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.