Our Skools

How parents put up with public schools is completely beyond me.  I would be tearing my hair out.  I hope a lot of parents are getting used to pushing back hard and often.


Both of my Senators just voted against the NRA. I don't think that's ever happened before.

Of course, it was just to open debate, not to pass a final law. If the Senators come back in the fold before the law passes, the NRA probably comes out ahead because ultimately-loyal votes look less like pets. Still, I'm surprised to see the open defiance by both of Georgia's Senators.

I suppose that opens up a possible slot to the right of Saxby Chambliss. Grim for Senate, 2014?

How to create a famine

It's easy.  Just try to ensure affordable food for all with doctrinaire collectivist tools.   Venezuela is flirting with it:
During his 14 years as president, Mr. Chávez nationalized swaths of farmland to form collectives, took control of agriculture supplies, and set limits on food prices as part of his socialist project to ensure affordable food for all.
Now, to socialists' amazement, the country imports 70% of its food supply and is increasingly exposed to nutritional disaster.  The government naturally blames "widespread supermarket shortages on hoarding by businesses who want to create instability and bring down the government."

(1) Concern for the poor.
(2) Price controls.
(3) Supply crash.
(4) Allegations of hoarding.
(5) Doubling down centralized economic control.
(6) Famine.

Where have we seen this before?

The Harbinger of Blood-Soaked Rainbows

So, it turns out that the Mantis Shrimp is a pretty impressive creature.

Lars Walker on Annette Funicello

Mr. Walker makes an interesting point.
Through all her career she was never – so far as I’ve been able to tell – involved in a scandal. The bikini movies were a little risque by the standards of the day, but she never did anything that crossed the line. Her image remained wholesome.... The question occurred to me today – what would have happened to her if she’d been born later, and had come to fame in our own time?

That’s not a hard question to answer. She did appear again, in a sense, in the person of Britney Spears. And Lindsey Lohan. And Miley Cyrus.

Why was Annette able to live a life of dignity, while these younger women, born with the “advantage” of a culture that claims to promote the dignity and rights of women, have quickly made public jokes (and dirty ones) of themselves?

Not to say the younger girls didn’t have lots of “help.” Hollywood is certainly a field well-strewn with pitfalls. Money and fame at an early age are dangerous drugs in themselves, even before you get to the pills and powder.

But Hollywood was no convent school in the 1950s, either. Anybody who worked there in those days will tell you the predators were out in force, and there were ample opportunities for partying.

Annette, I think, benefited from Puritanism. She benefited from a double standard. She benefited from repression, and hypocrisy, and all those awful social constraints we despise the Fifties for today.

A girl in Annette’s position, if she wanted to be a “good girl,” actually had social resources available to her. America was in her corner, back then.

Fruit of the Poisoned Tree Redux

So in a completely bizarre series of redirects, I came across this article from 1997 today:

In it, there is a discussion of the fact that a widely used set of anatomical illustrations came from Nazi sympathetic sources.  And there's even the possibility that the artists who created the medical illustrations may have used cadavers of victims of the Nazis.  And the question arises, should their use be spurned.

And I was reminded of the "fruit of the poisoned tree" discussion The Hall had previously entertained.  But this is slightly more intriguing for me.  Before, the discussion was "should we hold the philosophy of a Nazi sympathizer suspect."  And the answer seemed to be pretty unanimous that, indeed those ideas are tainted by his Nazism.  But, this is less clear cut.  Assuming the cadavers used were not victims of Nazi murder, should these anatomical painting be considered (forgive the word) verboten because of their source?  Mind you, the accuracy and scientific nature of the paintings are not in question, just the morality of using diagrams painted by Nazis.  Now, the discussion changes (but not necessarily the answers, depending on the individual philosophy) if the cadavers used as models were victims of the Nazis.  But either way, I find myself intrigued as to the feelings of The Hall on this.

So Apparently This Is Racist...

Well, what isn't now?

If anything, it sounds apologetic to me -- on both sides. A worthy start, or something no one should ever dare say?

It's a good question. I'd like to have a similar conversation, and a similar consensus, with my very great friends from the war who happened to be black. We lived together day and night in those days. I wish I knew how to make a country as good as we were, in a foreign land that hated us all equally.

Applying mathematical rigor to bollocks

The Venn Diagram of Irrational Nonsense, with pride of place to Scientology.

Therapy for bystanders

I'm no expert, but this article confirms my husband's and my experience with amateur CPR as practiced locally by our volunteer fire department.  On one occasion, a man administered CPR to his fairly young and healthy friend who collapsed right by his side, and who went on to an apparently full recovery.  On every other occasion, we were acting out a strange social ritual that had very little to do with the ostensible patient.

Night Watch

I suspect most Americans wouldn't get the reference, but in Amsterdam it's still locally important enough that the folks in the mall understood.


Sometime take the road by Fort Mountain, and follow it east to the Maysville Saloon. Just past there is a place called Hurricane Shoals, which is worth stopping by on a pleasant afternoon in the spring. It's even better in high summer, when the water over the stones rushes cool about your ankles.

We're just this week getting real spring weather, and the trees have popped into a haze of green and red and white. My pear trees are already merrily bedecked, but the apple trees are still budding. I hope we might see some apples this year. It has been three years since I planted those trees, and I would like to eat an apple off them one day.

The Iron Lady Passes

We note with regret the passing of Margret Thatcher, the last of the giants of her age. There remain many lights of that age still with us, but the three greatest are now gone: Reagan, John Paul II, and now she herself.

I find myself a little surprised this morning, because somehow it never occurred to me that she could die. She seemed so indomitable that, at some un-examined and subconscious level, I must have assumed she would simply refuse.

UPDATE: Max Boot on the vindication of Thatcher against those who opposed her policies.

Thomas Jefferson and Spammers

There's an old xkcd cartoon, thus.

The new generation of spam that has been flooding into the blog lately is sometimes almost there. Usually it's obviously automatically generated, irrelevant nonsense, but I just read a spam post on Thomas Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase that I almost published separately. The only problem with it is that, since it is spam, I'd have to look up all the details to see if they were accurate or not.

Keep it up, spammers! If you can find a way to demonstrate the accuracy of your claims as well, I might actually publish your adds for tooth ("plural teeth") caps and easy-credit loans. Footnotes maybe?

News from the Solar Pocket Factory

These guys continue to charm me.  I've rarely been so happy with a minor investment:
We've got our new Solar Pocket Factory building working panels like boomsticks, and it's fricking awesome to have a machine capable of making hundreds of thousands of solar watts a year that we can pack into our checked airplane baggage.  We had us a cleantech passover seder in Hong Kong, complete with thermoelectric lights running off the shabbat candles and solar quippas with USB outputs.  We just ran a booth this weekend at Shenzhen Maker Faire where people made their own panels on the spot, and i t was insanely fun. Shawn made a solar-powered flipbook.  We've bought our tickets out to San Mateo Maker Faire in May, which will be the first public appearance of the Solar Pocket Factory(come by and say hello!).  All in all, it feels like we've dreamt a little bit of the future, and it's coming true. Not bad for a year's hacking. 
One other thing happened this week:  we figured out how to make the pocket factories cheap.  Shawn and I were experimenting with different techniques for laminating and waterproofing a solar panel, and we came up with a very simple method of building a pane that produces remarkably robust, waterproof panels using only plastic film and a $30 office laminator.  The simplicity of this technique means that we can make small panels that cost less per watt than large rooftop panels, on a machine that costs a couple thousand dollars, rather than millions of dollars.  We love that we're able to get into the guts of solar panels and dream up new w ays to use solar in our lives, and now we're very excited about the possibility of creating simple, low-cost tools for cleantech hacking. We've been at this for a year, now, and we're just getting warmed up.  More to come, very soon! 
In web news, we're pleased to announce that solarpocketfactory.com is now live, combining our Pocket Pages blog, a web store for kits, high-quality solar panels and other solar hacking goods.  We're looking forward to another awesome year of cleantech hacking.