Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Condition Yellow

Back in high school driver's ed, (around 1979 or so) I was taught IPDE. That stands for Identify, Predict, Decide, Execute. When driving, you should always be looking around, trying to identify potential problems, predict how a problem might unfold, decide what to do about it, then if necessary, execute your plan. If you see a car in your mirror weaving through traffic, you have identified. You can predict he is likely to squeeze in between you and the car ahead, you can decide to make some extra room, make sure you can safely swerve, or merely be ready to hit the brakes. If he does cut you off, you don't waste time figuring out what needs to be done, you already have a plan to execute. With experience, much of this can become automatic--I scan other traffic without conscious effort.
People involved in concealed carry talk a lot about Condition Yellow. This comes from Jeff Cooper's States of Awareness color codes. Condition Yellow is a basic state of awareness-paying enough attention to your surroundings that most threats won't take you completely by surprise. (Short version of Cooper's colors: White, oblivious. Yellow, basic alertness. Orange, paying attention to something specific you may need to deal with, Red, ready to fight.)
There is a good deal of confusion about what Condition Yellow means. I have seen people new to carrying a gun say that they are hanging up their guns, keeping condition yellow all the time is too tiring. They are doing it wrong. Anti-gun people believe it means fearfully scanning for danger all the time like a rabbit. They don't understand it either. Condition Yellow is not limited to those carrying guns. It is not a state of paranoid hyper-vigilance. It is a basic awareness of your surroundings, coupled with the knowledge that you might have to take some action to protect yourself.
It is nothing more than the first step of the IPDE concept learned in Driver's Ed, expanded beyond driving. Simply pay enough attention that you can usually identify situations before they get serious. Defensive carry of a gun involves no more fear, no more alertness than defensive driving.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fulton Farms

A bunch of in-laws and family went to Fulton Farms to pick pumpkins. Really a pretty good deal, especially if you have kids. There's animals, a corn maze, hay bale maze, and a pile of hay bales with 2 slides and an area of loose hay to jump in.  The wagons take you on a 10 minute or so ride out to the pumpkin patch, you get to pick a pumpkin, all for a bit less than Home Depot was charging for similar pumpkins (Assuming you aren't two and pick a tiny little green pumpkin, like my grandson did).   A wristband is good all day, although only one pumpkin per band is allowed.   Grandson really didn't want to leave the pile of hay bales.

The Cafe had something I see in many family-owned businesses that turns me off--a bunch of crabby notes to the staff, reminding them to follow various rules.  No discounts without the approval of Mrs. Fulton.  The handbook specifically says no text messages while working.  Field Hands use the back bathroom.   If you run a retail business, and must complain to your staff via notes,  make a strong effort to do it where the customers don't have to see it.   The pumpkin soft-serve was good, though.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Get Off My Lawn

Walking back to my house today, I saw a guy on the porch. My initial thought was that he had no business there...but a split second later, remembered that we have rented the downstairs apartment, and for the first time in 17 years, there's someone not related to me who lives downstairs.

Monday, October 18, 2010


I've been debating with Joan Peterson, a Brady Campaign board member who blogs as Japete at

Joan had been writing as if she is just an ordinary woman from Minnesota who believes in common sense gun laws.  Based on a blog post by WeerdBeard, I asked Japete (I wasn't sure of her identity at this point) if she was a Brady Campaign board member or similar.  She first demanded "why do you need to know this information.  She finally wound up admitting to being a member of the local Million Mom March (A Brady subsidiary group), and on the board of several anti domestic violence groups--but for some reason repeatedly refused to either confirm or deny whether she was a Brady board member, although she clearly denied being a paid staff member.

After a bit of Googling, I found that Joan Peterson is listed on the Brady Campaign web page as a Brady Campaign board member and the President of the Minnesota Million Mom Chapter.   Both Japete and Joan Peterson had a sister who was murdered with a gun by an ex in 1992.  Both are from Minnesota, and are associated with the Brady Campaign and the Million Mom March.  I am convinced.  I cannot think of any sensible reason to be evasive about being a member of the Brady board, unless you are trying to be deceptive.

Evasion and deception are very common on her blog,  Joan has repeatedly said that she does not want to ban guns--she just wants to keep them out of the hands of the wrong people.  Like most of her statements, it needs examination and clarification--although she says she does not support a gun ban, she does support a renewal of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban.  According to her, banning many guns isn't a gun ban--you have to ban all guns for it to count as a gun ban.   She won't say what the second amendment protects--as far as I can tell, she thinks it protects the government's right to arm the national guard or something.

She wants to end the gun show loophole by requiring background checks on all gun purchases at a gun show rather than just the purchases from dealers.  Even when directly asked she will not say whether she wants to require background checks on all sales, nor does she say how she will handle purchases where the initial meeting is at a gun show, but the actual transaction takes place somewhere else.

Joan thinks that it is wrong to criticize US Representative Carolyn McCarthy, because  McCarthy's husband was shot by a spree shooter.   This especially applies to criticism of the laws McCarthy proposes or her ignorance of the details of her laws.  (McCarthy is the one who was questioned on the content of the 1994 assault weapons ban, and was unable to correctly explain what a barrel shroud was--she thought it was 'the shoulder thing that goes up')

Recently we have been discussing laws on machine guns.  From 1934, civilian machine gun ownership came under heavy federal regulation.  Since then, only 2 legal owners have been convicted of machine gun crime.  Despite this near perfection among legal owners, in 1986 the Hughes Amendment closed the registry--existing registered guns could still be bought and sold, but newly built or imported ones could not be owned by civilians.  I've asked several times how this 50 year near perfect record required further restrictions--and if that record wasn't good enough, what gun law would be good enough?   She made disparaging comments about unrestricted sale of machine guns, which isn't close to what we were discussing.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

XKCD gets it right again.

This has got to be a dream of almost all computer geeks.  I'm almost always frustrated when I call tech support--calling them is a last resort, I've already rebooted everything, checked connectivity, made sure it was plugged in.   I understand that probably 95% of their customers are clueless, but you would think they could do some triage based on the problem report--if it is "The internet is broke" there's one script, but "I seem to be having a DNS problem--I can access sites if I know the IP address, but I can't connect by URL" gets a higher level of support automatically.  

And if you are at all technical, XKCD is a great comic.  

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Fence Repair

Our back yard is surrounded by a 6 foot high stockade fence. Most of it has been there longer than we have, at least 17 years with little maintenance. Several years ago a neighbor's tree fell and damaged one section, several trees on the property line are considerably larger than they were when the fence was installed pushing the fence inward-The tree to the left was originally on the other side of the fence. As it grew it pushed a section of fence with it, leaving a gap of about a foot. Many of the pickets were missing their tips. Between the trees and the damaged sections, it was not only ugly, but close to losing its ability to hold the dogs in. A couple of spots had some very ugly temporary repairs to maintain dog resistance.
Another issue was the location of the gate. I put it in when we got our dog Bella, to finish enclosing the yard. I set it up so the back door of the downstairs was inside the fence--at the time it made the most sense. Since then I have separated the house back into two separate apartments, built stairs into the back yard from the upstairs apartment, and moved upstairs. We plan to assign the back yard to the upstairs apartment when we rent the downstairs.
I decided to move the gate and do some slightly more permanent repairs to the fence--but I didn't want to spend much, because under any circumstances the fence isn't going to last all that much longer. My initial plan was to get 2 new 8 foot sections of fence for the gate area, and use the older weathered boards from there to patch the rest of the fence. It turned out I was able to move the gate using the existing fence and one new post, and still had more than enough to repair the rest of the fence. Rather than alter the fence line to get around the tree shown, I cut out a section for the tree, and restored the fence to its original line. I replaced the top support board on several sections, left most of the rest of the support boards alone. On one section the original installers had spliced in another 2 feet of fence rather than dig another post. This section was sagging badly. When I replace the fence entirely I'll dig another post, but for now I took the pickets off and replaced all 3 2x3 spliced supports with 10 foot 2x4.
The fence looks much, much better than it did, and it is no longer threatening to fall down. I'm out of shape.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Odd rhythmbox behavior

For years I've stuck with XMMS to play music, even when it was removed from Ubuntu's repositories due to outdated libraries. It was familiar--basically Winamp for Linux, seemed to use lower resources than its direct replacement (Audacious) and had the ability to directly delete files from within XMMS. It has some bugs--the biggest being that it displays a version of id3 tags that it can not edit, even when the version it CAN edit is present.

I started to use Rhythmbox when it gained support for my iPod tOuch--first to merely transfer files over, but then I started a project to properly tag, sort and de-duplicate my music files. Rhythmbox has search and bulk tag editing capabilities that made this much easier, and once I used it more, the new features outweighed the familiarity of XMMS.

Unfortunately Rhythmbox on my computer quit recognizing my iPod, although Wife's computer and my netbook still worked. I also discovered that a significant number of songs would play silently for the regular length of the song. These songs played fine in other programs. Under some circumstances, trying to play these songs in Rhythmbox would start another song going that could not be stopped without quitting Rhythmbox--trying to switch to a different song would leave both of them playing at once. I didn't try these songs on other computers.

Most mp3's are recorded at 44khz, the same as CD. When I looked for common features of the silent songs, they were all recorded at some other sample rate, mostly 22khz. Re-recording one of these at 44khz allowed it to be played, but that is fairly time consuming with my fairly old computer.

It turns out that both the playback and iPod problems have a common cause. Rhythmbox has a preference "use crossfading backend"--this should smoothly blend the next song, but winds up fading the beginning of songs too much. When I turned off crossfading, Rhythmbox was able to play the songs it couldn't, and it found my iPod again.