Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Dumb is Getting Worse

I need to see which mp3 files are VBR.  (The Jaguar cannot process VBR MP3s.)  First I tried to do a foreach loop in Windows cmd:
foreach %i in *.mp3
echo %i
MediaInfo %i } grep "Bit rate mode"
No luck.  This matches what I can find on line.  So I ran bash in cygwin:
for i in (ls *.mp3)
echo $i
MediaInfo.exe $1 |grep "Bit rate mode"
"i was unexpected at this time."  I was at least expecting the file names, from the echo command.

MediaInfo works fine, file by file or with *.mp3.  At least in CLI mode.  I could not figure out how to display the needed data in GUI mode.

Found an easier way that does not require my apparently lost scripting skill:
MediaInfo.exe *.mp3 |grep "Bit rate mode\|Complete name"
This gives file name and bit rate mode on subsequent lines.

I then used Lame to do the VBR to CBR conversion, and it produces only static.  So now I am restoring from my backup and I will just use MediaInfo to find which are VBR and do the conversion with Audacity.  Very slow but it works.

The bash script for identifying VBR files:
for file in $(ls *.mp3 */*.mp3); do count=`C:/MediaInfo.exe $file | grep "Bit rate mode" | grep "Variable" | wc -l`; if [ $count -gt 0 ]; then echo $file VBR; fi done
There is probably a more elegant solution using find, but I have other things to do.  Problem : $ls produces a series of words separated by blanks because many of the directory names have blanks.  How do I force it not to do that?  IFS=$'\n'

Oklahoma Goes Constitutional Carry

2/27/19 Tulsa World:
OKLAHOMA CITY — Individuals will be able to carry firearms in Oklahoma without a permit or training starting Nov. 1, when a bill passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt goes into effect.
The bill is the first signed by Stitt since he took office.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Amazing What Spending Vast Amounts of Money Can Do

2/16/19 Salt Lake City Tribune:
Carson City, Nev. • Nevada’s governor on Friday signed into law a bill expanding background checks to private gun sales and transfers, taking advantage of a Democrat-controlled Legislature to approve the first gun-related bill to cross his desk.

Lawmakers say the bill is a fix to a 2016 gun background check measure that was narrowly approved by voters. Former Gov. Brian Sandoval and former Attorney General Adam Laxalt, both Republicans, opposed the law and said it could not be implemented because it required the FBI to conduct the checks....

Lawmakers heard hours of public comment on the legislation earlier this week before the Senate passed the bill on a party-line vote. Among those speaking in favor of the law were survivors of the 2017 mass shooting at a Las Vegas music festival. The attack killed 58 people and left hundreds injured, becoming the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Gun reform advocates acknowledge the background check bill would not have stopped shooter Stephen Paddock from getting hold of his weapons, but instead tout the bill as an important step in preventing gun violence.
The problem is that many states have had mandatory background checks for decades with at best mixed effects on murder rates.  But feelz matter more than evidence.

I think Nevada's legislature  was basically offered enough money by Bloomberg to stop questioning what their profession was.  ("We've already determined what you are.  Now we're just haggling over the price.")

Tilting Tables

For a mill, you either need a tilting head or a tilting table to cut angles.  I have a Sherline tilting table on which I can mount either the 2" Sherline milling vise or the three jaw chuck.  Fine, but it limits me to cutting odd angles in objects less than 2" across.

To hold bigger pieces, I use a montrosity that I call Frankenvise: it is a drill press vise.  I have squared the jaws and the bed as well as the outer edges where it aligns with the mill's table.  I doubt that anything produced on it will be .001" accurate, but for what I need, it works fine and can hold 4" wide pieces.  (And it is a bit easier to clamp workpieces in than the Sherline mill vise, which has a complicated clamping scheme intended to squeeze things both in and down at the same time.)

Here's the problem.  Frankenvise is 7" by 6.25" and will not fit into the tilting table.  (How it is held on the mill table is an esthetic crime, but it works using the same T-slot clamps as the Sherline vise.)  I really need the ability to put Frankenvise at a 30 degree angle for milling 30 degree angles in big pieces of acetal.  I really neither need nor want to invest the time into making a true tilting table.  I am contemplating building a 30 degree triangle which will use the T-slot clamps to hold the triangle to the mill table, and similarly to lock Frankenvise to the triangle.  Before I do this: Are there such triangles out there already made of aluminum or acetal?  I can mill a slot along the bottom of the triangle into which the T-slot retaining clips would go to hold it to the mill table, and then drill and tap holes for locking Frankenvise to the top.

Just to clarify: if I had a big bandsaw, I could put a 6.25" thick piece of aluminum in it, and cut a 30 degree angle.  But the chop saw that I have can't open that wide, nor would it be very happy cutting a piece that thick.  (Heat build up.)  I have been contemplating building something from sheets of aluminum bolted together into a triangle.

If one of you has a big bandsaw, and access to a piece of aluminum that could produce a base 6.25" x 6.062" with a 7" long hypotenuse, it would make sense to pay you to cut this rather than building this from parts.

Professor Reynolds on Libel Laws

2/27/19 USA Today has a column by Professor Reynolds applauding Justice Thomas' questioning of the absurdly expansive reading of freedom of the press that came out of New York Times v. Sullivan (1064).  This case was a curious intersection of some minor factual errors in an NAACP attack on pro-segregation public officials, a local whites-only jury awarding a huge defamation award, and Amendment 7:
In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Once the Alabama jury had decided that the minor errors of fact were worth $500,000, this fact was effectively not up for review in any higher court.  The NAACP would have been driven into bankruptcy, largely destroying the Civil Rights Movement.  So the Court created an extension of free speech that made libel of first public officials, and then nearly all public figures, meaningless.  To win a libel suit now, a public figure has to demonstrate malice and negligence.  This explains the carelessness of much of the news media since 1964; why be careful?

When You Fake a Hate Crime, Is It a Victimless Crime?

2/25/19 Detroit News:

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Walking in Snow is Great Exercise

Especially when walking a deranged springer spaniel.  Every rodent is a form of underground candy.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Trump Forced Us to Move to Greenland!

And out the kitchen window: Franklin the Flamingo is asking why he allowed himself to be mailed here from Miami. St. Francis of Assisi is praying for spring.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Idaho Senate Joint Resolution 101

This is a proposed amendment to the state constitution.  In general, it is unoffensive.  Some people are concerned this is a Trojan Horse to create "red flag" laws without any legislative action.  That sounds a little paranoid, but the sections of concern:
(10) To reasonable protection from the accused and those acting on behalf of the accused throughout the criminal justice process.
(D) Nothing in this section is intended to, or shall be interpreted to, supersede an accused's federal constitutional rights, nor to afford a victim an independent right to be heard as a party during trial.
Note that an accused's state constitutional rights (such as Art. I, sec. 11) are not explicitly protected. I suspect this is an oversight. A person under indictment for a felony may not "ship, transport, or receive firearms or ammunition."  I suspect anyone charged with domestic violence (the driver for SJR101) is going to be subject to a restraining order, which is also a firearms disqualifier under federal law.  This does not create any new authority that a restraining order does not already provide.  I would contact your legislators and emphasize that Sec. 1(D) should be revised from "federal constitutional rights" to "constitutional rights recognized by both the U.S. and Idaho constitutions."

The letter I wrote to my representatives this morning:

Dear Rep. Gestrin:Senate Resolution 101 has one worrisome oversight: sec. D provides "Nothing in this section is intended to, or shall be interpreted to, supersede an accused's federal constitutional rights, nor to afford a victim an independent right to be heard as a party during trial."  It would be good to replace "federal constitutional rights" with "rights guaranteed by the U.S. and Idaho constitutions."  Some people have imagined ASJR101 as a way to justify additional restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms.  I think this apparent exclusion of the guarantees under Art. I, sec. 11 of the Idaho constitution as some sort of end run to impose restrictions on the rights of the accused.  I do not think this is the case, but I would sleep easier with this change.
Very Truly Yours,Clayton E. Cramer
Rep. Moon says that the sponsor will not be changed by the sponsor.  She is voting against.

You Are Familiar With "The Only Good Indian is a Dead Indian"

Sometimes you get awesome counterexamples. Sacramento daily record-union. [volume], May 20, 1882, Image 1

About to Do an Interview on WURD in Philly

Subject: Racist Roots of Gun Control

Monday, February 18, 2019

Need a Cheap Nav System? Like $10

Cleaning out the odds and ends.

Not Everyone Had a Good Mother

Including me.  But it could be worse.

Chicago, IL (1882)
6/9/1882: Baker’s wife dressed her four children “in fresh white clothes, with bright ribbons, gave them strychnine, and when they died, laid them out carefully with flowers in their hands and all surroundings made as beautiful as possible.”  Then she took it herself and waited for her husband to return home to tell him what she had done.  “See how pretty they were, with nice flowers for [angels].”  Described as “demented”: no other obvious explanation.
Category: family
Suicide: yes
Cause: mental illness
Weapon: poison[1]

[1] “AMother’s Crime,” Wheeling [W.Va.] Register, Jun. 12, 1882, 1.
There are a lot of tragedies that I find.  Many are monstrous in choice of weapons (like blowtorches).  But the ones where a mother murders her children are especially hard to read.

Yes, It's True: Some People With Concealed Carry Permits Are Not Emotionally Stable

2/17/19 WKBO:
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) -- A Tennessee man is in jail after being accused of pulling a gun on a Sam's Club customer Saturday.

According to the police report, officers were called to Sam's Club due to a person with a gun.
According to the alleged victim Terry Pierce, a man pulled a gun on him because he was wearing a Make America Great Again (MAGA) hat.
"I have as much right to wear that hat and support my country and my president as he has not to," said Pierce.
The police report confirms that the suspect, identified as James Phillips, admitted to flipping off Pierce and Pierce's wife because of their hats.
Pierce tells 13 News that he was shopping with his wife when Phillips "Pulled a .40 caliber out and stuck it in my face, backed up and said, 'It's a good day for you to die.'"
Pierce went on to tell 13 News, "I said, 'Then pull the trigger. Put the gun down and fight me or pull the trigger. Whichever one you want.' And he backed up and he said it again, he said, 'It's a good day for you to die.'"
Pierce said the Phillips then took off. That's when Pierce followed him out into the parking lot.
"I went out the front of the store to confront him again and that's when I got him in his car. He couldn't leave because his mother was still in the store. And we were having a verbal altercation outside," said Pierce.
And yes, the article reports Phillips had a concealed carry license.  I am sure past tense is the case now and after conviction he will never be allowed gun possession again.  This Trump Derangement Syndrome is a serious illness; always carry in public; even if you aren't wearing a MAGA hat.   As one commenter observed:
The MAGA hat doesn't represent hatred and racism but it sure does trigger it.

You Want a National Emergency? You Can Create One

2/14/19 The Hill:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday issued a warning to Republicans poised to support President Trump's decision to declare a national emergency at the southern border: the next Democratic president, she said, could do the same on guns. "A Democratic president can declare emergencies, as well," Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. "So the precedent that the president is setting here is something that should be met with great unease and dismay by the Republicans."
Yup.  A national emergency declaration about guns could indeed create a national emergency. She is so isolated from flyover country and much of California that she has no idea of the national emergency it would create.

Good News: Supreme Court Grants Cert

New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc., et al., Petitioners vCity of New York, New York, et al.  This is the case challenging New York City's prohibition on licensed gun owners taking their pistols to locations outside New York City. (Odd that they don't want Satan's instruments removed btheir little piece of paradise.) While a positive outcome for this insane law by itself does not do much for gun rights elsewhere, it does give the newly conservative and apparently pro-gun majority a chance to provide "guidance" (tongue lashing, I would prefer a cat of ninetails lashing) to the courts of appeal.

Your Abuse of Adjective Formation for the Day

The daily newspaper of Rugby, Tennessee?  The Rugbeian.

Making Your Ad Stand Out

12/19/1882 Rock Island Argus has an example of how to make your ad stand out:

The Funniest Downfall Parody Yet

Unless you never use the web, you are aware that there is a minor artform using segments from the movie Downfall (about Hitler's last days) with subtitles to parody current events.  The Swiss actor Bruno Ganz who played Hitler in Downfall has died, and this hilarious parody is the result.

The Easiest Replacement Ever

I think I mentioned a while back that the DVD drive on the Compaq NC6000 (visit a computer museum to see one) had failed.  I ordered a new replacement for $11 on eBay.  I spent a bit of time trying to find instructions for remove and replace. Page 5-16 of the HP service manual shows how.  Push one switch on the bottom and pull the drive out, then push the new one in.  Awesomely simple.

An Embarrassment to Adults Everywhere

2/18/19 ESPN:
BEAUMONT-SUR-OISE, France -- Master Yoda, dust off his French, he must.
It's now easier than ever in France to act out "Star Wars" fantasies, because its fencing federation has borrowed from a galaxy far, far away and officially recognized lightsaber dueling as a competitive sport, granting the iconic weapon from George Lucas' saga the same status as the foil, epee and sabre, the traditional blades used at the Olympics.
Of course, the LED-lit, rigid polycarbonate lightsaber replicas can't slice a Sith lord in half. But they look and -- with the more expensive sabers equipped with a chip in their hilt that emits a throaty electric rumble -- even sound remarkably like the silver screen blades that Yoda and other characters wield in the blockbuster movies.
Plenty realistic, at least, for duelists to work up an impressive sweat slashing, feinting and stabbing in organized three-minute bouts. The physicality of lightsaber combat is part of why the French Fencing Federation threw its support behind the sport and is now equipping fencing clubs with lightsabers and training would-be lightsaber instructors. Like virtuous Jedi knights, the French federation sees itself as combatting a dark side: the sedentary habits of 21st-century life that are sickening ever-growing numbers of adults and kids.
But hey, they can't be misused criminally (except to intimidate lunch money out of the less intelligent elementary school kids).

Sunday, February 17, 2019

3D Printed Gun in News

Good news: Prohibited person tried to buy a gun and failed; his 3D printed AR-15 receiver still came to police attention; he was convicted.

Bad news: bad PR.
After officers handcuffed McGinnis, they inspected his backpack, where they found the loaded partially 3D printed gun and a list titled “9/11/2001 list of American Terrorists.” The list included office and home addresses of federal lawmakers from both political parties.
“A subsequent forensic analysis of Mr. McGinnis’ electronic devices by U.S. Capitol Police suggests Mr. McGinnis had a strong interest in James Hodgkinson, the shooter who wounded Rep. Steve Scalise and several others at a GOP Congressional baseball practice in Virginia in June 2017,” the Justice Department said. 

Two Can Play At This Game

House Democrats are investigating Russia/Trump ties.   So, from 2/16/19 Washington Times:

The Senate Finance Committee is probing meetings reportedly held in 2015 between two of former President Barack Obama’s top economic officials and Maria Butina, a Russian national who later pleaded guilty to conspiring to covertly influence U.S. foreign policy, the panel said Friday.
Committee leadership published letters sent to the current heads of the U.S. Treasury Department and Federal Reserve raising concerns over reports that Ms. Butina, a 30-year-old gun-rights activist, met with officials from the agencies during the Obama administration.
Gun-rights activist?  I'm skeptical.

Never Enter the Laundry Room Without a Gun

2/14/19 New York Post:
Sean Ishol, of Lucerne Valley, California, was putting a load of laundry into the dryer Monday when he heard his two dogs whimpering and crouching down.
After cleaning out the lint trap and adding time to the dryer, Ishol walked over to see what was perplexing his pups. His wife, Bobbi, was on the other side of the garage — where their washer and dryer is located — also inspecting the situation.
As he bent down to get a closer look, Ishol saw a dark shadow and two light eyes peering out at him from behind the machines. Instantly, Ishol recognized it was a mountain lion and he slowly backed away, instructing his wife to do the same....
From now on, Ishol said he will be prepared — inspecting his garage and areas around his home as well as carrying a firearm when he’s out checking on his animals at night. 

When Even CNN Admits It Is Probably a Fake Hate Crime

Stick a fork in it.  2/16/19 CNN:
Chicago (CNN)Two law enforcement sources with knowledge of the investigation tell CNN that Chicago Police believe actor Jussie Smollett paid two men to orchestrate an assault on him that he reported late last month.
2/17/19 [U.K.] Daily Mail has even more details:
 Empire star Jussie Smollett has furiously denied paying two Nigerian brothers $3,500 to attack him and says he is 'angered and devastated' after investigators in Chicago claimed he orchestrated his own assault.    
Smollett’s attorneys, Todd S. Pugh and Victor P. Henderson, told Entertainment Weekly: 'As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with. 
'He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying.'
His lawyers now say that one of men was Smollett’s personal trainer for a music video.  They added: 'One of these purported suspects was Jussie’s personal trainer who he hired to ready him physically for a music video. 
'It is impossible to believe that this person could have played a role in the crime against Jussie or would falsely claim Jussie’s complicity.' ...
That narrative, however, is now under serious scrutiny by investigators, who reportedly have evidence that Smollett directed his 'attackers' to buy the rope used in the 'assault' at a local hardware store.
Documents prove two Nigerian brothers who work as extras on the highly rated Fox drama bought the rope which was found around Smollett’s neck at Crafty Beaver Hardware Store in Chicago.
The brothers made the purchase on the weekend of January 25. 
Wow!  Chicago PD is way more effective than I expected.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Another Tragedy

2/15/19 Business Insider:
At least five people are dead after a shooting at a local manufacturing facility in Aurora, Illinois.
Five police officers and multiple civilians were injured in the shooting, local news outlets and city officials said. The gunman was killed during the incident....
A woman who identified herself as [murderer]'s mother said he was fired from the company two weeks ago and was "way too stressed out," according to The Chicago Sun-Times. 
Any guesses as to why he was fired or his mental health status?  This may take a few days to come out.

2/15/19 ABC channel 7:
John Probst, a Henry Pratt employee who escaped the building, said he saw a man holding a pistol with a laser sight. He said he recognized the shooter as a coworker.
He was using a laser designator so I expect those on the "must be banned" list next.  Followed by anything that can mount a classroom laser pointer to a firearm next.  The good news from the 2/15/19 Chicago Sun-Times:
Court records show that [murderer] was convicted of stabbing a woman in Mississippi in 1994.
So he could not have lawfully bought or possessed a firearm after 1994, and Illinois has a mandatory background check to have a Firearms Owner ID card, which is mandatory for possession or transfer.

UPDATE: The good news is that he obtained a Firearms Owner ID card and purchased the handgun legally in Illinois, which has a very strict gun control law.  2/16/19 CNN:
Martin was convicted in 1995 in Mississippi of felony aggravated assault.
• In January 2014, Martin, then living in Aurora, was issued a firearm owner's identification card, or FOID card.
• On March 6, 2014, he applied to buy a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun from a gun dealer in Aurora.
• Five days later, he took possession of the gun, having passed a background check and a five-day waiting period.
• On March 16, 2014, he applied for a concealed-carry permit. During a background check process for this permit, his fingerprints flagged him for the 1995 conviction in Mississippi.• After his felony conviction was discovered, his application for the concealed-carry permit was rejected and Illinois State Police revoked his FOID card.
State police sent him a letter telling him to voluntarily relinquish the weapon to police, Ziman said.
She said she doesn't know why Martin ended up keeping the gun and whether law enforcement followed up with him.

There is no value to gun control laws if the police do not enforce them.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Exercising the Right Hand Fingers

They are no longer smaller than the fingers on the left hand.  There is still a coordination issue, but the typing is getting better.

Whenever You Break a Tap...

Immediately order a spare.  Today, I was abusing a 8-32 tap, and it broke.  I broke one a few weeks ago and never ordered a spare.  Fortunately, it was most of the way through the material when it broke, so I was able to use Vise-Grips to turn it all the way out, producing a tapped hole.

Free Video Capture Software

When you find something free that isn't crippleware (limited in some way to get you to buy the commercial version) or awash in annoying ads, it is really lovely.  My wife is applying for a teaching job, and a video is part of that application process.  I have VideoStudio 9 which captures video just fine, and my Microsoft Lifecam VX5000 comes with software for that, but I wanted something that I could use on her notebook with the built-in webcam/NSA telescreen.  NCH Software offers a free version for home non-commercial use.  The only struggle that I had was not their fault; I have so many audio input devicesd that figuring out which to use was a struggle.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Assault Weapon Self-Defense Use

Because the other side likes to claim "assault weapons" have no legitimate uses, if you need counterexamples, visit here, to see a number of examples of news coverage of self-defense with these semiauto magazine-fed rifles spawned by Satan.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Sealed Indictments

You may be aware that there an extraordinary number of "sealed indictments" in the last year or two: like >55,000What is a "sealed indictment"?
A sealed indictment is simply an indictment that is kept secret from the public. At this point, no one can disclose the existence of the indictment so no one knows who is under investigation for a crime and what offense is alleged. At some appropriate moment which prosecutors decide, the indictment is unsealed and a warrant is issued for the suspect's arrest. So, while an indictment may start out sealed, it will become unsealed before the defendant goes to trial.
 11/16/18 ABC News was hoping the large number in DC were related to Russiagate; but 70,000 nationwide?  No way.  There may be something very big in the future.  How many voter fraud activists are there?  How many human traffickers?  How many deep cover terrorists?  How many public officials harboring illegal aliens?  This could destroy the Deep State and its clients (those trafficking children for sex) in one massive week.

I Shudder to Think of the Poems They Had Received

3/27/1879 Somerset [Ohio] Press:

Suggestible Boy

Curiously enough, from 3/11/1879 Newton [Conn.] Bee:

A serial killer, who tortured children and was released!  Then started murdering children.  I shudder to think what he had experienced in his youth,

Microsoft Word 2013 Oddity

Word has the ability to draw various shapes (boxes, circles, lines) around text.  My wife made a nice little gift certificate that would not print the color shapes on the color printer.  It worked on my PC.

Under File->Options->Display->Printing Options click "Print drawings created in Word".  Problem solved.

And We Thought This Might Be A Mild Winter

Cash Discounts

We are processing the bills from Rhonda's recent surgery.  While we will get reimbursement from Christian Healthcare Ministries in about 120 days, I find myself imagining CHM's average member having to carry $5,000 or so for 120 days.  I suspect that they end up with enormous credit card balances for a few months.  St. Alphonsus's Emergency Room gave us a $1227.49 uninsured discount on a $4091.65 bill, and we paid part of the bill up front.  The anesthesiologist's bill was $2250, but paying it by Discover card just after the bill arrived, they gave us a $1350 discount.  (I suspect that is what many insurance companies pay for this service.)  Probably many uninsured either do not pay or take many months to pay in full.

The good news is that our Discover cashback bonus is substantial.  And I am so glad we paid off both car loans and the mortgage: a $2100 increase in cash flow.

Unwilling to Pay Taxes

Occasional-Cortex now admits that her overview of the New Green Deal did indeed include economic security for those "unable or unwilling to work."  I love the sound of that!  What about those "unable or unwilling to pay taxes"?  Now they say it was posted by mistake.  Now drafts often get posted by mistake but what moron (other than a Democrat) would think people "unwilling to work" deserve anything but a kick in the pants?  Does anyone other than the billionaires who fund the Democratic Party really think the lazy deserve economic security?

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Exercising my Fingers

The physical therapist noticed the right hand fingers, which do not type very well, were smaller than the left hand.  Muscle atrophy is part of the typing problem.  I am exercising those fingers.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Never Underestimate the Power of Software to Fix a Picture

When I worked on the Voyager mission at JPL in the 1970s, an acquaintance was part of the Viking imaging team.  He showed me a raw image from the lander.  It looked a marshmallow with a few smudges.  After blem removal and contrast enhancement, it looked like a Martian landscape.

The following picture was taken through my big telescope of a distant mountainside with too long of an exposure.

And after using AutoAdjust in IrfanView:

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Another Mass Murder: The Case for Match Control

2/5/19 Yahoo News:
At least 10 people died and 37 were injured in an overnight blaze at an apartment block in Paris that police are treating as possible arson....
"One person who lives in the building has been arrested. She's a 40-year-old woman who has prior psychological problems," Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz said from the scene on Tuesday where smoke could still be seen rising from the area. "She apparently had a row with neighbours which ended badly and she set fire to the building," he added.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Who Knew Bowling Could Be So Dangerous?

The Iola register., December 27, 1878, Image 1

Is It Possible to Commit Suicide With Chloroform?

Philadelphia, Penn. (1878)
06/13/1878: Mrs. Geistlach and her two children found dead from chloroform poisoning.  Because she was illiterate, her suicide note was considered a forgery.  Her husband, an out of work shoemaker, had disappeared, leading to suspicion that he was the actual killer.
Category: family
Suicide: no
Cause: unknown (perhaps poverty)
Weapon: poison (chloroform)[1]

[1] “A Shoemaker Named Geistlach,” [Winsboro, S.C.] News and Herald, Jun. 18, 1878, 1.

I can see how you could hold a chloroform-soaked cloth over a child's face long enough to kill, but over your own mouth?  Wouldn't you pass out first?

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Northam's Latest Excuse

2/2/19 Richmond Times-Dispatch gives us Gov. Notham's latest excuse:
Though he denied being in the yearbook photo, Northam admitted that he used shoe polish to darken his face for a Michael Jackson dance contest that same year in San Antonio, where he did his medical residency.
Blackface to be Michael Jackson?  Why?  When my son as a small child saw the Jackson 5, he said, "I liked him better when he was black."  I happen to think all this "gotcha" politics is really bad.  Glad to see Republicans getting as skilled at it as Democrats, however.  That may make it finally unacceptable to the Democratic mainstream media.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Someone I Met in Louisville

Nikki Goeser works for Crime Prevention Research Center, John Lott's operation.  This book  tells how Tennessee's old concealed weapon permit law, by prohibiting licensees from being armed in restaurants that sell alcohol, put her at risk from a stalker who murdered her husband.  It is of course a tragic story, but she used that experience to lobby Tennessee and some other states to fix this broken idea in their concealed carry laws.  Go ahead; buy a copy.  She is much prettier than the cover photo suggests.

I Hate Throwing Things Away, Especially if They Can Be Repaired (Including Stroke-Damaged Brains)

I have a lovely genuine leather office chair that I bought for $25 at a thrift store.  No defects in the leather, very comfortable.  Why was it in a thrift store?  A few months later as the weather warmed, the cylinder that supports it at the set height started losing altitude.  It was not often, but sufficiently frustrating that I went looking for fixes.  Many of these chairs can be repaired with a pretty simple replacement of the gas cylinder.  Not this one. 

So I hacked together a solution.  I bought a piece of aluminum tube big enough to go around the tube that attaches seat to base, cut it into two hemitubes, then aircraft clamped them together to put a support between chair and base.  It worked, but was not adjustable.  Worst of all, there was a horrible squeak when I sat down on it.  While my wife has been recovering from surgery, the squeaking became intolerable to her.

I hunted around for someone to repair it.  These guys: OFR of Boise.  I took it in Thursday afternoon, and Friday morning it was repaired for $100.  If that seems steep, take a look at the reviews of similar office chairs on Amazon that are less than $200: bonded leather that must have heard its "safe" word; mechanical failures.  A bargain.  Nice people.

These People Must Be Cursing the Day Trump Was Elected

2/1/19  CNBC:
  • Job growth in January shattered expectations, with nonfarm payrolls surging by 304,000, the Labor Department says.
  • Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had expected payrolls to rise by 170,000.
"Why couldn't I just stay dependent on others?"

Mission: Impossible

Getting your instructions by 8-track cassette.  Any of you remember these?

The Dangers of "Presentism"

I explain to my students that "presentism" projects modern values and ideas into the past, often for political purposes.  But this scandal described in the 2/2/19 Daily Mail just confuses me:
  • Democrat Governor Northam's 1984 yearbook page was revealed on Friday
  • Shows a man in blackface and another in an KKK hood amid other photos of him
  • Northam, 59, confirms that one of the men is him, but did not say which one 
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam now denies appearing in a racist photograph that he on Friday apologized for.'
The 59-year-old from Nassawadox has done a complete about face according to a fellow Virginia Democrat who spoke to the Associated Press off the record about a private conversation that had occurred.
If this had been in 1934 or 1954, or even 1964, he couldf argue that he was a victim of the times and the values in which he grew up.  But 1984?  Sorry, no pass.  Trump is accused of racism for things far less serious.  So will a Democrat be given a pass because  he supports post-birth abortion (isn't that infanticide?)

Astrophotography Takes a Lot of Patience

When you see a beautiful astrophotograph, you are often looking at enormous patience: usually more than I have.  Thursday night was awesome: clear, little turbulence, and no Moon to wash things out.
The Pleiades were my first target.  I found that only with my lowest power eyepiece (85mm, or 23.5x) could I get the entire cluster in the field of view. It was very satisfying to look at, but attempts to take a picture were a bit disappointing:
1/8 second, ISO 3200, 2000mm.

I was hoping for a wider field of view; perhaps using my smaller telescopes.  Serious astrophotography often involves rather specialized telescopes that are f/2 or so.  I tried longer exposures and discovered that while the scope was tracking, I was obviously not exactly aligned to true north:
1/6 sec., ISO 3200, 2000mm.

If you look at these images in more detail:

You can see that there are two motions, one caused by drift across the sky and the other is likely from when I pressed the shutter button.  Ordinarily I use the timed delay shutter release, but I wasn't thinking far enough ahead when I left the well-illuminated area where you can actually see the buttons.

So I moved on to M42, the Orion Nebula, which is the faint fuzzy patch in Orion's sword.  Similar problems, but at least there was some of the cloud visible:

1/5 sec., ISO 51200; 2000mm.  Next time, more effort getting aligned on north first.  I had just returned from teaching American history, and I was too tired to do this properly.  I still have some disappointment.  The rule of 600 says that I should be able to  a 3 second exposure without a clock drive, but in this case, the clock drive moving me off true north might have made it worse than none at all.  This picture of M42 I did some years ago, and it came out much better, probably because of better alignment:
21.18 sec., ISO 1600, 2000mm.  The same optics were on a conventional equatorial mount that was screaming at the unreasonable load it was carrying.

Nice Little Surprise: Dropping Insurance Premiums

I have a Medicare Advantage plan from Blue Cross, which covers the things that Medicare does not: doctor's visits, physical therapy, prescription drugs.  The cost was $74 a month.  It just dropped to $49 a month.  Why?  Probably competitive pressure.

Friday, February 1, 2019

How to Drive Away Long-Time Customers: TurboTax

I have been using TurboTax for at least 20 years, but they almost managed to drive me away today.

For many years, they charged my credit card in December and gave me a link to download the software in January (sometimes February, if the tax gremlins of Congress had been especially creative).  This year, no charge, no notification.  Perhaps having to change my Discover card number played a part, in which case they should have emailed me for a new credit card number.

I went to their website where they told me to start for free by uploading a PDF of last year's tax return.  Now, because this PDF was produced with their program, this should be simple. They did not recognize it.

So I called their customer service phone number, where after several "Your time is very important to us--please wait" messages it said "Good-bye" and hung up.  And when I called again, same action.  When I went through "How can we help?" page, I was finally able to pay for and start my download.

I fear that the proliferation of free tax filing services online and the millennial tendency towards dot.communism (everything on the Internet should be free, or at least paid for by someone else) has resulted in a really crappy change in how they present themselves, focusing on for free as a lure.