Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I've got a little something for you. It's right here in my pocket...

When we say that the art of writing letters is in decline, we need reference points. I would submit that this one, a letter from a freedman to his former master who offered him a job, sufficiently makes most modern-day attempts seem feeble by comparison.

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Excercise for you physics boffins.

In my new hobby gig as a hose-dragger, I've been practicing SCBA drills. We've been changing bottles in the dark or with a blinder mask on, donning and doffing at speed, going through obstacle courses with wax paper in our mask plates, etc. At the end of each exercises, you go to the compressor and refill the tanks. This is a fairly straightforward process, but one can't just dump the air from the waiting storage tanks in all at once, or the SCBA tanks get hot, and the air doesn't seem to want to go in. I mentioned the issue of the liquid boiling up, and one of the younger firefighters said, "liquid? It's just air. There's no liquid." I tried to explain that, thanks to Charles' Law (and Boyle's Law), gases under enough pressure do go to liquid state*, but he didn't get it.

We use the Scott air packs with carbon fibre tanks, and I hadn't realized just how awesome they were until we did some training with a neighboring agency that uses old Scott air packs with old steel tanks. The carbon fibre tanks are slightly larger than a 3-litre bottle in diameter, and a bit longer. They are filled to 4500 psi. The steel tanks are much larger --about 11" in diameter and a few inches longer-- and weigh about 4 times more. The steel tanks only go to 2500 psi.  Here's the thing: both hold 45 cubic feet of air.

Interestingly, both packs will take each others' bottles, but the more modern carbon fibre bottles have to be bled down to 2500psi before being put on the older packs. Better than nothing, but not good. Given the decreased volume, 2500 psi on one of those is not much.

Supposedly, 45'^3 of air is good for thirty minutes. In my experience, I get about 10 to 15 when laboring. Hey, I'm a big boy.

While refilling the carbon fibre bottles, the same young guy gets really frustrated at how very long it takes to get from 3800 psi to 4000psi, which we've set as the minimum amount that the bottles must be filled. The large electric compressor labors for a long time, long after the storage bottles are depleted.
I told him that I am quite sure that the mass of air stacks with the volume-- it's not a linear progression for amount of air inserted for a given volume over a given time from 2500 to 2700psi, say, as it is to 3800 to 4000 psi.

So here is my question, and Stingray, take note:

For a given cylinder of, say: 6" X 21", what is the amount of volume of air (at STP) being inserted between between 2500 psi and 2700 psi?

Then, what's the volume of air (at STP) being inserted between 4000 psi and 4200 psi?

Express your answer in equivalent cubic feet, at STP.

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*EDIT: Though, probably not in this case. Consensus seems to be that the pressure isn't high enough to achieve liquid air, in these bottles.

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Well, that's cool.

As I'm now 40, I finally got into the doctor's for my 40,000 mile checkup. "Check me out from head to toe," I asked.

The doc did the normal poking and vitals-taking, and looking, and ordered a bunch of blood tests to see what all was going on inside me. I allowed that I actually felt fine.

"As to the prostate exam," he finally said, "we use the Prostate Specific Antigen test.  The PSA is a much better indicator than feeling, through a rubber glove, and through a colon wall, a specific gland which we have personally  probably never checked before, for change. The digital-rectal exam is 60% accurate. We can do better than that. So we'll just look at your blood, and if the PSA is too high, we'll deal with it from there."*

I looked at him, realizing that I got to leave my pants on.

I pointed at my face in a circular motion. "This is not the look of a patient who is disappointed."

They should advertise this from billboards along the highway. "We'll check your prostate, without putting our finger where the sun doesnt' shine."

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*Yes, I'm aware of a fairly high incidence of false positives. But that's okay; you run it again, and if it's still positive, you run an MRI, CAT, and/or sonograph.

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Awesome. Not enough, but awesome.

I love a movie grill. I can combine my dinner with my movie, and have a beer with my popcorn, and make it back home to the sitter without taking all night.

Down in Austin, one of the best of them is the Alamo Drafthouse. Now, I've never been to the Alamo Drafthouse, before. But I know that they are made of win. How? Why, I know this because, not only do they kick out a teenage girl who couldn't stop texting during her movie, but when she called to make a complaint, they posted her profanity-laced voicemail on YouTube, and on their blog. (Cussing bleeped, but it's clear what she's saying.)

My only complaint? They evidently ejected her with her aforementioned phone intact.

I get down to Austin a fair bit, and the next time I do, I'm getting a beer and a movie at the Austin Drafthouse, at one of their five convenient locations.

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

New kicks

My new fire boots. In addition to being the most expensive footgear that I've ever owned, they're the biggest, even for me. Those are 13" tiles that I'm standing on. The huge leather steel toes make it feel like I should be doing a rendition of "Puttin' On The Ritz".

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Withholding participation pending review.

I haven't read the text from SOPA or PIPA yet.

I've got friends and family who make or have made their livings from selling their intellectual property. They make something up, publish it, and other people pay for it, and they eat. "Piracy" undermines that. Someone who wants their product, and should by rights pay for it, gets it without paying.

Think of your favorite musician, writer, or programmer, and ask yourself what their incentive is to publish their work, if no one pays them for that work. This interferes with the free market.

A problem, of course, is that the Internet is not a national market; it is a global one. We can't control the world just because we say so.

In general, I'm against extra legislation. And of course the test to see if Sky-Is-Falling legislation is really needed is to stop for a day or two and see if, in fact, the Sky really is Falling.

I have some reading to do before I jump on any bandwagons, though.

And so do y'all.

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thursday morning random thoughts.

--James Carville calls Rick Perry the worst campaigner in the history. That's not far from right, when you weigh expectations and resources against outcome. Come on back to Texas, Rick, before you blow the cred that we need you to keep while dealing with the feds on the border issue in the future.

-- Officer Daniel Harless has been fired by the Canton Police Department. Let's give the CPD their due: they did what needed doing. They also reviewed the question of whether they should charge Harless with a crime, and turned it over to prosecutor.
The city law department asked the Massillon prosecutor’s office to determine whether Harless’ actions warranted criminal charges. John Simpson, chief prosecutor for the city of Massillon, said that he reviewed state law for menacing, aggravated menacing and assault, but there was insufficient evidence to support any charges.

“I’m not condoning anything the officer did, because (it’s) totally inappropriate,” he said.

Simpson said he examined the question of whether “a threat (is) being made when you say, ‘I should have’ or ‘I should do this,’ but (Harless does not) fulfill any of those.”

I'll accept that. Let him walk the earth cloaked in his own wretchedness, but no longer a police officer.

--One of our officers, who is slated to go to firearms instructor's school, has taken to completely condemning the use of pistol-mounted lasers, across the board. Given the superb design of the products from Crimson Trace, which (when mounted properly) in no way impede the normal operation of the pistol, and which are activated by simply drawing the pistol, I'm confused by his position. He says that because people will become dependent on the laser, they will quickly lose their ability to use the sights, and thus will be in Deep Trouble when the laser inevitably breaks. Only the expert, he contends, should ever have one. Our differences have come to a middle on this issue.

--There's a mounting news story about a video of some US Marines that urinated on Taliban corpses. While talking about it with my wife this morning, I was split. Hey, guys in the heat of combat do strange things. My wife sensibly said, "No. When you're in the uniform and show such disrespect for corpses, people will believe you have no respect for life. Those guys' family could have been watching. What do they think of other US armed forces in uniform, now?" She's absolutely right, of course. We need a Basic Training course called "Respect Your Uniform, If Not Your Foe". Alternately, it could be called: "Ruining It For Everybody."  Stuff like this turns our enemies into a Hydra.

--On the radio, they were going on and on about the anniversary of "The Catch," which was some big play in American football in 1982. So I went to look at it. Huh. I guess it was a pretty good throw, under pressure, and a good catch. But what's the big deal?

--We have 91,000 troops in Afghanistan. I know one of them. You probably know one or two, too. Don't forget them.

--I had two DWI trials scheduled this week. Both pled at the last minute. One of them, a felony Driving While Intoxicated Third Or More, took nine years. He's parole eligible after 1/4 of his sentence is served, if he's good, and then he has to fulfill the requirements of his parole for the remainder of what would be his sentence. It's humbling to realize that a case that I put together can take away a man's life for that long. I don't take that fact lightly. I'm proud of the work on that case. If the deputy who was originally assigned to the call had made the arrest and worked the case, it's very possible likely that the guy either wouldn't have taken the plea, or wouldn't have pled for so much time.  Is that pride talking? Yeah. It is. I'm proud of my reputation as a solid DWI investigator.  We're told in classes that the defense attorneys talk among themselves about which cops put up weak cases backed by weak testimony, and which cops put together strong cases that had best be pled out. When I was a rookie, I went to court all the time over DWI cases. Now, I hardly ever go. If that's my reputation working, then I'll take it.

--There's a prosecutor at the DA's office whose first case ever to present in court was a DWI 2nd that I had made the arrest in while still a rookie. Rookie ADA, rookie cop, professional drunk, and very sharp Dallas attorney all entered the room. The Dallas attorney did a great job of flustering the rookie cop on the stand, and some easy lobs that the ADA now would have objected to he didn't catch. The guy walked. Now, more than a decade later, every time I see that prosecutor, he comes over and shakes my hand and smiles and mentions the defendant in that case by his full name. I think that case haunts him just a little bit. But some good came out of it. I improved my report-writing so that I wouldn't be flustered at my inability to answer rapid-fire defense attorney questions. The ADA went on to become a very solid prosecutor. And, looking online, I see now that that the defendant has never been arrested in my county again*.  All's well that ends well.

--The guy at the bank lost my license yesterday. I'm not mad; I just want that thing back. He said he'd check to see if it was in the tube. Silliness. I think I may just have to go get another one. The last time I went by the driver's license bureau, the lady behind the counter, who recognized me, gave me a line pass. I was in street clothes and not on duty. I didn't ask for it. You're damned right I accepted it. I really hope that it works out that way again this time. Everybody hates the drivers** license office.

--I've been listening to Sallie Ford And The Sound Outside. Different. I like it.

--Spell-checking this document, I see that Blogger doesn't recognize the past tense of plea, nor does it recognize the word recuse, in any tense.
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*And that his high-powered attorney got the case expunged, too.

**Okay, should it be "Driver's License Office"?  Or should it be "Drivers' License Office"? I could make a case for either. Or should it be "Driver License Office," without an apostrophe or an S, out of consistency with the document itself, which is labeled across the top: "Texas Driver License"?***

***I just pulled out my wallet to double check that. Duh. My license is missing.

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Saturday, January 07, 2012

Shooting the kid.

The other day, Brownsville cops shot and killed a 15 year old boy who was brandishing a gun in a school with over 700 kids in it.

The family is upset, saying it was unnecessary use of force*. The boy was just an 8th grader. He was a Good Student**. He was a Good Boy. Active in his church. Not affiliated with gangs. It was only a pellet gun. They shouldn't have shot a minor and certainly not more than once, and DEFINITELY not in the back of the head. Tragic over-reaction, says the family.

Really? Let's listen to the 911 call.  Huh. People were bunkered down. The kid was roaming the halls of a school full of kids. He'd been told repeatedly to put the gun down. He was not in Taser range. He'd said that he was not afraid to die. He was displaying this:
I've posted my concerns about bullet magnets before, and written of an incident almost ten years ago with one. I recall how, at that time, when I presented the boy with his own Airsoft version of a CZ75 from my own holster, the kid didn't even recognize his own plastic gun:
In Brownsville:
The boy threatened people with the gun, which looked very realistic.
The boy talked about not being afraid to die.
The boy was mobile in a school full of potential victims and hostages.
The boy had been challenged, and refused to put the apparent weapon down.
Bullets from the gun of a juvenile kill people just as dead as those from the gun of an adult.
This was sadly a suicide by cop, performed by an unstable kid.

The Brownsville cops did what they had to do.
And that's a damned shame.



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*In that ridiculous story, the reporter does his Live! stand-up in Dallas, TX. Even using Google Earth to stretch a line from Dallas to Brownsville, it's 475 miles, and that takes you over the Gulf of Mexico. Google Maps says that the short route to drive it (through Victoria) is actually 529 miles. Why the network thought that it means ANYTHING to have the reporter stand outside in Dallas, TX is beyond me. It would make about as much sense to have a reporter stand outside of a mobile van in New York City to report on a shooting in Hampstead, NC. (which is the same distance by air.)


** Nothing like getting it right the third time. My 8th grader is only 13, and actually started 8th grade when she was only 12. By age 15, I was about 6'4", 200+ lbs, and wore my first beard as a sophomore in high school. Physically, I was indistinguishable from a grown man.

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Monday, January 02, 2012

BEP fail.

I am not superstitious. I don't eat black-eyed peas* on New Years Day because I believe that they're going to give me good luck. Heck, given the fact that I've very possibly consumed them every single New Year's Day of my life, I have thus probably eaten them on the first day of the worst year of my life.

But tradition sticks to you, like a steaming bowl from a Big Pot Of Black Eyed Peas sticks to your ribs. For what it's worth, Homesick Texan gets it exactly right; that's the (heretofore unwritten for me) recipe that I've always used, generally served with a double or triple batch of cornbread.

But some years, as with this one, I just don't have my ducks in a row, and I don't get my dried peas on to soak in time the night before, so I have to resort to a can of peas to keep my yearly tradition. Hey, some of y'all have undoubtedly resorted to expedient measures to get your dose of turkey on Thanksgiving, too.

This year, I bumped the shelf, and a can of Ranch Style brand Blackeye Peas (Seasoned With Bacon) fell into my shopping cart.  Well okay. I've always liked the Trappey's Jalapeño Black Eye Peas (Flavored With Slab Bacon), but I figured hey-- let's give Ranch Style a try. After all, aren't they the good people who brought us the ("Husband Appetite-Pleasin'")  Ranch Style Beans** of greatness? 

I tried them, and something was badly off about the taste. It was... too sweet. Way too sweet. Why are my black-eyed peas sweet??

I read the ingredients list on the can, and I have an announcement for one and all: avoid Ranch Style Blackeye Peas!  First ingredient: Blackeye Peas. Second ingredient: Water. Third ingredient: Sugar.  Sugar?!? 

Wrong.

Complete fail.

Choose the greatness of Trappey's for the safest bet.

Ranch Style/ConAgra: Get your act together, or omit the Blackeye Peas product altogether. It puts a black eye on the superb Ranch Style product line that you've built over the last century.

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*You will note that I say it three or more different ways here. I have always said it "black-eyed peas" or "black eyed peas," but I note that Ranch Style and Trappey's have their own ways of listing them, which I fathfully reproduce here when referring to their respective products.

**I notice in the comments at the bottom of that page, a comment made by "Homesick Texan" from back in 2008. I wonder if it could be the same one whose blog I referenced earlier in this post? Huh. What are the chances? I mean, there are a lot of Texans abroad out there, and a lot (most?) are given to homesick, but how many regularly post about legumes?

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Take a breath, would you?

I'm talking to you, the reporter who's looking to write your story about the murder of Rainier National Park Ranger Margaret Anderson. Yes, it's true that a little over a year after firearms were legally permitted in national parks, a park ranger was shot and killed. And it's true that it's not common for federal law enforcement to be killed. (In the decade from 1997 through 2006 for example, only 15 of the 562 cops feloniously killed* were federal law enforcement.)

But trying to link the permission of guns in the parks with Ranger Anderson's slaying is ridiculous.

Benjamin Colton Barnes, the shooter in this case, was already on the lam for having been involved in a shooting of 4 people south of Seattle.  He apparently fled to what he considered to be a good hidey-hole: Rainier National Park. In fact, that's an exceptionally stupid place to go, because it is patrolled by rangers (a national forest would have made a lot more sense) and he stuck out when he tried to pass through a controlled access point. When they tried to stop him, he ran (yet another violation of the law), and when they tried to roadblock him, he shot at the pursuing law enforcement officers (a final violation of the law), killing one.

Does any part of this story suggest that, prior to 2010, Barnes would have uttered the following sentence to himself?



"Whatever I do, I mustn't enter the confines of any property owned by the National Park Service system! They've got laws forbidding firearms, there!!!"
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*Aside from the 9/11/2001 attack.

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