Saturday, October 31, 2009

Sausage and Legislation

In the past, it was relatively easy for a legislator to slip an amendment into an otherwise unrelated bill to the benefit of his constituents or himself, and have the bit slip through unnoticed. All you had to do was apportion the available legislation among the legislators so that a declaration of support for the state trash haulers didn't contain $40Bn worth of pork divided among the legislators in amounts varying by seniority.

The internet has provided the taxpayers with (dare I say) an Army of Davids in their defense. While it is certain that a very large bill might well be whooped through before anyone, or even any 10 people could plausibly read it, it is increasingly unlikely that even a 1990 pg bill can be voted on before 1000 people read 2 pages each, and report the most egregious flaws.

You gotta love it when only 2 days after the thing is dropped on selected desks, Limbaugh is reading a long list of items sure to annoy the intended victims of the thing. You knew the lawyers wouldn't get left out, and sure enough, Brietbart discovers this from page 1431-1433 of the bill:

Section 2531, entitled “Medical Liability Alternatives,” establishes an incentive program for states to adopt and implement alternatives to medical liability litigation. [But]…… a state is not eligible for the incentive payments if that state puts a law on the books that limits attorneys’ fees or imposes caps on damages.

A politician is one who never sees a constituent problem that cannot be turned into a revenue source without actually fixing the problem.

Happy Halloween

There's a problem with the festivities in Clinton, N.J. with a haunted house called Asylum of Terror.

CLINTON -- Every fall, the Red Mill Museum here hosts a haunted house. But this year’s "Asylum of Terror," has angered mental health advocates who said the theme perpetuates ugly stereotypes.
Evidently the thought of an institution full of lunatics that lacks the marble columns out front and the big gold dome on the roof, drives advocates for the deranged, crazy.

DARPA Challenge

While humming the tune to "99 Red Ballons", find 10 of them in the shortest time.

To mark the 40th anniversary of the Internet, DARPA has announced the DARPA Network Challenge, a competition that will explore the role the Internet and social networking plays in the timely communication, wide area team-building and urgent mobilization required to solve broad scope, time-critical problems.

The challenge is to be the first to submit the locations of ten moored, 8 foot, red weather balloons located at ten fixed locations in the continental United States. Balloons will be in readily accessible locations and visible from nearby roadways.

An interesting challenge, especially if you think a bit about what this will prove to DARPA. What we have here is an experiment to see if 20,000,000 geeks can find something faster than 2,000 intelligence analysts in windowless rooms with access to spy satellites. If you're interested, there's a picture of a sample balloon at the link above. I imagine that one found floating over a car dealership, apartment complex, or furniture store will probably not be the balloon you are looking for, although this suggests a great exercise in deception.

What makes this interesting to me is an effort I made a couple weeks ago to find an Iranian Nuke site located "SE of Qom, Iran". Using Google Earth, I found a suspicious looking site rather quickly, and when someone published a released picture shortly thereafter, sure enough, that was it. New construction shows up on satellite photos like a fly on a plate, and "new" means anything less than 1 or 2 years old, especially if no landscaping effort has gone along with it.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


In next years elections several interesting things will be on the ballot, not leat of which is a chance to remove several State Supreme court justices. Clear the Bench has details. Regarding voting, Heinlein said:
1987 - from To Sail Beyond the Sunset
If you are part of a society that votes, then do so. There may be no candidates and no measures you want to vote for ... but there are certain to be ones you want to vote against. In case of doubt, vote against. By this rule you will rarely go wrong. If this is too blind for your taste, consult some well-meaning fool (there is always one around) and ask his advice. Then vote the other way. This enables you to be a good citizen (if such is your wish) without spending the enormous amount of time on it that a truly intelligent exercise of franchise requires.
I summarized this to my daughter as "when in doubt, vote against all the incumbents, vote NO on all the questions, and vote NO to retain all the judges." Do this, and you will seldom regret the way you voted.

Global Warming

They're saying that we got 23" of global warming in the last 2 days, with another couple inches expected overnight.
No, I do not have a camper on my truck.
Just the snow stacks up that high.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Future of Transportation

Everybody is probably familiar with the local water works modus operendi of first telling us that there's a water shortage and asking us to use less, then telling us that water sales are down and a price increase is required.

Now the transportation bureaucracies have discovered the same trick, only with added improvements. First they tell us to use less gasoline and drive less, so we buy more efficient cars and perhaps even drive less. Then they tell us that revenue from the gasoline taxes are coming up short, and more money is needed, so the price of a registration is doubled, and maybe the gas tax is squeezed up a bit. Problem with this is that people notice this sort of thing, and sometimes remember who was in office when it happened.

The new solution, proposed in England, and now in D.C. is to fit everyones vehicle with a GPS unit, and tax the drivers by the mile. As an added bonus, there is now a complete record of everywhere you went, and when, stored in your car.
"Vehicles would be fitted with a GPS transponder device similar to an E-ZPass, perhaps as part of the registration process," Orr and Rivlin explained. "This device would record the type of vehicle, the distance traveled, and the time and location of travel."

Despite the privacy issues, DC officials insist that tolling is necessary for making up for the shortfall in gasoline tax revenues. The proposed mileage tax would solve this problem by increasing motorist taxation levels by a factor of ten. The additional revenue would be diverted to spending on buses and rail service.

Somehow this information is downloaded to a government bureau somewhere where it is securely (!) stored, and the data is crunched into a bill you get for using the roads. No word on what happens to the data afterword, but some interesting scenarios come to mind:

1. Postcards come in the mail; Dear Mr. Smith: We see your 2007 Toyota Camry is approaching its 30,000 mile service date. We at Fonebone Motors would be happy to perform this service at a reasonable price...

2. You sell your car. Notification must come quickly otherwise the buyer would be well advised to buy after 5 PM Friday in order to charge the 2000 mile trip to the coast to you before the bureaucrats can get back to work on Monday and note the change of ownership into the computer.

The possibilities are just endless. Glenn suggests tar and feathers.

The Workshop

This time it's a couple of suggestions. Why does no-one...

1. Put a bolt head on gas-powered stuff that can be engaged by a socket wrench in a cordless drill. Engage the bolt, push down to engage to the motor, and pull the trigger on your drill to start the gas-powered thingy. A rubber friction wheel would provide all the connection you need, and would disengage when the engine started. Voila! an affordable electric starter for mowers or snow blowers or whatever.

2. A nozzle for the can of engine starter fluid that wouldn't snap off when you drop the can from your wet, icy hands. Not that anyone needs engine starting fluid in the winter, say for use on a recalcitant snow blower or something.


Never let it be said that I'm unwilling to admit it when I make a mistake. Hell, it happens so seldom, I'm mildly surprised they don't declare a national holiday when it happens. Anyway in the piece I wrote a few days ago regarding a proposed new gun law, I mentioned a proposed tax on the unarmed in Vermont.

It seems the phenomenon of "too good to check" can affect almost anybody, as Jeff Soyer, of Vermont points out.

Fred Maslack did, in fact, while a State Representative, introduce such a bill — in 2000. This was during the run up to the vote to allow civil unions and Maslack wanted to be sure residents of Vermont understood the state’s Constitution. Although a Republican, Maslack was, like most Vermont elected officials, that quirky combination of libertarian values. He also supported a bill in 1996 to legalize medical marijuana.

Anyway, he is no longer serving in the State House.

Thus the story falls into the same category as anything you hear about SB-2099, which was also introduced around 2001, and died in committee. Google is your friend.

Respecting Their Rights

The UN is carping about the use by the US of UAVs to target specific people, saying that this looks too much like organized assassination, you know like the use of a suicide bomber to kill Ms. Bhutto, or renegade soldiers to kill Anwar Sadat.

Philip Alston said that unless the Obama administration explains the legal basis for targeting particular individuals and the measures it is taking to comply with international humanitarian law which prohibits arbitrary executions, “it will increasingly be perceived as carrying out indiscriminate killings in violation of international law.”

Alston, the U.N. Human Rights Council’s investigator on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, raised the issue of U.S. Predator drones in a report to the General Assembly’s human rights committee and at a news conference afterwards, saying he has become increasingly concerned at the dramatic increase in their use, especially in Afghanistan and Pakistan, since June.

Bummer, dude.

The simple and obvious solution is to make sure that the people targeted by the Hellfire missiles, increasingly Al-Q and Talib leaders, are fully informed of their rights first. This is easily accomplished by printing the famous admonition
You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney present during questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.
on the nose of every Hellfire missile in current use. Of course, this will need to be translated into Arabic, Farsi, and 3 or 4 of the local dialects in use along the Afghan-Pakistan border.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Always a fun topic, guaranteed to get people involved, one way or another. I think religion is generally a good idea, and everyone ought to have one. Usually they teach you about things like morals and ethics that you'll never hear about in Poly Sci classes, that help societies operate smoothly. Over at Theo Spark, there's this flow chart to help you pick one that suits your personality.
I, of course, am an Orthodox Viking. We believe everything it OK as long as you do it to excess. If a little is good, and more is better, than too much ought to be just about right.

I am noticing, however, that those of us who survive the experience for any significant length of time have a tendency to drift off into something along the lines of Buddhism.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sturgeons Law

Theodore Sturgeon, a science fiction writer of some note, once remarked in a talk that "90 percent of everything is crap." Asked if that included science fiction, he added "especially science fiction."

Here we have Bill Lockyar, California state treasurer, explaining to the legislature that Calis budget problems are tracable to them.

He is very charitable in that he only calls 75% of the legislatures doings "crap". My own observation is that the number is much closer to 100%.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

New Gun Law Proposed

And the shoe is on the other foot this time. Back in the day (late 1700s) when the Bill of Rights was being discussed, most states had incorporated into their constitutions a proviso about the state militia. Generally this was originally all free males between 18 and 45 years old, but there was wide variation from one state to the next.

Most states recognized that, among others, the Quakers were religiously opposed to violence against their fellow man, no matter how well deserved, and made exceptions to service in the militia for them. They also frequently added a requirement that the "religiously scrupulous" share in the cost of a call out of the militia by paying a sum to cover their absence. Rep. Maslack of Vermont finds this reasonable, and proposes to bring it back.

Vermont 's constitution states explicitly that "the people have
a right to bear arms for the defense of themselves and the State" and
those persons who "conscientiously scrupulous of bearing arms" shall be
required to "pay such equivalent." Clearly, says Maslack, Vermonters
have a constitutional obligation to arm themselves so that they are
capable of responding to "any situation that may arise".

Under the bill, adults who choose not to own a firearm would be
required to register their name, address, Social Security Number, and
driver's license number with the state. "There is a legitimate
government interest in knowing who is prepared to defend the state
should they be asked to do so," Maslack says.
Indeed, if some percentage of the population has obtained CCW permits, and as a result, violent crime tapers off, then those non-carrying citizens are effectively getting the benefit of several hundred plainclothes police at no charge to themselves.

Fairest would be for the fees go to covering the costs incurred by the carriers, possibly by allowing them to completely deduct their costs for the permit, and one gun, and ammo from their state taxes. The number of people with permits being rather small, the state would realize a huge windfall from such a tax, and since I would be exempt, I'd favor it.

Vermont being one of two states that do not require a permit to carry, the rather stiff $500 fee would be assessed on non-gun-owners in general. Here, perhaps, a $100 tax on the disarmed, no effect on anyone providing proof of ownership of one qualifying gun, and a $100 tax credit if you attach a photocopy of your CCW to your tax form.

Fashion Statement

Observing that with more and more people getting CCW permits, and the practice spreading to the sartorially conscious, I had a thought...

For those of you who will be at MileHiCon this weekend, I will have these
available in black and gray at $15.

Getting shirts done is a delicate process, as screen printing is about as much art as science. The example above was done at CustomInk by me and represents 5 or 6 tries before I got it to come out right. Locally produced ones trimmed the gun a bit more than I did although that probably is more realistic than the amount of exposed metal in this one. The blacker background behind the gun is an artifact of the computer process, and does not appear on the shirt.

Cafe Press seems to be able to print only a 10 x 10 area on a shirt, which puts the gun way too high. Zazzle is slightly better, but generally still a bit too high. I'll get a pic of one of the locally produced ones this weekend and put it up. I will also talk to a shirt vendor about just how he ships his non-local orders.

Details, details, details. This was supposed to be fun and easy.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Berlin Wall

Coming up in two weeks, on November 9th, is the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. This thing was the most recognizable icon of the Soviet Union from the day it went up, and when it came down, what I heard at work all the next day was "I thought I'd never see the day." Over the next two years, the rest of the house of cards that was the Soviet Union crumbled.

I remember seeing the news reports with Dan Rather in a trench coat, looking as serious and solemn as could be, reporting the event, while behind him the Germans were having the biggest and best-deserved beer fest in the last 500 years. I was truly sorry I was unable to attend.

The Germans are having a celebration of the event, and have invited, among others, our president. Guess who's not attending? I imagine he will be issuing an apology for Americas role in the downfall of a near-perfect utopia.

The Bushes should go. They'd be welcome, and wouldn't embarrass us.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Movie Review

Tamara got to see Zombieland. She seemed to be favorably impressed:
They need to go back in time and take all the Oscars away from Gone With The Wind and maybe Casablanca and give them all to Zombieland.

Seriously, this is the only time I've ever blurted out "Oh my gawd, this is maybe the greatest movie ever!" out loud, in the theater. Twice.
I may have to go see this one. Sounds like a patent cure for depression, or maybe an inspiration for the sequel: Bureaucratland.

Recovery In Progress

Please pardon our dust while we put everybody back to work!
Thanks to Michelle for this.
Or if you have some suspicions that the program isn't going quite as well as Joe Biden says it is, this site has a map on which you can click a state, and find out how well it's doing.

According to this, Colorado has received $583,269,816.00, and created 4710.05 jobs. OK, what's .05 of a job? I believe it's what I got this year, dividing days worked by days off.

At $123,835/job, there should be some nice paychecks going out to somebody. Keep in mind this is recipient reported money. If you switch to agency reporting, the money is $3,864,381,626.00 with no jobs being admitted to. A search of the recipients of the money reveals almost 100% government agencies, which explains why, when all the taxpayers are getting laid off, you don't hear about anyone in government losing a job.

Gun Show Report

The place was really dead while I was there. I do believe we are seeing a shift from panic-stricken hoarders to the effects of widespread unemployment. There's a lot of people out there with no disposable income to spend on guns. There seem to be some ammo hoarders left who continue to keep prices high for the rest of us, and the residual effects in the form of merchants with inventory bought dearly and now not moving.
Powder is running 19-22$/lb, up from 17-18 last year.
Bullets in 500 qty are running $.07/ea, which is pretty much back to normal.
Primers are up at $37/1000, way up from $17/K last year, but primers are something we don't go through that fast, so sopping up the high-priced inventory may take a while.
For the .38 spl +P that I use, the economics are like this:
Bullet = 1 req, cost $.07
Powder = 4.3gr -> 1628 bullets/lb -> $.012/rd
Primers = 1 req @ $.037/ea at current rates.
Ammo = $0.119/rd => relatively cheap entertainment.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Things That Go Boom

Cracked has a bit on things that explode that you might not expect to. One of the items listed is the seed pod of the sandbox tree;
The seed pods are about 2-3 inches in diameter and reminded me of a radial aircraft engine, but with a hole in the center
This one still has a stem attached. When I was in Viet-Nam, the kids there used this seed pod, which is woody and very hard, as key chain fobs. With limited language skills on both sides of the transaction, and an easy way to have some fun at the G.I.s expense, they provided me with a large one, which I brought back with me. It was sitting on my step-fathers mantle when it germinated, throwing the ribs a good 30 feet.

The Stanford botany department now has a full sized hand grenade tree of their very own.

Quote of the Week

Anita Dunn, in a presser of sorts, while bashing Fox News, stated that one of her favorite philosophers was Mao Tse-dung, murderer of some 70-100 million of his own people. The quote she cited was the well-known one about
"All political power flows from the barrel of a gun."
Which is no more than what you'd expect from someone who shot his way to power. When I was in Chinese language school, I heard the line from people who had gotten out of the country ahead of the implementation of the peoples paradise, who gave me a longer version of it. Their version ran:
"All political power flows from the barrel of a gun, and that gun must remain firmly in the hand of the state."
Which makes far more sense if you consider that a revolutionary has 2 tasks; first, to get into office, and second, to stay there. All politicians get into office using one of the "four boxes", the soap box, the jury box, the ballot box, or the cartridge box, and all of them are aware that any of the boxes can be used to remove them. It behooves the ambitious pol to try to limit access to the boxes to his opponents. It behooves the voter to remember that an attack on any of the boxes is, rhetoric notwithstanding, only an attempt to preserve some politicians phoney-baloney job.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Someone asked me about getting a Kalashnikitty t-shirt, and I couldn't remember where to get them.
Very nice shirts, my daughter has one. Anyway, here's the complete skinny.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Workshop

It looks like winter may be cold and wet in spite of the best pronouncements of Pope Prius 1, and at the risk of sounding like Red Green, here's a tip for those of you who have filled your garages with useful stuff, and leave your car out in the driveway.

You need one of those small space heaters, of the size found under the secretary's desk, about 1000-1500 watts. If possible, get one with a thermostat. You also need a lamp timer, the kind you use to turn the lamp on and off to signal the burglars that no one's home.

Plug the timer in to the indoor outlet nearest to your vehicle. One in the garage works best, as the timers are typically not rated for outdoor use. Run an extension cord from the timer to your car, and place the heater on the floor on the passenger side. Be careful not to crowd it into a cramped area, and remove all the burger wrappers and magazines from within 2 feet of the heater first. Set the thermostat for 50 degrees, and the timer to turn on about 1/2 hour before you normally leave for work, and off about 15 minutes after you expect to leave. When you come out, the car will be comfortable, and all the frost will be gone from the windscreen, or at least it will come off with a couple passes from the wipers.

Do not forget to disconnect the cord and toss it outside the car before you back out of the drive. Try to toss the receptacle far enough away from the car that you do not back over it on your way out. BE SURE to use an extension cord rated for 15 amps minimum. Required amp rating is (heater watts)/120. Be sure the heater plug / cord receptacle is in an open area, and not slammed in the door when you hook up in the evening. Buy me some beer, then ask me how I know all this. Don't waste time getting in, and the car stays comfortably warm untill the engine warms up.

Pity this doesn't work on the return trip.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

HOV lanes

You may remember, a bit back, I mentioned that the windmill du jour for me would be getting the HOV lane on the Sante Fe corridor between Littleton and Denver abolished. Since this route runs through 4 municipalities, all four would need to come down in favor of abolition. They would then have to jointly ask the CDOT* to take down the signage and lights. There is a possibility that CDOT would have to get permission from the federal government to do that, but I do not see that as as difficult as getting the cities on board.

Of the four, Englewood is the biggest prosecutor of the thing, raking in nearly $2000/hour writing tickets once a week. I have asked their city councilman, Wayne Oakly, who is also their man on the DRCOG** board, about doing this, citing lack of use for the lane, and high congestion as a result. He seemed surprised to hear about this, and asked to speak with the city traffic and police. That was August 16. I pinged him again today to see what he had found out:

Hi Bill,

I am running for re-election and will not have time for this until after the election.

The worst part of being a representative of the people must be having to listen to the whiny bastards all the time. If only it weren't necessary to have to convince them of ones worthiness every 2 years or so, far more could, no doubt be accomplished.

Notwithstanding how busy he must be, if any of my readers in the Denver metro area would like to know if abolishing the Sante Fe HOV lane and ending the congestion is on Mr. Oakly's platform, he is conveniently listed on the internet here, and everything you need to know is:
Council Member Wayne Oakley. Address: 4691 S. Mariposa Drive Englewood, CO 80110
. Phone: 303-981-0626
If you use Sante Fe, remember that management of the Littleton-Denver segment of it is a DRCOG matter and as a member, Mr. Oakly is as valid a representative for you as anyone. If he has a position, let me know what it is. He seemed to lack motivation to me.

I suppose the next step would be a large sign on the tailgate of my truck informing my fellow commuters that Mr. Oakly would be the person to call about the congestion.

*CDOT: Colo Dept of Transportation. Manages state highways.
**DRCOG: Denver Regional Council of Governments. Our local version of the G20 or the UN. Marginally more useful.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Economics II

I carp about the economic health of myself and my country here, from time to time, but normally I keep to stuff that makes sense to me. This:
Leaves me baffled. If I had an advanced degree, I might pretend to be able to make sense of it. Asking experts doesn't help either, they just gurgle, crawl under their desks, and begin sucking their thumbs. I have to assume it's an portent of those "interesting times" the Chinese curse refers to.

I don't keep a big supply of food. I keep 3 extra tanks of propane, and a mental list of which of the neighbors will make the best steaks. NOTE: If you paint red crosses on the doors, hood, and tailgate of your piclup, people ask fewer questions when you're "bringing home the bacon".

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Major Award for the Prez

Go here, once a day, until some time in December, and enter Barack Obama in the blank choice slot, and vote for him for the Heisman Trophy.
Bookmark the spot where you'll see it daily as that's how ofter you're allowed to vote.

No, this isn't my idea, it's his, but as I've remarked before, I love a good conspiracy.

The winner of this Nissan-sponsored promotion will actually receive one official vote for the Heisman award as sort of the people's choice.

Talent like his should not go unrecognized.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Nobel Peace Prize

The Nobel Peace prize has been awarded to Barak O'Bama for his splendid and noteworthy accomplishments in,..... something, I'm sure.

He now joins:
Jimmie Carter, who brought about the current regieme in Iran,
Yassir Arafat, who brought great organization to the business of killing Jews,
Al Gore, who continues his efforts to cripple the worlds economies while becoming rich.

The Ig-Nobel committee obviously needs to amend their awards to include something special for the Nobel board. A feat of this magnitude deserves some sort of special recognition. Very special.

Short bus special.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Stimulus Money Available

Following the lead of internationally known blogger Glenn Reynolds, it is incumbent on me to report that Colorado in the recipient of some 2 billion in federal stimulus money, soon to be distributed.

Persons and organizations wanting a piece of this pie should make their requests in person at the primary office of the Democrat representatives this Monday, Columbus Day, between the hours of 9AM and 3PM. The stimulus program, being a partisan product, the Republican reps are not included. If you live in a Republican district, the extra travel required should be only a minor inconvenience.

Locations to claim your stimulus money are as follows:
John Salazar
134 West B Street
Pueblo, CO 81003

Diana Degette
600 Grant Street, Suite 202
Denver, CO 80203

Jarid Polis
1200 East 78th Avenue, Suite 105
Thornton, CO 80229-5930

Betsy Marky
822 7th Street, #9
Greeley, CO 80631

Ed Perlmutter
12600 West Colfax Avenue, Suite 8400
Lakewood, CO 80215

Computer Wars, The Final Word

From Oleg Volk, the final word on the ongoing computer wars:
Oh wait, you mean that MAC. Well, never mind.

Found at Theo Spark.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Pumpkin Cannon

The Bomberos pumpkin cannon is back on Craigs List, having been refurbished and brought up to working condition.
Here it is peeking in the window at DuBach Tool and Machine Co. a splended and worthwhile shop specializing in short-runs, stampings, prototyping and general machining. 3910 S. Mariposa Englewood. They also feature welding and engineering services.

The barrel extension comes off easily for transport, and the machine has thrown a 12 lb bowling ball 1/2 mile.

Oh yeah, and on Craigs list, this is NOT a pumpkin gun. You never use the dreaded G-word there lest someone get hurt. It's for the children, you know, so this time it's a pumpkin launcher. Oddly, though, it's OK to sell a cannon there, just not a gun.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Health Care

The Dems recently dissed the opposition:

The Dem plan is for us to die slowly while a committee argues about our medication.

Makes the Republican plan look better by comparison, no?


ACORN is still fully funded, with YOUR tax money. It seems all those self-righteous votes in the house and in the Senate, mean nothing without follow-up action in the other chamber, which is NOT on the docket.

So your congress-critter can tell you he or she voted to defund or investigate, knowing there was no way this was ever going to happen. Business as usual, eh?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Workshop

Not my workshop this time, but Club Workshop. If you ever thought up a large, elaborate project, or even a modest on that was too big for your in-house facilities, this might well be the place for you.
In association with this are the various makers, fans of Make! magazine, and builders extraordinary. Club Workshop held a mini-Maker Faire at their facility, and while the attendance was probably smaller than everyone would have liked, the stuff that showed up was worth the visit. Builders of stuff ranging from clothing with embedded electronics, to small robots with elaborate vision systems were on display.
Here is a pneumatic ping-pong ball gun. You may remember the ones you had as a kid that barfed out balls as you worked the pump-action slide to the dismay of your younger siblings and family pets. This one is an exercise in wretched excess on a level you seldom get to see. Of the two silver tubes on top, the nearest one is the magazine, and the farther one is the barrel. The tube on the bottom is the air reservoir. Connect it to shop air, and one button auto-loads a ball to the barrel. Press the second, and the ball is spit out at blinding speed.
The shotgun shell is a projectile from my pedal air gun. Note the lighter-colored circles to the left, directly above, and below and to the left of the shell. Those are dents in the 3/4" plywood made by ping-pong balls.

Give this place a look, and keep an eye out for the next such event.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Future of Transportation

Kausfiles is reporting today that GMs sales are down 45% and Chrysler is down 42% vs last year. If I heard that a company had lost that big a percentage of its sales in the last year, I'd be thinking how glad I am I don't own any of its stock, and that news of a complete shutdown is looming on the horizon. Kaus thinks they won't last past the end of next year.

I think that without more bailout money, neither one would last that long, but fortunately for the UAW, there is an election next year, and closure of those two would probably give the republicans a clean sweep in the elections.

I'm going to stick my neck out here, and put my pool marker down like this: The election is Thursday, Nov 4th. The announcement of the closure of one or both of the companies will be made Friday, Nov 5th at 5:02 PM EST.

Hate Speech

The U.N. is considering a proclamation frowning on hate speech. It's always fun watching people righteously denouncing hate speech, then trying to define it in such a way as to exclude anything they or their friends say. Paragraph 4, for example says:
1. Paragraph 4 of the draft resolution “expresses … concern that incidents of racial and religious intolerance, discrimination and related violence, as well as of negative stereotyping of religions and racial groups continue to rise around the world, and condemns, in this context, any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, and urges States to take effective measures, consistent with their international human rights obligations, to address and combat such incidents.”
Which almost seems to call for an end to the practice of Islam and publication of the Koran. These are clever people though, masters of the "harshly worded letter of condemnation", especially when Israel is the target. I'm sure they'll think of something.

In the comments, there is this:

A. Zarkov says:

About 1910 a man went out into a major street in Berlin screaming, “The Kaiser is an idiot– the Kaiser is an idiot.” The police immediately grab him and haul him off for hate speech against he monarch. But he protests, “I was talking about the Austrian Kaiser.” The policeman laughs and tells the man, “Nonsense, you can’t fool us– we know who the idiot is!”

I love it. Here is the essence of why this sort of effort will go nowhere. The joke can be rewritten to fit practically anyone.

The City of Boulder periodically considers a municipal hate-speech ordinance, and the way to insure its quick repeal, should it ever pass, is to demand the strictest enforcement at the earliest moment. Pick a group that advocates for something on the basis that its approach is superior to some other approach, and file a complaint against it, charging hate speech.

Note that this approach works for almost anything. Call it the "Tom Leher approach", in the spirit of his song 'Smut'; "When correctly viewed, everything is lewd!"