April 16, 2007

Bring it back

The drinking age of 18, that is. I've hated and bitched about the federal drinking age since it was instituted. For what it's worth, I was 18+ at the time the law was implemented, so it didn't affect me at all. However, I find the law, as well as the strong-arm tactics of the feds, to be completely at odds with personal liberty. There are even some self-described conservative pundits who want to raise the drinking age to 25 or higher (Ross Mackenzie, I'm looking at you). My reply to scolds like those? Blow me.

Let's examine the things that you can do and are responsible for at the age of 18:

  • You can be drafted, if necessary. If not, you can still enlist and go to a foreign land and risk life and limb.
  • You can vote in pretty much any election in this country, including but not limited to, federal elections, including those for the presidency.
  • You can -and will- be tried as an adult for any crime that you commit.
  • You can legally enter into contracts, which are binding(some states may restrict that to 21 in certain instances, I suppose)
  • You can get a job, work hard and pay taxes.
  • You cannot, however, enjoy a beer at the end of a hard day.

Radley Balko revists the drinking age in this article, which I highly recommend. Here's one of my favorite quotes:

The age at highest risk for an alcohol-related auto fatality is 21, followed by 22 and 23, an indication that delaying first exposure to alcohol until young adults are away from home may not be the best way to introduce them to drink.

Emphasis mine. Notice that the magical age of 21 isn't quite so magical.

Update: Not surprisingly, Bill Quick and I are on the same page.

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April 14, 2007

Quote of the day

From Dean Barnett:

What happens to Nifong?

It’s hard to imagine he won’t be disbarred. If he has any brains (admittedly a highly dubious notion), he’ll remove himself from the bar and pursue his lifelong passion of plucking the wings off live butterflies on a full-time basis.

That will have me chuckling for a while. Not as much as a verdict that would allow the Duke lacrosse players to work over Nifong with a tire iron for a few hours, but I'll take what I can get.

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April 13, 2007

Batteries not required

Or men either, for that matter. Excerpt:

Scientists say they have successfully made immature sperm cells from human bone marrow samples.

If these can be grown into fully developed sperm, which the researchers hope to do within five years, they may be useful in fertility treatments.

It seems fitting somehow that this headline appeared on Friday the 13th.

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April 12, 2007

Required reading

Bill Whittle has a new post up.

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April 11, 2007

My blood pressure just shot up

And I'm sweating a little. Want to know why? Check below the fold for the answer. more...

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April 10, 2007

Lost in spaaaccceeee

So James Doohan's remains will finally be blasted off into space on April 28. Cool.

Vaya con Dios, Scotty.

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Test drive the OLPC operating system

Would you like one lump of Sugar, or two?

I'll give it a test drive, just for grins. If I find anything worthwhile, I'll let you know.

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Free photo editing software

Best of all, they're all available online. Excerpt:

The web applications we consider here range from simple photo toucher-uppers all the way up to Photoshop wannabes. But none of them can yet perform the truly advanced functions you'll find in programs like Photoshop or Gimp. We tried out five online photo editors that go beyond the basic rotate and red-eye functions:

In addition to letting you do things like resizing, rotating, and optimizing brightness, contrast, and colors, many of these will actually apply filters (blur, sharpen, etc.) and other weird fun effects, such as giving your image an old-fashioned border or making collages. So you can pick the one that fits your needs, from simple image correcting to elaborate artistic creations.

They're all free, and mostly in beta at this stage, but we didn't encounter any showstoppers—just the odd function not, er, functioning. Their interfaces vary from the cluttered and complex to the sleek and simple. We found that they all worked in both Firefox and Internet Explorer, though bugs would often appear in one and not the other.

We'd be remiss not to mention Adobe's plans for an online version of the big daddy of image editing, Photoshop. It's been reported that the online version of Photoshop will be free, with ads, but we have to wonder how much you'll get for free, with the exorbitant price ($649) for the installed software. What's more, the services here are working and available to try out now. Adobe's online Photoshop version is about six months out at the time of this writing.

The article continues for several pages, detailing the pros and cons of each of the photo editors. In any event, they might be worth keeping in mind if you're on the road and want to do a little bit of photo work.

Related update: Turns out that there are several free online storage sites that you can use, too. Pretty cool stuff.

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up yours

I've mentioned before just how much I loathe cigarettes. However, what I despise even more are the nanny-state busybodies trying to control every portion of people's lives, especially when it relates to a legal substance. Case in point:

Anti-smoking groups have been pushing the MPAA to give any movie that shows smoking an automatic R rating.

According to the research of a group called "Smoke Free Movies", most PG-13 movies depict smoking, and that contributes to hundreds of thousands of kids taking up cigarettes.

The MPAA's new boss, Dan Glickman, sent a letter addressing the MPAA's concerns about smoking in movies and said the MPAA was turning to the Harvard School of Public Health for guidance. "My objective is to gain consensus among the member companies of MPAA on Harvard's pending recommendations, and then begin implementation," he said.

Dan, please feel free to go fuck yourself anytime that you feel like. Hopefully, you're feeling that way right now.

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April 09, 2007

Non-useful idiots

After the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA should control CO2 emissions unless it finds scientific reasons not to (crikey, that turns logic on its head), our elected officials have started to weigh in on possible solutions to the emission problem. Interestingly, former allies have started in-fighting over the prospect of more nuclear power plants. Excerpt:

The renewed push for legislation to cut greenhouse gas emissions could falter over an old debate: whether nuclear power should play a role in any federal attack on climate change.

Congress, with added impetus from a Supreme Court ruling last week, appears more likely to pass comprehensive energy legislation. But nuclear power sharply divides lawmakers who agree on mandatory caps on carbon dioxide emissions. And it has pitted some on Capitol Hill against their usual allies, environmentalists, who largely oppose any expansion of nuclear power.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Barbara Boxer — Bay Area Democrats with similar political views — are on opposite sides.

Pelosi used to be an ardent foe of nuclear power but now holds a different view. "I think it has to be on the table," she said.

Boxer, head of the Senate committee that will take the lead in writing global warming legislation, said that turning from fossil fuels to nuclear power was "trading one problem for another."

[Editor's note: Like, say, electing one Bay Area brain donor instead of another?]
"I've never been a fan of nuclear energy," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who has called it expensive and risky. "But reducing emissions from the electricity sector presents a major challenge. And if we can be assured that new technologies help to produce nuclear energy safely and cleanly, then I think we have to take a look at it."

The public's attitude toward nuclear power is more favorable when such energy is seen as part of an effort to fight climate change. Polls over the years have shown that a slim majority backs nuclear power, but a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg survey last summer found that a larger majority, 61%, supported the increased use of nuclear energy "to prevent global warming."

Legislation introduced recently in California seeks to repeal a 1976 ban on new nuclear plants in the state.

I predict that pigs will fly before that last statement comes to pass. San Francisco residents will garb themselves in human excrement to stay warm before they'll consent to using power generated by nuclear power.

On Capitol Hill last month, former Vice President Al Gore, who has become a leading advocate for swift action on climate change, said he saw nuclear plants as a "small part" of the strategy.

"They're so expensive, and they take so long to build, and at present they only come in one size: extra large," he said.

No article on energy policy would be complete without a comment from the Goreacle. However, he does make a valid point, albeit one contained in his usual inanity: nuclear power plants usually come in only the "extra large" size due to several reasons:

1) When a utility has to borrow several billion dollars to build a plant, it will want to generate enough energy during the plant's lifetime so as to ensure an adequate return on its investment.

2) Part of the reason that nukes were so expensive in the past was the ridiculous number of hearings, lawsuits, et al that the utility had to wade through before even breaking ground. A lot of that cost has been eliminated with the combined site permit and operating license process. Now, if a utility builds an NRC-approved design on a site that receives a permit, all systems are go. In fact, the company that I work for will probably attempt to build a monster plant sometime within the next 10 years. For the record, once the construction phase begins, the plant could be completed and go online within about three years, although normal construction delays could add a year or so to that figure.

3) All of the currently approved designs are pretty damned large. The Pebble Bed design has not been approved for construction within the United States. South Africa is working on one, and the US will gain lots of useful knowledge from its operation, which will -probably- lead to that design's eventual approval. You would then have a nuclear plant design that you could build in a modular fashion, where 300 Mw(e) plants would become economical.

We'll see where it all goes. For those of you who are opposed to the generation of power via the burning of fossil fuels, but are also opposed to nuclear power, I have this to say to you: you had better move south, because it gets cold in the winter. Just an FYI.

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It might be a stupid movie...

But the current cover of Rolling Stone magazine provides a couple of really good reasons to go see Grindhouse.


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It's Monday again

Received via email:

A nice, calm and respectable lady went into the pharmacy. She walked right up to the pharmacist, looked straight into his eyes, and said,

"I would like to buy some cyanide."

The pharmacist asked, "Why in the world do you need cyanide?"

The lady replied, "I need it to poison my husband."

The pharmacists' eyes got big and he exclaimed, "Lord have mercy! I can't give you cyanide to kill your husband! That's against the law! I'll lose my license! They'll throw both of us in jail! All kinds of bad things will happen. Absolutely not! You CANNOT have any cyanide!"

The lady reached into her purse and pulled out a picture of her husband in bed with the pharmacist's wife.

The pharmacist looked at the picture and replied, "Well now, that's different; you didn't tell me that you had a prescription."

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April 04, 2007

Make your own usb portable app

I've extolled the virtues of Portable Apps before for a couple ofl reasons:

1) You can carry your favorite applications wherever your go

2) They're completely free

Let's suppose, however, that you have an application on your computer that you really want to take with you, and it hasn't been converted into a portable application yet. In fact, it may never get converted. I guess that you're screwed, right? Wrong.

A commenter on the Portable Apps forum, Klonk, has created a Portable Apps Template which, if used properly, will help you convert most applications to a portable format. Another commenter, Smithtech, has created several conversion scripts from the template, including ones for Photoshop 6 and Dreamweaver 8.

Have I done this yet? No, but I'm fairly certain that I will, and if I think that the software I convert would be useful to others, I'll post the script here.

Posted by: Physics Geek at 11:23 AM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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In a nutshell

Courtesy of Val comes this comic strip which, I believe, encapsulates my life:

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April 01, 2007

Comedy gold

This is sure to spawn a whole new generation of West Virginia jokes.

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