Friday, January 09, 2004

A guide for tourists to North Korea

By John Fund of the Wall Street Journal.

Here's an account of an actual visit that I've linked before.

Wrong prescription

I haven't heard too much about Brazilian rainforests lately. There were all sorts of scare stories about how cultivating the rainforests would impair our atmosphere, how the soil was useless for cultivation, and how we'd be losing species left and right. And some claimed that the exotic species yet to be discovered within the rainforests had the potential to yield wonder drugs. (and some lost milllions pursuing that possibility).

But suppose you use a plant for drugs and see what happens:
Worldwide demand for herbal remedies is threatening natural habitats and endangering up to a fifth of wild medicinal plant species which are being harvested to extinction, a leading science magazine said.
IMO this is amusing because I find that those with environmental sympathies have a very high overlap with those who are likely to use herbal concoctions for medicine.

If you want to save a species, make sure it has commercial value. Nobody is worried about cattle, hogs, chickens, rice, corn or wheat going extinct. These exotic herbs can join the list once we learn to cultivate them.

It's true that some species resist cultivation, such as morels and truffles. But I'll trust free enterprise with endangered species cultivation long before I would trust some smelly ecobabbler with it.

Free the florists!

I accept that some professions need licenses, and I hold a professional license myself. Illinois licenses a number of professions, and last I knew the city of Peoria licensed the strippers at Big Al's (they needed an "adult use" permit from the Peoria PD).

But florists? Jacob Sullum has more.

The CURTA Calculator Page and whatever else I should happen to write

Right here, for us antediluvians who used slipsticks or mechanical calculators, and remember when "computer" was a job title. Sheesh, who would have thought they actually made anything in Liechtenstein?

Another sign that you're an aging geek is if you knew what 3375537 spelled without Leslie telling you. Hint - punch it in on your calculator, then look at the screen upside down.

This reminds me of when the state of Iowa banned a license plate that read 3MTA3.

Curta link stolen from Terry Oglesby, the Possumblogger.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Sympathy for the devil

Having been a startup engineer in a past career, I can relate to this.

Stolen from the project manager himself, Jay Manifold.

Is it murder?

a mentally unstable man allegedly stabbed his mother to death on New Year's Eve. A blood transfusion could have saved her life, but in accordance with her religious beliefs as a Jehovah's Witness, she refused it, and died shortly thereafter.

Is it murder?

By Damien Penny

I almost missed this - did you?

Maybe you heard about the Kansas State quarterback being accused of rape just before the big game against Ohio State. But did you read this?

It's not really over now, but if nothing else things turned out better than they did for this guy.

Joe Gibbs to coach Redskins

Will there be a decent football team in DC next year? We'll see how well Gibbs deals with free agency and Dan Snyder.

Via the WaPo.

What's happening to doctors in Maryland and DC?

One ex-cardiologist's story, via Medpundit.

Legislation You May Have Missed

From Insight Magazine, which IMO doesn't have anywhere near the penetration it deserves.

She ain't lyin', y'all

Moira Breen on prescriptive grammarians. Languagehat has more.

Which reminds me of some hillbilly jokes. We can still pick on them, right?

The hillbilly goes to the drugstore for some deodorant. The clerk asks "Mennen's?" and HB says "Naw, wimmen's". The clerk asks "Do you want it scented?" and HB says "Naw, I'll take it with me". "Would you like some for yourself?" "OK". "The ball type?" "Naw, for under my arms".

Or this. Gimme a break - I don't get to write about hillbillies and deodorant very often.

This isn't really relevant (or tasteful either, as if I had standards...), but it's from the same site and I'm gonna link it anyway.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

The next logical step...

ScrappleFace: Judge Repeals Parent Notice for Abortion, Driver's License

D.C. Council Bans Cell Phones While Driving

The D.C. City Council Tuesday afternoon gave final approval to a bill making it illegal to use a hand-held cell phone while behind the wheel. There will be exceptions for emergencies.

Ward One Councilman Jim Graham was the lone dissenter. Graham has expressed concern about using police resources to enforce the law.

The measure now goes to Mayor Tony Williams, who has indicated he will sign it. Assuming he does, enforcement would likely begin in July. Violators would face $100 tickets.

Tomorrow's news today

Predictably, MoveOn claimed that the Bush=Hitler ads on their site were not their responsibility. Of course - if they wanted responsibility for their lives or anything else why would they support Democrats? No, they didn't "sponsor" the ads, but then I wonder how much they would have charged someone who wanted an advertisement of similar prominence on their site.

Spokesman Wes Boyd said the ads were in "poor taste" (If he said that they were inaccurate it went unrecorded). Of course he didn't acquire such sensitivity until called on it by the Republicans, which might surprise some people who remember how the Dems fussed about the "rats" ad.

And now for tomorrow's news - MoveOn blames Karl Rove for planting the ads on their site...

Of plums, pops and pegs

John Derbyshire discusses Lenny Bruce, obscenity the world over and more as only he can right here on NRO.

A soldier's funeral in Texas

Via Andrew Sullivan.

May not be safe for work

"This is a very shocking anti-American propoganda video made by North Koreans and previously broadcast on South Korean and Japanese Television. English translation titles by Rob Pongi."

Found via Maureen at reenhead, who is also responsible for the DC Metro Blog Map.

Neutrality vs. Objectivity

As explained by the incomparable Thomas Sowell.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

ASTM, etc.

Somewhere in the west Philly suburbs there exists an organization called ASTM International. They impact your life in more ways than you'll ever suspect, yet most of you probably don't even suspect their existence.

What's with ASTM, anyway? It is the acronym for the organization's original name, the American Society for Testing and Materials. Libertarians should love these guys, because they implement voluntary standards for materials that can be adopted in contracts and laws. The standards themselves are created primarily by subject matter exports who are familiar with the state of the art, not a pack of bureaucrats whose major consideration is self-perpetuation.

So what do they provide standards for? Just about anything. Soils for instance - wouldn't you like to know if your house is likely to go sliding off a cliff? ASTM has a test for the so-called "liquid limit" of soils, which can be used by civil engineers to measure soil stability.

How do they do it? According to fairly rigid procedures, the soil is mixed into a paste and placed in a shallow, spherically-shaped bowl. A tool of specific dimensions is used to create a trapezoid-shaped groove in the paste. Then the whole shebang is jarred repeatedly by a special apparatus a specified number of times, after which the width of the groove at the bottom is measured. From this the "liquid limit" is calculated.

The above is from memory from a job as a tech in the summer of 1979, so this might have changed since then. If you want to know the current standard, it'll cost you $38.00 if you buy it from ASTM. Don't all go at once or you'll bring down their server.

The same spec also offers the method for determining the "plastic limit". As I recall, this was affectionately known as the "turd test". The soil would again be mixed with water according to some strict rules, then the result was to be rolled into cylinders of as small a diameter as possible. The resulting diameter of the cylinder is used to calculate the "plastic limit".

Such a measure may not be too impressive - you might have been expecting super fancy machines, etc. And some standards might call for such elaborate apparatus. But in this application what is needed is something that can be done without elaborate preparations in the field, so that is what ASTM designed for this application.

ASTM offers thousands of standards, but they aren't the only ones - there are many others that affect you. There's NFPA, UL, ASME, ASHRAE, SMACNA, ANSI, AWWA, SAE, ICBO, CABO, BOCA, SBCCC, ASCE, IEEE, DIN and countless others. Expect tons of fun as I write about a few of those in future posts. (Yes, that's my idea of a cliffhanger - remember, I'm an engineer, not a writer or something). In the meantime you'll have to be content with this about ASME.

But did Queen Elizabeth compete in the Olympics?

Alright, so Lacey is one classy bitch. But I'll bet she can't do this.