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.

Unconscious Ludicrous Rambling

21 June 2016

Last night my unconscious mind decided to entertain me with what had to be the most ludicrous story. It had a title ‘a stitch in time’ about a bunch of hobgoblins and their leader who can slow time for everyone else while they rob. The protagonist was named Eli who repaired pottery for a living. It all took place in the early 19th century. Eli had invented a steam powered car and used steam power in his shop and somehow could sense the villains presence. He was able to tie the villain so they were stuck in real time at which point they exploded for no apparent reason. But at least it had title.

Then, as an encore, my mind gave me an episode of X-Files about a group of mutated hillbillies who live off sucking electricity and are only caught when the owner of the house they were syphoning from dies unexpectedly which results in the electricity being turned off and their frantic attempts to access new source or hilariously try to make their own.

And another one gone

15 June 2016

Our beloved feline Lucy had to make the trip over the rainbow bridge today, taking with her part of our heart. She goes to be with her best friend Julius who we have all missed for a couple years now. Our home is left that much more empty without them. I will cherish my memories as I hope you all do for your loved ones.


But yeah, it is hard to not just keep crying.

Searching the Internet about WiFi Speed

2 April 2016

The cable internet service provider, of customer service infamy, offered faster internet at no additional charge. No additional charge seemed like a good enough deal so I signed up. It would be months later, with no noticeable improvement in WiFi speeds in the house, that I did the important test. One we should all do:

Check the speed of the modem wired directly to a computer.

Then I got 90 Mbps. But on WiFi, never better than 20 Mbps and sometimes so bad it seemed that I was back on dialup.

The router said it could do 300 Mbps so it can’t be the problem, right? What does the internet say? Interference, put in a repeater; or bad cable between the modem and router; or peak congestion, retest in the middle of the night; or wrong setting slowing down the router; or, my favorite, encryption is causing the slow down, remove the security and it will be faster.

Of course the best lies have just enough truth to be believed. Any of those could have been true, but nope. 300 Mbps was just the kind of false advertising that confuses and deceives those who don’t dig deep enough into the details. I’m the one who fell for it too. That whole ‘up to’ should have tipped me off. That and also the computer kept telling me it was a 75 Mbps connection to the router.

I just needed a new router. Once I replaced the router the WiFi speed was nearly as fast as being connected directly to the modem.

While normally the internet is really good about answering these kinds of questions, it really didn’t provide the simple answer in this case without a lot of searching. An old N router, even though it says it can do up to 300 Mbps, really won’t get you more than 20 Mbps on WiFi. Now 20 Mbps is more than what you need for almost anything – well one anything, you really don’t have as much as you think once you start splitting that pie up between all the WiFi connected crap we have these days.

So the answer is, if you have fast internet being anything over 20 Mbps, make sure your router is less than two years old first. Likely that is what is slowing down your WiFi.

Advice and Consent

16 March 2016

Advice and consent are active nouns. They require action to complete. Inaction, by not allowing hearings and not allowing votes, is not the same as withholding consent. Not having hearings and not having votes is failing to fulfill the duties and responsibilities of being a senator. That is very different from withholding consent.

Mr. McConnell, I, along with a majority of the citizens of this country, demand that you fulfil your oath of office and have the Senate properly review, with hearings and vote, the candidate nominated by your President. If you cannot fulfil your obligations then you need to resign from office.