Comprehending Engineers

While looking through my rather meager electronic archives, I came across this little gem. Normally I'm not one for posting things like this, humorous as it is, but having been involved in electronics for most of my adult life (and a good portion of my teen years) and in engineering for the last ten years, I can say that it pretty well explains us engineering types to the non-engineering enlightened masses (also called mundanes). While I can't take any credit for writing this, I can say "Yup. I would'a done the same thing."

While the scenarios below don't generally apply to 'code warriors' (that's software programmers, to the uninitiated), there is quite a bit of crossover between the disciplines.

* Take One

Two engineering students were walking across campus when one said, "Where did you get such a great bike?"

The second engineer replied, "Well, I was walking along yesterday minding my own business when a beautiful woman rode up on this bike. She threw the bike to the ground, took off all her clothes and said, 'Take what you want.' "

The second engineer nodded approvingly, "Good choice; the clothes probably wouldn't have fit."

** Take Two

An architect, an artist and an engineer were discussing whether it was better to spend time with the wife or a mistress.

The architect said he enjoyed time with his wife, building a solid foundation for an enduring relationship. The artist said he enjoyed time with his mistress, because of the passion and mystery he found there.

The engineer said, "I like both."


Engineer: "Yeah. If you have a wife and a mistress, they will each assume you are spending time with the other woman, and you can go to the plant and get some work done."

*** Take Three

What is the difference between Mechanical Engineers and Civil Engineers?

Mechanical Engineers build weapons. Civil Engineers build targets.

**** Take Four

The graduate with a Science degree asks, "Why does it work?"

The graduate with an Engineering degree asks, "How does it work?"

The graduate with an Accounting degree asks, "How much will it cost?"

The graduate with a Liberal Arts degree asks, "Do you want fries with that?"

***** Take Five

To the optimist, the glass is half full.

To the pessimist, the glass is half empty.

To the engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

******Take Six

Three lawyers and three engineers are traveling by train to a conference. At the station, the three lawyers each buy tickets and watch as the three engineers buy only a single ticket.

"How are three people going to travel on only one ticket?" asks one of the three lawyers.

"Watch and you'll see," answers one of the engineers.

They all board the train. The lawyers take their respective seats but all three engineers cram into a restroom and close the door behind them.

Shortly after the train has departed, the conductor comes around collecting tickets. He knocks on the restroom door and says, "Ticket, please."

The door opens just a crack and a single arm emerges with a ticket in hand. The conductor takes it and moves on. The lawyers saw this and agreed it was quite a clever idea. So after the conference, the lawyers decide to copy the engineers on the return trip and save some money.

When they get to the station, they buy a single ticket for the return trip. To their astonishment, the engineers don't buy a ticket at all.

"How are you going to travel without a ticket?" asks one perplexed lawyer.

"Watch and you'll see," says one of the engineers.

When they board the train, the three lawyers cram into a restroom and the three engineers cram into another one nearby. The train departs.

Shortly afterward, one of the engineers leaves his restroom and walks over to the restroom where the lawyers are hiding. He knocks on the door and says, "Ticket, please."


Changing Thoughts About the Death Penalty

Steven Den Beste has got me to thinking again. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. I'll leave that up to you.

His brief commentary on the death penalty, which digressed into an even briefer comment on attacking Iraq, got me thinking about capital punishment and made me realize that over the period of a few years my attitude about it has changed tremendously.

I used to be of the "Fry 'em!" persuasion, as was my brother. In fact, he was rather adamant about imposing the death penalty on the truly deserving and put it all down in to words on our old web site a few years ago. Digging around in my electronic archives I found a copy of his post and read it again. My only thought was, "Were we really that bloodthirsty?"

I'd thought to post it in its entirety here, but figured I'd better check with him first.

He said "NO!"

His attitudes had changed as well, though I admit that there are still a few crimes that I believe are so heinous that the perpetrator richly deserves being irrevocably removed from society.

This is what my brother wrote back then:

The Death Penalty is about nothing less than setting the limits of tolerance in a civilized society. At some point a people must say, "This line is as far as you may go and still expect us to tolerate your existence amongst us." There are crimes so heinous that society has the right to declare that the perpetrator has forfeited his or her right to continue to exist. To deny this is to deny that there is a limit to the level of Evil society will tolerate. To deny this is to imply that there might be an excuse for anything anyone might contemplate inflicting upon society. To deny this is to imply that there is no such thing as Evil, and it is the denial of the existence of true Evil that is at the root of many of today's social ills.

The problem with our so-called civilized society here in the U.S. is that we've been far too liberal in sentencing people convicted of capital crimes to death. The standards are far too loose, used too easily. As we've seen over the past couple of years too damn many innocent people have been sentenced to die for crimes they didn't commit. There was misfeasance, nonfeasance, or malfeasance by prosecutors, police, as well as defense attorneys. Exculpatory evidence was suppressed in order to produce a conviction. Confessions were obtained under conditions that were troublesome at best. The problem was so irksome that the state of Illinois suspended all executions because of doubts as to the guilt of some of the condemned. If I recall correctly, 117 people waiting execution in prisons all over the U.S. have been released over the past few years because better forensic techniques were used to go over evidence, exculpatory evidence that had been hidden was uncovered, or the real perpetrator was caught and confessed.

Someone once said, "Better that a hundred guilty men go free than an innocent man be convicted." That dictum seems to have fallen out of favor to be replaced with the cry of "Hang 'em high!"

First, we must very clearly define which crimes will be subject to Capital Punishment. This might seem an obvious point, but in many cases the law is crowded with special conditions, aggravating circumstances, etc. My suggestion would be that the Death penalty only be considered in cases where the murder was premeditated or contracted, in cases where there are multiple murders, any murder where the victim was forcibly abducted, or any murder of a Law Enforcement officer in the line of duty. There are shades to be defined here, but the basic concept is sound and is supported by most proponents of the Death Penalty. The Death Penalty would be forbidden in cases where murder occurred as a "crime of passion" or where no intent to kill was indicated, or where the criminal admits guilt.

For the most part I can agree with the first line of my brother's statement above. But the crimes that merit the death penalty should be even more narrowly defined. Most serial killers are twisted, killing for reasons that most people cannot fathom. They don't kill for political gain. They should be put away. However, a case of multiple murder in the pursuit of some twisted political agenda is one that should be on the short list. Those that kill with a political aim show that they care little for anything but power. They are willing to resort to genocide to get their way, to validate their ideology. (Hitler certainly fit that bill, as did Stalin. Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein do, too, as do Osama Bin Laden and his cronies. All have murdered or ordered the murder of innocents to further their aims.) As they say south of the Mason-Dixon Line, "Some of these folks jus' need killing."

As to the rest of the crimes my brother listed, even he admitted that there were differing shades that needed to be defined. The problem with that is everyone will have different ideas what those shades will be. That will lead to yet another uneven application of the death penalty. Better not to do it all than to do it poorly.

I was all in favor of the death penalty as applied in the U.S. until a couple of years ago. As I got older (and hopefully a little wiser), I came to see that in too many cases the death penalty wasn't so much a matter of justice, but rather one of vengeance. Maybe it was the thought running through my mind that killing was too good for some of them. Putting those convicted of the most heinous crimes in to a Super Max facility for the rest of their lives would be far more of a punishment than killing them.


The Insanity of Housing Costs

Looking at the cost of buying a home has given me a sense of déjà vu -- It's 1987 all over again.

Housing costs have increased all over the nation, with dramatic changes in a number of states. Starter homes have been priced out of the market for the average wage earner, much like 15 years ago. Many owners of starter homes are adding to or renovating their homes rather than buying new ones because they can't afford to move up. This means the number of starter homes is getting smaller. Contractors and/or developers aren't building housing for middle or low-income families because there's more money to be made building upscale housing.

Rents are going up as well. Very few rental housing units are being built despite a large, unmet demand for such units for the same reason mentioned above -- There isn't as much money to be made as compared to building upscale housing.

Lower mortgage interest rates are also driving the housing demand. There's plenty of money out there for those wanting to buy a house. It's just that there are very few to buy.

Watching the local news last night brought the point home. A TV reporter was interviewing a number of realtors and they all said the same thing: The average house is listed less than three days before being sold. There are usually a dozen or more back up offers waiting in the wings.

In an earlier post my brother mentioned his move from the People's Republic of Massachusetts to New Hampshire. He paid $157,000 for his house. Less than two years ago that same house would have listed for less than $120,000.

My friends Tom and Kelsey sold their home in Sacramento, California and moved to a little town in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. They got a really nice place on a decent lot just off the town green for a cool $119,000. If I recall correctly, their place in Sacramento sold for just under $200,000. Their house in New Hampshire is bigger (if you include the basement, which the house in Sacramento apparently didn't have) on a lot that is 10 times larger than the one in Sacramento. The property they have now would cost $500,000 in Sacramento (Yes, I checked by calling a few realtors out there). The same place would cost $225,000 to $350,000 in New Hampshire's southern tier or in northern Massachusetts. Mind you, we're not talking about a palatial home by any means, but a three-bedroom ranch with a full basement. To afford a home like that in the southern tier, the average family would need a gross adjusted income of between $75,000 and $116,000 a year. That prices many of the average wage earners right out of the market. Many are forced to move many miles away from where they work and endure long commutes in order to find a home they can afford, or put up with substandard housing in a lousy neighborhood.

Not all that long ago there was an extreme housing shortage in the Seacoast area of southern Maine, New Hampshire, and northeastern Massachusetts. Professionals making $60,000+ a year were homeless! One fellow interviewed by the local news media was living in his car (a nice BMW) because he couldn't find any housing, affordable or otherwise. To all intents and purposes he was living outside one of the local health clubs where he was a member, using their facilities to ready himself for work every morning.

What's the answer to this problem? I don't know.

What I do know is that part of the problem in some towns around here is something called 'snob zoning'. Though illegal in this state (and a few others, I should think), that hasn't stopped towns from making it difficult, if not impossible, to build apartment complexes, cluster housing, or low or middle-income housing developments. (It wouldn't surprise me to find that this same phenomenon exists all throughout the U.S., as well as Canada, the U.K., and here and there through the rest of the EU.) Many years ago developers in New Hampshire sued the towns to allow such developments. After a number of years they won the suits as the courts declared the zoning restrictions as written constituted restraint of trade. The state legislature passed a law making such snob zoning illegal. Everything looked rosy.

Then in 1987, the recession hit, the housing market collapsed, and the developments and construction projects were cancelled. Even if developers wanted to build the needed housing today, they'd have to go through the courts again in order to knock down the roadblocks that some towns have put up to get around the law prohibiting snob zoning. If the roadblocks weren't there, there would still be a good two-year wait before they could begin construction as most of the contractors are booked through 2004. (That's why my house won't be started for at least the next two or three years.)

The last thing I want to do is see government become involved. All it would do is make an already bad situation worse.

I suppose we could all wait for this real estate bubble to burst, but I think we'll have a long wait. The conditions that exacerbated the problems in 1987 aren't here today: Interest rates are low; the economy is in much better shape than it was 15 years ago; and the banks are much less likely to approve a marginal mortgage than they were back then.

However, one sign I've seen that bodes ill for the real estate market is the practice called churning.

Churning is the buying of real estate by a speculator, holding on to the property for a given period -- usually three months to a year -- then selling the property at a price substantially higher than the original purchase price. In 1987 there was a group of real estate speculators in the northeastern U.S. that bought and sold properties amongst themselves, inflating the prices of given pieces of property. They would then sell outside the 'circle' and the last buyer would be left with an overvalued house. They would never be able to sell it unless they held on to it for a long time. The mortgage would be worth far more than the value of the property in question. Many homes in the northeast were churned. When the bottom fell out of the real estate market and the economy went in to recession, people were stuck with $100,000 homes with $200,000 mortgages and no way to pay them off. Selling would leave them $100,000 in the hole. So, what many of them did was to abandon the properties, hand the keys to the mortgage holders, and say "Good luck!" That practice and the willingness of a number of banks to give marginally qualified mortgages caused a number of banks to fail. In New Hampshire alone $1.3 billion of real estate was foreclosed. Foreclosure auctions filled 20 or more pages of the statewide newspaper every Thursday. This went on for years as the Resolution Trust Company disposed of the properties. They had to sell it off in dribs and drabs because they didn't want to depress an already depressed real estate market even further.

The real estate market bubble will either level out or burst some time in the future, returning real estate values to a more rational level. But that doesn't help those of us out there looking for a home now.

Does anybody out there have a good idea?


Remembering September 11th

After reading Cold Fury's rant about remembrances of 9/11 scheduled for next month, I felt it was time to put my memories about that horrific day in to print. I also plan to add my memories to those already posted at the September 11th Digital Archive. You might want to check the web site. Personal accounts and photos taken from those in and around Manhattan are available to read and download.

Like many people on the East Coast, I was at work that morning. I was in the engineering lab trying to finish the paperwork on a project that was soon going in to production. It was shortly before 9 AM when one of my coworkers came through the lab, telling us an aircraft had crashed in to one of the World Trade Center towers. I turned on the radio at my desk and tuned to the local NPR stations. As I listened to the reports, one reporter interrupted to inform us that a second aircraft had crashed in to the second tower. At that point all of us in the lab knew we were under attack.

And then my pager went off.

One thing I have to explain is that I have been involved with emergency services since I was a teenager. These days I volunteer as a communications reservist for the state Office of Emergency Management and am a captain in the Civil Air Patrol.

Pages flew fast a furious, from both OEM and CAP. It looked like I would busy from that day on. Staying at work from that point on became impossible. I headed home to change and gather a few changes of clothing and stuff them into my flight gear bag. From then on it was hurry up and wait.

I didn't stray far from the telephone or the TV. I watched as first one tower, then the other, collapsed. I remember thinking They should be rolling the credits any time now. But the credits never came. This wasn't a movie. It was real.

In the mean time, reports about an aircraft crashing in to the Pentagon came in, setting off another surge in pages from OEM and CAP. Reports from the TV also stated that the FAA was ordering all non-military aircraft grounded. That would complicate things for CAP, but as it is part of the U.S. Air Force, it wouldn't complicate things much.

I turned on my scanner and listened to the local aircraft frequencies. Boston Center was directing aircraft to land at the nearest airport, regardless of what their destination was supposed to be. I also listened in on the HF frequencies that are used for contacting and controlling transatlantic flights. All aircraft westbound were told they could not enter U.S. airspace. Some aircraft decided to turn around and head back to Europe. Others continued west and landed in Canada. In less than three hours the skies above America were empty. The lack of contrails in the upper atmosphere or the sound of aircraft passing overhead was eerie, surreal.

The rest of the day was a blur. So many things were happening. So many things were not happening. I don't know how many times I watched the towers being hit and the subsequent collapse. No matter where I happened to be, I didn't stray far from a radio or TV. Somehow it still didn't seem real to me. It wasn't until later that evening while watching the evening news that reality came crashing in.

There was a series reports about reactions around the world to the attacks in New York, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania. It was the report from London that brought it home to me. I don't remember what the correspondent said, but the images that played during the report caught my eye.

It was the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, something I've seen many times when I've been in London. Normally, after the routine changing of the watch and the playing of God Save the Queen, the marching band plays something martial and stirring as they march off the yard of the palace. But this time they did something unprecedented.

As they approached the gates of Buckingham Palace, they stopped. They stood motionless for a moment, then raised their instruments.....

......and played the Star Spangled Banner. It was then that the tears began to fill my eyes, the reality of what had happened washing over me like a tidal wave. Hearing our national anthem played in a foreign country, seeing the anguish and tears on the faces of the people watching, knowing that many of them were American and just as importantly, knowing that many were not, made it real for me. As un-macho as it is for me to admit this, I bawled my eyes out for the next hour. Even thinking about it today makes me choke up.

But watching that display of solidarity and condolences in England brought to mind a line from a movie I've always liked, Pulp Fiction, spoken by Samuel L. Jackson, that pretty well summed up my feelings toward our enemies:

"Ezekiel 25:17. The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is He who in the name of Charity and Good Will shepherds the weak through the Valley of Darkness, for He is truly His brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon the with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the LORD when I lay My vengeance upon thee!"


Energy and Home Design

It's funny how one doesn't think about such ubiquitous things like electricity, heating, cooling, lighting and so on until they aren't there, or if you are trying to design something that uses all of these things. In my case I'm in the process of designing my house, one I hope to break ground on sometime in the next two to three years.

It would have been easy to use one of the many cookie cutter designs, the same type that have been used for a long time and seen everywhere throughout North America. But after talking with a friend of mine, I decided to take a different path.

Even with today's modern materials and design capabilities, most modern homes are not as nearly as energy efficient as they could be. With changes to existing designs, homes would require less energy to heat or cool the interior, use more efficient electric lighting to illuminate the living spaces, as well as reduce the ambient noise level inside even with the windows open. (Noise is a particular pet peeve of mine.) Cost isn't really an issue, as many of the changes required to make homes more efficient are cost neutral.

Most people have a picture of a solar house, passive or active, as an ugly box with weird angles and lots of windows. Nothing can be further from the truth. I've seen houses that look only a little different from 'normal' houses, but have extra insulation and better placed windows to take advantage of solar gain during the colder seasons of the year. The designs also allow for more efficient cooling and ventilation during the warm months. Some of these concepts have been around for centuries, but have been forgotten or abandoned in favor of more 'modern' systems.

I visited my friend Frank's home in the town of Ossipee, New Hampshire not long ago. He built the place a couple of years ago, siting it near the peak of a hill he owns. You must understand that Frank is your stereotypical New Hampshire yankee: frugal, thoughtful, and innovative. One thing you have to say about him is that he doesn't like to spend a penny more than necessary to do anything, including building his house. When I saw it I was awestruck.

Frank got it right: Passive and active solar heating systems to heat the house and for hot water, with the passive systems also capable of assisting to cool the house in the summer. Photovoltaic and wind generator systems provide electricity. He is off the grid because the local utility wanted almost $27,000 to run power lines to his home. The only problem he has is that sometimes he has too much generating capacity, even in the winter, so he uses the excess electricity to heat his garage using electric baseboards! He says he plans to reduce the generating capacity in the future by selectively disabling the PV panels or wind generator. He overestimated the electric load of running the systems in his house by a factor of 50%. Part of the cause was that the original estimates were based upon older appliance inefficiencies as well as the use of traditional electric lighting technology, i.e. incandescent lights.

While Frank's house is modern technology and design taken to an extreme (including the costs), new homes in general could make use of many of the same features: larger windows with low emissivity glass help heat the home in the winter; a wrap-around porch along the east, south, and west sides of the house will keep the summer sun from entering the windows and help keep the house cool (and I do love those porches); proper shading using strategically placed deciduous trees; winter wind breaks using properly placed evergreens; quieter, more efficient appliances and heating/cooling systems; fresh air heat exchangers that allow regular changes of air within a house during the winter without loss of heat (and the nice thing about them is there are no moving parts!); use of indirect lighting and compact fluorescent lights; use of 'dark sky' exterior lighting, meaning that any exterior lights illuminate the ground and not the sky (this also reduces the amount of energy needed to light outside walks, porches, and entryways). A lot of these things could be done without adding to the cost of building the home. It's more a matter of how something is used in a home, not whether it is used at all.

And so I endeavor to design and build a place that will be cheap and easy to heat, cool, light, and still run all of my electronic gizmos, but won't bankrupt me in the process.

Wish me luck....


Terrorism 101

Susanna Cornett has an excellent post on her blog, delving into terrorism and what we should do about. Thanks to Cold Fury for the link!


The Western Media, Dupes of the Palestinians?

There is an excellent article in NRO by Daniel Doron about how much of the western media believes most of what the Palestinians and their supporters tell them without question. The media seems willing to accept whatever it is fed, making them nothing more than a mouthpiece for Yasser Arafat and his cronies.


Tested by a Great Evil

It is said that every generation is tested by a great evil. During the twentieth century alone the world faced evil, great and small.

From the late thirties through the mid forties Nazism and the militaristic Empire of Japan threatened freedom throughout the world. The depraved beliefs of the Nazi hierarchy led to the deaths of millions of innocents throughout Europe. Untold numbers died under the rule of a harsh Japanese military regime. Both the Nazis and the Japanese believed that all other races were inferior and lived only to serve or die at the hands of the master race. The niceties of civilization belonged only to those in power. But through force of arms both of these evil empires were torn asunder and wiped from the face of the earth.

Starting in 1917, the Communist threat came in to being during the Bolshevik Revolution. For a short while after the revolution it appeared that the downtrodden had finally had found champions. Then the terror began and the killing continued. The gulags were filled with the disillusioned and those brave enough to speak out. The Great Stalin killed more of his own people than the Nazis ever did. Over four generations lived under the repressive rule of tyrants until the Soviet system collapsed under its own weight, unable to compete against the free peoples elsewhere in the world. Another evil empire gone, with Communism thrown on the trash heap of history. Only a few Communist nations still exist and even they have had to make changes in their ideology in order to survive. Soon enough, they too will fade away.

Though the roots of the problem started in the twentieth century, it is during this century that we now face another of the great evils -- extremist Islamic fundamentalism. Dennis Prager defines some other great evils and the pattern that these evils follow. There are four parts to that pattern that he outlines:

1. The evil takes hold.

2. The evil has myriad defenders even among otherwise decent people.

3. The evil is vanquished after destroying an uncountable number of lives.

4. After the evil is vanquished, there is virtually unanimous agreement that it was indeed evil.

Extremist Islamic fundamentalism certainly meets the first two criteria. While I personally don't paint all Muslims with the same broad brush, I do believe the extremists have taken the tenets of the Faith and twisted them to their own nefarious ends. Of my Muslim friends and acquaintances, all decry and condemn the twisted evil that has infiltrated their faith. And before some of you slam me for that statement, allow me to remind you that extremist militant Christian fundamentalists have committed acts as evil as those of the Islamofascist pinheads. Remember the Crusades? What about the Inquisition?

Mind you, I am not an apologist for Islamic extremists. I find religious fanatics of any stripe to be dangerous as they will find ways of justifying any act, no matter how horrific. Genocide is not out of the question for fanatics such as these.

Actions that horrify us are rampant in the Middle East. As Dennis Prager mentions in his column, many in the West deny extremist militant Islamic evils.

"Afghanistan, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Palestinian society have created totalitarian regimes that, in each or all cases, have terribly oppressed women; enslaved and slaughtered a million blacks who refuse to be subjugated to Islamic totalitarianism; use religious police to whip men who drink alcohol; torture Christians who live or work there; have developed a unique theology of cruelty in which God is depicted as a provider of scores of young women to all Muslims who blow themselves up while murdering Jews and Americans; and, like Nazism, it has made Jew-hatred its centerpiece. And throughout much of the Muslim Middle East, girls are murdered by fathers and brothers in 'honor killings' if they are so much as perceived as having spent time with a male unapproved by the family."

"It should not be difficult to call all this evil, but just as with the previous evils, many Western voices not only defend these regimes and doctrines, they reserve their condemnations only for those who oppose the evil. Apologists like best-selling author Karen Armstrong, the professors of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA), professors in other fields, the leftist European and American press -- all these deny Islamic evils. Just as their predecessors blamed America for the Cold War with Communism, and dismissed anti-Communists as 'war mongers' and 'fascists', today's deniers of evil blame America and Israel for Islamic terror and label terror's opponents 'bigots', 'Islamophobes' and, of course, 'war mongers'."

How many must die, how many atrocities must be committed, how much suffering must take place before we face the test of this Great Evil and end it? How long before the apologists see that they are wrong, even if they will never admit it to anyone but themselves?

It's the Logistics, Stupid!

Stephen Den Beste has an excellent post about how wars are won with logistics. It illustrates that the Allies battles against the Germans in WWII were won by the fact that the Allies simply had more war materiel and the means to get it to the front. It isn't necessarily how good your weapons are, it's how many of them you have and where they are that count.

The Persian Gulf War was a war of logistics: The Coalition simply had more of everything and knew how to move it when and where it was needed.


The Bill of No Rights

Though this has been floating around for quite some time, I figured it couldn't hurt to post it here as a reminder. What prompted me was a post from Cold Fury slamming the poor wretches bewailing the state of their investments in the stock market. Some were upset because now they might actually have to work until they're 65 rather than retiring at 50 or 55.

So, without further ado, here is The Bill of No Rights


We, the Sensible of the United States, in an attempt to help everyone get along, Restore some semblance of justice, avoid any more riots, keep our Nation safe, Promote positive behavior and Secure the Blessings of debt-free Liberty to ourselves and our great-great-great grandchildren, Hereby try one more time to Ordain and Establish some common sense guidelines for the terminally whiny, guilt-ridden delusional, and other liberal, commie, pinko bedwetters.

We hold these Truths to be Self-evident, that a whole lot of People were confused by the Bill of Rights and are so dim that they require a Bill of No Rights.

ARTICLE I - You do not have the right to a new car, big-screen color TV or any other form of wealth.

More power to you if you can legally acquire them, but no one is guaranteeing anything.

ARTICLE II - You do not have the right to never be offended.

This country is based on freedom, and that means freedom for everyone -- not just you! You may leave the room, turn the channel, express a different opinion, etc., but the world is full of idiots, and probably always will be.

ARTICLE III - You do not have the right to be free from harm.

If you stick a screwdriver in your eye, learn to be more careful. Do not expect the tool manufacturer to make you ,and all of your relatives, independently wealthy.

ARTICLE IV - You do not have the right to free food and housing.

Americans are the most charitable people to be found, and will gladly help anyone in need, but we are quickly growing weary of subsidizing generation after generation of professional couch potatoes who achieve nothing more than the creation of another generation of professional couch potatoes.

ARTICLE V - You do not have the right to free health care.

That would be nice, but from the looks of public housing, we're just not interested in public health care.

ARTICLE VI - You do not have the right to physically harm other people.

If you kidnap, rape, intentionally maim or kill someone, don't be surprised if the rest of us get together and kill you.

ARTICLE VII - You do not have the right to the possessions of others.

If you rob, cheat, or coerce away the goods or services of other citizens, don't be surprised if the rest of us get together and lock you away in a place where you still won't have the right to a big-screen color TV or a life of leisure.

ARTICLE VIII - You do not have the right to demand that our children risk their lives in foreign wars to soothe your aching conscience.

We hate oppressive governments and won't lift a finger to stop you from going to fight if you'd like. However, we do not enjoy parenting the entire world and do not want to spend so much of our time battling each and every little tyrant with a military uniform and a funny hat.

ARTICLE IX - You do not have the right to a job.

All of us sure want you to have one, and will gladly help you along in hard times, but we expect you to take advantage of the opportunities in education and vocational training laid before you to make yourself useful.

ARTICLE X - You do not have the right to happiness.

Being an American means that you have the right to pursue happiness -- which, by the way, is a lot easier if you are unencumbered by an overabundance of idiotic laws created by those around you who were confused by the Bill of Rights.

Copyright © Lewis W. Napper


Random Thoughts on a Sunday Afternoon

Borrowing a page from Thomas Sowell, I hereby offer some thoughts that have been running around in my mind most of the weekend.


Why is it that when we come back from vacation we need a vacation to recuperate from the vacation? It always seems to me that I need a couple of days to rest once I get back from vacation, even if I didn't go anywhere!


According to a source (which I don't happen to recall at the moment. After all it is Sunday), there are approximately 850,000 words in the American English lexicon and 450,000 words in the British English lexicon. I'm not sure why that disparity exists unless it has something to do with American willingness to make up a word when existing words just won't do. Or maybe it's because America is such an acronym-loving nation, even when things are, at times, FUBAR. Then these acronyms become a word in and of themselves, and that's no SNAFU. It seems that most English speaking nations also have the propensity to borrow words from other languages when it suits. But one must remember that English is something of a bastard language, being a mixture of Germanic, Latin, Celtic roots. Now add all of the bits and pieces we've borrowed from Asia, the rest of Europe, Africa, Australia, the Pacific Islands, and North and South America. (In New England, where I happen to live, there are many towns, rivers, lakes, ponds, streets, and even states that borrow their names from the Algonquin-speaking tribes. For instance, in Massachusetts there is a lake called Chauggagogmanchauggagogchauggbunamungaggog. Today they call it Webster Lake. I guess too many people were cramping their tongues trying to pronounce it.) Even with its rather bass-ackwards grammatic structure, English is a language spoken by more people in more places on this earth than any other. (Yes, I know there are over 1.2 billion Chinese speakers, but most of them are located in one area on the Asian continent.) English is everywhere.


Why do we park in a driveway, but drive on a parkway? Does one get high on a highway?


Have you ever noticed that the small packages of nuts or potato chips or Cheez-its are damn near impossible to open easily without causing the contents to fly all over the place, while the large bags of the same thing seem to open all by themselves when you don't want them to?


One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to driving on the highway is when somebody rushes past you and cuts across three lanes of traffic to beat you to the exact change lane at a tollbooth. Then, when it's finally their turn to drop their 75 cents in to the coin chute, they realize they don't have any change. Some will sit there for quite some time, checking pockets, purses, and under seats to find enough change. Others will just pull away after 30 seconds or so and take their chances. And on one occasion I witnessed someone stuffing a folded dollar bill into the bottom of the coin chute, plugging it up. Unfortunately I see this behavior all too often, and mostly it's folks from Massachusetts and New York heading up to the lakes and mountains on Friday afternoon/early evening or heading home on Sunday (or Monday, if it's a three day weekend).


I happen to be fortunate enough to live on the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee in central New Hampshire. Most times it's a joy. But once the summer season rolls around it becomes a mixed blessing. The summer people arrive. Those of you that live near summer tourist destinations know what I mean when I say 'summer people'. There are two kinds.

The first kind are the folks that come for a week or two and stay at one of the resorts, rental cottages, or camp grounds. I'll also include the folks that only spend weekends at family owned cottages. They are, for the most part, pretty nice people, friendly and giving. They enjoy the area and have a good time.

The second kind, however, give the rest a bad name. They are the 'summah people'. This term is spoken in such a way as to be unmistakably derogatory. These are the folks that come to one of the summer resort areas and act as if everyone having the good fortune to live there year round are their servants and underlings. They have no concept of private property, except that their property is private and yours is not.

I've had the misfortune to have to deal with one of the second kind since the weekend after Memorial Day. He rents a boat slip located behind my home. On one occasion he left his dog tied up to a tree in my back yard for the entire day while he was out on his boat. The dog was a Boxer, and not particularly friendly. Due to the length of the rope he used to tie up his dog, access to my back yard and the rest of the boat slips was impossible as the dog would lunge at anyone approaching the dock or entering the back yard.

The local police department was called when one of the other slip renters couldn't leave his boat because the dog would snap and growl at him and his family every time they stepped on to the dock. Just as the Animal Control Officer was about to slip a control noose over the dog's head in an effort to take him away, the owner arrived back at the dock. The invective that followed would have made a longshoreman blush.

His attitude was "I rent this damn slip and I'll do what I want!" It didn't matter to him that the only thing he was renting was the slip and access to it through a private yard.

This fellow has also parked in my driveway, blocking access to my garage and everything inside. On one weekend his SUV was there from Friday afternoon until Sunday evening. I didn't know it was his until he returned and I saw him loading his gear into it. I asked him to please park on the side of the road like all the other slip tenants. His response was "F**k YOU!" He then got in to his SUV and drove off.

My neighbors have use of the driveway when they have relatives or friends visiting for the weekend. On one particular weekend, this fellow again parked his SUV in front of the garage, blocking access. My neighbor's relatives were also visiting, so they parked their cars in the driveway, blocking the SUV in.

Late Sunday afternoon rolls around and the fellow arrives back at the dock. After loading his gear in to the back of his truck, he pounds on my door and demands that the other cars be moved so he can leave. I told him I had no way to do that. I explained that the cars belonged to the neighbors and that they had permission to park there. I also reminded him that he did not.

He left, went to the neighbor's door and pounded on it. He got no response as no one was home. He was then back at my door demanding to know where they were. I told him that they were out on their boat. He then wanted to know when they'd be back.

My answer: "How the hell should I know?"

After he sat around and stewed for a while, he called his wife on his cell phone so she could drive up to Lake Winnipesaukee and pick him up. She arrived a couple of hours later. Not more than five minutes after they left, my neighbors pulled in at their slip.

When I got home from work Monday afternoon the SUV was gone.

Since then, his SUV has been towed from my driveway (once); the Marine Patrol has cited him for dumping oil into the Lakeport Channel when he pumped his bilge (twice); and the city billed him for the clean up of the oil slick by the fire department.

He just doesn't get it.


I've ridden motorcycles for years. For years I had no opinion one way or the other about loud pipes on motorcycles. Then, last year during the annual Motorcycle Week, I became a firm believer that too many motorcycles are TOO DAMN LOUD! The old adage that 'Loud Pipes Save Lives' is just so much crap. I don't need to hear somebody on their Harley at 2 in the morning while they're still three miles away. I don't need the ear shattering blast of exhaust at a stoplight when the rider twists the throttle less than three feet away from me. In many cases the only time a driver might hear such a motorcycle is after it's already passed them. Only now are the state and local police around here starting to enforce ordinances already on the books dealing with loud exhaust systems.