Thursday, January 31, 2008

Catholic Bishop says don't celebrate St. Patrick's Day

Wait, what?

From the Columbus Dispatch

Local Irish Catholics face a dilemma this St. Patrick's Day: Celebrate the feast day against the bishop's wishes or miss out on the fun.

This year, St. Patrick's Day (March 17) falls on the Monday of Holy Week, the most sacred period of the Christian calendar, from Palm Sunday to Easter.

Feast days cannot be celebrated during Holy Week, said Deacon Tom Berg Jr., vice chancellor of the Columbus Diocese. Columbus Bishop Frederick Campbell has asked that all St. Patrick's Day celebrations, including the traditional parade, be moved to another date.

The 2,200-member Shamrock Club said the Downtown parade and Irish Family Reunion at Veterans Memorial will go on as planned.

But another Irish group, the 200-member Ancient Order of Hibernians Patrick Pearse Division, will not participate because they are all Catholic.

The decision to move forward in Columbus has caused a rift in the Irish Catholic community, said Monsignor John K. Cody, who is chaplain of several Irish groups, including the Shamrock Club and the Ancient Order of Hibernians Patrick Pearse Division.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Can't be violent... no guns

If you've been watching the news, you could be forgiven for missing the civil unrest in Kenya. After all, we've got the Superbowl, the elections... I'm sure there's a missing white girl we all need to get angsty about.

What strikes me is the mobs in Kenya seem to be armed with two main implements: machetes and gasoline.

This CNN story says it well:
NAIROBI, Kenya (CNN) -- Gangs of young men armed with machetes are roaming the streets in Kenya as post-election violence threatens to engulf the country. Horrific attacks are being reported, including the torching of a church where people who had sought refuge were burned alive.

So, in general the mobs in Kenya aren't armed with firearms, but that doesn't stop mass killings and barbaric behavior. Almost as if it's not the tool that make someone violent, but the nature of the individuals involved.

Restricting firearms doesn't restrict behavior. Those motivated to commit violence on others just find other tools. Like machetes and molotov cocktails.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Overdose deaths now surpass firearm deaths

From NPR

For the first time in U.S. history, drug overdoses and other types of poisonings now kill more people than guns, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Record numbers of West Virginians are dying in the quiet epidemic, mostly from prescription painkillers such as OxyContin, Vicodin and methadone.

I tried to find the article mentioned in the story; someone needs to improve the search function on the health statistics site. I did find this though, which supports the NPR report.

I doubt this story will make much more than a ripple in the public consciousnesses. The irrational fear that the media seems to like isn't present. Firearms are something unusual in many people lives, but everyone is familiar with prescription medications. That which is familiar isn't scary.

Monday, January 28, 2008

True... and welcome back Butchie!

From Chopping Block. Good to see Lee Adam Herold is back at it.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

National Health Care: Only if we like you

As a sort of follow up to an earlier post, this story in the UK Telegraph caught my eye:

Doctors are calling for NHS treatment to be withheld from patients who are too old or who lead unhealthy lives.

Smokers, heavy drinkers, the obese and the elderly should be barred from receiving some operations, according to doctors, with most saying the health service cannot afford to provide free care to everyone.

Fertility treatment and "social" abortions are also on the list of procedures that many doctors say should not be funded by the state.

The findings of a survey conducted by Doctor magazine sparked a fierce row last night, with the British Medical Association and campaign groups describing the recommendations from family and hospital doctors as "out­rageous" and "disgraceful".

So, at least from some survey respondents, in the ideal national health care system every citizen pays for health care through their taxes but are denied benefits if they don't live their lives the way doctors think they should or get too old.

Of course, those "bad people" won't be getting a break on their taxes of course. They have to keep paying for the "good people" who really deserve medical care.

That's a national health care system you can keep on the other side of the pond. Socialism is egalitarian only if you're one of the "good people", apparently.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Friday, January 25, 2008

Meet Max

Meet Max.

I've no idea what sort of dog he is, but I suspect he has a bit of black lab in him. Because he's black. Ok, so it's entirely possible I'm wrong, but there ya go.

The girlfriend has a coworker who lives out in BFE. Max showed up on his doorstep last week; we think someone abandoned him. She's never one to turn down a stray ( rather the reason she and I are together... badum-ching ) so, as of this morning, we have a dog.

So far, he's getting along with the cats reasonably well. My cats being cats, they're aloof and uninterested. Vaguely bitchy. Rather normal.

So anyway, meet Max. Latest member of the clan.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Muslim activist critical of "Multicultural Mistake"

I ran across this on NPR

In 2005, Seyran Ates was named Germany's woman of the year for her work in defense of Muslim women in immigrant communities.


Ates blames the rise of political Islam in Europe in great part on what she calls excessive tolerance, both by the left and the right, of repressive traditions of minority cultures — and a widespread unwillingness to integrate immigrants into mainstream society. She calls it the "Multicultural Mistake," also the title of her recently published book.

Forced marriages, she says, are locking up German-born Muslims in separate Islamic enclaves.

There are tens of thousands of women so isolated from German society that they're unable even to call an ambulance.

"We have in the third generation children who do not speak very well German," Ates says. "They cannot speak very well their own language — they are not integrated in the culture, they do not even know how big is the city in which they live in."

Domestic violence and even honor killings take place behind walls of silence.

To be honest, I'm not sure what to make of this story. Ates doesn't seem a likely candidate for a reactionary, and I can understand her frustration. Germany, perhaps like all Western societies, is relatively open. So long as you don't hurt anyone else, you're free to do just about anything.

Including isolate yourself from the larger society.

Forcing others to isolate themselves would seem to be illegal, although one could conceivably convince someone they were better off isolated without using force.

So, how does one solve this? Forced integration into the larger society? If so, who gets to decide what's "normal"?

On the other hand, education alone doesn't strike me as particularly effective. Sure, if the children of first generation immigrants make it to public school there's a good chance they might decide to look beyond their upbringing. On the other hand, if the society is closed enough, children could be born at home with the aid of a midwife; the kids wouldn't have so much as a birth certificate.

Perhaps thats an extreme example; still, if a subset of society refuses to integrate with that larger society, that doesn't seem to bode well for the health of either society.

Previously, it's been a bit rocky but integration has happened. Look at the history of the Irish or the Italians in the US, for example. Perhaps this situation, in a few generations, will be the same... but I can't help thinking such hopeful thoughts are just whistling in the dark.

Why So Serious?

Why So Serious?

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Call of Cthulhu

Perhaps it's a sign of the end times, but while out shopping with the girlfriend at Best Buy ( hey... she had a gift card! ) this caught my eye:

I'd heard of this before; a fan made silent movie of the H.P. Lovecraft story 'The Call of Cthulhu'. Insightful readers might note the title of this blog, and conclude that I loved the thing.

Of course I did! In all it's cheesy goodness, it follows the story quite well and given that the people who made it had a budget of pocket change it looks great.

The "making of" extras on the DVD have some cute moments. Apparently, they had no problem finding people to play the role of Cthulhu Cultists. Hardly shocking. Then in the filming of the ship scenes was this gem:

"Hey... this looks like blood."
"Don't ask."

Obviously that's the secret to getting your movie made. Blood sacrifice.

The obligatory trailer:

And the even more obligatory link to Amazon

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Happy Birthday David Lynch

Whoa. I didn't realize it, but today is David Lynch's birthday.

Say what you like about the guy, but his movie and TV work is iconic. At least, if you remember the 90's as something other than grade school.

Besides, he's got the right attitude about coffee:

I like cappuccino, actually. But even a bad cup of coffee is better than no coffee at all.

So, of course, that influences his work. As seen in Twin Peaks:

So happy birthday David Lynch. Hope you have a good one.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Friday, January 18, 2008

Finders Keepers!

Seems the police in Wayne, NJ have lost one of their submachine guns

WAYNE, N.J. (CBS) ― A large police department in New Jersey is in nail biting mode. It has lost one of the deadliest weapons in its arsenal -- a fully automatic submachine gun, and has no idea where it could be.

A 9 mm submachine gun of German design, the MP5 was developed in the 1960s by a group of engineers from the West German arms manufacturer Heckler & Koch. It's used by law enforcement tactical teams across the country, as well as Army Rangers, Delta Force and Navy SEALs, among others. It is a deadly, fully automatic weapon, which can fire up to several hundred rounds per minute.

The Wayne Police Department had three MP5 submachine guns. That is until last week, when one of them went missing.

Just so everyone knows what they lost:
Wikipedia on the MP5

Chambered in 9mm parabellum ( aka 9x19mm ) with a cyclic rate of 800 rounds per minute, this is one of the worlds most popular submachine guns. Even more popular with whomever finds it, of course.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Anti-whaling protesters fed whale

From the UK Daily Mail

The crew of a Japanese harpoon ship holding a British anti-whaling protester captive insist they are treating him well - and have even offered him a meal of whale meat.

British protester Giles Lane remained a captive on board the Japanese harpoon ship tonight as accusations flew across the icy, fog-shrouded waters of Antarctica.

The Japanese crew accused 36-year-old Mr Giles, from Cuckfield, West Sussex, and an Australian colleague of piracy after the pair stormed the whaling vessel Yushin Maru on Tuesday.

Whale, when properly prepared, tastes much like beef. Very tender, with no noticeable marbling but instead an oily sort of rainbow shine. Delicious.

I'm having a hard time feeling sympathy for the Brits involved in this one. To board a boat illegally with intent to harm the ship and/or crew is piracy.

Having lived on ships for a few years, I can say taking the Brits prisoner is the best option for the Brits; kinda surprised they weren't blown over the side by fire hoses as that's the standard method of repelling boarders.

So the Brits get turned over to the Japanese authorities when the Yushin Maru returns to port. The anti-whaling crew on the Sea Shepherd won't like that, but then when their "protest mission" involves boarding actions that's the best they can expect.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

There's a flaw in that cunning plan...

If you get arrested for DUI in New Zealand, turns out you can't just drive a lawn mower instead.

From the AP

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) - A New Zealand man has been charged with driving a lawn mower while drunk, police said Tuesday. Richard Gunn, 52, was driving the lawn mower down a street in the northern New Zealand town of Dargaville late Monday evening when police stopped him, police spokeswoman Sarah Kennett said.

Gunn's breath alcohol level was at more than twice the legal limit for drivers, police said, and he previously had lost his driver's license.

Gunn said he has been using the lawn mower to get around town since losing his license.

"I thought I was safe," he told TV One News.

Even bicycles went faster than the lawn mower's 5 mph, he said. "I've watched them go past me."

Gunn was scheduled to appear in court later this week on charges of careless driving, driving while disqualified and driving with excess breath alcohol. He faces a potential prison term if convicted.

Police impounded the lawn mower for 28 days.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Friday, January 11, 2008

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Click the pic.. and check the noses...

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Spot the Alkie

From the The Sacramento Bee

Investigators were trying Monday to determine if a suspected drunken driver involved in a solo crash into a tree Sunday night failed to buckle his own seat belt even though the 12-pack he was carrying on the passenger seat was safely belted in.

Witnesses told Citrus Heights police that they saw the man driving north on Van Maren Lane in excess of 60 mph before he lost control of his car and slammed into a tree near Garden Gate Drive.

The driver suffered serious head and body injuries and he was rushed to a local hospital.

He was found still in the driver's seat, unrestrained, next to the 12-pack of beer secured by a seatbelt, according to a police summary.

A police traffic investigator is reviewing the incident.

See, he had to belt in his beer... gods know you don't want it flying all over the place while you're driving; makes it hard to reach.

Just hope he has health insurance. I'd hate to see taxpayers get stuck with the bill for this one.

Monday, January 7, 2008

More Guns, Less Crime... in Michigan

From the Detroit Free Press

Six years after new rules made it much easier to get a license to carry concealed weapons, the number of Michiganders legally packing heat has increased more than six-fold.

But dire predictions about increased violence and bloodshed have largely gone unfulfilled, according to law enforcement officials and, to the extent they can be measured, crime statistics.

The incidence of violent crime in Michigan in the six years since the law went into effect has been, on average, below the rate of the previous six years. The overall incidence of death from firearms, including suicide and accidents, also has declined.

I love stories like this. The anti-gun crowd reasons that with more guns there will be more violence and killing; to them, the firearm inspires illegal behavior.

Stories like this show instead that arming law abiding people does not increase crime; the inanimate object does not whisper to them in the night to go an a killing spree.

Given that, I'm at a loss to explain the anti-gun mindset except as an emotional response to inanimate objects. Which, frankly, seems irrational.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Post-Apocalyptic Workout

The Post-Apocalyptic Workout

As seen on Warren Ellis's blog an unemployed writter in LA just realized she doesn't have much in the way of skills to survive a natural disaster ( outside of hosting cocktail parties ). Her new blog is a way to remedy that.

New blog? What about her old blog? That's here; The Slack Daily.

British National Health Service and behavior

With the talk of health care as a campaign issue in the upcoming election, I've heard some people say we should move to a national single payer health care system, similar to the National Health Service of the UK.

So, when I saw this article it caught my attention, especially as the author is described as doctor.

He makes some interesting comments on the National Health Service:

When the NHS was born, there was widespread rejoicing. People were grateful that, almost overnight, they could receive treatment for illnesses and diseases that had previously ravaged those who could not afford to pay for a doctor. However, somewhere along the way, we've forgotten this. The NHS, despite its many faults, remains remarkably popular. But several generations have now been born and brought up under its care, and no longer know anything different. They take it for granted, not making a connection between the cost of health care and the taxes we pay. We think of the NHS - its services, medications, investigations and procedures - as "free", when of course it's not: it's a pooled resource which we all pay into, and can all use.

Here in the US, some 47 million people, or 16 percent of the population don't have health insurance. Considering the need most people have for some level of medical care, this seems an alarming statistic. Some even go so far as to say we should all sacrifice some ( in the form of higher taxes ) to provide health coverage for those without. In the UK, they thought such sacrifice was warranted and created the NHS.

Note, however, that according to the author, attitudes have changed in the UK so that many take medical care for granted. It's not so much a sacrifice to some as air; just something that's there.

So, what effect has that had on the health care system in the UK?

Yet on New Year's Day, NHS services were stretched to breaking point. The London Ambulance Service handled 1,825 incidents in its first four hours, a 16 per cent increase on last year, and 30 per cent higher than the year before that. Ambulance crews in the North West attended 1,013 incidents, an increase of 38.5 per cent, while the West Midlands saw an increase of 37 per cent on last year. The vast majority of calls were due to alcohol and fights.

When I saw these statistics, all I could think of were the genuinely sick people on that night whose care was compromised not by Whitehall directives, but by other people's thoughtless selfishness. Visit any A&E department on a Friday or Saturday night, and you will see row upon row of beds taken up with inebriated individuals. Not people who have fallen over after having a few too many, but people who are so drunk they simply cannot be allowed to leave the department, people who have to have fluids pushed through their veins to sober them up, and who then roll straight back in next weekend after passing out on the same street.

Now that's interesting. If health care is taken for granted, then risky behavior is, well, less risky.

If, for instance, one binge drank in the US so much that a hospital visit was required and the patient didn't have health insurance that would be an expensive trip to the ER. Less so, perhaps, if the patient did have health insurance, but it would cost the patient something.

In the UK, with the NHS, that same event wouldn't cost a patient anything.

So, what's the authors reaction?

The principle behind this is known as "risk pooling": the greater needs of one person are offset by the lesser needs of another. We are unlikely to use the full extent of the services our taxes pay for in a particular year, but this excess provides for who have need to call disproportionately on those shared resources. Insurance companies work on a similar principle, but because they are concerned about profit margins, they must exclude individuals who may place higher demands on the centralised pool. A nationalised system is egalitarian and just, because it provides for those with chronic diseases, or who require expensive treatments. Not only is socialised medicine the hallmark of a civilised society, it is also economically viable. The UK has one of the lowest expenditures per capita on health amongst developed countries, and yet produces similar outcomes.

But this only works if we all take care of the demands we place on resources. Yes, many of the problems faced by the NHS have been caused by the government - for example, its agenda for a "mixed economy of care" has led to a reduction in the overall number of hospital beds, with subsequent problems when additional pressures are placed on services, while the introduction of targets and league tables has seen a proliferation of paperwork on an unprecedented scale.

But in my experience, and that of the doctors and nurses I talk to, the problems are also a result of the inappropriate use of NHS resources by patients.

Emphasis mine.

So, given that easy access to medical care leads to more risky behavior, the author of the linked article seems to be saying that people need to moderate their behavior so they don't overuse shared resources ( i.e. the NHS ).

I can easily see that "for the good of the community" a government would at least try to impose certain restrictions on behavior if they wanted to "protect a shared resource".

These could be economic; say, billing bars which serve patrons enough alcohol that they end up in the emergency room the cost of treatment or legal in the form of, say, heavily restricting the hours of operation for bars and restricting the times / days alcohol may be sold.

Either way, it would seem inevitable that a government response to this tragedy of the commons would be to regulate citizens behavior one way or another.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Happy Caturday

Oracle PL/SQL Functions and the LIKE operator

Had a bit of a struggle with PL/SQL functions today.

The idea was to see if a record existed in a table, based on a LIKE
condition. Really, rock simple stuff.

SQL Example:

"afiedt.buf" 4 lines, 55 characters

1 select count(1)
2 from test
3* where ssn like '%1817'
SQL> /



Should be simple to use this in a function, right? Turns out, not so much.

create or replace function zetest( inssn in char )
return number
is dacount number(10);
select count(1)
into dacount
from test
where ssn like '%inssn';

SQL> select zetest(1817) from dual;



So, what the frak?

Apparently, to use a wildcard operator with PL/SQL you have to wiggle it a bit:

create or replace function zetest( inssn in char )
return number
is dacount number(10);
select count(1)
into dacount
from test
where ssn like '%'||inssn;

SQL> select zetest(1817) from dual;



So, you pass the wildcard inside single quotes, then concatenate it to
the variable.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Fiskars hatchet, Corona saw and a downed tree limb

This morning as I was getting ready for work, I heard a small crash outside. When I looked, a truck had nailed my neighbors low hanging branch, doing a bit of ad-hoc pruning.

He drug the branch off to the side of the road, fixed his passenger side mirror and drove off. Great.

After calling my neighbor, I offered to clean it up if I could keep the wood. It was a rather big branch; I figured I could help her and have a bit of extra wood to feed the fire place for my trouble.

After work, I came home and got out my Fiskars 14 inch hatchet and my 8 inch Corona folding saw. I must be the last person in the neighborhood who doesn't own a chain saw. Either way, I got started at 7pm; the buzz of a chain saw seems a bit rude that late.

To drag the branch out of the street and into my yard where I can work on it, as I don't relish chopping wood while cars are whizzing by, I used some line ( rated for 280lbs safe working load ) to rig a timber hitch.

It was a 25 foot length; rather than having to fiddle about with coiling the line ( or just leaving it free ) I tied it into a chain sennit. Great knot, that. Also known as chain shortening or bugler's braid ( at least according to my knot book ) it shortens a line considerably but also allows one to play out the free end as needed quickly and without tangles. I used the chain sennit as a grip with an unfurled free end as a timber hitch.

That all rigged, I drug it out of the street and up on my front lawn. Took a bit, since there's still snow outside. Hard to melt off when the high is 18F.

Took about three hours, but between the saw and the hatchet that tree limb is now on my wood pile, with the twigs and branches given to another neighbor who stopped by to see what the crazy bastard was doing on his lawn at 9pm. He'll feed them to his fire pit.

So, the Fiskars Hatchet and the Corona Saw get a "highly recommended" from me. They stood up to a bit of use, yet again.

PS: Ok, I've linked to Amazon in this post. Note that I'm not making a cent off those links; they're there so everyone who reads this knows what I'm talking about ( provided the links keep working, of course ;) ).

homemade bomb: 1, psychology student: 0

Man killed in explosion was Miami University student

WEST CHESTER TWP. — A Miami University student was killed Wednesday in an explosion here in the backyard of his parent's home.

Police said a group of teenagers were trying to blow up a two-story, wooden playground set at 6747 Apache Way, when debris from the explosion hit Daniel Ferraro, 19, a 2006 Lakota East High School graduate.

Butler County Corner Dr. Richard Burkhardt confirmed Ferraro, a Miami sophomore studying psychology, was killed, but said the cause of death has not been determined.


Police would not say what kind of explosives were used, but neighbors said the explosion rocked their homes in a neighborhood that sits west of Cincinnati-Dayton and north of Tylersville roads.

Neighbor Gary Hoff said he heard and felt the explosion at his home that sits more than 100 yards away. Hoff said he walked outside because he thought it was a neighbor's furnace.

"It quietly shook the house," Hoff said.

Remember kids, shrapnel and debris radiate in 360 degrees from the point of origin and even if you've got cover that doesn't mean everyone does.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Knob Creek

I found this gem on youtube; it's a Mail Call special on Knob Creek:

For those who don't know, twice a year the Knob Creek range in Kentucky holds a full auto firing event. Targets are old cars and boats loaded with what appears to be Tannerite ( a shock insensitive binary explosive ). You can rent time on the full auto weapons, or a flamethrower if you prefer.

Come to think of it, the flamethrowers would be a real time saver. You can hunt and BBQ at the same time. Probably only work if you like your meat well done though.

They Suspect Nothing