Thu, 30 Nov 2006

Ride starting Thu Nov 30 11:30:06 2006

12.71 km 41685.23 feet 7.89 mi 2637.00 seconds 43.95 minutes 0.73 hours 10.78 mi/hr

Went for my standard short ride today. Quite windy and spitting rain. However, with the temperature at 64 degrees on the last day of November, I simply couldn't not go for a ride.

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Wed, 29 Nov 2006

Oh Well

Sigh. Turns out that Maemo-blogger was pre-functional software. Not only did it merely appear to operate, it was so bad the authors withdrew it from distribution. Oh well. I'm home again, and look forward to some day trying maemo-blogger again.

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Tue, 14 Nov 2006

Heading off to Mumbai

Heading off to Mumbai shortly for a week's worth of consulting for Rediff. Thought I'd set up a system for blogging from my 770, using Maemo-blogger and pyblosxom's xml-rpc interface. Sweet!

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Wed, 08 Nov 2006

Nigger

There. I've said it. In public. The N word. I must be a racist, right? Only racists say the "N" word. But why is "nigger" so powerful? Do racists create its power to shock? No. It doesn't shock them. Blacks have given this word its power. Blacks can take that power away. Read on.

From time to time, people accuse economists of being indifferent to the issue of power. For example, some people defend unions as being a natural reaction to the power of an employer over the employee. The employer can find another employee easier than the employee can find another job -- or so goes the theory. It is true that power always affects economic relationships, but it's not true that one class always has power over another. I try not to ignore power.

"Nigger" is a word of power, and I don't like that.

Let the word roll off your tongue lovingly. Nigger.

Say it again. Nigger. And again. Nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger. Say it enough times so that it loses all ability to shock. Nigger. Nigger. And more, until it loses the ability even to offend. Nigger. Nigger. And more, until it has no meaning. Nigger. Nigger. What a funny little word is nigger! Who nigs, anyway, and what's wrong with nigging?

Quaker used to be an insult. Quaker, like in shaking in his boots. Like in coward. Mormon used to be an insult too. So did queer. So did dyke. The trouble with taking offense at nigger is that it empowers the user. It gives them a power to shock, to offend, to insult. It turns a word into a permanent edifice to racism. Taking ownership of an insult takes away power from the would-be insultor. It forces them to work, to create another insult. Yet it is of no avail, because the new insult can be stripped from them, by accepting it with love.

Learn to love nigger. Love is the only way to destroy the word's power.

UPDATE 11/9: I received email from H. Lewis Smith, the author of Bury that Sucka!. He objects to the black community's internal use of nigger as a friendly self reference, but when used by people outside of the community, it is an insult. I agree with him. If the power of the word is to be destroyed it can only be done through consistency. I think it can be best destroyed with a "Yes, I'm a nigger" attitude. It seems to me like he thinks that if black people stop using it, so will everyone else (see below). I disagree with him there. As long as there are racists, and as long as racists can offend by using it, the word will be used.

UPDATE 11/12: Lewis writes again to clarify: he wants blacks to stop using nigger because it's a form of self-loathing. He fully expects racists to continue using it regardless of what blacks do. In this, he and I are diametrically opposed. I think the solution is greater acceptance and self-identification among blacks (with the goal being to replace its pejorative meaning with a mundane one); he thinks the solution is rejection by blacks (who are, after all, the major user of the word these days -- it's not acceptable for whites to use it even in quotes. For example, St. Lawrence County is currently trying a white drug dealer for murder, and his attorney cautioned the jury that even though he might "use the N-word" that shouldn't prejudice them against him. When somebody on the jury said that they didn't know what the N-word was, he spelled it out for them, but still couldn't say it.)

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Pollution

Everyone is against pollution. That means "stuff where the property owner doesn't want it." So it could be litter, or air pollution, or water pollution, or groundwater pollution. Nobody wants somebody else to pollute their property. Nobody

The problem is that pollution is difficult to control. How do you stop a factory from polluting the air when they're doing it from their property, and you have no contractual relationship with them? The economic term for this is "externality," because the effects of the factory are external to itself and its customers. The standard answer is "Well, you just pass a law."

The problem with a government solution is that government itself is difficult to control. Voting is the ultimate externality. The majority inflicts its will on a minority.

Using government to solve pollution doesn't solve the problem; it just transforms it into a different problem. Perhaps the government solves the pollution problem, but then it creates other problems at the same time. If you could get it to not create those problems, it probably couldn't stop pollution either.

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XML sucks

Whereas: it is hereby resolved that XML sucks. Thus is born the Nelson Simple Data Format Specification (NSDFS):

In a single line, then, the NSDFS is:
UTF-8, name=value, % encoding of [ %=\n], use Python indentation for hierarchy but no tabs.

Every file encoding can be losslessly and usefully transformed into NSDFS.

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Tue, 07 Nov 2006

Blood Donation Stupidity

Don't believe the Red Cross, or any other blood bank, when they claim that they have a shortage of blood donors. They don't. They have created a shortage of blood donors through unscientific policies. For example, I have travelled to India multiple times in the past year, and am headed off there again next week. I have to wait a year from the most recent donation. ONE YEAR. Even though I'm O-Negative blood, my blood could save somebody's life, and according to the paper below, we're saving 0.03 people from getting malaria. That's like three people per century!

Here's the abstract of an NIH paper published in 1991 (that's fifteen years ago):

  • Nahlen BL,
  • Lobel HO,
  • Cannon SE,
  • Campbell CC.

Malaria Branch, Centers for Disease Control, US Department of Health and Human Services, Atlanta, Georgia.

In the United States (US), travelers who have had malaria or who have taken antimalarial chemoprophylaxis are deferred as blood donors for 3 years to prevent transfusion-transmitted malaria. To assess the impact of shortening this 3-year exclusion period, national malaria surveillance data from 1972 to 1988 were reviewed. The average annual rate of transfusion-transmitted malaria is 0.25 cases per million units of blood collected. Of 45 reported cases, 38 percent were caused by Plasmodium malariae, 29 percent by P. falciparum, 24 percent by P. vivax, and 9 percent by P. ovale. Thirty-two donors were implicated in 34 cases of transfusion-transmitted malaria. Of 30 implicated donors whose native country was identified, 23 (77%) were foreign nationals and 7 (23%) were from the US. In a review of all imported malaria cases by species and by interval between date of entry and onset of illness, 98 percent of P. falciparum, 86 percent of P. malariae, 76 percent of P. vivax, and 74 percent of P. ovale infections became symptomatic within 6 months of the patient's arrival in the US, regardless of the use of prophylaxis. Shortening to 6 months the donor exclusion period for US travelers to malarious areas would result in a minimum of 70,000 additional blood donors' being made available, with a maximum annual increase of 0.03 additional cases of transfusion-transmitted malaria. The potential benefit of bringing healthy travelers back into the donor pool after a shorter period of exclusion merits consideration by the blood banking industry.

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Wed, 01 Nov 2006

Ride starting Wed Nov 2 09:58:35 2006

36.84 km 120874.56 feet 22.89 mi 11337.00 seconds 188.95 minutes 3.15 hours 7.27 mi/hr

Went down to Watertown to keep my daughter company on her trip to take the GREs. Since the weather report looked good, I brought my bike. Went exploring the Black River Trail. Started in downtown Watertown. Found lots of great things. I wasn't sure where the railbed was ridable, so I started at the beginning. The rails are still in Central Street and N. Hamilton St.. The railbed is gated on the west side of Hunt Street, but is (mostly) free of brush on the east side. I was able to ride from there to the Black River Trail trailhead. Two bridges were out. The first stream was jumpable. Just to the east of the stream was a granite memorial to "John B. Goehl" dated 1846-1877. The memorial looked quite new. Strange! I had to wade through the water that the second bridge used to cross. Took my shoes off for that. It's just to the west of the new trailhead.

The Black River Trail

Welcome to Black River Trail (Thumbnail) End of Black River Trail (Thumbnail)

The Black River Trail starts in Huntingtonville and nominally ends just short of Black River (pictures above left and right). There's a trailhead in Huntingtonville and Black River. The Black River end is crushed stone and isn't marked as a trailhead. It's labelled as a picnic area and canoe carry. For whatever reason they didn't pave the trail all the way into Black River. Also, the unpaved portion leaves the railbed and re-uses a portion of the abandoned Woodard Hill Rd. The railbed is used as a farm road by a farmer. It's passable but quite muddy in places.

Stone bridge over Felts Mills Creek (Thumbnail)

Past Black River the railbed is used as an ATV trail. I entered the trail from SR3 just east of Black River. As is typical of an ATV trail, they have carved out muddy spots which accumulate water and become puddles. A power line enters and leaves the trail going towards Felts Mills. There is a beautiful stone bridge crossing Felts Mills Creek. UPDATE: a year later, in September 2007, I rode to this point from Carthage. UPDATE: the trail paving will be finished soon.

Black River Paper Co. / Blue Diamond Hardware (Thumbnail)

Back in Watertown, I found the Black River Paper Company. They have a boxcar out in front of their building, sitting on an old siding. The railroad it was connected to has been gone for at least ten years now. It seems to have been painted about three years ago. It has standard railroad markings, but the side is labelled "Blue Diamond Hardware" with smaller "Black River Paper Company". I suspect that the owner of Blue Diamond Hardware is a railfan.

See Flickr for more photos.

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