We had our first freeze Saturday night, with a low of 30 °F (-1 °C).
It's currently 36 °F (2 °C), but our highs the next few days are to be
in the mid 60's to lower 70's (17 °C to 22 °C). The furnace is on, but
not running much yet.
I'm still working on the manual for the microchemistry kits.
- Pigs fly. I just sent this email.
From: Robert Bruce Thompson To:
Barbara Thompson, Mary Chervenak, Paul Jones, Brian Bilbrey, Jerry
Pournelle Date: Mon
Nov 8 11:57:31 2010 Re: Okay,
I'd have bet this would never have happened
I have found a
rapper whom I actually like. Of course, he's an outspoken atheist and
is studying physics full-time. Here's an
- I'm still cranking away on the manual for the
Malcolm a few minutes ago, I thought about the city's futile (and
expensive) attempts to convince people to pile leaves in their yards,
behind the curb. Of course no one does that. They all blow them out
into the street, probably violating some law or other. Our neighbors
cleared the leaves from their front yard yesterday. Instead of
distributing them along the entire length of their frontage, they used
only about a third of it, apparently to leave parking spaces in front
of their house. The resulting pile extends to about the middle of the
street, presenting a real navigation hazard.
The solution is
simple, but illegal. Winston-Salem sent out a brochure last week--at
what cost I don't want to think about--to tell everyone to pile their
leaves in their yard behind the curb, and oh-by-the-way it's illegal to
burn the leaves. Being law-abiding, I haven't torched the piles of
leaves all along our street, but I certainly would shed no tears if
someone happened to toss a lit cigarette in one of the piles.
I was growing up, the smell of burning leaves was just a part of
autumn. I don't remember it ever being a problem. They smoldered rather
than burning with an open flame, and if burning leaves
ever accidentally torched a house or a car, I don't remember
Of course, back then people were generally more sensible. Nowadays,
some moron would probably park his car on top of a burning leaf pile
and then be surprised when it caught fire.
- I'm in preliminary discussions with O'Reilly/MAKE about
doing another book. The working title is The Illustrated Guide to Home
Biology: All Lab, No Lecture.
It may or may not happen, depending on O'Reilly's assessment of
risk/return to publishing such a book. I hope it does happen. I'm
looking forward to creating new life forms in my basement lab. Barbara
says she doesn't mind if I create the Andromeda Strain in the basement,
as long as I keep it out of her kitchen. And it would be cool to be the
first kid on the block with his own DNA sequencer.
Our newly-reelected sheriff was responsible for a car accident the
other day. He ran a red light, hitting one vehicle and causing it to
hit another. There was $6,000 in damage to the county car the sheriff
was driving and serious damage to the other two vehicles. There were
minor injuries. The sheriff has admitted publicly that the accident was
completely his fault. The police announced that they had not and would
not issue any citation to the sheriff and that the case was closed.
Making matters worse, the county announced that under governmental
immunity it would refuse to pay for the damage to the other vehicles,
leaving those people hung out to dry.
As one lady commented in
the newspaper article, she'd been ticketed recently for running a red
light even though no accident had resulted. She ended up paying $400 in
attorney's fees and court costs, and no doubt will pay much more in
increased insurance premiums. So there's obviously a fundamental
fairness issue in play here. I don't blame the sheriff. He seems to be
a good guy, and I suspect he had nothing to do with the way this
incident was (mis)handled. No one would expect one cop to ticket
another cop for running a red light if no accident resulted. That's
expected professional courtesy, and I suspect few would object. But an
accident did result in this case, and sweeping it under the rug like
this is simply reprehensible.
The cop in question should have
issued a citation to the sheriff, and the county should have waived
governmental immunity and made these victims whole. I suspect this
- As I kind of suspected would happen, Sheriff Schatzman has requested that the Winston-Salem PD issue him a ticket.
Cynics might think this is because Schatzman is afraid that this
incident would come back to bite him when he's up for re-election in
four years. I suspect it has more to do with the fact that Schatzman is
a straight shooter who's spent a lifetime in law enforcement. It must
be as obvious to him as to anyone how fundamentally unfair his special
treatment by the WSPD was.
started already. After the bloodbath a week ago, I pointed out that the
newly-elected Republicans had better keep their eyes on the ball. They
were elected not because anyone actually liked them, but because
everyone hated what the Democrats had done to the economy. We sent the
Republican SOBs to Congress to cut taxes and spending, to create jobs,
and to repeal ObamaCare. They forget that at their peril.
Carolina has both houses of the legislature Republican for the first
time since 1870. What they should concentrate on, once they're seated,
is reducing taxes and spending. But I see in the paper this morning
that at least some of them intend to attempt to pass a bill to declare
marriage as between one man and one woman. To our credit, North
Carolina is the only state in the Southeast that hasn't passed such a
bill. That's something the religious nutters are determined to change.
Pat Condell on free speech in Europe, or the lack thereof. As usual,
it's worth spending the time to listen to what Condell has to say. I
just wish he wasn't so mealy-mouthed about Islam.
- Here's an interesting post on Jerry Coyne's blog
about scientists and clothing. It's all true. Most scientists I know
spend zero time worrying about clothing and other trivialities. The one
exception is Mary Chervenak, who's both a black-belt scientist and a
clothes horse. That bothered me early in our acquaintance--it just
seemed out of character--and I couldn't figure out why. I finally told
Mary what I was thinking, and she explained: "I'm such a girl."
Which makes sense. Hindbrain trumps forebrain, even a truly excellent
forebrain like Mary's.
When I mentioned this article to Barbara,
she replied, "You think?" Yep. I'm as guilty as anyone. She used to buy
me new clothes for birthdays, Saturnalia and other holidays, but I'd
just stick them in the closet and not wear them, often literally
for years. I've gotten a bit better about that, but I think I probably
still have clothes unworn that she bought me in the 20th century.
when I was in grad school, my clothes were deplorable, even by my
non-existent standards. As any chemistry student will tell you, our
clothes all end up with holes in them. (I'm talking even socks and
underwear here...) Usually tiny little holes from acid splashes, but
sometimes great gaping holes. So, one day, a girl friend (as opposed to
a girlfriend) took me in charge and announced that we were going
clothes shopping. (I actually had less-than-honorable intentions
concerning her, so instead of telling her to pound sand I went
I picked out one pair of jeans, but she insisted I
buy at least two. Then we headed for the t-shirt section. She said I
had to buy at least half a dozen t-shirts, so I picked out six t-shirts
in XXL tall, all the same color (gray). She thought I was kidding. I
explained that (a) I liked gray, and (b) I didn't see any point to
having different colors and having to waste time choosing one. I think
to this day she probably thought I was putting her on. I wasn't. I
walked out of the store with two identical pairs of jeans and six
identical t-shirts. (I kept one new pair of jeans and one new t-shirt
to wear for formal occasions; the others soon ended up full of holes.)