Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Migration, computer to computer

Good old Blackbox, a Dell SR1750 desktop is finally back in action. It's been a couple a months. Nothing wrong with him that a new motherboard AND a new CPU didn't fix.
So now to migrate off the back up laptop. Want to get my email, my checkbook, my bookmarks and my photos back over onto Blackbox. Plus I need to do a backup anyhow. So I burn all the photo and spreadsheets to a CD. Trickier is getting the email and email address book out of Thunderbird. Thunderbird hides his stuff in c:Documents&Settings/MyUserName/Application Data/Thunderbird, where MyUserName is whatever user name Windows has for you. This way Thunderbird can have a whole separate set of files for each user.
Open the file profiles .ini. Inside it you will see something like this

This means all the active stuff is in a directory named Profiles/xxxxxxx.default.
Just back up the whole directory to CD. On Blackbox I copied xxxxxx.default into the Thunderbird/profiles directory and then hand edited the profiles/ini file to point to xxxxxx/default. Note well. The Name= must be the same as the extension of the file you just loaded. This will get your address book, your email and your spam filters.
Thunderbird is user friendly. Trust me. All this backup tedium, has a reason. Not that it makes any sense to me, but I'm sure the Thunderbird folks will tell you all about it. If you mess up editing the profiles.ini file you draw an absolutely opaque error message and a suggestion to reboot windows.
For Firefox all I really want is bookmarks. From within Firefox I exported the bookmarks to a file. On Blackbox I imported the same file into Firefox.
Isn't backup fun?

Health Care according to the Wall St Journal

Good editorial on malpractice here. And another good one on selling health insurance across state lines here.

If the law that allowed inter state sale of health insurance also specified that the insurance offered only had to comply with the law of the home state, then the state mandate problem would go away. Insurance companies only have to comply with the mandates of their home state. Some state in the union has fewer mandates and hence cheaper premiums than the rest. Companies based in that state will have a competitive advantage over companies based in high mandate states.

If we just fixed malpractice and interstate sale of insurance we would lower health care costs a lot. Certainly enough progress for one year.

When in doubt, blame the pitot tube

They still don't know what caused the loss of an Air France jetliner over the south Atlantic this summer. The plane simply failed to arrive in Paris. The crew did not send out distress calls although the aircraft's computers did. The crash recorder sank to the bottom of the Atlantic and was not found. Intensive sea searches turned up some debris, but offered no clues.
A review of the aircraft's maintainance records revealed the aircraft was equipped with an older style of pitot tube. Lacking anything thing else to blame, the pitot tube became the culprit. Last week the European Aviation Safety Agency issued an emergency air worthiness directive to check the torque on the pneumatic disconnect union going to the pitot tube.
Trouble is, all the pitot tube does is make the airspeed indicator work. The plane will fly just fine without an airspeed indicator at all. The pitot tube is just a micely made bit of pipe facing forward into the airstream. Air is rammed into the opening of the pitot tube by the plane's motion thru the air and this pressure is measured by a sensitive gauge calibrated to read in knots instead of pounds per square inch. Since the tube is merely a piece of pipe, under very low pressure, it's failure modes are limited. About all it can do is ice up which makes the airspeed indicator stop working. To prevent icing, pitot tubes have electric heaters built into them. The one on the old F106 would heat the tube hot enough to burn your hand.
But the real issue is this, loss of airspeed indication is not going to crash a plane. It might possibly confuse an autopilot, but that's why the airplane carries a pilot and a co pilot.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Business Jets improve bottom line

Companies that use business jets have earnings growth 434% higher than non users. This from Aviation Week. You can believe as much of this as you like.

Universal Service bites the dust

The old Bell Telephone system had a corporate policy of universal service. Which meant running wires all over helangon to service remote farms and cabins. Bell figured universal service enhanced the worth of a telephone. Even if the remote farms never made enough calls to pay off the cost of running the wire, it was worth it in the long run. The ability to telephone anyone, no matter how far out of town they were, made possession of a telephone more valuable to everyone. Plus it is fair to offer phone service to those of us who live out of town.
Nothing last forever. The Bell system, after massive breakups, last-for-ever court cases, and a blizzard of name changes to confuse the customer, gave up on universal service. They found a bigger sucker.
Enter Fairpoint. The Bell guys (now calling themselves Verizon) figured out that providing phone service to the boonies of NH, ME, and VT was an overall loser. They offered to sell the losing phone systems to Fairpoint for an stiff sum of money. Fairpoint fell for it hook line and sinker. They borrowed a huge stack of money, at 11% if memory serves, and bought the farm.
Chickens come home to roost. Fairpoint is loosing money. Their stock has dropped from $9 to $0.90. They probably will declare bankruptcy. The Public Utility Commissions of all three states went along with this disaster.
Let's hope my phone continues to give dial tone. If it quits, I buy a cell phone.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Words of the Weasel Part 11

"Exit strategy" as in a way out of a war. There are only two ways out of a war. Victory or defeat. If it isn't victory. it is a defeat. Like Viet Nam, where the US executed an exit strategy, (helicopters lifting off from the Saigon embassy) the enemy won the war. Today's Sunday pundits are talking about exit strategies as I type this. Exit strategy is a weasel phrase for pulling out US troops and handing victory to the enemy.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

President Pantywaist?

British newspaper calls Obama "President Pantywaist" over dropping the Polish and Czech missile defense system. Ouch.

Words for Wood Working

Names change. Used to be, a scroll saw was a hand tool, a bowsaw with a very deep bow to allow cuts far in from the edge of the wood. Now a days on the web, scroll saw seems to mean a stationary power tool, the one we used to call a jigsaw. As in the tool that made jigsaw puzzles. The jigsaw name has largely migrated over to the handheld power tool that has a short stiff reciprocating blade. Back then the portable tool was called a saber saw. And the big brother of the saber saw doesn't really have a universally agreed on name. Most folk still call that tool a Tigersaw or a Sawzall, which are the brand names of two of the leading makers of the tool. Some call them reciprocating saws but that name is just too cumbersome for everyday use.
Then consider the poor circular saw name. Again, way back, a circular saw was a stationary tool with a flat iron table up thru which a circular blade protruded. Now a days the stationary saw is called a table saw, and the circular saw name has moved over to the portable tool that I still call a skilsaw, the brand name of the first such tool. It's the portable tool that house carpenters use to quickly cut 2*4's to length on the job site.
Actually it would make more sense to use the circular saw name as a class name covering all saws with a rotating blade (table saws, radial arm saws, chop saws, sliding compound miter saws, and skilsaws), and find another name for the skilsaw. Or do the scotch tape thing and just keep calling them skilsaws.
While we are at it, changing names all around, find a new name for the radial arm saw. That name is so cumbersome that most folk use the acronym (RAS) when writing or speaking about the tool. Us woodworkers understand, but non wood workers find the acronym obscure.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The dog ate my homework

According to this, a laborious gathered archive of global temperature has been lost. Apparently some Brits, with US government funding gathered up temperature readings from all over the world going back to the invention of the thermometer. The project has refused to show their raw data to other scientists for years. Now as Freedom of Information Act queries have demanded to see their data, they claim to have lost it.
The matter is more than academic. The IPCC used this data to claim the world was getting hotter. Despite a good deal of correction of the data to account for the rise of well heated cities around the older weather stations, the IPCC was only able to claim a warming of a fraction of a degree. Thermometers are only accurate to two degrees, so the amount of warming is so small that thermometers can't really see it. The IPCC warming was detected only after a lot of statistical averaging on corrected data. There are lies, damn lies, and statistics Mark Twain once said. A fraction of a degree of warming might come from the statistics or the corrections, or both.
Naturally other scientists want to check the numbers. And the global warmers don't want to let them see the data that was used sell the Cap and Tax bill to the US Congress.

Tools, at auction

The local auctioneers have all the tools from two local home workshops (estate sales both). I visited the preview and was impressed. First of all, there was enough stuff for about 10 home shops. How they found space in just two shops for all this stuff was a miracle. There were a few brand new made-in-taiwan tools but most of it was vintage American makes, Powermatic, Atlas, Delta, ShopSmith and Craftsman. Lotta Craftsman, from the old days when Craftsman was a name that commanded respect. All of it a bit worn and dirty but perfectly servicable.
I'm going over to bid on a few things tommorrow.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"If I could amend the Constitution"

Interesting list of changes here. They missed a couple of my favorites. Laws passing Congress these days are so long, so wordy, and written in legal gobbledgook so dense that no one, not congressmen, not congressional staff, not reporters, and certainly not citizens understand what the new law means. Take the current 1100 page health care bills. The Congressmen themselves admitted that they hadn't read them.
With giant unreadable bills, the citizens are being sold a pig in a poke. We don't know what's going down, and we don't know if we should support it or oppose it. Plus, bills so wordy are in fact micromanagement of the the government. Congressional laws should spell out general principles, in language citizens can under stand, in documents short enough to be read in less than 6 months.
Was is just me, I'd limit the length of bills to a single page, type written, single spaced. That might be a little extreme. As a compromise we might be more generous and state that no bill shall exceed the length of the US Constitution.
Or, an incentive to brevity, we could require that all bills be read aloud before a quorum of House and Senate before a vote can be taken.
My second improvement is taken from the old Confederate States of America constitution. Bills shall address one, and just one, topic, that topic to be in the title of the bill. This would prevent the underhanded business of "riders", the attachment of some special favor legislation to a "must pass" bill such as a defense appropriation bill in wartime. The rider by itself lacks the votes to pass, so it gets lashed to something that has to pass as a way of getting it thru. The old time Confederates understood this trickery and outlawed it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Nuts to metric

Brought back four bolts and nuts from Franconia Hardware for a home project. A 5/8 inch wrench is too small and a 3/4 inch wrench is too big. Arrgh. Metric fasteners have infiltrated America. A warning of the decline and fall of practically everything. I go out to the car and open the the toolbox I keep in the trunk. Sure enough, a 17 mm wrench fits. Detroit converted to metric years ago and I now keep metric wrenches in the car tool box. Trusty old SAE fractional inch wrenches live in a box in my wood shop. Looks like I'll have to put them out to pasture and buy more metric wrenches or move the car tool box into the wood shop. It's a shame. I still have a set of SAE deep well sockets I purchased from Sears in 1965 to get the nuts off the leaf spring shackles of a '53 Chevy pickup truck. Breaks my heart to think they are obsolete after all these years.
May be I need to go out and get that 1959 Buick I always wanted to restore. Back then, Detroit cars didn't use metric fasteners. Only continental imports like VW were metric in the good old days.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Obama Wall to Wall

I heard Obama was going on five Sunday talk shows. I saw him on ABC with Stephanoulous, I watched him on NBC with David Gregory. As usual, it was all motherhood and apple pie, no substance. Gregory followed up Obama with a pair of Republican Congressmen, which is more fair and balanced than some in the legacy media. I begin to wonder why I bother the watch on Sunday. Nobody ever says anything of substance, or anything that I haven't heard before. I'm probably just a news junkie.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Bankers, who needs 'em

Fox News is waxing indignant about a Federal government ruling allowing the Feds to control the salaries of ALL bank workers, even if the bank never took TARP money. I suppose it's a bad precedent, if the Feds can set salaries for bankers, then they can set salaries for every worker in every industry. On the other hand I have trouble working up any real sympathy for the Wall St idjits who brought us Great Depression II while taking home multi million dollar salaries.
I'd be happier of the Feds worked on regulations to make the banks do real banking and stop them from gambling between themselves using FDIC protected money. When banks finance construction, inventory, manufacturing, and enterpreneurs, they are serving a real social need. Business needs to borrow money for a lot of legitimate purposes. If they can't borrow money, business growth, and the employment that comes from business growth doesn't happen.
On the other hand, banks loaning money to other banks, financing mergers and acquisitions, buying shady paper like the mortgage backed securities and the credit default swaps, is destructive of the real economy. Bankers should not be getting paid big bucks to engage in it. Some regulations outlawing gambling on Wall St, at least gambling with FDIC insured funds, would do a lot to drive out the overpaid parasites in Wall St.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Heartbreaking Story

The widow of a US marine who died in combat in Iraq is being hassled by US immigration. The bureaucrats have found some excuse to deny the young widow, and her infant child entry to the US. Do we need immigration reform or what? Story is here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Obama hangs the East Europeans out to dry

Obama announced the cancellation of the US missile defense system scheduled for installation in Poland and the Czech Republic. Talk about hanging allies out to dry. The Poles and the Czechs stuck their necks out, angering the Russians, by accepting the anti missile systems. They hoped that US installations with US personnel on their soil would deter a Russian invasion, of the Georgian sort. Obama just yanked that rug out from under our best European allies.
The Russians are known to carry grudges, so the Poles and the Czechs are worse off than if they had refused the anti missile systems in the first place. They have Russian bad feelings and now, no Uncle Sam in their corner. The Obama foreign policy seems to be grovel to your enemies, hang your friends out to dry.
Nor did Obama get any concessions from the Russki's. They have been all bent out of shape about US anti missiles so close to their border. You'd think they would have been willing to do the Americans a few favors, like leaning in Iran, in return for a US missile pullout. Apparently community organizers don't learn about horse trading.

Stories drift slowly thru newsspace

This morning I read a piece on NowHampshire.com blog entitled "Study links Humans to Arctic Warming". NowHampshire was quoting a Concord Monitor piece published today. The Concord Monitor is reprinting a Wash Po article dated 4 September. So, it takes 13 days, nearly two weeks for a Wash Po article to filter up to where I see it.
Doesn't really matter. The article is written by a modern journalism major. She included no data, no graphs, no photos, no evidence to support the scare headline ("Human beings are ruining the planet"). Virtually no numbers. At one place she does say that Arctic temperature has risen 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit from "they would have expected". Translation. Temperature is 2.5 degrees higher than I think it ought to be. That's not data, that's an opinion. Real data would be a graph of measured arctic temperatures going back 2000 years. With an explaination of how you determine temperature in the past. This "2.5 degrees" is the only number in the entire piece.
The "journalist" mentioned something about new lake bottom cores that go back 2000 years. She is ignorant of Scandinavian lake bottom cores going back to the end of the last ice age which have been well known for 50 years. The Scandinavian cores show thin layers, called varves, which indicate the passage of years. Apparently sedimentation slows down a lot in winter when the lake freezes over, leaving a color stripe in the sediment. In fact these cores were used to date the end of the last ice age. The sedimentation only began after the glacier melted back enough to allow open water. Count the layers starting at the top, and you know how many years passed since the lake started out in the lake business.
Nor does the "journalist" mention just how one determines temperature 2000 years ago by analysing lake bottom mud. Pollen counts? Isotope analysis? something else? Method makes a difference. Temperature estimates from ancient pollen counts are nowhere near as accurate as temperature from isotope analysis can be.
In short, this article is just an opinion piece unsupported by any sort of evidence, scientific or otherwise. This might have happened because the "journalist" who wrote it is uneducated and innumerate, or because there really isn't any evidence to support a beloved theory of the greenie left.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mortise and Tenion Lathe Stand

Home Hobbyshopper rides again. I might have mentioned the vintage wood lathe I picked up this summer. To get it off the floor of the garage, so I can get the car into the garage before snow falls, and so it can be used, I needed a stand to put it on. Lathes are long and narrow, and, should the workpiece not be round and balanced, they shake a lot. The work piece only gets round and balanced after the lathe chisels round it off. Begin turning a workpiece they can shake hard. So a stout stand is required. Being a cheapskate, and having time for home projects I'm making it.
Back in the lumber rack I have a piece of 2*12 to make the top of the stand, and enough 2*4 to make the legs. I put 2*4 "runners" on the bottom of the legs and did mortise and tenon joints, mortise in the runner, tenon on the legs. Do the mortises first, and then cut and fit the tenons to the mortises. I was clever enough to number the legs (1,2,3,4) and the mortises, (1,2,3,4) so as to fit each leg into one and only one mortise. This is all hand work, parts are NOT interchangable. Leg 1 will be cut, planed and sanded to fit mortise 1, and it will not necessarily fit mortise 2 or 3 or 4.
I lack a mortising rig for the drill press, and mortising 4 inches thru a 2*4 is far beyond my humble router, so I did it the old fashioned way. Drill a row of half inch holes with the drill press and clean it out with hand chisels. I have a mess of hand chisels collected over the years. Some cut better than others, something magic in the steel, it either takes a better edge or holds a better edge or elvish smiths worked an enchantment, or who knows. My best chisel is an old all steel Craftsman my father gave me as a gift when I was a child. Working in construction grade pine, the mortises all cleaned up without much trouble.
Tenons I cut with the radial arm saw (RAS for short). Cross cut the tenon cheeks and swing the blade horizontal to cut the faces. Cut them just hair over size and then do a trial fit. Trim them down bit by bit until they fit hand tight. Turn the blade height crank 45 degrees to move the blade up or down by 1/64 of an inch.
Next time I will do tenons with the dado set. The 10 inch blade bends just a skosh on the face cuts resulting in a slight taper over the length of the four inch tenon. The blade gives a smoother tenon than the dado set, but I'd rather have a dead straight tenon that needs some clean up with a file than a slight taper which ruins the fit.
So, all fits, and the glue is drying. I still need to make some lengthwise stretchers, cut the top to size and make a shelf, but project is moving forward.

Champlain College

The car radio is tuned to NPR as I swish down to Plymouth on I93 the other day. A Champlain College (of which I have never heard) has some nice air time to explain/sell the benefits of the institution. The Champlain spokesman remarks that all incoming freshmen are required to take a written psychological evaluation test (Met-Riggs perhaps?) and then share their scores with their new roommate.
Wow. Glad I don't have to go back to college. Damned if I want to share my head shrinking score with anyone, let alone a new roommate, assigned to me by chance, whom I have never met before.
This Champlain College may turn out worse than University of Delaware, which was running an abusive student orientation/indoctrination program just last year. At Delaware the resident assistants told students that being white made them racist by definition, and asked improper questions such as "have you had intercourse yet".
With luck, youngest son will be graduated in two more years and safe from "educational" brainwashing.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

To die peacefully at home

As opposed to dying in hospital, wired to fancy electronic instruments, stuck full of needles, wakened at the staff's convenience rather that your own. Many elderly desperately want to just die quietly, at home. They fear the arrival of ambulances to haul them off to uncomfortable, unpleasant and scary hospitals. Where, after a round of unpleasant and uncomfortable procedures, they die anyway.
The way things are now, their health deteriorates until something bad happens, a stroke, a fall, an infection, death can come in many ways. Then the loved ones call 911, the ambulance arrives, and granny is carted off to a hospital because that's procedure, and age and illness have sapped her powers to say NO, Leave me be, at home. We ought to something to make it easier for the truly elderly to refuse heroic medical treatments and just pass away quietly, at home, surrounded by family rather than paid medical staff.
This path is not for everyone. Plenty of elderly desire to live longer and it is totally unethical to deny them treatment. Sorting out the two cases is very difficult, especially for EMT's manning the ambulance, to say nothing of doctors at the hospital.
Resolution of these cases properly lies with the doctor. A conscientious doctor ought to know something of his patient's mind, and should feel free to permit a patient to return home if that is what the patient truly desires. In some cases the family's wishes should be taken into account. But when the possible treatment is unlikely to help, and the patient doesn't want to under go said treatment, a doctor ought to be able to discharge the patient to die at home without fear of a malpractice suit.

Monday, September 14, 2009

What XP does behind your back

Many of us have whined and bitched about Windows XP slowness. Why do gigahertz CPU's behave so sluggishly?
Answer, the CPU is running all sorts of invisible programs behind your back. A lot of these busy little CPU hogs do nothing useful, they just slow down your machine. You can see these little ramhogs in Task Manager. Just hit Control-Alt-Delete once and Task Manager will pop up. Click on the Process tab and obtain a list of all the hidden programs. My machine runs well with no more than 21 processes. I have seen machines burdened with as many as 50.

If you are in the quest for speed under Windows, the first step is to remove all the programs you don't use. Click on Start -> Settings -> Control Panel and select the "Add or remove programs" icon. This gives you a list off all programs installed on the machine. Keep the ones you use, or think you might use sometime. Keep the Windows service packs, Internet Explorer, Java, Microsoft .net and anything that the name suggests is a hardware driver. Blow away everything else, the cheezy games you never play, the freeby programs that you never used. This stuff mostly came with the machine and is obsolete by now. If you should really need one later, you can find new and up to date versions on the net.
Blowing away the excess stuff frees up disk space, and sometimes kills off run-behind-your-back programs. Sometimes it kills off virii that have been hiding in the clutter of files. Blowing away programs is SUPPOSED to remove all disk files, all drivers, all registry patches and scrub the program clean off your machine. Not all programs remove cleanly. You can do some clean up after the sloppy programs by blowing away any remaining files with Windows Explorer. Take notes on what programs you removed as aide to finding their files on disk.
After you zap all the useless programs, you can trim some fat off Windows.
From inside the "Add and Remove Programs" applet, click on "Add/ Remove Windows Components. My machine runs fine with nothing more than Windows Explorer and Networking Services. Be sure to uncheck Indexing Services, its a useless CPU hog. I would dump OutLook Express and use Thunderbird to do email. For that matter the only reason I keep Internet Explorer around is to make Windows Update work. I use Firefox for all my web browsing.

When done, count the number of processes in Task Manager. Depending, you might have killed off a few CPU hogs.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

How to throw a Tea Party

We did it. Pulled off a good Tea Party in Franconia New Hampshire yesterday. Drew a crowd of 100 or more from a town with only 900 registered voters.
Step one, you gotta get a venue, a place to hold it. Since none of the organizers owned enough land to host such an event that means getting permission to use town land. According to the old Bethlehem hands, anything like this in Bethlehem has to go thru the board of selectmen. However in very liberal Franconia, all we had to do was schedule use of the town common thru the town recreation dept (Kim Crowell). One phone call and all was arranged. I still haven't heard from the Bethlehem selectmen. They are probably still plotting how to close the dump.
Step two. Publicity. You must complete step one first so you know where the event will be held. We used email, facebook, press releases in the local papers, fliers posted all over town and handed out at the town dump over the weekend.
Step Three. Gotta have a PA system otherwise no one can hear you. We borrowed on and the Franconia town common had electric power to plug it in.
Step four is a program. That's not so hard. We led off pledging allegiance to the flag, singing patriotic songs and then speakers. Speakers would step forward from the crowd. Taxes, deficit spending, health care, cap and tax all got lambasted properly. It was an issues oriented crowd. Talk issues and omit the politics of mutual destruction. Very few personal attacks on politicians, lots of attacks on policy.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Obama puts me to sleep

I set up to watch Obama pitch health care to the joint session of congress last night. TV working perfectly, chair reclined, drink to hand. Unfortunately Obama's rounded tones put me to sleep before the first commercial. Didn't wake up until Bill O'Reilly came on to comment after the speech. O'Reilly wasn't bad, he had David Axelrod on as a guest. Axelrod was in full throated glittering generalities mode. Judging by the pundit commentary the speech was standard Obama, good sounding phrases but no specifics.
In short, we voters are left wondering what 1000 pages of unreadable legal jargon is going to do to us. And how bureaucrats and courts will change it. Voters are being asked to buy a pig in a poke. We can't read the bill and we fear that death panels or worse are hidden in opaque language deep inside where we won't ever see them until it is too late.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Back to School

First we load the car. Boxes and trunks and bags and stuff, endless stuff. It filled the trunk, the back seat, the back window ledge, the floor in back. This is a big car, a '99 Caddy Deville from back when Caddy still made decent sized cars. Next morning the alarm goes off at 5 AM. Urrg. Grapefruit and eggs and bacon and coffee to keep us going. Put out three bowls of catfood for Stupid Beast.
Wheels turn by 6:30, the sun is up, and it being a holiday, nobody else on the road. Youngest son drives on the way down. He is getting better at it, only a few while knuckle moments as he drifts the Caddy around an off ramp posted for 40 MPH at 70 MPH, or hurls the car into a narrow slot between the Jersey barrier and an 18 wheeler at 75. New suspension bits and shock absorbers since last year have improved the Caddy's handling, the car felt better as youngest son pressed it hard.
We make good time and pull up at the Brooklyn dorm at 12 noon. Even find a parking space right by the door to ease the unloading hassle. The Brooklyn cops are still standing alert for the next Al Quada suicide bomber. Fearing an attack on their station, the cops have blocked off a public street to keep the truck bombers at bay. Having manpower to burn, the blocking is accomplished by parking two police cruisers, with policemen inside them, crosswise in Johnson St. These sentry posts are manned 24 7. There have been there since last school year. Anyone one sensible would have discovered that a piece of Jersey barrier is cheaper than a cop car, to say nothing of paying the cops inside the cop car. But this is New York.
Not to let the police dept do all the heavy spending, the NY fire dept is now buying Priuses. There was a nice new one parked in front of the dorm, with "For official use only" and "FDNY" painted on the doors. Priuses are very pricey. So pricey that the gasoline saving over the life of the car doesn't equal the extra purchase price. The city would save money just buying Honda Civics. Hell, they would save money buying Ford Crown Victorias.
To avoid driving all the way back on Monday, I arranged to crash at my cousin's place way out at the tip of Long Island. It's two and a half hours from darkest Brooklyn to Montauk. Cousin's have a nice place actually on the water. They have a deer population that won't quit. Five deer are eating the lawn, not fifty feet from the deck upon which we are having beers. I got some deer pictures, and not to be out done in the wilderness dept I showed them my pictures of bears playing on my front lawn.
Next day we all set off back to Franconia. $68 in ferry tolls gets the Caddy across two creeks and then Long Island sound. We get the 9 am ferry into New London and lead foot it up thru Worcester and over to I93. I get back to the chalet around 2:30 PM. Stupid Beast is over joyed to see me. She gets lonesome without her humans around.
And that's why no posts for Monday and Tuesday.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sunday Morning Pseudo Science from NPR

This morning someone was explaining that all sorts of otherwise harmless substances were in fact harmful in super low doses. He mentioned parts per trillion, parts per billion, and parts per million. According to this fellow, standard tests for harmful effects are always conducted at high dose levels, and such testing will miss the terrible effects that occur when the dose is very very small. He cited one (just one) example, involving a breast cancer drug that I have never heard of.
Of course, this guy ignores an ancient principle, if a little bit is bad for you, a lot is worse. If you want to make sure something is harmless, feed a lot of it to a laboratory rat. If the rat survives, the stuff is harmless. This principle, and others like it in other fields, goes way back, and makes good sense.
What this guy is really saying is horrible things can happen with undetectably small exposures and we ought to go out and ban all sorts of things. He mentioned pthallates, a plasticizer that has attracted a lot of bad publicity but has passed a number of professional tests for toxicity.

Friday, September 4, 2009

How to tell the Men from the Boys?

Simple. Men have power tools. I just acquired a vintage jointer. It was rusty and shabby but the price was right. WD-40, Scotchbrite pads and elbowgrease got most of the rust off the tables. Wiped it down with paint thinner and a rattle can of machinery gray got it looking nice. Took a belt sander to the wood stand and got the worst of the dirt off and gave it a coat of polyurethane varnish to keep it clean[er]. Removed all three knives and sharpened them with an oilstone and a home made jig. Spent quite some time adjusting the knife heights to get all three of them exactly the same height as the outfeed table. Found a replacement motor pulley, bought a new V-belt and now it runs nice and smooth.
Put it to use yesterday. Jointed all the pieces for a lathe stand I am building. It cuts smooth, no little ripply marks. Takes off splinters, dirt, those tasteful lumber yard markings and the otherwise old and tired wood looks fresh and clean. I should have got one a long time ago.
And it rounds out my mostly Craftsman shop. It's a Craftsman, from the 1940's, solid cast iron. Goes with my Craftsman radial arm saw, grinder, and bandsaw.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

NPR solves the Health Care crisis

According to NPR the whole health care crisis comes from paying your doctor. "Fee for service" they call it. They rambled on this morning about how "fee for service" encouraged doctors to do more medicine to make more money. After thoroughly bashing "fee for service" the rant sort of petered out. They never did get around to discussing what might replace "fee for service". Apparently doctors would do medicine out of the goodness of their hearts and starve in the gutter. Somehow I don't think that works.
Only two alternatives to "fee for service" occur to me. We could put all doctors on the public payroll, make 'em GS13 civil servants. They get paid bi weekly whether they do anything or not. This way the doctors all work for Uncle Sam rather than for their patients. Obama would love this. I wouldn't.
Or, each patient pays the doctor a fixed yearly fee for which the doctor treats anything the patient might encounter. Depending upon the fee, this might be a good deal for us patients. For the doctor, it's scary. Sign on too many patients that get seriously ill and you are bankrupt. Come to think of it, this sounds like insurance, only the doctor is assuming the risks rather than an insurance company.
I love NPR, it has so much really wierd stuff on in the morning.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Surprise, you can find useful stuff at Tractor Supply

Tractor Supply, a national chain, opened a medium-box store up here in Littleton last fall. Lured by mail advertisements and coupons, I checked it out last year. At the time it seemed like a boutique for wannabe farmers, full of out door clothing, no-name hand tools from China, and 50 pound bags of dog food.
Til yesterday.
I needed a five inch pulley for a Craigslist jointer. No luck at Franconia Hardware (they had a four inch but no five inch), or NAPA. But the counterman at NAPA suggested Tractor Supply. And lo and behold, Tractor Supply had just the right pulley, American made even, hanging on pegboard next to the shelf of electric motors. A little pricey ($15) but when you need a part you need a part. But cheaper than Internet, with its $10 shipping charges for everything.