Thank you for your support

An odd thing happened this evening. A woman came to the door a little sheepishly. She wasn't sure if she had the right house...were we the house that had the McCain sign on the lawn before the election? Why, yes, we were.

She went on to thank us for putting it up. She was happy to see that she wasn't the only republican in town. We told he that we had a couple signs torn down and a bag of dog poop left on the hood of our car.

It was a nice moment of solidarity.


I enjoy watching the show Mythbusters. But many times, the experiments they do are absurd. With a little bit of scientific knowledge, many (most?) of the myths they test could be dismissed without any experiment at all. For example, consider one from an episode I watched a couple of days ago. The question was whether or not you can curve a bullet around an obstacle and hit a target behind said obstacle by swinging your arm about while you shoot. In the parlance of billiards, this would be known as adding "English" to the bullet. This video shows the idea:

It's absurd of course. Once the bullet leaves the barrel of the gun, it's going to follow a path determined by the bullet's exit velocity (more or less). Your swinging arm may effect that exit velocity slightly, but it's not going to add some magical curve to the bullet's path.

I've often heard that Mythbusters "makes science fun." But the show seems to go out of its way to avoid as much science as possible. How about working in something about Newton's laws? Maybe it's not necessary, but would it really be so terrible to show an equation or two? I remember at one point in an episode Adam saying that he had done a calculation to determine how much weight to drop on a see-saw in order to apply a certain amount of force. How about showing us how that was done?

That's the problem I have with Mythbusters... the missed opportunities.

Ann says: I would think you'd have more of a chance with a non-rifled gun barrel and something like a round musketball. The spin produced by the rifling of a barrel would far outclass any little english you could manage to get onto the bullet in the fraction of a second the bullet is in the barrel. But a non-rifled barrel wouldn't produce a such a spinning bullet, and you might be able to impart enough spin to change the aerodynamics of the bullet by the teeny-tiniest fraction of a degree.

Will government healthcare be bound by Roe and Doe?

According to Roe v Wade, and even more by the more-important companion piece Doe v Bolton, the government can not place an undue burden on a woman's right to a medical procedure, just as long as her physician deems the procedure to be medically necessary. According to Doe v Bolton, if a doctor says a procedure is justified, the government can not fully stand in the way, and can only nibble around the outside.

Furthermore, a patient has a right, according to these cases, to receive medical care from a doctor in privacy and without the government knowing what is going on between the patient and doctor.

Interesting. Looks like either government rationing will undermine Roe v Wade, or Roe v Wade will undermine rationing. I'd bet on the latter.

Apollo 11

It's been forty years, but nothing since has come close to this awe-inspiring achievement

I am glad I am just old enough to remember it. What a moment.

Ann says: Unfortunately, I was only 1.5 years old, so I don't remember. I remember vaguely watching a moon landing, though. It must have been a later one.

BTW, as of 5:52 Pacific time, "For All Mankind" is actually showing on Turner Classic Movies. If you don't own it, you can catch it.

Too bad, we don't get TCM. Mythbusters has its lunar landing episode on, which is pretty amusing. The History Channel has a half hour of original news broadcasts which sounds interesting.

I don't want to buried in a pet cemetary

We had a tragedy in our house today. My 7-year-old nephew likes few animals, but has wanted a pet. He prefers non-mammals, so on Wednesday, I took him to the pet store and we got two fish. He was so excited, he wanted to tell everyone. He called up grandma and grandpa to tell them.

Today, the larger of the two died. It was obvious early this morning that he wasn't going to make it, so I had a couple of hours to prepare Steven for the loss.

He has since made a lovely grave for him with a head stone and a big banner picture of his fish. It never even had a name, but he's calling it Fishy.

Rest in peace, Fishy.

Steven's now outside with a recorder (which he has never played before) trying to play a funeral dirge.

Here's the grave:

Billy Mays Nails

I just saw a Billy Mays commercial. I don't know why I didn't think of this before, but Mays bears a striking resemblance to Phil of "Phil's Nails," an obscure short skit on the old SCTV show. It was done by Eugene Levy. Check it out, from youtube:

Here's Billy, in all his glory.

Rest in Peace

Things Change

Our kindly neighbor has been supplying us with cucumbers and tomatoes since we got down here. They are delicious and we are happy to take whatever he is willing to give away. It seems he has a bumper crop this year. It must be all the rain and sun. Even baby enjoys eating a pealed raw cuke. She likes chopped up tomatoes as well.

Our neighbor is an older gentleman, who is happy to chat over the fence with me. I enjoy it too. He is 75 years old, born in '34. He grew up about 20 miles out of Nashville, on a farm. Back then, he says, the whole area was covered with woods. Growing up, he and his friends would take their guns to school so that they could hunt on the way home. That was pretty much all the meat they had back then. He says their farm house was electrified in 1953, when he was 19!

This got me thinking about how much has changed in his life, and how much has changed during mine. Somehow, I think that when I am his current age it won't seem like things have changed as much since I was born. To be born two decades before you had electrical power in your home and then to be using email and surfing the net in your later years is quite remarkable.

I'm still hoping though! Who knows what new technology may be around the corner.

Manson - a cool, hip guy, pity about the antiSemitism (and the whole murdering psychopath thing)

There is an opinion piece in the Daily Telegraph by Mick Brown today which is really pathetic. Some highlights:
"It is 40 years since the "Manson family" killings, when over two nights in Los Angeles in August 1969, a group of young men and women, allegedly acting at Manson's behest, murdered six people, including Sharon Tate, the actress wife of Roman Polanski. Manson himself was not actually present at the killings – he was charged with conspiracy – but the prosecution alleged that, inspired by Beatles lyrics, he had ordered his brainwashed followers to carry out the murders in order to unleash a race war – "Helter Skelter". It was, in short, a very Sixties affair."
But perhaps the closest thing to Manson's own thoughts are to be found on a site run by two former members of his "family", who go by the names of Red and Blue. The opening page declares in large, Gothic letters "One World Order: Central Source for ATWA and Charles Manson" – ATWA being an acronym for Air Trees Water Animals. This suggests that rather than a murderer, Manson was just a misunderstood guru of radical environmentalism.

We want our madmen to be completely mad. It is in moments of lucidity that they are truly unsettling. We need to stop cutting down trees, Manson suggests, walk more and "get back to bicycles". And who could argue with that?

It's his enthusiasm for the Third Reich and the way he signs himself "Straight Satan – Charles Manson" that give you pause.
To do my own paraphrasing of this:
Wow, dude, did you know Manson is, like, a nature freak, man? I can really grok his vibe, you know? Don't cut down trees, man, don't cut down trees! How cool is that.

Too bad he goes and harshes my mellow with that whole Hitler-worship thing. Dude, like, totally uncool, dude!
This is a flavor of environmentalism trumps all Gaia worship. As long as a mass-murdering psychopath is right-thinking on the environment, then can't really be as bad as he's made out to be.


When the movie "Apollo 13" came out, everyone crowed about how realistic and wonderful it was.

When the movie "Saving Private Ryan" came out (another Hanks vehicle), everyone crowed about the first 40 minutes and how realistic, wonderful, and powerful it was.

I had the same problem with both films. With SPR, I had seen real footage of real bodies on the real beaches of Omaha enough times to get it. Seeing actors on a stage through a director's and cinematographer's eye simply can't compare to seeing black and white footage of real blood washing away from a real American soldier with real Navy ships in the background and real smoke still hanging in the air. The very thing that people thought made SPR wonderful was the very thing that would always disappoint with me. If you want power, you have to go to the real thing, not some made-up, fictionalized account, no matter how accurate it intends to be.

The same was true with A13. After seeing this movie:

in the theaters, no fictional account could possibly compare. Real documentary film footage of actual people doing their actual jobs performing the miracle of sending a two men to walk on the moon will always outclass a fictional account--even if it is filmed in the Vomit Comet.

I highly recommend this film, it is really wonderful. It is one of the few movies I ever went out of my way to get the movie poster for (thanks to the Oriental's annual poster sale!)

P.S. Several years ago, I had the opportunity to shake hands with Buzz Aldrin. It was a thrill. (Not to mention the fact that he is a voice of sanity in the whole global warming thing today!)

Foie Gras Jelly Donut

Foie Gras Jelly Donut?
This trend is obviously a backlash, a thumbing of collective noses against years of picky eaters, sauce-on-siders, vegans and other dietary malcontents so frequently bemoaned by fine-dining chefs, as well as a celebration of that delightful category of ingredients that will likely send you — both literally and figuratively — to heaven. Moderation and good common dietary sense have no place here. Foie gras jelly donuts, on the other hand…

To tell you the truth, I welcome this change.

I don't really see this as a backlash, I see it as a chef trying to show that he's got "attitude." Jelly donuts are delicious, so is foie gras. My reaction to the thought of Foie Gras Jelly Donut is "yuck," as it would be to sardine pizza with chocolate sauce.

Sounds like a selection for Bizarre Foods. Good show, by the way!

Ann says: I remember watching an episode of Jamie Oliver, where he talked about a chef-friend of his who prepared a very strange dessert for him: chocolate eggplant. Though Oliver thought that it was going to be disgusting, he actually liked it enough to present it on his show. I've been looking for the recipe online ever since. I can't imaging it being anything other than gross.

Half-blood Prince

As I have with each of the Harry Potter movies, I went to a midnight show last night. As I did with the release of the last book a couple years ago, I brought along my 9-year-old niece. I saw a handful of kids in the theater roughly her age, and maybe one or two younger.

She managed to get to bed around 8:30 last night, woke up and had a mini-meltdown at around 10:00--I didn't think she was going to be able to wake up and go when the time came, then she fell back asleep until 11:00 when I woke her up to go. I really, really didn't expect her to stay awake through the 153 minute long movie, but she did it, and she really liked it.

The movie has quite a quiet tone, in part because the one really big fight scene in the book really doesn't take place in the movie, although they added a different one that was not in the book. The critical event of the big fight happens, but none of the rest.

The movie stayed quite close to the book, with only a few changes here and there, nothing really major. (The last movie made a big mistake with the Room of Requirement, which I don't know how they will recover from for the last book. No such errors this time.)

They did skip one pretty important thing, by the end of the book, Harry had a much better idea of what he needs to do next than the Harry of the movie does. In short, there are a number of objects that Harry has to find in the last book, by the end of the 6th book, he has a rough idea of what most of them were. However, at the end of this movie, he really has no clue. I'm not sure how they are going to get over that hurdle in the next screenplay.

This movie was quite a bit funnier than most, which is kind of strange, because the bad guys are certainly on the move and really bad things are going to start happening soon. Most of the humor was about the trials and tribulations of teenagers in love.

I intend to see it again, but it was definitely a good movie.

Cute face

The kids were trying to show us how to make a "cute face" or a pleading, pathetic face:

Legos, Legos, and more Legos...

When we last checked in on our intrepid Lego Master, he had just completed the 5195 piece Millennium Falcon. At that time, we wondered where he could go from there. The answer was, first, the 3803 piece Death Star.

The thing is totally cool. Two fully operational elevators, lots of moving pieces including the trash compactor you can squish the characters in, and the big planet destroying ray moves around, Darth Vader's ship, and all the characters you need to reinact all the Death Star scenes from the first three movies.

What came next?

The Eiffel Tower (purchased very much on sale):

Here, Steven pretends to be a monster attacking the tower.

Smaller, at only 3428, it went together very quickly. Not as intricate as the other two, and more simple block stacking, but he still worked really hard on it. He completed the entire top section (you can see where the three independent sections are) in about 2 days.

For those keeping track, since April 28th, that is 12,426 Lego pieces assembled.

Next up? No clue, but there has been talk of the 5,922 piece Taj Mahal.

Dear Grandma

Thanks for the new dress!

The Answer to Everything!

Cartoons by Michael Ramirez. Highly recommended.

Future of Medical Innovation

Interesting post and comments at Will Wilkinson's blog.

Profligate U.S. spending on state-of-the-art treatments acts as a subsidy to the health care systems of other countries, who get to free-ride off American innovation and (often “wasteful”) market experimentation.

That's right. Why haven't we heard more about this?

The hen that lays golden eggs requires a lot of chicken feed. That doesn't mean we should cook her. Then our goose would be cooked! Wait, that's not right... well, whatever.

Economics Isn't Science

Greg Mankiw asks
An open question: How can the results in this paper be reconciled with results by John Cogan, Tobias Cwik, John Taylor, and Volker Wieland, who seem to perform a similar policy simulation in a similar model but reach a very different conclusion? Are there subtle differences in the models? Or subtle differences in the policy experiments? Or did one team simply make a mistake of some sort?

Short answer: Economics isn't science.

The Pickens Plan is Dead

A year ago today I wrote about T. Boone Pickens' energy plan
The plan itself seems to put a lot of emphasis on wind power and natural gas. I'm a little skeptical about the wind part, but the natural gas part sounds good for the short term. I would like to look a little closer on the practicality of wind power.

Now it seems the plan is dead
HOUSTON – Plans for the world's largest wind farm in the Texas Panhandle have been scrapped, energy baron T. Boone Pickens said Tuesday, and he's looking for a home for 687 giant wind turbines.

Sorry to hear that. I guess every billionaire is entitled to a Spruce Goose or two.


Instapundit linked to "60 Symbols" of astronomy (I'd say astrology) and physics. It's totally lame. For example the Greek lower-case lambda is labeled "lambda". Not eigenvalue, or anything cool. Just "lambda".

And the "h" in the upper right isn't even correct. Plank's constant has a off-kilter cross on the rise of the h.

Steve: I agree, pretty lame. Is there really a cat symbol used for Shroedinger's cat? N stands for "large numbers"? The brain icon is a symbol for MRI of the brain? Magic drinking bird? Huh? I think h-bar=h/(2*pi) though.


Available from Amazon:

"Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (Global Warming Edition) "

And here's a link for my brother.

Cool! The Giant Majin! Check out the rave reviews for the $120 collector's edition in original Japanese.


Dad predicted this long ago

New Wearable Feedbags Let Americans Eat More, Move Less

Title IX and California's energy regulations

Title IX has been applied to colleges to mean that equal numbers of men and women should participate in sports, regardless of the relative interest between the genders towards participation. As a result, and in order to meet the number-of-women = number-of-men requirement, schools have been shedding men's sports. Not increasing women's, but for the most part cutting men's volleyball, wrestling, etc. (This is one reason why colleges are having trouble recruiting men and are more-and-more women-dominated. Schools with strong sports and engineering programs tend to be more equal in male/female campus ratios than ones without strong men's sports or an engineering focus.)

This is one of those shocking, surprising, startling, and utterly predicable outcomes of this sort of numbers game.

Now, let's turn to California's power-market regulations which state that by 2020--just 11 years from now--one-third, 33%, of California's power must come from renewable sources (but don't you dare use the dreaded n-word....I mean nuclear, of course.)

Which one of these two paths is the easiest way to meet the 33% goal:
  1. Build lots of expensive and inefficient wind and solar plants that can not produce cost-effective energy, and must rely on government subsidy to lower the price to where consumers can consume it.

  2. Or shut down the non-renewable and poluting gas- and coal-fired plants, reduce over-all supply, but meet the 33% quota?
The answer, of course is #2. So, just as with Title IX, we are likely to see some increase in renewable energy, but a much bigger shut down of non-renewables. This in a state which had rolling third-world-style blackouts a couple of years back, and which barely makes enough power to meet current, pre-recession demand.

California's self-inflicted damage and stupidity is really a sight to behold.

I only wish I was beholding it from outside the state!

Nashville Impressions

A random list of first thoughts on the Nashville area:
  • It's hot. It was in the mid-nineties a couple of weeks ago at the end of June. It's cooled off since then, into the mid-eighties. But July and August are supposed to be hot here, with highs in the high-eighties. The rest of the year is usually mild.
  • It's humid. It has rained a lot recently. The weather reports say we are above average for precipitation recently. I hope so. It's rained 2.5 inches at our house since yesterday evening.
  • It's lush. I suppose it's a result of the two previous points. It's all very green here. A ten minute drive from our house takes you through forests and scenic high hills. The countryside is quite pretty.
  • People are friendly and polite here. We noticed this right away. It is a welcome change from the Northeast. We have met several neighbors and feel welcome. Our next-door neighbor, an older gentlemen, has been particularly nice to us. He has lent us a dolly to help with moving, and supplies us with cucumbers from his garden. They are very good. Harvesting by mid June!
  • It's tough to be a vegetarian here. This is a big barbecue town. It's also know for its "hot chicken" and "meat and three" restaurants. I'd like to try them all.
  • There are churches everywhere. What bars are to parts of Milwaukee churches are to Nashville... there is one on every corner. It's hard to believe that so many churches could be supported.
  • Overall, I like it here. I think it will be a nice place to live.
More may follow...

Cross off Another Section of the Constitution

What to make of this quote?

'Samore said administration lawyers are exploring the "different options that are available. One option is that both sides could agree to continue the inspections by executive agreement; that would work on our side. On the Russian side, as I understand it, that would require Duma approval."'

How quaint that in Russia treaties require legislative approval! Thank heavens we don't have that here anymore.

Tough on Baby

These last few weeks have been pretty tough on our baby, I think. There was leaving our familiar apartment, leaving her friends at daycare, getting to know our new place, going back to her old daycare for a few days, then starting a new daycare in Nashville. Also visits to an auntie, uncle and both sets of grandparents. Then there is mommy's new job, which keeps her away from home more than before. Today baby woke up at 6am to see her mommy off to work, then drank some milk and slept for four more hours. She must have needed the sleep. When she woke, she didn't cry at all. She just called out to me, then got herself out of bed. She came walking into the living room all smiles. It was great to see her in such a good mood. I took a few pictures.

Pancakes and applesauce! I hope things settle down here soon. It will be good for all of us.

Recovery Act Propaganda

I've seen a few road signs around town. These are not "this construction is brought to you by..." signs, which you can and should read about here. Instead, they are just stand-alone round signs showing the logo:

I don't see any nearby construction to which they might be referring. As such, I find them a little creepy.

Medical Residency

My wife has started her residency in Occupational Medicine here in Tennessee. This is a program within the more general Preventive Medicine program. Since she doesn't have clinical experience in the USA, she has to go through internship training.

She leaves home at 6am, drives 45 minutes to a VA hospital in the area, gets off at 4pm, and drives home. Every few days she is on-call, and has to work overnight, with very little sleep. It seems brutally intense to me, as she barely has time for lunch or a break. We are hoping that it gets a little easier after her Internal Medicine stint is over. And when her stint at the VA is over, she will be at a local hospital which is a 10 minute commute.

I really have to wonder who thought this system was a good idea. How effective can you be after 24+ hours on your feet? How much of what you hear are you going to be able to retain? My experience is that I have far less memory retention ability when I am exhausted. If the point of this internship is education, I think the long hours will be a hindrance.

For now, it's pretty tough. She's only home one day a week, so we don't get a proper weekend. I think both the baby and I miss her!


We have left our apartment in Brookline MA, and are now residing in Nashville TN. Seems like quite a change! I have a few thoughts on the process of moving.

I don't understand how some people can move every few years. It isn't easy. Perhaps they make it a point not to accumulate much stuff. A friend of mine recently left Boston for Ithaca NY. He just gave away all his furniture and left town with a suitcase. Not a bad system, but you are stuck with "bachelor furniture" then.

Professional moving is not cheap. It cost us about $5300 to have our two-bedroom apartment packed up, moved and unloaded. The only labor we had to do is the unpacking, which is still going on. There may also be uncertainty as to when your stuff will show up. They gave us a one-week window. The truck pulled up near the tail end of that. We slept in an empty apartment at both ends of our move. Overall though, I think that North American did a good job, at the going rate for the big-name movers.

There are a lot of details to deal with: address changes, shutting off and starting utilities, getting your car moved, finding daycare, etc. Most of these are not difficult, they just require organization and figuring things out. For example, what do you do with hazardous household materials like paint thinner? Unpacking is not easy either. We are going through boxes now, taking out what we need and storing the rest off site. Our new apartment has less storage space than the old. When we move again, I hope having some boxes pre-packed will make it easier.

In any event, I am happy to be down here! It is already feeling like home.

Employment Update

If it's the first Friday of the month (or Thursday before a holiday), it must be Employment Day!!!

Here's the current chart:

Notes on the report:

  • For the first time the employers'-survey employment numbers have dropped below it was when Bush took office.

  • Teenage unemployment took a big jump of 1.3%. This is a well-duh moment, since the minimum-wage jumps from $6.55 to $7.25 on July 25. It's not surprising that stressed companies are choosing not to hire, or letting go minimum-wage kids. And I remember getting $2.90/hour.

  • Black and Hispanic unemployment actually went down. (Black unemployment for the second straight month.) My explanation? I heard years ago that 60% of middle-class blacks work for the government--the one sector of the economy which is booming.

  • From the text of the report: "The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) increased by 433,000 over the month to 4.4 million. In June, 3
    in 10 unemployed persons were jobless for 27 weeks or more."

  • Men continue to be hit hardest, with an unemployment rate of 10.0%. Women clock in at 7.6% unemployed.