Friday, November 30, 2012

Same Planet, Different Worlds

I have two stories open in my browser now that are such a contrast that I just thought I'd present them together.  It's like the good news/bad news jokes that used to go around. 

First, we have the good news story.  Machine Design magazine reports on a company that has developed a mushroom-based replacement for a lot of packaging foam uses.  The company, Ecovative Design, (I assume that's a combination of "ecology" and "innovative") calls their product Ecocradle:
...the material replaces synthetic, petroleum-based foams such as expanded polypropylene (EPP), expanded polyethylene (EPE), and expanded polystyrene (EPS). Containing fungus rather than petroleum, EcoCradle isn’t so much manufactured as it is grown.
The article describes how the fungus is grown and processed into the packaging material.
EcoCradle begins as a combination of living fungi and agriculture waste. The fungi — called mycelium, or mushroom roots — is mixed with inedible and unusable agricultural by-products such as seed hulls or seed husks from staples like rice or oats.
Sounds like an interesting idea.  Around here, I've gotten several things shipped in those water-soluble packing peanuts made from starch.  This is a similar idea, but not exactly a competitor to the Ecocradle foam.  Here's a test product made from the fungus-based foam:

Now for the other end of the spectrum, the bad news story.  It seems in the UK, the "Liverpool Pathway", the name for a system the NHS has been using to kill off old patients, is also being used to kill off the very young - babies. To quote the Mail (UK)
Sick children are being discharged from NHS hospitals to die at home or in hospices on controversial ‘death pathways’.

Until now, end of life regime the Liverpool Care Pathway was thought to have involved only elderly and terminally-ill adults.

But the Mail can reveal the practice of withdrawing food and fluid by tube is being used on young patients as well as severely disabled newborn babies.  
Is anyone surprised?  Just a month ago, we found that the NHS was paying incentives to kill off patients (I hear the Mafia does that, too.  Just sayin'...), and there have been many stories of complaints by relatives of how awfully their parents were treated. It's a system that a prominent oncologist called "immoral medicine" and "the most corrupt practice in British Medicine"

Does this remind you of anything?  The pattern of killing off - excuse me, providing less extreme measures - for the very young and the elderly?  Why, it's the complete lives system (link to pdf) which is embedded into Obamacare!  Just look at the graph from the paper on the complete lives system; it clearly shows babies and elderly won't get care. But that's only when resources are limited, which is always.  The British NHS took generations to get to where they're actively getting rid of the young and the old; with Obamacare it's designed in from the start. 
When I look at the contrast of these stories, I see the contrast of the private sector entrepreneurs and the bureaucrats of the NHS.  I see problem solvers, engineers, and scientists on one side versus problem avoiders, paper shufflers and, well, bureaucrats.  I see everything that's good in our modern world and everything that's wrong.

We need more of the problem solvers and less of the bureaucrats. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Obamacare Rolls Into My Life

It's no secret I'm an old guy - Graybeard is a description, not something I made up.  For those of you who don't know, the protocol for prescribing statins for control of cholesterol make it virtually automatic that every guy over 50 is going to get them.  Why?  You get them if you have two risk factors: you get one risk factor for being male and another for being over 50.  Therefore, if you cross 50 and get set up for a cholesterol test, you'll get put on statins.  Now, if you have a cholesterol "issue" of some kind and you're 40, you get put on them: one risk factor for the test, the other for being a dude. 

Let me pause here for a quick point: if you think that it's unanimously agreed that high cholesterol is a problem, or that the usefulness of cholesterol-lowering drugs has been absolutely proven, or that there is no controversy at all associated with this, you need to read more.  It's a side point here, but you can start at THINCS.  You need to read Dr. Duane Graveline, MD, former NASA astronaut, or Track Your Plaque.  Yeah, you're going to find the typical internet sniping, with everyone calling each other idiots, but that's my point: there is real controversy here. 

I've been on statins, with short breaks, since I was 40 and I'm starting to show liver damage.  Not enough for my doc to say get off them, but enough that we're looking closely at it.  There's a pair of liver enzymes they measure and mine are running at about 2x normal and have been for a couple of years now.  I figure if I burn out my liver and need a transplant in 10 years, the Glorious Peoples' Ministry of Health will deny it and offer me a juicer instead of a transplant, so I'd prefer to get off the statins.  Yesterday I went to the doc, talked about some extra tests to run along with other options and agreed on some things to do.  He tells me, "there is no perfect option here". 

Then he started talking to me about what's coming after the first of the year.  He said he hired some advisers to consult on his practice, and they told him that with his current business model and the coming Obamacare changes, he goes bankrupt within a year.  No way out.  Because of this, he's dropping his practice and going into the new field of Concierge Medicine.  Under this model, I pay him a flat fee of about $1500 for the year and get whatever care I want.  While they'll continue to take insurance, and I still need it (as it was originally intended - for unexpected things), I'm supposed to get anything I need from him for that one price.   

Unfortunately, with the coming of Obamacare, this is the new thing.  According to one of the providers in this arena, around 85% of practicing doctors are looking into getting out of the vise that Obamacare puts them into.  In rough numbers, my doctors has 4000 patients and will cut that down to 400.  That means 3600 people have to find a new doctor - which he'll help with, but if that's widespread around the area, there's an instant and severe shortage of doctors.  He becomes a contractor to - not employee of - a new company that provides these services around the country.  Cue Tom Baugh about starving monkeys.  Most doctors doing this say they make a little less, but have much less stress and get to work with patients more - which is why they went into Health care in the first place:  they care.  He says under their plan you get 30 minutes of his time per visit.  Current medical economics says 7 1/2 minutes.  Sounds like he'll have a ton of more time with 400 patients over the course of a year.

So the brave new world of Obamacare is here in smaller town America.  My doc agrees with my assessment of what is coming should I need a liver, and maintains medical care in the country has just been killed off.  Personally, I don't think this model of care will survive either, because the whiners are already talking about how "the rich" get this fancy care on demand and everyone else has to sit in a DMV-style line.  Fact is, it's already the case in virtually every country with a national health service that the well-off get what they want, even if they have to leave the country to get it.  That's as predictable - and unavoidable - as our summer rains.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

It's Time To Talk About the "C" Word

A re-post of something I first posted two years ago.  Edited for improved clarity - (original here if you're really anal retentive)

I love Christmas.  I mean, I've run across people in my life who decorate for Christmas way more than I do, and I've known people who plan their Christmas six months in advance, way before I do.  I know a guy whose house decorations for Christmas put the local shopping centers to shame, and focused his whole year around Christmas.  Maybe if you saw me, or saw my barely decorated little house, you wouldn't think so, but I love Christmas.

Christmas is unique among holidays in America.  It has a very strong Christian tradition (well, duh!) as well as a very strong secular tradition, and I love them both.  I love giving gifts to loved ones - and even total strangers.  People in retail will tell you that Christmas often determines whether or not they stay in business.  I'm sure you've noticed that news outlets report sales from the Friday after Thanksgiving (Black Friday) as if they're reporting scores from a bowl game.  Another part of the holiday is the annual struggle to "keep Christ in Christmas" and not overlook the spiritual side of the holiday.  Did you know there is actually a court ruling that tells you how many reindeer (three) a holiday display must have to remain "sufficiently secular" to be legal to display on public property?  If I have three reindeer on display, it's secular, but if it's only two and package of reindeer sausage, I'm obviously trying to convert you!
A 2006 Zogby poll showed that 95 percent of folks are NOT offended when they hear the words “Merry Christmas.”  The real kicker is that 1 in 3 are actually very offended when the words “Happy Holidays” push out the phrase “Merry Christmas.”  This should not come as a big surprise because another poll by Fox News/Opinion Dynamics showed that 95 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas
Some time ago, I must have filled out a survey or signed some stupid online petition or something, because I get junk mail from the American Family Association.  I recently got an email asking me to boycott Dick's Sporting Goods because they won't prominently display "Merry Christmas".  I'm not really offended by a store not having prominent "Merry Christmas" displays.  People shouldn't go to stores for spiritual displays. 

See, the reason I would go to Dick's is if they happen to have something I'm looking for as a gift and it's a great price.  This is purely the secular celebration of Christmas; I'm not going there for spiritual reasons.  I would prefer they used the phrase Merry Christmas, but I'm not offended by their not saying it.  If they told me to "eat sh*t and die", you can bet I wouldn't go back, but if they're neutral about "Merry Christmas", I'm OK with that. 

Here's where it gets a little dicey.  If there was a Bass Pro or Cabela's in town (both of whom got an "A+" rating from the AFA for saying Merry Christmas a lot) and a Dick's Sporting Goods, I would go to the first two because I'd prefer to go to someone with comparable merchandise and comparable price that was friendlier to my spiritual side.  It creates a more cozy environment and a smart retailer doesn't run off customers.  But life in 21st century America is plenty hostile to Christianity and a "happy holidays" from a store just isn't worth getting all worked up over.

By the way, a mere five hours after the AFA email asking me to boycott Dick's, I got a second email canceling the boycott.  They swear they're going to say Merry Christmas all the time. 

As we plunge further into the Christmas season, take time to enjoy it and your loved ones.  If you feel a need to get some perfunctory gift for folks you'd rather not give to, I say don't.  That's some sort of bizarre social ritual, not Christmas.  Don't put yourself in debt for Christmas; even if it means the kids get a "meager" holiday.  It won't hurt them and may just help them.  If you're one of the 45% who recently said they'd just as soon skip the whole thing - I say skip it.  It's still a federal holiday, so you have that going for you. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Just What Are They Regulating, Anyway?

On July 21, 2010, the president signed into law the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, usually just referred to as Dodd-Frank, after these two clowns, I mean, respectable former statesmen.
Although it's not completely clear what effects it will have - the regulations that it requires haven't been fully implemented, or (as I've heard) haven't even all been written yet - we are beginning to see some of its effects.  This week, John Stossel reports that the Federal Government sued to stop Intrade, the innovative prediction company, for being an illegal "commodity options seller".  Intrade responded by closing access to US-based account holders and telling them to get out. 
"We are sorry to announce that due to legal and regulatory pressures, Intrade can no longer allow U.S. residents to participate in our real-money prediction markets," the company said in a statement Monday evening.

Intrade said it is "strongly" urging U.S. residents to "immediately" start to close down their accounts. The company said U.S. investors must close out all open predictions before 3 a.m. ET on December 23.

If U.S. residents don't close out their positions before the deadline, Intrade said it will do so at what the company deems fair value as of the daily session close that day.
Not familiar with Intrade?  Intrade, (who echoes Flounder in Animal House by saying "Nothing is Over Until We Decide It is"), is a company based in Dublin, Ireland operating on a model developed by DARPA.  The model is that investors betting real money on various future outcomes will be better predictors of future events than pundits, and other "experts".  Account holders literally bet on future events, such as elections, the US going to war with Iran (Before Dec. 31, 2013 - 35% at the moment) or that Any Country Using the Euro will drop it Before Dec. 31, 2013 - 34.1% at the moment,

As Stossel says:
In English: the government says that many of the things Intrade allows people to predict - everything from what the price of gold will be in the future to whether the U.S. will go to war soon - are legally considered "commodity options," and that Intrade broke the law because it isn't licensed to trade those. The penalty is $140,000 per violation.

In a press release, the CFTC's chief enforcer went out of his way to target "prediction markets":

"It is against the law to solicit U.S. persons to buy and sell commodity options, even if they are called ‘prediction' contracts, unless they are... traded on a CFTC-registered exchange... Today's action should make it clear that we will intervene in the ‘prediction' markets, wherever they may be based."
Why doesn't Intrade just get a license to be an exchange?  They tried and the government won't give it to them!  Similarly, when a large, established American company applied to get into that market, the refused them, too.  Stossel, again:
The pompous CFTC enforcer claims that the regulation "is important for a number of reasons, including that it enables the CFTC to police market activity."

Please. These regulations don't help police market activity. When people make money on Intrade, Intrade sends them the money. There are no allegations of fraud. Customers are happy with Intrade, judging by increased activity on the site (over $50 million was bet about whether Obama or Romney would win.)
So while Dodd-Frank may have nothing to do with preventing the coming derivatives apocalypse, we can see that they're hard at work stopping less threatening markets. Sorta like their weird raw milk fetish

Monday, November 26, 2012

When You Need an Envelope

A friend introduced me to the world of the TAILS distribution of Linux and secure, anonymous internet usage under the TOR Project.  I took a vacation day today (if one short week is good, two short weeks are better!) and played around with for a few hours.  You could spend a lot of time at the TOR project, and all of it would be well spent.

Here's the deal.  That TAILS link (The Amnesic Incognito Live System) leads you to a distribution of TAILS, currently, 0.14.  That page is complete information for getting started, and the download itself is an .iso file, the kind used for either creation of a CD or DVD (from Windoze, as most are, use something like ImgBrn to burn the image) or to write to a USB drive that's at least 2 GB.  The TAILS link has instructions and link to a method of transferring the .iso file to a USB memory stick.  My Staples had these 4 gig sticks for $4 in bucket by the door a couple of months ago.  I can literally lose these in a shirt pocket.
Why you want a memory stick, especially today's tiny ones like this, is that you can stick it in your pocket and always have a secure computer to work from, if you can reboot.  The computer, of course, has to be where you have to access to reboot it and force it into setup or show other Boot Options.  On your PC, probably where you'll use this the most for now, you'll want to ensure you can boot from a USB drive - on a Dell, usually pressing F12 or F2 when prompted will allow you to choose your boot device.  This table can help you find what you need to press for your PC, if you've forgotten.  If you can't boot from a USB stick, but can boot from a DVD, there's nothing wrong with booting from that.  I recommend the USB stick, though, because everything you are running starts on that device, and the USB stick is simply much, much faster than a DVD, and a DVD won't fit in your pocket! 

So what do you get?  TAILS boots into a Debian based Linux that looks remarkably like Windows - it's the Gnome interface to Linux that Ubuntu used to use a few years ago.  There's even a "look like XP camouflage" option for internet cafes and places where you want to blend in like everyone else.  You don't have to choose a password while booting but I recommend you do - you're assigning yourself as Super User or Administrator in Windows-speak and giving yourself permission to access your full Windows hard drive and any other file shares under Windows (I haven't tried to connect to my network with it).  When you're booting into TAILS, it asks you if you want further options; Yes prompts you for a password.  It doesn't have to be any password you use anywhere else on the PC - it's for the OS only.  You'll have a browser (Ice Weasel = Fire Fox clone), an email client (CLAWS = Thunderbird), a communicator (Pidgin), and you'll have several "Best of Linux" programs installed - GIMP, Open Office, and a fully functioning system.

All of your actions - web use, emails, anything, is run through anonymizers.  Web searches go through Startpage.  Your address is blocked.  Security is built in from the ground up.  All to keep you anonymous. The "Amnesic" part in TAILS is because the system forgets everything you've done when you shut it down.  Pull that USB drive and it's deaf, dumb and blind.  What you sacrifice for this security is speed - TOR works by bouncing your packets around between different relays, and this slows things.  Without running speed test web sites, I'd estimate that loading this blog took about 10x longer than when I'm using Windows - or my FireHD from across the house.  Of course, let's never forget that it's easier to crack the user than crack the encryption, as XKCD so brilliantly put it:

It might be worth your time to read, or re-read, this.  Should you find yourself in some sort of dystopian banana republic and need to get anonymous messages to friends and co-workers, this could well be your ticket. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Speaking of Fixing Junk

I spent today catching up on some things I wanted to do on the holiday weekend.  It seems I never get everything done I want to do on any holiday, but I mixed this "work" with some goofing off and sleeping late, so I can live with not getting everything done. 

One of the things I wanted to do was take a look at a pair of cheapo iPhone chargers that have died on me.  Has everyone seen Dilbert's take?
As always, Dilbert is pretty much a documentary.  Both of these chargers plug into the car's 12V system (which is nominally 13.6V) and convert it to 5V DC at 1A - the USB charging "standard".  Both of them died while in my car, keeping my iPhone 4s topped up on the 3 hour trip over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house.  (I was using streaming radio, so the phone by itself may not last that long on its batteries).  Both died about halfway.  Not even two hours of operation.  Both gave off a tell-tale smell that all technicians know - burnt electronics.

Since we're talking about fixing things, I thought I'd share a look inside them.  They are typical of the unrepairable items you're surrounded by.  They are similar in design and use a single integrated power supply controller circuit.  Here's the iCrap charger with an obvious indication of being blown:
and here's a close up of the blown component:
Yes, that's a seriously overheated spot on the side of the IC. Pretty foregone conclusion that the part is toast. 

And that's the problem.  If the system is down, that's unrepairable.  If the infrastructure is still in place, I might be able to buy one of those parts.  Yeah, I'm guessing it would still be cheaper to buy a new charger.  If this design was made with discrete transistors, or older technology that's more widely available than these one-chip wonders, it would be easier to fix.  But then it would be more expensive to produce, and would be harder to fit in the nice little lighter plug package it's in.  They don't use these parts to be perverse, they do it to hit a price point people like. 

In this magnified view, you can read the part number for the IC: it's RT8250.  I've never heard of a company that uses RT in its numbers, but searching the web for that part number brings me to a free archive of datasheets and I have the datasheet downloaded.  Turns out RT is "Richtek Technology Corporation" - whoever that is.  Likewise, the other one was an RT part, and RT34063A.  The second one uses fewer parts but is otherwise very similar. 

Unrepairable?  How much of a scrounger are you?  While I couldn't make this work with the existing design, I could put in a different regulator and take advantage of the form factor that includes the USB plug and car lighter plug.  At this point, I'm probably just going to toss them , but it is worth thinking about what to do if there are no cheap/widely available replacements and how I'd generate something to do the same function. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

More On Soldering

No, not "look at that moron soldering".

Soldering is a big topic, and I was specifically thinking of soldering electronics assemblies.  In general, soldering is a method of joining metal pieces with a filler metal that melts at a lower temperature than the metals do.  This doesn't convey much information: many metals and techniques can fill that definition, and even worse, the terminology itself is used almost randomly.  A somewhat arbitrary divider is to refer to process that take place below about 800F as soldering or soft soldering, and processes that take place at higher temperatures as brazing.  Soldering copper pipes uses a silver-alloy solder and requires a torch to achieve the melting points, but isn't called brazing.  Jewelry uses alloys that melt fairly close to the melting point of the metals being soldered.  Silversmiths often use different grades of silver solder with different melting points; "easy" solder melts at 1240F and flows at 1325, while "hard" solder melts at 1365 and flows at 1450F.  Gold alloys will melt at higher temperatures.  Yet they refer to this as soldering, not brazing. 

Electronics assemblies are usually soldered with a tin alloy, historically tin-lead, which melts at a around 365 F.  The exact temperature depends on the alloy chosen, and the most common alloys have been 60-40 or 63-37 (tin/lead percentage).  As I've talked about before, the European Union has forced electronics manufacturers to use lead free processes, and one characteristic of those alloys is that they require higher temperatures than the common tin-lead solder.  I would highly, Highly, HIGHLY (enough emphasis for you?) recommend that you solder any electronics you are going to repair with a lead-containing solder.  It should not be difficult to find surplus spools available at swap meets, ham radio conventions (hamfests) or just about any place you might get old electronics.  A small spool will last a hobbyist a lifetime.  And never, Never, NEVER use an acid core solder on electronics.  Either use a rosin-core solder, or use a separately applied flux and solder without a core. 

Follow the same common sense precautions around solder as with ammunition: you don't want to handle lead alloys and things you put in your mouth.  Wash your hands after you solder, just as you wash them after shooting, reloading, or casting bullets.  Don't eat while soldering.  If you're a smoker, don't smoke while handling solder because lead residue on your hands gets an express ticket into your lungs and circulation.  You wouldn't smoke and reload, right?  The same goes for the electronics you're working on.  It probably has lead on it, too. 

The most dangerous aspect of soldering is that 400 or 500 degree soldering iron tip.  I guarantee you will find it in the worst possible ways, from time to time.  Yes, I have a drawer full of those T-shirts.  I'm the only person I know who has burned their ear with a soldering iron (hey - I was 13). 

Tools?  As I mentioned there are many good instructions online for how to solder, but let me point out a few things.  A soldering gun is going to be nearly worthless for electronics.  Something like this was "da bomb" when I was 13.  As electronics has shrunk, they've become essentially obsolete. 
Add caption
Soldering pencils, as thin profile irons are often called, are much more useful.  The cheap ones are "open loop" - no temperature control and simply run 25W or so to heat a tip.  This is OK for casual use, and maybe even building some things, but I'd recommend you don't get one unless there's no other option.  There are models with a thermostatic control like this Weller station that are very useful for most everything you'd want to do.  The advantage of the thermostatic control is that they automatically turn up the power when you need it; like soldering something to a larger piece of copper or wire that sucks the heat away.  Likewise, they don't overheat and burn the soldering tip because of the temperature control.  The tips are interchangeable, going from wider, chisel points, to tiny pointed tips for today's surface mount components.  On a power supply, for example, you may have a large component that needs a lot of power to remove, next to smaller parts.  You just change the tip for task at hand. 

You will rarely splice wires and solder them together.  I did a piece on Working with Wiring some time ago, and recommended using either crimp joints or wire nuts.  I stand by that.  You might solder large copper wires together building an antenna.  Those can tax the big soldering guns.  Crimp if you can, solder if you must.  The previous owner of my boat spliced wires by just wrapping them around each other and covering in vinyl tape.  Be better than that.  I spent a day cutting those apart, stripping wire and crimping connections.

Modern electronics is small.  Got a dead thumb drive you can take apart to look at?  Soldering surface mount parts is slightly harder than the larger leaded parts.  With a leaded part, you can stuff it through holes in a Printed Wiring Board, and spread the leads a little.  That usually gave enough resistance to falling out that you could turn the board over and solder it.  Surface mount parts, in addition to being tiny, don't stick to the board.  I generally have to hold it down with a tool of some sort, usually sharp tweezers.  At home, a toothpick or X-acto knife edge will hold it while you solder one end.  Be gentle; it's easy to play tiddly winks with those parts!  (Yup, got that T-shirt, too). 
I really can't tell what size those parts are, but chances are those unmarked beige-ish components (capacitors) are no more than 0.12" long and .06" wide.  That's large by today's standards, where many resistors and capacitors are .040"x.020" - 1/3 that size.  Or smaller.

Assuming you can't get a microscope, get a decent magnifying headset, like an Optivisor.  And, yes, they really are better than the cheaper plastic ones you can find on eBay. 

You never want to rely on solder for a mechanical joint, and the worst belief you can have is the old saying, "the bigger the blob the better the job".  Yeah, you can have too little solder, but it's difficult if you have a connection.  Too much isn't awful, either - most of the parts in that photo have too much solder.  Apply the tip of the iron to where the part and the PWB touch, heat both of them, and then flow enough solder onto it to fill the joint.  You're trying to create a conductive joint that will last, not create artwork.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Importance of Doing Things

Can you build things from piles of lumber, steel, aluminum or bricks?  Can you fix broken things?  Can you create new things?  Can you look at something that someone else created and see better ways to do it? 

If you can answer "yes!" to at least one of those, you are one of the remnant that is going to rebuild things after the Coming Bad Times hit. 

I started out a series here on "the least you should know" about a host of subjects a while back and painted myself into a corner.  The least you should know about electronics varies depending on what you're trying to do.  Say your SHTF radio dies: if you're trying to find and replace a single defective component, you need a lot more knowledge and tools than if you're trying to determine if you replace something like the video card or a power supply in a PC.  That knowledge and tools may not carry over to fixing a PC at all - just as knowing how to fix a PC may not help you fix that radio.  

When I was 13, a friend had a portable radio that had stopped working.  Completely naive, I said I'd look at it for them and fix it if I could.  Now, I've got to tell you I had never fixed a radio in my life and I literally had no idea what I was doing.  The strange part is that I fixed it - pretty much just by observing things.  A wire from the battery holder had broken off a solder joint onto the circuit board.  I saw a solder joint with broken strands of wires sticking out of it, and a wire that looked like it matched.  So I held the wire there and the radio sprang to life.  I soldered down the wire and a junk radio was rescued.  This sort of thing is still possible, and it required no knowledge of electronics, just a willingness to look around for clues and try things.  Could I have ruined the radio that way?  Put it this way, if I did, the radio came out of the garbage for me to try to fix; how much worse could I make it?  

Ever had a car not start?  At the heart of things, a gasoline internal combustion engine needs two things to run: fuel and a spark.  If the computer is messed up, the car will run really badly, but more than likely it's a matter of finding which one of those is missing and why, so you can get it going again.  If the car runs really poorly, maybe limping along still gets you where you're going.

These are both examples of the topic of field expedient repairs.  That seems to me to be the important thing to know.  And this is an enormous field in itself.  What do you do if your water pump's housing cracks and there is simply no replacement?  Can you weld it together?  Even if it fails once a year, that's better than not having one. What would you do if you found that solder joint with a handful of broken wire strands hanging out, and you had a battery wire in the other hand.  Could you solder it?

So let's start there.  Do you know how to solder? Take a look around - there's a bunch of web pages, like Instructables, that teach some aspects of soldering.  We'll talk about it in a day or two.  And start looking for a Metcal station.  I picked up one like this at a hamfest for $100, a few years ago.  I became really sold on these when I used mine to solder wires outdoors, to ground, on cool day - a task that used to tax my large soldering gun. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

It's Virtual Shopping Day!

When I got home from work and started downloading my email, Thunderbird told me it was downloading 73 emails.  73?

I'm not that popular.

The 73 emails were, with less than 10 exceptions, all ads saying "start your cyber-shopping now!"  I'll just load up my virtual cart here...
No.  No, I won't.  I've somehow managed to acquire a head cold and don't feel like sitting here thinking hard.  Maybe later this weekend. 

A happy and blessed Thanksgiving to all.  May all of you enjoy a wonderful day with your families and friends.  Or by yourself, if that's your day.  Thanks to the EMTs, Nurses, Doctors, LEOs, Firefighters and others who work Thanksgiving so we can have the day off.  Thanks to the military men and women who keep the barbarians from the gates and give us the chance to relax.  For now, eat, drink, and be merry. Who knows what next year brings? 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Little Geekery

The last few days have been pretty depressing to write, and to read, I'm sure.  I want sitemeter to give me a "slitmeter" - how many people read my stuff and slit their wrists.  So I want to write about  something more fun tonight.

Most people know the art of M.C. Escher, a 20th century Dutch artist known for his mathematically inspired drawings, many of which depict impossible objects.  A famous example is Belvedere, drawn in 1958 and shown here:
At first glance, this looks perfectly normal.  Then you notice that the columns that start in the front actually end at the back and vice versa.  Some of his drawings are impossible.  Look closely at the people on the stairs in Relativity:
Some Escher drawings, a Penrose Triangle for example, can be made into real objects by using forced perspective: they look the way Escher drew them only when viewed from one very specific angle.

Professor Gershon Elber at Israel's Technion Institute of Technology has studied the drawings and developed ways to actually make models of these.  See his ‘Escher for Real‘ project at the Computer Science Department.  Dr. Elber has created a video that has garnered a massive following.


EDIT 2050 EST:  I forgot the link to "It's A 3D World" - lots of good stuff to look at there!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Paul Krugman Missing 48 Hours With No Trace

We here at The Silicon Graybeard have an exclusive story to report.  We have been informed Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize winner in Economics and Opinion Page writer for the New York Times went missing for almost 48 hours.  He was first reported missing Saturday, after submitting an editorial to the times calling for the return of the 91% tax bracket, implying that the extreme rate was responsible for the prosperity of the 1950s and early 1960s. 

NYPD investigators located Dr. Krugman, who somehow became trapped in a large brown paper grocery bag in his apartment and was unable to analyze a way out of the bag.  Authorities suggest that a few more hours of being unable to think his way out of a paper bag would have proven fatal to Krugman, 59. 

Over the top?  I don't think so.  Krugman is the poster child for more Keynesian spending and completely opposite my way of thinking, but this one ought to be about as hard as finding your way out of a paper bag.  The US was preeminent in the post WWII years despite those tax rates, not because of them.  The reason we had sustained economic growth is that Japan and Europe had been bombed back to the stone age and not only couldn't compete with us, they depended on our factories producing the goods to keep them alive and restore their infrastructure.  The rest of the world (rural China, the rest of Asia, South America and Africa) were either heavily damaged by WWII or didn't have enough infrastructure to compete with us.  The US grew to superpower size and status because we didn't fight any of WWII on the mainland, and precious little on "home turf" at all!  If we had a 91% top rate in today's competitive world, we'd be collapsed and gone in within a year.  Perhaps that's his goal. 

Obviously Krugman has never seen this graph which shows that since 1980, as the tax bracket on the richest 1% has gone down, the larger the share of the national tax burden they've paid.  It's not like this is secret information, though. 
Nor has he seen Hauser's work, which demonstrates that tax revenue - as a percent of GDP - remains remarkably constant regardless of tax rates.  This data goes back to the 1950s and shows the 91% rate he pines for.  The revenue was the same; all that the high rate did was punish those people who were paying it and keep GDP from growing. 

But it turns out Krugman isn't the only big name idiot out and about today.  Turbo Timmy Geithner says we should eliminate debt ceilings.  It seems Timmy, bless his pointy little ears, is not real good on hard data and facts.  Fact is we have never not raised the debt ceiling, so he already has his way.  Then he comes up with this knee slapper:
"We've had 100 years of experience with it, and I think only once--last summer--did people decide to use it to threaten default on the American credit for the first time in history as a tool for political advantage"
As I said at the time, not raising the debt ceiling is not default, it simply means we can't borrow more money.  Default means not paying the interest on the debt and we were never at risk of that. 
And quoting John Lott from that July '11 post:
Time after time, congress and the president have failed to agree on a debt ceiling increase and still there has been no default. Examples include: December 1973, March 1979, November 1983, December 1985, August 1987, November 1995, December 1995 to January 1996, and September 2007.
I gotta tell you, I'm not used to this much prime idiocy in one day's headlines.  It sure has been a bumper crop of bull crap this year!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Economics As a Con Game

In a comment to the previous post (here) I mentioned something that I think needs a little development.  I said economics is partly a con game.
The complicating thing that makes it hard to predict is that Keynesian economics is a "con game". If other governments lose confidence in the dollar, it's over. On the other hand, if they keep believing in the dollar long after it's reasonable to, I think the global house of cards can stand quite a while. Some debtors will be happy to get the X dollars they're owed - even if those dollars are worth 10% of what they were worth when they signed the deal. They can do that by just digitizing a decimal place or two. Anyone living off savings will be ruined, but - hey! - omelet, eggs, you know the story. Sucks to be the egg.
This is an idea that popped into my head fully formed about 35 years ago,  during the nasty inflation roller coaster of the 70s.  The example that occurred to me was to imagine every talking head getting on TV and saying a recession is coming; if enough people stopped spending because they thought they were going to lose their jobs, that slow down could start a recession.  I believe the media and democrats (redundant, I know) tried to do this to Bush 43 - remember "the worst economy since Hoover" campaign?  Likewise, if everyone thought inflation was coming and spent ahead, thinking whatever they need won't get any cheaper, they could cause some economic growth.  I think some of the growth in the economy today is exactly that: preppers.  People buying food and other supplies because they see really bad times coming.  How ironic would it be if their preparing for disaster forestalled it!  It's one reason Ben Bernanke will look you in the eye and swear things are working to plan and everything is getting better: if people lose confidence in the dollar, it could collapse in minutes. 

Disclaimer:  I'm probably not being strictly correct in saying "Keynesian economics is a con game" - it's economies that don't depend on a commodity standard, be it gold, silver or the stone rings from Yap Island.

It's a question I've talked about many times before: what's a dollar worth?  Exactly what you'll give in exchange for one.  No country in the world, certainly, no major economy, is on a gold standard (that "barbaric relic" as Keynes called it).  So why does it take about $1.28 to buy a Euro today?  The market believes that the Euro, even with the ongoing collapse of several EU economies, is worth more than a dollar.  If anything, it shows just how little they think of us.  The market doesn't include the devaluation of any currency over long periods of time, it's just "what will you take for that dollar today?".  The dollar appreciated in value over the course of the 19th century.  Since the Federal Reserve was created, it has declined in value by 95%. 

This interdependency of countries and complex dependency on individuals is why it's hard to predict how things will work out in the next few months to few years.  Do the collapsing currencies prop each other up, or pull each other down?  Does it fail as a cascade?  Sort of a giant set of falling dominoes?  It's pretty hard for me to believe they'll hold each other up. 

As an aside, today was the final gun show before Christmas here in the Silicon Swamp.  We didn't need anything in particular, but we dropped by, partly curious to see how busy it would be.  The crowd seemed bigger than it did before the election, but it wasn't a turn away crowd.  I heard one vendor telling his booth partner it was the busiest hour he has ever had at a show and simply had to sit down.  I heard more talk in the aisles about getting ready for trouble.  Everyday people who think something bad is coming.  And I spent an hour chatting with an engineer I used to work with a decade ago, who was talking about how to store enough food, water and supplies to not have to even open the door and go out for a few months. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Apocalypse One of These Days

There's a big, nasty question that several of us have been asking since the election: just how long do we have until the economic meltdown that's coming.  Is it once we get into the New Year?  Is it years away?  I don't believe we have 10 years, despite the CBO claiming 2027 before the collapse.  I don't think there's enough significant digits for them to know. 

One of our big problems is the things we've tried to fix the economy. Bayou Renaissance Man links to Karl Denninger at the Market Ticker in "Math Wins".  Karl is on a mission to get everyone to realize monetary inflation is a tax.
The "Money Fairy", that is, deficit spending and/or monetary games such as QE are exactly identical to a tax on the economy.
Of course, even Ben Bernanke himself has said as much (almost at the end of that video: skip to the 2 minute mark unless you love hearing Ron Paul talk). 

The coming collapse can't be stopped by fixing the "fiscal cliff" we keep hearing about.  Letting the tax rates go up will raise about $50 billion dollars - 12 days worth of deficit.  How much good will this do?  There's an experiment you can do to demonstrate the effectiveness of this, if you happen to live in Hawaii, try pissing on an erupting volcano to stop it.  It doesn't matter what the tax rate is, you can't fix the problem that way, spending must be cut and the big entitlements addressed.  Social Security, and Medicare themselves take up all revenue, so we decided to double down and add a couple of trillion in defict spending for Obamacare.  As always, the debt ceiling will be raised, and, as Mark Steyn puts it:
In the weeks ahead, Democrats and Republicans will reach a triumphant “bipartisan” deal to avert the fiscal cliff through some artful bookkeeping mechanism that postpones Taxmageddon for another year, or six months, or three, when they can reach yet another triumphant deal to postpone it yet again. Harry Reid has already announced that he wants to raise the debt ceiling — or, more accurately, lower the debt abyss — by $2.4 trillion before the end of the year, and no doubt we can look forward to a spectacular “bipartisan” agreement on that, too. It took the government of the United States two centuries to rack up its first trillion dollars in debt. Now Washington piles on another trillion every nine months. Forward!
It has more to do with the enormous, gaping, largest-in-history deficit hole we dug ourselves into.  Steyn, again (RTWT):
In the course of his first term, Obama increased the federal debt by just shy of $6 trillion and in return grew the economy by $905 billion. So, as Lance Roberts at Street Talk Live pointed out, in order to generate every dollar of economic growth the United States had to borrow about five dollars and 60 cents. There’s no one out there on the planet — whether it’s “the rich” or the Chinese — who can afford to carry on bankrolling that rate of return. ... In order to avoid the public humiliation of a failed bond auction, the U.S. Treasury sells 70 percent of the debt it issues to the Federal Reserve — which is to say the left hand of the U.S. government is borrowing money from the right hand of the U.S. government. It’s government as a Nigerian e-mail scam, with Ben Bernanke playing the role of the dictator’s widow with $4 trillion under her bed that she’s willing to wire to Timmy Geithner as soon as he sends her his bank-account details.
Stirring conclusion also to Steyn:
Americans as a whole have joined the rest of the Western world in voting themselves a lifestyle they are not willing to earn. The longer any course correction is postponed the more convulsive it will be. Alas, on Tuesday, the electorate opted to defer it for another four years. I doubt they’ll get that long.
And that's as precise as I can get.  We are the brokest nation in history, so far past broke, you can't even see it with binoculars.  We're creating money out of thin air to buy our bonds to make it look like we're not just creating money out of thin air.  Does anyone honestly think the Chinese, Japanese and our other creditors don't realize that?   And what do you think will happen if they start to act on that?  The Chinese government is smart.  They probably won't destroy us before they've gotten their money's worth.  They may just round up people to work at Foxconn, the Apple factory where workers are so happy, they leap to death from the nearest balcony.
Kilauea.  I recommend drinking a lot of beer before you go try to put this out... 

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Latest Menace - Your Dishwasher

If you have an old electric dishwasher, it's about time to either rebuild it with as many new parts as you can get, or have your favorite appliance repair place do it for you.

As of May 2013, dishwasher manufacturers are not going to be allowed to make or sell a machine that works, according to this story at the Laissez Faire Club

Why?  The environment, of course.  It's for the children. 
The excuse is energy and water conservation of course. The presumption is that consumers and manufacturers have no interest whatsoever in saving energy and water even though everyone pays for both and, for the most part, our usage determines what we pay. The reason that companies and consumers have not adopted the new standards on their own is that they are incompatible with clean dishes.

There’s a pretty good chance that your current dishwasher using 6.5. gallons in a load. In the future, only 5 gallons of water can be used in the course of washing dishes. Maybe the manufacturers can ramp up the intensity of spray? Think again: new “energy efficiency” standards require that they use even less energy. Less energy plus less water equals dirty dishes. Plus, the new energy standards will substantially increase the cost of the appliance, taking it out of the affordability range for elderly people and the poor.
The Regulations are your typical legalese/bureaucrat speak and painful to read.  The final ruling is a pdf here.  

The fed.documents show that the average cost of these inferior dishwashers is going to be $48 more than the dishwashers which work better.  The annual energy savings will get you back those $48 in 11.8 years, or not quite $4.07 per yearThe typical dishwasher appears to last somewhere between 8 and 12 years so some owners won't ever see economic payback.  Wow.  Sure am glad Fed.Gov is looking out for us.

Commenter Sofie Miller of the George Washington University Regulatory Center writes:
“Thousands of Americans will spend time washing dishes by hand as the price of dishwashers increases,” she writes. “The value of time reallocated to washing dishes by hand totals between $241.4 million and $963.6 million, or almost $1 billion, even at a very conservative estimate. The cost of this time, which will most likely be borne by low-income and elderly Americans on fixed incomes, was not taken into account in the Department’s analysis of the direct final rule.”
I've written on the problems with single-agenda agencies like the DOE when I examined the problems with their rulings on top loading washing machines. 
The DOE, of course, is driven by the agenda that energy efficiency is the single most important characteristic in any appliance, and if you consumers don't always buy the most efficient, then you're just too stupid and need to be nudged into the right choices.  Consumers, however, seem to consider a wider variety of factors in choosing things to buy, not just the energy efficiency.  In reaction to how consumers were not always buying what their algorithms concluded were the most efficient machines, the DOE created rules that effectively eliminated top loading washing machines - protested by almost 3:1 among consumers.  One study showed that the average family does fewer loads of wash per week than the assumptions built into the rules did.
The same problem with the decision being based on assumptions that may not be realistic are here in this dishwasher study, as well.

Back to the Laissez Faire Club article for a comment on dishwashers and clothes washing machines:
These two machines together were the greatest boon to American women in the twentieth century, doing far more for women’s liberation than all the legislation and political activism. They created that greatest gift, free time. They allowed women to emerge as full public citizens, to spend time with their kids instead of slaving with household routines, and created the space in life to cultivated the mind and civilization itself.

The regulators want to drive us back, back, back, imprisoning everyone in life of drudgery so that the “earth” can flourish and the rest of us languish, die, and be buried in soiled clothes.
 Back to the... past, not future.  Coming soon. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thought for the Day

It occurred to me recently that when I was in high school and college, I had no desire at all to study history.  It was  boring, and totally uninteresting, just dull recitation of dates and names.

Now when I read history, it scares the living crap out of me.

The difference from 40 years of seeing how history may not exactly repeat, but it rhymes too well.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Odds, Ends, Rambling

On the Red/Blue Map and Where We Go From Here.

By now, I'm going to assume everyone has seen this map of the red/blue distribution in the last election.
I find some surprising pieces here.  New Hampshire more blue than Connecticut?  "Live Free or Die"?  Not so much.  Most of the map shows the overall tendency for blue counties to be the big populations, as I wrote about last year, but upstate New York, Minnesota, and western Mass?  Pretty low population density, I think.  I assume that swath through the Carolinas into Mississippi is the old cotton belt - very poor families on all sorts of assistance.  Montana and Texas are scary, and South Dakota is bluer than I expected.  Look at how the pushing of the FSA from Mexico into southern Texas is turning it blue.  How much longer do they have as a sane place?

Someone, I think Victor Davis Hanson, was saying the Democrats have successfully put together a coalition of the bottom 47% and the uber rich.  Look at California, on the sea side of the fault line;. These are the Mark Zuckerbergs and other techno-millionaires and billionaires.  The Republicans have become just the middle class, say $50k up to $200k per year, and small business owners who are constantly in the vise.  Maybe call it a turnip press after the old "you can't get blood out of a turnip". 

Another thing that strikes me is just how similar the map is to the one from the in 2004 I posted last year.  I think we've all pondered that between the two sides, north of 2 billion dollars was spent on this campaign "season", and yet the balance of power is exactly the same as it was two years ago.  The exact number of seats may be different (I honestly haven't checked) but 2 Billion Dollars for changes along the margins. 

As for what direction Obama will take, expect the maximum thuggery you can get.  Socialism for the masses, private accumulation of as much plunder as they can get.  Expect cap and trade.  The now-defunct Chicago Climate Exchange trading house was designed to get as big a piece of that multi-trillion dollar action into as many friends' pockets as possible.  I expect the same racket in a different building.  Obamacare can not and will not be stopped - the system designed from the ground up to fail and force us into a single-payer NHS.  Destruction of their voters?  They can just blame it on the Republicans, just like Democrats successfully blamed it on them when they had full majorities in both houses.  Destruction of the country?  Who cares?

On The Secession Movement

Of course, we've all seen the stories about the states requesting to secede.  Clearly this is about as official and meaningful as that email from a Nigerian bank.  Seems like it's just a way to get on the White House enemies list (or Predator kill list).  And it raises the questions of whether any state could survive on its own.  Texas is something like the 15th largest economy in the world - could they put up a defense industry that could stand the Northern Aggression they'd get this time around?  Could there be an amicable separation?  Take away the spending addicts money?  Can you amicably take away a heroin addict's supply? 

Like it or not, we all ride this glider into the dirt.  Or the cliff. 

Speaking of which, did you see that Putin says Obama is coming over to see him?  I assume we'll get to see the flexibility he famously promised Medvedev about.  Our nuclear arsenal down to zero?  He has said that should be a goal. 

The Dragon's Teeth Have Been Sown

As Velociworld put it
I don't see the wheel turning for 10 or 12 years, but when it does it will be an outraged and vengeful Millennial demographic, likely libertarian with no care whatsoever for social issues, that will be dragging all of our asses, Democrat and Republican alike, off to be shot.

As we sow the dragon's teeth, so shall we reap. All of us. I'm surprised my children even consider me a human being at this point.
Maybe not so much libertarian as the 2022 incarnation of Occupy Whatever, but that's quibbling over flourishes when the melody is right.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Professional Journalists - Don't Try This At Home!

From ABC channel 7NEWS in Denver, for their 5 PM news cast, actually grabbed an image of Paula Broadwell's book that had been altered from "All In" to "All Up In My Snatch":

If you or I grabbed a Photoshopped image off the web and ran with it, well, we're just amateurs.  We're not real journalists, as snobby Juan Williams flung at Michelle Malkin

Enough of that.  While I like Vanderleun's take at American Digest, I want to go in a different direction.  Go read the whole thing there - and get a look at the cast of characters who now appear to have ruined their lives.  At least the General, and Mrs. Broadwell, both of whom are married and have families that have been hurt.

Count me among those very suspicious of all of this breaking now.  I've had a slew of security clearances in the past, including the types he'd be required to have.  They don't just look at your credit report (although that's one of the first places they look); they go and interview neighbors, friends, go way back into your past, "talk with your 3rd grade teacher" and follow you around town, as the jokes go.  It seems highly unlikely that investigators like the ones I've dealt with would miss something like this.  Granted, there isn't a month that goes by that I hear of some politician doing something that makes me remark to Mrs. Graybeard "if you or I did that, they'd pull our clearances so fast our heads would be like the other end of a lawnmower pull rope". But that's after they have the clearance. 

Why would the president and DOJ put a guy in charge of the CIA with an obvious security problem?  Quite simply: bargaining chip.  Should something involving the CIA come up so they need someone to sacrifice, you have him.  "You wouldn't want we should go public with this, would you?"  Petraeus had been on the ground in Libya himself and would likely be the go-to guy for what was going on there.  Getting rid of him may have been a ham-handed way to get him out of testifying in front of Congress.  He will most likely be subpoenaed anyway; several congress-critters have called for it. 

The timing simply just doesn't feel right.  But America loves a sex scandal, so you know it will be on the front page.  They may - accidentally - even report some of what happened in Libya.  If they can show it somehow involved the generals and their mistresses.  Picture "Petraeus and Broadwell in Benghazi Safe House" in large type on the newspapers.

As Small Dead Animals said,
"In retrospect, Ambassador Chris Stevens would have gotten more attention sending snotty e-mails to random citizens"

Or sleeping with a general.

Monday, November 12, 2012

QoTD - Voter Fraud Edition

Monster Hunter Nation isn't on my Frequent Reading List.  I know many of you will think even less of me for that than if I told you I'm not much of a beer drinker (my favorite underhanded compliment, "I couldn't think less of you").  Nevertheless, I stop by now and then, ran across this fantastic quote yesterday:
Yeah, about the voter fraud, really, Cleveland? You get 100% turn out in your inner city districts? I used to live in the inner city. I’m fairly certain you could hold a FREE all you can eat barbeque, with pony rides, a wet t-shirt contest featuring Playboy bunnies, and a Jay-Z/Led Zepplin/50 Cent/Kayne/Beyonce/Elvis/Sinatra/U2 concert, which handed out a free Obamaphone to every visitor, and you still wouldn’t get 100% turn out. That’s cool though, because Philly did even better, because after they threw out 70 of the court appointed observers, not only did their super record banana republic level turn out beat every possible expectation, they also voted 99% for Obama. But Colorado was not to be outdone, because they had ten democrat counties with over 100% turnout? That’s even better than Venezuela or Cuba! Bravo.

I’ll be honest. As an auditor I’m a little offended, because that is some ham fisted bullshit right there. Normally we have to at least do a little math and shuffle some papers to spot fraud, not just look at it and go “well, duh.” This is really irksome, when you look at the actual results of the election and realize that it would take only about half a million votes in total across three swing states to have changed the electoral college results…
I started out today looking for back up for these statements, and there are some strange stories out there: counties with more registered voters than residents, precincts with virtually 100% Obama voters (less surprising) or over 90% turnout.  Then I ran into reports that St. Lucie county, Florida (about a hundred miles south of the Silicon Swamp) had a 141% turnout.  It "turns out" that the number isn't what the reporters say it is - according to the Supervisor of Elections.  I don't have any particular reason to believe the SoE now that there are some corrupt-looking goings on there, but the explanation is plausible.  What she's explaining is a stupid procedure, but not too stupid for county government:
...(T)urnout percentages will show over 100% due to a two page ballot. the tabulation system (GEMS) provides voter turnout as equal to the total cards cast in the election divided by the number of registered voters. also note that some voters chose not to return by mail the second card containing the amendments.
The Florida ballot consisted of two cards, so if each card counts as one voter, then that means "only" 70.5% turnout if everyone turned in two cards.  But isn't even that strange? Granted it's not the Pennsylvania 95% turnout, but even in presidential elections, 60% is a big turnout.  With the last sentence, she's saying there's a number of people who only turned in one card. That could make the actual turnout over 100%, but we don't have enough information to know.   

In a couple of years, it will be just as important and just as "mainstream" as the birth certificate stuff.  Just noise. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

On Veteran's Day

There really isn't anything I can add to the quality writing exhibited around the blogs today.  I came of military age while the Viet Nam war was winding down and the draft switched over to a lottery system.  My number was high enough that they didn't get to me that year, and because no one in my family or group of friends had a history of enlisting, it simply never occurred to me.  I had one friend who went to the Air Force Academy, but that just seemed different.  So while I'm not a veteran, I have deep respect for those of you who are.  You allow me to sit here and write this. 

Read Lawyer with a Gun, who reproduces the great truths, so well stated by Father Dennis E. O'Brien, USMC:  
It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the soldier, not the organizer, who gave us the freedom to demonstrate
It is the soldier, who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag.
And whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

I've Got to Admit I Admire Obama

I've got to admit I admire Obama - in the same sense as I admire Ebola.  Or a great white shark.  All three are ruthless killers that will destroy you in a blink with no remorse whatsoever - because they're just doing what they do.  They attack over and over again, at any points they feel are weak.  I admire the ruthless efficiency.

Within hours of re-election, he moved to re-start the UN Small Arms Treaty which could implement gun control in the US that negates the 2nd amendment.  Before the election, Feinstein (always under armed guard, herself) announced that once he won, she'd introduce an assault weapons ban worse than the Clinton ban that expired in 2004.  One of the features we hear of is no grandfathering this time -which presumably means that the most popular rifle in America, the AR-15/M4 clones, would be confiscated.  Door to door raids to round up guns?  It would suck to be that SWAT team.  There's probably around 20 million of these in individual's hands to round up.   

I think the FBI statistics said that the last AWB may have influenced as much as 1% of crime.  
(A completely non evil AR-15 - instead of an Evil Black Rifle, it's a Cute Pink Rifle.)
This rifle is 100% legal in California because it is based on an "off-list" lower receiver made by Stag Arms and has no evil features at all, instead featuring a fixed stock instead of the evil collapsible stock, a muzzle brake in place of the vile flash-hider, and a MonsterMan Grip instead of the heinous and malicious plastic pistol grip.  The C Products magazine looks like a 30 round magazine body but is permanently modified to only allow 10 rounds. 
Whenever any sportsman's group warned that the lifelong gun grabbers, like Obama and Holder, wanted to eliminate private ownership, they'd tell us we're paranoid.  Now they're proving it, moving within hours of the election.  Don't lull yourself into thinking that it will never pass congress because the electorate has changed.  Doesn't matter if they don't care.  Remember, these are the guys who appointed Sotomayor and Kagen to the Supreme Court, both of whom lied under oath about gun rights and voted against us in the very first case that came to them.  Ever notice the administration's tendency to rule by executive order?  Bet on it. 

In the last debate, Obama said, "What I'm trying to do is to get a broader conversation about how do we reduce the violence generally. Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced. But part of it is also looking at other sources of the violence. Because frankly, in my hometown of Chicago, there's an awful lot of violence and they're not using AK-47s. They're using cheap handguns." 

Yeah, Chicago is the murder capital these days.  You have more of a chance of being killed there than as US military in Afghanistan.  The reality is that cheap handguns are not shooting kids by themselves.  The problem is the gang culture producing the feral kids that shoot other kids.  Until they address the fact that their stupid progressive policies have destroyed the culture these kids grew up in, and take steps to fix that, there's going to be a problem with violence.

And that's just one of the things he's done in the last few days.  Before the election, it's rumored Obama instructed the EPA to lighten up - best not to scare any Ohio or Pennsylvania voters - and prepare a November surprise.

Like most of you, surrender isn't in my style.  My hobby for years was hundred mile bike rides, biathlons or running.  Giving up when it hurts isn't my strongest point. That will probably get me killed soon, but for now we need to redouble our efforts.  Give to the gun organizations: NRA-ILA, GOA, NAGR, SAF, JPFO or your local equivalent of Florida Carry - whichever you want or all of them.  They all need to fight.  If you can only give to one, local is better. 

The Free Sh*t Army has the advantage that since they don't work they can occupy their congress critters offices or phone lines.  I have a good senator and an evil one.  The good one needs encouragement and reinforcement, the other needs discouragement. 

You may recall that I, along with thousands, said that whomever we elected president would probably not be able to stop the coming economic collapse, just that with Obama it was likely to come faster.  Nothing has changed.

Rig for collision.  Seriously bad times are on the way. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Why Are You Still Sitting There?

The word has gotten around that Tam has a bit of a problem and could use a little hand from the rest of us.  When I consider all the chuckles and genuine laughs I've gotten from View From the Porch, it's the least I can do to help.  We've never met in meatspace, and only exchanged a few comments, so it's not like we're friends.  But I read her stuff every day I'm near a computer.  Which is 99.9% of the time. 

If you like other incentives Borepatch links to Zercool who is raffling off a couple of sweet holsters and Life in 3D who has some nifty grips for something or other.  Basically, the story is everywhere and some folk have premiums of some sort.  <shrug> I don't care.  I'm not gonna do this for some sorta raffle.  If that blows your skirt up, go for it.  I went and stuck a few bucks in her tip jar because it's the right thing to do. You should, too.  For whatever reason.

(Besides, PayPal is under my real name, so she'll never know it was me!  Bwa-hahahahahahaha)

And speaking of making a donation - those of you not in Florida may leave now - the elections have consequences Chucky doll is running with scissors here.  Florida Carry reports
Generally pro-gun but anti-open carry State Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff (R-Fort Lauderdale) was defeated by rabidly anti-gun/anti-self-defense State Sen. Maria Sachs (D-Boca Raton).

State Rep. Chris Dorworth (R-Lake Mary), who sponsored Campus Carry and Open Carry legislation in 2011 and is in line to become House Speaker, is currently 37 votes behind his anti-gun challenger Mike Clelland (D) who wants to make it illegal to purchase ammunition in quantity or via the internet and has decried the private ownership of “Assault Weapons” and “Large Clips”.

Amidst the George Zimmerman Self-Defense trial and the media storm that surrounds it; the incoming Senate Democratic Leader, State Sen. Chris Smith (D-Fort Lauderdale), has been an outspoken critic of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” and Self-Defense Immunity laws and has even called for repeal of long standing “Castle Doctrine” protections.
Just as the Federal situation looks tenuous, with the prospect of fighting several battles at once, it looks like we're going to have to fight several battles here in state.  If you're in Florida, or care about it here, join or donate to Florida Carry. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Gleaming Candy-Like Button!

I think IMAO has the post of the day.  The setup is a movie called The Box.  I'll let Frank set it up:
You know a while ago they had that movie The Box about how a couple who were presented with a box that had a button in it, and if they pressed the button they got a million dollars but someone they didn’t know would die.
Frank sees it as a metaphor for government spending:
You have in front of you a button labeled “Free Stuff.” If you hit it, you can get all manners of free things from the government like food or birth control or vouchers for electric cars. But someone you don’t know will suffer. You don’t know who will suffer — or even how many. Businesses could be destroyed, lives ruined, whole industries could crumble. But you’ll get free stuff. Do you hit the button?
Go read and watch the video.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

These Are The Times That Try Men's Souls

A lot of folks have written about the election.  I'm sure you've read them.  I just have a few thoughts from my perspective.

First, boy, was I stupid to think that the polling organizations don't know what they're doing.  Yes, it didn't make sense to me why they were adjusting their samples like they were (and it still doesn't make sense), but whatever "secret sauce" they were adding, they got it about right.  In my biz, we refer to doing things based on "engineering judgement"; it's the summation of all your experience with similar systems.  I guess their adjustments were "pollsters' judgement" - although I did hear Scott Rasmussen say he had no idea how it would really turn out.

It was a bad day all the way around.  Here in Florida, conservative star Alan West is deep in recount (they jerry-mandered his district to engineer this).  We were unable to dump Senator Bill Nelson, a dependable rubber stamp for Obama.  I'll never forget the first time I sent him a letter about about something - he answered it about four months later with a curt brushoff.  An Orlando democrat known for insane histrionics, Alan Grayson, voted out in 2010, engineered a way back into the house.  There are local stories that the Orange County Democrats contributed big bucks to his eventual opponent during the Republican primary because they thought the guy Grayson eventually faced was more beatable.  Alcee Hastings, a Democratic representative from south Florida was re-elected by something like 85 to 15% over an NPA opponent.  So what?  He was a judge convicted of soliciting bribes in 1989, impeached, kicked out of his office.  After some time (presumably learning better criminal skills) he ran again and has been a fixture in office ever since.  He has a constant barrage of allegations of criminal or unethical behavior against him, but he keeps getting re-elected.

At some point, you have to say, "South Florida, if you keep electing criminals, don't be surprised when they rob you". 

Elsewhere, my personal favorite Mia Love was defeated in her bid for the House of Representatives - black Republican women get even less respect than white Republican women - in the same way black conservatives are attacked more than whites.

So what can we expect?  As Obama told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev,
"This is my last election," Obama said. "After my election I have more flexibility." 
Expect more flexibility.  More executive orders.  Expect a carbon tax, if not outright carbon trading (cap and trade) because Sandy was caused by Global Warmening, doncha know (H/T to Tam).    Of course you'll get more taxes and less economic growth.  It appears that's not a bug, it's intended.
Hauser's Law demonstrated.

Obamacare, of course, becomes the law of the land.  They can pass a few more bills to repeal it with no effect like the 30 or so they've done already, but they can't stop it.  More companies will drop their employees' health insurance, as intended - so the can ride to the rescue.  As planned.  This will, as sure as the sun rises in the east, hurt seniors, poor people, young kids with disabilities - anyone not on the peak of the "whole lives" healthcare system curve.   Gun control?  Sure.  Assault Weapons Ban?  Already on the table. Smith and Wesson (SWHC) was up 9.6% today and Sturm Ruger (RGR) was up 6.8%.  Already, reports of black rifles being sold out are coming in.
THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.