All Is Not As It Seems

A friend of the blog emails:

https://www.startribune.com/biodiesel-not-electric-buses-may-join-metro-transit-fleet/600029359/

[The Strib notes that] “Biodiesel, not electric, buses may join Metro Transit fleet. “

Biodiesel? Made from animal fat?

That means I’ll need to eat more meat!

After almost three years of keto, it’s a tempting conclusion.

But I’ll haste to add that a key source of biodiesel is…

…er…

…the downstream leg of the human digestive function, ifyaknowwhatImean.

The Design Of Everyday Things

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

I send an email which Mitch posted on February 4th in a column called
Surprised, Not Surprised. I complained about the Post Office’s on-line
system to request they hold my mail while I went on vacation, which
ended up being postponed.

I was informed in the comments by a person who claimed to be an expert
on the subject, that Informed Delivery was a great success and “your
disappointed experience with Informed Delivery is either an aberration
or a result of unrealistic expectations, and is not persuasive to a
larger argument about the post office.”

Maybe so but the story doesn’t end there. I finally got signed up. I
rescheduled my trip to Texas leaving February 12 and returning the
22nd. I used the on-line system to place a Hold My Mail request and
then . . . blizzard, trip postponed again. So, I went back on-line and
cancelled the Hold My Mail request.

Just checked the box . . . no mail. I can think of two possibilities:
either every junk mailer in the nation suddenly dropped me from their
lists, or the Post Office is holding my mail even though I cancelled the
request.

No, I’m not going to call. First, I hate navigating automated phone
trees. Second, even if I got a live representative, the best they could
do would be to put in a Cancel request and by the time it filtered down
to the Rice Street Station, the hold period would be over so my mail
would be delivered anyway.

Another aberration? More unrealistic expectations? Maybe so, but they
keep happening. It’s sad, because the Post Office is one of the few
activities the federal government is constitutionally authorized to do.
It’s a shame they do it so poorly.

Joe Doakes

When I was in a computer science class in college, the prof – who’d been a software engineer just long enough to pick up some terrible habits and beliefs – declaimed often that “90% of problems with system involve stupid users”.

It’s a view that governs a lot of how “systems” people – from technocrats and systems analysts at a high level all the way down to programmers – view the world; “if only our customer was as smart as we. Or me”.

The field I work in is the group brought in when the customer – the business paying for those systems, and who realize that actual users just aren’t adopting, using or appreciating their technocrats’ genius – realizes that kind of arrogance isn’t a strategy.

Notably, government is simultaneously very good at adopting my particular discipline (check out the human factors of an F35 cockpit) and really, really bad (the MNSure, MNLARS and “Please give me a vaccine” websites).

File this accordingly.

True Ex-Believers

I grew up in grew up in a family of Democrats – Dad was a teacher, Mom had a little hippie inclination – and it’s probably not a huge shock that’s how I started out as well. At North Dakota Boys State, I wrote a party platform that would have made Paul Wellstone blanche in horror – not because I was an especially well-read or committed econommic “progressive”, but becasue that was the water in which I figuratively swam as a teenager.

In college, my major advisor, Dr. Blake, convinced me that it just wasn’t true – that I was in fact a conservative. And he was right. I voted for Reagan in my first presidential election, and never really went back.

About ten years later, disgusted with the 1994 Crime Bill, I left and went to the Libertarians (just in time to miss a great redemptive moment in GOP history – but I had two babies at home at the time, so I wasn’t actually doing that much political thinking, to be honest.

Four years later, I went back, figuring the problems in the GOP were best fixed on the inside. It’s still an ongoing battle – maybe never moreso.

One thing I didn’t do? Spend years making theatrical amends to Republicans for having been a Demorat; trashing my former Republican friends to my (temporary) Libertarian pals; hovering over Libertarians’ sayings to find things to pounce on to show my GOP friends I was a true believer.

I’ve encountered a lot of that lately – various people I know who’ve left one party or another, and felt the need to not just express their new beliefs (yay, more power to you!) but expound on how blinkered, deluded, malformed and stupid the people in their old party are, and how very decisively they’ve left them behind.

One longtime real-life as well as social media friend felt the need to issue a heartfelt – “theatric” might be a better term – public apology to all his new (Democrat in this case) friends for ever having been a Republican sympathizer.

But that was just the most extreme example.

The only comparison I have is with a jilted spouse whose ex ran off with the cabana boy or secretary, and spends years sputtering first with rage, then the sort of passive-aggressive sniping that becomes a lifestyle (and a tiresome one) if you let it.

And it’s a pretty ecumenical phenomenon. I’ve seen it with ex-Republicans in the Libertarian party, Republican Trump supporters AND Never-Trumpers, ex-Trump supporters of any and no affiliation – and I’m sure it happens with ex-Democrats too.

I mean – your political beliefs changed. If your politics are so closely tied to your personality and the fabric of your life that you have to spend that kind of time and energy attacking not only your old beliefs, but the people who still hold them?

It creeps me out. Seriously.

Happy New Year!

Let’s get everyone’s predictions for the new year on record.

I’ll start:

  • After nine months of whinging “2020 is the worst year ever“, Americans will discover that events don’t read calendars. Things’ll stop sucking pretty much whenever they stop sucking.
  • Joe Biden will come out of the White House basement no more often after being sworn in than he did before.
  • Nonetheless, his mental decline will become so apparent that by autumn, the Democrats will attempt to remove him using the 25th Amendment. Of course, if Biden doesn’t resign, and Harris and the Cabinet have to vote to remove Biden under Section 4, while the Veep and Cabinet can temporarily remove him, throwing the issue to Congress…where a 2/3 vote is required to permanently replace Biden with Harris. Which presents Mitch McConnell with a bit of a dilemma: would it be better to leave Biden in place as leader of the Democrat party, flailing and walking into walls and wandering into odd tangents, or install a “president” who never got over 5% of the vote in any primary and is pushing an agenda that would motivate Republicans and conservatives like nothing since Obamacare?
  • Americans, fatigued by over a year of restrictions that, outside of a few liberty-first states, and armed with the gradually escaping knowledge that T-cell immunity has made vast swathes of the population already functionally immune, will start to treat Covid restrictions the way their great-grandparents treated prohibition.
  • While waiting for America’s idiot ruling class to wake up and smell the public health coffee (ew), China will gobble up vast shares of the world market.
  • With the trials pushed back to the start of summer, the George Floyd trial’s verdicts will lead to rioting that make Minneapolitans look on the last week of May 2020 as the good old days. By 2030, Minneapolis will be generally revealed to be a failed city along the lines of Detroit, Newark and NOLA.

Your turn.

The Spirit Of The Season

Someday, when I’m absolute ruler and I impose a libertarian society by force, it’ll be legal to boobytrap packages to maim and mutilate “porch pirates”. So help me.

But until then, as Covid-era buying patters beget yet another wave of porch piracy plagues yet another holiday season, I figured this we the pick-me-up we all need:

Not enough fun to assuage your rage?

Well, lhere’sthe sequel:

And then, bigger and badder than before, this year’s episode:

And what the heck – since I know some of my readers are engineers, and others are just plain diabolical (but in a good way), here’s the how-to:

I, myself, see a glorious commercial manufacturing and marketing opportunity.

Weight

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

I’m not a computer programmer and don’t pretend to be; therefore, this is a serious request for an answer from a person who was a knowledgeable computer programmer BEFORE the election (not an instant expert on computers today, the Constitution last week, and epidemiology the week before).

The State of Michigan admitted 6,000 votes were switched from Trump to Biden in one county. They explained it was because the county clerk failed to install a software. The ballots were properly counted when scanned, but vote totals were incorrectly reported.

My question: if the software is a simple addition program, totalling up the number of votes for each candidate, what kind of a programming “glitch” could make it switch votes from one candidate to another, but not all of them, only some of them?

Also, if the software knows how many ballots were scanned, how can some of them be omitted from the total?

I ask because some people are claiming there are algorithms available to generate Switched and Lost ballots, which may have been present in the software used in the voting machines. Is that even possible?

Joe Doakes

I won’t claim to be an expert – but I’m trying to imagine the JAD session (because you just know it was a JAD session, amirite, geeks?) where they described the requirement for the system to be able to finesse totals for weighting, estimates of lost ballots, and other inputs derived from, er, modeling.

Sanitizer Sabotage?

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Democrats and the media hyped Covid as the deadliest plague ever.  Citizens panicked.  Hand sanitizer flew off the shelves.  Foreign companies rushed to fill the demand.  Now, FDA warns us not to use some of those products because they’re contaminated.

Even more suffering to lay at the feet of Democrats trying to make life in America worse, so people will vote President Trump out of office, to make it stop.

Joe Doakes

I’m just mortified at all that prime beer and spirit production being diverted to sanitation products.

Ham Radio

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

It’s dying, like hoop rolling and tethered airplanes and lots of other 1930’s activities, because young people don’t care for it.

What, you just talk to people?  You can’t see them, no interactive video?  So the people are in different countries, so what?  It’s basically a telephone.  What fun is that?

Joe Doakes, ham radio license KE0GCG, on the 2 meter band

It’s been on my long “to do” list for years. May just accelerate that.

Wake Me Up When December Ends

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

I hate December. It’s cold. It’s dark. And all my year-end bills come due. Annual attorney recertification, vacation condo maintenance fee, hangar rent, Christmas bills plus all the usual expenses. It’s that wallop at the end of the year that annoys me. I hate to see money going out of the checkbook, it should be coming in. Makes me what to cut back,  spend less, live poor. 
“Darkness was cheap, and Scrooge liked it.”
I know exactly how he felt.
Joe doakes

I make a concerted point of enjoying the whole holiday season – which has made me, oddly enough, enjoy the season.

But I get it. I really do.

Comfort Food For Thought

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Stouts Pub at Snelling and Larpenteur opened as an English pub, serving bangers and mash, fish and chips, and Guinness beer on tap. Lately, with the cool wet weather, I’ve been feeling a need for comfort food. Mutton stew with thick warm bread. Maybe a shepherd’s pie.
But when I looked at their menu online today, it’s all trendy stuff, the kind you could get at Applebee’s or Chili’s. Spinach and artichoke dip. Cheeseburger with sharp cheddar and applewood bacon. Margherita pizza. Chipotle BLT. And all kinds of wraps and salads.  Yuppie Paradise.
I don’t blame them, that’s where the money is. But what happens to us crusty curmudgeons? Where can I go to get my pre hibernation food?

Joe doakes

You got me. Most “comfort food” is well outside my diet these days.

But let’s hear it, hive mind. Comfort food sources in the Metro?

Safety

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Not all government safety regulations are an idiotic waste of time. A window washer just fell off our building.

The platform is attached by ropes to a metal contraption on the roof, but the metal contraption didn’t have enough weight so when the worker went over the edge, the contraption did too. The harness caught, swung the worker into the window, then dangled upside down until a ladder could be brought to lower her to safety. Yes, the window washer is a woman. Banged up her leg but the EMTs who took her away said she seemed okay. I guess my job doesn’t suck so badly after all.
I…Woman is damn lucky to be alive, that safety harness saved her life.
Joe doakes

Laws that directly affect public safety? Good.

Laws that direct affect who you can have haul your trash away? Not so good.

I don’t think it’s all that complicated. Which is why I”ll never be an elected official in Saint Paul.

Professional Courtesy

I work in user experience – but I specialize in enterprise, engineering and IT software. Not marketing, e-commerce or “storefront” design.

Because that stuff is not only boring to work on, but I get skeeved out by some of the tactics.

And because I’m not the only one that’s onto ’em.

The only tragedy about the plane that crashed holding 200 marketing and SEO executives was that it coulda held 300.

Where Have You Gone, Learned Foot…

…turns out you were just too far ahead of your time.

Collecting old Kool-Aid packets is big money:

While there’s no real quantifiable way to know just how big this particular community is, the best place to pulse-check their vitality is eBay. A quick search for “Kool-Aid packet” seemed to signal the market is alive and well, returning over 250 active listings, some of which were going for triple-digit asking prices: $400 for a still- sealed case of Pink Swimmingo, $225 for a single packet of Yabba-Dabba-Doo Berry, and $195 for a single packet of one of Kool-Aid’s most beloved flavor mascots, Purplesaurus Rex, just to name a few. A search for recently completed eBay auctions showed a display of 1960s Grape packets being sold for $250 and a single packet of Rock-A-Dile Red closing out at $125. The good stuff don’t come cheap, my friends.

There has simply got to be a way to turn this into a glorious troll of obnoxious foodies.

Magazines

One of the constant refrains of gun grabbers in recent years is “Nobody needs a thirty round magazine”, stated as an absolute.

This pretty much inevitably comes from people who’ve spent less time studying self-defense than I’ve spent on interpretive dance.

But if you (or they) are curious as to “why”?

I’ll answer that with a question. Three of them, actually.

First: are you ever going to be attacked by someone who wants to kill you, then and there? If you answer “I have no idea“, that’s a perfectly valid, honest answer. Violent attacks – robberies, kidnappings, rapes, aggravated assaults, spree killings, terror attacks – are exceptionally rare. Rarer still if you have no criminal record, don’t associate with criminals, and don’t work in a business where a lot of criminals are part of the clientele. That accounts for the vast majority of people.

Not a single person who gets robbed, kidnapped, raped, suffers a home invasion, or is at a location where a spree killer decides to stage their blaze of glory, woke up that morning thinking “I bet I’m going to be the target of a violent incident today!“ Did they?

Second: if the person decides to attack you with the lethal force we mentioned above, and you decide to defend yourself, how hard is it going to be the end the threat to your life?: impossible to predict, right? Many robberies, assaults and rapes, and even a few spree killings , have been ended by a good guy pulling out a gun, with no shots fired. Sometimes an attacker falls over unconscious, or dead, after a punch to the face. On the other hand there are records of people who’ve been shot 20 times and still had the strength to shoot, stab or hit before they bled out. I know one story of a woman who barricaded herself and her kids in an attic during a home invasion; when the guy broke into the attic, she shot at him six times at a range of 2 feet, hitting them five times in the face and head – and he lived without a lot of complications ( other than a lengthy prison sentence). Alcohol, drugs and mental illness all affect this as well – drunk people are harder to deter from doing stupid things; people who are extremely high may not experience pain, even pain from a gunshot wound. There are cases of people who were very, very high who never noticed they’d been shot until they bled to death.

So the question is: how many shots (if it’s a gun you choose) will it take to stop one person from following through on trying to murder you? The answer, given the evidence we have seen above, is “0 to 20 shots – maybe”.

Bear in mind that, under stress, almost nobody hits their target with every shot. Even at close range. Even if you practice shooting a lot (although that helps) the police, in self-defense situations, hit with an average of about one shot in every six. Put another way, the police fire an average of 17 shots to end an engagement.

So – you don’t know how many hits you’re going to need to end a lethal or threat to you (or your family, or innocent bystanders), and you don’t know how many shots that you fire are going to hit the person who is trying to kill you.

That’s with one attacker.

Which brings us to the third question

Third: how many people will be trying to kill, Rob, attack, rape or kidnap you?: The scenarios above are predicated on one attacker. Can you predict how many people are going to attack you?

In Saint Paul a few years back, there was a series of home invasions. Four people would break into a house, violently subdue any occupants who were present, and take what they wanted.

Nobody died in that series of incidents – but other home invasions do lead to murder, almost always murder of unarmed people.

Remember – none of the victims woke up that morning thinking “I bet I’m going to have a violent home invasion today”.

Now – if you hear somebody kick in your door in at midnight, ask yourself – how many of them are there? Are they armed? Are they drunk or on some sort of mind altering substance that warps their perception of risk, danger, and/or pain? How will they react to someone resisting (or not resisting)?

You are not going to know. All you know is that there is a potentially lethal threat to your life down there. Maybe the sound of a pistol racking up will send all of them scampering from your house. Or maybe the sight of one of them falling over, gushing blood after you shoot one of them will send them running.

Or maybe you pull out your six shooter, and fire all six shots of the first attacker you see – leaving you holding an empty revolver while robbers two, three, and four come at you with baseball bats, ice picks and a shotgun.

So the answer to your question is “When we are responsible for defending ourselves, our families and our community from a violent threat to our lives and we can’t predict who is going to carry out that attack, how many of them there will be, and what it will take to deter/stop them, we want a magazine that will leave you with at least one round in the chamber when the attacker runs out of attack”.

I hope that answers your question.

Internet Of Dangerous And Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time Things

I’m not really looking forward to the “Internet of Things”.

Partly it’s because of the nightmarish security risks – which we’re already seeing.

Partly I think it’s because it promotes a formo of “connectedness” that isn’t very connected.

But mostly it’s because, workign in the software industry as I do, I know that software doesn’t just work. The more complex it is, the longer it takes to debug, and the more byzantine the errors.

In fact, the recent Ethiopian Air and Lion Airways crashes have reinforced my desire to fly only in planes controlled by hydraulics and, if possible, mechanical cables.

Because the problems aren’t even especially new.

Human Factors

Fascinating article on how the Air Force is using the latest in sports medicine – advanced body mechanics and physiology sensors – to help hone the training of their new generation of Air Force special operations troops. the elite Pararescue troops that rescue downed aircrew and the Combat Air Controllers who bring air support in for other Special Operations units.

The technlogy is indeed whiz-bang-y:

For efficiency’s sake, the military would love empirical tests that can help focus on only the most promising candidates. Similarly, if there is a helpful gene that can be identified through a blood test, the military would very much like to know about it—and how to activate it with training. For example, the squadron at Lackland this year is collecting blood to measure hormone levels during training and will periodically check changes in the levels during the airmens’ career.

…but it’s gratifying to see that it doesn’t have all the answers:

Still, the human element rises amid the algorithms, tablets, and sensors. The staff see patterns that are harder for an algorithm to quantify, reminders that there is more than just numbers, physics, and chemistry at work. For instance, staff find that trainees who have faced challenges early in their personal lives not only do better, they also tend to assist and elevate teammates who are struggling.
“Our data show that, beyond a certain level, increases in physical fitness don’t necessarily correspond to increased success,” says Colonel Parks Hughes, commander of the Special Warfare Training Wing. “There’s a level of grit, if you will, required to get through the preparation that we put individuals through.”
All the brain-wave readings and sensors can detect a recruit’s level of effort, but there’s no way to quantify a trainee’s character and sense of self. These are critical variables, but they’re not the kind of things that can be measured with an electrode stuck to someone’s forehead.

The whole thing makes a quick but interesting read.

Honesty

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

I used Booking.com when I walked the Camino de Santiago last year.  It’s entirely on-line so they have my email and (in case I get locked out) my phone number.  What do they do with my private information?  Glad you asked, they sent an email with the updated privacy policy – the company will give my phone number and email to advertisers.  But what if I don’t want them to?
“The hard truth: If you disagree with this Privacy Statement, you should discontinue using our services. If you agree with our Privacy Statement, then you’re all set to book your next stay. Let the good times roll!”
Well, that’s refreshingly honest.
Joe Doakes

It’s almost refreshing that someone out there has the integrity not to blow smoke up your pant cuff…

Free, And Still Not Worth It

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Amazon Prime members can read Kindle books for free. The one I’m reading now was advertised as a realistic action thriller, so I thought I’d take a chance. Why not?  It’s free, if I hate it, I just push delete.

I’m three pages in.

Milton, the main character is a British assassin in the James Bond mould.  He has parked his car and walked around to the trunk. Here’s where the story picks up and I quote: “he unfolded the edges of the blanket to uncover the assault rifle that had been left at the Dead Drop the previous night. It was an HK53 carbine with integrated suppressor, the rifle that the SAS often used when stealth was as important as stopping power. Milton lifted the rifle from the boot and pressed a fresh 25 round magazine into the breach. He opened the collapsible stock and took aim, pointing down the middle of the road. Satisfied that the weapon was functioning correctly, he made his way toward the bridge and rested it in the undergrowth, out of sight.”

See?  Total realism.  That’s how you test a rifle. Slam in the mag, fold open the stock, point it down the road. You don’t test-fire it, cycle the action, don’t even look inside the chamber to see if it’s loaded. Apparently, I’ve been doing it wrong all these years and never knew.

Delete.

Joe Doakes

People who don’t know, or like, or care about guns write about them pretty much the way I write about golf.

(All due respect to the golfers in the audience…)

Unbooked

Garrison Keillor is selling his saint Paul bookstore:

“I opened Common Good Books because I loved the bookstores I knew around the U, Perrine’s and McCosh’s and Heddan’s and Savran’s,” Keillor said Wednesday in an email. “And now I’m leaving town and am busy writing a book of my own so it’s time to turn over the business to someone else. The world is full of wonderful independent bookstores and needs every one.”

Keillor put his St. Paul home on Summit Avenue up for sale last year. He wrote in a Facebook post last month that he and his wife, Jenny Nilsson, had moved to Minneapolis.

I may actually have to get in there Dash I rarely make it south of Midway books these days…

Since we’re talking Garrison Keillor, I thought I would throw this out there; Keillor had a reputation as one of the worst bosses in radio, and he always brought so much smug entitlement to his brand of Minnesota politics that it was sometimes hard to parity without lapsing into self-parody in turn – but I loved A Prairie Home Companion. I listened to it most weekends for probably 15 years. Whatever Garrison Keillor’s many flaws, he got small town rural Scandinavian life.

Nowadays the show – rechristened Live From Here after it turned out Keillor was #HimToo, and still starring PHC’s designated replacement Chris Thile, seems to specialize in a really, really excellent underground country/bluegrass music, really really really really really bad standup comics, and skits written to a target audience of Brooklyn hipsters by, apparently, Brooklyn hipsters that Garner the occasional giggle and usually make me desperately miss Tim Russell and Sue Scott.

So who knows – maybe I’ll run down and buy a book from the old guy.

But it will be some Hayek or Paul Johnson. He’s not winning this thing.

A Fool’s Errand

Well, the Trump administration is making moves to ban “bump stocks” – mechanical devices that speed up semi-automatic firing.

That’ll have an effect on firearm homicides – right?

What do you think?

And it’s not limited to ARs. Other firearms, down through handguns, can be jury rigged to “bump fire”. Not that you’d want to – it’s a great way to burn up money and hit nothing you’re shooting at.

Well, the good news is that they have no intention of stopping with this utterly meaningless result.

Wait…