Saturday, May 31, 2008

Hell Hath No Fury

I came across this quote and it really struck me as . . . as what? Profound? Confusing? Something, but I don't know what.

"No Biblical hell could ever be worse than the state of perpetual inconsequence." Dangerous Beauty

Or perhaps I have long been inured to being of no great consquence, but then I never aspired to be, or am I lying now? I never saw the movie.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Pod People, Part 2

More stuff I didn't write, but I really like it.

The commonly recited pros of having a healthy, educated, socialized population are: social stability; less desperation, violence and civil disobediance; presumably more development and social benefits by having a wider pool of talent to draw from.

But the drawbacks are: a wider pool of talent to draw from. This means more competition for the current priveleged groups. John McCain, for example, would be much better off if women or blacks hadn't been enfrachised.

These are basic protectionism arguments, applied to talent rather than international boundaries.

Additional point that is demonstrated by emerging economies: increased competition for resources. You can liberate/elevate a bunch of people, thinking they're going to become productive members of society and become an asset for you. But those newly productive people are developing tastes for gasoline and beef, and that's driving up prices for everybody -- not to mention generating environmental impacts. And as anyone who has gone from a driving a broken down Maverick to a new Toyota can attest, once you taste wealth and convenience, you will redouble your efforts to prevent backsliding.

Interesting if the legacy of Reagan and that lot will turn out to be, not the champions of "freedom," but rather, "the dimwits who let the rabble into the country club."

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Via Dustbury: So That Might Not Be The Problem

Via View From The Porch:Eloi Revisited

Carlos Marcello Conspiracy Theory

My son is giving a speech in class about Carlos Marcello and the assassination of JFK. I like conspiracy theories, the more far out the better. But this one sounds completely believable. I had heard of conspiracy theories about the assassination of JFK before, but they were mostly of the "second gunman" variety. And, you know, does it make any difference? All this rehashing of ancient history may be very entertaining for some people, but it is not likely to change anything.

I wanted to post my son's speech here, but he refused, so I being forced to write this myself.

Since I read my son's speech, I looked up Carlos on the web, and the few stories I looked at paint a pretty clear picture. It certainly seems much more probable that Carlos was behind the assassination than that Oswald acted alone. Besides, it lends support to my theory that drug money is one of the biggest forces in this country. It also makes it sound like the Republicans are dirty, or maybe they just have a better understanding of what the real power situation is. Look what happened to Kennedy when he tried to clean up organized crime. You don't imagine there is any connection between Bush being President and opium production increasing in Afghanistan, do you?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Pod People

From someone I know:

I heard this on the radio this morning, and found this from January. City letting homeless people live in their cars in designated areas. No more living like a hunted animal, hiding from the cops.

This is very generous of the cops, although it's perhaps inevitable -- when that many people are driven into the street, you are pretty much forced to recognize the problem.

But this is still a subsidy. Somehow, someone has to figure out a way to extract wealth from these people. These are people who are so marginal that they can't pay for housing (although housing is pretty expensive). There has to be a medium between extracting $500 a month from someone for a full-fledged apartment, and letting them live for free. How about a big parking lot, with ultra-low maintenance concrete showers and latrines, charge people $3 per day?

Indeed, as market efficiencies expand and people are increasingly forced into pods, this could give rise to "high-end" parking lots, with some trees and decent facilities, where mid-level people can park their living pods.

More thoughts on the inevitable decline:
  • In the mid-century and postwar era, one could earn a good living from labor. This was due to sheer abundance of resources and opportunities, ie: a "boom-town" environment;
  • Technology, efficiency and free trade have turned labor into a cheap superfluous commodity;
  • When people are desperate enough they revolt. But the requirements to keep people passive are relatively few, and can be made cheaply (TV, shiny vehicle, salty fatty food).
  • Will commodity prices, technology and efficiency, and profit motivations produce a world where people are living in pods, eating meals of starch and fat out of drive through windows, and staring at celebrity gossip on little glass screens? And not able to afford anything else?
  • The current system where voters can "change the government" is good in principle. In reality, the government is entrenched and designed for continuity and expansion, not change and responsiveness. Thus, while voters can still register their discontent about the size of their pod or the starch content of their diet, those votes will only be met with rhetoric, viewed on the TV screens. We can't expect the underlying trends to change.
  • Cost of health care will remain prohibitive. Good thing is, when people get sick, they are price-insensitive, and you can extract their last dime out of them. And often they die so they're not around to provoke outrage, people just forget about them.
  • Is this really better than having a population of healthy, educated, confident people? I guess the theory is that a small minority of healthy educated confident people is adequate, they can run things and extract profit from the rest of the population, who are basically reduced to slaves. Lets all hope that our kids get a lucky draw.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Pen Crazy

Yet another little known world of devotees and collectors: fountain pens. My brother has been hanging around Fort Madison, Iowa, and discovered that it is home to the Shaeffer pen company. Shaeffer is now owned by BIC, but they still have a presence in Fort Madison. Once you find an entry portal it is easy to wander off into pen-land.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Saudi Oil

Saudi Aramco by the Numbers

Saudi Armaco World is a very odd publication, but the numbers and graphs do give you a sort of baseline on what is going on in the oil business.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Musical Tesla Coils

at Penguicon 2008

No, I don't know how it works. I don't even know what Penguicon is.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

South Pole Station

I was channel surfing and I came across a National Geographic show about the South Pole Station. They are building some big buildings there, ten's of thousand's of square feet, and they have a ten meter telescope that was just finished earlier this year. All this was a big surprise to me. I didn't know there was anything at all at the South Pole. I knew people had been there, and I knew there was a base at McMurdo sound, which is in Antartica, but it is not at the pole. So the TV show gives some information, and then gets side tracked into a drama about whether the building is going to be ready for occupency before winter shuts down their air transport link for the winter (summer for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere). Well, that sort of manufactured drama gets old pretty fast, so I got on the net to see what I could find. Turns out we have had a base at the South Pole since 1956! Sure are a lot of telescopes being built.

I found McMurdo Station using Google Maps, but I don't think they go all the way to the South Pole.

View Larger Map

Friday, May 23, 2008

Inscrutable Japanese

More strangeness from the other side of the Pacific rim. Trampoline Jump Game Not too difficult. Something to amuse you for a few minutes.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Ceramic Countertop

My brother found some estimates as to how long house stuff lasts. I took a look and noticed that they claim that a ceramic countertop will last 100 years, while a granite countertop will only last 25. I find this a little confusing. First of all, what the devil is a ceramic countertop? I understand about ceramic tile countertops, but I don't think they would outlast granite. But that is a "ceramic tile countertop", not a "ceramic countertop", if there is such a thing. My other brother clarifies the situation:
Ceramic Countertops: It's fired in place. Of course, it's the only thing left after the firing. Maybe he means concrete countertop. They engineer some pretty sturdy stuff. Granite is not as strong, in my opinion. Just kidding. I can't find a thing except this and it looks like a mistake. The rest of their stuff is junk.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Hinterland Appliance Repair Story

The fairly new clothes washer in Fort Madison had very little hot water, just a trickle.
The hot water heater had been replaced a month ago and that set dormant pipe rust into motion. I already replaced the kitchen faucet.
After removing the offending part I find indeed the washer solenoid valve was clogged with rust, checking the solenoid shows the valve to be jammed with mini-rust particles.
No fixing that.
Web shows best price on a new solenoid assembly $28.
Yellow pages showed "Appliance Doctor", I have no phone since washing my cell.
I drive, searching for 3902 Bluff Drive., back and forth, then figure out the shop is in someone's trailer home in a trailer park.
Pull up in front of a semi-decrepit trailer. This doesn't look good.
Go to the door. "Come in" I hear hollered from the inside.
Entering into the oily mechanical gloom, I look for the voice. Finally turning all around I see an Uncle Eddy type character sitting at a cluttered desk.
But unlike Eddy he is open, warm and chatty. "Hi I'm Chuck. Whatcha need?"
"My hot water solenoid is not working."
"Yup I got whatcha need, an older model, but more robust and will fit exactly. $25 "
After a brief lesson about how Whirlpool had better direct drive than the Maytag belt system, that is why Whirlpool absorbed Maytag, and not vice versa, I pay mostly in coins and walk to the car.
"Oh good, coins, my daughters love to find these in my truck ashtray." Chuck smiles.
As I drive back I see a eagle wheeling over the Mississippi alluvial corn fields.
Easiest part pickup ever.

Friday, May 16, 2008


I am always interested in the relative strength of various things. For instance, when I was a kid, an older kid who was studying to be a mechanic was telling me about pulling engines out of cars. At school they tell you to always use two chains and four bolts and an adequate hoist, etc. etc. Then he tells me he had seen the mechanic down on the corner pull an engine out of a car by the water pump. It's funny how strong some things are in some situations, but change things just a bit and it becomes a very different story.

So I was shocked when I read this on Tam's blog: "The recoil impulse on these guns is so savage that bullets are pulled from their crimps sometimes."

What she is talking about is the other five cartridges that are not in the firing position. Technically, I think you would say that the recoil of the gun pulled shells away from the resting bullets (bullets at rest tend to remain at rest), but the effect is the same. The rim on the shells are held by the cylinder, the bullets are only held by the crimp of the shell.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

No, it's not snow

I imagine this may be how Portland looked when Mt. St. Helens blew. Bicycles are not fazed by a little dust in the air. Click the picture for the full story. I found the link on The Bitch Girls.


Marc & Sandy are selling their monster sailboat. For less than the price of a medium size house you too can sail away. Go on and buy it. You know you want to. Yachtworld has a listing.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Donkey Kong

This thing has me a little confused: a 100 HP BMW dirt bike. It's got the traditional BMW engine with the horizontally opposed cylinders sticking out the sides. They are not as wide as the handlebars, and they provide some protection for the riders feet from brush and what not. If you are big enough to handle a bike like this, then you can probably avoid running those exposed cylinders into rocks. And big you have to be in more ways than one. There is the 100 HP engine to start with, the 400 pound weight, which is kinda light for such a powerful motor, and then there's the 20K (US) price tag. That's a little rich for my blood.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Rant on, dudette!

Something worthwhile from a celebrity! I am shocked, I tell you, shocked!

"I think it ruins the magic. That's why I like watching films from 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago, because I don't want to know who (the actors) are, I don't want to know their life story. I want them to be characters on the screen. The magic is in the screen, not knowing what's behind it, because that ruins the magic."

Monday, May 12, 2008

Is This Rupert's Handiwork?

Looks like what many people were afraid would happen is happening over at Rupert Murdoch's latest acquisition, the Wall Street Journal: Rupert is throwing his weight around. This is an excerpt from a recent story:

Mississippi's Tort Reform Triumph By STEPHEN MOORE May 10, 2008

James Copland of the Manhattan Institute's Center for Legal Policy reports that, thanks to big Democratic gains in state legislatures in 2006, trial lawyers from coast to coast have replenished their army of allies in state capitals. "The legislatures are busy at work repealing many of the reforms while creating new rights to sue, through such scams as patient bill of rights laws," he says.

Mr. Moore is senior economics writer for The Wall Street Journal editorial page.

Patient bill of rights is a scam? I did not know that. Thanks for clearing that up for me, Rupert.

A Really Good Rant Was Had By All

This was written by someone I know.

The reason gas prices are high is the grasping idiocy of the American public.

Most of the people I work with who all make 50k or more have NEVER used public transportation. It is demeaning to them.

I have taken the train and bike to work many times and they always make a big deal out of it, when I walk my bike in through employee entrance and lock it under the stairs. The word spreads through the office and I get several inquiries throughout the day from the "Is your name really Michael Bolton?" types. I explain that it is a wash expense wise, and I enjoy it. They shake their heads. For some reason it is very foreign to them.

My supervisor baited me the the other day announcing her new re-fi brought her mortgage down to $1500 plus $300 taxes, and wanted to compare notes, thinking she was a wiz. I had to sidestep the issue since I have no mortgage. The $300 taxes means a house worth less than mine, in a neighboring town.

Since everybody lies pretty much about everything, I don't tell people my situation, because it really does sound like a lie. I was never really ambitious, liked an occasional puff, never really wanted to climb any corporate ladders, made a bunch of small financial mistakes but no real big ones, and I do like to eat lunch out. And I find myself nearly in a position to take a couple years off to return to graduate school and build another house.

How could I expect people who think a $500 car payment is a permanent fact of life to get the idea that "just paying attention" and "don't do anything stupid" is not only a method to achieve some security, but a sign of attainment.

I was suspected of duplicity this past week, when a poorly documented processing system of various programs and methodologies was handed off to us by a quitting programmer. I was the to be the 2nd tier backup, but paid close attention, took lots of notes, kept a good attitude, and ran through the process once before he left. The guys who were to take it over basically whined that it was not well documented. They wanted checklists.

So the day comes, and my back goes out. I process one of the jobs without incident, but am obviously in pain and take a half day off. I return the next day, when the bulk of the work arrives, and the 2 guys are flailing madly, cursing, whining, throwing fits. I'm on Vicodin so I sit there impassively and answer questions. When it came down to it and they started throwing questions at me I had to respond:" You guys went through the same training as me." and that pretty much ended it. I took the next day off altogether and they worked until midnight. The upshot is that they did all the work and look now like whiny crybabies and I watched TV and I got props. How does this relate to gas prices? Well these 2 guys are decent programmers, but other than that talk sports. Not really well-developed personalities. They are typical of people here, and pretty much everywhere, where they think they found a niche and can sit back and ride it out, and whine and whine if they face difficulty.

I spotted the trend, that of dumping work on people who are there, and got ahead the curve, by NOT BEING THERE, but still being there and "ready to help as best I can".

Someone finally mentioned how convenient it was, that I got crippled, just before the shit hit the fan, so I had to do a little spin control.

I mean, I really was kind of crippled, but the biggest factor was that I was insulted by the whining from those lazy jackholes attempting to inflate their self-importance and damed if I was going to respond to that. That alone required narc-ing myself up and staying there for the duration.

And now the work is theirs. And I go back to writing to my family.

Microwaves 'cook ballast aliens'

US researchers say they have developed an effective way to kill unwanted plants and animals that hitch a ride in the ballast waters of cargo vessels.

Click picture for story. From Ross.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Funny Dutch Web Store

Roberta X does it again.

Cyberspace Paradigm

The essential paradigm of cyberspace is creating partially situated
identities out of actual or potential social reality in terms of canonical
forms of human contact, thus renormalizing the phenomenology of narrative
space and requiring the naturalization of the intersubjective cognitive
strategy, and thereby resolving the dialectics of metaphorical thoughts,
each problematic to the other, collectively redefining and reifying the
paradigm of the parable of the model of the metaphor.

Thanks to Jack.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Aristocracy Of Incompetence

From The Adventures of Roberta X:

"This is a work in progress; I don't know if I'll even make much sense in this go.

I do tech-y work. I'm good with my hands -- a bump of mechanical aptitude, a dollop of artsy-craftsiness, and the sheer good fortune to grow up with parents who figured anything one applied oneself to, one could do; which they both demonstrated on a regular basis and passed on to their offspring like a fish passes on swimming skills: I never realized there was any other approach.

But there most certainly is and it's nothing nice. In my working career, in my adult life, I keep encountering over and over again* the hard truth that those who can end up doing for those who can't, over and over. Can't drive a truck? Roberta can. Can't do trim carpentry or finish wood? Roberta can. Need a bespoke microcontroller designed, built, programmed and installed? Can't work out and retrofit a technical ground system? Can't sew, can't cook, can't plan a week's menu? Hey, I know just the gal! Meanwhile, we'll go have coffee and think Higher Thoughts....

And that's fine; I like being able to do things and I take a certain pleasure at my job in being able to do just about anything -- some things better than others, but "no, I can't," is rarely in my vocabulary, unlike a few of my nominal peers.

Nevertheless, it's irksome at times to do all the work for half the credit, to be paid the same as the bum who walks away from sloppy, incomplete work; to always be the thrifty ant, never the heedless grasshopper. And I wonder, is it that way for others, too?"

I think the answer is YES.

The Polished Steel Truth

From Harley Davidson, via Peter Michael DeLorenzo, and finally Mr. Dustbury:

"We don't do fear. Over the last 105 years in the saddle, we've seen wars, conflicts, depression, recession, resistance, and revolutions. We've watched a thousand hand-wringing pundits disappear in our rear-view mirror. But every time, this country has come out stronger than before. Because chrome and asphalt put distance between you and whatever the world can throw at you. Freedom and wind outlast hard times. And the rumble of an engine drowns out all the spin on the evening news. If 105 years have proved one thing, it's that fear sucks and it doesn't last long. So screw it, let's ride."

It may not be entirely accurate, but they certainly have got the sentiment right. I may just have to buy one. This was the ONLY picture I could find of people riding harleys and not wearing helmets. Thousands of pictures of bikes, many with people, but almost all were stationary.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Monty Python

Sometimes Monty Python is funny, sometimes they are not. This morning I came across this link on and I could not stop laughing.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

ShopBot Buddy

Just what every inventor needs: a personal CNC machine for your home shop.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Are We In Trouble?

Here are some excerpts from a new book "Where Have All The Leaders Gone?" by Lee Iacocca and Catherine Whitney. I stole this from Stu Savory's blog.

"Am I the only guy in this country who's fed up with what's happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, "Stay the course"!

Stay the course? You've got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned "Titanic". I'll give you a sound bite: "Throw all the bums out!" You might think I'm getting senile, that I've gone off my rocker, and maybe I have. But someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country anymore.

The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we're fiddling in Iraq, the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving 'pom-poms' instead of asking hard questions. That's not the promise of the "America" my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for. I've had enough. How about you?

I'll go a step further. You can't call yourself a patriot if you're not outraged. This is a fight I'm ready and willing to have. The Biggest "C" is Crisis !

Leaders are made, not born. Leadership is forged in times of crisis. It's easy to sit there with your feet up on the desk and talk theory. Or send someone elses kids off to war when you've never seen a battlefield yourself. It's another thing to lead when your world comes tumbling down.

On September 11, 2001, we needed a strong leader more than any other time in our history. We needed a steady hand to guide us out of the ashes. A Hell of a Mess! So here's where we stand. We're immersed in a bloody war with no plan for winning and no plan for leaving. We're running the biggest deficit in the history of the country.

We're losing the manufacturing edge to Asia, while our once-great companies are getting slaughtered by health care costs. Gas prices are skyrocketing, and nobody in power has a coherent energy policy. Our schools are in trouble. Our borders are like sieves. The middle class is being squeezed every which way. These are times that cry out for leadership.

But when you look around, you've got to ask: "Where have all the leaders gone?" Where are the curious, creative communicators? Where are the people of character, courage, conviction, omnipotence, and common sense?

I may be a sucker for alliteration, but I think you get the point. Name me a leader who has a better idea for homeland security than making us take off our shoes in airports and throw away our shampoo?

We've spent billions of dollars building a huge new bureaucracy, and all we know how to do is react to things that have already happened. Name me one leader who emerged from the crisis of Hurricane Katrina. Congress has yet to spend a single day evaluating the response to the hurricane, or demanding accountability for the decisions that were made in the crucial hours after the storm. Everyone's hunkering down, fingers crossed, hoping it doesn't happen again. Now, that's just crazy. Storms happen. Deal with it!

Make a plan! Figure out what you're going to do the next time. Name me an industry leader who is thinking creatively about how we can restore our competitive edge in manufacturing. Who would have believed that there could ever be a time when "The Big Three" referred to Japanese car companies? How did this happen, and more important, what are we going to do about it?

Name me a government leader who can articulate a plan for paying down the debt, or solving the energy crisis, or managing the health care problem.

The silence is deafening. But these are the crises that are eating away at our country and milking the middle class dry. I have news for the gang in Congress. We didn't elect you to sit on your asses and do nothing and remain silent while our democracy is being hijacked and our greatness is being replaced with mediocrity. What is everybody so afraid of? That some bonehead on the News will call them a name? Give me a break. Why don't you guys show some spine for a change? Had Enough?

Hey, I'm not trying to be the voice of gloom and doom here. I'm trying to light a fire. I'm speaking out because I have hope; I believe in America. In my lifetime I've had the privilege of living through some of America's greatest moments. I've also experienced some of our worst crises: the "Great Depression," "World War II," the "Korean War," the "Kennedy Assassination," the "Vietnam War," the 1970s oil crisis, and the struggles of recent years culminating with 9/11. If I've learned one thing, it's this: "You don't get anywhere by standing on the sidelines waiting for somebody else to take action". Whether it's building a better car or building a better future for our children, we all have a role to play.

That's the challenge I'm raising in this book. It's a call to "Action" for people who, like me, believe in America. It's not too late, but it's getting pretty close. So let's shake off the crap and go to work. Let's tell 'em all we've had "enough." Make a "real contribution" by sending this to everyone you knows and care about..... our future is at stake!"

Stu is based in Germany. Funny, this had to cross the ocean twice before I heard about it.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Found on Dax Montana. Just what is he singing? And how the devil was he able to do it? Just bizarre.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Pocket Bikes


This looks fun and may be a temporary fix to the gas crunch.

See the bottom of the page at:

5 of this size motorcycle would fit side-by-side across a standard
freeway lane turning 8 lane freeways into 40 lane freeways.

And they wouldn't be nearly as comfortable as a car so fewer people
would be on the roads.

Another thoughtful moment by:

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Electronic Do-Dad Delay

Used to be before radios got all hi-tech, you could turn off the ignition on your car and keep turning the key till you reached the accessory position and the radio would not miss a beat. This was nice when there was a song on the radio that you liked when you reached your destination, which according to Murphy is the only time there was a song on the radio that you liked. Some people can sit there with the engine idling, but I can't, at least not without a very good reason. I don't know why that is. I suppose it has something to do with the way I was brought up, or with the way my mind works, or maybe those are both the same thing. If I am driving somewhere, I get in the car, start the engine, drive to my destination, and turn off the ignition. Just call me Mr. Roboto.

Now-a-days, this trick with the ignition key doesn't work. The instant the power gets cut to the radio, it shuts off, and the when the power comes back on, it takes a second for the radio to figure out which way is up and resume playing the tune that it just interrupted. Irritating. Stupid electronic gizmos.

We have a similar problem with cameras that cost more than ten dollars. They have all kinds of fancy-schmancy automatic this and that, which is great if you are trying to take a photo of something that is just sitting (or standing) there. But if you are trying to take a photo of something in motion, you're screwed. You push the button, but all that does is tell the camera that you would like to take a photo, please. Then the camera has to think about it. Umm, let's see, is the aperature set correctly? Should I turn on the flash? How's the focus? Okay, I think we're ready now. Meanwhile the subject has left the frame, the room, the building. Stupid cameras.

Well now Casio has come up with a battery sucker that can help with this scenario. You half press the trigger and it starts taking photos, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, continuously. Press the trigger all the way and it stops. You can then review the most recent photos and see if you actually caught the cat leaping across the room. Only problem I see with this is I would want it in half cock mode all the time, so when I saw something happening I could grab and snap and maybe capture what I wanted. I don't like this push-the-button-halfway-business at all.

All electronic do-dads are battery suckers. If this Casio worked the way I wanted it to, I would probably be replacing batteries every couple of hours. Probably not the camera for me.

There is one other thing about this camera that is pretty cool and that is it can record high speed video, up to 1200 FPS (frames per second). The resolution at this rate isn't that great, but it's plenty good enough for YouTube. I expect we will be seeing a whole lot of slow motion video on YouTube shortly.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Looking for the Mouse

Here's a different way of looking at what's going on, and he only uses the word "internet" once. Gin, Television, and Social Surplus. Via Robot Wisdom Auxilary.