Wednesday, November 30, 2011

In which I earn the praises of PETA

Call me weird, but part of me wonders why we bothered to ban the inspection of horsemeat a few years back.  It's widely eaten in Europe, and quite frankly, since horses don't do well on grain, it's probably far richer in omega-3 fatty acids than most beef or pork.  I'd eat it.

Of course, part of me also wonders why we let the USDA have such a stranglehold on slaughterhouses, and quite frankly, I'm wondering why I as a taxpayer get to pay to inspect slaughterhouses belonging to others.  Are we to say that inspection of slaughterhouses is something that can't be done to decent standards by states, counties, or for that matter private enterprise?  Let's face it; butchering meat safely is not exactly rocket science, and the USDA has made a hash (pun intended) of it by missing obvious problems with our current meat supply.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thoughts on the Black Friday Massacre

Saturday morning, the paper was filled with reports of people injured and arrested (mostly at Wal-Mart for whatever reason) trying to get the Black Friday loss leader, and it was noteworthy that for many of them, the loss leader was a DVD player--apparently as usual.

Now this is very interesting, as apparently 80% of American households have at least one, and at $50 or less, they're practically giving them away already.  I just bought a DVD/VCR player for $60 at a much safer store, Sears.  So why are so many people so excited about saving a few bucks on a player?

Well, hype certainly has something to do with it, but I'd suggest that another reason is product quality.  My new Magnavox looks, to put it charitably, like the plastic used to make it (there is little metal in the unit, it appears) is a side business of Fisher-Price or Mattel.  So I have to guess that one of the big reasons for the rush to get a new DVD player is that the buyers know their old units are not long for this world.

It's a far cry from the days when your VCR would set you back $500, but would last through ten years of normal use.  And ironically, this happens just as more and  more companies learn how to do accelerated reliability testing to design for long term reliability.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Bike Bubba Weight Loss Plan

Step 1: Make brioche with your second daughter.  She helped, but it took Dad's strength to mix it by hand.

Step 2: go to work while your kids shape, bake, and eat it.  If I'm lucky, I'll get to smell it.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Thank you to the person at Syracuse who apparently chose to make another atrocity against children public.  Hopefully I will be wrong about the extent, but thank you, whoever you are.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

More on that stimulus effect

Earlier, I've approached the idea that somehow the mere fact that government spends money makes it "do more economic work" than money spent in the private sector--more or less, the Keynesian idea that there is somehow a multiplier effect.  To put it mildly, it's absurd that money will do more work just because Uncle Sam's name is on the purchase orders.  It goes through the same banks, gets spent at the same short, the economy has no way of knowing that the money was stolen taxed from the taxpayer before being used for Uncle Sam's pet projects.  Hence, there is no Keynesian multiplier effect.  As Lott's column indicated, the opposite is closer to the truth--money spent on debacles like PBS, NPR, Solyndra, light rail, and so on does less work for the economy because it's not the taxpayer's favored use for the money.  Hence, there is less incentive to do other things that benefit the economy.  (say, like drill oil wells)

One might object, however, that since so much of the money is borrowed, that what we're doing is impeding not our own economic growth, but rather China's.  Well, let's consider that idea; Chinese companies use their profits to either build their own companies or invest in "safe" securities, more or less.   We sell the safe securities here; what is the flip side?

Well, China buys immense amounts of capital and raw materials from the United States, Japan, and elsewhere.  So what happens when we sell bonds to fund fifty billion dollars worth of trolleys that nobody will ride, or to fund tax cuts for people who buy firetraps electric cars?

Simple; the U.S. taxpayer still takes a hit because honest companies don't get those orders for capital goods.    Hopefully someday government spending decisions will have a little bit more emphasis on "ROI" than is currently the case.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A thought on evangelical feminism and the struggle for the offices

My wife and I are investigating becoming members of a church we've been attending, and one of the things mentioned was the perceived need to give women a meaningful place to serve without violating Scripture's prohibition of female deacons and elders. 

And thinking about that, it occurred to me that what needs to be done is not to provide male roles to women--whether under the aegis of an official church title or otherwise--but rather to provide an environment in which women's natural roles can be allowed to flourish.

To draw a picture, about a decade ago, I was a deacon at a little church in Boulder, and my responsibility included the nurseries.  I'd put together a scheme to reduce the chances that pedophiles would be able to approach the children, but was dreading the difficulty of getting people to work the nurseries, clean up toys,and such.

Enter two women who said "we'd like to coordinate scheduling and clean-up".  What had happened?  The major role was that the pastor had created a place where women were not afraid to be women--it was OK to keep at home, love one's children, and such.  Combine that with a basic structure where it was "safe" to help in the nurseries, and given that opportunity, these ladies took care of everything but the background checks.  Fully 2/3 of the adults served in the nurseries, allowing the rotation to go to once every six weeks.  The church of sixty or so families had a baby boom of six babies that year, and all this while.....the church gained elderly members, too.  There was no generation gap.

I would suggest that if you told these ladies they were somehow less worthy or important because they did not hold a title, they would have laughed at you.   So would I.   The way out of the "gender wars" is, as Elisabeth Eliot would tell you, is to listen when women tell us "Let me be a woman."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sad signs for our republic

A sign in the bathroom at work:  "Please flush."  Sorry, but if a man has made it to adulthood without learning to flush the toilet, I'm guessing that "reading" isn't high on his list of abilities, either.

A person asked me where my neighbor in the cube farm was.  Thinking she must have already looked in his cubicle, I told her where he might be.  Turned out that my visitor hadn't bothered to even read the sign on the next cubicle (not five feet from her) announcing the inhabitant of that cubicle.

Sadder; this person has a key to her office.  Like it or not, there are plenty of prospective Obama and Franken voters out there.  I didn't dare ask any other women coworkers whether their bathroom had "please flush" posted inside the stalls. 

In more cheerful news, President Obama pardoned two turkeys from Minnesota today.  Spokesmen for Senator Franken and Governor Dayton immediately expressed their gratitude.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Picking the wrong fight?

I just finished a book I should have read decades ago--Uncle Tom's Cabin--and there are a lot of things that I can say about it, starting with the fact that I now know why I didn't get to read it in school.  It's the same reason that I didn't get to read Pilgrim's Progress, Paradise Lost, and any number of other great works of literature; just "too much religion" for the secular schools.  And it's a shame for all of these.

(but of course we did get to see the 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet, of which I am ashamed to admit that I remember exactly five seconds, and if you're a man, that's the five seconds you remember, too)

OK, that aside, I almost wonder whether Stowe made the wrong argument; while a system of slavery can only be enforced with violence (at least the threat of it), and unaccountable power over the lives of others can only result in barbarism, is that the best argument, or is there another?

A better argument perhaps being "What gives you the right to the rightful wages of your fellow man?  What gives you the right to make decisions for your fellow man?"  "Losertarian" argument?  Yes, but it forces the opponents to argue inalienable rights, and denies them the opportunity--used by Stowe's detractors--of claiming that the atrocities catalogued were due to "bad actors" and not a bad system.

And there are a lot of things we can apply this to.  Think about who you can ask; "What gives you the right?"

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A depressing day at work.....

....started with a meeting where our company's ISO registrar had a representative telling us that the ne plus ultra of quality control was effective flow charts for a company's processes, and spent at least 15 minutes illustrating the concept of a flow chart.  Apparently many companies these days are hiring lots of people who have no idea that such a thing exists, and they're putting them on their ISO self-audit teams.  What could possibly go wrong?

More depressing was a meeting this afternoon regarding bribes from vendors, and in the name of cultural diversity, our HR manager never really got around to saying that if you accept more than a modest meal and a mug with the vendor's name on it, you're crossing a moral and ethical line that leaves it open to question whether you've chosen a supplier for business reasons, or for other reasons.  So apparently business ethics rules are being written in Jell-O these days.

(and yes, I know that in many companies, the sales team gets to live like kings--and often perverse ones--on the company dime, but there at least used to be a pretense that the engineers and managers in the factory had a higher code to honor)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Alternative theory on Penn State....

....given by Paul Greenberg, one of my favorites. And it also appears that the man who didn't risk a confrontation with a man 30 years older is also out of coaching.  I wish Mr. McQueary well as he repents from a grievous sin here.

And, given that it's estimated that 3% of adult men have sexually abused a minor, it's my prayer that more people stand up to abusers and talk to the police.  Do some math;100 D1-A football programs with ten coaches apiece, and up to 3% of them have a horrible secret.  Maybe others have some talking to do.  It sure beats drinking one's sorrows away at not standing up to protect a child.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Hybrid brilliance

Evidently, as any good EE would tell you, there has been a problem with the Chevy Volt in crash testing; the battery caught fire, which is something you can expect of any battery holding a lot of energy when it gets shorted out.  The trouble, of course, is that there are a lot more batteries in the Volt, holding a lot more energy per pound, than in ordinary cars.

So not only is the Volt a technological boondoggle, its powertrain is a major hazard, too.  And as luck would have it, it's still got a gas tank to incinerate you after the battery ignites.  Maybe it's time to leave the car engineering to...say....carmakers and others who understand engineering tradeoffs, eh?

Almost good enough

It's a good thing that Big Red beat Penn State today (sorry Pentamom), but it's a shame that the Huskers didn't win 55-0 and get the coach who failed to stop a horrendous crime fired.

That said, knowing the level of corruption in sport today, I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop on some other programs as someone who has seen some barbarity decides to speak up to the police.  For the sake of little ones, I hope that whoever it is does so soon.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Another "triumph" of regulation

Probably like many parents with newer homes, I've been getting better at patching sheetrock because of the weird doorknobs that are in my home.  The kids open the door, not knowing their strength, and no matter how well I set the door stops, the hole in the sheetrock grows.  So I went to the hardware store, and asked if they had any old style doorknobs that didn't have the lock tab protruding, but rather locked simply as you press the doorknob towards the door and rotate it.

No luck, and Charlie--the owner--told me that it was supposed to make life easier for people with disabilities because the old doorknobs needed two actions to lock it instead of one.  He also noted that he was selling a lot more spackle than he used to, for obvious reasons.

So when I went home, I tried out my fancy new OSHA and Americans with Disabilities Act approved doorknobs.  Press, and turn, just like the old ones, and the "benefit" for the disabled appears to be that instead of being able to use your palm or your fingers to work the old ones, you now need to use your fingers to unlock or lock your bathroom door.

I'm sure the arthritis sufferers of the world appreciate it a lot, and if they could only get their hands into that position, would be giving our government the appropriate, one finger salute for their help.  Along with every father who's patched the wall for the tenth time because of those fool things.  

The fix, for what it's worth, are little round things that glue right where the doorknob will hit the wall--some of them even featuring an indent just the size of the lock tab.  I'll be sending the government a bill for this one....

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

When in Seattle.... might do well to avoid Dr. Guillotine and anyone named Robespierre.  Apparently the "Occupy Wall Street" protesters are starting to act like they're taking part in the French Revolution.  Let me eat brioche, but we'll do it here in Minnesota, thank you very much. And away from the Jacobins in Minneapolis, of course.

Alternatively, my friend Mark would tell me that the reign of terror started years ago in Seattle when Bill Gates more or less stole the visible parts of Apple's operating system without duplicating the magic inside.  But that's just a Mac-head talking, of course.   Who is also probably not in Seattle right now, either. 

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Reformation Day fun

While I respect those who abstain from Halloween Reformation Day festivities because of the Druidic roots of Halloween, our family has found a bunch of ways to really enjoy the observance--especially here where it's a lot safer, and not like Detroit at all.

*  Four year old son's costume: dinosaur.  Dad's costume; Ken Ham, of course.
* Posting the 95 Theses on our door.  If people in our heavily Catholic town remembered history, we would have gotten some really dirty looks.  We didn't.
* Greeting "Trick or Treaters" with "Happy Reformation Day!", and getting blank stares.
* Daughter #2's costume: Little Bo Peep.  Daughter #4's costume: duh.
* Ruining about 100 kids in town for cheap chocolate by handing out Lindt and Ghirardelli chocolates.
* Turning off the front porch light when our stash ran out, and daughter #1 noticed that she was handing out candy to kids whose voices had changed.