Wednesday, 31 July 2013

By on July 31st, 2013 in lab day, news, personal

08:11 – I was surprised to read in the paper this morning that North Carolina has legalized the use of firearms suppressors (“silencers”) for hunting and other purposes. I was even more surprised to read that North Carolina is the 40th state to have done so. Of course, suppressors remain tightly controlled under federal law. They’re legal to buy and possess, but only after paying a $200 transfer tax, and even then transporting them is tightly controlled. Ironically, suppressors are unregulated in many countries. The last time I checked, one could walk into a hardware store in Britain and buy (for example) a Parker-Hale Sound Moderator, no questions asked.

Perhaps this means more Americans will find out what a suppressor actually looks like and sounds like. Contrary to how they’re represented in movies and TV, a suppressor–even for minor calibers like .22 rimfire–isn’t small. For a serious caliber, it’s typically the volume of a soda can, if not larger. And they don’t hiss, whistle, or thump. A good one reduces the report of a major caliber pistol from a resounding boom to a loud pop, like what you hear when you prick a balloon.

I’m shipping another box of stuff to “our” USMC unit in Afghanistan today. After I finished packing it, I was surprised how dense that box is. It’s USPS Regional Rate Box B–which has a volume of 615 cubic inches or 10 liters–and the sucker weighs over 13 pounds (6 kilos). I guess that’s what happens when one packs a box full of mostly canned foods. I’d used lots of packing tape originally, but I went back and taped the hell out of it again, just to make sure it doesn’t come apart.

12:07 – Now that I’m 60, I’m even more conscious of my physical and mental limitations. I mean, I’ve known for many years that I can no longer play serve-and-volley tennis anywhere near the level that I did when I was 20. As Barbara has pointed out, my arm would probably fall off when I served, and I’d probably drop dead of a heart attack before I reached the net. And that’s not even counting the fact that my vertigo would probably land me face-first on the court as I followed through, armless, on my serve.

Despite the fact that nearly all drivers rate themselves as above average, I recognize that I must be distinctly below average. I’m simply no longer in practice. For years, I’ve driven maybe five or ten miles in an average month. Months go by when I don’t drive at all. I try to avoid driving unless it’s really necessary. I mean, when I’m driving, I feel as if I’m driving about as well as I ever did, but I know that must be an illusion. At age 60, having driven probably less than a thousand miles in the last decade, I simply can’t be very good at it.

And I know I can no longer trust my memory as I once could. The other day, I was talking with Paul Jones and mentioned an organic compound by its trivial name, sulfanilic acid. Paul said something like, “that’s o-aminobenzenesulfonic acid, right?” What flashed through my mind was something like, “I thought it was para rather than ortho, but Paul’s the organic chemistry professor, not me.” So I kind of agreed with him and made a mental note to look it up later. It is in fact para, and there was a time when I’d have known that without having to look it up. I knew the structures of hundreds of organic compounds by their trivial names. No more.

But it’s not just forgetting facts. It’s forgetting things I need to do. For example, I was just down in the lab refluxing some Kastle-Meyer reagent. Instead of standing there watching it reflux for half an hour, I came back upstairs. There was a time when there was zero chance that I’d forget I had that reflux running. No more. This time, I set the timer in the kitchen to ding. Which it just did.

18 Comments and discussion on "Wednesday, 31 July 2013"

  1. Miles_Teg says:

    How’s this for gross irresponsibility on the part of the DEA?

  2. OFD says:

    Five days without food would suck pretty bad but ya gotta have wottuh. I’m actually surprised this doesn’t happen more often in this country, given the size of our prison industry and the types of people involved in it. The DEA should have been disbanded long ago and the War On Some Drugs ended. Three-quarters of the people in our jails and prisons don’t belong there. What a disgrace.

  3. Lynn McGuire says:

    See how long it will take to crack your password:

    You do not have to join, just try out your password.


  4. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Three quarters, hell. If we imprisoned (or executed) just 0.1% of our total population, we’d eliminate nearly all real crime.

    Come to think of it, it’d take more than that. The 0.1% would eliminate most violent crimes, along with traditional crimes like B&E, fraud, etc. But to get the really, really serious criminals and stop their depredations, we’d need to execute a lot more than 1% of the population. What percentages of our population are politicians, bureaucrats, spammers, DNC abusers, etc.?

  5. Lynn McGuire says:

    Three quarters, hell. If we imprisoned (or executed) just 0.1% of our total population, we’d eliminate nearly all real crime.

    Don’t the Chinese do that? And how is it working out for them? I did note that they executed the guys responsible for the poisoned baby formula:

  6. Ray Thompson says:

    See how long it will take to crack your password:

    Without the special character in my password that I use the site says 3 months. If I add back in the special character the site says forever. I doubt the forever part as that is a very long time. But it does show that special characters really add to a password strength.

  7. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    My standard password is rated “centuries”. It has special characters, but those don’t guarantee anything. For example, I just tried


    which it rated as an instant crack.

    OTOH, I’ve always suggested using the first letters of a phrase that’s memorable to you. The example I used in one book was “the cowards never started and the weaklings died along the way”. Using the first letters of that phrase, all lower-case, yields an estimate of 45 years.

  8. Ray Thompson says:

    For most of my stuff I use a password manager, LastPass, to keep and generate passwords. I do not know the passwords for many sites. All I need is my master password which is the one that is rated for centuries.

    I suspect that reason that thomPsoN!rAY1 failed the test was because of the inclusion of recognizable words within the password. My password has no such text and and appears to be random letters, numbers and special characters. However it is not random to me. Well, it sort of is but having used it for so long it no longer appears random. Appearing to be a random sequence of characters to others goes a long ways toward security.

  9. Lynn McGuire says:

    My everyday password is 6 years and my special password is 8 hours. Go figure!

    And ethernet is now 40 years old:

  10. eristicist says:

    Well, you may be more forgetful than you used to be, but you’re still not forgetful in absolute terms. And what with the ubiquity of the Internet, I think eidetic memory is less valuable now than it once was.

  11. Stu Nicol says:

    ” I mean, I’ve known for many years that I can no longer play serve-and-volley tennis anywhere near the level that I did when I was 20.”

    Well, I am 14 years ahead of you and this is all true. I definitely will never play singles again, but it is several sets of doubles with similarly aged every Friday. For a while I was but an occaisional sub called about a week ahead, and all too often I would forget that I was to play. However, now that I am a regular, weekly player, I don’t forget (but I still put my raquet on the kitchen table the night before).

  12. Lynn McGuire says:

    Hey Lynn, what do you think of this:

    Wow, incredibly poorly written article. No facts, no figures and a lot of conjecture. That said, welcome to the club of having incredible natural resources. Too bad you do not have any fresh water. Although the new Lockheed graphene process MAY fix that (yet to be proven on a large scale of one million gallons/day).

    Building natural gas liquefaction plants is incredibly expensive, on the order of $5 billion per 1/2 bcf/day train (most LNG tankers are 2.5 bcf). Just getting the parts required (the cryogenic heat exchangers especially) has a 2 to 3 year waiting list. So, the capital involved is immense and scary unless you have sovereign level resources such as Shell, Exxon, Sasol, etc.

  13. brad says:

    The “time to crack” on SilentCircle apparently assumes that someone will be trying to crack a password by entering it on a website over the internet. That’s nonsense; you have to assume they have access to the hashed value. For unimportant sites, I use a 7-character password – one of the GPU-based programs could crack in in a couple of hours, but SilentCircle rates it at 5 months.

    Anyway, it’s great that this business exists, but they are based in the USA. No one in their right mind will trust any US-based business with sensitive data; even if they use effective encryption, it only takes a secret national security letter, approved by a secret court, and they will be required to provide the encryption keys to the feds.

    People already knew they couldn’t trust US-based businesses, but lots of companies ignored this, because US-bases providers were often the cheapest. Snowdon’s revelations have made this kind of head-in-the-sand denial impossible.

  14. Roy Harvey says:

    If we imprisoned (or executed) just 0.1% of our total population, we’d eliminate nearly all real crime.

    From Wikipedia:
    The incarceration rate in the United States of America is the highest in the world today. As of 2009, the incarceration rate was 743 per 100,000 of national population (0.743%). In comparison, Russia had the second highest, at 577 per 100,000, Canada was 123rd in the world at 117 per 100,000, and China had 120 per 100,000.

  15. SteveF says:

    Ray, do you think there’s any significant relationship between the US prison population and the dangerous predator population?

    Just in the case of the War on (Some) Drugs, everyone who’s been imprisoned or fined for use or possession of small amounts should be compensated. What you put in your body should not be a crime and should never have been a crime. I might accept a minor fine for selling drugs, but only for things like improper sanitation in preparing products intended for human consumption … which are already a violations on the lawbooks and don’t need a special Eeeevil Drugs version. Similarly, assault and theft are already crimes, so there’s no need for special “Assault while drugged up” laws.

    So. Get rid of that crap and you’ve reduced the US prison population by 15-40%, depending on what phony numbers you believe. That’ll leave plenty of room to warehouse worthless turds like legislators who constrain business operations all the way to bankruptcy while exempting their lofty selves from the same laws.

  16. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    What I was talking about was imprisoning or executing the *right* 0.1% of the population. Actually, even 0.01% would be a good start.

  17. Lynn McGuire says:

    I might accept a minor fine for selling drugs

    SCOTUS might call that a tax.

Comments are closed.