Home > Daynotes Home > Week of 1 March 2010

Photograph of Robert Bruce Thompson
Daynotes Journal

Week of 1 March 2010


Latest Update: Friday, 5 March 2010 09:00 -0500

Paying for this Place
Visit Barbara's Journal Page

Monday, 1 March 2010
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

09:02 - I'll let this email serve as representative of the many I received in response to my post about don't-ask-don't-tell. Never having been in combat, either in the armed forces or as a cop, I can't speak from personal experience, but from the responses I got it seems that in either situation it's us-versus-them, and no one much cares about anything beyond that, at least in the heat of the moment. Oh, I don't doubt that blacks or whites in either organization tend to socialize more with others like themselves, but when the fit hits the shan it's very much we're-all-in-this-together and screw any minor differences.

From: David Hardy
  To: Robert Bruce Thompson
Date: Fri Feb 26 17:55:13 2010

"I just want them to cover me, and to drag me to safety if I'm hit."

*Yep.  That's about it.  I hadn't been a particularly racist kid growing up west and southwest of Beantown, and as I recall, there were about five black kids in my high school of 400+.  But any traces, probably left over from my parents and grandparents, went away after my service tours and my twelve years as a street cop in one of the cruddiest 'hoods in one of the cruddiest New England cities.  We wuz either all green or all blue, and no one knew that better than the black troops and fellow cops.  Sometimes they'd get the "brother, why you hangin' wid Chuck here?" and in return got "Man, I ain't yo muthafuckin' bruthuh!"  *
*
*
*As for gays, I figure they can run an M60 as good as I can and we will drag each other to cover if need be without even thinking about it.  *
*
*
*Other than that, here in semi-rural northern New England, I haven't had a whole of opportunities to hang out with either group, and I say, live and let live.  (old Yankee tradition, post-Puritan daze).  *
*
*
*Keep rockin' down there in The Tropics, Robert, and my best to you and Barbara and those crazy little mutts.  *


[top]

Tuesday, 2 March 2010
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

09:03 - Let's all keep our fingers crossed for Chelsea King, the bright, beautiful 17-year-old girl who disappeared last Thursday while running. If only she'd not gone running alone. There's a massive search going on, which the police are for now still calling a rescue operation, but obviously hope dims with each passing hour. We can hope that she's held prisoner somewhere or even that she's just run away from home, but each time I check CNN or FoxNews I fear there'll be an announcement that she's been found dead.

I know that I sometimes annoy my female friends and acquaintances by insisting on escorting them to their cars in dark parking lots and so on. I even understand why that annoys them. Their position, usually but not always unspoken, is "I can take care of myself." My response is "No, you can't, and there's no shame in that." In civilized society, women have equal rights and responsibilities, but civilization is always at best a thin veneer. There are predators out there, not many, but all it takes is one. Women are their prey, and an unarmed woman, no matter what her training, has no more chance against them than a rabbit does against the wolf. Granted, the likelihood that one of my female friends will be snatched or raped while walking to her car is probably less than one in a million, but why would a woman take even that small chance when there's almost always a male friend available who'd be more than happy to walk her to her car?



Today the USPS is expected to announce an end to Saturday service. That'll save Netflix a lot of money, but I can't imagine it'll make many others happy. Still something needs to be done quickly. The USPS doesn't have many options on the revenue side. With mail volumes already in steep decline, increasing postage rates will simply reduce mail volume and overall revenue even more, so the only option is to reduce costs. The trouble is, I don't think merely eliminating Saturday delivery is going to be nearly enough.



I need a color printer for a project I'm working on. I dislike inkjets, so yesterday I decided to check out color laser printers. Costco had four models, all Xerox, in the $350 to $900 range, and none of them had very good reviews. So I went over to NewEgg and found a Brother model I liked. Today, it's selling for $310 with $20 shipping. Yesterday, it was on sale for $210 with $10 shipping, so I ordered one. UPS tracking says it's due to arrive tomorrow.

Now to figure out where to put it. The old LaserJet 5P is in Barbara's office, serving as a spare. I power it up every once in a great while just to make sure it doesn't freeze up. The Brother HL-6250DN network monochrome laser printer is in my office. I suppose I'll clear some space for the color laser printer in my office, although I'm not sure where.


[top]

Wednesday, 3 March 2010
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

08:48 - Crap. They've found a body which is almost certainly that of Chelsea King. The guy the police are sure did it is my size, twice her mass and probably four times her strength. She had no more chance against him than she would have against the pounce of a full-grown lion.

I mourn the loss of any young person, but I particularly mourn the loss of a girl like Chelsea. Responsible, caring, well-liked, and brilliant. Who knows what she would have accomplished if some low-life scumbag hadn't stolen it all from her? Dead at 17. What a horrible, unbelievable waste. And all the more so because it was predictable and preventable. Why was this guy walking around loose? He'd already been convicted of a violent sex crime against another young woman, for which he served only five years in prison. Five years, and then they kick him loose to do it again. And Chelsea paid the price.


[top]

Thursday, 4 March 2010
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

00:00 -



[top]

Friday, 5 March 2010
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

09:00 - Here's a really cool video that shows the reactions of the first five alkali metals (lithium, sodium, potassium, rubidium, and cesium) with air and water. The density of the first four is low enough that they float on water. Cesium is denser than water, so it sinks to the bottom of the vessel like a tiny depth charge. Watch all the way to the end to see it.

In high school, I flushed several good-size chunks of potassium down the lab sink, with very impressive results in the alley just outside the lab windows. (Think flame shooting out of the manhole cover just outside the window.) I wish I'd had some cesium.

(Thanks to Derek Lowe for the link.)



We really do need some kind of outlet for kids who like to blow things up. When I was a teenager, it was routine for kids interested in science, almost all of them boys, to make their own explosives. Everyone started with black powder, which satisfied some. A lot of them progressed to flash powders and made their own cherry bombs, M-80s, and Silver Salutes. A few went on further to make fulminates, azides, and other seriously unstable compounds, and of course nitroglycerin was always popular. Surprisingly few of those kids did any serious injury to themselves, bystanders, or their surroundings, and what mishaps did occur were generally minor burns and small fires.

It was almost a rite of passage for kids who'd go on to careers in science, and I've come to believe it may have been a necessary rite. Future Scientist 101 was all about making pretty colors and obnoxious smells with their chemistry sets. Future Scientist 201 was all about making highly-exothermic mixtures and compounds from larger amounts of precursors that were readily and cheaply available in drugstores and hardware stores. Nowadays, FS-201 is a felony, and without that FS-201 step many fewer kids sustain their interest in science. I mean, just reading about (say) the Munroe Effect and looking at images of it is all well and good, but actually using the Munroe Effect to stamp your own initials into a steel plate is something else altogether.

Every day, I get private (and, sometimes, public) messages from my YouTube viewers with requests to do videos on how to make nitroglycerin or flash powder or PETN or TATP or mercury fulminate or lead azide. Some of them just cut to the chase: "Show us how to make something DANGEROUS" (an actual quote). I have to tell them regretfully that although, yes, I made all of those things 40 years ago, back when the cops had a sense of humor about these things and the prevailing wisdom was that "boys will be boys", things are very different nowadays. If I made such videos, YouTube would ban them, the federal authorities would kick down my door and arrest me, and anyone who followed in my footsteps would probably end up as my cell mate in federal prison. And every time I have to say that, I'm afraid we're losing yet another young potential scientist.

We need to have a small-quantity exemption, say 1 kilo or less, for personal manufacture of explosives for learning purposes, and we need to encourage kids who are so inclined to experiment safely with fascinating things like explosives. It's those kids who are our next generation of scientists.


[top]

Saturday, 6 March 2010
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

00:00 -



[top]

Sunday, 7 March 2010
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

00:00 -



[top]

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 by Robert Bruce Thompson. All Rights Reserved.