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  • Hober Short 11:51 am on 26 August 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    I really cannot emphasize enough how absolutely screwed this is: Every Concealed Carry Permit in eastern NC Invalid Due to Hurricane Irene.

    The idea of a state of emergency declared by the governor as we knew it a few years ago used to be a legal formality to be eligible for federal aid money to recover from anything deemed an emergency. At this point, the idea of declaring a state of emergency is totally perfunctory.

    And so politicians are able to pass laws that restrict things like the law of supply and demand and otherwise lawful concealed or open carry under the guise of only doing it during “emergencies”.

    But the result is that the Governor Perdue, in her rush to invoke a state of emergency in order to ostensibly help people, has deprived lawful concealed carry holders of the ability to keep and bear arms in a potential disaster area.

    There’s a saying in the self-defense community, “When seconds count, the police are only minutes away.” I wonder how that adage goes when the power and phone lines are knocked out by a category three hurricane, and the major thoroughfares are washed out.

    Edit: I’m not sure what to make of this. Reading the text (Section 7) of the executive order declaring the state of emergency itself says “This order . . . does not trigger the limitations on weapons in G.S. 14-288.7 [the above-linked restrictions on guns] or impose any limitations on the consumption, transportation, sale or purchase of alcoholic beverages.”

    It’s not clear why the law was passed if it is going to be disregarded in a state of emergency, except to change the default to being disallowed to carry. I guess that means we should be grateful when we’re allowed to carry during a declared state of emergency.


    • Pat 12:04 pm on 26 August 2011 Permalink | Reply

      And remember, in post-Katrina New Orleans, the police were looting the stores.

      But it’s vitally important that we disarm the CCP holders, because they’ll turn into rampaging criminals the moment a hurricane makes landfall. It’s a well-known fact.

  • Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. 11:03 am on 25 August 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    I think I want to read this book profiled by John Stossel. Ben, have you ever heard of this Walter Block guy?

    • Hober Short 11:41 am on 26 August 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I’ve not, no, but “Defending the Undefendable” is pretty much the motto of modern pop economics. Looks like an interesting read.

  • Pat 12:04 am on 22 August 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Well, I’m uncomfortable with what the Santa Rosa police did, but not for the reason Nagy cites. I can’t endorse “allowing children to touch and handle unloaded SWAT firearms”, because there is no such thing as an unloaded gun.

    Children should become familiar with guns, yes — by being taught gun safety and learning to shoot. Just letting kids handle guns while remaining ignorant about them is not useful or wise.

    And if the cops would like for citizens to be less intimidated by them, perhaps they should stop doing things like this and this.

  • Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. 9:39 am on 19 August 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    At a recent event in California, officers from the Santa Rosa police department allowed children to touch and handle unloaded SWAT firearms, to encourage them not to be intimidated by the police.

    But locals are naturally outraged:

    Community organizer Attila Nagy, who took the photos, told FoxNews.com that he was concerned it might encourage kids to use guns in the future.

    “My main concern is for kids who handle these things. They’re fascinated by them, and it makes them familiar with guns,” he said.

    Surely we don’t want our kids to become familiar with guns, or with anything else we personally don’t like; it’s much better to pretend these things don’t exist. And of course nothing could be worse than planting the idea in a child’s head that he or she might actually use a gun in the future. We don’t want our children to grow up to be police officers or soldiers, and we certainly don’t want them trying to defend themselves!

  • Pat 6:13 pm on 11 August 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    One of the designers of the original IBM PC says in a blog post that the day of the personal computer is over, and we are entering the post-PC era. Is he right? I have trouble believing that desktops and laptops will fade away and that we’ll do all our computing on tablets and smartphones. But I was wrong about the Apple iPad, so what do I know?


    • Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. 10:15 am on 12 August 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I keep hearing that kind of thing — that the smartphone has killed the PC, or whatever. It’s nonsense.

      To the people making such claims, I would point out that the PC didn’t kill the mainframe (despite some people claiming it would). Yes, people started using PCs for a lot of stuff that they used to use mainframes for, but there are still computing tasks for which a mainframe is what you want.

      The same is true for the PC. Obviously, many people are starting to use smartphones and tablets instead of PCs for certain tasks (I’m one of those people), and if those tasks are all you need to do, then maybe you won’t need a PC anymore. But is anyone really going to write a novel on a phone, or edit home movies on a tablet?

      The only way I can imagine that sort of thing happening is if we see high-powered tablets that can accommodate peripherals like hardware keyboards and large displays. But once you have something like that, I’m not sure there’s any meaningful distinction between “tablet” and “PC.”

  • Pat 3:52 pm on 7 August 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Slashdot recently linked to an article (co-authored by a mathematician) about the most efficient method for mowing grass. I have no mathematical degrees to my credit, but I don’t find the method described by Polster & Ross to be useful. Go read it first, then come back and read why I think my method is better.

    The problem with the Polster & Ross article is that it conflates two very different tasks: mowing a lawn and mowing a golf course. The illustrations all depict a golf course, and one with a very irregular shape. Most people interested in this topic are mowing lawns, which tend to be more or less rectangular. The method described by Polster & Ross may be very efficient for golf courses, but it’s useless for lawns. It also may be intended for riding mowers, but I use a push mower, and that makes a big difference.

    The article gets one thing right: you want to mow in long straight lines as much as possible. Why? Because turns are inefficient. They slow you down, and they also require more effort, tiring you out sooner. So turns should be as infrequent as you can make them.

    The best way to accomplish this is to break the lawn into rectangular blocks. Why rectangles? Well, you’re essentially tiling a plane, and there are only three polygons you can use to do that: triangles, squares, and hexagons.  Hexes are the worst choice because they have the most vertices, which means too many turns. Squares are better, and triangles would be even better, but you can’t use them because you’re trying to tile a rectangular area, and triangles aren’t ideal for that. So you use squares.  And in practice, you’ll end up with groups of squares that form a rectangle, and that’s what you mow.

    Your property may be perfectly rectangular, but it gets chopped into more uneven shapes by your house, your driveway, trees and bushes, flowerbeds, and so on. Integral calculus tells us that we can fill irregular areas if we use progressively smaller rectangles, but this quickly becomes impractical for mowing.  If a rectangle is narrower or shorter than about three times the length of your mower, you can’t really mow around its edges, and are forced to use back-and-forth strokes. This means that you end up with several large and medium-sized rectangular blocks, and some small, irregular shapes in various corners.

    End result: You mow around the edges of the rectangular blocks, and then finish off the leftover bits with back-and-forth patterns.

    Looking at the golf course in Polster & Ross’s illustrations, I think I might still try my method on it. I would break it into one big rectangle in the center, one smaller rectangle in the lower right portion, and a bunch of irregularly shaped leftover pieces. However, Polster & Ross give no indication of how big that golf course is, and I’m not sure my method would scale well. What do you guys think?

    • Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. 11:15 am on 8 August 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Well, the authors do acknowledge that most lawns are rectangular and that “a little trial and error usually suffices” before turning to golf courses — which I interpret as saying “this is only an interesting problem with a large and complex shape.” For a smaller and mostly rectangular lawn, I think the approach you describe is the only one that makes sense — assuming you care about efficiency (more on that in a moment).

      My front lawn is actually quite irregular as lawns go (since most of our land is wooded); the front is roughly triangular, but with strips along the driveway and frontage. I mow most of the main section as a series of long strips, each shorter than the one before, but there are irregular spots all along where I use lots of back-and-forth motions. This is one reason why a riding mower, or even a self-propelled push mower, would be impractical for me to use; there just aren’t enough long straight sections.

      But efficiency is far from my top priority. For one thing, the total area I have to mow is rather small, so any time saved by using an optimally efficient method would be negligible. More importantly, mowing stands in for my daily walk on days that I mow, and when you’re exercising, efficiency is exactly what you want to avoid.

    • Pat 1:16 pm on 8 August 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Efficiency matters to me because most of my mowing takes place during the months when North Carolina is unbearably hot. To avoid the worst of the heat, I mow as late in the evening as possible. The faster I mow, the later I can start and the lower the temperature I have to endure.

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