Mimsy Were the Borogoves

For the wisdom of the wise are the criterion of your madness.

Dominion Electric Corporation Wafflemaker Manual—Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

I have never been a fan of single-purpose kitchen tools. They take up space and are only used on that rare occasion when their purpose comes into play. Waffle irons are no different. If I want a waffle, I figured, I could just go out and have someone else make me one. Why would I want to use space in my kitchen for an appliance I’m literally only going to use when I want to make waffles?

Then I saw this beautiful old waffle-maker at the local antique mall, for $5, marked “works” and I couldn’t resist. It makes small waffles—about 4 ½ by 5 ¼ inches, just right for a moderate breakfast—and two at a time. It’s the perfect waffle maker.

There was only one problem: each side uses its own plug, and the waffle maker only came with one cord with one plug. This meant only making one waffle at a time. So I started haunting eBay for an extra cord.1 I discovered that there are a lot of these waffle makers out there, and sellers have a very inflated sense of what they’re worth. They usually list for far more than $5 (especially with shipping added in) and they literally never sell.

As I started to use the waffle maker, I discovered another problem. It seems like a simple thing to use a waffle maker, but in practice it isn’t. Do I need to grease the iron? That seemed to make more of a mess than people would be willing to put up with. The gauge on the top of the irons goes from low, to bake, to hot. Which do I wait for when making waffles? It seems like I’d want it to be hot, but then what is bake for?

At which point I noticed something else about the Dominion waffle irons on eBay. None of them come with manuals or instructions. A detailed search of the Internet and there are no reproductions of the manual either.

The only Dominion waffle maker I’ve ever seen bid on, I bid on. Because it came with the manual (and it was only about $20 with shipping). Even then, with photos of the manual, doing a search on the title of the manual still comes up with nothing. Since it’s a short manual, and it has very useful information, I figured I’d reproduce it. The full title is Directions for Operating Waffle Iron and Tested Recipes (PDF File, 81.2 KB).

The media’s Trump hatred causes mass murder—Wednesday, August 14th, 2019
Trump-inspired killings

Why are the actions of a deranged environmentalist, worried that too many people harm the Earth—the El Paso killer—blamed on President Trump? The “current climate of hate legitimized by the MAGA ethic” is so much a part of the religion of the left that asking for examples is an insult to intelligence. Here’s what one person in my Facebook feed said when someone else questioned the left’s religion by pointing out that “Trump has outwardly, formally, and officially on several occasions announced his stand against all hate groups. Burning a church does not help to Make America Great Again, so no, it was not a MAGA inspired event.”

I have a very informed opinion about what is going on in this country. The flames of bigotry and hate are being fueled and condoned by Trump. I won’t insult your intelligence by citing the numerous documented instances. Bottom line for me; You as a minority supporting this man is akin to a victim of child abuse listening to MJ.

This is extreme condescension, and emblematic of the way the left infantilizes anyone who disagrees with them. The attempt to shame a minority into returning to the left’s plantation. Disagreement among the groups they feel they own is especially appalling to the white left; when they lose control over their subject identity groups it’s like a child abuser losing access to their victims. They lash out.

But there’s also the dig about insulting your intelligence. Realizing that just about every “numerous documented instance” turned out to be a hoax, I asked for an example. He posted two.

The anti-Trump (at best) New Zealand Christchurch killer. And the anti-Trump synagogue shooter here in the United States.1

Those are two very good examples of how blind hatred of Trump is at best self-defeating and at worst is fueling the deadly hatred the left claims to oppose. Blaming Trump for fueling those killings is coming out unequivocally in favor of hatred. The only way Trump or any political leader could have adjusted their speech to appease the synagogue shooter or the New Zealand shooter would have been to engage in hate.

42 Astounding Scripts is live!—Friday, August 2nd, 2019
Astounding Scripts book cover

This is the ebook cover from Apple Books. It’s also available in print on Amazon and as an ebook on Smashwords.

Do you want to play music on your computer? Do you want to create ASCII art from your photographs? Play podcasts back faster, snapshot web pages, display upcoming birthdays on your Desktop? Do horribly ancient filenames drive you crazy? Would you like to replace their underscores with spaces and separate their mashed-together words to readable ones? Would you like to organize your favorite recipes?

There’s a script for all of that in 42 Astoundingly Useful Scripts and Automations for the Macintosh.

42 Astounding Scripts shows you how to take control of your Macintosh.

I’ve been reading a lot of books about computers from the late seventies and early eighties. I cut my programming teeth on books like Ken Tracton’s 57 Practical Programs & Games in BASIC and the various forms of 101 BASIC Computer Games*. Reading these books again, I began to feel, not nostalgic, but jealous. Jealous of the younger me who had these books to read. As far as I can tell they don’t exist now. I wanted to read a book that didn’t exist.

Sometimes if there’s a book you really want to read, you have to write it yourself. — Ann Patchett (New York Times, Writers On Writing, August 26, 2002)

So I went through the scripts I use on a weekly and even daily basis, as well as a few scripts I hadn’t written yet but wanted to, and put together the book I really wanted to read. This is a book I would want to buy if I hadn’t written it.

Some of the scripts are a few lines long; others are a few pages long. Every one of them is something I’ve found useful and fun.

Reagan’s Lincolnian Revolution—Wednesday, June 26th, 2019
Reagan For the Little Guy

I saw this meme about the good old days show up in my Facebook feed yesterday from a friend of mine in a teacher’s union:

This is actually the 1956 Republican Party platform:

  1. Provide federal assistance to low-income communities
  2. expand social security
  3. Provide asylum for refugees
  4. Strengthen labor laws so workers can more easily join a union
  5. Extend minimum wage

There are several problems with this list, the obvious being that Republicans are the only party in 2019 that still wants to provide asylum for refugees. Democrats want to let in the people that immigrants need refuge from. Democrats are specifically shielding murderers, rapists, and other violent criminals from deportation, if those criminals came here illegally.

Without walls, there is no sanctuary. The Republican Party understands this. Democrats also understand it: asylum isn’t their goal. They want refugees to remain frightened and dependent.

The wider problem, though, is not that it’s wrong about what the Republican Party supported in the era of Jim Crow. What’s wrong is that Democrats still support going back to the era of Jim Crow. In 1956, wages had risen enough that the minimum wage no longer kept unskilled blacks out of the job market, no longer blocked them from gaining the skills they needed to thrive. It was only with Johnson’s Great Society that blacks stopped advancing economically.

As economist Thomas Sowell has shown in books such as Basic Economics, increasing the minimum wage hurts minorities most. Politicians in 1956 knew this. That’s why they supported increasing the minimum wage. They supported it as a form of segregation. Democrats in 2019 still know this. They still, sixty years on, want to keep unskilled blacks frightened and dependent.

The elephant in the nuclear power plant—Wednesday, June 19th, 2019
Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository

Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, never used. A monument to government waste and the folly of government experts. Did it occur to anyone in the bureaucracy that if you have to go to this much trouble to contain the radioactivity it might still be a useful fuel?

For some reason nuclear power has been in my news lately, both new news and old news. I was watching a segment a few weeks ago about nuclear power plants going out of business, because it’s so expensive to dispose of the highly radioactive waste products that nuclear power plants produce. They can’t figure out what to do with it. Nobody wants it—it’s dangerous and it takes thousands of years to become not dangerous.

It occurred to me that this is nuts, and it’s so nuts it’s an elephant-in-the-room problem. Saying that nuclear power plants are going broke because they can’t figure out what to do with highly radioactive byproducts, is a lot like an oil power plant saying that the byproduct of burning oil is more oil, and what are we going to do with all this oil we’re generating?

If nuclear waste is so radioactive, why aren’t we recycling it for use in nuclear power generation instead of spending billions building waste repositories that the federal government just abandons? A quick bit of research, and it turns out that radioactive waste can be and is recycled back into useful radioactive fuels. But not in the United States. The US federal government not only wastes money building and abandoning waste repositories, it also bans recycling the waste, and has done so since President Carter. And so nuclear power plants go out of business because they aren’t allowed to recycle and they can’t throw it away.

Recycling radioactive waste both reduces its radioactivity—if it didn’t, obviously, it would be infinitely re-usable as fuel—and drastically cuts the volume of waste. Recycled waste takes up less space and is radioactive for far less time than first-generation waste. Not only would recycling nuclear waste provide more fuel, it would vastly reduce the cost of safely storing it by making the waste itself safer.

This is an example of how uselessly insular and provincial modern news is in the United States. The whole point of nuclear power plants is turning radioactivity into useful power; reporting on how nuclear power plants are going out of business because they need to dispose of radioactive waste, does no reporter think to ask why it needs to be disposed of if it’s still radioactive? It seems the obvious question.

The enduring hate speech of Stephen Douglas in Canada—Wednesday, June 5th, 2019
Randall Garrison

While it was amazing seeing just how closely modern conservatism resembles the principles of Abraham Lincoln, it’s disappointingly just as true that Lincoln’s debate rival Stephen Douglas espoused and argued vehemently for what we would today describe as the principles of the left—the vision of the anointed. He believed that smart people should make decisions; that it was the smart person’s burden to be responsible for the life of the masses. It was, in his view, the responsibility of government.

That’s why he supported slavery: the slave’s owner took on the burdensome task of deciding what the slave’s best interests were. This, in his view, freed the slave.

That kind of sophistry continues among the left today. Stephen Douglas was probably no more racist than Abraham Lincoln. But where Lincoln’s principles lifted him up, Douglas’s principles dragged him down.

It was hard not to think of Stephen Douglas while listening to Canadian politicians telling Canadian citizens why laws need to ban speech politicians disagree with. That it’s important for police to visit people, not for doing something illegal, but because they’re saying things the politicians don’t like.

Committee Member Colin Fraser began with the standard sophistry that has been the left’s strategy since at least Douglas. He argued that free speech does not mean consequence-free speech. This is true; it means that, for example, you have no right to not be disliked for your speech, no right to be disagreed with, no right to shut down free speech from others that might show your own free speech to be wrong. But what Fraser turns this into is that you have no right to speech that he thinks is wrong. If he thinks there ought to be consequences to your speech, it is his responsibility to enact those into law. Further, public figures should be compelled to speech that he approves of. It’s the age-old logic of the tyrant: it must either be criminal or required.

Free speech comes with responsibilities, after all. And one of those responsibilities is to say what Canada’s Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights wants you to say.

Free speech doesn’t mean what you’re compelled to say by the state. They’re getting free speech completely backward. They’re defining it as censorship and compelled dogma.

Associate Member Nathaniel Erskine-Smith wanted to prove that the government knows how to crack down on hate speech, and demanded that the guests tell him when the criminal code had ever been improperly applied. Guest Mark Steyn had just described how the government had improperly harassed him. But Erskine-Smith has his own special definition of “improperly”. By improperly, he meant that the same court system that improperly harassed people then said that they had improperly harassed people.

Of (Laboratory) Mice and Men—Wednesday, May 8th, 2019
Running rats Fantascope

Artist’s rendition of federal research funding.

The more I read about the supposedly breakthrough research being done today, the more it seems that in many research areas, especially medicine and biomedical, competition for subsidies decreases innovation. It isn’t just that research tends to focus on old ideas that appeal to bureaucrats and politicians instead of new ideas that might represent a valuable breakthrough. More and more, the research isn’t focusing on anything other than replicating the buzzwords that appeal to bureaucrats and politicians.

Researchers don’t seem to be looking for mice that have, say, Alzheimer’s, or induce Alzheimer’s in mice, and then for a way to cure or alleviate the mouse’s Alzheimer’s. That’s hard. It requires identifying Alzheimer’s by more than just its symptoms. Instead, so many studies seem to take test animals, induce symptoms that look like the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, and then the press reports that we now have insight into how Alzheimer’s works.

It makes everyone look great. The researchers, the reporters, the bureaucrats, and the politicians. What it doesn’t do is bring us closer to a cure. It doesn’t need to. When money comes from funding, the potential patient isn’t a potential customer.

Often, such studies seem like breaking a mouse’s legs to learn how to cure polio, or sometimes even paraplegia.

Sometimes these studies even find that if they stop doing the things that induce the symptoms, the symptoms go away. This, also, is headline-making. Worded correctly, it can sound as if a cure has been found for the thing that looks like the symptoms induced.

But there is a big difference between knowing how to induce symptoms that look like the symptoms of disease X and knowing anything at all about disease X itself. Unfortunately, even the scientific press is getting confused by this more today than they were even five years ago when I started subscribing to Science News.

I put a lot of the blame on federal funding. It is, I suspect, a lot easier to get funding for the very high chance of being able to induce symptoms that look like disease X than it is to get funding for the very low chance of getting real answers about disease X.

When Senators demagogue that we should limit opioid prescriptions to seven days “because no one needs a month’s supply for a wisdom tooth extraction”, ignoring (a) all the evidence about what can go wrong with tooth extractions, and (b) that there are other reasons for needing pain medication than dental visits, such as, say, cancer, remember that these are also the people who set the bar for federal research funding.

After that tweet, the level of funding for any research that might recommend longer terms on pain medication went down. Bureaucrats don’t like to get caught in congressional crossfire.

Building the Replica 1 Plus Apple 1 kit—Wednesday, May 1st, 2019

This is a photo of an Apple 1 kit running on my television set. It’s the Briel Replica 1 from ReActiveMicro. The kit was mostly dead easy to assemble. The hardest part was trusting myself when the instructions weren’t completely clear. The biggest lack—and it was only in, I think, two cases—had to do with polarization, that is, which direction a part needs to be. The instructions almost always mention whether a part is polarized. In two cases it does not:

  1. The crystal is not polarized, as far as I can tell.
  2. The 6821 chip does not have a notch to orient it to the socket. It does have a dot, and the dot is on the same side as where the notch would be if it had one.

The board itself is laid out nicely. The resistors and capacitors have their ratings listed on the board. This made the kit almost, but not quite, paint-by-numbers easy. If you’ve done electronics soldering in the past, you should have no problem putting this together.

The only problem I ran into was, during testing, everything went right; then I plugged the PS2 keyboard in and everything that went right kept happening over and over. What’s supposed to happen is that you reset the computer to get the cursor. This worked. Then it continued happening without pressing reset. I kept getting a new cursor, floating down the left of the television set—but only after I hit reset once myself.

Replica 1 first step: resistors

The first step is to put the resistors in. What a wide expanse of green!

I did what the instructions recommend when it doesn’t work, I went over the soldering on every part, joint by joint. I went over the entire underside, part by part, joint by joint. I found some soldering jobs that were worse than others; I fixed them. But there was really nothing that should have been causing a bad connection or a short.

I plugged it in again, pressed reset, and this time waited before pronouncing it a success and plugging in the keyboard. Sure enough, about every 1 ½ seconds I got a new cursor. Just a line of backslashes going down the left of the television set.

I went back over every connection again, and also strengthened the joints that are mainly structural, such as for holding in the keyboard socket and the composite video RCA plug.

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