Thursday, July 31, 2008

LED Bulbs

A variety of people are claiming that LED lights are going to be the next big thing in lighting. Well, if their efficiency is as planned, I sure hope so, but I think a bit of caution is in order here.

For example, the standard lightbulb in our country, the 60W, produces about 1100 lumens. Here's a link to an 1100 lumen LED bulb. Notice anything?

Yeah, it's $54 plus shipping and handling, and it works off 12V DC instead of 110V AC. In other words, the user must provide a power supply (say $10), integrate it in to house wiring ($100 if you're not an electrician), and then you're good to go.

So when does it pay for itself? Well, given that you can get a 60W equivalent CF bulb for $2 or so, never if you don't break the CF bulbs and require cleanup. If you're comparing to incandescents, after 12000 to 32000 hours if you don't count the opportunity cost, never if you do.

In other words, these things need to come down in price by about a factor of five before they're cost effective. Oh, and by the way; I haven't even factored in the reality that power supplies don't last that long, either.

Ah ehm so glad...

....that Barack Obama done told me to fill my cah's tahs with ayer. Till now I'd been fillin' 'em with shine instead.

Come to think of it, if he's elected, that's not a half bad idea......

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Hearty congratulations! Ben and Faith, who apparently got engaged last night. Kudos to both of them (who are so sweet on each other, they routinely give diabetes to hummingbirds when they're together) for remembering that it's not the "romantic setting" that matters, but rather the person you're with.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Proverbs 31 wife and household clutter

Have you ever considered that the Proverbs 31 wife may not have a "Better Homes and Gardens" or "Martha Stewart" standard of housekeeping? Well, if you haven't, do; consider the fact that this woman is spinning, weaving, and dying cloth. Consider the fact that she's providing portions for her servants as well, and consider the implications.

You've got a kitchen that's well used; wheat in one corner, the kneading trough in another, grindstone in another, and places for oil (and olives), wine, and other necessaries. In another room, you've got wool and linen in one corner, washed wool and beaten linen in another, spindle and distaff with yarn in another, and half-finished weaving yet elsewhere. Talk about clutter in a home used for actual work! So if you've got a project or ten sitting out on the ping pong table, just tell your detractors that you're trying to be like the Proverbs 31 wife.

Consider also how this woman is treating those who work for her. No corner office autocrat barking orders at subordinates, but rather a woman leading by example. In other words, she doesn't do all this because she has servants, but rather she has servants because she does all this.

And yes, men ought to take note, too, and not just in the picking of one's wife and discipling of one's "spare rib," either.

Monday, July 28, 2008

You mean markets work?

Driving is down 3.7% since last year, according to the Wall Street Journal. H/T Mitch. I wonder how much gasoline usage might be down. I "googled" it and got contradictory results, and I'm puzzled to think how people might have an accurate estimate of driving miles despite the government having no access to our odometers, but they cannot accurately estimate gasoline usage, despite the fact that the government collects a tax on every gallon of gasoline sold.

Say what?

Update; here is the EIA's estimates of gasoline usage since 1945. Looks like, if I'm reading the charts correctly, that gasoline usage stabilized in the past two years, and is now looking to drop about 3% or more.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Art in the home

Back to that PBS special, one thing many have noticed about ancient Israel is that prior to a certain point, you don't find too many artifacts. Now part of that is the fact that they were often overrun by Midianites and Philistines, and part of it is the fact that due to being overrun all the time, they were poor and had to do things like thresh grain in a winepress. It's hard to produce much good art when (as Judges notes) not a man even had a spear. (more on that one later maybe)

On the other hand, part of it is probably the Decalogue's injunction against graven images, and in that light, we really ought to consider our priorities. Certainly a look at the book of Malachi would suggest to us that our first priority in statuary and "panels of cedar" ought to be our churches, not our homes.

That noted, consider again Proverbs 31 and the example of Lydia in Acts; the wife of noble character makes tapestries--wall hangings--for herself, and I'd be surprised if Lydia's home was not well appointed. (if it wasn't, she had to hire a special architect in those days to make it ugly...Romans and Greeks didn't work that way) Certainly whatever they did, Scripture does not condemn them.

And so I am left exactly where I was left with art in the church; considering what it means. Not a bad place to be, methinks. One good place to start for many churches might be something that (sorry Sarah!) most any guy skilled with wood could create; a cross that really demonstrates the reality of the crucifixion. I saw one such cross at St. Klement's in Mayen, Germany (near Koblentz); large, bare, unfinished beams.

Not beautiful, except in demonstrating what He went through for us.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

At what point....

....does the rest of the nation decide that our nation's capital city has shown itself to be so stupid, they ought not be allowed to govern themselves?

Well, a couple of recent decisions are starting to raise the spectre of removing the District of Columbia from self-rule. First, the new regulations passed unanimously by the City Council for the private ownership of firearms directly ignore the Supreme Court's Heller decision, and second, the education board (the same one that calls itself a "state" board of education despite the fact that the District is not a state) has responded to a tragedy not involving home education by passing new regulations on homeschooling. This, of course, ignores the fact that the District's schools are so awful already, they hardly need another thing to do.

It's not an easy or a nice thing to say, but reality is that at some point, the obtuseness of the political leaders of the District of Columbia becomes a danger to us all. Maybe it's time to repeal self-rule and fix some things there.

Some thoughts on the arts

I know, I know; as an engineer, I should have the same use for the arts that a fish has for a hair dryer, if the stereotypes be honored, but I cannot help myself. I've spent too many happy hours in art museums and cathedrals to plunge into the depths of designing our lives around purely functional objects. We need beauty in our lives.

That noted, I can't go as far as many art types--more or less taking at face value the presentations given by the artists. Sorry, Donatello and Michelangelo, I know who is portrayed in those statues, and it ain't the shepherd boy who slew Goliath.

So maybe it would be good to consider what was known in Israel, and a good place to start would be to remember an unintentionally hilarious PBS special around 1991 on the Holy Land that claimed that there wasn't a whole lot of evidence of Jewish living there prior to King David.

Well, yes, those who read the Scriptures know what the situation there was prior to the son of Jesse, and yes, you won't find many relics from that kind of a society. Being invaded by the Midianites and Philistines will do that to you. The lack of items is, well, actually a demostration that the Bible's telling the truth about that era.

So we are left, more or less, to first consider the Tabernacle, later the Temple. What do we find?

Well, a lot of beautiful materials; gold, silver, bronze, cedar, acacia wood, and fabric with then-expensive colors like blue and purple. We find sculpture, needlework, and more. All of this, of course, pointing to the realities that God wanted to teach His people. It wasn't merely functional, but beautiful and (due to use of metals like gold) timeless.

So at least for our places of worship, we might find plenty of places for beautiful materials, artistically presented. Yes, we want to be careful about what the message really is, but it has a place. what about the home?

Update on the Olofson case

Mark notes well that those of us who care about justice and firearm rights might do well to send a donation to the appelant's lawyers, and that fund is taken care of via Gun Owners of America. Here's a link.

On that note, I'm a member, and I heartily encourage those who care about firearm rights to become one as well.

Back to the case, you may also want to send a note to your Senators, your representative, and the President about this case. If the facts are even remotely similar to what was stated by GOA, any number of people at the BATFE, DOJ, and in the judge's seat need to be disciplined. There is no excuse for the suppression of exculpatory evidence.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A story from the Enquirer I tend to believe

Anti-Strib, SayAnything, and others are linking to an Enquirer article that claims that the National Enquirer caught John "Silky Pony" Edwards in an LA hotel at 2 am with a paramour and their love child. Now ordinarily, I wouldn't see fit to line a bird cage with the Enquirer, but this one I tend to believe, at least in part.

Why? Because John Edwards is one of the nation's premier litigators, and the Enquirer would have to be flat out insane to risk a libel suit from him if they don't have proof that he was, in fact, in that hotel with the woman noted.

An interesting contrast

City of Minneapolis wants to spend $50k apiece for 10 water fountains because they're "art." (h/t Anti-Strib, others)

Young, accomplished artist notes that a "small bronze" can be had for "less than you paid for your laptop."

Seems to me that not only is the city's idea out of line with the ordinary costs of water fountains, but also is way out of line with the ordinary price for art.

"Government money--means you never have to figure out the value of a dollar."

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Why Blackstone is still crucial

Take a look at this; the BATFE has apparently convicted a man of illegally owning a "machine gun" when a gun designed to be semi-automatic misfired at the range. Think of the great legal mind when you consider that the man was sentenced to 30 months in jail despite the fact that the BATFE demonstrated no motive, despite the fact that no one was hurt by that weapon, despite the fact that the BATFE offered no statutory or regulatory definition of a true machine gun, and despite the fact that the defense was not allowed to closely examine the weapon or the evidence presented against them.

In short, exactly this kind of thing is why our forefathers cited Blackstone as a reason to throw off the rule of King George. Hopefully an appeals court throws this conviction out with prejudice, and hopefully somebody takes note and disciplines the clowns at the BATFE and DOJ who perpetrated this travesty.

Brilliant environmentalists

The University of Minnesota's "Center for Transportation Studies" has issued a "study" that claims that by cutting transportation-related emissions, which account for 24% of overall carbon emissions, the state of Minnesota can achieve a goal of cutting overall carbon emissions by 30%.

A brilliant way of reducing carbon emissions, of course, would be to cut all public funding for this center, and send all participants in this study to a remedial class in mathematics.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Another cost of CAFE regulations

Regular readers here (both of you?) know well that I'm not exactly a fan of CAFE regulations. One reason why can be brilliantly illustrated by visiting most any campground and taking a look at the vehicles, and then remembering what they used to be like.

Yesterday: station wagon after station wagon, some pulling a modestly sized camping trailer, and a few RVs. Maybe a few Suburbans as well.

Today: 3/4 ton pickup after 3/4 ton pickup towing camping trailers, and many/most campers with tents arrive in two cars or more. Why?

Today's sedans won't tow a camper easily, and they also won't hold enough "stuff" to make a comfortable campsite, as yesterday's cars would. Thanks again, CAFE, for killing off the full size station wagon and V8 powered sedans.

Especially lacking are hybrids; the very point of a hybrid, after all, is to reduce the engine size to the minimum needed for ordinary highway conditions. The cost is trunk space (the batteries eat it up), towing, and such. The result? Better take two cars to the campground, and even at 48mpg, you're doing about as well as a standard minivan--even if the battery recycling turns out not to be an environmental disaster.

Taking care of tax money

While driving to work this morning, I saw a "Kandayohi County" vehicle apparently going into Minneapolis; a one ton Ford van with no seat occupied except that of the driver. No seats were removed for cargo, either.

94 miles each way. 12 miles per gallon. Thanks, Kandayohi County, for our attention to the best interests of the taxpayers and the environment. You're almost worse than a Prius.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

New hybrid cars and global warming

I just saw an interesting statistic in "Design News" (engineering magazine) that claimed that making a pound of steel or plastic required the energy input of about two pounds of oil, while the production of a pound of aluminium requires the energy input of about five pounds of oil. Now consider that in light of the prospect of purchasing a 3000 lb Toyota Prius to "save energy and reduce carbon dioxide emissons."

Now let's be fair, here; making the Prius requires mostly coal for energy, not oil, so there is probably a net reduction in petroleum usage after one reduces gasoline use by only a few hundred gallons--about a year or so of use. However, from a carbon emissions point of view, you're talking not about 6000 lbs of oil, but rather about 10000 pounds of coal. You only "break even" from a carbon emissions standpoint after you save about 1500 gallons of gasoline.

So if you trade in an ordinary compact car (Cobalt, Civic, Corolla, etc..) for a Prius, you can expect to balance the carbon impact of your new ride after only about 150,000 miles--really the entire useful life of the vehicle. There are better ways to reduce carbon emissions.

Got my first ride in a hybrid (Camry) this morning, by the way. Eerily quiet at times, and not quite enough headroom for me, but otherwise a reasonably nice car. Since I'd ridden my bike to a men's prayer breakfast today, I also got to tell the owner that he was destroying the environment in his gas guzzler. :^)

How to make city streets safer?

Get rid of a lot of stop signs, suggests John Stossel. This one comes as something of a surprise to me; I have tended to get very nervous when driving in older neighborhoods without traffic signs, as I've been taught to see the signs as shorthand for "this is where you can expect traffic to cross unexpectedly."

It turns out, though, that in many places, the nervousness I'm referring to actually means "safe driving," and that once people learn to pay attention to what's on the road instead of the road signs, accidents decrease significantly. Who knew? We might be able to save time, save money on gas and accidents (and traffic signs), and take it a little bit easier on the environment as well.

Monday, July 14, 2008

What would happen if...

....we simply allowed Fannie Mae and Fredie Mac to fail, instead of spending billions of dollars to bail them out? Well, we'd simply end the era of granting certain mortgage lendors special federal privileges, and then mortgage lending would return to banks and other mortgage lendors, who would in turn start issuing loans more in the way that car and business loans are processed.

Now the last time I checked, the paperwork was more straightforward, the approval process more streamlined, and the interest rates were lower on car loans, despite the fact that automobiles are depreciating assets, which would ordinarily result in higher rates and more paperwork.

In other words, the private sector is handily beating the government/private concoctions known as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and maybe, just maybe, we ought to think twice about whether it's a smart idea to bail out these monstrousities.

Not that it'll happen, but I can dream, can't I?

Fun little quote:

My friend Chet at church told me this one:

"You show Colts and Kimbers to your friends. Glocks, however, you show to your enemies."

No word on S&W, Taurus, or Heckler & Koch. We'll get back to you with this important information if and when we learn it, but rest assured that this quality drizzle-journal will not hold it against you if you show your Colt or Kimber to your enemies.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Liberals live smarter than they vote

At least that's what I infer from riding past the offices of the local "Air America" affiliate. They don't appear to ban permit holders from carrying in their building, and I saw an Explorer, a Blazer, and a Town & Country minivan in the parking lot. It seems that though they might not vote that way, they know the dangers of gun-free zones and small cars.

Well done, AM950 staff. Now let's have a talk about who you might be voting for this fall.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Breathtaking Chutzpah

Apparently airline executives are asking frequent fliers to "rein in oil speculators" in an attempt to moderate oil prices. Not only are they apparently ignorant of how markets actually work, but these executives each have a staff of finance professionals whose very job is to speculate on the oil market to ensure stable long term prices for fuel. Talk about rank hypocrisy.

Of course, I'd expect that a group of companies that has sucked so long and hard at the public teat would have a little trouble understanding how free markets work. They haven't lost money for the past fifty years for no reason, after all. I just didn't expect them to be so openly hypocritical about it.

Here's a hint on the off chance that an airline CEO is reading; the reason oil futures are so volatile isn't due to speculators. It's because governments control a huge portion of the world's oil supply, and hence if you want lower, more stable oil prices, you need to free oil production from the grubby hands of government.

It might also help to get airline CEOs' grubby hands out of the public purse, too. I have to wonder how much less fuel the airlines would need if the air traveler paid the full cost of his ticket.

How to kill the elderly and lose your inheritance, part 2

First, a clarification; Gino is correct to note that for those of "full retirement age," there is no income cap. However, for those who find themselves needing to take Social Security from ages 62 to 67 or so, it is still in force.

To the title, there is an even more basic way in which our govermnent helps us to kill the elderly while eviscerating their estates; through Social Security itself. How so?

The promise of Social Security was more or less that one's older years would be financially secure whether or not one saved money, had children, or had other friends who would help you. To make this promise, a portion of money was taken from workers that might otherwise have gone into private retirement savings.

Now consider what keeps older people going; it's not money per se, but rather people. If you doubt this, take your kids to a retirement home and watch people respond to them. I've been told that seeing my toddlers play probably extended one grandmother's life by a few months.

Knowing this, what is accomplished when we "take care" of the elderly with a government check and a retirement/nursing home? You got it; you've created an incentive to separate them from the relationships that give them strength, and to do so, you've separated them from the resources which they could otherwise use to encourage their heirs--and if GAAP estimates of Socialist Insecurity and Mediscare liabilities are correct, we might end up bankrupting the nation as well.

Nature or Nurture?

One of Michael Vick's Staffordshires is apparently becoming a champion disk catcher and a good pet. Seems that nurture is more powerful than nature in getting "pit bulls" to the ring, and that even those who have been in the fighting ring seem to be redeemable with a little bit of old fashioned love and attention.

Well done, Andrew Yori, and well done, Wallace and Hector.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Exactly what does "sex research" mean?

I won't link the source, because (though it comes from MSM) it links to a number of other unsavory things, but I saw a study that claimed that men have an average of 32 sex partners, while women have only eight. Unless we can presume that the 2% or so of men who are homosexual have over 1000 partners apiece, we've got to assume that the average respondent to a survey in these matters is (pardon the pun) lying their pants off, especially when we consider the reality that large portions of the adult population are "slackers" who have been faithful to their spouses.

Now consider research in this area with regards to this methodological debacle. Isn't it scary that people are passing laws based on this "research"? Isn't it scarier that people are earning doctorates in this area based on such obviously flawed work? Isn't it scariest that our kids might have the opportunity to "learn" from such people?

How to kill the elderly and lose your inheritance.... one simple step. No, I don't recommend trying, but our government does exactly this. How?

They reduce Social Security benefits by 50 cents for every dollar earned after a certain threshold. When you count FICA, state income tax, and federal income tax, you come to the uneasy realization that Social Security takes back 50 cents, and the rest of government takes back up to 40 cents on the dollar. Not surprisingly, a study performed at my alma mater (Michigan State) found that seniors don't work for a dime on the dollar.

But how does this kill people and inheritances? Simple. Retirement is a disaster for health, as it all too often trades physical activity for worship of the idiot box, and when you combine poor health with poor income, you simultaneously kill Grandpa and the inheritance he wanted to pass down.

Dare I suggest repeal of this ill-founded rule?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

An interesting thought

Mark links to a presentation by Steven Levitt (of Freakonomics fame) that claims that the effectiveness of child car seats is dubious--that more or less, death rates for children (not infants) are about the same whether they're in their safety seats or not.

Now I've got my qualms about uncritically accepting Levitt's work; he is, after all, the one responsible for the false claim that abortion lowered crime in the 1990s. In the video, he also neglects as "unimportant" the units that are used to characterize the performance of child seats--as an engineer, I know better.

That said, I must give him credit for using what data he had to raise the question of whether child safety seats actually save lives. I dare suggest that it's time with this issue, as well as with the broader issue of seatbelt usage, to start asking that those who would buckle us up in ever more complicated harnesses actually provide the accelerometer data and hypotheses tested before we accept new seatbelt and child seat laws.

When I see public discourse,

...sometimes I wonder why we bother sending young people to school, and then to college. Why so?

Well, not only do I see sloppy writing and logic (sometimes, sigh, from my own hand), but worse yet, I have seen many people claiming that using sound spelling, grammar, and logic is really "only for academia." If this doesn't scare you, it should; education is, or at least ought to be, training for life. To say "these rules only apply to academic work" proves only that the speaker completely missed the point of education. Judging by what I've seen, the group of those missing the point has a quorum.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Thrift and cheapness in the Scriptures

Take a look at Proverbs 31: 21-22:

21. She is not afraid of snow for her household,
for all her household is clothed with scarlet
22. She makes tapestry for herself;
her clothing is fine linen and purple.

Now, granted, King Lemuel may be talking of his own wife, the queen, so the "Proverbs 31 wife" may have a bit more in terms of resources than the rest of us. Even so, God commends this woman through King Lemuel, and thus we might infer that there is a God-given time and place for us to get the very best--or the best we can afford--for ourselves and our families.

Lest we get confused, this is not what I'm recommending.

Have they ever heard of "prayer"?

Apparently, a Messianic Jewish pastor is leading a drive to get as many Christians as possible to blow the shofar (ceremonial ram's horn trumpet in Judiasm) at the feast of Trumpets this fall to get the attention of the Messiah.

Now, I treasure the intrinsic Yiddishkeit that is at the core of my faith. Inasmuch as we don't forget that our Anointed One has come once, I think this pastor is 100% correct that goyesh (Gentile) Christians would do well to celebrate the pictures of Christ that are in the Jewish calendar. (I draw the line at Yom Kippur; Christians observe that one on Good Friday) I even think that one could bring the shofar into a church service and improve most congregant's understanding of their faith.

However, I'm not convinced that we need to "get the attention" of an omniscient Maschiach, and if we do want to communicate with Him--and I hope we all do--isn't there a time-honored method called "prayer"?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Kudos to....

Ben for his recent posts on Independence Day. And not to embarass him, but his recent work also tells us a bit about the wonderful way courtship can work when father, daughter, and suitor work together.

(oops...did I just embarass Ben? Sorry!)

The Brothers Bayly for recent posts on the use of the "evangelical" label, and also about Biblical positions on divorce and remarriage.

Now what does this have to do with anything I might have to add to the conversation? Well, not much at first glance, but I've been mulling over the power of rightful praise in the Christian life. All too often, "blogging" degenerates into the cyberspace equivalent of a barroom brawl, and we ought not forget that when we allow it to do so, we say something about the work of our Savior in our lives.

Something unprintable. Yikes.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Trust government to manage energy?

You might want to think again. Apparently, the head of the IEA is "puzzled" about high oil prices.

Or, maybe not. The cause isn't that complicated; demand is high due to China and India, and also to governments subsidizing fuel for their peoples. Supply is low due to Congress withholding supply, Venezuela kicking out the oil companies that maintain their oil fields, and some little situations in the Middle East.

I don't know whether Mr. Tanaka and his colleagues don't know, or won't tell, what's going on. Either way, it's not exactly an endorsement for government to make choices about energy production.

Not that I ought to brag....

...but Chevrolet apparently is starting to come to my position on tires. They're going to Michelin for the Corvette.

Goodyear, one word to get you back in the running: "Craftsmanship." It might be time to tell the product managers--you know, the ones who'd sell their own moms on Ebay for a nickel reduction in the bill of materials cost--to take a hike while your engineers and technicians match what those "cheese eating surrender monkeys" are doing.

If psychics really could predict the future,

...they wouldn't be satisfied with a piddly $10k/month retainer from some major companies, but would make millions shorting the stocks of companies that hire psychics. Article that inspired this comment from Newsweek....

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Your tax dollars at work

Evidently, the BLM is considering ever more costly ways of dealing with wild horses in the desert West. The rationale is that if they don't, these beasts will over-graze and destroy desert habitats.

Hint to the BLM; horses are made of meat, meat that has a ready market in Europe and around the world. There is at least one family in Minnesota that would love to give it a try. Instead of spending taxpayer dollars to control these animals, why not turn it into a revenue source?

Here's some interesting news

....and not very surprising to boot. Evidently, "the pill" isn't a terribly effective contraceptive, especially when given to teens who aren't terribly careful with anything.

What a "shock." Maybe it's time to start teaching the obvious--that there are physical and emotional ramifications to having sex that differentiate it a "wee little bit" from other things we do with our bodies. Maybe it's time to start teaching that using a piece of latex, or a series of pills, does not make it "safe" in any sane definition of the word.

Maybe it's time to really tick off the Planned Infanticide/SIECUS crowd and those who believe that a child is a punishment.