Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Idaho Enhanced Concealed Weapon Permit Class

Taught by my friend T. Allen Hoover.  The Idaho Enhanced Concealed Weapon Permit class gets you a few states that the standard Idaho license does not, of which Nevada is the most important for most Idaho residents.

Next Classes Sunday: February 9th March 9th May 18th

ENHANCED Idaho Concealed Weapon License Class

NRA Personal Protection Handgun Course

12 hour course 8am - 8pm

Course exceeds Idaho 18-3302K ENHANCED Concealed Weapon License requirement Certificate recognized by all states as firearms training. (Although NOT for certain states' CCW requirements) $150 course fee includes NRA handbook, flyers & NRA Course Completion & Idaho State Police Training Certificates Classes are small (8 at most). PAID advance registration is required to reserve your seat. Class is open to Instructor-approved citizens who have no felonies or other legal disabler. Liability Release form signature required. Course consists of approximately 4 hours classroom, 4 hours on the range, 4 hours legal instruction. Includes Basic Handgun Safety, Familiarization, Hands-on Firearms Handling, Shooting Skills & Firing Instruction. Several hours will be spent on the firing range bringing student skills up to standards. Personal security & avoiding violent confrontations will be covered in depth. Idaho State Law and Federal Law regarding firearms, concealed weapons, self-defense and after-event issues will be taught by a licensed Idaho defense attorney (who has formerly served as a prosecutor and as a deputy attorney general) A written test will be administered (it is possible to fail this course) Instructor reserves the right to dismiss anyone, anytime, without refund. BRING: warm jacket & hat (it gets cold and windy at the desert shooting range), eye and ear protection and your handgun (if you do not have a handgun, I have a few loaners, and can assist you in choosing an appropriate defense firearm), at least 2 boxes of 50 rounds of target ammunition as Idaho law requires at least 98 rounds for training,(2 boxes per revolver/auto handgun type for carry in Nevada), a lunch/snacks, a notepad, highlighter, pencil, stickynotes. T.Allen Hoover (208) 631 3003 PO Box 6232 Boise ID 83707 TALLENHOOVER@AOL.com www.TALLENHOOVER.com Group classes, individual lessons available DEFEND your Constitutional Firearm Rights, Join the NRA discounted memberships available, CALL ME ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ NRA Basic Firearm Courses: NRA Personal Protection Handgun Course $150, NRA Basic Pistol Course $125, NRA Basic Rifle Course $125, NRA Home Firearms Safety Course $50 NRA Range Safety Officer $150 NRA Instructor Level Courses: NRA (BIT) Basic Instructor Training course $100 (Instructor Candidates must take BIT course first), NRA Home Firearms Safety Instructor Course $125, NRA Basic Pistol Instructor Course $225, NRA Basic Rifle Instructor Course $225, NRA Personal Protection Handgun Instructor Course $350 NRA Chief Range Safety Officer $250

Some Perspective on How Rich the Gun Control Crowd Is

Michael Bloomberg, who pretty much funds the entire gun control movement, now has a net worth of $27 billion.  To give you some perspective on how much that is, if you were not too bright, and had $27 billion, you could invest it in municipal bonds of the state where you live, and earn about 5% a year, with none of that income being taxable. (Be careful what munis you buy–some are private activity bonds, and are taxable.) And what would 5% a year on $27 billion be? While a miserable $1.35 billion a year.

The interest on the interest would be $67.5 million a year.

The interest on the interest on the interest would be $3.375 million a year.

The interest on the interest on the interest on the interest would be $168,750 a year.

Most of us could live on that every year very comfortably and have lots left over.

Monday, December 30, 2013

My 4TB External Hard Disk Backup System

If you had told me in 1983 that someday, I would have a 4 terabyte external hard disk system for my PC, I would have laughed.  A 5 megabyte hard drive for the PC cost $2000!  At that price per byte, a 4 terabyte drive would cost $1.6 billon!  But now I have one, contentedly backing up my PC.

Why So Few People Signed Up For Obamacare

It is certainly a novel (in the sense of fictional) explanation, from D.C.'s delegate to Congress. From December 30, 2013 Mediaite:
“The goal as has been said, it’s seven million people signed up by the end of March,” Lui observed. “Can that happen?”
“Oh, sure,” Norton replied. “When that fine is going to kick in, you’re going to see people trotting to sign on like you’ve never seen it before.”
“What we have been battling now is, first, every time the House couldn’t think of anything else to do, it had a big debate on repealing Obamacare,” Norton continued. “So, there are millions of people out there who think it was repealed.”
I have been pretty harsh on low information voters -- but now a Democrat is essentially saying, "Our constituents are so stupid and ill-informed that they mistook Republican criticism of Obamacare as being a repeal."  The only good news for Norton is that none of her constituents are well enough informed to realize how stupid she thinks they are.  Welcome to Idiocracy.

Encouraging Mirror Figure News

If that subject line doesn't make sense -- that's okay.  The business rebuilding Big Bertha reports that the refigure of the mirror by Swayze Optical was apparently quite successful:
A "Steve Swayze" refigured mirror for Clay's 17.5" F4.5 telescope. A first look with the optics shows beautiful "tight" pin-point stars.
No doubt this is a great mirror!!
My guess is that DobSTUFF has seen a lot of telescope mirrors.  This makes me more confident that the $810 I spent having Swayze Optical refigure and recoat the mirror was well-invested.  I had never been completely happy with the optical performance of that mirror.  Swayze's report was that it had a turned edge, which confirmed what I already suspected.  I am hoping to improve on pictures like this:



Lowest Police Officer Shooting Death Rate Since 1887

I find myself reading this article from the December 30, 2013 Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and I find myself both pleased and astounded:
The number of law-enforcement officers killed by firearms in 2013 fell to levels not seen since the days of the Wild West, according to a report released Monday.
The annual report from the nonprofit National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund also found that deaths in the line of duty generally fell by 8 percent and were the fewest since 1959....
The number of firearms deaths fell 33 percent in 2013 and was the lowest since 1887.
It is not clear if this is the lowest rate or the lowest raw number.  Either way, it is good news.  If it is the lowest raw number then this is even more astonishing, because of the very low population in 1887.  It appears to be lowest rate, based on this description of the same story from the December 30, 2013 Guardian:
One hundred and eleven officers died on duty this year, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund said. The figure marks a decrease from 120 deaths in 2012 and 169 in 2011, and it is the lowest number of law enforcement fatalities since 1959, when 110 officers died on the job. 
The argument for banning assault weapons is that they put police at unnecessary risk.  How does that square with this extraordinary reduction in police officers killed with guns?

Will Obamacare Increase Health Insurance Coverage? Or Decrease It?

It is actually a quite legitimate question.  Shockingly enough, this report comes not from some right-wing crackpot group, but from December 29, 2013 NBC News.  What is described as "one of the 100 best car dealerships to work for in the country last year" is dropping its group health insurance for employees.  Instead it:
will instead provide its employees with $2,400 apiece to buy their own insurance, or to pocket and pay the new federal penalty if they elect to go without it.
That’s a little bit more than the company says it spent on health insurance this year.  Dealership owner Wesley Lutz said his decision to go in a new direction was driven by the fact that health insurance is “incredibly expensive” and getting more so. He says he needs to be able to control his future costs.
“As a business owner, we have to be viable first and then provide services,” he said. Lutz is not required to provide health insurance to workers, but has done so for 35 years.
Wow.   One of the good guys in business -- a firm that has been providing group health insurance to most of its employees for 35 years, is dropping the plan.  And yes, it is good of them to provide $2400 per year to the employees to assist them in purchasing insurance, but this is less than the cost of buying it through the exchanges for most employees:
A handful of the Extreme Dodge workers came out winners -- mostly low-wage earners who qualify for subsidies and therefore pay very little for insurance. The biggest winner is Brandon Chisholm, a detailer with two daughters, who will get health insurance for the first time, and will have to pay virtually nothing for it because he qualifies for a big government subsidy. That means he can bank the $200 a month the company is giving workers to replace the health insurance it previously provided.
It turns out that the deductibles for the plan that most of the employees are signing up for -- which is more than $2400 per year -- are very high:
Their deductibles will go from $1,125 this year to $3,000 next year, and maximum out-of-pocket costs jump from $2,250 to $6,350. And for families, those numbers double: to a $6,000 deductible and $12,700 out-of-pocket maximum.
“How is this helping the average American that’s working 40 to 50 hours per week?” said Terry Hardcastle, a salesperson. “How are we supposed to live?”
You aren't.  Obama and the Democrats are relying on the voters who think Kim Kardashian is important.

Those Protective Orders Really Work

A nurse embroiled in a custody fight with his ex-wife attacked his former in-laws, his onetime boss at a hospital that fired him, and his current wife in a rampage that spanned two parishes in Louisiana, leaving three dead before killing himself, authorities said....

Ben Freeman, 38, first attacked his former in-laws with a shotgun in Lafourche Parish about 45 miles southwest of New Orleans, wounding parish Councilman Louis Phillip Gouaux and Gouaux's daughter Andrea. Both were in critical condition after surgery early Friday in New Orleans, Matherne wrote. Gouaux's wife, Susan, was dead when deputies arrived, Matherne said earlier....
Shotgun: the gun control crowd is going to have to look for some other drum to bang.
Jeanne Gouaux — also a nurse — had filed several protective orders against Freeman, who had pleaded guilty to harassment charges and was allowed only supervised visits with their four children, said Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre. The last protective order expired less than a month ago, he said.
Those protective orders work so well.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Samsung Chromebook: So Cute, You Just Want To Scratch It Behind The Ears!

I mentioned a few days back that my daughter was having me auction off her Samsung Chromebook on eBay.  As much as she liked it, the Google Docs word processor was not quite compatible enough with Microsoft Word to be useful for her job, so she bought a more traditional laptop.

I have it at my house at the moment, waiting for the winning bidder to actually send the money, so I took it out of the box and spent some time playing with it.  If you need something for checking your email, surfing the web, and doing some word processing on the road, this is a very cute and compact alternative to a laptop, with the full keyboard that many tablets do not have.  The temptation to buy it from her if the winning bidder does not respond is very strong.

The Next Time Someone Insists That The United States Was Never A Christian Nation...

Ask them to explain this Connecticut statute from a 1786 compilation, on p. 67.  Note that the language it uses is state, not colony -- this was not just an old statute.

Yes, a law against blasphemy!  And later, laws against card playing, selling decks of cards, and so on.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

How Adultery Is To Be Punished

From the Connecticut statutes of 1786, p. 8:

Never kid yourself that the Revolutionary forefathers were laissez-faire.  In addition to stuff like this, I am finding laws that require all bricks to be certain dimensions, laws providing that anyone may enter in private lands to destroy barberry-bushes (what those are) with being subject to lawsuit.

Armed robbery or armed burglary is a capital offense.  Second offense, even unarmed, is capital.

UPDATE: Interestingly enough, Connecticut police were arresting people for adultery as late as 1990:
HARTFORD, Conn. - Connecticut has rediscovered a relic from its Puritan past: Police this summer have charged four people with adultery.

In a state known for progressive laws on abortion rights, education and the environment, use of the rarely enforced state adultery law is raising eyebrows.

Under the law, a married person commits adultery by having sexual intercourse with someone other than his or her spouse. Single people cannot be charged. Conviction on the misdemeanor charge can result in up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine....

Twenty-seven states still have adultery laws on the books, a survey by the Harvard Law Review found, but legal scholars say few states make much effort to enforce them. For example, in New York, where adultery is a misdemeanor, the last recorded prosecution was in 1944.

Adam Lanza: More Sad Details

From the December 27, 2013 Norwich Bulletin:
Lanza was diagnosed in 2006 with "profound autism spectrum disorder, with rigidity, isolation and a lack of comprehension of ordinary social interaction and communications," while also displaying symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, according to Dr. Robert A. King, a professor at the Yale School of Medicine Child Study Center.
But he also told investigators that he observed nothing in Lanza's behavior that would have predicted he would become a mass killer.
Read more: http://www.norwichbulletin.com/article/20131227/NEWS/131229747/?tag=2#ixzz2omaME0OV
This isn't news, completely.  But:
Kathleen A. Koenig, a nurse at the Yale Child Studies Center, told investigators that Lanza frequently washed his hands and changed his socks 20 times a day, to the point where his mother did three loads of laundry a day.
This certainly sounds likes OCD.  But I find myself wondering at least a little.  My brother Ron, once his schizophrenia was fully in effect, was showering five or six times a day.  This is not an unusual behavior; schizophrenics are convinced that they smell very badly, hence the frequent showering.
The nurse, who met with Lanza in 2006 and 2007, said Lanza's mother declined to give him prescribed antidepressant and antianxiety medication after she reported that he had trouble raising his arm, something she attributed to the drug.
Koenig unsuccessfully tried to convince Nancy Lanza that the medicine was not responsible, and the mother failed to schedule a follow-up visit after her son missed an appointment, police said.
Read more: http://www.norwichbulletin.com/article/20131227/NEWS/131229747/?tag=2#ixzz2omaRnfVk
Unfortunately, the side effects of some of the psychiatric medicines are ugly, and even if there was no connection to Lanza's inability to raise his arm, I can see why Mrs. Lanza might well have thought there was a connection.  But this was years before this tragedy.

Friday, December 27, 2013

There Must Be Some Way To Take Advantage of Pump and Dump Spammers

If you don't know what a pump and dump spam is, a short explanation is that they send out emails trying to persuade people to buy some penny stock because "it is about to skyrocket!"  The sender has bought 100,000 shares of a stock that sells for a penny or two a share, and when all the gullible sorts drive the price up by two cents, they sell all the shares, make a couple thousand dollars, and those stupid enough to have bought at $0.02 a share now see the stock fall to $0.01 a share.  The only good news is that people this easily taken probably could not afford to buy more than 5000 shares, so each victim is only out about $50.

I was looking at one of these pump and dump emails from March that was promising that PNGM was going to rocket to $0.15 a share at a time when it was selling for about $0.03 a share:

Your Smallcap Brief Newsletter has Arrived. You must Call your Broker Direct to Place Order!

Date: Mon, Mar 25th, 2013
Company: Pengram Corp
Symbol to buy: P_NGM
Current price: .024
Long Term Target Price: 0.15

This Stock is where the money flow could go! Are you ready for next week. 

Today, of course, it is selling for about $0.0023 a share.  But sure enough: there was a brief spike in the stock price shortly after I received that spam, and I suspect the spammer in question made a little money on it.

It got me to thinking: is there some way to take advantage of this antiknowledge?  I don't have any experience with options, so I have no idea if you can buy put options on these silly penny stocks or not.  It does seem like a fairly sure thing that if you get one of these pump and dump spams that within a couple of weeks, whatever stock they are promoting is going to be worth a lot less than it is right now.

Samaritan Ministries: Anyone Here A Member?

Samaritan Ministries is a cost-sharing alternative health insurance.  I've read about them in the past, and I recently ran into a contractor at work who is a member and speaks highly of them.  The strategy is:

1. Pay up-front for medical bills.
2. Send bills above $300 to Samaritan.
3. They randomly pick other members to send their monthly membership fee to you.  If you have $1650 in medical bills, ten individual members will send you $165.

The costs are quite low ($165 per month for a single person, $315 for a married couple) because:

1. Pay up-front and get a discount from medical providers.  (This is often quite impressive.)

2. They have certain requirements for membership: regular church attendance; adherence to a pretty basic definition of Christian beliefs; no drug abuse, no tobacco, Biblical marriage (one man, one woman, and fidelity).  This knocks out a tremendous number of medical high-risk people.

Are any of my readers members?  I am intrigued by the possibility for when I retire, both because of cost, and because it conforms to a Biblical model of Christian living that I would prefer anyway.  I would love to hear both good and bad for an article that I am writing.

Oh yes: somehow, membership in such a cost-sharing ministry exempts from the Unaffordable Care Act requirement that you buy insurance.

UPDATE: Unfortunately, there are two categories of pre-existing conditions that are not ever covered: diabetes and heart disease.  Cancer is covered after seven years symptom-free.  Since my major concern is heart disease, I can either buy conventional health insurance, or put the $300 a month aside that I would save over conventional health insurance into an HSA, and figure that my horse valve will probably last until I am eligible for Medicare at age 65.  But even if that happened just before I turned 65, it would only be $25,200 plus interest that I would have saved up -- not anywhere near enough to cover a serious heart problem.

This is probably still a good strategy for Christians who do not yet have cancer, heart disease, or diabetes.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Cleaning Out The Closet

I upgraded the vertical column on the Sherline vertical mill a couple of years back.  The newer version works more smoothly than this because of gravity.  If you have need to move something fairly precisely (to .001") and repeatably (especially not against gravity), this is the right gadget.  I've offered it up on Cloudy Nights for people building their own telescope mirrors as a way to make a very precise Foucault tester.  If you have some possible need for something like this, let me know.  I offered it at $50 on Cloudy Nights, but I can be persuaded perhaps to let it go a bit cheaper.

Clearly, Taxes on Hollywood's Rich Aren't High Enough

From December 24, 2013 Los Angeles Times, an article about over-the-top mansions in Los Angeles:
At Jennifer Lopez's former home in Bel-Air, which recently resold for $10 million, an arched footbridge and a cobblestone driveway cross a stone-lined waterway that encircles the French-style villa.

In Brentwood, supermodel Gisele Bundchen and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady included the water element at their newly completed European-style estate. Luckily for the neighbors, the couple's moat looks more like a winding stream than a means of defense.

And at a Beverly Hills contemporary built on a promontory, a narrow one serves a practical purpose. The moat around the $36-million property takes the place of a guardrail, which would have obstructed the stellar city views.
The comments are a mix of "eat the rich!" and criticism of the hypocrisy of rich liberals (and there are almost no other kind) spending money on this mixture of Capitol City ostentation and pre-French Revolutionary paranoia. 

I really don't mind if people spend their money on stuff like this -- it generally ends up in the hands of contractors, construction workers, and others who are not necessarily obscenely rich.  I do get pretty upset at the hypocrisy of rich liberals whining about the 1%, while spending money like this.  And I get even more upset about Republicans continuing to help the 1% get even richer.  I would love to see Republicans introduce maximum wage laws for the movie industry, rather like the million dollar maximum wage for corporate officers that the Democrats passed in 1993, not because I believe that such laws need to exist, but just to force Hollyweird's liberals to spend the time and energy justifying why they deserve to make several million dollars for a few weeks of work.

How Nerdy Is Your Boss?

A Christmas gift from my boss: the Pocket Monkey.  She knows what to get her engineers!

Like all hopelessly nerdy sorts, I love having tools with me.  I don't know what happened to my Swiss Army knife; it seems to have disappeared a month or two back, so it is nice to have something so small it fits into my wallet -- and yet gives me a bottle opener, flat screwdriver, earbuds cord wrap (no, I don't need that, really), microscrewdriver, hex wrench, orange peeler, ruler (inches on one side, metric on the other), letter opener, Philips screwdriver, and straight edge.


I have just added the blog AdjunctCrisis to my blog list.  For me, being adjunct faculty is not a crisis.  But I have an okay-paying, full-time job as well, with health insurance.  My current hope is to retire at the end of next year, so that I can afford to teach history.  For the majority that teach at the college level, it is a crisis.  If you are not independently wealthy, teaching is pretty much a vow of poverty occupation.

Why should you care?  Do you really want people who are highly educated and potentially quite influential on the next generation to be poorly paid, without health insurance, and full of resentment?  This is not a long-term positive strategy for a free market capitalist society.  It is true that the problem is largely a result of how governmentally-funded colleges and universities operate.  That is a subtle distinction that may be missed by at least some adjuncts who are suffering from near poverty (and sometimes, true poverty).

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Ways To Advance The Gay Agenda

From December 24, 2013 CBS Atlanta:
SEMMES, Ala. (CBS Atlanta/AP) — Minutes before they made the now-controversial strut down the parade route on Wulff Road on Saturday, the Prancing Elites, an all-male dance team from Mobile, stretched and lined up with the other parading groups before they marched.
As you might expect, the performance was pretty intentionally and overtly sexual -- and the Prancing Elites are shocked that the families along the parade route were offended!  Wow!  Who would have seen that?

Which Emits More Carbon Dioxide Per Mile: A Jeep Grand Cherokee or a Tesla Model S?

Interesting analysis here, with this startling conclusion:

It is an interesting thought -- that the rich people who buy these cars are doing more damage to Mother Earth than the ignorant redneck (and doubtless Republican, just adding insult to injury) out there driving an SUV.

Make Sure Your Mouth Is Not Full Before Reading This Post

Over at Watts Up With That? is a very long posting about how the California Air Resources Board appears to be playing dishonest games with electric car tax credits for the benefit of Tesla Motors.  It is important (especially to those Californians who aren't fabulously rich enough to buy electric cars), but there is one comment on the article that was so funny that I am glad I had nothing in my mouth when I read it:
Is it too late to suggest we just give California back to the Spaniards? True, we would lose around 80% of our “naked people doing things that would startle a caribou into sterility” industry, but I think it’s worth the risk. Plus, we still have Florida.

Barack Who?

December 23, 2013 Commentary points out how Obama is becoming irrelevant:
Think back to the guy in high school–let’s call him Barry–who, when he first meets people, sells himself as something special. He’s gifted with words and makes fairly exorbitant claims about what we can expect of him. And many of his classmates believe him. But over time they observe that he falls consistently short in every arena. He’s academically mediocre, not outstanding; he finishes in the bottom half of the track meets we’re told he’ll excel in; and while he’s in the school play, it’s as a secondary figure. 
Here’s the thing, though: He never stops talking. He’s filled with excuses. He’s constantly reweaving events to make himself look good. He keeps making promises, lovely and extravagant promises, but they’re devalued and emptied of meaning. Barry is just being Barry. Don’t take him seriously. He’s just a talker.
It strikes me that more and more Americans are now viewing the president in a similar fashion. They’ve seen the Obama act for five long years, and it’s become tiresome. We’re on to the verbal tricks, the stale formulations, the endless straw men and unmatched sense of moral superiority. We’ve figured out that the reality has never come close to meeting the expectations and promises. And so words that had a magical effect before now elicit a roll of the eyes. Barry is just being Barry. Don’t take him seriously. He’s just a talker.
I sure hope so.  But to the low information voters who can tell you where Kim Kardashian is this week -- but could not tell you if the national debt is $17 billion, $17 trillion, of $17 quadrillion -- he's still the cool guy who is going to get them free health insurance.  (They still haven't figured out that they have to go HealthCare.gov.)

Remember Who Knows When You've Been Naughty or Nice, When You Are Sleeping, And When You Are Awake

It's not Santa Claus.  It's NSA.

The Mirror Arrived

I mentioned a few months back that my efforts to make an adequately light and stiff Newtonian reflector had been such a failure that I was having the mirror refigured by Steve Swayze (one of the experts in the field) and having Dobstuff build a high quality Dobsonian around it.  The refigured mirror has now arrived at Dobstuff, and he is ready for the next step.

Macintosh Assembly

There's a very funny scene in the movie Mine, Yours, and Ours where the parents are assembling bikes for their kids on Christmas Eve.  Something similar happened last night, as my wife and I put together all the parts for a used MacBook Pro for a Christmas present.  I must confess, as much as Macs are overpriced, I can see the aesthetic attraction of them.

A Completely Absurd Use Of The Internet

Haven't you always wanted to change the Christmas lighting on someone's home from thousands of miles away?  Now you can!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Scamsters Getting Nastier

Usually, here are your airline tickets (open the attached zip file which self-extracts a virus), or here are the details of how you have $2.3 million in the Irish Lottery (ditto).  But here's a new one, designed to scare the wits out of people who don't realize that you don't get served with orders to appear by email.  Where appeals to greed seem not to be working, here is an appeal to fear:
Notice to Appear,
Hereby you are notified that you have been scheduled to appear for your hearing thatwill take place in the court of Washington in January 19, 2014 at 09:00 am.
Please bring all documents and witnesses relating to this case with you to Court on your hearing date.
The copy of the court notice is attached to this letter.Please, read it thoroughly.
Note: If you do not attend the hearing the judge may hear the case in your absence.
Yours truly,Lisa TailorClerk to the Court.
Like all of these scams, there are multiple warning signs:

1. Washington State would not have a court.  King County in Washington would have a court.

2. Slightly tortured sentence structure and capitalization errors hint that whoever wrote this is not a native speaker of English.

3. How many people with the surname of "Taylor" spell it like the occupation?

Failure To See A Connection

The December 23, 2013 Lewiston (Idaho) Morning Tribune (subscription required) asks the question:
How can a state with the nation's third-lowest crime rate have the eighth-highest proportion of its adults behind bars?
Hmmm.   Do you suppose that the high incarceration rate might have something with having the third-lowest crime rate?  People that are sitting in prison tend not to commit many crimes while they are sitting in prison.

I Think There Is Some Upset About The Unaffordable Care Act

Yahoo news posted an article about some Democrats are beginning to distance themselves from the Unaffordable Care Act, and suggesting various short-term fixes.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's healthcare law could have a "meltdown" and make it difficult for his Democratic Party to keep control of the U.S. Senate next year if ongoing problems with the program are not resolved, a Democratic senator said on Sunday.

Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who has urged delaying a penalty for people who do not enroll for health insurance in 2014 under the law, told CNN that a transitional year was needed for the complex healthcare program, commonly known as Obamacare, to work.
That's not news, really.  What should have the Democrats scared (and Republicans happy, if they paid any attention to the people) is that in 20 hours, more than 10,000 comments have been posted about this story.  I have yet to find one that is positive about Obamacare, or even neutral.  There is a lot of anger.  Now, if only Republican holding office could figure out how to connect to the American people on an issue where they were in the right, and the people are now really upset.  But much of the Republican Party is much more interested in working out a deal on immigration with Obama, to drive the angry population even more firmly away.

Vigorous Competition: Often Bad For Workers, But Good For Consumers

I have been looking at buying a larger expansion drive -- perhaps a 2 TB drive.  I saw this Seagate 3 TB drive offered on Amazon at $109.07 -- but when I was at Target last night, I saw the same drive being offered for $119 -- and because of a 10% off deal, it would have been within pennies of the Amazon price.  (Okay, including sales tax, within several dollars of the Amazon price.) 

No, I didn't buy it.  Perhaps I will see how low they go at the after-Christmas sale.

Experience Marketing Songs?

My wife has written a number of songs in the Christian worship genre that I think are actually pretty powerful.  How does one go about getting these into the hands of those performing this style of music?  Is this typically done through an agent?  Or is recording them and making them visible on YouTube (like Justin Bieber's path to fame and fortune) the right way to do this?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Semester Almost Over...

I have submitted the final grades.  All that is left is a curiosity called Outcomes Assessment, where we are supposed to identify how well students learned particular segments of the course.  Heck, I thought that was what the final grade was supposed to show, but perhaps because CWI is still operating under the College of Southern Idaho's accreditation, we have to do a more detailed analysis based on the various segments of Western Civilization that the class covers.  It is mildly annoying.

I have two paying projects to keep me busy in the intervening weeks between now and the next semester starting in late January.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Forgot The Gun Safe Combination Again

One of the signs that you haven't taken the big toys out in too long is when you can't remember the gun safe combination.  I had this happen several years ago, but eventually, all the synapses gathered themselves together, and remembered the numbers.  This time, I eventually remembered all the numbers by going out to the safe and turning the dial until my visual memory of opening the safe took over... but even though I was sure that I had all three numbers, it still would not open.  Why?

It is a Sargent & Greenleaf lock on a Browning safe (yes, I did not cheap out on the safe), and here are the detailed directions for opening such a lock that I found through the miracles of the Internet:
Clear the lock by turning the dial clockwise, a time or two will do. You can stop at zero if you like or go on past slightly, it doesn't make a difference on mine.
1st number - turn counterclockwise & past the number 3 times, stop on the number on the 4th turn
2nd number - turn clockwise past the number twice, stop on the number on the third turn
3rd number - turn counterclockwise past the number once, stop on the number on the second turn
4th number - turn clockwise until stopped
I was apparently not doing enough counterclockwise turns on the first number, or perhaps I was not clearing the lock in the first step before trying the rest.

Needless to say, I have found a way to have the numbers and instructions readily but stealthily available.

A Really Ugly News Story

And again, the only reason that I am posting it is to remind people that the widespread claim that openly gay men don't molest children does not survive any actual reading of news stories:
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama - State prosecutors say they are "confident and satisfied" that Carl Philip Herold, accused of holding a child captive, sexually torturing him and producing child pornography of the torture, will show up for trial after a judge here raised Herold's bond to $1 million cash today.
Yeah, why would they worry about someone accused of a crime like that skipping bail?
Herold, 32, faces charges of producing child pornography, distributing child pornography, allowing his child to be depicted in pornography, sodomy, sexual abuse and aggravated child abuse. He is in the Madison County Jail and was before District Judge Alison Austin today on the state's bond increase petition.
Austin issued a similar order Monday raising to $1 million the bond against Charles Dunnavant, identified as Herold's domestic partner and suspected partner in the alleged crimes. Dunnavant faces charges including sexual torture, sodomy, aggravated child abuse and transmitting or exposing a person to a STD, 
Yeah, yeah, innocent until proven guilty -- but the child pornography charges do not suggest that this is not going to be a "no, I did nothing of the sort" defense.  I know that most homosexuals do not molest children, and regard this as abhorrent behavior.  But I am rather tired of the over-the-top claim that only men in the closet do that sort of thing.  As I have pointed out in the past, not only do openly gay men do this sort of thing, but openly gay men who are gay community leaders do this sort of thing.

A&E's attempt to muzzle the Duck Dynasty star for saying something that really isn't particularly controversial definitely irritates me because it seems to be part of a larger agenda of suppressing speech that doesn't make GLAAD happy.

UPDATE: A reader pointed me to this news story about GLAAD getting smacked upside the head:

In the fallout over Wednesday’s suspension of “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson by A&E for anti-gay and racist remarks, GLAAD is experiencing record levels of backlash.

“In the five-and-a-half years I’ve worked at GLAAD, I’ve never received so many violently angry phone calls and social media posts attacking GLAAD for us speaking out against these comments,” the media watchdog organization’s vice president of communications Rich Ferraro told TheWrap.
I have a pretty live and let live attitude.  I am far more concerned and actually somewhat afraid of the approach that GLAAD and other gay activists groups take than I am of homosexuality.  I am pretty confident, based on the research that I have seen, that a major determinant of homosexuality is child sexual abuse.  I very much doubt that the continual propagandizing in favor of homosexuality by the mass media is going to make much of a difference in what percentage of the population turns gay/bi/lesbian/transgendered/queer/transspecies/transdimensional (or whatever they add to the list next week) -- as long as there is a free speech opportunity by those who disagree.

GLAAD and other gay rights groups are quite committed to suppressing differing points of view in a way that is really quite fascist.  It is not hard to figure out why they are so fascist.  It is not because there is widespread hatred of homosexuals in this country.  (For many Americans, they just want "the love that dare not speak its name" to shut up for a while.)  It is because there are a lot of people who for all their talk of "proud and out" are clearly not proud, and not very sure that they can take the kind of polite criticism that Phil Robertson gave.  If you can't take Robertson's paraphrase of New Testament criticism of sin (which did not equate homosexuality with bestiality, except in the sense that both are sin), then you are obviously far too thin-skinned to wander free in a free society.

Homosexuals, when I was young, insisted that what consenting adults did was none of the government's business.  A&E's decision is obviously not a governmental action.  But this insistence on gay activists using their near total control over the news and entertainment media, legal profession, and higher education to suppress differences of opinion should scare the wits of anyone who believes in freedom of thought.

"Climate change expert's fraud was 'crime of massive proportion,' say feds"

That's the headline, but the fraud that the federal government wants to send this guy to prison for isn't climate change claims.  From December 16, 2013 NBC News:
The EPA’s highest-paid employee and a leading expert on climate change deserves to go to prison for at least 30 months for lying to his bosses and saying he was a CIA spy working in Pakistan so he could avoid doing his real job, say federal prosecutors....
“With the help of his therapist,” wrote attorney John Kern, “Mr. Beale has come to recognize that, beyond the motive of greed, his theft and deception were animated by a highly self-destructive and dysfunctional need to engage in excessively reckless, risky behavior.” Kern also said Beale was driven “to manipulate those around him through the fabrication of grandiose narratives … that are fueled by his insecurities.”
Hmmm.  Talk about an interesting example of the whole climate change fraud....

An Interesting Take on Why America Needs To Do Something With the Political Class

And probably something that they won't like.  From Sam Youngman, a former Washington correspondent, describing what is wrong with Washington:
I suppose part of my disillusionment had to do with my breakup with bourbon, after a real-life, devastating romantic breakup that was followed by a downward spiral. When I returned from my 28 days in rehab, in January 2010, it was harder to ignore the near criminal disconnect between Washington and the rest of the country, especially in an industry that has turned neighbors against each other while its instigators clock out and meet for a beer together, skilled actors who in many cases spend the day feigning hatred for each other on camera but are actually bound by their shared nihilism and reckless self-absorption. In Washington, a divided America is good for business.
Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2013/12/this-town-sam-youngman-shove-it-101307_Page2.html#ixzz2nx6ueRSw

My Daughter Is Trying To Sell Her Chromebook

It is a neat little gadget, but she needs to run Microsoft Word -- there are just enough discrepancies between the word processor that comes with it and Word that it will not quite do what she needs.  It is on eBay if you need a cute little way to do stuff on the go, but want a real keyboard.

Big Government, Big Business, Big Labor: Which Do Americans Consider The Greatest Danger?

From December 18, 2013 Gallup.com: 72% of Americans consider Big Government the greatest threat, as opposed to 21% who consider Big Business the greatest threat, and 5% who are worried about Big Labor.  Interestingly enough, the previous high was 65% in 1999 and 2000 -- the last time a Democrat controlled the White House.  Why, it is almost like Democrats remind Americans of why the government is dangerous!

"We Have To Pass The Bill To Find Out What's In It": And What's Missing

December 19, 2013 Washington Post reports on one of those reminders of what happens when you write too big of a law for anyone to fully understand:
The Northern Mariana Islands are an American territory in the Pacific Ocean with 15 islands and 77,000 residents. Their population is roughly equal to that of Sante Fe, N.M. And, right now, the territory is at the center of the oddest health reform disaster you've never heard of.
Because of a quirk in the Affordable Care Act's drafting, the Northern Mariana Islands and the four other American territories are subject to some parts of the law but not others. This has messed up the individual market in the Northern Mariana Islands so badly that the one plan selling policies there told the territory's top insurance commissioner it would not sell new plans for 2014.
In other words: Beginning Jan. 1, regulators expect it will be literally impossible for an individual to buy a new policy in the Northern Mariana Islands, and difficult in other territories.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Need Some Data

I am looking for data on the costs of prosecuting murder cases.  Ideally, from police called to the scene through sending the bad guy to prison.  I have such data or Clark County, Nevada, but I have not had much luck finding this data for other locales.

In case you are wondering: a think tank asked me to put together a study of the cost benefits of treating the mentally ill before they advance from public nuisance to murder. 

Finally, An Honest Admission: "Next Messiah"

Barbara Walters explaining the disappointment that she and many other leftists felt.  Piers Morgan asked her why there is so much disappointment about Obama:
BARBARA WALTERS: Well, you've touched on it to a degree. He made so many promises. We thought that he was going to be - I shouldn't say this at Christmastime, but - the next messiah.
Read more: http://newsbusters.org/blogs/noel-sheppard/2013/12/17/barbara-walters-obama-we-thought-he-was-going-be-next-messiah#ixzz2nqB19BuU
UPDATE: A reader makes the observation that the media sorts think of themselves as extraordinarily smart and educated when statements like the above suggest that they lack the intelligence of some household appliances.  Just because you are rich does not mean that you are smart.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Least Appealing Spam Subject Line, Ever!

Eat until you explode this Christmas without gaining a pound!
Oh yeah, that makes me want to buy their product! 

Revisiting the Estimation of Dinosaur Growth Rates

I saw mention of this interesting article over at Small Dead Animals:
Previous growth-rate studies covering 14 dinosaur taxa, as represented by 31 data sets, are critically examined and reanalyzed by using improved statistical techniques. The examination reveals that some previously reported results cannot be replicated by using the methods originally reported; results from new methods are in many cases different, in both the quantitative rates and the qualitative nature of the growth, from results in the prior literature. Asymptotic growth curves, which have been hypothesized to be ubiquitous, are shown to provide best fits for only four of the 14 taxa. Possible reasons for non-asymptotic growth patterns are discussed; they include systematic errors in the age-estimation process and, more likely, a bias toward younger ages among the specimens analyzed. Analysis of the data sets finds that only three taxa include specimens that could be considered skeletally mature (i.e., having attained 90% of maximum body size predicted by asymptotic curve fits), and eleven taxa are quite immature, with the largest specimen having attained less than 62% of predicted asymptotic size. The three taxa that include skeletally mature specimens are included in the four taxa that are best fit by asymptotic curves. The totality of results presented here suggests that previous estimates of both maximum dinosaur growth rates and maximum dinosaur sizes have little statistical support. Suggestions for future research are presented.
Then I noticed the name of the author -- someone I went to high school with, who eventually left Microsoft to go dinosaur hunting.  

New PJMedia Article Up

Not Trying to Ban Guns – Except When We Are

Monday, December 16, 2013

The 3D Printed M1911

More detail can be found here.  This is a printed gun (although not of plastic -- and you can't buy this kind of machine cheaply yet). Here is the 500 round endurance tests.

New Study Out on Marijuana Use & Memory

This is a press release that describes a paper to be published in the December 16, 2013 Schizophrenia Bulletin, so one should not attach too much significance until we see the paper.  It comes from Northwestern's School of Medicine:
Teens who were heavy marijuana users -- smoking it daily for about three years -- had abnormal changes in their brain structures related to working memory and performed poorly on memory tasks, reports a new Northwestern Medicine® study.

A poor working memory predicts poor academic performance and everyday functioning.

The brain abnormalities and memory problems were observed during the individuals' early twenties, two years after they stopped smoking marijuana, which could indicate the long-term effects of chronic use. Memory-related structures in their brains appeared to shrink and collapse inward, possibly reflecting a decrease in neurons.

The study also shows the marijuana-related brain abnormalities are correlated with a poor working memory performance and look similar to schizophrenia-related brain abnormalities. Over the past decade, Northwestern scientists, along with scientists at other institutions, have shown that changes in brain structure may lead to changes in the way the brain functions.
The press release also addresses the existing published evidence of a causal connection between early marijuana use and later development of schizophrenia:
The groups in the study started using marijuana daily between 16 to 17 years of age for about three years. At the time of the study, they had been marijuana free for about two years. A total of 97 subjects participated, including matched groups of healthy controls, subjects with a marijuana use disorder, schizophrenia subjects with no history of substance use disorders, and schizophrenia subjects with a marijuana use disorder. The subjects who used marijuana did not abuse any other drugs....

Of the 15 marijuana smokers who had schizophrenia in the study, 90 percent started heavily using the drug before they developed the mental disorder. Marijuana abuse has been linked to developing schizophrenia in prior research.

"The abuse of popular street drugs, such as marijuana, may have dangerous implications for young people who are developing or have developed mental disorders," said co-senior study author John Csernansky, M.D., chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Northwestern Memorial Hospital. "This paper is among the first to reveal that the use of marijuana may contribute to the changes in brain structure that have been associated with having schizophrenia."

Chronic marijuana use could augment the underlying disease process associated with schizophrenia, Smith noted. "If someone has a family history of schizophrenia, they are increasing their risk of developing schizophrenia if they abuse marijuana," he said.
 A sample group of 97 isn't huge, and the even smaller sample group of 15 marijuana users with schizophrenia is even more of a "suggestive rather than persuasive" connection, but 90% smoking pot before developing schizophrenia should make Americans a bit less enthused about the "marijuana isn't really bad for you" stuff that is now the dominant sentiment of the mass media.

On the other hand, if you don't mind that voters don't remember how badly the people they voted for last election screwed, then memory loss is a feature, not a bug.

Cauliflower Rice

My daughter made a curry dish last night served over "cauliflower rice," which is essentially cauliflower grounds to a size roughly equivalent to rice grains.  By itself, you would never mistake it for rice, but as the underlayment to a curry dish, or some other spicy sauce, the flavor completely disappears.  It's a clever way to replace a carbohydrate with a healthy vegetable.

Migrating From MyEclipse To Eclipse With a Tomcat Based Product

I am experimenting to see if we can switch from the proprietary MyEclipse product to the open source Eclipse product.  They are very similar, but MyEclipse has significant annual licensing fees, while Eclipse is free.  There are a number of proprietary MyEclipse features that our development environment uses, but it is not clear that we can't fairly easily switch to open source equivalents.  At least, that is how it first appears.

Migrating is actually a bit harder than it first appears.  For example, in Eclipse Kepler, it is not at all clear how you add support for Tomcat 7.  The answer is here:
To do so, go to Help->Install New Software... and select the "Kepler" repository. Then expand "Web, XML, Java EE and OSGi Enterprise Development" and check the box for "JST Server Adapters Extensions". Click "Finish", accept, install and restart. Now you should be able to add the new server like you're used to.
Very helpful.

Finding the javax.servlet library is also unobvious.  This tells you how to do it, first from scratch, then if you have an existing MyEclipse project that needs converting.  In particular, look at this part:
Right click on project ---> Properties ---> Java Build Path ---> Add Library... ---> Server Runtime ---> Apache Tomcat ----> Finish.

This seems to be part of how to use maven to deploy a build to Tomcat 7.

Of course, that requires installing Maven.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Weird Canadian Dream

I had a very strange dream last night -- that I had taken a job in some big Canadian city in one of the prairie provinces.  I was looking for breakfast my very first day, and the restaurant was sort of a buffet, but when I reached the cash register, all I had in my wallet was American bills and (this is where it gets weird) two semi-fossilized scrambled eggs, which for some odd reason, I thought might be more valid tender in Canada than U.S. currency.

I think this dream is largely a leftover from a 1971 trip to Vancouver with my parents, where we were trying to find a restaurant serving lunch on a Sunday in downtown -- and it was like there were few restaurants, and they were nearly all closed.

Why Do People Send Me Stuff Like This?

It is a tremendously evocative road test of the new seventh generation Corvette, the 2014, from Road & Track.  Road tests like this make you almost want to keep working instead of retiring, so that you can afford the payments on something absurd like this.  Unfortunately, for most people, your choice is to have nice things, or do important things (and some do not even get that choice).  Only a very few get to do both.

UPDATE: It struck me as I was driving down to have dinner with my kids that I needed to get some perspective.  I drive a Jaguar in winter, and a Corvette the other three seasons.  I live in a beautiful house on a big parcel of land with a spectacular view.  I actually do get have nice things and do important things (although less than I would like).  This is the danger of materialism -- it can warp your thinking so that you don't realize how good you really have it.

Off-Label Use Of Anti-Psychotic Medications For Behavior Problems in Children

While I don't buy the "psychiatric drugs cause violent kids" stuff that floats around the Internet, what this article from December 2013 Consumer Reports is concerned about is also the concern of some mental health professionals that I know: inappropriate uses of antipsychotic medications in kids to deal with behavior problems:
So, what’s behind the antipsychotic boom? Our investigation, based on an analysis by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, uncovered several factors, including overly aggressive drug marketing and a lack of access to quality mental health care. Caught in the middle are families who often have insufficient resources to deal with complex emotional, psychological, and behavioral problems.

 “There’s a societal trend to look for the quick fix, the magic bullet that will correct disruptive behaviors,” David Rubin, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, said. “But for those looking for a quick solution to escalating behaviors at home, the hard truth is there is unlikely to be a quick fix.”

Saturday, December 14, 2013

People That Shouldn't Have Guns

The Arapahoe High School shooter was described as having strong political opinions by classmates.  Indeed.  From the December 13, 2013 Denver Post:

In one Facebook post, Pierson attacks the philosophies of economist Adam Smith, who through his invisible-hand theory pushed the notion that the free market was self-regulating. In another post, he describes himself as "Keynesian."

"I was wondering to all the neoclassicals and neoliberals, why isn't the market correcting itself?" he wrote. "If the invisible hand is so strong, shouldn't it be able to overpower regulations?"

Pierson also appears to mock Republicans on another Facebook post, writing "you republicans are so cute" and posting an image that reads: "The Republican Party: Health Care: Let 'em Die, Climate Change: Let 'em Die, Gun Violence: Let 'em Die, Women's Rights: Let 'em Die, More War: Let 'em Die. Is this really the side you want to be on?"
There are certainly people that shouldn't own guns.  And like another well-known Colorado high school shooter, apparently a big fan of gun control.  I guess people who don't trust themselves are inclined to distrust others.

UPDATE: Apparently this little detail was scrubbed from the Denver Post article, but appears in the December 14, 2013 news.com.au:
Thomas Conrad, who had an economics class with the gunman, described him as a very opinionated Socialist.

Finally: Progress

December 14, 2013 CNN has an article that makes me feel like what I am doing is having some slight influence:

After Newtown, mental health gains prominence in gun debate

Friday, December 13, 2013

Humorous Reminder To Hang Up And Drive

This arrived by email:

I just learned to text!!!

Hyperactive? Is That The Right Word?

I was searching for something else, and found this description of me at the Potowmack Institute's website:
Cramer is a hyperactive gun rights researcher...
My wife prefers the term "lightning bolt in a can" to describe me.

You Wonder Putin Tries To Appeal To Traditional Values In His Speeches To The Russians

All he has to do to is point to montrosities like this "modern" ballet version of The Nutcracker, detailed in the December 9, 2013 New York Times Magazine.  (Remember, The Nutcracker was originally aimed at children, and is still enjoyed by children.)  I won't quote from the article -- this is a family blog -- but the title captures it perfectly:

An NC-17 Retelling of ‘The Nutcracker’

Sex, nudity, S&M -- how perfect.

Article By Me in the Columbus Dispatch Today

Concerning mental illness and mass murder.

More Global Warming

It is snowing in Cairo.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Newtown's Effects

It used to be that the only way the gun control crowd could win any victories was by dancing in blood.  But increasingly, even this is not as effective an approach as it used to be.  Shall Not Be Questioned pointed me to this December 10, 2013 New York Times article "State Gun Laws Enacted in the Year Since Newtown" which shows that generally, the laws passed since then have been substantially more pro-gun than anti-gun:
In the 12 months since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., almost every state has enacted at least one new gun law. Nearly two-thirds of the new laws ease restrictions and expand the rights of gun owners. Most of those bills were approved in states controlled by Republicans. Those who support stricter regulations won some victories — mostly in states where the legislature and governorship are controlled by Democrats — to increase restrictions on gun use and ownership.
As Shall Not Be Questioned points out, even some of the "anti-gun" laws are ones that our side does not fundamentally disapprove of:
It also shows that a number of those bills that were passed, that are in the pro-gun control column, are minor bills like NICS improvements…. hardly a big win on their parts.

Springfield Armory

We drove up to Springfield Armory on Saturday morning, which was only about a half hour north of Hartford.  (Everything is so small in the Northeast.)  While parts of Springfield, Massachusetts are pretty rough, there are parts of it that are rather charming:

Springfield Armory itself is gone.  There is a museum housed in one of the old buildings, but many of the other building now house Springfield Technical College.  Here's a picture of one of the signs explaining it, and showing the green today:

 Part of why I wanted to visit is a rather memorable poem by Longfellow that compares the muskets at Springfield Armory to the pipes of an organ:

The poem is a pacifist ode, but recognizing that peace is not something that can naturally happen:

The Arsenal at Springfield

THIS is the Arsenal. From floor to ceiling,
Like a huge organ, rise the burnished arms;
But front their silent pipes no anthem pealing
Startles the villages with strange alarms.

Ah! what a sound will rise, how wild and dreary,
When the death-angel touches those swift keys
What loud lament and dismal Miserere
Will mingle with their awful symphonies

I hear even now the infinite fierce chorus,
The cries of agony, the endless groan,
Which, through the ages that have gone before us,
In long reverberations reach our own.

On helm and harness rings the Saxon hammer,
Through Cimbric forest roars the Norseman's song,
And loud, amid the universal clamor,
O'er distant deserts sounds the Tartar gong.

I hear the Florentine, who from his palace
Wheels out his battle-bell with dreadful din,
And Aztec priests upon their teocallis
Beat the wild war-drums made of serpent's skin;

The tumult of each sacked and burning village;
The shout that every prayer for mercy drowns;
The soldiers' revels in the midst of pillage;
The wail of famine in beleaguered towns;

The bursting shell, the gateway wrenched asunder,
The rattling musketry, the clashing blade;
And ever and anon, in tones of thunder,
The diapason of the cannonade.

Is it, O man, with such discordant noises,
With such accursed instruments as these,
Thou drownest Nature's sweet and kindly voices,
And jarrest the celestial harmonies?

Were half the power, that fills the world with terror,
Were half the wealth, bestowed on camps and courts,
Given to redeem the human mind from error,
There were no need of arsenals or forts:

The warrior's name would be a name abhorred!
And every nation, that should lift again
Its hand against a brother, on its forehead
Would wear forevermore the curse of Cain!

Down the dark future, through long generations,
The echoing sounds grow fainter and then cease;
And like a bell, with solemn, sweet vibrations,
I hear once more the voice of Christ say, "Peace!"

Peace! and no longer from its brazen portals
The blast of War's great organ shakes the skies!
But beautiful as songs of the immortals,
The holy melodies of love arise.

- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1845)
They have quite a collection of early machining tools, including the Blanchard Lathe, which is a 3D version of the device that your local hardware store uses to duplicate keys.

University of Connecticut Law School: Lovely Architecture

The Connecticut Attorney-General's office is right next door, and is apparently an old seminary.

"Gun Bans in Danger": Promises, Promises

December 11, 2013 Inside Higher Education reports on a Florida court of appeals decision that struck down most public college bans on guns on campus:
A divided Florida appeals court ruled Tuesday that public colleges and universities -- except in limited circumstances -- lack the legal right to regulate gun possession on campus.

The ruling came in a case involving a rule at the University of North Florida banning students from keeping guns in their cars. But the appeals court went beyond that rule (which it rejected) to speak more generally to the right of public colleges and universities to limit gun possession on campus, as local news media indicated they do. Under Florida's Constitution, the appeals court found, only the Legislature can make such restrictions, so most rules imposed by public colleges and universities would be invalid.

The university had argued that a specific exemption in Florida law giving school districts the right to regulate guns in their facilities applied to public universities as well. The appeals court rejected that argument, saying that lawmakers specify different types of educational institutions in their regulations, so that references to school districts cannot be assumed to go beyond elementary and secondary education.
I am pleased to see how many of those commenting are smart enough to recognize the absurdity of the "well, if you allow guns on campus, everyone will start shooting each other" claim.  

Interesting Decision Concerning California's Ten Day Waiting Period For Guns

The decision is Silvester v. Harris (E.D.Cal. 2013).  This is not a final decision, but really a decision about whether California Attorney-General Kamala Harris is likely to prevail at trial with her claim that California's ten day waiting period law (WPL) for gun purchases does not violate the Second Amendment.  While the judge ruled that a waiting period law is not intrinsically a violation of the Second Amendment, Harris has to provide some evidence that it accomplishes some legitimate function:
When a fundamental right is burdened, rational basis scrutiny does not apply. See Nordlinger, 505 U.S. at 10; Silveira, 312 F.3d at 1087. Contrary to Harris’s argument, Harris has not established that the WPL does not burden the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. As explained above, Harris did not show that the WPL passes either intermediate or strict scrutiny. Because Harris’s arguments do not show that rational basis review is appropriate, Harris has not adequately met her initial burden. Summary judgment on the Equal Protection claims is inappropriate.

Gun Patents Surging

A 35 year record in the number of gun patents.  From December 1, 2013 Bloomberg News:
Gunmakers such as Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. (SWHC) and Sturm Ruger & Co. (RGR) are boosting firearms sales by building weapons that are more accurate and easier to use, with gun-related U.S. patents at a 35-year high.

Demand is growing as more states allow people to carry concealed weapons and lawmakers discuss limiting sales after mass shootings at public venues like schools and movie theaters. Ownership is rising among women and the elderly.

Manufacturers are competing for sales with improvements such as magazines that increase a bullet’s accuracy or are lower in cost. Of 6,077 patents issued since 1977 in the firearms class, 19 percent were in the past four years, with a record 370 issued last year, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

"The sun's activity is in free fall"

Interesting article from November 1, 2013 New Scientist:
The sun's activity is in free fall, according to a leading space physicist. But don't expect a little ice age. "Solar activity is declining very fast at the moment," Mike Lockwood, professor of space environmental physics at Reading University, UK, told New Scientist. "We estimate faster than at any time in the last 9300 years."
Lockwood and his colleagues are reassessing the chances of this decline continuing over decades to become the first "grand solar minimum" for four centuries. During a grand minimum the normal 11-year solar cycle is suppressed and the sun has virtually no sunspotsMovie Camera for several decades. This summer should have seen a peak in the number of sunspots, but it didn't happen.
The article acknowledges that this could cause cooling -- but insists that it would just counterbalance man-caused global warming.  I'm not seeing that at the moment.   Hmmm.  December 9, 2013 NBC News reports that Antarctica sets new record cold:
WASHINGTON — Feeling chilly? Here's cold comfort: You could be in East Antarctica, which according to new data set a record for soul-crushing cold.
Try 135.8 degrees Fahrenheit below zero; that's 93.2 degrees below zero Celsius, which sounds only slightly toastier. Better yet, don't try it. That's so cold scientists say it hurts to breathe.
A new look at NASA satellite data revealed that Earth set a new record for coldest temperature recorded. It happened in August 2010 when it hit -135.8 degrees. Then on July 31 of this year, it came close again: -135.3 degrees.
The Australian Alps have snow -- lots of it.  Remember: it is almost summer there, and the Australian Alps poke through 6600 feet above sea level.  From December 6, 2013 news.com.au:
UPDATE: A day after we posted images of fresh summer snow falling across the Australian Alps, we've updated our original story with new images that show the ground getting whiter... and whiter... and whiter.
Thredbo resort in new South Wales is now in the very unusual position of desperately needing its snow to melt. Thredbo has a huge mountain bike event this weekend but the course is currently snow-covered. Hopefully, forecast warmer tempreatures will take care of things.