Thursday, January 31, 2013
Years ago a railway company was erected and one of its directors -- probably the commercial bloke -- discovered that the initial investments could be reduced significantly if only fifty percent of the cars would be equipped with a toilet, and, therefore, so was decided.
Shortly after the company had started its operations, however, complaints about the toilets came pouring in. An investigation was carried out and revealed that the obvious thing had happened: despite its youth the company was already suffering from internal communication problems, for the director's decision on the toilets had not been transmitted to the shunting yard, where all cars were treated as equivalent, and, as a result, sometimes trains were composed with hardly any toilets at all.
In order to solve the problem, a bit of information was associated with each car, telling whether it was a car with or without a toilet, and the shunting yard was instructed to compose trains with the numbers of cars of both types as equal as possible. It was a complication for the shunting yard, but, once it had been solved, the people responsible for the shunting procedures were quite proud that they could manage it.
When the new shunting procedures had been made effective, however, complaints about the toilets continued. A new investigation was carried out and then it transpired that, although in each train about half the cars had indeed toilets, sometimes trains were composed with nearly all toilets in one half of the train. In order to remedy the situation, new instructions were issued, prescribing that cars with and cars without toilets should alternate. This was a move severe complication for the shunting people, but after some initial grumbling, eventually they managed.
Complaints, however, continued and the reason turned out to be that, as the cars with toilets had their toilet at one of their ends, the distance between two successive toilets in the train could still be nearly three car lengths, and for mothers with children in urgent need -- and perhaps even luggage piled up in the corridors -- this still could lead to disasters. As a result, the cars with toilets got another bit of information attached to them, making them into directed objects, and the new instructions were, that in each train the cars with toilets should have the same orientation. This time, the new instructions for the shunting yard were received with less than enthusiasm, for the number of turntables was hardly sufficient; to be quite fair to the shunting people we must even admit that according to all reasonable standards, the number of turntables was insufficient, and it was only by virtue of the most cunning ingenuity, that they could just manage.
With all toilets equally spaced along the train the company felt confident that now everything was alright, but passengers continued to complain: although no passenger was more than a car length away from the nearest toilet, passengers (in urgent need) did not know in which direction to start their stumbling itinerary along the corridor! To solve this problem, arrows saying "TOILET" were fixed in all corridors, thereby also making the other half of the cars into directed objects that should be properly oriented by the shunting procedure.
When the new instruction reached the shunting yard, they created an atmosphere ranging from despair to revolt: it just couldn't be done! At that critical moment a man whose name has been forgotten and shall never be traced, made the following observation. When each car with a toilet was coupled, from now until eternity, at its toileted end with a car without a toilet, from then onwards the shunting yard, instead of dealing with N directed cars of two types, could deal with N/2 identical units that, to all intents and purposes, could be regarded as symmetrical. And this observation solved all shunting problems at the modest price of, firstly sticking to trains with an even number of cars only -- the few additional cars needed for that could be paid out of the initial savings effected by the commercial bloke! -- and, secondly, slightly cheating with regard to the equal spacing of the toilets. But, after all, who cares about the last three feet?
Although at the time that this story took place, mankind was not blessed yet with automatic computers, our anonymous man who found this solution deserves to be called the world's first competent programmer.
I have told the above story to different audiences. Programmers, as a rule, are delighted by it, and managers, invariably, get more and more annoyed as the story progresses; true mathematicians, however, fail to see the point.
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Over the past ten years or so, scientists have made a number of discoveries about the broader extent and higher population than previously believed in “pre-historic” Americas. Many of these discoveries have been in South America, particularly in Amazonia. Here's one that is in the United States, giving strong evidence for a civilization there about 3,200 years ago that was capable of mustering thousands of workers to build a large earthworks.
It fascinates me that the evidence of human activity is so difficult to find and interpret, just a few thousand years after the fact. I wonder what people a few thousand years from now will think about, say, the human occupation of Southern California? Our artifacts look so permanent – especially on the time scale of a single human life – but clearly they are not...
America’s cats, including housecats that adventure outdoors and feral cats, kill between 1.4 billion and 3.7 billion birds in a year, says Peter Marra of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Washington, D.C., who led the team that performed the analysis. Previous estimates of bird kills have varied, he says, but “500 million is a number that has been thrown around a lot.”Felines are land sharks...
For wild mammals, the annual toll lies between 6.9 billion and 20.7 billion, Marra and his colleagues report along with the bird numbers January 29 in Nature Communications. The majority of these doomed mammals and birds fall into the jaws of cats that live outdoors full-time with or without food supplements from people.
“The results are remarkable, not only for the big number, but also for the proportion of deaths from feral cats,” says Gary M. Langham, chief scientist for the National Audubon Society. The study assigns 952 million to 3.1 billion bird deaths a year to these wild cats. “These numbers really elevate this threat to a new level.”
I suspect this particular company maintained this unusual level of transparency because there were several relatives and close friends of the founder employed there. By being completely transparent about compensation, many potentially destructive rumors were quashed.
This morning I read that there's a detectable trend toward such transparency, and more...
Monday, January 28, 2013
A Wisconsin farmer named Olie (Olav) had a car accident. He was hit by a truck owned by the Eversweet Company, a Harley Westover Company.
In court, the Eversweet Company's hot-shot attorney questioned him thus:
'Didn't you say to the state trooper at the scene of the accident, 'I'm fine?"
Olie responded: 'vell, I'lla tell you vat happened dere. I'd yust loaded my fav'rit cow, Bessie, into da... '
'I didn't ask for any details', the lawyer interrupted. 'Just answer the question. Did you not say, at the scene of the accident, 'I'm fine!'?'
Olie said, 'vell, I'd yust got Bessie into da trailer and I vas drivin' down da road.... '
The lawyer interrupted again and said, 'Your Honor, I am trying to establish the fact that, at the scene of the accident, this man told the police on the scene that he was fine. Now several weeks after the accident, he is trying to sue my client. I believe he is a fraud. Please tell him to simply answer the question.
By this time, the Judge was fairly interested in Olie’s answer and said to the attorney: 'I'd like to hear what he has to say about his favorite cow, Bessie'.
Olie said: 'Tank you' and proceeded. 'vell as I vas saying, I had yust loaded Bessie, my fav'rit cow, into de trailer and was drivin' her down de road vin dis huge Eversweet truck and trailer came tundering tru a stop sign and hit my trailer right in da side by golly. I was trown into one ditch and Bessie was trown into da udder ditch.
By yimminy yahosaphat I vas hurt, purty durn bad, and didn't vant to move. An even vurse dan dat, I could hear old Bessie a moanin' and a groanin'. I knew she vas in terrible pain yust by her groans.
Shortly after da accident, a policeman on a motorbike turned up. He could hear Bessie a moanin' and a groanin' too, so he vent over to her. After he looked at her, and saw her condition, he took out his gun and shot her right between the eyes.
Den da policeman came across de road, gun still in hand, looked at me, and said, 'How are you feelin'?'
'Now wot da fock vud you say?'
Whoever posted the sign at right has secured revenge for all of us :)
If politics weren't part of the mix, I'd say there was a chance (albeit a small chance) that the military could figure out how to do this right. Throw politics into it, though, and I think it becomes impossible. And of course politics is in the mix, inevitably so, as Congress controls the military's purse strings...
Now of course they could undertake to get the education required to get a better job, and then go compete in the marketplace. Many people (hopefully, most people) would do exactly that. But that's all such a terribly large effort, fraught with the possibility of failure. If, instead, they can just sit at home and rake in the welfare checks – that's ever so much less work and has no risk to themselves at all.
The important elements of this situation are already in place in the U.S., most especially in our large cities. The progressive agenda keeps putting more pieces in place (Obamacare is a huge example). During Clinton's administration significant welfare reform took a big step in the right direction, but the Obama administration and the predominantly Democratic administrations of most of our large cities are rapidly undoing those changes. On our current trajectory, I'd estimate that the U.K. is only 5 to 10 years ahead of us. So we can look forward to our own millions of Danny and Gina, whom the rest of us will support by having the fruits of our own labor stolen from us by “progressive” politicians.
Sunday, January 27, 2013
The University of Wisconsin is about to change that. They're going to provide the certification (that degree) to anyone who can pass their tests for it. In other words, they are going to unbundle the certification and the education.
This has the potential both for good and bad, like most things. One possible good outcome: the emergence of specialized degrees, especially those aimed at certifying an individual's readiness for gainful employment. This will be enabled by the relatively low cost of a certification program as compared to an entire curriculum. Employment-focused degrees would be worth a lot to American industry if they're well done. One possible bad outcome: the emergence of schlock degrees, wherein the only real requirement is forking over some money. Just as for the schlock schools and correspondence courses that exist today, the education industry will have to develop defenses against these. Probably the main defense will be the same one as today: the reputation of the issuing school.
That reminds me of the most intense rain Debbie and I have ever experienced. We were just west of Hilo, up in the hills on the Big Island of Hawai'i. We watched the storm cell approach, saw it dumping torrential rains on Hilo, and then it hit us. I didn't have any instruments with me, but I did watch things like pots, buckets, etc. filling up. I guessed the rate at about 4 inches (100mm) per hour, and that rate was sustained for 20 to 30 minutes. The locals told us that this sort of rainstorm happens regularly; they didn't think of it as unusual at all!
And to validate that, I did a little googling – and discovered that the record one hour rainfall rate is 12 inches per hour. It's a tie between Hawai'i and Missouri. So the locals were right – the 4 inches per hour we saw was no big deal :)
Saturday, January 26, 2013
Healthy government, as that based upon our Constitution, is strife. It awakens anxiety, passion, fervor, and, indeed, hatred and chicanery, both in pursuit of private gain and of public good. Those who promise to relieve us of the burden through their personal or ideological excellence, those who claim to hold the Magic Beans, are simply confidence men. Their emergence is inevitable, and our individual opposition to and rejection of them, as they emerge, must be blunt and sure; if they are arrogant, willful, duplicitous, or simply wrong, they must be replaced, else they will consolidate power, and use the treasury to buy votes, and deprive us of our liberties. It was to guard us against this inevitable decay of government that the Constitution was written. Its purpose was and is not to enthrone a Government superior to an imperfect and confused electorate, but to protect us from such a government.Go read the whole thing...
OXO's response is quite unconventional. The conventional response would have been to counter-sue Quirky and start a war of attrition, doing neither side any good. Instead, OXO published an open response that details the many ways in which Quirky's complaint is unjustified. It also details the many opportunities OXO has for a countersuit, and on the face of it they look much more substantial than Quirky's complaint. Then OXO simply calls for a truce – and a return by both parties to designing great products.
Nice, OXO. A tip o'the hat to you for a classy response. I hope it works out well, and serves as an example of an alternative to mutually destructive litigation...
Friday, January 25, 2013
I have no doubt that this is an unintended consequence of Obama's electronic medical record mandate, just as I also have no doubt that there are good consequences of having them. However, it also seems like something that could have been shaken out in a more orderly, market-driven rollout. Mandates such as this have another unintended effect: the motivation of the vendors is no longer function and quality driven (as a competitive marketplace would drive); instead it's focused on delivering a product that meets the minimum mandated requirements as quickly as possible. The “first mover advantage” in such situations completely outweighs any normal competitive issues. Result: you get a product that looks exactly like what it is – a designed-by-government-committee mess.
Our country is in the very best of hands...
This has been done before in other militaries and the end result was always reducing standards for women. The flaw here is that the goal really isn’t just to open up positions to women, it is to get women in those positions. A subtle but important difference.Yup, that's exactly what I"m afraid of.
Yesterday's news was full of stories about our military leadership assuring us that there would no lowering of standards, and no double standards (one for men, one for women). They're saying loudly and clearly that our current military standards will have to be met by women if they want the role.
Bet that doesn't last long.
Here's Larry's entire email:
I took some interest in the announcement because it was a frequent topic of conversation when I was in the Marines in the 80s.
And even way back when I was in the Marines we would complain that women would get promoted just as fast as men, but had a lesser physical fitness standard. Call it military affirmative action. Much has changed over time, for example, back then women were given classes on harmonizing their lipstick with their cap-cord so you can imagine our.. consternation at this. Today the training for women is much closer to their male counterparts but it remains that their physical fitness standards are less stringent. If they were not, there would be very, very few women in the Marines.
In this case, the impetus seems to be that it is difficult for officers to make it to higher ranks without combat experience. In fact, officers that are destined for higher things tend to move around a lot as they gain some experience in a variety of positions. Logistics, combat units, garrison units etc. I’m not surprised at all there are fewer women general officers. There are fewer women in the military overall, until the last few decades the positions they filled were severely limited with only the last decade or two opening things up significantly.
Each military service has specific standards, physical and mental, that are required. Each job in each service has varying standards in addition to the minimum. You take a placement test before joining, and during your training, you must meet certain minimum physical and mental standards to pass or you will find yourself either out of that service or moved to a different job. We were always threatened with cook school if we couldn’t pass.
Combat Infantry is no different. There are very demanding physical needs that are beyond the physical requirements for say, computer programmers. And while we say in the Marines that every Marine is a Marine Rifleman first, and the standards in general are quite high, the reality is also that while each had to meet minimum physical standards, Combat Infantry has to meet more rigorous physical standards and even within there, if you are a big hulking guy, you will be carrying the mortar base plate while someone else carries the machine gun.
So you’d think the solution is simple, ensure that the minimum standards for each job is set appropriately. If it requires carrying an 80 pound combat load 20 miles, then there is your additional standard. If it requires doing complex math test for it, if you need eye hand coordination (video games) to fly drones, then that is your standard.
Unfortunately this doesn’t really work.
This has been done before in other militaries and the end result was always reducing standards for women. The flaw here is that the goal really isn’t just to open up positions to women, it is to get women in those positions. A subtle but important difference. Initially they just open up the positions for women if they can meet the standards for that job. Reasonable and fair. Then they find out that perhaps only 1 woman out of thousands can actually meet the standards for certain positions and zero for others and so they are embarrassed that their policy doesn’t work. The standards are questioned relentlessly and eventually adjusted until they do get women in those positions.
So where does it leave us?
I agree that the positions should be open to anyone capable. Frankly it is the only right thing to do. But the end result is also clear. We will have people in some positions that are far less qualified for them. For the most part, it will be women officers ticking a box on their career sheet before moving on. Leading a combat infantry platoon perhaps. Her men will either make fun of her for lacking the ability or be impressed she can hang at all and the Sergeants will keep things moving along. Not much different than its always been really.
Thursday, January 24, 2013
I was eating breakfast with my 10-year-old granddaughter and I asked her, "What day is today?".Precocious child, she is...
Without skipping a beat she said, "It's President's Day!".
She's smart, so I asked her "What does President's Day mean?"
I was waiting for something about past Presidents like Washington or Lincoln, etc.
She replied, "President's Day is when President Obama steps out of the White House, and if he sees his shadow, we have 4 more years of Bull Shit."
I have mixed feelings about this.
On the one hand, I fully support equal opportunity for women and men. The idea of a mommy coming home in a body bag doesn't bother me any more (or less) than the idea of a daddy coming home in a body bag. If a woman can do the job (whatever that job may be), then by all means she should have the opportunity to do so.
On the other hand, I worry that the military bureaucracy will implement this mandate by watering down the performance requirements for combat roles so that more women can reach them. The military will do this to win points from the Congress-critters who supply the armed forces with money. Their excuse will be the statistical difference in abilities between the genders. There are physical gender differences; for example, on average, a man can carry more than a woman. There are gender differences in intellectual capabilities; for example, statistically men can read and interpret maps more easily than women. Then there are cultural gender differences; men are more likely to be willing to endure the harsh field conditions of combat.
All of this means that if current standards in all these areas aren't changed, then relatively few women interested in these jobs will be able to meet them. The military will feel pressured to lower those standards, and our Congress-critters will happily provide that pressure, in the interest of “fairness”. This will make all the progressives happy, but it will result in a less capable military – something that I (and many others) would be quite unhappy about.
My prediction: in less than one year, we'll hear calls from Congressional Democrats (and not from Republicans) to “fix the gender discrimination” in the military's high standards.
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
My most recent experience with this phenomenon was just Monday, while standing in the checkout line at Home Depot in Encinitas, California. A woman of perhaps 20 was in line just before me, and we were behind perhaps 3 others. She was deep in conversation on her cell phone, which was turned up so loud that I could easily hear both sides of the conversation. You'd think this would be an ordinary sort of experience, but it wasn't ordinary at all – it was very hard work. First, I had to mentally subtract all the “likes” in order to have a prayer of understanding the flow of the conversation. Then every sentence uttered, by both parties, sounded like a question (because of the rising intonation at the end of the sentences). Upon parsing the actual words, though, it became clear that none of the sentences were questions. Unfortunately they weren't normal declarative sentences like us old fogies use for communications. No, these sentences were some new construction that I'm unfamiliar with – full of strange intonations, unusual sounds, and other words (such as “soooooooo...”) interjected into unfamiliar locations within sentences.
However, I'm confident that after five minutes or so, I figured out the actual content of the conversation. Here's my translation in full:
Woman in front of me: “Hi!”
Woman on phone: “Hi!”
Eventually it was her turn to check out, with her quart of paint and a few other related supplies. There was some back-and-forth with the clerk, mainly about where one swipes credit cards. Like the earlier cell phone conversation, her side of this one was about 50% “likes” (and no, I am not exaggerating). I could see the clerk (a woman of perhaps 30) was working just as hard as I was to keep up with the young woman's speech. Part of it I never figured out, but the young woman did swipe her credit card, eventually. Then she mercifully walked out of range of my tortured ears.
The clerk stared at the young woman as she departed, agape. Then she asked me “Did you year her?” I think the clerk wanted some reassurance that our mutually experienced encounter was not a hallucination. I was happy to oblige.
Rachel Lucas has noticed the same phenomenon:
...I said that the girl’s way of speaking had sounded so shockingly stupid to me that I could hardly keep from grabbing her by the shoulders and begging her not to go around Europe talking that way because it gives Europeans an excuse to smugly think Americans are subliterate fools. I said she sounded literally brain-damaged.Yes, exactly. Go read the rest of her rant...
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Monday, January 21, 2013
So when I brought the dogs in, I grabbed our binoculars and walked back outside to check. Sure enough, that's Jupiter shining brightly so close to the moon. I couldn't see any surface features in the binoculars, but I could make out three moons of Jupiter, all in a row (from my perspective) – a giveaway that it is Jupiter.
I'm surprised this conjunction wasn't mentioned on any of the web sites I frequent. I can't remember a closer conjunction between those two bodies. With a little googling, I found this press release:
Slooh Space Camera to Broadcast Live Feeds of Super Close Moon / Jupiter ConjunctionLooks like I caught it perfectly, even if by accident!
On Monday, January 21st, the Moon will appear amazingly close in the sky to the largest planet in our solar system, Jupiter. The Waxing Gibbous Moon - the lunar phase between first quarter Moon and a full Moon - will be approximately one degree south of Jupiter appearing to be only a pen width apart. This will be closest conjunction between the two celestial bodies until 2026.
Slooh Space Camera will cover the event live on Slooh.com, free to the public, Monday, January 21st at 6:00 PM PST / 9:00 PM EST / 02:00 UTC (1/22) - International times here: http://goo.gl/xySeo - accompanied by real-time discussions with Slooh President, Patrick Paolucci, Astronomy Magazine columnist, Bob Berman, and astro-imager Matt Francis of the Prescott Observatory. Viewers can watch live on their PC or IOS/Android mobile device at t-minus zero.
By good fortune, the Great Red Spot will be traveling across the middle of Jupiter's disk during Slooh's live broadcast.
If skies are clear, individuals can view the conjunction by looking at the Moon and finding the brightest star in the sky next to the Moon, which will be Jupiter. Individuals with binoculars or telescope may capture more detail of Jupiter, including some of the satellites.
From about 9 am to 4 pm, the graph looks like what we'd expect.
Before 9 am, it's just chopped off. The reason is straightforward: before 9 am, from the vantage point of the weather station the sun is blocked by Gaskill Peak (one of the mountains forming Lawson Valley's eastern rim). At 9 am the sun rose over Gaskill Peak, and the intensity jumped to right where you'd expect it.
After about 3:45 pm, the graph gets all squiggly. That's happening because at that time the sun is approaching the horizon (again, from the weather station's perspective), which right there is formed by some chaparral brush. You're seeing the light from the sun being attenuated by highly variable shadows of the chaparral's leaves and branches – perhaps even being moved around by the wind.
To get a really pretty graph, we'd need to have the weather station up on top of a local peak, with clear views to the horizon where the sun sets and rises (of course this would change throughout the year).
We only had seven and a half hours of bright sunlight today...
Opportunity, NASA's other Mars rover, has tooled around the red planet for so long it's easy to forget it's still alive.Designed for three months of operation, but here we are 108 months later and Opportunity is still going strong, and still returning good science. An astronaut wouldn't have lasted quite so long :)
Some 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometers) away from the limelight surrounding Curiosity's every move, Opportunity this week quietly embarks on its tenth year of exploration—a sweet milestone since it was only tasked to work for three months.
"Opportunity is still going. Go figure," said mission deputy principal investigator Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis.
What interests me most are the effects of this irradiation on life. Did the number of radiation-induced mutations jump? Did this irradiation have any observable consequences? I've read of several studies that are underway trying to figure this out, but it will be tough – in general, one can't determine what caused a mutation. Probably the closest anyone will come to actual proof is if they can demonstrate that a statistically significant increase in the number of mutations occurred at the time of this large radiation dose...
Sunday, January 20, 2013
Unsurprisingly, nude women are frequent subjects – but also people that he knew (some of whom are famous themselves), and his relatives (especially his adopted daughter Michelle). There's a collection of his art here; my favorite of the bunch is at right.
Ofey? That's the pseudonym he signed his artwork with...
One of those old servers I've replaced was a Windows 2003 server box – the last vestige of Windows to remain in our home. It is now shut down, plug pulled out of the wall. I could do this because WeatherHawk (the manufacturer of my weather station) now has an OS/X software package. Yesterday I installed that package on our Mac Mini Server, and set it up to report weather as a personal weather station on Weather Underground (the link will be permanently at right).
This new software installed and configured painlessly. While I can't really see how it's built, I can tell from some of the interactions that its communications protocol implementation is much better than that of the old Windows software I'm replacing. Getting it connected to Weather Underground was totally painless. There was a big surprise for me upon installing it, a very pleasant one: the software has the option of working with a MySQL database! I already had MySQL installed on my server (for my own purposes), so all I had to do was create a database and login for the WeatherHawk software and voila! I'm now collecting the weather data straight into SQL database – which means that reporting on the data is very straightforward. Win!
A Honda mechanic was removing a cylinder head from the motor of a Honda when he spotted a well-known cardiologist in his shop. The cardiologist was there waiting for the service manager to come and take a look at his car when the mechanic shouted across the garage, "Hey Doc, want to take a look at this?”
The cardiologist, a bit surprised walked over to where the mechanic was working on a Honda. The mechanic straightened up, wiped his hands on a rag and asked, ”So Doc, look at this engine. I opened its heart, took the valves out, repaired or replaced anything damaged, and then put everything back in, and when I finished, it worked just like new. So how is it that I make $24,000 a year and you make $1.7M when you and I are doing basically the same work?
The cardiologist paused, leaned over, and then whispered to the mechanic ... “Try doing it with the engine running.”
Saturday, January 19, 2013
America lives in a fantasy world regarding education. We think that more years of schooling makes for more knowledgeable workers, when the truth is that we are promoting bad habits that are hard to reverse. Many business managers deal with that truth by hiring more motivated immigrants with solid work habits, giving their good employees more hours, or automating tasks.Read the whole thing...
As far as improving American education by turning out ever more graduates, the venerable Professor Pogo nailed it: we have met the enemy and he is us.
Here's a great collection of these invisible animals, in photos...
Not so many years ago, I had a young fellow working for me. He was married and had two kids (he now has four). In a conversation with him one day, I discovered that he had no idea where peanuts came from. He guessed they grew on trees or bushes. When I told him they actually grew underground, he didn't believe me – until he googled it and discovered the truth.
I then began a quest to find all the obvious things he didn't know. He surprised me over and over. For example, he assumed that milk was made in a factory, like soda. He had no idea that it originated in a cow. His wife breast-fed his kids, so I know he's been exposed to the concept. Once I told him this, and he googled to confirm it, he stopped drinking milk.
Then I found out that he had no idea where honey came from. Once again, he assumed it was made in a factory, like molasses or sugar (there's a whole 'nother story there!). When I told him it was made by bees, and harvested from their hives, he was absolutely incredulous. He loved honey – had it on his toast or biscuits every morning. No way was it regurgitated by bugs! He googled it...and hasn't eaten honey since.
I never asked him about bananas, but I'm pretty sure he doesn't know they're from plants.
A guy asked a girl in a university library: "Do you mind if I sit beside you?”
The girl replied with a loud voice: "I DON'T WANT TO SPEND THE NIGHT WITH YOU!"
All the students in the library started staring at the guy; he was truly embarrassed.
After a couple of minutes, the girl walked quietly to the guy 's table and said: "I study psychology, and I know what a man is thinking. I guess you felt embarrassed, right?”
The guy then responded with a loud voice. “$500 FOR ONE NIGHT? THAT'S TOO MUCH!”
All the people in the library looked at the girl in shock.
The guy whispered in her ear: "I study law, and I know how to screw people".
This lawyer takes a woman he's known for many years as a divorce client. He ends up having an affair with her. He bills her for the times they were having sex. Then he breaks up with her. That same day, she tries to kill herself. She survives, and accuses the lawyer. He denies it all initially, but finally admits it. He's been suspended from the practice of law indefinitely.
That's not all. Back in 1997, he was put on probation because he bought cocaine from a client.
I can't decide whether the guy is making a joke, or this is his schtick to make his point, or if he's just really that dumb. Doesn't matter. It's funny!
There are countless other examples of things no gun-grabber ever says a word about banning even though doing so would save thousands of lives a year, because with those things, the gun-grabber seems to at least tenuously grasp the concept of the balance between personal liberty and “what keeps children from dying”. Nobody “needs” swimming pools or cars either, and unlike firearms, the right to possess them is certainly not protected by the Bill of Rights, and they’re involved in the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans every year, many of them children.Go read the whole thing...
The president never talks about that, or goes to the homes of drowned kids to hug their parents for the cameras, or pretends to tear up on TV every time another 20 babies are killed in car accidents. Because drownings and traffic fatalities aren’t politically sexy or easy to demagogue.
If any of these gun-control jackoffs actually in point of fact cared about preventing the deaths of children, they would be agitating for the elimination of all inanimate objects that “cause” enormous numbers of kids to die, but they don’t agitate, because they don’t care. Hell, by the logic of Obama and Biden and their entire insane clown posse, we should be working on “parent control”. Bunches of kids are beaten to death by their own mothers and fathers every year. Maybe we need background checks and licensing before people can procreate.
What? Why not, you selfish bastard? You’re talk about your personal “rights” and “liberty” – how dare you. Don’t you care about the dead children? How many innocent little kids have to die before we take reasonable steps?
Gah. It’s all so fucking ridiculous. Grotesque kabuki theater.
Friday, January 18, 2013
Botox and nose drops and needles for knitting,
Walkers and handrails and new dental fittings,
Bundles of magazines tied up in string,
These are a few of my favorite things.
Cadillacs and cataracts, hearing aids and glasses,
Polident and Fixodent and false teeth in glasses,
Pacemakers, golf carts and porches with swings,
These are a few of my favorite things.
When the pipes leak, When the bones creak,
When the knees go bad,
I simply remember my favorite things,
And then I don't feel so bad.
Hot tea and crumpets and corn pads for bunions,
No spicy hot food or food cooked with onions,
Bathrobes and heating pads and hot meals they bring,
These are a few of my favorite things.
Back pain, confused brains and no need for sinnin',
Thin bones and fractures and hair that is thinnin',
And we won't mention our short shrunken frames,
When we remember our favorite things.
When the joints ache, When the hips break,
When the eyes grow dim,
Then I remember the great life I've had,
And then I don't feel so bad.
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
A father passing by his son's bedroom was astonished to see that his bed was nicely made and everything was picked up.
Then he saw an envelope, propped up prominently on the pillow that was addressed to "Dad."
With the worst premonition he opened the envelope with trembling hands and read the letter.
It is with great regret and sorrow that I'm writing you. I had to elope with my new girlfriend because I wanted to avoid a scene with Mom and you. I have been finding real passion with Stacy and she is so nice.
But I knew you would not approve of her because of all her piercing, tattoos, tight motorcycle clothes and the fact that she is much older than I am.
But it's not only the passion...Dad she's pregnant.
Stacy said that we will be very happy. She owns a trailer in the woods and has a stack of firewood for the whole winter. We share a dream of having many more children.
Stacy has opened my eyes to the fact that marijuana doesn't really hurt anyone. We'll be growing it for ourselves and trading it with the other people that live nearby for cocaine and ecstasy. In the meantime we will pray that science will find a cure for AIDS so Stacy can get better.
She deserves it.
Don't worry Dad. I'm 15 and I know how to take care of myself.
Someday I'm sure that we will be back to visit so that you can get to know your grandchildren.
Love, Your Son John, P.S. Dad, none of the above is true. I'm over at Tommy's house. I just wanted to remind you that there are worse things in life than the report card that's in my center desk drawer.
I love you.
Call me when it's safe to come home.
A reporter did a human-interest piece on the Texas Rangers. The reporter recognized the Colt Model 1911 the Ranger was carrying and asked him "Why do you carry a 45?" The Ranger responded, "Because they don't make a 46."
The old sheriff was attending an awards dinner when a lady commented on his wearing his sidearm. "Sheriff, I see you have your pistol. Are you expecting trouble?" He promptly replied, "No Ma'am. If I were expecting trouble, I would have brought my shotgun."
I was once asked by a lady visiting if I had a gun in the house? I said I did. She said, "Well I certainly hope it isn't loaded!" To which I said, "Of course it is loaded; it can't work without bullets!" She then asked, "Are you that afraid of someone evil coming into your house?" My reply was, "No, not at all. I am not afraid of the house catching fire either, but I have fire extinguishers around, and they are all loaded too."
It is true, and was the basis of Edison's showmanship, that low-frequency alternating current can be more hazardous than an equivalent direct current. By oscillating at a similar frequency (50-60 hertz) to the human heart, a sufficiently strong alternating current can cause that organ to beat arhythmically and thereby induce ventricular fibrillation—a potentially deadly condition that needs to be corrected immediately.Most of the rest of the article is at least close to accurate, but this paragraph is laughably inaccurate. For starters, the statement that alternating current oscillates at a similar frequency is off, by a factor of 60. The author appears to have confused oscillations per second (in alternating current) with beats per minute (of our hearts). He then goes on to develop a theory, unknown to science, that this similarity of frequency is the reason why alternating current induces arhythmia. It's just wrong; completely made up so far as I can tell.
The mainstream media is full of this sort of thing. It's a rare day that goes by without me spotting at least one of them. Most of them never get corrected, or even noted by any commenters. This can only mean one of two things, I think: either people who are reasonably science-literate have just given up, or there aren't very many science-literate people. Come to think of it, it could be both at the same time.
...is one of the best distillations of the lunacy of opposition to legal private ownership of guns, and also of the incandescent stupidity of advertising a place as a “Gun-Free Zone”.
It’s also an interesting study of people who I hope are at least dimly aware of the cognitive dissonance that would give vertigo to a rational person.
I love Project Veritas!
For example, Planet Four (that would be Mars) is one of the sites is looking for people to help classify some odd features on the enormous collection of high-resolution photos taken by satellites whizzing around Mars. There are so many of these photos that many of them have never been viewed by a human!
You have no excuse to be bored!
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Akin's Laws of Spacecraft Design
1. Engineering is done with numbers. Analysis without numbers is only an opinion.
2. To design a spacecraft right takes an infinite amount of effort. This is why it's a good idea to design them to operate when some things are wrong .
3. Design is an iterative process. The necessary number of iterations is one more than the number you have currently done. This is true at any point in time.
4. Your best design efforts will inevitably wind up being useless in the final design. Learn to live with the disappointment.
5. (Miller's Law) Three points determine a curve.
6. (Mar's Law) Everything is linear if plotted log-log with a fat magic marker.
7. At the start of any design effort, the person who most wants to be team leader is least likely to be capable of it.
8. In nature, the optimum is almost always in the middle somewhere. Distrust assertions that the optimum is at an extreme point.
9. Not having all the information you need is never a satisfactory excuse for not starting the analysis.
10. When in doubt, estimate. In an emergency, guess. But be sure to go back and clean up the mess when the real numbers come along.
11. Sometimes, the fastest way to get to the end is to throw everything out and start over.
12. There is never a single right solution. There are always multiple wrong ones, though.
13. Design is based on requirements. There's no justification for designing something one bit "better" than the requirements dictate.
14. (Edison's Law) "Better" is the enemy of "good".
15. (Shea's Law) The ability to improve a design occurs primarily at the interfaces. This is also the prime location for screwing it up.
16. The previous people who did a similar analysis did not have a direct pipeline to the wisdom of the ages. There is therefore no reason to believe their analysis over yours. There is especially no reason to present their analysis as yours.
17. The fact that an analysis appears in print has no relationship to the likelihood of its being correct.
18. Past experience is excellent for providing a reality check. Too much reality can doom an otherwise worthwhile design, though.
19. The odds are greatly against you being immensely smarter than everyone else in the field. If your analysis says your terminal velocity is twice the speed of light, you may have invented warp drive, but the chances are a lot better that you've screwed up.
20. A bad design with a good presentation is doomed eventually. A good design with a bad presentation is doomed immediately.
21. (Larrabee's Law) Half of everything you hear in a classroom is crap. Education is figuring out which half is which.
22. When in doubt, document. (Documentation requirements will reach a maximum shortly after the termination of a program.)
23. The schedule you develop will seem like a complete work of fiction up until the time your customer fires you for not meeting it.
24. It's called a "Work Breakdown Structure" because the Work remaining will grow until you have a Breakdown, unless you enforce some Structure on it.
25. (Bowden's Law) Following a testing failure, it's always possible to refine the analysis to show that you really had negative margins all along.
26. (Montemerlo's Law) Don't do nuthin' dumb.
27. (Varsi's Law) Schedules only move in one direction.
28. (Ranger's Law) There ain't no such thing as a free launch.
29. (von Tiesenhausen's Law of Program Management) To get an accurate estimate of final program requirements, multiply the initial time estimates by pi, and slide the decimal point on the cost estimates one place to the right.
30. (von Tiesenhausen's Law of Engineering Design) If you want to have a maximum effect on the design of a new engineering system, learn to draw. Engineers always wind up designing the vehicle to look like the initial artist's concept.
31. (Mo's Law of Evolutionary Development) You can't get to the moon by climbing successively taller trees.
32. (Atkin's Law of Demonstrations) When the hardware is working perfectly, the really important visitors don't show up.
33. Space is a completely unforgiving environment. If you screw up the engineering, somebody dies (and there's no partial credit because most of the analysis was right...)
Back in my film photography days, I used a lot of Kodachrome (and also Ektachrome). Digital cameras (especially the incredibly capable cameras starting 3 or 4 years ago) have completely upended photography. As I've noted before, for myself the freedom to take as many photos as I want has been the biggest impact. With film, I carefully rationed each frame, as they were expensive. With my modern digital cameras I can take thousands of photos and store them on a single SD card, or even hours of video – and the incremental cost to me is precisely zero...