Saturday, May 31, 2014

Picasso's Blues Period

Note that I said his blues period, not his blue period.  Inspired by one painting in particular: 
Having a flare up of an elbow tendinitis tonight and it hurts to type, so I'll be a "man of few words".



Thursday, May 29, 2014

What Comes After $999 Trillion?

Easy answer: $1 quadrillion.  The world derivative bubble is headed there and it will be fascinating to see if it crosses the quadrillion dollar threshold before it bursts (all bubbles eventually pop).

According to the Bank of International Settlements (BIS), the world OTC derivative market expanded through the end of 2013 to a record $710 Trillion.  
OTC derivatives markets continued to expand in the second half of 2013. The notional amount of outstanding contracts totalled $710 trillion at end-2013, up from $693 trillion at end-June 2013 and $633 trillion at end-2012.
I should note that the BIS uses an accounting method that's different from some other organizations.  I don't find that to really be a terribly big deal because the important thing is the ability to compare year to year rather than count trillions; it's like the statement in corporate Annual Reports that the data has been handled in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and they explain if the method they used varied from the last year.  According to other accounting methods, though, we crossed that quadrillion dollar line for the size of the bubble some time ago.  It's just a few trillion dollars difference.  I mean, a trillion here, a trillion there; pretty soon you're talking real money. 

According to those ever-observant guys at the Economic Collapse Blog, that's 20% bigger than the derivatives bubble was before the 2008 worldwide crash, and a larger total than the world has ever seen.  The "Gross World Product" by the way, all the goods produced, services rendered and all economic activity totals under $100 trillion, as an estimate based on data through 2012

What are these derivatives?  The short answer is they're bets.  The big banks and ultrawealthy are betting on the future values of assets.  As  Mayra RodrĂ­guez Valladares, a managing principal at MRV Associates, puts it in that Economic Collapse Blog entry:
A derivative, put simply, is a contract between two parties whose value is determined by changes in the value of an underlying asset. Those assets could be bonds, equities, commodities or currencies. The majority of contracts are traded over the counter, where details about pricing, risk measurement and collateral, if any, are not available to the public.
Since they're betting on assets that are many times the value of "all the money in the world", they can't all possibly pay out - there isn't enough money to pay for them.  People are betting on just about anything and everything that you can imagine, and Wall Street has been transformed into the largest casino in the history of the planet.  You will note that never, in any casino, does everyone win.
Many people naively assume that since "financial reform legislation" was passed (Dodd-Frank), the major banks would be less risk than they were in '08.  Not at all the case.  It has been reported by essentially everyone that Dodd-Frank did nothing to fix any of the causes of the last crash.  A bigger crash is coming, and it's going to be rough.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Techy ... Wednesday? - Rethinking the Bridge

Or Techy Tuesday a day late.  The Monday holiday messed me up. 

A while back, I wrote about some research being done to make bridges more earthquake resistant.  It's interesting research focused on replacing the steel reinforcing bars in concrete pilings with more flexible nitinol alloy. 

While earthquakes certainly are a concern, my bet is that most bridges break down due to more mundane problems: freeze/thaw cycles and too much traffic loading.  Thanks to Machine Design blogs we read of a new technique for building bridges developed by Advanced Infrastructure Technologies.
The Federal Highway Administration estimates there are over 45,000 structurally deficient or obsolete bridges in the National Highway System, plus another 248,000 deficient bridges on smaller roads. To cut the cost of replacing many of those bridges, engineers at Advanced Infrastructure Technologies, Orono, Maine, have developed a hybrid concrete-composite bridge that also saves time and raw materials.
The key technology here is a composite exoskeleton-like superstructure formed from carbon fiber and other materials, including concrete.   The exact blend is engineered to optimize the efficiency of the bridge design, and the ability to repair a bridge and return it to service quickly is one of their selling points.  AIT says:
The system is based on original 'Bridge-in-a-Backpack' patent-pending technology, developed over an 11+ year period by the Advanced Structures and Composites Center at the University of Maine.
...
Testing at the Advanced Structures and Composites Center included structural characterization and modeling, fatigue testing for 50+ years of truck traffic, environmental durability testing for UV, fire, freeze-thaw and abrasion resistance, and instrumentaion and field load testing.
Testing to 50 years of accelerated wear is good, but 50 years doesn't strike me as a long life - although the company claims 100 year lifespans.  America is a young country and there are bridges here that are hundreds of years old.  In the "old world", bridges and structures remain that were built by the Romans and earlier, with claims of bridges still being used that were built in 1300 BC.   
I wonder: do you think anything will be left of these composites in 3300 years?  I don't think there will be, but I don't think that's terribly important, either.  If they come up with serviceable, safe bridges that reliably carry traffic for a decently long service life, and build it "faster / cheaper / better", that's A Really Good Thing.  

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Barbecue Is A Basic Food Group - Maybe Two

The four basic food groups are barbecue, bacon, barbecue and fruit.  Much of what people think of vegetables are really fruits from a biological standpoint: corn is a fruit, tomatoes are a fruit and most non-leafy vegetables are really fruit.  That makes coffee a kind of fruit juice.  

Memorial Day is often thought of as the start of summer and a barbecue day.  We're doing lots of work around here (I swear I'll tell you all about it soon) so no barbecue here, at least not in the "fire up the grill!" sense.  That requires attention, a smoker requires much less; almost zero.  So I popped about 10 pounds of spare ribs in the smoker at noon to smoke for 4 1/2 hours while we worked.   (Add some miscellaneous extra time spent with the door open and you get to 5 PM). Voila: some of the best ribs I've ever had.
These days I'm using a Masterbuilt electric smoker, specifically the 30" analog model.  In the 30 to 40 years I've had a smoker, I've used a couple of electric smokers and a Chargriller wood fired smoker.  The wood fired smoker (with a side fire box) required tons of maintenance and I found it very difficult to maintain a good temperature inside if it was below 60 outside.  Days when it's under 70 are my favorite kind of day for staying outside all day, but I'd be throwing oak logs and most of a 40 pound bag of charcoal into the smoker to keep it at a good temperature inside.  One of the reasons I got the Masterbuilt was seeing a video of someone smoking a pork shoulder while the outside temperature was 35. The electric smoker, on the other hand, is pretty much a "fill it and forget it" thing.  This one has a simple thermostat and doesn't need to be checked very often; there are digitally controlled systems that work even better.  For ribs, I just cook by time: for smoking pork or beef brisket, I use a meat thermometer with a probe in the meat all the time and external display, and cook by internal temperature and time.

With the electric smokers I've had, you have a pan or tray to fill with wood chips or chunks and a bowl of liquid.  The liquid helps buffer the temperature and also boils whatever liquid you fill it with, infusing those flavors with the smoke.  It's usually called a water bowl, but I always use something that adds flavors, usually either diluted or pure fruit juices.  Yesterday, I used apple cider vinegar.  While you may have to refill the wood chip tray, the vast majority of the smoke infusion and flavoring happens in the first hour or so.  After that, it makes less difference. 

The ribs were dry rubbed with salt, pepper, onion and garlic, then smoked dry for most of 4 hours.  At that point I mopped one side with a barbecue sauce (again, my spur of the moment recipe).  Half an hour later, I flipped them and mopped the other side with barbecue sauce.  I threw in a few ears of corn at the midway point.  Most people who write about smoking corn say to peel back the husk, remove as much silk as you can, butter/season the ear, then fold the green husk leaves back over the corn, tie up the loose leaves, and smoke for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  That's pretty much what we did, except for the tying up the leaves part.  It came out great, too.  We both prefer corn to have a firm, crunchy texture, not the mushy texture you get in so many places where the corn is just left in the hot water until it's sold.    



Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day 2014

There isn't much signal I can add to the commentaries on the day.  But I repost this photo which I find among the most haunting I've ever seen.
In case it doesn't seem familiar:  
In a final act of loyalty, Hawkeye, the dog of slain Navy SEAL U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Jon T. Tumilson walked up to his fallen master’s casket during the funeral in Rockford, Iowa, and then laid mournfully down beside the body for the rest of the proceedings [Note: Petty Officer Tumilson was one of the 30 killed in Afghanistan in Extortion 17 - SiG]
A depressing number of government officials could use Hawkeye's loyalty. 


Sunday, May 25, 2014

FN Does as FN Is

FN as in "Nucking Futs" not Fabrique Nationale. 

So some socially retarded moron in California decides because he's a socially retarded moron and no girl in her right mind would give him the time of day, that the answer is not to work on his abysmal personality (or entire lack of one), but go kill some innocent third party women (and men) who almost certainly never even spoke with said nut job.  And somehow that's our fault.  So says nut job's father - proving once again that the nuts don't fall far from the tree.  Since Sr. nut job was a movie director, Jr. nut job decided to emulate a movie.  Real balance, right there.

By the way: I never mention psycho killers' names as I firmly believe that one of the biggest reasons for their attacks is that these psychos are looking for fame.  In achieving some level of fame, they set a bar for the next psycho to try and surpass. Not that this blog gets enough readers to make even a small contribution to "fame", but just in principle I think we should ignore them. 

I think I've said before that aberrant psychology is not just uninteresting to me, but something I spend serious effort trying to avoid.  If there's one thought that I've never been able to parse into something that even remotely makes sense it's the one that seems to motivate this loser.  The dweeb apparently tried to date (proposition?) some college girls and they rejected him, so in his mind it's now acceptable to go kill anybody anywhere.  That insane leap from "person A hurt my feelings, I should avoid them" to "person A hurt my feelings, now I'm allowed to kill persons B, C, D ... and as many others as I can" just won't fit in any thought pattern I have. 

The real problem is that FN jobs like this guy are typically only obvious in hindsight, and finding them before hand virtually impossible.  Now if you want some insight into the psychology of the reactions, go read American Mercenary.


Friday, May 23, 2014

He Had The Right Stuff - But Never Went Into Space

I'm only learning today of John C. Houbolt's passing on April 15th of this year, at age 95.  John who?  Possibly the most important visionary in the Apollo program, he's hardly known at all, but every fan of Apollo knows his biggest contribution.  Houbolt (rhymes with cobalt) designed the Lunar Orbit Rendezvous mission profile and and invented the idea of the lunar module to land on the moon.  While he did not claim to originate the idea (it's not clear who did, nor when), he championed it and made the case as often as he could, despite severe pushback and organizational objections.
EE Times put it this way:
You may wonder, "What's the big deal?" But it's a big deal for several reasons. At the time he worked on it, there had not even been any manned orbital flights around Earth, let alone vehicle rendezvous and docking, and certainly none around the moon. No one knew if such a complex set of maneuvers was possible in basic Earth orbit; to do it around the Moon seemed impossible. Orbital mechanics and navigation are quite difficult and unforgiving, especially when you are so clearly fuel-limited. (It was so complicated that Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11's lunar module pilot, did his MIT dissertation on the mechanics of orbital rendezvous.) 

The conventional wisdom, supported by Wernher von Braun and on down at NASA, was that a moon landing would consist of a rocket launch from Earth, a brief stop for an Earth-orbit rendezvous, and then going directly to a moon landing, discarding stages along the way. The last stage would "back down" to the Moon and land gently upright, as you have seen in all those classic movies of the 1950s (such as Destination Moon). Return to Earth would require a lift-off of that final stage from the Moon's surface for a non-stop, direct trip home. [Bold added: SiG]
Houbolt did his assessment of the direct-to-moon-and-back mission requirements and concluded it just couldn't be done when you included all of the weight, fuel and risk issues.  The rocket Von Braun envisioned for the moon landings (called Nova) was twice the size of the Saturn V, still the largest, most powerful vehicle ever created - and remember, this was before the first Saturn I was even built.  With Von Braun and all of NASA aligned against him, but convinced his math was right, he was a tireless advocate for the rendezvous approach.  It was then that Houbolt took an extremely unconventional approach and wrote a 9-page private letter to the Associate Director of NASA, Dr. Robert Seamans.  Houbolt wrote:
"Do we want to go to the moon or not?" the Langley engineer asked. "Why is Nova, with its ponderous size simply just accepted, and why is a much less grandiose scheme involving rendezvous ostracized or put on the defensive? I fully realize that contacting you in this manner is somewhat unorthodox," Houbolt admitted, "but the issues at stake are crucial enough to us all that an unusual course is warranted." Houbolt clearly saw that the giant Nova rocket and the expensive and complex Earth orbit rendezvous plan were clearly not a realistic option--especially if the mission was to be accomplished anywhere close to President Kennedy's timetable. While conducting a rendezvous in orbit around the Moon was going to be a challenge, the weight, cost and savings of using LOR were obvious once one realized that LOR was not fundamentally much more difficult than Earth orbit rendezvous.
With the ability to design a lander that didn't need to survive earth's gravity and was used and discarded, one piece at a time, the Lunar Excursion Module could be made lightweight, a spindly little craft saving precious weight and fuel every step of the way.  That scaled the massive Nova back to being a single Saturn V, and probably enabled the moon landings more than any other thing.  

It has been said that fame is a fickle mistress; in terms of his contributions to the Apollo program, John Houbolt should be a household name.  Such fame rarely comes to guys like John Houbolt and  they generally prefer it that way; Tony Stark is a fictional character, after all.  But in the history of manned space exploration, Houbolt is among the true giants. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Waiting for the Shoe to Drop

When is the stock market going to do a real correction?  That's the big question.  Right now, I can scarcely imagine entering the stock markets.  As Chris Hunter on Seeking Alpha says (quoting Andrew Lapthorne of SocGen):
"The number of 1% down days for the S&P 500 in any given year has averaged 27 since 1969; the S&P 500 has seen just sixteen 1% down days over the last 12 months. It has now been 468 days since a market correction of 10% or more, the fourth longest period on record, and, as we show below, the annualized peak to trough loss has only been 5% compared to typical annual drawdown of 15%."
So the S&P 500 has just under 60% of the number of moderate correction days as normal, the time from a moderately big correction is the fourth longest on record, and we're supposed to believe everything is peachy?  It could well be within the bounds of normal variations, but I don't know all the factors present in those previous years; was the Fed as heavily involved as they are now, for example.  Just before the start of the year I posted this chart:
We were at point 3 on this expanding wedge and have essentially just moved sideways since then - you can see the DJIA at that point was around 16500; today it closed at 16533.  Comparing the left side of the chart to the right, before and after the start of the blue lines, you can see a progression of continually higher highs and higher lows on the left.  For example, the low on the line of 1990 was above 1989 and below 1991.  That's a normal expanding market.  After 1998, the pattern of snap backs shows up.  The ugly thing is what happens during the first to second year after the yearly tick has hit the upper resistance limit.  You can see that there is typically a very large pull back within these two year periods.  That will be in 2014 to 2015; for what it's worth, many big crashes tend to come in the fall, around the end of the Fed.Gov fiscal year (September 30). It looks like the target for the snap back is around 6000. 

Dow 6000?  There would be blood in the streets.  Even if that doesn't happen, we're overdue for a correction of 20% or more. As Bill Bonner says, 
Because, as anyone who understands the phenomenon of mean reversion will tell you, the longer something remains an outlier, the more likely it is to revert back to the average.

In this case, it means the longer US stocks go without a meaningful correction, the more statistically likely a meaningful correction becomes.
Just when that shoe drops is the big question. 


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Techy Tuesday - The Problem is in the Users' Chair

Since we did a piece on security and TAILS/TOR Sunday, I thought I'd stick with security for one more post.  I swear I've heard some security guys say that line in the title.  If people would pay even a modicum of attention to reasonable passwords or phrases, and kept their wits about them, there would be much fewer problems.

A "Certified Ethical Hacker" posts the story of how he broke into a company that really seemed to have its act together. After trying to break into the firewall with all the usual tricks, he decided he needed to go after the weak link.
So I told myself, “Screw it. I’m going in.”
...
First, I did a little recon on Google Earth and Street View to familiarize myself with the physical perimeter of the company’s building and grounds. Since the character I was playing that day was “me,” the walking stereotype of a friendly, guy-next-door, I put on my usual garb: a pair of good jeans and a button-down shirt.

I hopped into my truck and drove over to the facility. Doing my best to look sharpish, I walked into the front lobby and said to the receptionist: “This is really embarrassing, and I don’t usually ask for this type of favor, but I wonder if I could use your washroom? I knew I’d regret ordering that super-sized drink!”

She smiled — a good sign — and buzzed me in. Once I was inside the men’s room and had confirmed it was unoccupied, I yanked two USB keys out of my pocket and dropped one on top of the metal toilet paper holder in each stall.
...
I drove back to my office and waited, because as soon as someone plugged one of my USBs into a computer, a program on the flash drive would auto run and execute a remote connection to my computer.
Perhaps needless to say - it didn't take long.  As he says, people tend to be curious and if they find a USB drive they're more than likely going to plug it into their computer to see what's on it.  It may be completely good intentions; "this looks like Dave's drive, but maybe I should see if I can tell if it's his".  And it could be just to see if there are any cool pics on it.

Is this how Stuxnet was uploaded into the Iranian nuclear facilities?  It's hard to imagine someone walking off the street into those facilities and getting permission to use the restroom, but the infection was spread by infected USB drives.  It's not hard to imagine those drives could have been left somewhere that was a known hang out or gathering place of workers from those plants.  I don't know Iranian culture, but I know that every base I've ever been around has some favorite "watering holes" nearby where some open ears can gather a lot of information tidbits.  So what if they (officially) don't drink? 

What strikes me about this attack is that it's totally social engineering. It relies on the receptionist's social tendency to be kind to a guy in distress, and it relies on the guy who picks up the USB drive in the Mens' room to look at it out of curiosity. The software attack on the drive would have failed without the social work.


Monday, May 19, 2014

Technical Difficulties... Please Stand By

Tonight it's my turn for lost internet connectivity tonight, so not enough time to research something post worthy.
So go read Zerohedge on food price inflation, "The Meat Crisis is Here" and ponder what that means for the coming year. 


Sunday, May 18, 2014

When You Need An Envelope - Part II

I originally wrote about TAILS, The Amnesic Incognito Live System, back in November of 2012 when I first started playing around with it.  TAILS is a live OS, a Debian Linux implementation, designed to be a complete, ready to use OS that you can keep on a thumb drive, and which offers anonymity to users.  Back in that post, tails was distributed as version 0.14.  It has been regularly updated since then, and the community finally felt it was ready to release as a "finished" version (as if that ever exists):  TAILS 1.0 was released at the end of April. 

That TAILS 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 of us are, use something like ImgBrn to burn the disk).  The TAILS link has instructions and a link to a method of transferring the .iso file to a USB memory stick, or you can do what I do: boot from the CD, and use the built in utility to clone the OS to the USB drive.  I have a 4GB miniature thumb drive (more the size of a thumbnail drive) that holds TAILS and some other files I'd want to bring with it. 

Tails is based on TOR, The Onion Router, and it's helpful to think of the layers of an onion as a model for what TOR does.  It uses hidden layers of routing information, hidden tunnels if you prefer, with messages bouncing around through different routers at all times, to discourage (I'm reluctant to say "defeat") traffic analysis, one of the most common forms of intelligence gathering the three letter agencies use.  TOR helps to reduce the risks of both simple and sophisticated traffic analysis by distributing your transactions over several places on the Internet, so no single point can link you to your destination. The idea is similar to using a twisty, hard-to-follow route in order to throw off somebody who is tailing you — and then periodically erasing your footprints.  In addition to that, TOR negotiates one time encryption keys with other nodes on this network, one hop at a time, and each relay along the way knows only which relay gave it data and which relay it is giving data to. No individual relay ever knows the complete path that a data packet has taken.

All of your actions - web use, emails, anything, are 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.  Because of all of these hops around the network, TAILS is slower than your regular internet communications.  In a sense, the decision is an old one:  would you rather be fast or invisible?  TAILS' intent is to make users invisible; to allow anonymous communications for people in delicate or deadly situations.  Reporters in conflict zones, NGOs monitoring sensitive areas, and while this will rile some people, the US military has used it.  The most famous use of TAILS (reportedly) was by Edward Snowden.  If anyone made more of the general population aware of TAILS, it was Snowden.  From the TOR overview page.
Groups such as Indymedia recommend Tor for safeguarding their members' online privacy and security. Activist groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) recommend Tor as a mechanism for maintaining civil liberties online. Corporations use Tor as a safe way to conduct competitive analysis, and to protect sensitive procurement patterns from eavesdroppers....

A branch of the U.S. Navy uses Tor for open source intelligence gathering, and one of its teams used Tor while deployed in the Middle East recently. Law enforcement uses Tor for visiting or surveilling web sites without leaving government IP addresses in their web logs, and for security during sting operations.

The variety of people who use Tor is actually part of what makes it so secure. [pdf warning]  Tor hides you among the other users on the network, so the more populous and diverse the user base for Tor is, the more your anonymity will be protected.
All of that is the positive side.  In the dark underside of the internet, groups like sex slave traders, pedophiles, black hat hackers, and criminals of all stripes have been drawn to TOR as a way to obscure themselves.  When that happens, the police, FBI, and other agencies have to follow into the onion to try to keep up with the undesirables.  

How secure is TOR?  More secure than an envelope in the postal system, but not perfect.  One thing the open source community around TOR (and TAILS) is really good at doing, is reviewing attacks on their tools and continually improving them.  Just remember, as my favorite XKCD cartoon above depicts, you don't attack the adversary's strong points, you attack the weak points - and that's what the three letter agencies are doing.  According to a report on Help Net Security this week, Andy Malone, founder of the Cybercrime Security Forum and Microsoft MVP, warns that using Tor does not guarantee the information you're trying to keep hidden won't be compromised.
The security of the Tor network itself has not yet been broken (as far as we know), but Malone says that Tor leaks can occur through third-party apps and add-ons. "If I was doing forensics on you and thought you were on Tor, I wouldn't attack the network I'd attack the weak areas around it," says Malone.

Users should also be aware that the NSA and the GCHQ are installing hundreds of Onion Routers in order to capture and analyze traffic. If they visit the Deep Web, they should also know that among the different websites there are also honeypot ones created (or hijacked and turned into honeypots) by law enforcement agencies to catch criminals.
If you're using TOR because you need to send email that you really don't want to be snooped on, encrypt it!  An envelope within an envelope.  One time pads are mathematically unbreakable if used properly.  If you're running some sort of operation that you don't want tracked, don't use the same computer in the same location all the time.  In other words if you're running a criminal enterprise, don't do it from your living room!  TOR was intended - and works best - for individuals like reporters or operators in a hostile country or war zone trying to get information out.  The kind of people who might use a laptop or tablet in a hotel one night and a public computer somewhere else on another day.   

So add TAILS/TOR to your toolbox, but don't think it's the be-all and end-all of security.  It does some things very well, but it won't solve every problem.


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Gun Owners Aren't The Only Domestic Terrorists

H/T to Oleg for a link to Joe Huffman's blog, "It's Not Just Gun Owners Who Are Considered Terrorists".

The root of it all is an article on Zerohedge: "Spying is Meant to Crush Citizen's Dissent, Not Catch Terrorists".  Definitely worth a read.  It's thick with links and background information, and it's really depressing to say this, but I don't think there's really anything new and surprising in there. 
The opportunity those in power have to characterise political opponents as “national security threats” or even “terrorists” has repeatedly proven irresistible. In the past decade, the government, in an echo of Hoover’s FBI, has formally so designated environmental activists, broad swaths of anti-government rightwing groups, anti-war activists, and associations organised around Palestinian rights. Some individuals within those broad categories may deserve the designation, but undoubtedly most do not, guilty only of holding opposing political views. Yet such groups are routinely targeted for surveillance by the NSA and its partners.  [Note: Of those groups, how many have actually carried out terrorist acts on American soil besides the environmental activists?  SiG]

One document from the Snowden files, dated 3 October 2012, chillingly underscores the point. It revealed that the agency has been monitoring the online activities of individuals it believes express “radical” ideas and who have a “radicalising” influence on others.
***
The NSA explicitly states that none of the targeted individuals is a member of a terrorist organisation or involved in any terror plots. Instead, their crime is the views they express, which are deemed “radical“, a term that warrants pervasive surveillance and destructive campaigns to “exploit vulnerabilities”.

Among the information collected about the individuals, at least one of whom is a “US person”, are details of their online sex activities and “online promiscuity” – the porn sites they visit and surreptitious sex chats with women who are not their wives. The agency discusses ways to exploit this information to destroy their reputations and credibility.
Government thinks anyone who doesn't fall over in adoration of them is a terrorist?  Check.  Obama claims power even Hitler and Stalin never claimed?  Check.  Hitler?  Stalin?  What a couple of pikers.   Former NSA official says, “We are now in a police state“.  Check.  Yawn...obvious to anyone with eyes to see. 

As Bill Whittle so eloquently put it, "I'm no longer surprised at all the things I'm no longer surprised by". 


Friday, May 16, 2014

A Little Friday Roundup

I've been meaning to post on this for a while, but never quite got to it.  The National Institute of Standards and Technology (some will know them as the National Bureau of Standards) has announced a new atomic clock for precise measurement of time and frequency.  The clock offers a total uncertainty and instability of one part in 10^18.  (Google's HTML doesn't give me superscripts but that's one part in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 - a number which is even huge compared to the Federal Deficit). 
Described in a new paper in Nature,* the JILA strontium lattice clock is about 50 percent more precise than the record holder of the past few years, NIST’s quantum logic clock.** Precision refers to how closely the clock approaches the true resonant frequency at which its reference atoms oscillate between two electronic energy levels. The new strontium clock is so precise it would neither gain nor lose one second in about 5 billion years, if it could operate that long.
The strontium clock is the first to hold world records for both precision and stability since the 1990s, when cesium fountain atomic clocks were introduced.  One second in 5 billion years - basically the life of the Earth - is a vivid visualization of how accurate it is, but clocks capable of accuracies approaching that have been in development for over half a century, and the ones right at your hands may surprise you with their accuracy.  

Chances are you're in front of a computer with a time base that's accurate to "several" parts in a million (the simple quartz oscillators they use are typically good to 40 or 50 parts per million - ppm).  For commercial radios, we often use oscillators in the range of 1/2 ppm down to .01 ppm. Oscillators accurate within 0.5 ppm are widely available and reasonably priced - Digikey has some parts off the shelf for under $12.  There are 31.5 million seconds in a year, so those 0.5 ppm oscillators are within 16 seconds per year.  Pretty much any level of accuracy you want up to that "one second in about 5 billion years" is available if you're willing to pay the price. 

Time keeping and frequency measurement are the only areas where relativistic effects such as time dilation show up in everyday life - if your everyday life includes a GPS.  General relativity says that clocks run faster as their velocity and elevation increases, causing GPS satellite times to be in error by 38.5 millionths of a second per day.   In a few days, that starts mapping you unacceptably far from where you really are.

This relativistic effect is responsible for another fun piece of trivia: your head ages faster than your feet.  It takes clocks accurate to one part in 10^17 to measure it, but when one of the super accurate atomic clocks at NIST was raised 33 cm higher (about 13") than its twin, the higher one ran faster than than the other, just as predicted.  Since our heads are higher than our feet for most of the time, our head ages faster.  Over an average lifetime, an average sized person's head will be 500 microseconds older than their feet over the course of their life. 
The JILA Strontium ion clock.   


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Cuteness Overload.

I've got to tell you, I've never seen anything like this.  Watch the whole thing:


Watching 5 minutes of fuzzy kittens and baby ducks will cure your rotten week.   


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Lawyers - Why Everyone Should Be Allowed to Keep One Caged

I really don't have enough words, or space or time to do justice to this story, but go read Confessions of a Public Defender on American Renaissance.

You will find a story, posted under a pen name,  by a public defender in "a large southern metropolitan area".  He opens by saying he's "still liberal after all these years".  He goes on to describe the situation: " Fewer than ten percent of the people in the area I serve are black but over 90 per cent of my clients are black. The remaining ten percent are mainly Hispanics but there are a few whites."

He then describes every problem he encounters with that culture he spends most of his time representing.  He leaves every clue imaginable to the problems:  "As a public defender, I have learned many things about people. One is that defendants do not have fathers. If a black even knows the name of his father, he knows of him only as a shadowy person with whom he has absolutely no ties."...

Most blacks are unable to speak English well. They cannot conjugate verbs. They have a poor grasp of verb tenses. They have a limited vocabulary. They cannot speak without swearing. They often become hostile on the stand. Many, when they testify, show a complete lack of empathy and are unable to conceal a morality based on the satisfaction of immediate, base needs. This is a disaster, especially in a jury trial. Most jurors are white, and are appalled by the demeanor of uneducated, criminal blacks.
...
Part of the problem is that underclass black women begin having babies at age 15. They continue to have babies, with different black men, until they have had five or six. These women do not go to school. They do not work. They are not ashamed to live on public money. They plan their entire lives around the expectation that they will always get free money and never have to work. I do not see this among whites, Hispanics, or any other people.

The black men who become my clients also do not work. They get social security disability payments for a mental defect or for a vague and invisible physical ailment. They do not pay for anything: not for housing (Grandma lives on welfare and he lives with her), not for food (Grandma and the baby-momma share with him), and not for child support. When I learn that my 19-year-old defendant does not work or go to school, I ask, “What do you do all day?” He smiles. “You know, just chill.” These men live in a culture with no expectations, no demands, and no shame.
And yet... and yet... he can see no way in which these facts tie together.  He can not make the connections to conclude why the black society is so dysfunctional.  He recognizes that it is dysfunctional.  He recognizes:
However, my experience has also taught me that blacks are different by almost any measure to all other people. They cannot reason as well. They cannot communicate as well. They cannot control their impulses as well. They are a threat to all who cross their paths, black and non-black alike.
But his liberalism keeps him from reaching any conclusions about where the problems come from and how they should be addressed.  He says:
I am a liberal. I believe that those of us who are able to produce abundance have a moral duty to provide basic food, shelter, and medical care for those who cannot care for themselves. I believe we have this duty even to those who can care for themselves but don’t. This world view requires compassion and a willingness to act on it.
 And yet... and yet... He can't see how that ties together.  The whole thing simply must be read to be understood.
(Jeantel Rachel: from the article)

(Standard disclaimers: clearly not all blacks, just the population he describes... yada yada yada)  (I was at an urban Wendy's not too long ago.  The lines were long, so I just said "white privilege" and started to cut in at the front.  They say the casts will be off by July 4th and the stitches are already out)


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Techy Tuesday - Digital Design Primer - Part II

There have been some unfortunate delays since Part I due to things popping up around the house that just had to be done, and sucking up all the time I'd use to write this.  So let's just dive in, shall we?

I wrote a lot about combining signals with logic; the area called combinatorial logic.  How is this used?  When an electronic system is being developed, the subsystems and lower level assemblies pass a lot of information back and forth between themselves.  These things are undoubtedly hard for someone who has never built electronics to envision, but the individual signals might be commands to do something, or time signals that say it's time (or it isn't) for an event to happen.  If you're operating a handheld transceiver, for example, you will press a "Push to Talk" button and that signal will often need to do many things.  It may turn on an audio amplifier at the microphone, turn on voltages that power the transmitter, turn off the receiver (or just mute its audio), and other things.  It may be combined with other signals; for example, the radio may tune a wide spectrum but only be authorized to transmit in ham bands.  "Something, somewhere" in the radio says transmission is authorized, and the signals go through an AND gate.  That's the equivalent of saying "If PTT is pressed, AND I can use this frequency, then I transmit". 

In the days of lots of discrete logic, designers would map out the logic required to implement functions.  Some of it was done with graphical design techniques, Karnaugh or K Maps; some of it was done by hand (experience).  Compared to today's consumer products, these were big and bulky circuits.  Miniaturization of packages and more integration helps, but not as much as you might think; the more signals going in and out of the logic portion of the design, the more pins you need and connections limit the size far more than the logic. 

The world, though, is full of cheap consumer devices like your GPS or cycling computer or dive computer or heart rate monitor (pictured).  This monitor is sold with a transmitter you wear, together for just over $100.  How do they make them so cheaply that they can be manufactured, put in a package and shipped halfway around the world for that price?  No, it's not by going to China (at least, not exclusively).
 
They do it by turning everything in this package into a the smallest number of parts possible, replacing the many individual counters and other components with a custom ASIC - Application Specific Integrated Circuit.  Similarly, the display is a custom Liquid Crystal Display -LCD.  Together in an injection molded plastic case, they can be popped off the assembly line with the least effort and cost.  Designing for low cost is done in the design group, not by taking any approach and finding cheap labor to build it.

Design is all about trades, and the trade here is that developing ASICs is expensive.  The last time I was around a project that wanted to develop one, the first batch of parts was a quarter million dollars, and I'll bet it's not significantly cheaper today.  If your parts don't work, you pretty much have thrown that $250k out.

While you can't make an ASIC, you can get most of the way there with a Field Programmable Gate Array, an FPGA.  An FPGA allows the user to minimize the number of digital gates and parts in your design, which minimizes the size - and usually the power consumed, too.  It's programmed on power-up by a small programmable memory, and may be reprogrammed over and over.  Long the domain of the digital design wizards, they are coming onto the hobby market with the emphasis of learning how to design the FPGA.  This isn't done with any of those old techniques, like the Karnaugh  map; it's done by programming what you want the FPGA to do in a high level language that looks like Pascal.  Why Pascal?  It's sort of the default software training language these days; most enginerds get exposed to it in school.  It also bears a strong resemblance to a language called ADA that the DOD uses.   

Check out The Gadget Factory and Papilio - a board for experimenting with programming your own FPGA.  They have a page full of free downloads to help you learn the programming language, called VHDL, an acronym of acronyms if you listen to that Wikipedia page that says it stands for VHSIC Hardware Description Language (VHSIC was military acronym or program; it stands for Very High Speed Integrated Circuit) .  Adafruit features the Mojo FPGA Development Board also intended for learning FPGA programming.  I expect more of these systems to start showing up.  While top end FPGAs can be very expensive, there are many which can be used in small group designs.  

Make no mistake: this isn't beginners' stuff.  But the tools are out there, the open source community is out there and the potential rewards are great, even for small patriot groups. 


Monday, May 12, 2014

NFL Reeducation Center

I know this is a small story, but apparently the National Football League held its annual price-fixing fest, the draft, this past weekend.  The first publicly declared gay football player was drafted and will be a Ram.  I'm not unaware of the irony in that statement, and I hope you're not either.

That's not the story.

The story is that a safety for the Miami Dolphins, Don Jones, said something politically unacceptable on the Twitter when he saw the images of the draftee and his boyfriend kissing.  He is now being sent for reeducation.  They actually say that in almost those exact words.  From the story on Fox News:
Miami Dolphins safety Don Jones was fined an undisclosed amount Sunday and will undergo educational training after sending a negative tweet about Michael Sam, the first openly gay player to be selected in the NFL draft.
...
Jones apologized for his comments Sunday and described them as inappropriate. The Dolphins said Jones has been excused from all team activities until he completes training related to his comments.
I don't understand what all the hubbub is about, bub.  Sure, he's the first openly declared gay in the NFL, but I can't imagine anyone would think there are no gays in the NFL.  Some percentage of people are gay, although the exact percentage is something is probably not known with great precision.  There are those who want to exaggerate the number higher, and those that want to exaggerate it lower, but at least in my view, any sample of the population will have some percentage that is.  I played a little football in my younger days, and every team had "that guy" who was considered gay. 

It's the fascistic reeducation center aspect of the story that's the important part.  Don't mess with the gay mafia, or you'll be eliminated.  
 
(The People's Cube

Sunday, May 11, 2014

#BringBackOurGirls

Mark Steyn is a professional opinion writer, and occasionally fills in for Rush Limbaugh on his program.  His regular columns are picked up around the US and Canada, if not around the world.  I write this as a long winded way of saying that he needs a link from me like Bill Gates needs another dollar.  But Mark's gift for writing pithy and gut wrenching pieces is the best thing I've read in the last week or so.
#BringBackOurBalls

Just as the last floppo hashtag, #WeStandWithUkraine, didn't actually involve standing with Ukraine, so #BringBackOurGirls doesn't require bringing back our girls. There are only a half-dozen special forces around the planet capable of doing that without getting most or all of the hostages killed: the British, the French, the Americans, Israelis, Germans, Aussies, maybe a couple of others. So, unless something of that nature is being lined up, those schoolgirls are headed into slavery, and the wretched pleading passivity of Mrs Obama's hashtag is just a form of moral preening.
Just like the Moms Demanding Disarmament, demanding someone else do something, and then going back to your coffee (or wine) isn't accomplishing anything, it's demanding someone else accomplish something.  It's something lazy people do to make themselves feel better.  

Somehow I really doubt that Boko Haram, the girls' kidnappers, are really influenced by American social media.  In the vile, violent, disgusting world of Jihadists who want the world to be just like it was 1200 years ago, Boko Haram stands out as the scumbags of all scumbags.  (Politically correct version: Boko Haram is averse to globalization and just wants to practice their small business as they always have: selling small girls to rich perverts).  To quote Steyn from a year ago:
"Boko Haram" means more or less "Learning is sinful," this particular wing of the jihad reveling more than most in the moronic myopia of Islamic imperialism.
In the really off chance you haven't seen Larry Correia's comment (H/T Tam), he sounds a bit like Steyn but adds some quality snark.
But if your selective outrage is really up in arms about this one, movie stars with the hash tag, I’ve got a simple solution for you. Take some of your millions of dollars and hire some mercenaries to go into Africa to shoot all the members of Boko Haram. I wonder how that would trend on Twitter. #gurkhaskillscumbags
But why do I start hearing "Whiter Shade of Pale" every time I hear their name?
Smarmy self-righteous Hollywood doods.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

White Privilege

Like most of us, I think, I've been becoming more and more aware of a rising pitch in the background noise of life as repetition of certain phrases start to build to a crescendo.  This crescendo is the phrase "white privilege", and like the Pope's "social justice" or pretty much every other social issue crescendo, my first reaction is to put one hand on my wallet and try to find out where the noise is coming from so that I can back away slowly.  It turns out that's exactly the right reaction.  The so-called anti white privilege movement is entirely anti-capitalism, anti-American, and entirely aimed at redistribution.

Friday evening during her eponymous Blaze TV show, "Dana", Dana Loesch devoted about half the show to a report on the 2014 White Privilege Conference in Madison, Wisconsin.  Dana hosted Kyle Olson, Andrew Marcus and Jim Hoft from ProgressivesToday.com who brought hidden camera video.  If you haven't seen this or heard about these conferences, I urge you to watch that video (about 7:30 from roughly 20 minutes in the show), where you'll get to hear a female law school professor talk about it being nice to have a black face in the White House, but it's still the master's house and he's serving there.  More details and video at ProgressivesToday.
Would it surprise you to learn that educators were recently taught at the fifteenth annual White Privilege Conference in Madison, Wisconsin, that “racism is central to America;” “the longer you are in the Tea Party, the more racist you become;” and “this country was built on white principles for white people”?

Those are just some of the sound bytes captured by Progressives Today — a joint collaboration between Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft and EAG News’ Kyle Olson, who also co-wrote Glenn Beck’s most recent book, “Conform.”

Hoft and Olson teamed up with documentary filmmaker Andrew Marcus to investigate the conference, and aired some of the controversial footage on TheBlaze TV’s “Dana” Friday.
Did you notice that this was the 15th annual White Privilege Conference?  That's right; this is an annual conference, attended by teachers, professors and all sorts of other people you are paying with your taxes.  Public school teachers can go there to get their Continuing Education credits from this, and we have the privilege of paying for it.  A recurrent theme at the conference is that it's hard to indoctrinate high school and college students with this horseshit, so they need to start with educational babies: elementary school or, better yet, pre-schoolers.  Those brains are so much easier to wash because they haven't learned any of those legendary Common Core "critical thinking skills" yet.  Which pretty much tells you all you need to know about the thinking skills of the college professors and lawyers themselves. 
Olson said one of the main messages was, “in order to deal with racism … we need to attack capitalism and [change] our very economic structure and economic system.”

Hoft added: “It’s not about moving the country, moving society, in a positive direction … It’s very clear that they’re just pushing Marxism.”
Under this theory, Mojo is the most privileged member of our household as he's actually white while the rest of us are kinda pinkish/beige.  I must go see what the master wishes.



Friday, May 9, 2014

Friday Night Tunes

Some time in the past couple of years, I stumbled across a guy on YouTube called Tone Doctor (tonedr), with lessons for various songs.  During my first guitar course, like, oh, everyone who has ever learned barre chords, I needed to do lots of practice to get this down.  So I found a song I could tolerate listening to over and over and that used a lot of fifth and sixth string barre chords, "Sister Golden Hair" by America, and ToneDr's (Dale's) tutorial.  Since then, I've subscribed to his channel and kept up with him.

Some time ago, he started putting up songs from an "experimental" studio band he had joined called the Lexington Lab Band.  Two weeks ago, they started putting up covers of Steely Dan songs from the late 70s.  They planned to cover five songs from the "Golden Age" of Steely Dan, including what's probably my favorite SD song.  Allow me to share this masterful cover.
And go listen to some more.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A Different Silver Pattern

Not the kind you get on your flatware.  This kind:
I was looking at the one year curve on gold and noticed it seemed to show that gold had hit a bottom back at the end of '13 and was slowly working back out, so I thought I'd take a look at the one year silver chart.

Yes, I added the lines showing the flag pattern.  Where you draw the lines is the weakest part of technical analysis, and these are kind of arbitrary.  Still, if I measure from end of the chart (yesterday) out to where the lines meet, and then move that measured interval onto the scale to see how much time it is, it's about five months.  That implies that if nothing changes in the way this chart is developing it will have to break out of the flag before October. 

Which way will it break?  My WAG would be up, because the lower line (the support) has been so strong.  The price of silver has gone below $19/oz literally only for a couple of hours at a time in the last 13 months.  Every time it gets around where it is now ($19.25 as I write this), it typically bounces back above that support line.  Likewise, that upper line (the resistance) has been not only ironclad but remote.  Silver hasn't made a sustained move above that in a couple of years, back before they changed the trading rules on the COMEX and lowered prices.  The two lines converging out in October (-ish) become one of those "irresistible force meets immovable object scenarios. 

For newcomers, let me repeat my definition of Technical Analysis: drawing lines on financial performance charts and thinking those lines mean something.   In other words, if you're taking financial advice from some dood with a blog on the Intertubes, you deserve to lose everything.   Or as Rod used to say, this is strictly "offered for your consideration". 


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Techy Tuesday - Tissue Engineering for Wound Repair

Continuing along a line of thought presented here a couple of weeks ago about 3D printed replacement body parts, I ended that piece with mention of tissue engineering, which I've been a fan of since first hearing of it 15 years ago:
I've been a major advocate of, and believer in tissue engineering since first hearing of this years ago.  We are currently bringing thousands of young men and women home from battle with missing limbs.  Wouldn't it be fantastic to build them a replacement instead of a prosthetic?  What could be a better way to improve their lives? Think of people who have virtually every other part of their body removed during cancer treatment: liver, kidney, pancreas, intestines, skin, breast, and bones.  Think of the people who tear up a knee or elbow, or develop arthritis, or who lose pieces of ears, or nose to skin cancer.  Wouldn't it be a massive improvement to grow new cartilage and restore full functionality?  How can medicine talk about "quality of life" and not go down this research pathway?
Recently, I came across the company ACell, which specializes in tissue engineering for wound treatment.  ACell manufactures products that are a tissue matrix, they use the trademark MatriStem, a scaffolding that the body regrows injured or missing tissues with.  Their website shows where their products have been used in "Extraordinary cases", such as necrotizing fasciitis (flesh eating bacteria infection) and other very large wounds. 
The way they tell their story:
Our core platform urinary bladder matrix (UBM) technology and MatriStem products are based on the influential work of our founder, the late Dr. Alan Spievack. Dr. Spievack’s research on extracellular matrix (ECM) constructs comprised of the epithelial basement membrane of the mammalian urinary bladder led to the invention of our UBM technology platform and the founding of ACell in 1999.

Inspired by salamanders that can grow back limbs, Dr. Spievack began working in cell regeneration in the 1950s and through his research he discovered a special characteristic of the basement membrane: remove it and a salamander’s tail (or limbs) would not regenerate. The basement membrane – a thin sheet of fibers that underlies the epithelium tissue of a cell and exists in every living cell in our bodies – was somehow responsible for constructive remodeling of tissue.
For decades, scientists had struggled to regrow skin to treat badly burned patients, cartilage for damaged joints, and other tissues.  The solution that appeared was to provide a matrix for the tissue to grow onto and the tissue will grow back.  Today, engineered cartilage is a commercial product, and grown organs, including an engineered portion of a trachea, functioning bladders and even functioning bioartificial livers have been developed.  If medical research is allowed to continue, not a certainty with government run healthcare, the future is very bright for this multidisciplinary field of medicine/engineering, and for patients.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Busy Night

Sorry, folks.  Busy night and it's looking to be a rush for a couple of weeks.  Hope to get more time than tonight, though.
Holbert at Townhall


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Interesting Antique

While brother was cleaning out Mom's house, after her passing last December, he came across something I'd never seen or heard of before.  As you can see, the box is labelled Pistola Lancia Razzi Model 1900 and "cal. mm. 6".  Knowing I'm the gun geek of the family, bro made sure to hand it over to me. 
A search of the marvelous intertubes shows a bunch of posts that refer to it as a starter pistol, and that array of 6 very short "rounds" is its magazine.  All of that may be true, but its instruction sheet says something else.  The instructions refer to it as "World Famed Brevettata TEAR GAS PISTOL" and below that "Sold by Direct Mail".  One gun was $13.07 and buying two brought it down to $11.43 each.  It refers to using "cal .22 crimped blank Flobert cartridges".  Again, the marvelous web delivers the information that there are three types of "cal .22 Flobert cartridges" available these days.  There a .22 cal (short) blanks; there are .22 cal cartridges with pointy or round bullets; and finally, there are still .22 cal short tear gas cartridges

Given the way this thing appears to load, by inserting that "magazine" in through the barrel while the gun and magazine are upside down, this is absolutely not the one to use with the cartridges that hold small bullets.  Honestly, I think this one just goes in the closet. 

The instruction sheet says, "It is ideal for people who work in lonely dark locations and require protection".  Dad worked in the Biscayne Annex of the US Post Office in downtown Miami on the night shift, so check on both of those.  He left work there in 1972, but even then downtown Miami wasn't a place for the faint of heart.  He also had a .25 cal semiauto, Model 503, made by Fr. Galesi in Italy.  These guns were pretty much the target of the '68 gun control act, and forced Galesi out of exporting to the US. I have that gun and have shot a box or two through it, but mostly keep it as a family heirloom.  It looks almost exactly like the top picture on that previous link.

 

Happy Star Wars Day

May the Fourth be with you


Saturday, May 3, 2014

Economics 101 - An Example of Political Stupidity

Combine these stories:
Clearly our leaders have never heard of the iron law of supply and demand.   Economics 101 teaches that supply and demand is holding the wages of low end workers down due to the vast numbers of immigrants.  People are willing to do those low end jobs for low pay, minimum wage and below, so they agree to that pay.  Fewer workers for any number of jobs must raise the wages - as it has in North Dakota's oil fields, where (I'm sure) everyone has heard of entry-level jobs paying $17/hour and more.  Just as too many workers must lower wages - as in the current situation.

The great Thomas Sowell has written on the racist origins of minimum wage laws:
In 1925, a minimum-wage law was passed in the Canadian province of British Columbia, with the intent and effect of pricing Japanese immigrants out of jobs in the lumbering industry.

A Harvard professor of that era referred approvingly to Australia’s minimum wage law as a means to “protect the white Australian’s standard of living from the invidious competition of the colored races, particularly of the Chinese” who were willing to work for less.

In South Africa during the era of apartheid, white labor unions urged that a minimum-wage law be applied to all races, to keep black workers from taking jobs away from white unionized workers by working for less than the union pay scale.

Some supporters of the first federal minimum-wage law in the United States — the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931 — used exactly the same rationale, citing the fact that Southern construction companies, using non-union black workers, were able to come north and underbid construction companies using unionized white labor.
The whole piece is worth the read.  The chatter from talking points has dominated this discussion, rather than facts and logic.  Tragically, that's politics.  We're presented with a whole range of groups saying the minimum wage should be anything from $15.29 to over $22.  These numbers come from a raw attempt to adjust for inflation.  Back in February, I ran a column about studies that show the minimum wage is too high as it is now when based on measurable productivity statistics.
Taking a longer view, from 1987 to 2012 the same BLS data show that worker productivity in the food service sector rose by an average of 0.6 percent per year. In limited service restaurants, the gains were slightly lower, only averaging 0.5 percent per year. Meanwhile, unit labor costs have risen by an average of 3.6 percent. Over this period the minimum wage has risen from $3.35 to $7.25 per hour which is an average annual increase of 3.1 percent. In other words, at least in food service, the minimum wage has risen at a rate five or six times as fast as justified by the gains in worker productivity. [Emphasis added - SiG]
I'll let Dr. Sowell have the last word.  
People who are content to advocate policies that sound good, whether for political reasons or just to feel good about themselves, often do not bother to think through the consequences beforehand or to check the results afterwards.
(Commieus americanus var. laborus

Confidential to the guy who "can't survive on $7.25": if you don't get some skills and experience to make yourself worth more, you'll never be able to survive on your pay, regardless of what the minimum wage is.


Friday, May 2, 2014

You Just Might Be a Redneck Jedi...

I suppose normal people don't have this come up in conversation on a regular basis, but Mrs. Graybeard emailed me a link about Ewok recipes (tastes like chicken!).  It reminded me of this compilation, which was easy to find:

If....
  1. You ever heard the phrase, "May the force be with y'all."
  2. Your Jedi robe is a camouflage color.
  3. You have ever used your light saber to open a bottle of Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill.
  4. At least one wing of your X-Wings is primer colored.
  5. You have bantha horns on the front of your land speeder.
  6. You can easily describe the taste of an Ewok.
  7. You have ever had an X-wing up on blocks in your yard.
  8. You ever lost a hand during a light saber fight because you had to spit.
  9. The worst part of spending time on Dagobah is the dadgum skeeters.
  10. Wookies are offended by your B.O.
  11. You have ever used the force to get yourself another beer so you didn't have to wait for a commercial.
  12. You have ever used the force in conjunction with fishing/bowling.
  13. Your father has ever said to you, "Shoot, son come on over to the dark side...it'll be a hoot."
  14. You have ever had your R-2 unit use its self-defense electro-shock thingy to get the barbecue grill to light.
  15. You have a confederate flag painted on the hood of your landspeeder.
  16. Although you had to kill him, you kinda thought that Jabba the Hutt had a pretty good handle on how to treat his women.
  17. You have ever accidentally referred to Darth Vader's evil empire as "them damn Yankees."
  18. You have a cousin who bears a strong resemblance to Chewbacca.
  19. You suggested that they outfit the Millennium Falcon with red wood deck.
  20. You were the only person drinking Jack Daniels on the rocks during the cantina scene..
You just might be a redneck Jedi.