Manchin Campaign Shot Among Top Ten

Joe Manchin shooting the cap and trade bill has been voted by Politico as one of the top ten moments of the 2010 election. Certainly worked out better for Manchin than Joe Sestak’s dog worked out for him. I think this means we can expect more of this from politicians, which is not going to please our opponents.

Overpriced Cabling

The customer reviews for these 8000 dollar audio cables on Amazon are hilarious. But this phenomena isn’t limited to Amazon. Best Buy, who has never met a cable they wouldn’t like to overcharge you for, has an HDMI cable by the same company for sale with similar humorous reviews.

I’m not sure how the people at AudioQuest sleep at night, knowing they are essentially ripping people off. HDMI is a digital signal. Either the display it’s attached to receives it, or it doesn’t. A bad cable could give you a high error rate, but you’d probably notice that. The spec wouldn’t have been designed to require a 600 dollar cable to get error free transmission. I’d also be surprised if the speaker cable sold at Amazon doesn’t perform any better than other audio cables sold at a fraction of the price, if you ran each through a distortion analyzer over the range of human hearing.

See this technical paper from AudioQuest:

Conventional use of the above formula falsely assumes that it is acceptable to have a 63% reduction in current flow and an 86% reduction in power density at the center of a conductor. However, this formula does not by itself describe at what depth audible distortion begins. Listening (empirical evidence) shows that audible distortion begins at somewhat lesser depths.

The human ear is actually a pretty poor instrument. The question is whether these claims stand up to the harsh truth of the distortion analyzer. All this sounds like a lot of inapplicable technical detail meant to try to sell you an overpriced cable.

New Jersey Laws Hurt Gun Owners

Scott Bach is calling on the New Jersey Statehouse to do something about the state’s laws which entrap honest gun owners. Brian Aitken isn’t the first, not by far. He was just lucky enough to get caught up in the perfect storm. There are a lot of honest citizens walking around New Jersey with felony convictions because they ran afoul of a technicality. This, to me, is also a disturbing part:

But that never happened because the judge refused to let the jury consider the testimony or the exemptions themselves: He had predetermined that none applied. Counsel protested repeatedly, and the jury itself three times asked why it couldn’t consider the exemption, but the judge refused every request, eventually lecturing the jury: “The issue of whether the defendant was moving, and therefore entitled to an exemption from the permit requirement, is not before you.” Accordingly, the jury had no choice but to convict merely because there were firearms present.

Not long after the clemency, Mr. Aitken got an e-mail from one of the jurors:

“It is unbelievable how much power a judge possesses,” the e-mail read. “Why wasn’t the exception allowed by the judge??? Did he have something against you or your attorney???? Again, glad to see you are out.”

See, I don’t absolve the jury of blame in this injustice. To me they are just as guilty as the prosecutor and the judge. Ignorance of their civic duty is no excuse. The judge has exactly zero power to punish a jury for a verdict, even in New Jersey. If the jury felt that Aitken should not be convicted, they should have acquitted him despite the judges orders. The fact that a jury was willing to convict this guy shows just how far we’ve fallen in terms of our civic understanding of our relationship to our government, and the role juries play as a check on government officials.

Chris Christie Not All That Pro Gun

Bob Owens notes that the guy’s record on guns isn’t that great. This much is true, but you have to consider what state he’s coming from. Commuting Aitken’s sentence was a remarkable thing for a New Jersey governor to do. Should he earn an NRA endorsement any time soon? No. But so far, even with this one act, he’s been willing to do more for New Jersey gun owners than all the governors for the past half century combined. That’s how bad things are there.

Home Improvement Blues

Replacing a leaky shower drain this week. We haven’t been able to use our master shower now for some time because of the leak I haven’t had time to fix. This, unfortunately, requires going into the ceiling. After going in, I quickly realize someone has already been up there. I now suspect the previous owners had a leak, which pretty clearly was caused by a rotten gasket where the drain meets the shower. But rather than fix it by rebuilding the drain, it appears they decided to shove plumbers putty around everything. Sure, that’ll stop the leak for a while.

Somewhat frustrated that the original trap doesn’t have threads compatible with the new one I bought. I will have to replace the whole drain and trap. It’s all PVC. Since I now realize I need to do this, I must return to Home Depot to get a 2″ PVC street elbow. I would have needed to go back anyway, because I just realized my PVC cement is no good. Still have cleaner and purple primer, which I don’t think goes as bad as readily. Been a while since I did any PVC work. It’s times like this I’m glad to have worked for a plumber as a kid. I can do basic plumbing work. Don’t know if I’d want to try to install a new boiler, but a shower drain should be within my capabilities. The question is how many trips to Home Depot am I going to need to make? Real expertise is having to make only one.

Lightbulb Black Market

Been some talked about bans on light bulbs here and here. This has to be one of Congress’s dumbest moments, and it’s worth noting it was a GOP congress that did this to us. Thanks guys! CFLs have gotten to the point I am mostly satisfied with the quality of the light, but a big pet peeve of mine is that they take time to warm up, and produce substandard light until they do.

Recently I got CFL versions of this halogen light, which previously hadn’t been available. The light quality is iffy, and the strength is way too low. Fortunately, I think these GU10 halogens aren’t on the ban list. But I am pondering whether they are good enough. My kitchen floods draw 300 watts in their full glory with halogens, and with CFLs they draw a whopping 42 watts. But does it really save energy when you want to leave them on to avoid having to wait for the lights to warm up?

I’ve also wondered how much energy these bulbs really end up saving in the first place, at least in climates where you use a furnace for a good part of the year. Most light bulb energy is lost as heat, but is it really lost if it’s cold enough to run the furnace? I have no doubt they save on electricity, but how much extra are you spending running the heater to make up for the heat not being put out by your lighting system? For much of the year, I think CFLs are just a way to convert electric consumption to gas and oil consumption in home furnaces. Sadly for us power generation is more green than home heating.

I’m generally not too optimistic about the green technology movement. I saw a Toyota ad a few days ago where they wanted people to send in their “green” ideas. One that they were touting was running their regenerative braking system on roller coasters in amusement parks, suggesting it could be used to power the whole park. I’m guessing Toyotas marketing people don’t have much of a grasp on physics, particularly the first and second law of thermodynamics. Nope, won’t power the park. Won’t even be enough to jack the coaster up the chain. That’s not even mentioning that it would probably ruin the entertainment value of the coaster ride. Most green technology is a complete crock, and many fail to appreciate what a bummer thermodynamics is.