Saturday, February 28, 2015

Humboldt Bay Power Plant, Unit 3

Both the Times- Standard and Lost Coast Outpost have stories on the guy who was fired from Humboldt Bay Power Plant decades ago and went on to write a book about it. I used to work there but never knew the guy. He was there some time before I was. One of the guys I worked with told me of the guy leaving the plant one day and saying he'd been fired.

The pic to the left is a radiation warning sign I still have today. I didn't steal it. They'd fall down from the fence on occasion and workers would just put up new signs. I was standing by them one time as they were reattaching signs, picked up the fallen one and asked if I could have it. They just shrugged their shoulders so I took the sign home with me. About the only souvenir I have of HBPP.

The picture below is from Wikipedia. Not the best as the Unit 3 barber pole stack had been taken down. The two stacks on the left are of Units 1&2. Those were crude oil units, but I believe they could also be run on natural gas. Unit 3 was to the right of them. It was the nuclear unit. Folks who have lived here a while will remember the tall smokestack with the "barber pole" design on it.

I actually got to see and stand right next to a nuclear fuel rod once. I'd thought I'd touched one but thinking about it some more, it was Ron Chance that touched it. Sounds hairy, doesn't it, except it really wasn't.

Gate 13 was on the east side of Unit 3. Whenever any gates were opened, we had to have security folks guarding it, so I was sent to stand there. One of the workers was there just inside the gate- the radiation area, except not much, if any, radiation was right there. He had white booties over his shoes to protect against contamination and a open crate on the ground. 

He'd reach down, pull a rod out of the crate and wipe it down carefully with a white rag. Then he'd test the rag with a dosimeter to see if there was any contamination. He explained they were fuel rods that hadn't been used. Kinda freaky, as even us guards were susceptible to all the hype about how dangerous nuke fuel rods were. 

Another  guard, Ron Chance, asked if he could touch one. The worker said it would be ok so Ron ran his finger down a short section of the rod. Wow! We were kinda stoked. Standing there right next to nuclear fuel rods. There were maybe 10 or 12 of them in the crate. The worker explained they were worth 1 or 2 million dollars each and were being sent back the General Electric since the nuclear unit was being closed.

What did they look like? About six feet long and maybe an inch in diameter. They were made out of clear, hard plastic, as best I could tell. You could see through them. About every six to eight inches down the length of them, there was a cylindrical gray pellet about 3/4 to an inch log. The ends had pointed metal tips on them meant to clip into the actual reactor assembly. Pretty neat.

Why weren't they super radioactive? One of the nuke engineer guys said they need to react with each other to get the nuclear thing going. After they do that for a while they do get real hot, both literally and figuratively. I'm still not sure I get that. After all, they were sitting next to each other in the crate. Weren't they reacting then, but the guy cleaning up the rods didn't seem concerned. Aside from wearing booties over his shoes and gloves on his hands, he was only wearing street clothes the whole time.

I worked there as a security guard from something like '79 to '88. Around '88 was when they laid most of us off because of the nuclear unit being decommissioned. I was fifth in seniority and could have stayed on as the relief guy- covering for other guards when the were off- but opted not to. I passed that torch on to Bob "bobdog" Shaw, the guy below me in seniority. Some of the folks I worked with are still working there to this day.

Friday, February 27, 2015

CFL Bulb Fire Hazard?

A Facebook Friend posted mention from someone who said one of those compact fluorescent bulbs almost started a house fire. That's good to know and I was going to post something here to warn about that. Then I got to thinking that I'd never heard of a fire caused by a CFL lightbulb and would think I would have read of such a thing if it was common.

Did a quick search and the first hit was from Snopes. Apparently this is one of those internet hoaxes that are partly true. The bulbs can get discolored when they go out (none of ours have) but that's normal because of the way they're designed. Here's the link to the Snopes entry if interested. 

BTW; CFL bulbs are considered hazardous wasted which means you're not supposed to throw them in the trash. I was pleased to find out City Garbage takes the first 8 (or 10?) of them for free at their West Hawthorne Street recycling center.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

ISIS Stuff

Not something I'd normally comment on here, but I found this piece from Vox pretty interesting. It seems to be from people in- the- know about the situation in the middle east. They say ISIS isn't doing well, isn't expected to do any better, and might well be losing. Easy reading with some interesting maps.

Boycott Google

Leaving aside the net neutrality issue, more troubling info on the internet front: Google is planning on restricting access to blogger sites it deems as having "explicit adult content". I guess porn sites is one way to refer to them, but according to this article it might involve more than what many of us consider porn.

Those blogger sites won't be deleted, or so it's believed at this point. You'll just have to "follow" those blogs to be able to view them, and there's some talk of those blogs being removed from search engines. We don't need that.

I don't do much porn anymore, but I find it troubling when any company tries to restrict content on the web. I suppose I should say it's a private company so they should be able to run things as they see fit, but they're just too big. And you have to ask: What will they try to restrict next?

No, I'm not asking for government intervention. About the only thing I can think of doing is to boycott Google, but how do you do that?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Telegraph: Neat Paper

I've enjoyed reading articles from the British newspaper, The Telegraph, for some time now. Just recently I started getting all kinds of stuff from them on my Facebook feed. Don't remember subscribing to that feed but no problem. Just about every article seems interesting and I'd follow the links to read them. 

Until the other day when I clicked on one of their stories only to see a message that I'd used up my ten free views for the month. I had no idea they were, or had turned into, a pay site. Bummer. Great stories and I don't want to ration them as I do stories from the L.A. Times. Six pounds per month to subscribe. Isn't that $12.00 U.S., or more? Too expensive for me.

Addendum: Currently a pound is equal to 1.55 dollars so a monthly subscription would be a bit over $9.50.

Traffic Anarchy= Safer Roads?

I wrote here back in 2009 about a plan in Drachten, Holland to remove all traffic control measures in the city of 50,000. It was a traffic engineer's idea to make streets safer. I wondered how that idea had worked. The National Motorist's Association reports it worked well, reporting that traffic accident's went down after they put the idea to practice.

"Der Speigel noted in 2006 that the number of accidents in Drachten 'declined dramatically' after the open traffic design was implemented. Other European cities similarly minimized their traffic control systems with positive results."

I'm still leery of the idea but, when you think about it, many of the traffic "calming" measures we've taken in the U.S. do the same sort of thing. Those concrete and brick islands they've put up in the middle of at least a couple streets in Eureka seem to me more of a hazard than anything else, and I do pay special attention to them. The same could be said of claims made over the street tree program.

But we can't just let the roads be hazardous by themselves, can we? We have to physically create obstacles to make them more hazardous.

Monday, February 23, 2015

My Second Enterprise Adventure

We rented another car from Enterprise Rent-A-Car over the weekend for yet another trip to UCSF. I'd called them weeks earlier to make a reservation but couldn't remember if I was supposed to show up there at 1 or 2 o'clock on Saturday. Not that I think it matters much. As it was, I called them anyway to tell them I'd be in around 2pm. They didn't seem to care.

I went down Saturday around 2pm and give them my credit card and driver's license info. Quick enough. Then the gal says to just wait a bit while they get my car ready. Their car clean up guy was sitting at the back of the office. He got up, went out to the lot, got in a car and pulled it up next to the building where they do the clean ups.

I was a bit disappointed with the car he picked. A Toyota Camry(?). Not sure, but a little bigger than I'd prefer. I'd mentioned when I made the reservation I wanted an "economy car", but knew they pretty much just gave whatever car was available. This one was smaller than the last one we rented- a Chrysler 200- but still bigger than I would have liked.

What really confused me was why they waited until I showed up to get the car ready? I would think the way to do it would be to immediately clean it up after it's returned to get it ready for the next job. Why wait until someone shows up to get it ready? 

No biggie. I'm easy and, as it turned out, that got me a better car.

So the gal at the desk goes out with the guy for ten minutes or so and there I sit when another car drives up and pulls in behind "my" car. It was a smaller Toyota Corrolla. I thought to myself I'd really prefer that one, but I didn't say anything. 

The girl driving it happened to be one of the employees apparently having taken the car somewhere for some reason. Perhaps to take a customer home? 

After about 15 minutes the girl I was dealing with comes back in and asks me to come out with her to inspect the vehicle. They record any damage, gas level and all that stuff so there's no disagreement over the condition of the car. Much to my surprise, the car the other girl drove in is backed up in front of the office and "my" girl hops inside, starts the car and records mileage, gas level and such. Cool! I get the one I wanted. She gave me the key and I drove the car home.

Maybe they thought that car wasn't going to be back in time so went ahead and started getting the other one ready? Still, I would think it would be good operating procedure to get the cars ready to go back out as soon as they're returned from rental. Oh well. I was happy at that point.

The Car

Now I had to figure out all the unique operating stuff in the car. The newer cars are a bit confusing to me. One of the first things I noticed about this car was the same as many newer cars: the view out the rear window is wanting, at best. With the back of the car higher than the front, and the back window not every wide or tall, it's really hard to get a good view out the back. I don't like that at all.

I also hate this thing with newer cars where only the front driver's side door accepts a key. This one was just like the last in that regard. I also don't like the doors locking automatically when you start the engine, but maybe that's just me (my work truck does that). So, two things I'm not comfortable with but I also know that's just the way things are nowadays. Best get used to it.

When I got home I started looking at the dashboard. I couldn't see any way to open the trunk, although there was a button on the key that had a symbol for opening the trunk. That worked.

When we loaded up the next morning I suggested to the wife we're not going anywhere until we know how to open the hatch to the gas cap. I'd actually looked at the manual briefly but the type was too small for me to read easily. I asked Connie to grab the manual to see if she could find out how to open the gas latch.

She found it quickly, along with the location for the button to open the trunk from inside the car. Both were next to each other on the floor to the left of the driver's seat. Good to go. After loading, we left. As I backed up that LED screen, or whatever you call it, in the middle of the dashboard showed the rear view via one of those cameras on the back of the car. Hmmm??? Kinda neat, but I'm not sure I trust that camera view.

Now we have to figure out how everything else works.

First order was the air and air conditioning. I don't usually need A/C but I do like having the air on to make it fresh and cool. There was some button on the dash with a fan symbol on it. Pressed that but nothing happened. Pressed it again and again. Came on too strong then lowered as I fiddled with it. I wasn't sure what I was doing but somehow stumbled on getting it just the way I wanted.

Then the radio. We found the channel we wanted. Then we got on the freeway and I tried to figure out how cruise control worked. Pressed some buttons on the left side of the steering wheel and the radio got all screwed up. Ok, that's not it. Another one of those radio controls on the steering wheel, just as on the last car we rented. I wasn't interested in figuring that out yet. I told Connie she had to figure out how to get the radio back to normal using the controls on the dash. 

She starts fiddling with the radio. Can't figure it out and ends up saying, "How do you do this?". I tell her rather abruptly if I knew how to do it I would have done it myself(!!!). That's her job and she's got five and a half hours to figure it out. Shortly after that she got the right channel back. Later on we kinda figured how to do it pretty well, but I'm not gonna bother with the controls on the steering wheel.

I finally found the cruise controls on the steering column but couldn't quite figure out how they worked. Somehow I managed to get it to hold on my desired speed, but I wasn't sure how I did it. I stayed on cruise control for an hour or so before turning it off due to traffic. I wasn't quite sure how I turned it off, either. 

A few more hours down the road and I finally figured it out. You press the button on the end of the control. That starts the speed tracking. When you get the right speed figured you just tap the control rod down and it locks your speed in. There's a light on the speedometer that says SET when you've got it right.

I also noticed a green light on the tachometer that would light up and say "ECO". I figured that was the thing someone here mentioned earlier that tells you when you're using the right gas vs speed ratio. Kinda neat, but I'm not sure what practical application there is for it. It would be near impossible to train yourself to always keep that light on. You drive according to conditions, not the light.

Mileage wise it's hard to say just how well we did but we left with 3/4 of a tank and used only a quarter of it by the time we made Willits. Only $19 plus change, but hard to say how much had to do with lower gas prices vs. good mileage. Plus, we filled the tank, so put more gas in than we used. Still, a quarter tank to get to Willits was pretty nice. 

Coming back north, we refilled at Brown's in Willits. Forget how much gas we got as their stupid pump wouldn't print the receipt, but I figured we made it down on a quarter tank. We should make it back on a quarter, too. Nope. Actually a bit more than a quarter since the tank fills up beyond full on the gauge. 

I was surprised it went down as far as it did, but I realized something I never noticed before: from at least Piercy on northward, you seem to drive a lot more uphill. Anyone else ever notice that? First time I did. As it was I can't complain as we got home with about the same amount of gas in the tank, perhaps a hair more, than was in the tank when I picked it up. Pretty cool.

Overall, I was pretty happy with that car. Drove well. Cornered well and handled hills very well. I wouldn't mind having one, depending on the price. I'm guessing next time I rent a car from Enterprise I'll probably be wasting my time asking for that particular car again? I'll still ask.

Norman's Dry Cleaners Being Demolished

I just found out via the Nextdoor Neighborhood e-mail list that Norman's Dry Cleaners- in Henderson Center for as long as I can remember- is going to be demolished. Apparently the fire department is going to use it for fire training before it's torn down. Anybody know if it's going to be rebuilt, or just gone forever?

Many have noticed the chain link fence that was put around Norman's some time ago. I'd heard that was in preparation for digging up a bunch of underground chemicals or something along that line. I didn't realize they were planning on tearing the building down.

As an aside, I noticed the chain link fences and excavation being done at the Henderson Center Patriot gas station for a few days. I thought maybe that place might be out of business for some time, too, but after a couple of days they're back in business. I guess it won't be the same with Norman's.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Another Wannabee Martian

The Sacramento Bee has a story on yet another finalist in the Mars One project. This gal is from Folsom. Another explanation of why someone wants to go that I don't get. There is a little more info on the project in this story than the last.

Speaking of Mars, you space buffs may want to get a copy of James Oberg's Mission To Mars. Published in the 80s by a NASA guy, it tells the thinking of the time on how they'd send people to Mars and what they'd do when they get there. I read it back then and was fascinated. I've read that despite being an older book, the thinking behind Mars exploration hasn't changed much.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Heading To Mars

Time magazine has a piece by a gal chosen as one of the finalists for a one way trip to Mars. I find her explanation uninspiring, but it's her life to live.

As much as I'd probably give any number of body parts to walk on Mars, I simply wouldn't do it, at least with current technology and certainly not one way only. I can't imagine having regrets once you were half way through on the six month journey. Heck, the journey itself might drive you nuts!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Neat Beehive

This new development in beekeeping seems pretty neat. The honey comes out automatically rather than having to manually take the honeycombs out and run them through a centrifuge. Page loads a bit slow with the pictures on my system. You can scroll down to read the text.

Suddenlink Update

It's going on towards 2 months after having switched back to Suddenlink cable TV at the beginning of the year. I certainly can't say it's anything as care free as it was when I subscribed to it for 30 years or more prior to switching to Dish Network.

You'll recall we switched to Suddenlink after Dish Network raised their monthly rate, yet again, to $60.00. The sales guy told us our first bill might be around $50ish. It ended up being $65 plus change, as did our second bill. I did some back and forth online with them. Not sure if the situation is resolved as we haven't gotten our 3rd bill. 

I e-mailed the sales guy who told us to contact him over any problems. He told me if it didn't get resolved to contact him. If we get another bill for $65.00, though, I think I'll just switch back to Dish until we go to broadcast and streaming TV.

I thought the hardware problem had fixed itself. Everything was fine for the first three or so days after installation, then the remote seemed to stop working. E-mailed the sales guy but he just said to go down to their office and get another remote. Okaaaay...helpful, I suppose, and I did that. 

New remote didn't work so it was obviously the box. I e-mailed him again asking who should contact the service guys for a new box, him or me. He never replied. I was getting ready to just go down and get a new box when I checked the TV one last time if only so I could accurately describe the problem- what worked and what didn't.  All of the sudden everything worked fine so I didn't bother getting another box.

Worked pretty good after that until a few days ago when the remote/box problem started again. I'd have to do any changes using the buttons on the box instead of using the remote, although you can still dial in individual stations by pushing the numbers on the remote.

Connie said she had it working again last night, except I'm not sure she did. I'll have to check it out. 

Not impressed, so far. Dish seemed a lot less hassle so it's back to Dish if they send us another bill for $65.00.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

State of Emergencies and Drug Free Zones

The Times- Standard reports Sheriff Mike Downey has declared a local state of emergency in Humboldt as a result of the last storm. No real surprise as it seems we often do that when we get more than an inch of rain in a day. Then again, I believe this is the first such declaration I might have heard of in a while. Somebody been slacking off at the courthouse?
I was watching KIEM TV News last night, but not paying much attention. There was some mention of an effort afoot to increase the number of Drug Free Zone signs placed around schools. Again, not paying close enough attention so forget the exact details.

I wrote before about those Drug Free Zone signs back in 2006. Ever notice them? I didn't think much of them when I did, until I found out what they meant. What they mean is if you're inside one of those zones- within 1000 feet of a school- you're subject to enhanced penalties for any sort of drug violation. I believe this is some federal thing.

You could be growing two pot plants for your own use, no problem. But if you're living within a Drug Free Zone- say, two blocks from the school- you're subject to serious penalties for having drugs near a school. Downright silly as far as I'm concerned.

I was surprised that today's KIEM News poll shows only 42% agreeing with the statement that all schools be required to post Drug Free Zone signs. I voted NO, of course, but you'd think there would be more than 42% wanting more of those signs. After all, we have to DO SOMETHING!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Mike Rowe On College Vs. Ability

Finally figured out how to copy and paste Rowe's commentary. I just Liked his Facebook page and copied and pasted it from there. Excellent commentary from Mike on a question regarding criticism of Governor Scott Walker for not finishing college: 

Kyle wrote:
Howard Dean recently criticized Gov Scott Walker for never finishing college, stating that he was "unknowledgeable." What would your response be on college as a requirement for elected office?

Hi Kyle
Back in 1990, The QVC Cable Shopping Channel was conducting a national talent search. I had no qualifications to speak of, but I needed a job, and thought TV might be a fun way to pay the bills. So I showed up at The Marriott in downtown Baltimore with a few hundred other hopefuls, and waited for a chance to audition. When it was my turn, the elevator took me to the top floor, where a man with no expression led me into a suite and asked me to take a seat behind a large desk. Across from the desk, there was a camera on a tripod. On the desk was a digital timer with an LED display. I took a seat as the man clipped a microphone on my shirt and explained the situation. 

“The purpose of this audition is to see if you can talk for eight minutes without stuttering, blathering, passing out, or throwing up. Any questions?”
“What would you like me to talk about,” I asked.
The man pulled a pencil from behind his ear and rolled it across the desk. “Talk to me about that pencil. Sell it. Make me want it. But be yourself. If you can do that for eight minutes, the job is yours. Ok?” 

I looked at the pencil. It was yellow. It had a point on one end, and an eraser on the other. On the side were the words, Dixon Ticonderoga Number 2 SOFT.
“Ok,” I said.

The man set the timer to 8:00, and walked behind the tripod. He pressed a button and a red light appeared on the camera. He pressed another button and the timer began to count backwards. “Action,” he said. I picked up the pencil and started talking. 

“Hi there. My name’s Mike Rowe, and I only have eight minutes to tell you why this is finest pencil on Planet Earth. So let’s get right to it.”
I opened the desk drawer and found a piece of hotel stationary, right where I hoped it would be. I picked up the pencil and wrote the word, QUALITY in capital letters. I held the paper toward the camera.
“As you can plainly see, The #2 Dixon Ticonderoga leaves a bold, unmistakable line, far superior to the thin and wispy wake left by the #3, or the fat, sloppy skid mark of the unwieldy #1. Best of all, the Ticonderoga is not filled with actual lead, but “madagascar graphite,” a far safer alternative for anyone who likes to chew on their writing implements.”
To underscore the claim, I licked the point. I then discussed the many advantages of the Ticonderoga’s color.
“A vibrant yellow, perfectly suited for an object that needs to stand out from the clutter of a desk drawer.”
I commented on the comfort of it’s design.
“Unlike those completely round pencils that press hard into the web of your hand, the Ticonderoga’s circumference is comprised of eight, gently plained surfaces, which dramatically reduce fatigue, and make writing for extended periods an absolute delight.”
I pointed out the “enhanced eraser,” which was “guaranteed to still be there - even when the pencil was sharpened down to an unusable nub.”
I opined about handmade craftsmanship and American made quality. I talked about the feel of real wood.
“In a world overrun with plastic and high tech gadgets, isn’t it comforting to know that some things haven’t evolved into something shiny and gleaming and completely unrecognizable?’”
After all that, there was still five minutes on the timer. So I shifted gears and considered the pencil’s impact on Western Civilization. I spoke of Picasso and Van Gogh, and their hundreds of priceless drawings - all done in pencil. I talked about Einstein and Hawking, and their many complicated theories and theorems - all done in pencil.
“Pen and ink are fine for memorializing contracts,” I said, “but real progress relies on the ability to erase and start anew. Archimedes said he could move the world with a lever long enough, but when it came to proving it, he needed a pencil to make the point.”
With three minutes remaining, I moved on to some personal recollections about the role of pencils in my own life. My first legible signature, my first book report, my first crossword puzzle, and of course, my first love letter. I may have even worked up a tear as I recalled the innocence of my youth, scribbled out on a piece of looseleaf with all the hope and passion a desperate 6th grader could muster...courtesy of a #2 pencil.
With :30 seconds left on the timer, I looked fondly at the Dixon Ticonderoga, and sat silently for five seconds. Then I wrapped it up.
“We call it a pencil, because all things need a name. But today, let’s call it what it really is. A time machine. A match maker. A magic wand. And let’s say it can all be yours...for just .99 cents.”

The timer read 0:00. The man walked back to the desk. He took the pencil and wrote “YOU’RE HIRED” on the stationary, and few days later, I moved to West Chester, PA. And a few days after that, I was on live television, face to face with the never-ending parade of trinkets and chotchkies that comprise QVC’s overnight inventory.

I spent three months on the graveyard shift, five nights a week. Technically, this was my training period, which was curious, given the conspicuous absence of supervision, or anything that could be confused with actual instruction. Every few minutes a stagehand would bring me another mysterious “must have item,” which I’d blather about nonsensically until it was whisked away and replaced with something no less baffling. In this way, I slowly uncovered the mysteries of my job, and forged a tenuous relationship with an audience of chronic insomniacs and narcoleptic lonely-hearts. It was a crucible of confusion and ambiguity, and in hindsight, the best training I ever had. 

Which brings me to the point of your question, Kyle.
I don’t agree with Howard Dean - not at all.

Here’s what I didn’t understand 25 years ago. QVC had a serious recruiting problem. Qualified candidates were applying in droves, but failing miserably on the air. Polished salespeople with proven track records were awkward on TV. Professional actors with extensive credits couldn’t be themselves on camera. And seasoned hosts who understood live television had no experience hawking products. So eventually, QVC hit the reset button. They stopped looking for “qualified” people, and started looking for anyone who could talk about a pencil for eight minutes.
QVC had confused qualifications with competency.

Perhaps America has done something similar? 

Look at how we hire help - it’s not so different than how we elect leaders. We search for work ethic on resumes. We look for intelligence in test scores. We search for character in references. And of course, we look at a four-year diploma as though it might actually tell us something about common-sense and leadership. 

Obviously, we need a bit more from our elected officials than the instincts of a home shopping host, but the business of determining what those “qualifications” are is completely up to us. We get to decide what matters most. We get to decide if a college degree or military service is somehow determinative. We get to decide if Howard Dean is correct.

Anyone familiar with my foundation knows my position. I think a trillion dollars of student loans and a massive skills gap are precisely what happens to a society that actively promotes one form of education as the best course for the most people. I think the stigmas and stereotypes that keep so many people from pursuing a truly useful skill, begin with the mistaken belief that a four-year degree is somehow superior to all other forms of learning. And I think that making elected office contingent on a college degree is maybe the worst idea I’ve ever heard. 

But of course, Howard Dean is not the real problem. He’s just one guy. And he’s absolutely right when he says that many others will judge Scott Walker for not finishing college. That's the real problem.
However - when Howard Dean called the Governor “unknowledgeable,” he rolled out more than a stereotype. He rolled a pencil across the desk, and gave Scott Walker eight minutes to knock it out of the park. 

It’ll be fun to see if he does.

Get Rid of Caps?

I was trying to post a neat thing Mike (World's Dirtiest Jobs) Rowe posted on Facebook. No matter what I do I just get an embed with a giant picture, so I'll give up on that.

In the meantime, in my spam box yesterday I couldn't help but notice the subject of an e-mail. Something about getting rid of upper case letters. Clicking on the link led me to this web site where the writer makes a case for getting rid of capital letters.

It's an ok case, but not a good one. I say NO! I'll be the first to admit I'm horrible with grammar, punctuation and proper application of capital letters. Still, we shouldn't forsake at least attempting to write properly because it might take too much thought and effort. Dump the caps for text messaging. For all other writing they should stay.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Commercial Marijuana Developments

Reason magazine looks at legal developments in Washington State over medical and recreational marijuana. Patient registration is involved, along with limits on growing. Pretty soon this sort of thing will be coming to all states that loosen up marijuana laws.

Some of you might think I'd be bothered by this sort of government mischief, but I'm not. It should come as no surprise. I almost find it amusing.

I'm reminded of an article I read in a Canadian newspaper years ago where the writers made the case for keeping marijuana in the black market: No bureaucratic hassles and high quality product available 24/7. All that gone with legal, regulated marijuana. 

I think they're right, since the black market will remain viable, especially as government gets more and more involved in the legal market.

Not sure why I should even care as I haven't smoked pot for decades.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Gaining Sympathy

Some of you may recall the supposed motivation of state senator Liu in proposing a law requiring bicyclists of all age in the state to wear helmets: She had a nephew killed by a drunken driver in 2004. Setting aside the drunk driving, what I wasn't aware of until I read this story in the Santa Rosa Press- Democrat, was her nephew was WEARING A HELMET.

You would think she'd come up with a little more sensible example for proposing a law than pointing to a case where the victim was already doing what she wants. Then again, that's not the purpose of her example, is it? Her purpose is to gain sympathy. In that regard she might have some success, at least in this state.

"Not every human problem deserves a law." - Governor Jerry Brown

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Toilet Problems In San Diego

The San Diego Union- Tribune reports on a supposed mini- crime wave in the area around a recently built public toilet. Any reports on the new public toilet in Arcata, or the porta- potti recently put out on the North Jetty?

A Star Trek Fan

I've been a fan of the Star Trek series for decades. I watched every episode of the original series, and its re- runs over and over again. 

When Star Trek: The Next Generation was announced, I was skeptical, at best. I predicted it would be a flop. No way it could do justice to the original Star Trek. How wrong I was. To this day I feel it was ten times better than the original, although I'm not sure I could say why.

Some might say the graphics and technology was a big plus, but the original series' technical stuff was just as good, for its time. I'm guessing it's the characters. I simply enjoy them more for some reason. Maybe because there's more to the characters- call them deeper, if you will?

I saw every Next Generation episode, plus the umpteen re- runs, just as I did with the original show. Then last night, for the first time in years, I stumbled on to back to back series of The Next Generation on BBC America. What was kind of neat was it had apparently been so long since I'd watched the show I didn't recall the episodes we were watching, although Connie said she remembered parts of them.

Connie asked me which of the Star Trek series I thought the best. Hmmm??? Actually pretty easy for the best one: The Next Generation, which set the stage for the other ones. They were all good, with one exception, so I hate to grade them in order, but I'd say The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyageur. 

Then there's that other one. I thought Enterprise was crap. I can't believe it lasted four seasons. Wikipedia points out it was simply called Enterprise the first two seasons. They should have left it at that but made it Star Trek: Enterprise after that. How dare they equate that show with the others in the series?

Why did I think it was crap? I guess I shouldn't be so judgmental after having only watched a half hour of two different episodes, but those two half hours were enough for me to change the channel. I guess the characters seemed shallow and the set seemed to be of people living in a cave with the dark background all the time, at least the two times I watched it.

Come up with a new Star Trek series and I'll be watching it, but not if it's anything like Enterprise.
And check this out: I was reading through the Wikipedia entries on Enterprise when I noticed the name Andy Mangels. His name even had a link and he has his own Wikipedia page. He wrote some stuff used in the Enterprise series, among other things.

A relation? Maybe, although Wikipedia says nothing about his growing up. I did have a cousin Andy, although I'm not sure if his last name was Mangels. It very well could have been, though. I've sent out a few e-mails to others who might know. It wouldn't surprise me if it is my cousin Andy. There's not many Mangels around, at least in this country.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Make Contact Now?

The Telegraph reports a movement afoot to contact alien civilizations. Rather than just listening for them as is done at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence sites, some say we need to target likely planets and send messages to them. 

Kind of a neat idea, but it's rightly pointed out if we do make contact, those aliens might not be friendly. What happens if we contact the Cylons or The Borg by mistake?

Then again, figure it's going to take thousands of years for radio signals to get to even the closest galaxy. And, as the story mentions, we've been sending out signals to space for at least 70 years already, albeit not intentionally. Any critters out there could probably pick up those signals already. 

So what's the point in deliberately sending signals? I'm not sure it makes sense, but it might be fun.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Food and Other Science Stuff

Reason's Elizabeth Brown takes a look at the fed's changing of food guidelines after science supposedly advanced. The federal food folks will soon be no longer listing cholesterol among its warnings. She points out many warnings government has given us over the years resulted in shifts to foods that might be worse:

"One of the reasons trans fats found their way into large parts of the U.S. food supply was the government's campaign against products made with lard, prompting foodmakers to instead switch to partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils. These oils turned out to be high in the types of trans fats we now know are more dangerous than animal fats. The government also urged individuals to stop cooking with animal fats and instead use vegetable oils such as corn and soybean oil—both loaded with inflammation-spiking omega-6 fatty acids, which have been much more detrimental to American health than eating butter.".

Points well made. About the only thing bugging me about the article is she gives the impression that these latest "scientific" findings are the last word. Well, she doesn't really say that but that's the impression she gave me. Ten or fifteen years from now we'll be hearing that what we're being told now is wrong.

Speaking of science, Reason science correspondent, Ronald Bailey, looks at a new study that finds politics affects perceptions about science in both liberals and conservatives. From Science Daily:

"New research suggests that liberals, as well as conservatives, can be biased against science that doesn't align with their political views.".

I agree with Ron Bailey. that does read as if the study presupposed that it was only conservatives that might show bias in looking at science.

Setting aside biased studies by science, while I don't believe I've written it here before, I have written pretty much the same thing elsewhere. My statement being that, while I won't go so far as to say science is for sale, it certainly is heavily politicized. As such, people will agree or disagree with science depending on how it fits in with their world view.

Water fluoridation and vaccines being two subjects that come to mind where you'll have the two sides feverishly defending their "science" based on how they feel about other things in general. 

I'm not so sure it's always so much a liberal vs. conservative view, though, although one sides dislike of business seems to come out in these two issues- Big pharma often being mentioned in anti- vax arguments and the fertilizer industry and hazardous waste being touted a lot by the anti- fluoride camp. That taints the way people will read the various studies.

But, for the most part, that Science Daily study goes along with what I've already been writing elsewhere. Am I great, or what?

Another Mandatory Helmet Law in California?

The Sacramento Bee reports a Democratic state senator has introduced a bill to make the wearing of helmets mandatory for all bicyclists in California. We shouldn't be surprised. It's already illegal for anyone under 18 to ride a bike without a helmet. We've seen how well that's been enforced (sarcasm).

I'm a firm believer in wearing a helmet while on either a bike or motorcycle. It's dumb not to and I always wore a helmet back in my bike riding days. I don't believe in forcing it on others. I'm sure most readers here will defend the idea, but wouldn't you be screaming overkill if Eureka Police Chief Mills proposed the same thing?

It's been said idle hands are the devil's workshop. Senator Liu shows us that applies to idle minds, as well.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

New Local Drinking and Movie Games Blog?

Other than seeing this advertised in the local Craiglslist Groups ads, and having a map showing a wide area around 14th Street in Eureka, I don't see anything that really proves it a local blog. Still, some of you may want to start following this blog that tries to come up with games involving drinking and movies.

Ore Processing On the North Spit

I think this is a great idea if it pans out, pardon the pun. A company wants to use some of the old buildings on the North Jetty to process gold ore. When I first started reading about it I figured the environmentalists would fight it tooth and nail. No surprise that Humboldt Baykeeper seems to be gearing up for that. And don't forget about the Coastal Commission. 

Great idea and just what we need up here- industry. I'm skeptical of its success. After all, this is California, the State of NO.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tobacco Replacing Marijuana?

Reason magazine looks at cigarettes, tobacco taxes and smuggling. Will tobacco replace marijuana's place in the drug war?

Monday, February 09, 2015

Scan Your System

After my last hassle with the rootkit virus a couple years ago I told myself I'd try and remember to run a virus scan on my system once a month. So much for intentions. It's been some time since I ran one, maybe over a year. 

Yesterday I finally broke down and did a full system scan. Shortly after I started it, my Avast anti- virus showed an infection. I was disappointed more than surprised. It turned out to be the Win32Adware-gen virus- a higher risk one according to Avast. Not sure how it got there. It can come from downloaded files or malicious web sites.

I seem to have gotten rid of it, at least for now. From what I've read this virus is like other ones that can hide deep in your computer and then emerge later on. We shall see. 

My point being you can't rely on your anti- virus to stop things from sneaking into your computer. You should run a system scan fairly regularly.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Libertaians and Forced Vaccination

I'm once again in the middle on an issue. I personally have no fear of vaccinations and think it's rather silly of those who do. Still, I respect individual choice.

Reason magazine gives a libertarian doctor's opinion on some aspects of the issue. I'll go against the compromise option since I don't really have a problem with public schools requiring immunization for attendance. Well, I might compromise a little. Leave the school attendance thing as is but give them the option of requiring vaccination should an outbreak of some disease develop.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Redwood Family Practice Doing Obamacare Now

I was pleased to go into Redwood Family Practice yesterday and have them tell me they're "billing" Covered California (Obamacare) now. They hadn't accepted it before. When the lady told me that she didn't seem particularly happy about it. I'm guessing because billing is no guarantee if, or how much, they're going to get paid. 

Regardless. Works for me. I only go in there once or twice a year. I told the lady I was pleased because, if I ever had to start going in more often, I'd have to switch to some place that accepted my insurance.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

More On Eyewitnesses

The Santa Rosa Press- Democrat ran an op-ed today about problems with eyewitness identifications. It focuses mostly on police line- ups, courtroom identification and possible reforms. That's fine, but I think they miss the point I've brought up before about eyewitnesses often seeing just what they've conditioned themselves to see. I'm not sure if there's any way to reform that.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Coasting To Save Gas

Not sure how effective this is but a couple months ago I decided to make a deliberate effort to save gas by altering my driving technique. I've probably always done this a little but I really made an effort these last two months.

I've been trying to coast my truck whenever possible, and it's possible more than you might think. That means taking the foot off the gas, switching the gears to neutral and letting the truck just travel by momentum. 

I've noticed I can sometimes go three or more blocks this way with the engine just idling. For example, today I went from probably the Nazarene Church on E street to Wabash in neutral. Starting off from Wabash I went nearly all the way to 14th Street in neutral. Then down the dip on 14th in neutral, going back into gear maybe 1/3 the way up the other side of the dip, and so on.

I can't be sure how much gas I've saved because I haven't actually checked my mileage via odometer vs. gallons used. That seems too much a hassle although I've done it before. Besides, I always forget when the time comes to write things down.

As far as money paid, my bill is lower but with much lower gas prices that's to be expected. I do know I enjoyed last month's gas bill of $53.78, although I'll chalk that up to lower prices. The most recent bill was $12.87, which makes me think I am saving gas, if only because I didn't fill my tank in that time period. 

Maybe I'm not refueling as much since I've been trying this? I need to remember to actually check my mileage driving this way. Give it a try and see how it works for you. It's easier on the brakes, too.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Your Homeland Security Dollars At Work

Police in Missoula, Montana cite the Rainbow Family, a group of hippies preaching peace, love and non- violence, as reason for needing a grant of over $254,000 from the Dept. of Homeland Security.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

NBC News Pick Republiican Ticket

I was watching NBC Nightly News the other night. Is his name Chuck Todd? He did a brief segment on Mitt Romney's announcement he wasn't going to enter the presidential race next year. Then he says something like, "That narrows down the field to Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and....". I think he said Ted Cruz but didn't catch it. 

Gotta love it when the mainstream media makes our choices in presidential elections for us. No real surprise there, just surprised at how early and blatant he was about it.


I've been thinking a lot about neighborhoods since I got involved again with that Nextdoor web site. You'll recall Nextdoor creates not just neighborhoods, but an e-mail list for the people living in them to share information about....well.. whatever. Most seem interested in using it as a Neighborhood Watch type thing than anything else.

Back when I tried starting a neighborhood a few years ago, I just had mine extending a block or two on all sides of my house. I called it Trinity & E. I was told by Nextdoor it was too small so ended up extending it to, by coincidence, where my recent neighborhood proposal ends up.

Two problems now: We have two "Henderson Center" neighborhoods. One that actually contains Henderson Center, and ours that doesn't. I'm trying to change the name of ours to Henderson Center north, or something along that line. One Nextdoor member recommended having ours merge with the other HC neighborhood. Not sure if we'd be well served by something not so local.

Which got me to thinking about what makes a neighborhood and how people define their neighborhood? Here's the page that shows the current Nextdoor neighborhoods, assuming the link works if you're not a member.

The nearby neighbors I've spoken with feel an affinity to Henderson Center. After all, you can see the traffic lights on Henderson Street from out in front of my house. You can almost see Shafer's Hardware from D Street. It's like part of the neighborhood, but I never tell people I live in Henderson Center. I always say I live about seven blocks north of Henderson Center. Seems to me our neighborhood should be called North of Henderson Center, or Henderson Center North.

What about some of the current other Nextdoor neighborhoods? There's one called Stop and Shop. That's centered on the little market at Wabash & B streets. Except seems to me much of the area in the that neighborhood is far enough away from Stop & Shop that I doubt people living there tell others they live near Stop & Shop. 

In fact, Stop & Shop comes over all the way to across the street from my house. The neighborhood border goes right down the middle of E street. Doesn't really make sense and I'm sure nobody near me feels an affinity to Stop & Shop. 

Then there's the Eureka High School neighborhood. It goes from I street (no argument with that) on the west to S street on the east. Harris Street and 14th are the north/ south borders. I just don't see someone living near Harris and S streets feeling as they're part of the Eureka High neighborhood. 

Where do you live? I live over by the high school. Nope. In fact, most living to the north of Harris there would probably say they live near Sequoia Park.

I've been driving around the last few days looking at the neighborhoods, trying to figure out how to name them and where the boundaries should be. It's no easy task. Give it a try some time. As far as my neighborhood, though, I'm happy with Henderson Center North. I'm just not quite happy with the boundaries we've been given.

What would you call your neighborhood and how big should it be? Where would you place the boundaries?