Friday, December 26, 2008

Gun laws vs. crime rates

I'm experimenting a bit with Google Docs. This spreadsheet shows a couple of charts, comparing Brady Campaign gun law scores by state, with crime rates by state. A scatter chart with a correlation should show a pattern-Generally the points would be scattered around a diagonal line. In this case, they are very randomly distributed, indicating very low to no correlation between restrictive gun laws and crime. (This is slightly disappointing--I would have hoped to see strict gun laws associated with more crime)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Moving Eyes Moose

A "The Hartford" promotional moving eyes wristwatch: I found this at a local thrift store, good cosmetically but not running. Took it apart, cleaned, oiled and reassembled. The eyes gave me some trouble, I couldn't remove them, and had to run them through the cleaner and hope the paint didn't come off. Seems a bit goofy for an insurance company, but fun.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Bebo Ethics

A fairly computer savvy person I know sent me an invitation to BEBO. In part of the signup process, it wanted my Gmail account and password, "and we'll show you who's here." I declined. It turns out that the invitation was not intentionally sent--I don't know the exact details, but I did a bit of Googling, and found this, this, this and this in a few seconds. Quite a few people who don't appear to be the type to be caught by this sort of thing have had BEBO spam their entire address books and IM contacts. It was likely my unfamiliarity with social networking sites that saved me from the same mistake--I'm suspicious by nature, and didn't see any good reason for them to have my Gmail password. If like these people, I'd used the same feature elsewhere I would have assumed I'd have the chance to edit the list and I may have been caught too. Maybe not though--I'm cautious about giving third parties my friends and relatives email addresses. I don't understand this sort of marketing. Sure, BEBO gets more exposure, but an awful lot of it is likely to be remembered as "that company that tricked my friend into spamming me". Yet another victim sums it up nicely:

A social network site which embarrasses me is not a site I want to use. This kind of problem is an absolute show-stopper for me. I will be steering people away from Bebo.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Goofy laws

A group of 5 republican representatives wants to reintroduce the expired and failed Assault Weapons Ban of 1994. So what's the problem? Why do normal people need these weapons? What is wrong with this particular laws, and gun laws in general? We keep seeing calls for "reasonable restrictions" on guns--Always MORE laws than we have now, never removing some of the current unreasonable ones. These rules are more often than not broader than their titles would suggest. Fairly often a non-gun person just doesn't understand the details, or has been actively mislead. Sometimes a law is minor, doing little to either fight misuse or to inconvenience gun owners--but it is one more chip at the foundation. An example: This is a picture of a Springfield Armory XD-40, a handgun in the $450-500 range. The highlighted area is a critical feature of the gun, according to the Gun Control Act of 1968. Based on a law theoretically designed to combat Saturday Night Specials, this particular gun would not be eligible to be imported to the US if this feature were removed. The critical feature? A thumb rest. Makes the grip a "target grip", worth 5 points on the silly points system used to determine the "quality" of an imported handgun, and giving this particular model just enough points. Most modern handgun designs with polymer frames have similar problems with getting enough import points, since having a steel or "HTS Alloy" frame is worth 20- 27% of the total points. Glocks are imported with cheap adjustable sights, most of which are removed and replaced with standard fixed sights before sale. The smaller Glocks have grooved "target" triggers (as does the XD in the picture) OK, what about registration? Is it OK if the government lets you have most guns, as long as you let them know what you have? Gun owners mostly believe that the second amendment is an individual right, allowing ordinary people to own at least semiautomatic versions of infantry weapons, and that the primary purpose is to make tyranny harder. Some think we will need to rise up against the tyrant soon, others (me among them) think that as long as we have the ability to rise up, we will never need to. This leads to the conclusion that before a government can become too tyrannical, it is necessary to disarm the citizens. Even if the disarming is done with the best of intentions by a currently benevolent government, it makes a later tyrant more likely. Registration is a necessary first step before prohibition. Prohibition isn't (quite) an inevitable result, but it is a common one--First registration is required for a certain type of gun, then no more are allowed to be sold. Finally, the existing ones are banned, and the registered owners are contacted to give theirs up. The people wanting to ban all guns shift their efforts on the "worst" of whatever is left. Criminals aren't going to register their guns, so what legitimate government purpose is served by registration? As a result, most pro-gun activists are against registration, whether explicit or back door. Back-door registration is a system that claims to have some other purpose, but requires registration--Microstamping, eliminating the "gun show loophole", some parts of "safe storage" laws all require registration. The "gun show loophole"--The loophole is that the rules at a gun show are exactly the same as anywhere else--Dealers still have to do background checks, just the same as if they are at their store. In most states, this means that private owners can sell to each other without paperwork. Many of the proposals to end the "loophole" require all gun sales to go through a dealer--This will add $20 or so in cost to every private sale, as well as ensuring that there are records of who owns what. Gun shows are not a significant source of criminal guns. Criminals rarely buy their guns from ANY legitimate source--Instead they are stolen, or the criminal convinces someone with a clean record to purchase for them, known as a "straw sale". "One gun per month" laws are meant to combat straw sales--but also require records to be kept. Safe storage laws put the liability for a stolen gun on the listed owner. These are often accompanied by a requirement that stolen guns are reported shortly after the theft. Enforcement requires registration. Almost all gun owners will report stolen guns as soon as they are discovered. How do the authorities tell the difference between an unreported theft and an unreported (but legal) sale? These laws may also make it difficult or impossible to legally have a gun ready to defend a household. New York and Maryland both have a requirement to submit a fired cartridge from each new gun to be included in a database. This has been in effect for 7 and 8 years respectively. The data has been used in just one conviction in Maryland, with allegations that the case was already solved before the database was consulted specifically so there would be a "solved case". New York has yet to use the database in a conviction. It doesn't do any good to know that a particular gun was used in a crime without a way to cross-reference to an owner. Micro-stamping means that the firearm must be designed to imprint a coded serial number on each ejected cartridge. To be effective, this requires registration. It also complicates manufacture--not all designs are amenable to micro-stamping, and it is trivial to defeat with simple hand tools. So far, micro-stamping is a patented technology, and it is unknown what the licensing terms will be, or if the terms will be evenly applied to all. Ammo serialization means that each bullet and cartridge is marked with a number unique to that box of ammo, and sellers would have to record who a particular box of ammo was sold to. Some versions of these laws would require all non-serialized ammo to be destroyed within a certain time period. This would significantly increase the cost of most ammunition-more than likely .22 ammunition would more than double in price. Buying from a dealer requires a NICS background check and ID. It is a felony to lie on the 2273 form, and the form asks you questions that determine if you are elegible. Even this law is mostly wasted--Less than 1% of failed background checks result in a law enforcement investigation and arrest. Either the background check is rejecting innocent people, or not enough people are being arrested. If we aren't going to use the laws we have consistently, do we really need more?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Back to Hardy Heron

I backed up my home directory, deleted Intrepid Ibex and went back to the previous version, Hardy Heron. (note--these are versions of Ubuntu Linux) The sound problems were maddening, and troubleshooting took too much time because the problems didn't appear until several hours of use. I usually had to restart Firefox to play any flash with sound. I'd lost the ability to control keyboard repeat rate, and there was a keyboard issue I'd fixed before that came back, where the computer would occasionally drop a key event--either it would ignore the key entirely, or it would not realize I'd released it and would go into repeat until I hit another key. I would also get maddening keyboard lag in some web forms--the display might be 2 words behind my typing. Dual screens sort of worked with almost no trouble, but they don't work right--Glitches in the primary display, and it kept wanting to move my toolbars to the second monitor.

One of the really nice things about Linux is the home folder. Most of my customizations go in the home folder, so by making a copy to an external drive (make sure you also back up hidden files) I could reinstall the older version, then when I copy my home folder back, I wind up with most everything configured the same way I had it before. Even third party applications kept their settings.

I may try a clean install of Intrepid sometime in the future, but as a second OS rather than an upgrade.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Squirrel Hawk

I was driving here yesterday
Flying overhead was a hawk of some sort, carrying a squirrel.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Fisking Obama

Obama has a webpage up at Basically a campaign website at a .gov address, before he is inaugurated. Lots of "spend more here", no information on how this gets paid for. Indented material is directly from the website.

Do No Harm: Barack Obama and Joe Biden do not support imposing unfunded mandates on states and localities. They strongly support providing necessary funding for programs such as No Child Left Behind.

No child left behind increases federal control of schools, and increases bureaucracy.. The feds should have a much smaller role in schools. The unfunded mandate was only part of the problem. Fairly typical that a change of party does not give up the power established by the previous administration.

Support Regional Innovation Clusters: Thriving innovation clusters across the country like the North Carolina Research Triangle Park and Nashville's thriving entertainment cluster prove that local stakeholders can successfully come together and help reshape their local economies. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will create a federal program to support "innovation clusters" - regional centers of innovation and next-generation industries. This innovation clusters program will provide $200 million in planning and matching grants for regional business, government and university leaders to collaborate on leveraging a region’s existing assets - from transportation infrastructure to universities - to enhance long-term regional growth

Why do some areas get special treatment? I don't believe tax breaks and grants to locate in particular places do overall good--they help the specific area at the expense of others. The jobs would have been created somewhere. Better to have an overall low-tax climate.

Enhance Workforce Training: Obama and Biden will make long-term investments in education, language training, and workforce development so that Americans can leverage our strengths – our ingenuity and entrepreneurialism – to create new high-wage jobs and prosper in a global economy. A critical part of this process is ensuring that we reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and ensure that it strengthens federal investments needed for success in the 21st Century.

Not sure what program this is, but similar programs are essentially boondoggles. A whole bunch of my Cisco training was paid for by a federal grant. One of the classes was relevant, (and would have been paid for by my employer) the other was expensive and useless--but my employer only had to pay travel expenses. The class was filled with people from my (major corporate) employer. The main beneficiary was the training facility.

Increase Access to Capital for Underserved Businesses: Barack Obama and Joe Biden will strengthen Small Business Administration programs that provide capital to women and minority-owned businesses, support outreach programs that help business owners apply for loans, and work to encourage the growth and capacity of these firms. They will also strengthen Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), which are engaged in innovative methods to provide capital to urban businesses.

Define "woman and minority owned", especially with a publicly-traded corporation. This creates companies with the primary purpose of "being minority owned". In highway construction there is one particular aspect that is almost always handled by a minority company--If I remember right, it is guardrails. There may have been a time when racism was so bad that this sort of thing was necessary. We will never completely cure racism, but we are close enough that we no longer need to segregate minority businesses.

Lower People's Interest Payments by Creating a New Mortgage Interest Tax Credit: Many middle class Americans do not receive the existing mortgage interest tax deduction because they do not itemize their taxes. Obama and Biden will ensure that middle-class Americans get the financial assistance they need to purchase or keep their own home by creating a 10 percent universal mortgage credit that gives tax relief to 10 million Americans who have a home mortgage.

This will likely benefit me, but how does taking other people's money to help me with my mortgage benefit the US as a whole?

Increase the Supply of Affordable Housing throughout Metropolitan Regions: Communities prosper when all families have access to affordable housing. Barack Obama and Joe Biden supported efforts to create an Affordable Housing Trust Fund to create thousands of new units of affordable housing every year. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will also restore cuts to public housing operating subsidies, and ensure that all Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs are restored to their original purpose.

Housing cannot be a right, else people will not respect it. Housing projects, Metropolitan, Section 8 housing attract a high proportion of criminals and "high maintenance" tennants. They know their "rights", but don't have any concept of responsibility.

Establish 'Promise Neighborhoods' for Areas of Concentrated Poverty: Successful strategies to address concentrated, intergenerational poverty are comprehensive in nature and address the full range of obstacles that stand in the way of poor children. One highly-acclaimed model is the Harlem Children's Zone in New York City, which provides a full network of services to an entire neighborhood from birth to college. Obama and Biden will create 20 Promise Neighborhoods in cities that have high levels of poverty and crime and low levels of student academic achievement.

Again, why isolated neighborhoods? Are these primarily neighborhoods with community organizers?

Increase the Minimum Wage: As president, Obama will raise the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2011 and index it to inflation so full-time workers can earn a living wage that allows them to raise their families and pay for basic needs such as food, transportation, and housing – things so many people take for granted.

What happens when someone is not worth $9.50 per hour, but would be if they had some job experience? They don't get a job, and don't get the experience. Employers will have to give raises to not only those people making less than the new minimum, they will also have to give raises to their more skilled employees. They will have to raise prices, or cut back on jobs. Wages rise which drives costs up, which drives prices up, which drives inflation, which triggers another raise of the minimum, starting the cycle anew. The other option is that even more entry-level jobs will go overseas.

Build More Livable and Sustainable Communities: Our communities will better serve all of their residents if we are able to leave our cars, to walk, bicycle and access other transportation alternatives. As president, Barack Obama will re-evaluate the transportation funding process to ensure that smart growth considerations are taken into account.

This assumes we should be funding transportation. Subsidized transport distorts job and housing locations-it gives places the ability to lobby to reduce "undesirables" by controlling the location of bus stops. What if all that was controlled through economics, rather than political?

Use Innovative Measures to Dramatically Improve Efficiency of Buildings: Buildings account for nearly 40 percent of carbon emissions in the United States today and carbon emissions from buildings are expected to grow faster than emissions from other major parts of our economy. It is expected that 15 million new buildings will be constructed between today and 2015. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will work with cities so that we make our new and existing buildings more efficient consumers of electricity.

This will happen anyhow--nobody will deliberately build inefficient buildings. Government intervention will wind up like Ethanol power--Steering resources to where the lobbyists are, rather than where the savings are.

Address Gun Violence in Cities: As president, Barack Obama would repeal the Tiahrt Amendment, which restricts the ability of local law enforcement to access important gun trace information,

No, it doesn't. It restricts non-government special interest groups from accessing trace information, for purposes other than law enforcement.

and give police officers across the nation the tools they need to solve gun crimes and fight the illegal arms trade. Obama and Biden also favor commonsense measures

Here we go...How come none of the commonsense measures ever increase freedom where experience shows no reduction in crime?

that respect the Second Amendment rights of gun owners, while keeping guns away from children and from criminals who shouldn't have them. They support closing the gun show loophole

Criminals don't buy at gunshows in significant numbers. The "loophole" is that the rules at a gunshow are identical to the rules everywhere else. "Closing the loophole" is banning private sales, and effectively requiring gun registration. Are criminals going to register?

and making guns in this country childproof

How can that be done, without making them adultproof as well, or vastly increasing the cost? I've said before, the overwhelming majority of child gun accidents have other risk factors.

They also support making the expired federal Assault Weapons Ban permanent, as such weapons belong on foreign battlefields and not on our streets.

Battlefields almost universally use full-auto machine guns, not the semi-autos covered by the Assault Weapons ban. If these weapons don't belong on our streets, will police and secret service have the same restrictions? Will there be an effort to limit the restrictions to those features that are used disproportionately in criminal activity--For example, If we find that criminals don't stab people with bayonets, is there any reason to restrict them?

End Racial Profiling: Barack Obama cosponsored federal legislation to ban racial profiling and require federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to take steps to eliminate the practice. He introduced and passed a law in the Illinois State Senate requiring the Illinois Department of Transportation to record the race, age, and gender of all drivers stopped for traffic violations so that bias could be detected and addressed.

In theory, good. In practice it assumes that all races and genders drive equally, and treat police equally. Will this expand to prison and courts? "Sorry, you've reached your quota of black immates, he will have to go free".

Cap Outlandish Interest Rates on Payday Loans and Improve Disclosure: In the wake of reports that some service members were paying 800 percent interest on payday loans, the U.S. Congress took bipartisan action to limit interest rates charged to service members to 36 percent. Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe that we must extend this protection to all Americans, because predatory lending continues to be a major problem for low and middle income families alike.

Does this include banks, bounced check fees and the practice of handling overdrafts in the way that generates the most money to the bank? If someone has a $100 balance, makes a $100 deposit, and writes a $102 check and 5 $10 checks, and the bank has a $20 overdraft fee, the ending balance depends entirely on the order stuff is processed--Could be $48, could be a minus 72. That is essentially $120 in interest for a loan of an hour or so. What sort of APR does that calculate to?

Encourage Responsible Lending Institutions to Make Small Consumer Loans: Some mainstream, responsible lending institutions are beginning to enter the short-term lending market to provide many Americans with fair alternatives to predatory lending institutions. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will work with his Secretary of Treasury and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to encourage banks, credit unions and Community Development Financial Institutions to provide affordable short-term and small dollar loans – and to drive the sharks out of business

Some people are bad risks--A higher than normal probability of default, extra labor to collect, a low loan amount with corresponding low profits. Banks are unlikely to be interested in these people as customers. Should they have no choice? What would happen if there were less regulation on loans--Would there be more competition in the "payday loan" market, with better terms offered?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I've been watching the 70's series Connections by James Burke on Youtube. It is a really good, relatively highbrow history of technology, produced by the BBC, and broadcast here on PBS.

Why are so many of the so-called "related videos" about nipples?

Blender Defender

One man's way of keeping his cat off the counter:

I especially like the video from 10/17

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Intrepid Ibex first look

I just upgraded to Intrepid Ibex, the latest version of Ubuntu Linux. On the positive side, I was able to get multi-monitor support running with no particular trouble. Networking appears to run both wired and wireless simultaneously, rather than leaving wireless disabled until you disconnect wired. I think I prefer the old way.

On the downside, I wound up with a recurrence of a bug I'd fixed in Hardy Heron, where the keyboard randomly goes into repeat or drops keys. I won't know if I've fixed that until I use the laptop away from my desk--the trigger seems to be hitting the touchpad and keyboard at the same time, and at my desk I use my 20 year old Type M. (Once the bug is triggered, it is also on the external keyboard)

Sound lost the right channel--Appears to be a Pulseaudio problem.
sudo killall pulseaudio
sudo alsa force-reload
fixed it for now, and it is working through logoff and logon. Took a surprising amount of time to find a solution--Lots of pulseaudio problems reported, but most are either no sound or distorted sound, I didn't find anyone who had only one channel.

Suspend now seems to work again--Suspend worked originally, (and in fact, unsuspending was necessary to wake my wireless up) but for the last two releases it would not unsuspend, and I had to hold the power button down and force a reboot.
Update: Sound doesn't come back when unsuspending.

The external mouse isn't waking up the screensaver.

Easy multi-monitor support is the only compelling feature I've found so far, otherwise I'd stick with the previous version--especially since it is in long term support.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Converting Schwinn Meridian to multi-speed

I've done a trial version of converting my wife's Schwinn Meridian trike to multi-speed, using leftover parts. I've got more leftover bike parts than most--For normal people a donor bike would be the easiest way to get the needed parts. I'm planning to look for one to solve some of the problems I've found

The donor I'm looking for is a department-store 21 speed with a 3 piece crank. Ideally it would have a frame-mounted derailleur and a chain guard, but that's not critical. Better mountain bikes will have a cassette, which won't work in this application. I've seen bikes that would work for around $20. All we need are the drive train parts--if the rest of the bike is trashed, it won't affect the build. Since it is hard to fit a bike in a Cavalier, I'm taking a tubing cutter so I can chop the frame in pieces to get it home.

Like many trikes, the Meridian uses an intermediate gear system. The main chain goes between the crankset to an intermediate hub. The intermediate hub has a freewheel, a brake and a fixed sprocket. A chain runs from the fixed sprocket to another fixed sprocket on the rear axle.

The conversion is relatively straightforward. I removed the old freewheel on the intermediate hub and replaced it with a 5 speed freewheel. I also installed a low-end Shimano derailleur, the type that is held on by the back wheel.

The first step is to disassemble the trike and remove the old freewheel. This is a fairly standard BMX unit, however they neglected to add the notches usually used by a removal tool. This makes non-destructive removal difficult. I opted for destructive removal. (Even with the slots I may have gone with destructive removal rather than either buying the tool or paying to have the old freewheel removed)

The two holes are meant for a pin spanner. I don't have the right size so I used a pair of needle nose pliers with the tips ground to fit. Threads are opposite, so clockwise unscrews. On other freewheels, I've used a punch and hammer.

If you might re-use this, put something under the hub to catch the thousands of little ball bearings that will fall out. (I suspect once you see how many there are, you'll give up on putting it back together...)

Once you unscrew the ring, you will be able to lift the sprocket off the body. The aforementioned thousands of balls will fall out. This exposes the part of the body that unscrews from the hub. I used a vise, locking pliers would probably work. This is standard threads, removes by turning counterclockwise.

Ideally, I should have used a longer axle in the intermediate hub--The derailleur side needed some extra space to fit. I was able to shift it enough so there is just (barely) enough axle on each side. I'd probably want more thread engagement on a bicycle, but this doesn't hold the wheel on so stress should be less.

I need to do something here--I need just a little more space than I have, and I am at the limit of the original axle. If the donor bike's axle is longer I will use it, otherwise I will fabricate a different derailleur mount that doesn't rely on the axle nuts.

To shift the axle--Remove the nut holding the band brake in place--That will let you remove the brake itself, giving access to the cones. You will need a cone wrench (Harbor Freight's bike tool kit is a really good value, and includes the specialized bike tools needed for most bike repair) Loosen both cones from their jam nuts, move the axle over, shortening the part that sticks out on the brake side. Re-adjust the cones and tighten. (Hint: Get the adjustment close, but a bit loose and tighten both cones. Use 2 big wrenches on the jam nuts and tighten until you've removed the play)

You will need some washers or spacers to add some space to the freewheel side, so the nut is past the freewheel. You also need some washers to go between the main frame and the rear axle carrier to get a bit more space. Since the main frame is aluminum, you need to be careful not to spread it too far--Aluminum is not as forgiving as steel to being spread.

I need about 5 mm more space...I gained about 3mm. This is just enough to let the freewheel fit when the intermediate hub was positioned right, but not enough to let the chain ride on the smallest cog without rubbing and probably jamming up on the frame. Not a major problem in this application--The goal was better hill climbing, not speed, and the 4 remaining gears give one gear higher and two gears lower than the original--the ones that would be most used. I adjusted the travel screws to lock out the smallest cog. I can get the space in the frame, but unless I either get a different axle or a better way to hold the derailleur, I don't have enough space in the hub.

The next problem was the derailleur. The standard mount for this cheap type uses a special D-shaped nut that sits in the axle slot to keep the derailleur aligned. Since I had virtually no extra space, this nut was enough to rub on the freewheel. Instead, I moved the derailleur and hub back a bit, and drilled and tapped a hole in the bike frame to replace the D nut.

5 speed index shifters are rare, but 6 speed use the same spacing and will work with most Shimano 5 speed freewheels. The spare shifters I have were 7 speed. Luckily, they have a friction mode, letting them be used with the 5 speed spacing. The final version will most likely use 7 speed spacing, so I'll leave them for now.

Future plans are to change the spacing of the freewheel. If I use 5 gears with the spacing of a 7 speed cluster, I'll save another 2mm or so, which should be just enough to use all 5. There are a few different possibilities--The most likely is to salvage cogs and spacers from a 7 speed and mount them to the 5 speed body. I could also shave the existing spacers down.

Another reason to get a donor bike is the chain and front chainrings--Single speed bikes almost all use a wider chain, with wider sprockets. These will not work with derailleur parts.

I took the largest chainring of the replacement off in hopes of making it work with the old chain guard. Unfortunately the guard bracket rubbed the inner chainring, so I still had to remove the guard. I will try to find a donor bike with the proper chainrings and a guard. (I passed one by at the thrift store that would have been perfect, days before I started this project) Trikes aren't likely to go as fast as bikes, so higher gears aren't really needed--The middle and small rings from a mountain bike set are plenty--In fact, for this use, I am only using the smallest chainring, since there is no easy way to mount a front derailleur.

Update:  The summary of what I did is at:

I don't know of any kit for this, I just used parts off of a couple of cheap used bikes.  It worked out OK, but Wife eventually wanted a recumbent.  We found one and gave the Schwinn away.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I'm dealing with a poorly written web application--Basically a big and moderately complex form to fill out. However it has unique features that make it extraordinarily difficult to use

  1. If you hit the backspace or Enter key, and your cursor is not in a text field you will lose all your work.
  2. Most fields will initially allow any value-however the form will not allow you to save if the values are not acceptable. It won't complain about them until you try to save, then it will inform you that you cannot save until you correct a single error--If you have two errors, it will only tell about one at a time, giving that many more chances to hit backspace at the wrong time
  3. Soeme date fields are directly editable, others require you to click on a calendar. The ones requiring the calendar will let you put the cursor in their field, but if you backspace, will delete all your work.
  4. You can make a copy of an existing similar form rather than starting fresh. Not everything will be copied--Many of the fields that would be useful to have a copy of are not, and many of the fields that will always need to be edited or changed are copied.
There are other peculiarities, but these are the most bothersome. I'm constantly amazed at the lack of usability that is considered acceptable in software.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Testing the user

I took a co-worker shooting this weekend. She has two guns, but had never shot either of them. She wound up bringing only one, an Arminius .38 revolver--She didn't know how to unload the other.

The Arminius is a K-Mart special sort of gun, almost literally--under another name, it was sold at K-Mart back in the day. This one wasn't obviously horrible, but it also wasn't as well-finished as a Smith or Ruger. Rather than the traditional cylinder release, you pulled the ejector, the grips are plastic, and the trigger pull is a good bit harder than I am used to.

The experience shows how important it is to test fire any gun you may be relying on for self-defense--She has arthritis, and was unable to pull the trigger double-action with one finger, and unable to cock the hammer. She had no problem with any of my guns, including my double-action-only J frame revolver. Usually I'd say a revolver is an excellent choice for a non-gun person. Not in this case, with this combination of person and gun. The only way she was able to fire it was to use the index finger of her support hand to help, and it took her several seconds to shoot.

Her other gun is some sort of mousegun-She thinks it is a Browning .25, but is unsure. I'm going to recommend that she sell them off and buy something she can shoot, in a 9mm or larger caliber.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Bonyard

The Google Maps view of Davis Monthan AFB is fascinating:

View Larger Map

Davis Monthan is home to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, basically the boneyard for obsolete US aircraft. Around 4400 old military planes are parked in the desert. The low humidity helps preserve the aircraft, and the hard soil means that it isn't necessary to pave their parking areas. Google lets you zoom in enough to identify individual aircraft, and in some cases see how they have been stripped for parts. I'm not an aircraft expert, but I'm pretty sure some of the ones I can ID are from the 1950's.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Adapting Adapters

To re-use an AC adapter for a different gadget, you need to know the voltage, amperage and polarity of both the device and the adapter. I don't throw adapters out even if their gadget is broken--I can often re-purpose the adapter to work with a new gadget.

Adapters and most appliances that use them will have something like this:

We are concerned with Output and the funny symbol that is (on this one) in the bottom right corner.

The input doesn't really matter as long as it was designed for the US (or whatever voltage you have where you are). Output is what we are concerned with.

Voltage should match as closely as possible. Undervoltage is unlikely to harm a DC gadget, (especially one that is meant to run on batteries) although it might not work. 2 or so volts over probably won't hurt most gadgets either, but there is no guarantee. This adapter is marked 13.8v, came with computer speakers asking for 12 volts, and I used it successfully on wireless speakers asking for 15.

98% of gadgets with adapters are DC, but there are a few AC.

If no voltage is listed, but the appliance takes batteries, count 1.5 volts per battery.

Amperage (Amps, A, mA)is in some ways more flexible--the adapter should have more amp capacity than the appliance--Less is no problem at all. This is an unusually large adapter, with an unusually high rating of 1.7 amps. Most adapters are rated in mA, somewhere between 100 and 800.--1,000 mA is equal to 1 amp, so this is equal to 1700 mA. It is adequate to power anything taking this voltage with 1700mA or less current--The appliance will only take what it needs. If the gadget needs more than the adapter can supply, it will likely either burn the adapter out, or blow a difficult to replace fuse inside the adapter, without harming the appliance.

Polarity is the final concern. The symbol in the lower right corner shows the polarity at the plug--There is a negative sign attached to the C portion of the symbol, and a + attached to the center dot. This means that the center conductor or tip is the positive conductor, the outside or back is negative. AC output won't have a polarity.

If the plug fits,voltage is close enough, polarity matches, and amps is more on the plug than gadget, you are good.

Plugs are fairly easy to change--I've had cases where I had an adapter that was electrically right but had the wrong plug, and another adapter with the right plug. Swapping the two gives an adapter that works for the application. The hard part is figuring out the polarity of the plug. Any Radio Shack has multimeters, Harbor Freight has them for a few dollars--That makes verifying polarity (and actual voltage) simple.

Without a multimeter, you'll need to get creative. My experience has been that the marked wire is positive, but I won't guarantee that's always the case. (with zip cord, one wire is marked with a stripe, ridges or lettering, where the other is unmarked) That should let you deduce the proper connection. Most plugs are center positive, and most stuff under about 6 volts won't be damaged by a brief reverse polarity, but don't count on that for anything precious. If you are doing a laptop power supply, get a multimeter to be sure. If you have a Harbor Freight nearby, they have multimeters under $5.

A final method is to wrap wires to the battery clips. Most gadgets will have two obviously separate clips, and usually one or more clips that you can see are connected together. The pointed end of the battery is positive, the negative end is flat. You can usually strip a couple of inches of wire and twist it around the single clips and get your gadget running. If the clips aren't accessible, use old batteries with their ends taped to hold the wire in place.

Monday, September 29, 2008

I'm selling my ragged old pickup truck on Craigslist. I'm asking $475, to give an idea of how ragged.

So far I've been offered a pool table or a Rottweiler puppy in trade.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Training terrorists

Yesterday afternoon, I stopped by Trader Joe's after work--Primarily to pick up their house-brand Cheerios, better than the original. Packed, and full of whining, undisciplined children. Parents negotiating with children--"If you start behaving, I'll buy you candy" "no, I want TWO CANDY!!!TWO CANDY!!!TWO CANDY!!!" "OK, quit screaming and I'll buy two candy" "Don't bump the cart into that man again....Didn't you hear me, I said don't bump the cart into that man again...One....Two..."

And they were out of Joe's O's. I put the rest of my stuff back and left.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The view from MY porch

95% finished with my new deck--Need to add a bit of bracing to the posts, and balusters for the stairs, but it is usable now.

I was thinking that I wish I'd just done the stairs and skipped the deck. On further reflection, the deck itself wasn't much problem, almost all of my trouble was stairs. Next time I'll do open stringers if there's any budget constraints--The brackets I used are easy and sturdy, but expensive--The screws alone for just the brackets were $100.

I found some 12 volt track lights I'd bought on clearance years ago. This lets me mount the transformer inside the existing porch well out of the rain--The only thing outside is the 12 volt lights, same voltage as garden lights.

Just the track lights, no flash.

And the temporary screen door--This will eventually get replaced with a real door, when I get the time and cash to enclose that porch. It is the floor to the old porch that's crooked, not the door--the floor is actually a slightly pitched metal roof.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Stairs finished!

Finished up the stairs for the deck today. The bottom section is fairly easily removable so I can pour a pad under it. I'm glad I did it that way, because it needs to be about 2 feet closer to the house than I'd calculated.

To do: The pad, rails, pour another footer, then move the post that is currently towards the front of the house. Then de-redneck the back yard...

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


Spotted on my way to work today...

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Deck Stairs

Got the hard part of the stairs done. I'm doing them in two pieces, since even 16 foot 2x12 isn't quite long enough. The upper halves needed just over 8 foot pieces, but because of the angles I was able to cut them both from a single 16 foot. I'm going to build the bottom half as a removable piece before I pour a pad.

I've got the open stringer done, but really needed the top and bottom stairs in place before I could line it up. The biggest problem I have is finding common reference points to measure from. I used the open stringer to mark the closed stringers before I put them up, but I miscalculated something--Apparently I didn't account for the height of the decking, so the stop step was going to be an inch shorter than the rest. I wound up installing the top step where it really belongs, then using the open stringer to mark the bottom step of this set--That way the open stringer will fit, and I can use it to lay out the rest of the steps.

My son came to help a bit--While I was trying to figure out what I was going to do next, he was horsing around with the footer hole I'd started and abandoned when I hit what appeared to be a solid layer of brick. He got past the bricks where I'd stopped, and it looks like it is just dirt the rest of the way down--I'd expected the same sort of rock piles I'd found in a couple of the other footers. That will let me move the corner post of the landing to where I wanted it in the first place, greatly simplifying the required bracing.

These stairs are as narrow and steep as code allows. They are wider and not as steep as the main stairs to the upper apartment.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Obama'a mandatory volunteer community service program

He wants to require states to pass laws requiring students from Junior High up to "volunteer" 50 hours a year upping to 100 for college students. Apparently it is volunteering if you can pick where you are drafted to.

This turns charities into government contractors, corrupting both the charity and the government.

Friday, August 29, 2008


My aesthetics sense is usually that form follows function. I don't like bling, and I'm often puzzled that you have to pay extra to get some things plain instead of with extra plastic wood grain attached.

I like mechanical watches with a sub-seconds hand.
This is a 1908 Elgin that probably started life as a woman's pocket watch--I think the case is a late 20's or 30's style. The seconds hand has its own sub-dial at 6. Most mechanical watch movements (and clocks as well) have a gear that naturally rotates once per minute. Subsidiary seconds merely attach a hand to this gear. This was adequate on full-sized pocket watches, but when shrunk to wristwatch proportions they were quite small and relatively hard to read. There are some quartz watches with sub seconds, and for some reason they bother me--It feels like an affectation, adapting an inferior display for aesthetics rather than simplicity. Unlike a mechanical, the sub-seconds on a quartz is an add on device.

Pointer-calendar watches, especially with pushers to adjust the day and date are similarly false--They are meant to look like a chronograph, a combination of watch and stopwatch. (The old pointer-date watches with a "fourth" hand pointing to numbers around the edge of the dial are functional, and don't count as fake)

Some of my favorite clocks are anniversary clocks (also known as 400-day)--Mechanical clocks with a rotating pendulum that were wound once per year.
I dislike electric copies, even if they manage to look realistic from a distance. The battery-operated replicas lack the fantastic visible details of the real ones,
and the movement of the pendulum is usually a poor imitation. Again, added complexity for no good reason.

Another style problem is vinyl roofs. Although vinyl is rarely if ever an improvement, a plain vinyl top isn't necessarily horrible. When the top becomes a faux convertible,
then it begins to bother me. This car also sports a nice faux radiator shell, to go with its eye-searing paint scheme. The 70's Lincoln Marks were great at having just about every tacky feature possible.

In more recent times, Lincolns and Cadillacs have the faux-convertible look, but with framed doors, necessitating seams in the vinyl. This one was parked across the street from my house. It also has a sunroof in the middle of the "convertable" top.

Even worse (and I wasn't able to find a picture) is when they put a sunroof in a faux convertible, and/or make the chrome gold.

When my brother was young, he once asked me what vinyl roofs were for. I told him it was to make cars look better. He paused for a minute, and then said "No, really...What are they for? "

And of course no post on automotive style atrocities is complete without at least mentioning the the plastic Woodie station wagon.

Taurus makes some hideous models of otherwise decent guns, like this black, pink and gold version of a Beretta Tomcat. They sell many of their models with gold accents.

Ugly guns aren't complete without a gold, striped Desert Eagle. This isn't custom, it is a factory option. Not only is this gun hideously ugly, is huge--Shown below is a comparison with a Glock 17.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Traitorous tongue

My tongue can't decide what kind of beer it likes. I don't know how many times I've tried a new beer to declare it Best Beer EVAR!!!...only to have it drastically shift flavors a few weeks later. Samuel Adams, Guinness, Dogfish head 60 minute IPA, Trader Joe's 2006 vintage Belgain ale. In some cases the shift is almost a 180, from fantastic to barely drinkable. Not a subtle Coke vs. Pepsi, closer to Coke vs. Dr. Pepper.

It is peculiar, because I can still remember the original taste--Dogfish 60 minute had a distinct grapefruit taste that I can't find anymore. It went from Best EVAR to barely above average.

Oberon seems to be my current favorite--I bought a six pack last week, and it is really good. There's hope--It isn't as good as my first bottle of Dogfish 60 minute, or Trader Joe's ale, but it is considerably better than average. Of course I find that it is seasonal, and the season is nearly over...And if I stock up, my tongue will change its mind again.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Drinking age

100+ college presidents are calling for a national discussion on the drinking age.

I don't have strong feelings on where the drinking age should be. There are good arguments for age 21--According to that link, later onset of drinking is correlated with a lower risk of alcoholism and a minimum age of 21 results in fewer under 18 children drinking. I don't know that they are sufficient to override my desire for reduced regulation, or a difference in the age of adulthood for specific purposes. I'm also not particularly confident in the impartiality of that link--they promote a lot of "for your own good" laws.

Some of the presidents are saying that there's little evidence that the high limit stops underage drinking, and they fear it just drives drinking off campus and increases DUI.

When I was 18, we had 3.2 beer and regular beer was available only 21 and up. We had no problem getting regular beer, and liquor was only a minor difficulty--even though at the time liquor was only in the state store.

Worldwide it appears that most countries have 18 as their drinking age.

My biggest problem is how the age was raised--Essentially the federal government blackmailed states into passing laws raising their drinking age or they would lose 10% of federal highway funds, in the same way we got the 55mph speed limit. I can't think of a time where tying funding to passage of laws is justified, especially when it is to pass laws that the fed can't. It isn't so much the results that bother me, it is the precident.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Spyware removal

I'm cleaning up a massively spyware infected computer belonging to someone else. Spyware is something like a virus, with a different method of spreading. It will slow your computer down, show ads that you normally wouldn't have to see, and may expose your private data to others.

There are a lot of questionable or downright fraudulent anti-spyware programs on the internet. Several good programs are:

Spybot Search and Destroy

If a program says something like "Download our free version to scan your system. If the free version finds a problem, you can use our pro version to remove it" run away. These are very likely to be scareware--The free version will detect problems even if you don't have any, and won't shut up until you pay. Research any anti-spyware or anti-virus program before installing, and never buy from a pop-up window.

You shouldn't run more than one antivirus. You probably shouldn't run more than one "real time" or "preventative" anti-spyware, but it is fine to have more than one anti-spyware installed, and to run them at different times--Some programs have different strengths.

If spyware is found and removed, reboot and scan again until either you don't find spyware or you get frustrated. Once you get frustrated, google the spyware name for removal instructions. Ignore the ones that want you to buy stuff, or stress how dangerous and difficult removal is but have an Ea$y $olution handy if you'll pay them.

If you have a particularly stubborn spyware problem, the Spybot Search and Destroy people have a malware removal forum where you can get expert help. Before you post, read the "Before you post" post at the top...They have fairly strict rules to make things as easy as possible for the volunteer experts--They don't allow random people to give advice on this forum.

This is another post where I'll take suggestions in comments.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Schwinn Airdriver 1100 bike pump review

Mass-market store bike pumps are almost all optimized for mountain bikes. This means that they have relatively large barrels giving a high volume of air, at the expense of not being able to reach very high pressures. These also typically have "regular" Schrader valves, rather than the Presta valves typical of modern road bikes (but rare at mass market stores). To get a pump that will work well for road tires, you usually have to go to a bike store and pay $40+. The Schwinn Airdriver 1100 was about $15 at Meijers. It is the only pump I've seen at a mass market store that will work well for road bikes. Claims to be rated at 160 PSI, and comes equipped for both Schrader and Presta valves--In fact, they give two options for Presta. There is an adapter that stores in the release lever for occasional use, or for dedicated Presta use you can unscrew the gasket retainer and reverse the rubber gasket and plastic valve pin. The threads are very fine and plastic--it takes concentration to avoid cross-threading these, so I'd leave it in Schrader mode and use the adapter if you need it for both types. The lever is aluminum, and feels more solid than most inexpensive pumps. The head also comes with a basketball needle and a pool toy inflater--you would be pumping forever for a pool toy of any size. It appears that the basketball adapter is permanent, and there is a valve arrangement, but I couldn't get it to work, and wound up breaking the needle. No instructions, so maybe that is just an overly complicated storage space. The pressure gauge is raised a bit, although it should be either higher or have a better scale design. The gauge isn't easy to read fine graduations, although it does come with an adjustable arrow you can use to point to the pressure you want. I'd like about 8 inches more hose, but there is enough. The base is a little bit flimsy, but adequate. I'll probably reinforce mine with epoxy. As much as I'm complaining, this pump is a bargain if you have road bikes--it is less than half the price of other pumps that can reach road bike pressures, and nearly as good. The flimsiness of the base is the only major concern I have.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Touch Screen Voting.

(From, click for original)

I work at a computer outsourcing company. I work with some bright people with extensive computer experience. None of them think voting machines as done by Diebold/Premier are how it should be done. 0%. They are so bad, it is hard to believe it is mere incompetence--Especially considering that Diebold is a major ATM maker. It is bad enough that they use Microsoft, but they don't use it well.

Voting machines should be run on computers where all source code is publicly available. This would allow experienced people to check for security problems and exploits. The system should be as simple as possible, so the source can be thoroughly examined. The more complex, the harder it is to spot security issues.

Electronic voting machines must have a voter-verifiable paper trail. Must. No exceptions. Any company that suggests doing without should be permanently banned from having anything to do with voting machines. Insecure voting machines are a bigger threat to America than Al-Queda.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Family gun safety

Keeping guns while keeping your children safe takes a bit of planning, but doesn't require extreme expense or difficulty.

Childhood gun accidents are rare, and there are usually common contributing factors. If you pay attention to the details, you'll see things like drugs, prior police or children's services investigations, a convicted criminal living in the house, an unemployed boyfriend watching children from a previous relationship, subsidized housing or a trailer. (Most of these links fit multiple categories) Child accidents in stable middle class homes are even more uncommon, by a good bit.

Keeping children safe is relatively simple--you never leave a gun unattended even momentarily unless it is locked. Note that I don't specify loaded or unloaded. To do this while retaining a reasonable ability to use the gun for defense is a little harder, but still within reason. In general you trade access time for child-resistance.

The easiest and most effective method that I am aware of for handguns is to use a digital combination lock box or safe to store guns that are not holstered and under the direct control of an adult. You will need an extra 3 to 4 seconds to get the gun out. I have a small Honeywell box from Walmart in the bedroom, mounted to a wall and hidden. I have a larger Stack-On box mounted on high shelf in a closet as the main storage. If I were to start over, I'd get one of the smaller Stack-On boxes instead of the Honeywell. Either will do fine to keep a small child out, the Stack-on will slow a thief down a bit longer. Gun shops sell dedicated quick-access boxes, similar in concept, a bit sturdier, possibly a little faster to access. I'm told you should get the ones with a key backup--no personal experience.

If quick access is not needed, then a locking toolbox or locked closet are other options. Locking gun cabinets capable of holding long guns start around $80. Again, not enough to protect against a determined thief, enough to keep a child from getting hurt, as long as you do not leave keys around. Anything short of a full-sized fire-resistant gun safe should be attached to a wall or the floor.

If a handgun is used for defense, it remains loaded while locked up--There is little advantage to unloading for storage, and several additional risks. Negligent discharges are more likely the more a loaded gun is manipulated, and loading the same round of ammunition many times in a semi-automatic can result in the bullet being shoved too far into the case. When fired, the shoved-in bullet can create extra pressure, enough to burst the barrel and potentially injure the shooter. (Yes, you could just discard that round, but premium ammo is a bit expensive to do that often. It is OK to reload a round a few times--I partially empty the magazine, chamber the next round, then re-load the magazine)

Trigger locks are fine as extra protection for recreational guns, but aren't a good idea on defensive guns. They are slow to unlock, do not prevent theft, and they cannot be safely used on a loaded gun. I don't bother with trigger locks on my guns, since mine are stored in a locked container.

Be regular in your habits. If you carry, put the gun in a safe place as soon as you unholster. I don't have kids in the house, and don't lock my carry gun up when I take it off if I will be home with it--it becomes my "nightstand gun". However, I do put it in the same place every time. When I get dressed, or if guests come, I either put it back on or lock it up.

At some point when they are old enough to be curious children should be allowed to see your guns, unloaded and under close supervision to remove the mystery. Many gun owners have a dividing line--Once a child begins shooting a real gun (or in some cases an airgun) they are no longer allowed to play with toy guns, and must follow the four rules with all guns, even toys.

(Suggestions welcome in comments)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Bella made the paper again

Third time our dog Bella has made the paper:

Piqua Daily Call, second picture for the original

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Wrong color

My desk chair is scuffing up the floor under it pretty bad, so I decided to get a rug. With Wife's advice, got an inexpensive black and red rug, about the right size--it is a little long, but otherwise pretty close.

I think we should have got a rug that matched the dog's color a little closer. This is 15 hours after I put the rug down:

Friday, August 08, 2008

No-Knock warrants

If you are a gun blogger, you've read this by now...Short version: Someone sends a fed-ex package with 30+ pounds of pot to the Mayor's wife. Police intercept then deliver the package. When the mayor brings the package inside, Police do a no-knock warrant and shoot his dogs, then track dog blood all over the house. Police now say the mayor is innocent, and the package was part of a scheme with the Fed-Ex driver implicated. Police took several days to even apologize. Something needs to be done about paramilitary tactics and no-knock warrants. To some extent, it is understandable that they would be overused--We expect police to aggressively and effectively fight crime, and no-knocks are useful to police. Whether they are justified is another story. So what should we do? The simple answer is to eliminate no-knocks, but that isn't realistic--There are some (albeit relatively rare) cases where they are needed and justified.
  • Police should be responsible for damages, including professional cleanup under almost all circumstances, to give them more incentive to minimize damage. Family pets are worth substantially more than "book value"--Enough that officers don't routinely shoot them.
  • We have the technology at a reasonable price for each officer to have a video camera. This should be mandatory, with exclusionary penalties if the cameras 'oops, didn't work'. (Unless the "didn't work" was provably engineered by the target)
  • There needs to be a clear and compelling reason why some other method can't be used--Preservation of evidence is rarely justification. Judges are to blame here. We possibly need specific judges to handle no-knocks, so police can't judge-shop.
We also need to understand that SWAT teams may be necessary even if they are rarely used. Police shouldn't be required to use the teams regularly to maintain the SWAT budget.

Band Aid

I just installed a cheap ceiling fan in the study (a tiny little room with our computers and my watch repair bench). It smells strongly of band-aids.

Blog problems

I'm trying to get my domain set up so this is AT, not just forwarded TO I've got a Google Apps for Domains account and a Blogspot account. Google has some issues with keeping these two services straight. At the moment, when I refresh, I might get the blog, I might get the Google page, and I might get a 404 "Page not found" error--All without doing anything else.

It seems to be working itself out--I'm getting this page more and more often.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


I set up Sitemeter here a few days ago, (coincidentally just before their glitch) and have been peeking at the Google Searches that bring people here. Of all the varied things I've blogged about, the post that attracts the most Google searches is my adult trike comparison.


I finally gave up on Audacious, and installed XMMS from source. There is a good guide at that worked fine, once I cut and paste the commands he gives properly. Don't copy the #, and where he has a /, it should be replaced by the next line before you hit enter.

Audacious is a case of doing more stuff I don't care about, but not doing the stuff I find useful well. The final straw was Audacious inability to delete a file from disk by itself. If you are sorting through a bunch of new downloads that you may or may not want to keep, you have to figure out the file name, then switch to the file manager and find the file. Winamp and XMMS let you select and delete from the playlist.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

My Beater Bike

In the spirit of Xavier, a post on my beater bike. I've got different tastes than Xavier, so my bikes are a good bit different. This is a Bianchi Boardwalk that was intended for my wife. Bianchi is a huge Italian bicycle company. This is one of their "low end" (relatively) Asian-built hybrids, originally with flat handlebars. Apparently these didn't sell well, they wound up at Value City for about 1/3 their original price. (Many of their dealers were upset by this--you will rarely find the same merchandise in both a bike shop and a mass-market store)

The biggest problem with this bike is the frame geometry. The seat tube and standover is fine for my 5'2" wife, but the top tube is within 1/4 inch of my carbon-fiber racing bike, professionally fitted to my 6'1 frame. This makes it absurdly long for my wife, but easily adaptable for my size.

I've no idea why seat tube is the standard measurement for a bike. As long as it isn't too tall, it can be easily compensated for by adjusting the seat height. There is little you can do to adapt a wrong-sized top tube--a longer or shorter stem helps, but changes the feel of the steering.

Since the top tube is sized perfectly for me, I took the bike over as my beater when I found a Schwinn World Sport in her size. I prefer road bars, which meant the original shifters wouldn't work. Suntour had gone bankrupt and was no longer available new, and switching to Shimano would require a new dérailleur and freewheel. Additionally, downtube shifters aren't easily adaptable to this frame. I was able to find a compatible NOS downtube lever, and I had a bar-end adapter from a different project.

The front shifter is a 70's era Suntour non-index Power Ratchet barcon, one of the best shifters of the pre-index era. The handlebars and brakes were in my junk pile, and I left the original cables on everything but the rear shifter, so I've got one white cable, 2 silver cables and one black. The stem looks like it is set very high for a road bike, but that is another artifact of the odd frame geometry.

Back when it was my wife's bike, it was stolen and recovered with a damaged crank. I didn't have anything compatible, so I got a cheap steel replacement. Works fine, a little heavier than ideal. If I lose 50 pounds, I might worry about weight on the bike, until then...

One water bottle cage is standard, one is a Walmart special with an adjustable rubber strap. This will hold non-bike bottles much better than the normal cage, but it isn't as convenient to get the bottle in and out of.

The wheels are Campagnolos I bought from Nashbar in the early 90's. so I could have two different sets of gears on a bike I sometimes pulled a trailer with. I think the tires are the original ones from the bike, and they are nearly perfect for my purposes-fairly smooth tread, but 38mm wide, rather than the 23mm I run on my racing bike. Being wide, I don''t have to put air in as often, being smooth they don't slow me down much, and there is just enough tread to deal with the occasional grass and mud.

The rubber ball on the kickstand is there to help keep the bike upright if I park in grass. The pedals are meant for a serious BMX bike. They are larger than standard to better support my big feet, and they have screw-in replaceable spikes to hold shoes (or especially sandals) firmly to the pedals, even when wet. The idea came from Rivendell Bike Works, the pedals came from Tipp Cyclery. These pedals are a tremendous improvement over the standard plastic pedals the bike had originally.

If I remember right, the rack came on our tandem, but I had to change it when I switched to a different type of brakes. Works fine on this bike. The panniers were at a garage sale in near new condition for $3. Very handy, and worth leaving on the bike unless I'm racing.

I've left the original seat. It isn't a great seat, but although I ride this bike often, I rarely ride it far enough that the seat becomes an issue.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Robert Owens for Ohio AG

My brother is working on the Owens campaign, and invited me to the Freedom Alliance picnic at Liberty Park in Powell, outside Columbus last weekend.

I wasn't aware of the Freedom Alliance before I was invited. It appears to be made of Libertarians, Constitution party members, and Ron Paul supporters. There were several different agendas going, and some rather unusual issues--There was a conservative Republican Vegetarian who was against genetically modified foods, and was hoping to convince delegates to the Republican primary to change their McCain votes to Paul...

Owens was the final speaker. I don't agree with him on all the issues he talked about, (He's anti-NAFTA, and for a hard currency) but I can't think of any place we disagree that is relevant to the AG's office. Owens is very much pro-gun, probably more than I am. He spent a significant amount of his speech talking about pro-gun issues. He made a good point that an independent AG will have an easier time fairly investigating government corruption, bringing up Coingate and the Dann scandals.

The worst I could say about him is that he was too reassuring to people who asked about their pet issues in areas where the AG has no real authority (Genetically modified foods lady wanted to know what he'd do about it)--It gave a 'I'll tell you what you want to hear" impression.

He will be at the Ohioans for Concealed Carry picnic, also in Liberty Park next Sunday, along with the other 2 candidates for Ohio AG. It will be interesting to see if the other two can resonate with that audience--I'm pretty sure Owens will do well. Wife and I will be there. My brother said he'd try to bring Mom, which should be interesting...she is afraid my gun will go off while I carry it. Last year we had Ohio Governor Strickland, and for some reason that triggered a lot of people to open carry.

Idiot drivers, part 367

Yesterday when I was driving into work, I was in the leftmost lane of 3 on the interstate. I was passing a semi that was in the middle lane, ahead of him a big rental box truck, similar to the one that ran me off the road last year. This time the box truck began to pull into the right lane, even though that lane was occupied by a Jeep. I braked hard, not wanting to be involved if they made contact and started pinballing all over the interstate. The box truck saw the Jeep in time and went back to his own lane. A pickup truck that was well behind me when I braked was offended, and started tailgating, honking and flashing his lights.

I'm not fond of aggressive tailgaters, to put it mildly. I will usually slow down until I can get out of their way, rather than speed up--In part because with them that close I don't want to have to stop suddenly (at least officiallly...)

This idiot passed me on the left, 2 wheels in the grass median at 55+ MPH.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Answering various comments I've seen in regards to the Tennessee church shooting:

A gun would not have made a difference, it is insane to think otherwise

It is probably correct that a gun would not have helped in this peculiar instance, but there are special factors involved--Primarily the previously-mentioned hero, Greg McKendry. From what I know of the events, without him the tragedy would have been much worse. Heroes with enough balls to stand up against a shotgun while unarmed are in extremely short supply. Minor heroes brave enough to return fire when armed are much more common. I think I could be in the second category under some circumstances, but I don't see myself up to Mr. McKendry's stature.

I have yet to hear of a legal civilian armed defender who has made a situation like this worse.

The Unitarian church has an anti-gun policy. It is possible that this influenced the shooter, (whose name will remain unmentioned and unremembered here if at all possible) or at least its choice of targets--These types of shootings take place disproportionately where guns are not allowed. (Which brings me to....)

You are blaming the victims

The blame lays 100% on the slime with the shotgun. There was nothing the U/U church did to deserve this--Neither their gun policies or their gay-rights policies are to blame. Additionally, this sort of thing is so rare that absent a specific threat, specific preparation is not warranted.

It is irresponsible to have guns around children

In the presence of children, guns must be either securely locked or under the secure, direct and continuous control of an adult. Most holsters qualify. Most purses do not. In a huge majority of children's gun accidents there are obvious contributing factors, including a criminal living in the house, a significant case file with Children's Protective Services and/or domestic violence. Injuries are rare, injuries in normal, law-abiding middle class homes are extraordinarily rare.

You are using a tragedy to further your agenda

"After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn't do it."--William Burroughs.

This tragedy is no exception. The shooter used a hunting shotgun, apparently still equipped with a magazine artificially limited for hunting. "We aren't after your hunting guns"--What restrictions would have prevented this, without severely infringing the rights of the law-abiding? There is good and evil associated with guns. The good outweighs the bad, even if it is not as visible.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Greg McKendry was a Hero

Greg McKendry was a hero. He was the unarmed member of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church who stood up and protected fellow members from the creature who came to kill. Apparently he was the first to resist, shortly followed by others who tackled the creature and kept him from killing more.

I don't know much about Mr. McKendry, don't know how he lived his life. Based on his last seconds, I strongly suspect honorably. The world would be a better place with more like him, and it is a poorer world without.