Fix “The Problem” or at least a problem

(A response to “Safe Spaces, Toxic Masculinity and Guns” in Manward)

First of all, “The Problem” didn’t stem from any one thing, and isn’t going to get fixed with any one thing. So, let’s talk about a step to fix a problem. Since we’re mentioning Las Vegas and safe spaces, an obvious problem is guns.

Trivia for you: What do the Boys Scouts and the National Rifle Association have in common?

Answer: They were both founded by war veterans who were disgusted with the shooting ability of soldiers: the NRA by Union veterans after the Civil War, and the Boys Scouts after the Spanish-American War. The logic being, the US Army can’t afford the time necessary to make up for a lack of gun experience prior to entering service.

Now, in a like vein, we have the NYPD having the heaviest trigger-pulls among American police departments. Why? Because they’ve got the highest rate of accidental discharge. Coincidentally, New York has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the U.S. Like the military, police academies have too many other things to teach recruits to spend time overcoming a lack of prior experience in handling guns.  So there’s a little tidbit that rarely finds its way into gun-control discussions: If you live in a gun-restrictive state, you’re more likely to get accidentally shot by a cop.

Then we also have the argument that children are exposed to gaming and Hollywood violence and become desensitized to violence. There’s a flip side to this: Gun-phobics who are only exposed to guns through Hollywood and gaming develop an exaggerated idea of what guns are capable of. You can see this in the resistance to allowing muzzle suppressors (erroneously referred to as “silencers”) for civilian use. Hollywood has taught them that “silencers” reduce the sound of a gunshot to undetectable/unrecognizable levels, enabling murderers to shoot victims without bystanders being the wiser. In truth, they just save everyone around the gun the hassle of having to wear earmuffs to preserve their hearing (something to keep in mind if you’re in a public area and someone near you draws their gun in self-defense).

The solution to both of these problems is to create a basic familiarity with firearms before the age of majority. Yes, I’m advocating not only putting guns in schools, but (under controlled conditions, of course) in the hands of students. Most of the training can be done with air rifles (a.k.a. “BB guns”), which can be safely handled and fired with a few additions to the gymnasium for a firing range. Students could be exposed to actual firearms in a traveling range that could be designed into a semi-trailer. (No, that’s not a targeting challenge, but the idea would be to understand how the gun behaves–marksmanship could be learned with the air rifles.)

A few years of this, and we’ll have a society that actually understands what guns can–and more importantly can’t–do, a good deal of this common nonsense about guns will disappear, and we’ll be able to focus on where the real problems lie.

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There’s a measles outbreak! Get your tetanus shot!

Tetanus shots for a measles outbreak. Doesn’t seem very sensible, does it? Measles and tetanus are two different diseases. But this is essentially what happens every flu season. And this year especially.

A few days ago, one of the national evening news covered a story of a boy that narrowly avoided death from some kind of influenza. The family was actually getting ready to say goodbye to him when he opened his eyes.

The parents felt a horrible sense of responsibility. You see, they hadn’t taken him to get a flu shot. They (and the hospital) also never bothered to check if the strain he contracted was one of the strains this year’s flu vaccine was manufactured for. The hospitals, statisticians, and–especially–the media rarely do. They just ASSuME that if you get the flu, then either you didn’t have your flu shot, or your infection is milder than it would have been if you hadn’t gotten your shot.

In truth, if you rely entirely on the logic of vaccinations to keep yourself from dying of the flu, then developing an immunity to H1N1 does bupkis to dealing with an Q1Z3 infection. You may as well be getting tetanus shots to protect against measles. There are dozens (or is it hundreds?) of strains of flu. Some may be deadlier than others, but which alphabet-soup label a particular strain is wearing means very little for purposes of our discussion. As far as your immune system is concerned, they’re two different adversaries to combat.

Actually, it’s worse than that. Despite claims that mercury is no longer being added to flu shots, many still have mercury levels 25,000 times the legal maximum of what the EPA allows for drinking water. Among other ill effects, sneaking this much mercury past your body’s defenses weakens your immune system–it actually INCREASES your chances of getting the flu and WORSENING your bout. Remember swine (H1N1) flu back in 2009? Guess what demographic was most likely to contract it? It was the folks who got their seasonal flu shots.

“Thimerosal, a mercury derivative, is added as a preservative. Each 0.5-mL dose contains 50 mcg [micrograms] thimerosal ([less than] 25 mcg mercury). Each 0.5-mL dose may also contain residual amounts of ovalbumin ([less than or equal to] 0.3 mcg), formaldehyde ([less than or equal to] 25 mcg), and sodium deoxycholate ([less than] 50 mcg) from the manufacturing process.”

(insert with a common flu vaccine)

So if you’re convinced by all these “doom and gloom” stories about overflowing hospitals and out-of-medicine panics to get your annual flu shot, you better get a tetanus shot, too. Just in case there’s a measles outbreak.


Update: *A provocative new study on flu virus transmission found that subjects had 6.3 times more aerosol shedding of flu virus particles if they received vaccination in the current and previous season compared with having no vaccination in those two seasons.

(Translation: People who get their flu shots are more likely to infect other people with the flu than those who don’t. Sneezing and/or coughing not required; breathing is enough.)



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The difference between “Health Insurance” and “Health Care” and why it matters

Is health care an entitlement, or a right?

Well, first we have to determine what we mean by “health care.” Most proponents of the ACA (or some equivalent legislation) assume it to mean “affordable health insurance,” and further assume “health insurance” means “a helping hand paying medical bills for accessing mainstream medicine.”

If that’s your definition of “heath care,” then absolutely, unequivocally, “NOT A RIGHT.”

I have a very simple test to decide if something is a “right” or an “entitlement.” Suppose we were blasted into the Stone Age tomorrow. Would it still be there? 2nd Amendment: So you’re toting stone-head spears instead of firearms; it’s still the RIGHT to bear arms. Can I still preach the Gospel of Heiki-Lunta? Yep, 1rst Amendment checks. Can I go get a CT scan? Nope, because the CT scanner doesn’t exist.

So no, being provided with high-tech diagnostics, pharmaceuticals, surgeons, or any of the trapping we associate with mainstream medicine is not a “right.”

Furthermore, “HEALTH INSURANCE” IS NOT “HEALTH CARE.” I cannot emphasize this enough. Health insurance is a ticket into a heavily-monopolized, endorsed-by-insurance subsection of of the infinitely-large body of health care knowledge that has been developed and employed by thousands of cultures through the ages. And what health care has been endorsed by insurance? Surgery, high-tech diagnostics, and pharmaceuticals. Many lower-cost, more-effective, earlier-dectection-and-treatment cures of medical conditions are COMPLETELY SHUT OUT of the “mainstream medicine” simply because they are an economic threat to Big Pharma, medical device manufacturers, and the AMA.

Did you know Ronald Reagan developed, and was cured of cancer, while President? He wasn’t treated in America. He went to Germany for a treatment that is outlawed in the United States. “Why?” do you ask? Ostensibly, such procedures haven’t passed the rigorous tests the FDA requires to prove they aren’t harmful. In truth, either no one has “championed” them for FDA testing (because they are unpatentable, and therefore, there’s no incentive to foot the cost of putting them through all the FDA’s hoops), or they’ve been subjected to a standard many times that of “conventional” (i.e. Big Pharma and friends) treatments.

Many of the arguments of advocates for “health insurance for all” trot out a sob-story about a disease progressing to a far more expensive-to-treat (or even untreatable) phase because they didn’t have the insurance to detect and treat it in early phases. It is literally inconceivable to them that they could have detected and treated it outside of mainstream medicine for what might have been less than the cost of their insurance premiums.

Meanwhile, families that have had one insurer after another drop them as the Big Pharma/Big Insurance/Government triangle continuously push each other into eliminating more and more insurance plans are barely mentioned. Low-cost, high-effective treatments are attacked by industry-paid “experts,” which in turn are dropped (or never picked up in the first place) by insurers, which in turn force consumers to choose from those treatments that are profitable to the industry. Cancer is never going to be cured by mainstream medicine because it is not profitable to do so. Nor is it profitable to cure diabetes, Crohn’s disease, or dozens of other chronic ailments affecting America. Not while BigPharma can get rich selling patent-medicine treatments to a captive audience, which is what happens when there is anything approaching government-defined health insurance.

If there is a “right” to health care, it’s a right to consult the practitioner of one’s choice, using whatever method of health care is acceptable to the patient. Advocates of “health insurance for all” are, in truth, advocating against health care rights, by forcing people to spend so much money subsidizing monopolistic mainstream medicine when it may not be the best course for an individual, that they have no money left for treatments that actually work.

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Whose holiday is Christmas?

“I don’t know if you believe in Christmas
Or if you have presents underneath the Christmas tree
But if you believe in love
That will be more than enough
For you to come and celebrate with me”

–John Denver, “The Christmas Wish”

Amazing that Christmas has grown to the closest thing we have to a universal holiday, and people are pouting about it. Jesus’ message is ultimately love. If you come together in love, you’ve taken Jesus’ message to heart, whatever your religion. If you hate people for marking it with guys in red suits and animated snowmen, you’ve missed the message, even if you say every prayer and go to church every day.

Yet we’ve got some Christians arguing that we shouldn’t even call it “Christmas,” because it’s so commercialized. As if they even invented the holiday.

Reality check for you Christians: Very educated guesses say that Jesus Christ was born in spring. So why do we celebrate at the end of December?

Christ’s birthday wasn’t very important in the beginning, the emphasis was on the Resurrection at Easter. But as Christianity began to spread, one of the methods Christians used to stamp out the older pagan religions was to deliberately schedule Christian holidays on dates that were significant to the religion of the people they were trying to convert, and reinterpret other religions’ symbols in a Christian context.

Decorated trees, holly boughs, Yule logs? That’s all pagan celebrations of the winter solstice. So from the very beginning of Christmas celebrations, it was already a multi-religion holiday.

But if you really want to be Christian about it, remember that little tune about a true love’s gifts? Well, December 25 is the first day of Christmas, and traditionally, the best celebrations were on the twelfth day of Christmas (January 5). So stop throwing your trees out on December 26, already.

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Who renamed me “Alexa” when I wasn’t looking?

(I actually wrote this in September, but it sat in my draft folder waiting for tweaks I never got around to. So in order to get on with new ideas, I’m posting it well after the fact.)


As I type this, I’m sitting on the ground in front of my local library, trying to calm down and fighting an urge to throw my laptop ass hard as I can in no particular direction. I remind myself that not only leave me without the tool I most need to earn any kind of income with no funds to replace it, but depending on the exact direction, could conceivably crack some glass in the door or other damage that would be essentially cosmetic, but still leave me bill that I am even less able to afford than a new laptop.

What is the source of this agitation?

Well, as is my tendency when the library closes for the weekend and I have things undone online, I am sitting outside the front window (where the signal is a little better and there’s shelter from the rain and/or screen-glaring sunshine). In the corner of my eye, I noted a figure crossing the street, apparently making for the front door of the library.

This figure apparently attached no significance to the fact that someone would be sitting on the concrete on the library’s “porch” typing at a laptop rather than being inside. He also didn’t bother to look at the databoard, or the hours posted in the window (to be fair, the hour sign is small and in a window with a bush in front of it, which discourages people from approaching it too closely ).

After tugging on the locked doors, he turned to me. “Is the library closed?”

(Insert facepalm and image of high-pressure steam coming out of my ears)

He’s hardly the first person to ask me. In the months I’ve spent sitting in front of the library on Saturdays (and occasionally Fridays, when they close earlier than usual). It gets very irritating when people can ignore/disregard four different indicators that the library is closed and don’t consider themselves to be the least bit rude to intrude on a total stranger without so much as an apology to ask for information that’s right in front of him–if he’d only bother to connect his brain to his eyes.

“No,” I tell him. “I like sitting out here on the concrete in the rain rather than being inside.”

He notices the sarcasm, but is totally clueless as to why intruding on a total stranger without so much as an “excuse me” to get information any half-brain could get simply paying attention to what his eyes are delivering would provoke such an unfriendly response.

“Can you tell me–without the sarcasm–how long it’s been closed?”

In hindsight, I wish I would have said, “I’ll tell you, if you tell me how many indications that the library is closed that you disregarded.” Or perhaps, “Can you apologize for your manners, or have neither of your parents told you that it’s rude to interrupt people?”

Instead, I told him how long it’s been closing at 1:00 p.m., rather than 4:00 p.m., and how stupid it was that a person couldn’t figure out a place was closed from all the clues in front of his face.

He walked away, yelling at me that I was the stupid one for sitting where I was–as if I had any alternatives. In his mind, there was nothing impolite or inconsiderate or RUDE in asking whoever was nearby whatever he wanted to know, but someone sitting alone has no right to be irritated or react negatively to a total stranger barging into her space and treating her like some kind of customer service station, simply because of where she happens to be sitting.

He attitude is–unfortunately–all too prevalent in today’s society. The ability to generate a text message and fire it off at any time, googling anything whenever the thought occurs to them .  .  . it’s gotten to the point where too many people feel entitled to have an answer to anything they want simply by putting an inquiry to whatever is closest to them.

Actually, it predates the smartphone and internet as we know it. When I worked in a sports arena, I’d watch people walk right past the restrooms on their way to ask me (a person in arena uniform) where the bathroom was.

Whatever is happening, it can’t be entirely blamed on today’s “interconnectedness,” though the smartphone and Web 2.0 have certainly accelerated it. I wish I knew what we could do to reverse this, but I can’t even suggest a course to slow it down–aside from severely restricting internet access (especially via cell phones) for anyone under 13 and make it harder to own a smartphone–but I know too many parents are already too addicted to their smartphones to deny them to their kids.

Well, here’s my little drop in the bucket:

For those of you reading this and thinking that the guy’s didn’t do anything  wrong, and that I was overreacting to a harmless question: Interrupting people is rude, and one does not have to be engaged in a conversation with someone to be interrupted. In fact, as my story shows, a conversation can be an interruption. And I, for one, am sick of it.

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Don’t freak out about Freak Out

The KMG Fire Ball (a.k.a. Afterburner) had a catastrophic breakdown at the opening day of the Ohio State Fair. The simple answer to “What happened?” is: a sweep arm (or something in the junction between the seats and the sweep arm) broke. In response, Fireballs (and Move-It/Spin Out, a related ride with the same gondola arrangement) worldwide have been shut down until KMG and accident investigators figured out exactly what happened.

Several fairs that have contracted carnival companies using the Freak Out (Fireball’s “little brother”) have decided not to allow the operation of Freak Outs, either.

For someone with a grade-school education and a conviction that all catastrophic failures can be prevented with enough qualified inspections, this seems to be a sensible precaution. Actually, it’s a great example of why you shouldn’t let politicians make policy outside the very narrow bounds set by the Constitution.

I’ve seen comments on YouTube videos from posters who are probably convinced that they are sensible, intelligent people saying idiotic things like “they should require NDT” (if they weren’t idiots, they’d take a few seconds to realize that NDT is not only required, but the Fireball in question passed all of them), or “all rides need more inspections/what do you ‘deregulation’ folks have to say now?” (they think inspections–so long as not made by government-employed slackers–are some kind of magic wand that will always find anything wrong, not realizing that the study of metal fatigue is not nearly as mature a science as they think it is). I’ve also seen articles decrying the lack of Federal regulation in amusement rides and calls to have rides of all types (even low-G rides for which high-tech testing would be an unfruitful, extravagant expense that would leave many small county fairs rideless) undergo extensive testing to operate.

The mainstream media also takes a slice of idiot cake, finding and reporting on “structural defects” that were identified and fixed years ago, and accidentally/on purpose not saying whether these issues were addressed on the one at the Ohio Fair. Implication by omission that the ride was operating with uncorrected, known defects. Although a few scattered outlets have responsibly found and reported the test results (not much harder to find than the service bulletins advising owners of the structural issues), far more newscasters have chosen to omit the ride’s clean bill of health in order to create a more sensational, let’s-make-big-government-bigger, rabble-rousing story.

So what’s the straight poop?

For anyone with the most basic understanding of the physics of mechanics and strength of materials, shutting down Freak Out because of what happened to Fireball is like banning oranges because you discovered a worm in an apple.

Freak Out and Fireball can both be described as groupings (six for Fireball, four for Freak Out) of four seats attached to a gondola that rotates at the end of a long arm that swings through around 240 degrees of arc. But there’s a significant difference in the nature of the gondola. In the Fireball, the sweep arms (which connect the seats to the swing arm) are essentially cantilever beams.

If you’re in building construction, you know what a cantilever is. If you’ve visited the Infinity Room of House on the Rock in Spring Green, you’ve stood on a cantilever. If neither of those gives you any perspective, think about trying to loosen a bolt. Fingers don’t work too well if the bolt is tight. So you get a wrench. If that doesn’t work, you get a longer wrench. You push down on one end of the wrench, and the other end exerts a moment (turning force) on the nut. The wrench is working like a cantilever. The sweep arms on the Fireball are like the wrench; the nut is the hub of the gondola, and the seats are your hand–tugging on the “wrench” with every swing. Observers watching the Fireball will tell you that in full swing, the sweep arms are visibly flexing with the strain of the G-forces every swing.

This stress can eventually fatigue the metal in the sweep arm, creating cracks that will eventually become breaks. The problem is that by the time these cracks are large enough to see with the naked eye–or even a loupe–the metal’s probably already broken. General inspections will not reveal them, no matter how competent the inspector.

The only way to detect these cracks before they become a threat to ride safety is with non-destructive testing, which–depending on what exactly is being tested–can include ultrasound, X-rays, magnetic particle testing, neutrons, and terahertz radiation, among other methods.

But the Freak Out is the same thing, isn’t it?

Uh, no. In the Freak Out, the sweep arms are not cantilevered. They actually attach at an angle–only about half of the distance from the fulcrum of the swing arm to the seats is actually the swing arm, the rest of the distance is sweep arms. When the arm is swinging, the sweep arms will want to pull in toward each other, a force that is resisted by spreader bars set between the arms. This puts much less stress (closer to the fulcrum=less force)–and therefore less chance of structural failure–on the sweep arms.

And one more difference between Fireball and Freak Out: The frames of both rides are part of a single trailer (the Fireball requires an “auxiliary” trailer for the other parts, the Freak Out does not), meaning there’s a rather substantial amount of structural steel on each end of the trailer. Fireball swings parallel to the trailer, so if a seat grouping falls off, it slams into that massive steel. Freak Out swings perpendicular to the trailer, so a loose seat grouping would be able to skid to a stop away from the ride (assuming there’s nothing massive near the ride), meaning the Freak Out is slightly less dangerous in the case that there actually is a seat detachment.

Is there anything an average fair-goer can do to tell if a machine like this is over-stressed?

Actually, you can snag a bit of a clue by watching how it’s operated. The greatest G-forces on either ride occurs at the bottom of the arc when the ride is in full swing. Spinning the gondola at this point puts even more stress on the sweep arms/seat attach points. A company operating for maximum thrill will spin the gondola throughout the ride. A company that wants their rides to last will only spin the gondola when the arc is small, or at the top of the arc when the ride is in full swing, and notably not rotating the gondola through the high-G point.

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Powerful words, or not?

So for his Independence Day post, Jeff Goins decided to blog about the power of words, featuring (naturally) those words penned back in 1776, when people not only could write cursive (but that’s another post), but beautiful cursive that you want to frame.

And as Jeff is wont to do, he ended his post with an invitation to comment about other words that we might find “powerful.”

I collect a lot of people’s words (i.e. quotations).  They have several things in common. For one, most of them were first uttered by those we consider our greatest statesmen. For another, the ones that resonate most with me seem also seem to share an unfortunate tendency to be the most powerless words on the planet (or at least in the US of A):

“The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases.”
–Carl Jung

It seems the more proof we have of this, the more Government tries to make us use the same recipe.

No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent.
– Abraham Lincoln

If Government doesn’t think they’re good enough, then they must assume being born in America constitutes “consent.”

Power always thinks… that it is doing God’s service when it is violating all his laws.
John Adams

Oh, that explains it.

“A nation that expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, expects what never was and never will be.”
–Thomas Jefferson

We keep trying to make things simpler and simpler, we have more and more schooling to get less and less learned, and meanwhile our freedoms go by the board.

“Corruption of morals in the mass of cultivators is a phenomenon of which no age nor nation has furnished an example.”
-Thomas Jefferson

Probably why family farms are being absorbed left and right into factory farms, and taxes and regulations are disproportionately burdensome for small businesses and “self employed” individuals. Can’t be having uncorruptable cultivators around to maintain morals.

“It is better that ten guilty escape than one innocent suffer.”
–William Blackstone

If the “people” had their way, most victims of Fake News would be drawn, hung, and quartered before the truth got its proverbial shoes on.

“Hence also do I advocate training in arms for those who believe in the method of violence. I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honor than that she should in a cowardly manner become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonor…
When violence is offered in self-defense or for the defense of the defenseless, it is an act of bravery far better than cowardly submission…”

Yet there are those who believe everyone can be forcibly made into sheeple.

“To die is poignantly bitter, but the idea of having to die without having lived is unbearable.”
— Erich Fromm

“Death is nothing, but to live defeated and inglorious is to die daily.”
— Napoleon Bonaparte

We kill people time and time again, but we never count it unless the heart stops beating.

Every immigrant who comes here should be required within five years to learn English or leave the country.

-Theodore Roosevelt

So what do we do with the ones who were born here?

“The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life.”
-Theodore Roosevelt
I think we’ve got all of those. . .
And my all-time most resonant quote:

“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
–Benjamin Franklin


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