31 October 2010

As good as it gets!

As weekends go, this was a pretty darn good one.

Saturday the SCSon and I worked on his robot program.    He is involved in FIRST LEGO(r) league.  The short version is that the teams are given a set of missions to accomplish in 2 1/2 minutes.  The teams have 3 months to build a LEGO robot and program the robot to accomplish as many missions as possible.  The missions are intentionally "overcalled".  That is, they intentionally specify more missions than a normal team can complete in the timeframe.  This forces the team to exercise some level of triage.  Which missions have a favorable payoff/reward ratio.  Some missions are easy and pay a lot, others are hard and pay the same or less.  Unfortunately the coolest mission "bad cell destruction" falls into the later category.  It will require a lot of effort but only pays the same amount as the much easier missions. 

His teammates had decided the "Special Bone Repair" mission was too difficult and wanted to focus on the low hanging fruit.  But the SCSon said "I can do it!" and took it on.    The mission has two parts.  First the robot has to insert a "bone bridge" (it's a pretty small target to hit) and then bump the other end of the bone (it's on a pivot) to kick a ball into a goal.
(stay tuned for pictures)

We went from zero to Mission Complete in about 90 minutes.    One problem we ran into is that the robot ends up so close to the wall, it doesn't have room to turn.  The SCSon said "Hey, no problem, lets just back it all the way to base and have a second program to run around and kick the goal.  This has the advantage that, if the inserting the bone bridge fails, we can try again without penalty.

This is the kind of effort we need.   I hope I can work with the rest of the team like this.

Next we headed out to the range where we took the opportunity to shoot some October ePostal targets.  The SCSon has taken a liking to the newest 9mm in the arsenal (FM Argentine Hi Power).  Unfortunately out of the 20 shots fired for the match, 3 hit the paper and only one scored.  No matter, we submitted the target anyway.  I also shot a target with the Hi-Power, but all the bullets seemed attracted to the same hole.  Normally this is a good thing, but not when aiming at 20 separate and distinct little targets.

I'd also brought the AR-15 which the SCSon tried for the first time.  He was surprised at how little recoil it has just like mom and dad have been saying all along!  We even arrived at the range just as a cease fire was starting which means we put our targets up straight away and didn't have to wait for the next cease fire.

Heading home from the range, temps were in the mid-70's and we had the top down on the roadster.  There may be better days than this, but they are pretty rare.

Oh and Sunday's weather matched Saturday's.  I took advantage and got some air under the tires.  Cool temps, calm winds and greaser landings. 

Saturday was a really good day and Sunday made it a really good weekend!

21 October 2010

Will that apply to union T's as well?

So Coconino county has agreed to allow a Flagstaff woman to wear her TEA party T-shirt while voting. However the story at KFYI notes:
The injunction applies only in Coconino County. In Maricopa County*, elections director Karen Osborne says they will strictly enforce the "no electioneering" rule within 75 feet of all polling places. That includes t-shirts or buttons endorsing any candidate or party, whether it's a Democrat, Republican, independent, or tea party.

Asked about people who insist that the tea party isn't an official political party, Osborne says that doesn't matter: "They have many candidates that they're supporting. They have all the earmarks of a party except to be filed as one."

Wow... talk about the pot calling the kettle... and what an open invitation to a lawsuit.

The SCQueen worked the polls a while back.  While training warned over and over again not to discuss any issues or candidates on the ballot, they exposed their liberal biases at every turn.

With such a kind invitation to a lawsuit, what do you bet some fed up conservative out there dons a TEA party T shirt and heads to the polls with appropriate documentation equipment (such as MP3 recorder & video). Then waits in their car until someone walks up with a union T shirt. Then heads inside to cast their ballot. If they are denied the right to vote, question why the union T was allowed. Unions have candidates they are supporting too with millions of dues dollars paying for political ads, not just parties and rallies. Then walk away peaceably and file suit.

This isn't rocket science.  If I can envision this, you know a lot of others can too!

Bring popcorn! [I've already voted so I'm ineligible.]

* Maricopa county includes Phoenix and surrounding metro area.  It's 4M population is by far the lions share of Arizona's 6.6M population [US Census Bureau].  Probably 40% are registered Republican, likely a similar proportion of the "independents" also lean conservative.  That's 2Million give-or-take opportunities for this scenario to play out.  I'm pretty rusty on game theory but I'm thinking the needle here bends way close to "sure bet".

20 October 2010

I voted today*

Election day isn't for a couple weeks but I voted today. There a couple reasons at play... one, I hate standing in lines, particularly when the people controlling the lines are unable to hold any job other than "poll worker". Needless to say, these aren't the brightest bulbs out there.

Also, campaigns are notified when I return my ballot and stop filling cluttering my mailbox with their bile once my ballot is returned.

Here's a couple thoughts on the ballot.

I find it amusing the NRA uses the tagline "Vote Freedom First" but when push comes to shove they really mean "Vote ONE Freedom First".  Ok, I get they are a single issue organization and the 2A is all they care about.  But I do care about all freedom's and hence take their recommendations with that large grain of salt.

First off,  I can't hold my nose and vote for McCain. Instead I wrote in "JD Hayworth". I can't take credit for this idea though...I saw it somewhere else on line.

Also I'm normally a "no vote" on all propositions. However this time around there are some really good ones.

Prop 106 gives the middle finger salute to federal control of healthcare. Easy choice.  I vote YES.

Prop 107 amends the constitution to eliminate all preferences based on race or gender.  The text of the amendment is really very simple:
36. Preferential treatment or discrimination prohibited; exceptions; definition
Followed by a couple common sense exceptions.

Ward Connerly recently visited Arizona and talked at length why this is overdue.  The one that struck a chord with me was the Michigan school of law case decided at the supreme court on a 5-4 decision with Arizona's Sandra Day O'Connor casting the deciding vote in the wrong direction.  I could not believe such an abomination was approved by the SCOTUS.  The admission process gave more weight to a specific race than any other other factor (LSAT scores, grades, etc.) Instead they were mostly interested that applicants were of the correct race.

On what planet is this fair?  YES on 107.

Prop 109 makes hunting and fishing a constitutional right.  While the ALF's wail this isn't necessary, history shows it clearly is.  We have seen time and time again where unelected bureaucrats issue rules interfering with hunts and allowing populations to run wild.  Hunting is a valuable component of wildlife management.  [See also New Jersey Bear Hunt].  So this comes down to putting a constitutional block in front of bureaucrats doing HSUS' bidding.  I'm not a hunter but I vote YES.

Prop 110 deals with a technical point on swapping state land in favor of protecting our military bases.  I have mixed feelings here.  While our military bases bring in a lot of money to the economy, and while Arizona's 350-VFR-days-a-year climate is the most efficient flight training environment, I'd also like to put my skidmarks on those runways!  The former Williams AFB is now a public use airport and I've marked them several times.  Luke AFB however is still a very active training base and I've only marked the runway once (and had to sign my life away for the permission).  If luke were to close, it'd also become a public airport and I like that.  Still it's better for the nation and the state as is.   I vote YES.

Prop 111 retitles the "Secretary of state" to "Lieutenant Governor" and requires they run as a ticket.  Currently Arizona has no Lieutenant Governor.  Instead the Secretary of State succeeds to the Governor.  This proposition would require that both Governor and Lieutenant Governor run as a ticket.  Now recent history shows the Secretary of State has assumed the office with surprising frequency.  Napolitano was vehemently against any pro-gun laws and vetoed several.  If a D had succeeded her hasty departure just ahead of state bankruptcy  AZ would not have constitutional carry or a number of pro-gun laws today.  I vote NO.

Prop 112 changes the deadline for propositions from 4 months ahead of the election to 6.  Eh, more time to consider is better.  And if you miss this bus there will be another coming soon.  So + on the upside and not much downside.  I vote YES.

Prop 113 Right to a secret ballot. 
This again falls into "On what planet" category.  On the list of fundamental freedoms, the right to a secret ballot is pretty high.  Think back to why we have a private ballot.  It allows each voter to cast their ballot according to their interests without outside interference.  However when the ballot is public, one side or the other can "influence" the vote towards their interest and away from the individual's interest.  I vote YES.

Prop 203 "Medicinal Marijuana" gives more grief than any other issue on this ballot.  On one side, The woman that bore me died after three years battling cancer.  We visited a couple weeks before she died.  One evening we had dinner ready (roast chicken from the local market) but all she could stomach was all of one chicken wing.  The lack of nourishment had to have played into her longevity.   Also the SCQueen had a friend going through stage IV breast cancer and sent out for some weed.  It kept her appetite up and kept her strength up a couple weeks longer.

OTOH, seems anyone and their brother is qualified to write a prescription for pot and there is no measure of the potency (dosage per hit) and many (most?) of the scripts are written to 17-35 YOs for "chronic pain".  The most credible argument against the prop is that the quantity allows for something like 10 doobs per day and smoking that much pot would qualify the same person as chronically disabled and hence eligible for welfare.

The libertarian in me is in favor of expanding individual rights and I can see the potential benefits for victims of devastating diseases.  However the potential trail to welfare fraud has me concerned.   I made my call, you make yours! (no recommendation)

Prop 302  Diverting Cigarette taxes to the general fund.  A 2006 proposition raised taxes on cigarettes some $0.80 per pack with schools as the beneficiary.  However the funds are administered without any legislative oversight and questions remain about how they administer the funds.  Now I'm not a smoker and never have been, hence I don't pay the tax.  Still I'd rather see the tax and spending board eliminated completely.  Short of that, I'm in favor of eliminating the arbitrary spending board and closing the deficit.  YES on 302

School budget overrides:  NO EFFIN  WAY!  Our school populations are shrinking.  They have grown addicted to budget overrides which turn up on our tax bills.  Few tax dollars actually make it to the classroom.  Just look at the list of stuff your child's teacher asks you to provide for their class.  These overrides provide 6 digit salaries and walnut paneled offices to administrators.  JUST SAY NO.

UPDATE:  Vox calls 'em here.

16 October 2010

The Four Rules

This week was Spring Break for the SCSon. We took the opportunity to trek to NorCal to visit the SCDad. We learned my nephew and namesake is entering BoyScouts/Cubscouts/Tigerscouts or what ever is age appropriate for a 6YO. He's attending camp soon and especially excited that he will get to shoot an airgun. The SCSon seized upon the learning opportunity to introduce the four rules.

The SCSon drew up a paper gun and a sight picture as training aids. He then instructed the nephew in the four rules and brought him up to demonstrate his understanding. He also gave him a crash course in Eddie Eagle (What should you do if you come across a gun? Stop, don't touch, leave the area and tell an adult).

Unfortunately the nephew was unable to recite the four rules when prompted. But no matter... Many need to hear something several times for it to sink in. The SCNephew has now heard the four rules (and associated consequences for failure to abide) at least twice so he's pre-exposed.

We've also promised to take him shooting next time he's in town. Of course that means Mom & Dad will also shoot and that will also be a new experience for them, making two more Californians against gun control.

For the sake of completeness, here are the four rules:
1. The gun is always loaded. That means...
2. We never point the gun at anything we do not intend to destroy. Also..
3. Finger off the trigger until the sights are on the target. And...
4. Be sure of your target and what is beyond.