Wednesday, June 28, 2017

I think I'll apply for the vacancy

From 'Pearls Before Swine' yesterday:

Working as a prison chaplain will demonstrate, every single day, that there is, indeed, "room for a punching saint".  I daresay most law enforcement officers of my acquaintance would claim that their profession is even more like that, and I wouldn't argue with them!


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

So far, so good

Miss D. and I are spending the night in Maumelle, Arkansas, just outside Little Rock, after a pleasant drive across Oklahoma.  Since our vehicles are both more than a decade old, and not as reliable as they were, we splurged on renting a nice car for the trip, which has made it much more comfortable.

We made sure to visit Frank's Italian Restaurant in Van Buren (which we discovered while commuting between Tennessee and northern Texas during our house-hunting expeditions in 2015) for a late lunch.  They've moved to new premises, but the food was as delicious as ever.  We'll make a point of eating there whenever we pass this way.

We'll head for Tennessee tomorrow.  We have a bit of business to do here and there before we get to Chattanooga on Thursday, and LibertyCon begins on Friday.  It's going to be a hectic weekend!

I'll try to put up more blog articles tomorrow morning, if this very spotty hotel Internet connection doesn't let me down.


LibertyCon, here we come!

Miss D. and I are heading for LibertyCon, to be held in Chattanooga, Tennessee, over the coming weekend.  We're both scheduled as speakers, and there'll be other activities to keep us busy.  It's the one convention we really make an effort to attend every year.  It's small enough to be manageable, and there's usually a great bunch of people in attendance.

We'll be driving there over the next few days, and heading home when the convention is over.  Blogging will, of course, be light while we're on the road, and probably while we're at the convention as well.  I'll post as and when I can, and I'll try to queue up a few posts in the evening to pop up during the following day or two, depending on my schedule.  Meanwhile, I'll be grateful if those of you so inclined will say a prayer or two for us, for traveling mercies, a safe arrival there, and a safe homecoming.


I'm so glad I'm not in the dating market any more . . .

Courtesy of Wirecutter:

Er . . . WTF???


Monday, June 26, 2017

Sounds like medical miracle goo to me!

I'm happy to read that an experimental treatment for victims of landmine blasts, that was still under development, has produced its first 'save'.

Vets and scientists successfully repaired the leg of a two-year-old Munsterlander named Eva who suffered a serious leg fracture of her right foreleg after being hit by a car last year.

Despite efforts of specialists the difficult 0.7 inch (2cm) wide break would not heal and Eva was left facing the prospect of life on three legs.

But fortunately for Eva she had been taken to the University of Glasgow’s Small Animal Hospital where vet William Marshal heard by chance about an experimental new treatment that colleagues were working on to help landmine or bomb victims.

A special putty made of bone flakes and a bone-growth protein was packed into the wound and within just seven weeks the fracture had completely healed.

“We are absolutely thrilled with Eva’s recovery,” said owner Fiona Kirkland, of Lenzie, near Glasgow.

“When we heard about an experimental treatment that might help her, we had no idea it was connected to such an important project.

“It is amazing to think that the treatment used to heal Eva’s leg will help researchers one day repair the bones of landmine blast survivors. I’m very grateful to everyone at the University of Glasgow.”

. . .

Trials on patients were not expected to start for a few more years, but Eva’s situation was desperate. If the new bone-growth treatment was not tried, the only other option was to amputate.

As a last resort before amputation, Mr Marshall took a mixture of bone chips and coated them with PEA and BMP-2 before placing the mixture in the 2cm gap in Eva’s front leg, the first time the mixture has ever been used in a treatment.

Although initially designed to help treat blast survivors, the technology has the potential to be used for anyone who needs new bone tissue.

There's more at the link.

Having seen at first hand, and rather too often for comfort, the effects of landmines on people who stumble across them, I really hope that this success spurs further - and faster - research to perfect the treatment.  It may alleviate the suffering of literally thousands of people every year, not just landmine victims, but anyone with similar bone injuries.


Doofus Of The Day #964

Today's award goes to an overenthusiastic tank driver in Belarus.

The city of Minsk — the capital of the Russia-aligned state of Belarus — was today preparing for an upcoming military parade.

Columns of military vehicles had taken up position and were practising rolling through the city’s street.

But one tank seems to have been somewhat out-of-place and behind in time.

So the driver poured on the gas and the tracked vehicle leapt down the slick, wet road in the city’s centre.

Social media posts of video and pictures show what happened next.

Hitting the brakes had little effect in slowing the 60-ton beast.

The heavy tank skidded, went sideways — and then demolished a streetside light pole.

Not to mention gouge up the pavement and gutter of the median strip.

There's more at the link.  A tip o' the hat to Australian reader Snoggeramus for sending it to me.

Here's footage of the accident.

That'll probably buff out of the tank . . . but I'm not so sure about the light post, the median strip or the road surface!


Our new, greatly enlarged back yard

Our contractor has been working hard for the past ten days or so, putting up a new privacy fence around our newly acquired property behind the house, knocking down and removing the old fence that separated it from our home, improving the drainage, and generally putting everything together.  (We're using the same contractor that enclosed our porch to form an office for me before we moved in.)  I've felt very sorry for him and his men, working hard in 100-degree-plus heat, but they seem to have survived it OK, with the help of copious quantities of water and soft drinks.

Here's how the back yard looked previously.  In this picture, the window nearest to the camera (with the air-conditioning unit) is my office.  For scale, the garden shed on the far side is about 7½ feet square.  (Click each image for a larger view.)

Here's the view from the other side of the house, between the corner and the garden shed, looking back towards my office.

Here's how the expanded yard looks.  It's almost three times larger than it was.  The first two pictures are taken from the same positions as the two above, but the expanded yard is too big for my cellphone camera to show it all;  so the third picture is taken from a central point, to show the part that doesn't fit into the previous shots.  You can see the strip of bare earth where the old fence used to stand.  (Most of the houses visible over the fence in the first image below are about 100 yards or more distant, on the far side of a street.  Only the one on the right, visible above the garden shed, adjoins ours.  We have open land to that side and far behind the house, making it feel more rural than suburbia from those perspectives, if you know what I mean.)

The last picture above shows, low center-left, the bare patch where the garden shed used to be.  We've moved it down to the bottom of the newly expanded yard.  It's a home-built unit, knocked together (rather poorly) by the previous owner.  In due course, we'll replace it with a larger, better-built shed, and perhaps also a writing hut for me on the other side of the yard.  Miss D. is also talking about a paved patio, with a fire-pit and pergola, and some raised beds for square foot gardening.  We'll put everything on the agenda for further down the road, when we can afford the next round of upgrades.

I'm very glad we got the opportunity to buy the extra land, particularly at so good a price.  It's transformed our back yard.  Once we've finished with it, it'll enhance the whole property - and it's probably already added three or four times more to our home's overall value than everything we've paid to buy it and fence it in.  It was a very good deal.


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sunday morning music

Here's a great rendition of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, recorded in 1990 at the Gasteig Philharmonic Hall in Munich, Germany.  The soloist is the then-sixteen-year-old Maxim Vengerov, and the conductor of the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra is Pavel Kogan.

I've always thought that Tchaikovsky, in particular, sounds best when played by a Russian orchestra, conductor and soloist.  There's something about his music that draws out the national character, I suspect.  At any rate, this was a rousing performance.


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Legalized narcotics and car accidents

I wasn't surprised to see a report this week that correlated the incidence of vehicle accidents with the legalization of formerly illicit narcotics.

According to the HLDI [Highway Loss Data Institute], past researchers haven't been able to "definitively connect marijuana use with real-world crashes," and even a federal study failed to find such a link. "Studies on the effects of legalizing marijuana for medical use have also been inconclusive," said the HLDI.

Instead, the group focused on three states -- Colorado, where legal marijuana retail sales started in 2014, as well as Oregon and Washington, where sales began in 2015 -- and compared them to the collision claims in neighboring states such as Nevada and Utah, parts of which now allow only medical marijuana. It also factored in statistics regarding the three states where recreational use is now legal from before it became available to the general public.

Colorado saw the largest estimated increase in claim frequency -- 14 percent more than its bordering states, while Washington state was 6 percent greater and Oregon had a 4 percent increase. Allowing for the total control group, "the combined effect for the three states was a smaller, but still significant at 3 percent," said HLDI Vice President Matt Moore.

There's more at the link.

So much for those who claim that the use of such narcotics is a 'victimless crime', affecting no-one but the consumer of the drugs.  Not so much.  We all pay for this in higher insurance premiums, and some of us pay in terms of injuries, pain and suffering, too - if not death, either our own or that of a loved one, killed by a hopped-up driver.

I know some will claim that the situation is no different with legalized narcotics than it is with alcohol.  Both cause the same problem.  Nevertheless, why add to the existing problem by legalizing new ways to become intoxicated?  That doesn't make much sense to me . . .


Thwarting data-miners and privacy-invading snoopers

I had to laugh at a recent post at Raconteur Report on how to frustrate, thwart and totally mess up those who are trying to mine every detail about you, whether for surveillance or profit.  Here's an excerpt.

Go by the local bookstore.
Collect 50 magazine blow-in subscription cards while you browse.
From political and religiously slanted periodicals, when possible.
Sign up for the magazines using your own name.
No middle initials.
At 17 real addresses you never lived at, all around the country.
Mail them in.
Next month, do the same thing for 5 people randomly selected.
Forward all your junk mail **** to those addresses.
Ideally, by responding to it using those addresses.
(And if you can’t figure out how to pull the same thing off online using dead end g-mail and yahoo addresses, you’re not tall enough for that ride.)

. . .

Send $5 to each of 13 religious organizations. All different than yours.
And three atheist organizations.
And the Flat Earth Society, and the Church Of The Flying Spaghetti Monster.
And the NRA, and the ACLU.

. . .

Get some cheap burner phones. (Quantity optional.)
Use them, and a prepaid cash gift card from Visa or MasterCard. Give one of the new phone number(s) out, with your name, every time you’re asked for a phone number that’s nobody’s goddam business, and order different inexpensive oddball crap to yourself.
At each of the 17 addresses you don’t live at.
Bonus: Use Amazon.
Send yourself Mein Kampf at one address, Mao’s Little Red Book at another, Shrillary’s It Takes a Village at a third, and Barry Goldwater’s Conscience Of A Conservative at a fourth address, and so on. Get the cheapest crappiest used copies listed.

. . .

For maybe 200 bucks, you can so **** up data miners, you’ll be listed at a dozen or more addresses you never lived at, and half a dozen phone numbers you won’t ever use, and be registered as belonging to every political and religious group on the planet. If 100 people did it, then did it to half a dozen random strangers, data mining them would be like looking for a needle in a wrecked auto junkyard, with a metal detector. Blindfolded.

. . .

And in case you never read Hayduke’s Revenge books, any time someone asks for a Social Security number that’s none of their goddam business, Richard Nixon’s number is 567-68-0515.

And there’s also a list of more Social Security numbers online, for Kurt Cobain, Walt Disney, etc.  Knock yourself out.

There's more at the link.  Go read the whole thing.

Evil, devilish and fiendish ideas . . . but I think all of them may be a lot of fun (from our point of view, that is).