Monday, January 24, 2011

DIY For the Adventure of it All - Part 5

This last DIY project started a little over a month ago.  I have always (and by always, I mean as long as we have lived in our current house) wanted a TV mounted to the wall.  I am not sure why, really.  But, it has been a want of mine.  This Christmas, I finally got sign-off and set about my journey.  We chose the loft upstairs (probably because it is so cold downstairs in the winter).  I did a bit of research and then I was off to Lowe's (yes, this is how every 'DIY' story starts, I know).  I met a gentleman named Greg who was extremely helpful in what I needed.  He was especially helpful with my wiring questions.  It even prompted a Tweet.

Anyway, I decided to add a 110v outlet, move the cable, add some blocking and rough in some speaker wire.  So, with my trusty utility knife, I cut a (big) hole in the wall.  "Oh," was Noel's reaction.  "That's a big hole in the wall."

The first thing I did was add some horizontal blocking with 2"x6" boards.  The metal hangers worked perfectly and went up easily with wood screws.

From there, I set about shutting off the breaker in the garage, testing the outlets to see if they were hot and then testing them again.  Once I was confident they were not 'hot', I pulled out my handy-dandy wiring diagram that Greg from Lowe's drew for me and went to work wiring the additional outlet.  The cable was easy to move as it did not require any additional wiring; just a junction box.  I nailed in a third junction box to run the center channel speaker along with a future HDMI cable (if you are going to do this, don't forget to add a pull string to pull down through the wall).

That night, I measured out 30' pieces of speaker wire and labeled them with 'center', 'woofer', 'front left', and 'front right' on each end (with masking tape).  The next day, I went up into the attick and drilled a couple of holes in the top plate of the wall to feed the wires down.  The position was easy to find as I just traced the existing coaxial cable and drilled right next to it.  I fed the wires down through the holes.

Next came the drywall and painting (a full 21 days later ... yes, Noel had to stare at that eyesore for three weeks, but she was very patient.  That's why I love her).  The drywall guy was in our house for about 90 minutes.  After the mud dried, I gave it a light sanding and then painted it.

Overall cost, not including TV or mount, was about $180 (with $100 being the drywall labor, $40 for speaker wire and the rest was electrical wire and components).

Now what?  Re-tiling the master bath?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Agent Zigzag

I just finished "Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal" by Ben Macintyre.  It is a fantastic book; full of richly-developed characters and amazing stories of heroes that helped shape World War II.  I highly recommend it.

Monday, January 17, 2011

More on Gun Violence and Correlation

It seems like everyone is writing about it these days ...  Here is an article from the Atlantic about gun deaths in America.  While the data he cites includes all manner of gun deaths (including suicides and accidental shootings) the analysis appears sound.  The author, Ricard Florida, is quick to note: "As usual, I point out that correlation does not imply causation, but simply points to associations between variables."

As with most online articles, the comments that follow the article are the most entertaining piece.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Gun Control Follow up

Harvard professor Jeffery Miron has a great piece on the fallacy of gun control here.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Rachel Maddow and Correlation vs Causation

On her MSNBC talk show tonight, Rachel Maddow made the point that there were more gun deaths in states with a higher percentage of gun ownership than states with a lower percentage of gun ownership. As you can see in the image below, the two states with the highest gun death rate also have a high percentage of citizens that own guns.

So, gun ownership causes higher gun death rates, right? Gun ownership causes gun-related deaths. Get rid of guns, get rid of deaths. Case closed.

Well, not so fast. I don't have access to Maddow's research but I am assuming that gun ownership refers to the publicly available data regarding registered guns. These citizens have probably passed a gun safety class and passed a criminal background check.

I did a bit of research and I found something interesting. According to, the District of Columbia has the highest rate of gun related deaths per capita. Interestingly enough, it also has the lowest gun ownership rate per capita, according to a survey done by Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System in North Carolina. Only 3.8% of D.C. residents own a firearm. While not a state, the district has its own gun laws like each state in the union. In fact, before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on District of Columbia vs Heller, it was almost impossible to legally own a hand gun in the District of Columbia.

So, if Maddow was being completely honest, her chart would look like this:
Highest Gun Death Rate % Gun Ownership
District of Columbia 3.8%
Louisiana 46.0%
Mississippi 54.0%
Alaska 61.0%
Alabama 57.0%
Nevada 32.0%

Kind of a different picture, huh?

The right question to ask is what percentage of the gun deaths are at the hands of registered gun owners? But, greater gun ownership leads to greater access. Perhaps. How many of the gun-related deaths were by weapons that were legally registered but subsequently stolen and used in the killing. How many of the deaths were committed by individuals who where licensed gun owners? Only then could we begin to move away from strong correlation between gun ownership and high rates of gun-related deaths and into the realm of causation.

Surely there has been a study done on this? Rachel wasn't the first person to ask this question, was she? Fortunately, there was a study done by Harvard professors Matthew Miller, Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Injury Prevention at Harvard School of Public Health, and his colleagues David Hemenway and Deborah Azrael. It was published in the February 2007 issue of Social Science and Medicine.
These results suggest that it is easier for potential homicide perpetrators to obtain a gun in states where guns are more prevalent. “Our findings suggest that in the United States, household firearms may be an important source of guns used to kill children, women and men, both on the street and in their homes,” said Miller.
So, after all of that "household firearms MAY be an important source of guns"? Wow. Solid research Professor. Still no causation, huh?

causation vs correlation

As a disclaimer, I am not a huge fan of guns. Having served in the military, I have seen first-hand what they can do. What I am a huge fan of is the Constitution.