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This is rough.  Very rough, kinda stream of consciousness, so keep that in mind.

I was looking at this map, and I had something of an epiphany regarding how so many voters could be OK with Trumps pretty naked racism & sexism.  I’m sure some percentage of his voters just blew it off as un-serious, but the evidence of his attitudes was stark enough I figure a person would have to be working that lie pretty hard.  So why did so many find it OK enough to vote for him?  I think the answer lies in the demographics.

I grew up in the late 70’s/80’s, in very rural WI.  While I did witness some hardcore racism & sexism, for the most part, everyone was pretty tolerant.  But there was a lot of low level racism & sexism; call it ‘-ism-light’.  Enough that I was steeped in that undercurrent as I grew up.  It’s surprising how deeply it embeds, and sticks with you.

I left rural WI, joined the Navy, got educated in Madison, and live near Seattle, so I’ve had time & experience to work past the -isms, but even now, seeing ‘-ism-light’ doesn’t cause a reaction.  I have to parse it, process it, and then I recognize it and decide it’s not OK.  That filter I grew up with isn’t gone, I’ve just got a second filter on top of it, courtesy of diverse exposure & experience.

But if you never left those places, even if the environment is not so steeped in -isms anymore, people my age, who don’t have that second filter, they will have a strong tolerance for such things.  They probably wouldn’t accept it in themselves, or their immediate family and friends, but the more removed an offensive person is, the better the ability to tolerate it to a degree.

So Uncle Ned who can’t stop making racist & sexist jokes, he doesn’t get invited to family gatherings very often.  But Trump?  He’s so far removed…

Category: Elsewhere

Dr. Frances Arnold won the Millennium Technology Prize for directed evolution.

With her engineering background, Prof Arnold wanted to make new, useful, problem-solving proteins. So she took her cue from the way nature does the same thing.

“I looked at it and said, well, nature didn’t actually design enzymes… How does this happen? You make mutations randomly, you look through a large number of things for the ones that have the properties you’re interested in, then you repeat the process.

Pretty nifty, but is there a practical application?  I’m so glad you asked!

It is now used in laboratories worldwide and has produced many valuable enzymes, including one used in manufacturing Januvia, a popular drug for type 2 diabetes, which would otherwise be produced using heavy metals.

“They replaced a chemical process with an enzymatic process, thereby completely eliminating toxic metals that were needed… and getting solvent waste reduction of 60%,” said Prof Arnold.

“We’re talking tonnes of material.”

Directed evolution has also produced catalysts that allow industrial chemicals and fuels to be made from renewable sources.

Damn, that’s pretty nifty!



Category: Elsewhere
Category: Elsewhere

I’m always a bit skeptical of wind & solar, since they are so very dependant upon the vagaries of weather in most places.  But hydroelectric, that is a pretty consistent source of power.  It is not a favorite of environmentalists, however, since it tends to have negative effects on aquatic & marine life*, and efforts to mitigate such things never seem to please such folks.  Dams are always bad, tidal turbines are a non-starter to many because they might hurt a whale or dolphin (a concern so great that many tidal turbine research projects are heavily lobbied against in the US, forcing the world to rely on other countries to examine the effects and explore mitigation strategies).

Now, however, there is a pilot project to explore the ability to develop power from the ocean based upon the difference in temperatures at different depths.  It’s a pretty simple concept. Build a small platform (think, small oil platform), and drop a long bundle of pipes deep into the ocean.  Fill the pipes with a working fluid that is vapor it surface temperatures, but condenses to liquid and the deeper temperatures.  Allow it to circulate, with the gas phase at the top driving a turbine and generator.

No moving parts in the water, no significant changes to the local ecosystem.  No critters hurt.  Can we do this one, radical environmentalists?  Please?!


*Bird kills from windmills and solar mirrors are less of a concern, it appears.



Category: Elsewhere

It’s official, my employer is being acquired by a much, much larger firm.  And by larger, I mean a firm that is about 400 times larger*.  At least, we will be once the shareholders and regulators have signed off on it.

Overall, for the company and out brand, this is probably a good thing.  They get a whole lot of engineering simulation software talent they didn’t have before, in a company with very little debt and very robust growth, & we get exposure and integration into an enterprise level platform.  We have been told that no layoffs are planned and the whole of our organization is being brought over (all 900 of us), and our new owners have much better pay & benefits packages that we can expect to enjoy.  There are also no immediate plans for moves or other rapid change, since no one wants to spook talent or customers.

Still, it’s a little anxiety producing.


*the new firm is German, with a name that is phonetically similar to something you’d find aboard ships.

Category: Elsewhere

Formic Acid, that simple little acid that ants create to defend their colony, could be used to replace conventional fuels.

No, we won’t be burning it.  Formic acid will decompose in the presence of a platinum catalyst to CO2 & H2, the H2 can then be used to power a hydrogen fuel cell.

Question is, what kind of range can I get for a gallon of ant venom?

Category: Elsewhere

Very Lonely Luke

You’re Welcome

Category: Elsewhere

Over at OT, I recently put up a post talking about firearms & policy.  It was a long post, and I felt rather complex, with ideas about how to improve America’s Firearms Culture without just cranking down on regulation.  The ideas involved a lot of moving pieces and I’ll admit that there was a bit of wishful thinking in there, but I felt the initial requirement was do-able, and a good idea even if all the rest failed to manifest.  I was hoping the conversation would engage the ideas directly, and some people did, and quite well.

Yet the bulk of the conversation just fell more along the lines of “stop telling our group to shut up and go home” combined with a lot of “that other group is so deranged that they’ll never go for it”.  Neither of which was salient to the ideas presented, but clearly people wanted to engage those ideas.

I get why one person commented early that the straw supplies at OT would be getting kinda low.

Category: Elsewhere

Or rather, the futility of hoping to ban something that is trivial to produce.  Remember The Liberator, the first functional 3D printed gun?  The State Department may have forced them to pull the CAD files off the web, but not before it was downloaded well over 100K times & lives on across the web.  That was a single shot gun & everyone was freaking out.

Now we have the PM522, a PepperBox .22 revolver that can fire 6 or 8 shots, depending on which cylinder you print.  It uses a roofing nail for a firing pin, and rubber bands for springs.

Short of trying to tightly control ammunition, I’m not sure how to stop such things from getting into undesirable hands.  And if ammunition suddenly did find itself tightly controlled, how long do you think it would take before someone figured out a good way to make ammunition at home*?


*Note: the three issues with making ammunition at home are primer, cases, and powder (casting bullets is so simple as to be child’s play).  Cases are typically reloaded from discarded cases, or from cases bought new & empty from dealers.  Making a case in your garage from raw materials is not impossible, but it is a bit more complex than casting bullets.

Modern smokeless powder is much more advanced that the black powder of yore.  Making black powder is pretty straight forward, but modern powder formulations require a pretty solid background in chemistry & lab work to avoid blowing yourself to hell & back.  Primers are even more problematic.  It’s not impossible, but it would take a Walter White to do it.

Category: Elsewhere

Bike lanes mess with church parking.

I wish I had time for some kind of commentary on this, but I just don’t.

Category: Elsewhere


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Greetings from Stonebridge a fictitious city in a fictitious state located in a tri-state area in the interior Mid-Atlantic region. We're in western Queenland, which is really a state unto itself, and not to be confused with Queensland in Australia.

Nothing written on this site should be taken as strictly true, though if the author were making it all up rest assured the main character and his life would be a lot less unremarkable.

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