Random Quote of the day

There are more molecules in a glass of water than there are glasses of water in the ocean.

(If you doubt this, consider Avogadro’s number: 6.02 x 10^23. This means that for every 18 grams of water, there are 602 billion billion molecules. A liter of water weighs 1,000 grams, meaning that a 1 liter bottle of water contains  3.31 x 10^25 molecules.

The volume of the Earth’s oceans is about 1.4 x 10^9 cubic kilometers. That works out to 1.4 x 10^21 liters, meaning that there are more than 2,000 times as many molecules in a glass of water than there are glasses of water in the ocean..)

Hope I got all of the math correct.


Officer Discretion

My brother was in a car accident twice in a two week period. The first time, he was driving down a 4 lane divided highway in the right turn lane. Traffic was slow, and the vehicles in the other two lanes waved a vehicle across the highway. My brother T-boned him. The cop didn’t want to write a ticket, and said that due to officer discretion, wouldn’t. As a result, the insurance company claimed that my brother was 50% at fault, and would only pay half of the damage. So he had to fork out $2,000 to repair his car.

Having had his car back for just four days, my brother was sitting at a red light when a car rear ended him. The cops again used officer discretion to not write a ticket. Same story, the insurance company again refused to pay more than half. Another $1800 later, the body shop bought him a steak dinner for being a “good” customer, and bringing nearly $8,000 into the shop within a week or so.

So he complained to the police department and was told that there is no way that they can force cops to write tickets. The worst part? All of this happened during the same week that the city entered talks to install red light cameras at all of the intersections.


Our course is set

I am not a Ron Paul supporter, in the sense that I don’t run around actively supporting him as a candidate. In fact, there are places where he and I do not agree. Now, I am not going to use this post to extoll the virtues of one candidate over the other. What I AM going to do is point out where we are.

We are on the train to national insolvency and dictatorship. The left claims that they need to tax the rich to pay for all of their programs and ensure that everyone gets a fair share of the national economic pie. They ignore the fact that they are spending us into insolvency.

The right claims that they want to control the left’s spending, but never seem to do so. They claim that we need to cut spending and taxes. Just not defense. Oh, yeah, and we need to go to war with everyone until they all bow down to us as Americans. The chief war cry of the right is: if you don’ t vote for the party hack, it is the same as voting for the other guy. Except, they forget that it won’t matter which one you vote for, because other than the D or R behind his name, there is not a real difference between them.

Lest you forget, our last Republican president brought us a 9 year long war in Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with the attacks on 9/11; the Patriot Act; the TSA and their intrusive searches; secret prisons; torturing prisoners for information; and added more than $4,900,000,000,000 to the national debt in 8 years.

Our current President has expanded the powers left for him by his Republican predecessor and begun executing assassinating Americans without trial, forced people to buy products that they don’t want, and has expanded the national debt by $4,800,000,000,000 in just 4 years.

The reason why I would vote for Ron Paul isn’t because I always agree with him, it is because I already know what I am going to get with the others, and I know it isn’t working. I do believe, however, that it doesn’t matter who we vote for, as our course is set. We aren’t voting our way out of this. It is only a matter of time before we sink our national ship under the weight of financial irresponsibility.


Propaganda film

The new movie Act of Valor comes out this weekend. Like Topgun, this movie is intended to be a propaganda piece that will increase enlistment in the Navy. (If you don’t believe it, click the link and read the article.) The Navy likes to make it appear as though everyone in the Navy is either a SEAL, an Electronics Technician, or an Officer. They try to gloss over the less glamorous facets like hull technicians, engineering department, and all of the dirty, nasty jobs that the majority of the crew has to perform in order to keep the ships running.

Go see the movie. I will. Just remember that the Naval Special Warfare Community is even smaller than the fighter pilot community, and both are very difficult to enter and have extremely high washout rates. The Navy gets you to enlist to be a pilot or a SEAL, and then makes sure that washout rates are near or over 90%. After all, very few people go into a recruiter’s office and sign up to chip and paint a ship for 4 years, but the job still needs to get done. The people who wash out of these programs are the ones who get stuck in these jobs, and they sometimes wash people out for the most minor reasons that they can think of.

In the early 80s, just before Top Gun came out, the Navy had a hard time getting the smart kids to join, because the Air Force was getting them all. (That is why Top Gun came out) When I was in boot camp, fully half of the recruits were there because of that movie (I was not) and stated that they wanted to become officers and eventually, pilots. Less than 1 in 1000 made officer, and less than 1 in 500 became pilots, and of those, the majority were helicopter and cargo plane pilots. Less than 1 in 100,000 enlisted recruits became fighter pilots.

So the Navy’s tool for getting the smart kids when I signed up was Nuclear Power School. A promise of E4 within months, E5 in less than 2 years, bonuses after the first year, and technical training were the draws. Of course, they glossed over the 70% washout rate. People were washed out for getting traffic tickets off base, being caught in the Enlisted Club after 10 pm, and drinking under age. They did all that they could to meet that 70% washout rate.

Four years later, the program was passing 75% of candidates, because the Navy had better ways to populate those crappy jobs.

So to sum it up, remember it is just a movie. Don’t sign up for the wrong reasons. Think about what you are getting yourself into.


Oil prices

This news report talks about rising gas prices and states that for every $50 you spend on gas:
$30.75 goes to the oil company
$7.00 to the refinery
$6.00 goes to the government
$4.00 to the distributor
$1.25 goes to the credit card company
$1.00 to the gas station

The entire article insinuates that the oil company is being greedy, but how fair is that?
$50 in gas, with prices around $4 a gallon, will get you about 12.5 gallons. There are 42 gallons to a barrel of oil, so your $50 in gas becomes slightly less than a third of a barrel of oil. Oil is currently about $110 a barrel. A third of that is about $33, which is about what you pay.

What changes the price of oil? In this case, blame the dollar. The government is not counting the price of fuel or food when they calculate inflation. The government is spending so much that the dollar is losing value, which is increasing the price of goods bought overseas, and the number one imported good is—- gasoline.

Blame profligate deficit spending for the pump prices.


Never doing that again

While I was doing my taxes, I was playing with Quicken and decided to see what living in my house cost me. I “bought” that house in 2007 for $236,000. Two and a half years later, it was worth only $96,000 and I declared bankruptcy to get that albatross from around my neck. When all was said and done, it came out in court that no one could tell me who owned the mortgage on that house, and so I won a “free” house in court.

Out of the five years since I bought it, I have not paid a dime in mortgage payments since September, 2009. Even so, that house has cost me $44,254 in mortgage payments over the last 5 years. Other expenses for the last five years:
Homeowner’s Association: $1,591
Electric bills: $15,471
A new air conditioner/ heat pump: $4,219
Household maintenance, landscaping, and lawn care: $11,152
New appliances on moving in: $5,408
Insurance: $5160
Property taxes: $6341
That is a total of $93,596 for 58 months. That works out to $1,613 a month. Now keep in mind, I haven’t made payments on that house for half of the time I have been there. If I had been, the monthly cost would increase to about $2,300 a month.

Now, to be truthful, I would have to pay utilities in an apartment, but I included them above because I have never had an apartment with $400 electric bills, which were not all that unusual in this house.

The five previous years in an apartment cost me an average of $1234 a month, including utilities and renter’s insurance. My apartment was nice. It was only 200 square feet smaller than the house I bought, and it had a garage. Does anyone think that the tax advantage of owning a home saves you $14,000 a year in taxes? Not even mentioning that the house is worth $142,000 less than I borrowed on it. Had I not filed bankruptcy and gotten that house, I would still be upside down on it. I am not repeating that mistake. I will rent from now on, thank you very much.


The biology of self control, part 2

This is a continuation of the post on the physiological origins of self control and criminals. For the first part, click here.

The next neurotransmitter that is important is Serotonin. Serotonin is not capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier, so the brain must produce all that it needs. Serotonin is produced by converting an amino acid called tryptophan into Serotonin. (Serotonin is also used for other purposes in other parts of the body, but that is not within the scope of this post.)

Serotonin is the chemical that causes us to feel loved, safe, and comfortable. This is why meals high in tryptophan are called comfort foods. This is also how the drug Ecstasy (MDMA) works. That drug causes a massive release of Serotonin from your neurons. Long term use of MDMA actually causes a decrease in Serotonin, though, as the cells that produce it begin to “burn out.” Various other drugs that are centrally acting also work on Serotonin and its receptors, like SSRIs.

When we do what we know that we are supposed to do, the frontal lobe rewards us with a rush of Serotonin. This is the brain’s reward system for good behavior. The Midbrain rewards pleasurable behavior with Dopamine. The balance between the two is the way our behavior is controlled: Midbrain rewards us for pleasure seeking, the Frontal Lobe rewards us for controlling our bad behavior. Most people are fairly balanced between the two, and mostly seek out pleasurable but good behavior.

There are things that can upset this balance:
A mother who exposes her unborn child to alcohol can damage the frontal lobe, and giver birth to a child with impulsive and unsocial behavior. Remember hearing about how the prenatal exposure to alcohol affects the corpus callosum? That’s the membrane between the left brain and the right brain that passes information between the two hemispheres of the brain. The corpus callosum of kids with fetal alcohol syndrome is damaged, and in some cases it is absent. This is very similar to what happens when a “normal” person drinks alcohol. After a few drinks, alcohol shuts down the left side of the frontal lobe, which no longer functions the way it should and this suppresses the frontal lobe, causing the person to act on impulse, disregarding consequences, and seek more reward from the Midbrain. A person will act to do things, even  when they know that it is wrong and will cause them trouble in the end. With long term alcohol and drug use, this condition becomes a permanent dysfunction.

Since much of this is biochemical and not conscious thought, people with frontal lobes that are damaged by congenital defects or drug use have no way of stopping this behavior.

That brings us back to recognizing a person’s potential for becoming a killer. We can look for people who:
 – chronically use alcohol or drugs,
– have displayed a history of not producing enough Serotonin. They are easy to recognize, as they have problems controlling their impulsive behavior (in other words- criminal records). However, this only is a reliable indicator if the criminal KNEW that what he was doing was wrong. After all, the person must know it is the wrong thing to do, if the frontal lobe is to be expected to control the impulse.
– Identifying others who have problems with their impulse control center. This suggests that there may be a test that can be performed that will indicate a person’s proclivity for committing crimes, which may mean that there is a medical solution for some criminals.

You also can see why gun control has little effect. The criminal is a criminal because his brain doesn’t stop him from committing acts that he knows are wrong. He knows it is illegal to rob someone, but he doesn’t care. He knows as a convicted criminal that it is wrong for him to own a gun, but doesn’t care.

On the other side of that, a man convicted of an obscure felony like owning more than 5 sex toys is not a threat to public safety and is unlikely to commit a crime with a firearm, as his impulse control is most probably fully functional.


Range Report

I finally got to take my new M&P 40 to the range. I had been hoping to be able to test my Storm Lake 9mm conversion barrel, but they are on backorder. It seems that no one has any, which tells you that they are selling like hotcakes. I wanted one to make shooting for practice cheaper, but we will have to wait on that.

The second thing I was testing was my new XS sights. I had them installed last week, and was not able to try them out yet. The sight consists of a large front dot and a vertical line on the rear. To aim, you simply make the front dot sit on top of the line, like a lollipop, like this:

This has got to be one of the fastest sights that I have ever used. It was accurate, with me shooting a rapid fire 8 round two inch group at 10 yards. My only complaint was that the gunsmith did not Locktite the screw for the rear site in place, so it backed off after 20 rounds or so, and my shots were going wild. It took me another ten rounds to realize that it wasn’t me that was causing the wild shots. Three more shots to get the sights realigned, and a dab of Locktite, and I was back to shooting tight groups.

I fired 250 rounds without a single malfunction. Something I was never able to do from the two 1911s that I got rid of. In fact, the two 1911s that I still have were not able to do that right out of the box. Those pistols needed a break in period of about 500 rounds to get working. In all, I am happy with this pistol, and I am comfortable with carrying it as a defensive piece. Now all I need to do is get some leather for it. I am thinking about a Brommeland Max Con V. I like leather and not plastic holsters. Anyone have opinions?


We interrupt this blog

I was going to post a part 2 to yesterday’s post that was the beginning of my theory on the biological reasons for why some people are criminals, but I need to take a minute to vent.

Yesterday, I posted the following image on a social networking site with the caption of “Aren’t we as Americans tired of this yet?”

 In response to this, my ex-sister in law, who is on food stamps, decided to post the following:

More restarants are accepting ebt so families can experience the going out to eat like families who can do it anytime they want, i think that america needs to learn that the unemployment isnt a joke and a lot of ppl have stopped lookin for work cause there isnt anythin out there, so stop complaining about ebt and be happy that if u have a job or are gettin paid to go to school atleast u dont have to deal with struggles like some families do

 Here was the reply that I sent her:

I don’t care if you go out. I do care if you go out and expect me to pay for it. The EBT system is meant for people to not starve, not so they can have luxuries like “experiencing going out to eat.” You have internet access, which tells me that you have at least some money for luxury. It is about priority and about working to get ahead, not about waiting for someone to give you something. I get paid to go to school because I worked and saved in order to do so, not because I sat around and expected handouts. It isn’t luck that I had a job or that I am in school, it is called HARD WORK. There were times that I had to work 3 jobs to make it. It isn’t that there are no jobs, it is that you don’t want to work at the jobs that are there. Get off the internet, stop using the EBT to go to Pizza Hut, put away the pride and take whatever job you can get, but stop asking me to pay your bills.

 It really angers me when someone says that I am somehow lucky to have what I have, or that I somehow fell into having a good life. 
I graduated from a public high school. So did you. We started from the same point.
I couldn’t afford college, so I joined the military.
While in, I got my girlfriend pregnant, and married her. We had a child when I was 19 years old. It was a struggle, but I provided for my family. Try making it on what an E3 makes, and see if you feel fortunate.
When I got out of the military, things were tough. At one point, we were homeless for about three months, and lived in a storeroom at my job. I bathed my kids in a 48 quart ice chest. 
I went from job to job for the next four years, each job paying more than the last, until I could afford to go to school. 
I then went to the fire academy and paramedic school at night and on the weekends while I worked during the day. Then, I got a job with the fire department, and worked my ass off to get promoted twice, and earn a retirement. During this time period, I worked three jobs so that I could save for a rainy day. 
After 12 years of that, I lost everything when the stock and real estate  market crashed. I wound up bankrupt. 
I worked hard some more, and finally retired with about $50,000 in savings so that I could go to school.

Socialists call that “good fortune” or “luck”

I call it hard work.
Get off your asses and get a job, but stop expecting me to pay your bills.


Killers, biology, and control

There are always people who think that keeping people from owning guns is the answer to preventing murder. These people say that anyone is capable of being a criminal, and therefore guns are too dangerous for anyone but cops and the military. Others say that there is no way to predict who will be a killer, but is this true? Why do people become criminals, addicts, or killers? The answer is in our brains.

The neurological system of human beings is controlled by chemicals called neurotransmitters. The brain manufactures more than 60 different neurotransmitters that are responsible for everything we do from breathing, to pupil contractions, and even our thoughts and emotions. For the purposes of emotion and this discussion, there are three that we are talking about: Dopamine, Serotonin, and Norepinephrine.

Everything that we do that brings us pleasure involves Dopamine. If it makes you happy, Dopamine is the chemical that is responsible. The nervous system uses dopamine as the reward for good behavior. Serotonin is the love and comfort chemical. This neurotransmitter gives us our feelings of belonging, self-confidense, and calm. Norepinephrine is responsible for the “4 F’s” (feeding, fleeing, fighting, and f*cking).

In the human brain, there are components that control our emotions and behaviors without our conscious control. Among these is the midbrain. A small area of the midbrain called the Substantia Nigra makes dopamine, and passes that reward through a structure called the nucleus accumbens, past the frontal lobe, and to the rest of the brain. Since the midbrain is out of our conscious control, there are no ethics or morals involved in this level of control, this is pure instinct. In this way, the midbrain causes us to do whatever brings us pleasure.

We can exhibit a certain amount of control by utilizing the frontal lobe of the brain to interdict some of these impulsive, hedonistic impulses. You see, the frontal lobe of the brain is where our sense of morals, self control,  and duty originate. In children and young adults (up to about age 25) this area of the brain is not yet fully developed, and this is why people in that age group do stupid and irresponsible things.

In addition, various genetic and environmental factors either damage or prevent the development of this part of the brain. Individuals that do not have a fully developed frontal lobe have little self-control, no sense of right and wrong, and no morals. In short, they are out of control criminals.

Part two of this post can be found here.