I see no disclaimer on dollar bills about only being ‘legal tender if not folded’

Timothy Norris of Wichita, Kansas attempted to pay his $600 property tax bill in one dollar bills that were folded so tightly that it took personnel six minutes to unfold each of them.  Rather than spend approximately two and a half days of man-hours unfolding the bills, the tax agency requested that Mr. Norris depart the premises.  When he refused, the police were summoned.  Norris resisted arrest and was charged with criminal trespass and resisting arrest.  (Story here.)

Mr. Norris claims that most of the bills were one-dollar bills that were banded together, along with 150 origami-folded bills and $250 worth of unfolded $5, $10, and $20 bills.  (The tax bill was $497.17.)  Norris says,

“They didn’t make it convenient for me whenever they raised the taxes every year,” he said. “Why should I make it convenient for them?”

After unfolding $25-worth of money, Norris said he changed his mind and took the money back once the clerk started ripping and tearing the bills to get them flat. This also prompted him to abandon his plan, and he said he had no intention of using the folded money when he returned Jan. 28.

However, Norris said he also had to pay for a vehicle registration tag that day, costing him an extra $180 he did not expect. Because of this, he was left with only $450 for his property bill in unfolded money, forcing him to pull $50 out from the 150 folded one-dollar-bills he still had with him.

Sheriff David Duke claims that there was far more than $50 in folded bills, since it took his officers 2.5 hours to unfold them.  The deputies had to unfold the bills because a person’s possessions are inventoried at the time of arrest.

Some of the confusion is likely between what Duke had on him at the time (i.e. $150 in origami-folded bills) and what he intended to pay with (i.e. many of the unfolded bills).  I admire the man’s initiative and persistence, but can see how government officials would find such stunts a bit boring after a while.  Perhaps Wichita and other municipalities ought to offer some sort of ‘discount’ to those who pay in convenient form, which is really just a surcharge on those who pay in pennies, folded bills, etc.

Thoughts, readers?


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RentAWomb: a bit more morally complex than RentATruck

In the Daily Mail UK, Jessica Szalacinski discusses her experiences as a surrogate mother.  She enjoyed bearing children for gay couples who could not do so, but loathed the discussions she had with a very rich, very famous couple who wanted a hot egg donor, picked the sex of the child, and ordered her to have an abortion if more than one embryo was successfully implanted in her womb. (Story here.)

The sensationalism of the rich-and-famous eugenicists aside, even ‘ideal’ surrogacy arrangements are morally problematic.  Of Ms Szalacinski’s pregnancy and delivery, the Daily Mail writes, “In the delivery room, the baby was whisked away as quickly as possible, before any ‘biological urge’ could present itself.”

Maybe I’m some backwater dolt, but here’s my rule of thumb for when a newfangled medical procedure is ethical and when it crosses the line: if you are treating a mother’s love for the child she carried in her womb as a problem, you have gone seriously astray in life. This love is integral to the survival of the human race and is also a cornerstone of what makes us human, yet any surrogacy arrangement demands that this love, this desire to treasure and protect a newborn baby, be treated as a ‘biological urge’ that is best ignored and suppressed.

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Just what we need: the fat police!

In April of 2010, Jonathan Gruber, one of the architects of ObamaCare and an adviser to the Obama Administration, suggested that we tax people based on their weight. (Full essay here.) The theory is that fat people spend more in health care dollars, so we can tax to “modify behavior and raise revenue.”

If people who smoke, drink, don’t work out, or are professional bungee jumpers have higher health care costs than everyone else, then I have no problem with a private insurance company raising their rates.  We do this for auto and homeowner’s insurance all the time: you pay more if you speed, drive drunk, or live in a place that gets hit by hurricanes.  A private insurance company that charges people too much for various “sins” will lose those customers; an insurance company that charges too little will lose money.  The force of the free market will push companies to get the most accurate risk assessment possible, and those companies would be just as happy with people quitting smoking and paying less as they would with smokers paying a penalty to cover their additional costs.

None of this is true about government sin taxes.  Aside from the creepy and coercive nature of the government attempting to regulate our lives through financial penalties, extorted from us with the threat of jail if we do not comply, the government will tend to rely on increased ‘sin’ revenue.  The money from cigarettes or adipose that pays for schools will no longer be there if people quit smoking or slim down. The government also has an incentive to increase this tax to the point just before political backlash: there is no downward pressure from competing governments that are ready to charge an amount that is more tailored to the expenses incurred from such weight.

Economics of sin taxes and insurance premiums aside, this is also problematic because weight is not what causes people to incur excess health care costs: it is fat, lack of physical fitness, high blood pressure, low muscle mass, and a host of other things.  Most likely, the government will simply calculate our BMIs and tax us, rather than attempt the fine-tuned calculation of taxing people whose body composition puts them at a higher risk for health problems.  It also highlights one of the many problems with socialised medicine: once you are forced to pay for some stranger’s health care, you have every right and incentive to stick your  nose in that stranger’s business and dictate how his life ought to be run. It’s an ugly business, served up to us in the name of compassion.

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Filed under Bioethics, Economics, ObamaCare

The relentless march of the eugenics movement

On CNN.com, radiologist Dr. Grazie Christie writes about new parents who are contemplating suing her for ‘wrongful birth,’ i.e. a physician’s failure to diagnose a problem, which, if the expecting parents had known about, would have lead them to choose abortion. The defect in question is a cleft lip.

I have written about wrongful birth actions before and think that, legally, they ought to be prohibited.  Basic humanity suggests that we not allow someone to sue people over life rather than harm or death. Dr. Christie’s testimony shows us that there is no logical endpoint to such actions: it is not merely about a child who should have been diagnosed with Tay-Sachs or other such death sentences, but is really about any child that is not perfect. A cleft lip is one of the most common birth defects in America and is repairable with a simple surgery.

This goes beyond euthanasia, which acknowledges that a human being is dying (or never being conceived); it is the objectively incorrect idea that a pre-human, a not-person, is being returned and swapped out for another, more perfect, less cleft-lipped, person.  Once we’ve ceded the ground on abortion in the cases of Down Syndrome, spina bifida, and the like, the rationale used to justify those procedures is used to justify abortion in the case of an easily-fixable cosmetic defect.


Filed under Bioethics

#DeflateGate? #BallGate? #ColtsAreSoreLosersGate?

After the Patriots shellacked the Colts last night, 45-7, allegations surfaced that the Patriots cheated to win by… [drumroll]  deflating the footballs.  As a deflated football is easier to handle in the rain and 40-mph wind, the Patriots gave themselves an advantage by deflating the ball.  (The Colts did not reap any benefit from said deflated football, because they never actually managed to hang onto the ball for more than a millisecond.)  The allegations came because the referees were seen weighing the football.  Thus was born this bit of awesomeness:


Now that we have the lowbrow humour out of the way, let’s examine this whole premise of weighing a football to determine its internal pressure.

A football holds approximately 4.237 L of air and that air has a mass of approximately 10 grams.  The football itself weights approximately 400 grams.  The football is inflated to a pressure of between 12.5 and 13.5 psi. The referees inspect about three dozen footballs before the game to determine if they meet regulations.  What the #DeflateGate supporters allege, essentially, is that the footballs were underinflated because instead of having a mass of approximately 410 grams, plus/minus 5 grams, the football had a mass of, perhaps, 408 grams.

(I’ll let that one sink in.)

You don’t measure inflation by weight, especially not when that something is wet and has been bouncing around in the mud.  You measure inflation of a football the same way you measure the air pressure in your tires: with one of those nifty gauges that tells you the pressure.

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If it makes you feel better, gents, they don’t like us, either

“They” are radical feminists; “us” are female nerds.  Glenn Reynolds linked to an interesting piece about how lefty feminists treat nerd men.  (Short version: very badly.  Somewhat longer version: the women like reminding the men that they were dorks in high school and do their best to forever keep reminding those nerdy men that they aren’t good enough.)

Thing is, these women don’t like us, either.  I remember putting in eighty or hundred-hour weeks studying chemical engineering.  Far from making me a darling of the “feminist” Left, they screamed about how “unfair” it was that I was going to make more money than, say, a social worker or a writer. (It has not gone unnoticed that their tax policies hurt professional women in the private sector.)  Life didn’t get better as I got older; all I ever heard from “feminists” was that being a lady engineer wasn’t “feminist,” didn’t make me a “feminist,” or didn’t make me understand the plight of women in STEM.  Also in the “#@&$Q# I can’t make up” category is a games journalist who condescendingly implied that I can’t do math and that my space elevator work isn’t real engineering. They tell me that I’m “anti-science” because I don’t ignore every embryology textbook out there that explains why human life begins at conception.

This isn’t just me. All of two days ago, a woman at a NYE party described feminists as “for the most part, c-nts” who try to cut other women down.

I don’t know what it is – perhaps jealousy, perhaps the fact that a woman’s success undermines the ‘narrative’ of women as victims – but “feminists” aren’t that much kinder to nerdy women than they are to nerdy men. Sure, they bleat about “women in STEM!!!,” but it mostly seems like they want men to stop doing STEM, not to have more women kick butt in the field.

That’s not feminism; that’s just pathetic.

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Filed under Feminism, Science & Engineering

Where have all the student-athletes gone?

In the back of Sarah Palin’s “Going Rogue,” there’s a picture of her cross-country team and the caption of “The whole team was on the honor roll.”  My track coach was thrilled to announce one year that the varsity team had a 3.7 average GPA.

There is a long tradition of scholar-athletes: people who study hard and also apply themselves to athletics in pursuit of being a well-rounded person, strong in body and mind. The skills that make for a good student make for a good athlete, too.  My siblings, who both made the varsity basketball team as freshmen, went outside every single day to shoot hoops; it wasn’t enough for them to be at practice. I did extra math homework if there was a concept I wasn’t getting perfectly, read books several times (not just the assigned one time), and turned in papers that didn’t just scrape by the minimum word count.

So when I read about the UNC athletics scandal, it hurts. Instead of teaching these kids to apply the same dedication to their studies as they apply on the football field, administrators gave them grades for forged work or no work at all – in the best interests of the students, of course.

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My big fat feminist Christmas?!?

Jessica Valenti wrote  a column in the Guardian about how Christmas is fraught with “gendered expectations”:

We all know that women do the majority of domestic work like child care, housework and cooking. But the holidays bring on a whole new set of gendered expectations that make the season less about simply enjoying fun and family and more about enduring consumerism, chores and resentment so that everyone else can enjoy rockin’ around the Christmas tree. (I bet even Mrs Claus gets upset that Santa works one night a year but she’s dealing with hungry elves 24/7. That would be almost enough to make you want to over-indulge in eggnog and hurl yourself in front of a reindeer-pulled sleigh.)

The rest of the column continues in the same vein, with an occasional reference to how her husband doesn’t create his share of Christmas joy.

The latter is interesting, as Valenti and her husband, Andrew Golis, loudly proclaim that he is a feminist.  It’s a free country, so they can so proclaim all the want, but saying it doesn’t make it so.  My boyfriend, sometimes nicknamed “Mr. Moderate” because he’s politically dead centre, has arranged for about half of my Christmas presents for my family to be shipped to my doorstep.  He has Amazon Prime; I don’t.  I pick out presents on Amazon, add them to my Wish List; he ships them; I pay him back.  He also shipped me an ignition coil for my car so that I could install it the very next day.

We don’t do that because we’re trying to have a big fat feminist Christmas; we do that for the same reason that I’ve used some of my vacation time to clean his condo.  We care about each other and want to try to use whatever assets we have available (e.g. free time, a tool set, Amazon Prime) to make the other person happier.

Jessica, your problem isn’t “gendered expectations;” it’s a husband who will let you become a stressed-out mess before acting like a freakin ADULT and pitching in.


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Ten minutes and thirty-three seconds later

I fixed an engine problem in my Volvo.  Sort of.

To clarify: the problem is completely fixed.  Last week, , for as I was turning into my driveway, my car started shaking and vibrating.  I pulled into the driveway, and, instead of taking the Volvo straight to the mechanic like a normal young woman, used this as an excuse to purchase a Bluetooth OBD II reader.  (The one I chose is a BAFX Elm, $23.99; it was called a “magical impulse buy” by a car magazine.) Anyway, the check engine light (CEL) was not on, but my car didn’t have any stored codes, either. I took a wild guess that the spark plugs needed changing (and were, cough, about fifty thousand miles overdue for this).

Mr. Velociraptor helped out with this project.  After three hours of peering under my hood, scratching our heads, and making two separate trips to the hardware store (for a 10 mm socket wrench and a torque wrench), we got exactly one cylinder fixed.  We also had to gap the “pre-gapped” spark plugs, because when you buy cheap spark plugs, they are properly gapped, but the nice platinum ones that last for a hundred thousand miles don’t come pre-gapped. (They also require a different tool to gap them.) The second cylinder was faster, but by that time, it was dark and cold.  We threw in the towel, then continued the project yesterday.

After all five spark plugs were changed, I turned on my car and, amidst the rumbling, voila! the check engine light came on.  Let me tell you, I’ve never been so happy to see “Check Engine” lit up in orange. My nifty BAFX told me that the problem was a misfire in cylinder 1. Thanks to the wonders of Amazon.com and their new “garage” feature (which enables you to store your vehicle so that it can automatically check parts for compatibility), I got an ignition coil overnight shipped to me.

This afternoon, I installed it in ten minutes and thirty-three seconds flat.   My car now works properly!

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Cruel to be Kind

An eight-month psychological experiment revealed that people who are “nice” and conscientious are more likely to engage in cruel behaviour on the orders of an authority figure; the more nasty types are more likely to stand up for themselves and others.  (Link.)

The theory is that people who are slightly contrarian are more likely to defy authority, while “nice” people are more concerned about people-pleasing – or at least pleasing the person whose wrath they are most likely to incur.  (I wouldn’t call it “people pleasing” to administer electric shocks to other human beings.)  Sometimes, we simply do not have the option of being kind to everyone around us, particularly when one person is trying to hurt another person.  Our choice is about who we will offend or hurt, not whether or not we can escape it.

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