Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

Kelly at

(When junior graybeard was a pup of about 8, he dressed up as an IRS agent - saying it was the most likely to frighten adults.  Thought of it himself. We were proud.)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

"This is Was the Week European Democracy Died"

I think everyone is familiar with the line, "So this is how liberty dies.  With thunderous applause." - spoken by Queen Amidala (portrayed by Natalie Portman) in Star Wars III - Revenge of the Sith, as she watched Emperor Palpatine tell a cheering Senate that he had taken all power away from them to form a Galactic Empire.  By all accounts, that line was written as a slam on George W. Bush and the Patriot Act, but it fits the EU situation well. 
Janet Daley of the Telegraph (UK) writes this was the week that European Democracy died.
Democracy went down in a blaze of glory last week. Both the German Bundestag and our own House of Commons put up one hell of a fight against the dying of the light. Maybe history will record that fact in an elegy on the demise of the great 18th-century experiment in government by the people: they were eloquent to the end. Because at the end, eloquence was all they had.
Her subject is the European's latest financial rescue plan, which destroys the sovereignty of all the nations of Europe.  Quoting Ms. Daley again,
So this is where we are. The agreed EU “stability union” triumphantly paraded before the media in Brussels will have the power to approve or disapprove budgets of countries in the eurozone – that is, to vet and police them – before they are submitted to the elected parliaments of those countries. (emphasis added: GB)
Read that again. No nation is allowed to control its own budget.  Unelected bureaucrats in Brussels will rule on how much tax every one in every Eurozone nation pays: who works, who retires young, and who pays for it.   It's the end of representative government; the end of personal liberty in the EU.

But it's not going to work.  They're not going to rescue Greece, Italy, Portugal, or the rest.  They're not going to save the EU.  They are going to crash and burn.  So says economic writer Liam Halligan in the Telegraph's, "Why the Latest Eurozone Bailout is Destined to Fail Within Weeks".  There was the almost-obligatory rally in the markets at first.  Until the bond buyers and financial analysts got a look at the package:
By late Thursday, though, and certainly on Friday, the warning signs were there. Global bond markets, by character more sober and smarter than the excitable equity guys, were voting against the deal. This is alarming. For it is only by selling more bonds that the eurozone's deeply indebted governments can roll-over their enormous liabilities and keep the show on the road.
he continues:
Some say Western governments shouldn't "accept" what the market says. "Who do these trading people think they are," I hear from the lips of the educated but financially-illiterate political elite. Let's be clear – if global bond markets stop lending to a number of large Western economies, we are in the realms of unpaid state wages and pensions, transport chaos and closures of schools and hospitals – sparking the prospect of serious civil unrest. Forgive my intemperate tone, but these are the dangers we face. And I'm afraid the only rational response to Thursday's announcement is that the probability of such undesirable outcomes has just been increased. (emphasis added, again)
Halligan gives the whole mess two weeks before it falls apart.  Maybe for good. George Soros agrees, saying,
"It will bring relief partly because the markets were so obsessed by the lack of leadership. The mere fact that something was achieved was a major relief and it will be good for any time from one day to three months."
(Say... does this remind anyone of how Dr. Evil crashed the British pound and other currencies: by shorting them and then saying he's lost faith in them?  Could it be...?)  In other words, the Telegraph economics writer thinks it will collapse within a couple of weeks, and Soros says "one day to three months".  What needs to happen is an orderly default of Greece and the rest of the PIIGS; have them leave the EU, let the banks declare their losses and get over it, let everyone take their lumps and get on with recovery.

In other words, we're freakin' doomed. 

A late hat tip to Bayou Renaissance Man for the links - and an excellent summary of the European mess.  I recommend a lot of reading: both Telegraph articles, Bayou Renaissance Man's background piece, if you want.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Lost and Profound Dept.

Don't remember where I found it the first time, but I stumbled across it doing some drive maintenance. 

That is all.  For now. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Basic Steps are Very Similar - 2

The last piece on this topic covered rough cutting.  The next step is ordinarily some form of shaping operation, whether cutting to a refined, final size or cutting other features.  In woodworking this can be done with a variety of cutting tools, perhaps dado or rabbet planes or a router (which seems to be everyone's favorite tool).  Shaping wood with a router is sometimes called millwork, and the analogy to a milling machine for metal is good in many ways. In many ways, a milling machine is like an upside down router table, but with precise control of moving the work. 

If you're getting started and wonder whether you should get a mill or lathe, there's overlap between what they can do.  The distinction is subtle: in a lathe, the stock is rotated while a fixed tool is moved against it, peeling off chips of metal.  In a mill the tool is rotated while a fixed workpiece is moved against the tool to have chips peeled off it.  A mill can do anything a lathe can do with enough fixturing, and a lathe can do some of the tasks a mill can do.  Confusing?  In professional machine shops, they ordinarily have both, and let each one do what it's best at.

Lathes are usually specified by two numbers; the diameter and the length of the work area. The most popular small lathes are around 7 x 12 in the US/UK - or able to turn pieces up to about 7” diameter and a few inches under that 12" long. These are sold by the discount tool importers under a variety of brand names. Whole online communities have evolved to support users of these tools. The miniature model makers favor the smaller lathes; for example, like Sherline, who has 3.5 x 8 or 17 inch lathes, or Taig, with their 4.5 x 9.75". (3.5 x 18 pictured)

Mills are specified the same way as lathes, except with three numbers that give the size of their X-Y table and Z-axis height.  They're also sometimes described by the numbers of axes of motion they allow, such as a three-axis mill, or as a four to eight-axis mill.  Saying "fourth axis" usually means a rotary axis, a very handy thing for gear cutting and more.  A knee mill is one where the table can be raised and lowered while the motor and tools are fixed. The same tool importers that sell the import lathes sell a variety of mills, and the model maker mills are again represented by Sherline and Taig. The stock modelmaker’s mills will handle a part around 4” x 8” x 3” thick.  The most respected name in full size manufacturing mills has historically been Bridgeport, and many metalworkers look long and hard to find a used Bridgeport they can give a home to.  With the decrease in the number of machine shops around, they aren't that hard to find.

It is often said that the best machine for a beginner is used American "heavy metal" like a Bridgeport or Atlas lathe.  Atlas sold lathes under the Sears Craftsman name; other good names include Hardinge and the British Myford lathes. They are certainly good machines, but the small American light metal, the Sherline, is accurate out of the box to levels that the Chinese 7x lathes won't reach without spending a lot of blood, sweat and tears. 

(Grizzly heavy metal: a 9x49 knee mill: over a ton with 3 phase, 220V 1500W motor)

A Sherline-sized mill may seem like it's too small for much practical work - and  you sure won't make big parts on it for a steady living - but the step up from a small Sherline or Taig to something like a Bridgeport brings a mess of complications.  The mill's weight goes from easily one man portable to over a thousand pounds, and the power goes up from a normal 120V outlet to three-phase, 220 or 440 V systems.  Likewise, the stepping up from the Sherline and 7x12 scale lathes, the relatively small 9 x 20" weighs around 300 pounds. A gunsmith's lathe like this one from Grizzly (their smallest) weighs over half a ton and takes up seven to eight feet of linear floor space.

Everyone feels this gap - it's an old quip that no matter what size machine you have you inevitably need one about an inch bigger.  As a work around, Sherline sells spacer blocks to increase their cutting diameter, and there's a small industry that works on upgrades to these tools.  A2Z CNC produces and sells upgrades to increase the capacity of your mill and have gone into production on a Monster Mill "Sherline" (the only thing Sherline about it is the motor and headstock).  I have their extended X and Y axes with some other upgrades I'll talk about later.  They're good stuff.  Anything like this that increases the stresses your cutting produces on the frame means you should take light cuts.  Many, light, repetitive cuts are a perfect reason for computer numerical control, although CNC does bring its own complications.

The cutting tools that are used on lathes and mills are a subject of their own. You may be surprised to know that while a fine cabinetmaker usually insists on carbide tooling, home machinists often prefer “high speed steel” (HSS) tools instead. These lathe tools can be sharpened on a bench grinder, or shaped to a custom cutting profile. The major tool suppliers offer free catalogs that carry a wealth of these tools. Lathe cutting tools are available in carbide or HSS.  Mills are single or double-ended, so that you can reverse them in their holder and get a longer life out of them, in HSS, carbide or Titanium Nitride coated. The most commonly used cutters are end mills: square ended spiral cutters that look like stubby drill bits.  These are available in differing numbers of cutting flutes, end cutting or not, and a variety of coatings.  End cutting mills drill better than flat end mills, although neither is a good drill; they're intended to cut along their sides.  The next most common shape is a ball end mill, which cuts a radius.  There’s almost a tool for every possible cut, so a few hours studying the tool suppliers’ catalogs can teach you much.

The last tool in the well stocked machine shop is a drill press.  The drill press gives you added accuracy in drilling a straight, vertical hole; or a hole at an angle other than 90 degrees to the work. Low cost drill presses have an adjustable table that will tilt with respect to the line of the drill bit, but radial drills will allow the head of the drill press to rotate with respect to the work. They also allow the drill to move along a rail or set of rails, like a radial arm saw does, giving more flexibility in the placement of holes on a piece of work. Drill presses are usually specified by the size of a piece they’ll cut to the center of. That means an 8” drill press, for example, will drill to the center of an 8” piece – 4”, or 4” in from the edge of a bigger piece.

In machine tools of this size, the fastest way to hollow out a block of metal is to use a drill.  Mark off the area you want to empty out and drill lots of holes.  Eventually, you'll clean it up and create the final dimensions with the end mill cutting out the scraps of metal remaining.  It's how I removed the bulk of the metal in my AR's fire control group. 

While fixturing is important in woodworking, it is paramount in metal work.  You can't achieve high accuracy without paying a lot of attention to work holding.  For example, the simple act of turning a metal rod down to a smaller diameter can't be done accurately if the rod protrudes more than about 1.5 times its diameter from the chuck.  The pressure of the tool on the work piece will bend it away from the tool by a measurable amount and taper the rod.  You need a moving rest or steady rest to turn long pieces to diameter.  If you are turning a rod down, and flip it end for end in the chuck, you will virtually always get a visible, if not feelable, line where the two worked areas meet.  You simply can't depend on the chuck to center the piece to the accuracy you need to not have that line - not for the price we'd be willing to pay for a chuck (although a collet might work well enough).  On a mill, if you clamp a part with too much force, you may bow it, so that after you mill it completely flat, it goes concave after you remove the clamping force.  For most work, once you know what to expect, it isn't more complicated than using a router table or dovetail jig, but forget about ever fixing the mill's head and pushing a block of metal under the bit, like you do with a router table. You need to clamp the work to a table of some kind. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Couple of Interesting Polls

Gallup published a few interesting polls this week.  Let's start out with "Self-Reported Gun Ownership in US is Highest Since 1993"
PRINCETON, NJ -- Forty-seven percent of American adults currently report that they have a gun in their home or elsewhere on their property. This is up from 41% a year ago and is the highest Gallup has recorded since 1993, albeit marginally above the 44% and 45% highs seen during that period.
The article has some interesting data and plots, including one showing that the increase in self-identified democrats exceeds self-identified republicans.
My big doubt here is that everyone knows that 2009 and 2010 were enormously big years for gun sales, yet the first chart shows a small decrease year over year in that period. "A record 14.033,824 NICS Instant Background checks were performed in 2009" for one, and while I can't find a similar one-link summary, it looks like 2010 was up over 2009 (sample data here).  It seems that if the number of checks was all time record high in those two years, either a lot of people who already own guns were buying more guns, or they didn't tell the Gallup pollster that they had a gun.

Nationwide, attitudes continue to swing in our favor.  The other cool story up on Gallup is, Record-Low 26% in U.S. Favor Handgun Ban".  The lead is:
PRINCETON, NJ -- A record-low 26% of Americans favor a legal ban on the possession of handguns in the United States other than by police and other authorized people. When Gallup first asked Americans this question in 1959, 60% favored banning handguns. But since 1975, the majority of Americans have opposed such a measure, with opposition around 70% in recent years.
As a certain extremely overpaid cretin observed recently, "BOOM!  Winning!"

I think we all know what's going on here: since around September or October 2008, when people realized "Firearms Salesman of the Century" Barack Obama was going to be president, more and more folks have realized he is not interested in or capable of saving the country and are investing in self-preservation.  I don't think it's fear of a zombie apocalypse. (and, seriously, am I the only one who thinks this whole zombie thing has jumped the shark?  I mean, c'mon, Hornady?)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Child Abuse

Around O-Town, a nearby Florida blogger, links to this video on Winds of Jihad..  He asks "is this child abuse?"

Yeah.  I think so.  Filling her head with all that communist crap is certainly abusive.  Trying to put her in a communist or socialist society is abusive.  Sorta goes with this one (NSFW), where twits at OWS praise the glories of North Korea.  North Korea, the darkest black hole on planet Earth!  Where mothers eat their children to survive.  (h/t Babalu

This is the paradise they want to install here. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Basic Steps Are Very Similar

... things to concentrate on while waiting for the latest "last chance" to save the Euro...
That's what happened in the U.S. The Fed's strategy of printing trillions of dollars and forcing interest rates to near zero has eliminated any and all market pressures on Congress to solve the budget fiasco. As a consequence, Congress is sitting contentedly on a situation where the U.S. borrows 38% of every dollar it spends. In about two years, gross national debt will approach 120% of GDP, the unenviable spot where Italy is today.

And Italy is in deep trouble. To bail it out, experts are already examining how the leveraged EFSF could buy massive amounts of Italian debt on the secondary market (Spiegel). This, despite provisions in the European Union treaty that specifically prohibit such bailouts. But these experts are now looking for a way around the law. The same has already occurred at the ECB, which has been buying the debt of countries like Italy, though by law, it cannot do so.
I've lost count: is this the sixth "last chance" for the Euro?  The twenty-eighth?  

In overview, metal working and wood working have the same basic steps: cut to size, shape as needed, fasten or join, perhaps drilling holes for screws, and finish.  The tools and the techniques vary because of the wildly different materials, but the concepts are pretty similar.  You cut wood to shape with a bandsaw; you can do the same with metal.  You can shape wood on a lathe or you can shape metal on a lathe.  You can cut grooves and contour wood with a router, then take that router bit, put it in a milling machine and do the same things to metal.  You can join wood with glue or pegs, but most people use glue and screws.  The screws for metal are finer threads.  About the only thing I can't think of a similarity for between wood and metal is welding. 

With few exceptions, wood is just not processed to the same accuracies as metal for a very simple reason: wood isn't dimensionally stable enough to hold those accuracies.  A cut to 1/32 inch (.032") accuracy is generally fine in woodworking; in metalworking, you might have need to cut to within 2/10,000 inch (.0002") and even a beginner is expected to be able to finish to within five thousandths, .005".  You can cut metal pieces on a table saw or miter saw, fasten them and use the finished assembly.  With metal, you generally rough cut to size with a saw but do critical cuts on a more accurate machine.  For much work, you can cut steel with a torch - and you're sure not cutting to .001" with a flame.  Today, you can get blades like the Metal Devil blades to cut steel on the same saws you use for woodworking.  

For casual sheet metal work, a pair of tin snips (shears) are fine for cutting to size (draw layout lines on the sheet with a sharpie and straight edge) and a vise is an adequate way to do right angle bends.  To join sheet metal pieces, if screws and nuts are too big, consider getting a "Pop rivet" tool by Emhart. “The 'POP®' Open type blind rivet is a hollow rivet pre-assembled on to a headed pin or mandrel. Rivet bodies are available in a range of materials for complete work piece compatibility”.  POP rivets require a special tool to pull the pin and set them, but it's a tool you only buy once.
Many companies make a miter saw like this little one from Makita.  With the right blades it either cuts wood or metal. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Coming Greater Crash - part 2

Concerned American, over at Western Rifle Shooters Association has a saying you may have heard before, "there's going to be a fight; let's win".  I want to echo that sentiment and say "there's going to be an economic collapse; let's survive and rebuild".  Let's not just survive like bugs under a rock; let's thrive.

While we can't really predict how bad it will be here in the states after the collapse, we have insights from around the world from people who have been through SHTF events.  In the last couple of days, Survivalblog had a link to a Bosnian doctor's posts on the  They are excellent, sobering reading about surviving through the Bosnian civil war.  Of course, I have referred to Ferfal's Surviving in Argentina blog many times, for his reports on life after an economic collapse. 

What both of these guys have in common is the experience that trade will exist, and in addition to preparing in the normal sense (food, water, ammo, etc.: the four B's or Robert Kiyosaki's five G's) we should specifically include items that are likely to be useful for trade: whiskey, cigarettes, and even chocolates.  Selco (the Bosnian survivor) says get some even if you don't smoke or drink and don't worry about the brand.  Someone desperate for a cigarette or a drink will always trade for it. He also said he would prefer ammo and Bic lighters (to trade) over more toilet paper because TP takes a lot of room.  He also said you can shoot a pigeon, but you can't shoot a bottle of hand sanitizer.   

It's easy to overlook the trade value of skills; you can trade your ability to fix something for your neighbor in exchange for food or other essentials.  If you don't know how to fix most of what can go wrong with your house and your stuff, especially your guns, this is the time to rush into learning as much as you can.  If you don't have woodworking and basic metalworking tools, but you have the 5 G's covered, now is the time.  I'm not going to blow smoke up your ass - it can be expensive to get quality tools and start from nothing.  I think it might be more expensive to not have those skills, because then you are really going to need to get out of your safe place and trade. 

In my view, the things to prepare for include fixing just about anything made of (probably) cheap steels or aluminum, or fabricating replacement parts from raw metal stock.  I doubt you'll encounter titanium or exotic alloys.  The most common non-ferrous metals you'll work with are probably aluminum alloys and brass; the most common iron alloys would be mild steels or cast iron.  Cast iron is rough on cutting tools because it's common to find sand from the casting molds embedded in the metal.

In the coming days (or more - depending on events), I want to address some of the tools and things I believe are worth considering. 
The ubiquitous 4"x 6" bandsaw, available from many sellers (this one from Grizzly).  With a good blade, these will rough cut anything from plastics to titanium. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A High Maintenance Kind of Day

I wrote last Sunday about having problems with this computer, and didn't think I'd take a chance on working on it again until this weekend.  Today.  That said, I also needed to wash and wax the cars - it has been since July, I think - they really needed it. 

After a lot of annoyance and fighting, I finally removed all traces of Ubuntu from this box, and it's completely Windoze 7.  Along the way I had problems with my external backup drive and had to spend way too much time working on it (no way I was going to mess with disk partitions without backing up everything after last Sunday).  Western Digital, in case you're interested.  Third party software (Handy Backup) finally replaced the software on the drive and backed up everything.  I've been working at this since about 2 PM - it's 11 now, minus a few hours while the backup processed and the cars got waxed, dinner, etc..  The box finally works properly. 

So, for now, a couple of odds and ends I wanted to share; I believe the term is Tab Clearing.  From Glenn McCoy on 
I don't remember where I got this demotivational poster on ammo micro-encoding.  If  it's yours, or you know the credit, I'd be happy to credit correctly. 
One of the clues to understanding the differences between Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama is to look at them both when they were in their 20s, a period when their world views were being refined:  
Finally, a trump card for when you're involved in a discussion with someone who just doesn't seem to understand anything (same disclaimer about crediting it):

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Coming Greater Crash

For the last three years, the entire western world has been reeling in the after-effects of the crash of 2008.  Millions of words have been written about it, the causes analyzed and regulations have even been attempted.  It is widely recognized that CDOs - Collateralized Debt Obligations - and other derivatives, with the insane amounts of leverage generated were the cause.  Less frequently cited is the role of governments; largely the US government, but not exclusively.  Investopedia, a generally non-political source, has done a good investigatory piece on the crash, here, and conclude the real cause was largely government.

Unfortunately, the real problems were not addressed by the new regulations, such as the pointless Dodd-Frank law.  Nothing was done about these derivatives, and the problem is not only still there, it is getting bigger.  Much bigger.  How big?  The great financial blog Seeking Alpha says,
If you add up the value of every stock on the planet, the entire market capitalization would be about $36 trillion. If you do the same process for bonds, you’d get a market capitalization of roughly $72 trillion.

The notional value of the derivative market is roughly $1.4 QUADRILLION.

I realize that number sounds like something out of Looney tunes, so I’ll try to put it into perspective.  $1.4 Quadrillion is roughly:
    •  23 TIMES WORLD GDP.
It's hard to wrap your head around how big a number $1.4 quadrillion, or $1400 trillion, is.  You may have seen things going around that said if you had counted out a dollar per second since Christ was born you would not have reached a trillion dollars; it's not even close because at $1/sec, it would take 31,546 years to count out a trillion dollars.  At the same rate, 1400 trillion takes you back 31.5 million years.  Half the time since the last dinosaurs.

The Economic Collapse Blog picks up the story in the cheerily titled, "The Coming Derivatives Crisis That Could Destroy The Entire Global Financial System" and reports of scary things going on, if not in secrecy, then just not being reported.  (source within a source)
On the third Wednesday of every month, the nine members of an elite Wall Street society gather in Midtown Manhattan.
The men share a common goal: to protect the interests of big banks in the vast market for derivatives, one of the most profitable — and controversial — fields in finance. They also share a common secret: The details of their meetings, even their identities, have been strictly confidential. 
Who are these guys?  Where are they from?  Only the "too big to fail" banks that our taxes bailed out before:  JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America and Citigroup.  As The American Dream reports, these groups are already trying to buy the 2012 election.  
3 of the top 7 donors to Obama's campaign were big Wall Street banks (Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup).  Now Wall Street is doing it again.  The big Wall Street banks are already trying to buy the 2012 election. 
To my surprise, each bank has contributed the most to .. Mitt Romney!  (For the record, I'm one of the people who thinks Romney would be no big improvement for us and might even be worse)  While it's true I think the need for money in politics is not as great as most people think, clearly they don't agree with me, and furthermore, they have the record that if a candidate gets far and away more money than their competitor, the one with the biggest treasury ordinarily wins.  So long, Herman Cain!

The problem with these schemes, and our whole fiat, "debt = money" system, is that it can't keep expanding.  It will collapse some time, quite possibly some time very soon. Going back to quoting Economic Collapse:
It is inevitable that the same thing is going to happen again.  Except next time it may be on a much grander scale.

When "the house" goes "bust", everybody loses.  The governments of the world could step in and try to bail everyone out, but the reality is that when the derivatives market comes totally crashing down there won't be any government on earth with enough money to put it back together again.

A horrible derivatives crisis is coming.

It is only a matter of time.

Stay alert for any mention of the word "derivatives" or the term "derivatives crisis" in the news.  When the derivatives crisis arrives, things will start falling apart very rapidly.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Self Portrait by a Giant Triassic Octopus?

Bouncing from link to link, I first saw this at Tam's place (top one) as a link to Atomic Nerds.  The zeitgeist is to make references to Cthulhu.  For example, Tam said,
Apparently mankind has a Cthulhu-shaped hole in its heart, for if Cthulhu didn't exist, it would be necessary to invent him.
I think it's way cooler without invoking pulp-fiction mythology.
Pictured above is a fossil  bed in Nevada.  The round structures are the vertebrae of ichthyosaurs of the species Shonisaurus popularis. But vertebrae don't lie around like that. In a single animal, they're (obviously) pretty much in a line.  And if two animals died and piled on top of each other, it doesn't seem likely the vertebrae would be aligned so nicely, fairly well matched by size.  So how did they get there?
First of all, the different degrees of etching on the bones suggested that the shonisaurs were not all killed and buried at the same time. It also looked like the bones had been purposefully rearranged. That it got him thinking about a particular modern predator that is known for just this sort of intelligent manipulation of bones.

"Modern octopus will do this," McMenamin said. What if there was an ancient, very large sort of octopus, like the kraken of mythology. "I think that these things were captured by the kraken and taken to the midden and the cephalopod would take them apart."

In the fossil bed, some of the shonisaur vertebral disks are arranged in curious linear patterns with almost geometric regularity, McMenamin explained.The proposed Triassic kraken, which could have been the most intelligent invertebrate ever, arranged the vertebral discs in double line patterns, with individual pieces nesting in a fitted fashion as if they were part of a puzzle.

Even more creepy: The arranged vertebrae resemble the pattern of sucker discs on a cephalopod tentacle, with each vertebra strongly resembling a coleoid sucker. In other words, the vertebral disc "pavement" seen at the state park may represent the earliest known self portrait.
The thought that there was a giant prehistoric octopus, big enough to take down a dinosaur the size of a bus, and that this octopus was intelligent enough to arrange the bones of its ex-dinner into a pattern that looked like itself - a self-portrait of sorts - is so cool it fills me with awe.  Reality is way cooler than comparing it to a mythical creature. 

By the way, since Tam has linked to me a few times in the last few months, this is a squid pro quo.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I'm Sure It's Just an Isolated Incident

I mean, just because you find five French-Moroccan muslims breaking into a courthouse at 2 in morning, and they had photographs of infrastructure, malls, water systems and public buildings in their RV, that's no reason to be concerned is it?  No, I'm sure it's just an isolated incident.
Five men in their twenties, described as French-Moroccan Muslims, are being questioned by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force and by officials of the Department of Homeland Security after they were arrested inside the 120 year old Bexar County Courthouse in downtown San Antonio shortly before 2 this morning, 1200 WOAI news reports.
"They got travel documents, parking passes, they have been all over the country," one law enforcement officials who asked not to be identified told 1200 WOAI's Michael Board on the scene. "A lot of photographic equipment, a lot of documentation equipment inside their vehicle."
And I'm sure just because a "middle-Eastern looking" guy named Ali Reza Shahsavari runs down the aisle in a plane shouting
“You’re all going to die,” a man dressed in black screamed at passengers Tuesday afternoon. “You’re all going to hell. Allahu Akbar,” .... 
there's no reason to think something suspicious is going on there.  No, siree.  Big Sis Janet Incompetano is on the job. 

What do both of these stories have in common?  In both cases, the authorities made sure to let us know terrorism was not suspected.
Terror Link Downplayed in Courthouse Break-In
FBI Special Agent Mark White, based in Dallas, said the event did not appear to be an act of terrorism. He described Shahsavari as a U.S. citizen who might have experienced an episode of mental illness. (note:  "an episode" of mental illness?  not a life of mental illness?? - GB)
I'll leave it to you to determine how it affects your training and other preparations. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What's All This "Eat The Rich Stuff", Anyhow?

There's been a recurring theme in all this "occupy whatever street" going on: "eat the rich".  Sure, the comment isn't exactly original, and I have no idea where it originally came from, but it keeps coming up.  From Occupy Denver this past weekend (source):
This dude's looking like it might not be all metaphorical.  And...
(Confidentially, sweetheart, if you eat the rich, you'll be lucky to get one meal.  Then you'll have to start eating your fellow protesters.)

I'm sure everyone has seen the two fingered peace sign of the late 60s/early 70s; almost as big a cliche then as now.  Chances are you don't know that the Weather Underground (Bill Ayers, wife Bernadine Dohrn and other felons) used the three finger fork sign as a non-verbal recognition. 
Dohrn's love of violence reached a level bordering on madness. Speaking to a Weather Underground "war council" in Michigan in 1969, Dohrn gave a three-fingered "fork salute" to mass murderer Charles Manson. Calling Manson's victims the "Tate Eight," Dohrn gloated over the fact that actress Sharon Tate, who was pregnant at the time, had been stabbed with a fork in her womb. "Dig it. First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them, they even shoved a fork into a victim's stomach! Wild!"
So do these leftist/communist/statist prick protesters and Dohrn really want cannibalism? 

The problem is very simple: "it's the spending, stupid", not how much "the rich" have.  If these twits got their way and the government took every single penny from every billionaire, and not just the every penny from the top 1%, but from every single person with an income of over $250,000, the money would be gone in under 200 days.  It wouldn't pay for the current spending programs for a year, let alone add all the programs they want.  For a refresher, watch Bill Whittle's excellent video.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Spread This One Around

I'm doing my part.  Via Kevin, from "OccupyAJob" on Facebook. 
and while we're at it (same source)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Well, That Was Painful

I've had one of those days that most of us know and would rather not have, so no deep thoughts for today. 

I've been running Ubuntu as my main OS since last December, until today.  Last night, I installed the latest update from Ubuntu, the "latest stable version" 11.10.  I had some difficulty booting my computer.  It said it had problems finding the network, but eventually booted and was stable enough to use for a few hours. 

This morning, it never booted at all.  To minimize a painful experience, the only way I could get this box to boot was to return to my Windows 7 partition.  I spent the day salvaging everything I've done for the last year and moving it into the Windows partition.  Thankfully, it all appears to be saved, but the Linux partition is toast and essentially unusable.  Looks like I'm back to running a Windoze machine again - at least for a while.
(ob geek - we shouldn't have to be this guy) 

This Kind of Blew Me Away

Sitting in church last night, a 20-something kid came in wearing a "Black Sabbath" tee-shirt.  I thought to myself, I saw them in concert.

I immediately realized I saw Black Sabbath in concert 40 years ago.  OMG.  A quick search shows Ozzie is 62.  Doesn't look a day over 80.  That clean living helps.  (Actually, he looks pretty good in that Wiki picture.)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ends and Odds

Via Sipsey Street Irregulars, I learned that the visitor many of us know as Dennis .308 has gone on to his maker.  I can't say I really knew Dennis, but he visited here regularly, commented on occasion and always came across as one of the good guys, someone you'd be proud to know.  Mike V describes him as a "loyal three-per" and Oath Keepers had nice things to say as well.  Thanks for your service, good sir.  We'll see you on the other side. 

I have a habit of making fun of my stupidity, and I outdid myself two weeks ago.  To begin with, I put my nice little ultra compact digital camera into my pocket for a fishing trip, and then put the camera into the washing machine in my cargo pants.  Mrs. Graybeard heard something thumping in the dryer and retrieved it.  To make a long story short, scratch one camera.  Now that camera was a Nikon Coolpix S4000, which I bought on close-out sale primarily to do HD videos - the fact that it was a decent little camera for digital pictures was a plus.  See, I have this idea I'm going to do some CNC gunsmithing and put some videos up on YouTube to go with the crap-o-vision video I have up there now (uhhh)...

Rather than go look for a new replacement, I found a seller on eBay who has factory refurbs of this model.  They go for $50, more or less, so I started bidding on them.  Wouldn't you know they go for over $60 if I bid, but otherwise stay low?  Didn't win any.  Last weekend, I picked another one out of his auction list and won!  Cool beans!  Wednesday it got here and it just didn't seem right - and then I realized I had bought the wrong camera!  Well, the seller agreed to replace it for refund (I'm out $20 shipping both ways) and I'm back on the prowl for a replacement camera.

(not exactly, the last picture out of the camera, but just about... Sebastian Inlet, Florida on a quiet Sunday morning in October)

Come to think of it, if any of you have a make/model of a decent little camera, post it in the comments.  What I'm looking for is 720P HD videos.  I'd rather not spend hundreds, but playing the auction game hasn't been fun.  I like the idea of a camera I can use for video and still pics, too.  Nikon had a bunch of Coolpix models, Panasonic had the Lumix models, and I'm sure the other guys did, as well.   

Friday, October 14, 2011

Anti-Semitism at Occupy Wall Street

There's a disturbing undercurrent of anti-semitism in the Occupy Wall Street protests - spread around the country.  Anti-semitism when talking about bankers is nothing new, it goes back hundreds of years, to a time when banking was one of the few things a Jew was allowed to do in Europe.  If it's true that "history many not repeat itself, but it certainly rhymes", there's a lot of poetry going on in these occupations.  (images from PJ Tatler - which you should read) 
If you've been here before, you'll know I'm totally down with "End the Fed", but it has nothing to do with Israel, Zionism or "the Jooooooos". 
(just between you and me, check your spelling there, skipper) 
(source) this one is even less subtle.
I've written before that I stand with Israel, and I will.  We appear to be slipping into dark times.  Old hatreds are re-surfacing, compounded by a new envy and sense of entitlement.  The battle lines are being drawn.  Preparations should be rushed to completion.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The "First Car" Meme

No one tagged me, but all the cool guys are doing it...
  1. What was your first car? Model, year, color, condition?
  2. What adventures did you have in it, good or bad?
  3. What happened to it, what's the end of the story?
My first car was a six month old Ford Pinto.  1972, just as I was getting ready to graduate high school.  It was nearly new, dark green, a hatchback, with the "great big" 2000cc engine, four speed manual transmission and almost nothing else.  No air conditioning.  AM-only radio.  My older brother, who was far more into cars than I ever was, bought it brand new, and was just happy to have me agree to take over payments.  I thought I could manage payments, and somehow did.  Bro' had taught me how to drive a stick shift, so I could drive it, and I learned the hard way that leaving rubber in first through third got really expensive when those tires needed to be replaced!  It looked a lot like this, although I recall a darker shade of green.
This is the car I grew up in.  Got some discount knowledge at the Junior College.   Did upper division school in biochemistry.  Got my first jobs as an electronics technician.  I always joked that Ford occasionally made a really good car and that was it.  It just seemed reliable.  Well, it left me on the side of the road maybe three times.  Those cars had a rubber timing belt that would just pop with no warning (not even a post card or threatening phone call!).  I remember getting it into the driveway, hearing a strange sound, and getting out to see my radiator emptying onto the black top.  The water pump had blown. 

All you young whipper-snappers might not remember or know that Pintos had a few well-known flaws: in case of rear impact, early models (mine) had a tendency to rupture the fuel tank and explode.  Fewer people tailgated me when this was in the news.  There was a recall, and Ford installed a heavy plastic shield between the differential pumpkin and the gas tank.  The other problem was that the rear hatchback door would rust badly, due to the aerodynamics of the car.  Exhaust stayed near the rear of the car, trapped by the airflow.  If your car was damp, which is pretty much every day, some exhaust gases form acids on the metal and eat it away.    Later cars went to fiberglass hatches.  I think I eventually had one of those.

It was a great car for fishing the way I fished: the rear seat folded flat, and long rods just laid down the center.  Carpet kept them from sliding around.  You could carry lots in it.  I remember going camping with a large tent, gas stove, lanterns, and you name it.  That car carried it all.  I did a lot of my own work on that car; it was before catalytic converters and electronic ignitions.  Points and plugs that had to be cleaned and gapped regularly.  I replaced water pumps and timing belts.  Rebuilt the carb.

Eventually sold it in 1982 - it had almost 120,000 miles on it.  Replaced it with a full sized Dodge pickup, D-150 that could tow a boat.  Had that car 10 years, from age 18 to 28, which is a pretty major decade in most peoples' lives.  I mean, you go through more life changes and events there than between 38 and 48, say, or between 48 and 58.  Most of the time.  I drove it everywhere, took it fishing in all sorts of places.  Ate in it - but not a drive through; a picnic in the hatchback area.  Never slept in it.  Almost fell asleep driving it, once. 

A friend and I had driven to Gainesville (University of Florida) from home in north Miami; he was considering grad school there and I was considering finishing my BS there.  That's a long drive now, but with fewer interstates it was harder in those days.  We had left before dawn to get to UF by afternoon.  Driving home on the Florida Turnpike, after a long day on the road, I started to get road hypnosis.  I remember fading in and out.  My friend was asleep, I couldn't get anything on the radio, and it was tough staying awake.  All of a sudden, my headlights started flashing on and off.  Woke me straight up.  A rest plaza was a few miles ahead, so we stopped, and got coffee (I didn't drink coffee in those days).  The fear of my lights failing kept me on high alert the rest of the six hour drive home.  They never flashed like that again that night.  Nor ever again.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Occupy Wall Street - on Second Thought

Last night, my inner self slapped me upside the head and said this is open source civil war.  I guess I'm kind of slow - they keep talking about the "Arab spring" and the overthrow of Mubarek was nothing if not the first such civil war.  As it turns out, Robb over at Global Guerrillas seems to be with me on this.  This whole page is full of articles on it, including "letters from the front".

In the interviews and research I've seen, you have anarchists and communists protesting together.  What on Earth do they have in common?  Much like the Muslim Brotherhood took over after the Egyptian government collapsed, if they succeed in collapsing our system, the communists will simply execute everyone else.  It's not like mass murder is a new thing for them.  But in an open source civil war, if your enemy brings troops that help you overthrow the system, maybe they don't need killin' just yet...

Borepatch links to Sabra who points out, as many have, that many of the things they say resonate among the Tea Party and the small L libertarians like me.  Philosophically, I think they're completely messed up.  They're protesting in the wrong place.  Instead of protesting the banks for loaning them their tuition, they should be protesting the colleges, who raise fees at about 3 to 4 times inflation.  The rise in fees is in perverse response to the flood of easy government money to pay for college: supply of money goes up, fees go up to soak up all that "free gubmint money".  They should be protesting the government that made the laws that made student loan debt follow you for life.  They should be protesting the government for doing everything to enable and accelerate the banking crises. 
Why does everyone complain about the cost of medical services, which have gone up at around twice the rate of inflation (in this chart), yet you never hear a word about how education has gone up over 3x inflation?  (chart from my posting here)

Today's fun fact:  Harvard has an endowment worth $32 billion.  If they paid all 6700 undergraduates' tuition, fees and books, it would cost 1/1000 of that - $32 million.  That endowment grew over 21% last year.  Based simply on that, they could pay all undergrad fees forever, without endangering a single new building.  Don't get me wrong - I think it's good for students to figure out how to solve the problem of paying for college.  I went to school part time while working full time.  But the major institutions can fix this tuition/loan thing all by themselves.

Glenn Beck has long pointed out that past communist takeovers have been implemented by a "bottom up, top down, inside out" strategy.  It only helps his argument that noted communist and Obama insider Van Jones has said that in exactly the same words.  The idea is the pace and disturbances of things like OWS (the bottom rising) get so high, and disruptions become so annoying that the people demand the government "do something".  Government is only too happy to clamp down (top down) and do things to restore order.  Harsh restrictions.  Elimination of rights.  Maybe cancellation of elections "until the crisis is over". 

Anti-big government groups should mind the old advice for dogs: be careful who you lay down with.  You might get fleas.  Or worse.   

Monday, October 10, 2011

What if the BATFE Goes Away?

In the wake of the Fast and Furious investigation, gathering more steam, there has been talk about abolishing the agency entirely.  The story I've heard is that there was similar talk in the mid '90s after the Vickie Weaver murder and Branch Davidian Cluster.. Foxtrot.. in Waco. It has long been a topic of wonder that a tax collection agency, the bastard child of prohibition, has grown to a multi-billion dollar agency with one of the worst records of civil rights violations, revenge-motivated actions, and just pure gratuitous cruelty of any agency in the hydra. 

Now if BATFE goes away, the gun control acts don't, so whatever monster we get has the same wretched laws to enforce.  I can imagine it being FBI, although it seems it should really be in the IRS.  I can see the major tasks divided between the existing agencies, although the government never passes up a chance to grow.  None of those are exactly "feel good" ideas.

I've written before about what I consider "reasonable gun laws": basically treat guns like pretty much everything else, but take advantage of the digital technology that's available today.  I was happy to run across Joe Huffman's View From North Central Idaho, and see his ideas are very parallel to mine.  Pardon me while I lift his major points

  • The ban on interstate gun sales. We have NICS, run by the FBI already, which covers the concerns put forth for the original proponents of the law.
  • The registration and tax on suppressors. Make a NICS check on them a requirement with 4473 like paperwork shouldn’t be that much of a political sell because all the functionality of the existing system would still exist except for the tax revenue which almost for certain doesn’t pay for itself as well as being constitutionally suspect.
  • The laws against on short barreled rifles and shotguns. This only made sense when there were plans to ban handguns (originally part of NFA 34). That didn’t happen and isn’t going to happen (see Heller).
  • Postal restrictions against mailing of firearms. We can ship them via UPS, FedEx, etc. Why not USPS?  (trying to limit their revenue? - GB)
  • The classification of some 12-gauge shotguns as “destructive devices”.
  • The “sporting purpose” tests for firearms. The Heller decision makes it very clear that the Second Amendment isn’t about duck hunting. This particularly affects imports. Unless it as part of some trade war it makes no sense that guns and ammo which are perfectly legal to manufacture and own inside the U.S. cannot be imported. Either ban them as part of a coherent (as if trade wars can make sense but that is another topic so please don’t get into it at this time) trade policy or get rid of the bans.
  • The ban of sales of firearms to citizens who have no U.S. residence. Just because someone has been living and working in another country for a few months or even years does not mean they should be prohibited from exercising their specific enumerated right to keep and bear arms when they return for a visit.
  • These are all commonsense things.  The idea that a shotgun barrel 18.05" long is fine, but one that's 17.95" is some sort of killer monster weapon is just silly.  It's there simply to create law violations.  It's also one of their most enforced laws - probably because it's among the easiest to determine innocence or guilt of.  Why are some 12 ga. shotguns "destructive devices" but others aren't.  Are they scarier looking?  More nonsense.
    Time for my regular, "there: does that make it less scary?" cartoon...

    Sunday, October 9, 2011

    It's Like Collecting String

    H/T to Bayou Renaissance Man for reminding me of a news item I saw earlier this week: the world's largest yellow diamond is to be auctioned on Nov. 6, by Sotheby's, the famous UK auctioneers. 
    Sotheby's announced today that it will auction off the Sun-Drop diamond—a 110-carat hunk of carbon that ranks as the largest known pear-shaped fancy vivid yellow diamond in the world—at an auction in November.  (Nice video here)

    It's expected to sell for between $11 and $15 million dollars. 

    As someone who has faceted gems, and been (at least tangentially) around the gem trade, I have some observations that I hope are worthwhile. 

    Diamonds cause some strange reactions among people.  Some just value them inherently, some have no use for them.  In the last few years, commercial quantities of large, gem-grade, synthetic diamonds have hit the market (see good summary here), and many people feel the value of "out of the ground" diamonds will collapse.  (Abrasives-grade diamond has been synthesized since the 1950s)   It's probably worthwhile to point out a couple of strict, legal definitions in the gemstone world: a synthetic is a lab-created stone that has the same chemical composition of the natural stone, so it has all the same physical properties as the natural stone;  a simulant is a stone with different chemical composition, and different properties, but that looks like the stone being simulated.  It's not just wrong to call a Cubic Zirconium a synthetic diamond, it's illegal.

    Rubies have been synthesized since the late 1800s, and have been available in any quantity you want since then, but that really hasn't affected the price of rubies out of the ground.  The highest quality synthetic rubies are hundreds of dollars per gram; the bulk (Verneuil process) are well under a dollar per gram (for a few months, this eBay link will work).  A high quality natural ruby can hit thousands of dollars per carat (1/5 of a gram). 

    The synthetic yellow diamonds won't affect the price of a natural stone like this. 

    It's a very rare thing.  In the world of gemstones, the overwhelming majority are tiny and poor quality.  The majority of diamonds in particular, are tiny, cloudy, gray, included and best suited as abrasives.  Diamonds are not particularly rare stones, and it's true that annual production is keyed to the expected wedding rate in the US and Japan.  Nice-colored diamonds of mid-grade quality are available in any quantity you want.  Genuinely rare stones, like a large, "A" color change Alexandrite that goes from almost holly berry red to holly leaf green depending on the ambient light, simply don't exist. 

    There are people who like to own rare, beautiful things: a once-in-history rarity; an enormous, perfectly-colored diamond out of the ground is infinitely more rare and precious than a manufactured item.  It's the same urge that leads some people to make large string or aluminum foil balls.  Since I'm sure whomever buys this has the money, they're not a struggling kid buying an engagement ring, I hope they enjoy it.  I sure wouldn't buy it, but I don't really care much for diamonds.  I'd prefer a nice large black opal any day. 

    Saturday, October 8, 2011

    The Futility of Gun Control

    Borepatch links to Popehat on the futility of gun control with the advent of cheap, home-based CNC and 3D printing.  Popehat brings the smart - and a pretty decent James Burke (Connections, The Day the Universe Changed) impression.
    And speaking of technology-driven emancipation, we arrive at the thesis statement for today’s rant: the end of gun control is not politically or culturally driven, but was a historical inevitability that was written into the book of destiny by 1810, when Joseph Jacquard started using punched cards to control weaving patterns on his looms and when the practice of chucking rotary cutters into lathe headstocks was adopted en masse at water powered factories in Western Massachusetts in response to British attempts to confiscate American civilian-owned firearms.
    Cool, but more up my alley:
    …or, if you prefer metal over plastic, download the plans for a full AR-15 lower that you can crank out with your fresh-from-the-box $1k Sherline CNC milling machine and $15 worth of aluminum, then kit it out with $410 worth of barrel, shoulder stock, and such.
    For quite some time, I've had a link on the right column to the story of my AR-15 made from an aluminum casting and mail-ordered parts.   This was an 80% lower from Colfax Tactical, not small pieces of aluminum plate, but the approach Popehat links to looks like it could be even more fun.  Yes, there's more milling and shaping with those pdf drawings than the casting, but nothing that is too hard for a home machinist, even with that "$1k Sherline CNC milling machine".  The key is to work thoughtfully - "there is no white out for metal" - and realize you can't take off as much metal with this little mill as you could with a monster full-sized mill.  This is where CNC shines, it can take repetitive light cuts all day long without getting bored and counting thousandths wrong on a dial.  I bought my CNC mill used for around $300, but it needed quite a bit of work and another couple of hundred $$ to get it working properly. Like all hobbies, it's easy to get started, but you can buy accessories and improvements long past any sanity.  Currently, it's a mix of Sherline and A2Z CNC parts - one of the cottage industries that has sprung up to supply home shop machinists. 

    There's much discussion in the comments to Popehat's piece on making the barrels.  Barrels are tough for a couple of reasons: first, drilling a hole that long which stays centered in the barrel and doesn't wander is not trivial, but harder than that is rifling.  Rifling a barrel requires pushing a cutting tool into the barrel while twisting at the required rate.  Obviously, people have been doing it since 1500s, but it's not easy for a small shop machinist to do.  Today, barrels are consumable commodity items; I get ads for replacement barrels almost monthly.  If concerned, buy some spares. 

    That Popehat post has a photo of a 3D printed magazine that raises an interesting question.  What if one could print the plastic parts of their polymer pistol and CNC machine the metal parts?  All that would be left would be to buy some springs and a few other parts, then assemble it all.  That day is coming, too.

    Friday, October 7, 2011

    Who's Behind Occupy Wall Street?

    It should be obvious to anyone with at least a particle of brain that the nationwide "Occupy Wall Street" thing didn't just start up.  If you've ever organized something as small as a club show, you will realize this sort of convergence of people in dozens of places can't just happen.  For crying out loud, these guys even have a slick, four color newspaper that they're distributing (littering) all over.  I know publishing isn't as hard as it used to be, but it doesn't just happen by itself, either.  No, these guys have some big-time funding and backing.  There have been people working at organizing this for at least six months.   

    To butcher a quote I think most readers know, "Once is a happening; twice is a coincidence, three times is enemy action".  This isn't a "happening", it's an attack.

    When I first wrote about this, I had some leads that I passed along.  It's not easy to grab a quick quote, but let's try these:
    The really delightful irony is that these low-brow communists, paid for by ACORN, SEIU, George Soros and his many foundations, complain about the TEA party, yet are complaining about exactly the same things!

    How much more "in bed" with business can an administration be?  I thought W was bad, but the revolving door between Goldman Sachs and the has been going on for a long time.  I figure if Goldman donates a million dollars to the president's campaign, the might expect something in return, but the improper relations with all sorts of companies really seems to be at an all time high.  I wonder if these protesting clowns will realize that the banksters they're protesting are paying for them to be there?  Qui bono?
    I'm a self-funded guy who doesn't have a research staff or the assets of a news network, and I'm not a "real journalist" - but I can find networks who do the research.  The Blaze has the story, today, about how the left has organized this whole thing. No surprise, it involves "SEIU/ACORN Front – The Working Family Party, and How They All Tie to the Obama Administration, DNC, Democratic Socialists of America, Tides (Foundation) and George Soros"

    Last March 22nd, video was leaked that showed SEIU VP Steven Lerner advocating economic terrorism - an attack on J.P. Morgan-Chase:
    So, a bunch of us around the country are thinking about who would be a really good company to hate? We decided that would be JP Morgan Chase. …. And so we’re going to roll out over the next couple of months what will hopefully be an exciting campaign about JP Morgan Chase that is really about challenge the power of Wall Street. And so what we’re looking at is in the first week of May, we get enough people together – we’re starting now – to really have a week of action in New York with the goal of … I don’t want to go into any details because I don’t know which police agents are in the room, but the goal would be that we would roll out in New York the first week in May—
    (obviously they were delayed about four months).  In the intervening months, video has surfaced of Lerner advocating that they "create a crisis" to bring down the economic system of the US.  There's no better example than the ancient Frances Fox Piven, co-inventor of the "Cloward-Piven collapse the system" strategy of the 1960s, urging students at "CUNY To Get Involved and Be Ready For Violent Street Battles & Breaking Down Capitalism".  Glenn Beck sees OWS as preparation for a "long, hot summer" like we had in '60s; a summer of riots, cities burning - essentially a civil war.  As someone who claimed to be inspired by the awful Watts riots of 1965, it seems Piven would like to recreate them.

    I don't think the typical protesters out on the street even know what socialism is, let alone that they're being used as "useful idiots" by 1960s-era radicals who want to destroy the world they know.  All they know is that they're going through tough times and are mad at someone.  Canada Free Press has the headline that sums it up best, with "Unemployed Imbeciles Gather to Protest".  I don't see how anyone who has the slightest knowledge of what life is like in socialist countries could want to go there.  Go read Babalu.  So far this year, the wonderful Castro regime has only killed a little over 2000 political prisoners, just a few every day.  By proportion to population that would be equivalent to executing about 40,000 in the US.

    Look: I know times are tough, that the real national unemployment rate is closer to 20% than the 9.1% the meida claims - and it's higher than that in places.  I know that when times are tough, and people are starving, they'll follow someone like Mao to get a bowl of rice.  Mao might kill you, but you might starve anyway.  As a society, we're supposed to have safety net systems in place, but they've been abused by people who don't really need them for so long that they're not available for people who do. 

    I'd be as happy as anyone to see the bankers who did illegal things arrested, but the whole kill the bankers idea is wrong.  This depression is not just due to the banks, it took a lot of work from the federal government to crash the economy, too.  Who blew the housing bubble?  Largely, the Federal Reserve (who has a history of blowing bubbles).  Who insisted that the banks loan to people who can't pay back?  The US Congress, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  Who created this whole mess?  Both political parties, from Jimmy Carter in the 1970s (Community Reinvestment Act) to George W. Bush using the CRA to make good-sounding economic statistics.   But people don't like complex situations that require thought.  They want simple answers, like "eat the wealthy".

    Robert Kiyosaki's latest solo book is called "Unfair Advantage", which I think I'm going to pick up.  The title refers to the advantage in the world someone with a knowledge of real economics and real business has over those without that knowledge.   It's clear they're not teaching these things to the protesters.  
    (from Junior Deputy Accountant, who has several of these)  Her misunderstanding is that knowledge is free.  It's using someone else's time and expertise to help you learn that costs money.  No person has the right to someone else's knowledge, training and expertise, which is the essence of their being.  As someone who earned their B.S. going to night school so that my employers' tuition assistance funded almost all of my college, blaming someone else for not providing it doesn't really hit home with me. 

    Thursday, October 6, 2011

    The Impact of One Man - Part II

    Part one of this was written a few months ago, and really talked about two individuals, who were highly influential in analog electronics, and how they touched all of our lives.

    Today, that one man is Steve Jobs.  Let me start by saying that I am not an Apple fan-boy.  I've only owned one Apple product in my life, my current iPhone 3GS.  I've always regarded Apple's products as good examples of industrial design, but overpriced and hard to live with because of their closed architecture.  When I first saw a Mac, I was disappointed to see its monochrome, amber display, when the PC world was going increasingly into full color displays.  Windows?  Point and click interfaces?  I was happy with a command line.  When the first generation iPod came out, I thought it was simply a re-packaged version of the 1980 Walkman, with random access because it used a hard drive instead of a cassette - handy, but hardly revolutionary.  But there is no denying that Steve Jobs had a massive impact on our world.

    Over the years, I've seen many stories of the development of the iconic Apple MacIntosh.  You'll be excused for not remembering that the product before the Mac was the Apple Lisa, which was, to be charitable, quite forgettable.  You see, the name Lisa, was officially an acronym for "Local Integrated Software Architecture", but was also the name of Steve's daughter.  It's my opinion that Jobs was stung by that failure and was determined to make the Mac the greatest computer to ever hit the market.  Stories go around of Jobs driving the development crew to the ends of their wits and ability to stand the pressure, throwing prototypes and destroying weeks worth of work.  The often quoted line was that it had to not just be great, it had to be "insanely great". 

    If I had to sum up Jobs in one phrase, "insanely great" would be that phrase.  I see I'm not alone, judging by today's press

    I'll let others wax about how Steve's visions of how we should interact with the digital universe shaped our world, or how their 1 year old is able to turn on an iPad, sort through the folders and start their favorite game.  I will note that the most unexpected place I ever encountered a mention of Steve Jobs was in a book about the eradication of smallpox, "The Demon in the Freezer", wandering around in India in the 1970s before the birth of Apple, and then contributing money to start a medical charity, the Seva Foundation

    To re-phrase what I said last time, what's the impact of one man?  The philosophers argue that Jobs may well have changed the way people interact with computers, but if he hadn't been there, someone else would have come up with these ideas.  Skeptics point out that the Mac interface really came from the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center and Apple just popularized it.  But how do we know?  Anyone who has done math has likely had the experience of struggling to solve a problem, only to have it look clear and obvious when the teacher solves it.  Oftentimes, the hardest part in solving a problem is not the mechanics of solving the problem, it's the vision to see a way that it can be solved.  I am always in awe of the impact that one determined engineer can have, and how much they can change the world for the better.

    Wednesday, October 5, 2011

    Robert Kiyosaki, Gerald Celente, and Me

    I'm going to go out on a limb and say you all have heard of Glen Beck's new, Internet-streamed TV channel,, right?  The format of the online show is essentially like Glenn's Fox show, but with fewer commercials (for now) - and it's two hours long.  Tonight's entire second hour was a one on one interview with Robert Kiyosaki.  Robert Kiyosaki, of course, is the author of the Rich Dad, Poor Dad series of books, and the entire cottage industry that came from the books.  Watch this show.  I understand there's a free trial membership - I'm not sure it allows looking at "on demand " shows, but it's really worth seeing the 10/5 show.  

    As a celebrity known for creating wealth, Kiyosaki is widely seen on TV, and recognized for his optimistic outlook - that it's possible to obtain wealth in all markets.  In this show, he comes in agreeing with Beck.  To summarize, Kiyosaki believes that the chances of the dollar not collapsing are  "zero", and that there's about a 20% chance that the entire world goes into a depression worse than the 1930s: total, global, economic collapse.  He preaches prepping, and what he calls the "five Gs":
    • Grub  - you need food.  Lots of food.  It might take years for production to return.  Think preparations that would put Mormons (1 year) to shame. 
    • Ground - you need shelter, or someplace to go, especially if you're in a city or a place that's likely to descend into chaos. 
    • Gold - for barter.  Silver is just as valid.  So are liquor, chocolate, cigarettes, and all the other things we've talked about. 
    • Gas - fuel.  Energy is life, whether it's for cooking or boiling rain water to drink.
    • Guns - and I'm really sure I don't need to explain this one! 
    In the later part of the interview, Kiyosaki says the ultimate collapse could happen tomorrow or it might be some time in the near future.  All of the necessary precursors are in place.   He also recognizes that, in large cities, violence and, open warfare are highly likely.

    In a link from SurvivalBlog yesterday, Gerald Celente says in this roughly 10 minute radio interview that the ultimate collapse may occur this month.   The same SuvivalBlog link points to this Yahoo! Finance article on the collapse of the European Union with the key quote, "All roads now point to a mid-November crunch."  Yet another claims that Germany has started printing Deutschmarks, and shift to their historic currency would spell the end of the Euro.  Angela Merkel herself has said the end of the Euro is the end of the European Union. 

    I titled this piece, "Robert Kiyosaki, Gerald Celente, and Me".  Where do I come in?  I've been saying these things as long as this blog has been here.  Yeah, maybe I am crazy, but I'm in good company.