Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Quote of the Day...

By Lew Rockwell:
Sadly, we have been conditioned to believe that the job of the government is to keep us safe, but in reality the job of the government is to protect our liberties. Once the government decides that its role is to keep us safe, whether economically or physically, they can only do so by taking away our liberties. That is what happened in Boston.
Exactly.

Old Programmers Don't Just Fade Away...

The software development world (it's management, anyway) in general has a bias against older programmers.  Back in the bad old days when I was part of management, I heard this expressed directly and forcefully, all the way up to the Board level.  The assumption is that older brains are slower brains, and that the extra experience of the older programmers was more than offset by the energy and freshness of the younger folks.  Recruiting in most software companies is (whether subtly or overtly) oriented more toward younger programmers than older.

This study says that bias is wrong...

Sage Advice...

Via my mom:
In a convent in Ireland , the 98-year-old Mother Superior lay dying. The nuns gathered around her bed trying to make her last journey comfortable. They tried giving her warm milk to drink but she refused it.

One of the nuns took the glass back to the kitchen. Then, remembering a bottle of Irish Whiskey that had been received as a gift the previous Christmas, she opened it and poured a generous amount into the warm milk.

Back at Mother Superior's bed, they held the glass to her lips. The frail nun drank a little, then a little more and before they knew it, she had finished the whole glass down to the last drop.

As her eyes brightened, the nuns thought it would be a good opportunity to have one last talk with their spiritual leader.."Mother," the nuns asked earnestly, "Please give us some of your wisdom before you leave us." She raised herself up in bed on one elbow, looked at them and said: "

"DON'T SELL THAT COW."

Hurricane on Saturn...

NASA is calling it “The Rose”.  I'll call it awesome:


Climate Change Causes Prostitution...

I'll bet you didn't know that!  But several CongressCritters have said so, therefore it must be true.  Right?

Well, wait a second.  First, all thirteen of the CongressCritters making this assertion happen to be Democrats.  That's either a pattern or a one-in-8192 coincidence.  I'm going with pattern.

Then the sponsor is Representative Barbara LeeThat certainly sets off the alarm bells, as Ms. Lee is a veritable poster child for radical progressivism in the U.S.  You'll not be surprised to hear that she's represented a San Francisco Bay district for the past 15 years.

So let's tote this up:
– bill is sponsored by Barbara Lee
– Barbara Lee is from California, San Francisco Bay area
– bill is supported by 13 Democrats
– bill blames climate change

I think we could make an a priori case for the premise being false.  I'm going to go out on a limb and say that climate change does not cause prostitution.

I'm having trouble laughing about this.  Crying seems more appropriate...

Monday, April 29, 2013

Monday Morning Palate Cleanser...

Quote of the Day...

Mark Steyn:
There is a stupidity to this, but also a kind of decadence. Until the 1960s, it was assumed by all sovereign states that they had the right to choose which non-nationals were admitted within their borders. Now, to suggest such a thing risks the charge of “nativism” and to propose that, say, Swedes are easier to assimilate than Chechens is to invite cries of “Racist!” So, when the morgues and emergency rooms are piled high, the only discussion acceptable in polite society is to wonder whether those legless Bostonians should have agitated more forcefully for federally mandated after-school assimilationist basketball programs.
Read the whole thing...

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Llama and Goat Update...

Several readers wrote wondering what happened with the llama and goats that showed up at our place earlier this week.  Well, thanks to one of our neighbors (Mike S.) we discovered that the owner was another neighbor (Mike W., about a half mile away) who had recently acquired this animals.  Mike W. came over on Thursday and we roped a couple of the goats, and he took them home.  The llama (named “Katie”) wasn't willing to be captured, so we just left our gate open.  Sometime on Saturday, she apparently started missing her little goat-buddies, and she took off back home.

We are now a llama- and goat-free zone again!  We suffered a little bit of damage to some of our trees (especially, of all things, the palo verde tree).  Worse, one of the damned goats chewed the starter cord for my lawnmower in half, so now I have to fix that thing...

A Close Encounter...

Yesterday afternoon I had a close encounter of the rattlesnake kind, in our yard.  This is a routine summer occurrence out here, but this was the first of this calendar year.

I had all four dogs on leashes, and was walking past our pines, when I heard a fuss, a hiss, and lots of bird squawking.  Just to my right, about six feet away, a pair of tiny canyon wrens was doing battle with a fairly large western diamondback rattlesnake.  The wrens almost certainly have a nest in the vicinity, and were being good bird parents, getting that snake out of the area.  The snake was quite unhappy at the unwanted attention it was getting, and was striking repeatedly at the wrens – but they were too quick for him to ever actually hit them.

I hustled the dogs back into the house, and got our snake stick (a roughly six foot long stick with a pair of tongs operated by a handle – lets me safely pick up snakes).  Debbie got an empty five gallon plastic tub.  When I grabbed that snake and picked it up, we got a good look at its size – about four feet long and roughly 3.5" in diameter in the middle.  A big 'un!

Into the tub he went, and I bungeed down the top.  I hauled him off to a remote area and released him, far from any homes or domestic animals.  Usually when I release rattlesnakes, they sort of slowly slink away.  This guy was still really upset, and he came straight for me, striking at the toe of my (heavy work) boot.  No damage done, but certainly got my heart rate up!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Reader Recommendation: General Contractor, Jamul Area...

Reader Steve K. (who lives “down the hill” in Jamul town) asked me to pass along his recommendation for a general contractor based in Jamul.  Gladly!  Says Steve:
I love getting first hand recommendations for products and services and I‘ve gotten several from you and your readers over the years via your blog. Now I’d like to return the favor. I recently completed a large project at my house that involved grading, foundation, concrete, framing, electrical, and plumbing work. Initially I was shopping around for individual contractors that worked in these various trades, but it began to occur to me that there were going to be things that fell in the gaps between the trades, and I was going to have to handle them.

Then I found Custom Construction Company right here in Jamul – a general contractor. The wonderful thing, in my experience, about using a general contractor is that they can bridge the gaps between the trades, and for things they don’t do (e.g. insulation and drywall in my case) they have trusted subcontractors that they’ve developed a close relationship with over many years.

This is a family business (3 generations) and the owner (Darren) is very patient, easy to communicate with, incredibly knowledgeable, and very fair. Because of his years of experience, he also has great ideas in the design department. The 2 things I want to emphasize about my experience are the integrity and comfortable style that Darren brings to his work and the incredibly high quality of the work Darren and his son Jason provide. Their attention to detail is unbelievable. I actually used another company (that I’d already signed a contract with before I found them) for a part of my project and the contrast between the two companies was striking. The other company was what I seem to find more and more these days – guys with almost no experience and little skill working as “installers” or “technicians”. The folks at Custom Construction Company are true craftsmen and I can’t recommend them highly enough. You can reach them at 619-669-6339.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The True History of Grits...

Via cousin Mike D.:
The True History Of GRITS


What Are Grits?

Nobody knows. Some folks believe grits are grown on bushes and are harvested by midgets by shaking the bushes after spreading sheets around them. Many people feel that grits are made from ground up bits of white corn.

These are obviously lies spread by Communists and terrorists. Nothing as good as Grits can be made from corn. The most recent research suggests that the mysterious Manna that God rained down upon the Israelites during their time in the Sinai Desert was most likely Grits. Critics disagree, stating that there is no record of biscuits, butter, salt, and red eye gravy raining down from the sky, and that God would not punish his people by forcing them to eat Grits without these key ingredients.


How Grits Are Formed:

Grits are formed deep underground under intense heat and pressure. It takes over 1000 years to form a single Grit. Most of the world's grit mines are in the South, and are guarded day and night by armed guards and pit bull dogs. Harvesting the Grit is a dangerous occupation, and many Grit miners lose their lives each year so that Grits can continue to be served morning after morning for breakfast (not that having Grits for dinner and supper is out of the question).

Yankees have attempted to create synthetic Grits. They call it Cream of Wheat. As far as we can tell, the key ingredients of Cream of Wheat are Elmer's Glue and shredded Styrofoam. These synthetic grits have also been shown to cause nausea, and may leave you unable to have children.


Historical Grits:

As we mentioned earlier, the first known mention of Grits was by the Ancient Israelites in the Sinai Desert . After that, Grits were not heard from for another 1000 years. Experts feel that Grits were used during this time only during secret religious ceremonies, and were kept from the public due to their rarity.

The next mention of Grits was found amidst the ruins of the ancient city of Pompeii in a woman's personal diary. The woman's name was Herculaneum Jemimaneus (Aunt Jemima to her friends.)

The 10 Commandments of Grits
I. Thou shalt not put syrup on thy Grits
II. Thou shalt not eat thy Grits with a spoon or knife
III. Thou shalt not eat Cream of Wheat and call it Grits, for this is blasphemy ..
IV. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's Grits.
V. Thou shalt use only salt, butter, and red-eye gravy as toppings for thy Grits.
VI Thou shalt not eat Instant Grits.
VII. Thou shalt not put ketchup on thy Grits.
VIII. Thou shalt not put margarine on thy Grits.
IX. Thou shalt not eat toast with thy Grits, only biscuits made from scratch.
X. Thou shalt eat grits on the Sabbath for this is manna from heaven.


How to Cook Grits:

For one serving of Grits:
Boil 1.5 cups of water with salt and a little butter. [Use milk and they are creamier!)
Add 5 Tbsps. of Grits.
Reduce to a simmer and allow the Grits to soak up all the water.
When a pencil stuck into the grits stands alone, it is done. That's all there is to cooking grits.

How to make red eye gravy
Fry salt cured country ham in cast iron pan. Remove the ham when done and add coffee to the gravy and simmer for several minutes. Great on grits and biscuits.


How to Eat Grits:

Immediately after removing your grits from the stove top, add a generous portion of butter or red eye gravy (WARNING: Do NOT use low-fat butter.) The butter should cause the Grits to turn a wondrous shade of yellow. (Hold a banana or a yellow rain slicker next to your Grits; if the colors match, you have the correct amount of butter.)

In lieu of butter, pour a generous helping of red eye gravy on your grits. Be sure to pour enough to have some left for sopping up with your biscuits. Never, ever substitute canned or store bought biscuits for the real thing because they cause cancer, rotten teeth and impotence.

Next, add salt. (NOTICE: The correct ration of Grit to Salt is 10:1 Therefore, for every 10 grits, you should have 1 grain of salt.)

Now begin eating your grits. Always use a fork, never a spoon. Your grits should be thick enough so they do not run through the tines of the fork.

The correct beverages to serve with Grits is black coffee. (DO NOT use cream or, heaven forbid, Skim Milk) Your grits should never be eaten in a bowl because Yankees will think it's cream of wheat.


Ways to Eat Leftover Grits:

(Leftover grits are extremely rare)
Spread them in the bottom of a casserole dish,
Cover and place them in the refrigerator overnight.
The Grits will congeal into a gelatinous mass.
Next morning, slice the Grits into squares and fry them in 1/2" of cooking oil and butter until they turn a golden brown.
Many people are tempted to pour syrup onto Grits served this way. This is, of course, unacceptable.


BLESSING BEFORE EATING GRITS

May the Lord bless these grits,
May no Yankee ever get the recipe,
May I eat grits every day while living,
And may I die while eating grits.

AMEN

Limnanthes douglasii

Common name “poached egg plant” or “yellow and white Douglas' meadowfoam”.  Native to northern California and Oregon, and occasionally further south.  My dad and I saw this in Lassen National Park about six years ago, before the big fires there.  Via BPOD, of course...


Bad News About Grandpa...

Via reader Simi L.:
An elderly man had a massive stroke and the family drove him to the emergency room.

After a while, the ER doctor appeared wearing a long face.

“I'm afraid Grandpa is brain-dead, but his heart is still beating.”

“Oh, dear God,” cried his wife.  “We've never had a liberal in the family before!”

Now We Know...

Now we know what Alexander Graham Bell actually sounded like...

Obamacare is for the Little People...

The little people like you and me.  Our betters don't want it, that's for sure.  Will they have the gall to pull this off?  Wouldn't surprise me one bit.

Note that both parties are talking about this.

Rope.
Tree.
Congresscritters.
Some assembly required.
Speed may be of the essence.

Parable of the Stones...

Here's a story about Steve Jobs that I hadn't heard before.  Read through the italicized part for the parable.

That parable resonates strongly with me.  Ideas are worth very little by themselves, and they're not the hard part of creating a product.  It's the execution that's hard – all the myriad of things that have to happen for a great product to be shipped.  Generally speaking, when you look back at the totality of what it took to ship a great product, the original idea for the product will seem like an insignificant part of the overall effort.  The parable is about the team that takes an idea to a beautifully executed product...

Out of Your Password Minder...

This is very funny, and though it's about a technical subject, it's presented in a way that would make sense to anyone.  Via Bruce Schneier...


She says that Password Minder is a real product, but I couldn't find it for sale online. I did, however, find an obsolete link for a product named "Password Minder" to a page on the TeleBrands site, so I suspect they've pulled the product after they realized what a dumb idea it was...

17 Shakespearian Insults...

Keep this list handy; it will be useful anytime you need to communicate with a politician or a bureaucrat.  My favorite is at right...

Boston Marathon Bombers' Mother...

First, listen to this interview with her:


Then read Rachel Lucas' reaction. She says it ever so much better than I could.

And yes, my hand did involuntarily levitate...

Three Years of the Sun...

...in just three minutes!

You Just Never Know...

You just never know what might happen out in our corner of Lawson Valley.

Yesterday I was working under our offroad vehicle (an FJ Cruiser), installing some protective metal (a “lower link skid” over a vulnerable part of the rear suspension.  On my back, on the ground, wrenches in hand and working over my head, I heard an unlikely munching sound – much louder than I'd expect to hear from a rabbit or ground squirrel.  So I squirmed around until I could look in the direction of the munching, and what do I see?  Three goats and a llama, calmly munching away on one of our shrubs, not 20' away from me.

Good grief!

These animals weren't familiar to us, though we do know about one place about a mile away that has llamas and sheep, and maybe goats.  No tags were to be found, though the larger nanny goat had a fancy spiked collar that could have had a tag.  So I left a note in the mailbox of the known llama-keeper, and I put up a sign ("Found: 1 llama and 3 goats") at the intersection of Lawson Valley Road and Rudnick Road.  As of this morning, we got one call from someone whose pygmy goat was lost a couple months ago.  She was disappointed to hear that we didn't have her pygmy goat, but she offered to take these guys off our hands if we couldn't find the owner.  If the owner doesn't contact us by this afternoon, she and her kids are going to suddenly have an abundance of ornery animals!



Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Just When...

Just when you feel like it's time to give up on humanity (or maybe just Americans), along comes a story like this.

I feel better now...

Beautiful Nature Photos...

Via my mom (one sample below, see the rest here):


KFPS Royal Friesian Horses...

Via my mom, the KFPS Royal Friesian Horse:

Shameless...

The little people in California are being screwed again.  No surprise there, really, though this is a little more blatant than usual.  Consider:

– California, under Jerry Brown's “leadership,” decides to build a high-speed railroad.  Not between two cities that could conceivably need such a thing, as California has no such pair of cities.  Not even between two large cities, as we can't possibly raise the gargantuan sums required to do this.  No, instead we're building a high-speed “demonstration” railroad that has no intent of actually making sense.  It's just a way to muster the political will to get this turkey started.

– The job is put out for bid under a set of rules designed to balance technical merit and price.  Fair enough.  But the initial set of rules would have eliminated the California-based firm Tutor Perini, along with a Swedish firm.  So the California High-Speed Rail Authority quietly, secretly changed the rules in mid-process, to allow Tutor Perini's bid to be considered.

– Tutor Perini was declared the winner.  Their bid was the lowest price (by a wide margin), and also scored the lowest on technical merit (also by a wide margin).  Something to note: Tutor Perini has been frequently accused of “lowballing” their bids – deliberately submitting unreasonably low bids to win, then finding ways to jack up the price as the job proceeds.  In fact, they have been remarkably successful at doing so.

Now the part where we get screwed: the principal owner of Tutor Perini is Richard Blum.  If you don't know that name, you will most likely recognized the name of his wife: Diane Feinstein, one of our California Senators.  The political operators would say here that the optics look bad.  I say something else: there's no way this happened without corruption, however subtle and soft.

Rope.
Tree.
A whole bunch of politicians.
Some assembly required.

Saved!

Try to picture this: a woman is being mugged on the front porch of her house.  She hollers for help, and the help comes running.  A 47 year old man whips out his 29 inch long Samauri sword and comes after the mugger – who hightails it out of there, eyes big and round, and later turns himself into police.  Probably afraid for his life!

Now who would you expect that savior to be?  Perhaps a truck driver?  A construction guy?  Some salt-of-the-earth type, right?

How about a Mormon bishop?  Yup, for real.

I know several Mormons, and count several of them amongst my friends.  I cannot imagine any of them behaving like this, so I suspect this isn't some pattern, some result of their awesome religious training.  But still...I can't help but think that someone who would run into battle with a sword would find tough going in most other religious hierarchies :)

Perception of Motion...

Here's some interesting new science results investigating how we perceive motion.  As is often the case, the research leans on optical illusions (new to me) for the investigation.

The more I learn about how our visual perception, the more amazed I am at our brain's ability to derive vast amounts of information from relatively crappy sensors (our eyeballs).  None of us would be happy with a camera that performed as badly as our eyeballs do – and yet, our overall visual perception (brain included) is better than anything we know how to make...

Oh, Nooz!

Via reader and (former) colleague Doug S., this disappointing news: a major retailer (Williams-Sonoma) has decided all on their own to stop selling pressure cookers.  But only in Massachusetts.  And only in brick-and-mortar stores.  An employee says “It's a temporary thing out of respect.”

Well, I have some self-respect, too.  And it tells me that I won't be buying anything at Williams-Sonoma anytime soon, as I'm not interested in lending even the slightest support to such craven posturing...

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Oh, My...

Via my mom, this impossible-looking contortionist.  While watching her perform, I found myself wondering if this video had been manipulated – but a little googling shows that Nina Burri is for real, a Swiss contortionist, dancer, and model:


Monday, April 22, 2013

Best Earth Day Rant Evah...

George Carlin says what I'd like to say, but in a far more entertaining manner than I ever could:

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!

Progressive pundits are chagrined to discover that the Boston Marathon bombers didn't have valid gun permits.  It was illegal for them to carry weapons.  It was also illegal for them to possess the explosives they used.  Oh, and we're not sure yet whether the guns they used were legally or illegally purchased, but given their status, they were likely illegally purchased as well.

Why are they chagrined? 

Because this rather pointedly displays the utter futility of the stated purpose of gun control laws.  The fact that their weapons and explosives were illegally obtained and used didn't slow down these two terrorists.

Also, there are widespread reports that the weeks events have caused many a Boston-area resident to reconsider their opposition to personally owned weapons.  Reality appears to have slapped them upside the head...

Algorithmic Trading...

Here's a good primer on the basics of algorithmic trading, something that practically every programmer involved in electronic trading considers doing at a personal level.  It's harder than most people think it is!

There's a plug in here for Interactive Brokers, the company that acquired FutureTrade, whom I used to work for...

Drums of Doom...


There are days when I wake up uncertain what country I'm actually living in...

Fly Like a Bird, Fly With a Bird!

Via my mom:

Sunday, April 21, 2013

My Kind of Humor :)


Mark Steyn vs. Political Correctness...

Mr. Steyn is not happy with those who see the world through “Princess Fluffy Bunny” glasses.  A sample:
The politicization of mass murder found its perfect expression in one of those near-parodic pieces to which the more tortured self-loathing dweebs of the fin de civilisation West are prone. As the headline in Salon put it, “Let’s Hope the Boston Marathon Bomber Is a White American.” David Sirota is himself a white American, but he finds it less discomforting to his Princess Fluffy Bunny worldview to see his compatriots as knuckle-dragging nutjobs rather than confront all the apparent real-world contradictions of the diversity quilt. He had a lot of support for his general predisposition. “The thinking, as we have been reporting, is that this is a domestic extremist attack,” declared Dina Temple-Raston, NPR’s “counterterrorism correspondent.” “Officials are leaning that way largely because of the timing of the attack. April is a big month for anti-government and right-wing individuals. There’s the Columbine anniversary, there’s Hitler’s birthday, there’s the Oklahoma City bombing, the assault on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco.” Miss Temple-Raston was born in my mother’s homeland of Belgium, where, alas, there were more than a few fellows willing to wish the F├╝hrer happy birthday back when he was still around to thank you for it. But it was news to me it was such a red-letter day in the Bay State. Who knew? At NPR, “counterterrorism” seems to mean countering any suggestion that this might be terrorism from you know, the usual suspects.
But do go read the whole thing!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Nutella and Bananas...

Yum!  Just do it!

Spies in the Hotel Viru...

The very first time I ever visited Tallinn, Estonia, about 20 years ago back in the early '90s, I stayed in the Hotel Viru.  It was a memorably bad experience.  My bed was a straw-stuffed pallet placed on top of cinder blocks, and that was the highlight.  I stayed in the Hotel Viru again, many years later, and had a much more pleasant experience.

On my first visit there, our Estonian (though ethnic Russian) hosts warned us about the bugging of the Hotel Viru – apparently it was well-known amongst the locals.  Now 20 years later, here I am reading about it in the Smithsonian Magazine!

Horsehead Nebula...

This time, it's not from APOD!


FJ Cruiser: Grommets...

When I installed the roof lights on the FJ Cruiser, I ran the wires back through one of the steel tubes of the roof rack.  At the time, I tried installing rubber grommets and running the wires through them, but that didn't work out at all – the wires couldn't be pushed through the starting grommet (rubber-on-rubber is a lot of friction!), and I couldn't fish them out of the ending grommet (that danged hole was too small!).  So I just ran them through the bare metal, and figured I'd do something afterwards to fix them up.

Grommets (the rubber kind) serve several useful purposes.  They help weatherproof the penetration, though generally grommets aren't completely waterproof on their own.  But the most important thing they do is to keep the wire's insulation from being scraped off by the sharp metal of the penetration.  That's vital, and I didn't want to drive very much without solving that issue.

My first idea was to somehow suspend the wires so they didn't touch the metal, then form some silicone RTV around them.  Once the RTV cured, in effect I would have manufactured a custom (and completely weatherproof) grommet.  But I know from experience that RTV doesn't stand up all that well under full sun and weather exposure, so I searched around and found another similar material that is supposed to handle outdoors exposure better.  This material starts out with the consistency of Duco glue, though – not as viscous as RTV, and therefore not quite as “moldable”.

Then a crazy idea occurred to me.  What if...I took an ordinary rubber grommet and snipped through it, so that I could thread it onto the wire already in place?  Then I should be able to stuff it into the hole, surrounding the wire.  Then I could coat it with this new-fangled sealant and I'd have the best of all worlds.

So I tried it.  Bottom line: it worked.  The details: oh, man, is it a pain in the patoot to stuff a rubber grommet into a hole already occupied by wires!  I used a small flat-blade screwdriver to get enough pressure on it to pop it in, one tiny little piece at a time.  It took me about 20 minutes per grommet to get them in, and I had 6 grommets to do.  Once I had all the grommets in place, sealing them up was easy.  The new sealant seems to stick to the rubber material just fine, and it wicked up all the spaces between the grommets and the wires quite nicely.  Should be watertight now!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

FJ Cruiser: the Rock Rails...


I've been looking forward to installing the rock rails (or “sliders”) on our FJ, as they're one of the things that change the appearance.  I got them on today, as you can see in the photos.  These are the All-Pro APEX “Extreme Duty” rock rails, which I selected based on the many positive reviews I found online.

The folks at All-Pro have consistently been very helpful (perhaps taking pity on me, as they met me when I picked up my order).  This was especially so with the rock rail installation, as I quickly discovered this morning that the instructions didn't seem to match what parts I had.  With a couple of emails, the folks at All-Pro set me straight: the instructions were for their standard rock rails; the APEX rock rails are constructed slightly differently and have a simpler installation.  Once I got myself educated, installing the rails was a snap.  Each rail bolts directly to pre-existing threaded holes in the FJ's frame.  The bolt holes in the rock rails are elongated to provide a little “slop” in the alignment, but in my case none was needed – the fit was perfect.

If you're not familiar with rock rails, they are designed to protect the side of your vehicle should you bang the side into a rock.  This happens most often when your in a place where your vehicle is tilted sideways on rough or slippy-slidey ground.  In these circumstances it's very easy for your vehicle to move a foot or more to one side as you try to drive through the patch.  If there happens to be a bit rock (or wall) next to you, your vehicle might very well end up scraping against it.  I'd much rather scrape these tough, relatively inexpensive rock rails than the thing sheet metal of the body!

FJ Cruiser: New Tailpipe...

The stock FJ Cruiser tailpipe, for some unknown reason, dips down low in the back.  It's perfectly suited for getting snagged on something you just cleared on a rough road – a root, a boulder, etc.

All-Pro makes a replacement tailpipe, which I bought a couple of weeks ago and installed this morning.  It is routed entirely up high, and much straighter than the stock tailpipe.  The photo at right shows the new tailpipe installed (delineated by the red line I drew down its middle).  The shock mount hanger is hard to see, but one of its mounting bolts is pointed to by the blue arrow.

The connection between the muffler and the tailpipe is via a dual bolt flange, which made this job look like it would be super easy – just remove two bolts and the old tailpipe comes out.  But getting those two bolts loose was a major evolution, as they were very tightly in place.  One of them I managed to turn with a socket wrench, using both arms with everything I could put into it.  The second bolt I couldn't move with my arms at all.  I went through some gyrations to get an impact wrench to bear on it, but even that wouldn't budge the bolt!  In desperation, I put an 8" long box wrench on the bolt head, and used my boot to push the wrench using my legs – and that worked, though just barely.  Once I got it to turn an entire turn, then I could work it with my socket wrench.  What a pain!

Fortunately, the new one went in much more easily than the old one came out...

Evolution of Music, a Cappella...

I recognized everything up through the 1970s, and maybe half of the 1980s.  Everything after that was new to me (and didn't make my ears happy!).

When I was a teenager, I was astonished when my parents forbade me from playing Joni Mitchel or Simon & Garfunkel on our family's record player.  It was easier for me to understand why they didn't want to hear Crosby, Stills or Jimi Hendrix.  They must have felt then as I feel today listening to this music of the 2000s...

Makes Me Cry Every Time...

This is the third or fourth video of an Operation Smile patient I've seen.  I cry every time, just trying to imagine the joy brought by this life-changing procedure...

What Happens...

If you wring out a sopping-wet washcloth in zero gravity?  Watch:


On one level, this is a fascinating experiment and a great demonstration of one effect of gravity's absence.

On another level, it's a little sad that NASA has to resort to things like this in its efforts to justify the ISS.  It would be ever so much easier to justify if the ISS was producing exciting, useful, or surprising science results, instead of parlor tricks...

Sprengelia propinqua...

Common name western swampheath, native to Tasmania.  Via BPOD, of course...


Mystery Image...

Chances are that you will not be able to figure out what this image represents.  Even if I told you that it was a heat map.  Even if I told you that the axes represent the integers 1..50 (increasing left-to-right and top-to-bottom).

Give up?

The brighter colors represent smaller numbers, the duller colors larger.  The heat map shows the number of digits in the product of x and y, as expressed in Roman numerals.

Figuring out why there are visual patterns to the result is left as an exercise for the reader.

Yes, this is the work of Nick Berry – who else would it be?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

House Finch Nest...


On our covered patio, just outside the door to our living room, we have a house finch nest.  The nest looks like it's about to tumble down, though some gentle tugging shows that it's more secure than it looks.  Its position just outside the main entrance to our house means that the poor mother bird is getting disturbed quite a few times a day – she flies away each and every time we use the door.

Yesterday I stuck my iPhone up there to see if there were any eggs.  To my surprise, the nest had five eggs in it.  Taken together, these eggs seem to be about the same size as the mama bird, which seems unlikely.  A little research shows they have between 2 and 6 eggs, though, so this probably isn't all that unusual.

Bowed, But Not Broken...

Check out the photo below, showing a small sheet of 1/2" plywood sitting in the roof rack of our FJ.  I took this photo on Monday, when we were having some rain (about a tenth inch, nothing to get all that excited about).  The sheet was perfectly flat the day before, but look at it now!

The rain hitting the top side of the plywood soaked into the wood, causing it to swell a bit.  The bottom of the plywood remained dry, and therefore didn't swell.  But the swelling is directional – the fibers of wood grow in diameter, but not in length.  The grain of the top ply of this piece toward/away from the position of the camera, so the swelling occurs in the left/right direction.  This swelling caused the bowing in the direction you can see.

Later on, the water soaked down further in the wood, to the next ply.  At that point, the piece warped a bit in both directions, making a very odd-looking piece of wood.

Today (Wednesday) the piece has dried out, and is completely flat again...


FJ Mods: Only When Running...

Some of the electrically-powered additions I'm making to our FJ Cruiser draw a lot of power – enough that leaving them on accidentally could easily run down the battery.  Two obvious examples: the four “headlights” I've mounted to the roof, and the 2KW inverter that I have yet to install.  To be safe (with respect to the battery) I'd prefer that these devices would only have power supplied to them when the engine is running.  Unfortunately there is no simple way to do this.  The stock vehicle does have power wires that are active only when the ignition is turned on – but that doesn't necessarily mean that the engine is running.

So I designed and built a little circuit to solve this problem.  It detects that the engine is running by sensing the battery voltage.  When the engine is not running, the alternator is not running, and therefore the battery voltage will be something less than 12.8 volts.  When the engine is running, the alternator is also running, and the voltage will be variable, but certainly over 13 volts (as measured in the FJ, it's generally over 14 volts.  So a simple comparator circuit, com)paring the actual battery voltage to 12.9 volts, does the job quite nicely.  The comparator's output drives a MOSFET relay driver, and the relay provides 30A that's on only when the engine is running.  Since I was going to this trouble anyway, a minor addition also provides a separate output that is on whenever the ignition is on.  This duplicates something already in the truck, but it does it with a separate relay and fuse – better than tacking it onto the stock system.

Here you see it all installed.  I put a pair of LEDs on the front, more for testing than anything else.  The relays are the four little cubes off to the right.

This simple little circuit provides a very clean way to power those “big draw” devices without worrying about leaving them on while the engine is off.  For we ancient and forgetful ones, this is very comforting :)  It was also very satisfying for me to be able to design, build, and debug an old-fashioned analog electronic circuit – it's been quite a few years since the last time I'd done that!

Is This Supposed to be Obama?

These “statues” of a black man and a white horse are along Japatul Valley Road, just north of the intersection with Lyons Valley Road.  The park signs are the same style as a county park, but oddly are on posts marked “private property”.  And then there's the statue, which bears a remarkable resemblance to Barack Obama.  That implies some sort of message, but we're not at all sure what that message might be.  If you google “Japatul Springs Park”, you won't get any hits showing it as a park in any jurisdiction.

There's much to be confused about here :)


These People Are Just Crazy...

And there are a lot of them!

Did Life Begin Before the Earth Existed?

Start with an unproven (but plausible) hypothesis: that the complexity of life grows at a constant exponential rate, just as so many other natural processes do.  Or, if you will, just like Moore's Law of integrated circuit complexity.  Then extrapolate backwards – given the complexity of life today, and an observed rate of growth, when did life have a complexity of 1 (that is, when did life begin)?

Two scientists have done this math, and have arrived at a date of roughly 9.5 billion years ago.  That's well before the Earth (or the Sun, for that matter) existed.

What does this mean?

One very real possibility is that the scientists are mistaken for some reason.  After all, they don't have any direct observational evidence for this date, just the extrapolation of a hypothesis – very weak ground to rest a theory on. 

The other possibility is that they are correct, and that would mean that life originated before the Earth did – and that the Earth was “seeded” with life through some mechanism (comet collisions are a frequently cited candidate).

It's an interesting ponder...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Quote of the Day...

From Defending Enterprise:
I find that a politician's syntax matters less when he cuts taxes.
Oh, yes indeedy!

This Is For Boston!

At a Muse concert last night, lead singer Matthew Bellamy called out “This is for Boston!” and then:


Maybe all is not lost...

I Am Ashamed of My State...

Again...

I Am Ashamed of My Congress...

Again...

I Am Ashamed of My President...

Again...

Political Correctness...

Abigail Esman is a writer who has written often about the horrors of female genital mutilation (FGM).  Recently she wrote an article in which she called FGM “barbaric” – and Amnesty International wrote her, saying (in part):
We try not to use this word. The use of the word ‘barbaric’ suggests that the people who do this are less than human, which isn’t so because they are being led by social pressure which is what needs to be fought. So we avoid using this word to not judge the people.
Ms. Esman doesn't think that's a good idea. Her conclusion:
These are the times I worry that we stand upon a precipice, and fear for the ideas and the ideals that form the fundament of civilization and democracy. We censor words and language, as Howard says, bending our knee to the tyranny of political correctness, concerning ourselves more with the sensitivities of the perpetrators than the lives and safety of the victims.

It was another British Home Secretary, Mike O’Brien, who famously said in 1999, “multicultural sensitivity is no excuse for moral blindness.” They are words we would still do well to heed.

Why Software Engineers are Pre-Disposed to Hate Product Managers...

Brilliant...

Lawyer Helps eBay Vendor Behave Badly...

Written like that, my headline sounds completely unsurprising, doesn't it?

Here's a case that just sounds outrageous – and also like one that should end in a crescendo of bad publicity for the vendor (and their lawyer!) involved.  The gist: the vendor sent a package to a customer with postage still due on it.  The customer left negative feedback for the vendor because of the postage due.  The vendor admits that postage was due.  The vendor is suing the customer for having left completely accurate negative feedback.

Popehat has issued a call for help, and Instapundit has linked to the story.  The vendor (Med Express) may not know it yet, but this is going to end very badly for them.  Which makes me feel pretty darned good!

Details here.  Here's the negative feedback, in all its glory:
Order arrived with postage due with no communication from seller beforehand.
As eBay feedback goes, that's pretty weak tea.  Here's the vendor's (rather lame) response, two days later:
Sorry- no idea there was postage due. This has happened alot from USPS lately.
Med Express, I have some advice for you.  Withdraw your suit.  Fire your lawyer, loudly and publicly.  Blame this behavior on him.  And make it up to your customer in some spectacular fashion...

Boston Marathon Bombings: Good Advice...

I read this entire column, nodding in agreement, before looking at the byline: Bruce Schneier.  The security sage is on the spot with some excellent advice:
As the details about the bombings in Boston unfold, it'd be easy to be scared. It'd be easy to feel powerless and demand that our elected leaders do something -- anything -- to keep us safe.

It'd be easy, but it'd be wrong. We need to be angry and empathize with the victims without being scared. Our fears would play right into the perpetrators' hands -- and magnify the power of their victory for whichever goals whatever group behind this, still to be uncovered, has. We don't have to be scared, and we're not powerless. We actually have all the power here, and there's one thing we can do to render terrorism ineffective: Refuse to be terrorized.

It's hard to do, because terrorism is designed precisely to scare people -- far out of proportion to its actual danger. A huge amount of research on fear and the brain teaches us that we exaggerate threats that are rare, spectacular, immediate, random -- in this case involving an innocent child -- senseless, horrific and graphic. Terrorism pushes all of our fear buttons, really hard, and we overreact.

But our brains are fooling us. Even though this will be in the news for weeks, we should recognize this for what it is: a rare event. That's the very definition of news: something that is unusual -- in this case, something that almost never happens.
Do go read the whole thing...

Agility Cat...

Yup, you read that right.  An agility cat.

Hmmm...

This surely would be a lot safer for Debbie than running a dog, eh?

This Could Be Our Dogs...

Monday, April 15, 2013

Where's My Toast?

Via my brother Mark:
A couple in their nineties are both having problems remembering things. During a check-up, the doctor tells them that they're physically okay, but they might want to start writing things down to help them remember.

Later that night, while watching TV, the old man gets up from his chair. 'Want anything while I'm in the kitchen?' he asks.

'Will you get me a bowl of ice cream?'

'Sure.'

'Don't you think you should write it down so you can remember it?' she asks.

'No, I can remember it.'

'Well, I'd like some strawberries on top, too. Maybe you should write it down, so as not to forget it?'

He says, 'I can remember that. You want a bowl of ice cream with strawberries.'

'I'd also like whipped cream. I'm certain you'll forget that, write it down?' she asks.

Irritated, he says, 'I don't need to write it down, I can remember it! Ice cream with strawberries and whipped cream - I got it, for goodness sake!'

Then he toddles into the kitchen. After about 20 minutes, the old man returns from the kitchen and hands his wife a plate of bacon and eggs. She stares at the plate for a moment.

'Where's my toast?'
Nineties? Hmmm...

Binary Instrumentation...

A software library published by Intel, free for non-commercial use, with lots of source code examples...

Thirty Meter Telescope...

It looks like it's really going to be built, on Mauna Kea in Hawai'i

Not so very long ago, the largest telescope in the world was the Hale Telescope, here in San Diego on Mt. Palomar.  That telescope is still in operation, 200" in diameter – a light-collecting area of about 20 square meters.  The Thirty Meter Telescope is 30 meters in diameter, giving it a light-collecting area of about 707 square meters – over 35 times bigger than the Hale Telescope.

Awesome!

Tax Day...

I'm angry.

You should be angry too, if you're an American.

If you've been even moderately successful in your career, today is the day when your federal government, and most state governments, forcibly steal a large fraction of your income.

Through the trick of employer withholding, the governments manage to fool most people most of the time; they scarcely notice the taxes they pay.  That's a real shame (though it was very clever politics).  I'm certain that if people had to write a check today for the entire amount of their taxes due, they'd be paying considerably more attention to this miserable day.

Then, too, if the politicians (being clever again, dang it!) had made Tax Day October 15th instead of April 15th (making it just before Election Day), I'm sure our taxes wouldn't be so high.

But here we are, handing over chunks of our income again.

You'll have to pardon me today, because I am having trouble seeing things straight.  My normally clear vision is being clouded by hallucinations of free-spending politicians being strung up like beans – and cheering crowds watching...

But the reality is...that I'll be avoiding jail by handing over way too much of my income to a bunch of incompetents in Washington and Sacremento. 

So I'm angry.

And you should be angry, too.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

World's Shortest Books...

A great collection of titles, via my mom:
MY BLACK GIRLFRIENDS
By Tiger Woods
dedicated in memory to Wilt Chamberlain
___________________________________________

THINGS I LOVE ABOUT MY COUNTRY
By Jane Fonda & Cindy Sheehan
Illustrated by Michael Moore
Foreword by George Soros
________________________________________

MY CHRISTIAN ACCOMPLISHMENTS
& HOW I HELPED AFTER KATRINA
By Rev Jesse Jackson & Rev Al Sharpton
______________________________________

THINGS I LOVE ABOUT BILL
By Hillary Clinton
_________________

Sequel: THINGS I LOVE ABOUT HILLARY
By Bill Clinton
_________________

THINGS I CANNOT AFFORD
By Bill Gates
____________________________________

THINGS I WOULD NOT DO FOR MONEY
By Dennis Rodman
_________________________________

THINGS WE KNOW TO BE TRUE
By Al Gore & John Kerry
_____________________________________

GUIDE TO THE PACIFIC
By Amelia Earhart
____________________________________

HOW TO LIVE LIFE TO THE FULLEST
By Dr. Jack Kevorkian
__________________________________

TO ALL THE MEN WE HAVE LOVED BEFORE
By Ellen de Generes & Rosie O'Donnell
__________________

GUIDE TO DATING ETIQUETTE
By Mike Tyson
__________________________________

THE AMISH PHONE DIRECTORY

_______________________________________

MY PLAN TO FIND THE REAL KILLERS
By O. J. Simpson & Casey Anthony
_________________________________________

HOW TO DRINK & DRIVE SAFELY
By Ted Kennedy
_________

MY BOOK OF MORALS
By Bill Clinton
With introduction by
The Rev. Jesse Jackson
and forward by
Tiger Woods with John Edwards
____________________________________________________

HOW TO WIN A SUPERBOWL
BY THE MINNESOTA VIKINGS
___________________________________________________

Just added:
MY COMPLETE KNOWLEDGE OF MILITARY STRATEGY
By Nancy Pelosi
________________________________________________________

And the shortest book of them all:
THINGS I DID TO DESERVE THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE
by Barack Obama

Cats With Thumbs...

Someone thought about this:

Sometimes That Handgun Comes In Mighty Handy...

This fellow had something that is practically unobtainable here in San Diego: a concealed carry permit.  He used that to do some takin' care of business:

Flat UI Icons...

A nice collection of collections...

The Battery Problem...

The phrase “the battery problem” is shorthand jargon for a problem well-understood by those designing renewable energy systems (especially wind or solar).  The problem is that people need power when these renewable sources aren't available.  You aren't going to get a lot of solar power at night; this is the most obvious case.

The problem is slightly subtler than that, though.  If you look at solar power alone for just a moment, it turns out that you have to account for a lot more than just nighttime.  There is less solar power available in bad weather (like a snowstorm) than in good weather.  There is less solar power available in the morning and the evening than there is at noon (this is true even for systems that orient themselves to point toward the sun).

For all these situations, what's needed is a way to store power when it is plentiful, for use when it is not.  The conventional answer for this storage is a battery, specifically a lead-acid battery very similar to what is in your car.  This battery was invented over 100 years ago, and nobody has ever come up with anything that beat its cost vs. storage capacity.  But lead-acid batteries are far from ideal; in fact, in many ways they are simply awful.  If you've ever carried one of these beasts, you know they are full of environmentally-unfriendly lead.  And then there's the nasty acid.  Lead-acid batteries used in the way that renewable energy systems need to use them (deep-discharge cycling) wear out quickly, typically in three to five years – at which point they must be replaced.  That's an expensive proposition!

Hence the shorthand “the battery problem”.  Renewable energy is always going to be of limited value until someone solves the battery problem by inventing a way to store electrical energy that is cheaper, more reliable, and more environmentally friendly than lead-acid batteries.

Here's a Kickstarter project that's taking a stab at the battery problem, using another very old technique (mechanical flywheels) with some very modern twists.  Their own claims are for relatively modest improvement over the cost of lead-acid batteries, but with much higher reliability and vastly better environmental friendliness.  It's not a quantum leap, but it sure looks like an improvement.  They claim to be essentially finished with development other than the need for a better magnetic bearing, which is why they went to Kickstarter for some funding (a very modest amount, actually).  I don't know enough about the details of what they need to accomplish to be able to even think about their chances of success...but I wish them well.  It's a clever idea, and certainly we could use something better than those danged batteries!

More info (and explanatory videos) here, here, and here:

Saturday, April 13, 2013

FJ Cruiser: Disassembly...

A couple days ago I finished the work I needed to do under the FJ's headliner, and I've now got a lot of it put back together.  The interior panels are still removed in the rear of the FJ, as I still have more to do back there – but the front of it is all back together now.  Debbie is greatly relieved :)

At her urging, just before buttoning the FJ back up I took some photos.  I also made a little video giving a tour of the disassembled beast:



The rear deck is my workbench...

Note the side "curtain" airbag (the big horizontal white thing that looks like a hose), and the "detonator" for it (the silver cylinder just above the airbag itself)...

Passenger side, rear - side curtain airbag again...

Rear door, which for some reason particularly concerned Debbie.  Note the rubber boot from hell on the lower right side of door; it took an hour or so to route the antenna wire through that...

Once all the plastic was off, I was amazed at the sheer quantity of wiring in the car.  I'd think the car makers would be working hard on using networking to simplify this...

The cables lying about were formerly above the headliner (and now are once again!)...

Passenger side.  Note the wooden block for the CB bracket to be mounted to.  The side airbag detonator is visible just above the headrest.  Those things worried me - they look like bombs!

Exploding Toilet...

Very funny story, at least allegedly true, about an exploding toilet on a cargo flight.  An excerpt:
He turns and looks at the toilet. But it has, for all practical purposes, disappeared. Where it once rested he now finds what can best be described only as a vision. In place of the commode roars a fluorescent blue waterfall — a huge, heaving cascade of toilet fluid thrust waist-high into the air and splashing into all four corners of the lavatory. Pouring from the top of this volcano, like smoke out of a factory chimney, is a rapidly spreading pall of what looks like steam.
Read the whole thing here...

Two Sleeps Each Night?

This is a very strange notion: that before the widespread use of artificial light at night (think light bulb), people normally went to sleep shortly after sundown, woke up in the middle of the night, stayed awake for an hour or two, then went back to sleep again until the sun came up.  With the advent of artificial light, we started staying up until much later, and then sleeping just once, all the way through the night.  Then you have to wonder what effect this modern single sleep is having on us.

My readers who know me well will know that I normally go to sleep shortly after sundown; I've been doing this for a long time.  Something I've noticed the past few years is that I often wake up around midnight or one in the morning, and I get up typically around 3 or 4 am.  Now I'm wondering if I should get up and do something for an hour or two, then go back to bed.  I think I may try this a time or two, and see how it feels...

Friday, April 12, 2013

Great Moments in (Australian) Advertising...

WARNING: swallow your beverage before viewing:


Quote of the Day...

Rachel Lucas, on the Kermit Gosnell horrorshow and the lamestream media's non-coverage of it:
They have no agenda and they are nonpartisan. That’s why they’ll spend several news cycles talking about Ann Romney’s horses but not a single front-page article on the murder trials concerning a grotesque fetus-abattoir in Pennsylvania. 
Read her whole rant

What good is free speech if the only thing you'll talk about is the Progressively-correct narrative?

Disgusting...

...Democrats.

Programmer Jokes...

From StackOverflow.  Some of these are wonderful!  Some you really need to be a programmer to understand...

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Reality Bites, Doesn't It, Al?

This one (via my mom) had Debbie and I laughing this morning...


When you've lost Bono, Al, you've pretty much lost them all...

Friends in England told me that this past winter – one of the coldest and snowiest there in many years – Al Gore was in London giving a speech right when the peak snowfall struck.  The famous dry English wit was then in full display – the “Gore Effect” (wherein if one wants cold weather, one simply books a speech by The Al) took England by storm...

Animal Funnies...

Via my mom.  In a household with four dogs and eight cats, you can bet that lots of these resonated with us!










On Aging...

Via my lovely bride, whose friend (?) sent these to her:
Just before the funeral services, the undertaker came up to the very elderly widow and asked, 'How old was your husband?'
'98,' she replied. 'Two years older than me.'
'So you're 96,' the undertaker commented.
She responded, 'Hardly worth going home, is it?

Reporters interviewing a 104-year-old woman: 'And what do you think is the best thing about being 104?' the reporter asked. She simply replied, 'No peer pressure.'

The nice thing about being senile is you can hide your own Easter eggs and have fun finding them.

I've sure gotten old! I've had two bypass surgeries, a hip replacement, new knees, fought prostate cancer and diabetes. I'm half blind, can't hear anything quieter than a jet engine, take 40 different medications that make me dizzy, winded, and subject to blackouts. Have bouts with dementia. Have poor circulation; hardly feel my hands and feet anymore. Can't remember if I'm 85 or 92. Have lost all my friends. But, thank God, I still have my driver's license.

I feel like my body has gotten totally out of shape, so I got my doctor's permission to join a fitness club and start exercising. I decided to take an aerobics class for seniors. I bent, twisted, gyrated, jumped up and down, and perspired for an hour But, by the time I got my leotards on, the class was over.

An elderly woman decided to prepare her will and told her preacher she had two final requests. First, she wanted to be cremated, and second, she wanted her ashes scattered over Wal-Mart.
'Wal-Mart?' the preacher exclaimed. 'Why Wal-Mart?'
'Then I'll be sure my daughters visit me twice a week'

My memory's not as sharp as it used to be. Also, my memory's not as sharp as it used to be.

Know how to prevent sagging? Just eat till the wrinkles fill out.

It's scary when you start making the same noises as your coffee maker.

These days about half the stuff in my shopping cart says, 'For fast relief.'

THE SENILITY PRAYER: Grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway, the good fortune to run into the ones I do, and the eyesight to tell the difference.

Oh, Jeez, Don't Do This to Me!

This would seriously scare me, maybe to the heart-attack-is-imminent level:


But it's kind of fun watching it happen to someone else!

Mantis Shrimp...

You've probably never seen one of these shrimp, not even in an aquarium.  The Oatmeal explains why...and the answer is more interesting than you might think!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Bedbugs and Bean Leaves...

A long-established home remedy for bedbugs is to spread bean leaves around.  The bedbugs collect on the bean leaves and get stuck.  Then you just throw the bean leaves away, or burn them. 

Scientists have known about this home remedy for a long time.  Unlike many such remedies, this one actually works, and is well-documented.  Annoyingly, scientists couldn't figure out why it worked, and therefore could not devise an technology to make use of the same technique – any time of year, any where they had bedbugs.

Now they've figured out why, and the story is fascinating.  See here and here for details and photos.  Bean leaves are using the same technique that pikemen used to attack armored knights: aim for the greaves!


Looks Like We've Passed the Sunspot Peak...

It looks like we've passed the sunspot number peak for this cycle, and it was a lot lower than even the revised NOAA forecast:


Fewer sunspots means lower solar irradiance, something that (according to observational history, but not climate models) is closely correlated with colder climate.  We've had a colder-than-usual winter.  It will be interesting to see what our weather is like for the next 5 or 6 years, as this cycle progresses...

California: Trying to Set a Record for Speed of Decline...

That thing we call “health insurance” doesn't much resemble actual insurance any more.  The piling on of state mandates makes the problem even worse.  California is considering yet another new mandate: coverage for treatment of infertility, including things like artificial insemination, surrogate mothers, etc.

That doesn't sound all that surprising; just another way to redistribute some wealth (we'll all end up paying for those couples who need infertility treatments).  But there's a twist to the California law: its definition of infertility is very carefully written: it says that any couple who has active sex for a year without producing a pregnancy is by definition infertile.  Any couple.  Including homosexual couples.

So the effect of this new mandate (if passed) would be to allow any gay or lesbian couple who wanted a kid to have the entire tab for “infertility treatments” be picked up by the rest of us.

Every time I think that our California legislators have found every possible way to demonstrate their craziness, they prove me wrong.  They've done it again.

We gotta get outta here...

Progressive Narrative Oopsie!

The current progressive-driven efforts for gun control are predicated on the assumption that restricting high-capacity magazines would reduce violent crime.  Gun owners in general find that notion risible.  Progressives find that notion compelling.  Who would really know?

Well, how about the police who are on the ground fighting violent crime?  Seems like they'd know more than your average progressive or gun nut.  What do they think?  Oops:


I'm sure the progressives will have their 47 reasons why police are unreliable information sources for this issue.  The percentage is telling, though.  Damned few police think this is a good idea.

Much more, and the internals, here...

Quote of the Day...

From the one and only James Delingpole:
Should Michael Mann be given the electric chair for having concocted arguably the most risibly inept, misleading, cherry-picking, worthless and mendacious graph – the Hockey Stick – in the history of junk science?

Should George Monbiot be hanged by the neck for his decade or so's hysterical promulgation of the great climate change scam and other idiocies too numerous to mention?

Should Tim Flannery be fed to the crocodiles for the role he has played in the fleecing of the Australian taxpayer and the diversion of scarce resources into pointless projects like all the eyewateringly expensive desalination plants built as a result of his doomy prognostications about water shortages caused by catastrophic anthropogenic global warming?

It ought to go without saying that my answer to all these questions is – *regretful sigh* – no. First, as anyone remotely familiar with the zillion words I write every year on this blog and elsewhere, extreme authoritarianism and capital penalties just aren't my bag. Second, and perhaps more importantly, it would be counterproductive, ugly, excessive and deeply unsatisfying.

Some Nostalgia for You...

Via reader Simi L.:

20 Photos that Change the Holocaust Narrative...

A collection of 20 powerful images related to the Holocaust, including the one below depicting Holocaust survivors at the very moment they realize they're being liberated.

Every time I try to imagine myself in the place of the Jews in Nazi Germany, my imagination fails.  It fails again here; I dissolve into tears just trying...


More here...

FJ Mods: Projects Always Expand...

There's a pattern in the FJ modification projects I'm undertaking – they always seem to expand into bigger, more complicated projects than I initially expected them to be.

A current project provides a great example.  I'm installing a CB radio.  How hard could that be?  It's a small box with two wires coming out the back (power and antenna).  Easy, right?

Well.

Where do I mount the thing?  In the cramped interior of an FJ, there's really only one place that we liked: on the ceiling, in the middle of the car (between the driver and passenger).  That way we can both use it, and it's out of the way of both us and the airbags.

That means I have to take the headliner out (the “headliner” is the fuzzy-coated plastic piece over your head when you're sitting in an FJ).  It was not obvious how to do that, so I bought temporary access to the online shop manual to find out.  The good news: one can remove the headliner with just the tools I already owned (one slightly special tool is involved: one that makes it easy to pop off the special fasteners used on many interior parts).  The bad new: removing the headliner requires first removing most of the interior of the FJ – something like 50 plastic and metal parts.  That took an entire day.

The antenna is mounted on the rear door hinge.  That means the antenna wire has to be routed through the rear door – and that means the rear door has to be disassembled.  Compared to the headliner, that's easy – but still, that took another hour.

Then I discovered that there's a 1.5" gap between the headliner and the actual metal roof.  I could fill that gap easily with a piece of 2x4, but how do I fasten the 2x4 to the roof?  Some research gave me the answer: install powerful magnets in the top of the 2x4 piece, and use glue.  The magnets act like a clamp to hold the piece to the roof, so I don't need to make any holes in the roof.

It took me nearly a day to route the antenna wire just 12 feet.  First I had to get it through the door, which is accessible only through an awkward hole.  Then I had to route the cable through a pre-existing rubber “boot” that holds all the other wires going to the door.  Naturally, that boot is almost full of wires, so snaking the antenna wire through there was a challenge.  Then I had to route it around all the bits of framework and around the side “curtain” airbag mechanisms, attach it to the roof, and get it over to where the CB radio would be mounted.  All of this work was overhead – not my favorite :)

Then I needed power to the CB.  The radio came with a 6' long power cable, with an inline fuse holder just 8" from the radio.  A fuse holder under the headliner seemed like a really bad idea – I'd have to disassemble the FJ just to check the fuse!  Plus the 6' cable wasn't nearly long enough – it's 10' just to get under the dashboard.

Where do I get power from under the dash?  More research in the online shop manual convinced me that I really didn't want to even try that; it was better to be in the engine compartment, so I'd have a place to mount a “real” fuse holder.  That means 14' of cable.  The original power cable is 28 gauge copper, just barely big enough to give an acceptable voltage drop at 6'; too small for 14'.  So I upped it to 14 gauge (overkill, but cheap), spliced it right next to the connector that led into the radio, and routed the cable into the engine compartment.

Now I needed power.  That's easy, right?  Battery is right there!  But wait...I don't want the CB to work when the car is turned off; leaving it on accidentally might drain the battery.  I want power that's on only when the ignition is turned on.  But that doesn't exist within the engine compartment, at least, not in any obvious way.  Back to the shop manual.  It turns out that there are two places I can find power that's switched by the ignition: one for the ignition coils, and one for the fuel injectors.  However...both of them are fused for just their intended purpose, not for my CB.  So I need a relay that turns on and off with the ignition coils, and a circuit that senses the ignition coil power without drawing any significant current from it.  That's something I might want for other purposes as well, so I fused the relay input for 30 amps, and I put a secondary 3 amp fuse in for the CB.  The engine compartment is starting to get a lot of wires :)

And that's all just for the CB!  I have a bunch of electrical projects to do: CB, roof-mounted headlights, dual battery system, 2KW inverter, and the on-board air compressor.  I'm quite likely to have other things down the road as well.  So all the under-the-hood stuff I built to be easily modified and extended – but of course that adds even more work.

Projects are ever-expanding...