Sunday, June 30, 2013

Mounting a Smaller Telescope on the CI-700 Mount

I gave up on building a telescope around that 17.5" mirror would work acceptably on the CI-700 mount -- it just wasn't feasible.  I looked into building a Dobsonian mount telescope, but found that I could have a professional do it for not too outrageous a price.  As a result, the mirror is at Swayze Optical for testing and, depending on what they find is the quality of the mirror, a refigure of it.

In the meantime, I decided to put the 8" f/7 reflector that I have on the CI-700 mount.  It weighs about 25 pounds, and wow!  Big Bertha was as much overweight for that mount as the 8" reflector is underweight.  A mount that is more capable than required for a telescope is really, really pleasant to use.

This 8" reflector started out as a project of my father and me when I was in junior high.  I have since replaced the tube and a few of the parts, and it really is optically quite respectable.  Mounted on the CI-700 mount it works beautifully!  Smooth, stable, no vibration (except the wind really gets going).

Last night, I tried the digital setting circles with it.  Now, I don't think that I was exactly aligned on Polaris, but it did a pretty credible job.  I set the digital setting circles using Vega and Arcturus -- only two stars, when the more you use, the better it gets.  Then I asked it to find the Hercules globular cluster, M13 -- and at 56x, it was on the edge of the field.  That's certainly good enough.  I asked it to find M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy, however, and the results were not so wonderful.  I may have to re-read the instructions on this.

Friday, June 28, 2013

More Of That Smart Diplomacy That Was Going To Distinguish Obama From Bush

You have probably seen the coverage showing that the Obama Administration is already training the rebels in Syria.  (This may have been part of why the Benghazi disaster was hushed up and blamed on the world's least competent filmmaker.)  I have blogged in the past about the cannibalism by some of the Syrian rebels, eating their enemies, which some Muslims defend as being justified by the Koran.  This June 27, 2013 Washington Times news story is a reminder that we are almost certainly backing some pretty monstrous people -- and where there is really no vital American interest:
A priest and another Christian were beheaded before a cheering crowd by Syrian insurgents who say they aided and abetted the enemy, President Bashar Assad’s military, foreign media reported.
An undated video that made the Internet rounds on Wednesday showed two unnamed men with tied hands surrounded by a cheering crowd of dozens, just moments before their heads were cut off with a small knife, Syria Report said. The attackers in the video then lifted the head for show, and placed it back on the body. The incident took place in the countryside of Idlib, the media report said.
Unlike traditional European beheading with an axe or a sword, which was a fast and relatively humane form of execution, the practice of al-Qaeda is to use a fairly small knife -- a very slow and torturous way to kill someone.  I wish that I had some confidence that we were only backing forces that share Western values -- but I am not sure that those really exist in Syria.

The Victory of Emotion Over History

The June 27, 2013 Minneapolis Star-Tribune carried this AP news story about President Obama's visit to Goree in Senegal -- one of those places that everyone visits because it is such a powerful symbol of the horrors of the Atlantic slave trade -- but appears to be something of a fraud:
The problem though is that historians say the door faced the ocean so that the inhabitants of the house could chuck their garbage into the water, the preferred means of waste disposal in preindustrial Senegal. No slaves ever boarded a ship through it, they say, because no vessel could have sailed through the rocky shoal that surrounds that edge of the island.
And while the house may have housed slaves, they were likely those belonging to the family who lived there, rather than slaves intended for the trans-Atlantic passage, according to numerous publications as well as three historians of the slave trade interviewed by The Associated Press.
Even though historians have debunked the memorial, calling it a local invention, and despite reams of scholarly articles, treatises and books discussing its dubious historical role, the pink building has become the de facto emblem of slavery. It's the place where world leaders go to acknowledge this dark chapter and in addition to Obama, the museum has hosted former Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush and Pope John Paul II. Its guestbook is bursting with the emotional messages from African-Americans who made their own pilgrimage here in an effort to make peace with their ancestors' roots.
This has been a subject of discussion the History of Slavery list that I am a member of for a long time.  Even Senegalese historians have pointed out the fraud involved with the House of Slaves, although making themselves unpopular in the process, because this is an important tourist attraction.

There might be a good case for a memorial to the Atlantic slave trade (along with one to the even larger Arab slave trade, or the Europeans enslaved by Arabs -- fat chance of those happening), but the House of Slaves purports to be something that it is not.

What Happens When You Write Too Complex of a Law

It appears that the immigration bill that passed the Senate, like Obamacare, was too complex for the Senate to fully understand.  Multiple news organizations, not all on the right, have pointed out that because the "registered provisional immigrants" (today's illegal aliens) are not eligible for Obamacare, it creates a really perverse incentive.  As John B. Judis at New Republic points out:
It creates an incentive for employers to hire the new immigrants over citizens or green-card holders and to provide neither with health insurance. Under the Affordable Care Act, employers with fewer than 50 workers do not have to buy health insurance for their employees, but businesses with 50 or more workers—which employ about three-quarters of American workers—either have to provide insurance or pay a fine for those workers who buy insurance through the exchanges the act creates. The fine is ordinarily $2,000 but can run as high as $3,000.
Businesses with 50 or more employees that choose to pay a fine rather than provide insurance will not have to pay fines for the RPIs or blue-card holders because they are not eligible for the exchanges. So employers will be able to save from $2,000 to $3,000 a year by hiring a new immigrant over an American citizen. For salaries that hover between $15,000 and $25,000, as they do in many immigrant-heavy industries, that’s no small savings. Even an advocate for low-income immigrants sees the language as a potential problem: “We don’t want them to hire immigrants over citizens because of that loophole,” says Sonal Ambegaokar, who analyzes health policy for the National Immigration Law Center. “We want a level playing field.”
I really think this is just incompetence, not an intentional effort by the Democrats to make sure that today's illegal aliens get jobs so that people who obey laws don't.  But then again, I don't think the Democrats are all that smart.

How Often Do People Starve To Death in American Hospitals?

This report from the March 3, 2013 Daily Mail is so shocking that I can't quite believe it:
As many as 1,165 people starved to death in NHS hospitals over the past four years fuelling claims nurses are too busy to feed their patients. 
The Department of Health branded the figures 'unacceptable' and said the number of unannounced inspections by the care watchdog will increase.
According to figures released by the Office for National Statistics following a Freedom of Information request, for every patient who dies from malnutrition, four more have dehydration mentioned on their death certificate.
Critics say nurses are too busy to feed patients and often food and drink are placed out of reach of vulnerable people.
In 2011, 43 patients starved to death and 291 died in a state of severe malnutrition, while the number of patients discharged from hospital suffering from malnutrition doubled to 5,558.

Read more: Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook
Remember when liberals used to rave about how the U.S. needed something like the National Health Service?

Witness Testimony In Zimmerman Trial

This should be the nail in the prosecution's case, because it conforms to Zimmerman's claims about the circumstances under which he shot Trayvon Martin, and Zimmerman's injuries.  From the June 28, 2013 Miami Herald:
State prosecutors Friday resumed their case in the second-degree murder trial of George Zimmerman, calling another key witness: John Good, a Sanford resident who said he saw a “tussle” between Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin outside his home.
Although he testified he was not certain of their positioning, Good described seeing someone in light or red-colored clothing being straddled on the ground by someone in dark clothing. Evidence shows Zimmerman was wearing a red jacket while Trayvon, from Miami Gardens, was in a charcoal-colored hoodie when the shooting occurred on Feb. 26, 2012.
Good also said under direct examination by state prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda that he believed he heard the person on the bottom ask for help as the person on top made downward arm motions. Good said the straddle-punching was similar to mixed-martial arts fights he'd seen on television. Good said he then called police. The 911 recording was played in court Friday. Trayvon's parents remained in the courtroom as the tape was played.

Read more here:
What I don't understand is why the prosecution called John Good as a witness.  Good's testimony doesn't help the prosecution at all.  It helps the defense.

The June 28, 2013 Fox News coverage of Good's testimony is even more destructive to the prosecution's case:
Under questioning by Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda, Good said one of the combatants was straddling a man lying face up on the pavement, and throwing punches. The testimony appeared to corroborate Zimmerman's claims that he shot the 17-year-old African-American with a legally registered gun in self defense, as he was being pummeled.
"I could tell that the person on the bottom had a lighter skin color," testified Good, who also said the person on the bottom appeared to be wearing "white or red," while the one on top wore dark clothing. Zimmerman identified that day as Hispanic and was wearing a red jacket. That also would corroborate Zimmerman's claims he was on the losing end of a violent confrontation when he fired the fatal shot.
But Good said he did not see the person on top slam the other one's head into the pavement. Zimmerman had wounds to his scalp following the confrontation. 

Read more:
I know that for a lot of people, Zimmerman's following of Martin puts him in the wrong -- but even if Martin was upset about being followed, and things became verbally confrontational -- even physically confrontational -- once you have someone down on the ground and you are punching them -- it is abundantly clear that Zimmerman had no choice but to use deadly force.

ABC News, however, is saying exactly the opposite is what took place.

UPDATE: I guess ABC News is watching some other trial involving a guy named George Zimmerman in Florida.  June 28, 2013 CBS News seems to be watching the same testimony as the Miami Herald and Fox News:
CBS) A former neighbor of George Zimmerman testified he saw two men in a "tussle" outside his home the night of Feb. 26, 2012, and said he now believes the person on top in the altercation - which would moments later turn fatal - was Trayvon Martin.
In key testimony, he also said he believes George Zimmerman was the person yelling for help.

Interesting Quote From Theodore Roosevelt

More than occasionally, quotes appear in email that are pro-gun, but false.  As I observed a couple of years ago:
“The problem with Internet quotations is that many are not genuine.”  -- Abraham Lincoln
When this quote from Theodore Roosevelt showed up in my email, I was immediately suspicious:
A vote is like a rifle; it's usefulness depends on the character of the user.
But sure enough, it is in Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography (New York: Charles Scribner & Sons, 1922):
Suffrage for women should be looked on from this standpoint. Personally I feel that it is exactly as much a''right'' of women as of men to vote. But the important point with both men and women is to treat the exercise of the suffrage as a duty, which, in the long run, must be well performed to be of the slightest value. I always favored woman's suffrage, but only tepidly, until my association with women like Jane Addams and Frances Kellor, who desired it as one means of enabling them to render better and more efficient service, changed me into a zealous instead of a lukewarm adherent of the cause — in spite of the fact that a few of the best women of the same type, women like Mary Antin, did not favor the movement. A vote is like a rifle: its usefulness depends upon the character of the user. The mere possession of the vote will no more benefit men and women not sufficiently developed to use it than the possession of rifles will turn untrained Egyptian fellaheen into soldiers. This is as true of woman as of man — and no more true. Universal suffrage in Hayti has not made the Haytians able to govern themselves in any true sense; and woman suffrage in Utah in no shape or way affected the problem of polygamy. I believe in suffrage for women in America, because I think they are fit for it. I believe for women, as for men, more in the duty of fitting one's self to do well and wisely with the ballot than in the naked right to cast the ballot.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Good News: The Flat Earth Society Agrees With Obama About Global Warming

A few days ago, Obama insulted those who are skeptical of the Anthropogenic Global Warming claims by comparing them to the Flat Earth Society.  But this article from the June 25, 2013 Salon interviews the Flat Earth Society's president concerning AGW -- and he agrees with Obama!
As it turns out, there is a real Flat Earth Society and its president thinks that anthropogenic climate change is real. In an email to Salon, president Daniel Shenton said that while he “can’t speak for the Society as a whole regarding climate change,” he personally thinks the evidence suggests fossil fuel usage is contributing to global warming.
“I accept that climate change is a process which has been ongoing since beginning of detectable history, but there seems to be a definite correlation between the recent increase in world-wide temperatures and man’s entry into the industrial age,” he said. “If it’s a coincidence, it’s quite a remarkable one. We may have experienced a temperature increase even without our use of fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution, but I doubt it would be as dramatic as what we’re seeing now.”
Of course, Salon has a very progressive readership, so one of the comments:
That was a remarkably civilized  comment by Daniel Shenton. I'm tempted to join the FES to reward their politeness and, lets face it, their spokesman's views are more scientific and rational on this point than the Republicans and their wealthy backers. A pleasant exchange. 

Not Sure Which Is Scarier...

Which is scarier?

The prosecution's star witness in the trial of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin is 19, still in high school, and admits that the letter she wrote to Trayvon's mother...she didn't actually write it.  She can't even read it, because it's in cursive.

Or is it this: I just received a sample kit in which I am to collect my urine for 24 hours.  The test is to determine whether I am likely to develop kidney stones again, or if this was a one-time event.  While reading the instructions, it tells you how to collect the samples for 24 hours.  It tells you not to remove the sponge from the collection container.  What is scary is that it tells you to put the container in the refrigerator in between filling it... and "don't drink it."

There are enough people out there who need to be told not to drink their own urine that you would bother to put this in the directions?  And who, presumably, know how to read, so that they can understand the direction not to drink their own urine?

Perhaps it is time to consider moving to a country with a future.  I am beginning to feel like I am living in the prequel to Idiocracy.

UPDATE: For those who are wondering: this isn't a warning on the collection bottle.  It is on the printed instructions.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Florida HB-1355

Shall Not Be Questioned is blogging about HB-1355, a bill sitting on Florida Governor Scott's desk at the moment concerning firearms disability and mental illness.  I have not given an extended explanation of my support for the bill, partly because PJMedia will be publishing something by me shortly about it, and I have written a much more extensive article for Shotgun News on the subject.  Shortest version: won't do enormous good (but perhaps some); some potential for misuse (although not much, because of how carefully it is worded); not an adequate substitute for solving the mental health problem.

"Take Him To Detroit!"

You may remember an early movie by the creators of Airplane! titled Kentucky Fried Movie.  Yes, crude in places, but with a marvelously funny parody of martial arts movies called A Fistful of Yen that worked so well that I have seen it show as its short subject.  There's a great threat by the evil warlord to get the brave CIA agent quaking in his boots, read to talk: "Take him to Detroit!"  The Shekel keeps us up to date on what is probably America's second most corrupt and incompetent city government:
Detroit City Clowncil Starting To Abandon A Sinking Ship
Like rats abandoning a sinking ship, Detroit's City Council members are rapidly heading for the exit as the city flounders in default and decay.
First, Kwame Kenyatta resigned, and good riddance.
Next, the President of the City Council Chgarles Pugh under very strange circumstances. just took a 4 week medical leave of absence with pay after - something not provided for in the City's charter, and for which he's being told by the EFM Orr to either show up and do his job or resign.

Healthier and Gluten-Free Chicken Curry

See the recipe here.

If You Refused To Vote For McCain or Romney Because They Weren't Conservative Enough...

Then today's decisions requiring the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages and overturning the voters of California concerning "one man, one woman" are consequences.  Neither McCain nor Romney was all that conservative, but do you think all of their appointees to the Supreme Court would have voted the same way as Obama's appointees on these questions?

I am really hard pressed to see how the same logic used with DOMA doesn't apply to polygamous or incestuous marriages.  All we need is for one state to recognize either, and the federal government will be obligated to provide benefits.  I could see Michigan recognizing polygamous marriages in the next twenty years, or perhaps Massachusetts, as a way of showing how open-minded and non-traditional they are.

UPDATE: Library of Law & Liberty points to Justice Scalia's powerful dissent quoted at The American Conservative:
The penultimate sentence of the majority’s opinion is a naked declaration that “[t]his opinion and its holding are confined” to those couples “joined in same-sex marriages made lawful by the State.” Ante, at 26, 25. I have heard such “bald, unreasoned disclaimer[s]” before. Lawrence, 539 U. S., at 604. When the Court declared a constitutional right to homosexual sodomy, we were assured that the case had nothing, nothing at all to do with “whether the government must give formal recognition to any relationship that homosexual persons seek to enter.” Id., at 578. Now we are told that DOMA is invalid because it “demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects,” ante, at 23—with an accompanying citation of Lawrence. It takes real cheek for today’s majority to assure us, as it is going out the door, that a constitutional requirement to give formal recognition to same-sex marriage is not at issue here—when what has preceded that assurance is a lecture on how superior the majority’s moral judgment in favor of same-sex marriage is to the Congress’s hateful moral judgment against it. I promise you this: The only thing that will “confine” the Court’s holding is its sense of what it can get away with.
UPDATE 2: A comment on this post is important enough to escalate.  Rich Rostrom explains why Scalia joined the majority in deciding that California Prop. 8 parties lacked standing:
The basis of the Prop 8 decision is simple.

Scalia and Roberts guessed (or knew) that in a ruling on the merits, Kennedy and the liberal bloc would invent a Constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

To avoid this immediate calamity, they produced a ruling on standing which satisfied Kagan, Breyer, and Ginsberg. It voids Walker's ruling against Prop 8, but allows the District Court to strike it down for want of defensee. However, it leaves open the possibility of defense by someone with a different claim to standing.

It screws Californians and residents of any other state with the initiative, but that’s long term damage.

After seeing Kennedy’s opinion on DOMA, this was probably the best possible outcome. Someone at Volokh wrote that it was hard to understand Kennedy’s reasoning. It’s actually simple. “Gay is OK! Anyone or anything that is not Pro-Gay! is Bad. And the Constitution prohibits anything the Right People (like me) think is Bad.”

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Smith & Wesson Is Trying To Buy Back Shares

At $10 per share.  That's a nice profit (I bought my shares last year below $8), and it doesn't pay a dividend.  I am tempted to accept the tender offer.  Any thoughts?

Voting Rights Act (1965) sec. 4 Overturned

I confess that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is not at the top of my list of violations of the principal of federalism.  The problems that it sought to correct were real, they were horrifying, and they were a reminder that sometimes, in the fight between local government and national government, the national government is sometimes better.  But I have long felt uncomfortable with the manner in which the Voting Rights Act treated some states and counties as "special."  This has long seemed like a violation of equal protection, because VRA did not say, "States and counties that violate equal protection of the law will be subject to Department of Justice review of election procedures" but had a specific list, based on the situation in 1965.

As the Supreme Court's decision today in Shelby County v. Holder (2013) points out:
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 employed extraordinary measures to address an extraordinary problem. Section 5 of the Act required States to obtain federal permission before enacting any law related to voting—a drastic departure from basic principles of federalism. And §4 of the Act applied that requirement only to some States—an equally dramatic departure from the principle that all States enjoy equal sovereignty. This was strong medicine, but Congress determined it was needed to address entrenched racial discrimination in voting, “an insidious and pervasive evil which had been perpetuated in certain parts of our country through unremitting and ingenious defiance of the Constitution.” South Carolina v. Katzenbach, 383 U. S. 301, 309 (1966). As we explained in upholding the law, “exceptional conditions can justify legislative measures not otherwise appropriate.” Id., at 334. Reflecting the unprecedented nature of these measures, they were scheduled to expire after five years. See Voting Rights Act of 1965, §4(a), 79 Stat. 438. 
It is no longer 1965.  Is there still racism in our society?  Sure.  But I don't find it plausible that the situation is even roughly similar today.  Blacks vote throughout the United States, and there are black elected officials at all levels of government, right up to the Oval Office.  There might well be state and local governments that require national oversight, but is it likely that the list is the same today as it was in 1965?  If there is a case for section 4 today, it isn't the same offending governments that it was in 1965, and Congress should either come up with an objective set of criteria for determining this, or admit that the preclearance requirement no longer makes sense.

And yes, the parallel to affirmative action in employment and college admissions is obvious.  It isn't 1965 anymore.

UPDATE: The Shekel has a discussion of local governments in Michigan that are subject to the preclearance requirements:
For those of us who didn't realize that Michigan was affected by the Voting Rights Act, and was under the misconception that the VRA applied to the south and not this most northern of northern states, think again.
Interestingly, both Buena Vista Township and Clyde Township were under VRA supervision but ironically, no one at the Department of Justice overseeing the enforcement of the VRA can explain nor remember why they were included under the VRA preclearance requirements in the first place... 
Until Tuesday, the small charter township [Buena Vista Township] in Saginaw County was one of just two Michigan jurisdictions included in the list of states and counties across the U.S. that were required to get federal approval for any kind of change in election procedures or practices under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, an attempt to remove poll tests or other obstacles to minorities reaching the ballot booth....

Yes, These Categories Do Overlap

One of the recurring statements of faith in the mainstream media is that child sexual abusers are never or almost never homosexuals.  If they are, they are almost always deeply closeted, trying very hard to pretend to be straight.  But this is simply not true.  I have found quite a number of examples over the years of very loud and proud homosexuals who were also child molesters.  Here's yet another, a USC professor who was recently arrested by Mexican police and deported to the U.S. after making the FBI's Top Ten list on allegations of sexual abuse of children and making child pornography.  From the June 20, 2013 New York Post:
A federal indictment accused him of traveling to the Philippines in January 2011 to engage in sex acts with two 14-year-old boys he met online in 2010. A federal arrest warrant was issued for the former Palm Springs, Calif., resident in April.
Authorities say he produced sexually explicit photos of one of the boys, which he brought back to Los Angeles County.
FBI agents are also investigating how he had access to money while in Mexico and whether he was being helped, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.
The investigation started in 2011 after a student at USC notified authorities that Williams may have targeted young boys for sex. Soon the FBI was involved and learned that Williams was returning from a two-week trip to the Philippines; a search warrant was obtained.
Williams was questioned at the airport and two computers and a camera were confiscated by authorities who later allegedly found child pornography and evidence he was engaged in sex acts with young boys, said LAPD Assistant Chief Michel Moore.
Williams is described in the article as someone who "taught history, anthropology and gender studies" at USC.  His publication history is extensive, and leaves no question about his public identification:
"Being Gay and Doing Fieldwork" in Out in the Field: Reflections of Lesbian and Gay Anthropologists (1996)
"Being gay and doing research on homosexuality in non‐western cultures" in Journal of Sex Research (1993)
"Two-spirit persons: Gender nonconformity among Native American and Native Hawaiian youths" in The Lives of Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals: Children to Adults (1996)
Ah, perhaps he was just doing "field work" with those 14 year old Filipino boys.

Most homosexuals are not child molesters, but the continuing pretense that homosexual child molesters do not exist, or are incredibly rare, or are always closeted, is false.

UPDATE: Even the gay community has some things to say about this guy:
Full disclosure: I knew Walter Williams when he got USC to accept ONE Gay & Lesbian Archives in the mid-1990s. He seemed creepy and an egotistical bore, but I had no idea he might have exploited children, as the indictment alleges. I did know that Mattachine Society founder Harry Hay—who was my neighbor and friend—hated Walter with a passion. Harry told me that Walters’ most famous book, The Sprit and the Flesh: Sexual Diversity in American Indian Culture, was full of lies and that the Native Americans Walters claimed to have lived with and studied also hated him and at one point ran him off their territory (a point later brought up by an independent source). When I asked Walter about this, he dismissed everything Harry had to say as the mutterings of an old, embittered man who was losing his faculties. After all, Walter implied, "Who are you going to believe? An old codger whose day was long gone, or him, a Ph.d who was a tenured professor at USC?" For every question I had, Walter had an explanation that made sense, and he seemed to be getting USC on-board to preserve LGBT history.
What I did not know about until today was that Walter was rumored to have slept with the young androgynous Native American men who were his sources for The Spirit and The Flesh, according to one very knowledgeable source who said Walter left a string of broken hearts as he moved on from one group to another. There was a lot of “buzz” among gay and lesbian anthropologists that what Walter had done and the way he collected information was “unethical” and he might have even “crossed a line,” the source said. But no one ever really wrote about it or challenged him because he had a way of ruining reputations and winning arguments.
How did I miss this?
LIVE FULLY:PERSONAL ESSAYS ON HOW TO MAXIMIZE YOUR LIFEbyWALTER L. WILLIAMS, Ph.D.Professor of Anthropology, History, and Gender StudiesUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos Angeles CA 90089-4352
 I am almost afraid to look at the first essay -- does it involve airline tickets to desperately poor countries?

Monday Automobiles and Friday Operations

Many people are aware that cars built on Mondays are supposed to have more defects than cars built on the other days of the week; apparently, this is (at least once upon a time was) because severely hungover auto workers would either do a bad job, or call in sick, causing reassignment of people on the assembly line to tasks other than their normal ones.  I don't know if this is still true or not, but Theodore Dalrymple at PJMedia describes a recent British Medical Journal study of 30 day death rates after surgical procedures -- and discovered that Friday operations had a 44% higher death rate than Monday operations -- and the death rate variation was consistent: Tuesday was worse than Monday, Wednesday worse than Tuesday.

It makes you wonder: are surgical teams more likely to make mistakes the later in the week it is?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Heart Murmur

My G.P. shares the concern of the E/R doctor and the anethesiologist.  My mitral valve is making a weird squeaking noise that he has not heard from my heart before, and he does not know what it means, so he is sending me to a cardiologist.

I have had really pretty good health for many, many years... it is beginning to feel like everything is going downhill.  I have long had a desire to retire, so that I can do things that really matter in the area of public policy, but the collapse of interest rates and fall in the stock market starting in 2008 have delayed this, and delayed this, and delayed this.  There are times that I suspect that as soon as I reach the point where I can do stuff that really matters on a full-time basis, I'll die.

UPDATE: Interesting article from New England Journal of Medicine (1951) about the squeak.  It sounds like it is a sign of a significant but slowly advancing problem.  This article at WebMD indicates that mitral valve prolapse (different from the stenosis mentioned in that ancient NEJM article) is apparently not a terribly serious problem, and lists a number of symptoms of "mitral value prolapse syndrome," some of which I have (shortness of breath, tingling in extremities, in my case in my hands, although I thought that was tendonitits).  Most significantly, it mentions that it runs in families, and my daughter also has a heart murmur.

Kidney Stone Article at PJMedia

"How To Avoid Very Painful Kidney Stones"

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Calling It Quits On The Telescope Rebuild

I was hoping to report victory on the telescope rebuild, but I'm just surrendering.

I cut 51 inches out of the middle of the tube:

And yes, it took 19 pounds of it.

But the cutting process wasn't pretty, and neither were the results:

Worst of all, when I was done I had the same problem with the lower cage that I had with the aluminum one -- too flexible.  I am beginning to think that this is a variant of the 50 pound bike theorem.  In case you aren't familiar with it, it was first explained by a friend (okay, a gal that I was convinced that I was madly infatuated with in 12th grade, before she went to MIT), based on the problems of bicycle retention in the Boston area:

1. A 20 pound bicycle is so valuable that it requires a 30 pound lock and chain to keep it from being stolen.

2. A 30 pound bicycle is in less demand, so it only requires a 20 pound lock and chain.

3. A 40 pound bicycle is barely worth anything, so a 10 pound lock and chain are sufficient.

4. A 50 pound bicycle doesn't require a lock and chain.  Who would steal it?

This reflects bicycle and lock technology of the 1970s; today the situation is probably somewhat different.  But I think the problem here is similar:

1. A big Newtonian reflector will either be heavy and stiff or light and floppy.

2. You can have a big reflector, but you either need a $6000 mount, or it is so hard to keep in collimation that it doesn't matter what mount you put on it.

Perhaps I should just make a Dobsonian mount, and give up on using this astrophotography.  Or perhaps I will just sell the parts to someone who has more energy to devote to building a Dobsonian.

UPDATE: CloudyNights has the ad here.

"Gun Control Is Not The Answer To Mass Shootings"

The title of an article in the June 22, 2013 U.K. Guardian:
Only a small fraction of mentally ill people ever become violent, and then, usually, when they fail to get treatment. Individuals with a severe mental illness should not be allowed to purchase guns or have access to them. Combine guns and untreated mental illness: you have a tragedy waiting to happen.

The tragic mass shootings in Newtown, Aurora, Tucson and Virginia Tech reportedly all involved untreated mental illness. After each such tragedy, I hear people say, "Those parents knew their sons were ill; why didn't they do something to prevent that tragedy?" Once your child turns 18, he or she has a civil right to refuse treatment and remain mentally ill until or unless she or he becomes suicidal or homicidal, as determined by judges at commitment hearings. State laws vary, but all states set strict controls regarding involuntary hospitalization and forced treatment, limiting it to circumstances when a person is an imminent danger to self or others, or likely to become so.

These laws give adults with mental illness the right to decide when, where, how and even if they will receive treatment. Yet, some serious mental illnesses make it difficult for those affected to assess their own need for treatment. When patient rights exceed necessary protections, individuals with severe mental illness can die. And many do. And sometimes, they harm others along the way.
The article is by a woman whose son committed suicide after a long and tragic history.  Worth reading in full.  The comments, of course, are full of "gun control is the answer" nonsense, because the Guardian is a British newspaper, and many Britons have been told this so long that is like the advertising line in Idiocracy: "Brawndo: It's what plants crave."  They have been told it so long that they are generally unable to consider any other explanation.

The fact that the Guardian, a Labour Party newspaper, is prepared to publish such an un-PC article is one of the reasons that I read and respect it, in spite of its leftist orientation. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Weird Grinding Noises From My Seagate Disk Drive

I bought one of these Seagate Momentus XT 500 GB hybrid drives last November, because I needed more disk space.  It has worked very well.  But I have been getting a weird noise that isn't quite the grinding noise of metal on metal, but it is continuous for several days.  The Seagate SeaTools for Windows diagnostic program says that the drive is working just perfectly -- but I find myself wondering if there is some virus working the drive.  Even with all programs closed, it does this.

I turned off automatic indexing.  No change.  I did a defragment.  No change.  I heard this behavior one before, and it was indeed a virus, probably trying to turn my computer into an international porn distribution network or something equally dangerous.  But AVG 2013 finds no virus.  SpyBot S&D finds nothing.  MalwareBytes finds nothing.  Any suggestions what to try next?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Florida's Mental Health & Guns Bill

My first reaction was negative, but reading the text of it, I see why NRA is backing it.  It is narrowly written, but has the potential to disarm some severely mentally ill persons who are hard to commit right now, but pretty obviously are a danger to self or others.  It is no substitute for correcting the mistake of deinstitutionalization, but it isn't a serious problem, and might occasionally do some good.

McCabe Cyclomatic Code Complexity Measure

I recently installed the Metrics plugin in MyEclipse at work.  It provides a great big stack of code complexity statistics -- of which the most easy to understand for non-computer geeks is the McCabe Cyclomatic Code Complexity metric.  This is effectively a measure of how many different paths there are through a particular piece of code. 

Imagine if you lived in a big city, and had to find your way to another spot in the same city.  Every place where you could make a decision of where to turn or go ahead represents complexity, in the same way that the decision points in a programming language represent complexity.  Pretty obviously, the more decision points there are, the more opportunities there are to make mistakes.  A cyclomatic code complexity greater than ten is supposed to be a sign that you need to refactor the code.  So what happens when you see lots of code with complexity measures above 30?  Oh dear.

And when I actually look at some of the functions with high code complexity measures, what do I find?  The equivalent of dropping a mouse at Santa Monica Blvd. and Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica, and telling it to find its way to Boyle Heights in East Los Angeles.

There is a lifetime (perhaps several lifetimes) of work to clean up this pile.

If Only All Progressives Were This Stupid...

June 18, 2013 Fox News reports on a professor at a Tennessee community college:
A Tennessee community college professor ordered her students to wear ribbons supporting gay rights and said those who believed in the traditional definition of marriage are just “uneducated bigots” who “attack homosexuals with hate,” according to a legal firm representing several of the students in the class....

A Columbia State spokesperson released a statement to Fox News acknowledging they are aware of the allegations.

“When the allegations were brought to the attention of college officials, Columbia State Community College began an investigation, which is currently ongoing and congruent with Board policy and applicable laws,” the statement read....
According to her faculty page, Brunton is a member of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Educators Network and lists diversity issues among her professional interests.
 It is, unfortunately, what I have come to expect from some academics who do not understand that class is not a substitute for therapy to deal with their own insecurities and emotional defects.  Let me emphasize some academics, because most professors who I have had as instructors or peers have demonstrated that they know what their function is: to educate, not propagandize.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

When Did These Quick Release Push Button Pins Get So Expensive?

For a number of years, ScopeRoller has sold a product that we call the Quick Release Toesaver; it replaces a stop that goes on the end of the declination axis for German-style equatorial mounts.  The advantage that our product provides is that it is very quick to remove and reinstall when taking the counterweights off the declination axis.  Here is what the version for the Losmandy GM8 mount looks like, installed:

(Corvette not included.)

Anyway, you will notice that it uses a push button quick release ball lock pin.  You have to press the button to pull the pin out -- and the force required to remove that pin otherwise is absurd -- like 8200 pounds.  It is not going to happen by accident.

These pins are patented, and they aren't cheap.  The last time I bought some was at least four years ago, and even in quantity, they cost almost $9 each.  I just shipped the last in stock Quick Release Toesaver today, and I found myself looking to buy more of the pins.  Zounds, have they become expensive!  Like $28 each!  To make a profit would drive the cost up to a level that there would be few sales.  I am thinking of switching to the much less expensive faspins, which look like this:

This would be substantially cheaper, and I could even perhaps knock down the product price a little bit.  I suspect that for the vast majority of customers, this would work well enough.  I suppose that I will have to get a couple of these locally to experiment with, and then make a decision.

Good News

The good news is that the contrast medium CT scan results came back and there is nothing to worry about.  What appeared on a standard CT scan as a "mass" is actually just a misshapen left kidney, which could be congenital, or the result of injury or infection long ago.  The CT scan also showed the right kidney; you can see a couple of tiny fragments left from Dr. Spencer playing Space Invaders in there with the laser.  These should pass over the next several months, but there will be a second X-ray in September to be sure.

I was in a lot of pain today, which Dr. Spencer indicated was to be expected, considering how recently I had this surgery done, and I should expect to be in pain for another week.  Beyond that, it's time for more examination. 

In addition, there is a test that allows them to determine whether this is a one-time thing caused by the heat, or whether I am unusual risk of future kidney stones.  The test involves taking all my urine for 24 hours and testing it.  If I am at unusual risk, there is a medication that lowers the risk of subsequent stones.  (And trust me, you don't want to be at any increased risk of having a kidney stone happen again.)

My daughter discovered that there is a connection between kidney and inner ear formation as a result of her work for Child Protective Services.  It turns out that both are formed at about the 16th week of pregnancy.  When I was growing up, it was obvious that I had some balance and coordination problems, and my parents always assumed that it was the very high fever that I had as a child that caused fever ridges in my permanent teeth.  I am beginning to wonder if something did not go right when my mother was 16 weeks pregnant with me.

Governments Cutting Back Hours Because of Obamacare

June 19, 2013 Investors Business Daily has a report on how not just businesses, but many local governments, are beginning to cut hours for workers to avoid having to provide health insurance:
Phillipsburg, Kan.: "School administrators here say they are alarmed and confounded by the looming new costs they face with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act," according to the Kaiser Health Institute News Service. Chris Hipp, director of a Kansas special education cooperative, warned that ObamaCare's costs "could put us all out of business or change significantly how we do business," adding that "we are not built to pay full health benefits for noncertified folks who work a little more than 1,000 hours a year."
Dearborn, Mich.: "If we had to provide health care and other benefits to all of our employees, the burden on the city would be tremendous," said Mayor John O'Reilly, explaining why the city is cutting its more than 700 part-time and seasonal workers down to 28 hours a week. "The city is like any private or public employer having to adjust to changes in the law."

Read More At Investor's Business Daily: Follow us: @IBDinvestors on Twitter | InvestorsBusinessDaily on Facebook

Still Incredibly Weak

Hence the lack of blogging.

Nerd Humor

Non-computer geeks can skip this one.

From the ThinkGeek web site, a T-shirt bearing the text:
I don't always test my code
But when I do,
I do it in

Monday, June 17, 2013

Lack of Creativity in Hollywood

I was at daughter's place for Father's Day last night, and a number of us were sitting around while my son-in-law, his brother, and my son, were watching a basketball game.  One of the ads was a movie trailer that looked hopelessly predictable: black cop, white cop, learning to work together.  As others were trashing its predictability, I suggested that perhaps someone could come up with a new idea on the buddy cop movie: instead of one black, one white, maybe one vampire, one zombie?  After a bit more discussion, we concluded that to be truly creative, it should be a four man detective team:
  • a vampire
  • a zombie
  • a robot
  • a monkey in a bowtie
At least it would not make you think of Lethal Weapon 19.

Oxycodone Dreams

I took oxycodone for several days for pain; the dreams were incredibly sad,when they weren't grossly brutal.  One dream I had was so horrifying that I will not write it down, for fear that it might become the origins of a progressive political movement, rather like how Edward Abbey's The Monkey-Wrench Gang became the blueprint for an ecological terrorist group.  The core idea of the dream makes genocide seem pretty humane by comparison.

The CT scan last week found a mass in my left kidney (not the one with the stone) that is likely just a simple cyst, but to be sure, the urologist has me scheduled for a dye contrast CT scan this morning.  I still don't feel wonderful, but I think I am going to go back to work, just in case there are other parts of this process that will gobble up sick time later.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Weight Reduction Program Again

Now that I am no longer focused on pain, I can resume focus on telescope weight reduction.  The reason that I went with the solid tube was that the truss tube approach failed for two reasons:

1. The lower cage was made of a .125" thick piece of aluminum -- and it was simply not stiff enough.  The truss was incredibly stiff, and exposed that the aluminum was flexing.

2. I stupidly decided that I should minimize weight of the tubes by putting the truss connectors at the very top of the bottom cage, and the very bottom of the top cage.  Because most of the weight of the telescope was the mirror at the bottom of the bottom cage, it enhanced the flexibility problem of the aluminum tube.

The alternative solution is to use the Sonotube with the truss connector at or below the center of gravity of the lower cage.  The Sonotube, after fiberglass reinforcement, weighs .37 lbs/.inch.  The six truss connectors weight 2.6 ozs. each; the six aluminum tubes weigh .23 ozs./inch.  By cutting out 53 inches of Sonotube, I lose 19.61 lbs.  The truss connectors and tubes add 5.85 lbs.  That's a net reduction of 13.76 lbs -- which would get the telescope below 50 lbs -- quite an improvement over what I had before I started the current project, and light enough for the Celestron CI-700 mount.

There remains one uncertainty: cutting 53 inches out of the middle of the tube may create problems with how to mount the Sonotube to the Losmandy dovetail plate.  It will take about 20 inches of mounting plate to attach the telescope to the dovetail plate.  I could stiffen a piece of aluminum C-channel (which would weigh only 2.83 lbs.) by bolting some 1/8" aluminum plate pieces into the C-channel.  Alternatively, I could replace it with a piece of 1/4" steel plate that is only 2" wide (although that would be 6.5 lbs, losing some of the gain from going to trusses).  I can't imagine a 1/4" piece of steel flexing enough to be a problem.

UPDATE: I can't really do anything yet.  I am not supposed to lift any weight until the stent is removed.

Think I Have The PayPal Solved On the ScopeRoller Ordering Page

It was a fairly minor change to the HTML, but it appears to be working now.  It took PayPal long enough to get back to me, but they came up with a solution.

"It's Raining Stones!"

That's what my urologist said yesterday during the consultation.  Perhaps because the sudden hot weather of the last few weeks, he was getting an extraordinary number of kidney stone cases, as people are dehydrating.  (In the nineteenth century, kidney and bladder stones were often associated with long sea voyages, because fresh water and even beer was in short supply.) 

 While I was waiting for my surgery, my wife was talking to a woman in the waiting room whose husband was getting a kidney stone removed as well.  He is a runner, and was in the E/R a few days before.  He ignored the "without fail see an urologist" instruction on the discharge form, out of fear of the misery of the surgery.  But after a second visit to the E/R, he realized that there was no real choice.

I was surprised to find that kidney stones are one of the most common health problems in the U.S.:
Each year in the United States, people make more than a million visits to health care providers and more than 300,000 people go to emergency rooms for kidney stone problems.
There are a number of causes of kidney stones, and exactly what type of stone determines what sort of dietary changes are required:

Calcium Oxalate Stones

  • reducing sodium
  • reducing animal protein, such as meat, eggs, and fish
  • getting enough calcium from food or taking calcium supplements with food
  • avoiding foods high in oxalate, such as spinach, rhubarb, nuts, and wheat bran

Calcium Phosphate Stones

  • reducing sodium
  • reducing animal protein
  • getting enough calcium from food or taking calcium supplements with food

Uric Acid Stones

  • limiting animal protein
I'm not sure what kind of stone I had, but pretty everything that I eat is a problem, so the solution seems to be: drink more water:
Drinking enough fluids each day is the best way to help prevent most types of kidney stones. Health care providers recommend that a person drink 2 to 3 liters of fluid a day. People with cystine stones may need to drink even more. Though water is best, other fluids may also help prevent kidney stones, such as citrus drinks.
I keep a big Cato Institute mug on my desk at work; I think I am going to make a point of filling it at least three times a day, and finishing it three times a day.  It makes you wonder how much of a dent in the cost of national health care we could make just getting people to drink more fluids, especially in the hot parts of the country.  (In New York City, just to annoy Nanny Bloomberg -- more soft drinks that are low in sodium.)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Surgery Done

I may have much to blog for a couple of days.  The doctor was playing Space Invaders in my kidney.  A stent all the way from penis to kidney; a fiber optics to see what he was doing; a laser to shatter the stone.  It was apparently big enough and close enough to the kidney that he pushed the stone against the far wall, and shattered it into zillion little pieces.

UPDATE: I am no longer in any real pain, except where the stent comes out of my body, and when I urinate.  This is a irriation caused by the stent, so I am off to get a couple prescriptions filled today which are supposed to alleviate this.

The urologist said that the mass in the left kidney is likely a cyst; 15% of men over 50 have them, and they are benign.  He has scheduled a contrast dye CT to see if it has blood flow or not.  If it has no blood flow, it's a cyst, ignore it.  If it has blood flow...maybe something more serious.

Even though gallstones aren't his area of specialty, he says lots of people have gallstones without any health problems.  I have never had any of the symptoms that would indicate a blockage.  Unless there's symptoms, there's no need to take out the gall bladder.

Kidney Stone

I was in a class titled Enterprise Architecture Fundamentals yesterday.  About 4:10 PM, I suddenly felt very, very unwell, and in enormous pain.  I left early, and as the pain kept increasing, I drove myself to the St. Luke's Emergency Room.  The pain was in my lower right abdomen, and I was fiercely nauseated.  It is the first time that I have been in an E/R for me since the mid-1980s.

My guess was appendicitis.  The E/R physician ordered a CAT scan, because he suspected a kidney stone.  This was a very good guess, and he did not even know that my daughter (who is so genetically similar to me that my wife says my genes just stomped her genes) has recently had kidney stones, too.

Anyway, it turned out to be a 7mm kidney stone.  (The CAT scan also found gall stones in my gall bladder, but those are not causing any problems right now.)  I now understand why my wife says that a kidney stone is definitely worse than giving birth.  Wow.

It has not yet passed.  I am supposed to go into a urologist today.

UPDATE: Reading the paperwork from the E/R gets worse.  They also say that there is "mass" in my left kidney that needs to be examined, and that I should have my gall bladder removed.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Telescope Is Just Too Big

I am about ready to give up on this.  I had a Moon tonight, and I was able to get the finder aligned, but the telescope is just too heavy and long for this mount, and a mount that is adequate to the task costs about $6000.  Maybe it is time to admit that this is just beyond the scope of what I can afford -- sort of like the Ferrari you get a steal deal on, until you find out what the tuneups cost.

I just posted an ad for the optical tube assembly on Cloudy Nights Classifieds for $1200, with this picture that I took through it a couple of years ago.

Life is too short to struggle with stuff like this.  Perhaps I can use the money to buy a somewhat more reasonably sized telescope to put on the same mount.

UPDATE: The solid tube weighs 0.37 lbs./inch.  Perhaps the truss tube scheme that turned out to be too stiff for the aluminum cage needs revisiting now that I have a much more solid tube which I could cut into an upper and lower cage.  If I cut out 50 inches of the solid tube, that would save 18.66 lbs.  The truss tubes and attachments weigh 5.85 lbs.  Even if I had to use a 1/4" x 4" x 15" steel plate to attach the lower cage to the mount, that would still be a net savings of 9 lbs.  It might make sense to go with longer truss tubes so that they were mounting at the center of gravity of the lower truss.  If so, I could cut more like 60 inches out of the tube.

UPDATE 2: Darrell posted a comment but didn't want it published because it has his email in it.  But that email is bouncing, so I can't email him!  Darrell -- email at blogmail at my domain name (which is so that I can get in touch.

Those Ricin Letters

It turned out to not be an angry gun rights advocate, but a woman angry at her soon to be ex-husband.  And here is a detailed account of the investigation: the woman was apparently a gun control advocate, trying to kill two birds with one stone: make gun advocates look bad; get her husband sent to prison.

I'm A Bit Mystified

My stepmother-in-law died a few weeks back.  Her will was written up by lawyers in Orange County, California -- but because she died in British Columbia, it appears that the will has to go through probate there.  Unfortunately, British Columbia is severely backlogged, and they will require at least four months, a $200 filing fee, and hiring a Canadian lawyer, before they can issue the letter for the executor of the estate (a lawyer who is a cousin of my wife).

I am confused: shouldn't the state where the will was originally written, and when presumably has some sort of court of jurisdiction specified, take precedence over the location of the decedent's death?  And doesn't this all pretty destroy most of the advantage of having a will?

UPDATE: It appears that while this was organized as a trust, when the money was put into Charles Schwab, it was not put in as a trust account, hence the complexity.  Does anyone have a British Columbia probate attorney that they trust?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Welding Question

This is a slightly embarrassing question to ask, because my father made his living as a welder most of the time that I was growing up -- but I never actually learned much about it from him.  (It wasn't in a book from the library, so I wasn't much interested.)  When welding two pieces of steel or aluminum together in a butt weld, what additional thickness can one expect the weld to add?  Say you welded two pieces together that were 12" long each; how long would the final product be?  My recollection from looking at welds, and from reading the Wikipedia page, suggests that welding might add 1/8" of an inch to the length.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

We Needed A Long Hose....

The telescope garage is beginning to get a dangerous growth of grasses around it, so it is time to do a weed barrier and rock, to reduce fire hazard.  The particular weed killer we use, KillzAll, works best when sprayed with a hose -- but we did not have a long enough hose.  I decided that it made more sense to buy a 100 foot hose to add to our current hose, rather than rent some sort of sprayer.

When we reached Horseshoe Hardware, there was a100 foot hose for $30 -- but it was labeled "light duty" for gardening.  When something is labeled "light duty" I assume that means, "won't survive the season."  When was the last time you saw anything sold as "light duty?"

But there was a 100 foot hose that claimed "Industrial Strength for Commercial Use" and 3/4" diameter interior.  It had mental springs where it attaches to the faucet to prevent kinking there.  It was also advertised as "500 psi burst strength."  Obviously, we only have 65 psi water pressure, but my hope was that being 6 ply, it would resist expanding under pressure, allowing more pressure to get through the hose to the far end.  It was also $75.

"Right tool for the job" is my motto, so I bought it.  And it is indeed a very well-made garden tool.  Even better: Gilmour makes it in America.

Why Do Never Have A Moon When You Need One?

Okay, I solved the problem of the good finderscope being too close to the tube for me to look through by using a 3" x 2" piece of aluminum tubing.  To reduce the weight a bit (and every ounce helps), I milled some holes in the top and bottom of it which also had the advantage of making it easier to tighten the screws that hold it to the main tube, and that hold the rings to the aluminum.

Lousy picture -- the HP Photosmart is just not enough aperture, even with a flash.

The downside is that more weight means I need more counterweights, and this has resulted in what can only be called an expedient counterweight solution:

The good news is that I need to rotate the entire tube assembly a bit to make it easier to use, and that will move some of the weight closer to the fulcrum, perhaps reducing the counterweight requirements a bit.

Now, as to the title: the problem is that getting the finderscope aligned with the main telescope is usually the most annoying part of setting up a telescope for me.  The ideal way to do this is aim the telescope at the Moon; center the eyepiece on the Moon; then adjust the finderscope so that the Moon is centered.  I could use any celestial object, but the field of view, even at low power on this beast, is tiny.  The chances of finding something in the sky with the main scope, then adjusting the finderscope, are tiny.  The Moon, because it produces so much sky glow, is surprisingly easy to find.  And yes, I have aligned them using a radio tower five miles away -- and that isn't far enough to solve the parallax problem for such a powerful scope.

Unfortunately, new Moon was last night, so it may be a couple of days before I can get this straightened out.

I was thinking of abandoning the telescope tube rings, but then I realized that if I had some that were 1/2" thick, they would lower the position of the tube relative to the fulcrum by 1.5" -- which would reduce the counterweight requirements, as well as making it easier to adjust the telescope tube's position on the mount.  I have contacted some gun rights acquaintances here in Horseshoe Bend that have a welding shop; I am going to look at cutting the hexagon out of aluminum, then having them weld the pieces together.

Still, it looks good.

"I Was Born This Way"

June 9, 2013 American Thinker.  I tried very hard to get more mainstream conservative publications to take this...

"Bad Guns"

My friend Nicholas Johnson just blogged about the changing definition of "bad guns" and how nearly all guns have been on the list that needs to be banned over the last several decades.

PJMedia Article About Santa Monica College Murders Now Up

The Santa Monica College Mass Murder: How Did It Happen?

The Mass Murder at Santa Monica College

From June 9, 2013 CNN:
Police had contact with the gunman in 2006, but because he was a juvenile then, authorities couldn't release further information, Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks said.

A law enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation told CNN on Saturday that the gunman had suffered mental health issues. A few years ago, he was hospitalized for treatment after allegedly talking about harming someone, according to the official.

It's not clear whether the state government or his family committed him for treatment or whether he committed himself. It's also unclear under what circumstances he was released.
And yet California has had an assault weapon ban since 1989  (the year the shooter was born) and on transfers of high-capacity magazines since 2000 (when the shooter was eleven years old).  It has required all firearms transfers to be done through a background check since 1991 (when the shooter was two) and it appears that the shooter had been committed at some point -- which is one of the things the California background check includes.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

"It's Like a CGI Rainbow"

We have had the most intense rainbows that I have ever seen at our new house.  We had one on May 28th that was so shockingly intense -- in a way that the attached photos can only hint at -- that my son said that it did not look real: "It's like a CGI rainbow!"  The following pictures have not been enhanced in any way -- straight out of the Pentax K10D.  We had double rainbows that stretched unbroken from horizon to horizon.

This picture is especially amazing -- the violet end of the rainbow seemed to have some sort of multiple layers of color to it.  I have never seen anything like this.

The rainbow is such an astonishingly beautiful and unexpected apparition: you can see why Genesis 9:12-17 describes the rainbow this way:

12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”

The B-36 Filght Engineer Panel

One of the strangest planes to modern eyes is the B-36, an absolutely huge bomber originally designed to carry out Canada to Berlin bombing raids (in case Britain fell to the Nazis) and Hawaii to Japan bombing raids.  By the time it was ready, its mission had changed: to carry the really big hydrogen bombs of the 1950s.  Wikipedia describes it as the largest piston engine plane ever built.  More than size, it used pusher propellers:

As you might expect, with six engines, the flight engineer's console was pretty impressive.  Go here for a scrollable and zoomable image of it.

UPDATE: Castle Air Force Museum in California's Central Valley has one of these that I saw many years ago.  One of my readers took these pictures of one at the  Pima Air Museum in Tucson last month.  (For some reason, I can't link to them directly.)

Friday, June 7, 2013

So Maybe The Ricin Letters Weren't About Gun Control....

NBC News is reporting that the FBI has arrested a woman who told them her husband sent the letters -- but that they arrested her suggests that she was the sender, trying to cause trouble for hubby.  (Wouldn't it be enough to burn dinner?)  Something tells me that gun control was merely a ruse to get her husband in very serious trouble.

According to Hoyt Mentions My Brother Ron

The blog According to Hoyt mentions My Brother Ron in a long meditation on libraries and reading.

UPDATE: The Smallest Minority also mentioned My Brother Ron as part of a discussion of the problem of mental illness, deinstitutionalization, and mass murder.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Origins of Syria's Civil War

David P. Goldman at PJMedia has a very thoughtful article about the agricultural economic and water shortage crises that are a big part of what has provoked the Syrian Civil War.  Like me, he doesn't see any argument for U.S. intervention in this war.
Part of the answer to the first question is that Syria (like Egypt) as presently constituted simply is not viable as a country. Iraq might be viable, because it has enough oil to subsidize a largely uneducated, pre-modern population. As an economist and risk analyst (I ran Credit Strategy for Credit Suisse and all fixed income research for Bank of America), I do not believe that there is any way to stabilize either country. In the medium term, Turkey will lose national viability as well. I outlined some of the reasons for this view in my 2011 book How Civilizations Die (and why Islam is Dying, Too).

Classic Schizophrenia Symptoms

From June 6, 2013 Fox News Latino:
After he said he heard voices coming through the television telling him to go to his mother's house and "get the clones out," a New Mexico man stabbed, severely beat and kidnapped his mother and another person, and then threw his mother off a bridge into the Rio Grande in broad daylight, according to a criminal complaint.
Martin Montano, 26, told detectives that he tossed his 61-year-old mother, Hope Montano, from a bridge in Albuquerque on Tuesday after stabbing and choking her at her home, the complaint said.

Read more:
Not the first time that Mantano has been in trouble with the law:
Records show that Montano was arrested in August 2012 for false imprisonment and battery against his mother. In that case, Montano was seen by officers restraining his mother from opening the door to allow police in and pushing her to the ground shouting, "you have demons in you."
Police said Montano's mother declined to give a written statement at the time but requested information on getting a protective order against her son.

Read more: 
You wonder what it costs to keep ignoring these problems, instead of providing the help that Montano clearly needed?