Thursday, 31 March 2011

What's mine is mine - not yours

I was in the bicycle shop recently. Although you can't tell from the state of my waistline, I enjoy cycling - it's good exercise, and easier on the joints and heart than jogging (just ask Jim Fixx).

I had bought the tyres I needed, and was looking over the new bikes and gadgets when the store manager wandered over to chat - things were quiet.

I picked up a bike-lock to take a closer look, which elicited the following comment from the manager.

"Those things only stop the honest people. You need a better lock than that to protect your bike."

Now, this guy knows my bike. He knows how much it would cost to replace it (lots), and he knows how pissed I would be if it was stolen, but some of that statement is flat-out wrong.

It's a common mis-perception, but it irks me.

Honest people don't NEED locks to stop them from stealing. To an honest person, other people's property is, by definition, not to be taken.

What he should have said is "Locks of pretty much any sort only stop the casually dishonest, and a better lock will only deter those with slightly higher levels of dishonesty."

I have been victim of the slightly dishonest before - I've had pumps and water bottles stolen from my bike, usually when I left it briefly unattended outside a café while I bought a snack inside.

What I have trouble with, is this: Where do these low-lives get the idea that it is OK to simply take something that they KNOW, without ANY doubt, is not theirs?  Who is it that is failing to educate these scum-bags about honesty and their commitment to the social contract?

I've concluded that the feeling of entitlement engendered in little Johnny Miscreant by years of unfailing ego-stroking and pandering to desires by parents, teachers, and politicians causes a failure-to-develop in the "that's not mine" complex in the juvenile brain. Unfortunately, the lack of development of this complex is hard to treat successfully in the adult brain without heavy and repeated doses of a very expensive and potentially lethal remedy called "consequences".

In some cases, the application of "consequences" can be instantly fatal - just as in the case of the South African rapists who gang-raped a young girl, and infected her with HIV. From the news reports, her rugby playing father killed three and decapitated two of the four with an axe. (see Axe Wielding Rugby Player's Retribution)

I can't help but wonder if a little bit of discipline and a little less ego-stroking when younger might have saved those rapists from themselves - and from the rape victim's father.

... and I'm not sure that I could refrain from a similar response if the rape victim had been MY daughter. I just hope that I would do a better job, and not leave witnesses that would lead to me getting caught.

UPDATE: I infer from the article now found at that link that there were FIVE rapists - and three are dead, one was attacked but not killed or seriously injured, while the fifth has so far avoided his dose of "consequences".

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

It's About Perspective

I drive a 22-year old car. I bought it second-hand about 15 years ago.

Last night the rear vision mirror broke - not the whole thing, just the lever that toggles between day-time and night-time settings. A new mirror is still available, both direct from the manufacturer and also through some third parties, for $84.

My response? "Cool, it's still available, and it's not very expensive."

My wife's response? "It's HOW much? For a MIRROR?!??!?! You spend too much money on that car."

Isn't the female perspective interesting?

$25K for a family holiday? Fine.
$3K for an electronic keyboard for daughter? Fine.
$8K for school excursions to Singapore and Sydney? Fine.

Less than a hundred dollars for a car part? You have to be kidding!!!!

If women are from Venus, and men are from Mars, then I know what those lines are that Schiaparelli and Lowell saw on the red planet - highways.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

This is unpleasant

I want to make it clear that I have no more information on this situation than has been published or broadcast for public consumption by local MSM outlets.

Recently, there was an explosion at a house in a nearby suburb - extensive damage and several people injured.

Seems the house was being used as a clandestine "drug lab" to make illegal drugs, and as is often the case with such setups, not all the appropriate safety precautions were being taken.

Seems also that one of the neighbours had been complaining about the activities at the house for some time with no response. Frustrated with the lack of action, said neighbour appealed to her father for assistance - said father apparently being a retired senior police official.

Unfortunately, there continued to be no apparent reaction to the complaints.

Sometime later - KABOOM!

Other than people in hospital, and a news report or two, nothing much was made of it - shit happens apparently, then it came to light that one of the injured was the son of the current police commissioner "who happened to be at the house at the time".

Some MORE time later, and after a public admission from the commissioner that his son was "off the rails", said son is charged over the incident.

Can anyone explain to me, without using the word "corruption" or the phrase "professional courtesy", why the original complaints were apparently ignored?

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

A REAL Expert Speaks

Instead of slavishly aping the media talking heads, read what a REAL expert has to say about the radiation issue in Japan.

Radiation's Incalculable Dangers

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Of half-life and radioactivity

People of the press and of the left:

If an isotope has a long half-life it is NOT highly radioactive.

Exposure to an element with a long half-life does NOT mean instant death by radiation poisoning.

Give me a pocket full of Radium-226 (half-life 1621 years) any time over Radium-228 (half life 5.8 years).

Edited to add: .. and human flesh doesn't "glow in the dark" after heavy exposure to ionising radition - it dies.

... as for those Hydrogen Explosions

I rather glossed over the "hydrogen explosions" bit in reference to the disaster in Japan.

I have seen comments from some purported expert that the hydrogen was released as some reaction product of the fuel rod meltdown.

Since the fuel rods are INSIDE the reactor vessel, which is INSIDE the containment vessel, if that was the source of the hydrogen, then a visible hydrogen explosion would appear to be proof positive that the containment had been breached.

BUT ... nobody is reporting that containment has DEFINITELY been breached, so maybe the hydrogen came from somewhere else.

Interestingly, I used to work for a power generation company and I distinctly remember being warned repeatedly about not smoking in the generator hall.  Since the whole place was burning tonnes of coal every hour, this was rather strange advice.

The generators are massive, and apparently there is significant gain to be made in efficiency by minimising shaft friction losses and armature drag.

The friction losses were addressed by using the very best fluid bearings - the "pump them up before you start the machine" kind that used high pressure oil to lift the armature shaft off the metal supports before spinning it.

The armature drag was addressed by filling the generator with, you guessed it, hydrogen. This is because it is lighter than the nitrogen and oxygen molecules that make up the largest part of ordinary air, and thus causes less drag as the armature pushes it out of the way.

The case of the generator is ever so slightly leaky (especially to hydrogen, which is much like a domestic rat - it can apparently escape through a hole smaller than itself). As a result, if ventilation ever fails, like say if a giant ten metre wave takes out the power to the fans, the generator hall is soon filled with a somewhat explosive mix of hydrogen and air.

Could this be the REAL source of the hydrogen involved in the explosions at Fukushima?

If it was, the explosions would have occurred in the generator hall - probably some distance from the reactors. Would that be enough explosive force, and close enough to the reactors to cause containment issues? Only the designers know.

A Note on the Earthquake in Japan

I have been stunned and horrified to read of the devastation in Japan.

The tragic loss of life, and the destruction wrought is mind-bendingly awful.

Among the worst casualties is the truth.

Facts that I think we can all agree on:

1. Japan has nuclear power stations
2. These power plants were designed and built to withstand a massive earthquake.
3. The intensity of the earthquake that struck was greater than the design parameters.
4. The tsunami that followed the quake did additional damage, including to the disaster support facilities at the affected power stations.
5. Despite the magnitude of  the quake exceeding design parameters, there was little damage to the actual reactor vessels and containment systems due to the quake itself. This points to good design and good implementation.

I have read reports about the nuclear situation that range from "no radiation leakage" through "low level radiation released as part of pressure control" to "fuel rods exposed, we are all going to die!".

I just wish that there was a big red button on a device somewhere that would permanently disassociate the phrases "spectre of doom" and "nuclear power industry" in the human mind.

Please note that I am NOT saying that there is no reason for concern, but I do wish that I didn't have to filter out the "ZOMG!! We are all DOOOOOOMED!" from the news reports before I get to the truth.

From what I can glean (after said filtering),  it appears that there has been some radiation leakage - mostly attributed to steam released to reduce pressure in the reactor vessel, although there is speculation that the hydrogen explosions may have damaged the outer containment vessels.

As of this morning reports have said "the radiation levels are at 30 millisieverts between the No.2 and the No.3 reactors, 400 millisieverts near No.3 and 100 millisieverts near No.4". (cf. ). The guys that went in and measured that must be either braver than me, or somewhat more foolish.

BUT ... A sievert is a "dose equivalent" measure - it takes into account the varying effects of different radiation types with a "quality" factor to arrive at a number that can be used to compare different TOTAL EXPOSURES.  That means that any meaningful measure of radiation intensity using sieverts MUST include a time - for example 1 mSv per HOUR, is a MUCH higher intensity than 1 mSV per YEAR.

So, those figures above are useless.  Why do the press DO this?

A single dose of 1000 millisieverts - or one sievert - causes temporary radiation sickness such as nausea and vomiting. A dose of 5000 millisieverts would kill about half of those receiving it within a month (somewhat similar to LD50 in drug dosages this is called the LD50/30).

For reference, the worldwide average background dose for a human being is about 2.4 millisievert (mSv) per year. (cf If you live in a brick house, or have a basement, your dosage will be higher.

I really wish the press would do their job: stop the editorialising and provide us with information.

Most of us can work out whether we need to be frightened all on our own.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

So officer, where's your warrant? - Redux

There is no way for you to get out of that awkward situation. The best that you can do is not give the police officer any chance to make you the bad guy.

Call the police emergency number. Give your name and address.  (It's already known - caller ID blanking doesn't work when calling emergency services.) Tell the dispatcher that you believe there is an armed man in your garden shed, stealing your work tools. Don't say more than that.

Before the police arrive, somehow get rid of the gun and the police ID. Gun into the safe, and ID burnt would be good, but this probably requires a helper.

When the police arrive, say NOTHING other than: "I heard a noise, I investigated, I was terrified." Make sure nobody else says anything either.

Do NOT invite the police inside your home. Refuse permission for a search.  Respond to every allegation about your conduct with, "I heard a noise, I investigated, I was terrified." Refuse to accompany the officers to the police station.

If they arrest you, vary the standard response to add, "I choose not to make a statement at this time, I want to speak to a lawyer." Don't expect that access to a lawyer will be forthcoming - what you see on TV is a) drama, and b) US-centric. In most jurisdictions you do not have "a right to an attorney".

Do NOT try and talk the officers around to your side - in all likelihood you can't.
Do NOT be nice - polite, yes, but don't do or say ANYTHING just to show that you are co-operative.
Do NOT smile because you think you are winning. Look scared (it won't be hard).

After several hours, begin asking "When may I leave?"

Eventually, you either get charged with something they make up, and front a magistrate, or they let you go.

When you get home, IMMEDIATELY call your lawyer and then lodge a written complaint about the conduct of the officer. Make sure you include that when you investigated a noise, you found him in your yard and that he then refused to identify himself. Do NOT include anything of your conduct.

Congratulations - you are now a marked man. At least one police officer has it in for you, but the others may have some doubts that you are the miscreant that he alleges you are.

Friday, 4 March 2011

So officer, where's your warrant?

Let's talk about a hypothetical.

Let's say that someone had a repair job to do on the roof-mounted air-conditioning unit. Maybe it was leaking water, so it had to be fixed before dishes and bodies needed to be washed.

Climbing up and down a ladder several times, in the dark, carrying tools and parts is good exercise but not likely to engender good feelings towards all mankind - particularly the idiot that designed the unit so that it has to be disassembled to allow access to the one part likely to suffer corrosion damage.

Anyway, let's imagine job done, unit tested, tools away, all is good as our hero sits down to (a very belated) dinner. Wait! What's that noise? There is someone in the yard!

Let's imagine that said hero is a cautious type, that there is no way that he is investigating un-armed, and for him, being "not un-armed" does not mean he carries a heavy torch - nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

So, most people would have the yard lights on, all doors secured and locked except the one they intend to use, then the three of them (Smith, Wesson, and our hero) would creep towards the uninviting and uninvited (and here's the crux of our hypothetical) only to be confronted by a visibly armed man in some kind of uniform sneaking around the garden shed.

So, what do you do in such a situation?
Where our hero lives, shining a torch in a police officer's eyes is, according to case law, assault. "Assault on a public officer" carries a mandatory prison sentence.
Further, carrying a firearm into your back yard can lead to any number of charges from "failing to safely store a firearm" through "brandishing a firearm so as to cause terror" up to "whatever the prosecutor can think up"; any of which can cause your firearms license to be revoked and lead to forfeiture of all firearms AND YOUR HOUSE without compensation. As a side benefit, a conviction is NOT required.

Think quick, valiant hero.
Thought 1. Challenge the man and run the risk of possible criminal charges if he is police.
Thought 2. Sneak back inside, and pretend you didn't see him.
Thought 3. Shoot, shovel, shut up.

I can tell you that all of these thoughts rattle around in your head for what feels like hours.

Invoke command voice. Turn on torch, shine at intruder.

Intruder, startled, turns and moves towards voice from the shadows.


Intruder stops, half raises hands placatingly.

"Who are you, and why are you here?"

Intruder announces that he is searching for a suspect from an earlier armed hold-up at the shopping centre down the road. He does not give his name, and does not identify himself as a police officer.

"Are you a police officer?"

"Of course," is the response. No name is provided, and no identification is presented.

"Did you see this man enter my property?"

Putative Officer replies that he "had reports" that the suspect was in the area.

"You did not see him, therefore you are not in active pursuit of a suspected criminal, therefore you need a warrant to enter my property. Where is it?"

Putative Officer blusters that he is a police officer, does not need to explain his actions to anyone, and can go where he likes.

"I remind you that you are trespassing on private property, it is dark, if you are police you have not identified yourself as required by law, you are visibly armed, and you are not being cooperative." Left unsaid is "... and I can kill you where you stand."

OK, now what? This guy is ... umm "annoyed" is somehow not strong enough. For somebody who suspects that he is being held at gun-point, he is remarkably aggressive. It's too late to fade into the dark, and leave him be.  The entire incident is bound to be in his nightly report - suitably slanted of course to present our intrepid hero as a crazy man with a gun.

Thought 3 surfaces again.

"Show me some ID. Slowly."

Relectant compliance.

"Put it on the ground and back up."

ID seems authentic. It does not carry photo of the bearer, but no police ID does in this jurisdiction.

"What is your name and police number?"

Response matches ID.

How the hell do you get out of this situation without:
A) dying?
B) being harrassed by the police force forever?

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Bureaucracy gone mad

We recently (February 24th) had a storm sweep across the city - heavy rain, local flash flooding, (very) high winds in some areas.

A property that I own had the rear patio roof removed by the wind, lifted OVER the house, and wrapped around the power pole outside the front boundary.

Naturally the power to the neighbourhood didn't survive the impact, and houses in several streets around were without power for a number of days. This was largely due to the inability of the power reticulation company to rapidly resolve the large number of outages caused by the storm rather than the extent of the damage to infrastructure in this individual case.

I have contacted the company that provides my insurance, and have been advised that certain local governments (thankfully NOT the one that I have to deal with in this case) require that a BUILDING PERMIT be obtained before repairs can be started.


I have a lawfully constructed building, meeting all applicable building codes, and if the house was one street south I would have to PAY AND WAIT for a building permit before I could make good storm damage? Which MORON wrote THAT into the local government by-laws?

The last time I had to apply for a building permit (on another project) it took 12 WEEKS and $600 to get the piece of paper saying that construction could commence. There is no way that I would contemplate waiting that long if I had a building with only half a roof due to storm damage.

Sometimes I think we should treat local government politicians like the Golgafrincham hair-dressers and phone sanitisers.

Bob Brown is an idiot

It appears that Sen. Bob Brown of the Australian Greens has regurgitated his semi-regular tirade against semi-automatic handguns, and again called for them to be banned.

His diatribe contains the usual lies and misrepresentations - for example, he claims that there are "300,000 legal hand machine guns in glove boxes around Australia” - and is, in essence, fact free. For reference, according to the government's own figures, there are 120,000 legally owned semi-automatic pistols in Australia. Machine guns are totally prohibited for civilian possession.

Legal ownership of hand-guns in Australia is predicated on either 1) occupation or 2) sporting use.

Being VERY familiar with the "sporting use" requirement, I can tell you that the would be purchaser of a handgun in Australia must:
1) be a member of an "approved" shooting club
2) have been a member for a minimum of six contiguous months
3) undergo a training course in firearms handling and saftey
4) be cleared by police after a background check
5) request and receive a "support letter" from the club
6) remain a member of a shooting club
7) regularly compete in shooting competitions with the handgun in question

Transport restrictions apply (essentially home to/from an approved range ONLY), and locked storage is required separately for firearm and ammunition.

Is it treasonous for Sen. Brown to use his elected postion to make the claims that he did despite KNOWING them to be false?