Friday, December 06, 2013

Motorcycle turn signal beeper

I finally got around to installing a turn signal beeper on Wife's motorcycle.  Rather than a simple beeper that's on whenever the signal is on. I did one that's on only when the signal is on...and the brakes are off.   With brakes on, the buzzer shuts up.   Much easier than I expected.   The trick is to ground the buzzer through the positive wire of the brake light.   When the brakes are off, there is a path to ground through the bulb--you don't get full voltage, but plenty to run the buzzer whenever the turn signal is on.  When the brakes are on, you get 12 volts on both sides of the no sound.

An additional benefit is that a blown out brake light bulb will keep the buzzer from working,  and a bad brake light switch (a problem Wife's Savage had when we got it) means that the buzzer will be on even with the brakes applied.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Sous Vide cooking

Sous Vide is a method of cooking food in a vacuum sealed plastic bag (Sous Vide means "under vacuum" in french, although vacuum is a minor part of the process) in a precisely controlled hot water bath, generally for a longer than normal time but at a lower than normal temperature--usually at the final temperature of the food.  It was invented in the late 60's.  I first heard about it in a restaurant trade magazine in the late 80's.  Until recently the equipment needed would cost several thousand dollars, but prices have come down drastically.    Last year I ran across a couple of articles on sous vide machines at the high end of consumer prices.  A few months ago saw an article on a Kickstarter project for Sansaire, Sous Vide for $200.  That sparked my interest, and I almost pre-ordered before doing more research.

With Sous Vide, doneness (as in medium rare or well-done) can be controlled separately from cooking time.  Long cooking times still makes the meat more tender, but at a temperature low enough that the meat does not cook past the level of doneness you select.  Also the entire portion is the same level of doneness, rather than a well-done exterior gradually changing to a rare interior.  You can safely cook many foods to a much lower temperature than otherwise--In most cases, internal temperature of 130F for an hour is sufficient.  (Don't rely on me for exact times and temperatures, do your own research)

To cook this medium rare London Broil, I set the temperature to 135 degrees F.  I sealed the meat in a Foodsaver bag and put the bagged meat in the bath for several hours.  Just before serving heat a frying pan or griddle to high heat with a little oil, then dry the meat and sear for 30 seconds or so per side--just enough to brown the outside layer, not long enough to further cook the inside.  Serve immediately.  An added bonus is that the meat doesn't lose its juices on your plate--this means my wife can eat medium rare meat without being turned off by the bloody juices.   According to many sources the most expensive cuts of beef are prized for tenderness, despite having less flavor than cheaper cuts.

For Country-Style pork ribs, 145 for 32 hours resulted in a moist rib that could be cut even across the grain with a fork.

You can put meat in directly from the freezer, and it thaws quickly, passing through the spoilage "danger zone" for a fraction of the recommended maximum time.  If the meal is delayed, the meat can stay in the hot bath until serving time without burning or over-cooking.

There are some oddities--You apparently can't use raw garlic with most meat, because the garlic needs a much higher temperature to cook.  It is difficult to cook vegetables and meat in the same bath, since vegetables require much hotter temperatures.  Without a sear, meat appears as if boiled or poached.  Meat needs to be served immediately after removing from the bath and searing, since there isn't a layer of overheated meat to keep it warm.   For most foods that require long cook times, you can pre-cook, then refrigerate or freeze in the bag and re-heat in the bath just long enough to heat through.

Currently home Sous-Vide setups can be divided into 3 broad categories--All in one, Circulator, and controllers.

All in One units (Sous Vide Supreme) are generally the most expensive and include the container for the water--but generally rely only on convection to circulate the water.  They are also quite large.

Controllers (Dorkfood) are the least expensive, but require your own appliance-a rice cooker, manual crock pot or coffee urn for example.  These also rely on convection.   If you already have an appropriate appliance, these take the least storage space.

Circulators generally clamp to a container you provide, which can be a large pot, bucket, plastic bin or cooler.    They are generally less expensive and take up less storage space. Most of the latest generation of moderate cost Sous Vide machines are circulators--Anova, Polyscience, Sansaire, Nomiku, and SideKIC. Most of these are very similar in design--they are fairly tall an narrow, clamp to your container with the heater and impeller submerged.

The PolyScience circulators are made by a lab equipment company, and appear to be well made and versatile--but they are at least twice as expensive as the Anova or Sansaire.

Nomiku is a kickstarter project, and appears to be a well made unit at around $300.

The SideKIC uses the same principles, with a different implementation.  It is the cheapest by a relatively small amount, but also the most limited in design. Based on reviews its heater is weak--it maintains temperature well, but takes a long time to raise the temperature. It has a  narrow range of acceptable water levels, is often out of stock and has reliability problems.

Sansaire and Anova are both around $200, and both have received positive reviews.  The deciding factors for me were that the Anova has been quietly selling for the last year, it's reviews are based on production units.  Like the PolyScience, it is made by a (competing)
 established US lab circulator company.   Meanwhile the Sansaire is being contract manufactured in China for a start-up company and has yet to ship retail (reviews have all been on pre-production samples).  With Anova dropping their price to $200 (plus $20 shipping) to match the Sansaire, the decision was easy, and I bought the Anova.  So far I've used it in a large stock pot covered in aluminum foil.  I just bought a cooler, cut a hole in the lid for the circulator  and I've got chicken breasts in it right now.  Update-Chicken breasts cooked at 147 degrees for 4 hours were slightly more tender than I'd prefer.  Next time I'll probably try 150 for 2 hours.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Stand Your Ground and the Zimmerman case

In the US, the state laws governing when deadly force is justified in self defense can be broadly divided into three categories:  (Note--I am not a lawyer, and although I am attempting to be accurate, I'm nearly certain to get some details at least slightly wrong)

Stand Your Ground--In a place you have the legal right to be, you are not required to retreat from an aggressor, and if attacked may use deadly force if a 'reasonable person' under similar circumstances would believe that the attack was likely to cause death or grievous injury.    Without Stand Your Ground, self defense is generally regarded as an affirmative defense--In order to use the claim in a criminal trial, the victim of an attack who claims self defense has to essentially plead "Guilty but justified", then prove justification.  Stand Your Ground means that someone claiming self defense remains "presumed innocent" until there is enough contrary evidence.  As long as they are presumed innocent, they aren't arrested without that contrary evidence.  Most stand your ground laws also include some form of civil immunity--If you are defending against a person committing a felony, you cannot be held civilly liable for injuring or killing them unless you are found guilty in the criminal phase.   This is based on civil rules rather than criminal, so a preponderance of the evidence rather than beyond reasonable doubt.  

Castle Doctrine is similar to Stand Your Ground, but in limited locations--It applies at home.  Depending on the state it may apply when a guest in someone else's home, in your car, or in the workplace. 

Duty to Retreat is the situation where neither of the above concepts are a defense--Where a victim is required to retreat before using force.  In the US, there are only a few states that have a duty to retreat, and even in those states case law generally gives at least some of the features of Stand Your Ground, sometimes via case law rather than through legislation. 

Stand your ground is irrelevant in determining the verdict in the Zimmerman-Martin case.  Its application in criminal trials is in an extremely narrow set of circumstances--where a victim is in a place he has the right to be, realizes that an unwarranted violent attack is imminent and recognizes a viable escape route available that does not increase danger to the victim or people he is responsible for.    

In no scenario from either side is there an opportunity for escape.  If Zimmerman was the first to initiate violence, he gave up his right to self defense with or without SYG--in that case, the jury came to the wrong verdict.  If Martin jumped Zimmerman, then there was no opportunity for escape, again SYG does not apply.   Being followed is not by itself justification for violence.  It is unlikely that Zimmerman could run backwards faster than Martin could run forward.  

I've seen quite a few comments that Zimmerman-Martin shows that SYG is wrong and needs to change--but none of them explain how it would have changed the verdict here, or how it would help in general.  Instead I've heard "A Zimmerman juror mentioned it", or "someone might think they can shoot someone and get out of it just by claiming to be scared".  In some cases the people making these claims are lawyers and politicians who almost certainly know better--but believe that their audience does not, and that confusion on the issue will increase support for gun control.  

Personally, if I've ever got the choice between running to safety and shooting or killing someone, I'll run even if the law doesn't require me to.  I still support Stand Your Ground--in large part for its civil immunity.  Someone committing a felony should not be able to sue their victims unless the victims  commit a crime against the felon at least as serious.   There is also the timing problem--the prosecution has weeks or months to find the escape route you missed in the few seconds you had available.  As a general rule, I think people who initiate violence should have far less rights than those who are defending. 

Common misconceptions:

Opponents call Stand Your Ground a "Shoot first" or "Make My Day" law,  claiming that it allows people to shoot any time they feel vaguely threatened, and that it will result in blood in the streets.  The law almost always has a "reasonable person" clause, in that the threat has to be considered valid by a reasonable person under the same circumstances with the same information.  We also have decades of experience in most states, 

"He was unarmed"  "It was just going to be a beating, not worth killing over".  It is entirely possible to kill with bare hands and feet, so self defense (even without SYG) allows self defense--often requiring a disparity of force.  The disparity may be 2 against one, young vs old, man vs woman--or may just be an avid and able fighter vs someone who hasn't been in a fight since grade school.  (In the last case, it might be that the disparity isn't evident until the victim begins to lose the fight).  

"Stand Your Ground is inherently racist".  Recent studies have shown that the Florida law is claimed disproportionately by minorities, and that they are disproportionately successful.   We have recently had at least one case quite similar to the Zimmerman/Martin incident, except the shooter was black, and his attackers were both white.  Very little news coverage. 

"It means you can't arrest anyone who claims self defense".  No, it means you need a preponderance of the evidence that it was NOT self-defense in order to arrest--that would be 50.1% that the accused is guilty.  Meanwhile, the standard for a conviction is "beyond a reasonable doubt"--this would have to be at least 95% positive (I'm more inclined to go with Ben Franklin's "better 100 guilty escape than one...").   If you cannot prove above 50%, what are the chances you will be able to prove 95 or 99%?  Should you really arrest someone you probably can't convict?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Suzuki Savage review

About a year ago, I bought a low miles 1987 Suzuki Savage for my wife.  The  Savage (also known as the Boulevard S40) is an underrated and misunderstood bike.   It is a light and simple single cylinder 650cc cruiser-style bike, with belt drive and a 4 speed transmission.   Its target market sees that it is a 650, and assumes it is too big and powerful.  People considering  650cc bikes find the Savage underpowered.

Ignore the displacement of the engine--rather than comparing to other 650cc bikes, compare it to bikes with similar seat height, weight and horsepower.  (I've never understood focusing on displacement rather than power and weight)  This puts it in the upper end of the 250 class of bikes--low seat height, similar weight, a bit more horsepower and lots more torque.

Horsepower is responsible for top speed, and also for acceleration when driven hard, and is likely to get inexperienced riders in trouble..  Torque is responsible for off the line and everyday performance when you aren't thrashing the bike.  More torque makes starting and shifting easier--if you let the clutch out too fast, it may chug and complain, but it isn't likely to stall.

The early Savage models had a 4 speed transmission, while later models are 5 speed.   The 5th gear  was added for marketing purposes--basically top gear was raised a tiny amount and another gear slipped in between 3rd and top.  This requires an extra shift, but with the torque curve of this engine there's no advantage from the extra gear.

I'm not a fan of cruiser styling in general, but that's taste rather than a valid criticism.   It does allow forward controls, which let the seat height be low enough for almost any adult while leaving enough room for a 6 foot rider.  (The Savage is a bit cramped for me but rideable.  The Honda Rebel is just plain too small)   The tank-mounted gauges are a significant sacrifice in usability to gain an uncluttered handlebar area--the gauges are well out of the rider's normal line of sight requiring a deliberate look down instead of being visible with a quick glance, especially with a full face helmet.    This is especially problematic for the turn signals--when I ride with my wife, I'm constantly reminding her on the intercom to turn the signal off.  (I'm going to add a beeper, or a light she can see)   Another flaw is the lack of either a fuel gauge or trip odometer--every bike should have at least one.   No tachometer, but on this bike not really needed.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Not a truck

Me:  Remember, we didn't bring the truck
Wife:  It will fit...
(She almost had to ride home with the paper towels on her lap)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Occupy Wall Street vs The Tea Party

I've got issues with both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street--but I'm firmly in the center of this Venn Diagram.  It would be nice if we could work together and concentrate on the parts where both sides agree--I think that would help both groups with the parts outside the intersection.

More on Occupy Wall Street

The previous post was of what appeared to be an Occupy NY supporter's demands, but I have no way of verifying.  Daisy Deadhead is a very liberal (self-described hippie) blogger I read, so I asked her what their platform was.  She pointed to one of her posts, which I'm fisking here.  

  As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.
I feel wronged that our second amendment rights are restricted...but I doubt that counts here.
As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.
They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.
Was the mortgage paid as in the terms of the contract?  This might be a technical legal issue, but morally, you still owe.    A lot of the mess was because the government pressured mortgage originators to be 'fair' rather than fiscally responsible.
They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.
Just about everyone would take a bailout if offered, and in a couple cases banks were pressured by regulators into taking TARP funds, along with TARP regulation.  The issue of bonuses is complicated--Should a struggling company lose the manager of a profitable division because other managers screwed up?
They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.
We will never reach 100% equality.  At some point the cure becomes worse than the disease, with employers unable to risk firing non-productive employees.  
They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.
Family-run businesses in modern times are mostly limited to service industries--we don't have much family manufacturing businesses either.  Farming is either labor-intensive or capitol-intensive, and big business can afford the capitol.  Big business can also afford to navigate government subsidies more efficiently.  If we were limited to family farms, food prices would be significantly higher.
They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless animals, and actively hide these practices.
Stop eating meat.  (To be fair, Daisy Deadhead says she's a vegetarian, so she's not being a hypocrite in this point)
They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.
Union organizers are against non-anonymous elections, so they can pressure people into voting "properly".   There is no good excuse for this, there is a reason most fair elections have secret ballots.  My union experience has been working beside auto workers, and I'm not sympathetic--many were proud of working the system--an example is that tradesman work was divided into break/fix and project work.  Some would refuse to do project work unless they were on overtime--and they could get away with it.
They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.
How much education is there a right to--bachelor's, Master's, PhD?  We also have vastly different definitions of rights-requiring the effort of others can't be a right.  
They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.
It's only racism if the foreigners are lucky enough to live in America?
They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.
Somewhat valid--but some of the owner's rights should pass through to the corporation.
They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.
But the same sort of shenanigans to get out of paying a mortgage is somehow OK.
They have sold our privacy as a commodity.
Valid point.
They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press. 
Not so much, otherwise I'd never have heard of you.
They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.
Sometimes.  But products are safer now than ever, and there's no such thing as risk-free.
They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.
Huh?  Unless 'they' are the ones setting up 'subsidies for this, tax breaks for that' plans.
They have donated large sums of money to politicians, who are responsible for regulating them.
...often donating to both sides, perpetuating the corrupt 2 party system.  The real problem is the politicians who take these contributions.
They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.
Like Nuclear.  Oh wait....
How are they blocking alternative energy, other than the laws of science?   Alternative energy is like alternative medicine--the alternatives that work well become mainstream.
They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives or provide relief in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantial profit.
So why should they invest billions in research to find new drugs, (most of which will be unsuccessful) if they can't profit on the few that work?   Without patent protection, nobody will go through the time and trouble of testing.   There are abuses and problems here-it is surprising how often we 'suddenly' find a safety problem with a drug just as it goes generic, with a new alternative waiting.
They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.
Again, less than at any time in our history.
They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.
Quit listening.  This is as much incompetence, laziness and that most of the public is more interested in entertainment than news.  Every news story I've known about through non-news sources has significant errors in the reporting.  Everyone I've asked says the same thing.
They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.
What is this referring to?
They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad. They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.
Colonialism is declining, although I won't defend much of our overseas meddling. .
They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts.
The fault here is the government's, not the corporations.  We need a strong military-but I'll agree not as large as we have.
To the people of the world,
We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.
Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.
I'm not seeing much in the way of solutions, other than 'more government except with US in charge".

To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.
Join us and make your voices heard!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

When I first read this list of proposed demands from the "Occupy Wall Street" movement, I thought it must be a fake, put up by someone to discredit the movement--I didn't want to be taken in by an Onion article.  I'm fairly convinced this is genuine, which frightens me.

Their demand list from here:
Demand one: Restoration of the living wage. This demand can only be met by ending "Freetrade" by re-imposing trade tariffs on all imported goods entering the American market
In general, cheap goods increases our standard of living more than the accompanying job loss harms it, but the lost jobs are easier to point to.  Free trade benefits both sides of the deal.  Remember the lack of quality in American cars when they were only competing with each other?
To level the playing field for domestic family farming and domestic manufacturing as most nations that are dumping cheap products onto the American market have radical wage and environmental regulation advantages.
The argument that it is not fair to compete with goods manufactured without enviornmental controls is somewhat valid, but competing with low wages is self-correcting over time.  Competing environmentally may be--developed countries are almost always better environmentally than developing.  And don't people in poor countries deserve jobs as much as we do? 
Another policy that must be instituted is raise the minimum wage to twenty dollars an hr.
...which will cause immediate inflation, increase unemployment, and drastically increase entry-level unemployment.   Few people who haven't had a job are worth $20 per hour.
Demand two: Institute a universal single payer healthcare system. To do this all private insurers must be banned from the healthcare market as their only effect on the health of patients is to take money away from doctors, nurses and hospitals preventing them from doing their jobs and hand that money to wall st. investors.
A better argument would be to disconnect health care and health insurance from employment--End the policies and tax benefits that artificially make self-purchased health insurance uncompetitively expensive compared to employer-paid.   We need some sort of cost controls, some method to prevent consumers spending on health care as if it is someone else's money.
Demand three: Guaranteed living wage income regardless of employment.
Not sure what this means--if you don't feel like working, you still get a living wage?  If you aren't willing  to do more than show up at work, an employer still has to pay you 'a living wage"?  If you are just unqualified or unable?
Demand four: Free college education.
  Not everyone needs or can benefit from a college degree, and almost anyone willing to work at it can get one now.   If college is free, then it becomes the equivalent of a high school diploma, required for a job at Target.
Demand five: Begin a fast track process to bring the fossil fuel economy to an end while at the same bringing the alternative energy economy up to energy demand.
Unless you count nuclear as 'alternative to fossil', this requires either a repeal of the laws of physics, or a drastic reduction in our standard of living.  We can do better at conservation, and we will--Chances are we are at or near 'peak energy', as measured by consumption.
Demand six: One trillion dollars in infrastructure (Water, Sewer, Rail, Roads and Bridges and Electrical Grid) spending now.
Where does this trillion dollars come from?  Immediately? These sorts of things need years or decades of planning to do even remotely efficiently.
Demand seven: One trillion dollars in ecological restoration planting forests, reestablishing wetlands and the natural flow of river systems and decommissioning of all of America's nuclear power plants.
OK, nuclear is NOT considered alternative.  
Demand eight: Racial and gender equal rights amendment.
What would this cover, and how would it be enforced--If women aren't as interested in sports as men, would colleges still have to restrict men's sports?
Demand nine: Open borders migration. anyone can travel anywhere to work and live.
Almost anyone who is willing to work for a living and isn't a criminal, sure.
Demand ten: Bring American elections up to international standards of a paper ballot precinct counted and recounted in front of an independent and party observers system.
Probably the most realistic and important demand.  I'm not sure of the exact mechanism, but that would be better than what we have now.
Demand eleven: Immediate across the board debt forgiveness for all. Debt forgiveness of sovereign debt, commercial loans, home mortgages, home equity loans, credit card debt, student loans and personal loans now! All debt must be stricken from the "Books." World Bank Loans to all Nations, Bank to Bank Debt and all Bonds and Margin Call Debt in the stock market including all Derivatives or Credit Default Swaps, all 65 trillion dollars of them must also be stricken from the "Books." And I don't mean debt that is in default, I mean all debt on the entire planet period.
Wow.  This would wipe out our economy faster than just about anything else, and may be the most ridiculous demand in this manifesto.   People should really be forced to rent until they can afford to save up for a house?  Even if this were a 'one time' forgiveness, no rational business or bank would be willing to loan substantial money ever again.
Demand twelve: Outlaw all credit reporting agencies.
If loans are illegal, what's the point?  
Demand thirteen: Allow all workers to sign a ballot at any time during a union organizing campaign or at any time that represents their yeah or nay to having a union represent them in collective bargaining or to form a union.
There are many good reasons for secret ballots, and very few good reasons to require open ballots--whether we are talking about government or union elections, we should go to great lengths to avoid coercion or retaliation for voting 'wrong'.
These demands will create so many jobs it will be completely impossible to fill them without an open borders policy.
More wishful thinking.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Honey in fiberglass repair

A few weeks ago I found a set of hard fiberglass motorcycle saddlebags at a garage sale for $2, in fairly poor condition.  I de-rusted the hardware and painted it flat black, patched up the cracks in the fiberglass and painted them to match the bike.  I'm learning how to paint, and was still experimenting with the tops, so I didn't re-attach the safety chains...oops.

On my way home from work, I apparently did not properly latch one of the lids, and without a safety chain it fell off.  I didn't notice immediately, and by the time I found the lid, it had been hit and the last 3 or so inches was broken off.  

The two lids are identical, so I've been trying to use the intact lid as a pattern to repair the broken lid with fiberglass. The first attempts at the form were with expanding insulation foam and plastic wrap so I can remove it.  I think the method could work, but the expansion makes it difficult to get an accurate form with a thin enough layer to cure in a reasonable time. Worse, the outer layer appears to be fully cured, but removing the foam from the lid revealed that the center was almost completely soft and liquid.   A layer thin enough to cure would not duplicate the shape properly.

I gave up on the foam and made a form out of fiberglass.  I greased the inside of the good lid, lined it with foil and added a layer of fiberglass and resin.   I used popsicle sticks and binder clips to hold the fiberglass in the sharp corners of the lip.  This form turned out well, so I riveted it to the broken lid.  I was going to use the same combination of grease and foil to separate the new fiberglass from the form, but saw honey and figured it would be sticky enough but easier to clean.  That part worked fairly well.

I need a couple more layers of fiberglass for strengh, then I'll bondo over the repair so I can smooth it out a lot easier, but I think it is going to work.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Not wasting a blog comment

A court in Oregon has recently ruled that the state cannot ban licensed concealed carry on campus.  This worries Baldr Oldenson, despite the complete lack of problems in the few other states that allow it.  Baldr is irregular about which comments he chooses to allow on his blog, so rather than wasting the effort, I've used my comment as a basis for a post.

He writes:
 Among college-aged people (ages 18-30, to include most grad students), 81.5% of homicides and 46.5% of suicides are by firearms.  Homicide and suicide are the number 2 and number 3 causes of death in that age range (behind unintentional deaths, where firearms are about 1%) (based on CDC WISQARS data for 2008).  Percentages increase if you drop the age to undergrad ages (18-22), and the difference in ranking between accidental and homicide drop dramatically.
This definition of 'college age' includes the peak criminal and gang years.  Criminals account for most of the non-suicide gun violence, it is misleading to lump them in with college students.

Yes, those are schools that have had shootings. It's true that no one was allowed to carry a gun and "play Wyatt Earp" (to quote myself from this post) and shoot the bad guys. However, I would counter that in mass shootings that have happened outside of university settings, including on military bases, no one intervened in any of them, either, despite the ability for citizens to carry guns. In other words, allowing guns on campus isn't likely to stop the shooters, but it definitely will increase the likelihood of homicides and accidents by students. In colleges all over the nation, the rate of gun-related crimes is far lower on-campus (in those gun-free zones) than in the surrounding city.
Mass shooters tend to choose places where they think resistance will be minimal. Mass shooters almost always give up or suicide once someone else shoots back.  And when someone intervenes quickly enough, there's not an opportunity for it to be a mass shooting. Most of the benefit of concealed carry is not in criminals getting shot, it is in criminals not being assured of harmless victims.  Unless accompanied by unrealistic increases in physical security, banning guns in 'sensitive' areas is likely to make them more attractive to mass shooters.   The mass shooting at a military base that he refers to is evidence for my point rather than his--On a typical base the only legal loaded guns are on the gun range or carried by security.  In the  Fort Hood incident, nobody could shoot back until an armed civilian arrived. 

But accidents happen every day, and there are plenty of violent and reactive people out there.  Where there are guns, there are gun crimes and accidents.
In general, proponents of expansion of licensed concealed carry keep predicting minimal issues and a slight drop in crime, while anti-gun activists keep predicting severe problems, even when similar measures have not been a problem in other states.  Once enough time has passed to judge these predictions, one side is consistently more accurate than the other.

Monday, September 19, 2011

NPR 100 best SF--CS Lewis Space Trilogy.

A bunch of the bloggers I read have talked about the NPR 100 best Science Fiction and Fantasy list.  I've read at least part of 30 of the list--the list includes series.   I've decided to go through and at  least attempt the books I haven't read, (and possibly re-read ones I haven't read in a while) starting at the end of the list, The Space Trilogy by CS Lewis.

I read the first book and partway through the second before I gave up.  That's unusual for me, I rarely drop a book midway through, and I've read some pretty crappy books before giving up on a series--I even managed to finish Tom Clancy's Red Rabbit.

The book is set during WWII, but reads like a much older book.  In it the main character, a professor taking a walking tour of England is kidnapped by other humans and taken to Mars due to the kidnappers misunderstanding what the Martians wanted.  It turns out that three species of Martians live together in harmony under a supreme being.  We also discover that the reason Earthlings are uncivilized and violent is that our Supreme Being is bent--basically mentally ill, shunned by the other supreme beings.   Although the story has the hero learning the universal Martian language and is translated into English, many of the words are left untranslated for no good reason.   Book two has the hero volunteering to go to Venus, where he meets a pseudo-Eve searching for her lost Adam in a floating Garden of Eden.  One of the kidnappers from the first book shows up and details his evil plans.   I'm not sure what happens next, that's where I decided that it was no longer pleasure reading, and there wasn't likely to be a sufficient reward for finishing.

I can't imagine this making a top 10,000 list, let alone top 100.

Monday, August 08, 2011

CeeLo, translated

Cee Lo Green, in American Sign Language.  Fast forward 20 seconds

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

750 Seca vs. CX500

I finally got my 82 Yamaha 750 Seca running.  I bought it before the 81 Honda CX500 I've been riding, but it was a barn find and the carbs were gummed up from sitting a couple of years.

The bikes are completely different, both in mechanics and in riding.   The CX engine is a water-cooled 500cc v-twin with 4 valves per cylinder, operated by pushrods, originally rated at 52 horsepower and with the crankshaft running fore/aft   The Seca is an air-cooled 750cc inline 4, with 2 valves per cylinder operated by dual overhead cams, originally at 82 horsepower and the crankshaft running left/right.   Both bikes have shaft drive, both 5 speeds with front disks (dual disks on the Yamaha) and drum rear.

The Yamaha has more features, some very nice, some very silly 80's.   Nice features are the self-canceling turn signals that are based on time and distance--they stay on indefinitely when stopped, turn off after either a certain distance or time after moving, whichever comes first.  They also can be manually  turned off by pushing in on the switch.  I'm not familiar with modern bikes, but apparently this is still uncommonly good--other signals are either full manual or strictly time based.

Another nice feature is the kickstand interlock--Unless the bike is in neutral, the engine won't run with the side stand down.   I'm sure experienced bikers never pull away with their side stands down.  I'm not an experienced biker yet.  It is embarrassing and potentially dangerous to turn left with the stand down.

The instruments are 'very silly 80's'.  A big bulky rectangular dashboard, known by Seca fans as the Atari.  In addition to the standard lights and gauges found on most bikes, it has an LCD monitoring system that tells if the side stand is down, oil pressure, brake fluid or battery electrolyte is low,  headlight or taillight is burned out or fuel is low.   There is also a 4 segment fuel gauge, the one addition that is useful.
 The LCD's are visible, but not attention getting--the attention part is handled by a big red light in the top center of the dash.  If any of the warning LCD's are on, the red light starts blinking .   Particularly annoying is the battery warning light--the sensors on these don't typically last 30 years, and won't work on all batteries, so every time I start the bike, I have to cancel the battery warning.   It is possible to bypass the unused sensor with a resistor--but my first attempt made things worse, as it would shut the monitor off only intermittently, and every time it came back, the warning light would blink again.    Apparently this is similar to how fuel works--but on my bike, reserve is at about 1/4 tank, and I haven't filled it up enough to get a feel for actual range.

The brake fluid monitor is required only because of the silly master cylinder location.  Rather than the usual practice of mounting the master cylinder at the brake lever and using a clear reservoir, the Seca has a cable-operated cylinder hidden between the fork legs.  Looks neat--but part of the reason for using hydraulics is to eliminate cables.  Feel is not as good as bikes I've tried with conventional brake setups.   The Yamaha also has anti-dive forks that are supposed to firm up the fork under braking, I haven't really noticed a difference here, and it is very likely that the system needs to be rebuilt.   The Yamaha also has silly rubber covers over the handlebars.

The riding position on the Seca is not terribly different than the CX, but more comfortable--This might just be a better seat.  Power is much smoother, and of course there is more of it.  The Honda is rated at 52hp, the Yamaha 82.   The Seca sounds like it is revving faster at a given speed in top gear, although the tach says it is a bit less--I'm guessing that what we gauge RPM by is the sound of the individual exhaust pulses, and more cylinders equals more pulses at a given RPM.   The Seca has a wider useful powerband than the CX.  The CX chugs if it is cruising below about 3000 rpm, or accelerating moderately below about 4000, and doesn't really make a lot of power below 5000.  The Seca doesn't seem to complain as long as it is above about 1500, and still has some acceleration this slow without having to downshift.   Both bikes have similar redlines--despite being a pushrod engine the Honda goes to 9650, where the Yamaha redline is at 9500.   The Seca engine feels kind of buzzy at interstate speeds.  The Seca seems to be a bit more stable, with less wander over pavement grooves and such.  This may be either tires or worn parts on the Honda--I rode the Yamaha about 20 miles on the original tires and it wasn't nearly as good.   The Seca still has stock mufflers, and they are very quiet at the rider's ears, especially at city speeds--Loafing along at around 30, it feels and sounds like a scooter with the majority of noise being gear or chain whine rather than exhaust.

I am not quite happy with the rear suspension on the Yamaha, large bumps like frost heaves are uncomfortable.  It does have both preload and damping adjustment, I haven't played much with either.  Preload was set to minimum, it is quite possible that with my weight I need a higher setting to prevent bottoming on large bumps.    My Honda is the other way around--the initial hit is less jarring, but the bike keeps bouncing a bit after.  

The Yamaha has been poorly repainted--it looks nice from a distance, but not nearly as nice up close.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Safety Gear

I've decided that at least for now, if I'm going out of town on my motorcycle, I'm wearing long pants, jacket and gloves.  (In addition to helmet, of course)

I started with a cheap legal minimum 3/4 helmet that Walmart had.  I replaced it fairly quickly with a Snell-approved mid grade HJC that the local Honda dealer was selling--on a bike like mine without a windshield it is much more pleasant.  Not only does the full face do a better job of keeping the wind out of my eyes, the helmet is more comfortable and has better internal ventilation as well--with chin and head vents open while riding you can feel slight air currents, and there is no significant heat build up despite the black color.  (Would have preferred silver or grey, but the in stock choices were black or graffiti)   

I bought an inexpensive Fieldsheer armored textile jacket that was on clearance at Motorcycle Superstore--a bit boy-racer for my taste, but I'm not particularly fashion-conscious.   Abrasion-resistant mesh, and armor over elbows and shoulders that meets some European specification that I've never heard of.  Fits OK, the zipper likes to get stuck where there is a front seam about 3/4 up, but generally comfortable.

What really surprises me is that wearing all this gear isn't hot while riding, up to at least 100 degrees-in fact, even at around town speeds, riding with long pants, jacket, helmet and gloves is less warm than being outside in shorts, short sleeves and flip-flops.   Stopping for lights can be a bit warm, and I've got in the habit of pre-staging the bike--push it out of the garage and load the saddlebags before I go in and gear up in the AC--that way I can just hop on and go.

I had someone argue that leather bike gear was better--that may be true, but I'll wear the textile jacket even in this weather.  Everyone has their own level of acceptable risk--I don't feel the need for leathers, but I'm more than happy with the gear I've got.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Canton, Ohio policeman flips out about concealed carry license

Warning, video has foul language. 

Canton, Ohio police see a car stopped, pull behind it to investigate.   Cops yell at 2 of the people involved for about 6 minutes, completely ignoring the driver--but searching inside the car.  After 6 minutes, they get to the driver.  First thing the driver says is "I've got a carry..." and the cop interrupts, demands the truth.  Driver explains, tries to offer his carry license.  Finally the cop realizes what the driver is saying, and flips.  

Ohio law says that a concealed carry license holder stopped by a law enforcement officer for a law enforcement purpose while carrying a gun must promptly notify the officer.   It also says you must obey all lawful orders.   The driver wasn't perfect, but you shouldn't be expected to shout at or interrupt an angry police officer to stay within the law.  According to Ohioans for Concealed Carry, the prosecutor has offered to drop all charges in exchange for a promise not to sue.  

In my limited experience with law enforcement, I've never had to deal with an officer like this, and never had a problem with notifying--the worst reaction I got was a local cop who once I notified would not let me get my own wallet out of my back pocket.   However, I will notify even if I have to talk over an officer. 

As far as I am concerned, the cop in the video demonstrated his unsuitability not just in his dealings with the  license holder, but also with the others--'If I find you one more time tonight, I'm going to put lumps on you'.   

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Its just gum

Limited Edition Design gum.

Huh?  It's gum.   You chew it.  It is in a stick, the same size and shape as the 'regular edition'.   Maybe the wrapper is different--but I don't have any to compare to, since I wad them up and throw them away.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Pledge

Apparently Michele Bachmann has signed "The Marriage Vow", a fundamentalist anti-gay pledge.  The pledge is below in italics, my comments in standard text. 

The Candidate Vow:
Therefore, in any elected or appointed capacity by which I may have the honor of serving our fellow citizens in these United States, I the undersigned do hereby solemnly vow* to honor and to cherish, to defend and to uphold, the Institution of Marriage as only between one man and one woman.  I vow* to do so through my:

Personal fidelity to my spouse.
Should be between me and my spouse--Different people may have different agreements--fidelity is following your personal agreement as amended by mutual consent.

Respect for the marital bonds of others.
...except those we don't think should be allowed to marry.

Official fidelity to the U.S. Constitution, supporting the elevation of none but faithful constitutionalists as judges or justices.
This one I can agree with, except that the definition of 'faithful constitutionalist' is uselessly vague.

Vigorous opposition to any redefinition of the Institution of Marriage – faithful monogamy between one man and one woman – through statutory-, bureaucratic-, or court-imposed recognition of intimate unions which are bigamous, polygamous, polyandrous, same-sex, etc.
Should not be the government's business to define marriage.  Marriage should be spiritual, between the parties involved and not to get government benefits.  Was Loving vs. Virginia a redefinition of marriage, previously only available to people of the right racial combinations?

Recognition of the overwhelming statistical evidence that married people enjoy better health, better sex, longer lives, greater financial stability, and that children raised by a mother and a father together experience better learning, less addiction, less legal trouble, and less extramarital pregnancy. 
...but we don't want gays and lesbians to have these benefits.  There is certainly a benefit to having two parents who cooperate and care, especially when compared to having a single indifferent parent.  I have not seen any evidence that certain gender combinations are unsuccessful at raising children.

Support for prompt reform of uneconomic, anti-marriage aspects of welfare policy, ...
Not awful, I guess. policy, and marital/divorce law, and extended “second chance” or “cooling-off” periods for those seeking a “quickie divorce.
What does this accomplish?

Earnest, bona fide legal advocacy for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) at the federal and state levels.
How does restricting who can marry 'defend' marriage?

Steadfast embrace of a federal Marriage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which protects the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman in all of the United States.  
It is already too late for this amendment, you couldn't even get a simple majority to agree, and that support is diminishing every year.

Humane protection of women and the innocent fruit of conjugal intimacy – our next generation of American children –...
But apparently illegitimate bastards don't deserve humane protection.  And why the tortured language here?
...from human trafficking, sexual slavery, seduction into promiscuity, and all forms of pornography and prostitution, infanticide, abortion and other types of coercion or stolen innocence.
So long as all involved are consenting adults, porn, prostitution, and promiscuity don't belong in the same bucket as human trafficking, slavery of any kind, or infanticide.

Support for the enactment of safeguards for all married and unmarried
why not just say 'all' here?--is there a third classification of people besides 'married' and 'unmarried' that I'm unaware of?
 U.S. Military and National Guard personnel, especially our combat troops, from inappropriate same-gender or opposite-gender
Again, is there a third classification?
sexual harassment, 
From what little I know, we need to make a much stronger commitment to ending male on female sexual harassment in the military--a much bigger problem than gay on straight harassment.
How are politicians going to protect military personnel from adultery?
or intrusively intimate commingling among attracteds (restrooms, showers, barracks, tents, etc.); 
Gay Cooties!  The gaze of a homosexual
(In the 80's, once I was out of tech school my barracks were co-ed, although we had separate showers)
plus prompt termination of military policymakers who would expose American wives and daughters to rape or sexual harassment, torture, enslavement or sexual leveraging by the enemy in forward combat roles.
...even if the woman involved is aware of the danger and has volunteered to serve--since awful things never happen to men in war.

 Rejection of Sharia Islam and all other anti-woman, anti-human rights forms of totalitarian control.
More grandstanding, and overly simplistic.   If a couple with a family were married under Sharia law, are they no longer married in the US?

Recognition that robust childbearing and reproduction is beneficial to U.S. demographic, economic, strategic and actuarial health and security.
Huh?  This sounds like "have more children so the Social Security Ponzi lasts longer!"

Commitment to downsizing government and the enormous burden upon American families of the USA‟s $14.3 trillion public debt, its $77 trillion in unfunded liabilities, its $1.5 trillion federal deficit, and its $3.5 trillion federal budget.
Finally, another pledge I can agree with.

Fierce defense of the First Amendment‟s rights of Religious Liberty and Freedom of Speech, especially against the intolerance of any who would undermine law-abiding American citizens and institutions of faith and conscience for their adherence to, and defense of, faithful heterosexual monogamy
Only OUR intolerance should be tolerated.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Blackpowder cannon

Brother in law's blackpowder cannon on the 4th of July.

Monday, July 04, 2011


Agriculture contributes about $176 billion to the US economy.  Worst case, how low would that number be without the US Department of Agriculture?   25% less?  50% less?  No better or worse?

What should the Department of Agriculture's budget be, based on the revenue of the sector it is supporting?   5%?  10%  25%?  25% sounds kind of high to me...How about 75%?    No, that would be ridiculous.  The actual numbers are....

$131 Billion.   That's only 74%.   Whew.  

Thursday, June 30, 2011

CCW holder attacked

Earlier this month, an Ohio carry license holder was attacked at a gas station about 25 miles from me, with one primary attacker and the attacker's friend running in to help.  Based on the victim's account, backed up by surveillance video, the attacker greeted the victim by someone else's name, demanded a ride and tried to pull him out of the car when the victim tried to leave.  Victim had left his gun in the center console, managed to retrieve it and fired two shots, then left and dialed 911.   Last I saw, the attacker was in the hospital expected to recover.  

Both the victim and the attacker's friend have posted about the incident, the victim posting on the Ohioans for Concealed Carry forums, the accomplice on Facebook.  The accomplice's version doesn't quite match up with either the victim or the surveillance video--and his speed in running away doesn't match up with his tough-guy front, either.

An example of the accomplice's facebook:

'It was just crazy though, cus Brandon was beatin dude's ass & his pussy ass pulled a gun a shot em..  It was nuts I swear, I don't 4 get a face though, he knows what it is" 

(H/T and link to gunguynextdoor, who has a friend saving screenshots even after the Facebook went private)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

What do you expect

The town this was in is pronounced Roo-she, spelled Russia, so I guess I shouldn't expect too much.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Spotted wandering around the neighborhood

'I've had enough of people stuffing me full of junkmail, I'm outta here...."

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Daily Show on the ATF's Fast and Furious

For the few readers unaware, the ATF had a harebrained scheme to assist Mexican criminals in buying guns from American dealers...for some reason that still isn't clear, and without the knowledge of the Mexican government.   The scandal broke when American Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was murdered with one of these guns.

(Note--removed the video because it had switched to autoplay)

Some gun rights supporters believe that the goal was to create a problem that could be 'solved' with more ATF funding and power.   I'm not sure I believe that, but I'm not sure I don't, either.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Harley parts on a Honda

This isn't a fancy Photoshop trick, it is a view through  one of the old mufflers from my motorcycle. (click to enlarge).  I wans't particularly happy with the mufflers that came with the bike, because as you might guess they were rather loud.  According to the Honda CX forum, most Harley mufflers would fit my CX, although modification of brackets may be necessary.  Apparently some Dyna mufflers fit with no modifications.   Most Harleys don't come from the factory all that loud, but because many Harley riders believe that Loud Pipes Save Lives, there are lots of new and nearly new Harley mufflers available cheap.

Yesterday I found a pair at a garage sale for $10.  They were from a Fat Boy rather than a Dyna, but getting the brackets to work wasn't all that bad.  A huge reduction in sound, and a lot more pleasant to ride.  No significant change in power.    

I also fixed my trip odometer--the middle digit wasn't resetting properly, and there was a screw loose inside the spedometer.  Getting the odometer working was fairly easy--the difficulties were in getting to it, and then getting the oil out from the places it shouldn't have been.  If I ever do that again, I'll wrap the rest of the speedometer assembly in towels or something, to minimize oil getting where it shouldn't be. 

Odd evening

We had a Catholic church festival this weekend, complete with loud music and a beer truck.  I rarely park in our driveway, but during festival weekend it is usually the only option within a couple blocks.

Last night near the end of the festival I was working in my garage, and heard the neighbor across the alley talking to police.  I went to be nosy investigate, found that some unknown person had parked across the neighbor's garage door.  Caprice station wagon with actual expensive wire wheels (not just wire hubcaps) with a window down and a Blackberry and what looked like an iPod tOuch plugged in to the lighter socket.  

It took some time to get the police and a tow truck--but more than 2 hours after the festival closed, the owner had not come to claim his car.  2 of the 3 Stooges finally showed up with a tilting bed winch truck, but had problems because it was rear drive and the front wheels were cocked--it kept wanting to veer off the bed of the truck, they would reset the winch and pull it sideways, then up the truck another couple feet.   You can see the marks where the tires were dragged along the pavement-the car was parked parallel to the garage door, blocking the entire door.  Whoever parked there had to have pulled past, then backed in, so this wasn't just accidentally blocking a driveway.

I'm really curious what was going on here--A very odd place to park even considering the circumstances,  odd that hours after the end of the festival the driver still had not claimed his car.  Odd that a decent cellphone and ipod were left in plain sight, with an open window.  Apparently the owner didn't have a license.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Called on account of bugs

I went for a short motorcycle ride this evening, shortened drastically by bugs.  I cleaned my face shield before the ride, this is after less than 15 miles.   From the sound they made when they hit, I think some of the bugs were made of rock.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Motorcycle upholstery

The seat my Honda CX500 came with looked like this when I got it, except with black tape wrapped around the back.   Not only damaged, but uncomfortable for someone my size--I needed to slide back a few inches, but the hump between the driver's and passenger section prevented me.  I re-shaped the seat with a bread knife, and added a bit more padding to the front section.

The first attempt at a cover looked awful, barely better than what was there before--but it was a good bit more comfortable to ride.

The final version turned out quite a bit better.  For the top I used 2 layers of marine vinyl with quilt batting between. I was originally going to sew ribs, but the back of the vinyl had this diamond pattern in it, so I sewed along that pattern.  It needs to be touched up in a few spots--I've got a pucker that I need to tear out and re-sew, and 2 spots where a second line of stitching will close a gap.  However, it is no longer the worst part of the bike,  so I'll probably leave it for now.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Use it or lose it

When I was in the Air Force, we had "use or lose" budgets--if we were economical this year and didn't spend our entire shop's budget, next year's budget would be cut by a similar amount.  The fourth quarter was interesting--week by week we would be told to spend more, or to defer spending, depending on how close we were to the target budget.  The last weeks we would often order something expensive, to use up the rest.   One year we replaced all the workbenches in our shop with many thousands of dollars in new benches.  The new ones looked newer, but were not as functional as the old ones.

Neil Gaiman is a successful SF/Fantasy author who gets asked to do appearances frequently.  As he puts it,
 I'm really busy, and I ought to be  writing, so pricing appearances somewhere between ridiculously high and obscenely high helps to discourage most of the people who want me to come and talk to them. Which I could make a full time profession, if I didn't say 'no' a lot."
He makes exceptions depending on who is hiring him, and apparently he donates much or all of this money to charity.

About a year ago, he was asked to speak at a Minnesota Library event, paid with funds from a special tax rather than out of the library's operating budget.   The money was 'use or lose', with a significant delay between the original schedule and when the money was actually released,  resulting in a very short time to find a way to spend it.  The people who hired him did not attempt to negotiate a lower fee--after all, it isn't their money, and there really wasn't time to spend any savings anyhow.

There was  a good bit of anger at this spending.  Some of the anger was justified--Although the venue was at capacity, the 'obscenely high' fee worked out to $90 per person.   I would agree that it wasn't a good use of taxes, but where to lay the blame is somewhat difficult here.  I don't think there is very much blame attached to the library--in theory they could have returned the funds, but it is likely that would have been considered poor job performance for the people involved.  Blame whoever wrote the law?  The voters?

However, some of the anger (from at least one politician, among others) was misdirected at Mr Gaiman.  From what I've read, Mr Gaiman made an agreement to perform for a fee and more than fulfilled his end, staying quite a bit longer than agreed on.  It shouldn't be up to him to determine if his temporary employers are wasting their money.

The problem here is getting government involved where it doesn't belong, on diluting accountability so far that nobody can be held accountable.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Shooting at the Piqua Taco Bell

My small town had a shooting at Taco Bell.  Apparently 2 couples went from a bar to Taco Bell, there was an argument, one of the men shot the other, then the shooter drove the victim to the hospital.   Both the victim and the suspect had been arrested numerous times in Miami County.


Monday, May 09, 2011


Yesterday I went to see my Mom for mother's day.  On the way home in the dark, I barely spotted a single taillight.  It was extremely difficult to judge distance to the single red light, or even tell if it was getting closer or farther away.  At one point the light got somewhat brighter, and my eyes interpreted that as suddenly being much closer and stopped--I suspect he merely flashed his brake light a bit.   The light would also blend in with the lights up the road.   The taillight was going about 5mph below the speed limit, but it was too difficult to judge exactly where it was for me to be comfortable passing. 

It turns out that the taillight was from a rider with dark clothing, a black helmet and a black duffel bag strapped to an old smaller yellow Yamaha motorcycle.   I could not see any of this until we got into town and there were street lights.   

 As soon as I got home, I added some reflector tape to my new helmet.  Adding a second visual reference point a distance from the taillight will not only make it easier for drivers to see me, but will make it easier for them to judge distance.  

Wednesday, May 04, 2011


From the 'for sale' bulletin board at work

Monday, May 02, 2011

Ubuntu 11.4 Natty Narwhal Not Ready

Friday I upgraded my system from the previous version of Ubuntu to 11.4.  So far upgrades have generally gone well, this time not so much.  The new interface is awful--appears to be optimized for Netbooks and other tiny screen computers--I've got dual 23" monitors, and the controls are all the way to the left, combining both the controls for launching apps, and the controls for accessing the already running apps in one bar.  This isn't a dealbreaker, since the old interface is available by choosing 'classic mode' when logging in.

More important is that on the same system that was perfectly stable I've had several crashes and other glitches in just a few hours.  Had to uninstall a plugin to Rhythmbox, othewise launching it would crash the system.  Trying to access a CD logged me out.  In my first attempt to write this post the backspace key got stuck, and unplugging the keyboard did not help.

I'm backing up my home folder now, and I'm likely to do a reinstall of the previous version.  I'm getting more irritated with Ubuntu with each release--Instead of being the distribution that just works, they keep making fairly drastic interface changes with little apparent justification.

If you see distribution update in update manager, it's probably best to skip it for now.