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
From: David Hardy To:
Robert Bruce Thompson Date: Fri Feb 26
"I just want them to
cover me, and to drag me to safety if I'm hit."
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
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. *
- Let's all keep our fingers crossed for Chelsea
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?
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.