Friday, April 27, 2007

I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth...

(AP Photo/Zero Gravity Corp.)

Stephen Hawking on the Vomit Comet. h/t Michelle Malkin

Just goes to show. He may be a prisoner of his own body, but his mind? It travels to the stars.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Defensive thinking

In this case, the concept is similar to defensive driving. For some people, looking ahead for possible trouble is too much effort. The vast majority of the time this isn't a problem. But then one day all the stars align and the driver with the new fancy sports car tries to fit into a gap in traffic just as you look down to check your speed and suddenly you are starring in a new episode of Conserve Your Momentum. Same with seat belts, you don't know when you will need them--but when you do, you will need them badly, and immediately. So, you use them all the time, just in case.

We live such safe lives and have for so long the habit of defensive thinking is gone. People expect "someone" to pass a law or put up a fence or add a safety feature the instant anyone is injured or killed, even if doing something supremely stupid. Speaking from personal experience, it only took one episode of inadvertant electrocution for me to become very, VERY interested in electrical safety. I learned from it, and thought FOR MYSELF in similar situations, "is this going to make me yelp in pain?" Because especially in experimental labs you are working with devices nobody else has, so how is OSHA going to know the safest way to operate it?

We fought for this safety, and there is nothing wrong with enjoying it-- but people need to be *able* to step outside the comfortable rut and take action. To assess a situation and know the police won't be able to get there in time. I don't know what will do that, but I suspect it will be different for everyone. Don't think mandatory military training is a good idea, for a lot of reasons (cost being a big one). I think it would be a good idea to have *something* be mandatory, however. Maybe a list of choices. Martial arts worked for me, maybe sports would work for others. Gotta do something, though. Unless you like being prey. And I really do think it is the mind that needs changing the most.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Old Snark's Guide to Practical Academic Barricades

NOTE:Eh, commenter Dan is correct. This trick can't possibly work with standard hinges. Now I will go mad trying to figure out what I actually did that worked. Sigh.

It occurred to me that whilst the More Gun Control!/Less Gun Control! debate rages, and the copycat campus threats proliferate, perhaps a more immediate, completely legal in all states for all ages option would be nice to improve one's chances for survival should one of the threats prove to be both words *and* action. Hacking through the media verbiage with the machete of Truth, we find that there was a much higher survival rate among the VT students that were able to successfully blockade their classroom doors while the nutcase rampaged. Thus, the ability to do the same, should the need arise, is a Good Thing.

OK, kids! All we need for this exercise is one (1) standard academic doorway, and a slender, solid object (several sheets of paper, hardbound book binding, iPod Shuffle, a few credit/library cards ... you get the idea). Now, your standard academic doorway is a) usually built to a standard suitable for bull elephant pens, since your standard academic student can cause just about as much damage over the years, and b) opens *inward*, because your standard academic student is usually so eager to escape the confines of the classroom that they tend not to check that the hallway is clear first.

Stand inside the classroom, facing the door. Have a buddy stand outside with a water pistol. (NOTE! Get permission from your parents first! ALL guns are dangerous, m'kay?) Close the door. Observe the gap between the very sturdy door (see point a. above) and the door frame (usually metal, see point a. above) along the side with the hinges. Stuff the gap as full as you can with the paper/iPod Shuffle/library cards. One location will do; you don't need to fill the entire hinge length for this to work. Now, have your buddy try and open the door and squirt you with the water pistol. Hurray! No squirting! (And it doesn't matter how much the nutcase shoots at the lock, since you didn't lock it.) Note that this technique is quite suitable for the those physically or morally incapable of moving a heavy desk, and is quick. All you need is paper and if you can't find any in a classroom, you are doing something wrong. Or attending Evergreen. (But I repeat myself ...)

Snarkatron is not responsible for any damage to iPod Shuffles.

Update: Oh look. Another gun-free zone in action.

Yet Another Update: After reading Kat's comment I tried this trick at home (remember, kids, trust but verify!) and I could not get it to work. Apparently there is enough difference in home vs. academic door design -- but this opens the possibility there is variation in academic door design that might cause acute disappointment in a crucial time. I'd check wherever possible -- and if that trick doesn't work, go for the old sneaker jammed under the door. *Somebody* in the room will be wearing shoes, and the sole will grip on slick surfaces like linoleum. Anyway, major point being you have more defensive options than you might think.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Voices All Say "Snark!"

- Not that NBC was ever held in high esteem by your humble Snarkatron, but are they going to take responsibility for all the copycat murders perpetrated by mental midgets who also want to see their screedish manifestos on Prime Time Media? Maybe they should add "Preferred by homicidal maniacs!" to their advertising.

- To all of the hyperventilating Europeans (oh, heck, just about anyone else on the planet) we HAVE tried gun control. Virginia Tech was a little slice of Europe, no guns allowed. Which is why 32 people are dead from gunshot wounds, because a little-known side effect of severe mental derangement is the inability to read and comprehend signs that say "Gun Free Zone". Yes, yes, I know. You *meant* that all guns, everywhere, should be banned and melted and scolded severely. I wonder what the Mayor of Nagasaki thinks of that idea? Could it be that criminals and the insane don't follow laws? Who would have thought? (N. B. everyone, including criminals and the insane, obey the laws of physics. Like the ones about conservation of momentum. Guns DO work on them.)

- The Virginia Tech Nutcase followed almost exactly the classic signs of a mass murderer laid out in the very interesting book, "Anatomy of Motive". Just in case you were wondering, there was nothing in that young man to reach out to. He was literally living in his own world, and nobody else was a part of it. And that was anybody's fault but his, in his mind.

- On the other tentacle .... years ago, your humble Snarkatron attended advanced studies at a certain centrally located School for Mad Scientists in Pennsylvania (excellent ice cream!). At first all we knew was the police had closed off one of the major roads out of town, and someone was out there with a gun and, apparently, a not very firm grip on reality. Later, we found out more. The guy apparently *knew* he had a problem. That he was a danger to himself and others. Was terrified that he would hurt someone, and compensated by keeping everyone at a distance. Just to be safe. Was a hard worker, in construction. Could. Not. Get. Help. Because he *hadn't* hurt anyone. Yet.

That day he fired a rifle over the heads of his coworkers at the construction site. Note that; over their heads. He was still fighting to keep control of his personal monster. They thought he had run off and was going to attack other people, hence the road closure, but then they found him. Dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, in the construction boss' office trailer. He never hurt anyone but himself, so in a sense he won the battle. I don't have much sympathy for the Virginia Tech shooter; he was so far gone it was like he was a rabid animal. But that other guy ... I wish someone had helped him. I can't imagine the hell he went through, just sane enough to know his mind was crumbling away.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Happy Friday the 13th!

From my favorite black cat, who considers himself very lucky. The glowing eyes have not been Photoshopped. I live with this every day ...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Persistance of Memory

Way back in the mists of time ... OK, last fall, I arranged for a chimney-ectomy on my house because of these guys. Raccoons are all well and good but not living *with* me, you understand.

Recently I was annoyed and perturbed to hear clear signs of something critter-like on my roof, digging and prying at the shingles. I checked the attic, it was empty. But early this morning, who should I see on the roof but Momma Raccoon, an expression on her face that clearly said "I KNOW that chimney was here, they can't just walk away! Where am I going to raise my babies now? It was ideal! View, convienient to shopping, safe for the kids ... This is horrible!"

I do sympathize. Finding housing in the Seattle-metro area is a right pain in the gluteal region.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


I wonder if someone's infinite patience with the childish temper tantrums of the Democrats (and one in particular) just ran out. I dearly hope this is just the first shot across the bow, with full battery salvos to follow. For all that child development experts deplore spanking, until the little darlings develop a sense of right and wrong you can't really appeal to it, now can you? Everybody understands pain, avoidence of. Of course since the President has allowed them to run riot for so long it's going to take a while for the lesson to set in, but at least it's a start. Kerry wanted the guy torpedoed because he had contributed to the Swift Boat Vets. Last I heard, we have freedom of speech around here and all the Swift Boat Vets did was tell the truth, so exactly why is giving them money a bad thing? And why do we have to put up with petty personal politics when there is real work to be done?

Monday, April 02, 2007

Unclear on the Concept

Just so you know, Mr. I-Drive-a-Hybrid-Smugmobile-Because-I-CARE ...

That evil-smelling cigar the size of a small log you were smoking and dribbling ash out the window as you drove? It isn't doing Gaia's tender membranes any favors. Plus it makes the person behind you (you remember, making choking motions? Vanity plate that says ISNARK?) question your commitment to the eco-fanatic cause. Perhaps you think a vast fleet of Maxwell's demons determins the origin of each molecule of greenhouse gases (such as cigar effluvia) and only allows those generated by non-hybrid cars to affect the environment? Or maybe you think you are special.

And yes, I could smell it even though all my windows were rolled up. They don't design automotive air filters for chemical warfare environments. Unfortunately.