Takin’ Care of Children

From the first two pages of today’s Nashua [NH] Telegraph:

  • A firefighter in Concord was commended after saving the lives of two children in a trailer home. He explained that he drove by and saw smoke pouring out of an attached shed, with the father of the children attempting to extinguish it with a garden hose. The firefighter ran into the burning house and got the kids–who were in their cribs–out.
  • A 20-year-old man was arrested in Derry for allegedly sexually assaulting a 4-year-old. Strangely, he was arrested in the library. He was reading, of all things, a book called Encyclopedia of Rape. Just… wow, dude, you have problems.
  • A man in Brentwood was arrested for beating his 6-month-old son, apparently breaking “more than two dozen bones” on the boy. At his sentencing, his wife spoke saying that he had never hurt the boy.
  • On the front page, a babysitter was arrested with 26 counts each of kidnapping and child endangerment, and felony theft. Before you think she had a warehouse of babies she’d kidnapped, she was actually outsourcing her babysitting. She’d agree to babysit the kid, and then find other babysitters on Craigslist to provide the care. Unfortunately for her, “personal contracts” cannot be assigned/transferred, and I’m pretty sure that child care, unlike lawn mowing, counts as a personal contract. However, I’d contest that kidnapping is a reach, and felony theft is utterly wrong: the services were received, just provided by someone else. It might be a tort, but I’m not sure that subcontracting can be considered theft, even if subcontracting wasn’t permissible. Child endangerment, though, is probably a pretty fitting charge. The parents have a brief statement encouraging other parents to do random, unannounced visits of their child to make sure that they’re actually there. I suppose, in this case, it’d have been appropriate, but it seems somewhat preposterous that one would have to do that, especially since most people hire babysitters because they’re unable to be there.

Also, is there any crime that isn’t committed on Craigslist? Browse around enough and you’ll find flagrant prostitution and drug sales. (You’ll also periodically see people arrested for this stuff in the newspaper… I’d love to work in a police department’s “Craiglist Division,” which might just be a full-time job.) Apparently you now have babysitting-outsourcers.

Missing the Point

This comic was pretty funny, and the age/2 + 7 formula got tossed around a lot by my roommates.

Of course, it gives us the minimum age one can date without being creepy. At 22, it’s [(22/2) + 7], or 18. (I, however, maintain that this discrepancy would, in fact, be creepy.)

But what about the upper age limit? The formula itself is silent on this, but we can easily do some substitution to make it work. If the minimum acceptable age (“M”) is your own age (“A”) divided by two, plus 7, we get:

M = A/2 + 7

We typically solve for M, knowing A. However, the oldest person I could date would have my A as their M, e.g.:

22 = A/2 + 7

With this realization, it’s a simple Algebra 1 question. Subtract 7 from both sides and then multiply by two.

Thus, the maximum age one can date is 2(a-7), where a is your age. For me, it’d be 2(22-7), or 30.

What interests me, though, is that this means I’m allowed to go back four years, but forward eight, within the margin of creepiness.

I built a spreadsheet for people aged 1 to 100 showing this and various other statistics. It’s online here as an HTML document. A few interesting trends emerge that aren’t intuitively obvious working with just the formulas:

  • The formula doesn’t make any sense below age 14.
  • Age 14 is a sort of ‘identity,’ when you’re first able to start non-creepily dating people, apparently, without breaking any laws of mathematics. At age 14, you can’t date anyone older, nor younger, than 14.
  • From there on out, every year you age adds 0.5 to the minimum age you can date, while adding 2 to the maximum age. Thus at 22, I can date 18-30. When I turn 23, my new range will be 18.5 to 32. (At age 100, you can date anyone between 57 and 186. Because dating anyone over 186 would definitely be creepy.)
  • As you can see, the two don’t grow at the same speed; the upper age grows four times as fast as the lower age. An interesting side-effect of this is that this means that, as time goes on, your age becomes radically different than the median age. By the time you reach 100, you’re 21.5 years younger than the median age of people you can date.

I Can’t Take It!

Rusty and I were just talking about the recent decision by the Democratic party and how we’re going to count delegates from the two states, which has left both sides somewhat unhappy.

But then we kind of realized that no one is talking about the real issues? I don’t particularly care how we seat delegates. The whole system sucks, and I hope after 2008 is over we can overhaul the way the DNC works. And I kind of had an epiphany: I feel like I’m trapped in this country, a faded emblem that used to be a beacon of prosperity and freedom.

Let’s talk about some things that actually matter.

  • I paid $53 to put gas in my car yesterday. It’s increasingly tempting to get a hybrid, but they’re in short supply. Not because they’re in high demand (though they are), but because not many are produced. American auto’s only hybrid seems to be the Ford Escape hybrid. (I refuse to count GMC’s “greenest” SUV that gets 20MPG.) A question on Ask MetaFilter today called my attention to the fact that they’re basically impossible to get, with the dealer he went to telling him flat-out that they wouldn’t order one for him. BTW, Ford just announced a $3 billion plant in Mexico.
  • We are the only civilized country in the world that doesn’t have universal health care. Americans are running into massive debt because they got sick. The typical response, beneath it all, seems to be a survival-of-the-fittest mentality that if you get cancer and go bankrupt paying for your treatment, it sucks to be you. Attempts to reform the system are consistently subverted by cries of “socialized medicine” without ever presenting a legitimate claim, just the catch phrase? (And there’s a good point to be made about how this is costing us huge money in less-obvious areas.)
  • If you come to see homosexuality as something that isn’t ‘wrong’ or ‘bad,’ opposition to gay marriage seems appallingly bigoted. I really don’t think opposing gay marriage is any different than opposing interracial marriage.
  • College is $40,000 a year. Schools throughout our country are failing. To quote, well, everyone, No Child Left Behind has left plenty of people behind.
  • Veterans are returning home and getting next to no support, or staying in ramshackle hospitals. Support our troops! Anyone? Those who oppose sending young Americans—my peers; people I went to school with; maybe me if I was born into a different family—to die in someone else’s civil war are branded as unpatriotic and not supporting our troops by the same people who can’t be bothered to waste money caring for our returning soldiers?
  • The United States economy is tanking. It probably has something to do with the fact that our schools are being surpassed by countries around the globe, that our post-9/11 xenophobia has resulted in immigration policies forcing college students who come here from abroad to leave our country, and that our health care costs are through the roof.

The thing is, I really love this country. But all around me I see signs of our great nation crumbling. At times I almost feel trapped. Can we please stop focusing on the things Republicans and Democrats disagree on, and instead work on getting things done? We all love America, want our troops to be cared for, want our schools to be the best, want to get treated in hospitals, and want our economy to thrive. Working with two parties seems to keep us from ever getting anything done, because all we can ever do is disagree. But why does it have to be that way? We all want the same things deep down. Can’t we take our different viewpoints and use them to our advantage, crafting solutions that appease both of us?

Feeding the Trolls

News sites keep adding comment sections, but for some reason draw users who post comments more absurd than those on Youtube. Take this article as an example, about how a decorated military nurse was discharged after commanding officers found out she was a lesbian. The court ruled that they couldn’t dismiss her solely for her sexual orientation.

Comments include things like:

Remember when homosexuals used to just want to be left alone to do their thing in their own bedrooms?

Now they are attempting to overturn society with their desperate craving for mainline acceptance of their proclivities.

And someone going on about eternal damnation. And, as usual, there’s not just hate for some group, but there’s also a complete lack of coherent points:

Homosexuality is still not as main steam as they want us to believe it is. You can”t even watch a television program these days that doesn”t have a gay character in it.

Don’t those two sentences contradict each other?

The thing is… This is a pretty calm discussion. No one has blamed Bush yet, no one has invoked Nazi references, no one has talked about a vast liberal conspiracy, and no one has attacked any of the three major Presidential candidates. This one only makes me cringe a little at the pathetic course of the discussion, not fear for the future of America. Besides, what motivates people to go on news websites to rant about their opinions?

…That’s what blogs are for.

Strange Antenna Challenge

You know those times when you decide to let yourself surf aimlessly? And an hour later, you have absolutely no idea how you got to where you did?

I found the K0S Strange Antenna Contest page from 2003, where some ham radio operators started using, well, strange things as antennas. Who’d think that a ladder works well? (No no, not ladder line, but an actual ladder.) In fact, after working some people off of a ladder, they got an even better idea, and stood several ladders up, using them to support a pair of extension ladders laid horizontally, forming a ladder dipole, with impressive results. Sadly, they report that combining two shopping carts to make a dipole did not get them any contacts, nor did a basketball hoop.

This has me wondering what else would work… An aluminum chain link fence? A railing? Train tracks? Power lines? (Kidding on that one. Please do not try to attach anything to power lines.) Curtain rods? A couple of cars? A section of guardrail? A metal lamppost?

I poked around the site some more, to see if they did it in subsequent years. And they did. 2004, for example, saw my joke about using two cars come to fruition. (Okay, so they beat me to it by four years.) 2005 saw someone use a bronze statue, and, the next year, he was at it again with railroad tracks, albeit not full ones, but some sort of art exhibit / monument. (Aside: I’m pretty certain that trying to hook up a bunch of wires to train tracks may arouse a bit of suspicion by the police?) 2006 also saw a pair of exercise machines being used, with a comment about how they weren’t very effective, but the apt comment, “On the other hand, we did in fact make two contacts with a pair of exercise machines standing only a few inches above the earth!” And, confusing everything I know about antennas, someone used a tree. And a football stadium (which includes a commentary about how the university police were initially slightly suspicious about someone getting out of their car and hooking wires up to the stadium for some reason). 2007 saw a bridge as an antenna.

And 2008? Well, see, here’s the best thing. The 2008 Challenge is this weekend!

Of course, as a Technician-class license, I don’t have many HF privileges… The Technician license was (before all license classes saw it eliminated) the only class that didn’t require a Morse code exam, so it’s somewhat ironic that almost all of the new HF privileges Techs were given are in the CW portions of various bands. I do get 28.3-28.5 MHz now, allowing SSB on HF…

Time to hit the books, I think. (I think mine–and that one–might be outdated, actually. Looks like the question pool got revised in 2007.) There are always sample exams online, and the feedback can be helpful. Study a bit and take an exam a day, and then review your answers. (Theoretically, actually, you could just learn the answers to each question without understanding the concepts, though that’s really missing the spirit and point of ham radio.)


I frankly don’t use AIM that much these days, but will often sign on and think, “Wow, lots of people are on tonight!” or, “Wow, almost no one is on tonight!” So I just wanted to list my thought process after noticing this:

  1. I’d be interested in seeing a graph of my “buddies” online over time.
  2. It wouldn’t be too hard to write a little script to sit on AIM 24/7 and watch this.
  3. If I was doing that, I might as well log each time someone signed on and off, which would let me answer those, “I wonder if x has been online in at all lately?” questions.
  4. As long as I have a stalker bot going, it’d be even more interesting to grab their away message text and buddy profile.
  5. And as long as I’m doing that, I might as well add support for using diff to show changes in the above between any two points in time.

Is there anything that can’t be graphed? Or made into a shell script?

That Wacky State

Can you guess the state?

  • Recently had about 100 students arrested, and several fraternties banned, after a massive drug dealing operation was busted at a state university.
  • Recently became the second state in the nation to give homosexuals equal rights.
  • Recently had 2 arrested at another school for selling body parts on the black market.

Okay, so the link gives it away. But this wasn’t really meant to stump people anyway.