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.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Fifth Columnists

I am reading Brian Garfield's The Thousand-Mile War: World War II in Alaska and the Aleutians (1969), and I found a most interesting item on page 8:
Japanese Intelligence was not so good as it might have been, because no Japanese spies in Alaska had communicated with Tokyo for months.  The eight or ten spies had been interned in the States, along with hundreds of innocent Nisei.
Garfield gives no source for this claim, and it is what I consider too popular of a history -- only some items are footnoted.  The fact that Garfield gives a rather exact number "eight or ten spies" does make me suspect that he had some authoritative source for this, perhaps speaking off the record because the information was still classified at the time.  Otherwise I suspect that this would have "some" or similar vague statement about Japanese spies in Alaska.

Michelle Malkin put herself in harm's way several years ago pointing out that information declassified in the 1990s showed that the U.S. government knew that there were some Japanese spies among the Americans of Japanese ancestry in the U.S.  At least, Japanese diplomats referred to them working in defense plants in dispatches back home, and the U.S. had broken the Japanese diplomatic code before the war.

The number was doubtless tiny, compared to the 100,000 or more Japanese citizens or American citizens of Japanese ancestry who were interned as a security risk.  It would have been better if the U.S. government had put more energy into identifying those who were disloyal, instead of locking up everyone -- the vast majority of whom proved their loyalty in spite of this mistreatment.  (Many proved their loyalty in the ultimate way, in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.)

It is also true that there were other motivations for the internment, including a long history of racism driven by unfair practices of Japanese farmers (such as hard work and intense agricultural practices brought from Japan), and more immediate hatred because of Pearl Harbor.  It is possible that these other motivations were actually the larger motivation, especially by the time the internment actually took place.  But to pretend that there was no national security concerns that played a part in the decision is just dishonest.

UPDATE: unfair practices "such as hard work and intense agricultural practices" is sarcasm.  Have we really so fully reached the Obamanation that I have to be explicit about this?  Oh what a tragedy.

My Does It Take A Long Time To Format a 500 GB Hard Disk

I am busy on it right now.  Of course, at least partly this is because I am formatting it in preparation for cloning my current hard disk over a USB connection, so that is certainly part of the slowness.

Flaming Turkey Wings!

I remember this commercial in the 1980s as a post-Thanksgiving ad, but I was surprised to see that Pizza Hut used it in the United Kingdom as a post-Christmas promotion.  I did not realize that they ate turkey in Britain at Christmas.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Horses on Ice: How Smart Are They?

I have a question for my readers who are familiar with horses. 

I understand that horses are reluctant to walk on ice, for the same reason that humans are: it's slippery, and they are in danger of slipping.  Are they smart enough to recognize ice from its appearance?  If you were riding horses in a studio on a surface that looked like ice, but was not (think green screen background on which a frozen-over river has been projected with ice and snow simulated in the foreground), would they be so afraid of the appearance that they would be reluctant to walk across it?  Or do they only respond to actually slipping on ice?

Alliteration Never Sounded So Silly

It isn't often that local news from my region makes it to the Drudge Report, but it is, like most crime in Boise, interesting because of its weirdness, not its frequency.  From the November 22, 2012 AP account of the man being charged with having broken into the Boise Zoo, attempted to steal a monkey, then beat it death after the monkey bit him:
His father, Jerry Watkins, said he can't believe his son entered the zoo wanting to do the monkey harm.

"He's not a malicious monkey murderer," Watkins said. "I'm thinking the monkey attacked him and he just tried to defend himself. I don't think he ever intended to kill it; he's just not that kind of guy."
Perhaps more significant in understanding what happened:
[Ada County Assistant Prosecutor] Alidjani had argued that the bail shouldn't be reduced because Watkins has a history of drug and drunken driving arrests and probation violations....

Watkins broke into the zoo after a night of grief-fueled drinking, Reedy said: An aunt had recently died, and Watkins' grandmother had been diagnosed with cancer only days before. So he went into Boise for a night out with friends and family.
I mean, if you had a rough time, wouldn't you try to break into a zoo and steal a monkey?

Obamacare Already Costing People Jobs

You already knew that some employers were either putting off hiring because of the increased cost of providing health care for their employees because of Obamacare, or shrinking back to less than 50 employees so that would not be subject to its mandates.  This article from the November 19, 2012 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that part-time employees of the Community College of Allegheny County are being cut back to less than 30 hours per week.  The reason is simple: employees who work 30 or more hours per week must be provided health insurance because of Obamacare -- and the college cannot afford to do this.  So it is cutting employee hours to a level where the college is not required to provide health insurance:
"It's kind of a double whammy for us because we are facing a legal requirement [under the new law] to get health care and if the college is reducing our hours, we don't have the money to pay for it," said Adam Davis, an adjunct professor who has taught biology at CCAC since 2005.
Yup.  Obamacare requires workers to buy health insurance if they are not otherwise covered -- and now the college has an incentive to cut their hours back even more.  I know that some of my fellow adjuncts are already uninsured because coverage for a family comes to about $1000 a month -- or considerably higher than what most have for house payments -- and of course teaching college pays very badly.  The article explains that adjuncts at the Community College of Allegheny County will be cut back from 12 semester hours to 10 semester hours to get below the 30 hours per week requirement. 

This alone is a joke; any adjunct who teaches 12 semester hours and only works 30 hours per week is either incredibly brilliant, not doing his job very well, or is otherwise pretty unusual.  To teach 12 semester hours means that you spend 12 hours per week in class, and quite typically 20 hours per week (on average) grading papers.

I do not want to sound mean, but there are consequences when you vote Obama, and those consequences are about to hit a lot of adjuncts there very hard.  I would be surprised if this does not happen at lots of colleges around the country.

Today's "Cleaning Out the Refrigerator" Word of the Day

Guacamoldy: The avocado dip that has sat too long.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Conscience in Revolt

Watching America collapse inward, morally, financially, and politically, I am reminded of this powerful book that I read some years ago: Annedore Leber's Conscience in Revolt: Sixty-Four Stories of Resistance in Germany, 1933-1945.  It is out of print now, of course, because it is a book better suited to a serious society, not a post-literate sewer like America.  As I observed a few years ago, before this country decided that greed, selfishness, lust, and intoxication were the highest virtues that it could aspire to:

Annedore Leber, trans. By Rosemary O’Neill, Conscience in Revolt: Sixty-Four Stories of Resistance in Germany, 1933-45 (San Francisco: Westview Press, 1994).

I found this paperback clearance priced at $5. This is a book that is part history, and partly inspirational. It tells in a series of vignettes the stories of 64 Germans who resisted the Nazis and paid the ultimate price for it. Some are famous, some are not. Many of these sketches quote from their letters and diaries as they faced death: Eastern Front soldier Michael Kitzelmann was horrified by what he saw done in Poland after the German invasion, and quickly became an opponent of the regime. He was eventually executed for undermining morale. From his diary, as he awaited execution:
I pray to Jesus the Crucified, who has led the way through the most bitter pain. And He answers me: "If you will be My disciple, take up your cross and follow me.!" But I appeal to Him: "Lord, I am still so young, too young for such a heavy cross; I have not lived my life, all my hopes, plans and aims are unfulfilled." And he says: "Behold, I too was young, I had yet to live my life, and as a young man I carried to cross and sacrificed my young life."….

Now I live the life of a hermit. My day’s work consists of praying, reading the Bible, occasionally scribbling something in my diary or writing letters. It is very painful, this separation from life, from the past, from all fond hopes and plans and particularly from my nearest and dearest. It is terribly hard to submit wholly to God’s will in such agonising circumstances; but the only attainable comfort is to hold out to the end despite all suffering….[pp. 30-31]
Motivations were varied: some were young socialists; some were conservatives, appalled by the horrors of what the Nazis were doing in the name of the German government; most were Christians who recognized the Nazi movement for what it was. From the Nationalist Party’s Ewald von Kleist-Schmenzin’s 1932 pamphlet against the Nazis:
Religion alone stand between us and National Socialism, and always will. We believe that faith in God and obedience to His Word must permeate our public life; National Socialism holds a fundamentally different view, and let me say that questions of dogma have nothing to do with it. What it comes to is that Hitler regards as the basis of policy— the fact that he may occasionally say something else does not alter the case—the race and its demands. This is a crude form of materialism, and quite incompatible with Christianity. According to his theories, it is the duty of the state to encourage not ability, but racial characteristics. He reduces the state to the level of a cattle-breeder, and shows that he is quite incapable of understanding its character and obligations….

What have we in common, spiritually, with National Socialism?[p. 168]
Many of these were men and women whose only crime was to speak against evil, but many were men and women of action as well. Some were participants in the von Stauffenberg plot against Hitler. One of the socialists, Anton Schmaus, expected problems from the SA (brownshirts) early in the Nazi regime:
[T]he SA forced their way into the house late that evening. They kicked his mother, who barred their way, and knocked her down. Anton was woken by her cries for help and found himself at the top of the stairs confronted by the SA. He told them to get out of the house, otherwise he would shoot. They took no notice, and closed in on him; and so as a last resort he pulled out a pistol. According to the police report of 5 July 1933, File No. IAdVI, three storm troopers were badly wounded and later died in hospital and a fourth was fatally wounded by a shot from one of his companions.[pp. 4-5]

Schmaus turned himself into the police, hoping for a proper trial. The SA demanded Schmaus from the police, who still had the courage to refuse the SA demand. The police escorted Schmaus to Berlin police headquarters, but along the way, 30-40 SA surrounded Schmaus and his police escort, and shot and killed him.

The individual steps forward from the ranks to sacrifice himself for others: this is the theme which emerges from the photographs taken at the trial, which underlies this whole story of resistance to tyranny, which is the embodiment of the Christian spirit and which finds expression in the great part played by the Christian Churches in the struggle with National Socialism.
After describing the formation of a movement that called itself "Protestant National Socialists" or sometimes "German Christians," Leber describes how the Nazis took advantage of a widespread desire within Protestant Germany to unify the existing denominations:
But it soon became clear that [the Nazis] regarded the Churches as useless bourgeois institutions and merely hoped to exploit them for their own purposes and to present the picture of the progressive assumption of power in a pseudo-Christian frame.... In May 1934, at a synod in Barmen, the Confessional Church was founded. This was not a territorial Church, but a movement within the Protestant Church to counter the false doctrines which threatened it. At this point the regime dropped even the "German Christians" and from then on state measures were directed not at the reconciliation of the Church with the National Socialist Weltanschaung, but at the subordination of all things Christian.

The attempt to oppress the Catholic Church was at first a little more circumspect and the negotiations which followed the Reich Concordat of 1933 gave some protection for the time being. But attacks on the Church, and the persecution of those who professed allegiance to it, steadly increased; and the Papal Encyclical With Grave Concern, which was read to the faithful from the pulpits in 1937, was tantamount to a declaration of war. Both Churches suffered confiscation, restriction and persecution, and both challenged the policies and ideologies of the state. They opposed the biological creeds and the idolising of the German people. They protested against the Oath of Allegiance and its claim to impose unconditional obedience not to God, but to man, and against the anti-Christian teaching given to the young, the arbitrary methods of the Gestapo, the horrors of the concentration camps and the ill-treatment of the population of occupied territories. They also protested most violently against the murder of incurables.[pp. 187-188]
Annedore Leber was there. She was the widow of the prominent Social Democrat leader Julius Leber, executed by the Nazis.

This is a fascinating and powerful work, well-written (or at least well-translated).  It is history, and it is inspiring -- evidence that even in the darkness of Nazi Germany, where the full weight of the propaganda machinery of modern media was turned to the task of enforcing ideological conformity, there were those willing to do to fight against an evil that did not personally threaten them.  We owe it to those who died in the defense of human dignity to not let these courageous men and women be forgotten.  BUY THIS BOOK!

UPDATE: A reader reports that the full text is available online although it does not look like a very pleasant way to read it.

UPDATE 2: I missed the "See Other Formats" button -- it is available for many other formats, including Kindle.

Isaiah 56:10-12: Hope, Change, Forward

10  Israel’s watchmen are blind,
    they all lack knowledge;
they are all mute dogs,
    they cannot bark;
they lie around and dream,
    they love to sleep.
11 They are dogs with mighty appetites;
    they never have enough.
They are shepherds who lack understanding;
    they all turn to their own way,
    they seek their own gain.
12 “Come,” each one cries, “let me get wine!
    Let us drink our fill of beer!
And tomorrow will be like today,
    or even far better.”

Real Nudity

One of the reasons that I really can't take the whole San Francisco cultural ethos* seriously (except as a sign of severe decadence) is that the same government that keeps trying to disarm people in their own homes barely passed a ban on public display of genitals: 6-5 vote by the Board of Supervisors, and of course, a lawsuit has already been filed in federal court to prevent this interference with the free speech rights of a bunch of aging gay men who seem to think that they are oppressed if they are not allowed to engage in behavior that in most of America would be recognized as public lewdness.

For those who want to imagine that these exhibitionists represent a tiny little bunch of weirdos -- take a look at that vote of the supervisors: five of them were not prepared to criminalize genital displays even with this exception for public beaches and publicly funded festivals and parades.  And yes, the whipping of naked men event for sexual pleasure that is the Folsom Street event is publicly funded.  Something to think about the next time someone talks about the revenue crises that afflict California local government.

The tragedy of this is that I would not be at all surprised to see a federal judge issue an injunction.  Not because there is any merit to it.  But because so many lawyers have managed to create this insane alternative universe where Santa Monica's traditional Christmas displays are now a violation of the Constitution, comparable to a law prohibiting sexual exhibitionism.

This country deserves what it is going to get.  Unfortunately, decent people are going to get it too.

*That ethos, of course, is that of the Democratic Party as well, but with a little more restraint.

Psychological Nudity

Those of you who listen to Michael Savage (something that I can generally only do for short intervals before my revulsion overwhelms my morbid curiosity) are aware that his program opens with a "warning" that the show contains "psychological nudity."  I have never quite understood what he means by that, but it is somewhat startling of a phrase, and I am sure that are people who have stayed tuned just to find out what means.

A couple of days ago on the way to work, I just happened to have my little HP camera with me, and I saw a collection of bumper stickers that suddenly crystallized the concept of "psychological nudity" for me.

Let's start on the left side: "I like me."  This is right up there with wearing a T-shirt that says, "110% Heterosexual" or for that matter, social conservatives who get spectacularly focused on the sin of homosexuality, to the exclusion of adultery, gluttony, selfishness, racism, or any of the other evils that the Bible preaches against.  You have to ask yourself: Why do you feel the need to make such a big deal of this statement?  "I like me" makes me wonder if someone is trying very hard to persuade not others, but self.

I couldn't quite read the "Aim to Misbehave" sticker, but I am guessing this is a Serenity/Firefly fan.  (I like the series and the movie, although not to the level of identifying with the heroes.)

The third sticker is hard to read in the picture, but it says, "If only closed minds came with closed mouths."  I'm one of those weird people that believes that if someone holds stupid ideas, the more they talk, the better.  Hence I am slightly disappointed that San Francisco is preparing to ban genital displays in some public places (although by only a 6-5 vote of the Board of Supervisors).  If there is anything that better demonstrates what is wrong with that museum of two centuries worth of failed philosophical assumptions, it is the desperate need for gay men to engage in exhibitionism to prove how free they are.  Of course, my preference for more speech, not less, is because I have high confidence in the rightness of my positions: I can handle disagreement because I know that I am right.  If I lacked that confidence, I might share this person's desire to not hear differing opinions.

Of course, the period on this sentence of psychological nudity is the = bumper sticker -- the symbol of gay marriage.

"I like me" as an indicator that someone isn't so sure of that and the desire to see "closed minds" (see the = for what that means in this context) have "closed mouths."

As I said, I now know what "psychological nudity" means.

My Daughter's Egg Drop Soup

Here's the recipe.  It's really good.

That New Yorker Cover Is Closer To Reality Than I Thought

You know this masterful satire on how New Yorkers see the world:

There is way more truth to it than I feared.  My wife was talking to someone today who had been on medical mission to West Africa.  During a layover in Boston, he got to talking to the locals in a bar, who were very friendly, loved his "accent" and wanted to know more about him.  When they found out he was from Idaho, the next question was, "How's your Indian problem out there?"

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Experience With Hybrid Solid State Hard Drives?

The 100 GB drive on my laptop is getting crowded.  (Time to wax unnostalgic for when a 5 MB hard drive for a PC cost $2000.)  I have already moved as much stuff off this drive to external disks as I can, but the problem is that when your hard drive gets below 20% free, virtual memory starts getting problematic, as it becomes harder and harder to find a contiguous block of disk space.  Yes, you can solve this problem -- temporarily -- by defragging your hard disk.  But when disk space is tight, this solution does not last long.  (I think at one time Windows would actually block this part of the disk from being allocated, but apparently not under XP.)

My thought is to get a hard disk that will take me years (or one feature length film's development) to fill.  I was looking at 500 GB and 750 GB hard drives for my notebook -- and these are dirt cheap.  But then I noticed this hybrid SSD/hard disk drive.  It looks like a hard drive with an extraordinarily large cache,  optimized to learn which tracks will be used repeatedly, instead of the traditional caching approach.  Supposedly boot time is much enhanced, and according to comments that I have read elsewhere, over a period of several days, it learns which tracks to keep in solid state memory.  I would assume that the tracks allocated to virtual memory would just scream compared to a traditional disk drive.

Any experience with these?  Is there any hazard to defragging one of these drives?

UPDATE: I confess, the temptation to go to a real SSD drive is strong.  Here's a 256 GB SSD drive for $217 that should be a real screamer on both read and write.  Of course, if I go to the 750 GB drive, I can allocate a bunch of disk space to a dedicated virtual memory block (yes, according to the comments, XP does support that).  But a 256 GB drive would be 150% gain on what I have now.  I rather doubt that this will be a problem in the time that I am likely to keep this notebook.

And here's a 500 GB Hybrid SSD (4 GB cache) for $49.95!  That's still 500% more space than I have now, at what a price!  I don't know what speed my current drive is, but I would not be surprised if it is only 5400 rpm; this is 7200 rpm.  Hmmm.  I wonder what it will be on Black Friday?

UPDATE 2: I called Staples, because they quoted $39.95 to install a drive, but that is apparently not for laptops, and does not include data transfer.  That turns out to be $49.95 for the install and $69.95 to transfer it over.  Suddenly, it is getting more attractive to do this myself.

Monday, November 19, 2012

File Names You Are Not Expecting

Unless some professors, I do not much care what sort of file names my students use when they submit papers.  (Submitting papers on paper is so second millennium.)  Most of the file names are still pretty logical: some variant of the students name (first first, usually), or the words "researchpaper" or "history101" or some other obvious connection.  But a student turned in a paper on witchcraft trials with the file name "witchysmoker.doc."  What?

Sad Story Of Self-Mutilation

I've made the point in the past that compared to having a sex change, homosexuality almost seems normal and natural.  At the end of the day, you can at least go straight (as people that I have known over the years have done).  But once you spend a fortune getting your sexual organs removed (or created, depending on direction), it is a bit late to say, "Whoops!  I guess that doesn't help my sense of worthlessness any."  I've mentioned the work by both specialists in the field and the British National Health Service that finds that a shockingly large percentage of those who have these dramatic procedures done...still aren't happy.

But compared to this?  Sex change is positively mainstreamSay Uncle links to this tragic story in the November 13, 2012 Daily Mail about...well, too weird for me to paraphrase:
Dennis Avner, the Nevada man who spent years trying to morph his body into that of a cat has died. He was 54. A veteran of the U.S. Navy, Avner underwent a series of radical body modification procedures to make himself look like a female cat, from whiskers and ears to a mechanical tail....

 Avner's operations have included bifurcation (splitting) of his upper lip, surgical pointing of the ears, sillicone cheek and forehead implants, tooth filing, tattoos, and facial piercing.

Read more: Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook
There's a picture of him there that is like a really bad Twilight Zone episode.  Say Uncle describes it well:
People who feel the need for such extreme body modifications tend to not only have issues, but subscriptions.
I am not surprised that his life ended in suicide.  Someone who felt so badly about himself that he needed this kind of weirdness is a tragedy -- one in which all the weirdos who chose to take his money and do this sort of stuff to him should feel some sense of responsibility.  They did not make him so sad and sick, but by going along, they helped him to avoid confronting the real issues.

Experience With S-Video to USB Encoders?

It turns out that Corel's Corel VideoStudio Pro X5 does work just fine with a digital video input.  It may be that I need to replace the ADS Tech Xpress DX2 box that tries to convert from composite or S-video to USB.  Unfortunately, because my experience with this sort of thing has been so bad, I am reluctant to spend much money on something that may not work, or may not work for long.

I have seen it suggested that buying a digital video camera with either S-Video or composite inputs is another solution.  Such cameras can take the analog input and write in its own media format for later replay.  Anyone have experience with such cameras in this mode?

UPDATE: Found a discussion on the Corel forum that I suspect explains the problem (even though it refers to the X2 version):
Here's the latest..I've been communicating with Corel email and finally phone calls. The latest tech I talked to said that I need two computers, one to capture, one to edit. He said that my two versions of VS , 9 SE and X2 will have contention. He basically said since I upgraded from 9 SE to X2, I no longer can capture on that computer. As long as X2 is installed, I cannot capture with 9 SE or CapWiz, both of which came bundled with the ADSTECH DVDXpressDX2 external device. And trying to capture with X2 is a no go. It previews just fine. In the preview window I get video and audio. Then when I start the actual record, X2 locks up with an unexpected error.
Since I have two PCs, and I only occasionally need to capture from an analog device, this may be the answer: install the old version, Ulead VisualStudio 9 SE and use that to capture from the ADS Tech Xpress DX2.  Use the new version of VideoStudio Pro X5 to do editing.  Yes, it is a bit clumsy, but like I said, I only occasionally need to capture from an analog device.  In addition, capture is slow, and gobbles resources like crazy.  It is best to do that on a machine that I am trying to do anything else on at the same time.

UPDATE 2: It turns out that the CapWiz program (a very simple video capture only program) that comes on the same disc as Ulead VideoStudio 9 works just fine on the same PC as Corel VideoStudio Pro X5.  I can capture using CapWiz from my VCR to MPEG-2, then import that into VS Pro X5.  The thing that is a bit quirky is that when I do so, VS Pro X5 seems to duplicate (with a slight delay) the audio portion of the video into the voice audio track, producing a bizarre echo.  But I can turn off the voice audio track for those situations, and solve the problem.  I guess that I am about ready to spend the money to buy the license for VS Pro X5.

UPDATE 3: It turns out that I was able to get Ulead VisualStudio 9 SE and the ADS Tech Xpress DX2 box working on the older laptop by removing the current QuickTime version first.  I can now capture analog there from VisualStudio 9 just fine.  I wonder if that might be the case on my other PC too -- but I am not sure that I really want to try it.  There are some nice features to the new version.  At least I can still do video capture on one box why working on the other.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

I Had To Pinch-Hit For Our Pastor Last Sunday...

He was off in the wilderness, filling his meat locker for the year.  There's a high res and low res version of the sermon (about 140 MB vs. 20 MB).  It is about Hezekiah, his descendants as King of Judah, and what their actions set them up for -- and its relevance to America today.  The high resolution version is still uploading, so be patient if it is still early on Saturday evening.

I tried to put it up on YouTube, but it is too long, and I didn't feel like putting the effort into splitting it up.

Here's an MP3 version, for those who don't need the visuals.

UPDATE: This is an MP4 version that you Apple users can probably load and view.  (It is pretty big, so it may be late this evening before it finishes FTPing up.)

Grading Papers The Last Few Days

The good, the bad, the ugly...and a two paragraph paper from a student who must have just realized, "Oh, is that due?"

UPDATE: And then I get a paper that is so stellar that I find myself wondering, "Why is this kid not at UC Berkeley or Stanford?"

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Time To Order The Snow Plow

I had Major Tire & Hitch in Garden City put the 2" trailer hitch receiver on the TrailBlazer yesterday.  They quoted me $281.66 (but of course, that did not include sales tax, which bumped it up to about $293).  As a result, it's time to order the AgriCover SnowSport 180 plow that plugs into it.

This is a somewhat pricy item, but my wife and I have decided that the struggle of walking behind a snowthrower at 20 degrees Fahrenheit, in the dark, while snow or sleet are blowing in our faces, for 60-90 minutes to clear the driveway is just a bit much.  I guess we're wimps.  A real Idahoan wouldn't consider this a problem until the temperature was -20, and the Minnesotan would consider +20 to be shirtsleeve weather.

Of course, if I order it, we won't have snows for weeks...and if I don't order it, UPS won't be able to deliver it because of the size of the snowdrifts blocking the roads.

UPDATE: I found what seemed like better prices from other vendors...but it turned out that the prices others were showing were for the blade alone, not for the frame that the blade mounts on.  By the time shipping was included, it was the same price as Amazon had.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Roll Your Own...Dishwasher Detergent

My daughter and her sister-in-law have a blog called Domestic Bliss, which is focused on very domestic activities...some of which are becoming increasingly important, as people with graduate degrees lose their jobs, and have to find ways to save money.  Their motto:
Two Sisters living in two States. Totally obsessed with anything and everything crafty, coffee, cooking and our adorable kids. Doing our best to create domestic bliss.
One of the recent posts is about how to make your own dishwasher detergent for a fraction of the cost of store-bought.  And homemade Gak for keeping your children amused at little cost.  Crock Pot Chicken Noodle Soup.  It isn't exactly going John Galt, but for those who are doing so (voluntarily or otherwise), there are some useful tips!

NLE Video Editing Software...

My experience with NLE video editing software has never been good.  I bought one package (hardware to convert RCA jack inputs to digital and NLE software) about 2002 or so, and it worked a few times -- and would never work again, no matter how many times I uninstalled and reinstalled it.

For the last several years, I have been using Ulead VideoStudio 9 with the ADS Xpress DX2 box to do the composite to digital conversion.  It has worked pretty well, but every once in a great while, VideoStudio would cease to do the capture, and I would have to reinstall it.

This time, I reinstalled it -- and it did no good, so I went to Corel (which bought Ulead) and saw that they had a brand new package, Corel VideoStudio Pro X5, which you could download and try for 30 days.  The price was quite reasonable, but of course, a product that will not run is of no real value.  I mean once or twice I managed to capture video, then it became cranky, and kept saying, "Cannot start capture graph" when I tried to capture video.  There is nothing in the online help or user's guide explaining what this means, or how to fix it.

My guess is that there is something that gets scrambled in Ulead VideoStudio 9's registry that forces me to reinstall it every year or two -- but why it no longer lets me reinstall it and work has me mystified.  I understand the logic behind Microsoft's registry scheme for recording data specific to different applications -- but to be blunt, it replaced multiple clumsy and scattered schemes in each application's data files with a single opaque method for storing the data.  I'm not persuaded that it made Windows more reliable.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

This Film Idea

My wife and I read through my screenplay "The Laws of Men" this evening.  She had never read it, and I think she now understands why I have so much enthusiasm and confidence in its potential.  This isn't about the money-making potential (which I think is likely to be modest although profitable if it gets distribution) as about its ability to slowly nudge the culture back towards the right side of the political spectrum. 

It is about a remarkable incident in American history in which a small group of religious fanatics (as the federal judge called them) decided that the laws of God took precedence over the laws of men -- that regardless of the Constitutional rights that one group enjoyed, they were going to break the law, defy federal law enforcement, and rescue (the formal legal term for taking a prisoner away from the legal authorities) John Price, allegedly a runaway slave.

It has guns.  Lots of guns.  It has action.  It has a thrilling sequence as the runaways cross the frozen Ohio River on horseback.  It has courtroom drama.  It has powerful and stirring speeches by among other interesting characters, Charles Langston -- the son of a white Virginian and a slave, given his freedom by his father and sent to college.  It has sneaky legal maneuvering, as the Lorain County, Ohio District Attorney indicts a federal deputy marshal and two private slavecatchers for kidnapping -- and tries to arrest them in the federal court in the middle of a trial.

It is the sort of movie that will bring in a remarkably diverse crowd, I think: gun rights sorts who will have a chance to see firearms used in a way that was both unlawful and praiseworthy; courageous, morally centered sorts resisting a great evil by a corrupt, Democratic Party dominated judiciary and executive branch; blacks interested in this relatively unknown but important piece of black history where blacks and whites worked together; liberals out to see the good guys go up against the bad guys -- and they will be discomfited by what they learn; pro-lifers who will be encouraged by the moral convictions of those who refuse to allow federal law to get in the way of doing the right thing.

My problem is that I have never made a movie.  Nor do I know anyone who has ever made a movie, at least the level that does not make you think of the idiot who made the crime against filmmaking that became Obama's excuse for Benghazi.  My son and I will be working on a budget (since he is just finishing his degree in video production), but I know that to do this right is a several million dollar effort.  Kickstarter has funded some pretty significant projects, but this would be, I think, a record for them.

What are the alternatives?  I could make a documentary.  This would cost a few thousands of dollars, and Kickstarter would be the perfect place to raise that kind of money.  It would take almost no time to do this.  But documentaries are for people that want to be educated.  Low information voters want to be entertained -- and this last election is a reminder that those of us on the right have been spending far too much time educating people that actually care about bigger issues.  Remember the famous remark attributed to Adlai Stevenson when a supporter gushed that all the intelligent people were going to vote for him, "Madam, I need a majority."  We are not going to win election until the low information voters -- the ones who have not a clue where Benghazi is, or what Solyndra is, who could not tell you if the national debt is $16,000,000 or $16,000,000,000,000 -- start to see more than the one point of view that the popular culture promotes.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Bit Big To Ship

Troy-Bilt 24" 2-Stage Snowthrower - $350 (Horseshoe Bend)

We bought this 24" wide, 2-stage snowthrower in 2006, and it has worked well -- but we have a 600 foot long driveway. We're getting a snowplow on our SUV instead. In a suburban setting, or even a reasonable length driveway, this would be a great choice. It throws snow and breaks up ice. It have five forward gears and two reverse gears, so you are not pushing it up the hill. It works well -- we just can't handle being outside for 90 minutes in driving snow to clear our driveway! (Yes, we're wimps.)

Included is an elasticized cover, some of the replacement parts that you are going to need (the little shear pins that hold the augurs to the drive shaft and a replacement drive belt).

You can buy this new at Lowe's for $600 with tax. For $350, you get one that is barely used, and has had regular oil changes throughout its life.


We're up to our ears in finches, however:

Friday, November 9, 2012


Does anyone have experience using Kickstarter as a method of raising funds for a creative project?  I was surprised to see the new evangelical film Father of Lights was funded this way.  I am thinking really hard about at least putting together a teaser reel from my screen Laws of Men as a first step towards trying to get the funding for a feature film.  Yes, this is way over my skill set, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that if I wait for conservatives to try and take back the popular culture, it will never happen.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Self-Sufficiency: I Am Afraid It Is Necessary

It looks to me like there is a real likelihood that we are going into a another serious recession next year.  For all the "soak the rich" rhetoric Obama was throwing around, he knows that even at a 100% marginal tax rate on the $250,000 per year crowd, it would only make a small dent in these outrageous deficits.

More importantly, these are Obama's supporters.  (He won eight of the ten richest counties in the U.S. -- and by larger margins than the rest of the country.)  The increase in marginal tax rates is a dodge; actual increases in taxes collected from this crowd will be negligible (which is why Boehner is emphasizing eliminating tax loopholes as a method of increasing revenue -- and why Obama will never allow that).

Increased taxes are going to be hitting the middle class, because that is where the money is.  More importantly, as employers shed workers that take them above the 50 employee threshold for Obamacare regulation, a lot of people are going to be losing their jobs.  Many of them, of course, voted for Obama, and are going to be surprised that it won't matter that they get free contraception paid by their employer, because they no longer have an employer.

I am concerned that as the economy worsens, we could actually get something that is nearly unheard of in American history: food riots.  Being able to grow some of our own food to supplement stockpiles seems like a good idea.  Neither my wife nor I are really gardeners, but the time to learn this is now, while food is not in short supply.  We'll be building some raised beds come spring.  The native soil around here is not very impressive, so we'll have to bring better soil in for the raised beds.  I do wonder if planting legumes in the native soil for a couple of years might be a good start, however, because legumes nitrogenate the soil.

Far less likely on the list of concerns -- although much more than it was a week ago -- is the prospect of nuclear terrorism in American cities.  At some point, Israel is going to have to destroy Iran's nuclear weapons program.  This is likely to be only a temporary delay, unfortunately, and when Iran does start production, I would expect that within a year or two, nuclear weapons will either be used or threatened to be used against American cities as part of a blackmail effort to get us to stand by and allow Holocaust II.  Most of the European governments will wring their hands about how terrible this is, but that's about all.  Obama probably won't do much more than wring his hands, and the threat of losing a couple of our cities will give him the excuse to do what he would do anyway.

For that reason, I am still very interested in being at least partly independent of the electricity grid.  One of the major cost problems with any low-end solar power system is that you need the following components:

1. Photovoltaic panels: still too pricey to make economic sense, even with tax breaks, for just producing your own power, but when you do it for energy independence, not so silly.

2. One or more deep cycle batteries to carry you through the night and perhaps, with enough batteries, through two or three days without sunlight during a bad storm.

3. An inverter to convert the 12 VDC batteries to 110 VAC.

4. A transfer switch so that when you are running your solar panel/battery/inverter setup, and the grid is out because of storms or incompetent politicians, you don't send power out and zap some Idaho Power lineman.

It is possible to buy items 1, 2, and 3 relatively cheaply, especially if you start out small for experimentation.  You can add more panels over time to increase generating capacity, and add more batteries to increase storage capacity.

The inverter is not too bad on price -- but as your capacity increases, your inverter has to scale up.  (And since you are going to want to run electronics off these, you need pure sine wave output inverters, and these cost more.)  This is one of those places where you start small and step up, but each step up is expensive.  I'm not sure that there is any way to reuse several small inverters, except by creating effectively several independent power systems for different circuits in your house.

The transfer switch is the single big issue, not because of the price tag (although again, this is a matter of scale) but the problem of installation.  This is something that I would hire a professional to do, because of the legal responsibility if you do it wrong, and the risk to self and property.  But the price tag for a professionally installed system comes to several thousand dollars, and there does not seem to be any way to get this price tag down for a starter system.

But it turns out that the backup generator that we already have has a transfer switch on it.  When we lose power from the grid, the backup generator (a Generac brand 7 kw model) turns on after a few seconds, and the transfer switch prevents power from going on to the grid.  I have a suspicion that all I need to do to make a low-cost, do-it-yourself photovoltaic addition for an experiment is:

1. Photovoltatic panel. ($240)

2. Deep cycle battery (35 amp-hour, sufficient for testing): $70

3. Pure sine wave inverter (600 watt, sufficient to test the concept and even a bit of buildout capacity): $195.

The only other thing that I need, apparently, is a power cord from the inverter's 110 VAC output to plug into a house outlet.  This feeds electricity back into the at least the circuit that outlet is on -- and perhaps it will feed back to the rest of the circuits on the same breaker panel.  If this is not the case -- if the power will be limited to the circuit for that outlet -- then it might make sense to have several independent inverters drawing from the batteries, and feeding different circuits.

There is one other possibility, and that would be to have the electrician that installed this generator look at what is required to provide inputs to the breaker box from a homebrew solar panel.

UPDATE: Thanks for the helpful advice.  It appears that I will need a secondary transfer switch between the inverter and the rest of my system, and so I will need an electrician.  This might be part of the solution: a combination inverter/charger/auto transfer switch:

Auto-Transfer Switching for UPS Operation
When the APS750 is connected to an AC power source, power is passed through to connected equipment and the battery set is charged via a three-stage, 20-amp charging system with adjustable settings for wet/gel battery types. In the event of a power failure or severe voltage fluctuation, the APS750 responds with a near-instantaneous (16.6 millisecond) automatic transfer to battery power. Any number of user-supplied batteries may be connected to the APS750 to provide extended battery backup support for critical equipment. A three-position switch enables you to select AUTO mode for automatic transfer between utility and battery power, CHARGE-ONLY mode to maintain a full battery charge with no automatic transfer switching when the APS750 is connected to AC power or SYSTEM OFF mode.

Just Did This Interview...


And this was a week or two ago, where the host was, I think, not supportive of gun rights at the start, but I think started to change attitude part way through.

Thanks To Those Who Are Buying From Amazon...

via the Amazon search tool on the right.  I get a chance to look at the items that sold because of this, and the variety of stuff always amazes me.  One of you recently bought an Apple iPad -- and it put $25 in my pocket.  Even the little stuff ($0.07 revenue on some iPad screen protectors) adds up!  And best of all: it doesn't cost you any more to do it this way.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I Am So Depressed...

But this is probably inevitable.  We turned the popular culture over to people who worship sex in all its myriad forms, and then we are surprised that someone running for office manages to turn a destroyed economy into a question about whether contraception should be free...and voters decide that a fringe benefit worth a few dollars a month is more important than having a job?

If We Can't Beat Obama In An Economy This Bad...

It's all over. I am beginning to sympathize with the neighbor we had in California who stopped voting because it didn't matter: he kept electing Presidents who promised to reduce the power of the federal government, and it never happened.

A Double Tragedy

From the November 3, 2012 Arizona Republic comes a double tragedy:
Jesus Ricardo Murrieta will turn 22 this month, but he will celebrate his birthday in an Arizona prison, where he will live for the next 22 years after being sentenced for a 2011 murder he might never have committed had Phoenix police known he’d escaped from the Arizona State Hospital.

Murrieta killed April Maria Mott in her apartment near 32nd Street and Osborn Road in August 2011, three months after he’d escaped from the hospital’s civil unit by stealing the badge off a security guard and running out of the facility.

The hospital’s initial response was to treat Murrieta’s departure as an escape, prompting staff to file a missing-persons report with Phoenix police.

That report was rescinded a day later, after hospital administrators and doctors determined that Murrieta had been admitted to the facility voluntarily.
Murrieta had a long history of mental illness and legal problems, starting with bad parents:
Murrieta was born to drug-addicted parents in southern Arizona who had their parental rights severed, leaving Murrieta and his siblings in the care of abusive grandparents, attorneys told Stephens.

Murrieta first attempted suicide when he was 18, leading to a series of commitments to mental-health facilities in Tucson and Phoenix. He was using methamphetamine when he killed Mott, the attorneys said.
 Mott was a paranoid schizophrenic whose symptoms were not initially recognized, but he was in and out of state mental hospitals.  It is hard to read this account and see what part deinstitutionalization played in it -- but it seems hard to imagine that Murrieta's voluntary commitment after a suicide attempt is not related to this.  At a minimum, Arizona's mental health system seems to have failed Murrieta, Mott, and their families.

Voting Report

My wife was the first voter in our precinct this morning; I was number 518 this afternoon about 5:30 PM.  It was not a particularly unusual wait for a presidential election.  Of course, this is an overwhelmingly Republican county, so this does not mean much, in a state where Romney did not really need to do anything to be sure of carrying our electoral votes.

I am not very hopeful about the future of our country.  Even if Romney wins, it is going to be a squeaker, I think,  It appears that the Democrats will retain control of the Senate, and more important, control of the dinosaur media.  If Obama wins, I can write off any prospect of ever working in the private sector again, although it isn't much more hopeful if Romney wins.  It isn't just my age, and that Java, SQL, Javascript are not in demand in the Boise area, but also that our economy is going flat under this accumulated debt that realistically, no Congress can fix without losing the next election.

I would encourage anyone under 30 who has anything on the ball to consider a move to Canada or Australia -- countries that do not seem intent on self-destruction.

The only good news of the day is my wrists.  While there is some arthritis involved, it appears that much of this pain is weakness in my rotator cuff muscles.  My doctor in California gave me some exercises to do for this, which are effectively an isometric exercise that strengthens them, and in some obscure way, reduces the pain down the arms.

UPDATE: This is looking increasingly bad.  I hope young people look forward to a future with expensive but available health insurance, but no jobs.

UPDATE 2: It looks like my Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger stock will recover.  Small consolation, in a future that, if we are lucky, will end up looking like Road Warrior.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Blogging iPad

My wife was assigned an iPad for a class.she is teaching.  I am not impressed.  It is clumsy compared to anything with a keyboard.  For a phone, designed to be used one-handed, this is good, although stronger on flash than function.  It is very slow compared to even a very old laptop.

UPDATE: There is one virtue to the iPad -- I am having some wrist problems (moderate arthritis in the left wrist and mild arthritis in the right wrist), and it slows me down so much that I can probably blog from something like it without aggravating my problems.  This, by the way, is why I am blogging much less than I used to, and writing much less than I used to.  If I could afford to only work one full-time job, I would not so afraid of writing more in the evenings.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Remember That Obnoxious Campaign Ad About "Her First Time" With Obama?

Clever satire, without being crude or suggestive:

Crazy and Fearless Men

Shall Not Be Questioned points out that:
If it is rough men who stand ready to do violence on our behalf that let us sleep at night, it’s crazy and fearless men who stand by to rescue on our behalf that allow us to behave recklessly without consequence. God bless them.
Awesome video of United States Coast Guard lifesaving operations in the middle of a hurricane:

Someone Is Betting Obama Is Going to Lose...

While the rest of the stock market was up today, both Sturm Ruger and Smith & Wesson stocks prices were down steeply.  Yes, I lost some money compared to having sold last week, but if Obama actually loses, it's a small price to pay for what I expect will happen to the rest of both the market and the economy.