Robert E. Lee

16 August 2017

It isn’t General Lee that is drawing groups of protesters. What draws the white supremacists is an idea which they wrongly attribute to General Lee. Robert E. Lee considered the subjugation of African-Americans to be a moral and political evil, antithesis to the belief of your average white supremacists. But the statue was erected by other white supremacists and it is that heritage which now draws the protesters, both the white supremacists who wants to spread the idea of white domination and the counter protester who wants to spread the ideals of civil rights for all. There is no place in this enlightened age for those who still cling to racism and bigotry. It isn’t a matter of Rights to free speech, that isn’t speech – it is just hate and fear. There can be no statue for the white supremacists to venerate now just like there is no grave for Hitler.

Climate Science

31 July 2017

I met a climate change denier the other day. He refused to believe in climate science. Recently, in a conversation about solar evolution, I was compared to a climate change denier and it struck me how easily we can fall into that hole. Personally, if anything, I think we need to not only reduce carbon emissions but also to plan for the worst potential effects of climate change. I think it is time for communities to invest in infrastructure to help mitigate flooding as well as store more fresh water and backup power. Cisterns could be used to not only help prevent flooding but also store months of water for the local community. Backup power can be in one of many forms including battery but also pumped-storage hydroelectric (related to that cistern), or thermal or flywheels, whatever. Forward thinking communities that begin the work now will have a much better quality of life in the next generation.

Over Trained?

24 July 2017

Paid and volunteer civil servants such as firefighters and police deserve respect and praise for their efforts to maintain public safety. Those that have sacrificed to save others should be memorialized to an even greater extent than they are. But here is the difficult question, how many police officers have died from using too little violence? We, sadly, regularly hear of those that have died by police action, with the most notable cases involving unarmed women and children. Maybe those officers were over-trained to pull out and fire their weapon. An action removed from the consequences maybe easier to perform but lacks morality. It is more like the action of a soldier on a battlefield than a police officer in a playground. Maybe police need to train in more non-lethal methods. We live in such a gun crazy country, it would be good to consider how to deescalate potentially deadly situations on both sides of the conflict.

Fiscally Conservative What?

26 May 2017

How exactly is it being fiscally conservative if the budget isn’t actually getting any smaller? On top of that add the eventual tax cuts which decrease revenue thereby​ increasing the debt. More defense spending (which only matters on the international stage) at the expense of lots of good and important domestic programs does not seem to put ‘America First’. For example, wouldn’t more infrastructure spending be more ‘America First’? Or how about more research spending, wouldn’t being the leader in a technology be more ‘America First’?

Of course I personally don’t advocate ‘America First’, I think that is short sighted to reduce funding of international aid programs. I’d rather increase revenue by things like eliminating investment tax loopholes. Though I’m sure there is some bloat in government spending that could be cut.

Pre-K, Full Day Kindergarten and the Studies

3 May 2017

I am told that the studies are inconclusive as to the benefits of pre-K and full day Kindergarten when examined at later grades, such as middle school. I think there is a failing in these studies, though I am no expert. My issue is how we teach to the lowest common denominator. The lack of funding for teaching to accelerated students basically means that they would, in general, be slowed down from what they could potentially achieve. We cannot ask one teacher to be an expert at teaching three or four different levels in the same classroom but without more funding there isn’t the money available to add additional educational resources in each classroom. Of course there are socioeconomic issues here as well. I don’t have a solution to school funding but I would like it if the broad consensus on the initial benefits of pre-K and full day Kindergarten were not watered down with studies showing what happens later when we underfund schools in general.

Nuclear Option

27 March 2017

Aside from the one they keep talking about related to Senate rules, there is the much more deadly version which the current administration believes needs to be enhanced rather than eliminated. This is a huge mistake. Having more nuclear weapons only increases the risk of people dying, it does not save people from nuclear attacks. MAD made sense when the state actors were rational. Now, however, if a rogue actor or group uses a nuclear weapon who would the state counter attack? Do we kill 100 million people for the actions of 1? No, that is an act of collective punishment of the level of crimes against humanity. Besides, conventional weapons can kill just as much. No, we need to move away from the nuclear option. Less nuclear weapons, not more.

A Political Post

6 November 2016

Dearest friends, family and others who may venture here,

If you have voted, thank you. If you have not voted, please do. Don’t let apathy, long lines, unpleasant people at (or in) polling places, or belief your vote doesn’t matter prevent practicing your right to vote. Voting helps strengthen our democracy and prevent radicalization of the political process. The more people who vote then the harder it is to buy an election and the less likely someone would try.

Aside from my belief in the need for everyone to practice their right to vote, I do have a preference for who people vote for. So, I apologize that the rest of this post will be partisan.

I have heard, even from people who voted Democratic in many previous elections, that Hillary cannot be trusted, has broken the law, and/or gotten people killed because. I fear some of their reaction is sexist but even for those that are not I challenge these reasons for allowing Trump to be president.

For one, while Hillary has released tens of thousands of emails and decades of tax returns, Trump has actually deleted emails he was ordered to turn over by a judge, refused to release tax returns and withheld payments to contactors and others till he he lost the case in court.

Secondly, while Hillary has not actually been indicted for any crime, and even been cleared by Republican controlled congressional investigations, Trump, and companies under his direct control, have been convicted of crimes. He has, in his own words, committed crimes including sexual harassment which by itself should disqualify him.

Third, the only leaders who support Trump are Russia’s Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jung Un. Not what any reasonable supporter of democracy would consider leaders they would want to rule them. Leaders who have come out in support of Hillary are too numerous to mention. Even a majority of business leaders have come out in favor of Hillary citing Trump’s vast history of bankruptcies and poor investment decisions on top of his sexism, racism, bigotry, and intolerance.

Lastly, Hillary did not cause the death of an ambassador or his guards. The link related to embassy security isn’t even likely to cover a consulate location like Benghazi and, further more, the addition of another guard or two would just have meant two more deaths. Religious extremists bent on killing Americans are responsible for the deaths, as they still are today and have been since at least the 70’s.

The election of Hillary as president should be heralded as an example of progress against sexism. People should stream into the streets and fireworks should fill the sky in celebration of breaking the highest of glass ceilings. She is qualified to be president so much more than Trump that there really cannot be a comparison. So please, if you have not voted, go vote and seriously consider Hillary for president.

Pantry Cabinet Lights

10 September 2016

I wanted to put lights in a pantry cabinet without spending lots of money and preferably no batteries. The no battery criteria removes many remote switch and motion sensor options, but I had a plan.

As to lights, I liked 2W (~200 lumen or 20W incandescent equivalent) LED disc lamps that could be attached using double sided tape above each shelf. They are powered by an AC to DC converter so no worries about replacing or recharging batteries. Yes, a small wire running from each one, but not too obtrusive. They can be gotten for a couple dollars a disc these days.

I was stuck on a door switch option but I didn’t want the door switch to be operating on AC line voltage. There are some smart house options that you can put together for $150 that will also give you WiFi or Bluetooth control. I really didn’t need that for this and I certainly didn’t want to pay for that.

What I did find was a really cool and inexpensive AC Relay from Digital Loggers ( It was designed to allow a Raspberry Pi or the like to control an AC outlet and has several useful features, namely:

One: Compact and easy to use module with power switch, including circuit breaker, and surge suppressor.

Two: Has both normally ON and normally OFF outlets. The usefulness will become more evident later.

Sadly, the control input is not self powered which could lead to a complicated control circuit. I really just wanted to use some magnetic switches like you might find on windows for a security system.

That brings us to #3: the module is easy to modify. Remove 6 screws and it easily opens up. There is no internal 3.3V or 5V DC source in there. Turns out driving the input needs less than 1 mA. There is an isolated (capacitive coupled) bridge rectifier in there but it is very current limited, enough to drive the AC relay but not much more. Temped as you might be to use it, don’t. It can work but I found it unreliable as a source. When the AC relay is activated it pulls down this voltage by 2/3rd.

I suggest adding another rectifier after the power switch. You will loose out on isolation inside the module but that is okay as the magnet switches should still make it an isolated circuit. Add about 10 uF across the input, that would be enough to ride out a half period should you not want to put in a full bridge. 75 kohm is enough for current limiting, use at least 1/2 w (assuming US residential line voltage). One more hint, place all the components top side of the circuit board as it makes it easier to put the board back in the case. Connect the current limiting resistor and rectifier to the + input with neutral as the other. This will give you about 3V across the input, enough to saturate the opto-isolator they use to drive the AC relay. You could just reuse an old 5V phone charger, but they are not as easy to take apart.

Get normally open magnetic switch (they are open when the magnet is away from the sensor). You can get a bunch of them cheap from Amazon (ASIN B0011W4YNK for example) which have nice recessed wire terminals and double sided tape already on the bottom. My pantry had more than one door so I needed more than one switch.

Wire them in series to get any door to turn on the lights. I had a spool of some shielded two conductor wire, the kind used on old (really old) fashioned phone system. Any insulated wire should work. 22 AWG is fine.

Plug the lights into the normally OFF AC outlet. Then they will turn on when the door opens (magnet switch goes to normally open which allows the control input to charge up switching the normally off AC outlet to on).

If you got, for some reason, NC switches then you can still make it work. Wire the switches in parallel and swap the lights to the normally ON AC outlet – why having both types of outlet is useful.

Emails and Servers

25 August 2016

So your saying that a bunch of people, senators and other political leaders, received emails from and sent emails to the Secretary of State’s private email server without worrying about it for many years and then they all decide, long after she was no longer in the position, to criticize her for using that very same private email server. Why, exactly, did they not have a problem with it in 2008?

I doubt Clinton set up or even knew to suggest setting up a private email server. Someone else made that suggestion. The idea would then have been checked by others for legal and technical ramifications and again no one had a problem with the plan in 2008.

Political expediency, pure and simple. It makes people like Gingrich and Guilliani, who would waste their breath on baseless accusations rather than productive policy discussion, look like untrustworthy used car salesmen. Trump by himself is a joke, the really scary people are those around Trump who either act or believe otherwise.

Making America 1950 Again

4 July 2016

Donald Trump’s popularity demonstrates that there still an underlying bigotry that permeates a mostly white male population. But more than that, foreigners, Canadians even, who suggested support for Sanders have said they prefer Trump to Clinton. Are they also bigots or do they just not hear most of what Trump says? I’m not surprised that there is still bigotry, only sad that so many people are acting out on it. Also sad so many seem to ignore how much of a bigot Trump is, if that is instead their excuse.