Friday, September 05, 2014

Drive Like Your Kids Live Here

For the past few months we have been seeing these signs popping-up here and there. I have yet to meet anyone who likes them but clearly somebody does, since they are putting them up. What is it about the sign that I find objectionable?

Lack of Logic:

1. If my kids do live here, then I am by definition already driving like they live here.

2. If my kids do not live here, then why should I pretend that they do when I know that they do not? I normally base decision making on the actual state of reality (as I perceive it) not on some state I know not to exist.


--I just purchased a house on a busy road and I have small children. Everybody better accommodate my choice by driving slowly for the next few years.

--I have no actual authority, but command all who drive this public road to drive below the speed limit. Would it be less officious-sounding to post a sign that says, "Please Drive Within The Speed limit"? Debatable, but it might earn you the title of "Captain Obvious" since everyone who drives, knows what speed limit means.

My alternate solution to the problem, if there actually is a problem:

First a confession: I generally drive on the fast side. But not always: When I see pedestrians or bicyclists, I give them lots of room and go slow. And even in cases where I was well below the speed limit, mostly in the other lane to give room, have still been commanded to slow down. So my conclusion is that there may not actually be a problem with fast drivers in a place where the sign is installed. But for the sake of argument, let us pretend there is an actual problem: What might help and not be irritating as Hell?

1. Ask the local traffic control authorities to intervene: Maybe the speed limit is 25 but nobody knows this since there are no speed limit signs nearby. If people speed grossly in spite of adequate signage, see if the police can setup a speed trap. A speeding ticket will work wonders.

2. How about putting up a sign that does not tell people what to do? I am like most people in that I do not like being told what to do, especially by people who have no legitimate authority over me. Here is a suggestion: "Children Playing"

Friday, August 22, 2014

A Run Through Village, Vineyard and Mountain.

I started from my hotel in the middle of Obernai.

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I ventured through the Villiage.

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Soon, I was in the suburbs.

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Out into the country side, where there are vineyards and orchards.

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Another village at the base of the mountains.

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And finally, into the forested hills.

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The whole way was a bit less than five miles each way. As a coincidental event; a restaurant pretty far from town is where our gracious host took us for dinner the next day.

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Friday, August 15, 2014

German Mountains and Tramways

Here is the top of a mountain overlooking Heidelberg.

 And the tramway that one can take to get to the top.  We were there early in the morning and drove up.

This tramway was not as pretty, but it is the one we took to get to the top of the mountain by Baden Baden.

The tram goes into that building below and the view is from a lighthouse looking structure at the peak of the hill.  People were paragliding from the grassy area in front of the patio.


Does this dozen eggs look odd to you?  They should, so look again if you do not notice what is wrong with them.

In the past, when people mostly got eggs from their own chickens or a local small producer, eggs probably varied in size like these.  But these came out of a package labeled "Grade A Large Eggs" so they ought to be pretty uniform.

Once I formed a hypothesis about this, I asked my wife and kids if they could think of some reason for a package of eggs being random sizes.  Having never purchased eggs, the kids had no clue.  But my wife and I knew:  When you buy eggs, you check for broken ones and take a whole different carton if there is one broken one.  Some enterprising clerk must have consolidated unbroken eggs from different packages so that one broken egg costs one egg and not a dozen eggs.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Real World V. The Imaginary One Government "Manages"

A microcosm of the pointlessness of most of what government does:

I am underconfident that the 17 agencies participating in the Pollinator Health Task Force, starting their deliberations a mere eight years after the problem became apparent, will add much value, although I'm sure National Honey Board could use some support for its grant program to study bee health. Maybe the task force should have some actual private-sector beekeepers and pollination customers, not just government officials? Or is that crazy talk?

Whole article here

Monday, July 07, 2014

The Great Harvard 4th of July Road Races

I was hoping to break 7:00/mile since the course is only 5 miles*. What I forgot is that being in July, it is warm and this course is very hilly (There is a greater than 200 vertical foot climb in the middle--most of which happens in about 1/4 mile).

In addition, there was a shoe malfunction: I was undecided on keeping the inserts in my racing shoes since they are a little tight. As I left home, I kept them out of my shoes but brought them with me and only single-tied my shoes so I could put them in easily if I decided to do it later. Once I got to the race, I forgot all of this, until the race started. Then I noticed that my feet were sliding around inside and were still single-tied and could come untied at any time.

As it was, I ran at a pace of 7:22. This turned out to be enough for third place in my age group and I would have had to be well-under 7:00 to have caught the 2nd place finisher. Also, last time I ran this--back in 2011, I took 1:37 longer. It was hotter on that day but comparing the times, it looks like the heat may have accounted for 10-15 seconds.


Added: In the middle of the race, at the end of the big hill, still climbing but not as steeply, I was chatting with another racer--Bob. We figured out that both of us were in the 50 year old group and he speculated that we were dueling for 5th and 6th place. I had checked the previous year's results and we were actually on track to be competing for 2nd and 3rd if all the same people were running. It turned ot that reality split the difference: Last year, I would have taken 2nd but this year I got 3rd. Bob got 4th this year and would have placed the same last year with that time.

*My longest run in the modern era (when I took up running again at 40), in which I was sub-7 is 6k, which is a bit less than four miles.

Update 2: 2 races into the Nashoba Valley Grand Prix, I am in 5th place and there is nobody ahead of me who is older. Full results here:

Added: I am actually pretty tan from running outside most days but I have to admit that I look like Casper the exhausted ghost in these pictures. LOLOLOLOL

Monday, June 30, 2014

Is An Ounce Of Prevention A Compelling Governmental Interest?

Justice Ginsburg thinks so:

It bears note in this regard that the cost of
an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month’s full-time pay for
workers earning the minimum wage

The IUD is one of those things which have a high upfront cost, but they last a long time and so will "pay for themselves" eventually. This alone might pull some weight in the "a compelling governmental interest" area, but she doesn't seem to make this point. Her gist is that it is a form of contraception that some women want but they opt out when faced with the expense.

Life is full of these kinds of trade-off: A washer and dryer are expensive but their convenience and cost savings over a laundromat make them worthwhile. That does not mean the government should buy them for us, or especially; to force our employer to buy them for us.

The whole opinion is here:

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Love these Sabo street-art posters

Added: He also has a clever "Abortion Barbie" poster, which I like the idea of, but the above two have a design style I can get behind.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

My Metaphoric Peril Sensitive Sunglasses*

It is a long drive back from Niagara Falls to Chelmsford and my wife sensibly suggested that our newest driver get in some highway time. I could not argue against her logic but was not looking forward to watching her drive--she is safe enough but few meet my standards of highway driving and it would be irritating.

My solution was to repair to the 3rd row of our GMC Yukon XL and take a nap. The truck is so large, quiet and solid that one cannot help but feel safe; even hurtling down I90 at 75 MPH.

It was great, for me: I had a two hour nap which primed me for the rest of the trip, the girl got in some driving and my wife got the stress of observing it all.

Into each life a little rain must fall. And it was her suggestion.

*Joo Janta 200 Super-Chromatic Peril Sensitive Sunglasses

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Groton Road Race 2014

Picture from Jim Rhoades of Cool Running

I came in 46th out of 426 finishers with a time of 44:23 which is 7:09/mile. 39th out of 202 men and 8th out of 50 men in my age group. I was nine seconds slower than the last time I ran this, which was in 2012, but I got 66th then out of a field of close to the same size. I actually came in 46th before, back in 2009. All results are collected here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Port Townsend

In case you have never been and if you are a Washingtonian there really is no excuse, Port Townsend and its environs are well-worth a visit. I haven't gone there in years but when I was stationed at NAS Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island, I would often go there with friends.

It was a day-trip kind of place, not known for its nightlife but quaint and Victorian in appearance. Nearby, there are even naval gun emplacements that guard the entrance to Puget Sound--these too date from the Victorian era. Also in day-trip range is Victoria BC, which given the name should not surprisingly be quite Victorian. The Empress Hotel and Butchart gardens take one back to what one might imagine those times looked like.

The one flaw to the whole scene was the people: It is hard to feel like you are in Victorian times when all the tourists are dressed in t-shirts and shorts. I recently heard of a couple who live there and have adopted Victorian dress styles. They are very charming and the woman has even written a book:

Victorian Secrets: What a Corset Taught Me about the Past, the Present, and Myself by Sarah A. Chrisman

Their very presence adds, at no charge to the local community, to the allure of the place.

Here is an image from their website:

It is clear from what I have read about this couple that they have not only taken up the appearance of Victorian people but much of the same outlook. I say much, because so far they do not appear to have done the thing Victorians were most famous for, which is have a large family. They are young so if they choose it, there is time for this . I am hoping that they do have kids and pass-on their ways to another generation.

To some extent they already are spreading their outlook, but in dilute form. Depending on how famous they get, they may touch millions of lives, but how much difference will one book or a television appearance make? On the other hand, one can only have only a fairly finite number of children but a much higher influence over them than with consumers of your creative output.

If you have an idea or a way of living that is valuable, shouldn't one want to have it carried forward into the future? Take Henry David Thoreau, in Walden he made an economic case for living a simple life. His point was that if you dispensed with much of what people spend their time working for, you would have much more time for what you really want to do. All fine and well, but if an able bodied man in his prime years only works hard enough to sustain himself, there will be no second generation to live this kind of life. His plan was not sustainable. An author who has ideas more fully-baked than Thoreau and also happens to hail from the Pacific North West is Neal Stephenson, who wrote a story about a future containing neo-Victorians. In The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer the neo-Victorians form communities in various locations and can raise their children, work and live all within a community that re-enforces their values. I do not think this is too far-fetched: Isn't this more-or-less what the Amish do now?

Added: Like most of Stephenson's works, I think his main goal is to take the reader on a tour of his imagined world, the plot is just a tool to move you from scene to scene. The device is a "book" which I put into quotes since it is really a supercomputer that teaches its owner whatever they need to learn. A neo-Victorian plutocrat commissions the book for his daughter, with the idea that their civilization for all its laudable ideas, can be too conformist and book is to introduce a bit of subversiveness into its reader. The upper middle class engineer sees the value in this and secretly makes an extra copy for his own daughter. This copy falls into the hands of a neglected girl living in a slum. The story revolves around this girl who would have been doomed by her circumstance to a base existence and early demise, but instead is taught skills and an outlook (the Victorian outlook) that allows her to survive and thrive.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Rather Like A Gold Coin Once Held In Julius Caesar's Pocket--If Romans Had Pockets

Here is a philosophical question:  If you had a gold coin that had once been owned by a famous ancient statesman and somehow this could be proven, would it be more valuable than an otherwise identical coin?*

I think most people would understand that this particular coin would be worth more than an otherwise identical coin that lacked such provenance.  There is nothing intrinsic about the coin that makes it different, it is only how we feel about it which is different.

* Seems pretty unlikely but how about this:  The statesman was found buried in Pompeii and had the coins on his person.  There had been an unbroken chain of custody since the discovery.

This kind of meaning is where pretty much all of the value, to the extent that there is positive value, comes from when we concern ourselves with the provenance of our food.  So terms like halal,  kosher, GMO free and organic are mostly alike as a category.*

*If I feel like it, it does seem pointless to spell-out things which should be obvious to anyone with a rudimentary education in biology, I will explain why there is no intrinsic differences between the above rarefied categories and regular food.
There are real differences in how special foods (the above categories) are produced and handled.  In the religious categories, the differences in how the foods are handled is important to the observant because they put some value into following the commands laid out by their faith.  The organic and GMO free are similar in that there are very real differences in how the food is produced:  Organic will not use GMO seeds, nor chemically derived fertilizer or most pesticides.  In general, it takes more land and more labor to produce such food and this accounts for the higher prices.  One can debate the relative value of refraining from adding artificial chemicals to soil versus using chemicals but leaving more land uncultivated.  It becomes more of a metaphysical question if one tries to differentiate between nitrogen supplied by horse manure or the Haber process. A growing plant can't tell the difference, because there is no difference between these molecules.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Kristen Schaal And Sandra Bernhard

A generation apart but really similar in several ways:

Kristen Schaal

Sandra Bernhard

1. Both work in comedy

2 Neither are pretty.  Not ugly or even homely either, just not pretty in any conventional sort of way--though perhaps contradictorily  they both have enormous sex-appeal.

3. The parts they play are just creepy enough to make them both a little intimidating.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Driverless Cars and Trucks

First, let's assume away the most likely outcome:  Massive resistance by professional drivers will kill the adaptation of the technology.  Why take this step?  Because if the technology is not adapted then there is nothing to speculate about and that is boring.

1. It will be less common to own your car.  The main reason people own their car is that they want to have one available.  Even if you wanted to share your car, it is not always convenient to do this.  A person could use my car for the ten hours I am at work or the 13 hours I am at home on a normal work-day, but they would have to live near one of those places and have to restrict their use to those windows of time.  But what if my car could drive itself?  It could go and pick-up someone who works later than I do or drive around a mom who has some mid-day errands to do.

There is a lot of trouble and expense in owning and maintaining a car.  All of that cost provides me with an hour per day of use.  For only a marginal increase in cost, the car could be kept busy all day long.  A company can operate and maintain a fleet of cars for less per car than individuals could do.  If they can do this and make sure that subscribers have a car when they need one, why would people bother to own one?  Some people would remain attached to an old car or one which is special to them in some way but a lot of the fun of driving will be gone because:

2.  It will become illegal, or very expensive to manually drive.  The software and sensors are improving all the time and it won't be long before computers are much, much better at it than any human.  The temptation will be to outlaw the risky behavioral of manual driving.  My kids, or maybe theirs, will be the last generation to know how to drive.

3.  Long range travel by car will be much more tolerable and therefore more common.  Computers would allow for faster driving and could save fuel by networking with other cars on the road to tailgate each other and thus save on wind resistance.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Shocking! Surgeon General Nominee Opposed Due to His Polarizing Stances

By all accounts, Dr Murthy is a fine physician and if that were the only qualification needed to be "America's doctor"  he would be a shoe-in for the post.  He has been busy with arguably non-doctor type activities though:  He co-founded and was president of Doctors For America which advocated for the ACA (Obamacare) and for gun control.

People of good faith can argue about the merits of each of these, but what is not debatable is that both are hot issues that divide the country pretty evenly--I would say that the doctor is on the somewhat less popular side of both issues.

Is it right to oppose Dr Murthy for the post of America's doctor for his political views?  Well, yes.  And it would hardly be unprecedented:  Feminists and other liberals opposed C. Everett Koop because of his views on abortion.  They failed, obviously, but one cannot deny they had a right to try.

As an aside, the NRA is often derided as having out sized influence given its meager numbers, but compared to say NOW, it is rather more representative:  
NOW has some 500,000 members and there are about 150 Million women in the USA, so the ratio is 1:300 
NRA has 5,000,000 members and there are about 75 Million gun owners in the USA, this gives a ratio of 1:15, which is 20 times more representative of the group they supposedly speak for.
Not to fight the gun control fight here but let's have a look as some of the proposals the good doctor put his name to:

Specific approaches should include:
A federal ban on the sale of assault weapons and ammunition – to stop weapons
from being added to the existing stock.
It is well known that only a vanishing small fraction of murders are committed by long guns of any type (mostly shotguns). By far, most crimes (that involve guns) are committed with pistols.  Also, well known among people who know anything about firearms, is that the ammunition used in so-called assault weapons is also very commonly used in regular rifles.  It is also well known that the differences between normal rifles and assault weapons are almost all cosmetic rather than functional.  Some anti-assault weapons proposals and laws go after certain pistols and shotguns too, but the assault versions use exactly the same ammunition as the regular ones.  The upshot of all this is that the guy makes proposals which would curtail the rights of millions of law-abiding Americans and yet can't be arsed to know the first thing about fire arms or bother to look at easily obtainable data such as FBI crime statistics.  These stats would show him that the lion's share of murder is committed with one type of gun, pistols.  And it would show him that "gun deaths"* have been on the decline for decades.

*In my view, the murder numbers have gotten so low that advocates like to use the term "gun deaths" instead.  The bulk of this number comes from murder and suicide, with suicide being about twice as common as murder.

Hey, I thought all good progressives were in favor of suicide--maybe only if it is assisted.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Too much time in Washington rots your mind.

" She earned a B.A. in political science from Yale University in 1972, followed by a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1975. "


Thinks the US Constitution is 400 years old.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

What Does Russia Get From This?

Kiev had already granted Russia the right to use bases in the Crimea, which is the only warm-water port Russia has available.

Now what?

If Russia annexes the Crimea, they get the status of international pariah and gain bases they already had.

If Ukraine manages to kick the Russian troops out of the Crimea then they are also likely to end the Russian basing privileges too.   After all, they can say, "Last time we let you keep troops here, look what mischief they got into"?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

How Many Gears?

My driver took the Autobahn between Darmstadt and Frankfurt.  He showed up in a Volkswagon, which did not dismay me since it was the same giant, powerful type I had been brought in.

He only hit around 125 mph but I looked over at the tach and it was only reading about 3,300!

I hope that was his top gear!

The Information In These Two Offices Vary

Both of these sites give the dates of Lake Champlain Closing (due to ice), both are tagged with NOAA and have the following address listed:

National Weather Service
1200 Airport Drive
S. Burlington VT 05403

But one gives a closing date of Feb 12th and the other has no date listed.

The question I have is what they will say 6-months from now?  Will they agree on the date or claim the lake never froze?

I will update when and if there is a change to either site (I have screen-shots of what is there now).

Note:  Just playing with the font and background color for kicks--this will not persist.  Probably.