Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Keeping Score

One of the things you might have noticed if you come around here often is that I do tend to grade my predictions.  It always frosted me that we'd see pundits on the news opinion shows giving all sorts of predictions but never seeming to suffer any consequences for being wrong.  (Of course as chief cook and bottle washer sole proprietor of this blog, nothing's going to happen if I'm wrong, either.  Unless I fire myself.)

So what?  Early in the month, I noted several things coming in September that had the potential for creating cascade failure of the economatrix.  While the economic risk isn't over, September is, so I thought I'd take a look at these.  It may help to have another tab open in your browser to read it - I'm not going to copy everything here. 
  • September 13th is Eyul 29 of the Hebrew calendar, the end of the Sabbath year, the Shemitah: the day came and went with no major stock market crash, as occurred the last two Shemitah years.  The market certainly hasn't recovered its August losses, and it appears to be adapting to somewhere around where it is now as the new normal.  16,000 has proven to be a good support floor to the DJIA in that it has only been breached for a couple of days, and that was about six weeks ago.  Call this a loss.  
  • September 15th prediction centered around a resolution to declare a palestinian state.  The resolution appears to never have been put to a vote, according to my searches.  As close as they got was a resolution to raise their flag - some distance away from the regular member states' flags.  Another loss.
  • September 25th to September 27th – centered on the push to launch a brand new sustainable development agenda for the entire planet, Agenda 2030.  This one was a win as the U.S. and the 192 other U.N. members unanimously adopted the “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” a plan to “end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change by 2030.”  Agenda 2030 really is "Agenda 21 on steroids" and has the potential to be really awful.  I should do a piece on this soon, but it can potentially eliminate all national sovereignty, create the "New World Order"/One World Government that has been both hoped for and warned against basically forever.  UN bureaucrats can potentially tell you just about everything about where you can live, how you can live, how you can educate your family, what kind of food can be grown: everything.
  • September 28th is the last of the four "blood moons" in the current tetrad of lunar eclipses. That it was.  To the best of my knowledge, no apocalyptic events accompanied this one either.  Another loss.  
So it was a good month, in terms of nothing really bad happening.  I only got 1 of 4 right, as far as I can tell tonight.  On the one hand; it's good to be wrong about these things.  On the other hand, .250 is an OK batting average, but 1 for 4 as a passing completion number will get a quarterback fired in the NFL.  In real life, if I'm only right 25% of the time at work, well, would you want to fly on a plane with critical systems that are only designed 25% correctly?  Should I fire myself?
A friend who retired a few years ago took this photo of this Sunday's eclipse from his home in New Mexico.  Out of respect to him, I won't publish his name, but it's a vividly beautiful picture.   From my yard it was an orange-red smudge in the clouds. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Techy Tuesday - Progress Continues on Optical Cloaking

I've been covering the work on creating real invisibility for a while now, for example this January article on a broadband microwave invisibility cloak.

Last month, researchers Yuan Wang, Zi Jing Wong and Xiang Zhang of the University of California at Berkeley announced an optical "invisibility cloak", which everyone latched on to as the embodiment of the fictional cloak used by Harry Potter.  The device does work at optical frequencies: specifically deep red light (730 nanometer) and it's currently only microscopic in size, though, so it's not able to hide you or your stuff.  
Zhang and team tested their invention by wrapping the cloak around a cell-sized object with a highly irregular shape. As expected, when red light struck the cloak, it reflected off its surface as if off a flat mirror, making the object beneath it invisible even by phase-sensitive detection. When the polarization of the nanoantennas was changed, the cloaking effect stopped entirely.
The principle seems to be related to that microwave cloak mentioned above.  Antennas are fabricated on the base layer structure and the electromagnetic fields of the light are guided in the desired direction.  This cloak looked like a flat mirror.  There's a video of the cloak being demonstrated on Gizmag, shot through a microscope.  The material of the cloak is incredibly thin, barely 3 millionths of an inch, and none of the few articles I could find mentioned how they made the antennas, aside from calling it "nanofabrication".  Maybe that's the secret sauce. 
Unlike previous attempts at an invisibility cloak, this design is scalable — able to cover larger objects without increasing the thickness of the cloak, and able to conceal objects that have sharp edges and peaks. "Maybe in the future, people can use this as decoration or a wearable," Xingjie Ni, an assistant professor at Pennsylvania State University, who conceived the research idea and led the team, told Mashable
I don't think this something to get super excited about, but it's definitely a step in the right direction.  I believe we'll eventually see those full spectrum cloaks that hide real world sized objects, but it will still be a while. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Eclipse Photo

I've got an idea that just isn't jelling right, so I'm going to put it away and mull it over some more.  Meanwhile, have some other free ice cream:

A friend sent me this photo of last night's eclipse from Imgur,  apparently taken by a user in Belgium.

Around here it was visible as an orange smudge in the clouds.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sunday Wrap Up, Tab Clearing, Miscellany and Whatever ...

This weekend, ISIS let the world know what they think about those COEXIST bumper stickers.  Now, everyone who doesn't have their head up their ass about Islam has known this forever, but it's good to see them tell the truth.  Maybe we can pass this on to those smarmy oh-so-much-better-than-you people with those stickers.  I've always said, "if you're telling me to peacefully coexist, you're talking to the wrong side".
Hat tip to The Blaze for a link to The Site Intel Group who found ISIS critical of "moderate Muslims" who met with Pope Francis. Their term of insult for non-jihadist muslims is "coconuts".
On September 25, 2015, a user by an Arabic-language username translating to “Come Come,” called such Muslims “coconuts,” a term used by jihadists to insult moderate Muslims:
I wonder how many coconuts attended today's inter-religious prayer service led by Pope in NYC. They all need to take shahadah again.
Shahadah is apparently some sort of re-proclamation of their faith, and not a 50s music cover band.  Who would've known?

I've been meaning to recommend a post to you guys for days.  357 Magnum, who regularly brings the smarts on this topic, as well as many others, has a great summary post on the radiation leaks from the Fukshima nuclear power plant.   Fear Killed After Fukushim Daiichi.  Radiation, Not So Much.  If you live with or work around someone who carried on about this like it was going to be some sort of world wide catastrophe, send them to this piece and its links.  I work with a fairly smart guy who has sucked up way too many time-wasting pieces of  YouTube apocalyptic videos.  I'll be sending him this link.
No one has died from radiation associated with Fukushima Daiichi. Say that again. NO ONE has died.

The workers in the plant AFTER the disaster will not develop cancers in measurable difference from the background rate. (Some people develop cancer, even if they have never worked in nuclear power.)
Radiation wasn't the problem, it was government incompetence and fear-mongering. 

Didn't get much done today on the many projects.  We were up at 5 to catch the morning high tide at Sebastian Inlet and after that I had to spend a few hours in cleaning the boat, tackle and everything else, getting it stowed for "next time".  Unfortunately, high tide was all I caught.  Well, that and about a thousand no see um bites.  They were wicked bad this morning.  Mrs. Graybeard, though, caught a silver mullet on a white bucktail jig.  Yes, it ate the jig, it wasn't snagged.  Rare, but I've caught one once. 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Shop Time - A Little Trick on the Lathe

Chances are most real machinists know this and do this, but I'm still learning.  The first parts I'm making for my Grizzly G0704 CNC conversion are threaded standoffs.  The lengths vary, but they're all tapped 10-32 threads 3/4" deep on axis on both ends.  This is a natural job for the lathe. 

I did the first four with a standard hand tap, the kind I've used manually many times.  These have straight relief slots along the length of the threads, like this, and are usually driven with a small, special wrench - they're square drive.  As part of the tapping, you typically drill a hole to a set size (depending on diameter and material), then screw the tap into this hole, advancing a little and then retracting the tap to break chips and get them out of the hole. On the lathe, I put the standoff into the lathe chuck, the tap in the drill chuck held in the tailstock.  While I tried using power, that didn't work well, so I ended up manually turning the lathe chuck.  It was slow and tedious.  We're talking maybe 15 minutes to do one hole and I have many holes to tap.

I did some research and the issue with power tapping is the reciprocating action; driving the tap forward a turn or so, then backing it out half.  There are machine attachments available, but they cost much more than the project.  I thought that perhaps a spiral flute tap would work better because they're designed to clear out your chips faster.  

The spiral flute taps arrived yesterday and I got to try them out.  It increased the speed many times.  I wouldn't doubt I went from 15 minutes (or more) per hole to about two minutes.  This video is 2:12 and shows the whole process.  You can see how it works: I start the lathe in its lowest speed and bring the tap up to the pre-drilled hole.  The tap is held in the chuck in the tailstock with a drop of cutting fluid on it, but the tailstock isn't locked down, allowing it to move freely.  The tap literally screws itself in while cutting threads, perhaps a half inch, pulling the tailstock with it.  At some point, it's too much load on the tap and it will start to spin in the chuck.  At that point I put the lathe into reverse, backing the tap out.  Once the tap is backed out and cleaned of caked on aluminum (swarf), I put the lathe in forward and repeat.  Most of these took two plunges of the tap, but some took three.  Not quite sure why.

Hope this is useful to someone.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Hungary - On The Ground With the "Refugees"

A friend sent a link today to this video posted on September 5th.  Unless you speak Hungarian (I believe), don't bother with audio. 

The incident took place at a train station in Hungary, where police brought water and packages of food to the refugees.  The story was that the food and water were refused because they came from the Red Cross and the packages bore a cross instead being marked as Halal - in their native language I assume.  They would not take aid with a Christian symbol.  Several of the refugees, reported to be Syrian, can be seen throwing water bottles and food onto the nearby train tracks.  Children accepted the food only to have it taken by teens or adults and thrown away.

You will note that the population appears to be almost entirely men of military age.  ISIS?  Some other group?  Nobody knows and nobody is allowed to question that.  Bretibart reports that as this is unfolding in Europe, five of the wealthiest Gulf States have refused to take in one single Syrian refugee. 
Yet amidst cries for Europe to do more, it has transpired that of the five wealthiest countries on the Arabian Peninsula, that is, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain, not one has taken in a single refugee from Syria. Instead, they have argued that accepting large numbers of Syrians is a threat to their safety, as terrorists could be hiding within an influx of people.
We're watching Europe being taken over without a single shot being fired.

Sunday's Lunar Eclipse

Ran across this graphic on
Times are in US Eastern Daylight Time, so correct for that.  I'll be staying up a little later than the usual work night, but these things are pretty.  They're also slow and majestic, taking an hour and 10 minutes in totality.  You could wander outside, find nothing but clouds and still get to see the moon in total eclipse a half hour or 45 minutes later. 

This one will be cool: it's a Supermoon, which means the moon is at its perigee; the closest point in its orbit, so it'll appear larger than other month's full moon.  You probably won't notice it since it's only 7% larger and there's nothing nearby to  compare it to.  It's also the harvest moon, a period when the moon appears to linger closer to the horizon and look bigger and brighter, allowing crops to be harvested later into the evening.  As for being a blood moon, I think the geometry of how eclipses happen guarantees that any lunar eclipse could be one; the actual color depends more on the weather all around the lit path (the entire circumference of the earth) than anything else.   
Sure, it'll be bigger and closer than usual, but it won't look that big and close... I think Ren Hoek here is copyright John Kricfalusi from the old Ren and Stimpy show, but maybe Nickolodeon and maybe... who knows?  You didn't think I did this, did you?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

I Wonder if He Thought of This Part?

(Michael Ramirez for 9/22)

I was going to talk about the Pope's nonsense on air conditioning, but I couldn't bear to read his encyclical.  Talk about TL:DR, that's a two hour sermon.  So I'll just note that the forecast for the Vatican City for tomorrow, 9/24, is for a low of 54 with a high of 72.  The forecast here is for a low of 72 and high of 88, with a 50% chance of thunderstorms.   When our overnight low is the same as his daily high, that says a lot about the relative need for air conditioning.  I mean, I really doubt he'll say no one should use heating when it's sub freezing outside; where's the logic in saying you'll "condition" your temperature when it's too cold but not when it's too hot?  By they way, 72 in the morning is an indication that fall is approaching.  In August, it's full tilt Crematoria here.  Over the summer it tends closer to 78 or 80 for the overnight low.  It was 71 on Monday morning and I honestly believe it hasn't been that cool since last April. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Techy Tuesday - More Progress on Prosthetics that Feel

This week, Design News brings us a story about continuing progress in prosthetics, in this case a hand, that can actually feel.  In a project funded by DARPA, the Applied Physics Lab at Johns Hopkins University was able to give a 28-year-old test patient who’s been paralyzed for more than a decade the ability to “feel” physical sensations through a mechanical hand connected directly to his brain.

Note that said it was wired into his brain directly, not interfaced to his skin in some place.  According to Ars Technica:
The prosthesis used in the experiment ... is capable of detecting when pressure is applied to a finger. DARPA reported nearly 100 percent accuracy in an initial set of tests. Despite being blindfolded, the volunteer, whose name is being withheld, was able to tell which extremity was being touched, and even when researchers were attempting to trick him.

"At one point, instead of pressing one finger, the team decided to press two without telling him,” Sanchez explained. “He responded in jest asking whether somebody was trying to play a trick on him. That is when we knew that the feelings he was perceiving through the robotic hand were near-natural."
DARPA themselves have a press release on the hand with a little more information:
“We’ve completed the circuit,” said DARPA program manager Justin Sanchez. “Prosthetic limbs that can be controlled by thoughts are showing great promise, but without feedback from signals traveling back to the brain it can be difficult to achieve the level of control needed to perform precise movements. By wiring a sense of touch from a mechanical hand directly into the brain, this work shows the potential for seamless bio-technological restoration of near-natural function.”

The clinical work involved the placement of electrode arrays onto the paralyzed volunteer’s sensory cortex—the brain region responsible for identifying tactile sensations such as pressure. In addition, the team placed arrays on the volunteer’s motor cortex, the part of the brain that directs body movements, so he was able to control its movements with his thoughts.
DARPA recently funded a $6.98 million contract to DEKA Innovative Solutions Corp. to continue development of the so-called “Luke Arm,” nicknamed for the fictional robotic arm given to the character Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars film series, according to a contract announcement on the DoD website.
From the human side, I wonder what it was like for a guy who had no feeling in his hands for 10 years to have those sensations again?  I can only imagine it must be incredible. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

And You Thought Trump Was A Laughing Stock

The headline of the year is from the UK:  British Politics Reels From Sex Scandal Involving David Cameron and a Pig Carcass.
The Daily Mail has begun publishing excerpts from an “unauthorized biography” of Cameron, authored by a rival from within his own Conservative Party. Its first tidbit claims that during “an outrageous initiation ceremony” as a student at Oxford, “the future PM inserted a private part of his anatomy into” the dead animal.
Just in case you think American politics is about as low brow as politics can be.  But the bottom line is that Cameron is a conservative, so you can bet the media there is just as friendly as the US media is to our conservatives. 

And while I'm talking about how stupid political tricks, here's a confidential to the stupid party:  When the news people set up a trap for you so they can make fun of you: DON'T WALK INTO THE TRAP.  Pardon the shouting.  This weekend's "let's make everyone say something about muslims that we can do a superior dance about" is a prime example.

I think the guy asking Trump about the president being muslim was a plant, for a couple of reasons.  First, it's too much like the stereotype the media has about Trump voters.  Second, remember back in '10 when lots of Tea Party events were going on, and the narrative was "they're all racist"?   Then when no one actually said or wrote anything that was actually racist, people would show up at Tea Party events with racist signs and when they were investigated, they all turned out to be infiltrators trying to make the Tea Party look bad.  Third, how come we don't know anything about the guy who asked the question?  We almost knew Joe the Plumber's credit card numbers within an hour of him asking Obama something about wealth redistribution.    

But then the media went with it and started asking everyone if they believed Obama is muslim.  
Thanks for making America look good, Mr. Prime Minister.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Rangy Weekend

I got to spend a couple of quality hours getting in some group therapy this weekend, so I'm going to gloat about getting to go shooting.  I've been taking Fridays off to burn off extra vacation, so this is my fourth short week in a row, and I'll take next Friday off, too.  Consider that another gloat, but my retired friends are immune to that one.

Friday, Mrs. Graybeard and I went down to our outdoor pistol range.  Last week was crazy rainy, and the several-acre range was partially underwater, but thankfully not everywhere.  The down side was that it's essentially August 49th, meaning it was 90 degrees with very high humidity.  Still, we put in an hour running a couple hundred rounds each: 100 of .380 ACP through a Sig P238 and 100 of .22LR in my S&W 22A.  It was so hot, I had to quit when my Pro Ears filled up with sweat (ewww....). 

Today we met some long time friends (best kind!) at an indoor range and spent an hour playing there, too.  I think pretty much all four of us shot everything we brought.  Compared to Friday, air conditioning is good.  I honestly think Florida's population would be about 10% of what it is if air conditioning hadn't been invented.
Craptastic iPhone camera shot of my lane.  L-R, Springfield Armory XDm 3.8 in .45, Sig P238 in .380 and XD subcompact in 9mm. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Some Days Don't Just Work Out as Planned

While drinking coffee this morning and trying to wake up all the way, I was watching the weekend morning news show when the TV turned itself off.  I turned it back on.  About 15 minutes later, it turned itself off again.

This became a pattern that lasted another few hours as Mrs. Graybeard and I started troubleshooting, trying to find out what was going bad.  We have a complex setup.  The TV is just a display, as is common these days.  To get content we have two inputs: a cable converter/DVR and a Roku streaming box.  These plug into a wireless media box that connects with the TV over a 60 GHz link.  The idea is that you can wall mount the TV and leave this box within a few feet of the TV, eliminating cables.  The media box was the only part of the system we could disable and stop the TV from turning itself off.

This is a long story, but suffice it to say this setup started giving us trouble a few weeks ago and this isn't the first day we've spent trying to figure out what's going wrong.  Although the system was designed with only one HDMI connector on the TV,  the media box adds four more HDMI inputs and a couple of other interfaces, so the TV is barely usable by itself without the media box.  We're going to try to get an HDMI switch and just get rid of the media box.

Then I got started playing around with Pinterest.  One of the gun blogs (No Lawyers?) had a piece on it quite a while back and I started trying to figure what it might be good for.   I started a page with virtually zero content, but I may do something with it some day.  Anybody use Pinterest for anything worthwhile?  Just another photo sharing site?  (for the terminally curious: watch this space?)

Between the two of those things, I pretty much wasted the day.  I had planned to make 3D solid models in Rhino of some parts for my CNC conversion project, so that I could make them on my Sherline CNC.  But nooooo...

Friday, September 18, 2015

Stinkin' Thinkin' Leads to Stinkin' Policy

I didn't see this in Janet Yellen's notes from yesterday; maybe I wasn't paying close enough attention to the sources I looked at, but Fox Business News reporter Melissa Francis this morning pointed out what I missed.  It's about the 2:45 marker in this video from today, but Yellen essentially said her "accommodative" monetary policy put people back to work and reduced income inequality.  To quote exactly, in context and all, from the Yelleninator:
“The main thing that an accommodative monetary policy does is put people back to work. Since income inequality is surely exacerbated by having a high unemployment and a weak job market, that has the most profound negative effects on the most vulnerable individual. To me, putting people back to work and seeing a strengthening of the labor market that has a disproportionately favorable effect on vulnerable portions of our population, that’s not something that increases income inequality.”
I will note in passing that in the dark ages, when I was growing up, "accommodative" was a term we used for young women of relaxed moral virtue.   We'd say, "boy howdy, Maria sure is accommodative for $5!".  Or "if you can spare a couple of bucks, Carlotta can be very accommodative".  

Getting back to the point, everything Yellen is saying is factually wrong.  They haven't put people back to work.  We have the lowest labor force participation rate since March of 1978 under President Peanut Farmer, and John Williams at Shadowstats says that if unemployment were recorded like it was in Carter's days, it would be stated closer to 23% than the reported 5.1%. 

Her income inequality statement is also wrong.  Census Bureau data shows that the median income for "all households" in the US is just $53,657 - the last time it was this low was  before 1995 according ton this chart on Business Insider.  She's not just wrong, she's completely wrong.  She's 180 degrees out of right.  On a compass, if  right was North, she'd be pointing South!  She hasn't helped reduce income inequality, the Fed's ZIRP is the biggest wealth transfer in history; in this case from savers and small businesses to the giant banks. 

None of what I'm pointing out is simply my opinion.  They're both widely reported numbers: from the US Census Bureau for the income data and from the Federal Reserve of St. Louis for the labor participation rate. 
I'm left with wondering what's up with Janet?  Is she an Obamanoid political hack?  Is she not capable of seeing the world outside, so blinded by her econometric models she can't see straight?  Is she just an addled, borderline incompetent, professorial type?   Not that these are mutually exclusive.  She could be all of these. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Yellen and the Fed Agree to Keep Starving Savers

Doubtless you've heard that Fed Head Janet Yellen announced there would be no interest rate hike or relief from the Zero Interest Rate Policy which has been literally impoverishing, if not outright starving, savers since December of '08.  If you're one of the millions of retirees who can't earn enough on your savings to grab a cup of coffee, they're still transferring (indirectly) what you could be earning to the big banks.  They're distorting the world's economies so badly, it's quite possible it can never be fixed again.

Last July, I posted a piece that included an introduction to Yield Purchasing Power, YPP, with an example I'll cut down a bit here:
Yield Purchasing Power (YPP) shows how much you can buy, not with a dollar of cash, but with the earnings on a dollar of productive capital. No one wants to spend their life savings or inheritance. People are happy to spend their income, but not their savings.

I compared two archetypal retirees. Clarence retired with $100,000 in 1979, and Larry retired with $1,000,000 in 2014. Clarence was able to earn 2/3 of the median income in interest on his savings. Larry was nowhere near that. He would need over $100 million to do the same. In 35 years, the YPP of a 3-month CD fell more than 1,000-fold.
Yellen says inflation is running so low they need to keep ZIRP in place to try to create inflation.  The collapse in YPP shows that inflation is very real and very large.  It also shows the Fed doesn't consider savers' ability to live on their life savings, in case you were under any delusions they cared about you.  Look at how much capital you need to support a middle class lifestyle.  Measured in dollars, the price of this capital is skyrocketing.

Not only did Yellen say there was no inflation problem, she said the FOMC discussed driving interest rates negative, charging you for money left unspent in your bank, but decided not to do it.  I assume that's followed by an implied "yet".
One member of the FOMC would add more stimulus to the U.S. economy by moving interest rates into negative territory. However, it is “not something that we considered very seriously at all today,” Yellen said.
Karl Denninger over at the Market Ticker is calling for all their heads, but that doesn't solve the problem.  Unless the Federal Reserve is drastically structurally changed, it's going to happen again.  The Fed, has painted themselves into a corner on this.  They really missed the window to raise rates.  They should have raised rates last year, when their (phony) numbers show more growth and promise than they do now.  Now, you've got to believe if they raised rates a paltry quarter percent (so that money you earn interest on would double in a mere 288 years) the banks and brokers would throw a fit and probably drop the DJIA another thousand bucks.  On the other hand, if they don't raise rates, some number of traders are going to realize the Fed is out of ammunition and that could cause the market to tank, too.
Over at Bonner and Partners, Bill Bonner has been playing around the last few days channeling Janet Yellen's thoughts while lying awake at 4AM staring at the ceiling.  (Part 1, part 2)  Today, he channeled a speech in which Janet admits she's clueless and no one person or small group can know the things they need to know to their job.  A tease.
“Look, I’m just a girl from Brooklyn who went to Fort Hamilton High School. Do you really expect me to manage the world economy? My father thought I should go into medicine. And maybe he was right. Doctors have real knowledge… not just this hocus-pocus of modern economics.

“I’ve already proven I don’t know any more of what is going on than you do. The biggest financial disaster of the century, the housing bubble, hit me like it hit you – as a surprise.
“Everything has to come to an end sometime. And seven years of this silly ZIRP seems like more than enough. Yes, we know that the stock market could crash. And yes, we know that a lot of businesses – who have come to depend on these ridiculous rates – could go broke.

“But there’s no virtue in putting off the inevitable. When Humpty Dumpty is going to fall off the wall anyway, give him a push and get it over with.”
Go read.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

New Executive Order To "Nudge" the American People

Yesterday, President Obama issued an executive order, "Using Behavioral Science Insights to Better Serve the American People".  It opens:
To more fully realize the benefits of behavioral insights and deliver better results at a lower cost for the American people, the Federal Government should design its policies and programs to reflect our best understanding of how people engage with, participate in, use, and respond to those policies and programs. By improving the effectiveness and efficiency of Government, behavioral science insights can support a range of national priorities, including helping workers to find better jobs; enabling Americans to lead longer, healthier lives; improving access to educational opportunities and support for success in school; and accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy.
A good question at this point is, "whut?"  I thought Cass Sunstein had left the government, and a quick check shows he officially left in 2012, but this has his "Nudge" written all over it.  (Coincidentally, I'm sure, the Yiddish word for a really annoying, nagging person is a noodge - which sounds almost like nudge - and is pretty darned appropriate).  As I wrote about it way back then (2010):
The idea behind the book is simple: we all have an inner Homer Simpson and an inner Mr. Spock who run our decision making.  While the Ruling Class Elites are under the control of their inner Spock, you're ruled by Homer.  You're too stupid to make good choices, so the wise and wonderful government will make them for you.  ... You enjoy that weekly cigar?  It's too linked to mouth cancer, don't you know.  We'll have to quadruple the taxes on them.  Or more.  Or take them off the market.  It's for the children, you know.  By the way - that anger and revulsion you're feeling?  That "who the #?*! do they think they are??" feeling?  That's just another symptom of the "optimism and overconfidence" that your inner Homer gives you (last paragraph of that Slate piece).
The Daily Caller adds a little backgrounder here:
The new program is the end result of a policy proposal the White House floated in 2013 entitled “Strengthening Federal Capacity for Behavioral Insights.” According to a document released by the White House at that time, the program was modeled on one implemented in the U.K. in 2010. That initiative created a Behavioral Insights Teams, which used “iterative experimentation” to test “interventions that will further advance priorities of the British government.”
By no coincidence, those "priorites" almost always advance the goals of increasing the power and control of the federal government, though they are often couched as ways to cut overall program spending or produce better programs.

If you haven't been following Buttstain, here's a collection of every time I've mentioned him in this blog's 5+ years.  But let me tell you, I've got a whole lot of that, "who the #?*! do they think they are??" feeling that my inner Homer Simpson is causing.

(Cass Sunstein)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Techy Tuesday - Equal Time: Inside SpaceX's Manned Capsule

Back in July, I ran a piece on what the Orion capsule is going to look like inside.  Tonight we get a peek inside the manned version of the SpaceX Dragon capsule

In a word: artsy.  Design in the artistic sense.  Gleaming white, matte-finished metal and graphite.  A preview:
Go see the SpaceX corporate site for the Crew Dragon craft.

Crew Dragon has several similarities to the Orion capsule, but SpaceX is clearly way ahead in the visualization and modeling phase.  It looks like a real artist or master product designer was involved.  Something like whoever designed the iPhone vs. me, for instance. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Sometimes I Can Be Too Stubborn

Just about 22 months ago: November 28, 2013 to be exact, Midway USA was running a sale on these: Remington "Bucket O Bullets", 1400 rounds of .22LR.  The price was $60 - at a time when the next closest price was $20 more and gun show vendors were asking $90 for a brick of 500 - and it was listed as OK to backorder.  Since Midway won't bill until the merchandise is shipped, and the stated ship date was before the end of December, I punched the button. 

I could list all of the delays but suffice it to say that a year later, my backorder expired.  I stubbornly started a new "notify me when in stock" then (late 2014) and for the last 10 months, whenever some would come in, I'd get the notification and immediately click on the link to Midway only to find other guys had gotten their bucket while I was at work.  Then I'd enter another notification.  There's a fine line between being determined and just plain stubborn.  I've clearly gone over that line.

You're probably guessing where this is going.  I got my latest notification tonight and there was actually at least one bucket in stock.  It will be on the way shortly - just short of two years waiting.  Along the way, the price went from $60 to $100, and at 8 cents/round it's not all that much cheaper than the cheapest smaller boxes at the fun show.  I could wait another year and see if it gets back to $60, but we've hit the point where I'd just as soon put some downrange.  I had an ad from CDNN a few days ago that had these buckets for $140, with shipping and a mandatory extra signature fee, so my stubbornness has paid off at least somewhat.   

Sunday, September 13, 2015

30% Of Millennials Would Sell An Organ To Erase Student Loans

According to the website InvestmentWatch, 30% of Millennials said they'd sell an organ to pay off their student loans.  They link to a survey at MyBankTracker, saying that's not the most questionable part of it.
...38 percent would agree to take part in a questionable medical study. These are two of the findings released by the website MyBankTracker which surveyed 200 of its readers this past summer to determine how far they would go to erase their school-related debt. In terms of other extreme measures, 55 percent would turn their lives into a reality show. However, the participants had their limits, as only 43 percent would be willing to sell half their belongings. And sixty-eight percent would reportedly refuse to join active duty in the military.
30% would be willing to sell a kidney, while 43% would be willing to sell half their belongings?  "You can take part of my liver, but you can't take my smartphone"?  The last line, 68% would refuse to join active duty military, is probably selection bias.  Anyone who would accept going into active military duty to get educational benefits probably isn't part of this population, because they did it already. 

The kicker is that of the population they surveyed the median age of the respondents was 32, and their student loan debt averaged about $34,500 per person.  According to the Project on Student Debt, this is well over the $28,400 national average for student loan debt.  We've all heard stories about students ending up over $100,000 in debt; these are probably the expensive, private schools, and an outlier number.
Maybe, on second thought, don't buy the liver.    

If You Have A Lot of Time

If you have a lot of time on your hands and like to play with mechanical things, you just might make something like the amazing Do Nothing Machine.

The Do Nothing Machine was built by Lawrence Wahlstrom over several years, apparently from 1948 until 1953. A full description of the machine and what has been found of its history is on the machine's web page at the Museum of Craftsmanship in Carlsbad, California.  The museum itself was started by the late founder of Sherline Products, whose miniature metalworking tools were my entry drug into making things out of metal.

 A visitor to the museum is said to have remarked "You know, there's a lot going on here with no results.  You ought to call it congress."  A Popular Mechanics article (at the Machine's page) sounds like the description of the Retro encabulator

Friday, September 11, 2015

Never Forget

While sipping my coffee this morning, I was watching the annual ceremony of the reading of the names of the 9/11 victims in the WTC.  I don't know why it surprised me to see as much crying as I saw, but I was struck by how raw the wounds from that day still are.  From the way most mass media talks about it, it's like dim distant past, something the country is completely over.  Easy to say if it's not your loved one, coworker, or other friend that died that day. 

In going over my years on this blog, I find I've written only a few posts on 9/11.  I suppose I try to contribute something that other people don't and with the superb writers floating in the blogosphere, I'm not sure I have much to say that's worthwhile.  I find it's one of those few days in my life where I instantly can vividly recall where I was, what I was doing, and all of the things we saw and heard.  

On that bright Tuesday morning, I was out of the office at a company that we contracted to do some testing on our radios.  As the technician and I were setting up the test, the company's secretary/receptionist came in and said the radio had a bulletin that an airplane had hit the World Trade Center.  My first reaction, perhaps strangely, was that radio navigation systems can't be that wrong, it must have been a terrible accident.  Act of war did not enter my mind.  As the morning went on, a TV set was put in place and large antenna hooked up outside (there are no local TV channels).  We watched the second plane hit and quickly realized this was no accident.  That's when the thoughts of Pearl Harbor and other acts of war started.

In the days that followed, I learned that friends were affected by the events of 9-11, but weren't involved.  A co-worker was on business near Seattle, and had to rent a car to drive home.  A very close friend was waiting at JFK airport to fly home, and saw the attacks in real time.  He also had to rent a car and drive home.  A cousin lives within viewing distance and watched it. And now I have friends who have sons in the armed forces in Afghanistan, and others who have been in Iraq.  We need to remember we are at war, even if our enemy isn't a convenient nation-state.  You can pretend we're not at war if you'd like, but if someone swears to destroy you, it's prudent to believe them. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

This is my Shocked Face

Headline news for the day from the Daily Caller: 
Marine Corps Study Shows That Men Are Better In Ground Combat Than Women

An experimental Marine Corps study looking at female integration into ground combat units has determined that women perform far worse than men.
Not only that, but they reported that experimental mixed units of men and women didn't perform as well as the all-male units.

I sure hope they didn't spend too much money on that.  But it's not just the, its the .Mil, and they're not known for extreme frugality.

Skepticism aside, there are interested snippets in the study.  To list a few:
  • All-male squads were faster and had greater accuracy in firing weapons, by a margin of 44 percent to 28 percent (hits on target).  In my mind, I'd thought that women would work well in several roles in the modern military, including as snipers.  Maybe not?  I can think of a half dozen women who would be terrifying snipers right off the top of my head.   
  • All-male crews “had a noticeable difference in their performance of the basic combat tasks of negotiating obstacles and evacuating casualties.”  Probably because
  • “females possessed 15 percent less power than males,” and that “the female top 25th percentile overlaps with the bottom 25th percentile for males.” 
  • “Male Marines threw their packs to the top of the wall, whereas female Marines required regular assistance in getting their packs to the top.”
  • Women also were more likely to be injured, according to the study.  The British Ministry of Defence, found that because of physiological differences, women are burdened with musculoskeletal injuries at a rate 10 times higher than men. If a woman has to carry a pack more than 25 percent of her body weight, her risk of injury skyrockets by five. 
Look, I have nothing against women in the military, but there are places where raw strength and "brass knuckles brutality" offer a distinct advantage and it seems those places should be left to the men.  Ground combat sure seems to be one.  No, I was never in the military, never claimed to be, but it has always been my understanding that despite the great advances in weapons, logistics, air support and everything else, there come times when fights are just that: fights, just like they've been for thousands of years.  The Marines report cites:
“the brutal and extremely physical nature of direct ground combat, often marked by close, interpersonal violence.”

It further argues that the nature of battle “remains largely unchanged throughout centuries of warfare, despite technological advancements.”
Probably the most famous photo of a Marine with the after-combat, thousand yard stare, from Fallujah Iraq, in 2004, James Blake Miller

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Another Technical Analyst Weighs In

A few weeks ago, I drew on an article by Peter Degraaf showing technical analysis that a major market crash is likely to come.  Tonight I want to draw you attention to another analyst, Clive Maund, who repeats many of the same diagrams and adds more context.  For example, he mentions the dome pattern in that previous post and points out some more details.  This chart is from August 7th, before the big drops, but based on the dome pattern and how the 50 day moving average was dropping below the 200 day MA, he started warning.  By using the dramatic red arrow pointing down, he was saying the market could go into free fall from there. 
Which it did.  And he presents several plots to indicate it's not done falling yet.  This is not the time to be buying on the dips.  He even shows how the plunge protection teams have done nothing but set up all the indicators that the next big drop is coming. 

The article features several good graphs with lots of explanations.  It includes terms I've never seen before, so I'll have to go research them. 

I don't think there has been a real stock market rally since the crash of '08 and I don't think it has been a real recovery.  The market still hasn't recovered to even its 2008 numbers when corrected for inflation, and has come nowhere near its peak in early 2000.   John Williams of Shadowstats has data that says the real unemployment number isn't the 5.1% they reported, it's more like 23% and the reason for the difference is the millions of people out of the labor force and no longer counted as unemployed. 

The Fed is between the proverbial rock and a hard place.  As Clive Maund puts it:
The Fed faces a desperate dilemma – it wants to start a rising interest rate cycle in order to eventually scale down its massive balance sheet and to head off a threatening collapse of the dollar and Treasury market, but if it does so it will collapse the stockmarket and create a depression. If it raises rates at its next meeting on 16th – 17th markets will crash. If it doesn’t raise them, markets will probably crash anyway, because it will be interpreted as meaning that the economy is too weak to handle even a miniscule rate rise.
As an opposite to his last point, I think there's some chance that if they were to raise rates, it might well show the rest of the world that there are adults in charge who know they need to do so and that might encourage the markets. 


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Techy Tuesday - Running Windows X?

I'm curious how many of my readers took the free update to Windows X.  As I posted when I first heard about it, Microsoft is changing their business model for 10, er, X.  Not simply giving it away but aggressively pushing it on users of 7 and 8.  Being a bit of a cautious guy, I figured I'd keep an eye on feedback online and an ear among my software engineer friends at work.

Turns out, Windows X is spying on just about everything you do.  The funny thing is, they seem to have left avenues open for users to opt out of it, and they're hoping betting you never do. So they bury those details in the End User's License Agreement (the EULA).
Well, here is Microsoft’s 12,000-word service agreement. Some of it is probably in English. We’re pretty sure it says you can’t steal Windows or use Windows to send spam, and also that Microsoft retains the right to take possession of your first-born child if it so chooses. And that’s only one of several documents you’ll have to read through.
(Since a Dilbert cartoon about it ages ago, instead of joking about "Microsoft retains the right to take possession of your first-born child", we always refer to agreeing to be Bill Gates' towel boy).  The tech site Rock Paper Shotgun  (great name!) has a good feature article on the ways to try to get some of your privacy back and a good perspective on what's going on.  When Microsoft says "Free Windows X", they're using the word in the new internet sense:  if something you're using is free, you're what's being sold. 
Conventional wisdom has it that Microsoft’s fight for technological relevance is against Apple. For a time that was true, but as of late they’ve effectively ceded the floor to the Cupertino mob when it comes to hardware (although I hope the Surface Pro line continues – I’m a big fan) and have once again narrowed their computing focus to software. The battle there is against Google, whose search, browser and productivity tools increasingly form a loose, web-based operating system. People aren’t so hot on paying for things these days, which means the money comes from harvesting data and flogging it to advertisers and other organisations who want to know exactly what we’re all up to online. Microsoft want a piece of that, so if you ever wondered why they’ve made the Windows 10 upgrade free to Win 7 & 8 users, here’s one possible answer. Windows 10 has all sorts of user tracking baked right in.

Importantly, you can opt out of what seems to be all this stuff (time will tell) either during installation or afterwards, though Microsoft swaddle it in a combination of dissembling “hey, this stuff’ll really help you get the information you want’ fluff and 45 pages of service agreement documents. I’ll refer you here and here for a detailed breakdown of the really worrying stuff, but the long and short of it is the operating system assigns you a unique advertising ID, which is is tied to the email address you’ve associated with Windows and fed data from a great many facets of your computer usage. Including the contents of messages and calendars, apps and networks, some purchases and whatever you upload to Microsoft’s unreliable OneDrive cloud storage. Using the Cortana search assistant makes the harvest even more aggressive, and of course the OS claims it’s all in the name of a better, more accurate online experience for you. [emphasis added - SiG]
As unsettling as that might be if you're expecting even a little privacy, there are also reports (another) that some of the Windows X tracking tools are being pushed into the automatic updates that Windows 7 and 8 users are getting, too.  They've changed the "Terms of Service Agreement" for their Windows Store and given themselves the right to sniff you're computer's butt to detect and uninstall any pirated first-party XBox and Windows games you have installed.  They even claim the right to disable “unauthorized hardware peripheral devices”.  While I don't play games more modern than Freecell and wouldn't be affected by that change at all, I'm a bit put off by the "unauthorized hardware" statement.  How would my OS know if my hardware is authorized and what does unauthorized hardware even mean?  If I have it, I either bought it or traded for it: either way, it's mine.  What exactly are they talking about and what exactly are they going to do??

I kind of like the way Rock Paper Shotgun captures the big picture here:
The other issue here is that Microsoft simply aren’t making it clear enough that they’re doing this, how it might affect you and how to opt out – despite chest-thumping, we’re-all-chums-here talk about how “real transparency starts with straightforward terms and policies that people can clearly understand.”

There is no world in which 45 pages of policy documents and opt-out settings split across 13 different Settings screens and an external website constitutes “real transparency.”
(Dilbert for January 14, 1997)

Monday, September 7, 2015

Here Comes Net Neutrality

From Karl Denninger at Market-Ticker, we get this tale of what Net Neutrality is really going to mean to us.  First, the setup from TechCrunch:
During an investor call today (link via Ars), Comcast executive VP David Cohen said that he predicts bandwidth caps (or, as ISPs prefer to put it, “usage-based billing”) to be rolled out network-wide within the next 5 years or so.

The reason they haven’t done so already? They’re still working out exactly where they can cap things before they start getting phone calls — that is, before people start calling up to cancel. Meanwhile, making things more complicated tends to scare people away, so they don’t want to just offer up multiple plans/tiers — so before they make any changes, they need to find that plan that works for almost everyone.
Switching over to Denninger:
See, at the core of the problem is one little company called Netflix that is responsible for more than a quarter of all traffic on the Internet during the evening hours.  And that company is hell-bent and determined to not pay for the load that it presents to the end-attachment points or how it concentrates that load, both of which break (in a bad way) the models that the ISPs (cable companies, etc) use to build their networks.

All problems of this sort can be solved by money, and this is fundamentally a fight about money.  Streaming an "SD" movie requires about a gigabyte per hour, per device.  HD doubles that and 4k doubles it again. 

Further, it's not just data delivered over time, it's another qualitative measurement called jitter.  In other words you can't have a stream that has material gaps in the delivery of the data or the display of your video will stutter and, if bad enough, fail to play entirely.
Karl goes on to run numbers on the amounts of data we're talking about here, and some of the business/politics that has been involved.  I've gathered from reading his place pretty regularly that he isn't particularly fond of Netflix, and this piece definitely has that flavor.  On the other hand, if he's right about what has been going on, he really has a point.  And his experience from having owned an ISP is full of reality.
While the problem is less-severe for "landline" (e.g. Cable, FIOS, etc) customers it is by no means not present.  If you have a 50Mbps connection from Comcast, for example, you could consume 375 Megabytes per minute.  That works out to 22.5Gb/hour roughly 16.2 Terabytes per month.

Again, Comcast cannot engineer for that while charging you $50/month.  Can you buy such service?  Sure!  I used to buy service of similar quality as an ISP all the time -- a 44.7Mbps (each direction) DS-3 "clear channel" line for which I actually paid to move that full amount of data all the time.

But while it's gotten much cheaper than the five-digit price tag per month I paid at that time for such capacity it sure as hell isn't $50/month even today.
There was a lot of sentiment from young tech heads that they were being screwed because their ISP was wanting to charge extra for Netflix or other streaming services.  Net Neutrality, at its root, says "all bits are equal" and they can't charge you more for one service's bits.  But they can charge you what it costs them to provide those bits and they can meter how many bits you use.  Simply, they're going to have to charge what it costs them or go out of business, and if they don't charge enough, they can't get enough money to build out infrastructure for the Next Big Thing (Netflix 4K?).  By the looks of it, we'll all be having metered internet services in the next few years. 

Go read the rest of the piece at Market Ticker.  Let it sink in. 
(Lisa Benson at Town Hall)

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Fun Show Day

It was fun show weekend here in the Silicon Swamp.  We missed yesterday screwing around with a bad cable TV issue, so dropped by today.  I was especially curious to see if the Ruger Precision Rifles have made it here yet, get my hands on one and see how the fit and finish felt, but there were none - at least not today. 

I saw a couple of odds and ends that I kinda liked, but nothing that caused me to scream "take my money!"  I noticed that ammo in general is much more available and that .22LR continues to drop in price.  Well, the word "dropping' implies faster changes; it's more like oozing lower.  For example, on the 525 round bricks, like the Federal bulk Champion or Remington Golden Bullets that used to go for $20 or $25 and then went up over $60, the best price was $45 or around 8 1/2 cents per round.  Bass Pro lists those boxes for $30, "in store only".  I was in there just last weekend and forgot to go look.

Despite the record NICS checks for June, July and August, prices look pretty reasonable.  Definitely more like before the panic (early '13?) than right after it.   

As fall approaches and then arrives (usually by Halloween), it gets much easier to spend hours down at the club range.  The next couple of months are usually peak saltwater fishing season, too, as the fall migration peaks through October, so I'll hopefully doing one or the other every weekend.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

So It's September - Things to Watch For

It's September 5th, or August 36th as it's known around here, Labor Day weekend, and here are a few things that are coming in September to keep an eye on.
  • September 13th is Eyul 29 of the Hebrew calendar, the end of the Sabbath year, the Shemitah.  While the US markets are closed that day (it's next Sunday), markets elsewhere in the world may not be.  It's a day to watch, considering that on the last two occurrences the US market had the two biggest one day collapses in history. 
  • September 15th the 70th session of the UN General Assembly begins.  It's being reported that France plans to introduce a resolution which would give formal UN Security Council recognition to a Palestinian state.  Up until now, the United States has always been the one blocking such a resolution, but Barack Obama is indicating that things may be much different this time around.  With the Supreme court ruling this week that Jerusalem is essentially not part of Israel by striking down a ruling that people born in Jerusalem are may claim  Israel as their country of birth, that adds backing to this belief. 
  • September 25th to September 27th – The United Nations is going to launch a brand new sustainable development agenda for the entire planet.  Some have called this “Agenda 21 on steroids”.  But this new agenda is not just about the environment.  It also includes provisions regarding economics, agriculture, education, gender equality, and (of course) climate change - basically the whole Social Justice Warrior wet dream, including direct attacks on capitalism.  On September 25th, the Pope will travel to New York to give a major speech kicking off the UN conference where this new agenda will be unveiled.  As an aside, I know many of the people behind Agenda 21 openly said they'd like to see 95 to 98% of humanity killed off; I wonder if the Pope would agree to that? 
  • September 28th is the last of the four "blood moons" in the current tetrad of lunar eclipses.   This one happens to occur on the Jewish Feast of the Tabernacle, it will be a “supermoon”, and the eclipse will actually be visible in the city of Jerusalem.  In a lunar tetrad, the total lunar eclipses happen 6 months apart. There are at least six full Moons between two total lunar eclipses in a tetrad.  This century will have eight such tetrads.  
  • Italian Astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli calculated that the occurrence of such tetrads varies over centuries. Some 300 year intervals have several lunar tetrads, while other 300 year intervals do not have any. For example, the years between 1852 and 1908 did not have any tetrads, whereas the next 3 centuries will have 17 tetrads.

    For an interesting list of things that are associated with these tetrads historically, see Armstrong Economics.
  • The bail-in legislation ordered for 11 countries in the EU that I mentioned before is hard to track down, but bail-in legislation for banks is not restricted to the Eurozone.  The Examiner describes how Dodd-Frank legislation set the infrastructure in place in the US for a bail-in program.  "Bail-in", of course, is polite banker-speak for taking your money out of your account.
Pop yourself some popcorn - or, if you're a low carber, fry up a mess of pork rinds.  Could be an interesting time to watch the world.  Worst case, you eat too many perfectly good snacks.

Friday, September 4, 2015

It Could Take As Much as Four Months for the Market to Recover

I read that and thought, "Bwahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha".

I came across a link to this CNBC interview (H/T Bonner and Partners), which says that headline according to Wells Fargo's Brian Jacobsen, Wells Fargo Advantage Funds chief portfolio strategist.
"I do hope that it is a two to three week bottoming pattern. However, when I look at the history of bull market corrections, it actually suggests that it might take a little bit longer than two to three weeks," Jacobsen told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street."
For the record, I believe that pessimists are wrong just as often as optimists.  If everywhere you look you see bad news and no future besides "wailing and gnashing of teeth", you're probably overlooking something.  On the other hand, I think we have a lot of market distortion to crank out of the system and a lot of things to be reckoned with before we're over the worst of the economic turmoil.

Let's just go with the evidence we see in front of us.  At today's close of 16,102, the DJIA has lost about 12% from its May peak of 18,312.  I think it's too early to tell if this sell off is over.  It's definitely a correction but which way are going to move?  Indicators like the VIX (volatility index - essentially moves opposite the market; it's up when the market is down) are showing improvement but have still not approached levels they had before the selloffs started.  This indicates we have some more shocks to go through.

The correction has been going for two weeks already, so it's reasonable to ask if it's just a correction or if it's something more concerning, like the start of a new bear market.  It's just too soon to tell.  Bonner has a partner, Richard Duncan (who runs an expensive newsletter) who believes we're just at the start of a five year bear market until 2020.  That would mean the global credit bubble is deflating, and the world is “sliding back into a severe recession.”  For what it's worth, I've written more than one time on a confluence of things that I thought indicated the economy was going to slow down in the early 21st century regardless of attempts to prevent that.

The entire effort of the Federal Reserve since 2008 has been to head off a bear market.  The Fed has propped up stock prices to where they peaked (in May), and they will pull out even more stops to try to keep a long term bull market from happening.  They will intervene so hard that there's every chance that they'll cause a collapse.  If the trillions they've spent so far can't hold it off, how many more trillions would they have to throw at the market? 
(source)  There were two major corrections since 2009. In each case, stocks recovered all their losses within about four months.

But if you look carefully, you see that this was hardly a case of natural market forces at work. Instead, the fixers from the Fed were on the job.

In both instances, the Fed announced new liquidity programs near the bottom of the corrections. Stocks headed up again soon after.
Furthermore, a sign that investors are pessimistic would be bond prices going up (due to more demand) which means yields will be going down.  As has been going on since July.
I don't think any real direction will be discernible for several weeks.  Today's underwhelming job report will probably ensure the Fed will not raise interest rates.  That will add in.  Conventional wisdom is that raising rates will hurt the economy, and it's a pretty simple idea.  It would, however, send the message that the Federal Reserve has concerns about the extent to which they're distorting and damaging the economy, and that message might encourage buyers that there are adults in charge. 

Safe haven investments, like those 10 year bonds plotted above or, yes, solid commodities, are the place to be.  This capital management firm, for example, got completely out of equities and into cash.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

US Mint Coin Sales Soar

The US mint set very healthy year over year sales increases in August.
According to the latest data on the mint’s website, sales of the American Eagle Bullion gold coin amounted to 101,500 ounces last month. ... Year-over-year, coin sales rose 306% when compared to the 25,000 ounces sold in August 2014.
The mint reported American Eagle silver one-ounce coin sales of 4.935 million ounces, more than double the 2.088 million ounces sold during the same month last year.
But everyone knows gold is doomed, right?   Hey, that's the Washington Post!  Who are we to question?  I'd say that apparently whoever they were that bought three times more gold in August 2015 than 2014 thinks it's alright to question the WaPo.  Likewise, a substantial number of people seem inclined to agree with Jim Sinclair's observation that "Silver Will be Gold on Steroids" in what he sees as the coming rally.  (You might recall me asking "Is the Next Bull Market in Precious Metals Starting?" about a month ago). 

Sinclair believes that in the coming economic collapse/massive corrections that " is going to levels that today are considered more mental illness than monetary analysis."
Renowned gold expert Jim Sinclair stands by his prediction last year of an eventual gold price of $50,000 per ounce. Sinclair explains, “You have to understand we are going into unprecedented deflation, and it’s the reaction of central banks around the world to the concept of deflation that brings about hyperinflation. . . . There will be debt monetization of all kinds of debt to maintain some sort of equilibrium. The price of gold is going to go to a level that is going to surprise everybody. I was told that this is a rally that you won’t sell. That means gold will go to a level and not react violently down from that level. . . . This is when gold is going to levels that today are considered more mental illness than monetary analysis. Silver is best understood as gold on steroids because whatever potential and direction is taken up by gold, silver will be multiplied by 2 or by 5. . . .Silver will outperform gold.”
"May you live in interesting times"?
 That's a good start...

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Techy Tuesday - A Big Couple of Weeks in Electronics History

On August 28, 1958, Jack St. Clair Kilby of Texas Instruments demonstrated the first functional circuit made from a collection of pieces of silicon; it was a multivibrator, a type of oscillator or two state circuit.  Kilby had been hired by Willis Adcock the previous May, three months prior.  Since he had only been at TI those few months, he didn't have vacation time when the plant was to be shut down for a mass vacation.
[Kilby] was “left alone to ponder” and sketched out a circuit made entirely of semiconductors.

When Adcock returned from vacation, Kilby showed him the sketches. Adcock was skeptical and requested proof such a device would work. 

So Kilby – using packaged growth-junction transistors, resistors formed by cutting small bars of silicon etched to value, and capacitors cut from diffused silicon power transistor wafers – assembled and demonstrated a circuit made of discrete silicon elements.
While an interesting midpoint, it still wasn't the big prize that Kilby is known for today.  That came a couple of weeks later: September 12, 1958.  Jack demonstrated the first completely integrated circuit, made from a wafer of germanium, an embodiment of the same basic multivibrator circuit.  It wasn't much to look at and the component density wasn't an improvement over previous attempts to miniaturize electronics, everything is glued to a glass slide which is about an inch long, but it was the start of the integrated circuit industry, leading inexorably to today's submicron geometry transistors etched by the million in today's world.  
It was integrated with all the components in the bar of germanium, but the connecting wires are visible here.  Integrated wires were still yet to come, but the principle of having all of the circuit elements created from a piece of semiconductor was demonstrated.  In February of 1959, Kilby applied for the patent on the IC and was granted it a few months later.  TI is still proud of being the company where the IC was invented and still has a historical web page up about it. 
The integrated circuit first won a place in the military market through programs such as the first computer using silicon chips for the Air Force in 1961 and the Minuteman Missile in 1962. Recognizing the need for a "demonstration product" to speed widespread use of the IC, Patrick E. Haggerty, former TI chairman, challenged Kilby to design a calculator as powerful as the large, electro-mechanical desktop models of the day, but small enough to fit in a coat pocket. The resulting electronic hand-held calculator, of which Kilby is a co-inventor, successfully commercialized the integrated circuit.
The integration of wires was to come in 1959, when Fairchild Semiconductor co-founder Bob Noyce demonstrated his planar integrated circuit.  Robert Noyce went on to found Intel with Andy Grove and Gordon Moore in 1968, and many historians refer to Kilby and Noyce as essentially co-inventors of the integrated circuit.  But now we've wandered too far from our subject, three remarkable weeks in 1958.