Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bloomberg's Maximum Soft Drink Regulation

"Old Enough To Vote, Old Enough To Super Size"

I understand the argument--that a lot of Americans lack the self-control and sense to get reasonable size soft drinks.  And there's some truth to it.  But why, then, do we trust these people with voting?  Anyone that can't figure out that ordering the Big Gulp everyday is going to make you fat is in way over their depth when it comes to understanding federal spending, deficits, inflation, and interest rates.

Zombie Apocalypse: Maybe I Wrote This Off Too Soon

How many cannibal incidents do you need in a week to start wondering if the zombie apocalypse paranoid might have something to it?  First, the bath salts crazed cannibal in Florida, now this college student doing the human recycling thing in Maryland.  The college student is from Kenya; I didn't think this was a custom of that part of Africa.

UPDATE: I see that the victim of the attack in Florida has a sad story that goes a lot farther back.  From May 30, 2012 CBS Miami:

For the victim Ronald Poppo, 65, however, it’s a completely different story.
At nine years old, Poppo and his family were involved in a serious car accident in New York. A yearbook photo acquired by the Miami New Times showed Poppo went on to become a decorated student at one of New York’s most prestigious high schools, Stuyvesant High.
Then, the family lost touch with him and haven’t heard from Ronald in 30 years.
“Well, I tried to reach him, but I just thought he killed himself,” Antoinette said. “And we really thought he was no longer on this earth.”
Even before he was attacked along the MacArthur Causeway; Ronald lived a tough life among the homeless men who call the space under the causeway home.
His past shows time in New York City, and back in the 80′s in New Orleans; but a long record of arrests for mostly petty crimes places him in the Miami area, at least off and on, as far back as 1978 when he was charged with criminal mischief.
Over the years, he dipped in and out of the courts for the types of crimes that are common when you don’t have a place to live.
Very smart kid...and somewhere, something goes wrong, and he ends up homeless, with lots of minor crimes ever since.  I would be very surprised if there wasn't a mental illness problem that developed in his 20s.  This is a very common pattern since deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill.  We tend to pay attention to the ones that commit serious crimes; we usually are not even aware of the ones who are living on the streets, getting in minor legal trouble or being victimized themselves.  As happened here, even Poppo's own family had lost track of him.  It is surprisingly easy to do.


A social worker tells me of a young man complaining about prejudice against Hispanics preventing him from getting a job--right after showing off his new forehead tattoo (large enough to take up the entire forehead) showing his gang affiliation.

Another Expected Tragedy

From the May 30, 2012 Seattle Times:

While police said they did not know the motive for the shootings, Stawicki's family said he had a history of anger and mental-health problems that he refused to deal with.
His brother, Andrew Stawicki, 29, of Ellensburg, said that when he saw a photo on the news of the alleged gunman inside Cafe Racer, he recognized it as his big brother.
But over the past five or so years, Ian Stawicki severely changed.
"Angry. He was really angry toward everything," Andrew Stawicki said.
Despite his problems, Ian Stawicki would not talk about his mental illness, his anger or other troubles, his brother said.
"Someone like that is so stubborn you can't talk to him," he said. "It's no surprise to me this happened. We could see this coming. Nothing good is going to come with that much anger inside of you."
Andrew Stawicki said their family long hoped Ian would go to mental-health treatment or take medication to keep his moods in balance.
Stawicki was arrested in February 2008 on a misdemeanor domestic-violence charge in Seattle and soon posted $10,000 bail. He pledged to stay 500 feet away from a 37-year-old woman and listed his home address in Magnolia. His attorney fought the charges, and they were dismissed.
He was also charged with fourth-degree assault in Kittitas County in 2010, but that case was dismissed as well; court records did not indicate why.
As usual, plenty of warning.  Plenty of criminal behavior that, in conjunction with his mental illness, would have led to hospitalization and treatment in 1960.  This might or might not have cured him, but at least there was a chance.  Not today.  As I point out in this article, this is hardly a unique situation.  It's amazing that no publisher is interested in this subject.  It's kind of important.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Plummeting Housing Prices

The house across the road from us went to auction today.  It's a 3-bedroom, 2-bath, about 1700 square feet, on 6.67 acres.  It is a cosmetic fixer-upper--no gross mechanical problems.  It shares a well, and is on septic, and has a large workshop that is quite high inside (enough for an RV) along with a 2 1/2 car garage.  The views aren't quite as nice as mine, but still pretty nice.

The minimum bid was $50,000, so I showed up for the auction, on the off chance that no one showed.  But there were several bidders.  The neighbors and I were standing around, guessing what it would fetch.  When times were good, it sold for about $180,000.  I thought perhaps $150,000.  Someone else thought $125,000.  The winning bid?  $93,000.

Today we had a record low yield on 10 year Treasury bonds, because our government obligations are so much safer than Europe's (wow!)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tendonitis & Statins

My physical therapist asked today if I was taking statins--because there is a tendonitis side effect from taking statins.  Sure enough!  It isn't common, but a week or two ago, my family physician proposed a three month break to see what happened to my cholesterol.  I was going to wait for my tendonitis to go away, so that I resume my regular exercise program.  But I think it's time to do this the other direction.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Tendonitis Problems Again

Limited (or perhaps no) blogging the next few days.  The combination of my real job and trying to get stuff done for the cause after hours has flared up tendonitis in my arm again.  I so envy people who are allowed to do the important stuff for a living, like Brett Kimberlin.  But then again, they demonstrate their moral superiority by bombing people, and getting people fired from their jobs.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Lack of Blogging

I have been working on a significant gun rights research project with my research minions the last few days.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

West Memphis, Arkansas: Are There Purchase Permits For Handguns There?

A news report quotes witnesses that the shooter "had a gun and a permit for it."  I find myself wondering: would you have perhaps waved this around?  Some cities have purchase permit requirements to buy a gun.  Is this perhaps the case in West Memphis, Arkansas?  Other news accounts make no mention of a permit.

UPDATE: It appears that there are no local permits of any sort in Arkansas.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Can Anyone Else Open This URL?

It looks like a server problem, but I really need this news story.

Venus On Fire

I rolled the refractor out a couple of days ago to look at the Moon and Venus.  It is only a 5" refractor, and you might wonder why that, rather than the 17.5" reflector.  It turns out that fairly bright objects, there is really not that much advantage from the bigger scope.

Yes, resolution improves linearly with diameter of the objective, all else being equal...but when it comes to telescopes, that is seldom the case.  A really good refractor (as the Photon Instruments 5" refractor is, especially with the Aries Chromacor installed) will generally outperform larger (sometimes much larger) reflectors on resolution.  There are a variety of reasons for this: the diagonal mirror and supports in a reflector generally reduces resolution; small refractors can be, and often are quite well-made, while larger reflectors often are somewhat mediocre in their optical figure.  For looking at diffuse objects that cover a bit of sky, such as nebulae or galaxies, the bigger reflector is the better choice--for for planets, an excellent refractor will often perform as well many reflectors that are as much as twice the aperture diameter.

Anyway, I was looking at Venus, which is in a very narrow crescent at the moment.  Keep in mind that in a few weeks, it is going to be transiting the Sun, so it is moving rapidly toward that point.  Because Venus was low in the sky, and atmospheric turbulence was a big issue, the way that extremely bright crescent was bouncing around it looked like Venus was on fire.  Really quite amazing to watch.

No, This Isn't The Punch Line From A Joke

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The CBS 3 I-Team has learned that a Catholic priest who was removed from the ministry over sex abuse allegations now holds a sensitive security post at Philadelphia International Airport.
The security checkpoint between Terminals D and E is a busy place where thousands of people – including lots of kids – pass through every day. But you might not believe who the I-Team observed working as a TSA supervisor at that checkpoint this week: Thomas Harkins.
At least they he didn't get a job as a gym coach at a girls' school.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Why Plea Bargains Are Really A Bad Thing

From the May 24, 2012 Los Angeles Times:

(CBS/AP) LONG BEACH, Calif. - A former high school football star whose dreams of a pro career were shattered by a rape conviction burst into tears Thursday as a judge threw out the charge that sent him to prison for more than five years.
Brian Banks, now 26, had pleaded no contest 10 years ago on the advice of his lawyer after a childhood friend falsely accused him of attacking her on their high school campus.
The district attorney offered Banks a deal -- plead guilty to rape and spend another 18 months in prison, or go to trial and face 41 years to life, CBS Los Angeles reports.
Banks said his defense attorney told him, "'When you go into that courtroom the jury is going to see a big black teenager and you're automatically going to be assumed guilty.' Those are her exact words."
The "victim" approached Banks after he was let out and admitted that there was no rape, that the sex was consensual, but was afraid to say anything because she had received $1.5 million from the Long Beach school district because they had failed to protect her, and she was concerned that she might have to give the money back if she admitted that she made up the rape.

Yes, she needs to give the money back.  And go to prison.  And spend the rest of her life paying everything that she ever earns to this guy for ruining his life.

One more message: don't have sex with women you aren't married to, or you put yourself at great risk.

Can We Stop Pandering To These Sickos?

A letter from the Department of Justice (DOJ) caused the University of Arkansas at Ft. Smith (UAFS) early this month to reverse policy and allow a 38-year old anatomically male-student permanent use of women's bathrooms on campus despite opposition from female students.
The university made the reversal on "advice of counsel" after receiving a letter the DOJ sent in response to a complaint that a single, self proclaimed "transgender" student filed with the DOJ's Civil Rights Division.
"Because of the stance we took, the individual filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Justice," Mark Horn who is the vice president of university relations explained in an interview with Campus Reform on Tuesday.
Jennifer Braly, the student who filed the complaint, calls himself "transgender" with a "gender identity disorder." Braly, however, remains anatomically a man and is currently raising money online for Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS).
Braly filed the complaint with the DOJ after the university initially told him to use the campus's several gender-neutral bathrooms instead of the women's restrooms.
Gender identity disorder?  I don't think so.

UPDATE: Great comment from a reader that essentially asks, "If this guy had clinical lycanthropy (a mental disorder for people that think that they are werewolves) would we be giving him raw meat in the cafeteria, arranging for hair transplants to cover his body, and making accommodations for his running around naked on all fours?"

One Way To Achieve Dark Skies

But in a place like Detroit, probably not very safe.  From May 24, 2012
Detroit, whose 139 square miles contain 60 percent fewer residents than in 1950, will try to nudge them into a smaller living space by eliminating almost half its streetlights.
As it is, 40 percent of the 88,000 streetlights are broken and the city, whose finances are to be overseen by an appointed board, can’t afford to fix them. Mayor Dave Bing’s plan would create an authority to borrow $160 million to upgrade and reduce the number of streetlights to 46,000. Maintenance would be contracted out, saving the city $10 million a year.
It's rather sad watching the United States destroy itself.  Detroit, unfortunately, is the future. 

Awesome Picture of the Sagittarius Triplet

No, I didn't take this astonishing astrophotograph. But I wish I did!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Brett Kimberlin

My friend Stacy McCain has been forced to move himself and family out of Maryland temporarily.  Why?  There is a leftist agitator named Brett Kimberlin who is a convicted terrorist and drug dealer.  (He set off a series of bombs in Speedway, Indiana in 1978, causing death and mayhem, in an apparent attempt to distract police from an investigation into the murder of a woman who was, at least according to one of Kimberlin's former journalist fans, trying to protect her preteen granddaughter from Kimberlin's unhealthy interest.)  From the civil case against Kimberlin by injured parties:
The facts most favorable to the judgment are that on September 6, 1978, Sandra and Carl were injured by an explosion which occurred at Speedway High School in Speedway, Indiana. The DeLongs were walking through the parking lot after leaving a football game. The explosive device was concealed in an abandoned gym bag. The bomb exploded as the DeLongs walked passed it. Carl and Sandra were seriously injured in the blast. Carl's right leg was nearly severed from the explosion. Physicians eventually amputated such leg above the knee; and a skin graft was performed and Carl was fitted with an artificial leg. Carl also was treated for a perforated eardrum. After Carl's wounds healed, he received physical therapy and learned how to walk with an artificial limb. While Carl's recovery proceeded remarkably well, pieces of shrapnel eventually worked their way to the surface of his skin. The shrapnel had to be surgically removed on a continuing basis. Carl also suffered from a pre-existing back injury which may have been aggravated by the use of the artificial limb.
Sometime in 1982, Carl became depressed. He had Vietnam "flashbacks," and resented wearing the artificial limb. On several occasions, Carl removed the limb, beat it on the ground, and told others that he hated it. He withdrew from his family, began drinking heavily, and marital difficulties developed with Sandra. On February 23, 1983, Carl committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning while sitting in his car. Carl left suicide notes to several members of his family.
Sandra's injuries were not as extensive as Carl's. A piece of shrapnel from the explosion severed an artery in her leg which caused injury and considerable pain. Sandra had surgery, and she spent almost two weeks in the hospital. She had physical therapy, and in January of 1979, Sandra walked without a limp and the pain had diminished; however, she still experienced some pain and numbness in her foot.
On February 28, 1979, a federal grand jury indicted Kimberlin for crimes including causing the explosion, for damaging property, and for injuring the DeLongs. Kimberlin was convicted on all counts.[Kimberlin v. DeLong, 613 NE 2d 46 (Ind. App.2d 1993)]
Kimberlin at one point claimed to have sold marijuana to former VP Dan Quayle--and even though even his supporters later figured out that Kimberlin (first convicted of perjury at age 18) was lying, everyone wanted to believe it, because it fit their model that all conservatives are hypocrites.
Kimberlin, unfortunately, seems to have powerful friends, because he runs a leftist non-profit called the Justice Through Music Project.  There is quite a list of leftist foundations and groups that have given money to this convicted perjurer, conman, drug dealer, and terrorist.  Progressives have never had a problem with criminals killing innocent people.

Kimberlin tried to frame a blogger who is a lawyer, alleging that he was attacked by this lawyer in a courthouse.  Problem: there was surveillance video of the incident, destroying his attempt to get the lawyer prosecuted.  Unfortunately, Maryland authorities were apparently not very interested in pursuing Kimberlin for making what would appear to be a false police report.  Perhaps it helps to be part of the progressive elite.

UPDATE: I see the Schwab Charitable Fund and Fidelity Investments have both contributed money to this convicted terrorist's operation.  I've written an email to Schwab Charitable Fund about this.

Why Web Pages Should Be Checked Carefully Before Going Live

My son-in-law was making reservations at a hotel room in Preston, Idaho, and had the following appear on the reservation web page:

*Guest Charges and Room Capacity *
  * Total maximum number of guests per room/unit is 4.
  * Maximum number of adults per room/unit is 4.
  * Maximum number of children per room/unit is 3.
  * Maximum number of infants per room/unit is 255.
  * This property considers guests aged 17 and under, at time of travel, to be children.
  * Availability of accommodation in the same property for extra guests is not guaranteed.
  * The fee for extra adults is $10.00 per person.
Do you think that 255 infants per room might be just a bit excessive?  Or are they renting to insects?

A Real War on Women

The headline explains that 122 girls and three teachers were poisoned.  This is a genuine "War on Women," so the largely liberal news media give it little attention:
Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- More than 120 girls and three teachers were admitted to an Afghanistan hospital Wednesday after being poisoned in their classes with a type of spray, a Takhar provincial official said.
The incident occurred in the provincial capital of Talokhan, in the Bibi Hajera girls school, said Dr. Hafizullah Safi, director of public health for the northern Afghanistan province.
Forty of the 122 girls were still hospitalized, he said, with symptoms including dizziness, vomiting, headaches and loss of consciousness.
The articles explains that there have been other such incidents in Afghanistan, part of the Taliban's efforts to shut down schools that educate girls.  I understand the widespread desire to withdraw from Afghanistan, because it isn't really our problem.  But the prospect of allowing monsters like the Taliban to end up back in control is horrifying.

And yes, liberals who keep calling Republicans "American Taliban" really need to look at what the Taliban do, and stop pretending that there is a similarity.

Feral Humans

I read stuff like this, and my first assumption is: meth-induced paranoia.  From May 22, 2012 CBS Las Vegas:
MAGNA, Utah (AP) — A group of six is behind bars after police say they bound their 41-year-old roommate’s feet with tape, stapled his lips shut, and spent the night torturing him with a small power tool in their Utah home near Salt Lake City.
Police believe the suspects were suspicious about their new roommate, who told authorities he’d moved into the house in Magna a week and a half earlier and had agreed to remodel the basement in exchange for rent.
“One of the suspect’s claims over the last several weeks different people have pulled a gun on him in the street,” Unified Police Lt. Justin Hoyal said. “They believe (the victim) was responsible for it.”
Hoyal says six men and women held the roommate at gunpoint in their home starting late Saturday or early Sunday. They handcuffed him, put staples in his ears and chest, and used a Dremel tool to cut him, according to jail reports.
They released him at 4:00 AM after deciding that he wasn't responsible for the threats that they had been receiving.  I mean, assuming that the threats were real, and not just drug-induced hallucinations.

American Views on Abortion

Gallup asks Americans to describe themselves as "pro-life" or "pro-choice" and the pro-choice group keeps shrinking.  But what's really interesting to me is that many of those who call themselves "pro-choice," by the definition that pro-choice groups use, are really closer to pro-life.
Gallup's longest-running measure of abortion views, established in 1975, asks Americans if abortion should be legal in all circumstances, legal only under certain circumstances, or illegal in all circumstances. Since 2001, at least half of Americans have consistently chosen the middle position, saying abortion should be legal under certain circumstances, and the 52% saying this today is similar to the 50% in May 2011. The 25% currently wanting abortion to be legal in all cases and the 20% in favor of making it illegal in all cases are also similar to last year's findings.
Abortion "legal in all cases" (including third trimester abortions and sex-selection abortions) is the position taken by NARAL and other pro-choice groups.  And only 25% support this position.  This means 72% support either making abortion illegal in "all cases" or in some circumstances.

Hawaii Provides Proof To Arizona

There were enough questions about the matter that the Arizona Secretary of State demanded that Hawaii provide proof that Obama was born there--and after some hemming and hawing, they did so.  From the May 22, 2012 Arizona Republic:
Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett said Tuesday night that he has received information from Hawaii that proves President Obama's American birth and satisfies Arizona's requirements for having the president on the upcoming election ballot.
Read more:
My guess is that the "born in Kenya" claim made by Obama's literary agent was just part of Obama's continual campaign of remaking himself in whatever way was temporarily convenient.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cholesterol Numbers

Today's semiannual talk with the doctor about cholesterol numbers was encouraging: 154 for total cholesterol (well within the healthy range), 33 for HDL cholesterol (should be >39), and 174 for triglycerides (should be below 150).  All other numbers are in the proper range.  My blood pressure was 124/78.  The best news of all is that the rather impressive improvement in total cholesterol has been since I changed my diet to one that emphasizes:

1. Eggs, sausage, and bacon for breakfast, with the occasional slice of toast, and rarely, pancakes or cereal.

2. Steak or broiled chicken, usually rice, and vegetables for dinner.

3. Ditto for lunch (since my lunch is usually leftovers from the previous night's dinner).

The claims in the movie Fathead seem confirmed: dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol are unrelated.

UPDATE: My doctor had mentioned that my total cholesterol numbers seemed to be seasonally variable.  As a commenter pointed out, there is a connection between cholesterol and sunlight.  From the National Library of Medicine:
We investigated the relationship between geography and incidence of coronary heart disease, looking at deficiency of sunlight and thus of vitamin D as a factor that might influence susceptibility and thus disease incidence. Sunlight deficiency could increase blood cholesterol by allowing squalene metabolism to progress to cholesterol synthesis rather than to vitamin D synthesis as would occur with greater amounts of sunlight exposure, and the increased concentration of blood cholesterol during the winter months, confirmed in this study, may well be due to reduced sunlight exposure. We show evidence that outdoor activity (gardening) is associated with a lower concentration of blood cholesterol in the summer but not in the winter. We suggest that the geographical variation of coronary heart disease is not specific, but is seen in other diseases and sunlight influences susceptibility to a number of chronic diseases, of which coronary heart disease is one.

What Was It That Jesus Said About Loving Sinners and Hating Sin?

This pastor seems to have missed that--and I'm afraid that his confidence that homosexuality is genetic is a bit misplaced:

I confess that I am both disgusted and amazed.  I have never heard a pastor preach something like this.

UPDATE: A reader points out that this is a logical conclusion of Jesus' teaching (love the sinner, hate the sin)--not something that Jesus actually said.

Good News: None of the Above Doing Well in Democratic Primary

Kentucky's Democratic primary for President has no one running against Obama--but "uncommitted" is doing very well:
With 99.8 percent reporting, Barack Obama has 119,245 votes, while 'Uncommitted' has 86,789 votes. That is, Obama has 57.9 percent of the vote, while 'Uncommitted' has 42.1 percent.) 
Considering that a felon in prison did about that well in West Virginia's primary against Obama a few weeks back, perhaps the Democrats might consider the possibility that they are going to lose the general election.

And in Arkansas, someone named John Wolfe is doing just about as well as "Uncommitted" against Obama.  As of right now, the live reporting is:

51 of 75 Counties Reporting
John Wolfe (DEM)
Barack Obama (DEM)

Obama Gives a Commencement Address At Joplin High School

This account indicates that Obama warned the graduating seniors of something that I am just sure they did not know:
“I imagine that as you begin the next stage in your journey, you will encounter greed and selfishness; ignorance and cruelty,” Obama told the kids in prepared remarks. “You will meet people who try to build themselves up by tearing others down; who believe looking after others is only for suckers.”
What next?  Is Obama going to warn them that there may be people offering them marijuana and alcohol, once they move the tassel over?

Would You Like To Kill "May-Issue" Concealed Weapon Permit Laws?

I need six to ten activists willing to commit about three to four hours each to help with a research project.  This is in support of an amicus brief that our experts believe is likely to reach the U.S. Supreme Court.  My take is that the particular fact pattern and law being challenged makes this an exceptionally strong case for striking down "may-issue" concealed weapon permit laws in the few benighted states that have not yet gone "shall-issue."  If I sounds like I am a little too sure of myself: remember, D.C. v. Heller (2008) and McDonald v. Chicago (2010) both cite my work, and I was an active participant with the malcontents that won those suits.

While preparing my part of this brief, I found a body of evidence that is relatively large, but will enable us to demolish the arguments advanced in support of "may-issue" laws.  However: it's a lot of data, and I need some activists interested in spending some time Googling (and ideally, using Nexis if you have access to it) for some specific information.  You will not need any specialized knowledge to do this; I can explain what we need, and how to do it, quite quickly.  I would like to have everyone get this done by the end of Memorial Day weekend.

This will be a freestanding paper, which the amicus brief will reference because it would otherwise make the brief too long.  Everyone who assists on this freestanding paper will be credited as research associates.  

For obvious reasons, I am not going to explain what you will be doing in a public forum.  Please email me at Firstname at, and tell me something that shows me you are a serious gun rights person, and not part of the enemy camp.

Just Can't Keep Those Kitties Out!

Another mountain lion on campus at Boise State.  It did not end well for the big cat.  From May 22, 2012 Idaho Statesman:

Boise State University officials say the mountain lion that was seen by campus and Julia Davis Park Monday morning has been shot and killed.
Boise police say Ada County dispatchers began getting calls from the public around 11:30 p.m. Monday reporting mountain lion sightings around the BSU campus and the Greenbelt. Boise police went over there and found the cougar just north of Bronco Stadium, where police shot the big cat as it walked across the Greenbelt just before midnight.
UPDATE: They are everywhere.  Yahoo reports on one in about as urban a place as I can imagine:
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Police shot and killed a mountain lion that somehow made its way through an urban landscape before it was found early Tuesday in a downtown Santa Monica office building courtyard near an outdoor mall and a bluff-top park that offers tourists views of the ocean and the city's famed pier.
Authorities made multiple attempts to try and subdue the young male cat, including use of a tranquilizer and a pepper ball, before killing it, said Capt. Daniel Sforza of the state Fish and Game Department.
The mountain lion was found about 6 a.m. by a janitor in the courtyard near a popular open-air mall, the Third Street Promenade, and just a couple of blocks from the beach. The street that has a preschool, a church and other businesses was cordoned off as a precaution. 
Those of us old enough to remember before Santa Monica Place was built will remember the Third Street Promenade as "the old mall," created in the mid-1960s when Third Street was closed to traffic.

Batteries Plus Had a Replacement Battery for the Camera

I was in the neighborhood of Batteries Plus yesterday, and the replacement battery pack was only $44.95.  In addition, they tell me that it has more capacity than the factory battery for the Pentax K10D.

Nissan Versa

We rented a Nissan Versa for our trip to central Nevada.  The major motivation is a simple one: we drove more than a thousand miles, and that would have cost at least $500 in not just gas, but also depreciation, wear and tear on tires, brakes, and other odds and ends.  Instead, even paying the exorbitant loss damage waiver that Budget charges (and which only takes one accident to justify), it was still only about $250, including gas.  We had some Budget Rent-A-Car gift certificates left over from a teaching job my wife had some years ago, so actual out of pocket cost was closer to $100.  When in doubt, put mileage on someone else's car.

Another attraction of renting a car for a trip is that if something goes wrong, you can call up the car rental agency and demand a replacement.  If you end up with serious car trouble in your own car a long ways from home, you may have to wait a day or two for repairs.  You are also at the mercy of local mechanics, who you may not be sure that you can trust.  If you discover a month later that they fouled up the car repair, what are you going to do?  Drive 400 miles to demand that they fix it?

One of the attractions of renting a small car for a trip, of course, is gas mileage.  But less than it first appears.  We averaged 34 mpg on the first leg of the trip, which was all highway miles, and much of it at 70 and above, because most of the journey was in Idaho and Nevada.  (If there is anything sillier than a 55 speed limit on many of eastern Oregon's roads, I haven't seen it.)  The second fillup was about 28 mpg, because we were doing a lot more around town driving in the Silver Springs area.  This is decent gas mileage, but not dramatically better than the Corvette (which would have returned about 30 and 20, respectively) or the Jaguar (which would have been about 28 and 18, respectively).  Only compared to the TrailBlazer is gas mileage the strong case for renting the Versa.

It isn't a bad little car.  The wheelbase is shorter than the Jaguar, so to create a decent ride required relatively soft springs, giving it a bit more rocking motion on bad roads than I like.  Handling for a front wheel drive car was reasonably good.  My first reaction to the motor was, "No guts."  But then I discovered the overdrive switch on the automatic transmission was on.  If you want more guts around town, turn the overdrive off.  When passing, even with overdrive on, it did okay.  It's not the Corvette, or even the Jaguar in this respect, but I think of some of the cars that I have driven over the years that made the Versa seem like a pocket rocket!

Seats were comfortable, and the trunk was really quite spacious.  Some of the controls were in relatively obscure places.  On the return trip, I finally figured out where the remote controls for the side view mirrors were located.  I'm not sure which model we had, but for a car with an MSRP starting below $11,000, it really wasn't bad.  If I were fresh out of college with a good job, I can think of worse choices.

UPDATE: One of the comments below pointed to a couple of very disturbing articles that indicate that taking the CDW may actually be a very good idea.  Visa does better than MasterCard, but there is some real risk that you are going to get stuck with a hefty bill if you have a serious accident with a rental car, even after your credit card covers you.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Federalist Society's Engage

The Federalist Society's Engage journal has published a paper by me on the subject of mental illness, deinstitutionalization, and murder.

Washburn Refractor Gets Cleaning

This article from the University of Wisconsin describes what seems to be the first cleaning and polishing of the objective of the 15.6" Washburn refractor since Alvin Clark & Sons built it in 1881.  I love it when an ancient but excellent optical instrument gets a second chance, instead of simply being treated as useless.

Whitney Wolverine

My friend in Nevada collects some interesting guns.  This is one of those Atomic Age designs that really wears very well.  It is the Whitney Wolverine, a .22 target pistol that was only made from 1955-1957, and which Olympic Arms has recently revived.  Here is the original:

Instead of an aluminum cast frame, the Olympic Arms version uses a polymer frame with some very minor differences forward of the trigger guard:

The polymer frame version is very slightly lighter.  Both guns are very pleasant to shoot, in spite of their light weight, with a very interesting Buck Rogers look to them.  We were having some jamming problems, but I believe that it was because the .22 LR ammo we were using had been stored for a long period under poor conditions.

I have the view that I do not need any more guns.  But I might change my mind about the Wolverine.

Is Carrying a Concealed Boomerang Illegal Anywhere?

A friend of mine picked up a most unusual product by Cold Steel (makers of various combat knives). And yes, it can be concealed.  And yes, kangaroos should be afraid.

The combat boomerang, made of reinforced plastic, and with the name Cold Steel in the wing.


Do you remember Martian jokes from the 1970s?  There should be realtor jokes as well.  I have a good friend who is a very ethical realtor, and a very good person.  But "realtorese" is such an easy form of English at which to poke fun, isn't it?  Any time you find "Shoppe" or "Ye" or "Pointe" in a business or residential development, you know where it came from, don't you?

On our way to our friend's place in west-central Nevada, we were looking at real estate that could not be made any uglier by method known to man.  I thought of a new slogan for the state: "Nevada: The Hand Grenade Practice State."  Or perhaps, "Nevada: Where Nuclear Weapons Tests Only Enhance The State's Natural Beauty."

Then we saw this sign:

Now, remember in much of Nevada, the only sound that water usually makes is the mineral equivalent of screaming in agony.  And here's the development to which Singing Waters Court leads:

If this wasn't a realtor-inspired sign, there's no other explanation.

What I Captured of the Eclipse Before My Battery Went Dead

All pictures taken at 200mm with a PRO Vari-ND filter.  Automatic exposure, but typically 1/500 or 1/350 of a second.  5:44:54 PM, shortly before the Moon started to cross:

At 5:46:57 PM, when the first signs appear at the 5:00 position on the Sun's disk:

At 5:47:24:

At 5:49:45:

At 5:54:58:

I took many pictures--as it turned out, too many pictures, thus preventing me from getting to totality with a battery adequately charged, so I'll keep skipping nearly identical frames:

At 6:00:25:

At 6:13:19 (about twenty minutes before totality):

It was truly awesome when the ring of fire appeared.

Antique Camera Tripods

We stayed with some friends in central Nevada for whom the term "packrat" is perhaps a bit too mild of a term.  When he realized that I had neglected to bring a tripod for the Pentax to shoot the eclipse, he pulled out a quite remarkable camera tripod.  It was all aluminum, and made in the USA by Star Mfg. of New York City.  It seems quite sturdy, and since he doesn't do any serious photography, and it cost him all of $2 when he bought it in a thrift store, long, long ago, he generously gave it to me.  And then two more antique tripods before we could get away.  (Anything that I could do to reduce the entropic disaster that is the Garage of Chaos is a good thing.)

Not quite as good a tripod is one labeled Red Accent which is missing the plate that modern tripods use to mount a camera.  It has the model designation VTR-60RA.  It is a bit stiff, probably from lack of use in recent decades, and is labeled as made in Taiwan.

The third one is also I think quite old.  The brand and model is Sunset LW-1000, and it is labeled as Made in Japan.  It isn't a particularly impressive tripod, but the fact that it is old style (not a separate plate) and made in Japan makes me suspect that it could be 1960s, and perhaps valuable to a collector.

Awesome Eclipse

Unfortunately, part way through, my camera stopped taking pictures, because the battery ran out.  Why?  Because in mirror lock mode (that is, when it moves the mirror out of the way for two seconds before taking the picture), there is a lot of power consumed holding the mirror open.  It appears that this was the problem.  I may get a second battery pack for this situation in the future.

Nonetheless, the eclipse was still visually awesome through solar filters.  Not like a full eclipse, but it was still pretty amazing when the Moon was centered in the Sun's disk, producing this ring of fire.

I'll post the pictures when the charger gets the battery fully charged.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

More Trayvon Martin Autopsy Data

I'm not thrilled at how stuff is leaking out, but better than leaving Zimmerman twisting in the wind.  From May 17, 2012 ABC News:

The autopsy report shows traces of the drug THC, which is found in marijuana, in Martin's blood and urine.
The autopsy also shows that Zimmerman shot Martin from a distance of between 1 inch and 18 inches away, bolstering Zimmerman's claim that he shot Martin during a struggle that landed Zimmerman on his back, Martin straddling him and banging Zimmerman's head on the ground.
You will recall that Zimmerman had said on the 911 tapes that Martin was acting in a way that suggested that he was on drugs.  It doesn't say how much THC, and I know that it can persist for a long time.  But Zimmerman's claims about what happened are getting increasingly corroborated.

I Think This May Cause Some Problems For Obama...

Back in 1991, a literary agent was trying to find a publisher for Obama's first book, Journeys in Black and White, which never quite happened.  The bio that Obama's literary agent included in his attempt to sell the book describes Obama this way:
Barack Obama, the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review, was born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii.
You can see the image of the blurb over at has never bought into the birther stuff, and has you might expect, finds this rather shocking.  It's possible that the literary agent was just trying to make Obama a bit more exotic to sell a book.   But isn't it interesting that this inaccurate statement matches up with all the crazy birther claims?

UPDATE: While I think World Net Daily should always be taken a a bag of salt (not a grain), they have gathered up a number of items that refer to Obama as born in Kenya: press releases from the Kenyan government; Kenyan Parliamentary debates; newspaper accounts from when he was assured of election to the U.S. Senate (and having an African-born U.S. Senator was a big deal) and after he was elected President.

As I said, everyone knows that he was born in Hawaii...except, apparently, his literary agent, and people in the Kenyan government.

For Once, I Agree With Iran

TEHRAN -- Iran on Thursday threatened legal action against Google after becoming angered by the US internet giant's choice of names on its mapping software. 
The name of the patch of water between Iran and the Arabian peninsula is a contentious issue, with Shiite Iran insisting it is the "Persian Gulf." 
Sunni Muslim Arab states across the water call it the "Arabian Gulf," or just the "Gulf," and Google opts to keep it nameless on its maps. 
Europeans have been calling it "the Persian Gulf" since at least the seventeenth century.  I am not sure legal action is sensible or even enforceable, but what next?  Is Google going to go all PC on us and start calling North America "Turtle Island"?


Senator Schumer (D-NY) has introduced a bill to prohibit persons who renounce U.S. citizenship to avoid paying taxes from re-entering the United States.  This acronym is "“Expatriation Prevention by Abolishing Tax-Related Incentives for Offshore Tenancy” and is aimed at Eduardo Saverin, a naturalized U.S. citizen who gave up his citizenship last year in anticipation of becoming a billionaire when Facebook IPOs shortly.  

I confess that I am pretty repelled by this--especially since billionaires can easily afford to pay taxes on wealth that they made as a result of being part of our society.   I am also a little disappointed that someone would regard U.S. citizenship as something that would give up for something as sordid as money--and especially what will be, for Saverin, a pretty inconsequential amount.  There might be an argument that our tax laws encourage this, but still, when you expect to make $4 billion, even paying 30% of that in taxes isn't going to force you to start eating at McDonald's.

But I am even more offended by the fact that Schumer wants to prevent the very rich from re-entering the U.S.--but isn't prepared to take any action to prevent illegal aliens from entering the U.S.

Correction: about $1.2 billion in taxes.  Not a trivial amount of money, but remember that part of why Facebook is going to make these people rich is that they are operating in a system that enforces copyright law and provides a mechanism for stock markets and all the legal enforcement that goes with that.   Saverin and the rest of the Facebook billionaires would have no chance of making any of this money except for the presence of the U.S. legal system.  You want to get rich?  That's good.  But thinking that you shouldn't pay taxes to support the system that makes that possible is greedy and stupid.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Can't Sleep; Must Review Books

I have downloaded a number of free books by Jules Verne for my Kindle--many of which are completely new to me--and I thought that I was pretty familiar with Verne's work.  I read and enjoyed many of his novels when I was in elementary school.

One that I recently read and enjoyed was The Fur Country, or Seventy Degrees North Latitude (1873).  It takes place in the Canadian Arctic, in 1859, as a collection of interesting characters head north to the Arctic Ocean.  (Remember: this is a time when Alaska is still Russian.)  I don't want to reveal what turns out to be the core of dilemma that drives the plot, but I was quite surprised to find that a scientific phenomenon of the polar regions appears here that I thought was a twentieth century discovery.  Or perhaps Verne's "scientific romances" were just ahead of their time, as usual.  I found myself, as usual, impressed with how much I was learning from reading what is, after all, a novel.  (Fortunately, I was able browse from the Kindle to look up and learn more.)  

One surprising aspect of the novel is the strong female lead in what is, after all, a very Victorian novel.  It's a slow start, but about 1/3 of the way through, very engaging.

I am part way through reading Godfrey Morgan: A Californian Mystery (1882), which is set in I think Gold Rush California.  (Perhaps right after the Civil War).  There are parts of it that are spot on (from my recent research in reading newspapers of the period), and there are other parts that are wrong about the political structures of California in the period.  (Wrong capital for the period, wrong names for the legislative bodies.)  But once we get away from San Francisco into the Pacific, it becomes very entertaining--although those who have read Mysterious Island will see certain similarities.

I recently purchased Ari Mendelson's Bias Incident: The World's Most Politically Incorrect Novel.  It is not as polemical as the title suggests.  It was fun, and alas, too close to reality to fully enjoy in its portrayal of the manner of which Political Correctness has damaged some colleges.  And for $0.99?

Aaron Wood (I think a nom de plume) sent me his first novel, Return of Nemesis.  For a $1 Kindle book, I can't complain.  (And since he gave it to me, I complain even less!)  I found parts of it a bit clumsy in dialog and plot development, and the aliens don't really come across as all that alien, in spite of the number of appendages.  But the story line kept me interested, and it was not predictable.  I have not read any science fiction in a while, and in some senses, it was a little old-fashioned, but I have read far too much Harlan Ellison over the years.  You need a book to read on the airplane?  You could do far worse.

Biden Warns Ohio of the Dangers of Romney Economics

What next?  Will neo-Nazis start warning us of the dangers of racial hatred?  From the May 16, 2012 Los Angeles Times:
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -- Vice President Joe Biden brought the Obama campaign's Bain Capital offensive to Ohio Wednesday, framing the election as a choice between economic philosophies that would have stark consequences for the middle class.
Speaking at a local manufacturer, Biden said there was "life and hope in the heartland" as a result of the administration's pro-manufacturing policies, which he said would do more to build a lasting economy than the profit-at-all-cost approach of firms like the one Mitt Romney headed.
What is Biden smoking?  Talk about out of touch with middle America.

Proof of Random Voting

In the Democratic primary for the U.S. House seat currently occupied by Republican Raul Labrador, there were two candidates: Cynthia Clinkingbeard, and Jimmy Farris.

United States Representative, District 1
 DEMCynthia Clinkingbeard4,72146.9%
 DEMJimmy Farris5,35553.1%
It was a close race, wasn't it?  Clinkingbeard's vote totals are especially impressive because she has been locked up for much of the start of the campaign after waving a gun at employees of a Staples, and generally evidencing some mental problems.  Farris wasn't exactly in danger of being mistaken for a serious candidate--but at least he wasn't famous for being dangerously crazy.  More evidence that voting is often a pretty ignorant process.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Awesome Video

Produced by a group called Catholics Called to Witness.  I can't imagine the Catholic Church officially putting together a piece like this, demanding that Catholics actually vote in accordance with the principles of the Church, but I can hope!

If so, this could be a game-changer, since Catholics have historically been reliable votes for pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage Democrats.

Now, if evangelicals could put something this hard hitting for their confused flock.

Zimmerman Went To His Doctor The Morning After the Shooting

ABC News is reporting that the medical report has been entered as evidence:
A medical report compiled by the family physician of accused Trayvon Martin murderer George Zimmerman and obtained exclusively by ABC News found that Zimmerman was diagnosed with a "closed fracture" of his nose, a pair of black eyes, two lacerations to the back of his head and a minor back injury the day after he fatally shot Martin during an alleged altercation.
How Angela Corey expects to get a conviction is utterly beyond me.

UPDATE: A reader points out something that has appeared in a number of news sources, such as May 15, 2012 WFTV:
SANFORD, Fla. —WFTV has confirmed that autopsy results show 17-year-old Trayvon Martin had injuries to his knuckles when he died.
The information could support George Zimmerman's claim that Martin beat him up before Zimmerman shot and killed him.
 Hardly definitive, but it fits with Zimmerman's claim about what happened, and the witness statement of Martin on top of Zimmerman, and the medical report from Zimmerman's doctor.

Billionaires Engaged in Secret Planning Sessions

But of course, being billionaires, they aren't meeting in secret to help Romney:

A secretive network of left-wing billionaires and their political operatives descended on the luxurious Biltmore Hotel in Miami over the weekend to discuss strategy for the coming elections.
The location of the conference had been kept a closely guarded secret by the members and guests of Democracy Alliance (DA), a collection of ultra-wealthy liberal donors formed in 2005, and is reported here in a Washington Free Beacon exclusive.
I never cease to be amazed at the number of leftists who imagine that they are going to take down the 1%--when the 1% are funding their political party and movement.

Same Sex Marriage Statistics

Interesting article at National Review Online by Charles W. Cooke pointing out that in multiple countries and multiple states that recognize same-sex marriage, civil unions, or something like it, same-sex marriages are actually quite rare, and divorce or dissolution rates are much higher than for straight couples:

Controlling for the ratio of homosexuals to heterosexuals does little to explain the enthusiasm gap. For rates to be similar, we would have to pretend that only 0.5 percent of the population of Sweden, 0.7 percent of the population of Norway, and less than 2 percent of the population of Holland is gay. In fact, the numbers tend closer to an average of 4 percent, which suggests that heterosexual couples are up to eight times more interested in registering their relationships than homosexual couples.

While data in the United States are clearly limited, Scandinavian countries have been at this a little longer. Denmark was the first country to introduce recognition of same-sex partnerships, coining the term “registered partnership” in 1989. Norway followed suit in 1993, and then Sweden in 1995. Again, Stockholm University’s study seems to confirm the American trend. In Norway, male same-sex marriages are 50 percent more likely to end in divorce than heterosexual marriages, and female same-sex marriages are an astonishing 167 percent more likely to be dissolved. In Sweden, the divorce risk for male-male partnerships is 50 percent higher than for heterosexual marriages, and the divorce risk for female partnerships is nearly double that for men.  
This really does not surprise me.  Into the 1970s, marriage was regularly denigrated by homosexual activists as a bourgeois institution.  Most of what has driven this desire for recognition--even when civil unions existed that provided everything but the name, as in California--is a desperate need by gay couples for governmental approval, so that they will feel normal and accepted.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Needed: Every "Blood Will Run In The Streets" Quote You Can Find...

I have been asked to help write an amicus brief challenging a state discretionary permit issuance.  In state after state, as shall-issue laws have worked their way through the legislative process, opponents of shall-issue have repeatedly stated that "blood with run in the streets" "It will be like the Wild West" and similar claims.

When the first states adopted shall-issue, you could make the case that this was at least a plausible possibility.  But even when Wisconsin was debating shall-issue, the opponents were still making these claims, pretending not to know that the experiment had been tried--and the results have been astonishingly humdrum.

I need every example that you can find where opponents of shall-issue laws claimed that there would be murder, mayhem, increases in road rage arguments escalating to gunplay, and so on, that you can find.  If it is in a published source that is online, all the better.  If it is something that you find on Nexis, send me the citation, and I will dig it out.

UPDATE: Thank you all.  I have enough.  Now: can you provide me with lists of opponents who changed sides after the law worked?  At least one of the items already posted was Tom Skoch's editorial here, and it is gratifying to see someone prepared to admit that they were wrong, and why.  There are also quotes from Harris County D.A. John B. Holmes and Dallas police union president Glenn White, admitting that they were wrong about this, and it worked out just fine.  Can anyone else find some examples of people who claimed that this was going to be a disaster, and then admit that they were wrong?

Finished The Corvette Seat Repair!

I went out and bought a 2" thick piece of foam long enough to reinforce the crushed down left bolster.  This time, I completely removed the seat from the car, so that I could sit on it after I had done the reinforcing, but before putting it back in the car.  Then I put it back in the car.  It feels as good as new!

Of course, as these things go, when I turned on the air conditioning today before coming home from work, there was an awful vibration that appears to be the blower motor.  (Not dependent on A/C being on; directly proportional to A/C fan speed.)  A review of Corvette forums suggests that it is either blower motor bearings failed, or (in light of past history), a mouse nest.  If so, the little critters would have had to have hauled something heavy or stiff into the blower.

I went deep enough into the process to decide that this is something worth paying a professional to do.  I can't see the bolts that hold the blower motor in place, and I am not at all keen on the weird gymnastic position required to look under the glove compartment to figure this out.

UPDATE: It did indeed turn out to be a mouse doing what might be called a zombie version of a hamster wheel in the blower.  Removing the remains and desmelling it all will be about $150.  I think I will stop leaving the top off the car in the garage.  Our cat just isn't good enough at doing his job.

UPDATE 2: They forgot about the deodorizer for the A/C system (which since it adds $80, is probably something that kills bacteria, too).  The mouse was apparently lodged between the fan blade and the housing.  No, he was not in a position to comment about the experience.

Tariffs & The Civil War

It became rather fashionable starting around the 1920s to ascribe the Civil War to the question of protective tariffs.  Partly this was because Marxian analysis (as opposed to Karl Marx himself) engaged in a reductionistic understanding of all of human history to economic interests.  Ending slavery, especially with the moral tone the abolitionists used, could not possibly be the reason; it had to be something more fundamentally economic in nature.  (And some libertarian ideologues have therefore started making excuses for why the South was really a proto-libertarian society.)

I have seen a number of secession ordinances around the web that give the threat of ending slavery as the reason for states to secede--but only a few state secession ordinances are usually listed.  Here is an 1893 book that lists all of the state secession ordinances.  Only some of them list slavery--but the other give no specific reasons.  And none of them mention tariffs.  This is hardly conclusive proof--but you would think if tariffs were the issue, or even a significant issue that at least one state would have mentioned it.

There was discussion of this once the war was well under way, but this 1863 book argues that since the South had actually been on the side of protective tariffs for some products in 1857, it was certainly not a genuinely pro-free market motivation.  At least some contemporary works argue that the tariff claim was manufactured for the purpose of promoting the Confederacy in Europe.

Why We Can't Cut Spending, But Must Increase Taxes

Because there's no waste left in government.  Like this wonderful example that I found from reading Small Dead Animals:

Have you ever bought a brand new cars only to forget where you put it? How about 300 of them? Probably not – unless you're Miami-Dade County, which was recently reunited with 298 vehicles it bought brand new between 2006 and 2007.
The county "discovered" this fleet of no-mileage vehicles after reading about them in a Spanish-language newspaper there (see the source for more images). Most of the misplaced motorcade is made up of Toyota Prius hybrids whose warranties either expired with very few miles on the odo or will very soon.
Now, one of the comments explains that this isn't quite as stupid as it looks:
As usual there are now ~300 comments without anyone interested in facts of the case. Those interested go to Miami Herald web site and type "300 prius" in to search box.
-Reduction of fleet size, and inability to cancel prior orders led to stockpiling
-1,200 (!) unused cars in spring of 2008
-Serviced every two months
-Prius are problem because their warranty starts at purhace, opposed to other fleet vehicles whose warranty starts only after taken in to use
That makes it all so much more sensible, doesn't it?  The county government couldn't figure out how to avoid buying 1200 cars that it didn't need, and rather than resell them to get that capital back, they just put them in the closet.