CMS Martix Rocks For Meetings

It sucks when you go into a meeting and try to advocate for a piece of software, but people just keep on coming up with obscure questions about random features that may or may not exist. This happened a little while back when we were investigating a campus-wide blogging solution.CMS Matrix sure does make answering questions and comparing products a lot easier.

The World Needs Fewer Cops

About a year ago, I was pulled over and given what I consider to be a frivolous ticket. I managed to beat it in court, but it got me thinking about how many police we have dedicated to making sure nobody is doing anything “wrong” with their car or skateboarding where it is prohibited. It seems that the vast majority of the police force is out patrolling roads rather than actually helping the people who need it or stopping real crimes.

Speed limits have not substantively changed since the 1950’s despite the fact that our vehicles have improved immeasurably in terms of breaking and handling ability. Why is this? Just follow the money. Think of all the tickets that are written each day. Think about how much those tickets cost, and then consider the fact that only 3% of all citations are contested in courts. This pretty much just amounts to a huge tax that only a tiny fraction of Americans seem to question.

In fact, because of all the fear mongering out there, most citizens have been deluded into thinking we need even more cops to “protect our safety” by pulling over even more terrifying criminals who are endangering our society by driving with a headlight out, or going 5 mph over the speed limit. Can you detect my sarcasm? Good! To me, if our cops don’t have anything better to do than set up speed traps and give kids a hard time for riding their roller blades, we have far too many of them as it is.

After getting that ticket, and before I beat it in court, I wrote this letter to my Governor, local and state representatives. Not a single one of them wrote me back. I imagine that they have all joined in society’s collective fear, and just didn’t know what to think about a person who is asking for fewer, rather than more police.

I am writing this letter to ask that you please investigate any and all means to prevent drug trafficking within the state of Vermont. Drug abuse is a major problem, and controlling it will undoubtedly have a positive influence on the quality of life in this state.

Having said that, I am asking that you please evaluate alternative options to hiring more state troopers. The reasons I am asking this of you are two-fold. First, we find ourselves facing unprecedented budgetary challenges, and with each new officer costing tax payers roughly $70,000 for the first year alone, creating more police positions is simply not fiscally responsible at this time. Secondly, it frequently appears that the state police we do have often lack enough work to keep them busy. Countless examples exist of officers issuing frivolous tickets, or hassling folks who are doing nothing illegal, or even suspicious, but who don’t quite fit the mold.

I moved to Vermont from New Hampshire because I value my freedom, my individuality, and my right to be left in peace. Even though it is an unintended consequence of otherwise well-meaning initiatives, it is my experience that a larger police presence can’t help but run counter to these values we share as Vermonters.

Please don’t impose more financial obligations on an already over-taxed state. Please help preserve the sanctity we share as law-abiding citizens. Finally, please impose tough, no-nonsense sentencing standards upon those involved in the illicit drug trade, but don’t ask tax payers to fund a larger police presence that is likely to spend nearly all of it’s time patrolling roads, not removing the drugs from our streets.

Thank you very much for your time.

After thinking more about it, perhaps a better way to go about reducing the number of cops would be to lobby for higher salaries. If we demand that our police officers are paid more, the departments will be able to retain fewer of them… It would keep Mr. and Mrs. Paranoid feeling secure, and we could be more selective in the type of troopers we are hiring.

Melvin Has a Sweet Business Card

Via Roderick & JeniMattson.com

Melvin's Business Card

Melvin's Business Card

A hacker, entrepreneur, and all around mischief maker, Melvin wanted something he could give to peers and prospective clients that spoke of this nature.

A lockpick concept was chosen very early on, and the post production results were excellent. The picks can quite easily be removed from the card and are entirely functional as lockpicks.

OK… I’ve never really been a business card kinda guy, but I have to say that I REALLY want some of these! Just imagine that cop that asks Melvin who he is and gets presented with one of these. With the simplistic balck & white thinking of most cops, he’d be labeled a terrorist for sure.

From the looks of things the guys over at MetalCards can do this sort of thing, but I’ll have to save my pennies because it’s not cheap.

Funny Koi Quote

My fish do not like helicopters.

Found on the Koiphen forums… In context it’s pretty reasonable, but out of context it’s pretty darn funny!

It was a reply to a post about someone’s koi being scared by the noise of the snowplow. I check the Koiphen forums sometimes, but I’m really more of a Koivet kinda guy.

Rebreather Evaluation – Part 3: The PRISM Topaz

I had seen some photos of the PRISM coming back from DMEA, and it wasn’t too long before I started to hear some very positive things about it. In fact, one of the divers I admire most decided that the PRISM was the rebreather for him. Ergo, I decided that my rebreather evaluation would be incomplete without a good long look at the PRISM. Here are the PRISM specs, as well as a nice teardown of the unit.

PRISM stands for Peter Ready’s Incredible Steam Machine. Peter is, of course, the father of the PRISM, and head of Steam Machines Incorporated (SMI). Not only is this system incredibly well designed, it has two very nice features not found on either the Inspiration or the Meg. The first, of these, and the one that has everyone buzzing is the analog secondary display.

Sometimes called “the brick”, PRISM secondary gives a readout of battery voltage, as well as a PO2 reading from each sensor. “Big deal” you say. Every CCR on the market can do this, right? Wrong! The thing about the PRISM’s analog secondary that makes it so special is that it draws its power directly from the O2 sensors, and can continue to function even in the event of a total electronics failure. It is for this reason that the PRISM takes special, high output oxygen cells. Very very cool!

The second unique feature that the PRISM has to its credit is a radial scrubber. Unlike the more typical axial scrubbers in which the breathing gases move from top to bottom (or vise-versa) through the scrubber, the radial design moves the breathing gases from the middle to the outside (or vise-versa) through the absorbent.

TheRebreatherSite.nl is quick to tell us that “Only very complex tests show that the quantity of scrubber material, flow, form of the housing and many other factors determine the quality of a scrubber. Axial or Radial is not a general recipe for a good or bad scrubber.” Radial scrubbers do, however, have the added advantage of allowing moisture to condense on the much cooler inside of the scrubber bucket, thus, arguably keeping the O2 cells dry. Or at least that’s how the theory goes… It’s always hard to tell how well these theories translate to real-world experience.

The PRISM has some pretty nice other features as well. It is very light, which is nice if you have to hike to your dive sites. The solenoid exists outside of the breathing loop, meaning that it would not affect the PO2 of the breathing loop should it leak. The heads up display is by far the most well developed of any on the market, and there is an even cooler one as vaporware that will give a digital readout. The PRISM also has an optional shell if that is your kind of thing.

So what are the downsides? Well, in my mind, the fact that the analog secondary display relies on jeweled movement is a pretty serious problem. In the end, this is a millevolt meter that has been waterproofed and calibrated against the high-output O2 sensors to read PO2. As an electronics geek, I can testify that these millevolt meters break pretty easily when subjected to a shock. Even though I love the idea of being able to read my PO2 independently of the electronics, I worry that “the brick” just won’t stand up to the inevitable bumps and thumps on a dive boat. I also don’t like the little wheel it uses to select the individual sensors. I do a lot of diving in cold water, and I worry that this might be difficult to operate with thick gloves on.

The PRISM is made of plastic. Is this a bad thing? Most likely not, but I’m just not much of a plastic sort of guy. There is just something about nicely machined alluminium that makes me happy, and this rebreather doesn’t really have much of that going for it. It’s nicely machined, but it’s nicely machined plastic and to me, that’s a downside. Granted, there are some very good arguments for using plastic as a material. It makes the PRISM the lightest rebreather I evaluated, and plastic is wonderful about not corroding in salt water. Will the fact that the unit is plastic be cause for concern about the durability of the unit? Who knows?

The tanks are attached via velcro straps. This is really not a problem, but it’s certainly not as cool as the Tiger Gear hard mounts found on the Meg. From everything I’ve heard, the unit is very solid when put together, but I don’t think I would be able to strap aluminum 80’s into the thing.

Finally, and most importantly, there is something that bothers me about having only a heads up display and an analog secondary as instrumentation. Sure I can tell what the PO2 is by watching the HUD, and double check it against each individual sensor by toggling “the brick”, but I really want to be able to easily see each sensor’s readout on redundant digital displays. In my opinion, SMI has taken away from the usability of the unit in every day diving by making sure you can stay fully closed circuit even with a total electronics failure. It’s always a balance, and I certainly appreciate the fault tolerance, but I think they’ve planned a little too much for the worst possible case. This is, of course, all just conjecture, as I have never even dived the thing. It’s just how I imagine it would be.

So that’s my feelings on the PRISM Topaz. Remember, I have never even seen the unit, let alone dived it, so please comment if I have made any glaring errors.

Rebreather Evaluation – Part 2: The Inspiration >
Rebreather Evaluation – Part 4: The Megalodon >

Deep Dive On A Wreck Full Of Toilets

Leigh Cunningham and Mark Andrews figure they’ve made the world’s deepest wreck dive on the Yolande, a 72m ship in Egypt which had been carrying a bunch of toilets.

The wreck sank in 1981, but slid into deeper waters because of a storm in 1985. It currently sits in water ranging from 145m to 160m, and perhaps even deeper. The two divers ventured to 160m on TRIMIX, which is admittedly a very deep dive.

The team plans to return to the Yolanda in August to dive even deeper in search of other parts of the ship. Cunningham works as a TDI Instructor Trainer, and Andrews is Technical Director at the London School of Diving.

More information can be found here.

Well done guys!

Foreach Example in tcsh

I always forget the foreach syntax. Here is a quick example that reads all the contents of a directory into an array, prints out the name of each file, runs a simple grep on it, and ends.

foreach i ( ` /bin/ls * ` )
foreach? echo $i
foreach?/bin/grep your_grep_string $i
foreach? end