the oil fields over universities, forgoing higher education for jobs with salaries that can start at $50,000 a year.
It is a lucrative but risky decision for any 18-year-old to make, one that could foreclose on his future if the frenzied pace of oil and gas drilling from here to North Dakota to Texas falters and work dries up. But with unemployment at more than 12 percent nationwide for young adults and college tuition soaring, students here on the snow-glazed plains of eastern Montana said they were ready to take their chances.
I have news for that reporter: not every graduating high school student belongs in college, and even some who do might benefit from working for a year or two first, especially if they can put enough into savings that they don't graduate from college with an enormous amount of debt.  Now, if nearly everyone getting a bachelor's degree was being offered a decent job, this might be a tragedy -- but that is not the case.  It is not even close to being the case.

When you read the comments on the article, you start to see what the real upset is: they are working in the industry that is going to cause hundreds of millions of deaths from global warming!

Scratch the Fanapt Claim

The "uncle" quoted by news media about the shooter in Newtown being on Fanapt is actually a rather well-known criminal, notorious for the number of absurd lawsuits filed from inside prison.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

There Should Be A Law...

against early morning East Coast radio talk shows. I have to get up a little after 5 AM tomorrow morning for a show on the East Coast. If it wasn't because of how important fixing our mental health system is, I would not be doing it. For the cynics among you, it isn't even selling very many books!

David Gregory's Law Breaking Was Intentional

Over at Legal Insurrection you can read the email that the DC police sent to NBC telling them that they could not legally bring a high capacity magazine into DC for their news segment.  This means that David Gregory and NBC did not unintentionally break the law: they knew that they were doing something unlawful, and went ahead anyway.  A picture of a high capacity magazine wasn't enough.

If there is no criminal prosecution, it raises an interesting argument if someone else is prosecuted for violating D.C.'s high capacity magazine ban.  What makes David Gregory special?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

I Believe That This Is A Kestrel

It was sitting on a tree only six feet from our laundry room window, so there was no choice about whether to photograph it or not!

UPDATE:  This is apparently not a kestrel.  Perhaps a Cooper's Hawk or a Sharp Shinned Hawk, which are so similar that there are guides to help you try to figure out which is which.

Brandishing a Magazine

NBC's David Gregory violated D.C.'s gun banning laws during a recent taping of Meet the Press.
I can't seem to find what the punishment is.

UPDATE: It appears that the penalty is up to a $1000 fine and six months in jail.

Bald Eagle Pair

We see a lot of lone bald eagles around here, but this is the first mated pair we have seen.

This was on the way to the garbage dump.

UPDATE: one reader indicated that he thought female bald eagles had brown heads. According to this site, which seems pretty authoritative, male and female bald eagles have the same markings. Brown heads are indication of an immature bald eagle.

Promotional Video: Much Improved

It takes quite a bit longer to download now, because it is considerably more "active."

I appreciate all your suggestions and assistance on this.  I am hoping that suggestions and corrections from this will get us to point where we can put this up on Kickstarter.

UPDATE: I may have gotten a little too ambitious on this. This is perhaps too large of a project to tackle by myself.

A Very Cold But Clear Night

Our new neighbors invited us to a Christmas Eve party.  One set of guests became stuck on ice on the common road; fortunately, we had a leftover set of chains from a previous vehicle that fit their Honda perfectly, so they went home with those.  We also rolled out the telescope for all of them: the Moon, Jupiter and its satellites, and the Orion Nebula were all crowd pleasers.

Slave Labor

This December 23, 2012 Portland Oregonian carries a news story about a woman who opened up a box of Halloween decorations and found something really frightening inside: a letter from one of the workers in China who made them:
That's when Keith found it. Scribbled onto paper and folded into eighths, the letter was tucked between two Styrofoam headstones.


"If you occasionally buy this product, please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right Organization. Thousands people here who are under the persicution of the Chinese Communist Party Government will thank and remember you forever." 
As the article points out, it has been unlawful for many years to import goods manufactured by slave labor.  I have read that this law was originally passed to prevent goods made by Nazi slave labor from being sold here before World War II.

One of the commenters claims that the Chinese characters in the letter, and the use of a particular abbreviation, indicate that it was written by Hong Kongers or Taiwanese.  It seems unlikely that Taiwanese would be a mainland slave labor camp, but I could see someone form Hong Kong ending up there.  Does anyone who is a native speaker of Chinese want to look at the images of the letter at that article, and tell me if there is merit to this claim?

There Are Christmas News Stories That Bring Tears To Your Eyes

This news story from the December 24, 2012 Telegraph lists gift requests that "Father Christmas" (Santa Claus in English culture) in stores there are getting.  Some of them are unsurprising, but number on the list just makes me want to cry:
Despite their material requests, the tenth most popular Christmas wish on the list was a "Dad".
Liberalism's desire to destroy the nuclear family is succeeding beyond its wildest dreams.

Liberal Professor Argues For Death Penalty For Wrong Ideas

He's an Australian who teaches at an Austrian university, and of course, the "wrong ideas" are those who question the validity of the anthropogenic global warming claim:
I have been a member and financial supporter of Amnesty International Austria since 1998. Previously, I was a member and financial supporter of Amnesty in the UK from 1994 to 1998. Like Amnesty I have consistently opposed the death penalty in every case, and this is still my opinion.

In discussions about  the death penalty, it is important to acknowledge that it may be inconsistent to completely reject the death penalty in all cases. Imagine a situation where one person or a small group is in a position to kill millions of people. Imagine that there is also clear evidence that they intend to do so. Murder of that person or that small group could be justified on the grounds that it would save the lives of a large number of people with a high probability.
Thank you, but I think I'll keep my assault weapon when intellectuals can, without shame, argue against the death penalty for murderers, but for the death penalty for those who merely question a theory that is increasingly obviously wrong.

Oh yes, his specialty is the psychology of music.  You can see why his training and specialized knowledge enables him to know that the skeptics are wrong.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Lots of Good Suggestions Concerning the Film Promo

I appreciate all of them.  I am busy folding in the various suggestions. I did not even know that the video editing software that I have included pan and zoom features which greatly animate these still photos that of necessity are the bulk of anything about the 19th century. These make a world of difference.

I should defend my wife's reading of this, not because it was spectacularly good, but because I put a crummy microphone headset on her and gave her a script. Not surprisingly, it was a little lackluster in places. In addition I have a decent electret stereo microphone, that with enough adapters, plugs into the sound input jack on the computer. And yes, the results are definitely better than with headset microphone we were using before.

I also fail to appreciate how rapidly some of these individual photos moved across the screen when viewing it as a result, rather than as a input. I showed this before church this morning to several people there, and it was suddenly much more obvious. Of course, since some of my readers notice a problem as well, I give you credit for recognizing this!

For those asking about contributing to the making of this film: I love to have the problem of having to say, not quite yet! I will be doing a bit more editing on this promo, and then we may be putting it up on  Kickstarter to raise the preproduction funds.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

On CBC 10:15 AM Eastern Time Sunday Morning

I am tentatively  scheduled to be on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's news program at 10:15 AM Eastern Time Sunday morning. The topic, of course, is gun control and this tragedy in Connecticut.

Odds & Ends

We were out and about yesterday because our son graduated from Boise State University with a degree in  Communications with a Video Production emphasis, and he graduated cum laude.  While out and about, we saw a few amusing things here and there. This picture doesn't really capture how small this piece of machinery was, but when my son saw it, his first reaction was, "Wow! Baby's first excavator!"

I have always been partial to clever architectural jokes, like this donut shop in Los Angeles that almost everyone this is familiar with:

They aren't great architecture, ever, but they can be good for a few laughs, and in spite of the fact that Planning & Design Departments around the country are filled with bureaucrats who find these a distasteful reminder of the 1940s and 1950s, or perhaps even because of that, I like them.

Here's a shop that specializes in batteries in Boise. Notice the design of the building, especially the terminals:

First Attempt

I can't claim to be an amateur yet -- more a fool with the tools. Any suggestions that you can make to make this more professional looking would be appreciated.

Friday, December 21, 2012

I Started Watching PBS's Special This Evening "After Newtown"

I keep hoping for better from them, and I keep getting disappointed.  They mention that there is one school shooter who did not commit suicide: Kip Kinkel.  They don't dare mention the other, at Pearl High School, who was stopped by the Assistant Principal, with a handgun.

They keep emphasizing that we can't predict who is going to go off an rampage, they mention that they are young men generally -- but scrupulously avoid discussing schizophrenia.  And the recording of Kip Kinkel even has him talking about the voices in his head!

I turned it off.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Barack Obama: Super Salesman

From the forum, a Brownell's representative explains why there online ordering system for AR-15 magazines is having trouble:
To shed some more light on the magazine situation at present, it really has been unprecedented in the last 5 days. (Edit - Sorry guys, meant 72 hour period) we sold the "average demand" equivalent of about 3 1/2 years worth of PMAGS, and and an even greater amount of our Brownells magazines. We're working like crazy to get these orders to you as quickly as possible.

Bumper Sticker Length Comment

On an article about how Wal-Mart is having trouble keeping guns in stock now, there is one brilliantly concise comment:
Gun control is not a cure for mental illness.
UPDATE: the original article was removed -- more than 2000 comments, many of them pro-gun.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Psychic Medium Talk Show

From a Craig's List ad:
Did you lose a family member and now at war over the inheritance?

Did you lose a family member an unexplained accident or homicide?

Would you like a psychic to help you contact your loved one to sort things out or help you find answers to what happened?We are looking for guests who are interested in talking to a psychic medium on our talk show. Please send an email with your name, phone number, pictures, and a brief description of your story.
Why can't the psychic just figure out the person's email address, and contact that person?  It makes me a little skeptical of the psychic's abilities, for some reason.

Murder Victims In The U.S.

It has long been known that many murder victims are not exactly upstanding citizens.  This August 31, 2007 USA Today article points out something that is one of the reasons while the high murder rates in the U.S. are distressing, not every murder victim is an equal loss to society:
Police increasingly explore criminal pasts of homicide victims as well as suspects as they search for sources of the violence, which has risen the past two years after a decade of decline, according to the FBI's annual measures of U.S. crime. 

Understanding victims' pasts is critical to driving crime back down, police and crime analysts say. "If you are trying to look at prevention, you need to look at the lives of the people involved," says Mallory O'Brien, director of the Homicide Review Commission in Milwaukee.

In Baltimore, about 91% of murder victims this year had criminal records, up from 74% a decade ago, police reported. 

In many cases, says Frederick Bealefeld III, Baltimore's interim police commissioner, victims' rap sheets provide critical links to potential suspects in botched drug deals or violent territorial disputes.
The article points to an increasing percentage of murder victims with criminal histories -- but I wonder how much of this might be that dropping murder rates the last decade or two means that violence is increasing criminal-on-criminal, as opposed to criminal-on-decent person.

Nice Collection of Videos About the Problem of Mental Health Care

At Deafening Silence.  Including, of course, yours truly.

I have done four radio talk shows today.  The last was on a West Virginia station where the host indicated that a survey finds that the top two things Americans want done in response are:

1. More protection in schools.

2. More work on mental health problems.

Guns were not at the top of the list.  Time to light up your Congresscritter's email, and tell them that there is a serious problem, but guns are a symptom, not the cause.

UPDATE: Here's the Gallup poll in question, asking the most effective things that could be done.  Assault weapon bans were fourth on the list, after more police in schools, increased spending on mental health screening and treatment, decreased violence in movies and video games.  So what is Obama putting at the top of his list?  You guessed it.

Fanapt: The Drug Prescribed For The Shooter

The December 18, 2012 Business Insider says that he was prescribed a controversial anti-psychotic medicine named Fanapt.  Yet a search shows no obvious matches to Asperger's Syndrome, but it is prescribed for schizophrenia.  Let me emphasize that I am not saying that Fanap caused the attack (although there are concerns about it provoking aggression), but that it is increasingly appearing that he was schizophrenic, not Asperger's.

UPDATE: A reader tells me that Fanapt is ALSO prescribed for autism spectrum disorders. I found this reference to it, but the manufacturer's web site doesn't mention it.  Is this perhaps an off-label use?

UPDATE 2: This note from Regence Blue Shield concerning Fanapt and autism says:

There is limited evidence for the efficacy of pharmacotherapy in autistic disorder;
however, SSRIs and atypical antipsychotics are used to alleviate some of the associated
UPDATE 3: The "uncle" turns out to be unrelated, and a well-known criminal.

Who Is The NRA?

Instapundit points out that the stereotypes of NRA members that the media believe are not particularly accurate:
READER GAIL RAMPKE EMAILS: “The problem with attacks on the NRA is that leftist politicians either don’t know (or pretend not to know) what the NRA actually *is*. This NRA member is a 60 year old female chemist."
I get some very odd reactions from reporters when I explain that I am adjunct faculty at a community college, and the average NRA member I know is usually addressed as "Professor" not "Bubba."

Monday, December 17, 2012

BBC World News Tonight

Tonight.  They are setting up a TV studio here in Boise.

UPDATE: Canceled because of technical difficulties at the transmitting TV station.

An Opportunity Missed

A number of states have created what are called various Involuntary Outpatient Commitment (IOC) or Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) programs to deal with the problem of mentally ill persons who have histories of violence (although not serious enough to send them to prison) and who refuse to take their antipsychotic medications.  Connecticut was considering such a law.  From December 17, 2012 CBS Connecticut:
As the national discussion on mental health continues following the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that killed 27 people, a recent mental health bill that was defeated in Connecticut may have helped in keeping Adam Lanza away.
Before Friday’s heinous act, there was talk in Connecticut’s state legislature to beef up the state’s “assisted outpatient treatment” law, according to Connecticut Senate Bill 452 was proposed in February “to enhance the care and treatment of persons with psychiatric disabilities in both inpatient and outpatient settings.” But the bill was defeated in March, with opposition calling it “outrageously discriminatory.” The ACLU said the bill would “infringe on patients’ privacy rights by expanding [the circle of] who can medicate individuals without their consent.”
Had the AOT bill been passed, it would have given the state the right to institutionalize a person who is mentally ill for treatment if the state has enough evidence to believe that the person could be a danger to himself or the community.
Let me stress that at this point, we have no information that establishes that Lanza was in a category where this law would have made any difference.  I have my suspicion that his Aspberger's Syndrome diagnosis might have been in error.  But states that have adopted such laws (such as New York) have done so because of the problem of violent, mentally ill offenders who would not stay on their medications.

My Brother Ron examines IOC/AOT programs and the results where they have been tried. 

This Extreme Solution Comes From a Police Chief

From December 17, 2012 CBS St. Louis, a startling acknowledgement of where the real problem is, the right solution -- and what to do in the meantime:
St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch says it is time to talk about arming civilian school personnel following Friday’s massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, comparing it to arming airline pilots after September 11, 2001....
Concerning the possibility of gun control, Fitch said “it’s just not going to happen,” and called for an increased focus on mental health instead.
“One of the first thing governments tend to cut back on in tight times are mental health services,” he said. “We know this individual has a mental health history in Connecticut, we’ve seen that in all the school shootings, and additional resources would be helpful.
But, last resort, somebody’s got to take action and they got to do it quickly.”
I agree that this is a poor solution, but no one seems to want to do anything about mental health systems, and in the meantime...

Sunday, December 16, 2012

On CNBC Squawk Box Monday Morning 7:30 AM ET

I will be on CNBC Squawk Box Monday at 7:30 AM Eastern Time.

Here's the video.

Background Check Worked!

According to this NBC news report, Adam Lanza may have attempted to purchase a rifle three days before the killings, and was unable to do so:
Officials also told NBC News that Lanza unsuccessfully tried to buy a rifle at a Dick’s Sporting Goods store in Danbury three days before the slaughter, but later said they could not confirm the report, which was based on information from members of the public.

Radio Live New Zealand

This evening at 7:10 PM Mountain Time, which I have absolutely no idea what it is in New Zealand.

UPDATE: From the booker:
  3.10pm Monday afternoon when you're on with Duncan. (saw your blog posting!) You can read about Duncan here

I Will Be On Jamaica Live Monday Morning

At 6:30 AM Jamaica Time. I will be talking about this tragedy in Connecticut and the problem of mental illness.  This is 102 FM in Jamaica. I rather doubt that I have many readers in Jamaica, but you never know!

My Brother Ron Is Beginning To Sell Again

One awful way to sell books.

The Core Problem

Here is a heart-wrenching account by a woman with a very smart, mentally ill 13 year old:

I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother

Liza Long
Three days before 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed his mother, then opened fire on a classroom full of Connecticut kindergartners, my 13-year-old son Michael (name changed) missed his bus because he was wearing the wrong color pants.
"I can wear these pants," he said, his tone increasingly belligerent, the black-hole pupils of his eyes swallowing the blue irises.
"They are navy blue," I told him. "Your school's dress code says black or khaki pants only."
"They told me I could wear these," he insisted. "You're a stupid bitch. I can wear whatever pants I want to. This is America. I have rights!"
"You can't wear whatever pants you want to," I said, my tone affable, reasonable. "And you definitely cannot call me a stupid bitch. You're grounded from electronics for the rest of the day. Now get in the car, and I will take you to school."
I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me.
Read it in full.  Now.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Get Out There

If you go to the various newspaper articles about the Connecticut shootings, you'll see a lot of raw emotion on display. It is vitally important that sensible people get out there and engage those conversations, pointing out that such tragedies are actually not typical of murders the United States. It is also important to emphasize that the sort of people who commit these random acts of mass murder, are not typical of Americans, or of gun owners. The common characteristic of these sorts of crimes are people with histories of mental illness.

I would not encourage anyone to argue that we just need to arm the teachers. That sounds pretty silly, and realistically, few teachers would do so. More importantly, it fails to address the root problem.

An Impressive Reconstruction of Recent Solar Activity

This is a most impressive paper reconstructing solar activity over the last several millennia based on a variety of proxies. It is long, and like any scientific paper based on proxies, subject to the limitation that proxies sometimes include assumptions that are not warranted. Nonetheless, I greatly enjoyed reading it.

Nice To Get Mentioned in a CNN Article...

It would be nicer if I could get in touch with Jonathan Mann, the CNN reporter who quoted something out of my book Armed America. I would love to talk to him about the relationship between deinstitutionalization and mass murder.

What Provoked The Clackamas Mall Shooter To Kill Himself?

From December 14, 2012 KGW:
PORTLAND -- Nick Meli is emotionally drained.  The 22-year-old was at Clackamas Town Center with a friend and her baby when a masked man opened fire.

"I heard three shots and turned and looked at Casey and said, 'are you serious?,'" he said.

The friend and baby hit the floor.  Meli, who has a concealed carry permit, positioned himself behind a pillar.
"He was working on his rifle," said Meli.  "He kept pulling the charging handle and hitting the side."

The break in gunfire allowed Meli to pull out his own gun, but he never took his eyes off the shooter.

"As I was going down to pull, I saw someone in the back of the Charlotte move, and I knew if I fired and missed, I could hit them," he said.

Meli took cover inside a nearby store.  He never pulled the trigger.  He stands by that decision.

"I'm not beating myself up cause I didn't shoot him," said Meli.  "I know after he saw me, I think the last shot he fired was the one he used on himself."

Slow Learners

I keep wondering how long it is going to take before Americans notice that the common factor in nearly all these mass murders is mental illness.  My son pointed me to this discussion that shows that someone has noticed that mental health problems are a big chunk of the problem.  Some are blaming the problem on a lack of mental health services -- and there is some truth to this.  Some are blaming the problem on the cost of mental health services and limited insurance coverage -- and there is considerable truth to this.  But a number point out, correctly, that some of those who need help the most are not willing to voluntarily accept it.

Now, if only the mass media were actually interested in this problem, instead of the DNC talking points about gun control.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Importance Of Having A Real Gun Safe

Most accounts of this tragedy indicate that the murderer obtained a Bushmaster M4 that belonged to his mother, who was a target shooter.  However, it appears that he left the rifle in the car, and committed the murders with two handguns. It appears that the murderer had a long history of some sort of mental problem. Let me again emphasize that if you own guns, you should have some method of securing them adequately against unauthorized use. This can even include members of your own family. There was a time, many years ago, when I had a relative living with me who was somewhat unstable, and I was very careful to make sure that all firearms were secured during this troubling time.  A real gun safe is vitally important for preventing theft, as well as unauthorized use by unstable or troubled teenagers.

I Am Not Surprised

Descriptions of the deceased killer:
He was dark and disturbed, a deeply troubled boy from a wealthy family who unnerved his neighbors and classmates.
Mass murderer Adam Lanza, 20, was a ticking time bomb, people who knew him told the Daily News.
“This was a deeply disturbed kid,” a family insider told the Daily News. “He certainly had major issues. He was subject to outbursts from what I recall.”
Lanza, who friends and officials said suffered from Asperger’s syndrome or a personality disorder, had a tortured mind.
He was socially awkward and at times unstable, but also extraordinarily bright.
“He was smart,” the insider said. “He was like one of these real brainiac computer kind of kids.”
A “longtime” family friend said Lanza had a condition “where he couldn’t feel pain.”
“A few years ago when he was on the baseball team, everyone had to be careful that he didn’t fall because he could get hurt and not feel it,” said the friend. “Adam had a lot of mental problems.”
Is anyone surprised?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Data Rates Required To Feed 1080p HDTV?

I have been wondering if it was finally time to buy an HDTV to replace the CRT low-res TV we currently have.  I was watching PBS' Blue Planet a couple of nights ago, and I noticed a lot of pixellation in the video.  This isn't the missing difference frames problem that you often see with MPEG, where losing a packet or two causes random patches of color; this is the problem where you get fairly consistent patterning, I believe caused by the receiver signalling to the sender that it needs to slow down data rates, and it does that by substituting a lower data rate stream which does fewer of the wavelet compression thingies that are how JPEG/MPEG and similar compression schemes work.

It suddenly occurred to me: might my data rate be too low to fully take advantage of 1080p HDTV.  Theoretically, I am paying for a 5 Mbps downstream data rate, but we all know that this a nominal rate, and what you actually get is dependent on many things that are beyond the ISP's control.  Sure, the broadcast digital signal would be sufficient, and we do have a BlueRay player as part of our current setup, but since the vast majority of what we watch is Netflix, might HDTV turn out to be a pretty minor gain when our Internet connection is only nominally 5 Mbps?

Going Off The Cliff: What Are The Likely Consequences?

I know that if no agreement is reached, the lower long-term capital gains tax rates go away -- but the only long-term capital that I am considering selling actually will be a loss, and one large enough that it will provide me $3000 losses every year for a long ways into the future.  I am increasingly unsure whether going off the cliff will be a good thing or a bad thing for the stock market.  It will likely be bad for the economy as a whole, but even that, I am not entirely sure about.

To the extent that it forces increased tax revenues and reduced spending, it will reduce future deficits.  This is good for the economy long-term.

To the extent that it creates uncertainty, it will discourage business investment, perhaps bringing down stock prices and certainly doing short-term damage to the economy.

To the extent that the collapsing economy brings down interest rates (and yes, during the Depression people actually bought negative yield corporate bonds), it might cause an increase in purchases of dividend-paying stocks.  On the downside, expiration of the Bush tax cuts means dividends are again subject to regular income tax rates.

I am really in something of a quandry about whether to sell a couple of mutual funds that I have held since the 1990s and which, for reasons that I do not understand, are worth a good bit more than I paid for them, but still are considered to be capital losses if I sell them now.  Is it possible that going off the cliff could cause stock market increase?

Please: comment on what you think the results will be of the children failing to play nice together in Washington.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Looking For A Unique Christmas Gift?

When I say, "unique" I mean the chances are essentially zero that whoever you give any of these books to will already have it, or find it under the tree:

Regular readers know that this is both a personal history of my older brother, and a history of how mental illness has been handled in the U.S. over the last three centuries, with the destructive effects of deinstitutionalization as the major focus.

My wife's first book:

Is there a person, a situation, or a place that scares you? Overwhelms you? Angers you? Makes you question God? Causes you to want to run in the opposite direction of where you should be going, hoping nobody finds you? That’s your Nineveh! The Old Testament prophet, Jonah, faced such a place, and experienced all of those emotions and then some. Yes, that’s right: Jonah. That poor man we learn about in Sunday school, who was swallowed by a whale, and then was spit up on a foreign shore, all because he didn’t obey God. We remember only the simplest of details about him, and if he reappears in our adult life, we smile, and remember that rather childish story about him…a whale can’t swallow a man! And so Jonah joins that Sunday school parade of interesting characters whose shenanigans are to remind us to obey God. Simple. Right? Wrong. Jonah and his experiences speak to us where we are, right here and now. Why? Because all of us have a Nineveh in our lives: a person, place or situation that is so formidable that we are tested to our very core, causing us to slowly watch our faith erode, questioning God and yet wanting, in the deepest recesses of our heart, to have some kind of victory. Jonah’s response to God’s command that he go and preach to a hugely powerful and scary city of Nineveh makes this prophet walk off the Sunday school stage and become a guide for us as we face our Nineveh. 
And a more recent book from her:

Son of God, Son of Mine
That horrible night when Herod's soldiers rushed in and killed all the baby boys in Bethlehem is vividly recreated by a woman who lost her son that night. Later, she is strangely drawn to a woman and her Son at a well in Nazareth, only to meet them again on a hill—watching the Son being crucified. Rhonda L. Thorne Cramer uses the slaughter of the innocents in the Christmas story to confront one of the most troubling questions for our faith: the death of children at the hands of evil and the devastating aftermath for those who must go on. Inspired by the story of a little girl who was murdered in northern California in 1993, Rhonda L. Thorne Cramer was reminded of this dreadful part of the Christmas story and sought to wrestle with the issues it raises. No easy answers exist. But as our storyteller stands at the cross of the Son of God, His death brings her back to life and His love gives her the strength to go on. This story breathes new life into a painful chapter of the Christmas story and seeks to be a comfort to anyone who has sustained a faith-shattering loss.

All of available for Kindle as well as in paperback.

Astonishing Claim About Pre-Cambrian Fossils

From December 13, 2012, a rather astonishing claim:

EVIDENCE that the world's first animals formed in the Flinders Ranges 550 million years ago has been called into question by new research published today in the journal Nature.
Professor Gregory Retallack ,from the University of Oregon, says "most of the better known and iconic Ediacaran fossils of South Australia" were not animals.
"These large fossils were organisms that lived on land, not in the sea," he said.
"They were probably neither plants nor animals, but fungi, a separate kingdom."
Okay, somewhat interesting, but not terribly so.  Until we get this later in the article:
Yesterday Professor Retallack said the tubular shells of Cloudina and organic tubes of Sinosabellidites may have been animals - but added that "other evidence for Ediacaran animals had been falsified".
He said the first animals emerged much later in the Ediacaran period and didn't "appear in force" until the Cambrian period. 
Falsified?  You mean, like Piltdown Man?  That's an astonishing claim, and I would love to hear more.

Here is a more clear explanation of the dispute from December 12, 2012 Science Now which explains that the argument is about whether these are marine or land fossils:

The fossils of various frondlike and sacklike organisms that supposedly lived at the bottom of ancient oceans may actually represent some of the earliest organisms to dwell on land. That's the controversial interpretation of a new study, which suggests that rocks long thought to have been formed from sediments deposited on ancient seafloors may actually be the remnants of early soils. If true, the finding would push back life's transition from sea to land by tens of millions of years—and possibly by 100 million years or more.
Fossils reveal that life on Earth diversified rapidly during the Cambrian period, which began about 542 million years ago and lasted until about 485 million years ago. The so-called Cambrian explosion yielded most of the major groups of animals known today, but fossils of a host of organisms bearing little resemblance to modern life forms are embedded in Precambrian rocks—including those of the Ediacaran period, which began about 635 million years ago and lasted until the onset of the Cambrian. Most researchers have considered these unusual organisms—some resemble segmented worms or fronds, and others look like nothing more than bags of tissue—to have lived in the sea, because the types of rocks that entombed them typically accumulate as sediments in marine environments.
I still want to know why Retallack says that other evidence was "falsified."  That's quite a claim to make, unless he meant in the sense of "proven wrong."  (One of the tests of scientific theory is whether you can "falsify" it: prove it wrong or right.)

What Happens To Child Abuse In An Economic Crisis?

Reports of child abuse and neglect have dropped nationwide for the fifth consecutive year, and abuse-related child fatalities also are at a five-year low, according to new federal statistics....
Sociologist David Finkelhor, director of the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center, says he finds the annual reports frustrating because of the lack of analysis of the trends.
"But at the same time, it does appear remarkable that overall child maltreatment has declined given that unemployment has been so high, the housing and mortgage crisis has continued, and state and local budgets for family and child services have been cut," he wrote in an email.
Richard Gelles, dean of the University of Pennsylvania's School of Social Policy and Practice and an expert on child welfare, noted that the decline in child maltreatment meshed with declines in the overall violent crime rate, the homicide rate and the level of violence against women.
I have written about this before -- that contrary to the traditional liberal excuses for the welfare state, crime rates often fall during economic hard times.  And here is another example.

Clackamas Oregon Mall Shooting

From the December 12, 2012 Chicago Tribune:
Kristina Shevchenko was one of at least three people shot when a man wearing what appeared to be a hockey mask opened fire with a rifle at the crowded Clackamas Town Center in the Portland suburb of Happy Valley....
Witnesses heard the gunman saying, "I am the shooter," as he fired rounds from a semi-automatic rifle inside the Clackamas Town Center, a popular suburban mall several miles from downtown Portland. 
From December 12, 2012 Reuters:
He said authorities have no idea of the motive of the gunman, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound and appears to have had no connection to the victims.
 Gee, what do you think the chances are that this is another consequence of deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill?  As a general rule, random attacks in public places followed by suicide, are usually done by people with severe mental illness problems who either refused treatment, or failed to get it when they asked for it.  Someone should write a book about this problem.

UPDATE: From December 12, 2012 Los Angeles Times: he stole the AR-15 rifle, which may explain the jam that probably saved some lives.  Suspect was 22, a very typical age for schizophrenia to manifest itself.  No criminal record.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

7th Circuit Strikes Down Illinois Ban on Carrying of Guns in Public

Decision is here.  They are clearly encouraging Illinois to adopt a concealed carry permit statute.  Posner (who is not our friend) is clearly distinguishing his opinion from the 2nd Circuit's recent decision upholding New York State's "may issue" concealed carry permit law.  I think he is hinting to the Illinois legislature that they should adopt a shall issue law.

UPDATE: One of the Chicago newspaper articles included a comment by a reader, warning that the streets of Illinois cities will run with blood.  Perhaps...but how could you tell the difference?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Keeping Your Kids Illiterate For The Disability Check

Nicholas Kristof (a well-known liberal) writes a column in the December 7, 2012 New York Times about how kids are being intentionally kept illiterate by their parents:

THIS is what poverty sometimes looks like in America: parents here in Appalachian hill country pulling their children out of literacy classes. Moms and dads fear that if kids learn to read, they are less likely to qualify for a monthly check for having an intellectual disability.
Many people in hillside mobile homes here are poor and desperate, and a$698 monthly check per child from the Supplemental Security Income program goes a long way — and those checks continue until the child turns 18.
“The kids get taken out of the program because the parents are going to lose the check,” said Billie Oaks, who runs a literacy program here in Breathitt County, a poor part of Kentucky. “It’s heartbreaking.”
This does not surprise me.  When we lived in the Bay Area, my wife was asked to help tutor a sixth grader in basic reading skills.  The kid wanted to go hunting with Dad, and needed to be able to read well enough to pass Hunter Safety.  After a few weeks, my wife was impressed at how quickly this kid had moved from first-grade reading level to fourth-grade reading level -- and he did not seem to have a learning disability.  So my wife contacted his teacher to find out why this kid was in a special education program.  The teacher would not return her calls.

Finally, a friend who taught in a nearby district told us the dirty little secret: school districts had no interest in reclassifying kids who had been mistakenly classified as "special education": the district received extra funding for every kid in special education, and special ed teachers were paid more.

It does not surprise me too much when school districts look out for the interests of the budget, not the kids.  It horrifies me when parents condemn their children to lives of ignorance and dependency so that they can get that disability check.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Not Quite A Rube Goldberg Device

It doesn't have enough moving parts of course. I was trying to find a way to make it easy for my wife, who has some shoulder problems, to install the snowplow on the front of our TrailBlazer. The obvious solution was two pulleys mounted to the ceiling, but of course the problem then is still the weight of the plow at the end of the rope. So I started looking for counterweights to roughly balance the weight of the snow plow blade.

 My first try was a plastic bucket filled with rocks. Fortunately rocks are not in short supply on my property. However, the plastic bucket full of rocks was not quite heavy enough to be an effective counterweight; it only weighed about 30 pounds I think, which still left quite a bit of weight that had to be controlled while attempting to slide the snow plow over the frame. What do I have lying around that would be easy to use as a counterweight, and is very heavy?


As you can see from the attached photographs, the obvious counterweight is a military ammo can that was of course already filled with ammunition. Rest assured, this was almost as heavy as the snow plow blade. I put a few more boxes of ammunition in the ammo can, and it is now close enough that I only had put a few rocks on top to hold the snow plow blade up in the air.

 So what happens when she unhooks from the blade?  Won't that ammo can hurtle towards the floor?  Yup.  Tomorrow I will find a 60 pound piece of steel scrap at Pacific Steel, drill a couple of holes in it big enough for the hooks that go on the snow plow blade, and then when she is done installing the blade on the frame, she will move the hook the steel scrap, which will prevent the ammo can from crashing down.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

And Now For Something Completely Different

A friend sent this to me:

    The Portuguese-Sephardic Synagogue in Amsterdam is lit only by candles. Built several hundred years ago, it was never electrified. The ark, seats, bimah etc., were all handmade by ship builders.

     During World War Two, the Nazis missed it and never entered. Completely intact and original, it is beautiful.

     Enjoy the singing!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Voice Operation Of A Computer & My Cat

All the papers are graded for the semester now, and it is time to give my hands a break. I still have my day job to go to, so I am making very limited use of a computer keyboard once I am home. I resumed work on this science fiction novel that I am writing, and I discovered that my cat is incompatible with Dragon Naturally Speaking. He climbs into my lap, and tries to rub his face against my beard, apparently because it scratches his itchy head. Of course, that means he is rubbing against the microphone, causing a variety of interesting words to appear and the result will never be mistaken for the million monkeys on a million typewriters.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

All Done Grading Papers

Unless there are one or two floating about that I have somehow missed, which I doubt. Now I can let my wrists recover for a few days. But at least I can blog using Dragon Naturally Speaking.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

For The Other Social Conservative Left In America...

If there is any question whether popular culture influences political actions, the Boise City Council just added sexual orientation and gender identity to the city's antidiscrimination ordinance -- and did so unanimously.  Here's a harsh reality: the entertainment business has been banging the drum for why homosexuality is perfectly fine for three decades now -- and the result is that the sexual minority that used to demand a right to have the government leave them alone ("What consenting adults do in private is none of the government's business") is now insisting, "If someone does not want to do business with me, that is the government's business."  This is not even a libertarian position.

Anyone who is in business in Boise city limits would be well advised to STFU about their disapproval of homosexuality -- because you can be sure that it will be used to prove any conflict with an LGBTIQQ (or however many letters there are on the abbreviation now) is based on homophobia. And that's pretty much the goal, I suspect: to make people afraid to express disapproval, for fear of what will happen in court.

Domestic Violence And Two-Income Homes

Researchers at Sam Houston State University report that a survey of women shows that domestic violence is substantially more common in two-income homes than in homes where the woman is home and the man works:
Intimate partner violence is two times more likely to occur in two income households, compared to those where only one partner works, according to a new study.

Conducted by Sam Houston State University researchers Cortney A. Franklin, Ph.D., and doctoral student Tasha A. Menaker and supported by the Crime Victims’ Institute, the study looked at the impact of education levels and employment among heterosexual partners as it relates to domestic violence.

While the researchers found that differences in education levels appeared to have little influence, when both partners were working, intimate partner violence increased.

“When both male and females were employed, the odds of victimization were more than two times higher than when the male was the only breadwinner in the partnership, lending support to the idea that female employment may challenge male authority and power in a relationship,” said the researchers.
Here's another possibility, that it appears the researchers did not consider: maybe it is not because the men in traditional homes don't feel threatened.  Maybe it is that those traditional homes have couples with traditional values, while the two-income families are modern and progressive, and have abandoned weird, old-fashioned, stupid stuff like Ephesians 5:28-30:
 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body.
Note that they found that education levels had "little influence" and it appears that they looked at income levels as well.  If the traditional homes were less violent because of higher income levels, or better education levels, you can be sure that would have been mentioned.

The Love That Dare Not Bark Its Name

From the November 27, 2012 U.K. Guardian comes this story of narrow-minded, intolerant, sexophobes:

Germany to ban bestiality under animal welfare law

Germany is to introduce a ban on bestiality with a revision of animal welfare law that will reverse a decision in 1969 to legalise zoophilia.

Animal rights groups have called for the practice to be recognised as animal defilement and rape, using dramatic photographs of animals being cruelly treated by humans for sexual purposes to put pressure on the German government.
Zoophiles, or those who practise bestiality, argue that they treat animals as equals and never force them to do anything against their will.
Unsurprisingly, this attempt to ban sex with animals means that "zoophiles" are going to file suit to prevent the Merkel government from pursuing this.  And unsurprisingly, American liberals are making the argument that the U.S. needs to catch up with Germany on sexual liberation, as in this follow-up piece in the November 29, 2012 Guardian.

Interestingly, it appears that Germany decriminalized bestiality when they decriminalized homosexuality.  Remember when liberals and libertarians were misquoting Senator Santorum to make it appear that he was saying that they were equivalent?  He wasn't, of course.  He was saying if laws against homosexuality are suspect because they represent a majority view of morality, then what could justify keeping these other laws, which were also based on a majority view of morality?  The answer, in German, it appears, was nothing.  And even now, it is only concern with animal welfare driving this law--certainly not anything as second millennium as Christianity.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Wrists Hurting, Switching To Dragon

I am again having problems with my wrists, caused by working too many hours at my two jobs. This is a short experiment to verify that Dragon Naturally Speaking works in Blogger.

UPDATE: I have been using Dragon Naturally Speaking to grade papers this evening. It is much slower than typing, but far less painful. I am still having to make some use of keyboard, and the mouse, but much less than doing it all manually. In addition, I mouse right-handed, in my left hand is most of the problem right now.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Another Mass Murder On Campus...But Not With A Gun

At Casper College in Wyoming.  Three dead total -- with a weapon described by some as "edged weapon" and by others as a bow and arrow:
Walsh wouldn't identify any of the victims, including the killer, pending notification of their families. College officials said the man who was targeted in the classroom was a faculty member, whom they also wouldn't immediately identify.

Walsh did say that all three victims were adults who knew one another and that the killer wasn't a current student at the college. The incident didn't appear college-related, he said.

The man appeared to have acted alone. "There is no one at large, and there is no threat of violence," Walsh said Wednesday afternoon.
This account from the Casper newspaper indicates both a knife and a concealed compound bow.  It appears that the killer was the son of the professor who he killed, and the other victim was the professor's girlfriend. 
"He gave me a ride home from McDonald's once," Matt DiPinto told the Courant. "He told me his dad gave him Asperger's [syndrome], that his dad shouldn't have passed it on. He said his dad should be castrated. I didn't know him that well, he just kind of said it out of nowhere, so that kind of threw me off a little.”

Sorry, But Anonymous Users May No Longer Comment

I hate doing this, but the volume of spam since I allowed anonymous users to post comments has been growing at a non-linear rate.  I am having to identify and delete hundreds of spam comments a day.  I do not have time for this.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Put The Snow Plow Together Last Night

Supposedly 1 1/2 hours of work; my wife and I spent more like 2 1/2 hours.  Admittedly, we were being very, very careful, and my 5/16" drill bit is sufficiently unsharp that I had to start with a 1/8", then 1/4" drill bit to get pilot holes going into the aluminum blade.  I am a bit unclear on why they did not do this at the factory; it did not really make the box much smaller, just a different shape.

It is a very clever design.  In the down position, the blade rides up and down on a metal frame so that changes in grade cause the entire blade assembly to go up as needed; gravity brings it back down again.  The angle of the rubber part of the blade means that going forward it digs in; going backward causes it lift up on the frame.

The theory seems to be that you put the frame into the 2" trailer hitch receiver at the start of the season, and leave it there.  You lift the snowplow blade onto the frame.  In the up position, it hooks in place so that you can drive around, and it does not block the headlights (at least on the TrailBlazer).  To put it in the down position, you unhook two pins, lift the plow up over the up position slots, and drop it down to the ground.  Then you reinsert the retention pins so that it can't fly up and off the frame.

Inserting the frame is a bit annoying because of weight and because it will be cold and snowy when you need this gadget, so I expect to put the frame into the hitch receiver at the start of the snow season and leave it there.  Taking the blade off the frame or putting it back in place is a task that I can do myself, but my wife will probably have trouble doing alone, except at the risk of causing the other shoulder to demand surgery a bit sooner.  I will certainly be much more buff in the upper body if I have to do this regularly.

The one area that I am a little disappointed in concerning direction.  I thought that it was adjustable to point either straight ahead, or to the left or right.  But that appears to be the considerably more expensive HD model (that's Heavy Duty, not High Definition).  I think I see a way that the frame on which the blade rides could be modified (or replaced) so that it gives that same capability.  A friend of mine has just started a welding business; perhaps I will throw the idea at him.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act

The View From North Central Idaho reports that Obamacare has struck again:
I just got a letter from our health insurance provider. We buy our own, as it's not provided by any employer. Right now we have what is pretty much the least-expensive high-deductible coverage we can get. It's around $550 per month for the family. As of 01Jan2013, it's going up about $200, to about $750, a more than 30% increase. Coverage will not significantly change.
As he points out, this law is theoretically the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act."  Something seems to have been lost in translation.

The theory was that requiring everyone into the pool would lower health care costs, by forcing the freeloaders to pay for coverage.  So why isn't it lowering health care costs?  Simple reason: increasing effective demand for health care without changing the numbers of providers has to drive up prices.  If the goal was really to make health care more affordable, Obamacare would have done something to increase the number of doctors and nurses, or to increase competition in the health insurance field.  But Obamacare was never a health insurance plan.  It was a spending increase and health insurer guaranteed customer plan with some slight improvement in health care as a side effect.

National Endowment for the Humanities Grants

Question: I cannot find a clear statement of who owns a film that is funded in part by a National Endowment for the Humanities grant.  Does anyone know the answer?  If a film that is partly NEH funded makes a profit,   does NEH have a claim on it?  Or is an NEH grant what it appears to be?

I would prefer not going to the government for funding for this movie, but the obvious benefactors of a film like this, of course, have no interest in it.  They would prefer throwing money at elections instead.

Looking For A Building That Looks Something Like This...

Preferably in the Western U.S.  Objective: video.

The reader who suggested the courtroom used in Assassination: Idaho's Trial of the Century had a very good idea.  It is actually a 1930s courtroom, but by careful shooting, it can look like a mid-century federal courtroom.  I am working on finding out how to rent the space, which is the old Ada County courthouse.

Monday, November 26, 2012

One Of My Readers Bought This Camera

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2KK


If you can email me and let me see the quality of HD video it produces, I would be very grateful.  I am already very grateful that you bought it through the Amazon widget on the side of the blog -- it put $20 in my pocket.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

My, How Times Change

The following is a Democratic Party poster from the post-Civil War period:

Democrats have not changed much in the subtlety of their materials, have they?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Running From The New Hard Disk

Booting from the old hard disk from power on to login screen was 72 seconds.  The new one takes 42 seconds.  I ascribe that mostly to the improved disk speed (7200 rpm vs. 5400 rpm).

WAY snappier.  Astonishingly so.  I suspect that much of the caching that is happening is the file allocation and bit map parts of the file system.  Even a small cache would do that, of course, but lots of other stuff can sit in cache alongside those items when you have 4 GB of cache.

Student Loan Interest Deduction Phasing Out: Another Screw For Obama Voters

It appears that along with reducing taxes on rich people (those making more than $250,000 per year), allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire at the end of the year is going to have a bunch of other interesting effects, including: "The student loan interest deduction will be disallowed for hundreds of thousands of families."  I have never paid any attention to this, because it has been decades since I have paid student loan interest, but my daughter tells me -- and what I can find poking around -- tells me that a lot of Obama voters are going to be in for a rude awakening on this subject.

You may be able to deduct up to $2,500 of the interest you paid on student loans on your federal individual income tax return. The deduction is not limited to government-sponsored loans, but does not apply to loans made to students by family members. The Tax Relief Act of 2010 extended the student loan deduction through 2012. After 2012, the deduction will revert to a previous tax law in which interest on a student loan is deductible only for the first 60-months of repayment.
This only applies to those who are middle class and below.  The TurboTax website explains that you only get to deduct this if:
Your modified adjusted gross income* is less than $75,000($155,000 if filing joint return).
 Which means a lot of Obama voters -- people that bought into Obama's "soak the rich" rhetoric -- who have been able to deduct the first $2,500 of student loan interest from their federal income taxes -- are going to lose that deduction if they are more than five years into their loans.  Even more worrisome is that many who have been taking this deduction for the last several years, and have adjusted their tax withholding because of this, will discover that this is no longer the case when they do their 2013 taxes early in 2014.  But since many of these are low-information voters, when Obama blames Bush for this, they will believe him.