Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pistol Wars: Smith & Wesson 952

The contender: Smith & Wesson 952

Caliber: 9mm

In your hand: This 9mm is heavy and so there was little recoil. The wooden handgrips added a nice feel. The magazine holds 9 rounds, and with one in the chamber a total of 10. The design is reminded me of a 1911, but aesthetically, this handgun is gorgeous.

On the range: Sighting was great. Myopic me was able to put all 10 rounds within a 5 inch circle at 10 yards. This is the best shooting I've done yet.

Overall: Smith & Wesson is a venerable American handgun company located in Springfield, MA.  The S&W is a close runner-up to the Kimber Target II 9mm I raved about back here.

Freud Am Leben

Mediocre spirits demand of science a kind of certainty which it cannot give, a sort of religious satisfaction. Only the real, rare, true scientific minds can endure doubt, which is attached to all our knowledge.

~ Sigmund Freud (see page 4)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Wartime Nickels

Reverse side of a 1942-P Jefferson nickel
While reading and thinking about wartime coinage, I remembered that nickel was also in such short supply during WW II that the mint replaced it with silver. Link  Nickel was needed to harden steel for armor plating. Special nickels were marked with huge mint marks P, D, and S over Monticello on the reverse to facilitate re-collection and melting.  But Gresham's Law kicked in after the war and the silver nickels were hoarded when the price of nickel fell. I still have a few, found in change, darkened with age due to their manganese content.

Lastly, copper was in such short supply during WW II that the Treasury loaned out 14,700 tons of coinage silver for use in making electrical coils for uranium isotope separation at Oak Ridge National Labs. Link


The best way to destroy the capitalist system is to debase the currency. -- V.I. Lenin

If we ever get into another full scale shooting war, it's going to cost dearly just to buy all the brass needed to make ammo casings (shells) for bullets.  We've traditionally made them out of brass (copper alloyed with a little zinc).  The Russians and Chinese make their bullet casings out of steel. Because spent cartridges are essentially thrown away on the battlefield, perhaps this is not a bad idea.

We traditionally made pennies out of copper and its alloys: chart  Since 1982, the U.S. Mint has made pennies out of zinc coated with thin layer of copper to keep up appearances. As of 2010, it cost the Mint 1.79 cents to make a penny because of the costs of the penny's materials and production.

As a kid, I used to go to the bank and buy rolls of pennies. Back then (the late 1960's to early '70's) I could still find lots of bronze "wheat pennies" in circulation. I'd comb through change looking to fill those Blue Whitman folders with pennies. Except for the really rare ones, or the pre-WW II ones in good condition, I did all right. Once and a while I'd find a 1943 steel penny.  I could find them easily in a pile of pennies using a magnet. I got 3 or 4 steel pennies that way. I had to buy the "S" one though. Coins minted in San Francisco were always harder to come by east of the Rockies. And the ones I got were never as nice looking as the one in the photo:

1943-s Steel Cent

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Try And Love Again

I've been looking for a YouTube link to this song for weeks.  This one finally popped up but it may not last.

I think that the heart and soul of The Eagles flew off with Randy Meisner.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Pistol Wars: Kimber SS Target II

The contender: Kimber SS Target II

Caliber: 9mm

In your hand: Kimber is American made. Here is the company's blurb. This 9mm is heavier than both the Ruger and the Glock and so the recoil is noticeably less. The magazine holds 10 rounds, and bullets are fed with a spring-loaded clip in the handle. The design is a knock off of the Kimber 1911 .45 cal model I reviewed back here. I really like this design.

On the range: Sighting was OK. Again I was able to put 8 out 10 rounds within a 5 inch circle at 10 yards. I thought I would score perfectly with this one but I didn't.

Overall: So far this Kimber is my first choice among 9mm's. What I should do is try both Kimbers (the .45 and the 9mm at the same time for a better comparison. My son and I shoot up enough bullets each week (he's practicing on rifles) that it just gets very expensive very fast. If the price of ammo keeps going up, America's next shooting war could break the bank.

The Pursuit of the Woman with the Feathered Hat

Music that will forever remind me of the Florence, Italy train station.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sex, Blogs, and Videotapes

Most any lengthy composition has a sequence, including things as disparate as polymers, novels, films, or even a blog. All these different things are sequentially pieced together from smaller subunits. For polymers, the subunits are monomers, for novels they are alphabet characters, for films and videotapes, they are "frames," and for blogs, they are separate posts (which themselves comprise a smaller sequence of characters).

It might be fun to explore the mechanics of stringing together novels, films, and blogs, etc. For polymers, I already mentioned "step growth polymerization" back here, describing how Wallace Carothers mastered the art of making long-chain synthetic polymers like nylon and neoprene. One way for a non-chemist to visualize step-growth polymerization is to imagine a very large group of unattached people, each willing to reach out and join hands with another to begin forming a human chain. Imagine how this must work at the beginning of the process. All are separate. In a first step, two people get together, each joining just one hand to make a pair, but each leaving one hand free. Now that pair could get together with another like pair to make a chain of four, but it's unlikely to do so because in a sea of singletons it's far more likely that the first pair will just hook up with another single person to make a trio. Again, that's not a choice thing -- it's a statistical thing because the number of available singletons far exceeds the number of available pairs -- at first. Look at the chain growth profile labeled "step-growth" in this chart (the red curve): 

For step-growth polymerization, not until the very end of the coupling orgy do the relative amounts of already linked members far outnumber the available remaining singletons and the daisy-chaining really takes off because having consumed all the singletons, the short chains must join hands with the ends of other chains. In the graph, the step-growth mechanism is contrasted with the living chain growth mechanism (straight line) which grows steadily. An example of the living growth chain mechanism is the Zeigler-Natta mechanism mentioned back here. Comment threads on blogs are also like "living" polymers.

Taking a closer look at the handholding analogy, it's a sanitized whitewash of what's really going on. The monomers in nylon are really "gendered" i.e. there are two types of monomers being joined: there is a "male" monomer, 1,6-diaminohexane which looks like this:

and a female monomer, 1,6-dicarboxyhexane (also called adipic acid) which looks like this:
I've already called attention to the "male" nature of amines, and the "female" nature of acids here. If that analogy bothers you, think instead of plugs and sockets or hands and gloves.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Power To Love (Power Of Soul)

Singing through his fingers perfectly describes Jimi Hendrix when he said "I want to do with my guitar what Little Richard does with his voice."  My favorite example is from Band of Gypsys recorded live at the Fillmore East. There's a song on that album called Power to Love. Here's a YouTube video of the whole song:

Four different versions of that song were recorded that New Year's Eve/Day at the Fillmore (there were four shows), but the 3rd one appeared on the 1970 LP and is the best version IMHO. The others lack the opening solo which reminds me of the opening scene in Orson Welles's Touch of Evil:

The camera work in Touch of Evil is a three minute long single take--an uninterrupted point of view that takes us from ground level to hanging aerial shots and back to ground level. Watch it again and compare it with the one minute Hendrix solo at the beginning of Power To Love. I think that Hendrix was striving for a similar "elevation" with his opening guitar solo because it perfectly sets up the otherwise inane lyrics in the body of the song:
Shoot down some of those airplanes you been ridin'...'specially the ones that are flyin' too low...
...Shoot down some of those airplanes...'specially the ones that are flyin' too low
Come on back up to earth my friend, come on back up with me
We've all been up through the night time baby now let's read the rays of reality
With the power of soul anything is possible...
...With the power of soul anything is possible.
What do those words mean?  What do these words mean?:
Playing too much with one toy baby "tends to lead into the fog"?
It's so groovy to fool around sometimes -- even a jelly fish will tell you that
I said flotation is groovy and easy and even a jelly fish will agree to that.
Yeah, but old jelly fish been floatin' so long and so slack-lord he don't got a bone in his jelly back
Floatin' every day and every night, ridin' high, but there's a risk, sometimes the wind ain't right
I think these lyrics represent Hendrix' attempt to express his personal struggles with substance abuse at the time. A little less than a month after this show, the Band of Gypsys would play Madison Square Garden but Hendrix, severely impaired, ended the show after just two songs and the Band of Gypsys would never play live again.

As for singing through the fingers -- this comes later in the song when Hendrix uses "call and response" guitar riffing with Buddy Miles' singing, all while playing rhythm! When Jimi's actual voice suddenly appears to harmonize with his guitar voice, I get a spooky feeling that I've been listening to three voices instead of just two. I cued up this part of the song here.

The best part of the Band of Gypsys is the concert footage of these shows and songs. I couldn't find any to link to here, but I know it's out there.  It typically goes up and comes down very quickly.
Bonus YouTube video: my favorite Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock: link Good close-ups of Hendrix's fingers as he drives a repetitive riff over and over using just modulation.

Singing Through His Fingers...

Gregg said that, early on, Duane did most of the singing. As things evolved over time, Gregg gradually took on that role. Evidently Duane knew that Gregg was going to be a singer before Gregg did himself and encouraged him in that direction. As his little brother grew more confident in his own voice, Duane continued to improve his singing through his fingers.
~Joe Bell quoted in Skydog: The Duane Allman Story by Randy Poe.
I love the metaphor singing through his fingers and it applies to many other guitarists besides Duane Allman. Listen to this climactic portion of In Memory of Elizabeth Reed. Allman finishes his 4 1/2 minute solo with a third and final ululation (technically, an ululation called a trill). Listen to how he doubles the frequency, like an ice dancer pulling in his arms to spin faster (just to mix metaphors for a moment).

Greed versus Ambition

A commenter named Kurt linked this video over on Althouse the other day:

David Mamet parses the difference between greed and ambition in his book The Secret Knowledge:
Greed is a sin. Ambition is a virtue. Society may express its appreciation of the fine distinction through gossip, but the law cannot take notice of anything other than crime. Greed does not create wealth. Barring luck and crime, wealth may only be created through satisfying the needs of others.
Mamet uses the example of the housing market collapse:
President Obama spoke of 'predatory lending.' But how can lending be predatory which is not usurious? It cannot. No one forced the virtually cost-free loans upon the borrowers. They took the loans in hope of gain. The banks made the loans in hope of gain. Is either side greedy? The actions of the banks may have been ambitious, but what, otherwise, is the nature of a business? And the borrowers' desire to get the best possible terms at the lowest cost, had the market not failed, would have been hailed as genius. It is disingenuous, then, that the borrowers, having lost, are championed by those who enjoy identifying them as victims. 
I wonder if his last line was directed at John McCain in the last election.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Men of Iron and Steel

The Iron Bridge at Ironbridge, Shropshire, England (Original)

A Briton named Abraham Darby ignited the industrial revolution around 1710 when he substituted coke (from coal) in his recipe for ironmaking. Traditionally, iron ore had been smelted using charcoal derived from trees (charcoal is "cleaner" carbon). Learning to smelt iron with coke in blast furnaces ultimately freed the iron industry from the natural limits of forests, much like the invention of the automobile would later free arable land from the yoke of producing fodder for horses. Three generations of Darbys stoked the wrought iron age.

Perhaps the most iconic monuments wrought from iron are Gustave Eiffel's eponymous tower in Paris (1889) and the first Ferris Wheel erected in Chicago in 1893 by George Ferris, Jr.  Eiffel also designed and produced the wrought iron framework beneath the copper sheathing of our Statue of Liberty. But even these structures were out of date when they were completed.

By the mid-1800's the demand for wrought iron was so great that inventor Henry Bessemer developed and patented the first modern process for making steel (steel is essentially purified pig iron alloyed with other metals). Vastly superior to wrought iron, Bessemer's steel revolution was so successful that it returned wrought iron making to a cottage industry. European steel maker Alfred Krupp adopted the process, and built his company on cannons and railroad wheels. Andrew Carnegie brought the same process to America but also began buying ore-rich land in Minnesota, developing a vertically integrated business model. By the time Carnegie sold his immense fortune to J.P. Morgan in 1901, the price of steel rails had fallen from $160 per ton to $17 per ton. Carnegie devoted the rest of his life to philanthropy, perhaps returning to the promise of an earlier self.*

Subsequent, more efficient processes eventually supplanted the Bessemer process, including the Open Hearth Process, the Basic Oxygen Process and the Electric Arc Process, first patented by Carl Wilhelm Siemens in 1878.

*In December 1868, Carnegie wrote in a "memo to self:" 
Man must have an idol and the amassing of wealth is one of the worst species of idolatry! No idol is more debasing than the worship of money! Whatever I engage in I must push inordinately; therefore should I be careful to choose that life which will be the most elevating in its character. To continue much longer overwhelmed by business cares and with most of my thoughts wholly upon the way to make more money in the shortest time, must degrade me beyond hope of permanent recovery. I will resign business at thirty-five, but during these ensuing two years I wish to spend the afternoons in receiving instruction and in reading systematically!  Link

Cold Iron is master of them all! 

Stability And Instability Juxtaposed

As the universe ages, more and more matter is converted into iron-56.
...binding energy is greatest for iron
...nuclei lighter than iron are produced by fusion in stars
...nuclei heavier than iron are made in shockwave of supernova implosion
...we are all recycled star dust Link

Whatever iron has the most of, technetium lacks: all isotopes of technetium are unstable.

Whatever makes iron the most stable nucleus and all technetium so unstable is beyond my pay grade. Link  I do find their diagonal juxtaposition in the Periodic Table intriguing:

It's almost like opposites attract.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Last Letter Home

Aug 20, 1953
[West Germany] 
Dear Mom, Dad and all, 
It been so long since I wrote that I suppose you think I am on my way home. Not quite. One of my buddies that gets out Oct 14 leaves the 29th of this month. I get out the 28th of Oct so I figure I will leave Sept. 12th. I should be out by the first of Oct.[1] 
Marylou and family must have had a bad trip. I would like to go to Kansas some day.[2]
As far as I know now I will work at the same place. If I can get in the warehouse. I don't want my old job back. [3]
I haven't hardly turned my hand for a week. I tore the clutch out of my jeep and they sent it to Ord. for a new one. It should be back any day now. 
I went swimming the other day and cut my big toe and hit my head on a log under water. I guess I had better stay in camp. I go to the shows quite a bit over here. I haven't seen a 3D movie yet. [4] 
Has Jr. ever decided about buying a new Mercury yet? [5] 
I guess I will have to sign off for now.* 

Love, V. 

P.S. can't think of much to write but can tell all about it when I get home
[1] This was his last letter home and so concludes this series, "Letters Home." There is an epilogue: a letter from the German girl he met in Germany arrived in 1955 at the address he gave her before he left. I have no idea whether she is still living and so I hesitate to publish it here. The gist of the letter was essentially "why don't you write me?"  Her letter arrived a month before my parents got married in 1955.

[2] His oldest sister's husband had taken up a ministry in Kansas. He did in fact visit her. One of my first memories was a family trip to visit her and her family who had since moved from Kansas to Council Bluffs, Iowa. Thus, his long ago written words became a real life memory for me which I still carry in my head. And now I'm putting that memory back in words just to affirm that he kept that promise.

[3] He worked in Madison upon his return but took an apprenticeship as a printer in his hometown of Richland Center, Wisconsin.  That led to another job as a journeyman printer in the town of Monroe, Wisconsin, where my brother and I were born. Shortly after I was born, he took a job at Madison Newspapers, Inc. and we moved to Middleton, Wisconsin, where I grew up.

[4] The "golden era" of 3D movies was 1952-55: link

[5] He eventually did buy a used 1952 Mercury: here he is behind the wheel in an undated photograph, probably taken in late 1954 or early 1955 by my grandfather:


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Pistol Wars: Ruger SR9

The contender: Ruger SR9

Caliber: 9 mm

In your hand: The Ruger SR9 feels nicer than the Glock 34. The weapon is smaller and more lightweight, having a mostly plastic body and gorgeous stainless steel barrel and action. The trigger and action were lighter than the Glock 34. The magazine holds 10 rounds, and the spring has a defter touch than on the Glock 34, so that reloading it was not such a fumble.

On the range: Sighting was worse than the Glock 34. I missed 3 out of 10 rounds inside the 5 inch circle at 10 yards. My accuracy fell way off after that. There's no way I could hit a coyote at 50 yards with this Ruger without some more field practice.

Overall:Compared with the Glock 34, the Ruger SR9 would not be my first choice of hand gun. I'm still interested in 9 mm's though.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Monday, August 15, 2011

Le Quattro Stagioni: L'Estate

I friend sent me this video clip. I'm putting it here to keep track of it and also to say thanks.

Conversations with Henry: Metathesis

Henry: You should have mentioned Jim Collman.

Me: You mean for his picket fence porphyrin work?

Henry: Yes. Of course modelling work has gone out fashion, and may never come back. These days it's always better to study the real systems. But Collman deserves a medal for one thing: he went on that consulting trip and came back and shared some of it. That one single group meeting inspired two future Nobel Prizes. That's gotta speak for something.

Me: Say, how come Banks never got any recognition either?

Henry: Well, you know those Swedes--they don't like dirty industries. Especially oil companies.

Blut und Eisen

The bond between blood and iron is ancient. The alchemist's symbol for iron is the same as the astrological one for the red planet and the god of war, Mars.* It's also the "male" symbol.

They say that blood smells and tastes like iron. I don't think this is literally true, but somewhere, back in time, someone no doubt burned blood and got rust. That's my theory for how the bond was first established.

Hematite (original)
The word hematite for high-grade iron ore has been around since the 16th century and it means "blood-ore". Lots of hematite was mined from Minnesota to feed the heart of the steel industry down stream. The high grade stuff is played out but there's still lots of taconite.

Ironically, the red color of blood doesn't come from iron: Fe(II) is light blue in color and Fe(III) is yellowish brown. The intense color comes instead from the molecular scaffold supporting iron atoms in hemoglobin. A ring of rings, with each little ring bearing a nitrogen base, stabilizes an iron, which otherwise would irreversibly find oxygen and turn to rust.  The so-called porphyrin ring supports the otherwise unstable iron and allows it to reversibly bind and transport oxygen throughout the bloodstream. The word porphyrin comes from the Greek word meaning purple. Even with central iron atom plucked out, porphyrin is a deep purple in color.

There's lots of blood history surrounding the word porphyrin. King George III famously suffered from porphyria. Could this be the source of our political term blue blood? There's more medical history on porphyria here.
*The reddish color of Mars comes from a skin-deep layer of iron oxides.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cold Iron

GOLD is for the mistress -- silver for the maid --
Copper for the craftsman cunning at his trade.
"Good!" said the Baron, sitting in his hall,
"But Iron -- Cold Iron -- is master of them all."

from Cold Iron by Rudyard Kipling (1910)

Letters Home: All the Army does for you is make a bum out of you

Aug 15, 1953
[West Germany] 
Dear Folks,
I got a letter from you today so I will answer tonight. We just got back from Frankfurt. We supplied 10 tanks for the parade.
[1] We are not doing much of anything lately. I make about 2 trips a week to Frankfurt. It's only 15 miles. A lot of the sergeants have got their wives over here now and I have to carry them back and forth night and morning.

I got a letter from Marylou. She wants me to send her a doll. Marilyn wants one.
[2] I went to a carnival and got a teddy bear but I don't know whether to send it or wait till payday and buy one that looks more real. 
I bought myself a new swimming suit and have been in once. There's a lake not to far from here. They haven't got a place to dress and most people change clothes right in the open. They don't think nothing of it. Nothing like the States. [3] 
I had a flat tire on my jeep. I got something to do tomorrow. That's about all I will do. It's going to be hard to work again. All the army does for you is make a bum out of you.
It takes me at least 2 hours to even write a short letter anymore. I am sending a lot of pictures and junk in this letter. Some things I clipped out of the paper. 
I will send you $10.00 the first for the church. Well I guess I will have to sign off for tonight. 
Love, V. 
PS I don't write to anyone else in R.C.

[1] I have been unable to find anything on the web regarding a military parade in Frankfurt in August 1953. Photos (there must be some somewhere) would be nice.

[2] His niece and my oldest cousin, then about 2 & 1/2 years old.

[3] He himself lost such inhibitions later on. Read this story. Link

[4] A thoroughly execrable character named "J" called my father a bum today on Althouse. Link How did he know?  I am flattered twice: once because it seems that "J" must lurk here and second, as Winston Churchill said:
You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life.
[added:  I'm glad that I put that link up to Althouse.  Remarks like that, obscene blog posts and creepy emails were pretty much the reason I stopped visiting the Althouse blog.  "J" is apparently a much valued commenter at that blog]

Monday, August 8, 2011

Resolved and Absolved

Action: I never thought of walking on the grass until I saw a sign saying 'Keep off the grass.' Then I would stomp all over it.
~Saul Alinsky

Reaction: Get off my lawn!

Resolution: And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Pistol Wars: Glock 34

The contender: Glock 34

Caliber: 9mm

In your hand: The Glock 34 is a recent addition to the Austrian gunmaker's line of small, conceal and carry 9 mm handguns. The weapon is small and lightweight, having a mostly plastic body and matching trigger, barrel, and action hardware. The magazine holds 10 rounds, but the spring is so strong that it was hard to get the tenth bullet in the magazine.

On the range: Sighting was OK. I was able to put 10 rounds within a 5 inch circle at 10 yards. Accuracy falls off pretty quickly after that.

Overall:The Glock 34 would not be my first choice of hand gun. I'm interested in comparing and contrasting various makes and models and I had to start somewhere.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Letters Home: "About another month of this and I quit"

Aug 7, 1953
Vilseck [West Germany]

Dear Mom, Dad and all,

I got a letter from you today so I will answer it tonight while I am in from the field. I am not doing much of anything. It sure is cold over here. This morning I had to wear the top of my long underwear and gloves. We got our tops off the jeeps while we are up here and it's dusty and cold. 
About every other night we go out and sleep in the field. I have to follow the tanks (if I can) and after they stop at night 40 miles from no where I have to go back and pickup the chow and guide the gas truck out to our position. [1] It gets tiresome chewing dust and plowing through ditches. About another month of this and I quit. 
I bought myself a portable Radio this month. I have something to listen to at night. I can pick up stations from England, Spain and of course Germany.[2] 
You was asking me about that girl I sent a picture of. Nothing serious just a friend. Her folks like me. They have a nice swimming pool there. I go when it gets warm enough. It was in June, but now it is cold. I think it will snow. 
It's too bad about the girls not being like Marylou but you brought them up like they should have been and now they are on their own more or less. [3]
Bye for now,

Love, V.

Mon. I will have 12 months in Germany

[1] Tanks were fuel-hungry machines and needed constant supply lines. My dad's remark reminded me of General George S. Patton's famous line "My men can eat their belts, but my tanks have gotta have gas." link  I think I first heard Patton's quip from my dad because I don't think it was used in the 1970 Patton biopic (correct me if I'm wrong) and I've never read a Patton biography. He may have heard it first as 3rd Armored Division lore, even though Patton most famously led the 2nd Armored Division.

[2] Radio Free Europe? I lived for a year in Mülheim an der Ruhr, a city located in the former British sector, where I used to listen to the BBC. This was 1992 and Thatcher's successor, John Major, was Prime Minister.  He wasn't very eloquent, but I enjoyed hearing his recorded broadcasts from the House of Commons. The radio broadcasts had a certain intimacy along with a sense of raucous background back benching that make our televised Congressional sessions look and sound like stadium rock concerts by comparison. Years later, I recall watching Tony Blair speaking from the House of Commons (those green leather benches!). I can only imagine what it must have been like to see Thatcher there, or even Churchill.

[3] I can read between the lines here. My grandmother had probably complained to him about one of his sisters. He had three: one older, one younger, and one much younger. Of the three, the oldest was the saint, the middle one was mischievous but level-headed, and the youngest was the absolute wild child. I could share many stories but I would consider this a breech of family ethics.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Just who the hell do you people think you are?

Reader_iam sent me this--well worth it:

On Negative Voting

I have little sympathy for the so-called negative voters in our last Presidential election. I set forth an argument for why I thought that voting "against someone" by voting for their opponent was wrong in this Althouse comment thread.* I'm going to reiterate it here "for the record."
  • Voting for a candidate because you are against his or her opponent is unethical.
  • A vote for candidate A because you dislike candidate B is electorally indisinguishable from an enthusiastic support vote for candidate A. They count the same at the ballot box.
  • A vote for candidate A sends a message of support to candidate A. If you didn't support A, don't send them a confusing message. You cannot easily walk back a protest vote. 
*This argument began in the context of whether running so-called "fake" candidates in Wisconsin's recall elections was proper. I wrote:
Ethics is doing the right thing when nobody is looking. Many are looking at these elections, so running a "fake" candidate is not unethical. Is running a "fake" candidate against some rule? I asked garage mahal that the other day.....
....crickets. link
Later in an oblique comment to Carol Herman I wrote:

There are otherwise reasonable people here who strongly argue for things like voting "for" a candidate and then stating that what they really meant was to vote "against" another. Call me old fashioned but I never learned that nuanced tactic in civics. I learned that we should seek out and always vote for something we believed in. Otherwise it's either just passive aggression or cowardice, which I, having long suffered to overcome in myself, cannot respect. Link
This prompted a response from Chip S.

Someone is asked why he chose chocolate ice cream instead of vanilla, when offered a choice between the two. Here are some possible answers:

1. I prefer chocolate to vanilla.
2. I dislike vanilla.
3. I like chocolate best of all.

All three describe the exact same choice. #1 is tautological. #2 allows for the possibility that the person prefers, say, strawberry to chocolate. #3 implies that the person will always choose chocolate.
Why is reason 3 morally superior to reason 2?  link
Not being a naturally good test taker, I pondered Chip's choices before responding:

An election for a candidate differs from referenda such a yes/no ballot measure. A no vote on a referendum does not enable that measure to go forward. A no voter can easily divorce his or herself from the position even if he or she is outvoted.
A “no vote” in a choice between two candidates actually casts a nod for the lesser of the two evils. On paper, such a negative voter is indistinguishable from an enthusiastic supporter's vote.

Such a negative voter cannot easily divorce his or herself from his or her negative choice because his or her vote was electorally indistinguishable from a supporters.

A negative voter knowingly obfuscates the decision at hand, and I, for one, believe this civilly unethical. link
Commenter Big Mike scoffed at this:
A negative voter knowingly obfuscates the decision at hand 
No he doesn't. He takes the only option open to him.
...and I, for one, believe this civilly unethical
Ridiculous.  link

Chip S. returned to answer:
Such a negative voter cannot easily divorce his or herself from his or her negative choice because his or her vote was electorally indistinguishable from a supporters.
Agreed. But I don't follow what you wrote next:
A negative voter knowingly obfuscates the decision at hand,
How can someone "knowingly obfuscate" a choice that is "electorally indistinguishable" from that of someone with different preferences but who cast the same vote? The "fault," if it were a fault, is in the fact that the voter is forced to choose between a limited set of options.

Finally, I simply don't understand how you get from any of that to this:

I, for one, believe this civilly unethical.

If you're upset about the "obfuscation," why wouldn't you welcome a clarification along the lines of "I voted against B more than I voted for A? link
I replied:
@Chip S asked: How can someone "knowingly obfuscate" a choice that is "electorally indistinguishable" from that of someone with different preferences but who cast the same vote?

Because the outcome of the vote is interpreted by the winner. The winner says: look how many supporters I have instead of hmm, I wonder how many supports I have for my intentions and how many just didn’t like my opponent. That is the deliberate obfuscation introduced by the negative voter.
The "fault," if it were a fault, is in the fact that the voter is forced to choose between a limited set of options
Finally, I simply don't understand how you get from any of that to this: "I, for one, believe this civilly unethical."

Would civically unethical be better? Elsewhere I noted that ethics involves doing the right thing when no one is looking. A voting booth is private. According to my definition, a negative voter is not doing the right thing because they introduce the uncertainty factor into the outcome. This what I mean by obfuscation. There's also the continual need to for a negative voter to carefully distance him or herself from ongoing issues which they never intended to vote for by voting against their opponent. After a while, it becomes convoluted logic until another electoral event comes along to erase the chalkboard. link

Monday, August 1, 2011

Who first lichened politics to a type of moss?

The chemical definition for litmus disambiguates to the political expression "litmus test."

The OED says that the political usage first appeared in 1957. link

WTH happened in 1957?

[Update: Twitter friend Meadabawdy reports that Merriam-Webster dates the usage of "Litmus Test" back to 1952: link]